Removed Tamil diaspora groups, individuals from ban list as they no longer fund terror activities: Sri Lankan government

Colombo, Aug 16 (PTI) The Sri Lankan government on Tuesday said that its recent decision to lift the ban on six Tamil diaspora groups and 316 individuals was taken as they were found to be no longer funding terrorists activities.

The comment came days after the Ministry of Defence through an Extraordinary Gazette number 2291/02 dated August 1 lifted the ban on six Tamil diaspora groups and 316 individuals which was in place since 2014 after it was imposed by the then President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

In a clarification issued here on Tuesday, the Ministry of Defence said the decision was made as they were found to be no longer funding terrorist activities.

Sri Lanka’s opposition groups had questioned the reasons for the delisting.

These six diaspora groups include Australian Tamil Congress, Global Tamil Forum, World Tamil Coordinating Committee, Tamil Eelam Peoples Assembly, Canadian Tamil Congress and British Tamil Forum.

According to blacklisting and delisting of persons, 577 individuals and 18 organisations were blacklisted in the year 2021 for financing terrorism under the UN regulation No 1 of 2012, the statement said.

After a series of discussions and careful study conducted at the ministry of defense by a committee consisting of the ministry of foreign affairs, the Attorney General, key intelligence agencies and Financial Intelligence Unit of the central bank of Sri Lanka and based on reports and evidence with regard to the financing terrorism by individuals and organisations recommendations were submitted for the listing and delisting, the statement said.

In 2014, then president Mahinda Rajapaksa government had banned the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and 15 other Tamil diaspora groups for their alleged terror links and playing a key role during the brutal three-decade long civil war in the country.

In 2015, President Maithripala Sirisena lifted a ban on these groups so that talks could be initiated for the reconstruction efforts of the Tamil regions in Sri Lanka’s northern provinces, which were devastated by the civil war.

In 2021, the Gotabaya Rajapaksa government banned these groups again and refused to engage in talks with them.

Responding to the delisting, the main Tamil party in Sri Lanka, Tamil National Alliance (TNA) in a statement said they welcomed the decision.

However, it must be noted that even others who remain on the list have been so named without any evidence connecting them to terrorism and by not following the prescribed procedure. We urge the government to at least continue this process of re-evaluating and de-proscribing all, the TNA statement said.

The Sri Lankan government became aggressive against Tamilian groups following its war with the LTTE.

The LTTE ran a military campaign for a separate Tamil homeland in the northern and eastern provinces of the island nation for nearly 30 years before its collapse in 2009 after the Sri Lankan Army killed its supreme leader Velupillai Prabhakaran.

According to the Lankan government figures, over 20,000 people are missing due to various conflicts including the three-decade brutal war with Lankan Tamils in the north and east which claimed at least 100,000 lives.

International rights groups claim at least 40,000 ethnic Tamil civilians were killed in the final stages of the war, but the Sri Lankan government has disputed the figures.