The Attorney General Department of the Government of Switzerland has instituted a case against Tamil activists who were involved in assisting humanitarian, rehabilitation and development activities safeguarding the Tamil people in the island of Sri Lanka during the peace process brokered by the Norwegian government and thereafter.
The trial is scheduled to commence on January 8th, 2018. The charges against them vary from money laundering, intimidation and membership of an organization, which was engaged in criminal activities for over a period of twenty years. The World Tamil Coordinating Committee, which represents the Tamil diaspora living in Switzerland, categorically denies these allegations. We are of the view that the charges are political in nature and are likely to be linked to recent improvements in bilateral relations between the governments of Switzerland and Sri Lanka, particularly on migration.
The Tamil people in Switzerland are refugees who fled their homeland, the North and East of the island of Sri Lanka, due to the continuing genocidal war, as stated in the unanimous resolution of the Northern Provincial Council, passed in 2015. The war ended with the massacre of up to 146,679 Eelam Tamils in the final stages of the war, as per the evidence of Rt.Rev.Bishop Rayappu Joseph of Mannar.
During the armed conflict, the government of Sri Lanka enforced economic sanctions and limited supply of medical and food items, portraying the number of persons in the region as around 60,000, whereas official figures according to the local government divisional secretaries showed a population of around 400,000. As a result of these inhumane acts, many thousands of Tamil people fled the country and landed in Europe, North America and Australasia.
These refugees and migrants, who experienced the hardships in the homeland had been sending financial assistance to their kith and kin. In fact, the GOSL and the LTTE along with the international donors were also involved in humanitarian relief and development projects in the North-East. The personal financial assistance of the diaspora Tamils was sent to Tamil Rehabilitation Organization (TRO), which had local branches in many countries, and other humanitarian organizations, which acted under the de facto state-like administration of the LTTE during the peace process. TRO was awarded by the then President Chandrika Kumaratunga for its services. It is also well known that the LTTE was running banks and other financial institutions in the areas under their control. Inevitably, many financial transactions with the North-East, would involve the LTTE’s state and administrative structure – however only Tamil organizations are currently being persecuted for this.
We are dismayed that the accused in this case are alleged to have been supporting an organization which was accused of involvement in criminal activities, namely the LTTE. During the internationally mediated peace process between the GOSL and the LTTE from 2002 to 2008, both parties were treated with parity of status and they held talks in major cities, including Geneva.
The Swiss government welcomed these efforts at the time and they themselves offered financial assistance and other incentives. The political parties representing the Eelam Tamils in the Sri Lankan parliament recognized the LTTE as the sole representatives of Tamils and in fact in the ceasefire agreement between the GOSL and the LTTE, the LTTE was recognized as representing the Tamils and that there were certain territories under their control. Given this context supporting the LTTE cannot be treated as supporting a criminal organization.
Funds were and continue to be collected and sent to the North-East for the purpose of humanitarian assistance and development work. However we vehemently deny the allegations that the funds were extorted by intimidation. The Tamil population across the diaspora has been supporting such activities throughout the conflict. Any intimidation or coercion would have been counterproductive to the aims and goals of our organization. The Tamil national struggle relied and continues to rely on the support and the goodwill of the majority of the Eelam Tamil population – the enormous successes of the liberation movement would not have been possible without the backing of the population. We also state that to the best of our knowledge no part of this money had been used for any illegitimate activities.
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