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Cablegate: Sri Lanka: Tro Asset Freeze Alienates Tamils

VZCZCXRO9921
PP RUEHAG RUEHDF RUEHIK RUEHLZ RUEHROV
DE RUEHLM #1564/01 3231227
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 191227Z NOV 07
FM AMEMBASSY COLOMBO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7216
INFO RUEHRL/AMEMBASSY BERLIN 0566
RUEHSW/AMEMBASSY BERN 0106
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RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS
RUCPDOC/USDOC WASHDC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
RHHMUNA/HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HI
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC
RUEHLMC/MILLENNIUM CHALLENGE CORPORATION

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 COLOMBO 001564

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

STATE FOR SCA/INS AND SCA/RA
TREASURY FOR L HULL, P LURIE, J PHILLIP, AND M DRAKE

E.O 12958: N/A
TAGS: KTFN PTER PREL PHUM CE

SUBJECT: SRI LANKA: TRO ASSET FREEZE ALIENATES TAMILS

REF: A) SECSTATE 156985 B) COLOMBO 1554

COLOMBO 00001564 001.2 OF 003


1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Tamils and some non-Tamil Sri Lankans have
conveyed to post predictably negative reactions to the U.S.
Government's Executive Order 13224 designation of the Tamils
Rehabilitation Organisation (TRO)(ref A). They assert the move will
hurt Tamils and embolden the government to take a harder line in the
ongoing ethnic conflict. The government has welcomed the U.S.
action as a long overdue measure against a front organization that
was bolstering the LTTE's long insurgency. End summary.

TAMILS CONDEMN U.S. ACTION AGAINST TRO
--------------------------------------

2. (SBU) As reported in ref B, Ambassador Blake emphasized during
his November 16 press conference that the TRO assets freeze was
aimed against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) terrorist
group, not against the Tamil people of Sri Lanka. The major English
language Daily Mirror headlined this point in its online coverage
following the press conference: "TRO Freeze not against Tamils -
Blake." The Daily Mirror reported, "U.S. Ambassador Robert Blake
said today that the purpose behind freezing of TRO assets in the
U.S. was to block funds to LTTE and not for Tamil civilians. He
reiterated the U.S. stand that the final solution to Sri Lanka's
conflict should be a negotiated one."

3. (SBU) Despite this, Tamils who have conveyed their views to the
Embassy have reacted negatively to the U.S. action. They charge
both that the action unfairly harms Tamils by reducing the TRO's
ability to provide conflict victims with relief assistance and that
the U.S. move will hurt Tamil interests indirectly, by emboldening
the government to take a harder line in the conflict.

4. (SBU) For example, a TRO representative emailed to Ambassador a
TRO-Sri Lanka press release dated November 18 that defends the TRO's
record as a legitimate relief NGO and asserts "the actions of the
U.S. Treasury Dept will in fact severely impact the Tamil people and
cause further suffering to the most vulnerable sections of the Tamil
population." The statement charges that the goal of the U.S. action
appears to be "to reduce humanitarian assistance provided to the
Tamil civilian population in LTTE controlled areas as well as in
GoSL war affected areas." It continues, "the actions of the US
against TRO are particularly worrying bearing in mind that the US
Government is at the same time providing military assistance and
training to the GoSL despite the GoSL's horrendous human rights
record and its continuing violation of International Humanitarian
Law." The release notes that the government of Sri Lanka has also
frozen accounts related to the TRO, but that, "neither the GoSL nor
the US government have shown any evidence of wrong doing." It
concludes, "While TRO-USA will immediately cease financial

COLOMBO 00001564 002.2 OF 003


activities, as required by the laws of the United States, other TRO
organizations throughout the world will continue to work for the
benefit of the suffering war and tsunami affected persons. In the
meantime, TRO-USA will appeal to the U.S. Treasury to review its
decision and remove the proscription." The release is posted on
www.troonline.org.

5. (SBU) Dr. Thayalan Ambalavanar, a Tamil physician living in the
UK, conveyed similar views to the Ambassador by email: "I know from
my days in Jaffna that TRO funded the purchase of medical equipment
in Jaffna and also provided funds for assisting cancer patients
having to go to Colombo for treatment. You must be aware that in
the wake of the tsunami they played a tremendous role in helping
those made destitute.... It seems that the US is dead set on making
the position of the Tamil community worse. No doubt TRO must be
working closely with the LTTE but is that not to be expected since
the LTTE runs the administration in the Vanni? ...If the US is
endeavouring to ensure that the Tamil populace will be so weakened
that never again will they raise their heads or shout in defiance
then certainly you are going about it the right way... When you take
punitive actions against the Tamil community the government is not
going to be serious about your urging them against a military
solution... The antipathy of your government to the LTTE is
unfortunately blinding it to the fact that you are in fact assisting
an oppressive regime in subjugating a whole community."

6. (SBU) A well-connected pro-UNP Sri Lankan living in the United
States commented on the "horrible timing of this announcement,"
which he said would bring "the focus back on defeating the Tigers"
-- i.e. play in to the government's apparent preference for military
action against the LTTE. On the merits of the action against the
TRO, he described mixed reactions among Tamils in the United States,
with some believing that "TRO US did collect a lot of funds after
the Tsunami and that these did not reach the victims." Others, he
said, believed that TRO's collections were far too small to
significantly impact the LTTE's ability to finance its war effort.
He reported an overall conclusion that the freeze was "symbolic to
offset the likely outcome of [the proposed] Section 690" ban on U.S.
military assistance to Sri Lanka.

7. (SBU) Member of Parliament Mano Ganesan, a Tamil and leader of
the Western People's Front party, wrote PolOff to state the U.S.
action failed to account for the root causes of the conflict: "U.S
Ambassador Robert Blake says freezing of TRO assets by U.S Govt is
an action against the LTTE, not against the Tamil People. Great,
kindly initiate decisive action against Sinhala Buddhist
fundamentalism which created LTTE!"

GOVERNMENT SEES TRO FREEZE AS VINDICATION
-----------------------------------------

COLOMBO 00001564 003.2 OF 003

8. (SBU) By contrast, the government has viewed the action as one
aimed squarely at the LTTE. Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama
told Parliament that "the proscription of the LTTE by India, US,
Canada and the EU member countries has been undermined and diluted
through the continuing ability for numerous front organisations of
the LTTE which posed as charitable fronts." In light of this, he
strongly praised the U.S. move: "Above all, yesterday's action by
the United States shows with no uncertainty that the TRO was not
focused solely on rehabilitation but also on financing LTTE's arms
procurement. This precedent set by the freezing of the assets of
the TRO in the US following a detailed investigation, we believe
should encourage other countries which are also investigating LTTE
front organisations including the TRO --particularly Australia,
Canada, Denmark, France and the UK -- to take tangible action
against these organizations. I call upon the international
community to act speedily in this regard."

COMMENT: U.S. MUST STAND SQUARELY FOR TAMIL RIGHTS
--------------------------------------------- -----

9. (SBU) Post will continue to emphasize that the TRO designation
does not change the USG's support for Tamils' human rights in Sri
Lanka. However, our credibility among Tamils appears to have been
hurt by the TRO designation. It will be all the more important
therefore to attempt to hold the government to international human
rights standards in its day-to-day treatment of Tamil society and to
emphasize the importance of a negotiated settlement that meets the
aspirations of Tamils and other Sri Lankan communities.
BLAKE

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