Tamils abroad forced to contribute to LTTE

By Chandani Kirinde

The Lessons Lea rnt and Reconciliation Commis sion (LLRC) which held its last day of public hearings on Thursday heard from Fisheries Min ister Rajitha Senaratne and from a Sri Lankan worker in West Asia on the latter's experiences of how the LTTE collected funds in that region starting from the early 1980s.

Dr. Senaratne who said he is appearing before the Commission as a private citizen and not in his capacity as a Cabinet Minister admitted he harboured some suspicions about the LLRC when it as first set up but after following its progress carefully, he was now convinced it was functioning independently and intelligently.

"I believe we need to apologize for the events of the past 30 years. All those who have died are our own brothers and sisters. If we had engaged them when this problem began initially, many valuable lives that could have served this country well would have been saved," he said.

Dr. Senaratne said even though the armed struggle by the LTTE began in 1983, the underlying problems between the Sinhalese and Tamils had been simmering for a lot longer.

"All political parties in the North and South played political football with this problem. They used it to win votes. Unfortunately we did not have a Mahatma Gandhi who could rise above such petty politics," he said.

The Minister said the country now has a golden opportunity after the end of the war to devolve power and move forward. "The dignity of all Sri Lankans is the dignity of the Sinhalese, the Tamils, the Muslims and all other people living in this country. The dignity of the people cannot be restored only by building roads, tanks and giving them food and clothes," he said.

He added that there was no need to stay trapped in terminologies like 'unitary state' in the power devolving exercise. "Even within a unitary structure, a federal form of government can be set up as has been done in Aceh, Indonesia," he added.

D.R.Nanayakkara, a former public servant who lost his job in the 1980 strike and then worked in Kuwait for 20 years said that as far back as 1981 the LTTE was running several job recruitment agencies in Colombo from which it was sending youth for employment to the West Asian countries.

"These youth were engaged to intimidate many of the Sri Lankan Tamil nationals employed there and forcing them to contribute as much as 40 per cent of their salaries to the LTTE's coffers," he said.
He went on to say that the Sri Lankan missions in many of the West Asian countries and particularly in Kuwait did little to address these concerns.

"Many of the ambassadors who served while I was there were only eager to further their personal business and did little else," he alleged.

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