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Friday, March 02, 2001, updated at 14:02(GMT+8)

Britain's Ban on Tamil Tiger Rebels Considered Diplomatic Triumph for Sri Lanka

A wide range of Sri Lanakan religious, political and academic personalities have seen Britain' s ban on separatist Tamil Tiger rebels as a terrorist organization a major diplomatic triumph for the government.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) were included on a list of 21 world groups as "terrorist organizations" by Britain on Wednesday under its new anti-terrorism law and recommended for approval by the British parliament.

The new anti-terrorism law designed to halt funding and support for London-based militant groups went into effect on February 19.

Both President Chandrika Kumaratunga and Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar have persistently urged the British government to ban the Tamil rebels who have their International Secretariat in London where they use it for fund raising to fight the long- running ethnic war and launch propaganda campaign against the government.

Kumaratunga said it would strain bilateral relations if Britain failed to oblige and Kadirgamar warned that his country would consider it an unfriendly act.

So far the rebels have been banned in the United States, India and Sri Lanka.

The US listed the LTTE as a foreign terrorist organization in October 1997. India banned the rebels after they emerged as the mastermind of the assassination of former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in May 1991.

The LTTE have been fighting against government forces since 1983 in the north and east of the country for an independent homeland for minority Tamils. The bloody war has killed more than 60,000 people.

Sri Lanka's powerful Buddhist clergy was clamoring for the banning of the rebels in England while several extremist national organizations also took to the streets making the same demand.

Most of the Tamil political parties, however, pleaded with Britain not to ban the Tiger rebels as it would dampen the prospects for peace talks between the rebels and the government.

The Tiger rebels themselves warned in a statement from London on Wednesday that such a decision would adversely affect the Norway-brokered peace talks, while theoretician and spokesman for the Tiger rebels, Anton Balasinmgham threatened that if Britain did so it would soon learn what true terrorism meant.

However, the LTTE also said that "irrespective of the British ban, the Tamil Tigers would continue with the peace process and co- operation with the Norwegian facilitatory efforts."

The main opposition United National Party, which had kept silent with the Tiger rebels, finally came up with a statement Thursday expressing its appreciation of the British decision.

It went further and welcomed the efforts by foreign governments to contain international terrorism.

The government has decided to send Foreign Minister Kadirgama over the coming weekend to London with a message to thank the British government for its decision.

The President of the Sinhala Jathika Sangamaya S.L. Gunasekera expressed delight at the decision and hoped that other European countries will follow the example.

Spokesman for JVP or People's Liberation Front Wimal Weerawansa also expressed his party's approval at the British gesture and General Secretary of the Sihala Urumaya (Heritage) Thilak Karunaratne said that his party was elated by the decision.

Leader of the Interreligious Alliance, Venerable Kumburugamuwe Vajira Thera said the country was indebted to Foreign Minister Kadirgamar for his untiring efforts to win the battle.

Diplomats here said that it would now be extremely difficult for LTTE to openly raise money in London for their war against the government and the British ban may also serve to halt the flood of refugees to Britain.

In This Section

A wide range of Sri Lanakan religious, political and academic personalities have seen Britain' s ban on separatist Tamil Tiger rebels as a terrorist organization a major diplomatic triumph for the government.

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