TRO denies U.S. accusations, says proscription will harm Tamil people
[TamilNet, Sunday, 18 November 2007, 20:23 GMT]
Expressing dismay over U.S. Department of Treasury's action against the Tamils Rehabilitation Organization (TRO), and reiterating that TRO is NOT a "front to facilitate fundraising and procurement for the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)," the TRO, in a press release issued Sunday, stated categorically that "all funds received are utilized according to the wishes of the donor, in line with the stated mission of TRO, to assist the tsunami and war affected populations of the NorthEast. None of these funds are, or have ever been found to have been, misappropriated for use by any other organization or used inappropriately by TRO itself."
Full text of TRO's press release follows:TRO response to US actions
It is with dismay that Tamils Rehabilitation Organization (TRO) learns of the actions of the United States Department of the Treasury under Executive Order 13224. TRO reiterates that we are a local NGO providing humanitarian relief, reconstruction, rehabilitation and development to tsunami and war affected persons and NOT a "front to facilitate fundraising and procurement for the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)".
Since the signing of the Cease Fire Agreement (CFA) in 2002, TRO has worked with all three communities in the NorthEast: Tamil, Muslim and Sinhalese and in the aftermath of the tsunami was praised by the international humanitarian community for the speed and quality of our humanitarian relief and emergency response and received an award from the President of Sri Lanka for our construction of Temporary Shelters.
Restricting Humanitarian Relief to the Tamil People
Despite the protestations of the U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka Robert Blake that, "…this designation is an action against the LTTE, not against the Tamil people," 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.
There seems to be an ongoing political witch hunt aimed at discrediting TRO and other national and international organizations working in LTTE held areas. It appears that the goal of this is to reduce humanitarian assistance provided to the Tamil civilian population in LTTE controlled areas as well as in GoSL war affected areas. The freezing of the TRO bank accounts by the Government of Sri Lanka (4 September 2006) and the US Government (15 November 2007) will further exacerbate the humanitarian situation and cause untold suffering to the approximately 300,000 persons that rely on TRO assistance.
One therefore has to wonder what the goal of the US Government is since no proof of any wrongdoing has been presented that casts doubts on the work of TRO. It seems that the GoSL has been given carte blanc by the U.S. and the international community as reflected in their continuing silence and/or weak public statements in the face of the escalating severity of human rights abuses against the Tamil people including: extra-judicial executions, disappearances, torture, rape, and the targeted bombing and shelling of Tamil civilians by the GoSL as well as the GoSL's restrictions on the delivery of humanitarian relief to the Tamil people and the use of food and medicine as a weapon of war.
Effect of the Freeze
The actions of the US Government are very distressing to the Tamil people on the island and the Tamil Diaspora. The US Government currently does not provide any humanitarian relief to those in LTTE controlled areas and with the recent actions inevitably supports the GoSL's campaign to limit assistance to the Tamil people. TRO is one of only a few organizations functioning in parts of the NorthEast and the actions of the US Government will lead to further suffering for the Tamil people. 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.
Despite frequent attacks on TRO in the media and the freezing of TRO bank accounts in Sri Lanka and the USA, neither the GoSL nor the US government have shown any evidence of wrong doing.
While TRO-USA will immediately cease financial 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.
Unfortunately, the damage has been done and TRO's ability to fundraise and its work at the ground level will be severely impacted due to the actions of the US & GoSL and the dangers that TRO staff face in their efforts to provide humanitarian assistance will further increase.
Accountability & Transparency
TRO wishes to state categorically that all funds received are utilized according to the wishes of the donor, in line with the stated mission of TRO, to assist the tsunami and war affected populations of the NorthEast. None of these funds are, or have ever been found to have been, misappropriated for use by any other organization or used inappropriately by TRO itself. The GoSL, despite years of allegations, has never brought forth any credible evidence of wrongdoing by TRO.
TRO has placed a great deal of importance on always meeting international standards of transparency and accountability to our donors, beneficiaries and stakeholders. TRO has been audited each year by an independent Colombo based accounting firm as well as having had numerous individual projects and programs audited by, among others, the UK Charity Commission, ECHO, and a majority of its donors. None of these entities has ever accused TRO of providing funds to the LTTE or misappropriating funds for uses other than those they were intended for.
It is common knowledge that the GoSL has been on a world wide campaign to discredit TRO and it is unfortunate that the US Government has been influenced by the GoSL propaganda. Many of the false allegations and factual errors propagated by the GoSL appear in the US Governments statements.
There are many false allegations and factual errors in the Press Releases from the U.S. Embassy and Treasury Department some of which are listed below.
First amongst these is the statement/claim that: "TRO maintains a headquarters office in Kilinochchi, Sri Lanka and operates branch offices throughout Sri Lanka and in seventeen countries worldwide"
This is incorrect; TRO does not have or operate "branch offices" any where in the world. TRO is an organization registered and operating as an NGO in Sri Lanka with its headquarters in Kilinochchi. All other TRO offices and organizations are independent entities registered and operated under the laws of the host countries.
The US Treasury Dept. Press Release further states that: "The LTTE oversees the activities of the TRO and other LTTE-linked non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Sri Lanka and abroad". This statement attempts to portray the TRO and other NGOs as being directed and controlled by the LTTE. This is not the case. The TRO and other NGOs working in the NorthEast are not directed and controlled by the LTTE. TRO, international NGOs and UN Agencies must report to the LTTE as the de facto governing authority in parts of Sri Lanka and must request permission to operate, in the same way as they must report and request permission of the GoSL in GoSL controlled areas of the country. Additionally, these NGOs & CBOs, TRO included, must also report to the GoSL Government Agent (GA) and the relevant GoSL Ministries in Colombo.
The US Treasury Dept also claims that, "Recent information indicates that the LTTE has ordered international NGOs operating in its territory to provide all project funding through local NGOs, which are managed collectively by the TRO. This arrangement allows TRO to withdraw money from the local NGO accounts and to provide a portion of the relief funds to the LTTE. The LTTE has reportedly exerted pressure to comply on a few international NGOs that have resisted these arrangements."
This allegation is also without any merit. International NGOs and UN agencies work with GoSL departments and with the GA and all projects and work, including beneficiary selection, go through the Rural Development Society (RDS) and the Women's RDS and are undersigned by the Grama Sevaka (GoSL local Govt representative) and Assistant Government Agent (AGA).
The accusations that TRO collectively manages local NGOs and withdraws funds from local NGO accounts also are false. The NGO consortium coordinates all NGOs and Community Based Organizations (CBOs). TRO never "withdraws" or otherwise takes any funds from local NGOs and, in fact, in many cases actually provides funds and gives capacity building to many NGOs and CBOs. In fact, TRO is the leading provider of capacity building to local NGOs and CBOs in the Vanni. In 2004 and 2005 TRO spent Rs. 50 million (US$ 452,857) for capacity building and micro finance projects for local NGOs and CBOs. TRO also provided an additional Rs. 48 million (US$ 434,743) in 2005 to Fisheries Cooperative Societies and Unions for infrastructure development in the Jaffna, Trincomalee, Batticaloa, and Amparai GoSL controlled areas. TRO has also provided capacity development for government institutions and cooperatives and the private sector.
TRO will continue work to support the tsunami and war affected populations of the NorthEast and urges the Tamil Diaspora and wider international humanitarian community to put pressure on the international community to end the violations of International Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law by the Government of Sri Lanka.
For more information contact:
Media Relations TRO (Colombo)
UK Mobile: +44 7758 649198