ITRO responds to allegations by SL Highcommission in Australia

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 29 November 2005, 11:47 GMT]
The International Tamils Rehabilitation Organisation (ITRO London), the representative body of the overseas offices of the Tamils Rehabilitation Organisation, in a letter addressed to Mr. Asoka Girihagama, the deputy high commissioner of Sri Lanka in Australia, requested to provide details of the grounds for his recent allegations in Australian media that the TRO Australia had allocated Tsunami relief and rehabilitation funds to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

TRO Australia is a registered body in Australia and its funds were audited by the Australian Securities and Investment Commission and the Australian tax office has full details of where its money was directed, the ITRO letter said.

TRO Sri Lanka is the only organisation among those that are involved in post tsunami relief and rehabilitation work in Sri Lanka, both national and international, to have published audited accounts of the tsunami funding (January - June 2005), Director of ITRO, Mr. Naga Narendran, observed in his letter to the Sri Lankan High Commission.

He further said that the TRO Family is apolitical in its mission.

Copies of the letter, dated on 26th of November, were addressed to Sri Lanka's President Mahinda Rajapakse, Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera, Foreign Missions in Sri Lanka and the Executive Director of TRO, Mr. K. P. Regi.

Full text of the letter sent by the the Diector of ITRO follows:

Your allegation to the Australian Media “TRO Australia used donations to fund terrorist group”

International Tamils Rehabilitation Organisation (ITRO London) is the representative body of the Tamils Rehabilitation Organisation (TRO) overseas offices (TRO family). You have alleged in the Australian media that TRO Australia is funding terrorism and may have allocated the funds raised for post Tsunami relief and rehabilitation work to the LTTE. ITRO’s mandate requires us to ensure that processes and procedures adopted in the administration of our member organisations are well above board, legal and transparent. Hence, we are anxious to ensure that your fears and suspicions, as alleged in the media by you, are addressed to the satisfaction of all concerned.

We kindly request your cooperation and to provide us with the details of the grounds for your accusation enabling us to carry out a full investigation and to respond appropriately. We assure you that it is in the interest of what TRO family stands for and of the dignity of its respected professional volunteers, who have dedicated themselves to address humanitarian needs of the people of the North-East of Sri Lanka that we wish to investigate such serious allegations.

TRO Australia is registered in Australia and is being administered by a committee of highly qualified independent professionals and its president Dr Rasiah has confirmed that “its funds were audited by the Australian Securities and Investment Commission and the Australian tax office has full details of where its money was directed”.

TRO Australia’s contribution to the Tsunami affected people, drawn from the very substantial funds donated to them by the Australian nationals, has been truly commendable and has assisted immensely in ameliorating the devastation suffered by the Tsunami affected people and their villages of the North-East of Sri Lanka.

You are probably aware that the efforts of TRO Sri Lanka, assisted by the TRO family, including TRO Australia, helped secure an award from the President of Sri Lanka for its Tsunami response.

As you are very well aware that the people affected by the war and then the Tsunami and now the floods, nearly seven to eight hundred thousand, are languishing in refugee camps, temporary shelters and with friends and relatives. This excludes those not evacuated but affected by the attendant poverty, deterioration of health, education and other social deprivation resulting from these disasters.

There are over 150,000 people affected by last weeks floods in the Tamil dominated Northern district alone, of which at least 87,250 are in the Mullaithivu district which is controlled by the LTTE. These figures are not our own but were reported by the Hindu, a leading Indian newspaper of the 25th November 2005. Your government has allocated a sum of Rs 7.0 million (approx A$100,000) to address the immediate needs for the entire flood affected area. Just TRO Canada alone, on the other hand, has allocated US 50,000 to address the immediate needs of the North-East.

We are apolitical in our mission, and in Australia we are subject to national law and also make significant difference in the lives of hapless civilian people of the North-East of Sri Lanka. We also like to remind you that there have been similar accusations in the past by members of your Government through the media. These were much harsher and one such accusation, among many others, was that “TRO Sri Lanka was directly involved in terrorism by importing bomb making items”. Later it was found that the items in question were “enamel vessels used for religious and cultural activities by Hindu Tamils and a donation from overseas to help Tsunami victims”. Whilst no apology was issued no charges were ever laid even though you had the benefit of even the emergency rule.

We also like to highlight, TRO Sri Lanka is the only organisation among those that are involved in post tsunami relief and rehabilitation work in Sri Lanka, both national and international, to have published audited accounts of the tsunami funding (January - June 2005). The accounts were sent in August to the Sri Lankan President, the Prime Minister and his concerned Ministries / Departments and also to the international development community.

ITRO would like to ensure that the well recognised capacity of the TRO family to address the humanitarian needs of the people of the North-East is not compromised by the types of allegations made by you. We await your early response.


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