Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

European Parliament tells LTTE “Lay down arms, surrender”

Daily News (Sri Lanka) - 6 February 2009

The European Parliament has called upon the LTTE to lay down their arms and participate in the democratic process.

Yesterday, it was due to pass its sixth resolution on the Sri Lankan situation with the support of all major political groups other than the Socialists.

British Conservative member of the European Parliament MEP Geoffrey Van Orden who chairs the informal Parliamentary Association Friends of Sri Lanka and has initiated most of the Parliament’s resolution on Sri Lanka said “the British Government in particular as well as the EU and other friendly Governments must do all they can to assist the Sri Lankan authorities in humanitarian relief in the Northern areas that have now been liberated from the grip of the LTTE.”

To prevent further carnage, for the sake of all the civilians now trapped by the fighting, and to improve the future prospects of Sri Lanka, the remaining LTTE elements should now give up, he added.

Continuing further, Van Orden said: “It is then vital that the Government moves quickly to reassure all its Tamil citizens that it will be vigorous and pro-active in addressing their economic and political concerns. This is not only the right thing to do but will also ensure that any residual support for armed insurgency and terrorism evaporates.”

The development of the long neglected areas in the North and the East, which for many years have been under LTTE control should be a top priority. This is where the International community should help.

The Government action to restore full media freedom, investigate allegations of human rights abuses, and sign up to the Ottawa Treaty to ban anti-personnel landmines, will all help reassure foreign donors and encourage international action to stifle any continued LTTE fundraising.”

Conservative Foreign Affairs spokesman in the European Parliament Charles Tannock MEP said:

“The EU must be vigilant against LTTE militants who attempt to seek asylum in Europe. Throughout this ferocious 26 year civil war, the LTTE has pioneered atrocious terrorist tactics. While we support the Government’s offer of amnesty for the majority of the LTTE, it is vital that no one responsible for the most serious war crimes is allowed to get away with impunity.

Meanwhile, Socialists Group spokesman in European Parliament Robert Evans who chairs the Parliament’s South Asia delegation said that Socialists refuse to take part in a vote on the resolution since it is imbalanced. “Both sides are to be blamed, not just the Tamil Tigers.” He lamented that no other group supported their stand. The Resolution was passed.

All members except the Socialists were in favour and the Socialists boycotted the vote.

We should support the Govt’s offer of amnesty - Dr. Charles Tennock MEP

Following is the full text of the speech made by Dr. Charles Tennock on behalf of the supporters of the resolution.

Sri Lanka’s bloody civil war seems finally to be coming to a conclusion. The LTTE, which has been blacklisted by the EU as a terrorist organisation, must now surely lay down its arms and surrender. The EU and other co-chairs have urged the LTTE to do so. The LTTE’s response will show us whether it really has the best interests of Tamils at heart. The LTTE is using its front organisations in the EU to maximum propaganda effect and raising money by extortion internationally.

Some LTTE militants may try to seek asylum in Europe. Throughout this ferocious 26 year civil war the LTTE has pioneered atrocious terrorist tactics such as suicide bombings that are now used in many other parts of the world. The Sri Lanka Army has therefore had to deploy all means at its disposal to counteract this brutal insurgency but it’s clear that the casualty figures have been exaggerated and some e.g. the AP story of 300 civilians killed has now been withdrawn as the supposed author subsequently denied authorship.

The death of civilians in a war zone is tragic whenever and wherever it occurs. Clearly the Sri Lankan Armed Forces cannot claim an unblemished record, but they have not sought to exploit civilians and put them in harm’s way like the LTTE has done. If the war really is soon to be over, it is essential that Sri Lanka turns its attentions to post-conflict disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration.

The marginalisation of Tamils at the expense of the majority Sinhalese needs to be addressed in an urgent and permanent manner to ensure a stable and sustainable multi-ethnic society with regional devolution. The EU should also ensure resources are at Sri Lanka’s disposal to support post-conflict development. Although we should support the Government’s offer of amnesty for the majority of LTTE, it is vital that no-one responsible for the most serious war crimes is allowed to get away with impunity.
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