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TMVP led by Karuna says it is high time that Human RightsWatch come up with new procedures to do way with fraudulent affidavits, wrong feedbacks responsible for misleading your organization.

Ms. Padhmini
Secretary
Tamileelam Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal (TMVP)
11/3A, Scohofield Place,
Colombo 03,
Sri Lanka

Given below the full text of the letter written by S. Padmini, Secretary, TMVP Political Headquarters, Colombo.

To:
Ms. Joe Becker
Advocacy Director
Children’s Rights Division
Human Rights Watch,
New York,
United States of America

14 February, 2007

Dear Madam Joe Becker,

Greetings and best wishes.

This letter bears reference to my last letter dated 02 February 2007. In that letter I have very categorically denied the content of unequivocal and superfluous report prepared and released by your organization: “Sri Lanka: Karuna Group Abducts Children for Combat Government Complicit in Forced Recruitment of Young Tamils.” One more time I take this opportunity inform you that the said report was incorrect, false, mischievous, misleading, prepared with intent and motive to deflect and there is no truth in them.

I have brought to your kind notice that your researchers who went to Sri Lanka have come up with unauthenticated reports, affidavits and feedbacks manipulated by the vested interest groups, which are simply a calculated attempt to malign and discredit the name and the growing popularity of the Tamil Makal Viduthalai Pulikal- a political party which believes in human rights, freedom of expression, pluralism, rule of law and above all democracy and in Sri Lanka’s, amity, unity, peaceful coexistence and sovereignty.

However your organization come up with innuendoes, fabricated and supplanted tales and statements, the fact remains that TMVP military wing is not at all involved in the abduction and forceful recruitment of underage children as alleged by you and by Ambassador Allan Rock and UNICEF.

In my capacity as the Secretary of Tamil Makkal Viduthalaui Pulikal, I hereby make it public that Tamil Makkal Viduthalaui Pulikal military wing do not have with them not even one single underage child.

This has been time and again told and reiterated to you Madam Joe Becker when our Leader V.Muralitharan talked to you over the telephone on 29 November 2006, subsequently on 04 December 2006 when he spoke to Radhika Coomarasawmy, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and later he reiterated it when he again spoke to you on 09 February over the telephone.

Also, I told that Tamil Makkal Viduthalaui Pulikal military wing do not have with them not even one single underage child to Ambassador Alan Rock when he visited my office on November 2006.

I am at a loss to understand, why you all fail to discern and comprehend the basic fact that if we have any single underage child with our armed forces, we are fully aware that we would be exposed one day or other and our credibility would be tarnished. Taking it into fully cognizance, we make today public our declaration that we have not one single underage cadre with us.

We are at a loss to understand the purpose behind the calculated move to malign us and attempts taken to perpetuate an untruth by Human Rights Watch as TMVP is involved in the abduction and recruitment of under age children in Sri Lanka.

I am sorry to comment that your procedures adopted by your organization to obtain the so called unsubstantiated statements, manipulated affidavits and unauthenticated documents to allege us and discredit us with unfounded and baseless allegations, are today outdated and it is time to reevaluate them urgently without inflicting more harm in the name of ‘defenders of human rights.’ Kindly take a close look at your outdated procedures and try to rectify them as early as possible.

Kindly understand that Human Right Watch is also an organization manned by human beings, who area fallible and not by someone dropped from the sky or moon. Therefore it is high time to put your house in order before trying to preach others on values, virtues, rights and wrongs.

I think that it is high time that you come up with new procedures to do way with the outdated ones and also put your researchers under microscope who were responsible for the fraudulent affidavits, feedback and responsible for misleading your organization.

Please take note, that the last letter you addressed to me was addressed wrongly. You have addressed our party as Tamileelam Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal. In fact our party is called Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal – i.e. Tamil Peoples Liberation Tigers and not as you has written Tamileelam Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal. We have dropped that word “Eelam” because we don’t believe in a separate state of Eelam. We are striving to have a united, sovereign country of Sri Lanka, or Ilankai as the country is called in the Tamil Language, where Tamils, Muslims and Sinhalese can peacefully coexist with, equality, freedom and sustained peace for ever.

In the telephone conversation you had with our Party Leader Mr. V. Muralitharan on 09 February 2007, he clearly told you that he left the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in March 2004, because he was not happy with the LTTE. He explained to you that he left the LTTE to enter democratic process and work for our people in particular and for the welfare of our country in general.

I was told that he has clearly explained to you that as a military commander of the LTTE, he has seen the scourge of war. He has told you (Open Quote)“I have seen enough of deaths and destructions and realized military campaign will not be the right solution to the issues confronting the Tamils and Muslims and Sinhalese people of the country. Furthermore I never had a craze for war and to hold on to lethal weapons.”(Quote closed)

According to our Leader’s telephone conversation with you, he explained that when he left the LTTE and started a new political outfit, he appealed to the then President Madam Chandrika Kumaratunga to provide us with security, but she failed to do so.

We were not aware why the then President did not come forward to provide security to us, but in the meantime LTTE sent its gunmen and started killing our armed cadres. On the Good Friday attack at Verugal on 10 May 2004 alone, the LTTE killed more than 170 of our cadres in one day. After those fratricidal killings LTTE had killed to date, another 300 of our unarmed cadres.

Mr. Muralitharan explained to you why he started an armed wing. (Open quote) “As the killing continued unabatedly, we were left with two options – to flee or resist further attack on us. We decided to stay put and continue with our struggle. This decision of ours forced us to organize a military unit of the TMVP to protect our cadres from being attacked by the LTTE. Since then we have a military unit camped in four five locations deep into the jungles in the Eastern provinces in no-mans lands.”

“When I left the LTTE in 2004, I disbanded a military unit of more than 4000 militant carders. We released hundreds of underage children who were earlier recruited on the orders of LTTE leader Velupillai Prabakaran.”

“In the course of a telephone conversation, you (Madam Joe Becker) corroborated that during that period in 2004 you were present in Sri Lanka and had heard when you visited Trincomalee and Batticalao about my releasing of hundreds of child soldiers.” (Close quote)

I was told that he told you that right from the beginning, he was opposed to our young children being abducted and recruited into the militant outfit as child soldiers – baby brigade.

What Mr. Muralitharan told you is one of his cherished dreams: (Open Quote) “I wanted my Tamil children to have a descent education and nothing else. Even my commander Pilliyan was recruited by the LTTE when he was 14 years and he is today 29 years old. We know well the mental and physical agony our children undergo when they were abducted, deprived from their familiar domestic environment and compulsorily given arms training to become the cannon fodder.”

“When I was with the LTTE, I took special care to provide education to my cadres. I also opened up an international school in Batticalao for my Tamil and Tamil speaking Muslim children to have the benefit of the modern education and acquire knowledge in the English language. Opening up of the international school with the best of intentions was opposed by the leader of the LTTE Velupillai Prabakaran and that was one of the many reasons for me to leave the LTTE in March 2004.”

“When this was my position, your organization continues to blame that TMVP, a political party under my leadership of having abducted and recruit under age children.”

Kindly understand that there is nothing called ‘Karuna Faction’ as alleged by you. There is only Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal and I am the leader of the political organization. (End Quote)

Furthermore, when the TMVP dropped the word “Eelam” from our party name it was a very clear indication that we are not going to wage war with anyone to set up a separate state, in whatever fanciful name, by splitting Sri Lanka.

Kindly also understand that we have no intention of waging a war with LTTE which is already in shambles. That is not our intention.

The fighting and eliminating the terrorist organization LTTE is the work of the Government of Sri Lanka, which is duty bound to safeguard its territorial integrity and sovereignty of the country. That is the duty of Sri Lanka Army, Sri Lanka Navy and Sri Lanka Air force.

Madam Joe Becker, when someone read your letter addressed to me it is very clear that you have taken the laborious trouble to come up with petty details with fabricated and unfounded allegation, to cover up your deliberate intentions to blame the TMVP, a political party that has just made its entry into the political mainstream of Sri Lanka.

I am not interested in going into all those details because they were already amply covered by our leader when he spoke to you over the telephone and you are simply repeating them over and over again.

I wanted to point a serious lapse in your letter. I have at no time mentioned in my earlier letter addressed to you the name of ‘Tamil Information Centre’, a pro-LTTE organization based in London. I am at a loss to know why you dropped the name of that pro-LTTE organization alleging that I blamed the Human Rights Watch for contacting them and misled by them.

Mr. Muralitharan again reiterated to you that he invited you as well as your team to visit Sri Lanka when he spoke to you on 29 November 2006 and also he extended the invitation again to your team members and to you to visit Sri Lanka and meet him for a face to face discussion and with our office bearers and cadres, when he spoke to you again on 09 February 2007.

We have nearly 13 political offices. Their details attached with this letter in a Table format.

Sri Lanka Police is providing protection to our party offices and this not sort of a concession to us. Sri Lanka police is also providing protection to all the other political party offices all over the island, except those located in Vanni under the LTTE’s control. Earlier when the LTTE had its political offices in the Government controlled areas, they too were given protection by the Sri Lanka Police. Also the LTTE’s proxy party members of parliament Tamil National Alliance (Ilankai Tamil Arasu Kadchchi – they contested parliamentary general elections in this registered political party) too are given police protection.

In some sensitive areas, we are being advised to locate our party branch offices in close proximity of the Sri Lanka Police stations or else to the Sri Lanka Army camps, because it would be easy for them to give protection to our party branch offices as well as to our political cadres.

Despite all the security arrangements we have made, the LTTE rogue cadres managed to penetrate the security cordons and attacked our party branch offices and also killed as well as injured many of our unarmed political party activists.
(Details are given in the attached Table)

As our offices are located in areas under the control of the Sri Lanka Government we are not allowed to carry weapons.

I wish to point out that we are interested in working very closely with the UNICEF for the simple reason our leader wanted our political and military cadres fully aware of the international commitments to humanity. He wanted all of us to be trained on the human rights laws, children rights for our cadres to be fully trained on the need to be aware of their obligations towards the fellow humanity.

We voluntarily contacted UNICEF in Sri Lanka to conduct workshop for our cadres regarding human issues.

Regarding unannounced visit to our army camps by the UNICEF representatives, I think our leader has explained it very clearly to you. I am afraid that any unannounced visit by the UNICEF delegate might put them in harms way and we should not be held responsible if anything happen to them if they try to venture out to our army camps without our guidance. I am sorry we cannot do anything further on this subject. Just to accommodate your request we are not willing to put are cadres lives at risk.

In conclusion I wish to inform you that we have decided to conduct an awareness campaign in the nook and corners of Sri Lanka bringing to the knowledge of everyone that Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal is not at all involved in the abduction of underage children and to warn the parents as well as school children to take maximum precaution against such abduction.

If in case such abduction takes place, we will advise the parents and school teachers and authorities to immediately lodge a complaint with the Sri Lanka Police, followed by handing over a copy of the written complaint to the regional UNICEF office and if interested they can also provide a copy of such complaints to TMVP offices located in the area.

If in case we receive such complaints of abduction of underage children we will try our best to help the parents to locate their children and also participate in their struggle to get their children back from the criminals who abducted their children.

In conclusion in case either human Rights watch or UNICEF receives any complaints in the future that TMVP cadres have abducted any underage children kindly refer them to us so that we may be able to investigate such allegations and post you the results of our investigations.

With thanks and regards.

S.Padmini,

Secretary, TMVP Political Headquarters,
Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Given below the full text of the letter written by Joe Becker, Advocacy Director
Children’s Rights Division, Human Rights Watch

February 9, 2007

Ms. Padhmini
Secretary
Tamileelam Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal (TMVP)
11/3A, Scohofield Place,
Colombo 03,
Sri Lanka

Dear Ms. Padhmini,

Thank you for your letter of February 2, responding to Human Rights Watch’s recent report regarding abductions of children and young men by the Karuna group. We also appreciated the opportunity to speak with Mr. Muralitharan again by telephone today to continue our dialogue with the TMVP on these issues of mutual concern.

To start, I would like to emphasize that your letter is not accurate regarding our past communications, the content of our report, or the conduct of our investigation. We also remain concerned that in our telephone conversation today, Mr. Muralitharan continues to deny any recruitment or use of children by the Karuna group.

1) You state that the publication of our report before the receipt of your January 23, 2007 letter demonstrates a “rush to judgment” by Human Rights Watch. However, Human Rights Watch first contacted you with a faxed letter on November 24, 2006, requesting specific information regarding the Karuna group’s recruitment policies and
practices. In that letter, we clearly requested a response by December 4 in order for the reply to be reflected in our report. In addition, in our telephone conversation with Mr. Muralitharan on November 29, we requested a copy of the Karuna group’s code of
conduct. This request was reiterated in writing in a letter to you on November 30. However, we received no reply until January 23, 2007.

Nonetheless, we obtained a copy of the TMVP military regulations at the last moment before publication and made an extra effort to include them in the report as Annex V.

2) You claim that Human Rights Watch did not accept an invitation from Mr. Muralitharan to visit Karuna camps in order to verify our allegations of child abduction. In fact, Mr. Muralitharan did not offer access to Karuna military camps during our November 29
conversation. During our conversation we discussed only the issue of UNICEF access to the camps, and Mr. Muralitharan stated that “anyone can visit our political offices,” but that “some military camps are in areas where there are threats to the security of people who visit them.” He stressed the danger of landmines. When Human Rights Watch asked Mr. Muralitharan if he would give UNICEF access to the camps to verify that all cadres were over age, he stated that, despite the security risks, he would “definitely consider it.” We did not discuss access by Human Rights Watch to the camps. While we appreciate the invitation in your letter for Human Rights Watch to visit these camps, and we are open to discussing ways in which this could be done, we consider it is much more important for UNICEF to have this access because the agency is in a better position to monitor conditions and investigate allegations of child recruitment and abductions on an ongoing basis.

In today’s telephone conversation with Mr. Muralitharan, he reiterated that TMVP political offices are accessible at all times, but stated that visits to the camps could only be done with prior arrangement. While we understand that there are serious security concerns related to unannounced visits, we hope that a system for such visits can be worked out, to ensure that UNICEF can conduct proper visits.

3) In your letter, you restate several of the claims that Mr. Muralitharan made in his telephone conversation with us on November 29 and again today by telephone, including his denial that the Karuna group has abducted children, and that the LTTE’s recruitment of children was the primary reason why he left the LTTE. We reflected these comments in our report (see pages 45-46). However, they are contradicted by the evidence we collected from eyewitnesses during our October investigation, reports from local nongovernmental organizations, and by the ongoing documentation by UNICEF. Despite Mr Muralitharan’s claims, this evidence leaves no doubt that the Karuna group is responsible for the abduction of hundreds of children and young men. In fact, the most recent UNICEF statistics show that reported abductions by the Karuna group are on the rise.

4) Your letter states that our report is “an attempt to deflect attention” from the LTTE’s recruitment of children. To the contrary, the report makes it very clear that the LTTE has recruited children throughout the more than two-decade long conflict. In our report, we cite the same UNICEF statistic—5,956 documented cases of child recruitment by the LTTE since 2002—that you mention in your letter. We also devote a special section of the report (pages 73-79) to continuing child recruitment by the LTTE. In fact, the report recommends to the UN Security Council that it impose targeted sanctions on the LTTE in light of its violations over many years. Our previous report on child soldiers in the LTTE, “Living in Fear: Child Soldiers and the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka,” makes clear that we hold the LTTE firmly to account.

5) In your letter, you claim that our investigators were guided by the Tamil Information Center and LTTE representatives in the Batticaloa district. This is false. Our researchers had no contact with the LTTE during our investigation.

We are encouraged to know that the TMVP has been in discussions with UNICEF to developan action plan to end child recruitment, and to negotiate access to Karuna camps. However, in light of this dialogue and the commitments Mr. Muralitharan made to the Special Representative to the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict, we are particularly disappointed to see that the number of cases of child recruitment reported to UNICEF and attributed to the Karuna group more than doubled from December 2006 to January 2007. In fact, we note that for the month of January, UNICEF has for the first time documented a larger number of child recruitment cases attributed to the Karuna group than to the LTTE.

We appreciate Mr. Muralitharan’s invitation, which he repeated today, for Human Rights Watch to meet with him. We will certainly request such a meeting the next time Human Rights Watch representatives visit Sri Lanka.

In the meantime, Human Rights Watch stands firmly by our report, and we reiterate our call on the TMVP and its military wing to immediately stop all recruitment of children, and to immediately release all children from the Karuna group ranks. We will publicly welcome and laud such a positive step.

We welcome continued discussion with you regarding this issue.

Sincerely yours,

Jo Becker
Advocacy Director
Children’s Rights Division



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