Is New Zealand inadvertently supporting the cause of the Tamil Tigers?

In the aftermath of the civil war in Sri Lanka, New Zealand should re-examine the small but potentially incendiary role it may have inadvertently played in the conflict.

In 2005, New Zealand’s Agency for International Development (NZAID) handed over $121,500 in tsunami relief funds to the Tamil Rehabilitation Organisation (TRO), an organisation long suspected of being a front for the Tamil Tigers. That same year, the TRO had its charitable status revoked in Britain because it had “not been able to account satisfactorily for the application of funds.” Two years later, the TRO was blacklisted in the US on the grounds that it was raising funds and seeking to procure weapons for the Tigers.

Despite assurances by the New Zealand Government that it has not subsequently given funds to the TRO, it continues to hand over tens of thousands of dollars of tax payers’ money to community organisations that have functioned as a mouthpiece for the Tamil Tigers.

George Arulanantham, Auckland coordinator of the Consortium of Tamil Associations in New Zealand (, is on record as declaring his support for the Tamil Tigers. In an interview he gave to Eugene Bingham from the New Zealand Herald in 2002, he said, “We are supporters of the LTTE – we feel they are freedom fighters.” This same George Arulanantham is also on the Board of Advisors for the Tamil Community Education (, an organisation that has received funding from the New Zealand Ministry of Education, Auckland City Council and the Lottery Board, yet has made no effort to conceal its indoctrination of Tamil children, including the glorification of the Tamil Tigers at recent ‘cultural’ functions.

The now defeated Tamil Tigers are banned as a terrorist group in over 30 countries including Britain, Canada and the US. They were infamous for recruiting thousands of child soldiers and dispatching hundreds of suicide bombers during their protracted campaign for a separate Tamil homeland. Less well known in the West is the Tigers’ long involvement in global narcotics trafficking and people smuggling.

New Zealand must pull its head out from under the sand and move immediately to deny sanctuary and support to those who seek to provide succour to extremist organisations. To this end, the National Government of Prime Minister John Key should follow through on its 2008 election campaign pledge to proscribe various nefarious groups, including the Tamil Tigers, as terrorist entities. This is all the more important at this critical juncture when the Tigers are pinning their hopes for revival on the concerted efforts of the diaspora in the West.

Migrants to New Zealand must not be allowed to abuse the freedoms we all enjoy in this beautiful country to foment violence and hatred in their countries of origin.

Comments (8)

by Donald Matheson on August 12, 2009
Donald Matheson

One of the problems with a country ripped apart by civil war, as Sri Lanka's been, is that the space of civil society gets pretty small. Aid agencies have been accused by both sides of being aligned with the other side, and access to areas has historically been difficult without accommodation. Still, today, the huge camps of displaced people set up by the state in the north are barred to most western aid agencies, sometimes on the grounds that helping Tamils is helping the LTTE.

I wouldn't want to donate to a charity supporting the LTTE either, but rather than attack humanitarian groups for having a politics to their aid I'd like to see more pressure on the NZ government and the international community to get more aid going to the north. The humanitarian disaster there is truly appalling - 200,000 people in camps, stories of rape, abduction, murder, malnutrition on all sides. And if that's not addressed, the peace enforced by the gun surely isn't going to last very long.

by Tim Watkin on August 12, 2009
Tim Watkin

I understand the deeply held views around the Tamil Tigers and the liberation politics of Sri Lanka. This is a reasonable argument by a Pundit member that raises the question of whether NZ should designate the Tigers as a terrorist group. (As I understand it, we don't list them as such at the moment). Feel free to debate that question or the wider questions around the Tigers, but let's please be civil.

Donald, thanks for setting the tone so well.

by B M Rogers on August 13, 2009
B M Rogers

I guess the Government won't look at the role that China played in supporting the Sri Lankian Government so as to secure access to the billion dollar port being built at Hambantota either?

Thought not.

by Roshan Mendis on August 13, 2009
Roshan Mendis

Don Matheson's concern for the plight of displaced civilians is to be welcomed. But his assertion that the IDP camps in Sri Lanka are 'barred to most western aid agencies' is blatantly incorrect. All the major UN agencies are operating in the camps, as are over 54 NGOs including Oxfam, World Vision, Caritas, MSF and CARE.

The notion of a 'humanitarian disaster' and the stories about 'rape, abduction, murder and malnutrition' are nothing more than part of a malicious misinformation campaign orchestrated by certain elements in the Tamil diaspora, bitter at the vanquishing of their dream of a separate state and hell bent on undermining the government's efforts to promote national reconciliation.

In fact, according to the UN itself, considerable progress has been made in sanitation, nutrition, and healthcare at the camps and sensationalist allegations about large scale deaths such as those that appeared in the UK Times have been dismissed as 'ridiculous' by the highest ranking UN official in Colomobo, Neil Buhne.  Before rushing to believe such dire accounts, please take the time to read the bulletins issued by the UN at

A recent interview on National Radio of the Director of Muslim Aid in Sri Lanka is also highly informative and provides a first hand view of the situation. The interview can be accessed at 

by Sunil on August 15, 2009

As a Sri Lankan I always read articles written in New Zealand and Australia.


I read another article written by Roshan about a month ago on the LankaWeb. In both the articles you are trying to degrade George Arulanantham and COTANZ.


George Arulanantham is an asset to engineering field and highly regarded in the political field too (as you said in the LankWeb article).  He was awarded the World Who and Who award in 1996 for his expertise.   He still travels overseas because of his expertise- New Zealand is fortunate have him and Lanka is unfortunate to have lost experts such as him.   At the end of the day, where ever they go they are identified as being of Sri Lankan origin and we should be proud of that. Now the time has come to us to stop and think without undermining people as this will not work in the western world. They know how to harness people’s skill and talents.

by Ryan Gray on August 17, 2009
Ryan Gray

It seems like this piece is following a particular bias that has been stated by the Sri Lankan government and 'War on Terror' groups. 'The Tamil Tiger are a terrorist group who kill innocent civilians, and recruit child soldiers'. For some reason because of this any Tamil group who believe in independence, or in any way shape or form give money to them are lumped in with them.

I think this bias is being discredited, based on the fact that the harshness of the Sri Lankan government response was so brutal and non-negotiable. The Sri Lankan government ignored any calls for ceasefire and denied any bad press.

If you want more balanced ideas I suggest Al-Jazeera's coverage of it. Especially the 'Dining with Terrorists' segment released in Februrary ( Before you write Al-Jazeera off as being pro-terrorist (Which many once did, but I think this is changing) the journalist involved actually saved the current Prime Minister's life. So he managed to get exclusive interviews with him. It also shows scenes from the first camps set up.

I think New Zealand should take a neutral stance, and any aid given to Tamil groups after the Tsunami were sorely needed as the Tiger controlled areas were worst hit, and received little aid from the Central Government who spent much of their aid on weapons, and sold the newly 'cleared' coastal property to hotel developers. (The Shock Doctrine - Naomi Klein)

My partner who is a nurse has many Sri Lankan friends, travelled to Sri Lanka before and after the Tsunami, and many people stated there was no flow of aid from the government to the people. But that they were used to the government not doing anything for them.

I'm not saying the government is worse than the Tigers, but I am saying they have a lot in common.

For the sake of all my Sinhalese and Tamil friends, I hope that island comes right....


by K.Pillai on August 18, 2009

The contents of “New Zealand’s role in Sri Lanka’s war” by Rohan Mendis and the open letter written by him to Hon. Murray McCully on 16 June are virtually identical. Both do not address the inhuman conditions in which 300 000 Tamils are interned in barbed wire fenced camps.  The government of Sri Lanka is insensitive to the plight of the internees because all of them are Tamils. Mr. Mendis concurs.  Every Tamil Kiwi has a close relative languishing in the concentration camps.  We know the suffering they are undergoing. International community know this. Mr. Mendis obviously does not want to acknowledge this.  On 25 June a delegation (which included two of the three Rajapaksa) told the Foreign Minister of India that the internees will be released in six months, the next day Colombo changed it to 80% of internees which was reduced to 60% two days later.  Subsequently the President decreed that the 60% is a “target”. We know that the camps will never be closed.

Mr. Mendis has been briefed to denigrate opponents of the government of Sri Lanka and in following instructions he oversteps with personal attacks.  In Sri Lanka, personal attacks is savoured but not in New Zealand. Theoretically a Tamil Kiwi can become the Prime Minister of New Zealand.  Sri Lankan constitution stipulates that the President must be Buddhist-Sinhalese. Tamil Kiwi children are aware that in Sri Lanka their Tamil brethren are denied rights to protest. Why is Mr. Mendis is concerned that Tamil Kiwi children do not carry the Lion flag?

COTANZ (Consortium of Tamil Associations in New Zealand) represents Tamil associations throughout New Zealand and speaks out about the human rights situation of Tamils in Sri Lanka.

Mr. Mendis posed a dumb question “Is New Zealand inadvertently supporting the cause of the Tamil Tigers?” Not at all but New Zealanders are concerned about the raw agony of Tamils. Mr. Mendis is probably not aware that on 2 June 2009 the New Zealand Parliament passed a resolution on which we reproduce below

That this House note its deep concern at the dire humanitarian situation in northern Sri Lanka and call upon the Sri Lankan Government to accede to United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s call for UN agencies to be given “immediate unhindered access” into the internally displaced persons camps in order to bring aid to those who desperately need it, and  ask the Sri Lankan Government to allow media access to the camps.

Has the plight of the internees changed over the past ten weeks? Yes - only it is worse now. Mr. Mendis join us to end the suffering.

by tamilkiwi on August 30, 2009

i cant belive Black Caps are playing Sri Lanka while just few kms away 300k Tamils are suffering behind barbed wire.


happy playing


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