COLOMBO Nov 22 Sri Lanka's cabinet has banned a charitable organisation accused of raising funds for the Tamil Tiger rebel group, a step analysts saw as a move towards fully outlawing the rebels.
The Sri Lankan government's decision on Wednesday to prohibit the Tamils Rehabilitation Organisation (TRO) came a week after the United States imposed sanctions against the charity.
"We have found this organisation is funding the LTTE, so now we have decided to proscribe TRO in Sri Lanka at yesterday's cabinet meeting," said cabinet spokesman and minister Anura Priyadarsana Yapa, refering to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.
The government will also investigate how TRO spent the money and other resources it received.
The U.S. Treasury, on November 15, designated the TRO organisation as a terrorist support group under an executive order that bans Americans from transactions with it and freezes any assets it may have under U.S. jurisdiction.
It said the TRO has raised funds in the United States for the LTTE through a network of individual representatives.
MARXISTS DEMAND LTTE BAN
Citing sources within the organisation, the U.S. Treasury said the charity group is the "preferred conduit of funds from the United States to the LTTE in Sri Lanka".
The Tigers say they are fighting for an independent state for minority Tamils in Sri Lanka's north and east. Washington first designated the group as a terrorist organisation in 1997.
Hardline Marxists in parliament want the LTTE banned, one of the demands they have made in exchange for supporting the government's budget.
The Marxist Janatha Vimukthi Peremuna, which has 37 seats in parliament, on Monday voted against the 2008 budget. Although the government won by 16 votes, it would be forced to resign if other minority parties follow suit and withdraw support at the final budget vote on Dec. 14.
Analysts said banning TRO was part of the government's effort to isolate the Tamil Tigers and its front organisations and win back Marxist support in parliament.
"This decision is in line with the government's decision to isolate the LTTE which could culminate in the official ban (of the LTTE)," said Jehan Perera, Executive Director at National Peace Council, a nonpartisan activist group. "The government is continuously closing the doors to negotiations and it is continuously closing whatever opening there is for negotiations."
The military has launched an offensive to drive out the rebels from their northern stronghold in Mannar after evicting them earlier this year from jungle terrain they controlled in the east.
Around 5,000 people have been killed in fighting between the military and LTTE fighters since early 2006. Nearly 70,000 people have been killed and hundreds of thousands displaced since the war erupted in 1983.
(Reporting by Ranga Sirilal; Editing by Bill Tarrant)