By Nita Bhalla
NEW DELHI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Sri Lanka has banned 15 diaspora organisations representing ethnic minority Tamils, accusing them of supporting terrorism in the Indian Ocean island and freezing their funding, the Hindu newspaper reported on Wednesday.
The 15 groups - which include the Global Tamil Forum, the British Tamil Forum and the Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam - are based overseas and support the creation of an independent state for Tamils in part of the majority Sinhalese island.
Tamil separatism was the cause of a 26-year-old civil war pitting fighters of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) against government forces, which ended five years ago with the defeat of the LTTE.
The ban comes less than a week after the United Nations announced an investigation into alleged abuses during the war. Many of the now banned Tamil groups had lobbied for such an investigation.
Up to 40,000 civilians were killed in the last months of the conflict, as government troops advanced on the last stronghold of the rebels, a U.N. panel said in 2011, blaming both Sri Lankan troops and the Tamil fighters for atrocities.
The move for an independent inquiry has angered Colombo which says it is already conducting its own investigation into war crimes.
Military spokesman Brigadier Ruwan Wanigasuriya however said the process to ban the groups had begun much earlier and the decision was not based on the U.N. announcement.
Representatives of the banned Tamil groups denied supporting or funding terrorist activities.
"We reject the baseless allegations and propaganda of the Sri Lankan state branding all Tamil diaspora organisations terror groups or terror fronts," S.A.N. Rajkumar, spokesman for British Tamils Forum, was quoted as saying.
His organisation, he said, was "democratic, transparent, accountable and legitimate."