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Home > Tamil National ForumSelected Writings by Dharmeratnam Sivaram (Taraki) > War is far from over - Whats behind LTTE"s recent recruitment drive?

Selected Writings by Dharmeratnam Sivaram (Taraki)

 

Diplomatic Safari in S. Africa: Tiger-hunt in quagmire

25 November 1998


Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar has been admired again for what is generally believed to be another victory in his relentless diplomatic efforts to bust the LTTE"s international networks.

His journey to South Africa has been seen as a well-timed pre-emptive strike. The choreography of the foreign minister"s achievement in South Africa seems as impeccable as his sartorial manners. The very basis of this South African episode is premised on the belief that the LTTE will be thrown out of Britain soon, that it will have to find a suitable alternative to relocate its international secretariat and that South Africa is the country most likely to accommodate the "stranded" Tiger.

The first problem I see here is the assumption that the LTTE"s international secretariat is a monolith operating from the Eelam House in London. It is only too well known that the chief of the LTTE"s worldwide public operations is Velummayilum Manogaran (or Mano, as he is generally known) who is based in Paris. It is also common knowledge that Santhan, the chief of Eelam House on Long Lane and the organisation"s International Secretariat on Catherine"s Road and other publicly known affairs of the Tigers in UK, takes his orders from Mano and an unspecified number of overt and covert LTTE "officials" who operate from various parts of Europe.

So, even if one takes it as a foregone conclusion that the Britain is going to throw the LTTE unceremoniously out, it does not mean that the present structure of the organisation will be effectively destroyed.

Mano would still be managing the LTTE"s international affairs from Paris. And if we are to go by what happened in the United States, we could even safely predict that Santhan and his men (and women) will continue to carry on with their work in London unhindered even after Britain introduces the said law. The US "ban" (designation, to be precise) on the LTTE, for example, has not prevented Viswanathan Rudrakumaran, the organisation"s legal advisor, and Karuna, chief of its American operations, from carrying on with their work as usual.

The point is that Britain is only going to introduce a general anti-terrorism law but will not bring about specific legislation to single out and banish the LTTE from British soil.

This was more than patent from the comments of the minister of state at the British Foreign and Commonwealth office, Derek Fatchett, while he was in Colombo recently.

The problem we have to ponder here is this " if the specific US law designating the Tigers as a terrorist "outfit" did not translate into the spectacle of Rudrakumaran and Karuna folding their tent in America to desperately seek an alternative haven, then on what grounds does Mr. Kadirgamar would have us believe that the general anti-terrorism law in Britain will compel the LTTE to pack up and head, bag and baggage, for South Africa or, for that matter, any other country willing to let it in. The only indication, as far as I am aware, that the Tigers may be facing some restrictions in Britain was the absence, since last month, of the daily press communiquŽ that they fax to journalists and diplomatic missions. This gave rise to speculation that Britain may have already begun tightening the screws by making it impossible for the LTTE to receive information every day from the Wanni and to fax the communiquŽ worldwide as usual.

This perception, I understand, is quite incorrect. The discontinuation of the daily communiquŽ appears to be the result of a practical policy decision on the part of the LTTE"s international headquarters rather than any "tightening of screws" by the British authorities. Does this all mean that there is very poor, or no co-ordination at all between the Directorate of Foreign Intelligence and the Foreign Ministry? And what is this brouhaha over the arrival of the LTTE"s international headquarters in South Africa, prompted, as we are made to believe, by the imminent closure of the organisation"s operations in Britain. None of it stands to reason or logic.

It is indeed well known that there are a number of pan-Tamil nationalist organisations in South Africa that publicly support the LTTE. It is clear that their activities will continue unabated. There is absolutely no evidence that the South African government is going to crack down on them.

The Tamil Eelam Support Movement (TESM) in Durban announced this week that it will hold a "Tamil heroes remembrance ceremony" on Sunday to honour what it described as the fallen heroes in Tamil Eelam and the Tamils who were killed in the ANC"s struggle against apartheid. (The South African Tamil martyrs, according to the TESM and others, include Valliamma, a young girl who died in prison in the early 1900"s after she was arrested for taking part in Mahatma Gandhi"s passive resistance campaigns in South Africa). The problem runs much deeper than what one may gather from the picture recently painted of the situation by the foreign ministry and other intelligence specialists.

The connection between the Sri Lankan Tamil separatist movement and the African National Congress goes back to the mid-seventies. One instance might suffice to illustrate my point. "Sumathy Master", a senior Tamil member of the ANC was also a central committee member of an armed Tamil militant group from the late seventies. The ANC acquired skills in seaborne operations through him. The group also arranged a special military training programme for the ANC during this period. Later, as the other Tamil Eelam groups joined Sri Lanka"s democratic mainstream, many Tamil militants of the ANC such as Sumathy drifted inevitably towards the LTTE. This was also the case with the powerful Tamil nationalists of Mauritius who recently made that government withdraw new bank notes for not giving Tamil its due place.

(A Reuters report of Nov. 19 says " The episode cost the Mauritius government 2 million US dollars "It"s a great victory for all Tamil militants," Tamil Council leader Devarajen Kanaksabee said. "The controversial family of bank notes was a deliberate affront at the history of this country and more especially at Tamil culture.").

Therefore, what, in the final analysis, has Mr. Kadirgamar"s accomplished in South Africa? In what manner has his much applauded mission contributed to diminishing the military and financial power of the LTTE? The people of this country will be grateful if he condescends to provide an explanation

 

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