தமிழ்த் தேசியம்

"To us all towns are one, all men our kin.
Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."

- Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 

Home

 Whats New

Trans State Nation Tamil Eelam Beyond Tamil Nation Comments Search

Home > Struggle for Tamil Eelam > Sathasivam Krishnakumar - the struggle was his life > Interview with Sri Lanka Monitor, 1991 - Self Determination is not a dirty word  > Interview with Melbourne Radio, 1991 > India's Act of Piracy > LTTE Petition to United Nations

SATHASIVAM KRISHNAKUMAR
- the Struggle was his Life

India's Act of Piracy

"Nine survivors from the M.V.Ahat were arrested by the Indian Navy and lodged in solitary cells in a special wing of Vishakapatnam jail with maximum security. They were charged with criminal conspiracy, shipment of explosives and threatening Navy officials under the TADA Act. The TADA court judge, Mr.P. Lakshman Reddy, rejected the submissions of the Prosecution as well as the charge of carrying explosives against the crew, and held that the Navy and the investigating agencies, including the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Special Investigating Team, had failed to prove their charges against the crew of the MV Ahat. The Judge said there was no case under the TADA Act against the  accused as they were brought forcibly into the Indian waters and  also there was no evidence of any offence. He agreed with the  defence argument that the Coast Guard ship was not justified in  intercepting m. v. Yahat, when it was in international waters and  when the accused had revealed that the ship belonged to Honduras. Dissatisfied with the judgment of the Trial Court, the Prosecution appealed to the Indian Supreme Court. But the Supreme Court upheld the Trial Court finding and ordered the release of the accused... The Indian authorities, faced with the decision of the Indian Supreme Court, adopted an interesting approach. They re arrested all the freed accused on charges of entering India without valid travel documents! "


On Wednesday 13 January 1993 the ship, M.V.Ahat was unlawfully interceptedby the Indian Navy in international waters inthe Indian Ocean. The ship was intercepted about 290 miles east of Hambantota in the south of the island of Sri Lanka and about 440 miles south east of South India (Latitude 6 degrees North, Longitude 85 degrees East).

The boat was carrying Sathasivam Krishnakumar, (also known as Kittu), one time Deputy Leader of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (and one of its founding members), and several other members of the LTTE. The ship was then forced to travel towards the South Indian coast by Indian Navy frigates.

At the time that the ship was intercepted, Sathasivam Krishnakumar was on a peace mission to Tamil Eelam from Europe.As a direct result of the interception and the actions of the Indian Navy, Kittu and nine other members of the LTTE died in the Indian Ocean. New Delhi's intervention in international waters was an act of piracy.

The International Secretariat of the Liberation Tigers presented, on Friday, 5 February 1993 a Petition to the  United Nations calling for the formation of a Special Committee to hear and investigate the gross violations of  international law committed by India which caused the death of its Central Committee member, Sathasivam  Krishnakumar (also known as Kittu) and nine otherLTTE members in the Indian Ocean in January.

The Petition pointed out that the General Assembly is empowered to actunder Chapter IV, Article 22 of the United Nations  Charter to establishan ad hoc Special Committee to function as a Tribunal to investigate and report on the gross violations of  international law committed by the Indian Government and its agents and servants against the people of Tamil Eelam and its  leaders as set out in this Petition. The Petitiondeclared that under the Law of the Sea Convention, which constitutes customary international law and to which India is a  party, India has no rightto exercise a police jurisdiction on the high seas.

No action was taken by the United Nations on the petition submitted by the Liberation Tigers on behalf of the people of Tamil Eelam. However, nine survivors from the M.V.Ahat were arrested by the Indian Navy and lodged in solitary cells in a special wing of Vishakapatnam jail with maximum security. They were charged with criminal conspiracy, shipment of explosives and threatening Navy officials under the TADA Act.

The case was heard for 37 days, and dragged on for three years. 34 witnesses for the prosecution, mostly Navy personnel were interrogated. On the Court's directive, the Navy salvaged the remains of the sunk ship and claimed to have retrieved rocket-propelling guns and other arms, but the Navy did not submit the gunnery records or communication tapes of the ship to the Court even during in-camera sessions.

Fearing that the case against the accused was not proceeding in favour of the prosecution, the Additional Solicitor General of India T.S. Tulsi was specially requisitioned to marshal additional points in 'defence of the prosecution in the case'. The Indian Government having itself instituted proceedings under the TADA and invoked the jurisdiction of the Court, now contended that the Court had no jurisdiction to inquire into what happened on the high seas!  

UNI reported on 20 June 1996:

"Additional Solicitor General of India T.S. Tulsi told the designated court here today that the trial court had no no jurisdiction to go into what happened on the high seas off Madras coast where the ltte vessel MV Ahat carrying arms and ammunition was intercepted and nine militants were captured

Mr Tulsi, ...contended before the designated Judge P Lakshmana Reddy, that as per the 1952 convention with regard to the laws of the seas whatever happened on the high seas was a matter between two independent states. The two states in this case were India, whose navy captured the vessel and Honduras to which the vessel was said to belong to. Hence the matter could be tried only in the international court of justice if Honduras raised any objection. But honduras had not not made any complaint so far and had even disowned any control or supervision over the crew that operated the LTTE vessel which was originally registered in that country, he submitted.

He contended that the designated court had jurisdiction only to try the arrested men for offences committed on the territorial waters of India.

Quoting relevant provisions from the territorial waters, continental shelf act 1976 Mr Tulsi said the territorial waters of India extended up to a distance of 12 nautical miles from the coast, the contiguous zone to 24 nautical miles and the continental shelf and the economic zone to 200 nautical miles.

Mr Tulsi argued that under the provisions of TADA to prove the theory of conspiracy each of the accused need not be involved or in the know of the real purpose for which the arms and ammunition they had carried in the vessel would be used.

It was sufficient if they had lent substantial assistance in the illegal act of transporting explosives, arms and petrochemicals which were carried clandestinely, he said and asserted that there was no no legitimate use for which these were carried. They were deemed to have shared the intention to carry out terrorist acts, he said.

Mr Tulsi submitted that though the vessel was registered under the name m v Ahat, it was changed in the high seas because the vessel was engaged in clandestine activities.

He contended that the moment the vessel changed its name, it had lost its nationality. Also the crew, did not not hoist the flag of its nationality and did not not have necessary papers. When the Indian navy wanted to know its call-sign, the crew gave a wrong call-signal and it was clear that the vessel was stateless, he said. Such a vessel had no right under the international law he contended.

Quoting international law on piracy, Mr Tulsi said the master of the vessel was not in control of the vessel, but Mr Krishna Kumar (alias Kittu) and he was communicating with the other vessels in the vicinity. A pirate ship could be seized and we had the right to seize this vessel, and contended that if hostile boarding was resisted, the Indian navy had the right to capture the vessel.

But the Indian navy personnel did not board the vessel because of humanitarian considerations and they feared that the men on board might consume cyanide capsules. But later, we had no no alternative but to resort to hostile boarding as a logical conclusion, he submitted.

Quoting from a Privy Council decision, Mr Tulsi contended that since the vessel lost its nationality, the Indian navy had the right to board the vessel and bring it to the territorial waters of India. Once the vessel entered the territorial waters, it committed an offence and was liable to be punished."

However, the TADA court judge, Mr.P. Lakshman Reddy, rejected the submissions of the Prosecution as well as the charge of carrying explosives against the crew, and held that the Navy and the investigating agencies, including the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Special Investigating Team, had failed to prove their charges against the crew of the MV Ahat.

The Hindu International News reported on 29 June 1996 from  Visakhapatnam:

" All the nine Sri Lankan Tamil, suspected to be members of the  Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eeelam (LTTE), were acquitted by the  Designated Court of Mr. P. Lakshmana Reddy, Designated Judge and  District and Sessions Judge, here on Friday. He directed the  Commissioner of Police of Visakhapatnam to hand them over to the  Government of Honduras immediately, since m. v. Ahat, the vessel  they were sailing in, was registered in Honduras.

 The prosecution's case was that the nine accused along with  Kittu, a top-ranking LTTE leader, and nine militants were sailing  on m. v. Ahat carrying arms, ammunition and petrochemicals. The  vessel was intercepted by an Indian Coast Guard ship, 440  nautical miles off the Indian coast on Jan. 13, 1993, when it was  observed that it was not flying a flag and those aboard the  vessel also threatened to blow up the vessel if it was  approached.

The naval ships which joined the Coast Guard ship  later persuaded m. v. Ahat to come near to Madras. When it was  near the shores of Madras it had allegedly fired at the naval  ships on Jan. 16 and later the cargo aboard the ship was set  ablaze.

While Kittu and nine others committed suicide, the nine  accused jumped into sea and were picked up by the naval ships.

The Judge said there was no case under the TADA Act against the  accused as they were brought forcibly into the Indian waters and  also there was no evidence of any offence. He agreed with the  defence argument that the Coast Guard ship was not justified in  intercepting m. v. Yahat, when it was in international waters and  when the accused had revealed that the ship belonged to Honduras. "

Dissatisfied with the judgment of the Trial Court, the Prosecution appealed to the Indian Supreme Court. But the Supreme Court upheld the Trial Court finding and ordered the release of the accused. Reuters reported on 18 March 1997:

"India's Supreme Court has ordered the release of nine Sri Lankan Tamil guerrillas four years after they were arrested from an explosives-laden ship off India's southern coast, court officials said on Tuesday. The officials said the Monday verdict upheld a lower court's ruling that had criticised the Indian navy for intercepting the ship.

... The rebels, who were not identified, were arrested under India's tough Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Prevention Act (TADA), after they were accused of opening fire on Indian security forces. ``The prosecution has failed to establish any offence punishable under the TADA act or the rules framed there under,'' the court order said. .... "none of the accused can be said to have committed any offence under the Indian Explosive Substances Act and the Indian Arms Act,'' it said. ..

"If the nine LTTE men are freed, India will not want to keep them here as free citizens of the world,'' one western diplomat said. ``Would they extradite them? That's another very sensitive prospect.''

The Indian authorities, faced with the decision of the Indian Supreme Court, adopted an interesting approach. They re arrested all the freed accused on charges of entering India without valid travel documents!

Agence France Presse reported on 28 March 1997 from New Delhi:

" Eight Sri Lankan Tamil Tiger guerrillas were freed by an Indian court  after spending four years in jail only to be immediately re-arrested on  fresh charges,United News of India (UNI) reported Friday. A court in the southern town of Visakhapatnam released the eight late Thursday. They had been arrested off the Indian coast in 1993 for allegedly trying to smuggle plastic explosives and weapons into India. But police re-arrested them for entering India without valid travel documents. UNI said they would be produced before a court later Friday."

The facts as found by the Indian Courts establish that the M.V.Ahat was intercepted in the high seas and forced (persuaded) to travel into Indian territorial waters by the Indian Navy. It was a proven act of piracy and Sathasivam Krishnakumar and eight others lost their lives. Today, eight other Tamils languish in India's jails on trumped up charges of having entered India without valid travel documents!


 

Mail Us Copyright 1998/2007 All Rights Reserved Home