Tuesday, 27 May 2014

How DMK, AIADMK combination prolonged eelam war IV



By Shamindra Ferdinando

IN JUNE, NEW DELHI 2006: Karunanidhi and Sonia Gandhi after his re-election as Tamil Nadu Chief Minister in May

Had the Tamil Nadu administration effectively implemented the ban on the LTTE, eelam war IV (August 2006 – May 2009) would not have lasted nearly three years. In spite of the ban imposed by the Central Government of India following the assassination of one time Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi by the LTTE on May 21 1991, successive Tamil Nadu administrations allowed the group a free hand. Tamil Nadu remained a key supply base, transit point, until the very end of the conflict. The Central Government turned a blind eye to what was going on in Tamil Nadu, especially during eelam war IV.

Now that the United Nations Human Rights Council is about to initiate an investigation into accountability issues in Sri Lanka during eelam war IV, it would be pertinent to examine the roles played by Tamil Nadu as well as the ousted Congress Party which were supportive of the LTTE. Although the Congress extended the ban on the LTTE by five more years immediately after the conclusion of the Parliamentary polls, which brought the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led National Democratic Alliance (DNA) in to power, it allowed the Tamil Nadu-LTTE relationship during the final war.

Although the LTTE no longer retained a conventional military capability, both Chief Minister Jayaram Jayalalithaa’s AIADMK (All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam) and former Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi’s DMK (Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam) remained committed to the eelam cause. Sri Lanka should be concerned about their continuing support to the separatist cause here, though they were not constituents of the NDA.

Those propagating the eelam cause have some support within the NDA. Vaiko, MDMK (Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam) founder and NDA constituents are strongly opposed to closer ties between Narendra Modi’s India and Sri Lanka. Vaiko could not win even his own seat in Tamil Nadu state. The DMK too, ended up without a single seat in the same state.

However, the Global Tamil Forum (GTF) appears to be confident that CM Jayalalithaa could influence the Centre, though not being a constituent of the NDA. She secured 37 out of 39 seats in Tamil Nadu, while the remaining seats were bagged by two BJP allies.

Let me recollect some incidents during eelam war IV to highlight the LTTE’s relationship with Tamil Nadu and the failure on the part of the Centre to intervene. The Centre went to the extent of backing Tamil Nadu propaganda meant to humiliate Sri Lanka.

The Indian Coast Guard on February 20, 2007 blew up an LTTE vessel seized on February 13, 2007, 27 nautical miles south west of Point Calimere. The Coast Guard seized the vessel along with five persons – three Sri Lankan Tamils and two Indians. The Coast Guard also recovered bomb making chemicals, suicide belts, a satellite phone and hand held GPS. Many an eyebrow was raised when the coast guard declared that a controlled explosion had to be carried out to destroy the vessel as it carried 2000 kgs of explosives, therefore posing a threat to the Chennai Port. The Coast Guard claimed that the explosives, hidden in a secret compartment was found on February 19, 2007. The Coast Guard never explained why it took a week to discover the secret compartment, as well as its inability to defuse the detonating mechanism. The Coast Guard is on record as having said that the boat was coming from Iranative Island. According to India, the initial detection was made on February 12, 2007.

India ignored Sri Lanka’s request for permission to question those arrested by the Coast Guard (Mystery surrounds the fate of the India held LTTE boat – ‘The Island’ February 23, 2007).

Did the boat really carry 2000 kgs of explosives? Did the Coast Guard make a false claim to justify the destruction of the craft? If the boat was really carrying explosives, it was engaged in an operation to transfer weapons from an LTTE ship on the high-seas to Tamil Nadu.

The SLN never had access to those arrested, therefore could not conduct a thorough investigation. The Tamil Nadu administration and the Centre covered up the incident.

At the onset of eelam war IV, the SLN arrested an Indian fisherman following a confrontation between the SLN and the LTTE.

A pair of SLN Fast Attack Craft (FAC) intercepted a large trawler 40 nautical miles west of Kudiramali Point, North of Kalpitiya on November 14, 2006. A person, who jumped into the sea from the trawler and was rescued by the SLN, explained the circumstances under which the LTTE commandeered the Indian fishing trawler. The Indian identified himself as Sekar. Forty-five year old Sekar carried an identity card issued by the Government of Tamil Nadu. Sekar claimed that 5 LTTE craft had a surrounded the Indian trawler (the one such by the SLN on November 14) and transferred three of his colleagues, Ravi, Thamirajan and Manoharan before commandeering the craft. Sri Lanka gave the Indian High Commission access to Sekar. Although the SLN believed that Sekar could have been involved with the LTTE, the government decided against taking legal action (Lanka won’t press charges against Indian accomplice in arms smuggling – ‘The Island’, November 20, 2006). Sekar claimed that the LTTE seized his boat on November 13.

The Chief Minister, Karunanidhi, turned a Nelsonian eye as regards LTTE activities in his state. Karunadhi ruled Tamil Nadu during eelam war IV. He suffered a heavy defeat in the March 2011 elections to the state assembly at the hands of Jayalalithaa. Now, the AIADMK leader has consolidated her power in Tamil Nadu by winning 37 seats out of 39 in the state at the recently concluded Parliamentary polls.

The first major detection of equipment/armaments coming from Tamil Nadu since the Presidential Election in Nov. 2005 was made in January 2006. The SLN arrested five Indians after a routine patrol detected an Indian trawler carrying 65,000 detonators meant for the LTTE.

The then Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalitha (March 2002-May 2006), allowed the LTTE a free hand. During the Norwegian-arranged Ceasefire Agreement (CFA), which came into effect in February 2002, the LTTE enhanced its operations in Tamil Nadu. Towards the tail end of Jayalalithaa’s administration, the LTTE cleverly exploited her party, the AIADMK, as well as Karunanidhi’s DMK. Obviously, the LTTE continued to deal with both parties as they did throughout the conflict. Karunanidhi’s victory over Jayalalithaa at the May 2006 elections in Tamil Nadu didn’t affect the LTTE’s project meant to ensure freedom for its operatives in the state. Although occasional arrests were made, the Tamil Nadu administration guaranteed a safe environment for LTTE operations.

The LTTE strategy was meant to maintain relations with both the AIADMK, DMK as well as other smaller regional parties, such as the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK). The MDMK leader V. Gopalsamy aka Vaiko, formerly of the DMK, worked for the LTTE’s cause. The LTTE may have played a role in Vaiko quitting the DMK in the early 1990s to form his own party. The MDMK may have probably received LTTE funding over a period of time. As the LTTE dealt directly with all major parties in Tamil Nadu, even those in the opposition didn’t voice concern over the state being used for terrorist operations. In fact, all political parties bent backwards to appease the LTTE. They ignored that the LTTE killed almost 1,500 Indian soldiers deployed in Sri Lanka under a peace accord signed in July 1987 and assassinated Congress leader Gandhi on May 21, 1991 during a political rally in Tamil Nadu. They never accepted the ban imposed on the LTTE by the Central Government of India.

The LTTE welcomed Karunanidhi’s victory over Jayalalithaa in the May, 2006 at elections to the Tamil Nadu parliament. The LTTE realized the importance of Tamil Nadu backing as it prepared to launch what it believed was the final war. The LTTE wanted an uninterrupted sea supply route to bring in arms, ammunition and equipment. The success of the LTTE offensive rested on the continuous supply routes between its bases in the Vanni and ‘floating warehouses’ on the high seas. The LTTE planned to use large Tamil Nadu trawlers to move supplies from big ships to the Vanni. Although the LTTE had been using the Tamil Nadu fishing fleet for many years, the operation launched in 2006 was the biggest as the LTTE intended to move several ship loads of supplies from the high seas to the Vanni.

The LTTE felt confident that an ambitious SLN operation ‘Waruna Kirana’ aimed at blocking supply routes heading towards Chalai and Mullaitivu posed no threat. Launched in May 2001, the costly operation was meant to interdict the LTTE’s ‘floating warehouses’ about 100 to 150 nautical miles away from land. In the run-up to eelam war IV, both the SLN and the LTTE changed their tactics. The then SLN chief, Vice Admiral Wasantha Karannagoda called off ‘Waruna Kirana.’ Karannagoda (presently Sri Lanka’s ambassador in Tokyo), decided to hunt down floating warehouses on the high seas. The LTTE too, changed its tactics. Instead of bringing in floating warehouses into Sri Lankan waters, Prabhakaran decided to carry out mid sea transfers using trawlers acquired from Tamil Nadu. Arms transfers were to take place outside Sri Lankan waters. The LTTE seemed to have been confident that Tamil Nadu officialdom wouldn’t undermine its operation.

The Tamil Nadu government couldn’t have been unaware of what was going on. Although Tamil Nadu knew fishermen could die in the LTTE operation, it remained silent. The LTTE made preparations for war under the very noses of the Indians as well as Co-Chairs, namely the US, EU, Norway and Japan. Many realized the Tamil Nadu factor in the LTTE design, none wanted to voice concern. Having realized the LTTE bid to enhance its firepower, President Rajapaksa on October 9, 2006 warned the peace Co-Chairs that he wouldn’t hesitate to order military action to thwart the LTTE plan. Among those present at the meeting were US Ambassador Robert O. Blake, EU Ambassador Julian Wilson, Norwegioan Ambassador Hans Brattskar, Japanese Ambassador Kiyoshi Araki and German ambassador Juergen Weerth. Weerth was there as Germany at that time held the rotating EU presidency. President Rajapaksa stressed that the prospect of direct negotiations with the LTTE under the auspices of the international community wouldn’t discourage him from countering arms smuggling attempts (Tigers planned mid-sea transfer of arms-US-’The Island’ October 11, 2006).

Sri Lanka’s assertion that the LTTE shopped for arms, ammunition and equipment was reinforced by the arrests made by US authorities at the onset of eelam war IV. The indictment of four persons by the US for conspiracy to provide material support to the LTTE and money laundering highlighted the project.

"In today’s world, keeping sophisticated US weapons from falling into the hands of terrorists has never been more important. As this case demonstrates, we have no tolerance for international arms brokers looking to equip terrorist organisations with Stinger missiles and other advanced American weaponry. Arming a radical organisation with more than 200 suicide bombings to its credit jeopardises the security of the US and nations around the globe," Julie L. Myers, Assistant Secretary for US Immigration and Customs Enforcement said in a statement posted on www.usdoj. gov/usao/md. Myers was referring to the LTTE.

According to the indictment, the suspects conspired to export state-of-the-art firearms, machine guns and ammunition, surface to air missiles, night vision goggles and other equipment for the LTTE, beginning April t2006

According to the indictment, 69-year-old Indonesian national Haji Subandi, one of the suspects in US custody, sought ‘price quotations and technical specifications of military items including night vision goggles, Special Forces weaponry and equipment, communication devices, spare parts for helicopters and military aircraft, sonar technology and unmanned aerial vehicles,’ between March 2004 and April 2006. It also revealed that the LTTE wanted an undercover US agent to visit Malaysia to discuss the deal. The US investigation also revealed that the LTTE wanted to take delivery of the equipment in international waters 200 nautical miles off Sri Lanka. Another Indonesian and a Singaporean are among the arrested. Their initial order totalled about US$ 3 million. The second Indonesian was identified as 60-year-old Erik Wotulo, who was identified as an Indonesian Marine Corps General.

US investigations revealed that the deal was to be finalised in Jakarta.

The Singaporean, Haniffa Bin Osman, 55, according to the indictment, discussed the "illegality of the arms transfer to the LTTE, provided navigational coordinates for delivery in the Indian Ocean, and asked about serial numbers on the weapons." Osman signalled that the second order could be worth US$ 15 million. He also inquired about the pricing for unmanned aerial vehicles.

The US alleged that the suspects transferred US$ 250,000 from a bank in Kuala Lumpur. It was the first payment for the arms purchase invoiced at approximately US$ 900,000. The fourth conspirator was identified as 36-year-old Thirunavukarasu Varatharasa.

The LTTE depend on Tamil Nadu trawlers to move weapons from the high seas to the Vanni. The Tamil Nadu complicity in the LTTE operation prolonged eelam war IV.