Sri Lanka Targets Tamil Tigers' Overseas Support Network
By PETER WONACOTT
COLOMBO -- After routing the Tamil Tigers at home, the Sri Lankan government has set its sights on destroying the group's network overseas -- an effort that involves working closely with countries that were critical of Sri Lanka's tough tactics during the war.
In recent weeks, Sri Lankan officials have been sifting through computer files, business cards and daily schedules taken from Tamil Tiger offices in the country's north during this year's military offensive. The intelligence haul, officials say, is helping pinpoint sources of financial support and weapons that flowed to the separatist rebels from overseas.
That supply network appears in some disarray after Tiger leaders in Sri Lanka, including chief Velupillai Prabhakaran, were killed, say two Sri Lankan officials involved in the investigations. Now, top members of the Tamil diaspora are jockeying to take the reins of the movement, the officials say. "Everything will be focused on the international arena," said one Ministry of Defense official. "They are losing control of their activities."
So many will agree that this is a gargantuan task undertaken by the Sri Lanka Government. But, this operation had to start somewhere. There are approximately 1.2 million Sri Lankan Tamils living outside Sri Lanka, out of which, most of them do not support the LTTE or terrorism. However, it is a difficult task for anybody to try to sift out out the bad, especially in foreign lands, without the help of those Governments.
K. Pathmanathan, a gun runner and a financial controller of the LTTE who is wanted by India and the Interpol, spoke freely to many European politicians during the last days of the war in Sri Lanka, and yet, none of these people even thought of reporting such instances of contact to the Interpol. Therefore, the serious involvement of all countries is important.
The Sri Lanka Government has many leads from captured documents, accounts books and phones, both satellite and mobile. With the information obtained from the satellite phones, I am sure names of a good number of 'big ones' are in their possession.
In 2007, French antiterrorist police agents detained 17 people in Paris and neighboring areas suspected of funneling cash to the Tamil Tiger rebels. Sri Lankan officials are also monitoring satellite television programs that they believe help the Tamil diaspora raise money and enlist support of human-rights activists, who in turn put pressure on the government in Colombo.
A number of such satellite channels have been set up -- and abruptly shut down -- in countries including France and Serbia, according to a Sri Lankan government report. A Sri Lankan official says the Tamil Tigers were able to access satellite links to broadcast from Paris. Intelsat Ltd., a satellite-service provider, said in a 2007 statement that the Tigers used one of its satellites without permission before the company said it acted to halt transmissions.
The Tamil Tiger network around the world is vast. Not being intimidated by its size and wherte its tentacles are the Sri Lanka Government must start somewhere. Start small and grow especially because the Government does not possess yet, " the manpower and diplomatic muscle to track Tamil Tigers and persuade other countries to make arrests, unlike the U.S. in its hunt for al Qaeda operatives".