Daily Archives: September 2, 2006
By Cameron Stewart
THE FBI has accused Australia’s Tamil community of helping fund terrorist attacks by the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka.
The FBI says the support may also include buying technology and military arms and equipment to help the Tamils in their bloody separatist war against the Sri Lankan Government.
The accusation was made after the Federal Bureau of Investigations arrested 13 men in the US last week for plotting to buy Russian-made shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles and assault rifles for the Tamil Tigers.
It is not known if the men have links to Australia. However, Australian Federal Police officers are investigating the activities of several Tamil organisations in Melbourne and Sydney.
FBI documents tendered in a New York court said Australia played a key role in the global fundraising efforts for the Tamil Tigers.
"The LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) relies heavily upon supporters in Europe, US, Canada and Australia to raise and launder money, acquire intelligence and purchase technology and military arms and equipment," the FBI said in a statement.
Concerns that Australia’s Tamil community was helping fund the Tigers led to a series of raids by the AFP in Melbourne and Sydney in December. No arrests have been made but investigations are continuing.
The AFP is also expected to examine any links with those arrested in the US.
Shortly before the AFP’s raids, Sri Lanka warned the Howard Government that charity donations given by Australians after the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami may have been used to fund the Tamil Tigers.
Australians gave more than $1million to Sri Lankan victims of the tsunami, largely through two Tamil organisations, the Tamil Rehabilitation Organisation and the Tamil Co-ordinating Committee.
But the FBI said last week the North American offices of these two organisations were "fronts" for the clandestine channelling of financial and military aid to the Tamil Tigers.
"The LTTE relies on front charitable organisations, including the TRO and World Tamil Co-ordinating Committee among others to give their fundraising activities the appearance of legitimacy," the FBI said.
"These organisations are also used to smuggle goods to the LTTE in Sri Lanka."
The TCC and the TRO in Australia have strongly denied channelling funds to the Tamil Tigers.
The FBI arrests came less than a month after a frail four-year-old ceasefire between the Tamil Tigers and the Sri Lankan Government fell apart.
Since 1983, the Tamil Tigers have waged a bloody war — including about 200 suicide-bomb attacks — in a campaign for a separate homeland within Sri Lanka.
While the Tamil Tigers are not officially proscribed as a terrorist organisation in Australia, they are considered to be engaged in terrorist activity in their homeland and it is illegal to fund the group.
The TCC’s offices in Melbourne were raided by the AFP in December but no charges have yet been laid.
TCC spokesman Perambalam Senthooran told The Weekend Australian yesterday that the organisation had received legal advice that its fundraising activities did not breach Australian law. He said money sent to the Tamil community in Sri Lanka was used for community projects and not to assist the separatist guerilla group.
The AFP has also been closely monitoring the actions of the Australian office of the TRO after Sri Lanka told the federal Government it was concerned about the group’s fundraising activities.
The funds raised by the TRO in Australia jumped from $200,000 a year to more than $1.1million after the tsunami.
The head of the TRO in Australia, Melbourne-based gynaecologist Rajan Rasiah, has denied that the group funds the Tamil Tigers.
But he has said that the TRO had no choice but to co-operate with the Tamil Tigers in directing charitable contributions because they controlled northeast parts of the country.
"You have to work with the permission, with the approval and with the support of the LTTE if you want to work in the northeast," Dr Rasiah said.
Via… Global Order
A Statement by the Rt Revd Duleep de Chickera, Bishop of Colombo
The killing of the seventeen aid workers and the disappearance of Fr Thuraisingham Jimbrown and his associate Mr Vimalathas have shocked the nation and even the world. Pertinent questions are being raised for which answers are imperative. The reputation and image of the nation is also at stake. To date, there has been no official explanation regarding the circumstances of these very serious and tragic events. We are no doubt in a very critical impasse of justice.
The GoSL must therefore expedite independent investigations into these happenings and share these findings publicly. The perpetrators must be named and appropriate action taken or in the alternative these investigations should indicate that sources other than SLAF are responsible and these sources named.
Consequently, I urge the President to invite a team of impartial and competent Sri Lankan expatriates acceptable to all concerned to conduct independent investigations. The prevailing culture of violence and intimidation is not conducive to an independent local investigation. Recent delays in natural justice in similar instances also require innovations in the nature of investigations, if impartiality is to be ensured, and until and unless conditions change for the better.
The families of these persons killed and missing as well as ACF (the NGO concerned) and the Roman Catholic Church have a right to know what happened to their loved ones and employees as well as the identity of those responsible for harming them. If not, they and the people of this country will have every right to conclude that the GoSL is unwilling to ensure a just process leading to justice, when the lives and rights of its citizens are violated.
I offer condolences and prayers of our Church to the families of these victims as well as to ACF and to Bishop Thomas Soundranayagam and the Roman Catholic Church..
As a country we are now in an alarming situation of worsening violence, intimidation and immense human suffering and anxiety. Our best chance still of a return to a pro-life culture is that we should learn to honour truth, reject violence and respect each other. If not in the words of Arundhati Roy "what goes around must come around ", and we will all soon be engulfed in chaos and destruction. -Island
MAHARA, Sri Lanka, Sept 1, 2006 Sri Lanka, which carved a global niche with its exotic lingerie, has penetrated an even more lucrative market — body armour, flak jackets and bullet-proof vests for foreign troops.
The South Asian nation has no major defence-related industry despite being mired in a decades-long battle with Tamil Tiger guerrillas, but a former Sri Lankan marine engineer is hoping to change that with his life-saving venture.
Mohandas Ajitha Wijetunga, 46, and his wife Himmani, 45, employ a small army of workers at a modest factory in this suburb of Colombo to make camouflage body armour for Saudi troops as well as some United Nations peacekeepers.
Other foreigners in the line of fire such as Jordanian troops are also kitted up by Wijetunga’s Harsha International, the only company in Sri Lanka venturing into the body armour business.
De-miners, diplomats, peacekeepers and even Sri Lanka’s President Mahinda Rajapakse don body armour made locally by the Wijetungas.
The couple import their main raw material "Kevlar", a thin fibre with tremendous strength and resistant to cuts and heat, and turn out jackets according to the individual needs of foreign buyers.
The Wijetungas do not like to discuss the prices of their hi-tech garments and accessories, or disclose sales figures, but they say the price in Sri Lanka would be about one third of the cost abroad.
Wijetunga said he took an interest in ballistics after seeing his wife make good business selling dog tags, camouflage clothing and socks to the island’s security forces and the police.
"I told my husband that bullet-proof vests and flak jackets were also made out of fabric and couldn’t understand why the government imported them when it can be done here," Himmani Wijetunga told AFP.
Sri Lanka’s 2.5 billion dollar garment manufacturing industry is one of its success stories with lingerie, made for the world’s top brands such as Victoria’s Secret and Triumph, accounting for over a tenth of export earnings.
After experimenting for six years, Wijetunga designed and developed his own line of body armour and flak jackets for UN organisations carrying out humanitarian work in Sri Lanka’s embattled north-east.
The UN operation, launched a year after the February 2002 truce pact between Sri Lankan troops and Tamil Tiger guerrillas, also created opportunities for him to develop de-mining gear.
Orders are now flowing in with Jordan picking up a few hundred de-mining jackets this year, followed by 2,000 pieces of body armour bought by Saudi Arabia.
Weighing around six kilos (13.2 pounds), each body armour set comes equipped with hard armour plates to fend off bullets.
"Hard armour plates are layers of Kevlar pressed together and dried under high temperatures, each plate is about an inch thick," he said.
The Saudi army preferred a ceramic-based armour plate, he said.
"When a bullet is fired it doesn’t penetrate the armour plate … You don’t see any cracks or bullet penetrations in a Kevlar-based plate," explains the former seaman. The couple has a ready market at home too.
The firm currently supplies its entire range of high-tech combat gear, plus pouches, bags, ballistic helmets, caps, camouflage shirts, olive green t-shirts and raincoats to Sri Lankan forces and the police.
Wijetunga is currently working protecting vehicles from Claymore mines, also known as side-charges which are packed with hundreds of steel ball bearings that can cause damage over an area of up to about 100 meters.
"Claymores are deadly, as steel balls cause a lot of internal damage to humans. We have successfully tested our product at the army firing range last weekend," Wijetunga said.
Hopeful that Sri Lanka’s seemingly unending ethnic conflict which has claimed over 60,000 lives since 1972 may come to an end, Wijetunga says there is plenty of work even in peace times.
"The Sri Lankan army needs around 25,000 helmets annually. Any soldier, sailor, policemen or air force officer needs routine military gear."
War or peace, they would be in business. A growing band of foreign peace keepers have created a steady stream of work.
"I don’t like war. I only develop products to save people from mines and bullets. That’s my contribution."
Via… Daily Mirror
Former Pakistani High Commissioner says RAW tried to kill him in Colombo
A diplomatic row between Pakistan and India loomed yesterday after Islamabad’s former High Commissioner to Sri Lanka flatly and bluntly accused the Indian intelligence agency RAW of trying to kill him in Colombo on August 14.
The Indian High Commissioner in Colombo dismissed as nonsense the charge by former High Commissioner Bashir Wali Mohammad– a former Pakistani military intelligence chief – while in Islamabad the Pakistan government moved to defuse the crisis by saying it was awaiting a full report on the investigation being conducted by the Sri Lankan government.
In an interview with the Islamabad based magazine The Post, Col. Wali rejected the version that the LTTE masterminded the attempt on him. He instead blamed RAW for starting a proxy war in a third country by carrying out this lethal exercise.
Former spy chief, who had served on diplomatic assignments in different countries before his appointment as the country’s high commissioner to Sri Lanka, told the Post magazine the LTTE not only refused to claim responsibility but also denied reports published in the media about its involvement.
“The Indian High Commission in Colombo is quite disturbed with the fast-growing bilateral relations between Sri Lanka and Pakistan”, he told The Post in his first-ever interview to the local media after returning from Sri Lanka last week.
The Post said the Indian spy agency RAW was closely watching the movements of Col. Wali who has emerged as the most influential head of a foreign mission in Colombo. Col. Wali narrowly escaped a powerful claymore mine attack on August 14 in Colombo but the explosion hit the military vehicle escorting him. Of the seven Sri Lankan commandos guarding the diplomat, four were killed instantly as their white Land Rover Defender took the full force of the blast. Three bystanders were also killed. In an exclusive interview with The Post at his residence, Col. Wali said the Indian government was upset with the decision of the Pakistani government about his appointment as high commissioner in Sri Lanka.
“Its agency, RAW has long been playing its dirty game against me in Sri Lanka even before my arrival in Colombo in June 2004 when a former RAW official B. Raman wrote articles against me in the Sri Lankan papers requesting Sri Lanka not to accept my accreditation as High Commissioner” he said.
Col. Wali said that as Pakistan-Sri Lanka relations touched new heights during his two-year stint, it further disturbed the Indian government. He denied the impression that Pakistan’s plan to ship new arms to Sri Lanka to battle Tamil rebels triggered the assassination attempt on him. He said the LTTE vehemently denied its involvement in this case.
He said he was travelling along with his wife and daughter when the powerful blast took place. At first he thought it was just a coincidence that the blast occurred when he was passing the area but the evidence collected later on proved the point that he was the target.
A close friend of former Prime Minister Mir Zafrullah Jamali, Col. Wali was first appointed Director General Intelligence Bureau and later high commissioner during Jamali’s stint as Prime Minister of Pakistan. The recipient of the country’s second highest award, Hilal-e-Imtiaz, he has served as a brilliant intelligence officer and was the only career Intelligence Bureau officer who rose to the highest office of the agency. Before going to Sri Lanka as high commissioner, Col. Wali had served on diplomatic assignments in Britain, Belgium and in other countries.
As to how caring the host government was about his security, he said the President of Sri Lanka had assigned seven commandos for his security. Mr. Wali said the first call he received after the incident, was from the Sri Lankan President who asked about his well being. -Daily Mirror