Sunday, 03rd August 2014
By Camelia Nathaniel
Are the British Tamil votes, funds and campaign contributions controlled by the LTTE in the UK influencing Britain’s policy towards Sri Lanka? After the end of the war, LTTE UK that funded LTTE’s campaign of terror transformed into a propaganda and lobbying outfit. Determined not to give up, the LTTE UK and its core supporters, now seek to achieve the separate state by lobbying British parliamentarians across the political spectrum.
British leaders who know about Sri Lanka such as Lord Naseby, Conservative Peer, defend Sri Lanka. In March 2009, when the LTTE held the Wanni Tamils as hostages, the Chair of All Party Parliamentary Group on Sri Lanka, Lord Naseby remarked: “If there is any genocide in Sri Lanka it is by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam who hold civilian Tamils by force as a human shield in the war. This talk about genocide is rubbish. The only people who are causing genocide are the LTTE who are holding the civilians as a human shield.”
In the lead up to elections, it is no secret that LTTE activists work for British MPs. A few LTTE activists have been identified even serving as advisors. In reality, since the defeat of the LTTE in Sri Lanka, the UK LTTE’s hold and influence on the community is waning. Most ethnic and religious communities do not vote in blocs. Further, other voting blocs grow and wane. Voting blocs are divided by country (India and Sri Lanka, in this case) by class, caste, and issues. It is a myth that Tamils vote en bloc. Except those who seek prominence in LTTE fronts, the well to do Sri Lankan Tamils does not identify themselves with the LTTE. Together with Sri Lankans of other ethnicities, the well established Sri Lankan Tamils will not be influenced by the LTTE activists working for the British MPs. Nonetheless, the LTTE activists project that they hold the key to the Tamil votes.
The main vehicle harnessed by the LTTE to engage the MPs is the British Tamil Forum (BTF), registered as a charity in the UK. Joan Marie Ryan, a former Labour MP from a marginal seat of Enfield, was appointed as Chief Executive and Policy and Communications Advisor of BTF. Ryan’s Notts constituent Dr Muregeshu Vinayagamoorthy alias Dr Moorthy actively worked for her election. In his Nottingham residence, Dr Moorthy provided safe haven to Pratheepan Thavarasa, a former bodyguard of Prabhakaran, who later rose to the rank of deputy head of LTTE procurement. Jailed in the US for four years, Dr Moorthy engaged in LTTE procurement, fund raising and an attempt to bribe US officials to delist the LTTE. Dr Moorthy was struck off the UK medical registry.
The focus of BTF is advocacy in the UK. As the British politicians are dependent on votes and campaign contributions to win elections, the BTF has created four advocacy wings to lobby the British parliamentarians.
(1) All Party Parliamentary Group, use the BTF address
(2) Tamils for Labour lobbies the British Labour Party led by Ed Miliband, the brother of David Miliband
(3) British Tamils for Liberal Democracy lobbies the Liberal Democratic Party led by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg
(4) British Tamil Conservatives lobbies the British Conservative Party led by Prime Minister David Cameron
In return, the lobbied British parliamentarians exercise pressure on both Prime Minister David Cameron and Foreign Secretary William Hague to issue statements against Sri Lanka. Furthermore, the British politicians influence the British civil servants including the Foreign and Commonwealth Office against Sri Lanka. The visit of the former British Foreign Secretary David Miliband to Sri Lanka to stop the war on the eve of the defeat of the LTTE is a case in point.
It is a known fact, the LTTE fronts in the UK wanted Prabhakaran saved, the LTTE organisation preserved and to engineer a humanitarian crisis leading to international intervention. Acting at the behest of the LTTE fronts claiming to represent Tamil interests, British Politicians including Miliband did not want Prabhakaran to surrender or dead. None of them appealed to Prabhakaran to release the Tamil civilians held as a human shield. According to a Wiki leak, the visit of Miliband had nothing to do with human rights, but Tamil votes for the British Labour Party. David Miliband did neither dispute the leak nor its content. When the LTTE umbrella organisation in the UK, Global Tamil Forum (GTF) was inaugurated within the hallowed premises of the British parliament, Cameron, the then Conservative Party leader, could not resist sending greetings.
The strategic partner of GTF, the BTF created the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Tamils as an All-Party Parliamentary Subject Group. Although other terrorist groups too have lobbied British parliamentarians, none is as well organized and operated effectively as the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Tamils. According to records, BTF held their last registered annual general meeting on 10 July 2013. Although the stated aim of the BTF operated All-Party Parliamentary Group for Tamils is “To promote in Parliament peace with justice and dignity for Tamils in the island of Sri Lanka and advance the development so as to recognise their legitimate socio-political aspirations”, it true intention is secession.
Towards advancing LTTE’s goal, the BTF tried to promote a) spread false propaganda of genocide b) call for an international investigation c) a Scotland-type referendum. As in any insurgency and terrorist campaign, Sri Lanka witnessed isolated atrocities perpetrated against terrorists but there was neither genocide nor a planned genocide. The photographs provide irrefutable proof of civilians running away from the LTTE and Sri Lankan security forces rescuing nearly 300,000 Tamil civilians held by the LTTE as a human shield. In that humanitarian operation nearly 5000 Sri Lankan troops were killed and several thousands maimed and injured.
The first President of BTF was Kandiah Senthilkumar alias Sen Kandiah alas Senthil alias Kumar, an associate of the then LTTE UK chief Shanthan. Immediately after the British police arrested Shanthan, the LTTE Chief, in June 2007, the former Tamil Guardian editor Rajasingham Jayadevan, wrote of LTTE relationship with BTF. He said Shanthan “used the services of Liverpool based Dr N Satchithananthan and Senthilkumar to extend his forceful takeover efforts. Senthilkumar who is the present head of British Tamil Forum who successfully brought the IBC and TTN under LTTE control whilst Dr Satchithananthan played his role obediently to take over the Tamil Guardian.
Those who did not co-operate were branded as traitors and treated with contempt.” As it wished to influence the community, the LTTE had the practice of either establishing or infiltrating Tamil community, media, and other organisations with their trusted agents. The IBC, a radio station, and TTN, a television station, was controlled by the LTTE. Such agents serve in terrorist fronts such as BTF, GTF, TCC, TYO. After the British police arrested Shanthan, his successor Thanam worked with BTF leaders.
The BTF acts as the secretariat for the All Party Parliamentary Group for Tamils (APPGT). The All Party Parliamentary Group for the Tamils was set up in the beginning of May 2007. A controversial British Parliamentarian investigated for corruption, Keith Vaz MP of the Labor Party and Simon Hughes MP of the Liberal Democrats were elected Chairman and Vice-Chairman respectively.
The Vice Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Tamils was Simon Hughes MP for Southwark and Burmondsey in London. Although only a few dozen Sri Lankan Tamils live in Hughes constituency, at its peak the LTTE relocated its head quarters in the UK commonly known as Ealam House to 202 Long Lane, London. Hughes trusted constituent was the leading LTTE activist and fundraiser Elizabeth Packiyadevi. Mann was elected Mayor at the London Borough of Southwark council meeting in May 2008. In addition to lobbying in Geneva for the LTTE, Mann held the secret appointment of head of the Tamil Eelam Economic Development Organisation (TEEDOR) in the UK.
The BTF focused on expanding the APPGT to 69 members by 2011 with Lee Scott as chair, Virendra Sharma, Siobhain McDonagh, Simon Hughes MP as vice chairs. Gavin Barwell served as the Treasurer and Secretary. Lee Scott continued as the chair. The Labour MP for Ealing Southall, Virendra Sharma emerged as one of LTTE most prominent supporters. Former Councillor and Mayor of London Borough of Ealing, Sharma replaced the long serving Pierre Khabra MP who had kept the LTTE at arms length. During the by-election, the LTTE had funded and its activists had worked tirelessly for Sharma. The LTTE’s regional finance head Vasanthan from Southall led the effort.
By 2012, the numbers of the APPGT declined to a third. Most who continued were MPs with constituencies hosting Tamils both residents and asylum seekers in significant numbers. While Lee Scott remained as the Chair, Virendra Sharma and Siobhain McDonagh acted as the Vice-Chairs, and Robert Halfon acted as the Treasurer & Secretary. The APPGT used the following name, address and contact details for enquiries and correspondence:-. “Mr Lee Scott MP, House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA. Tel: 020 7219 8326.
By 2013, many of the British parliamentarians began to lose interest in the issues espoused by the LTTE. Gradually some of these members of parliament and others have been photographed at LTTE events, started to avoid the LTTE functions. Since the conflict ended in May 2009, the British parliamentary support for the LTTE declined. Nonetheless, cores of them issued messages and even attend LTTE organized events including the commemoration of their dead terrorists including suicide bombers and other attackers. They include Keith Vaz MP Leicestershire East, Simon Hughes MP (Liberal Democrat) for Bermondsey and Old Southwark, Gareth Thomas MP (Labour) for Harrow West, and Barry Gardiner MP (Labour) for Brent North. Many who realised they had been misled distanced themselves.
A mainstream Sri Lankan Tamil said: “Liberal Democratic Party Edward Jonathan “Ed” Davey fund raiser in Richmond, the donors was mostly LTTE activists. As he attended Tiger events and supported us, we call him a White Tiger! After LTTE fire bombed the Kingsbury temple in 2009, Davey who was MP for Kingston and Surbiton was taken aback when a place of worship was attacked. He may have written to the police and arranged additional protection. Even the best of men and women wanted to survive in politics and they had to act on behalf their constituents and party colleagues. The reality on the ground was politicians wanted votes and funds, and there was no law to prevent the political-terrorist nexus.”