US blocked LTTE funding – leaked documents reveal ‘contact groups’ set up in 2006

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Two international ‘contact groups’, one each to check Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) fund-raising and arms purchases, were initiated by the US in the first half of 2006, says an article on Friday, based on the US cables accessed by The Hindu newspaper through Wikileaks.

A cable sent in August 2006 from the US Embassy in New Delhi discloses the composition of the contact groups for the first time: representatives of Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Switzerland, Thailand, the United Kingdom and the United States, The Hindu feature further said.

According to the cables, Nirupama Menon Rao, the present Indian Foreign Secretary who was then Indian envoy in Colombo thought that the US plan was a ‘good idea.’

A joint Secretary, Mohan Kumar, in the Indian Ministry of External Affairs suggested the inclusion of Canada in the fund-blocking ‘contact’ group and he was pleased at the proposed composition of the weapons procurement contact group, as it included Southeast Asian states such as Thailand and Malaysia, the cables revealed.

The cables also showed that the US wanted Rajapaksa to come out with details of a political solution to weaken the LTTE.

‘It is clear that India was pushing Sri Lanka to come out with a political solution, but had made little headway in its efforts,’ The Hindu article said.

However, India was not favouring a joint approach to Colombo along with the USA, but proposed parallel political intervention.

Indian Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran visited Colombo in the first week of July 2006.

Later that month, the Sri Lankan Army formally crossed the ceasefire line.

According to K. Vekataramanan of The Hindu, this culminated in the ‘liberation’ of the eastern region in 2008.

From the cables it seems that instead of coming out with details of a political solution, Colombo was keen on USA and India comprehensively participating in the ‘contact group’ programme of weakening the Eezham Tamils militarily.

The cables contradict the claim of Norwegian peace facilitator Erik Solheim that there was a solution on the table, but the LTTE lost the opportunity.

Meanwhile, journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka (JDS), a group of Tamil and Sinhalese exiled journalists from Sri Lanka have condemned the ‘outrageous arrest’ of journalist and news editor of Lankaenews website, Benett Rupasinghe, and called for his immediate release.

Rupasinghe was arrested on March 31 by Sri Lanka Police which the JDS called ‘another act of intimidation against media freedom.’

Full text of the news release follows: ‘A senior Sri Lankan journalist and the News Editor of Lankaenews website, Benett Rupasinghe, has been arrested today (31 March) by the Sri Lankan Police, dealing yet another blow to the already worsened media freedom and human rights situation in the country.

‘Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka (JDS) condemns the outrageous arrest of Mr.Rupasinghe in the strongest terms while urging for his immediate release.

‘This is yet another act of intimidation against media freedom in general and Lankaenews in particular by the incumbent government of Sri Lanka.

‘Mr. Rupasinghe was arrested when he turned up at the police station on the invitation of the police to record a statement. This clearly shows the government is misusing police and judicial powers in addition to extra-legal methods against independent media in order to stifling dissent.

‘The office of the Lankaenews in the very outskirts of capital Colombo was burnt down last month by an “unknown group” of people. No one has been arrested to date in this regard.

‘The Chief Editor of Lankaenews, has already fled the country and is living in exile, fearing persecution.

‘The JDS appeals to all concerned groups and individuals to take necessary action to demand for immediate release of journalist Benett Rupasinghe.’

l Sri Lanka Police have launched a cordon and search operation and house to house checking in Mannaar district including the town since Thursday for the first time in two years since the end of war in Vanni in 2009, TamilNet reports.

All inmates in houses were asked to produce their national identity cards and other documents to prove their stay.

Visitors staying with them were also asked to justify their presence in the location and their names are also registered, local witnesses said.

Large numbers of police personnel and troops of the Sri Lanka Army have been deployed to check vehicles and pedestrians.

Thousands of occupying troops of the Sri Lanka Army rounded up the village Uduththu’rai in Vadamaraadchi East and have been engaged in a search operation since early Thursday morning.

A similar operation is simultaneously being undertaken in Mullaiththeevu also. Vanni IDPs were recently resettled in both the places.

The operation is said to be following an alleged incident in which some SL troops who went on a boat are missing in the sea and only their boat came ashore.

The SL troops came in armoured vehicles around the entire coastal area.

No one from the village Uduththu’rai was allowed to go out and outsiders were not permitted inside after Thursday morning.

The military entered into every household and were engaged in checking the inmates and registration documents.

While people who came from Vanni and resettled are being investigated, large numbers of workers and officials who had gone there for rehabilitation and construction work are being separated and are taken by the SL Army for special enquiries.

The war-like operation has evoked terror in the minds of the people in the north.

Meanwhile, Sri Lanka Navy officials in Colombo said that four SL Navy personal were missing in the sea between Chaalai and Chu’ndikku’lam in the Vadamaraadchi East.

The SL Navy said that its personnel were missing while returning to Chu’ndikku’lam Wednesday morning.

The SL Navy has asked the help of the Indian Navy to locate its missing troops.