Two events over the last fortnight have uncovered the role of the Catholic Church in fostering Tamil separatism in Sri Lanka, with the aim of carving a separate Christian country out of India’s Tamil Nadu and the Tamil areas of the island-nation. The first was India’s deporting the Sri Lankan Tamil Catholic priest, Fr. S.J. Emmanuel, back to Dubai, when he arrived at Chennai hoping to meet chief minister Jayalalithaa, and to attend some events at Chennai University and later, at Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi.
Fr. Emmanuel is president of the UK-based Global Tamil Forum (GTF), a leading LTTE front and umbrella organisation for Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora groups. The Sunday Observer from Canada reported that Emmanuel had recently visited Canada and Europe to raise funds and mobilise pro-LTTE groups to stoke anti-Colombo propaganda in the West. But now, moderate sections of the diaspora are questioning Emmanuel’s role in radicalising Tamil youth while not utilising the millions of dollars collected through donations to help resettle and rehabilitate former LTTE cadres.
The second incident relates to the Oct 13, 2011 sentencing of Sri Lankan hedge fund billionaire Raj Rajarathnam to eleven years imprisonment for insider trading on Wall Street, by the US Federal district court, Manhattan.
At Doubletree Hotel, Raj Rajaratnam (secretly taped by the FBI) said, ‘Everyone must support the Tigers’ cause.’ He had, in 2000, given $1 million after the victory over the Sri Lankan army at Elephant Pass, gateway to the northern peninsula.
Rudra infiltrated the LTTE network abroad by meeting Tiger operatives at such events. Rumours were spread that Rudra had contacts with top Mafia figures in prison and could access corrupt American officials and ‘get things done’ for the Tigers – such as smuggling Tamils without proper visas into the United States. FBI built his credibility by helping smuggle nine persons at Newark airport in 2001. In April 2004, Rudra saved Fr. Gaspar Raj, a Catholic priest and key Tamil Tiger member, from being deported by federal agents at Newark.
By 2005, Rudra had helped the FBI get a comprehensive picture of LTTE’s fund-raising capability. Raj Rajaratnam’s name cropped up often; LTTE gave Raj huge money to invest in his Galleon Group fund. The Tigers raised $1 million every time they held a function, and extorted thousands of dollars from diaspora professionals for ‘the next wave of operations’.
FBI uncovered LTTE’s main “front” charities in America and Britain, which were shut down. This impacted LTTE’s capacity to fight. The Tigers’ last stand came in April 2009, when the Sri Lankan army overran Vanni, killing Prabhakaran.
One important front group, the Tamil Rehabilitation Organization (TRO), was active in 17 countries before the US Treasury froze its assets in November 2007. Rajaratnam played a key role in transferring money from TRO to the LTTE. An April 2007 affidavit by an FBI special agent regarding Rajarathnam’s banking records showed that he wrote three checks totalling $1,000,000 between July and September 2000, which made its way to a TRO account in London (paradise of the arms merchants). Most of the money was later withdrawn in cash.
These huge monies have prompted victims of LTTE violence to file for damages in New Jersey, for crimes financed by Rajaratnam. His lawyers assert that there is “no connection” between Rajaratnam’s donations to the TRO and the harm suffered by the claimants, as there is no evidence that he ever sponsored acts of violence.
As India debates clemency for the murderers of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, the New Jersey verdict will be interesting.
The author is Editor, www.vijayvaani.com
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