Special Report — Part 1
LTTE establishes global TV sweep with merger

By Dushy Ranetunge
The LTTE in early September signed a memorandum of understanding(MOU) to merge its IBC (International Broadcasting Corporation) satellite radio, based in London with TRT (Tamil Radio and Television Network) based in Paris, signalling a significant addition to its already existing vast global propaganda network giving it satellite radio and television access to Europe, Middle East, North Africa, South Africa, Australia, Mauritius and the French territory of Reunion.

Many of the countries mentioned above have significant Indian and Sri Lankan Tamil populations. The LTTE and its proxies already hold a firm grip on all Radio- TV- Newspapers- magazines and Telecommunication networks operating in countries like the UK, Canada, France, Germany, Switzerland, Norway, Sweden etc. The LTTE has by deploying covert and overt means and using intimidatory tactics, seen to it that no independent or non-LTTE media operates within the expatriate Tamil community in any country. Using the monies they have amassed under the pretext of supporting internally displaced Tamils in northern Sri Lanka, the LTTE not only sets up its own communication and media networks, but also buys up those created by others.

The merger of IBC/TRT signifies the firm grip and control that the Tamil Tigers want to exercise over any such venture. TRT was run from Paris by "Elanadu" Kuganathan. In operating the TRT, he has tried not to cross the LTTE’s path by complying with the propaganda needs of the LTTE. This rather uneasy relationship with the LTTE turned sour after some financial complications. TRT had raised money from the public, in a joint venture with Radio Veritas, a Catholic radio station that broadcasts from Manila, the Philippines. It is learnt that Father Jegath Gasperaj visited TRT in April 1999 and requested their help to raise funds for a project associated with the LTTE front, the Tamil Rehabilitation Organisation (TRO).

Father Jegath Gasperaj a pro-LTTE Sri Lankan Tamil is Director of Veritas Vannolia in Manila. He was in London for the 15th Anniversary celebration of the TRO (Tamil Rehabilitation Organisation, one of the LTTEās primary fund raising fronts), held in London at Walthamstow Assembly Hall on Saturday August 19.

Speaking at the event Father Jegath Gasperaj stated that he had received 700 letters from Tamils in the Vanni and read out a recent letter from a LTTE cadre who had stated that they would take Jaffna from the Sri Lankan army before the so-called heroes’ day this year and that preparations were underway to achieve this.

According to the Philippines authorities, several Tamils who are attached to Radio Veritas do not have proper documentation to live and work in the Philippines, but this is being overlooked at present because of the influence of the Catholic church.

It is to be noted that the former Vicar General of Jaffna, Fr. S J Emmanuel, who now operates from Germany and a well known international propagandist for the LTTE, is very closely connected with the activities of Radio Veritas in putting out pro-LTTE material. Earlier this year Fr Emmanuel participated and addressed a mass rally organised by the Tamil Tigers in Geneva, Switzerland. The other main speaker at this rally was another strident supporter of the LTTE, Vaiko Gopalaswamy, the leader of the MDMK of Tamil Nadu. Another Catholic priest who is also connected with the pro-LTTE propaganda work undertaken through Radio Veritas is Fr. Joseph Chandrakanthan who now operates from Canada. Until October 1995 when Jaffna was recaptured by the Sri Lankan army, Fr Chandrakanthan lectured at the Jaffna university on christian civilisation. The activities of these pro-LTTE catholic priests are a great embarrassment to many Sri Lankan Catholics.

The LTTE leader Velupillai Prabakaran has told the Tamil expatriates that he would take back Jaffna before the new millennium, which begins on 1st January 2001. This is now a matter of personal pride for him and failure to take Jaffna by the end of this year would be regarded as a serious loss of face, similar in significance as their failure to assassinate the Sri Lankan president last December.

It was known for some time that TRT was having financial difficulties and the situation soon deteriorated with the shareholders facing the option of coughing up more cash to inject into the ailing company or to find an alternative. Simultaneously IBC based in London and controlled by the LTTE was looking to expand its radio operation by moving into Tamil satellite television. Chandrakumar, whose family as a unit are the largest shareholders of Radio Asia, the holding company that owns TRT, initiated the merger with IBC(LTTE), with behind the scene lobbying of other shareholders by LTTE international secretariat representatives such as Ilanko Nadarajah and Velummaijilum Manoharan, who are based in Paris. The main shareholders are "Eelanadu" Kuganathan (President of TRT), Mr & Mrs Chandrakumar (administrative Director), Mrs Surijakumar (Chandrakumar’s close relative), Vimal Sockanathan, Aravinthan, "Swiss" Murthy Master and "Sri Mahal" Sritharan.

The move initiated by Chardrakumar is said to have somewhat isolated "Elanadu" Kuganathan whose relationship with the LTTE was never considered satisfactory. "Elanadu" Balachan-dran, Chandrakumar and "Sri Mahal" Sritharan are said to be working closely with the LTTE in relation to the IBC(LTTE)/TRT merger.

Kuganathan is said to be looking for a buyer for his shares to sell up and quit, as he is not expected to play any part in the new merged company. There is also a big question mark as to the future of the Tamil language "Elanadu" newspaper. V Manoharan the head of the LTTE International Secretariat is trying to undermine Kuganathanās "Elanadu" newspaper in order to promote the LTTE controlled "Elamurasu" newspaper. "Elanadu" Balachandran the editor of "Elanadu" newspaper, and shareholder of TRT, who was once severely assaulted by the LTTE, has now thrown in his lot with the LTTE and undermining "Elanadu".

IBC was initially established by some expatriate Tamils living in the UK with known LTTE connections. The main editorial work was undertaken by one Tarcisus, an experienced journalist and literary figure. Tarcisus was previously head of culture, LTTE London and before that an employee of SLBC(Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation).

Some two years ago, the LTTE moved to oust Tarcisus and his associates from IBC and it is now run by a Mr Ranjith, formerly of the University of Jaffna and Norway. Ranjith, a Sri Lankan Tamil, has a reputation for having raised a huge amount of money in Europe for the defence of those convicted in India for the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case.

IBC (LTTE) is broadcasting its radio service via the ASTRA satellite (also used by British SKY Broadcasting), short wave and medium wave under licence of the British Government and is not shy of broadcasting blatantly pro-LTTE propaganda and vicious racist songs and propaganda directed against the Sinhalese, the majority community in Sri Lanka, whipping up Tamil nationalism.

Senthilnathan Kandiah is the major shareholder in IBC(LTTE) which is controlled via a LTTE front Company called Tamil Media Limited. The LTTE controls various propaganda, fund raising and business establishments, via a complex network of LTTE activists and front companies.

A TRT staff member in Paris, contacted by the’The Island’ was informed that most of the workers at TRT were planning to walk out on 17th Spetember, when the IBC (LTTE)/TRT merger is finalised. They are A.S. Rajah, Philiptheva, "Appukutti", Rajagopal, Tharsan, Surenthiran, Gnanaseeli, Srithar, Navaratnarani Sivalingam and Mohan. They have no wish to participate in anything to do with the LTTE and are very bitter, that some of their Directors and shareholders have "sold out" to the LTTE. Two staff members Arulmolithe-van and Thaiyanithi have decided to stay back and help the LTTE. Kuganathan, Tharsan and several members of staff are said to be planning on setting up a new rival Tamil satellite radio station. TRT radio is broadcast via the ASTRA satellite and its Tamil subscription only TV channel is broadcast via the EUTELSAT sattelite.

Another rival Tamil TV station called "Theepam" which is also broadcasting in Europe is beginning to attract Tamil TV viewers who do not wish to subscribe to the new LTTE controlled merged company."Theepam" is controlled by Pyramid Pvt, a company owned by Babu and Sakthi Jewellery & Video. Former SLBC Tamil language administrator B.H.Abdul Hameed is playing a leading role in "Theepam".

The merged IBC(LTTE)/TRT media company controlled by the LTTE is to be called Tamil Television Network Limited. A company under this name has been registered last month ( August 2000). The registered address of this company is 66 Worcester Park Road, Worcester Park, Surrey KT4 7QD. The Company Secretary of Tamil Television Network Limited, Mr Allan George Pratt is linked to this address. The Company Director and sole shareholder is KNEWCO Limited, also of this same address.

Tamil Media Limited, which owns IBC(LTTE) has also got this same address as the registered office. The Company Secretary of Tamil Media Limited is also this same Allan George Pratt FCCA of this same address.

There are another dozen or so companies registered to this address, with Senthilnathan Kandiah the majority shareholder of IBC(LTTE) as Director and Allan George Pratt FCCA as Company secretary. Some liquidated, others dissolved and some called "Great Indian Railway Company Ltd", "Great Scottish Highland Railways Ltd" etc.

To draw a parallel to the above events, the latest University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna), Bulletin No. 24, released on September 7, 2000 titled "The Ordeal of Civilians in Thenmaratchy", states that when the LTTE moved into Thenmaratchy in Jaffna, that a great "exodus" of tens of thousands of Tamil civilians took place as they moved away from the LTTE and crossed over to the Sri Lankan government held areas. In Paris, when the IBC(LTTE) plans on merging with TRT, a Tamil radio and TV company with the support of a majority of its directors and shareholders, a majority of the staff are walking out.

What is proven over and over again is that Tamil civilians do not wish to be associated with the LTTE. Therefore it is not surprising that the LTTE takes enormous trouble to hide its connections and activity from the people. i.e KNEWCO LTD, Tamil Television Network LTD, Tamil Media LTD, Allen George Pratt FCCA, 66 Worcester Park Road, Worcester Park, Surrey KT4 7QD, etc. According to a disillusioned LTTE insider who wish to remain anonymous, the monthly expenditure and licence costs associated with the IBC(LTTE) operation broadcasting over the ASTRA satellite, short wave, medium wave in addition to fixed overheads such as salaries etc. far exceed IBC(LTTE) revenue and is being subsidised by the LTTE.

It is not surprising that TRT is having trouble financing their Tamil television and radio operation and it makes commercial sense to merge. As a 50/50 merger, TRT shareholders get access to LTTE funding, as a LTTE cash injection into the new merged company of over a million French Francs is on the table. For the LTTE, other than the obvious commercial potential of the transaction, it is an opportunity to gain television access to the Tamil diaspora on a global level and build on the existing 7000 odd pay TV subscribers of TRT satellite TV who are now paying £15 an year to watch Tamil TV.

This LTTE source also claims that many of IBC(LTTE)ās staff are illegal immigrants in the UK, who are paid in cash and have no proper documentation to live and work in the UK. He claims that several have come over from Europe, such as SK Rajan from France and Sathyaseelan, an alleged drug addict formally resident in Germany who has several wives in many countries, including one in Sri Lanka.
(To be continued)