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Tigers and their foreign paws

While the international community is seeking Sri Lanka's cooperation to study how the so-called most ruthless terrorist organisation was crushed, there comes disturbing news that the LTTE received foreign help to launch its submersible project, which, unless destroyed by the army, would have not only become a formidable threat to Sri Lanka's national security but also placed the vital sea routes in this region in jeopardy.

The LTTE suffered heavy losses due to the tsunami disaster in 2004 in terms of men and material. Paradoxically, the killer waves also helped Prabhakaran take a giant leap forward with the help of foreign help. The UPFA government was all at sea in the aftermath of the worst ever catastrophe in the country and the LTTE made most of the situation by acquiring foreign aid and expertise under the cover of tsunami relief to further its military interests. Container loads of undeclared goods were sent to the LTTE-controlled areas and INGOs and NGOs with dubious backgrounds were permitted to commence operations there with no questions asked.

INGOs loved to operate in the LTTE-held terrain for various reasons. Some of them with terror links had an opportunity to work for the LTTE on the pretext of doing humanitarian work and others found a safe haven in that part of the country as their donors could not monitor the progress of their multi-million dollar projects. They only had to part with some of their funds to appease the LTTE. That they had swindled their donors out of funds to the tune of millions of dollars, pounds etc., became known after the army wrested control of the LTTE-controlled areas. There was no evidence of projects that INGOs had claimed to have launched and the heavy equipment they had moved into those areas had been placed at the disposal of terrorists to build massive earth bunds in anticipation of a military onslaught. These obstacles were responsible for many casualties the army had to take in the Vanni offensive.

Besides its submersible project, the LTTE could not have developed its crude air wing and the infrastructure needed for it without foreign assistance. There is a reason to believe that it smuggled in foreign experts posing as INGO activists flaunting a humanitarian cause. Some INGOs, it may be recalled, even tried to bring in mini helicopters claiming they were needed for their tsunami relief operations!

That most INGOs were trying to prevent themselves from being exposed for their terror links and misappropriation of funds became evident when they went all out to thwart the Vanni offensive and refused to leave the LTTE-held terrain as the army advanced on several fronts. Their frantic efforts to cover their tracks failed as government managed to coerce them into shifting to the cleared areas in the face of international pressure.

The INGOs that operated in the Vanni must be made to explain the nature of their work there and account for their funds expended. They should be asked to show evidence of their much advertised projects, if any. How many of them claimed to be engaged in rebuilding and where are the structures they put up? The army says it has not come across any such projects. The war may have destroyed some buildings but there should be at least evidence of their foundations etc, as no nuclear weapons were used in the Vanni operation.

Senior LTTE cadres in custody, we learn, are ratting on their allies, both local and foreign, and vital information is surfacing of foreigners who were involved in LTTE projects. It is incumbent upon the government to probe INGOs suspected of having collaborated with the LTTE. British lawmakers recently called upon their Parliament to find if any British weapons had been used by Sri Lanka in its war on terrorism.

The government must also investigate and find whether the errant INGO were backing the LTTE at the behest of any foreign governments, especially the ones that tried to force Sri Lanka to abandon her war and are now all out to press war crime charges against her.

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