Man whose ‘disappearance’ evoked Blake’s interest found with suspect

Indian help sought to recover money from woman human smuggler


by Shamindra Ferdinando

Thayapararajah and Uthayakala

Several Tamils have sought Indian intervention to help recover their money from a female human smuggler Thayapararajah Uthayakala, now in the custody of Tamil Nadu authorities for illegal entry during the first week of May, 2014.

In a letter to the Indian Consulate in Jaffna, a group of Tamils has called for tangible action to enable the group to recover money collected by Uthayakala formerly married to an LTTE cadre, promising employment in the UK. The victims alleged that Uthayakala had duped them by taking them to VFS Global UK Visa Application Centre in Colombo, where they handed over visa applications.

Having assured that they would be found employment in the UK, Uthayakala had collected millions of rupees from unsuspecting people over a three-month period before demanding additional US $ 2,000 each to prove authorities at the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) that they were genuine travelers.

A senior Sri Lankan official familiar with the ongoing investigation told The Island that Uthayakala had no intention of at least accompanying them to BIA. Instead, after having taken them to Amala Guest House in Negombo, Uthayakala had collected US $ 2000 each from would be travellers to the UK and left directing the victims to follow her to the BIA. They had no option but to leave the BIA disappointed as Uthayakala couldn’t be found there. Although they knew they had been duped nothing could be done as the whereabouts of Uthayakala wasn’t known.

The official said that Uthayakala would have easily disappeared to some Western country if she was not arrested by Tamil Nadu authorities for entering the country illegally. Still she could have escaped if she didn’t attract the attention of the media by alleging large scale atrocities committed by the Sri Lankan military. Had she simply claimed economic difficulties, the Indian media wouldn’t have bothered with her or others in her group. She was among ten Tamils, including five children who landed at Arichamunai off Dhanuskodi in the early hours of May 5.

Asked whether the government would conduct an investigation into human smuggling racket, the official said that there was a need for a comprehensive investigation. He said: "Thanks to the Indian media, we are able to identify Uthayakala’s second husband, Kathiravel Thayapararajah (33) whose disappearance in September 2009 prompted a section of the media as well as some international NGOs to accuse Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI) of executing him. No less a person than the then US Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs and one-time US Ambassador in Colombo, Robert O. Blake inquired about the missing person."

The University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna), the Australian Government Refugee Review Tribunal, Tamilnet and the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights among others blamed the Sri Lankan intelligence for the disappearance.

Well informed sources told The Island that Thayapararajah had been closely connected to the LTTE, though he wasn’t involved in actual fighting on the ground. Having graduated from the Peradeniya University, Thayapararajah had joined a project run by Vanni Tech in Kilinochchi with the financial backing of the US based Tamil Diaspora. The project launched in 2003 during the Ceasefire Agreement brokered by Norway was one of those operations undertaken by the Diaspora, though Thayapararajah joined the organisation in 2005.

Meanwhile, another person living in Colombo has written to the Indian High Commission requesting Uthayakala’s extradition to Colombo to face an inquiry over an alleged attempt to extort money from him.

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