equipment for LTTE in VOT cargo
The Sunday Times Diplomatic Correspondent
Amid the raging controversy over broadcasting equipment the LTTE
has acquired duty free through the Norwegian Embassy in Colombo,
another serious irregularity has now surfaced.
They have been
allowed to acquire sophisticated VSAT satellite communications equipment
completely unrelated to the radio station in the same consignment
though the whereabouts of it have now become a mystery.
leaves for Oslo
Norwegian Ambassador Jon Westborg left for Oslo yesterday
for urgent consultation in the face of the breaking scandal
on the import of radio equipment for the LTTE by the Norwegian
embassy in Colombo as diplomatic cargo.
to his departure, Mr. Westborg had briefed his Indian counterpart
Nirupam Sen on the circumstances that led to the Norwegians
importing the expensive equipment.
Sunday Times learns that the Norwegians are taking up the
position that they had been requested to act as consignees
of the cargo by the Sri Lankan government, and are unawares
as to who raised the funds for the radio equipment.
Foreign Secretary Kanwal Sibal who was in Colombo conveyed
New Delhi's serious concerns on the LTTE acquiring radio broadcast
equipment through Norwegian diplomatic channels.
VSAT or Very
Small Aperture Terminal is a software driven earth station used
for the transmission of data, video or voice via satellite. With
the help of a dish antenna, this will enable the LTTE, if it has
acquired it, to carry out voice communications, transmit data or
pictures via satellite without any interception by any source in
Sri Lanka or abroad.
The Sunday Times
investigations revealed that a VSAT communications equipment officially
declared to be worth US dollars 25,000 or Rs. 2.4 million (prices
can even be higher) by the Norwegian Embassy was among the items
for which the Embassy obtained approval from the Government. The
VSAT equipment is in no way related to the Voice of Tigers broadcasting
about the VSAT equipment has been compounded after Defence Secretary
Austin Fernando appointed a Committee to inspect the broadcasting
equipment consigned to the Norwegian Embassy -- an unusual step
since diplomatic cargo is not examined and a declaration of the
mission concerned is accepted by the host country in accordance
with diplomatic practice.
comprised R.D. Somasiri, Advisor, Ministry of Mass Communications,
Brigadier Y.S.A. de Silva, Director, Signals of the Sri Lanka Army,
Group Captain A. Gunawardena, Director, Electronics and Telecommuncations
of the Sri Lanka Air Force and Upali Arambewela, Additional Director
General, Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation.
In their report
to Defence Secretary Fernando, the committee, among other matters,
has reported that the VSAT communication unit was not found with
the consignment. What happened to it? Was it cleared earlier or
was it pilfered from the consignment? Answers may not be known unless
the Ministry of Defence conducts a fuller investigation.
also made some other worrying observations. Among them -- The Radio
Data System (RDS) equipment (that has now been given to the LTTE)
is capable of sending data from point to multi-point and cannot
be monitored without a specific decoder. In other words, the Sri
Lanka Government cannot monitor them unless it obtains the required
is the broader FM frequency range in the equipment given to the
LTTE. That is much more wider than the frequencies now allotted
to all other licensed FM radio stations which is 87.5 Mhz to 108.0
The LTTE equipment,
however, has an extended range from 87 Mhz to 109 Mhz and signal
experts confirmed to The Sunday Times that the broadcast range could
be heavily enhanced with the use of booster systems.
Among the 12
items for which Defence Secretary Fernando was the final authority
to grant approval was the VSAT communications unit. Though the item
is in his approved list, the licence for the VoT radio station issued
by Kumar Abeysinghe, Secretary, Ministry of Mass Communications,
makes no mention of the VSAT equipment the whereabouts of which
are a now a mystery.