10th Decemnber 2000
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The tide turns for Tigers in Britain

The LTTE has finally over-reached itself. At long last Britain is beginning to crack down on its activities and those of organisations suspected to be Tiger fronts.

Moreover its recent attempts to propagandise its military gains in Sri Lanka under the thin veil of cultural activities have been badly exposed.

By trying to cut corners and save money, the Tigers used government school premises to raise cheers and funds for its armed struggle. That was an even worse mistake, for now the British Government itself become tangentially involved.

Meanwhile some Tamil organisations suspected of being LTTE fronts funnelling money for dubious purposes are under investigation by British authorities.

The final nail on the LTTE coffin might well come in February when the British authorities are expected to announce a list of organisations whose activities would be banned -much like the State Department's blacklist of some 40 organisations described as terrorist organisations.

Since the British Government is a signatory to the UN treaties on terrorism promulgated in the past three years, it passed the Terrorism Act 2000 last July to provide for the enforcement of the UN treaties and to update its own laws on terrorism.

Both India and Sri Lanka, concerned about the activities of organisations they perceive as terrorist, have urged the British Government to include these organisations in the list of terrorist groups to be proscribed.

Indian Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh and Sri Lanka's Lakshman Kadirgamar have met British ministers, including Peter Hain who was recently in Colombo and Home Minister Jack Straw over this.

Since the Tigers established themselves in the UK in the early 1980s they have had free rein in this country. Eelam House where its international secretariat was located, was the conduit through which much of the Tiger propaganda reached the Tamil diaspora and the British public.

As the LTTE consolidated itself in the last decade, it was bold enough to issue media releases from London on its military and other operations in Sri Lanka and elsewhere. Having successfully lobbied sections of the media and the political establishment and won sympathisers, it felt strong enough to adopt a public swagger.

With Sri Lankan Tamils providing a sizeable vote in some UK constituencies, some local politicians even became sharply critical of the Colombo government and were ready to share propaganda platforms with some Tamil organisations that were really fronts for the LTTE.

The Sri Lanka government's lackadaisical, and often even puerile, approach to countering LTTE propaganda and lobbying efforts was viewed with a sense of hauteur.

They firmly believed that they had won both the diplomatic and propaganda wars.

But now the tide has turned. While not detracting from Colombo's more recent efforts at awakening the British administration and indeed the international community to the dangers of terrorism in general and the LTTE in particular, one major reason for this perceptible change is the over-confidence of the LTTE leaders here and the front organisations that they were unshakably established on their pedestal.

After all, why not? With some British journalists and politicians backing them and a substantial Tamil population living here, they felt safe and secure from any attempts by their critics and the British Government to clip their wings.

But success on the battle- front at home and support from sections of the international Tamil diaspora went to their collective head.

Had they paid sufficient attention to international developments, especially at the United Nations where several treaties dealing with terrorism and related issues such as fund raising, money laundering and arms purchases, were gaining support from many countries around the globe, the LTTE would have tempered with caution its activities here.

On November 23 "The Harrow Times" published a letter by Yogaprakash Yejratnarajah of Pinner in Harrow, defending the screening of an LTTE video on the capture of Elephant Pass.

One of the schools used was the Nower Hill High School in Pinner. A spokesman for the local council was quoted in The Sunday Telegraph of November 26 as saying that the organisation which booked the school hall claimed it was for a "cultural event".

Interestingly the three schools chosen were from Wembley, Southall and Pinner where a large number of Indians and Tamils live.

Some months before the attack on the Elephant Pass base, LTTE cadres had visited Tamil houses and shops demanding at least £500 from each family saying they needed funds to buy arms for an impending major attack. Those who didn't have immediate finances were asked to give post-dated cheques for the amount. Many gave reluctantly because they still had a family in Jaffna or elsewhere in Sri Lanka.

Many Tamils who do not support the LTTE are highly critical of its arm-twisting operations, sometimes demanding £10,000 from families who are in business.

Most Tamils would like to see the LTTE here banned so that they could "live in peace without having to worry about these fellows turning up at our doorstep".

In late October the Charity Commission raided the offices of the Tamil Rehabilitation Organisation(TRO) and seized documents relating to its finances.

The Commissioners began their investigation when TRO failed to reply to a request for information, The Independent newspaper reported.

The other charities that have been approached by the Charity Commission are the Tamil Refugee Training and Employment Centre, the Tamil Refugee Action Group and the Cancer Aid Sri Lanka

What has caused considerable concern over the recent screening of the videos is not only that government schools were led into believing that it was a charitable event, but that the film also glorified LTTE fighters including children who were shown armed with machine guns.

There have been media reports that Muslims living in Britain-and some of them British citizens- were being trained here to fight in Kashmir and in the Middle East in support of the Palestinians.

If the LTTE is also trying to enthuse Tamil or other students to commit themselves to its cause even by romanticising the role of LTTE fighters, Britain could have on its hands another group of militarily trained youth, possibly with access to weapons.

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