The Sunday TimesNews/Comment

28th April 1996



Turning point in astronomy, in Sri Lanka

Research scientists at the Arthur C. Clarke Centre for Modern Technologies have captured the first ever picture on telescope in Sri Lanka, of the Orion Nebula, after many trials and errors since the installation of a modern telescope at the centre in January this year.

This successful photograph was taken on March 11, from the 45 cm GOTO Cassegrain Reflective telescope, which was donated to Sri Lanka by the Japanese government, to encourage more research work in astronomy.

Research Scientists Dilkushi de Alwis and Saraj Gunasekara who worked on this project say this is a great turning point for astronomy in Sri Lanka and will encourage more interesting projects in future.

"Even though the Orion Nebula - a distant cluster of stars or where stars are born - has been photographed by scientists world over, our photographs have created the avenue to work towards greater goals from the limited resources available in Sri Lanka," Alwis said.

She said in consequence to this success, the centre went on to capture the Hyakutake Comet which passed over Sri Lanka last month. The centre will now launch on various projects to learn more about the age, temperature and element of stars, comets, asteroids and the galaxies.

Soon the telescope will contribute its own share towards the Space Guard Mission, which involves in protecting the earth from any outside body crashing on to it, and causing destruction to the earth.

"We are on the verge of connecting our telescope to the internet, hence the contribution to this mission becomes a reality. By this, we will also be able to study other images of the universe, taken from telescopes around the world."

Ms. de Alwis said the geographical location of Sri Lanka, which is near the equator, is a great advantage in covering both the hemispheres. "Unlike other telescope locations which are either in northern or southern hemispheres, a telescope located in the equator, could be projected to both these hemispheres and in the process cover a vast region of the universe." She said this will bring to Sri Lanka more space scientists and researchers.

She further said the Arthur Clark Centre will land on a major project later this year, when the Hail Bob Comet passes over the earth. The centre will carry out researches to ascertain the properties, elements, temperature and place of origin of this comet.

The Hail Bob Comet which is expected to be very much longer to the naked eye, than the Hayley's Comet which appeared in 1987, will be the focus of attention of many scientists around the world.

LTTE proxies in Tamil Nadu unleash terror

By Our Military Analyst

The LTTE linked Tamizhar Pasarai (Tamil Barracks) exploded two bombs at 3.00 a.m. and 6.00 a.m. in Tamil Nadu on Monday. Tamil Barracks is one of the 22 Tamil Nadu separatist groups agitating for a separate Tamil state called Dravidastan.

The two bombs damaged the Perani railway station, some 100 miles south of the state capital of Madras and Myladuthurai signal relay station some 180 miles south of Madras. Tamil Barracks is a breakaway faction of Tamil Nadu Viduthalai Padai (Tamil Nadu Liberation Army), one of the most powerful Tamil Nadu separatist groups with international connections. Interestingly, the LTTE maintains military, political and cultural links with these 22 Tamil Nadu separatist groups.

The greatest contribution the LTTE has made towards these groups is the provision of military training and weaponry to them. Recently, it has been confirmed that the LTTE has trained at least 1000 members of the Tamil Nadu retrieval force and they had returned to Tamil Nadu. The training was conducted both in northern Sri Lanka and in Twante, an island off Myanmar, where the LTTE has an external base.

In the LTTE, the liaison with foreign militant groups is conducted by a specialized group. At a political level, liaison is through the LTTE offices overseas, mostly through the Paris office headed by Lawrence Tilagar and the London office headed by Shanthan and Anton Rajan alias Ramasar. At a military level, individuals are assigned for liaison by K. Padmanadan alias Kumaran the LTTE chief procurement officer and head of the shipping network. This is true for all groups except Indian militant groups.

In India, the LTTE has links with a number of militant groups - ULFA in Assam, Sikhs in Punjab, Mujahidin in Kashmir and the People's War groups in Andhara Pradesh. Except for these groups and some other groups in northeastern India, liaison with Tamil Nadu militant groups is the responsibility of Baby Subramanium alias KKS Baby, one of the oldest members of the LTTE.

In addition to supporting their military, economic and political programmes, the LTTE has provided these groups material and the conceptual framework for psychological indoctrination. The LTTE manifesto has provision for relations with such groups.

LTTE "foreign policy" enunciates, "Our struggle for freedom is an integral part of the international struggle of oppressed humanity fighting against the reactionary forces of domination, oppression and exploitation. Our liberation organization has firmly resolved to fight against the forces of imperialism, colonialism, new colonialism and racism."

The LTTE position is further explained: "In pursuance of its anti-imperialist stance, the LTTE whole-heartedly supports the national liberation struggles of the oppressed peoples and nations of the world. The LTTE will foster and strengthen friendly relations with world national liberation organisations, progressive states and revolutionary movements..."

Since about late 1986, Indian intelligence agencies, notably the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) stepped up surveillance on the LTTE as the LTTE strengthened their relations with Tamil Nadu separatist groups. This relationship strengthened after August 1987, during and after the IPKF campaign. Through these 22 Tamil Nadu separatist groups the LTTE campaigned to evict the IPKF but the strategy failed because in Tamil Nadu the support these groups enjoyed were limited to 3 million people.

Today, the LTTE strategy is not to militarily operate through these groups but to politically galvanize Tamil public support (a) to stop Sri Lankan government troops from conducting further operations by pressurizing both Madras and New Delhi (b) to raise the consciousness of the Tamil Nadu Tamils that they are a distinct political, cultural and ethnic entity from the rest of India.

The plight of the Sri Lankan Tamils has become an election issue, but not a serious one. The predicament of the LTTE is not an election issue after the Rajiv Gandhi assassination by the LTTE. This status quo will not remain for a long time. Memories fade and politicians have the ability of generating issues de-linking history.

Only collective and co-operative security and intelligence agreements ensure the dampening of the transnational link between the Sri Lankan Tamil separatists and the Indian Tamil separatists. For nearly three decades they have learnt from one another.

In fact the very reason the two explosions were timed for last Monday was that the commemoration of the second death anniversary of Lenin, one of the heroes of the Tamil Barracks, fell on that day. This type of activity was witnessed during the formative phase of the Tamil insurgency in northern Sri Lanka in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

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