“phantom detainees” in Tiger prisons
The chief overseer of the LTTE’s prisons has revealed some disturbing details of the prisoners of war (PoW) of the LTTE run prison camps.
The suspect, alumni of Jaffna Hindu College, whose name could not be disclosed due to the confidential nature of the investigations, was arrested by police last month in the Menik Farm IDP camp. He has confessed that 600 prisoners, most of whom from rival Tamil political parties were incarcerated in the LTTE prisons. These figures, though shocking enough, confirms an earlier disclosure as way back as in 2000, by a Tamil youth who escape from a LTTE prison.
The political leadership and rights groups of the day were indifferent to these incarcerations; his disturbing revelation is that 600 inmates in LTTE’s political prisons were shackled inside the underground bunkers. They were phantom prisoners. The outside world did not know about their existence. As the chief overseer of the LTTE prisons now confesses, most of them were “disposed of,” executed on the orders of leader Prabhakaran.
He has revealed that there were 14 military personnel in his custody till the very end, all of whom were executed as the military closed in on the LTTE . The International Committee of Red Cross was not informed of their detention.
Among these unfortunate souls incarcerated there were IP Jeyaratnam, the former anti-terrorist sleuth of the Mount Lavinia police, Captain Lakshman, an Intelligence Officer of the Sri Lankan Army, Lt Raja, also an intelligence officer of the army etc., and two sailors of the Sri Lanka Navy aboard an ill-fated Dvora Fast Attack Craft.
Among those military personnel kept in LTTE custody, only five of them, which included four sailors on a sunken Navy gunboat and one soldier taken into custody during a military offensive in Muhamalai, made it alive to the government controlled area.
The kidnapping, detention and subsequent execution of IP Jeyaratnam is startling and shocking indeed. The LTTE’s prison chief had divulged the modus operandi of the kidnapping saga of IP Jeyaratnam, which is in contrast to the usual practice of assassinations. Still there is logic for the change in the strategy. Pottu Amman suspected that Jeyaratnam was instrumental in the disappearance of Newton, a senior leader of the LTTE’s intelligence wing who went missing in Colombo. Newton was believed to be the second-in- command of Shanmugalimgam Shivashankar alias Pottu Amman. His disappearance shocked the LTTE, which feared that its intelligence operations would be compromised. The Directorate of Military Intelligence was believed to behind the disappearance of the Tiger Intelligence leader. The army never claimed responsibility, but the LTTE intelligence wing suspected that Jeyaratnam would have known of the plight of Newton.Added to that wasthe role played by Jeyaratnam in anti-terrorist operations, foiling a number of major LTTE attacks in the South.
Jeyaratnam was tricked into a late night drinking session by a LTTE agent, Mano who was also an informant and family friend of Jeyaratnam. The Jeyaratnam family was invited to meet a friend of Mohan who was arriving from England. After dinner, Mrs Jeyaratnam went home, while IP Jeyaratnam stayed with the new friend, who happened to be a LTTE operative. They drugged him, mixing a narcotic substance with his drink. He was then transported in a jeep accompanied by two Tiger cadres posing as policemen in uniform to Puttalam from where he was taken in a speed-boat to Mannar.
The chief overseers of the LTTE prisons, now under arrest, has revealed that Jeyaratnam was interrogated extensively by the Tiger interrogators, including Charles, the chief of LTTE military intelligence himself. Charles was later killed by a Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol (LRRP) team of the Army Special Forces deep inside Tiger territory.
Jeyaratnam had been asked why he despite being a Tamil hated the LTTE. He had replied that his elder brother was killed by the LTTE in Jaffna in early 1990s.
Jeyaratnam was questioned at length by a Tiger interrogator identified by his nom de guerre as Arul Murali, the chief interrogator of the LTTE. Arul Murali has also been arrested by the Police.
LTTE’s prison chief says, that during the interrogations, LTTE found out that Jeyaratnam had no knowledge of the disappearance of Newton.
Then, he was questioned as to how the cops identify suicide bombers and sleeper cells of the LTTE. Later, Jeyaratnam was instructed to brief the LTTE cadres assigned for terrorist attacks in Colombo about how to avoid attracting attention by police.
Jeyaratnam had made two failed attempt to flee LTTE detention, first with the aid of an LTTE cadre who came for his security briefing. After the second abortive escape, Jeyaratnam was transferred to a LTTE prison, where he was reportedly denied food.He was later executed by the LTTE on the written orders of leader Prabhakaran.
How the top brass of the Sri Lankan police acted throughout the detention and after execution of the dedicated fellow cop is a shameful blot on the police service. Jeyaratnam was labeled a double agent, his salary suspended. Grief stricken Mrs Jeyaratnam was dislodged from the official quarters of the late IP. It took 8 mournful years for Mrs Jeyaratnam to clear her late husband’s name.
“No export licence since January”
Last week, I spoke to Michael Smaz, a supplier of military hardware from Czech Republic which military circles say went an extra mile to assure unhindered supply of arms and ammunition to the Sri Lankan forces in the last leg of the fourth Eelam war.
Smaz alleges that Norway and Sweden exploited an EU ban on export licence to “places with open hostilities” to prevent Czech weapon exports to Sri Lanka. He added that despite such restrictions, Czech Republic maintained a greater degree of manoeuvreability and provided weapon systems at the most critical phase of the fourth Eelam war. Czech Republic supplied 40 T 55 Main Battle Tanks early this year, when most of the existing MBTs required extensive repairs.
He says however since January this year, Czech Republic had not issued any export license to Sri Lanka due to the pressure exerted by Scandinavian countries. He insists that since the war is over such limitations should be done away with. Ebullience at the military defeat of the LTTE appears to be contagious; Smaz, who must have definitely made a fortune out of the war far away from his home— which he however says is his second home— is excited at the prospects.
“Many would say we are sorry because the war is over. No, we are very happy. If we need to do business, surely we do, there are better business now”.
He then said, an oft repeated claim is that the Sri Lankan Army is the only modern force to defeat a terrorist group conclusively.
I asked him how the LTTE got hold of Zlin micro aircraft. He said his investigators traced the serial numbers of the Tiger aircraft back to a Canadian pilot training school. He vouched that the Czech government agencies had “never” sold arms to the LTTE, but that the Tigers could have bought weapons from second-hand sources as well as using end user certificates issued by rogue states such as Burma and North Korea.
I asked him about absence of offset arrangements in the defence contracts of Sri Lankan government despite offset now being a norm in the global defence industry, which since the end of the cold war is a buyers market.
He replied that throughout the Eelam war, Sri Lanka’s procurement orders were of urgent nature and most weapon systems procured were also the second hand systems, which were cheaper in price compared to new systems. Equally, offset arrangements, though enabled technology transfer would be much costlier to a country with a smaller procurement budget. He however said they were looking for indirect offset and exploring the possibility of bringing foreign capital through the Czech Investment Bank which has been tapped to finance a major Hydro power project in Sri Lanka.