South African LTTE Connections Exposed

By Rohan Gunaratna

The international intelligence and security community focused their attention on South Africa with recent reports exposing the clandestine political and military infrastructure of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in South Africa. To many, it came as no surprise because from time to time, there were unverified reports that groups such as Hamas (Palestinian), Hezbollah (Lebanese), PKK (Turkey) and Bin Laden (Afghan-based), were operating out of South Africa.

Away from the glare of the international media, the LTTE is operating a state-of-the-art propaganda, fund-raising, procurement and shipping network in South Africa. Compared to other countries where the LTTE operates, the LTTE influence in South Africa is profound because like in India there is a politically active Tamil community. The LTTE has exploited that situation and developed a series of training camps to train South Africans of Indian Tamil origin. These South African Tamils have formed South African Tamil Tigers. Many of them were trained by LTTE trainers from Sri Lanka and retired South African service personnel drawn from Koevoet and 32 Battalion, two elite military organisations of the Apartheid era. These organisations spearheaded the counter insurgency drives against the guerrillas of the African National Congress (ANC) who were operating out of bases in South Angola and Northern Namibia. Koevoet and 32 Battalion troops fought not only ANC and SWAPO guerrillas but also regular Angolan and Namibian forces. There are also reports that LTTE activists from Sri Lanka received specialised training on South African soil.

The National Intelligence Agency (NIA) and National Intelligence Service (NIS), the institutions responsible for the internal and external security of South Africa respectively, were aware of the ruthlessness of the LTTE, but appeared powerless to contain the influence of the LTTE in South Africa. The LTTE had effectively won over the support of key political leaders, particularly from the South African Indian Tamil community. LTTE strategy was to lure their support either by financially winning them over or appealing to their Tamil nationalism.

The Origins:

The LTTE established their influence in South Africa through a series of front organisations. LTTE drew their attention and sympathy by exploiting the Hindu cultural and religious affinity between the Sri Lankan Tamils and the South African Tamils. In the Hindu temples, there were many Pusaris who were Tamils from Jaffna, northern Sri Lanka. Initially, the LTTE raised funds through these officiating priests to procure weapons to support their war for an independent state in Sri Lanka.

After consolidating their presence through propaganda, the LTTE ventured out to win over key South African leaders. Among them were ANC leaders including parliamentarians representing the ANC. Since 1995, LTTE began to operate a series of training camps in South Africa. The LTTE established the training program by registering itself as a "closed corporation" by paying 200 Rand in February 1995. In a closed corporation, both the company name and constituent members can change without informing the registrar. For expediency, the company was providing private security guards to private and government organisations. The compounds of the camps were well concealed from the public eye - the perimeter was protected by barbed wire, spikes and high walls. The first three camps were established in three Tamil neighbourhoods.

The camps provided accommodation and facilities to train recruits in guerrilla warfare. Initially, all the trainers were Sri Lankan Tamils but gradually South Africans joined in. Each camp had between 20 to 10 trainers many of whom rotated. For instance, one camp had 18 trainers. Of these, 4 trainers instructed the recruits on the history of "Eelam Tamils." After rigorous physical training (PT) by 6 trainers, the recruits were provided basic military training by 2 trainers. The training included armed and unarmed combat. There was instruction on how to evade surveillance, counter-intelligence, explosives use and communication. The other trainers - Sri Lankan and South African were silent and observed the performance of the recruits. The training period for each batch was three months, comparable to the LTTE training provided in India to some Indian Tamil groups such as the Tamil National Retrieval Army and the basic training provided to LTTE recruits in Sri Lanka. Upon graduation, the best were transported to Sri Lanka. They were inducted to Sri Lanka via India by boat and via Maldives by air. Reports of some being transferred to Sri Lanka by LTTE ships, frequenting South African ports, is currently under investigation.

The South African agency, NIA, became aware of the training camps within a year of their operation but the influence of ANC hard-liners within the NIA prevented NIA from advising the South African government to close down the camps. But, the NIA inducted an agent who provided them details of the training and trainers. One of the major factors which led South Africa to adopt such a position was the effectiveness of LTTE propaganda and the susceptibility of the ANC government towards supporting violent movements. In fact, the confidential South African Foreign Ministry assessment on Sri Lanka (1996) cites the US State Department human rights report as guidance. Although this US report gives a gloomy picture about the LTTE, a report of the sub directorate for South Asia of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of South Africa implies that it has no objection to the South African government from raising human rights violations by the Sri Lankan armed forces in multilateral fora. Among the South African diplomats who supported the LTTE quite openly was Jacky Selebi, the former South African Ambassador in Geneva and Chair of the UN Human Rights Commission and since currently Director General, Foreign Affairs Department, Pretoria. On a visit to Geneva, he met with representatives of LTTE fronts on August 10, 1998 and pledged his support towards their cause.

LTTE-ANC relations:

The ANC and LTTE relations dates back to contacts in London and Paris in the late 1970s. Through the umbrella organisation - Friends of Palestine - LTTE activists frequently met with ANC representatives at the Arab League Building, UK. LTTE also established links with the South West African People's Organisation which had close relations with the ANC. This long relationship - including some military assistance to ANC guerrillas - opened the door for the LTTE to enter South Africa when Mandela assumed office. Some of the influential ANC activists in the UK distanced themselves from the LTTE after the LTTE assassinated Dr. Rajini Thiranagama (an LTTE activist turned human rights activist) in 1989. She had forged LTTE-ANC relations in the UK. After the LTTE assassinated Rajiv Gandhi in 1991, the ANC activists in the UK resented the LTTE.

Post-1994 relations witnessed the LTTE activists travelling to South Africa including Tharmalingam Shanmugam Kumaran alias Kumaran Pathmanathan, the head of the LTTE International Network. Close links between South African Tamils and the LTTE were forged through the International Secretariat in London. The LTTE links with the Mandela government was consolidated in late 1994 when LTTE activists won over a few ANC hard-liners. The LTTE also established contacts with South African missions in Canberra, New Delhi and London. The LTTE continues to feed South African missions with propaganda, particularly the UK mission. After the ANC government came to office, Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar was the first Sri Lankan dignitary to visit South Africa. ANC hard-liners in the Mandela government did not wish to displease the LTTE. Around the same period Minister Kadirgamar visited South Africa in early 1996, a 14 member LTTE delegation was received by President Mandela in his office. Three delegates were women. Except one delegate who joined the team from South Africa, the others came from Sri Lanka via India on airline tickets issued by the South African government. Their program was organised by the ANC with the assistance of the South African High Commission in New Delhi. Research Analysis Wing, India's agency for gathering foreign intelligence and conducting overseas operations, had failed to monitor the ANC-LTTE link. Indian Intelligence Bureau had failed to monitor the use of India as a transit point. This high level meeting was followed by several meetings between ANC and LTTE representatives in India. Among the ANC officials was a South African foreign ministry official. The South African mission in India, particularly the Office of the Deputy High Commissioner, was involved with these discussions. Before Minister Kadirgamar left South Africa he received an official briefing from a White South African intelligence official. Although Sri Lanka through the Non Aligned Movement (NAM) supported the ANC, Sri Lanka and the Apartheid regime maintained intelligence liaison. This was a necessity because Sri Lankan groups were training both in Lebanon and Syria, particularly in the Bekha valley with the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the ANC. Senior Sri Lankan intelligence officials visited South Africa and South Africans assisted Sri Lanka to develop its war-fighting and intelligence gathering capability. The intelligence official explained to Minister Kadirgamar that the LTTE was disseminating propaganda and raising funds through four front organisations and that there were about 100 Sri Lankan Tamil families in South Africa.

The post-Mandela NIA was NIA and ANC intelligence wing combined. Many ANC intelligence types entertained the view that South Africa had an obligation to assist their former allies - meaning the groups that had assisted them such as the PLO and LTTE and the countries that had stood by them such as Iran and Libya. Therefore, the ANC hard-liners in the NIA were annoyed that a Sri Lankan government minister was briefed of LTTE activities. Within a few days, the intelligence official was transferred out. This exacerbated the tension between the NIA old guard and the new additions.

LTTE-influence:

The LTTE influence continued to grow in South Africa throughout 1996. As a mark of respect for President Mandela, the LTTE magazine Hot Spring, published out of UK, carried messages and quotes from the celebrated African leader. Quotes from Mandela were published from his book "Long Walk to Freedom, The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela" (Abacus, UK, 1994). Hot Spring of October 1997 provided wide coverage of Mandela's visit to Libya and criticised the US role in Libya. Hot Spring of December 1997 carried two quotations next to each other. The first quote by a Johannesburg woman on Winnie Madikizela-Mandela's role in several apartheid-era murders and abductions said: "Winnie is a murderer. What can a murderer do for our country ?" The second quote by the Johannesburg nurse Jemina Litabe said: "Whether she killed people or not, she was fighting for the rights of our people."

A message from Mandela to be publicised at an LTTE organised conference in Australia was obtained by the LTTE in June 1996. The Peace with Justice International Conference, co-organised by the Australian Human Rights Foundation and the Australasian Federation of Tamils, two LTTE fronts, was attended by Lawrence Tilagar, the then head of the LTTE International Secretariat and Pravin Gordhan, an influential South African supportive of the LTTE. The LTTE had obtained the message through Gordhan, a former ANC leader and currently a parliamentarian representing the ANC. Some Sri Lankan Diaspora organisations overseas wrote to President Mandela protesting for issuing a message to the LTTE.

Gordhan, the go-between who secured the message in the form of a letter from Mandela to the "Human Rights conference" was an ANC ideologue rather than a terrorist. His ANC background has made Gordhan a powerful figure in Mandela's South Africa. He served as co-chairperson of the Transitional Executive Committee and was engaged in the drafting of the newly completed Constitution of South Africa.Some South African colleagues of Gordhan believe that he had been duped by the LTTE into believing that the LTTE struggle against Colombo is similar to the erstwhile conflict between White and Black South Africans. Even some of the better educated South Africans, particularly those of Indian Tamil origin, view the LTTE struggle through the lens of Apartheid. Although there is no evidence to indicate that Gordhan has accepted money from the LTTE for his services, there is evidence to show that the LTTE has paid for him to travel to Australia in mid-1996. The LTTE network in South Africa is both a covert and an overt network. At a political level, they mobilise Tamil support in South Africa for demonstrations, rallies, seminars and lobbying. For instance on June 4, 1996 when Sri Lanka's national airlineAir Lanka flew into South Africa, 100 Tamils demonstrated in Durban. The LTTE placards said "Sri Lanka go home, Stop fighting before flying." To satisfy the Indian community, the placards also called for South Indian intervention in Sri Lanka. Durban, a strong Indian Tamil community was the first stop of the flight. Air Lanka flew both to Durban and Johannesburg. Through their ANC colleagues, the LTTE monitored the deliberations of the Sri Lankan delegation engaged in promoting the airline. The delegation had arrived in South Africa on May 28, 1996. LTTE also infiltrated Travel Directions (Pty) the Air Lanka General Sales Agent in South Africa. For economic reasons, Air Lanka stopped flying to South Africa from April 1, 1997. Sri Lanka continued to make efforts to influence South Africa in her favour. For instance, Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Dr G.L. Pieris met with his counterpart in South Africa early 1997. But, without a Sri Lankan mission in South Africa, Colombo could not advance its foreign policy goals because the LTTE propaganda machinery was already operational.

LTTE Propaganda

A central figure in the organisation of the propaganda network in South Africa was Father S.J. Emmanuel, the former Vicar General of the Jaffna Diocese. Dr. Emmanuel, who is a key figure in the LTTE international network, used his relationship with Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, to cultivate key figures in South Africa. In addition to attending a series of high powered meetings, Emmanuel also gave a damning interview to South African radio. His book, Let My People Go, published by the Tamil Catholic Chaplaincy, Osnabrueck in Germany drew its title from the autobiography of the great South African leader Albert Luthuli, nobel peace laureate, 1961.

The LTTE and their fronts used the strategy of drawing parallels between Sri Lanka and South Africa. They attempted to equal the treatment of Tamils in Sri-Lanka to that of the blacks. They claim Sri Lanka to be the "only South Asian country that has maintained economic ties with the (Old) South Africa during the dark days of apartheid" at a time when India, Pakistan and Bangladesh found it "morally wrong to deal with the criminal regime." They falsely claim that "Sri-Lanka had no feelings about the oppressed people of South Africa." They also claim that like the "ANC's Umkoto-wesizwe, the Tamil youth had no alternative but to take up arms when all peaceful means failed." They falsely drew parallels between the British handing over of South Africa to the Boers with Sri Lanka to the Sinhalese. The propaganda claimed that fertile land of the Tamils were settled in by the Sinhalese with armed protection and state financial assistance. Similar to the action of the Boers, the propaganda claimed, Tamils have been made "foreigners in their own homelands." LTTE propaganda claim that as the ANC was discredited by Apartheid governments, Sri Lankan army and politicians committed a number of terrorist acts, including the killing of opponents, and blamed the responsibility for these acts on "the liberation movements in a move to discredit them." Propaganda also draw parallel between Tamils and South African Blacks and coloureds requiring to carry identity cards at all times. Propaganda drawing attention to the detention of Tamils without trial, torture and death state that "there are thousands of Steve Biko's in Sri-Lanka." LTTE propaganda also states that "Just as the apartheid government financed and provided military training to opportunist black parties in South Africa, the Sri-Lankan government has done the same with opportunist Tamil parties in Sri-Lanka." LTTE propaganda adds: "The 120,000 members of the Sri Lankan armed forces are almost exclusively Sinhalese and utilise 20% of the national budget, similar to the white dominated armed forces of old South Africa." Propaganda also draw parallel to the regulation of the press in modern Sri Lanka and old South Africa. Propaganda implied parallels between Mandela and Prabhakaran and their parties. The LTTE claimed: "Just as the ANC and many other liberation movements in Africa were labelled as terrorist organisation by some western powers with interest in South Africa, the LTTE has been labelled as a terrorist movement by USA which has significant military and economic interests in Sri Lanka. These interest include the Voice of America repeaters for the South Asian region and potential naval bases. Sustained propaganda witnessed a corresponding expansion of LTTE influence. As a direct outcome of propaganda, South Africa has banned the sale of weapons to Sri Lanka. Despite efforts by the Government of Sri Lanka to explain its position to Ibrahim Ibrahim, Chair, Portfolio Committee on Foreign Affairs and Kader Asmal, Chair, Portfolio Committee on Defence, South Africa has not revoked its decision. This explains the influence of the LTTE, which they had painstakingly built in South Africa over the years. The LTTE continues to lobby and receive support from some of the 11 South African Indian Parliamentarians. The South African Tamil parliamentarians were more vulnerable towards supporting LTTE interests in South Africa. Sri Lanka established a mission in late 1997, specifically after the government realised the need for stronger ties between Pretoria and Colombo. South Africa will be a major challenge to Sri Lankan High Commissioner Gamini Munasinghe, a respected diplomat, posted to South Africa in March 1998.

Mandela Intervenes:

Since March 1997, leaks within the South African government led Sri Lankan government officials to believe that there were LTTE combatants in South Africa and some were receiving specialised training. There were also reports that ANC had provided funds to the LTTE. An intelligence agency reported to the Government of Sri Lanka: "Recent intelligence indicate that the LTTE plans to develop South Africa as one of their main stations for operating in the African region where weapons are inexpensive. The LTTE plans to establish relations with some of the other African regimes and groups through ANC. These developments calls for a review of South Africa-Sri Lanka relationship and the need to develop effective political, diplomatic and informational counter measures to alert South Africa that the LTTE and the ANC are neither electorally nor politically comparable and the Sri Lankan conflict cannot be understood through the lens of Apartheid." Based on fresh information, Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar formulated a dual strategy both to win over President Mandela and to confront South Africa with information of LTTE activity. Minister Kadirgamar proposed inviting President Mandela as chief guest to the 50th anniversary celebrations of Sri Lanka's independence day. Mandela was under pressure from the Tamil lobby not to accept the invitation. South African Tamil activists, at the invitation of LTTE had written to Mandela stating: "Mrs. Kumaratunga is scheming to use the upcoming 50th anniversary of British departure from Ceylon to invite world leaders and proclaim it is a tacit acceptance of her policies of ethnic decimation. The Tamils have nothing to celebrate. We are sure that you have courage and wisdom to tell Mrs. Kumaratunga that a person like you who has passed through the baptism of fire in the fight for racial justice to take part in a charade to celebrate 50 years of ethnic iniquity is sacrilegious. Please tell her to 'Let the Tamil people go'." President Mandela declined the invitation.

While LTTE activists attempted to lobby Graca Machel, the then companion of President Mandela during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Edinburgh in October 1997, President Kumaratunga approached President Mandela and informed the South African leader about LTTE activities in South Africa. The 80 year old President Mandela, who had much respect for Mrs. Sirima Bandaranaike and remembering the support of NAM for ANC, promised an immediate investigation. President Kumaratunga's talks with President Mandela produced results. Within 24 hours, NIA reported to President Mandela the extent of the LTTE organisation and operations in South Africa. Based on the NIA report President Mandela ordered the dismantling of the camps. On October 29, 1997, at the crack of dawn South African troops assisted by NIA operatives simultaneously raided the three LTTE camps in South Africa. The camps were in Laudium near Pretoria, Lenasia near Johannesburg and New Castle near KwaZulu-Natal. The camps in the outskirts of Laudium and Lenasia were between built up areas. Investigations by the South African authorities revealed that 24 hours before the camps were raided the LTTE had been informed by a high-level source that the Government of South Africa had made a decision to raid the LTTE camps.

Aftermath of the raid:

With their arsenal, the trainers and the trainees, had moved out to other LTTE safe houses in South Africa. Neither the trainees nor the trainers were arrested. They had perceived the dismantling of their training infrastructure as a temporary set back. The ANC hard-liners pacified them stating that this was a necessity and will not recur. Within a month the LTTE resumed training but at a lower scale and in smaller groups. This level of training is continuing todate. It will continue as long as South Africa is hesitant to take effective action to disrupt the LTTE support network in South Africa. Due to political and electoral pressure, President Mandela did not request the South African criminal-justice system either to proscribe the LTTE or their front organisations. The support network remained intact offering the prospect of revival. Today, the LTTE front organisations for disseminating propaganda and fund raising continues to operate in South Africa. Among the most active LTTE fronts are: People Against Sri Lankan Oppression (PASLO), Gauteng with branches throughout South Africa Movement Against Sri Lankan Oppression (MASLO), Cape Town and Durban Dravidians for Peace and Justice (DPJ), Gauteng an off-shoot of PASLO. Tamil Eelam Support Movement (TESM), Durban.

Peace for Sri Lanka Support Movement (PSLSM) in Pretoria, an alliance of several groups Tamil Rehabilitation Organisation (TRO) LTTE's principal fund raising organisation - the TRO - acts as a central conduit for channelling money out of South Africa. The latest organisation the LTTE established was PSLSM in Pretoria in March-April 1998. To wield their influence, LTTE also attempted to infiltrate other Tamil organisations in South Africa. They are the Natal Tamil Federation, South African Tamil Federation, the Tamil Federation of Gauteng and the World Saiva Council of Chatsworth.

Link with the Armed Wing:

The link between these fronts and the South African Tamil Tigers is clear. For instance, G.M. Veerabadren of Dravidians For Peace and Justice (DPJ), is the spokesperson of the South African Tamil Tigers. When he spoke to Prega Govender of Sunday Times, South Africa, he identified himself as Thamizh Veerabadren. The latest wave of discussions between Sri Lanka and South Africa is following an article and a photograph of armed men in the Sunday Times of South Africa on October 25. The photograph taken by Nicky De Blois had the caption: "Armed and ready: some South African Tamil Tiger supporters have had military training. They say, they are ready to fight for the cause of a separate state in Sri Lanka. This determined group was pictured in the bush in Gauteng." Thamizh Veerabadren said that LTTE members regularly slipped into the country to receive secret training in the latest weapon technology: "We also have a highly disciplined and militant group of Tamils here who have received training in explosives and tracking....they are prepared to make the supreme sacrifice for the Tamils of Sri Lanka." The same person, but as G.M. Veerabadren had written letters on DPJ letterheads, lobbying for the LTTE. For instance, on February 4, 1998, he wrote to several prominent persons in South Africa: "Dravidians For Peace and Justice, South African Chapter, is a Human Rights Organisation monitoring Human Rights Abuses Worldwide. Presently our focus is on Sri Lanka......."

In addition to disseminating propaganda and raising funds, these fronts organise public events and engage in lobbying. For instance on July 4, 1998, the TESM staged a "play of conscience" called "God is Silent." The play centred around the Sri Lankan conflict was held in Regional Hall, Arena Park, was organised in support of the LTTE. The advertisement said: "Thousands of Tamils are being massacred and raped in Sri Lanka. Don't just sympathise with the cause. Do something about it." For financial or ideological reasons, there are about 20 influential South African Tamils who promote the interests of the LTTE. Among the South African activists, who have come to the attention of the South African authorities are Dr. P. Lingam, V. Pillai, Tommy (Tony) M. Padotan, M. Peddy, M.T. Pillay, T.D. Pillay, Kisten Chinappan, Y. Chetty, Ned Pillai and Kumbesan Sandrasegaran. To keep an eye on LTTE activism, particularly LTTE political and military activists who visit South Africa from time to time, the NIA has stepped up its surveillance on these organisations.

South African support:

The attitude of the South African government is shaped by the level of propaganda and lobbying. It is incorrect to assess that there is no opposition to the LTTE in South Africa. After President Mandela met with President Kumaratunge, his attitude towards the LTTE changed. In fact in December 1997, a South African Tamil activist wrote to President Mandela: "... recent statements made by your officials reflect a number of misconceptions and missing conceptions about the situation in Sri-Lanka." Therefore, South African opinion vis--vis Sri Lanka is not monolithic. There are prominent South Africans, including South African Tamils who are aware of LTTE's role in the Gandhi assassination, who does not wish to support the LTTE. But they form the silent majority.

Former UN expert Elizabeth Bennette, with the prestigious South African think tank, the Institute of Strategic Studies in Johannesburg is openly critical of LTTE's role in recruiting and deploying child combatants. As the current head of the institute's project on Children in Armed Conflict and formerly with the National Children's Rights Committee in South Africa, she is working towards an ad hoc tribunal that will prosecute both governments and rebels who "commit war crimes against children." She is specifically examining the use of children under 15 in warfare by Laurent Kabila of the Democratic Republic of Congo; Kony of the Lord's liberation Army in Southern Sudan; and the LTTE.

Because of President Mandela's aversion to violence, the fronts of the LTTE have adopted a technique to portray themselves as peace organisations. The LTTE and their fronts regularly call South Africa to promote negotiations. For instance, a South African Tamil activist wrote to President Mandela: "Our beloved President, you are the symbol of struggle against evil and a symbol of freedom and hope. Mrs. Chandrika Kumaratunga is hunting for trophies. What is more rewarding than to get the most incorruptible and courageous fighter against injustice to put the stamp of approval on her atrocious and vicious acts against a long suffering Tamil minority, who simply want to be masters of their own destiny. We also appeal to you to use your enormous influence and expertise to solve the problems in Sri Lanka through peaceful means. An offer from South Africa to mediate the conflict in South Africa and to set up a Truth and Reconciliation committee would be welcome by all peace loving citizens of Sri Lanka."

Foreign Intervention?

In preparation for NAM, LTTE appealed in a message to President Mandela to use his good office "to impress upon the Government of Sri Lanka to abandon its aggressive military policy and seek a negotiated settlement based on the principles enunciated at Thimpu talks." The message addressed to the NAM Chair President Mandela dated August 29, 1998, was widely distributed. Further, the LTTE fronts staged a demonstration outside the venue of the meeting n Durban. The demonstrators called South Africa to ban Colombo from attending NAM and carried placards: "Sri Lanka kills their own people" and "Child murderers our sincere greetings and well wishes.

President Mandela, subjected to the influence of LTTE propaganda, called for third party intervention in Sri Lanka both at NAM and at the UN General Assembly. President Mandela at the 53rd meeting of the UNGA on September 21, 1998 said: "Immediately, a whole range of areas of conflict confront us, in Africa, Europe and Asia. All of us are familiar with these, which range from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola and Sudan on my own continent, to the Balkans in Europe and Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Sri Lanka in Asia. Clearly, this Organisation and especially the Security Council acting together with people of goodwill in the countries and areas concerned, has a responsibility to act decisively to contribute to the termination of these destructive conflicts." President Kumaratunga's response was a direct rebuttal to President Mandela's comments. "We in Sri Lanka are particularly conscious of the capacity of terrorist groups to resort to the strategy of using front organisations for raising funds which end up in the LTTE war chest to contribute towards murdering and brutalising our people. Moral and legal sanctions against terrorists are not enough. Laws must be effectively implemented. Only by such concerted action would we be able to ensure that terrorists are compelled to renounce violence and enter the democratic process. I would like to thank India and the United States of America in particular for having recognised and declared the LTTE to be the terrorist organisation that it is, and for encouraging my Government to settle this problem by political means. I would like to add here that this is an internal problem that Sri Lanka is fully able and ready to resolve with the full support of its peoples. We will not tolerate any outside interference whilst we appreciate all the support given us by our friends abroad in resolving the conflict."

President Kumaratunga also said that "The LTTE's claim to be a 'liberation organisation' is an insult to organisations such as the African National Congress and the South West African People's Organisation, which courageously struggled against minority rule, racism and oppression and, with equal courage, negotiated the creation of the democratic, non-racial States of South Africa and Namibia." She added "The LTTE's claim to be a 'liberation organisation' is negated by its unilateral resort to violence and its reluctance to put its claims to the true test - that of participating in an open, democratic and peaceful process of consultation with the people."

President Mandela's stature as a towering statesman has suffered by the continuous exposure of South Africa harbouring violent groups and South Africa's relations with states supporting terrorism. To please a political constituency or to accommodate the request of a political or a personal ally and permit or turn a blind eye and tolerate the presence of terrorist infrastructure is a high crime against a friendly state. Like India has lost its moral right to talk about terrorist infrastructure in Pakistan spawning terrorism in India, the unprecedented wave of crime, corruption and provision of facilities for groups engaged in terrorism elsewhere is eroding the image of post-Mandela's free South Africa. If the LTTE threat is not controlled, South African security is likely to suffer the same way Indian security suffered. The short, mid and long term consequences of permitting the LTTE to operate in South Africa, will not be very different from India permitting Tamil militants to operate both in north and south India. It is natural that there will be a resurgence of Tamil nationalism; proliferation of weapons; flow of narcotics; corruption; and organised crime in South Africa. In addition to the impact on Sri Lanka and South Africa, there will be other implications of permitting the LTTE to operate in South Africa. South Africa will become a meeting point for existing and emerging groups to exchange intelligence, conduct joint procurement and even plan common strategies. This will impact on international security. The LTTE is also bound to expand its scope of operation further into Africa from its central base in South Africa. Already LTTE has cells in Reunion, Madagascar, Fiji, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Lesotho and Swaziland. It is question of time that from South Africa, the LTTE network will expand into the rest of Africa.

The Future:

There are many similarities and dissimilarity between South India from 1983 to 1987 and South Africa from 1994 to 1998. Like the leaders of New Delhi were susceptible to the Tamil ethnic vote, the leaders of South Africa are also vulnerable to ethnic compulsions. South Africa politicians and law enforcement is as vulnerable as their South Indian counterparts. The Tamil communities in both the countries are vulnerable to LTTE influence. Such calculations will feature in determining the future of LTTE politics in South Africa.

There is evidence to indicate that in Mandela's South Africa, not only are the Whites feeling isolated but also the Indians. In context, the UK-based Sri Lankan researcher Dushmantha Ranetunge makes an astute observation: "Sri Lankan Tamils and South African Tamils are both minorities with influence far above their ethnic representation. Are the South African Tamils fearful that their influence may be trimmed by the African majority as the Sri Lankan Tamils were by the Sinhalese? Is that why we are hearing of South African Tamil Tigers? Is this an alliance between two insecure minorities?" Ranetunge argues that the South African Tamils seems to be feeling isolated and "South African Tamil Tigers" may be a pre-emptive strike at the black majority, fearing a Sinhala style cutting down to size of Tamils in South Africa." On October 28, 1998, President Mandela placated the Indian South Africans by saying not to regard themselves as a minority but to become part of the majority in order to play a major role in the democratic transformation of the country. "Move away from the sidelines and come to the centre, and become a part of the majority", the President said. In the light of these developments the future of South Africa is uncertain. South African leaders of the 1990s - like their Indian counterparts in the 1980s - have under-estimated the LTTE, a pan-Tamil organisation. Towards, pan-Tamil nationalism, the LTTE has specially established a newspaper Theni Seide which is distributed free in South Africa.

The LTTE can be effectively denied access to South Africa only if the government decides to legally designate the LTTE as an illegal organisation and pass legislation to proscribe the LTTE front organisations and companies operating in South Africa. It is highly unlikely that South Africa will take such measures because the LTTE influence has significantly grown since 1994 and the Indian Tamil lobby is formidable in South Africa.

Foreign Minister Kadirgamar is likely to visit South Africa within this month to raise the issue of LTTE training camps, procurement, shipping, propaganda and fund raising. In the past, questions about the presence of LTTE in South Africa has been discussed between the two presidents and the two foreign ministers. They have had an impact on the LTTE organisation and operations in South Africa but not to dent the LTTE permanently. Will the forthcoming visit of Minister Kadirgamar create a significant impact because the South African media itself has raised the issue? Today, it is a daunting challenge for the Sri Lankan political leaders, intelligence community and foreign service to advance Sri Lankan interests in South Africa.


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