Tamil Nadu arrests halt bid to make vessel for LTTE

March 4th, 2008 - 5:58 pm ICT by admin  

By M.R. Narayan Swamy
New Delhi, March 4 (IANS) The arrest of two Sri Lankan Tamils in Tamil Nadu on charges of making a huge boat for the Tamil Tigers has crippled for now the rebels’ bid to stealthily make sea-worthy vessels in India. One of the men caught Monday in a sweep involving sleuthing by the Intelligence Bureau and Tamil Nadu Police is related to a leader of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), home ministry sources here said.

Premraj alias Raj alias Dorai Kutty, aged about 48, was related to Soosai, nom de guerre of a veteran guerrilla who heads the LTTE’s navy wing, the sources told IANS.

The other man, Kumar alias Diesel Kumar, was one of the 17 guerrillas who the Sri Lanka Navy caught in October 1987 on charges of gun running off Jaffna when Indian troops were deployed in Sri Lanka’s northeast.

All 17 guerrillas bit cyanide in a bid to commit suicide to prevent being flown to Colombo for interrogation. Twelve of them died instantly but five survived. Diesel Kumar was one of them.

The mass suicides contributed to a costly war between the LTTE and the Indian soldiers, causing thousands of deaths until the Indians returned home in March 1990.

Premraj was arrested in Trichy in Tamil Nadu where he has lived with his family. Diesel Kumar used to live in a refugee camp in Rameshwaram housing Sri Lankan Tamils.

It is the first time that the LTTE, whose extensive shipping network has suffered heavily at the hands of the Sri Lanka Navy, has gone for manufacturing a large boat in India.

According to confessions the two men have made to the authorities, Premraj received Rs.3 million from the Tigers through hawala transfer to make the vessel at a boatyard at Munambam near Kochi.

Premraj paid an advance of Rs.2 million to the boat builders, saying it would be used for fishing. Much of the vessel was ready when suspicion led to the authorities mounting a watch on Premraj.

The ship, some 70 feet long, would have eventually cost the LTTE Rs.4.2 million, the sources here said.

When ready, Diesel Kumar would have taken it across the sea dividing India and Sri Lanka to the LTTE, which controls a large area in the island’s north.

Both men have been charged under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for assisting the LTTE, which is outlawed in India, and the Indian Penal Code.

According to the sources, Premraj was a frequent visitor to the LTTE region in Sri Lanka where he used to meet Soosai. Soosai and a fellow guerrilla, Raj alias Babu, asked Premraj help to procure a vessel.

Soosai had reportedly helped recover money Premraj had lost to a Sri Lankan Tamil who had fled from Tamil Nadu to the LTTE area. Grateful, Premraj agreed to do Soosai’s bidding.

Diesel Kumar had been once earlier arrested in Tamil Nadu, but he later left India, the sources said. He got married and returned to Tamil Nadu last year.

Indian officials have said that the military reverses the LTTE has suffered would make it more dependent on India to get hold of items needed for its war effort.

Clearly, the LTTE decided that it would be better to build a vessel in Kerala, rather than in Tamil Nadu.

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