|Tigers use humanitarian aid monies to buy arms: Former Tiger Karuna Amman|
|Tuesday, 23 September 2008|
Stewart Bell, Canwest News Service
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - A former commander of Sri Lanka's Tamil Tigers has admitted the guerrillas used money meant for humanitarian aid to buy weapons.Col. Karuna Amman said in an interview the rebels routinely bought arms with donations from abroad that were meant to help civilians in guerrilla-held areas.He called Canada the No. 1 one source of external income for the guerrillas, who are fighting for independence for Sri Lanka's ethnic Tamil minority.
Karuna spent 22 years with the Tamil Tigers and was a top commander until he defected to the government side in 2004 and took his 6,000 cadres with him.The National Post interviewed him at a secretive location in Colombo for a series about Sri Lanka's long-running civil war. The RCMP and CSIS have long claimed the Tamil Tigers raise money in Canada but this is believed to be the first time a former senior guerrilla has publicly confirmed the allegations.
Police say they have documented at least $3 million in money transfers from Tamil Tigers supporters in Canada to overseas accounts linked to the guerrillas.The federal government responded on July 16 by shutting down a Toronto-based non-profit group called the World Tamil Movement. The U.S. government has also ordered banks to freeze the assets of the Toronto branch of the Tamil Rehabilitation Organization.
Col. Karuna Amman was the eastern commander of the
Tamil Tigers until he defected to the government side in 2004.
Both groups deny any wrongdoing.Karuna said while Canadians might believe the money they send to Tiger-controlled areas is being used for aid, guerrilla boss Velupillai Prabhakaran uses it all to buy arms instead."They use all the money for the war," he said. He called Switzerland the Tigers' second most important source of funds. The money feeds a procurement network that buys artillery and other weapons from former Soviet countries, he said.
Karuna is a controversial figure in Sri Lanka. He only recently returned to Colombo from the U.K., where he was briefly imprisoned for entering the country on a fake diplomatic passport he says was supplied by Sri Lankan officials. Britain deported him this summer, although human rights groups had urged the government to charge him with war crimes.
His faction is allegedly responsible for murders, abductions, intimidation and child recruitment - allegations he denied in the interview.He now lives in Colombo and leads a political party called the Tamileelam Peoples Liberation Tigers (TMVP), which fielded candidates in elections in the Eastern Province in May and now holds the post of chief minister.
|Last Updated ( Monday, 09 March 2009 )|
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