Cleaning up Tiger cells with prize catch
By Ruwan Weerakoon
@The Nation / 20 Sep 2009
The Terrorist Investigations Division (TID) nabbed one of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE’s) leaders, a high profile Tiger operative in Colombo recently. This operative, with access to the highest rung of the Tiger leadership, had been responsible for the attempts to assassinate the President and the Defense Secretary and also other high ranking military officials. He had been the mastermind behind attempts to revive the remaining Tiger cadres dormant in and around the city.
Sivam, a high profile LTTE leader who conducted his mission covertly, had been a Tiger operative, carrier of weapons and ammunition, transporter of suicide cadres and kits and also the mastermind behind the planning of several attacks on certain key figures in the security establishment. He also cultivated several security personnel and had access to most of the important economic places because he spent million to corrupt and bribe officers manning them.
Sivam, had arrived in Colombo in March 2002, soon after the implementation of the Cease Fire Agreement (CFA) between the LTTE and the then government. Sivam too had gained access to Colombo by posing as a Muslim. Attired in Muslim garb, he had arrived and set up residence in Colombo. He had made it a point to always carry a copy of the Muslim holy book or the Quran and had even attended prayers in mosques. He had also undergone circumcision, to ward off the ultimate suspicion.
Taking on the identity of a Muslim is probably easier as the two ethnic groups use Tamil as their mother tongue, albeit there are differences in dialect and accent according to the regions of habitation. It is easier for a Tamil to impersonate a Moor than a Sinhalese.
Sivam too was a well trained cadre and had access to the highest in the organisation. A high profile Tiger, he is the only one in the city to have directly reported to LTTE intelligence wing leader Pottu Amman. Sivam had been responsible for operating the Tigers’ intelligence network in and around Colombo. Though he was a native of Kilinochchi in the North, he had been mostly based in Colombo and was very familiar with the area.
Sivam has a good personality. He dressed smartly and wore well polished shoes. He was also very fluent in all three languages, Tamil, Sinhalese and English. He learnt Sinhala from one of LTTE’s training bases and English from a recognised English institute. Sivam had built a very good rapport with a prominent businessman and he entertained businessman and others in five star hotels immediately after his arrival in Colombo at the beginning of the CFA. Pretending to be a peace lover he had collected whatever data available and relayed them back to his superiors in the north.
Sivam had been living in a highly residential area of Colombo since his arrival. Once the CFA was abrogated by the incumbent government, he had temporarily moved his residence to the suburbs. However, during the latter stages of fighting in the north, he had returned to Colombo and taken up residence in a luxury apartment paying per month Rs. 200,000 as rent. He led a luxury life, driving around in the latest model vehicles; all funded by the LTTE. While thus engaged, he had been observing the modus operandi of the Sri Lankan Security Forces and Police, and had made sure to avoid arrest. He had been on the registered household list in Colombo and managed to obtain identity cards with his Colombo address. He had masterminded the attack on the then Sri Lanka Army Commander Lieutenant General Sarath Fonseka (currently Chief of Defence Staff and full General). To mount the attack, Sivam had obtained accurate information on the Army Commander from none other than the latter’s own cook. Sivam had given instructions to one of his cadres to transport and harbour the suicide cadre.
Sivam was one of the main LTTE terrorists who handled and coordinated suicide bombers. But his targets were missed because government intelligence gathering wings are stronger. Not only the Army Commander, he had also attempted to assassinate President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa and several Ministers as well. He had planned, facilitated and attempted to carry out the attack, receiving direct instructions from LTTE intelligence head Pottu Amman himself, but had been unsuccessful.
During the height of the battle in the North, Pottu Amman had given Sivam specific instructions. He had told Sivam that even if the Tiger leadership is eliminated by the Sri Lankan military, overseas operatives would continue the struggle. Pottu Amman had also told him that the overseas cadres would keep in constant touch with him and for Sivam to follow instructions.
Sivam was the only terrorist to receive orders from Pottu Amman. He had communicated with the then Vanni leaders via e- mail. When there was an important message and he had communicated to Pottu Amman and Rathnam Master and Charles’s on their satellite phones, he had to change his mobile SIM and obtain an ID copy from Wellawatte communication centers. When any person came to get a photocopy, the operator of the photocopy machine used to get additional copies and keep them for Sivam and the rest of the LTTE Intelligence cadres to get mobile phone connections.
The arrest of Sivam was yet another feather in the cap of the Sri Lankan intelligence services. From the moment that the TID received scant details of the suspect Tiger operative, they began 24 hour surveillance on him. They observed all his movements.
Slowly, yet steadily the TID detectives began building up evidence to prove the identity of the Tiger operative. They had received orders that Sivam should be taken alive, not to leave room for him to commit suicide, as alive, he would be invaluable. This made the sleuths extra cautious.
Once the Tiger cadre’s identity and mission became clear, the TID arrested him at a popular restaurant. Sivam, who frequented this restaurant was enjoying a cup of coffee with a couple of sandwiches. A group of TID detectives who had been following him entered the restaurant and took up seats at an adjoining table. A female TID officer was among them and she seated herself where she had direct eye contact with Sivam. After a few minutes of friendly banter among them, the female TID officer glanced at Sivam and smiled. Which male would not reciprocate a coy smile from a female? Sivam never suspected that these would be the persons who would spell his doom. He was confident that his cover was intact. And this over-confidence betrayed him.
The Sri Lankan intelligence officers were not recognisable as sleuths. They looked wealthy business persons having a carefree day out. Sivam returned the smile. This happened a few times and one of the Intelligence officers took a few steps and looking at Sivam said, “Your face looks familiar.” Sivam had introduced himself as a real estate businessman and invited the intelligence officer to join him with the others.
After some chit chat and coffee Sivam had excused himself to leave. The “business persons” too had said they would walk up to their vehicles with him. Still chatting like a group of long lost friends, they approached the car park. Unknowing to Sivam, the intelligence officers had parked their vehicles in such a manner that it would be difficult for him to beat a hasty retreat.
After bidding adieu to his new found friends, when Sivam was about to open his car door, the sleuths smoothly moved in and pinning his hands behind, handcuffed him. A surprised and shocked Sivam did not know what hit him. They only said that he was being arrested for maintaining connections with the LTTE. Sivam had no opportunity either to bite his cyanide capsule or use a concealed weapon, if he had one.
So, now Sivam, perhaps the last of the top rung LTTE operatives in Colombo and its suburbs, is being interrogated at a high security location. Based on information elicited from him, the TID has been able to piece together most of the bizarre picture painted by Tiger claws in and around the capital.
In their attempt to thwart the LTTE intelligence network and to eradicate the menace of its suicide bombers, the Terrorist Investigation Unit (TID), the Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI) and State Intelligence Services (SIS) officers work 24 hours through 365 days. Sri Lanka’s intelligence officers perform their tasks purely relying on their skills and talents.