Memoirs of an anti-LTTE undercover agent in London
By Glen Jenvey - Exclusive to "Asian Tribune"
Edited By â€“ Joseph Thavaraja
Like many a news watcher living in the UK, the daily acts of terrorism against Sri Lanka -a commonwealth country- and the killings of its former President Ranasinghe Premadasa, not to mention the murder of its neighbour Indiaâ€™s Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, left me feeling disenchanted for the countless Sri Lankans caught in a civil war that no-one really wanted. I was unable to grasp as to how leaders of two nations were killed with no international outcry against the actâ€“apart from the news reports and the state funerals-and why such terror acts were left unchecked. Both countries had been attacked and the international community ought to have seen them as an attack on democracy in world itself.
I felt that the Sri Lankan people were a forgotten lot â€“especially the Tamil people - caught up in a crazy war.. As years went by, I was to learn more about the Tigersâ€¦
I wondered if the LTTE had a European presence; as reported by the BBC World Service, there was a large refugee presence in London, and news reports in British newspapers also carried the messages stating 'LTTE released a statement from their London office'. It appeared to me that the group which killed two commonwealth heads of states was allowed to have offices in London and was allowed to operate freelyâ€¦I felt all this was â€˜plain wrongâ€™ and something needed to be done.
I resolved to commence research of my ownâ€¦
I decided to start with the Tamil refugee centre in London - the telephone number was easy to find. I asked the man who answered the phone if he had a contact number for the LTTE as I was trying to contact them. Without any second thoughts, he gave me the number and the address!
I was shocked that a terrorist group that killed two world leaders, was this easy to find in London.
Thereafter, I phoned the Tigers.
An Office Head who identified himself as A.C. Shanthan, answered. I simply asked him if I could work and support the LTTEâ€™s causeâ€¦He invited me to contact him and meet him when I was in London the next time. I lived only one hour away by train. As soon as I rang them off, I phoned the Sri Lankan High Commission offering my services to HCâ€™s military attachÃ© who at this time was trying to deal with LTTE issues -he was impressed that thereâ€™s someone who wanted to help the Sri Lankans, and agreed to meet me especially since he did not receive so many offers from British Asians to spy on a South Asian terrorist group.
About a week later we met at the High Commission premises (In the interest of Sri Lankan national security, his name is withheld). He explained to me that President Ranasinghe Premadasa was a close friend of him before the Presidentâ€™s untimely death. I left the meeting with his blessings but realized that I was trailed. I also found that I was tested - tested to see whether I could infiltrate the LTTE's London circle and provide what they called as "top grade information". I was also instructed to get a book titled [XXXXXX].
I caught the return tube to Eastham and rang the Tigersâ€™ office located at 211, Katherine Rd. The â€˜officeâ€™ instructed me to wait near the tube stationâ€¦A while later, I was approached by the office-head; I wondered: Was it to be a mere bullet or a warm handshake?
To my relief, it was a handshake and we walked to a nearby cafe to talk. I explained my real father was Tamil but I had only found out about it last year and that I had been brought up by my mother. But on finding out my Tamil roots I felt sorry for the Tamil people in Sri Lanka (which was true but not regarding the LTTE). I expressed my interest in working for the LTTE saying my own father was an ex-British army soldier and I wanted to follow on his footsteps.
The LTTE's office head appeared impressed. He began talking about the human right's abuses in Sri Lanka. However, as I lent my ear to him more and more, I began to feel as if he was reciting a well rehearsed script, lines spoken many a time to win people over --and also, to recruit new members.
As I nibbled at the sandwich and sipped my cup of tea, I was shown photos of dead bodies of Tamil people. I asked why none of these pictures were in the British press, and offered to help with the press office if needed.
Since I had access to info dealing with press matters, I was given the photos of the dead civilians. At the end of the two-hour-long chat, I was given a couple of books and some press statements with the Tiger logo on them. I was told that a press pack with videos would be sent via post. I understood that it was their way of checking the postal address and assessing whether I could be brainwashed gradually.
I rang the Sri Lanka High Commission next day with the good news that I had received a fist-full of information in addition to the promise of daily LTTE press statements before they were released to the international press. True to LTTEâ€™s word, the next day a large package consisting of videos, books, and press releases arrived which I promptly re-routed to the Sri Lankan diplomat with whom I was now on first name basis due to my â€˜good workâ€™.
I had also ordered a fax machine from a phone company and within a couple of days was fax-receiving every press statement from the LTTE's HQ before the international press had a look at them.
A careful perusal of the statements led to information on a set of primary contact information such as names, towns, villages etc. The videos showed graphic details of LTTE strongholds and fighting methods.
Then came a mild-shocker; I was told they would be very useful in the due course as a major Sri Lankan military operation was about to start against the Tiger held areas in Sri Lanka. In the Sri Lankan diplomatâ€™s words, it was "a major push that might bring about peace". The operation was codenamed Peace Through War, he said.
I liked the idea of Peace Through War as fighting terror with terror seemed the only way to deal with the Tigers. I also felt that the Sri Lankan President at the time was making a genuine effort to bring peace to the people and felt she was able to read the LTTE correctly.
The LTTE spin doctors were never interested in anything other than â€˜a warâ€™. It helped them stay alive and prosper - history would show that peace signaled their demise.
To preserve my cover I would dispatch the statements to newspapers and embassies and then forward the replies to the Sri Lankan SIS officers (called NIBS) and reply back to LTTE-London office to show I was doing a good job.
One day, I was invited to the LTTEâ€™s weekly Sunday meet where regular planning session of the London LTTE bosses took place. Thereafter, within a short span, a member of the LTTEâ€™s London inner circle invited me to their meetings-all and sundry, that included even demos and press conferences.
The next opening came to me when they entrusted me with the task of writing and dispatching press releases in their name. At a click of a button and a flick of a finger, I now could lay my hands on any sensitive LTTE information as requested by my â€œspy masters.â€
News reports from Sri Lanka kept coming daily to LTTE London offices.
One report said that several Sri Lankan air-force aircrafts were being shot down by LTTE anti air craft guns. The LTTE London office was boasting that the air force were flying in straight flight paths while on its missions (to different parts of the country), and that they had simply moved their anti aircraft guns under the flight path. I reported this immediately to the SIS boss â€“thereafter, the flight paths changed and pilots were ordered to totally re-do their flight routes. Downing of air crafts immediately stopped.
On another occasion, members of the LTTE living in Sri Lanka were named in London press releases sent to British newspapers which I promptly passed to my SL High Commission â€˜bossâ€™.. Upon release of these names, arrests were made -LTTE later called them civilians in Colombo who had nothing to do with the organisation.
One of my SL bosses were put in charge of the security for the visit of HRH Prince Charles on his visit to Sri Lanka since as for international protocols, the host country is in charge of security as soon as the plane lands. I was asked to find out whether the LTTE, if given the chance, would attack the Prince. The LTTE London office replied that they would â€˜not take the Prince outâ€™ but would consider it if he fails to visit North and East.
At one time, LTTE approached several UK based diplomatic missions asking if they would sell weapons to the LTTE. In return for weapons, the LTTE said, that LTTE is ready to offer the embassy â€˜a naval base facilityâ€™ on their territorial shores. Only one country took up the offer to talk with the LTTE. This offer to LTTE was sent along with details of the countryâ€™s Arms Company willing to sell arms. I promptly informed of this to the SL High Commission boss.
The LTTE was once invited to a garden party by members of a local council Labour Party group. The townâ€™s â€˜majorâ€™ spoke at-length and had photos taken of him and other Labour Councillors with LTTE members. They even pledged their support to the LTTE. The information promptly arrived at the SL High Commission -along with photos.
I mostly worked from my home. I would take the train up to London to visit the LTTE at Katherine Rd offices and thereafter would meet my SL High Commission boss..
News reports said that the Temple of the Tooth in Kandy, Sri Lanka was attacked. The LTTE official press statement for that day spoke about a completely different subject as if nothing of this kind took place. I felt sickâ€¦and something made me want to work for peace in this land of beauty.
By now, I was a full-blown party to the war.
I was also now surreptitiously faxing the daily LTTE press statements to the diplomatic contacts regularly which became an important part of my routine.
It was then that the realization came;
I suddenly understood that I â€“no one else, but myself -have the ability to change the processâ€”covertly, of course. And to direct the process towards talks rather than routine to-and from messagesâ€“ and later, perhaps peace talks itself;
â€¦.which two years later, I did.
It was easy to forget that heavy fighting raged in Sri Lanka as we went about our daily lives in London..However, I was now part of a bigger spy agency working to protect people from threats â€“especially, guerilla attacks.
It was an unauthorized but â€˜officialâ€™ LTTE Letter-Headed message by me to the South Africans that changed everything. It considerably altered the Rules of Engagement of both sides and more importantly, re-wrote the history of the Sri Lankan conflict with far reaching effects for some time to comeâ€¦
This â€˜unauthorized faxâ€™ also made real sense to me more than everything dispatched by myself to date- the years and months of press statements, meetings, demosâ€¦ I believed that it would be a chance to afford real peace.
Unlike many other spies, when working as a double-agent, I had access to both sides; I used this advantage to build no less than bridges of information that would penetrate the battle driven agendas of the warring factions and â€œI-am-better-than-youâ€ confrontations which only left countless civilian casualties.
To this end I managed to arrange the safe passage of two Red Cross ships with emergency food and medical aid to the Tamil refugees in northern Sri Lanka. This service was offered by me to the Sri Lankan desk officer at the time, Mr.John English, at the British Red Cross. Having access to both sides I could arrange that the LTTE did not attack this ship which was bringing in much needed aid for the displaced.
However, more importantly, while setting up meetings for peace talk's between the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE, I found out that the LTTE wished none-other than Norway to hold talks. This was ground-breaking information since it shaped and defined the trajectory of the war/peace process of Sri Lanka as it stands today.
However, the story does not end hereâ€¦
The spying skills I learnt from the Sri Lankan secret service while spying on one of the worldâ€™s worst terrorist groups, the LTTE, helped me to bring down the radical cleric Abu Hamza in London (see www.abuhamza.org.uk). It was the examples of facts I uncovered from monitoring the LTTE in London that helped towards this â€œAbu Hamza-life-changeâ€â€¦.
In the forthcoming book War Of The Web (ISBN xxxxxxxxx) my anti-terror work on several terrorist groups, both Islamic and non-Islamic, are detailed. For instance, an unnamed British MP invited the LTTE to the House of Commons. Their names too will be released in this book.
- Asian Tribune -