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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2587

Tigers grab Tamil TV and radio stations in France

By our Correspondents in Europe

The Tamil Tiger leadership in France is presently taking frantic moves to shift the Tamil Television Network (TTN), the TV station out of Paris to Geneva in Switzerland. It is learnt that the Sri Lanka’s separatist Tamil rebel outfit has got cold feet after French authorities moved to examine closely the activities of the banned Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and their other businesses.

The new location is expected to be the Swedish Tamil Forum office in Geneva, Switzerland, another proxy organization of LTTE. Though the President of the Swiss Tamil Forum for name-sake is Kasilingham Sivapiragasam of Berne, but it is manned and managed by Anton Ponnrajah. Anton Ponnrajah is the coordinator, who is though said to be drama artiste,in reality is a LTTE stalwart and works behind the shadow of LTTE’s Swiss head Kulam. It is also learnt that Anton Ponnrajah travels very frequently Geneva - Singapore – Geneva to take care of LTTE’s errands.

Tamil Television is network is presently based in Paris, located at 5-7 Rue Emile Zola, 93120 La Courneuve France. This is the major communication channel of the Tigers in Europe. It has also another office and studio in London.

Tigers muscled in and through threats and intimidation acquired TTN and IBC radio which is operating from London. They also run the most powerful TVI – a TV station and CTR radio broadcast in Canada.

S. Kuhanathan, a Tamil journalist based in Paris and the Editor of Tamil Weekly “Eelanadu” launched the first 24 hours “Tamil Oli” radio broadcast on 14 January 1997. Kuhnathan was the Chairman of the Radio Asia – Paris based company which owned and run the ‘Tamil Oli’ Tamil language radio broadcast from Paris, France.

In the meantime LTTE was not happy with Kuhanathan launching the first 24 hours ‘Tamil Oli’ radio.

As they were not happy with the growing popularity for Kuhanathan and his radio, they got hold of Tharcicious as the front man and launched through him a Tamil Radio broadcasting service called IBC.

Tharcicious when he was in Sri Lanka worked as a clerical service clerk in the Department of Education, Colombo. After arriving in London and formalising his immigration status in the country, joined the BBC and worked again as a clerk. He was forced to leave the BBC when the BBC authorities retrenched a few hundreds of their staffs. Furthermore he was not given an opportunity work in BBC’s Tamil service “Tamil Osai.”

That was the time LTTE approached him and put him as front man and opened up a new Radio broadcasting service by the end of 1997. Tharcicious baptised it as IBC to take revenge on the BBC. LTTE paid Tharcicious British sterling pounds 10,000 per month.

IBC Radio was the first 24 hour’s radio station which aired Tamil program from London. It became a popular radio station internationally. As Tharcicious worked in the BBC, he knew the regulatory controls in running a radio station.

His talk-back programme was very popular. On one occasion, a kid came on line and, prompted by his parents, began to praise the Tigers, Tharcicious in some way a straightforward man, immediately cut short the kids comments and warned that kids should not be used to propagate LTTE politics.

This was sufficient for the Tamil Tigers to grab the radio station. They painted him as an anti-Tiger enemy of the Tamils. The Tiger propaganda machinery was activated to work against IBC. Under intense Tiger pressures the radio station ran into financial difficulties.

In the meantime, Ranjith, formerly of the Jaffna University, who was in London, moved to oust Tharcicious from the IBC. Ranjit who now runs the Tamil Net online news website from Norway, raised huge sum of money earlier to challenge the proscription order of the LTTE in the court in USA.

Through V. Rudrakumaran, America based lawyer and a staunch LTTEr, Tigers hired a top US law firm run by Ramsey Clark, a former Attorney General in the Lyndon Johnson administration, to fight Washington’s 1997 decision to label the group as a terrorist organization. Although the effort subsequently failed, it nevertheless amply demonstrated the LTTE’s ability to access the very highest echelons of the US legal establishment - no mean feat for a jungle-based insurgent force located on the other side of the world.

Finally Ranjit (who was also for sometime head of the LTTE in London) and the Tiger chief in London A.C. Shanthan a.k.a A. Krishanthakumar, with the help of an accountant Chenthil put pressure on Tharcicous and with heavy arm twisting wrested control of the radio station. It is now controlled by the Tigers front company called Tamil Media Limited.

In the meantime Radio Asia of Paris, which owned the “Tamil Oli” radio, launched the first Tamil Television (Tamil Radio and Television - TRT). The man behind the launching of the first Television was again S. Kuhanathan, a veteran Tamil journalist of repute.

He with the support of few others, one of them a businessman who was the leading investor in the TRT, launched the Tamil Television station in Paris.

Kuhanathan became the Chairman of the Tamil Radio Television. He personally invested French Franc 5 million for his 25 % percent share in the company.

Then, it was T.Chandrakumar who invested French Franc 3 million, as the Managing Director – Administration, with 20% percent share. Chandrakumar originally from Allaipiddy, one of the islets in the Jaffna Peninsula is an owner of a Jewellery shop in Paris and also runs money exchange and was said to be involved in host of other questionable business activities.

Other share holders of the Radio Asia were -

3) S.Sreetharan ( Director Administration)- France 8% and invested French Franc 900,000

4) S.Balachandran – France 08 % Fr. Franc 500,000

5) N.Urudramoorthy- Swiss 05% Fr. Franc 10,000000

6) T.Urudrakumar- Chennain 05 % Fr. Franc (Brother of Chandrakumar )

7) E.K. Rajagopal- London 01% Fr. Franc 40,000

8) Wimal Sockanathan- London 05 % Fr. Franc 350,000

9) Mrs Chandrakumar- France 08% ( Wife of Chandrakumar)

10) R.Kandasamy – France 03% Fr. Franc 100000

11) R.SriRangen- France 01 % Fr. Franc 80,000

12) Manivel Malone – France 01% Fr. Franc 100000

13) S.Perinpanathan – Swiss 05 % Fr. Franc 500000

14) S.Aravinthan – France 05 % (A proxy of Chandrakumar.)

Chandrakumar a bought for French Franc 2.5 million, the building located at 5-7 Rue Emile Zola, 93120 La Courneuve France, to house the Tamil Television station.

What they started was a cable TV and they managed to recruit 8,000 paying viewers at a subscription of Euro15 per month. Though the subscribers to the pay-TV channel gradually increased TRT began to face a financial crunch.

In the meantime, LTTE international Organizer Lawrence Thilakar who was married to a trained woman cadre of the Tamil Eelam Liberation Organization (TELO) was suddenly summoned to Vanni (LTTE’s jungle stronghold). In Vanni he faced inquiry over numerous allegations of financial misappropriation and also for the killing of Kandiah Perinpanathan, Treasurer of the Tigers and Gajendran of the LTTE’s mouthpiece "Eelamurasu."

Following the departure of Thilakar. Tigers appointed Velyumylum Manoharan who was earlier imprisoned in Paris on drug related charges. He was made the head of the LTTE’s International Secretariat based in Paris. Velyumyilum who head the LTTE was said to be very influential with French Police. A Tamil from Paris said, Velyumyilum was very influential and he could get it issued and obtain for anyone, either a new French passport or a Refugee Travel Document from the French police even on a Sunday.

During this period, Tigers were thinking in terms of running a TV station of their own. But when they came to know that Tamil Radio Television under the control of Kuhanathan was in dire financial straits, they stealthily moved to take control of the Television station.

The LTTE higher-ups managed to get hold of T.Chandrakumar and convinced him that they wanted to enter into a partnership business agreement with Radio Asia in running the TRT. For reasons unknown, may be afraid that LTTE might disturb him in his business of money transactions and other questionable business activities, he agreed with the Tigers. But Kuhanathan was opposed to this proposal.

Subsequently, this was taken up in Radio Asia Board of Directors meeting. Majority shareholders of the Radio Asia agreed with Chandrakumar’s proposal for a partnership arrangement with the LTTE.

Out of the total shareholders only three - R.SriRangen- France 01 % French Franc 80,000, Manivel Malone – France 01% French Franc 100000, and S.Perinpanathan – Swiss 05 % French Franc 500000 voted against the partnership with the LTTE and supported the independent stand of S.Kuhanathan.

When it was agreed by the majority shareholders to enter into a partnership agreement with the LTTE’s proxy company Tamil Media Limited, Kuhanathan and the other three demanded their investment be returned immediately.

In the meantime LTTE entered into a 50 -50 partnership agreement with the majority shareholders led by Chandrakumar. Legally LTTE’s Tamil – Media Limited and Radio Asia signed the 50 - 50 partnership agreement.

After that LTTE gained control of the management. When Kuhanathan and others demanded for their monies be returned, LTTE and Chandrakumar told them that their company Radio Asia was still operative and has entered with the partnership agreement, therefore the question of paying back their share value does not arise. In October 2000 after taking control of the day-to-day running of the TV, LTTE changed the name of TRT as Tamil Television Network (TTN).

By early part of 2004 TTN in Paris picked up more than 15,000 monthly subscribers and each subscriber was paying Euro 15/= per month. They also forced all the Tamil businessmen and shop owners in Europe to advertise their business in the TTN . According to a rough estimate they were minting more than 500,000 Euros a month in the form of advertisements.

It became a money spinning venture for them. While running the TTN very profitably they purposely failed to settle their bills and other financial commitments. Several companies gave their services and goods without receiving any payments. The overhead skyrocketed and its survival becomes difficult

Many front lines LTTE’rs were employed by the company. An official insolvency administrator was appointed to either salvage or wind up TTN in 2002, and the French court ordered the TTN be closed down.

LTTE was waiting for this to happen. They approached the court completely as a new entity and paid Euros 60,000 and re- acquired the TTN thus legally ridding the partnership agreement Free Media Limited entered with Radio Asia.

This stunning legal coup by the LTTE flabbergasted the Radio Asia partners including Chandrakumar, but they were helpless. With Euros 60,000 the LTTE has obtained the legal possession of the one of the Tamil Television network through their proxy company Media 2004.

They have also opened up the branch office of the TV in London too.

With this they wrested effective control of TRT.

The company now has offices in Paris and London. The person in charge of the London Office is Mr Vahan who is a motor mechanic and he is related to Mathivathani, wife of LTTE leader Velupillai Prabakaran.

The LTTE rewarded another activist Mr Karunalingam, who is the Chairman of Kanaga Durgai Amman Temple. He too is related to Mathivathani. He has been appointed as Financial Controller for TTN recently. This temple charity has been transformed into a LTTE front and significant part of its income is diverted to the LTTE in various forms. For successfully transforming the temple as a LTTE base Karunalingam was rewarded this post recently.

Also Read:LTTE in Paris closing down businesses and illegally transferring moneys into Switzerland

- Asian Tribune -

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