Monday, December 24, 2007

Labour's Pro – LTTE Keith Vaz is no stranger to trouble

A long-time advocate for the UK ban on the Tamil Tigers being lifted, he says he has many people in his constituency and chairs the all-party parliamentary group for Tamils. In May, he raised their plight during a Commons debate and disclosed that he had invited the Tigers' chief negotiator to visit parliament "so that we could hear his views on what is happening".

Keith Vaz has been dogged by controversy almost from day one of his political career. Once regarded as one of Labour's rising stars, Mr Vaz did indeed begin to scale the ministerial heights - but trouble was never far behind.

A solicitor, Mr Vaz, 51, was elected to parliament in 1987 as MP for Leicester East. He was promoted to the front bench five years later as junior environment spokesman.

In 1999, he became the first Asian minister in British history when Tony Blair made him minister for Europe.

Born in Yemen to Goan parents, Mr Vaz was soon describing himself as "a leading member, if not the leading member, of the Asian community in this country".

Lord Irvine, the former Lord Chancellor, called him "the most incredible networker I have ever known". However, the networking came at a price.

He was suspended from the Commons for a month in February 2002 after the standards and privileges committee found that he had committed serious breaches of the MPs' code of conduct by not fully declaring his financial links to the wealthy Hinduja brothers, whose passport applications caused the storm that saw Peter Mandelson resign from government.

Mr Vaz has always been outspoken. In 1989, he accused the Thatcher government of a "conspiracy with muggers and rapists" because it had failed to boost police numbers in Leicester.

A Roman Catholic, he was also active in Muslim protests against Salman Rushdie's novel The Satanic Verses and, in 1990, wrote a piece in The Guardian newspaper urging Rushdie not to publish the book in paperback because "there is no such thing as absolute freedom of speech".

Ten years later, the strong pro-European came under fire after threatening to hound Eurosceptics out of the Labour Party.

In one leaked letter, he wrote: "We know who you Eurosceptics are and we're coming to get you in your constituencies."

Mr Vaz resigned from the Government after the 2001 election, citing ill-health.

In July this year, he became chairman of the influential Commons home affairs select committee, which is currently scrutinising anti-terrorism laws.

Friends say he is a dedicated backbencher who works tirelessly on behalf of his constituents and has introduced a number of private member's Bills.

One of Mr Vaz's favourite causes has been the Tamils.

A long-time advocate for the UK ban on the Tamil Tigers being lifted, he says he has many people in his constituency and chairs the all-party parliamentary group for Tamils.

In May, he raised their plight during a Commons debate and disclosed that he had invited the Tigers' chief negotiator to visit parliament "so that we could hear his views on what is happening".

Last night, however, as he became the subject of scrutiny over his attendance at a Tamil rally in London last month, it seemed Mr Vaz's decision to attend the event might come back to bite him.

Nepal Prime Minister Koirala backs war against LTTE

While Nepalese Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala struggles to keep the fragile peace process alive in his home country by calling violent armed groups here for talks, he seems to be supportive of his neighboring country's fight against armed groups.

Health Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva, who recently visited Nepal on a World Health Organization's invitation, has said Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala backed Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa's decision to retaliate against LTTE terror during his meeting with him in Kathmandu.

The minister, who was in Nepal to provide the country's experience to a health programme expected to be mooted in Nepal, told the Sri Lankan press that PM Koirala also appreciated the action taken by the Sri Lankan government to neutralise the LTTE threat.

During the discussion the two leaders had also talked about the health sector development between the two countries and solving the terrorist problem and exchanging pilgrims under special packages between the two countries

Saying that LTTE was against the President's endeavour to resolve the national problem, he added, "The government does not believe in war to settle the ethnic issue, but it has no option but to meet the LTTE's military challenge."

However, the recent success of the Nepalese Maoists seems to have encouraged the Maoist leaders in India to take to violent ways. One media report indicated that a joint training camp of the LTTE, Nepalese Maoists and Indian Maoists has been organised on the India-Nepal border.

TRAG in turmoil: Governance at UK Charity questioned.

The long established UK refugee charity Tamil Refugee Action Group (TRAG) is in serious crisis due to bad governance and malpractices. TRAG was formed following large influx of Tamil refugees to the UK post July 1983 state sponsored island wide anti-Tamil violence in Sri Lanka. It was providing yeoman service to the Tamil asylum seekers by providing legal, social, medical and housing assistance. The social housing work of TRAG moved out to become the present Tamil Community Housing Association (TCHA), which comes under the ambit of the state quango Housing Corporation.

TRAG which is in existence for over 23 years has jettisoned its founding objectives due to its bad management and other Tamil organisations and Tamil legal firms providing better and pro-active service to the community.

TRAG held its last Annual General meeting on December 8, 2007. The meeting was attended by about 28 members. At the meeting, the Charities financial statements for the year ending 31 March 2007 were adopted and a new board of directors consisting of 14 members was elected without a ballot or show of hands.

The outgoing Chairman Cumarasamy Sithamparapillai who is a solicitor by profession stepped down as Chairman at the meeting to elect the new committee and the LTTE front newspaper ‘Oru Paper’ manager Gobiratnam alias Gobi chaired the meeting as pro-term Chairman. Gobi read out the names of the 14 contestants without taking a vote or head count and declared all 14 were elected without contest.

With the quick finish of the election business, Sithamparapillai moved in to chair the meeting and asked Gobi to leave the platform. Abrupt manner of his removal seems to have embarrassed Gobi. With the humiliation he moved out to the floor silently.

Cumarasamy Sithamparapillai is said to be the Chairman of TRAG for nearly 18 years and N Kugapala is said to functioning as Treasurer for over 18 years. The committee mainly consist of LTTE activists.

The financial statement approved by the limited number of members present at the meeting revealed starling facts. The report to the Financial Statement confirmed the solicitor firm acting for TRAG is Messrs Nathan (KP) & Co, 80 Herent Drive, Ilford, Essex, which is a legal practice of the Chairman C Sithamparapillai operating from his home address. Further inquiries revealed C Sithamparapillai disregarding his conflicting interest has used his firm to act for TRAG and even represented TRAG at an Employment Tribunal Hearing which resulted in the Employment Tribunal criticising C Sithamparapillai about his conflicting role.

The TRAG which has close links with the LTTE follows restrictive practices by including only pro-LTTE activists as members. C Sithamparapillai, N Kugapala, Mrs K Maheswaran, S Varathalingam, Mrs Pushpananthy Kugachandran and Dr S Sabaratnam are known LTTE supporting members in the board. S Varathalingam and Dr S Sabaratnam are serving in the TCHA board and Mrs Pushpanithy Kuchandran is the wife of former head of the LTTE in the UK who is currently employed as Housing Manager of TCHA. Mrs K Maheswaran is the former staff and a member of TCHA and her husband is a pro-LTTE activist in the Walthamstow area.

What is intriguing is these TCHA members are ignoring their conflict of interest positions and have provided funds to the TRAG from TCHA funds and also have allowed the TRAG to write off over £10,000 indebted to TCHA within the past few years.

TRAG’s auditors are Harris & Screaton Ltd and they are acting for them for nearly fifteen years. The TRAG management has not followed good governance practice of appointing new forms at regular intervals. Sources concerned about failing administration of TRAG state that the auditors have raised serious questions about large sums of irregular payments to TRAG’s former Case Worker R Navanayagam when he retired in 2006. They have unofficially informed the Chairman that they cannot act for TRAG any longer.

R Navanayagam is an LTTE activist and he is surrounded by some Tamil gangsters who had undertaken violent attacks on those who question his credentials. Navanayagam had visited Vanni on extended paid holidays. Sources at TRAG confirmed R Navanayagam has family ties with the Chairman Sithamparapillai and have passed on refugee legal cases of TRAG to the Chairman’s legal practice.

At the AGM, a motion was put through to slash the minimum number of attendees for any AGM or EGM to be nine members. C Sithamparapillai was questioned as to how the number could be restricted to 9 when governing board consists of 14 members. The motion was passed with higher number of 15 for a quorum.

The TRAG is funded by many leading funding bodies including the National Lottery.

The Chairman C Sithamparapillai is said to have gone on holiday to Australia to meet some LTTE officials there whilst the Secretary S Varathalingam had gone on holiday to Tamil Nadu India. In their absence the TRAG members have received notice of Extra-ordinary General Meeting to be held on 19 January 2008. The agenda for the meeting is said to consider the validity of the election at the AGM to elect the board members.

Sources state the notice has been sent by the former Case Worker Navanayagam by forging the signature of the Secretary.

Tamil shops in London forced to display Anton Balasingam poster

Tamil shop owners in London were visited by the LTTE activists last week and asked to display huge poster with Late Anton Balasingams’s photograph with verses praising him as the voice of the nation.

The colourful poster is appearing in the shop widows. Some of the pro-LTTE shops have willingly displayed the poster whilst others were compelled to paste on the shop window.
One of the shop owners in East Ham confirmed that he had no choice other than displaying the poster. He said five rough looking LTTE fellows came to his shop and demanded the display, failing which they had said he must face the consequence. He said he had displayed to avoid facing the wrath of the LTTE.

When asked what the LTTE fellows will do if he did not display, he said: ‘they will break the shop window, harass our customers and also send people to shoplift’.

‘We end up paying heavy price if we do not do these types of little favours to them’ he said.
Anton Balasingam’s memorial posters are appearing all around London.

It has come to the knowledge that LTTE had celebrated a memorial event in Walthamstow on 22 December 2007 without giving any publicity about the event. The function was attended by a crowed invited personally and said to be about 125 people.

A police officer checks the identity of a man during an operation in Mannar

A soldier stands guard as a police officer checks the identity of a man during an operation in Mannar, about 312 km (194 miles) north of Colombo, December 23, 2007. Sri Lankan troops killed 41 Tamil Tiger fighters in a series of weekend clashes in the island's civil war-ravaged north, while three soldiers were also killed, the military said on Monday. Picture taken December 23.