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Cablegate: Tamil Nadu Says Ltte to Blame for Killing and Abducting

VZCZCXRO2871
RR RUEHBI RUEHCI
DE RUEHCG #0318/01 1220734
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 020734Z MAY 07
FM AMCONSUL CHENNAI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0880
INFO RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI 2476
RUEHCI/AMCONSUL KOLKATA 0768
RUEHBI/AMCONSUL MUMBAI 5035
RUEHLM/AMEMBASSY COLOMBO 1325

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 CHENNAI 000318

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PTER EFIS IN CE
SUBJECT: TAMIL NADU SAYS LTTE TO BLAME FOR KILLING AND ABDUCTING
FISHERMEN

REF: CHENNAI 00280

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Through a surprise announcement that the
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (not the Sri Lankan Navy) shot
five Tamil Nadu fishermen dead on March 29 (reftel), Tamil Nadu has
embarrassed and silenced Tamil Tiger supporters in the state. The
Tamil Nadu government also alleged that the 12 Indian fishermen
missing since March 4 are being held captive by the Tigers. If
Tamil Nadu is able to prove this allegation, it will dash all hopes
of reviving support for the Tigers in Tamil Nadu. Support for the
Tigers suffered a near fatal blow with the assassination of Rajiv
Gandhi in 1991. The revelation that the Tigers are responsible
could provide the ruling DMK the opportunity to harden its stance
against the terrorist organization, and thus to solidify its
relationship with the Congress party. END SUMMARY.

2. (U) On April 27, the Director General of Tamil Nadu police, D.
Mukherjee said in an official statement to the press that the Sea
Tigers, the marine wing of the Tamil Tigers, shot five Tamil Nadu
fishermen dead on March 29. According to Mukherjee, the six Sea
Tigers captured by the Indian Coast Guard on April 11 admitted that
their colleagues had killed the fishermen while the Sea Tigers were
transporting weapons from a Tiger ship to a camp in northern Sri
Lanka. Moreover, Mukherjee claimed that the 12 Indian fishermen (11
from Tamil Nadu and one from Kerala) missing since March 4 are in
the custody of the Tigers in one of their camps.

4. (U) Chief Minister Karunanidhi confirmed the news to the State
Assembly on April 28. "Initially, we were all under the impression
that the Sri Lankan Navy was responsible for that firing. But I
must now say with sadness that the information we have since
received is that the Liberation Tigers are involved, something that
shocks us all," he said. The Chief Minister promised to take all
possible steps through the central government to obtain release the
12 fishermen. On the previous day, he had told the Assembly that he
did not support the LTTE which has "no job here," that "it is not
involved in any activity here," and that "their aims and purposes
are different."

5. (U) The Congress party of Tamil Nadu, meanwhile, demanded the
arrest of MDMK party General Secretary Vaiko for continuing to make
public statements in support of the banned terrorist organization.
The Chief Minister, however, was evasive on the issue and said that
he would consult with the central government. [NOTE: When the rival
AIADMK party was in power in Tamil Nadu, Vaiko had been arrested
under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) and kept in prison from
July 2002 to February 2004 for expressing support for the Tigers in
a public speech. The state government later withdrew the charges.
END NOTE]

6. (U) The Hindu newspaper, Tamil Nadu's most strident voice against
the Tigers, in wrote in a May 1 editorial: "The time has come to
remind the Congress-led government at the Center that foreign
policy, even when it involves Sri Lanka, must be made in Delhi - not
in Chennai, and certainly not under the influence of pro LTTE
parties. It has become abundantly clear that the banned terrorist
organization, especially through the Sea Tigers and now a small air
wing, has emerged as a security problem for India. The people of
Tamil Nadu - who decidedly do not want a return to the benighted
experience of 1983-1991 - expect both the Central and State
governments to crack down on all groups and fringe elements that aid
and abet, from Indian soil, the activities and cause of the LTTE.
India must also equip its neighbor to deal defensively with threats
to its vital installations."

7. (SBU) COMMENT: Tamil Nadu's governing DMK has a complicated
history with the Tamil Tigers. Prior to the 1991 assassination of
Prime Minster Rajiv Gandhi by the Tigers they had broad political
support in Tamil Nadu. But the assassination resulted in a serious
backlash against them in Tamil Nadu. In the post-1991 period the
DMK's primary opposition, the AIADMK, staked-out a strong anti-Tamil
Tiger position while a DMK breakaway, the MDMK, took up the Tamil
Tiger banner. Left in the middle of these two positions, the DMK,
as the traditional party of pan-Tamil solidarity, has carefully
expressed clear opposition to the terrorist tactics of the Tigers
while maintaining its support for the broader cause of the Tamils in
Sri Lanka.

8. (SBU) COMMENT CONTINUED: Until now, the mid-sea attacks on
Tamil Nadu fishermen had been assumed to be the work of the Sri
Lankan Navy. Tamil Nadu's pro-Tiger parties regularly used these
instances to whip up anti-Sri Lanka passions in the state. The
surprising revelation that the Tigers were responsible for killing
the fishermen has silenced their supporters and slowed the drumbeat
of criticism against Sri Lanka. But the silence may not last unless
the government can successfully trace the 12 missing fisherman to
the Tamil Tigers, as only then would public opinion swing decisively

CHENNAI 00000318 002 OF 002


against the Tigers. Such a linkage may provide the DMK the
political cover to harden its stance against the Tamil Tigers.
Doing so would eliminate an irritant in the alliance between the DMK
and the Congress party, which is led by Rajiv Gandhi's widow, Sonia
Gandhi. Nonetheless, given its stated support for broader cause of
the Tamils in Sri Lanka, the DMK is unlikely support any actions -
such as direct military aid by India to Sri Lanka - that would
materially strengthen the position of the government of Sri Lanka in
its conflict with the Tigers. END COMMENT.

HOPPER

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