Inside story of LTTE’s radio booty
By Frederica Jansz
An apparent sinister move by the LTTE to import an entire consignment of
radio equipment from Singapore has surfaced as being nothing more than an
attempt to evade a Rs. 2 million customs duty.
An in-depth investigation by The Sunday Leader has found that the recent
controversy over the government having allowed the LTTE to import new radio
equipment for its station the ‘Voice of Tigers’ boils down to the fact, the
Tigers involved the Royal Norwegian Embassy to facilitate the import in order
to avoid paying over Rs. 2 million in customs duty. The radio equipment in
reality was not a gift from the Norwegians to the LTTE.
The LTTE in this instance did not attempt to smuggle the items through
Colombo, but formally sought approval for the import from the government as
well as an official radio license.
Functioning its political arm out of their own Peace Secretariat in
Kilinochchi, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), were keen to secure
a license to operate their clandestine radio station the Voice of Tigers. One
of the purposes the LTTE says it sought a license to do so was to begin
disseminating news to the Tamil people on the ongoing peace process.
Keen to legalise the rebel radio station, the LTTE made an official request
from the government to do so. The radio equipment was purchased in Singapore,
doubtless with the assistance of expatriate Tamils and arrangements made to
ship the consignment to Colombo.
The government meanwhile refused a request by the LTTE to waive the customs
duty that would be incurred on the items once it arrived in Colombo. That is
what led to the Norwegians coming into the picture.
On November 11, Secretary, Mass Communications Ministry, Kumar Abeysinghe
wrote to the Secretary General of the Peace Secretariat informing him that a
license had been issued on the approval of Minister Imtiaz Bakeer Markar to
the LTTE to operate and maintain a private radio station.
The Minister had granted such approval by virtue of Section 44 of the Sri
Lanka Broadcasting Corporation Act No. 37 of 1996 on the same terms and
conditions accorded to radio stations in Sri Lanka’s south.
The terms and conditions stipulate that the licensee shall provide
broadcasting programmes in accordance with the norms, standards and code of
ethics followed by the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation. That the licensee
shall confine its broadcasting programmes to educational, sports,
entertainment and foreign news. That the licensee shall broadcast local news
only with the approval of the director of information. And that the licensee
shall abide by all conditions laid down by the Monitoring and Approving
Committee. Also, that advertising shall be in accordance with the norms and
ethics adopted by the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation.
Whether the government will be in a position to maintain any kind of checks
or balances or impose a fine if the LTTE choose to violate these conditions
remains to be seen.
Nevertheless, once informed that the government license had been approved,
the LTTE moved the Royal Norwegian Embassy and sought their assistance to
clear the items. When a diplomatic mission clears imported goods, there is a
Section 19 (1) of the Customs Ordinance reads as follows: “The Minister may
from time to time by order published in the gazette exempt the consular
officers or clerks of the foreign states named in such order from payment of
customs duty on goods consigned to or imported to or cleared out of bond by
or for the use of such consular offices or clerks.”
This clause however, certainly does not give any diplomatic mission the right
to clear imported items on behalf of a third party.
Be that as it may, the Norwegian Embassy wrote to the Foreign Affairs
Ministry seeking permission to clear this equipment. In other words, the
Norwegians sought a duty waiver.
The mistake made in this instance is that this privilege is accorded only if
such items are for the use of the diplomatic mission concerned and definitely
not for any other party. That the Norwegians facilitated this import on
behalf of the LTTE is a contravention of the laws of this land. In this
context, irrespective of their intentions, the Norwegians had violated
Section 19 of the Customs Ordinance.
That is because, once cleared, the Norwegians handed over the items to the
government Peace Secretariat, which forms part of the Prime Minister’s
office. Needless to say, even at this juncture, the Peace Secretariat should
have ensured the duty of over Rs. 2 million was collected from the LTTE.
Meantime, Sri Lanka Customs could not inspect the container since the
consignee was a consular service.
Aware of the various connotations to this issue and since the goods were to
be transported to the LTTE, Defence Secretary Austin Fernando insisted the
container be searched. Fernando took this decision as a precautionary measure
against any other items being introduced into the container.
Though Sri Lanka Customs could not check the container due to the fact that
the consignee was named as the Royal Norwegian Embassy, Fernando ordered a
thorough security check after the customs cleared the goods at the very
location. Thereafter, he appointed a four member team to inspect the
They were: Advisor, Mass Communications Ministry, R. D. Somasiri, Director
Signals, Sri Lanka Army, Brigadier W. S. A. de Silva, Director Electronics
and Telecommunications Sri Lanka Air Force, Group Captain A. Gunewardena and
Additional Director General, Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation, Upali
Having inspected the container, all four members of the inspection team
signed a document, which they handed over to Austin Fernando on November 26,
stating that the items contained therein were all parts of radio equipment
and nothing else. (See box for full details of items).
Thereafter, the question of transporting the goods arose. Fernando was
determined to ensure that nothing was introduced to the container en-route to
Kilinochchi. Thus, having sealed the three boxes, he telephoned IGP T.
Anandarajah and Interior Ministry Secretary M. N. Junaid and told them he
wanted an escort to travel up to Omanthai with these items. Fernando stressed
that the escort was not to protect the items inside the container, but to
ensure nothing was introduced en-route before the box was handed over to the
Anandarajah sent a chief inspector from the Fort police called
Liyanapathirana who travelled with this equipment up to Omanthai from where
the LTTE took it over. Ironically, Fernando who took steps to ensure there
was nothing introduced into the boxes en-route to the LTTE, came under attack
by the opposition as a LTTE sympathiser. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe
has now demanded that the LTTE pay the government the Rs. 2 million in duty
as he has determined that the Tigers do not hold the right to import the
items albeit via the Norwegian Embassy and thus evade paying due taxes.
Despite the People’s Alliance and the JVP voicing strong objections to the
LTTE having been granted a license to operate their radio station legally, it
is noteworthy to point out at this stage that the Tigers by formally applying
for the license have accepted Sri Lanka’s sovereignty and Sri Lankan law. In
other words, the LTTE have in this instance at least, in seeking legitimacy
for their radio station have subjected themselves to government regulations
and become part of mainstream rules and regulations.
Report submitted by the four member committee
Ministry of Mass Communication
Level 17 West Tower
World Trade Center
Ministry of Defence,
26th November 2002
Inspection of Communication Equipment
1. As instructed by the Secretary, Ministry of Defence, the following
committee was appointed to inspect the consignment of communication
equipment received by the Royal Norwegian Embassy.
Mr. R. D. Somasiri, Advisor Ministry of Mass Communications
Brigadier Y. S. A. de Silva, Director Signals, Sri Lanka Army
Group Captain A. Gunawardana, Director, Electronics & Telecomm. Sri Lanka
Mr. Upali Arambewela, Additional Director General, Sri Lanka Rupavahini
2. The items which were inspected are listed in Annex “A”.
3. Following observations are made with respect to the items inspected
a. As per the items list (Annex B) provided by the Secretary Ministry of
Defence, the following items were not found with the consignment
ii. VSAT Communication Unit
b. The FM transmitter equipment in this consignment are capable of being
used for FM broadcasting and Radio Data Transmission.
c. The equipment is tuned to 99.0 MHZ (as per the data sheet provided) with
a power output of 1kW. It is noted that this frequency is already allocated
to Shri FM.
d. Due to the non-availability of the antenna specification, the final
output power (EIRP) cannot be determined
e. Despite the approval given for 98.0 MHZ for the FM broadcast, the data
sheet of the inspected transmitter equipment reveals 99.0 MHZ as its
frequency of operation.
f. The Radio Data System (RDS) equipment that has come with this consignment
is capable of sending data from point to multi-point and cannot be monitored
without a specific decoder.
g. This transmitter is designed to handle frequencies from 87MHz to 109Mhz
where as FM frequency band assigned in Sri Lanka for FM broadcasting, if
from 87.5 Mhz to 108.0 Mhz.
Additional Director General,
Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation,
Director Electronics & Telecomms. Sri Lanka Air Force,
(Y. S. A. de Silva)
Brigadier Director Signals,
Sri Lanka Army,
R. D. Somasiri
Ministry of Mass Communications Communications,
2. Mr. Liyanapathirana Chief Inspector-Police
1 FM Broadcast Antenna (4 Panels) Ea 01
2 7/8" RF feeder Cables Rolls 01
3 Splitter cables Set 01
4 Antenna Splitter Ea 01
5 Cable Guides/Holders Ea 01
1 Broadcast Electronics BE FX-50 Exciter Ea 02
2 Rf Amplifier 500 Watts (BE
Part No: 334-2500) (87.5 - 108 Mhz) Ea 02
3 RF Amplifier 500 Watts (Be Part No: 334-2500)
(87.5-108 Mhz Ea 02
4 Manuals for FM 1C1 1 kW Transmitter/FX-50 Exciter Ea 02
5 PA Combiner (BE Model FM 500C1/FM1C1/FM-1PA) Ea 02
Note: Item Nos. 2,3 & 5 are parts of the FM Transmitter
1 19" rack mountable compact disc player Sony CDP-D11 Ea 01
2 19" rack mountable Digital FM Stereo Generator Omnia.sg (MPX
Clipper/Generator) Ea 01
3 Professional Headphones Sennheiser HD-280 Ea 02
4 Professional Unidirectional Dynamic microphone Shure SM7B
(complete with wind shield Ea 01
5 Mic Stand Ea 01
6 Transmitters patch cables Set 01
7 19 “ rack mountable Audio Processor Focusrite Voice Master Ea 01
8 Audio Mixer 20 Channels (20 Input 4 Bus Soundcraft Spirit Sx Ea
9 Powered Monitor Speaker System Sony SMS-1P Ea 02
10 19" Rack mountable Mini Disc Recorder Sony MDS-10 Ea 01
11 RDS Encoder Phobos Audio EC2005X Ea 01
12 Furniture for control table with patch panels Ea 01
Letter sent to Prime Minister’s office
09 Dec. 2002
Secretary to the Prime Minister,
Prime Minister’s Office.
Licence to operate and maintain a private broadcasting station
Further to the licence issued to operate and maintain a broadcasting station
by the LTTE Peace Secretariat.
The TRCSL has informed me that, the Peace Secretariat will have to make the
following payments, in connection with the above licence:
1. Frequency assignment fee for 12 months - Rs. 22,500
2. Licence fee and power charges - Rs. 45,000 to be paid after the test
transmissions are in order.
3. Yearly licence and power charges Rs. 45,000 payable yearly to TRCSL.
I am also enclosing the Memorandum, which has been forwarded to me by
DGT/TRCSL, for further information.
Ministry of Mass Communication.
Licence for radio station
LTTE Peace Secretariat
Licence to Operate and Maintain a Private Broadcasting Station
I hereby issue a licence to operate and maintain a private Broadcasting
Station to LTTE Peace Secretariat, on the approval given by the Hon. Minister
of Mass Communication, under the powers vested in him by virtue of Section 44
of the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation Act No. 37 of 1966 on the following
terms and conditions:
(1) The licensee shall provide broadcasting programmes in accordance with the
norms, standards and code of ethics followed by Sri Lanka Broadcasting
(2) The licensee shall maintain a broadcasting service of high quality, both,
as to the transmission and the matter transmitted.
(3) The licensee shall confine its broadcasting programmes to educational,
sports, entertainment (with desirable family content) and foreign news.
(4) The licensee may broadcast local news only with the approval of the
Director of Information.
(5) The licensee shall abide by the conditions that are laid down by the
monitoring and approving committee established for the operation of private
television and broadcasting stations and also by any other government
authority in relation to programme content, quality and the time limits and
presentation of tapes for a period of two weeks after broadcast.
(6) All advertising shall be in accordance with the code of ethics adopted by
the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation.
(7) This licensee shall be a temporary one until such time that a
formal licence is issued.
(8) The licensee fee will be notified in due course.
(9) Assigned frequency is 98 MHz subject to the following:
Output power from the final stage of the Transmitter 5kw Coverage area 20 km
radius Altitude 75 m
(10) The Minister may impose any other conditions from time to time which is
deemed necessary for the purpose of carrying on the service of broadcasting
in Sri Lanka and for developing, extending and improving the service and for
matters connected herewith or incidental thereto.
Ministry of Mass Communication
Approved list FM Transmitter
1. FM Transmitter+Back Up transmitter 2 $52,600
2. FM Antenna (4 Boxes) 1 $18,000
3. FM Audio 1 $800
4. MPX Clipper/Generator 1 $3,850
5. VMC 1 $4,000
6. Antenna Cable 1 $2,600
1. Mixing console 1 $750
2. CD Player 1 $560
3. MD Recorder 1 $906
4. Microphone 1 $595
5. Microphone Holder 1 $95
6. Microphone Processor 1 $2,275
7. Patch Panel 2 $880
8. Loudspeaker 2 $920
9. Head Phones 2 $300
10. Technology Furniture 1 $1,800
11. Cabling 1 $1,500
12. Vsat communication unit 1 $25,000
SOURCE- SUNDAY LEADER