Glen Jenvey a Spy in London
glen jenvey ,glen jenvey, breaking news!
By Glen Jenvey - 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 Indian Prime Minister
I felt that the Sri Lankan people were a forgotten lot as especially the Tamil people - caught up in a crazy war.. As years went by, I was to learn more about the Tigers.
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 freely I felt all this was plain wrong and something needed to be done.
I resolved to commence research of my own
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 LTTE cause 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 (HC) offering my services to HC military attach who at this time was trying to deal with LTTE issues -he was impressed that there was 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 but I can call him Nimal ). He explained to me that President Ranasinghe Premadasa was a close friend of him before the President 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 Tigers office located at 211, Katherine Rd. The office instructed me to wait near the tube station 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 in his footsteps.
The LTTE's office head appeared impressed. He began talking about the human rights 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 LTTE 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 good work.
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 diplomats 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 a war. 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 LTTEs weekly Sunday meet where regular planning session of the London LTTE bosses took place. Thereafter, within a short span, a member of the LTTEs 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 spy masters.
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 aircraft 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 thereafter, the flight paths changed and pilots were ordered to totally re-do their flight routes. Downing of aircrafts 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 boss.. 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 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 not take the Prince out 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 a naval base facility 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 country'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 towns major 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 sick 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 no one else, but myself -have the ability to change the process covertly, of course. And to direct the process towards talks rather than routine to-and from messages and later, perhaps peace talks itself;
.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 especially, guerilla attacks.
It was an unauthorized but official 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, rewrote the history of the Sri Lankan conflict with far reaching effects for some time to come
This unauthorized fax also made real sense to me more than everything dispatched by myself to date- the years and months of press statements, meetings, demos 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 I-am-better-than-you 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 talks between the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE, I found out that the LTTE wished none-other than Norway to hold talks. This was groundbreaking 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 here
The spying skills I learnt from the Sri Lankan secret service while spying on one of the worlds worst terrorist groups, the LTTE, helped me to bring down the radical cleric in London .
spy in London - PART II : Delicious Curry served with a Stark Warning!
Around the office walls to the right was a room, full of PR videos and a long conference table.
Young men cleaned the office, served us tea and at just a lift of a finger, would run off and fetch files.
One day, I was suddenly asked to rush to the office to meet with Amnesty International's (AI) South Asia Desk Officer who was coming to meet the LTTE. I had to get there early as the Tigers wanted to pre-rehearse their script to AI representatives.
The LTTE's plan was to sweet-talk the AI officials which was what happened during the hour-long meeting.
But the women were not impressed the child soldiers' issue began to loom during the meeting.
But worse was to come.
A number of cases where Tamils had been killed by the LTTE suddenly popped up for discussion from nowhere! In fact, the LTTE ended up with a 'right telling off'.
Once the AI women left, the team promptly reviewed the meeting and came to the conclusion that the "LTTE wanted better press from AI in future to be able to attack the Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL)."
How could this be done? It was agreed that the only way to do this was to enlist LTTE rebel members with AI and thereafter gradually change AI's policy from within. To this end, it was speculated that AI might need bilingual (Tamil and English) staff for their office The LTTE could make use of such a need and induct bilingual rebel members to AI offices. (I later came across a young student girl who was a rebel member and who was to be placed in AI to begin work as an intern).
The inducted members would detect Tamils complaining (of the LTTE) to AI. In addition, the infiltrators were to monitor the private files of Tamils and to write fictitious reports against the GOSL.
It was also decided to use the same method on other British charity organizations The UNHCR, International Red Cross, the Oxfam and Save the Children Fund;
However, these charities were infiltrated with a different aim--to get more aid direct to the North of Sri Lanka.
I inquired as to why the aid agencies would hand over the aid to LTTE and not the people;
The reply led to a startling revelation
"We control everything that goes on in our areas and will use (the aid) to feed our own rebel troops first." -The aid supplies were not for the Tamil people suffering in up-north, but rather, for the families of rebel members fighting the Sri Lankan Army!
This appeared to be the LTTE's way of feeding their people and troops. They could not marshal aid for the populace since their own funds were needed for weapons purchases from the black market.
Thereafter, I was asked to make contacts with these organizations to monitor aid -which I did.
It was interesting to read all the reports coming from aid agencies once every few days on Sri Lanka. Most agencies could not operate in the north. Meanwhile, the rebels had attacked several aid laden ships in the past.
To me, it all appeared 'a bit strange': To sink aid ships first and then, ask questions about the non-receipt of aid!
Confused, I reported this to my bosses as I could not work out where all these led to.
Once, I was asked to invite the British press to a conference at Alexandra Palace in London where a major event was planned.. I had to make a choice between inviting the press and not doing so (since I did not want the press to get on first name terms with the LTTE). My SIS boss issued the go ahead with all LTTE's requests And I started inviting the press
I do not recollect as to whether everyone I invited showed up But many came and there was a satisfactory showing up of the reporter pack when I arrived at the Alexandra Palace.
As an Assistant Press Officer, I was allowed in the official press room. I was armed with a mini recorder and camera. I collected all the press briefings while recording the conference in full. On show were the promotional videos. They showed actual ground offensive operations and were well edited - Curiously, some Al-Queda videos you see on CNN today are resonant with the first series of LTTE videos on sale at this conference
There were also gift items bearing the LTTE logo. All of these were free to me and I was allowed to load my car with as much as I could grab!
However, the curry on sale tasted delicious in fact, 'real great and again, was free for me.
I was also amazed at the crowd numbers The membership and supporters in the UK for the LTTE overwhelmed me. More than 1000 people had attended the conference (I wondered what the British would say if the Indian and Sri Lankan governments were to allow 1000 IRA supporters to rally round in both Sri Lanka and India).
However, at the conference, a stark warning awaited the audience -"Those of you who have come here to spy for your Sri Lankan government masters go back and tell them all you have seen and heard today. But remember, if you are caught, you are dead.."
For the first time, I realized the degree of the danger I was facing
spy in London - PART III: "Is there a D-Notice on us?"
I decided that I should exercise 'more vigilance' When meeting my 'SIS boss' at the SL High Commission and even when boarding the train to London!
Armed with videos, books, press briefings and full recordings of every speaker, I returned from the conference, ready to brief my bosses of the day's events.
Once, members of the rebels were involved in one of the biggest robberies on a jeweler-shop in London. The police could not prove it. The Tigers were aware that many of their activities eluded the British Police anyway.In addition, the LTTE developed good relations with the British cops--In fact, every now and then, a local police officer used to pop into the LTTE offices for a social visit -and a warm cup of tea,
LTTE accepted donations directly from the public. I remember seeing various young men come in and leave the LTTE offices. They would hand in wads of cash notes to the office-head; Generally, the money was the "collection-money", fleeced from the Tamil community of London using threats or intimidation However, at times it went beyond this limit.. Piles of cash notes the transaction looked fishy as well- tending to be a bit 'criminal' rather.
I realized that they were the highly rumored "drug money" being handed in to the office For some time, there had been unconfirmed rumors of major drug deals taking part inside their offices. It was one of these money transactions that I had stumbled across
One front the rebels were winning was their propaganda front. With their massive PR machine and cash supply, British reporters would be invited out for dinner functions. The goal was to try and get good press while also highlighting the horror stories against the GOSL.
The BBC was one such media in which a member of the World Service was also an active member of the LTTE's London inner circle.
Now I had daily access to every major British newspaper. I began hatching a plan to slow the LTTE PR machine down. My goal was to get less and less stories across to the British press which seemed to be in love with this outfit so much.
Any newspaper that did not carry the LTTE press report would get a phone call protesting in the rudest manner saying that 'they are taking sides'. The paper would then ask if they received a "D Notice" on reporting.
A "D Notice" -a "Defense Notice"- is an alert given by British intelligence services or the armed forces to the media. It alerts them of sensitive content that could damage British national security / defense if reported. In London, the system is somewhat voluntary. Various media corporations are not obliged to report back about potentially sensitive issues. In practice, what happens is that the government minister calls the newspaper and the paper stops publication of the news-report.
I would call up the reporters, and with a rudest tone, would blurt: "Is there a D-Notice on our X-day's or Y-day's press release?" Of course, the reporters would not complain of my rude call to their editor, who is usually busy with his own schedules.
But, the tone of the call would not go amiss with the reporters, and thereafter, they began thinking twice before they published the subsequent LTTE press releases When invites were sent using LTTE official press statements it was mentioned that it's not safe for British reporters to travel to Sri Lanka especially if they do not contact me first!
The press gradually stopped printing the rebel-love stories.
At that time, no one but I myself knew what caused to change their minds.
However, my SIS boss at Sri Lanka High Commission went up the wall- literally: "Even if your methods worked, I can't approve of what you did, really. Imagine one day I am being linked to the threatening press statements and rude calls!" he bellowed.
"Don't worry It was really printed on LTTE letter-headed papers" I replied, and watched him sulking more...
Embassies were on my list of contacts. There were two reasons for the embassies to receive press statements. To monitor the rebel group and strange as it may be- as 'learning material'. A lot could be learnt monitoring their daily press statements (at times the London office alone released up to three write-ups a day).
I was also in contact with the LTTE Paris office -France being the country where the LTTE had its own Bank! If I recollect, it was called the Bank of Eelam (or something like that).
I was asked to find a way to track the LTTE's bank accounts in London. This was achieved using a simple method---It involved donating some funds through a cheque; when you write out a cheque to someone in UK, the cheque is banked and cashed in their account, but what many British do not know is that the cheque, once cashed, goes back to your branch and is stored for some time.
Stamped on this cheque are the branch details of the person who cashed the cheque and sometimes, even the account number of the person who cashed it.
So a test cheque for a small amount was sent - and the SIS in SL High Commission got the banking details they needed (Of course, there's another method as well which shall not be divulged here).
The rebel press machine spat out press statements with details of the latest casualties the higher the figure the better the day was. I wondered if the Paris office' LTTE statements were the same and began receiving their statements as well. The London office noticed my enthusiasm and a few weeks later, I was asked to go to Paris to meet some heads of the LTTE. And the date for my visit was set.
But, the visit was suddenly called off at the last minute for some 'unknown reason'.
It was only when I saw the breaking news that I knew why.
"Suspected LTTE gunmen shot and killed Kandiah Perinbanathan, the LTTE's international treasurer, and his companion Kajan, Editor of LTTE Tamil language weekly Eelamurasu, in Paris on 26 October 1996. Sri Lankan authorities said the treasurer may have been killed for extorting funds from his assailants" the newscast went on.
Two LTTE bosses who had been shot at the Paris metro were involved in a dispute with the outfit. It looked to me that it was a hit to take over Paris funds.
Once, I asked my foreign office in the UK (name withheld) as to why the rebels were not banned and allowed in the UK. The reply startled me.
"As long as the LTTE did not attack British interests, they are free to stay in the UK".
I felt that this was not a sound policy to base British internal affairs -Sri Lanka would never support the IRA this way, for instance (The IRA were guest speakers at an LTTE conference in Paris a year before). The laid-back policy towards terrorist groups in the UK was making it a breeding ground for such groups from all around the world. In my opinion, the west is merely playing catch up when it comes to terrorism. The best way to find out real intelligence over the long term is to live among the terrorists.
Speak to the terrorists, act like a supporter and make friends with them until they accept you as one of theirs. Of course, every spy needed a spymaster to meet regularly and de-brief and to have someone to direct them and especially keep them 'sane' working on the ground with a rebel outfit. For their part in the operations, all my bosses were later given senior appointments.
High Profile Sri Lanka Leaders
When high profile Sri Lankan leaders were in London I was asked to find out if there was a threat -if any- from the LTTE.
Obviously, I could not ask the Tigers before the news were carried since the rebels would ask me how I came to know about it.
Once, Chandrika Bandranaike, Sri Lankan President was to visit a London Hospital. As usual, the British police were in charge of her protection (The British police usually did not have any clue in these matters --nor they were sufficiently trusted to be provided with my identity). The British police would ask my SIS boss to find out through me if the rebels had any 'interests' in her visit I needed to time this 'right' I usually learnt about the visits in advance from SL High Commission bosses. As soon as the news broke then I would ring the Tigers and verify if they intended to attack the politician in London.
The rebels usually would not venture to the extent of taking out Sri Lankan leaders on British shores.
Thereafter, I was to be routinely asked by the British police to channel loads of similar information to them -via my SL High Commission boss. The experience I gathered in this way (with LTTE as its own case-study) would later prepare me to take on a much bigger role: To take on the London based Radical Islamic Terror Groups.
spy in London - PART IV: Oh what a Friday it was
1998 March The Sri Lankan government armed forces were in the midst of one of their major military operations in Jaffna and Vanni areaan operation 'dedicated to victory' as they called it Operation Jayasikurui. Casualties had been mounting on both sides. Any hopes for peace were almost nonexistent in addition to the government imposed food and medicines embargo to the Jaffna area, the aerial bombings depressed the helpless northern civilians and at times, displaced them. LTTE were in no mood to 'give in In fact, to their credit, they were resisting albeit with considerable casualties. In addition, it tried to draw international attention to the situation at its best.
Oddly enough, at this time, the LTTE allied Dravidians for Peace and Justice outfit in South Africa met in Johannesburg with a visiting representative of the Sri Lanka's United National Party (the main Sri Lankan opposition party - this meeting was at the home of a South African MP, Dr.E.Jassat).
By Tuesday, April 7, the Palaly SLA camp was preparing for its National New Year celebrations and Sri Lanka's then Deputy Minister for Defence Gen. Anuruddha Ratwatte was expected on April 8 to attend the army sports festival. Meanwhile, more than seven thousand home-guards were issued weapons and were completing training given by Lanka Army (SLA) to man the forward defence lines ---Also they were to undertake other duties of Operation Jayasikurui in the Vanni
Meanwhile, on the same day -Tuesday, April 7, the weather in Belfast, Northern Ireland, was un-seasonal with icy winds, sleet and snow that would push anyone to stay indoors- with a steaming cup of tea... Instead, the city was gearing up for the Irish Rock and Pop awards to be held a couple of days later- and the teenage heart-throb (Band-Boyzone), was the top attraction and the 'show stealer'..
Despite the weather and the pop festival, there was a protest march being organized outside the famed Stormont's gates led by Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party. They were hurriedly organizing themselves to hold a protest march on the following Thursday of an event---an event that would later lead to an almost 'historic' deal.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair has flown from Downing Street to Belfast with his most senior negotiators.
The event was the well publicized and closely watched Northern Ireland Peace Talks held in Stormont near BelfastIntense negotiations between both sides of the Irish border dragged on and on-for more than 17 continuous hours even after the deadline for a deal passed. Finally, 5 minutes before Blair's opposites walked away thus rendering the whole exercise to fall flat, Blair rushed a quick by-hand letter to Trimble.
One British newspaper managed to unearth what was said in this crucial last minute document
"The letter reassured Trimble on two critical points: that politicians connected with paramilitary organisations which refused to hand over weapons would not hold office in any Northern Ireland government; and that, in the British Government's view, the process of (arms) decommissioning would have to begin immediately after the assembly came into being in June 1998"
Come Friday, April 10, there was an historic agreement. The as the BBC newscast put it.."The hard-bartered Good Friday Agreement received the backing of those on both sides of the Irish border today The agreement itself provides for the devolution of the powers of the Secretary of State to Northern Ireland " the newscast continued.
In London meanwhile, I was developing contacts across other rebel groups from various parts of the world. Among them is one Mr. Danaka, IRA's political wing press officer. I connected with him well as we both were press officers for rebel groups in London.
On April 10, 1998, immediately after the Good Friday Agreement was reached, Mr. Danaka faxed me from the IRA's press office in Falls Road, Belfast, of the full text of the Agreement, which had been negotiated between the IRA and the British Government.
At first, I had cursory interest in the volume of fax sheets now lying on the table. It generated no real interest in me (not to mention its irritating legal-like jargon..)
The agreement faxed to me listed, in a numerical order, the following: Declaration of support , Constitutional issues, (Schedules for Incorporation in British Legislation and Irish Government Draft Legislation), Democratic Institutions in Northern Ireland, British - Irish Council etc, British - Irish Intergovernmental Conference, Rights, Safeguards and Equality of Opportunity such as Human Rights, Comparable Steps by the Irish Government, Reconciliation and Victims of Violence etc, Decommissioning, Security, Policing and Justice , agreements on Prisoners and Validation, Implementation and Review.
I sat back in my chair, kept glancing at the reels of fax sheets---then, as if on some cue, I sprang up from the chair . The monotonous "reels of fax sheets" was speaking to me---quite loud and clear, in fact!
Spy in London - PART V :The South African Roulette and 'Shots of Arrack'
I held my breath-tight. This was exactly what I had been waiting for all along. Of all the fax transmissions I handled at the LTTE office till now, nothing came close to this.
If I were to push the LTTE to the negotiation table, this was my chance.
I immediately grabbed some LTTE (letter) headed paper and compiled a fax to the South African Embassy's First Secretary in London. I copied almost word to word from the IRA document but re-edited (as appropriate) to tailor it to sound as if it came from the minds of the LTTE
For once, the Northern Ireland peace process was reshaping the Sri Lankan conflict panorama dramatically, but not in a manner that many would expect it! (A key individual who had played a role in the peace process in Northern Ireland, Prof.Thomas Grant Frazer (Ulster University) would later to visit Sri Lanka in September 1998 and would receive word from Sri Lanka's UNP leader Mr.Ranil Wickremesinghe that he favors unconditional talks with the LTTE for resolving the conflict).
Little did I knew then that this unauthorized ad-hoc fax would radically metamorphose the Rules of Engagement of the Sri Lankan government forces with the LTTE and vice-versa to a 'stalemate in a negative peace' (as some would later label it) and more importantly, would reposition the history of the Sri Lankan conflict with unforeseen consequences for some time to come
My faxed request simply concluded with the compelling inquiry if South Africa is willing to facilitate peace talks between the LTTE and the Sri Lankan government.
At a very personal level, this ad-hoc fax somehow gave the much needed meaning to the sum of my efforts so far In fact, it made sense to me more than everything I dispatched and did to that date- the years and months of press statements, meetings, demonstrations
I foresaw that it would be a chance to afford real change-if not peace perso.
I faxed this LTTE-letter-headed 'offer of talks' message to all the diplomatic contacts I had in London from 10 April 1998 onwards-but received no prompt responses.
After faxing it to the South Africans, I followed it up with a phone call to the First Secretary at the time whose name I would not reveal. I spoke of my sincere request for South Africa to hold peace talks.
The month of April ended but there were no responses.
Several phone calls to the South Africans followed.
Suddenly one day there was a fax from the South African embassy It was a reply. For a moment I thought it was that the Embassy simply acknowledging my fax from the rebel's office. But it carried a different message.
The reply from the South Africans was on an official South African (letter) headed paper. To my great joy, it said that the South Africans are "considering the supporting or facilitating peace talks between your organization and government of Sri Lanka".
This meant so much to me and even more for the Sri Lankan people on the ground. Right now the N&E populace in Sri Lanka was facing the brunt of battles between the SL Army and the rebels.
I immediately approached the LTTE office head with the good news that the South Africans are willing to facilitate talks between Sri Lanka and the LTTE. Office Head A.C. Shathan explained to me that rebel members cannot set up peace talks as they wished-only the LTTE Supremo himself could authorize it. Besides, LTTE were sustaining heavy losses in ground almost losing Jaffna. In the north, they were a defeated army.
This is was puzzling to me then. I could not understand as to why they would not jump at a chance of peace as they were in retreat.
(Years later, I were to understand that the rebels were perhaps also in touch with British government not to mention the Norwegians --at that time. This lingering doubt was confirmed in 1998 November In his 1998 Hero's Day speech (November 27), the rebel Supremo appealed for "peace talks" to be convened under the auspices of one or more third parties. For the first time since 1987 Indo-Sri Lankan Accord, he also suggested that the LTTE might be willing to accept a settlement that did not result in the establishment of a separate Tamil Eelam state forming the North and East of the island..)
A South African Roulette
I caught the train to London with trepidation; I was visiting the South African embassy's First Secretary Sue Singh to meet in person. Sue Singh would then talk over her bosses in South Africa on the offer to hold talks.
The side door of the South African embassy was not a grand view to behold--with a big security scanning machine to scan bags and baggage. Sue Singh was away from office so I met her only a while later. I told her of my intentions and insisted that I wanted to see peace in Sri Lanka and saw the new South African ANC government was so respected that they could open doors for talks between the two parties. I was also impressed with the Truth and Reconciliation Committees (TRCs) of ANC government. The new ANC government's logo was "fair play to everyone".
In a way I too had some 'history' with ANC. I respected its campaigns against apartheid in SA and supported the ANC for years even when it was banned in the UK. In fact, I raised funds for it when I was just a youngster (Of course, this is another story!)
I was 'sticking my neck out' calling for these talks¦And Sue accurately grasped the gravity of my situation. By now, my real and only concerns were the helpless people trapped in the skirmishes in Sri Lanka.
I promised to deliver the LTTE at the South African embassy doors.
Sue wanted to know: "Will you also come for talks with the LTTE team?"
I simply replied in the negative, and then added. "I am a Sri Lanka government agent too. If the talks are to go ahead and if it is found that the person who set up the talks was in fact a Sri Lanka-spy, then talks would collapse," I shot my reply.
For an instance, Sue was taken aback, and tried to hide her amazement nevertheless, despite her shock, she appeared to appreciate my direct approach.
And I gave my word to her: "Once talks start, I will not spy on the LTTE anymore".
Upon my return, I promptly relayed the good news to both the LTTE and the Sri Lankan High Commission bosses as to what Sue Singh had offered. The immediate task for London LTTE, I insisted, was to send a team to the South African embassy in London to discuss on setting up talks with the Sri Lanka government.
The Sri Lankan President's office, via my boss in London High Commission began asking whether LTTE is ‘’in fact being truthful about their wishes for peace".
As no one else could answer this question but the LTTE Supremo himself in Sri Lanka, I had to get this confirmed via the London Office Head Shanthan which I did.
Officials from the British Foreign Office let me call them as Mr Haddock and Mr Pocock received confirmation via me that there was indeed a chance that the rebels might be wanting talks.
They were curious Is it simply because the rebels were having a tough time in Jaffna and Vanni?
"Not really They seem to be thinking beyond that" I revealed.
The British government promptly issued a statement offering to host talks in London, and some other countries followed suit. The Sri Lankan Foreign Minister immediately took off for South Africa though on his arrival he was given a strong dose of pelting by Tamils with heaps of eggs that did not smell so pleasant.
However, after a few weeks the LTTE suddenly took a U-turn: Their preferred and most trusted country for talks was not South Africa. But they preferred Britain or some other western country Interestingly, this news was conveyed and confirmed through none-other than the South Africans in London!
I realized my 'work was complete' and 'mission accomplished Who would want to spy on a group that was talking of peace anyway?
Besides, my boss in SL High Commission was about to be transferred again and it was time for me to leave my undercover mission and move on.
Quintessential Sri Lankan
A couple of years went by I made several visits to Sri Lanka whenever I could afford to and would drop in on my 'old bosses' at the Senior Officers Mess at Bullers Road.
Each time I visited Sri Lanka I made friends with people of all faiths“ Including Tamils
I will always remember the last time I prepared to leave Sri Lanka. As I was being picked up from my hotel lobby by the Lankan intelligence service personnel NIBS a heavy downpour began.
I was taken directly to the Senior Officers' Mess and thereafter served with 'that quintessential Sri Lankan dish' the Devilled Chicken accompanied with a few shots of fiery Lankan liquor called Arrack. As I devoured all of it and boarded the car, roads were beginning to flood from the incessant downpour and my driver -an intelligence officer- blurted: "Sri Lanka is crying since you are leaving us Mr Glen."
An overwhelming sense of apprehension suddenly overtook me. I sat motionlessly. The car kept moving and then, I was hit with that 'feeling at home' and a strong yearning for this country -just when I was about to close my chapter with it.