KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian police have detained seven people including two politicians for suspected terror links with Sri Lanka’s defunct Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay, the federal police’s Special Branch Counter-Terrorism Division (E8) principal assistant director, told a press conference that the arrests were made after a series of operations on Thursday across several states in Malaysia and in Kuala Lumpur.
“(They) are suspected of engaging in activities that promote, support, incite, encourage and raise funds, as well as possess LTTE items,” Ayob Khan said, adding that the investigation of the suspects had begun in November last year.
Among the suspects were two local politicians from the Democratic Action Party (DAP) — the Malacca exco member, G. Saminathan, and Seremban Jaya assembly person, P. Gunasekaran. DAP is part of the ruling coalition party, Pakatan Harapan.
Both politicians allegedly attended a pro-LTTE annual event called “LTTE Martyr’s Ceremony” in Malacca on Nov. 28.
Ayob Khan said: “(G. Saminathan’s) involvement was the same as (P. Gunasekaran) … The suspects were giving a speech to support LTTE, and also distributed items related to LTTE to the public.”
Another three suspects who were detained had a record of attempting an attack against the Sri Lankan high commissioner in Kuala Lumpur in 2015.
They were subsequently arrested and fined $2,500. One of them had conducted secret meetings to recruit and spread LTTE propaganda.
However, some, including Malaysian politician Charles Santiago, questioned the government’s move to arrest the two DAP politicians. He claimed to be “baffled” about the terror-link claim as the LTTE was already defunct and inactive, local media reported.
Last Friday, a pro-LTTE video surfaced on social media of a Malaysian man of Indian ethnicity warning the Malaysian police not to stop LTTE activities in the country.
“I love LTTE … is there any law that can stop us? Definitely no,” he said.
As Southeast Asia becomes a growing hub for international terrorists, the Malaysian Counter-Terrorism Unit has increasingly been taking on the threat. Since 2009, the Malaysian authorities have detained 25 suspects involved in the LTTE.
Meanwhile, Malaysian police have captured 284 suspects from Indonesia’s Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) since 2011, 512 Daesh suspects since 2013, as well as one suspect from the Sikh Babbar Khalsa group in 2019.
“According to police sources, in recent years there was an effort by certain quarters outside of Sri Lanka to ‘re-activate’ LTTE worldwide,” Ayob Khan said. “We do not want Malaysia to be the hub for LTTE reactivation.”
The LTTE is widely considered to be a terrorist organization and has been banned in 32 countries including India, the EU and the US.
The group had been involved in a long civil war against the predominantly Sinhalese authorities since the 1980s, which resulted in more than 80,000 deaths.
At the height of its power, the group evolved into a nationalist insurgency equipped with specialized militant units, including its infamous suicide attackers.