Australia plays down Sri Lanka Tiger funding role

SYDNEY, May 2, 2007 (AFP) – Australia Wednesday played down a suggestion that it was a major source of funds for Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tigers, after two local businessmen were charged with channelling money to the rebels. The two Melbourne men have been accused of sending cash raised under the guise of tsunami relief to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), who have waged a bloody separatist war for 35 years.

Sri Lanka’s secretary of foreign affairs Palitha Kohona said Wednesday that up to 30 percent of the Tamil Tigers’ external funding was raised in Australia.

“In Australia there is a very well-made network of fundraisers who are supporting the LTTE terrorists’ activities in Sri Lanka,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

He estimated the Tigers raised 10-30 million US dollars a month throughout the world, adding: “Approximately 20-30 percent of that comes from Australia.”

But Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer dismissed the figure.

“I think that’s probably an exaggeration,” he told reporters.

“But we have been, for a long time, concerned that finance for the Tamil Tigers, some of it comes from Australia — probably nothing like 30 percent — but small amounts