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Last Updated: Saturday, 4 June, 2005, 09:07 GMT 10:07 UK
'Held captive by the Tamil Tigers'
By Kathleen McCaul

Vivekanandan and Jeyadevan
Vivekanandan (left) says he was released to sign over the temple
A leading Tamil activist resident in the UK who was a former supporter of Sri Lanka's Tamil Tigers has been talking to the BBC about his alleged kidnapping by the rebels.

Rasingham Jeyadevan says he was held captive by the Tigers during a recent trip to Sri Lanka.

He says the rebels demanded that he hand over a temple in north London by way of ransom.

The Tamil Tigers have denied that they took him hostage.

The matter has been under police investigation.

Mr Jeyadevan is the chairman of the Eelap Patheeswarar temple in Wembley.

He travelled to Sri Lanka with his colleague Vivekanandan soon after last year's tsunami, to talk to the Tamil Tigers about their influence on the Tamil diaspora in London.

But, he says, instead of holding discussions, the Tigers forced the pair to a detention centre deep in the jungle.

'Paralysed with fear'

"It was a two bedroom bungalow in a very bad state," he recalls.

Jeyadevan
They thought they could influence people and turn the temple into a money making machine
Rasingham Jeyadevan

"The rooms and beds were filthy. At least 15 fellows must have slept on those beds - they stank.

"The place was infested with snakes, frogs and reptiles. Interrogators came to interview us, but they did a shabby job," he added.

"We were paralysed with fear. We soon realized that we had been kidnapped because of the temple back home," said Mr Vivekanandan, who is the temple secretary.

After 42 days, Mr Vivekanandan says he was released to return to the UK and sign the temple over to a registered charity in London, the Sivayogam Trust.

Mr Jeyadevan says he was held for a further 20 days as security.

"I couldn't say anything. I was frightened for Rasingham's life. I just closed my eyes and signed so many papers," Mr Vivekanandan says.

Fundraising

Mr Jeyadevan, who founded The Tamil Guardian newspaper, believes that the Tamil Tigers wanted the temple to raise funds for their activities in Sri Lanka.

"The temple is a place where large numbers of Tamils come.

"They thought they could influence people and turn the temple into a money making machine," he says.

Eelap Patheeswarar temple in Wembley, London
Mr Jeyadevan says the rebels wanted the temple to raise funds
"They had a wider idea to take over all the Tamil organisations in the UK.

The Sivayogam Trust is run by N Seevaratnam.

He adamantly denies reports that the trust is a source of funding for the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam).

"That is 100% wrong, I am completely transparent," he says.

"I am open in my support for the LTTE but I leave Sivayogam out. It is a temple trust and temples are for the public.

"Every penny goes back to Sri Lanka - to various orphanages, widow's homes and even for medical equipment."

London's Metropolitan Police say they find it difficult to act on information about LTTE fundraising.

"The 2001 Terrorism act made the LTTE illegal in this country, but we have no evidence of their activities," says Inspector Phil Perry, who has dealt with the Tamil community.

"There are complications because many informants are previous LTTE supporters. The Tamil community is particularly hard to police because of the bitter rifts."

Returned to owners

The temple is now back in the hands of its original owners after Wembley's local Labour party intervened.

This is a temple and I couldn't understand why there was so much politics
Mrs Carr, worshipper
"I had a tearful Mrs Sangaraja, the manager of the temple, phoning me up and telling me that the priest and herself had been turfed out.

"Someone we didn't know was saying the lease had been transferred to them," says said MK Turner, the honorary secretary on the temple's board of governors.

Since a clause in the contract stated that the lease could not be given over to anyone else, they approached the courts.

A court ruling earlier this year ordered that the temple be restored to the original tenants.

While Mr Jeyadevan was held hostage, his colleague Mr Vivekanandan could not reveal any details of the transfer to the congregation.

Congregation shocked

One regular worshipper at Eelap Patheeswarar is a Mrs Carr from Hertfordshire.

Praying at the Eelap Patheeswarar temple
Worshippers had little idea of what had taken place

"Suddenly... there was a different priest and a different manager," she said.

"I was shocked but no-one told us anything so I gave my prayers and went home."

The next time she visited the temple, the police were there.

"I was very upset. This is a temple and I couldn't understand why there was so much politics."

Despite the kidnapping, Mr Jeyadevan acknowledges that the Tamil Tigers have huge support among the Tamil diaspora.

He believes the rebels should lead the community with new direction.

"I am a chap who supported the LTTE and did everything possible to enhance the Tamil struggle.

"Militaristically they have achieved enormous success. They must now have the political vision to take us forward.

"They are alienating the intellectuals of the Tamil community and if this continues for a few more years there will be a totally anarchic situation," he said.


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