VoT will rebounce from attack -Thamizhanpan

[TamilNet, Sunday, 16 December 2007, 22:43 GMT]
“Belligerent statements by close associates of Sri Lanka President Rajapaksa, threats against media personnel, and press censorship in the South, forewarned us of a possible attack on our media facilities. Fortunately, we took precautions against this, and our successful completion of the Heroes day program, inspite of Colombo violating international laws bombing our facility, is a testimony to the resilience of our staff,” said Thamizhanpan, director of Voice of Tigers, LTTE’s official broadcasting corporation, in an interview with a Australian Tamil Broadcasting Corporation, Tuesday.

Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) bombing raid left 11 dead, including three VOT employees, and 15 injured, including 4 editorial staff.

Reporters Without Borders in press release issued soon after the air raid said the attack on the radio station was a "war crime."

Edited version of the translation of the excerpts from the interview conducted in Tamil follow.

VoT Director Thamizhanpan
VoT Director Thamizhanpan
ATBC: When did the attack take place?
Thamizhanpan: VoT is one of three broadcasts, campus included 8 acres. Voice of Tigers, Tamil Eelam Radio, and the Sinhala language broadcast of Voice of Tigers, Kotti Handa, are broadcast from this campus. Heroes day is the last day of VoT’s broadcasting year. 365th broadcast on the November 27th is of great significance to us, as all Heroes day events are co-ordinated thorough our broadcasts. Our broadcast starts daily at 5:00 a.m.

For Heroes day, we pre-recorded some of the broadcasts. We were broadcasting in two wavelengths from two different locations. Heroes day speech was to be broadcast from our alternate location. Time was 4:20 p.m., and our preparations were complete to broadcast the speech of LTTE leader Pirapaharan, when the first bomb fell.

Our employees, Isaivizhi Chempiyan (also known as Subajini, a former Ozhiveechchu news presenter), Suresh Linbiyo, a technical desk worker and T. Tharmalingam, were walking towards the broadcasting station. They were the first casualties of the SLAF. Subsequent bombs took out the broadcasting office, internet broadcasting station, and six broadcasting studios. A total of sixteen bombs were dropped in the VoT campus, two fell in the neighborhood. A total of 11 people were killed and 6 injured in this attack. 8 civilians perished, including a 12 year old boy. One baby girl lost site in both eyes.

Sixty percent of our buildings, all computers, and other equipment were destroyed in this attack.

SLAF attacked our main broadcasting facility. But our broadcast was not interrupted. Our people participate in 80-85% of our broadcasts. More than 85% of our programs are designed to improve the living standards of our people; educational, economy, agriculture, health, religious, morality and language related programs fill the agenda. We broadcast only two short programs that relate to the politics of our struggle.

VoT was not just a broadcasting corporation, but a national asset that serve our people.

Isaivizli Chembian is an important member of the VOT. Suresh and Tharmalingam were technical officers for VOT. All three were married with children. VoT is making arrangements to look after the future welfare of their families.

ATBC: How are you functioning after the attack?
Thamizhanpan: We were hit on November 27th 4:20 p.m. We had to continue our broadcasting amidst the death and injury of our colleagues. We were transporting the injured to the hospital. We were also transporting the dead. Our broadcasters on duty were in shock at the death of Tharmalingam and others. They continued to broadcast keeping their emotions in check. Our listeners would not have noticed that we were doing our duties amidst death and destruction.

We lost sixty percent of our staff on duty to injury and death. Those who were not hurt, volunteered to attend to the dead and injured, and the broadcast went on as planned. Heroes day speech was broadcast and loaded on the internet live as planned. Heroes day activities were conducted uninterrupted. We collected and broadcast news on all celebrations taking place simultaneously. Only after the celebrations were complete, we broadcast the news of the destruction and death at our facility to our listeners.

SLAF and Colombo failed to achieve their objective of disrupting Pirapaharan's message. We consider this a big victory for VOT and the Tamil people. We have lost our equipment and studios, but we are continuing with the broadcast under bombed out buildings using computers and equipment donated to us by the public. This is the twelfth time VOT was attacked, and we will rebound to continue our mission with increased vigor.

ATBC: How are you planning to function after loosing all your equipment, studios and buildings?
Thamizhanpan: We have begun to rebuild our damaged buildings. Acquiring and setting up new technical equipment will be a bigger challenge, but we will accomplish this soon. We are currently working without the sound proof studios, computers, internet facilities and necessary software. We are using tree stumps, and working without chairs or tables. Local wellwishers are donating their belongings. We are used to adversity, and this setback will only be temporary, and will not deter us. We hope we will reach our full broadcasting capacity soon.

ATBC: How is VOT staff coping?
Thamizhanpan: The affection we have for our people and our leader help us. We have taken the broadcast to the villages and work closely with our people. This gives us strength. Our staff who have escaped injuries are keeping the VoT functioning. We are working two to three days continuously without taking a break. We are determined that VOT broadcast should go uninterrupted. The condolence messages we receive give us encouragement and support in this effort.

ATBC: SLAF has attacked a media station. Very few have condemned this act. Are you surprised?
Thamizhanpan: UNESCO has condemned this attack. If there is no mass condemnation of the SLAF attack on VOT, the reason should be that the service done by the VoT is not widely known. VoT serves the people living within the areas controlled by the LTTE. Sri Lankan government information and notices are broadcast by VoT. If VoT was put out of operation, a communication void would have been created. This attack tried to strangulate the only voice our oppressed people has. We noticed the silence from the humanitarian agencies, international media and the nations. We are saddened, but not surprised.

Sri Lankan government showed its displeasure for UNESCO’s condemnation of the attack. It is expatriate Tamil people’s duty to show solidarity with the UNESCO on this issue.

ATBC: What should the expatriate Tamils do in this situation?
Thamizhanpan: VOT is drafting a letter thanking UNESCO for their statement. The expatriate Tamil organizations and individuals can do the same. Expatriate Tamils and Tamil Broadcasting corporations must unite in strengthening the media that serve the Tamil people in the NorthEast and worldwide. Only when people are well informed support to our just struggle will increase, and our cause can advance. The people in the NorthEast are giving every thing they have.


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