April 24, 2007 at 3:32 am

Intelsat Ltd., a U.S. based satellite company has terminated the “unauthorized” use of one of its satellites, Intelsat12, by the Sri Lanka based terrorist organization, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), for its TV and radio transmissions to Europe and Asia.

The LTTE is designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) by the U.S., India, the 27-member European Union and Canada.

The Executive Vice President and General Counsel of Intelsat Ltd., Mr. Phillip Spector, confirmed to Rajika Jayatilake, Counselor (Information) at the Sri Lanka Embassy in Washington DC, that Intelsat Ltd., had, over the April 21/22 weekend, shut down the transponder, which the LTTE had used for its transmissions.

Intelsat Ltd., following a meeting with Ambassador Bernard Goonetilleke of the Sri Lanka Embassy two weeks ago, issued a press release on April 11, 2007, on the illegal use of Intelsat12 by the LTTE, for its TV and radio transmissions to Europe and Asia. Mr. Phillip Spector, said, “Intelsat does not tolerate terrorists or others operating illegally on its satellites. Since we first learned of the LTTE’s signal piracy, we have been actively pursuing a number of technical alternatives to halt the transmissions. We are clear in our resolve to ending this terrorist organization’s unauthorized use of our satellite.”

Sri Lanka telecommunications authorities, in March 2007, had informed CEO of Intelsat Ltd., Mr. David McGlade, that the LTTE was using Intelsat12 for its TV and radio transmissions to Europe and Asia. Mr. McGlade had written back, saying that Intelsat Ltd., was taking “appropriate steps to prevent further theft of Intelsat’s satellite capacity” by the LTTE. Thereafter, Sri Lanka made representations on this matter, at a diplomatic level, at the 31st Extraordinary Meeting of International Telecomunications Satellite Organization (ITSO) in Paris, France, held from March 20-23, 2007. Following this, in another communication to Sri Lanka telecommunications authorities, Mr. McGlade promised to do what they could to “halt the offending transmissions.”

The Sri Lanka Embassy in Washington DC had to intervene in the issue in April, as no tangible results were achieved.

Following the meeting with Ambassador Goonetilleke on April 10, 2007, Mr. Phillip Spector of Intelsat Ltd., stated that the LTTE transmissions were “unauthorized.” Countering the position taken by Intelsat Ltd., speaking from Sri Lanka’s north to wire services in Colombo, the LTTE denied it was using the satellite services illegally. “We are accessing it legally and there is no signal piracy,” said an LTTE spokesman.

Since March 2005, the LTTE had been transmitting TV and radio programs through Europe Star 1 satellite owned by French satellite provider Alcatel. PanAmSat, a satellite operator headquartered in Wilton, Connecticut in the U.S., acquired Europe Star 1 satellite in July 2005. In July 2006, Intelsat Ltd., acquired PanAmSat, following which, Europe Star 1 satellite was renamed Intelsat12. The programs that the LTTE had been transmitting through Europe Star 1, thus continued uninterrupted even after Intelsat Ltd., acquired the satellite.

According to Embassy officials, the U.S. Department of State and the Department of Justice had both been informed that a terrorist group designated by the U.S. as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO), was using a satellite owned by a U.S. based satellite company to transmit their TV and radio programs to Europe and Asia.

Embassy of Sri Lanka
Washington DC

24 April 2007