losing control of east
mourners at the funeral
remains of Kirumbarajah
Kirumbarajah’s wife Koneswari
came in the aftermath of the previous United National Front (UNF)
Government's betrayal of the Sri Lanka Army's Directorate of Military
Intelligence (DMI) that operated an intelligence cell (or Safe House)
guerrillas unleashed a campaign of violence. Informants and operatives
of the Directorate of Military Intelligence were brutally killed
or abducted. Violent attacks in the four years that followed a Police
raid on the intelligence cell (Safe House) in January 2002, 18 informants,
nine operatives, seven "casual informants" and five Police
informants - a total of 39 - were killed.
under heavy pressure and no support from the then Government, the
DMI launched a top secret operation to protect its informants and
operatives who escaped the onslaught. Those regarded as "high
profile" were found employment abroad. Air tickets were provided
for them to make a hasty retreat from Sri Lanka.
such person despatched to a West Asian country was 45-year-old Alagaiah
Kirumbarajah. He found employment there as a helper. He was sending
money earned from his job for the upkeep of his family.
the December 26 tsunami catastrophe, Kirumbarajah's only daughter,
five-year-old Viduja was killed. His wife Koneswari (40) escaped
miraculously though her father and mother were also both killed.
Their home was destroyed.
by the incident, Kirumbarajah returned to Batticaloa. With no home
to live he tried to find shelter in a refugee camp. He was turned
away by Tiger guerrillas as an intruder. Without making it known
to his friends and relatives, Kirumbarajah moved into the home of
his late brother-in-law. The latter was a soldier in the Army and
had died in the hands of a suicide bomber in March 2000.
Monday Kirumbarajah arrived in the Batticaloa town. He was walking
along Hindu College road towards the bus station. He was to board
a bus to Colombo. At the diplomatic mission of the West Asian country
concerned, he was to extend his visa and later leave the country.
But guerilla gunmen shot him dead. The incident occurred just 50
metres away from the Batticaloa headquarters Police Station.
incident, one among several in the recent weeks, laid bare a new
military campaign unleashed by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam
(LTTE) in the East. If it is a reminder of a replay of events soon
after Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan alias Karuna, LTTE's eastern
leader reneged from the Wanni leadership, there was more. The guerrilla
targets have now widened from just eliminating or rounding up Karuna
loyalists and those who help them. It has taken the form of a stepped
up campaign to humble all those who are perceived rivals.
March 6, Dasan, a former member of the Eelam People's Revolutionary
Liberation Front (EPRLF) was shot dead in the Batticaloa town. On
Friday a grenade was hurled into the office of the People's Liberation
Organisation of Tamileelam (PLOTE). Three members of the former
guerrilla group and now a political party were injured, two of them
is whilst a manhunt for Karuna loyalists and those helping the security
forces goes on unabated. On March 5, three Muslims, two Tamils and
a Sinhalese were shot dead by guerrilla gunmen at Kolakanawadiya,
a village between Welikande and Manampitiya. They were accused of
helping the Karuna faction. Intelligence cadres had spread out in
the Batticaloa district to collect information of those who helped
the Karuna faction. Police believe this is the reason why guerrilla
gunmen abducted four Muslims who were on their way to cultivate
their paddy fields in guerrilla controlled areas on March 8. The
next day, the body of one farmer was found on the spot from where
they were abducted whilst the whereabouts of the others are not
March 1, guerrilla cadres attempted to abduct another security forces
informant, Johnson Jeyakanthan. He was also one of those who was
found safe haven abroad and had returned to the country only a week
earlier. After he escaped a kidnap attempt, Army officials say guerrilla
supporters lodged a complaint at the Akkaraipattu Police Station
accusing him of being involved in a murder. According to the officials,
the accusers had also produced "witnesses" to the "murder"
in a bid to help frame charges against him. Police say they are
investigating the matter further but declined to discuss details.
On March 7, Sivarasa Ravindran, an Army informant of Kudapokuna,
Welikande was abducted by guerrilla cadres. He had been held in
a place of worship but the youth escaped and later surrendered to
a nearby police post.
loyalists, though their numbers had dwindled, are offering resistance.
Finding sanctuary sometimes in "cleared" or security forces-controlled
areas; they have been successful in striking Tiger guerrilla targets.
On Friday, their gunmen shot dead two Tiger guerrilla cadres in
Vadamunai, Welikande south. Though not with the same vigour since
Karuna parted ways a year ago, small but potent groups have been
successful in inflicting casualties on the Wanni cadres.
major events have come as significant turning points for Tiger guerrillas
in the east. First was the killing of the LTTE Political Wing leader
for Batticaloa and Ampara, Ilayathambi Lingarajah alias Kaushalyan.
He was widely regarded as a powerful man in the district whose calls,
particularly after the tsumani catastrophe, were promptly heeded
by top Government officials in the two districts. He was the highest
ranking LTTE member to be killed during the three year long ceasefire.
It was a major blow to the LTTE.
the killing on February 7 took place in Punanai, a security forces
controlled area, how the incident occurred left open a number of
questions. Kaushalyan was returning from Wanni and the Army said
he went there without informing them or seeking any security assistance.
The LTTE eastern leader had switched vehicles after crossing the
Army check-point at Omanthai to continue his journey through "controlled"
areas until he reached Batticaloa. The ambush and killing evidently
took place with the attackers receiving prior information about
his impending arrival.
neither the Police nor the security forces have been able to unravel
the mystery over his killing. Both voiced in unison the view that
it was the work of members of the Karuna faction but the matter
ended there. Behind the scenes, the LTTE leadership in the Wanni
were so infuriated they contemplated strong action. This fuelled
reports of possible retaliatory attacks on VVIPs or top security
forces personnel. At that time, satellite phones in the Wanni went
busy with the guerrilla leadership making periodic representations
to the Norwegian facilitators in Oslo. It was Special Envoy Erik
Solheim's intervention that brought tensions down. He engaged himself
in telephone diplomacy, talking to Government officials in Colombo
and LTTE leaders in the Wanni.
a result there were no reprisal attacks on Government or security
forces targets. In return President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga
announced the appointment of a Presidential Commission of Inquiry
comprising retired members of the judiciary. That was to probe the
circumstances under which Kaushalyan met with his death.
appointment of such a Presidential Commission of Inquiry was no
doubt a move to appease the LTTE. But its Political Wing leader,
S.P. Thamilselvan declared it as an "eye wash." Other
than appeasing the LTTE, which is not the case after Mr. Thamilselvan's
declaration, serious questions arise over the usefulness of a Presidential
Commission of Inquiry. Could such a Commission unearth evidence
or information that the regular state agencies tasked with probing
a murder could not do?
such agencies have not been able to uncover any evidence or information,
they will not be in a position to assist such a Commission. In such
an event, the opportunity could be seized by parties and groups
opposed to the security forces and the police to make representations
against them. On the other hand, it seems highly unlikely that the
LTTE that has accused the security forces and paramilitary groups
of collaborating in the murder of Kaushalyan would testify before
such a Commission. In the first instance, the appointment of a Commission
of Inquiry by itself is an admission that the Government is not
in full control of its agencies tasked with law, order and security
in the East.
is in this backdrop that members of the Karuna faction allegedly
attempted to kill three female cadres including Kuveni, the LTTE
Women's Wing leader for Batticaloa and Ampara. They were injured
seriously and the Government had to provide an Air Force helicopter
to airlift them to Colombo. They are now undergoing treatment at
the Apollo Hospital. Such helicopter rides are rarely made available
to members of the security forces or the police after the ceasefire.
new military campaign by the LTTE has been triggered by the incident
involving Kuveni. Yet it has a number of other important connotations
too. Though Karuna is no longer in Sri Lanka, he is very much in
contact with his core group of loyalists. They are spearheading
the attacks to destabilise the LTTE in the East and to deny them
a strong foothold. Though they are insignificant in the military
balance compared to the LTTE, their attacks have proved more than
a nuisance. The fact that they have succeeded in getting away after
carrying them out, possibly hiding in security forces controlled
areas, has become fuel to the new Tiger guerrilla campaign.
picture becomes more significant if one examines the situation that
prevailed before Karuna parted ways. In the East, the LTTE had built
up a formidable military and political machine during the ceasefire.
Fund raising both locally and abroad benefited the East. An enhanced
recruitment drive was carried out. According to intelligence estimates,
the LTTE strength in the East that stood at 4,000 before the ceasefire
rose to 18,000. But Karuna's exit brought the numbers down to some
12,000, they say.
LTTE also stockpiled arms and ammunition in the East. They conducted
extensive training for their cadres and mounted surveillance on
high value targets of the security forces. In executing these tasks,
the LTTE, for the first time, developed a capability of opening
up two fronts against the security forces, one in the North and
the other in the East. During the near two decades of separatist
war, the strengths of both the LTTE and the security forces have
remained depleted as they fought many a battle in the North. This
was one of the reasons why the LTTE was unable to dominate large
chunks of territory in the East.
Karuna's exit and the resultant internecine warfare within the LTTE
have had a devastating effect. Militarily the recruitment campaign
in the East has slowed down forcing the guerrilla leadership to
pump more cadres from the Wanni. Political activity has slowed down
after strained relations with a larger section of the public. Consequently
collection of taxes, a major source of income, has proved difficult.
In this atmosphere, surprise attacks by the Karuna faction have
come as a major stumbling block in their efforts to gain the military
and political superiority that existed before Karuna's exit.
enough, the LTTE finds it difficult to acknowledge that a breakaway
faction has been responsible for all this. Just days after the revolt
by Karuna, the LTTE made clear to the Government that the matter
was an internal issue and they were capable of solving it. However,
thereafter they have continued to accuse the security forces of
colluding with paramilitary groups to carry out various attacks.
According to an LTTE source, a shift in the position came after
their leadership discovered what they called "close connections"
between the Karuna faction and sections of the security forces.
LTTE's latest campaign has also extended to wooing the Muslims in
the East. Paradoxically such a move came with the assistance of
the Government. They made available a helicopter for LTTE Political
Wing leader Thamilselvan to fly from Kilinochchi to Batticaloa for
Kaushalyan's funeral. He made use of the opportunity to visit Kokkadicholai
(Batticaloa district) and Sampur (Trincomalee district) on Februry
14 and 18 respectively for talks with Muslim leaders.
developments explain the widening of LTTE targets in the East from
members and helpers of Karuna groups to all others who are perceived
to be against. It also includes those who are suspected to be colluding
with the security forces. After Kaushalyan's death, at least 14
persons opposed to the LTTE had been killed. Karuna supporters have
claimed they killed eight persons who were Wanni loyalists.
the battle for supremacy in the East by the LTTE continues, as they
eliminate all rivals, a more disturbing factor has emerged. That
is the grim fact that the UPFA Government is fast losing control
of the East. It is unable to call a halt to the ongoing violence.
Much worse it is not in a position to curb the killings of security
forces informants and their operatives. The most it has been able
to do is to issue statements or complain to the Sri Lanka Monitoring
Mission (SLMM). This is despite most of the present UPFA leaders
being the vociferous critics of the previous UNF Government betraying
the Army's Directorate of Military Intelligence that ran an intelligence
cell (Safe House) in Athurugiriya.
to ignore the East as the law, order and security situation is fast
deteriorating can only help the LTTE to establish the same infrastructure
that exists in the Wanni. Such an infrastructure, it is widely known
now, includes "an army, a police, a sea going arm, the makings
of an air force, a judiciary, tax collection machinery and an administrative
service." UPFA critics blamed their UNP counterparts for allowing
the country's national security to deteriorate. In November 2003,
the defence portfolio (together with Interior and Mass Communications)
were taken over for these reasons. At last year's parliamentary
elections, the UNF Government was voted out of power also largely
for the same reasons. And now, the silence in the UPFA hierarchy
over these matters is deafening.
have been further developments over last week's exclusive revelations
in The Sunday Times (Situation Report) over President Kumaratunga's
protest to Norwegian Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik. This was
over the LTTE constructing a new airstrip near the Iranamadu tank
in Kilinochchi and acquiring air capability. As revealed in these
columns, the United States has confirmed to Sri Lanka that one of
the light aircraft acquired by the LTTE was a Zlin Z-143 light aircraft
manufactured in the Czech Republic.
Wednesday, Norway's Special envoy Erik Solheim met with LTTE chief
negotiator Anton Balasingham in London. No details of this meeting
were made public. However, the Colombo based Tamil daily Sudar Oli
which reports accurately on the LTTE had the following account last
ACCEPT PROPOSAL ON COMMON STRUCTURE PUT FORWARD BY NORWAY, AWAITING
THE DCISION OF GOVERNMENT SAYS SOLHEIM TO BALA
LTTE has accepted the proposal put forward by facilitators Norway
on setting up a common structure to handle relief and reconstruction
work in the aftermath of the tsunami disaster. Norway is awaiting
the final agreement of the Sri Lanka government on this proposal.
is understood that this was announced during a two hour meeting
between the LTTE theoretician Anton Balasingham and Norway's special
envoy Eric Solheim in London yesterday.
envoy Solheim and the Executive Officer at the Norwegian Foreign
Ministry Madam Solfred Lien met theoretician Balasingham and his
wife Adele at their residence in London.
briefed Balasingham on the constructive talks held between the Peace
Secretariat of the Sri Lankan Government and the LTTE with Norwegian
facilitation on the subject of setting up a common structure on
Tigers have accepted the proposal in this regard put forward by
Norway and what remains is for the Sri Lanka Government to endorse
and convey its final agreement on the proposal. The Government side
has mostly signified its approval but it was understood that Balasingham
was informed yesterday that the Government leadership was to pacify
the constituent parties of the Alliance government.
told Sudar Oli last evening that for their part, they have signified
their agreement, and the Norwegian Ambassador will meet their Political
Wing leader S.P. Thamilselvan who will arrive at Katunayake tonight
(Wednesday) and confirm this matter.
said that the common structure ball is now in Madam Chandrika's
court and things depend on how she handles it.
"It has been said that the Sri Lanka President had written
to the Norwegian Prime Minister complaining the LTTE has set up
an airstrip at Iranamadu in Kilinochchi and expanding the facility.
"It is understood that Solheim requested Balasingham yesterday
to convey Sri Lanka's concern on the subject to the LTTE.
is reported to have replied that the old runway in the area had
been in existence even before the ceasefire agreement came into
operation and no extension has been made There is nothing in it
for the Sri Lanka Government or Madam Chandrika to be concerned
about.. Certain media have blown it out of proportion wilfully.
also said that he was unaware that the Tigers had any new aircraft
and promised Solheim that he would convey the concerns of the Sri
Lanka government to the Tigers.
two sides are also reported to have discussed extensively the general
political situation and the atmosphere for resumption of the peace
efforts." It is clear Mr. Balasingham has cleverly dodged President
Kumaratunga's complaint, made through Norway, by saying that the
airstrip had existed even before the ceasefire. As for the acquisition
of aircraft, he had not denied it. He had said he was unaware. Political
Wing leader Thamilselvan also told the Virakesari Tamil daily last
week that the airstrip had existed even before the ceasefire.
would be foolish to expect the LTTE to publicly admit it had constructed
a new airstrip and acquired light aircraft. The Government has produced
evidence, including a determination by United States authorities
about the identity of one light aircraft, to Norway. In the light
of the LTTE's claims, what the Government's next move remains the