University Teachers for Human Rights
Information Bulletin No.
Date of Release: 8th March 2004
The Worm Turns and Elections Where the People
Will Not Count
1. The Charade Comes Apart
2. Murders of a candidate and activist and the Karuna Crisis
3. The Sword of the Sole-Representatives
4. Law enforcement by the LTTE
5. The LTTE's Independent Elections Commission at Work
6. The Unending trail of murder and terror
7. A Return to the Elections
8. Elections and the International Community
9. The Failure of Tamil Parliamentary Politics
10. What the Monitors can do
11. Karuna's Move
12. The Crack and its significance for Human Rights
13. A Dangerous and Tenuous Triumph
The recent split in the LTTE has opened up that organization to unprecedented
scrutiny. The press is full of speculation about what Batticaloa/Amparai
leader Karuna's breakaway means for the elections, for continuation
of the ceasefire and for a political solution. It is certain to complicate
all three. Very little has been said about what it means in the immediate
or longer term for the Tamil people.
This new bulletin by the University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna)
examines how the LTTE has used terror to redefine the political landscape
and its effects on Tamil society.
The elections in Sri Lanka are fast approaching. Already a Tamil candidate
and a party activist who failed to toe the LTTE line have been killed;
still others have dropped out under threat of violence. Who is next?
And how many others who might have contested were eliminated long before
these snap polls were announced? UTHR(J) wonders how any election could
be considered free and fair in such an environment.
UTHR(J) describes both clear cases of political violence aimed at silencing
electoral challenges to the LTTE's claim to be the Tamil people's "sole
representative," as well as details of its ongoing campaign to
root other less obvious challenges to LTTE authority. The bulletin provides
details of four political abductions prior to the closing of nominations,
fourteen murders, including the brutal murders of families with children,
and assassinations of political opponents.
Karuna's recent statements confirm what everyone already knew about
the most recent killings in the East: the LTTE ordered them. The SLMM
must now treat them as cease-fire violations and demand an explanation
from the LTTE rather than pretend that the killings pertain to criminal
activities outside their mandate.
In mid-January, at the height of a series of LTTE murders, representatives
of Sri Lanka's donor nations met with LTTE leaders in Killinochchi to
discuss development assistance to the north and east. This came in response
to the LTTE's demand that funding be sent directly to the region, rather
than through the Sri Lankan Government. UTHR(J) expresses deep alarm
at the notion that the international community would even consider providing
the LTTE or its proxies with direct access to development funds in such
an undemocratic and violent context.
Sri Lanka's donors have encouraged the LTTE's expansion under the misguided
premise that the group could be eased into a democratic process; and
they have failed to take responsibility for the abuse that has occurred
as a result. Statements encouraging free and fair elections are insufficient.
They must be backed up by clear policies that condition any future involvement
in Sri Lanka on an end to political violence and repression.
Fissures in the LTTE's monopolistic hold on power may offer opportunities
as well as the threat of renewed violence. Now that the LTTE's murder
campaign in the East is out in the open, it is time to renew demands
for democratic safeguards, as well as the release of child conscripts
who could fall victim to internecine violence. An acknowledgement in
the East on these issues could have positive repercussions in the North
1. The Charade Comes Apart
The current split in the LTTE illustrates how fragile the enterprise
has always been -- something Tamil dissidents had long talked about.
This belief was largely dismissed by others who were overwhelmed by
its apparent success. The dissidents, thousands of whom paid with their
life for the right to question the authority of LTTE, maintained that
the LTTE's huge oppressive structure, constantly gearing for war and
superimposed on a political and moral vacuum, would finally nullify
all the sacrifices made. It would leave the Tamil people in a far worse
plight than they had begun with.
Ironically, Karuna himself raised some of these issues in a convoluted
way in his letter to Prabhakaran of 2nd March and in the subsequent
leaflet. He said that the East has seen nothing but misery and economic
ruin and the parents will no longer tolerate Eastern cadres being exported
to the North for menial duties where they are given no modern skills
or opportunities for advancement.
The inertia of hubris, however, condemned the LTTE to this fatal course.
Had Prabhakaran wanted to pursue a peace process towards a political
settlement, he could have succeeded wonderfully as far back as 1987.
Readers of our reports over the last three years would see clearly that
at the root of the split with Karuna lies the LTTE's pursuit of preparations
for war and child conscription (Karuna himself a leader in this) under
the trappings of a peace process. For the people it was unbearable misery
that made no sense.
The Tamil separatist struggle has led to a host of ironies. The Government
certainly has far less control over the North-East than it once did,
while the people who once voted for separation largely as a mark of
protest against state-sponsored ethnic discrimination and persecution,
are far from enchanted with that prospect today. Indeed, while the North-East
has been depleted of human and economic potential, Colombo has acquired
a thriving Tamil community - people driven from their homes by violent
conflict and economic ruin who have established lives in the capital.
Separatist dreams of a prosperous North-East have sunk in a slime of
economic stagnation and political monopoly - enforced through murder,
child conscription and extortion.
The drive towards separation no longer comes from the people of the
North-East, but from the perversity of Southern politics and the carelessness
of the International Community. At some point, the Southern polity's
inability to offer a political solution for decades, tipped over into
abject appeasement of the LTTE. Now the tragic reality in the North-East
has vanished altogether from political exchanges in the South. From
this quarter there is no message of hope, only one of dread.
The Western donor community's press release from Washington on 17th
February, reflected apparent satisfaction that the LTTE had not resorted
to war and reiterated the need to advance rehabilitation of the North-East.
While it referred to the Tokyo declaration (which contained language
on human rights and democracy), it made no direct mention of Sri Lanka's
deteriorating human rights situation or the LTTE's gruesome parody of
the principle of democratic choice.
Reality must be faced: a commitment to reconstruction, in effect under
the LTTE, without reference to its utter disregard for human rights
enshrined in that declaration, gives a clear message that donors are
not serious about ensuring Sri Lanka's democratic survival.
At the height of a series of murders by the LTTE described below, representatives
from many prominent donor nations conferred with LTTE leaders in Killinochchi
on 19th January. TamilNet quoted a European diplomat saying that the
meeting was to "maximise and reactivate the development program
in the northeast." What cynical folly! A similar attitude has been
expressed by UNICEF and the SLMM. The SLMM chief told the BBC Tamil
Service on 22nd February that violations of the ceasefire agreement
by the LTTE though taken seriously by them, do not at all affect the
'peace' process adversely. This is not only disingenuous, it is terribly
Thus the rights of the people in the North-East, never a priority anyway
in Southern politics, have become a non-issue in the election campaign.
The argument is mainly between those who advocate appeasement of the
LTTE to win the confidence of the donors, and those who had always equated
devolution to the North-East with giving the Tamil "menace"
a foothold for conquest of the whole island. Between these two apparent
extremes they make the case for separation in a manner unequalled by
the separatists themselves. Meanwhile the people of the North-East have
been abandoned to the Tigers' grip. Their gruesome reality goes largely
unnoticed. The terror is more insidious by being veiled.
Karuna's rebellion against the LTTE poses crucial challenges running
against the grain of Southern politics and the agenda of the peacemakers.
For several months LTTE hegemony in the East has been widely resented.
But the LTTE's quasi-legal move in the wake of the rebellion to appoint
a new leadership to take control of the East, its diplomatic moves through
Norway and the Sri Lankan government's publicly stated stand-off policy,
suggest that the hated LTTE hegemony may be imposed on the East once
again. The prospect of another bloodbath like the LTTE's massacre of
TELO cadres in 1986, who were again largely Easterners, needs to be
Peacemakers may no longer see in Karuna a potent threat. He may be
viewed as a pawn with which to make deals with the Northern LTTE leadership,
the appeasement of whom is the cornerstone of the peace process. In
the past the Southern polity has watched with indifference or glee whenever
Tamils killed Tamils or Tamils killed Muslims. It served as a veil to
hide its own stupendous crimes and, in the long run hopefully, aid the
Sinhalese chauvinist agenda. Such an attitude also fatally diminished
the value of Sri Lankan sovereignty, when it offered nothing to the
people of the North-East. It amounted to a failure of statesmanship.
This should not happen again.
There may be valid legal constraints pertaining to the cease-fire in
dealing with the present crisis. But that cannot be an excuse for a
stand-off policy in the event of an approaching bloodbath. The case
should first be made loud and clear to constrain the LTTE leadership.
The LTTE's conduct in the context of the election campaign is an outcome
of their being pampered and flattered to a point where they believe
they can get away with anything.
2. Murders of a candidate and activist and the Karuna Crisis
At 1.30 AM on 29th February LTTE men broke into the house retired school
principal and UNP candidate Sinnathamby Sunderampillai (63) of Araiampathy,
Batticaloa, and shot him, injuring him in the hand. Warded at Batticaloa
Hospital, he told the Press that the attackers were the LTTE and the
previous time he contested as a candidate of the New Left Front, the
LTTE had detained him for several weeks. The following morning, 1st
March, at 5.00 AM, he was shot dead by LTTE men who entered the hospital.
The same day at 10.30 PM, LTTE men shot dead Ponniah Yoganathan (25),
a party worker for the EPDP, and father of two children, near his home
in Valaichenai. Commentators were quick to associate Sunderampillai's
murder with LTTE political leader Tamil Chelvan's statement published
in the Uthayan of 16th February upon rushing back from London after
consulting LTTE spokesman Anton Balasingam. He said that 'Majoritarian'
parties (those from the South) would not be permitted to contest in
the North-East, which he later denied for international consumption.
The attack on Sunderampillai at his home may have been to intimidate
rather than kill him. But matters became more serious when Sunderampillai
named the LTTE, which is very sensitive to legal evidence. Without such
evidence the LTTE simply denies and the donors and SLMM monitors happily
play along. Whether the decision to kill Sunderampillai was taken locally
or ordered from the North, it was consistent with LTTE policy.
The murder of Yoganathan was probably a local decision, but may have
come as one too many at a time the media was focusing on the LTTE's
determination to steal the election and the US condemning its behaviour.
Karuna, the LTTE's Eastern Commander, has an obsession with stamping
out any sign of opposition in Valaichenai, his home area (see Sp. Rep.
The present EPDP candidate for the area is Siva, who, with Yoganathan,
was in the EPRLF until a few weeks ago. At the 2001 elections Siva,
a relative of the murdered TULF MP Nimalan Soundaranayagam, polled more
than 4,000 votes as an EPRLF candidate. (The EPDP built itself up in
Batticaloa almost entirely by taking over persons from the EPRLF, which
was having financial difficulties.) This time, with the TULF in complete
disarray, Siva stood to poll a larger number of votes. Killing Yoganathan
was again aimed at curbing Siva's ability to campaign.
The LTTE hierarchy would have felt the pressure from the publicity
attached to these two killings and there must have been exchanges exacerbating
already existing tensions between Karuna and his detractors in the group.
On 3rd March, at 10.00 PM (local time), the Associated Press reported
the story that there was a rift between Karuna and the Northern leadership.
It was our assessment (Sp. Rep. 14) that such a rift would not easily
take place. Karuna was wholly dependent on support from the global LTTE
network, and he cannot go his own way unless some other government or
mafia backed him and he survives the secret agents placed around him.
Predictably, two hours later, just after midnight, on the 4th, TamilNet
tried to refute the AP story. TamilNet said quoting Karuna that he would
'take orders directly from the leader of the LTTE in future'. It now
turns out that TamilNet was for a change slow on the news and was quoting
Karuna selectively from a long letter he had had addressed to Prabhakaran
on 2nd March, the day after the killings. Karuna's letter stated that
he had stopped the functioning of the Intelligence Wing. An indication
that the murders also featured in the crisis came in a leaflet distributed
by Karuna in Batticaloa on the 4th, where he conveniently attributed
the killings and vehicle thefts in Batticaloa to the Intelligence Wing,
an accusation not contained in his letter to the Leader two days earlier.
Karuna's main demand in the letter was that he should function autonomously.
By taking orders directly from the LTTE leader, Karuna actually meant
that other LTTE structures under the Leader should not function in his
area except through his own appointees. This was something the Leader
could not agree to. The way he kept a grip on the organization was to
split functions under his appointees, positioning them so that they
watched and informed on each other and he could move against an individual
at short notice.
The 2nd March had been a day of crisis (a word finally used by Tamil
Chelvan and quoted by TamilNet on the 4th). According to some sources
Karuna was tipped off that a group in the Intelligence Wing was ordered
to bring him to the Vanni and he moved first. His letter to the Leader
must have reached him the same day. At 10.30 PM that night, 2nd, some
elite groups of the LTTE, including the Charles Anthony Brigade, moved
to surround, disarm and then confine to barracks the Jeyanthan Division
from Batticaloa that was posted southeast of the military lines in Thenmaratchy,
Jaffna. We will take up the political dimension of these events below.
But first, we will examine some less publicized killings by the people's
'sole representatives' to which Karuna made reference. These have assumed
an elusively barbarous quality.
3. The Sword of the Sole-Representatives
The reality in the North-East is typically exemplified in the murder
about 14th January of a young couple and their infant child. Nathan
Suthakaran (38), his wife Swarnawathy (29) and their 8-month-old child
Vathanan. Their bodies were found on the 16th with their throats cut.
The family had moved into Kanagampuliyady in the Thenmaratchy Division
a few months earlier after having been displaced to Puttur. Kanagampuliyady,
which had an army-presence since 1996, had been declared a high security
zone. The area also had constant LTTE movement.
WhenUTHR(J) began to investigate the murder of the family we found
silence everywhere. The Government, given its own record, found it prudent
not to 'provoke' the LTTE, the international community did not want
to rock the boat, and there were no eyewitnesses except perhaps the
Yet as we have verified from a number of sources, the people in the
area blamed the LTTE for the murder of the family. A deliberate indication
was given by the LTTE's Thenmaratchy political commissar Sivanath, who
visited the area five days later, on the evening of 19th January. He
suggested that the family met its fate because it had contact with the
Reading between the Lines
People have always been more willing to talk about abuses by state
forces than LTTE killings. In many crimes by the Army over the years,
there has been forensic evidence, eyewitnesses' testimony or an ex-detainee
pointing to the source, as our reports suggest. Evidence of this kind
is relatively rare in the case of crimes by the LTTE. The Tamil community
is, very simply, not a safe place to talk openly of the LTTE.
But there is another kind of evidence that is usually plentiful in
crimes by the LTTE. This is psychological evidence. Take the case above:
By examining what has been said and NOT said about the case in the Tamil
media we suddenly get a much clearer picture of the LTTE's role as the
The archives of TamilNet contain detailed and photographic coverage
of crimes committed by state forces, contrasting sharply with the single
evasive piece of 16th January on the horrific event in Kanagampuliady.
It said: "The couple's home is in an isolated spot surrounded by
a large number of Sri Lankan military positions and camps. The Police
said the family may have been murdered 3 days ago. Their throats were
We have verified that the TamilNet report is misleading. The nearest
army presence to the home of the murdered family is a sentry point,
rather than a camp, 300 yards away. The family was also not isolated
- others lived nearby.
'The Virakesari' on the Murder
The piece by a writer calling himself R. Pushpaparan in the Sunday
Virakesari of 1st February 2004 titled 'Continuing Mysterious Deaths
in the Jaffna Peninsula' was a real giveaway. The writer, as the contents
indicated, wrote under instructions from the LTTE, pushing the formula
of LTTE spokesmen: "These crimes are taking place in the few areas
densely populated by the armed forces, while law and order prevail in
areas under LTTE control."
Pushpaparan's piece two weeks after the event was clearly an attempt
to refute widespread talk that the LTTE was responsible for killing
the family with the infant.
In contrast to the local LTTE commissar's hint that Suthakaran was a
traitor for maintaining contact with the Army, Pushpaparan projected
him as a man who was well regarded locally. He also veered away from
the TamilNet claim that the family lived in an isolated area, saying
that they lived along the Manthuvil-Puttur Road where there was regular
movement and other dwellings nearby. The writer indicatively expressed
surprise that the murder remained concealed for two days. He helpfully
pointed to the killers being expert and on a deliberate mission: a cut
on the neck of each victim and another on the head - what locals call
a 'clean job'.
The writer then came to the main point of his piece. He said that the
dead mother Swarnawathy's underskirt had been lifted above a leg and
went on to suggest rape as the motive for the subsequent murder. Pushpaparan
them flays the Sri Lankan Police for not making progress in their investigation
and failing to make arrests. He commends the Tiger Police for their
efficacy in combating crime in their area and assures us that the LTTE
is investigating the spate of mysterious killings in Jaffna that are
being used to tarnish their name. He warns the Sri Lankan Police that
they would face dire consequences if by continuing to be ineffective
they force the people to take the law into their own hands!
Readers may recall that the LTTE also promised to investigate the 'mysterious'
attacks on the Hartley College Principal in September 2002 (Sp. Rep.
15) and the murder in April 2003 of Maclan Atputharajah (Bulletin 32).
The families are still waiting.
No evidence of rape: Pushpaparan's suggestion of rape by the Army was
clearly an afterthought, which did not feature in earlier reports, the
magistrate's inquest or the inquest in Jaffna Hospital. This time, in
contrast to the Tigers' normal practice of flooding the world with pictures
of crimes by the Army, there was constant evasion. No pictures appeared
in the Tamil media. When the bodies of the victims were brought to hospital,
the Tigers were there and forcefully dissuaded reporters from taking
photographs. The photographs that were relayed on the Internet had been
taken secretly, despite the Tigers.
Other evasions and facts given by Pushpaparan give us the true picture.
The neighbours almost certainly knew about the murder and who had done
it. The LTTE knew what the people knew and this was the context of the
area leader's words. Indeed, the LTTE is far more intimately present
in these areas than the alien Army. The belief among the people was
determined not by this incident alone, but by a series of murders that
pointed to the LTTE.
A series of murders:
Three or four days earlier, on 10th January, a 25 year old youth later
identified as Suntharalingam Vinothan was brought by van to a lonely
paddy field in Madduvil, very close to Kanagampuliyady, shot in the
back of his head and dumped. His services had been secured to transport
12 computers to Jaffna from Colombo. The Hartley College web site suggests
that the deceased was an engineering graduate from South Bank University,
London, who returned to this country recently. From records of vehicles
entering and leaving the Jaffna peninsula, the Police have deduced that
the vehicle in which Vinothan brought the computers to Jaffna had left
Jaffna for the LTTE controlled Vanni with a false number plate shortly
Although what exactly was behind the murder is not known, the public
had little doubt that it was the LTTE. Since no proper motive has been
attributed to the murder of Suthaharan and his family, it raises the
question whether one of them had seen too much in the murder of Vinothan.
A peculiarity of the Ceasefire is that the LTTE is sensitive to legal
evidence of its crimes.
People in Thenmaratchy were quick to link the murders of the four persons.
They were also reminded of the murder of Maclan Atputharajah from that
area on 23rd April 2003. Atputharajah was a popular figure from that
area tipped to contest elections on an EPRLF (V) ticket. Section 2.4
of our Bulletin No 32 of 2nd May 2003 gave strong evidence that left
little doubt about the LTTE being the killers.
4. Law enforcement by the LTTE
To be clear about their purpose, we will examine Pushpaparan's claim
that the LTTE is investigating these crimes independently to protect
its good name and that the LTTE police is very effective in bringing
criminals to justice in their area. On the contrary, , we find that
most victims in the LTTE's area simply disappear, whether victims of
murder or child conscripts.
A gruesome exception was the young seamstress Miss Princy Ratnasingam
(19) who lived in 234 Hudson Street, Vattakachchi and a native of Urumpirai
in Jaffna. Her severed head, identity card and hand bag were found close
to Surveyor Shop in Kanthan Kulam (Tank) in Killinochi near the LTTE's
administrative capital. An excruciating stink caused the people to search
for the balance of her remains, which were found in shrubs near the
tank. The incident was reported in the Eelanadu of 27th December 2003
and, since then, shrouded in silence. It is believed that the LTTE suspected
her of links with Tamil opposition groups and, by their action, conveyed
a strong message locally while keeping the option of denial at a distance.
The Murder of the Co-op Manager in Vaharai
Vannamani Sabaratnam (57) was the general manager of the Cooperative
Society in the LTTE-controlled area of Vaharai north of Batticaloa.
A father of 5 children, 3 boys and 2 girls, he had long standing problems
with the LTTE. Having taken over the distribution of government supplies
and rations, the LTTE often substituted inferior rice priced higher.
The people complained to Sabaratnam and Sabaratnam complained to the
LTTE. On 19th December 2003, he was arrested by Kalaivannan of LTTE-intelligence
and taken to their main base in Tharavai.
The LTTE demanded a large sum of money from him, running into several
lakhs of rupees, according to sources close to him. Sabaratnam said
that he did not have the money. He was then asked to aid the LTTE to
help them in various rackets to transfer relief and resources from the
people to LTTE coffers. These include buying rice for distribution from
mills nominated by the LTTE and giving them a cut on rations for refugees.
Upon his refusal, the LTTE demanded a son from him. When he again refused,
he was beaten and killed as his wife Saroja later discovered.
The Rape and Murder in Eravur
Miss. Nishanthini Shanthalingam (17) of the Eravur Tamil Division went
to worship at the Kali temple in the evening of 19th December 2003 and
failed to return home. Three days later, on the 22nd, her body was discovered
in a well close to the border with the Muslim Division. Tensions rose
amid speculation that the deed was done by Muslims. However the speculation
was put to rest when Nishanthini's parents made energetic inquiries
and identified one of the culprits as the Tamil youth Yogarajah Antony
(22). According to local sources there were other accomplices to the
crime, which is said to have included gang rape.
Antony had been in the LTTE for 4 years, and then, from home, worked
under the direction of Brindha Master, the local LTTE intelligence chief.
The Police then moved to arrest Antony. On hearing about it, the LTTE
themselves took Antony to their area and blocked the arrest, giving
the impression that they would punish him themselves. This episode and
the near occurrence of a Muslim-Tamil clash leaves many questions unanswered.
The cases above give us a good idea of how the LTTE and their Police
enforce the law and point to the limitations of the Sri Lankan Police.
The Sri Lankan Police in the North-East: "Thou shalt not provoke"
The Sri Lankan Police are far from being the world's best law enforcement
agency. Political interference in the Police is routine in the South.
In the North-East, the peace process has left them further demoralized
without a shred of dignity. After much protest in the South the Police
arrested Subaraj (Sathyan) in June 2003 for murdering Navasooriyan of
Army Intelligence. The LTTE then abducted two policemen. In a deal brokered
in part by the SLMM, Satyan was granted bail in return for the release
of the two policemen (see Special Report 17). Satyan has about 10 known
murders to his credit. Since then the police have almost routinely covered
up for the LTTE.
In Bulletin No.33, we dealt with the LTTE's murder of several Muslims
near Kinniya including the brutal slaying of 3 Muslim farmers in Naduootru
on 29th November 2003. As in the Kanagampuliyady murders, the instrument
used was the now ubiquitous sword. Senior police officials went to ridiculous
lengths to shield the LTTE.
In Special report No 17 we gave the case of Sathyan and Mathan of the
LTTE who by broad daylight attacked and killed Navaneethan, a labourer
and former member of the EPRLF in Batticaloa Town. No arrest was made.
The situation of the people is so pathetic that the LTTE and its agents
can blissfully have it both ways. Now they are accusing the Sri Lankan
Police of not making any progress in the utterly gruesome Kanagampuliyady
murders. How could they? The North-East has been virtually handed over
to the LTTE, courtesy of the Sri Lankan Government, Norway and our 'International
Community.' How can we talk about monitoring elections? What elections?
5. The LTTE's Independent Elections Commission at Work
In his piece in the Daily Mirror of 11th February, the editor of the
TamilNet sounded very piqued that people spoke of the Tamil National
Alliance as a creature of the LTTE. This, to him, was belittling the
civil society organizations and the Tamil Media, in where he was a key
figure, which stitched the quarrelsome parties together. They shepherded
this bunch, described by him as more inclined 'to run with the hare
and hunt with the hounds'. A few days later he was forced to swallow
his words - once more demonstrating that it is unwise for those who
run with the LTTE to be burdened with a heavy ego.
At a press conference in Killinochi on 17th February given at the close
of a meeting to finalise the TNA's list of candidates LTTE spokesman
Tamil Chelvan made it abundantly clear that the TNA was not merely their
creature, but was the LTTE itself. TamilNet promptly reporting on that
meeting quoted Tamil Chelvan: "We unanimously decided today that
the Tamil people should vote only for the policies of the TNA. This
is the wish of our leader and leadership. The Tamils should unite under
one leadership and one policy for this election". Mr.Sampanthan,
the key functionary of the TNA present was completely overshadowed.
Tamil Chelvan was indeed the de facto president of the TNA.
While Tamil Chelvan was the mouthpiece, neither TamilNet nor the Virakesari
revealed the key (and most menacing) presence at the actual deliberations.
This was the LTTE's intelligence chief and principal killer Pottu Amman.
Pottu's experience in election work included the 'garlanding' of Rajiv
Gandhi while he was campaigning for the Indian elections in 1991 - that
assassination had major repercussions on the region's political history.
His presence and his role in selecting candidates would have given the
other puppets present the haunting message that once you caught the
Tiger by the tail, you are stuck to it for life.
The company present at the TNA meeting had already decided 'unanimously'
what and whom the Tamils should vote for. The TNA policy mentioned by
Tamil Chelvan was the demand for the Interim Self-Governing Authority
(ISGA) proposed by the LTTE. The ISGA envisaged an independent elections
commission for the North-East. This commission was being pre-empted
with Pottu Amman as effective elections commissioner and general secretary
of the TNA, even before the people had voted for it. That vote too is
a forgone conclusion. Pottu Amman is leaving no stone unturned to ensure
We outline the main strategies used by the LTTE to hijack democracy.
1. Use of terror to redesign the political landscape
How the calculated use of terror affects the society at its core is
very subtle and hard to pin down, although its wounds are very deep
and septic. Its effects on the parliamentary political landscape, though
just the thin end of the wedge are easier to discern. The political
landscape in the North-East was devastated by the LTTE's 'cleansing'
of thousands of opponents over the years. Once individuals in politics
realise that trying to maintain any semblance of independence from the
LTTE can be fatal, it can bring about a variety of reactions. Among
· The more honourable sort simply moved out of politics
· Many with an established vote base tried to make deals with
the LTTE to stay in politics. In time they became complete pawns, as
with several of the leading TULF members. To be charitable, one might
describe it as the kind of religious conversion that comes under conditions
of extreme fear.
· Several former opponents of the LTTE whose prospects in regular
parliamentary politics were very dim and risky grabbed at an offer from
the LTTE. All had had close colleagues murdered by them. But they found
that aligning themselves with the LTTE was an easy road to parliamentary
fame. The path was made even easier by having the LTTE's terror on their
side against their former friends and colleagues. Among these were groups
such as TELO and EPRLF (Suresh Wing) or theACTC, a non-entity in parliamentary
politics, which went under the LTTE's umbrella and obtained two parliamentary
seats in Jaffna. It was all deceptively easy.
Terror gave the LTTE many options to break up political parties and
ultimately swallow them. In 1999 Suresh Premachandran the general secretary
of the EPRLF (who had the party's funds) made a deal with the LTTE and
summoned a central committee meeting in an LTTE dominated area, where
only his cronies could safely attend. The party split as a result, and
his opponents were financially ruined.
Pro-LTTE members of the TULF led by Sampanthan, Pararajasingam and
Mavai Senathirajah tried to repeat the trick last year in an effort
to oust the President Mr. Anandasangaree, having failed in two earlier
attempts. Anandasangaree moved quickly to get a court injunction and
stop them. Having asserted his independence from the LTTE in recent
times, he is fielding an independent list in Jaffna at great risk.
The disparate elements that came under the LTTE were moulded into the
Tamil National Alliance just ahead of elections in 2001. But their path
was not paved with gold despite the regular penance of compulsory pilgrimages
to HQ in Killinochchi and taking oaths of fidelity and performing obeisance
before Prabhakaran in person or photographic proxy.
For the 2004 elections, under Pottu Amman's guidance, neophytes wavering
in their enthusiasm were dropped from lists of candidates for the TNA,
which are now dominated by persons tested for their subservience to
According to sources close to the LTTE, TELO remnants and the Suresh
Faction have been directly brought under Pottu Amman to function as
new intelligence outfits. Houses have been bought in Jaffna for these
outfits and monies for them are disbursed by Pottu Amman himself. According
to these sources Suresh Premachandran had several meetings with Pottu
Amman in connection with the formation of these outfits. It is thought
that such outfits would be more effective in gathering information on
dissidents and remnants of left-leaning circles close to the EPRLF.
Effect on choice of candidates before the People
Political parties that could challenge the LTTE have been decimated.
TULF, the largest party has been all but destroyed and only Anandasangaree's
court injunction prevented the TNA from appropriating its rising sun
symbol. Original TULF members are mere shadows in current TNA lists;
only two in Jaffna and one in Batticaloa have managed to survive. Owing
to the ubiquitous presence of the LTTE killer machine, some opposition
groups decided not to stand for election at all.
A leader of an opposition group despaired, "What is the meaning
in our putting forward a list of candidates for election, when we don't
have money even to pay for their funerals, leave alone care for their
widows and children?"
Had there been some little opening for the expression of the people's
will, Anandasangaree (leading independently the section of the TULF
commanding a clear majority in the central committee and the TULF support
base) would have shamed the LTTE's claim to represent the Tamil people.
The Batticaloa District has a solid TULF base, and among the TULF supporters
there is widespread disenchantment with the LTTE hijacking the TULF
and suffocating it within the TNA. Anandasangaree had planned to field
a list of candidates in Batticaloa, but had to drop the idea when the
candidates decided that they could not risk their life.
After the TNA submitted its nominations in the Jaffna Kacheri, Political
Commissar Illamparathy summoned the candidates to a meeting. Ilamparithy
flatteringly addressed them as MPs - a prospect too good to be true.
Ilamparithy put any apprehensions to rest by guaranteeing their election,
adding that they know how to ensure it. He then delivered the bitter
pill. Once they are elected they must speak for Tamil Eelam.
Facilitating interference in the election
The state is not an innocent by-stander. To guarantee the result of
the election, the UNP government went a long way in giving the LTTE
control over the government machinery including the elections office
and the Postal Department through which polling cards are distributed.
What's more, among the list of TNA candidates for Jaffna is Gajendran,
leader of the 'International Students' Organisation' who played a leading
role in preventing the opening of the Jaffna Public Library . At the
2001 elections, he was at the lead of mobilising the students of the
University of Jaffna in a massive polling cards fraud. About 20 000
polling cards of absentee, deceased, and displaced residents were collected
and cast for selected TNA candidates. This time at least Gajendran will
not do the donkey's work for someone else to walk away with the prize.
Nevertheless the LTTE is not taking chances. The oppressor must live
with the fear that the worm will turn. Who imagined that a section of
the TULF would be driven to defy the LTTE? Besides, killing is addictive.
The LTTE is condemned to see real threats to their hegemony in the dim
shadows of dissent rather than to look within.
6. The Unending trail of murder and terror
We began this bulletin with by examining the massacre of the family
at Kanagampuliyady, with other murders both obvious and mysterious,
depending on how deep one wishes to go, and the deception and media
deceit surrounding such events. These indicate the atmosphere in which
elections are being held. The LTTE's long and short term preparations
described above hold out the promise of more violence, deception and
deceit to come.
Incredibly, in addition to an independent elections commission, the
LTTE's ISGA proposals envisage an independent human rights commission.
This commission is now having its trial run in the statements issued
by 'civil society organisations', which have a curious resemblance to
the line aired by TamilNet.
Criminal Violence by the LTTE
While violence by the LTTE used to be largely political, we have noticed
a significant rise in the number of reported incidents that appear to
be purely criminal. Some of the current victims are believed to be persons
who worked with the LTTE in rackets such as smuggling stolen vehicles
into the Vanni and now being investigated by the Police.
4th January 2004: 10.00 AM: Vavuniya: Balasubramaniam Ajanthan (25)
shot dead by the LTTE in Pattakadu near his home. A native of Allaveddy,
Jaffna, the victim had resided in Vavuniya for 6 months and was then
returning from the temple. The food that had been ceremonially sanctified
was scattered on the street.
4th January: 8.00PM: Vavuniya: Jeyam (27), auto driver and father of
two children was shot dead in Pandarikulam. The victim who hailed from
Batticaloa was a police constable under interdiction.
13th January: Vallai: Jaffna: Sundaramoorthy Sooriyamoorthy (52) was
found strangled to death in the Vallai Moor, an isolated open space
that has to be crossed by wayfarers between Jaffna and Vadamaratchy.
A native of Theeruvil, Valvettithurai, the victim owned a grocery shop
in Valvettithurai from where the LTTE leader hails.
According to local sources, Sooriyamoorthy had shown opposition to
the frequent stoppages and closures demanded by the LTTE. It is notable
that this murder took place about the same time as the Kanagampuliyady
and Manthuvil murders recorded earlier.
17th January: Vavuniya: The body of the youth Dilip was found hanging
inVaarikkuttiyar after he was beaten to death. Dilip was a member of
the EPDP. Dilip's father Sridhar had been in the EPRLF. According to
local sources, an entire family had been killed by the LTTE during the
late 1980s on suspicion of having harboured Sridhar, who too was later
17th January: Colombo: Daniel Sathasivam, the owner of a communication
centre near Dehiwala Junction was shot dead on the premises by members
of a pistol group.
A change of pattern: An interlude of child conscription
The sudden upsurge of murder, which peaked in mid-January tapered off
into reports of a new round of child conscription. Specific instances
appeared on web sites largely based on complaints made to the Police
or the Army by family members. We give some instances of these reports:
28th January: Nagalingam Nagarasa (15) of Kalmadu, Vavuniya, was abducted
by the LTTE
8th February: Kalyanakumar Sritharan (14) of Building 10, of Poonthottam
Refugee Camp, Vavuniya, was abducted by LTTE men who came in a trishaw.
The boy escaped a few days later and surrendered to the Police.
12th February: Edwin Vijayakumar (12) of Kanniya, Trincomalee, was
abducted by an LTTE group led by the area leader who came on motorcycles.
16th February: The Army website reported the abduction of two children
aged 13 and 14 on their way back form school in Alankerni, Kinniya.
The Army appears to have spoken to the parents, but said that they had
not complained formally.
Once these reports started coming out, the LTTE obliged the UNICEF
and earned a few good points by releasing a couple of dozen children
(a tiny fraction of those caught no doubt) to the UNICEF-TRO (LTTE)
run transit centres, which were becoming an embarrassment to the UNOCEF
after they were opened in early October 2003 (See Sp. Rep 17 and Bulletin
7. A Return to the Elections
The LTTE and election related violence:
The LTTE began abducting real or suspected members and supporters of
opposition groups in the East as nominations were under way. The following
15th February: Varnakulasuriyam (45) of Vipulananda Street, Valaichenai
16th February: Somasundaram Suguneswaran (30) of Temple Street, Veeramunai,
was a member of the EPRLF, and owing to financial difficulties joined
the EPDP three months earlier and was posted in Vavuniya. Abducted by
the LTTE while on a visit to 14th Colony, Mandur.
18th February: Shanmugarajah Vijayakanthan (17) of Murungan Temple
Street, Kottayankerni, Valaichenai
20th February: Sinnathamby Nagendran (28), Amarasingam Street, Araiampathy,
EPDP supporter and former member of TELO.
24th February: Two LTTE men went to the home of Valli Sundaram (61)
in Manipay and asked a relative whether he was Mahendran Sundaram on
Mr. Anandasangary's independent list. They went away after warning Sundaram's
wife Nageswary (55) and daughter Sumithra, who came out on hearing the
commotion, to tell Sundaram to be careful. Sundaram was in fact a local
councillor associated with the EPRLF and no name on Ananadasangary's
list bears any resemblance to Mahendran or Sundaram. But an EPRLF member
is contesting on the EPDP list. Sundaram later told the SLMM who came
in response to a complaint that he was afraid to stay at home since
the men on the motor cycle regularly hovered around.
26th February: A van hired by the EPDP for election work was completely
gutted near Mannar Hospital Junction before dawn. A sword had been left
behind at the spot by the arsonists.
28th February: The LTTE visited a close relative of Thurairajah Bhaskaran
in Mnaipay, and demanded his Colombo address. Bhaskaran, editor of the
Thinamurasu, is on the EPDP's electoral list for Jaffna.
28th February: Members of the LTTE's Auxiliary Force went tot the home
of Vellupillai Sinnathurai, in Killiveddy, about 6.00 PM and demanded
that they search the house for one of their members who escaped. Sinnathurai's
wife Baby Nona and sister Manjuladevi who lived there with his 3 female
children, 8 years and below, objected. The two women were then severely
assaulted by the LTTE. Sinnathurai, being the Trincomalee area leader
of the EPRLF is forced to live in town and is not a candidate this time,
but the party line is to support alternatives to the LTTE.
The incidents above illustrate the carefully calculated nature of the
campaign being directed by the LTTE hierarchy. Although the TNA candidates
are very much part of this violence, they would feign complete innocence
despite TNA's Sampanthan telling the Press soon after nominations that
they are fighting the LTTE's battle. One would as time goes lose count
of the number of times the TNA candidates bowed, paid obeisance and
swore oaths before Prabhakaran's photograph.
Given the reality where parties and party workers opposed to the LTTE
are being beaten, intimidated and abducted to prevent them conducting
any kind of campaign, even in the government-controlled area, the LTTE
demanded polling booths to be set up in areas under its control. It
has warned of serious consequences if its demand was not granted. We
reliably understand that the Norwegian government too pushed for it,
without any guarantee that it would not amount to a clean heist.
Leave alone the fact that those having differences with the LTTE must
expect the worst in going to these areas; the SLMM's monitoring mandate
does not cover LTTE-controlled areas. Peacemakers today are so bankrupt
that they have no ideas except to repeat 'Don't provoke the LTTE'. Apart
from the absence of any open opposition campaign in the LTTE-controlled
area, the news is so controlled that people living there are commonly
not aware of any symbol other than TNA's house.
The people in LTTE-controlled areas should be given the right to vote
under conditions where the exercise of the vote is meaningful. That
requires placing some preconditions before the LTTE. Many so-called
Sinhalese intellectuals turn a blind eye to the context and speak of
this right to vote as though the Tamils were barbarians who only understand
and deserve Tiger-democracy. By advocating for the Tamils something
that would raise their indignation if inflicted on the Sinhalese, they
make no secret of their contempt for the Tamil people.
Ironically, the TNA manifesto calls for a closing down sale of the
community lock, stock, and barrel by voting for the LTTE as its sole
representatives. The LTTE is pre-empting it with the help of the international
8. Elections and the International Community
It requires no massacre. It takes only a few selected killings for
the LTTE to determine the fate of the elections by scaring off candidates
and their supporters. The international community is going to monitor
these elections and make important pronouncements. It is also their
obligation to reflect on their own role. It is not hard to see that
they have contributed much to the growing turbulence in Sri Lanka.
Despite the many faults of the Kumaratunge government, its attempt
to bring about a constitutional resolution to the basic conflict had
significant merit, and should have been supported. But although this
was the longstanding Tamil aspiration, the LTTE did not want it and
the UNP of Ranil Wickremasighe saw some narrow political advantage in
undermining such a resolution. As the 1999 presidential election drew
near, the peace lobbies backed by the West and the UNP presidential
aspirant advocated the same line - appeasement of the LTTE. This was
clearly reflected in the document where the National Alliance for Peace
addressed questions to the candidates pointing to recognition of the
LTTE as sole representatives along the road to peace. This was also
candidate Wickremasinghe's line. The fate of the Tamil people in such
an arrangement was not considered.
These same peace lobbies doubled up as civil society organisations
leading election-monitoring groups, wielding considerable influence
in guiding foreign monitors. A number of them showed their distinct
UNP bias and their unconcealed contempt for Tamils who opposed the LTTE.
Such powerful links helped the UNP to deceitfully undermine President
Kumaratunge's efforts at a constitutional settlement and get away with
Out of all these manoeuvrings came the misnamed "peace process"
of early 2002. Backed by the West, it was executed in the double-tongued,
secretive spirit in which deals had been struck with the LTTE. The Norwegians
should have known better. They should have recognised the obvious risks
in disregarding constitutional propriety and sidelining the President
(who despite her party's numerical disadvantage in parliament maintained
decisive executive power). They disregarded the democratically minded
Tamils, but even more dangerous, they ignored the rising humiliation
and unease felt by the Sinhalese-Buddhist majority. Moreover, by trying
to build peace through strengthening a force that suppresses its people
in the name of national self-determination, the Norwegians have helped
to catalyse fragmentation by actors playing the regional card in a similar
fashion as Karuna has done.
And here we are today. The North-East is being rendered a desert where
people are thirsting for the bare essentials of a moral human existence.
The South is restive. The skewed peace process following in the wake
of aggressive globalization has left the Sinhalese Buddhists, the majority
of whom were essentially open to a genuine federal solution, feeling
robbed of something that is fundamentally to do with their existence.
When demagogues speak mischievously of a Western-Christian conspiracy
to secure votes, they are on fertile ground. The nation is paying a
Through all this Ranil Wickremasinghe, who is being promoted by the
Western media as the champion of peace, has played the 'slippery' politician,
as several foreign correspondents have known him over the years. He
came to a secret understanding with the LTTE, ditched President Kumaratunge's
proposed constitution at the 11th hour, and flirted with Sinhalese extremists
who opposed the constitution as giving too much to the Tamils. His peace
process was stalled, ironically because the LTTE did not did not want
to discuss a federal solution that was never part of any of their deals.
Wickremasinghe had no options left except a covert surrender of the
North-East. Finally, the people of the North-East are left very much
on their own.
The steps towards the President's call for snap elections were propelled
by the new alliance between the PA and the JVP. The increasing popular
support for the PA, for the JVP and for a push towards the alliance
reflects a critical mishandling of the peace process by the UNP (UNF),
the international community and the peace NGOs. All of them, deliberately
or by default, failed to advance a broader peace process that would
involve all political parties. There was limited discussion in the public
sphere about the kind of political solution the people envisioned. Rather
than appeal to the people's sense of fair play, the peace deal and the
LTTE's conditions for an ISGA were presented as fait accompli decided
by the power brokers of this world.
Sinhalese chauvinism in the South has been on the ascendant in reaction
to perceived humiliation and the LTTE's unchecked breaches of the cease-fire.
The combined force of these developments, the mood in the South, and
the clumsy manner in which the PA and the President were sidelined,
led to the President seizing several key ministries, and in turn, the
Norwegians withdrawing from their facilitatory role and the Prime Minister
causing unwanted panic by questioning the validity of the cease-fire
agreement. The stalemate precipitated elections after the PA hurriedly
sew up an alliance with the obscurantist JVP, which left the alliance's
solution to the ethnic conflict in a welter of confusion.
Faced with a hostile international community suspicious of the alliance's
attitude to globalization and the JVP's readiness to make populist use
of an outmoded chauvinism and its influence over labour unions in power
games, a prospective PA-led government after April 2nd may be haunted
by the decisions it made in the last few months. On the other hand,
as often happens to obscurantist forces, the JVP may once more demonstrate
its capacity to somersault. The contrast between its implacable verbal
hostility to India in the latter 1980s and its very deferential attitude
to India today has largely gone unnoticed.
9. The Failure of Tamil Parliamentary Politics
The Tigers' hopes of a clean sweep at the elections have been threatened
by the unexpected defiance of the TULF leader Anandasangaree in putting
up an independent list. In going step-by-step using his office as party
president, he played his cards with notable acumen exposing his detractors
as spineless tools of the LTTE. The LTTE's terror succeeded in confining
the threat to Jaffna. Most of the candidates on his list are living
exposed in their homes in Jaffna without protection. Among them is Chellan
Kandaiyan, former mayor of Jaffna, who defied the LTTE that prevented
him from opening the rehabilitated Jaffna Public Library. Significantly,
T. Subarthiran of the EPRLF who was constantly at Kandiayan's side strengthening
him, was assassinated by the LTTE last June (our Special Rep. No 16
and statement on Subthiran).
What was disappointing was the failure of the other Tamil opposition
groups to answer the urgent need of the hour, drop their outmoded acronyms
whose relevance ended in 1986, and come together as a democratic alternative.
This happened largely because of grand delusions of the EPDP leadership,
still giving priority to the commerce of parliamentary politics. These
parties coming together as a clear democratic alternative would have
given the people some hope. The public would however be bemused by any
call from the EPDP for clean elections. By playing Little Jack Horner
at this juncture, the EPDP leader has done a great disservice to democratically
minded members of all opposition groups, including his own, who are
all now facing the full brunt of Pottu Amman's legions.
The TNA candidates have shown themselves to be below contempt by fighting
the elections largely on the strength of the Tigers' determination to
exterminate their opponents. LTTE political leader Tamil Chelvan told
journalists recently that once elected, the job of the TNA MPs will
be to secure for the Tigers the position of sole representatives. However,
their methods illuminate what they really think of their acceptance
among the people.
The events on the ground portend very clearly that the elections in
the North-East would be so foul, murderous and one sided to even remotely
reflect the people's choice.
10. What the Monitors can do
At present it looks as though the LTTE would get through most of its
killing before foreign monitors are even on the ground. The best they
can do now is to arrive early and start interacting with the candidates
and their supporters.
More importantly they should learn from their past mistakes and understand
that the attack on democracy and the effective rigging of elections
has been going on methodically for a long time. Further, foreign monitors
are under no political compulsion to give legitimacy to the Tigers'
attempt to use 'democracy' to climb into the seat of power and kick
the ladder as Hitler did. It is important that the legitimacy they seek
as 'sole representatives' should be denied.
However shamefully sensational the election violence by the major parties
in the South, it should not detract from the fact that the violence
in the North-East is qualitatively of a different order. A number of
gangsters and criminals will be entering Parliament in the South. Several
of them infamously demonstrated their prowess in July 1983. But they
were far from ending democracy, free expression or the prospect of reform.
In comparison to all these gangsters from the South put together, even
the more urbane and even 'non-violent' TNA candidates are a far greater
menace to society. Apart from the insidious violence of their election,
they stand for the ending of all democracy and the sanctioning of institutionalised
murder, child conscription and plunder of those with little in life
besides their children. Nevertheless Karuna's move must have left them
with a feeling of now adding fire-walking to the penances they perform
before the Leader.
11. Karuna's Move
A number of issues that were suppressed during a time of war have reemerged
in the East under the cease-fire. The LTTE's conduct has exacerbated
older feelings of being exploited by a Jaffna-based elite. It is not
the far graver issue of mass child conscription that was brazenly inflicted
on Batticaloa by Karuna himself in 2001 that touched off this resentment.
The elites, whether in Jaffna or Batticaloa, have shown themselves largely
inured to such matters, which afflicted mainly the poor, the utterly
helpless and the widows from two decades of war and despoliation. The
issue was rather the division of spoils from aid and aid agencies among
the elites. The new elite is not in Jaffna or Batticaloa, but in the
Vanni - the top ranks of the LTTE and their hangers on - and the crop
of government agencies and NGOs, mainly based in Colombo, that channel
or service this aid. It seemed a good recipe to consolidate the peace
process sans democracy.
To give one example related by well-placed citizens in Batticaloa,
an NGO formulated a project where Karuna as well as some leading citizens
were on the board. As part of the project several scores of vehicles
were obtained for development work in Batticaloa. All the vehicles,
these persons said, ended up in the Vanni. These persons were sitting
with Karuna and writing projects while Karuna's other child conscription
enterprises did not touch them as much as the vehicles going to the
A leaflet put out by Karuna on 4th March set out his faction's grievances
against the Vanni leadership. Among them are: Exclusion of the Batticaloa-Amparai
District from development work in spite of the region's highly disproportionate
contribution to the LTTE's war effort (4,550 killed in mainly Northern
battles); Northern leaders who head all 30 departments living in luxury
while 600 Eastern cadres posted far from home man bunker lines and provide
security for them; Northern leadership demanding the dispatch of thousands
of more Eastern cadres to the North in order to prepare for war; Intelligence
Unit cadres under Pottu Amman unleashing murder and plunder in the East.
Most of these grievances struck a responsive chord among people in
Batticaloa-Amparai. Residents contacted by us said that things were
strangely calm initially, with no open displays, but people are agitated
within. And with good reason. Prabhakaran's killer machine is around
and nearly all Eastern commanders obeyed the Leader's orders to move
to the Vanni, including Kausalyan (political leader), Keerthi (intelligence),
Ram (military) and Senathy (town area leader). Karuna's deputy Ramesh
went subsequently, while Karuna went into hiding in the interior reflecting
By 6th March, however, there were public demonstrations in Batticaloa-Amparai,
which, even when not openly critical of Prabhakaran, were broadly supportive
of the issues raised by Karuna and urged the Leader to settle matters
peacefully. The elite too in turn had crisis meetings and moved to approach
the Leader for an amicable settlement. For the first time there was
open discussion of many issues.
Meanwhile in an interview with the BBC Tamil Service on 7th March,
Karuna stated that as a condition for a settlement, Prabhakaran should
remove his intelligence chief Pottu Amman, financial chief Thamilenthi
and police chief P. Nadesan. A democratic reform group could hardly
have pitched a more apt demand.
What tipped the scales?
Karuna emerged as the hero of the Northern military offensive that
pushed back the Sri Lankan Army from large chunks of territory in the
North between November 1999 and May 2000, culminating in the conquest
of Elephant Pass and the near fall of Jaffna. He was a trusted commander
of Prabhakaran who was posted back to Batticaloa in December 2000 to
undertake the rebuilding of the LTTE's depleted ranks. To this end Karuna
launched forced, especially child, conscription from August 2001 (our
Bulletins 26 - 28), making it compulsory for each family to give a child
'voluntarily'. Karuna's leaflet above says sheepishly, "Parents
from the district had voluntarily given their sons and daughters to
the LTTE to safeguard their district. And it was to respect the assurances
given to the parents and to use the cadres for development work in the
district that the order to send the troops [to the North] was not carried
Karuna was also pampered by Prabhakaran and did more than his share
for the ruin of the East. He was ambitious to consolidate his grip on
his own area, Valaichenai - Kiran and on the eve of his return to Batticaloa,
Nimalan Soundaranayagam, newly elected MP from that area, was assassinated
on his orders (see below). At the next elections a year later, on Karuna's
instructions his uncle and UNP organizer Kumaraguru was placed by then
political leader Karikalan in the TULF list for Batticaloa. Kumaraguru
polled very badly. Karuna's brother and area leader Reggie was given
a virtual monopoly of the seafood trade in the Vaharai - Kalkuda area.
Karuna's hand was also evident in the violent repression of the large
Muslim population in the area (our Sp. Reps. 14 - 17). Thus Karuna's
blaming Pottu Amman for all the murder and pillage needs to be taken
with a pinch of salt.
Where then did the problem arise? Karuna's prestige and Prabhakaran's
heavy dependence on his conscripts to carry out his Eelam agenda had
made Karuna, a relatively junior man, into a major force in the organization.
His own ambitions too needed to be watched in an organization where
the main cement is fear. Prabhakaran enforces this by what one may term
informal decentralisation. Thus among intelligence cadres posted in
the area for example, many may be in practice Karuna's men. But there
would be others, who known or unknown to Karuna would have been Pottu
Amman or Prabhakaran loyalists.
We recorded for example in Sp.Rep.14 that Pottu Amman spent some time
in Batticaloa from late April 2002 supervising arrangements for conscription,
intelligence gathering, targeting of opponents and planting spies, assassins
and suicide operatives in Colombo. Whatever the tensions between them,
Karuna worked closely with him. The Batticaloa TNA list was finalised
at Karuna's office, but Northern leaders too would have had their say
in it. These parallel and joint operations by persons with diverse loyalties
are necessary for Prabhakaran's ultimate control, but are pregnant with
tensions that could blow out of proportion when there are serious differences.
Those in the North-East come across situations where they are questioned
by LTTE intelligence operatives, but later find that the local intelligence
men knew nothing and are annoyed about it.
Murder operations often involve a multiplicity of actors and are designed
to hide the source. On 8th November 2000, Nimalan Soundaranayagam answered
a call to meet local military commander Nagesh, a man under Karuna,
in the Kiran area. It being a rainy day, Nagesh persuaded Nimalan to
wear a helmet and jacket given by him. On the way back he was shot dead
by gunmen who were outsiders. The people identified the local LTTE man
who acted as pointer, and Karuna as the one who gave the order. But
the killers from outside were very likely from Pottu Amman's Intelligence
Karuna's statements indicate that the main difference with Prabhakaran
arose over his reluctance to send additional cadres to the North. Even
indirectly Karuna would have constantly faced pressures from parents
demanding to see their children and he had conscripted so many. Finally
when the two elections-related murders took place on 1st March, the
Vanni leadership would have come under pressure with the media citing
Tamil Chelvan's statement banning Southern parties from contesting.
Karuna's name would have come up in the internal blame game - an additional
point in the charge sheet summoning him to HQ. Except for the timing
the murders were not an issue for Prabhakaran or Karuna.
The scales were tipped. Believing that the Intelligence Wing had orders
to bring him in, Karuna sent away all officers from the North. From
the experience of Mahattaya and Karikalan he knew that if he went North,
he would not come back for a long time if at all he did. The politician
in him emerged. In a populist vein he contacted the press. And he blamed
all the murders on Pottu Amman and listed the grievances of the Batticaloa-Amparai
people, which as his letter to Prabhakaran of 2nd March indicates, he
had never raised before. The letter says: "Because of the reverence
in which we hold you, we have borne our hurt in silence. But now the
problems have become very grave
" He demanded total autonomy
with no Northerners holding office in his domain - something suicidal
for Prabhakaran to accede to.
12. The Crack and its significance for Human Rights
Whether or not Karuna survives, a wide crack has appeared in the LTTE's
façade. The disarming of Eastern cadres in the North has placed
the organization on the same road, which led to its bloodying Tamil
- Muslim relations. The crack may also provide opportunities. Karuna
may be reaching out to his former adversaries for his survival - the
Muslims for example. It is time to move on demanding democratic safeguards
for all other sections in the East and the release of child conscripts.
It would have positive repercussions in the North.
The opportunity provided by this break would be wasted if there were
no decisive movement towards a political settlement. At the root of
the problem is the history of violence directed by the State and the
failure to reach a political settlement. If the apparent weakening of
the LTTE is seen as an occasion to play with the question of a political
settlement, history is bound to repeat itself. Provoking reprisal violence
against Tamil civilians is the most ready means by which the LTTE has
asserted its status as the only hope of the Tamils.
There are many reasons why the Sri Lankan and other governments will
tread warily with regard to Karuna's appeals for help. The two year
cease-fire has been well-used by the LTTE to enhance its potential for
terror in the South. But other organizations should have more flexibility.
13. A Dangerous and Tenuous Triumph
At one level the Tigers have outsmarted everyone. Foreign envoys who
were confident of taming the LTTE and 'engaged' with it, are now practically
doing its bidding. Its crimes are accepted in the name of preserving
peace. It earns tens of millions of dollars monthly from protection
rackets among expatriate Tamils and extorts unbearably huge sums from
people in the North-East. Yet its laughable claim that the North-East
suffers from poverty and lack of development solely because of government
neglect, is readily pandered to. To longtime observers, the LTTE's power
looked limitless. The LTTE has set a blazing precedent for other forces
to twist the foibles of the world order to their advantage. This was
the LTTE's hour of triumph.
But it is nervous. It is fearful - and with good reason. Time and advancing
years will not be kind to its leaders, who are long past the age of
being pin-up figures. Cracks are beginning to appear. We see increasingly
among crimes committed by LTTE cadres those of a personal and petty
criminal nature. The break that came with Karuna's rebellion illustrates
the danger constantly present in the politics of hubris.
The LTTE's leader-centred politics in the absence of human values or
basic moral inhibitions left fear as the only basis for cohesion. Its
ideological intolerance and readiness to kill on the slightest pretext
did not allow people to be normal human beings who are permitted to
make mistakes, learn from them and correct themselves. It has left everyone
a hypocrite and everyone a traitor.
Karuna is a living example. He was an archetypal hero, the group's
most publicised military champion. Yet the human substance was weak.
He also proved himself the archetypal "traitor." (to use the
LTTE's own menacing words). In everyone in this society, the arch-hero
and the arch-traitor cohabit the same human frame. All know it - from
the TNA candidates to the editor of TamilNet.
Persons from the generation of the LTTE leaders who challenged them
are tired or dead. The leaders have however failed to steal the community's
history. A rising generation will hold them to account for their crimes.
Prabhakaran has atrophied within the closed world he fashioned for
himself. Far more to blame are the professors, priests and professionals
who have provided the sophistication and urbane veneer to what would
otherwise have been yet another movement built on a leader with a millennial
ideology, known best for the kind of brutality witnessed at Kanagampuliayady
The Worms Turn
In the Tamil polity that seemed stone dead, we are suddenly witnessing
some apparently suicidal or desperate acts of courage that have become
a major headache for the LTTE. At one end we have Anadasangaree and
a number of fellow candidates placing their lives on the line, openly
defying the LTTE. The same holds for younger candidates from other groups
who refused to be cowed by the LTTE.
It raises some interesting questions. Norway gave transmitters to the
LTTE as though they were having problems in making themselves heard
and needed help to disseminate their ideas of peace. Will the Norwegians
now do something for those ready to challenge them? Will they take the
initiative to at least allow a few campaign meetings in the Vanni to
be held in security, at least to let the people know what the parties
stand for and their election symbols?
Might is Right has been the basis on which the Norwegian-brokered MoU
was framed. Repeated appeals by others that it needed revision because
it in effect gave open sanction for the LTTE to consolidate its terror
in the government-controlled areas went unheared. Those who had to flee
their homes into abject misery owing to the LTTE's violence, or to protect
their children from its abduction gangs, were simply ignored.
There have never been any real openings for those who deserted from
the LTTE. They were an embarrassment. Hardly anyone wanted to know they
existed. Money was where one wanted to pander to the LTTE as part of
globally sponsored appeasement. Its victims who were badly in need of
help were not a force to reckon with from the donors' and Norway's point
of view. Now Karuna, whatever the future holds for him, has breached
the dam. One way or the other it has created an opening for many more
worms to turn. The so far imaginary "Third Force" might finally
put on flesh. A demand for revision of the MoU has reemerged. Will now
at least giving human rights its due place in dealing with such questions
replace the folly of blind appeasement of brute force?
The advice Tamil Chelvan received from LTTE ideologue Balasingam in
London, after which he said that Southern parties would not be allowed
to contest, heralded the murder of political opponents. It in turn triggered
the LTTE's present crisis. From London Balasingam has repeatedly talked
about 'garlanding' opponents (as they did Rajiv Gandhi!). Will the British
government finally stop playing games with him, and, in the name of
democracy at least, show some concern for the 'snakes' (priority opponents)
and 'rattle-snakes' (non-priority opponents) he talks about?