[A statement issued by
University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna), Sri Lanka]
Date of Release: 30th March 2004
Averting a Blood Spill in
The LTTE is being challenged as never before. Its outmoded reliance
on violence to maintain political control over a frightened and beleaguered
population has worn thin. Tamil politicians, journalists and ordinary
members of the public are openly defying the LTTE's blatant death
threats, and more importantly, many are surviving. But the LTTE will
not go down without a fight. It is up to all democratic forces - in
Sri Lanka and in the international community -- to ensure that these
dissident voices continue to be heard, and that the LTTE death squads
are not allowed to carry out its leaders' murderous intentions. It
is particularly critical that, whatever the outcome of the election,
the UNF and the UPFA commit to work together towards a political solution
and acknowledge the urgent need for that process to be one that promotes
The LTTE (or LTTE(P), the main faction led by Prabhakaran) in its
address to the cadres and divisional heads of the Batticaloa-based
breakaway faction headed by Karuna, made a declaration of intent to
kill, not just Karuna but anyone who supports him.
It has been decided to get rid of Karuna from the soil. Our cadres
should comprehend Karuna's treachery and keep away from him. Anybody
who opposed disciplinary action against Karuna will be considered
a traitor to the Tamil national cause
Based on the understanding
that all the cadres enrolled themselves in the movement accepting
the leadership of Mr. Veluppillai Prabaharan and that the parents
entrusted their children on this basis, we request that the cadres
who are with Karuna now, without knowing the truth, should abandon
him. Our National Leader has granted them permission to
their families. In spite of the above advice, if any of the cadres
decide to arm in favour of Karuna, he/she would be deemed responsible
for the consequences. The demise of such a cadre will not be with
the honour of a martyr (TamilNet 25th Mar. 2004)
These are particularly chilling words when viewed against the historical
backdrop of massacres, vendetta killings of soft targets and mass
disappearances that have littered the LTTE's unfinished journey to
sole representative status. The recent assassination attempts on Mr.
Thiruchelvam of the Eastern University's academic staff and Batticaloa's
Government agent Mr. Mounagurusamy evoke the spiralling murders of
civilians the LTTE committed to prevent the Indian Army from restoring
normality after it took control of Jaffna in 1987. We might recall
the murder in 1989 of Mr. Panchalingam, GA Jaffna, whose crime was
to hold town-planning meetings in Indian Army administered Jaffna.
There too the LTTE viewed as treasonous (and therefore punishable
by death) non-violent efforts to improve the welfare of the region
that might benefit an opponent.
The civilians in the East have suffered terribly at the hands of
government forces, especially from 1984 to 1992. But what they suffered
at the hands of the LTTE apart from being numerically comparable was
more tragic, ironical and left the deepest wounds. To the people (and
often the LTTE cadres) of the East, these were utterly unwanted. When
the LTTE massacred members of the Tamil group TELO in 1986, the LTTE
leadership in Batticaloa opposed the action and appealed to the top
leadership to take account of the vulnerability of Tamils in the East.
Then too Prabhakaran removed his critic rather than addressing the
complaint. In a move reminiscent of the LTTE now replacing the suspect
Eastern leader Paduman of Trincomalee with a Northern henchman Sornam,
in 1986 it sent the Jaffna-born Kumarappa to attack the TELO in Batticaloa.
Early strains among Eastern leaders became evident when local LTTE-leader
Kadavul left heartbroken. Another leader, Francis, already a broken
man, died at the hands of the Indian Army in early 1988.
Ironically, the LTTE holds up Paramadeva of Batticaloa who died in
action in 1982 as an early example of Eastern devotion to the LTTE
leader. What they do not mention is that the LTTE treacherously murdered
Paramadeva's brother Vasudeva of the PLOTE in 1987, following which
the indignant mother of the deceased brothers stormed into the nearest
LTTE office, pulled down the Tiger flag and ripped it to pieces.
The LTTE never thought twice about inflicting death on the people
of the East for its own ends. In 1990 it contrived massive reprisals
against Tamil civilians in the East by murdering hundreds of disarmed
Sinhalese and Muslim policemen and massacring innocent Muslim civilians.
It used the chaos to recruit cadres in the East to fight its northern
battles. A third of the 429 (Report No.13) cadres who died in the
Pooneryn attack of November 1993 were from the East.
The LTTE(P) leadership today cunningly advises Eastern cadres under
Karuna to go home, playing on the deep anguish of their families.
Going home is an option the cadres will not have whether in the LTTE(P)
or the LTTE(K). Given the forcible methods of recruitment in both
the North and the East particularly since September 2001, and the
high rate of desertion, home leave has been almost entirely disallowed.
It is such recruits who will be sacrificed in any internal bloodletting.
The LTTE knows no other way to deal with dissent other than through
sheer brutality. Knowing this record the families of often very young
cadres are torn between unpromising alternatives and their voices
have never been heard. In 1986 the LTTE reached agreement with students
in the University of Jaffna to call off their very effective protest
over the student Vijitharan who was abducted by the LTTE. Once the
students ended their protest and dispersed, the LTTE hunted the leaders,
several of whom were eventually killed. The same year it reached agreement
with the PLOTE in Jaffna to disband itself. A number of its members
were then arrested and killed over the coming years. The same fate
befell members of the Theepori and other Left groups who never actively
opposed the LTTE.
Of particular relevance to the East was conscript Tamil National
Army made up of youths who only wanted to go home when the Indian
Army and allied Tamil groups abandoned them in 1989. The LTTE simply
massacred them by the hundreds in the East, including 300 in Batticaloa
town, whose corpses like refuse were carried away in municipal garbage
trucks. These acts of infamy were incidentally carried out with arms
and logistics provided by the Sri Lankan forces. The term 'treachery'
in Tamil patriotic discourse is indeed used very selectively.
One should have no illusions about the fate that awaits the East
should the LTTE(P) be allowed to carry out its threats implied in
its statement quoted above. What is as worrying is the role that is
being played by the international community.
The International Community
The Norwegians and the international community got involved in the
peace process to advance peace. The SLMM was brought here to monitor
adherence to the terms of the MoU. The MoU commits both sides to abide
by international law. The Tokyo declaration made by the donor community
in June 2003 was even more explicit in demanding the observance of
human rights. Prabhakaran's declaration reflects a complete disregard
for international law and human rights. And what do we have from the
international community and the SLMM? Total silence.
This silence makes them the LTTE's passive accomplices, enabling
the LTTE to carry out its brutal threats unhindered.
The SLMM has gone even further. They announced their pullout from
Batticaloa saying that their mandate covered LTTE(P) and not LTTE(K).
On the other hand, they claim to be acting under terms of the MoU
when they escort LTTE reinforcements from the North into Mutur, thus
aiding the LTTE(P)'s military measures against LTTE(K) and facilitating
the repression of the local population in Mutur (whose sentiments
about the Vanni leadership would be similar to those in Batticaloa).
Is this monitoring the peace process or ushering in the peace of the
The Mutur area is socially contiguous with Vaharai in Batticaloa.
It has been economically pillaged by the LTTE and subject to persistent
child conscription (see our reports from late 2001). The LTTE was
also responsible for violence against local Muslims, escalating tensions
between the Tamil and Muslim communities, ultimately to exploit Tamil
fears. The LTTE replacing the Trincomalee commander and bringing in
northerners speaks for itself.
The international community has abandoned Batticaloa and its people
pretending that it is an internal problem in the LTTE because it seems
simpler from a policy perspective. In fact it is a recipe for disaster.
There is nothing polite or civilised about what the LTTE is doing.
What is going on is far from a liberation group dealing with an internal
problem through a political process involving democratic debate. Prabhakaran,
in his faction's recent statement, makes it clear that there is no
room for such a process in the LTTE. The disciplinary action the statement
speaks of is unknown to civilised discourse. How the LTTE is cynically
allowed to interpret all agreements and norms to its own advantage,
and use everything to its own benefit, is a sad comment on the international
community's role in Sri Lanka.
It is becoming shamefully clearer by the day that behind a formal
pretence that it is now party to a peace process and is cooperating
with elections, the LTTE has been given a free run to strengthen its
totalitarian grip. The TULF president Mr. Anandasangary in a recent
interview given to TBC Radio described the impact of the Sri Lanka
Monitoring Mission (SLMM) in upholding the rights of the people:
Four white persons come here and talk about our rights and go away.
They come and tell us not to deny the people in the LTTE-controlled
Vanni their fundamental rights and their right to vote as enjoyed
by the people of Europe. But the reality in Vanni is that the people
have no fundamental rights. There is no political freedom, and political
parties cannot function. The people have been kept as frogs in the
well for 20 years and denied the right to know their candidates and
options available to them...
This is another example of the international community's refusal
to acknowledge an atrocious ground reality and in the name of democracy
pushing for the LTTE to rig the electoral process using the block
vote of people who would be collectively punished for voting for the
In its bid to dislodge Karuna again, the LTTE is using similar strategies.
These involve on the one hand the use of terror and on the other its
peculiar interpretation of legal arrangements and the foibles of the
international community. One aspect of the latter is the pullout of
the SLMM from Batticaloa.
The LTTE has virtually succeeded in getting the international community
to turn a blind eye to what it will do in Batticaloa-Amparai as an
exercise in 'internal self-determination.' The international community
has lost sight of the fact that there are people, including children,
there who must be protected.
One cannot after all blame the LTTE (LTTE(P)) for not being plain
about its intentions. The LTTE(P) knows that a military assault on
LTTE(K) would be very costly, and it cannot be contemplated without
neutralising the Sri Lankan Army which has a major presence in the
area. LTTE spokesmen have repeatedly dropped dark hints that they
would resort to war if the Government aids Karuna in any way, knowing
that no new government would like to be blamed for an outbreak of
war. The TamilNet editor's article in The Daily Mirror (25th March
04) gives further hints of how this line of avoiding war may be pushed
to demand Karuna's head on a platter.
The TamilNet editor suggests that the Government will be asked to
demonstrate its good faith by accommodating the LTTE(P), as the legal
party to the MoU, having political offices in Batticaloa-Amparai under
government protection. It is now open history that these LTTE political
offices and LTTE's political work meant that scores of political activists
were murdered, hundreds of children abducted and no shadow of independent
political activity was allowed. Neither the SLMM nor the Government
did anything meaningful to stop this. How nice for the SLMM to become
active in Batticaloa-Amparai once more to supervise, in terms of its
mandate, the Sri Lankan Army's protection of dens of LTTE(P) hit squads!
How much murkier could things get?
The Attacks on Eastern Intellectuals, Community Leaders and Activists
The hit squads are already active. Their purpose is to terrorise
people from having any association with Karuna's administration, by
targeting persons with a consciousness of regional identity, who have
articulated a need for the region's upliftment. Acting university
dean Thiruchelvam had worked many years for the protection of the
region's environment and cultural identity. The two assassins, who
came home after dark on 24th March, asked if his dog would bite. He
bent down to hold his dog when the assassins fired. He was injured
in the middle part of his body, but survived.
The GA Mounagurusamy, the first Eastern Tamil to become GA Batticaloa,
had been associated with Karuna in development projects and is known
to have expressed strong feelings about northerners keeping the region
deprived. He was returning on the evening of 27th March after supervising
voting arrangements for Vaharai, when two men on a motorcycle slowed
down his car by coming in front of it at Sathurukondan and then drew
parallel to the front passenger side. The pillion rider fired at Mounagurusamy.
The GA's driver who had saved former GA Pathmanathan from a similar
situation, quickly grabbed the injured man, thrust his head on his
lap and drove at speed to Batticaloa Hospital. The GA, who had a bullet
in his head and was bleeding from the nose and an ear, was soon airlifted
We learn that that targets are picked and the assassinations directed
by LTTE intelligence men Ram, Yogaraja and Keerthi who fled from Batticaloa
and are now with the LTTE(P) in the Vanni. They act through hit men
who have been posted to urban locations including Batticaloa town,
Chenkalady and Valaichenai.
These targeted assassinations also make the LTTE(P)'s scare tactics
more effective in pushing parents to demand that the LTTE(K) release
their children. The LTTE(P)'s calculation is that LTTE(K) would be
weakened sufficiently for them to stage a bloody return reminiscent
of 1989 when they were aided and abetted by the Sri Lankan forces.
Another looming tragedy of Easterners killing Easterners for Northern
Is this what the international community came to accomplish? The
LTTE is further making a mockery of the Tamil cause as it was long
understood by targeting persons who feel for their region, culture
and identity. Is this not what the Tamil cause was originally all
The LTTE(P) has made an open declaration of death threats that promises
a bloodbath. Are the international community and the Sri Lankan government
simply waiting for it to happen?
Playing Football with the North-East
The leading Southern contenders, the UNF and the UPFA are each portraying
themselves as the more credible party to solve the ethnic problem.
Both have shown in practice that they would sidestep the human rights
situation in the North-East and play along with the international
community by covering up abuses by the LTTE. The reality is that neither
party alone can find a solution to the problem.
It is time to demand responsible actions by each of these parties
in the context of escalating LTTE violations of the Tamil people's
rights. Both parties must cooperate on the ethnic issues, regardless
of the election's outcome; they must be prepared to invite the respective
opposition to take an active role, one that is clearly defined. Both
parties must agree to work together towards a political solution if
the LTTE resumes war and refuses to abide by the MoU and other accepted
international human rights norms.
The Real Challenge Today
The LTTE is in crisis and knows it well. It cannot politically control
the important Mutur sector in Trincomalee, unless it can take back
Batticaloa-Amparai. What Karuna says is true; the LTTE cannot be a
conventional force again unless it has a large supply of military
slaves from the East. For the first time the LTTE is being challenged
politically as never before. Anandasangary leading an independent
group in Jaffna at elections has placed LTTE(P) in a quandary. There
finally seem to be some democratic openings within the Tamil community.
For the first time anywhere, Tamil institutions have defied the LTTE's
threats and survived. The London-based Tamil Broadcasting Corporation
continued against many dire threats to close down and is now being
widely heard in Sri Lanka through its link with the SLBC. For the
first time, dissident voices and opinions are being heard throughout
the North-East. There are renewed hopes of a democratic awakening
for the Tamil people that must be preserved.
However one looks at it, engaging with Karuna as someone who controls
a large fighting force cannot be avoided. Karuna does have a violent
past, and one should have no illusions about him as an individual.
The problems facing the people of Batticaloa-Amparai cannot however
be resolved without engaging with him. It is true that children carrying
arms under Karuna must go home. Not only these children, but also
the children under LTTE(P). The parents never entrusted their children
to Veluppillai Prabhakaran as his statement claims, rather they have
always wanted their children at home both in the East and the North.
Our reports have clearly documented the utterly repugnant abduction
of children by LTTE gangs in the East as well as the North and the
UNICEF recently confirmed that it is still going on in the North.
The current situation could result in a huge bloodbath of innocent
children. In order to avoid this, the international community must
step in and ensure that the differences within the LTTE should not
be resolved by force.
Despite Karuna's past, he does not have the same ideological baggage
as Prabhakaran. Prabhakaran cannot change, as seen in his most recent
statement. All those trips and VIP tours given to LTTE leaders to
European capitals to learn about democracy and federalism have only
resulted in this recent horrendous statement. Karuna has a vested
interest in showing that he could give the people of Batticaloa-Amparai
a better deal than the Northern bosses. If the international community
will take this opportunity to push him in that direction and see that
the child soldiers are released, political killings cease and violence
against Muslims is brought to an end, it will lead to major repercussions
holding out hope for human rights in the North.
On the other hand, the present indifference of the international
community cannot do any good. The LTTE(P)'s political killings open
the way to the dreadful scenario we witnessed during the Indian Army's
presence. People with political alignments and their families were
targeted by all sides. The simple, but illusory, justification was
that this is the only way they could protect their own families. This
is a tragedy we cannot afford to repeat.