LTTE commemorates Black Tiger day in govt areas

by Shamindra Ferdinando
The Tigers have taken advantage of the cease-fire agreement with the government to commemorate Black Tiger day with a series of events on Friday and Saturday in government-administered parts in the north-east.

The main event was held at Nelliady Madya Maha Vidyalaya, the scene of the first suicide attack carried out by a Black Tiger on July 5, 1987.

Since then 241 Black Tigers died in attacks on key military, political and economic targets. Their victims included President Ranasinghe Premadasa, one-time Indian Premier Rajiv Gandhi, UNP leader Gamini Dissanayake (several senior UNPers including General Secretary Dr. Gamini Wijesekera died with Dissanayake), Navy Commander Vice Admiral Clancy Fernando, Brigadier Larry Wijeratne and SSP Upali Sahabandu of the STF. President Chandrika Kumaratunga survived a blast triggered by a woman suicide cadre at her final presidential election campaign rally in December, 1999.

Premadasa’s assassination was unique as it was the only known case where the assassin established a relationship with the victim months, if not years, before the killing.

Black Tigers were involved in the devastating attacks on Central Bank in January 1996 and sinking of several navy vessels including one-time flagship Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV) Sargarawardene off Mannar in September, 1995. They were also involved in the April 2001 strike on the BIA.

The Tigers decorated the north-east with red and yellow flags to mark the 16th anniversary of the Nelliady attack. On Friday, about 5000 people gathered at the Nelliady junction and marched to the Nelliady Madya Maha Vidyalaya, about three kilometres Southwest of Point Pedro. Several other events were held at Chavakachcheri, Kodikamam and Sandilipai in the peninsula, military sources said, adding that the Tigers took advantage of the opportunity to reiterate their call for the downsizing of Jaffna security forces bases to facilitate the re-settlement of the displaced.

Police and military officials are perturbed over what these celebrations commemorate. "The cease-fire has given them freedom. In the pretext of conducting political activity in our areas, they are carrying out a major propaganda campaign," an officer said.

He expressed disappointment of having to permit a Black Tiger commemorative ceremony at Point Pedro where a suicide cadre killed Brigadier Wijeratne, a popular commander who struggled to improve army-civilian relations.

In a recent interview with the Sunday Island, former Army Commander Lt. Gen. Gerry de Silva explained the way the Tigers were taking advantage of the Nelliady attack. He is perturbed over erroneous reports that the attack claimed the lives of about 300 officers and men.

The blast triggered by the suicide cadre who drove an explosives-laden truck to the school manned by the fourth battalion of the Gemunu Watch (4 GW) claimed the lives of 17 personnel. Major Gen. Wasantha Perera, at that time a Major and acting commander of the newly raised battalion survived the blast.