Features

University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna) Bulletin
The Worm Turns and Elections Where the People Will Not Count 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 Library5. 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 killed.

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 33).

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 were abducted:

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.

Election-campaigning LTTE-style

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 community.

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 it.

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 heavy price.

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.

PA/JVP alliance

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 Vanni.

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 his apprehensions.

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 out."

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 Wing.

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 fa`E7ade. 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?

1 e.g. see Rajani Thiranagama in the Broken Palmyra, 1990

2 An incident reported by us in Special Report No 7 gives some idea of the difficulty in determining the killers in a case such as the murder of the family. On 17th May 1996 two sisters were raped in Manthuvil, east of Kanagampuliyady, but in the same area. Their husbands, a young boy and, notably, a 3-year-old child, were hacked to death. The intruders left after robbing their jewellery. However the women survived and one of them, as confirmed to us by the correspondent of the Madras Hindu, testified from Pt.Pedro Hospital that it was the Army. The Army had just taken control of Jaffna and pointing a finger at the Army was far from easy as it is today.

In the same report we documented several killings by the Army and broke the news of the onset of disappearances, which reached more than 300. Despite her earlier promises, President Kumaratunge protected the culprits from the security forces and continued to lose the moral high ground at great cost to the country and especially the Tamils. The LTTE profited immensely.

3 e.g. Special Commander Ramesh (Bulletin 31) and Karuna (Special Report No.16).

4 D.B.S. Jeyaraj in the Sunday Leader, 22 Feb 04.

5It fell to Kandian as mayor to reopen the rehabilitated library, which was destroyed in 1981. The LTTE wanted the facility to be kept closed in order to block an independent Council getting credit for the reopening.


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