Sunday, October 03, 2004

Failing the test: LTTE extortion continues unchecked (30th April, 2002)

In the first explicit test of the monitoring agreement under the MOU, the Local Monitoring Committee of Batticoloa and the Norwegian authorities have bent to the will of the LTTE as a patent injustice occurs before their eyes.

Under Article 2 of the MOU: "The parties shall in accordance with international law abstain from hostile acts against the civilian population, including such acts as torture, intimidation, abduction, extortion and harassment. "

On April 15th, Mr. K. V. Sithamparapillai , an 82 year old person from 37 Bar Road, Thamaraikerny, Batticaloa was abducted and handed over to the LTTE in Paddiruppu. The LTTE threatened him and demanded a payment of 2.5 million rupees. After promising to pay the entire sum he was released with instructions to bring the money. His nephew had to stand for surety to secure his release. Although he was at first reluctant to approach the Local Monitoring Committee (LMC) to complain owing to both fear and pressure, he finally met some members of the LMC.

One of the LTTE nominees in the LMC was asked to meet the LTTE to verify the veracity of the incident. On his return this member confirmed that Mr. Sithamaparapillai was indeed taken in by the LTTE and that the LTTE is insisting that the ransom of Rs. 2,500,000/- must be paid in full for his freedom.

The LMC was powerless to deal with the problem. On the 26th of April Mr. Sithamaparapillai went to pay Rs 300,000 with an intent to asking for more time to obtain the rest of the money. However, he was again detained by the LTTE and threatened for reporting the incident of extortion to the monitoring committee.( see press)

It is a crying shame that civilians, particularly the old and the feeble should be subject to such predatory practices. In this case an 82 year old person’s life savings is in the process of being expropriated extra-judicially under the very eyes of the international community. This troubling experience points to some of the flaws in the ceasefire agreement. We wish to submit the following observations:

i) It seems that the MOU can be violated with impunity and the monitoring committee is powerless in defending the human rights, even when a violation clearly contravenes a provision of the agreement.

ii) The LTTE continues to demand ransom even after Amnesty International released a statement regarding this specific case. This indicates that moral pressure alone is inadequate mechanism to curtail terrorizing of the civilian population.

iii) Given the weight of the evidence, it is no longer adequate for LMC to wait for violations to be reported. We urge that the Norwegian monitoring team proactively investigate, particularly, the systematic violations. It is apparent that passive monitoring function by itself is inadequate to protect the civilians in the East and preventive measures must be implemented to protect the civilians from systematic violations.

iv) The peace process, while providing a welcome relief to the war weary country, has also entrenched and legitimized terror politics in parts of the country, i.e., the issue of long-term internal terror and its implications for the society have been glossed over. Hence it continue to diminish whole political and social space in the community.

v) If the Monitoring Committee and the international community allow this action to stand unchallenged it will undermine the credibility of all monitoring efforts and the peace process.

We urge all international and national civil society organisations to pool their resources, not only to secure the release of Mr.Sitharamparapillai and other prisoners, but go beyond the MoU and address the human dimension of the growing tragedy.

(University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna))

Averting a Blood Spill in Batticaloa (Date of Release: 30th March 2004)

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 democratic plurality.

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… join 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 [1] 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 grave?

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.

Using Everything

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 wrong party.

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.

Dislodging Karuna

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 to Colombo.

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 bosses.

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 about?

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.

(University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna), Sri Lanka])

15 Years After Rajani: The Continuing Cost of Dissent (21st September 2004)

The United Nations General Assembly declared 21st September the International Day of Peace - to be observed as a day of global ceasefire and non-violence. It is a remarkable irony that Rajani Thiranagama was killed on September 21st 1989 by a violent force, for which the current peace process has served only as means to fasten its grip over its people, and use them as hostages to attain its declared goal of Eelam.

If we really want to esteem this occasion as a day of Peace in the Sri Lankan context, it is appropriate to reflect on the sacrifices of Rajani and others who withstood the terror and challenged the fascist notion of "peace", in a bid to rekindle life into the benumbed Tamil community. We must oppose the system that made them pay with their lives for offering a vision of life, not death, as the future for Tamils in Sri Lanka today.

This would enable us to go beyond mere ritual and challenge prevalent notions of peace in this country, which are not only blind to the actual plight of the people, but also fortify an anti peace ideology and its entrenchment by terror.

Shrivelled Entities

The twin tragedies we are now witnessing, the LTTE’s murder of Tamil dissidents and its unyielding conscription of children, evoke an atmosphere reminiscent of Jaffna when the LTTE cut short Rajani’s Thiranagama’s life on 21st September 1989. In both instances, the LTTE’s actions were a symptom of weakness, mistaken by others for strength. Indeed, it has a fortune invested in five continents, a substantial fleet of vessels plying the oceans on legal as well as covert pursuits. But yet it feels vulnerable to mere individuals who question its political goals and means. It fears they will eventually rekindle life in the community and threaten their grip. Against this reality, it is also the fickleness of the Southern polity that sustains the LTTE.

As we have seen, in both 1990 and today the Sinhalese polity could have prevented bloodshed and anarchy, had it challenged the LTTE by conceding the legitimate rights of the Tamil people without reserve and through practical measures. Instead, it appeased the LTTE, talked grudgingly about Tamil grievances and treated the fate of Tamil dissent with frivolous disregard.

During the past two years the concept of a Sri Lankan State and nation, has shrivelled to a point where Sri Lanka’s leaders no longer even pretend to be take responsibility for the island’s North-Eastern citizens. Instead they downplay abuses against them, talking and acting as though the LTTE’s killing of Tamil dissidents and the crude and brutal conscription of rural Tamil children ‘are no obstacle to the peace process’.

Civil society has been another casualty. 15 years ago Tamils who cared about democracy and human rights found common cause with groups in the South, a number of them with real grassroots contacts, which had been through a bloody insurgency themselves. By 2000, most of these groups were rooted in Colombo, had aligned themselves with their international donors, and were caught up in appeasing the LTTE along with the international community. The prevailing attitude among Colombo’s NGOs was that democracy was a luxury Sri Lanka’s Tamils could not afford. In consequence Tamil dissent became doubly imperilled and its voices silenced throughout the island.

Although the LTTE is weak, the leaders of the two main parties, lacking direction or conviction, are almost entirely preoccupied with tripping each other. They therefore see dealings with the LTTE largely within this framework, and courted the LTTE-controlled Tamil National Alliance, oblivious even to the short-term dangers. Meanwhile, the LTTE lobbies scored points by drawing attention to the Southern polity’s inability to move on federalism, language rights or even to pay compensation to the longsuffering victims of the 1977 and 1983 communal violence. Any prospect of the Government or anyone else of influence lobbying on behalf of the people of Sri Lanka seemed to become ever more remote.

Tamil democrats have had few allies they could consistently rely on. A few courageous individuals in the South have continued to actively support those resisting the menace of child conscription, and have spoken out on unpalatable truths through the media. However, Tamils striving for democracy and human rights for their community, will be for sometime constrained by their own resources. This is a lesson that should have been learnt in 1990.

The Chequered Story of Tamil Dissent

To be identified as a Tamil dissident against fascist terror is not a mark of sainthood. And attempting to make such an attribution does the recipient a disservice, since once the LTTE murders its critics (and often even before the death sentence is carried out), its lobbies attack them precisely for not being saints. It is a red herring designed to distract attention from the real achievements of dissidents.

In fact all Tamil dissidents are products of the same rotten society that gave birth to the LTTE and its bloodstained politics. The worst elements are not those who handled a gun, but those who took vicarious pleasure in murder and justified it. How many in this society did not find some quiet satisfaction in the 1985 Anuradhapura massacre of Buddhist pilgrims? There were of course good souls among the ordinary folk who were horrified and had no illusions about what the agent of the deed would ultimately do to Tamils themselves.

Dissidents were often persons who had flirted with the mainstream of a decadent Tamil nationalism, and had their hands dirtied in its cause. Others, whose political convictions gave them far greater clarity about the malign trends in Tamil nationalism, dirtied their hands protecting themselves from the LTTE’s murderous wrath. Through experience and crises in their lives, many of them came to a point where they were horrified with what they had been associated with. Where they had opportunity and time for reflection, they put themselves on the line and took the position that the Tamil people could regain their freedom and dignity only through a commitment to the higher values of democracy and human rights. Rajani was one in a long line of such persons.

For hundreds of these dissidents there was no turning back, even when death was staring them in the face. How hard it was, and what enormous resources of character and conviction it demanded is seen vividly in the dreadful transformation the LTTE wrought on several of the dissidents’ colleagues.

The LTTE realised in the late 1990s that to convince sympathetic sections of the international community to back its claim to be the sole representatives of the people, it had to go beyond simply killing off its opponents. It had to transform and co-opt them -- at least for the time being. The transformation the LTTE achieved through terror took advantage of the Tamil community’s weakness, and the crass villainy and cowardice that lurked beneath the gloss of Tamil nationalism. The Tamil National Alliance, which the LTTE forged as its parliamentary arm brought together the rumps of a number of groups, including the TULF, whose ranks had been thinned over the years by the steady attrition of LTTE assassinations. Even more astounding is the inglorious flip of the TELO led by Addaikkalanathan and the faction of the EPRLF led by Suresh Premachandran.

The LTTE massacred their TELO and EPRLF colleagues by the hundreds from 1986. Today Suresh Premachandran and Addaikkalanathan are running units tasked by the LTTE to spot and target dissidents, most of all their former associates. Those who receive warning as potential targets are encouraged to save their lives by becoming agents of the LTTE, aiding the targeting other dissidents whose trust and confidence they enjoy. This is the quintessence of fascism, which must break all trust and cherished values in a community to accomplish its vision of ‘liberation’. As LTTE leaders have said in the past, the LTTE intelligence wing must ultimately encompass every man, woman and child. Only such a terrified society can yield to child conscription and suicide bombers without protest.

The virulence of this phenomenon cannot be overstated, nor its danger to civilized order. By keeping people in a constant state of acute anxiety, the LTTE has eroded the collective sanity of an entire society. This is the perspective against which the achievement of those who were steadfast in defying this phenomenon should be judged.

Ironically it is just those persons valued for their exceptional decency who after being killed by the LTTE have been singled out for character assassination by its lobbies. Again those in the forefront of character assassination are friends, journalists and intellectuals, transformed after being trembling and shivering LTTE targets.

A recent instance concerns T. Subathiran (Robert), a senior leader of the EPRLF(V) assassinated in 2003. The whispering campaign against him concerns the bad patch his party went through, when cornered by LTTE terror to operate alongside the Indian Army in the late 1980s. If there were any meanness in the man, it would have been aired during the six years before his death when he walked the streets of Jaffna as a vulnerable, unarmed party activist. During this period he was, even by his enemies, respected as an exemplary democrat and a decent human being. A vocally extremist TNA politician was moved to remark upon his assassination, “He was a good boy, but why was he in the EPRLF”!

On 16th August, Balanadarajah Iyer, a pioneer figure in Tamil student agitation, and a leading figure in his own right, was gunned down by the LTTE in Colombo. Iyer had been a leading member of EROS, which shared a common origin with the EPRLF and EPDP. Many EROS members were unhappy when its leader Balakumar turned the party into an LTTE stooge. Circumstances helped Iyer to come out, and though he could have left the country, he chose to work on the editorial board of EPDP publications instead. Among his contributions was to search out good English articles not available to a Tamil readership, and provide translations.

In reporting the killing the same day, TamilNet, which reflects the LTTE line, made no attempt to dissemble. It stated in English that Iyer was EPDP spokesman, a member of its editorial board and added that ‘according to the EPDP, Iyer was killed by the LTTE’. On the other hand the LTTE expatriate e-journal Nitharsanam alleged in Tamil that the gunmen who killed Iyer were from the EPDP. It further stated that Iyer was an LTTE informant and played a leading role in the miscarried suicide bomber attack on the EPDP leader Devananda during July. Those who knew Iyer from the early days of the struggle instantly saw this LTTE ploy as a piece of mischief calculated to cheapen the victim’s character and sow confusion about his murder. A further clear indication of the LTTE’s role in the murder came when it sent EROS leader Balakumar to represent it at the Oslo Tamil Sangam, 13 days after the murder of his former deputy. He delivered a formula speech praising the LTTE as brave and intelligent soldiers who defeated in effect a ‘multinational force’.

Balakumar was a weak leader who believed once that the LTTE boss Prabhakaran, of whom he took a dim view, would blunder himself into extinction, thus giving him clear field. In 1990, he lost faith in his prophecy and surrendered to the LTTE lock, stock and barrel. In Oslo Balakumar did not utter a word about his lately deceased friend and deputy. Balakumar’s mission was to demonstrate to EROS’s support base abroad that Iyer’s murder made no difference to his serving the LTTE. Back in the late 1970s and early 1980s EROS was the first group to build a support base among the expatriate elite.

The Role of LTTE Disinformation and Terror

When the LTTE killed Rajani, it arranged the circumstances so that the Indian Army, or rival Tamil groups, would be blamed. When people saw through the deception and started talking about it, the LTTE issued a statement of denial in Jaffna two months later, threatening anti-national elements who cast aspersions on their noble cause. An effort at character assassination against Rajani (for which there was no room locally) took the form of a whisper campaign abroad. But it had very limited success.

Today, the LTTE’s capacity for disinformation is far stronger, and is conducted through several channels. The international community too became complicit, following its identification of the LTTE as the key component of the peace process and became cornered into appeasing and protecting it. By early this year it too had become party to its abuses (our Bulletin No.36.)

The LTTE’s already significant control over the Tamil media (including BBC Tamil Service for good measure) was strengthened further when LTTE hit squads were given a free run of Colombo by the terms of the ceasefire. This also meant that many journalists representing the Tamil media (seen as that of a discriminated people) in international agencies dedicated to ‘media freedom,’ are virtual LTTE nominees.

The rebellion by the LTTE’s Eastern strong man Karuna last March coincided with an upsurge in Tamil opposition to the LTTE, particularly among expatriates. This was followed by internecine killings between the Karuna and Prabhakaran (Vanni) factions of the LTTE. While public appeals to end killing of civilians largely worked with the Karuna faction, the Vanni faction saw the internecine fight as a pretext to attack Tamil opposition in general.

LTTE hit teams targeted unarmed political opponents throughout the country while the Government kept repeating that these killings were no threat to the peace process, and did nothing. Meanwhile Western embassies sent delegations to the Vanni to talk to the LTTE into restarting the peace talks. The LTTE went on pounding them and the SLMM with the message that they were being attacked by anti-peace “paramilitary” elements supported by the Sri Lankan forces. There are indications that this line met with significant success. The SLMM had already set precedents by inventing a third force (pointing absurdly to other Tamil groups) to avoid pointing a finger at the LTTE for particular violations.

On 21st July LTTE gunmen shot dead an unarmed civilian Velayutham Raveendran at a bus stop in Akkaraipattu. Raveendran was the head of the EPDP-controlled local council, whose predecessor too had suffered the same fate. His death came at the height of the LTTE’s campaign to brand all political opponents, especially the EPDP, as “paramilitary” elements. The EPDP was no doubt a prime target because it had managed to secure a place in Parliament in spite of LTTE-terror. It was a clever ploy. If the LTTE could sow seeds of doubt among its potential critics in the international community, suggesting by its use of the term “paramilitary” that the EPDP was engaged in armed activity, sympathy for its murdered party members would evaporate, as would diplomatic engagement with the LTTE’s rivals.

Now the LTTE’s use of the “paramilitary” label has been disingenuously extended to all Tamils everywhere who challenge its politics. This is no more than the LTTE’s latest effort to distract attention from its murderous campaigns. The LTTE wants to be sole representative and it will continue to kill “traitors” to achieve that goal. But it is a diversionary tactic that hits a nerve, because almost every Sri Lankan Tamil capable of serious political discussion today was politicised during 1970-1986 when Tamil youth agitation gathered momentum. Many youth joined armed movements. Those with a people-centred political vision, even if they joined the LTTE, left it in disgust. Persons with such backgrounds form the core of the dissident movement today.

A group, including such persons, runs the London-based Tamil Broadcasting Corporation (TBC), whose broadcasts were relayed to local audiences by the government owned SLBC. By pummelling the TBC with the label ‘paramilitary,’ the LTTE stopped the Government from relaying its broadcasts. To seal the lips of all those whom the LTTE calls ‘paramilitaries’ would be to condemn the Tamils to a political Stone Age sans hope.

Few options are available to any one living under the terror of LTTE to fight for human values and rights. How will human rights advocates deal with the issues arising? Will they look to the individual victims’ histories and affiliations, or will they acknowledge the over-all picture of the LTTE’s terror and control, and its implication for the community within and without Sri Lanka?

We list some of the achievements of LTTE disinformation backed by terror:

  1. It has sent out a virtual ultimatum that it would not be possible to carry forward the ‘peace process’ without crushing all dissent.
  1. Through its control of nearly all outlets for opinion, it has to a significant extent turned the issue of its murder of political dissidents into gossip about individuals.
  1. It has sown enough confusion about events, issues and individuals to make even seasoned advocates of human rights question their judgment.

The European Union (EU) did issue a strong statement in August condemning the LTTE’s killings. But this came after several months of the EU, mistakenly, abetting the LTTE’s terror (see Bulletin No.36). An EU delegation called on the LTTE last February to talk about North-East development in the wake of a spate of LTTE killings in the North, including of a family of three with their 8 months-old infant. Up to and including the conclusion of the April parliamentary elections, Norway and the EU covered up for the LTTE’s abuses on behalf of its puppet, the TNA, and facilitated the wholesale theft of votes. The Election Commissioner’s refusal to entertain complaints by election monitors is almost certainly a reflection of donor pressure. The EU report deemed the North-East results unrepresentative only after conscientious international monitors exposed the blatant abuse.

Thus the Tamils have their TNA representatives in parliament, not even pretending that they are the people’s choice. They come trailing as their staff entourages of killers and spies, adding to that menace which haunts dissidents in Colombo like the plague. Regrets from the West came after enormous damage was done and after the LTTE had been given ample opportunity target meticulously several key democratic opponents.

The new thinking from the West and the direction of its funding agencies became evident in the wake of the 1999 presidential elections. The National Alliance for Peace in its leading questions to the candidates clearly pushed for appeasement of the LTTE. Not remarkably, the UNP candidate Ranil Wickremasinghe adopted the same line, ridiculing the search for a political solution. Given the array of external lobbies and their local ‘partners’ supporting Wickremasinghe, President Kumaratunge’s attempt to frame a political solution in 2000 was doomed, and Wickremasinghe was rewarded with power in December 2001. Unfortunately for him and his cohorts, the LTTE knew him, but not he the LTTE.

Convincing Western agencies to be mindful of the human and democratic rights of people in the North-East at this time was like penetrating a stone wall. After the signing of the MoU in February 2002, which committed the LTTE to respect international law, the LTTE carefully began testing the ground. From February to April 2002, we reported one abduction by the LTTE in the East and about four abductees who escaped, all from the EPRLF(V). About half a dozen mysterious murders were reported in Jaffna soon after the LTTE set up office in April, which then stopped.

Organised attacks on Muslims in the East commenced in June 2002. In September 2002 two persons without any political connections were abducted in Jaffna and allowed to escape. The same month the LTTE attacked the Hartley College Principal and also members of the Socialist Equality Party in Jaffna. All the while child conscription running into the thousands was going on unimpeded. By this time the LTTE had got a clear message that its abuses would not be challenged, whether by the international community, the SLMM or the Government of Sri Lanka. From early December 2002, soon after the LTTE in Oslo committed itself to democratic federalism, it set about eliminating dissidents steadily. By mid-December 2002 the LTTE had abducted 3 senior members of the EPDP in Batticaloa, now presumed dead, and chopped to death Alahathurai, a respected member of the EPRLF(V) in Mandur.

On 23rd April 2003, the LTTE murdered Maclan Atputharajah of Chavakacheri, Jaffna, a leading local figure and prospective parliamentary candidate for the EPRLF(V). It fell to Subathiran to visit the family in his own home area to console them, and to challenge the regional press for not publishing the statement by the family as agreed. Less than eight weeks hence, he too had fallen. Since February 2002 (mainly from December 2002) about 140 EPDP members have been killed, among the latest being C. Arulthas, former chairman of the Pt. Pedro local council, and Bawan, parliamentary candidate for Jaffna.

Rajani’s Choice

Rajani was deeply partisan, the consequences of which made many uncomfortable. She, by choice, emotionally and politically identified with the suffering and aspirations of the ordinary folk, who in the context of conflict came lowest in the hierarchy of interests ruling their lives. Every middle class gravitates towards a stable niche in the global hierarchy where their symbols and dull aspirations are guaranteed. It is easy to become insensitive to the institutional oppression which maintains that order. Those brought up in the Tamil middle class in the 1940s and 50s with its cosy atmosphere of uncles, aunts and family friends, would not have doubted its essential goodness. Its capacity for evil became evident when a combination of discrimination and communal violence threatened its stability and cohesion.

The vacillating dalliance of this middle class with the LTTE has tended towards support when it appeared to hold out prospects for that old stability, notwithstanding child-conscription and murder. The victims of the latter were as a rule from the lowest strata of non-people. This middle class’ disgust with the LTTE too comes periodically, such as during the 1995 exodus, when it shows itself intrinsically incapable of any kind of order.

Further up the hierarchy, the West (and also the Colombo elite glued to it) has shown a similar pattern in its perceptions of the LTTE. The LTTE would like to sell itself off as a group that would accept its assigned place in a Western dominated world order. But then its ideological pretensions requiring violent excesses and its entrenchment in global terror networks make the West nervous.

Those with Rajani’s Marxist worldview rose above such vacillations. For the lowest in society and especially women, whether it was the inbuilt violence of their society, the brutality of state forces, the LTTE killing family men and women, and youth, as traitors; conscripting their children; or the unbridled forces of capitalism that peace may bring; options may change, but violence and oppression would remain.

Rajani did not waste time discussing or speculating about Vellupillai Prabhakaran at length. One could explore Prabhakran’s childhood experiences that left in him an enormous craving for absolute power over others, but politically he is a creature of circumstance; of the clash between the Sinhalese and Tamil elite, and the humiliation experienced by the latter. Rajani saw Prabhakaran’s violence as ultimately receiving sanction and glorification from the ideology of the Tamil elite.

Rajani’s political journey was one involving enormous trauma. In the atmosphere in Jaffna in the early 1980s, it was natural for idealistic youth to become attracted to the militant groups. Her personal connections led her to the LTTE. Her husband Dayapala Thirangama, an early political influence, and Southern leftist of immense courage well above the narrowness of his times, had grave reservations. Through their exchanges, Rajani also came to question the assumptions of Tamil nationalism and became conscious of other struggles, especially those in the South.

In January 1982, an LTTE assassin carrying out Prabhakaran’s order, ‘Put off the Main Switch’, killed his unsuspecting leading rival Sundaram of PLOTE. Dayapala warned that unless this trend was checked, the LTTE would plunge the Tamil community into utter disaster. It took Rajani, who was moved by the urgency of the Tamil struggle in the aftermath of 1977, a few more years, while she was on a doctoral programme in Britain, to see LTTE for what it was.

Rajani could have chosen escape through a career in the West. She could also have found fame talking about liberation from a theoretical standpoint. Disregarding warnings from friends, she returned to the University of Jaffna at the end of 1986. She believed this was the only honest option for her. Her objective was not instant solution or instant liberation, but to work with those of all classes with a social conscience to ‘create space’.

Conflict transformation as advocated by peacemakers assumes residual rationality on both sides to assess what is attainable and sustainable, and some real opportunity for people’s initiatives. Unless there is any space within society itself for such initiatives, any agreement is bound to be fragile.

Any illusions about the LTTE, for Rajani and others close to her, were dissipated by events from May 1986 to November 1987. During this period it first launched bloody massacres of other Tamil groups. Despite being militarily weak, it refused to engage with a political settlement President Jayewardene was made to offer by India. The Government declared a unilateral ceasefire in April 1987, which the LTTE rejected through once more massacring Buddhist pilgrims and exploding a car bomb in Colombo’s main bus stand, provoking heavy government reprisals in Jaffna. When India intervened to save the LTTE from ignominy and to offer it preponderant control over the North-East, it contrived war with India by massacring hundreds of Sinhalese civilians. At war with India, the LTTE played to clockwork perfection, deliberately ensuring maximum destruction and maximum civilian deaths at every stage. As the Indian Army started restoring order, it sent its hit teams to kill as traitors even civilian representatives trying to secure basic amenities. Rajani wrote in the Broken Palmyra (Ch.6,

“When the children were dying with diseases, they threatened those who cared for them, ordering them not to issue Indian drugs. Did they offer alternatives, so that we could eat Tiger food and give our children Tiger drugs?”

Rajanis’ judgment of the LTTE and its prospects were penned in the following words written for the Broken Palmyra in early 1988:

“The Tigers' history, their theoretical vacuum, lack of political creativity, intolerance and fanatical dedication will be the ultimate cause of their own break up. The legendary Tigers will go to their demise with their legends smeared with the blood and tears of victims of their own misdoings. A new Tiger will not emerge from their ashes. Only by breaking with this whole history and its dominant ideology, can a new liberating outlook be born.”

The last sentence describes succinctly what she viewed as the painful way out, and formed the basis of her intense work in the UTHR(J), the University and in the wider community, especially among traumatised women. What she wrote about the LTTE was not a wish or a hope, it was the incontrovertible knowledge of an insider.

Rajani was very careful in what she wrote for the book, as she was with what her co-authors wrote. She was concerned about the tone of the book and was averse to middle-class complacencies to which some of us were prone. Finally it was decided that the different authors would have a certain leeway, while all would take joint responsibility for the book as a whole.

In her work with the UTHR(J) and in discussions with her students, Rajani tried to shift the question of violent of death away from a propaganda recital of frequently exaggerated numbers killed by state forces to an examination of individual tragedies of all victims, whether ideologically convenient or not. What kind of liberation can a force offer, which dignifies only its dead as martyrs to glorify the Leader, while insulting all others who died as ciphers; which drives individuals and sections of society into working against it for sheer survival, and then kills them off as traitors? Just before the passage quoted above, she said of the massive death imposed on civilians in October 1987:

“…regardless of any future consequence, they pushed India to the wall when they started butchering the Sinhalese civilians in a fit of petulant anger. Therefore, in reality it was not only India's failure as a guarantor, but also the L.T.T.E.'s failure as a leader that triggered off the war in this way.”

The LTTE killed her upon the announcement of the Indian Army’s withdrawal, after President Premadasa in the course of secret talks with the LTTE had promised it virtual unchecked control of the North-East. It was a precursor to the present ‘peace process’. It was about this time that we began hearing hints from Western peace activists, who were otherwise sympathetic, that we were partisan or extreme. They were happy with an arrangement that saw India leave, and for the LTTE and the Premadasa government to assume their places under Western patronage.

What followed was a nightmare reminiscent of the situation today. Many with dissident associations thought the LTTE had got what it wanted and had no further need to kill, and so remained in North-East. They were carried off to concentration camps and killed by the thousands, as the LTTE returned to war with the Government in June 1990. The war was triggered off in a provocative series of massacres by the LTTE calculated to bring about severe reprisals against Tamils.

Condemned to Absolute Predictability

Prabhakaran must be pondering another dreaded anniversary, his 50th birthday, which falls in November, and what he has achieved. When he began his career 32 years ago, the Tamil nationalist dream was for a homeland, prosperous and self-contained, where its excellent educational system would tower to new heights. Today this homeland is the place Tamils least want to be in. Much of its arable lands are strewn with landmines or are taken up by High Security Zones of both the government forces and the LTTE. Colombo and a number of cities in the West have overtaken Jaffna, Trincomalee and Batticaloa as centres of Tamil culture.

The North-East which once had a surfeit of doctors and technical personnel is now in need of Sinhalese professionals to run its services. Often for specialist services, those in the North-East must go to Colombo to see Sinhalese, or the few remaining Tamil, specialists. Even LTTE sympathisers with feeling for the people readily admit that should there be another round of war, no one will be left to rebuild the North-East.

Prabhakaran’s hubris has resulted in the inevitable breakup of the LTTE. Should the LTTE persist in its present course, it stands to lose the entire East. What good has 33 months of peace and the lifting of restrictions done to the long suffering people who have borne the brunt of LTTE extortion, child-conscription and wholesale theft of representation? The Northern farmer, managing with minimum government support, was traditionally self-sufficient. We recently had reports (perhaps suppressed earlier) of a significant incidence of suicide among Vanni farmers unable to make ends meet. The failure of reconstruction in the last 33 months cannot be blamed entirely on the Government. It has much to do with the LTTE’s total obsession with military preparations and military advantage as its clash with Gurunagar fishermen on 30th August revealed, and organisations involved in development well know.

While development professionals strike a balance between need and feasibility, the TRO (the LTTE’s development arm) has other priorities. There have been instances where a development agency started reconstruction work in a village only to have it burnt down by TRO officials. Agencies drawing up reconstruction priorities, have, to their disbelief, been taken by TRO officials past several uninhabited villages to a remote one having no neighbours, public transport or market. The reason – it is near an army camp!

The inherent destructiveness of the LTTE on the basis of which Rajani made her prediction about its future, has, since her murder, been carried to draconian limits. Her murder was itself a signal of that intention.

Child recruitment, which was a burning issue in the last three years of Rajini’s life, is today one of child conscription and abduction on a grand scale.

Rajani observed that the LTTE’s suicide cult was the symptom of a political vacuum mistakenly dubbed ‘ultimate sacrifice’, when its cadres, as instructed, swallow cyanide rather than face the responsibility of keeping faith under capture. She added:

“Given some imagined aspirations and needs, this state of the psyche, through a process of rationalisation, led increasingly to annihilatory ends.”

The ‘increasingly annililatory’ ends she anticipated, came with full-blown Black Tiger units in the early 1990s, sworn to obiliterate themselves on a personal oath to the Leader, as to a god, at his bidding. The Leader cheapened these victims to the price of a bullet when he dispatched one to kill Neelan Thiruchelvam, a harmless democrat. More Orwellian are the Leader’s Red Blossomed Garden childrens’ homes. We know of cases of children forcibly taken from war affected distraught parents. These children are raised in daily religious veneration of the Leader and streamed according to their abilities to fit various slots in the organisation.

The last speaks most eloquently of the LTTE’s prospects of stabilising itself in a federal unit or even in a separate state that allows some token dissent. It is cruel arrogance to ignore this reality and sacrifice people to the shallow wishful thinking of peacemakers. Prediction is tricky business, but there is nothing marvellous about Rajani having been so depressingly right about the LTTE.

Creating Space for the People

Where a people has even marginal democratic choice to change its rulers or even the way they act, prediction, especially long term, is hazardous. But when the leader is utterly intolerant of allowing the people any choice, presides over material and social catastrophe, and a disappearing and increasingly suffocated population, his prospects are trivially predictable.

The LTTE’s every move has been to tighten the screws of repression. It imposes itself as an insatiable parasite on the shrinking resources of the people unable to bear it; and compensates for declining real strength by abducting children and unleashing brain washed youth as human bombs. For such a force there is nothing, no end point, between total success and utter failure. The LTTE would either break itself, be broken, or would perform its office of destruction to the last suicide bomber in its armoury. That is what Rajini said, and its attitude towards the current peace process confirms it. Many ordinary villagers with their instinctive grasp of reality have said this said all along. It is the others who must be creative in dealing with the LTTE, and the Sinhalese polity and Sri Lankan governments have been singularly destructive.

Rajani’s work on the ground was to create space for the people. This was undermined, and her death, and that of many others, was precipitated by President Premadasa’s cynical appeasement of the LTTE to the point of aiding it to round up its opponents.

It is not war that we have advocated and we do not see war as the way out of the present impasse. War was always imposed on the people who never wanted it. What we have advocated as a decisive means of opening up space is a political settlement. It is this that would once and for all remove the main weapon in the LTTE’s arsenal: the belief that the Sinhalese would never give the Tamils a just solution and would never treat them as equals. The LTTE has continued to propagate this negative picture of the Sinhalese, while on the one hand declining to engage on a political settlement, and on the other constantly driving a wedge between the main parties in the South.

One cannot blame the West entirely for the current MoU and its LTTE bias, considering that the Sinhalese polity, even in the 11 years after 1990, seemed more prepared to break up the country than to offer a political settlement. Of course President Kumaratunge tried to deliver one. Ranil Wickremasinghe was determined to block it as he thought it fatal to his ambitions. Upon finding a constitutional settlement blocked, President Kumaratunge could have taken recourse to the 13th Amendment and the North-East Provincial Council as an interim measure, to demonstrate her commitment to devolution. But she did not.

Despite the transient relief of no-war, most Tamils were never impressed with appeasement, whether Premadasa’s or Wickremasinghe’s. Both these were accompanied by the sinister rumble of low-key violence whose implications were hard to ignore. There may be a strong temptation today for the Sinhalese polity to do nothing, as long as it is a process of Tamils destroying Tamils. No one has destroyed Tamil nationalist aspirations to nationhood more thoroughly than Prabhakaran and his outfit. Rajani wrote:

“…the Tamil nationalist struggle under the L.T.T.E. leadership had gone on a path of internal destruction and terror, alienating and cleaving the community. It was failing in its objective by not conceptualising the needs of a struggle whose primary objective was creating a self-sufficient, autonomous state (as far as possible) out of an inextricably linked Sri Lanka.”

Encouraging Prabhakaran may be seen as the ultimate success of Sinhalese chauvinist aspirations. But that would be like stabbing the heart to spite a finger. What after all is Sri Lanka today? There can be no democracy, dignity or protection of the law for the Sinhalese while denying these to the Tamils. Cynicism on such matters creates habits of mind and heart pregnant with devastating consequences. That was the most powerful lesson of President Jeyawardene’s career. Every time one sees a eulogy for him as a great statesman, one is reminded that the nation is divided and sick.

There should be no further sacrifice of Tamils who came forward to challenge fascism. We showed that the LTTE became bold about killing only after testing the ground through much of 2002 and finding that the international community would pay little attention. That must now be reversed decisively.

(University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna), Sri Lanka)

AHRC calls for probe into assault on HRC staff and UN volunteer

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has urged the Sri Lankan government to thoroughly investigate the Jaffna Police assault on Human Rights Commission staff and a UN volunteer last week.

The Officer-in-Charge of the Jaffna office of the Human Rights Commission (HRC) of Sri Lanka and a UN volunteer were assaulted as they were engaged in inquiring about a complaint of torture at the Jaffna police station. In an interview to the Sinhala Service of the BBC, Sandeshaya, the HRC officer explained the incident in detail, saying that he sent an officer to investigate into a person being tortured at the Jaffna police station. The officer soon telephoned the Officer-in-Charge of the HRC stating that he was at the police station premises and could hear a man shouting "ammo", indicating someone shouting in pain. The Officer-in-Charge of the HRC has immediately informed the Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) and obtained permission to go to the police station. The ASP also told a police officer to accompany the HRC Officer-in-Charge and a UN volunteer to the police station," AHRC said in a statement.

"When the HRC officer and UN volunteer appeared at the police station, there were about 35 police officers gathered there. These officers started jeering and making abusive statements to them. The HRC officer explained that they were just there to do their duty, when he was pushed and hit on the head. He is able to identify the officer who hit him, as he visits the police station often. Then, he and the UN volunteer were pushed out of the police station. At the same time, the torture victim who was shouting in pain was taken out of the police station and put inside a police vehicle. The HRC officer said he saw someone sitting on the torture victim inside the vehicle. "Just then, the ASP appeared and was shown the torture victim being taken away by the HRC officer. He also told the ASP of his assault, and said he could identify the officers. The ASP then called all the police officers to come for identification purposes, but only about nine officers out of the 35 came. The police officer who hit him was not one of the nine. While stating to the BBC that it was the duty of the HRC to inspect police stations and to investigate illegal detention and torture, the HRC officer questioned how the public would be treated by the police when HRC officers were treated in this way.

"This is the second incident in less than three months in which HRC officers have been obstructed or assaulted when attempting to inspect police stations. An earlier incident was reported from the Payagala police station," the statement added.

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) understands that the HRC has already complained about this matter to the Inspector General of Police (IGP).

The conduct of the ASP should also be investigated. As the obstruction to public officers in carrying out their duties is a criminal offence, the culprits must be investigated and charged, AHRC said calling upon the IGP and the National Police Commission to also investigate and take speedy action on this matter.

Behind the ceasefire, violence and confusion continues By Heingo

As the third anniversary of the ceasefire slowly approaches a large number of the people both in the North and the South continued to feel a deep anxiety about the future.

Many believe that the killing of military informants and political opponents by the LTTE will continue because it is said to be a part of its survival strategy. For those who know the LTTE and its character well these killings are nothing unusual. Looking at the LTTE's past record these are not things that have cropped up suddenly. Such killings have been carried out from the beginning.

The LTTE killing squads commonly known as pistol groups have signified their continued existence to the public largely through a vicious series of killings of informants, members of opponent political groups and those considered to be traitors. Over 200 such killings have been reported since the ceasefire agreement came into being, several of which have occurred during the month of September 2004. The main motive of those involved appears to be to demonstrate that they are capable of policing their own areas without interference by any of the opponent political groups and the military. This is the only way it thinks it can survive. They know that the military informants are a threat to their existence. Hence, their elimination. Experienced observers believe that the LTTE is attempting to obtain predominant control over the Northern and Eastern provinces by using such methods of intimidation.

After nearly two decades of war and scores of battles which took the LTTE to the negotiating table with the Sri Lankan government, the LTTE now faces its most serious challenge. A revolt within the movement itself by its former eastern commander Karuna and his loyalists. The prevailing uncertainty in the eastern region gives no cause for comfort to the LTTE on both the political and military fronts. Their political activities have come to a standstill with political offices in the East closed and intermittent attacks on them by Karuna loyalists. The issues that have surfaced raise serious questions about the LTTE's organizational structure and the concept of Tamil nationhood in Sri Lanka. Prolonged stalemate in the peace process is bound to continue until the LTTE tide over the sense of insecurity in the east.

The LTTE has not shown any signs of softening their own political stance despite international pressure on them. It is also unlikely that they will change this stance until they vanquish the Karuna loyalists and bring the eastern area under their firm control. Effectively putting the Karuna group out of action will take precedence over the resumption of negotiations for the LTTE. The governments failure so far to reach a consensus on the ISGA proposals with the JVP will also result in negotiations reaching a stalemate. As far as the LTTE is concerned, total capitulation by two of the parties in the government is the only result it looks for. The appointment of a National Advisory Council by the President for peace and reconciliation is indeed an encouragement to the LTTE to bide for time. Therefore we should not be surprised that the peace process will drag on for quite sometime.

LTTE's insistence that its proposal for an Interim Self Governing Authority (ISGA) should form the basis of talks in resuming the stalled peace negotiations and the stance of the JVP on this issue has further aggravated the situation. UPFA government has not been able to reach a consensus on this issue with its main partner, the JVP. There is widespread opposition to this demand by both the JVP and the Hela Urumaya. JVP's Propaganda Secretary Wimal Weerawansa is on record having stated at public rallies that all patriotic citizens should express their combined protest against the Government's initiative to grant an Interim Council which he had said would pave the way for Eelam. The "Deshahitheshi Jatika Viyaparaya" (Patriotic National Front) one of the numerous front organizations formed by the JVP over the years vehemently oppose an LTTE run interim administration in the north east region. Elle Gunawansa Thero speaking at a meeting organized by the PNF on September 27 threatened the UPFA government that they will not hesitate to topple this government if they heeded the demand of the LTTE. Wimal Weerawansa was one of the speakers at this meeting.

It is pertinent to recall herein the formation of a similar organization in the late seventies by Elle Gunawansa Thero called the " mathroobumi arakshaka sangamaya" (Organisation for the protection of the motherland) which particularly eyed the public servants including the military. Several public meetings were held by this organization prior to the July 83 communal riots. This organization was considered by some to be communal in outlook. Surprisingly after a promising start, the organization soon fizzled out. The grapevine has it that after it fizzled out Elle Gunawansa Thero moved into a spacious temple on prime land opposite the BMICH donated by the government under the patronage of the former President Ranasinghe Premadasa.

It seems that the rebels are still not prepared to abandon their practice of killing political opponents which now occurs in and around Colombo with frequency. These have in fact gone up to such a level that even the international community and the monitoring mission had to express concern at their obduracy to continue this practice. A feeling has begun to sink in the government that the LTTE is not interested to meet the ceasefire conditions. Consequently the majority of Sri Lankans' confidence in regard to the peace process has plummeted. To a large extent the LTTE themselves are to be blamed for generating negative feelings against them.

Anyway as we have already noted, it is necessary that the government should expedite the negotiation process as the majority of the people in the country would say that "jaw jaw" is better than "war war". The point of most talks, even with the bitterest of enemies is compromise, unless the negotiations are about the implementation and administration of the unconditional surrender by one of the parties to the dispute. The compromise may be loaded heavily in favor of one side or the other but there has to be an element of give and take, however small. It is hoped that the JVP too will choose the path of consultations rather than confrontation. However, the LTTE itself will have to demonstrate its seriousness in choosing to talk rather than shoot. Regrettably however such token of the LTTE's seriousness is still to be demonstrated.

The LTTE sees the potential of the peace process being frittered away by the government not honouring its commitments while the government feels that the premature movement by the LTTE insisting on an interim administration even before the core issues have been dealt with have all created difficulties which are coming to a head.

Killings of political opponents have made it worse and more serious. From this clash of positions and perceptions has emerged a threat to the peace process that risks undoing the advances of the last three years.

Govt. peace council a non-starter? By Frances Bulathsinghala

Four major political parties, the UNP, JHU, TNA and the SLMC will not support the government's National Advisory Council for Peace and Reconciliation which gets off the ground tomorrow while the government's latest co-habitator, the CWC, remains undecided about attending the session.

The CWC which earlier declared that it was attending the session yesterday said it was awaiting its leader Arumugan Thondaman's return to the country, to take a decision. The JHU and the SLMC were the latest parties to boycott the Advisory Council sessions due to commence tomorrow.

SLMC leader Rauff Hakeem said yesterday that his party will not take any decision regarding taking part in the Advisory Council until President Chandrika Kumaratunga consents to meet the party members to clarify the UPFA position on the role of the SLMC in the peace process.

The decision by the SLMC was taken after a late night party leaders meeting on Friday, with a letter being sent to President Kumaratunga regarding the SLMC decision yesterday.

The letter requests the President to clarify issues related to the Muslim aspect in talks to be initiated by the UPFA with the LTTE. Referring to the National Advisory Council the letter further states that the President had not made the role of the council in the peace negotiations clear and adds that clarifications are needed on the parameters and composition of the council.

The appointment of the National Advisory Council was seen as the government's latest move to go ahead with the stalled peace process. The Council is being appointed to open wider consultations, the President's office has said.

JHU National Organizer Ven. Kolonnawe Sri Sumangala Thera told The Sunday Times that the JHU position was that it will not be supporting the National Council for Peace and Reconciliation on the basis that anything linked to the Interim Self Governing Authority (ISGA) proposals of the LTTE was unacceptable to his party.

The UNP and TNA reiterated that they believe the government was buying time till the next Presidential Election by setting up the National Advisory Council. TNA General Secretary R. Sampanthan dismissed the move by the government as a waste of time with Prof. Peiris, stating that the main reason for the Opposition to boycott the National Advisory Council is the Government's 'unclear stand' on the LTTE's ISGA.

"No government has ever got the backing from an opposition like this government has got from us. But it is clearly seen that this is a time buying measure taken by the President until the next Presidential election", Prof. G. L. Peiris told The Sunday Times. "The UNP had clearly stated that we would talk to the LTTE based on the ISGA. This did not mean that we would be accepting the ISGA in total. The President has not made a clear statement", he said.

End violence, stop child recruitment: US tells LTTE

The US Government has once again called on the LTTE to end violence against "political opponents" and to cease the recruitment of child-soldiers, while urging both the Government of Sri Lanka and the rebel group to seek a negotiated settlement based on the Oslo Declaration.

The call comes after a meeting between Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar and US Assistant Secretary of State Richard Armitage in Washington D.C. on Friday. A US State Department press release stated that President (Chandrika) Kumaratunga had shown flexibility in her proposals to renew discussions with the LTTE.

"Further delay in restarting negotiations can only damage the interests of all Sri Lankans who stand to gain from a return to real peace", the release adds.

The release referred to the need for negotiations towards an equitable and long-lasting resolution to the conflict through the Oslo Declaration, a reference political analysts here say is different to the LTTE's current position that negotiations must begin with the ISGA.


Another Jaffna resident wants to return to his land in the HSZ

Another resident in Jaffna has filed a case claiming that his fundamental rights have been violated by the Army's decision to deny him access to his land, which is said to be within the High Security Zone of the security forces.

The petition was filed by Shanai Thangarajah, a resident of Pandattarippu, Jaffna. He has cited the Justice Minister, Army Commander and Commander, Security Forces Headquarters, Palaly, Jaffna as respondents.

He claimed that even though he made several inquiries from the security checkpoint at Tellippalai to resettle in his own land he had been turned down saying it is within the High Security Zone.

He claims that the decision of the Army not to permit him to occupy his house and continue with his lawful occupation is a violation of his rights to equality, freedom of movement and his right to choose his residence within Sri Lanka.

He states that the main reason for the Army to prevent him from resettling in his own village is that the Kollonkady area comes within the High Security Zone.

He said that according to his understanding there is no legal basis for the concept of a high security zone in the North. The petitioner is a 63-year-old farmer who had been cultivating betel which brought him a monthly income of Rs. 15,000 per month. After he had been displaced in June 1990 due to military operations, he had been living on dry rations provided monthly by the government, valued at Rs. 1008.

He is requesting Court to grant him permission to live in his own land and continue his cultivation. He also requests compensation in a sum as may be determined by the Court. The petition will be supported next week by his lawyer A.Vinayagamoorthi. In a similar case, a resident who had been deprived of returning to his home in an area described as a High Security Zone, had been granted permission by court to return.


Tigers want 10 of theirs for two Home Guards By Amadoru Amarageewa, Trinco

The LTTE has sent a letter to the Ceasefire Monitoring Committee in Trincomalee with the names of ten LTTE cadres whom they want in exchange for the two home guards who are presently in their custody. These ten men are presently under remand custody.

The ten LTTE cadres are those who had been taken into custody in Batticaloa on two occasions. Their real names and the names used by the LTTE are indicated in the letter.

The eight LTTE cadres who had been taken into custody on July 14, 2003 while they were bound to Karadiya Naru by a vehicle are as follows: Sivanathan Thiruman Vanam alias Thamilisai, Vinayagamoorthi Shyamala alias Sudarwili, Navarathnam Manjula alias Thilakadevi Navaratnam Pumidamalar alias Nerkochai Kadiresapilai Rajikumar alias Rajigan, Kopalasingam Dayanandan alias Daya, Sridharan Sudakaran alias Kannan, Thyagarasa Muralidaran alias Kankalan. They were arrested with the firearms they had in their possession.

The other two who were taken into custody on July 7, 2003 while they were riding a mobike at Valachchenai Ottamawadi with a hand bomb in their possession. They are Sandiridasa Jayaweera alias Piyos Rajendra and Wadivel Sandira Kumar. The place of arrest and the offence committed are indicated in that letter.

Tigers have indicated that they are agreeable to release the two home guards with the fire arms if the ten Tiger cadres are released with fire arms and hand bombs.

Plantation unions urge peace talks By S.S.Selvanayagam

The Joint Plantation Trade Union Centre (JPTUC) last Saturday adopted a resolution urging the government to commence talks with the LTTE to find a lasting solution to the ethnic problem without further delay.

It also passed another resolution at the meeting held in Kandy calling on the government to take steps to grant relief measures to low-income earners by providing essential foodstuffs and medicine at subsidised rates through the Co-operative Societies.

The JPTUC President S.Ramanathan alleged that the Up-country Workers' Front was engaged in mud-slinging campaign against the JPTUC, CWC and LJEWU, which were involved in the plantation workers' wage negotiation with the Employers' Federation of Ceylon (EFC).

He said that they would continue to have their dialogue with the EFC until a reasonable settlement was reached.

He said that those who criticized them for having signed Collective Agreements (CAs) with the EFC boasted that they would get the salary increase of the workers by taking the issue to court but could not get even a single cent for the workers.

He maintained that the people who were opposed to the signing of the CA for the plantation workers were now worried that they were not taken to the wage negotiations table.

Four notorious gangs in the net over the weekend

The weekend saw four notorious gangs of robbers being arrested at Welimada, Embilipitiya, Mihirigama and Moragahena and two incidents of gang robberies from Kalutara South and Hakmana.

At Welimada, police arrested a much wanted gang of five who had robbed a van and later broke into a chemical store at Welimada and were getting away with Rs 25,000 in cash.

OIC Welimada police Ratnayake Bandara said the gangsters were arrested by a police team that was on its way to investigate an incident of bombing in a nearby estate. They were arrested when two of the robbers had been walking away suspiciously from the van where the other three were in.

Police had recovered a galkatus, a hand grenade, a pistol and two knives form the gangsters. One of them was a member of the group that had attacked the Pinwatta police station in an attempt to recover a seized motorcycle.

The gang had also been wanted for committing robberies in Wadduwa, Panadura and Pinwatta, They were produced before the Welimada Magistrate and remanded.

At Embilipitiya, a gang of five robbers who had broken into a restaurant and remove Rs 25,000 in cash and Rs 5,000 worth of jewellery were arrested at Kuttigala by the Embilipitiya police.

HQI Embilipitiya police Bandara Heentenne said when they were arrested they had with them two cellular phones, a galkatus, two pistols, 28 rounds of live ammunition and two six-inch knives.

They had been wanted for robberies at Tangalle, Weeraketiya, Suriyawewa, and Sevanagala. They were produced before the Embilipitiya Magistrate and remanded.

In another incident, the Moragahahena police had arrested two brothers who were wanted by police for housebreaking and theft at Moragahahena, Horana, and Ingiriya.

OIC Moragahahena police Kavinda Piyaratne said the suspects were living with their mother and had been subsisting by breaking into and robbing houses. They were produced before the Kesbewa Magistrate who ordered them to be under probation care till October 7.

At Mihirigama, police arrested a drug addict who broke into pharmacies, stole fast moving commodities and sold on pavements.

OIC Mihirigama police Willot Bandara said the suspect had been addicted to drugs from the time he was 18 years old. He required at least Rs 1,500 a day to purchase his drugs. Several packets of milk powder had been recovered from his house.

He was produced before the Mihirigama Magistrate and remanded.

In the two incidents of robberies reported, in Kalutara south, seven armed gangsters had stormed a grocery shop and removed Rs 170,000 worth of cash and jewellery form the owner and employees.

HQI Kalutara South Jayantha de Silva said the gangsters had been clad in camouflage uniforms and entered the shop as customers. Investigations are continuing.

At Hakmana, a gang of five armed men had entered a store, threatened the owner and employees and got away with Rs 55,000 worth of cash and jewellery.

OIC Hakmana police W.S. Priyantha said the gangsters had come in a van and entered the shop in the pretext of being customers. Investigations are continuing.