Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Sri Lanka strips east to bolster north [TamilNet, November 10, 1997 23:59 GMT]

The government has reduced the number of STF personnel in its camps in Arugambay and Panama on the Pottuvil - Yala coastal road according to reports from the area.

The reduction in STF forces is attributed to security demands in the Omanthai sector which is now being looked after partly by the STF.

Special Task Froce personnel have also been recalled for duty in Colombo following the Galadari blast.

Plans to reduce STF force levels in Oorani, Komari and Rottai were recently dicussed by the top brass of the Force.

It is said that local officers in charge of these camps which lie on the vital link road along the coast between Akkaraipattu and Pottuvil in the Ampara district had expressed the opinion that it would be difficult to maintain their positions with fewer troops.

A suggestion has been that all these camps should be merged into one strong camp to supervise the southeastern part of the Ampara district where the large Kanjikudichcha Aaru jungle lie.

The Liberation Tigers have a base complex in this extensive jungle.

Tigers ambush SLA patrols [TamilNet, November 10, 1997 23:59 GMT]

The Liberation Tigers attacked a Sri Lankan army patrol near Vathiri junction in Jaffna around 10 a.m this morning killing four soldiers.

The LTTE had set off a claymore mine in the ambush. The attack was in the vicinity of Thevarazhiyan Hindu College.

In another incident, The Liberation Tigers attacked a Sri Lankan army patrol with grenades in the Nediyakaadu area in Valvettithurai this morning around 8.15 a.m. Heavy gunfire was reported in the area following the grenade attack.

Casualties on either side was not known.

A bystander identified as Navaratnam Soundari was injured in the crossfire. She was admitted to the Manthikai hospital.

The Liberation Tigers ambushed another SLA patrol in Alvai east in a place called Mayakkai yesterday. The Ministry of Defence acknowledged this afternoon that one soldier was killed in the LTTE attack.

SLAF say missile brought gunship down [TamilNet, November 10, 1997 23:59 GMT]

The SLAF confirmed that a missile fired by the Liberation Tigers brought down the Mi 24 helicopter gunship over the Kokkilai lagoon.

Of the four Sri Lankan security forces personnel in the Mi 24 one is believed to be dead.

The Kokkilai lagoon separates the Trincomalee district from the Mullaithivu district. The Ilmenite rich Pulmoddai lies on its southern edge and on the northern edge is the village of Kokkuththoduvai which is under the SLA. The lagoon opens into the sea at Nayaaru.

The lagoon's hinterland was made part of the Weli Oya military zone where a large number of Sinhalese were settled after forcibly evacuating thousands of Tamils in 1984.

Sources close to the army in Colombo expressed surprise that the LTTE has been able to enter the lagoon and fire a missile at the helicopter.

The LTTE is yet to confirm this attack.

SLMC complains to Oslo: ‘We are sidelined’ by Munza Mushtaq

he SLMC yesterday told the visiting Norwegian peace envoy Erik Solheim it would be difficult to reach a consensus or breakthrough in the peace process so long as the JVP and other chauvinistic parties dominated.

During a one-hour meeting with Mr. Solheim SLMC leader Rauff Hakeem complained that his party was being sidelined by the Kumaratunga administration though it was the main Muslim party.

SLMC Secretary General Hasan Ali quoted Mr. Solheim as saying Norway had sent a high-powered team here in an all out bid to get the government and the LTTE back to the negotiating table.

Mr. Hakeem also angrily complained to the facilitators that the President had used strong means to get three SLMC MPs to her ranks so that the ruling UPFA could command a majority in Parliament.

The SLMC reiterated its demand for a separate Muslim delegation at the peace talks, Mr. Ali said.He said Mr. Solheim raised questions whether there was consensus among all Muslim parties in parliament on the separate Muslim delegation issue. Hakeem said all Muslim parties were united on this issue, though they had differences on other matters.

Peace process hits high pitch

Petersen to carry President’s message to Prabhakaran

Norwegian Foreign Minister Jan Petersen who is due in Sri Lanka today in the latest phase of Oslo'speace mission, will carry a message from President Chandrika Kumaratunga to the LTTE leadership, officials said yesterday.

"I would be surprised if there is anything in writing," Norway's special envoy Erik Solheim said adding that he was not sure whether the new message would be vastly different from the previous ones.

Mr. Solheim who arrived ahead of the Norwegian high-powered delegation had a breakfast meeting with LTTE chief negotiator Anton Balasingham at the Airport Garden Hotel yesterday.

Mr. Balasingham proceeded to Kilinochchi for discussions with LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran ahead of his meeting with Mr. Peteresen who will arrive along with his deputy Vidar Helgessen today.

Last week, Japan's Special Envoy Yasushi Akashi during a news conference in Colombo said he had informed the LTTE Political Wing Leader S.P. Thamilselvan that President Chandrika Kumaratunga was willing to discuss the Interim Self-Governing Authority (ISGA) proposal, to which the Tiger political leader had said it had to come through the Norwegian facilitators. Diplomatic sources said there was a misunderstanding over Mr. Akashi carrying a message from the President when it should have been sent through the proper channels.

Mr. Solheim said Norway was keen to push the peace process forward even though "it is difficult to say whether we could thaw the ice." While admitting that it was not possible this time, Mr Solheim said "It is up to the LTTE and the government to decide."

He said even if the President wanted to begin talks with the LTTE, it would not be possible if the JVP which is a formidable component of the government objected. Ahead of his visit, Mr. Petersen also admitted that he hadn't high expectations based on signals received from the parties over recent weeks but added "in difficult times it is even more important to keep engaging with the parties."

Mr Solheim met with Peace Secretariat Chief Jayantha Dhanapala and TNA delegation led by Joseph Pararajasingham. He also met SLMC leaders including Rauff Hakeem yesterday. The Norwegian delegation will meet President Kumaratunga before proceeding to Kilinochchi. They are also expected to meet Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe.

Changing face of Islamic fundamentalism in Lanka by PK Balachanddran

Islamic revivalism or fundamentalism is one of the most striking features of modern Sri Lanka. Though more visible to the naked eye now than ever before, Islamic "revivalism" goes back to the late nineteenth century. And its character has been changing from time to time.

Reformists hope that with changes in the national and international contexts, it will undergo further mutations. After all, revivalism, like other socio-cultural movements, is rooted in specific historical contexts.

The earliest phase of Islamic revivalism in Sri Lanka spans the late nineteenth and the twentieth centuries up to the mid-1980s. This phase could be termed "progressive". From 1985 onwards, a "fundamentalist" phase sets in. And though fundamentalism seems entrenched now, movements which question some of its tenets have sprung up.

Sufi controversy

Interestingly and significantly, opposition to entrenched ideas of fundamentalism has arisen not in places where Muslims are in a minority, where they are exposed to alien influences, but where they are in a majority, and in a place known for its orthodoxy.

The nerve centre of the latest deviant movement has been Katthankudy in Eastern Sri Lanka. Kattankudy is a completely Muslim town in Batticaloa district which boasts of having the largest number of mosques per square kilometer in the world. Women are shrouded from head to foot and even tiny tots cover their head with a hijab.

Though a stronghold of the Jamiat-ul-Ulema, Jamaat-e-Islami, Tablighi Jamaat and also Wahabism, of late, Katthankudi became home to Sufism in the 1970s. The charismatic AJ Abdur Rauf Mowlavi started saying that God had a form, that he resided everywhere and in everything, that Prophet Mohammad was but an incarnation of God who came to the world to set the wrongs right.

According to ULM Harees Fadahi, General Secretary of the Kattankudy Jamiat-ul-Ulema, Abdur Rauf Mowlavi is advocating the use of the Kutthuvilakku (the traditional brass oil lamp) with seven wicks, though lighting such a lamp is part of Hindu and not Islamic ritual.

Fadahi said that Rauf Mowlavi had imbibed "Hindu" and other un-Islamic ideas from the writings of Tamil Nadu poets like Abdur Rahman and Kannadasan (the latter’s Arthamulla Indumadham or "Meaningful Hinduism" coming in for special mention). The fundamentalists argued that what he was preaching was not Sufism, which was acceptable in Islam ( but applicable only to spiritually evolved persons ), but Hinduism.

In 1979, Rauf Mowlavi was accused of "misleading" Muslim youth who flocked to listen to his powerful oratory and joined his madrasas. The All Ceylon Jamiat-ul-Ulema issued a fatwa declaring that he had left Islam and that the Muslims should sever religious ties with him and his followers.

But this did not deter Rauf Mowlavi, who continued to spread what he considered to be Sufism. Being an Islamic scholar himself, he justified his ideas on the basis of the Quran and Hadees. And being a brilliant orator, he was able to influence a growing number of youth.

This led to periodic clashes between the orthodox elements and the Sufis, with the Sufis accusing the Jamiat-ul-Ulema of being Wahabi, an ultra-orthodox Saudi Arabian sect. They pointed out that Wahabism was only ten years old in Katthankudy and therefore had no right to impose itself.

After a lull, the conflict came to a head late in October and in the first week of November this year, when Jamiat-ul-Ulema activisits attacked a mosque run by Rauf Mowlavi’s organisation and flattened two of his madrasas in Katthankudi. Curfew was imposed on the town and for five days life was at a standstill.

Alarmed about such clashes taking place in the month of Ramzan, a former Sri Lankan Minister, MLAM Hisbullah, got the two groups to meet in Colombo last weekend, and an agreement was thrashed out. Harees Fadahi told Hindustan Times that the All Ceylon and Katthankudy Jamiat-ul-Ulema had declared that Rauf Mowlavi and his followers would be deemed to be Muslims and that the Murdat fatwa, issued in 1979 against him, was withdrawn.

But "for the sake of peace and amity" he refused to give any details of the agreement. It is, therefore, not known if Rauf Mowlavi has retracted from his theological line or he will be able to propagate his Sufi ideas. Perhaps the differences have just been papered over for the time being to end an acute public embarrassment.

Shia-Sunni conflict in Pakistan by Amir Mir

Home, mosque and hospital unsafe

The writer Senior Assistant Editor, Herald in Pakistan presented this paper at the South Asian Free Media Association regional workshop on intrastate conflict held in Colombo over the weekend.

Pakistan's founder Mohammed Ali Jinnah, during one of his famous speeches to the Constituent Assembly had declared on August 11, 1947: "You may belong to any religion or caste or creed... that has nothing to do with the business of the state. You are free, free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other places of worship in this state of Pakistan".

However, 57 years later, one wonders what has gone wrong with Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah's Pakistan where the rival sect members are carrying out suicide attacks in crowded mosques beside using automatic weapons and hand grenades that kill both their targets and bystanders. Historically speaking, it was the death of Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) that led to a dispute over the question of his successor, eventually dividing the Islamic community in two sects - Shia and Sunni, which gradually multiplied into numerous sub-sects with fragmented doctrine.

As things appear, the genie of sectarian violence in Pakistan refuses to be bottled and threatens the very fabric of the society. Even as General Pervez Musharraf exhorts the people of Pakistan to adapt enlightened moderation, the country's tentative quest for a non-discriminatory liberal democracy continues to unravel.

Pakistan continues to be caught in the trap of extremist Islamist militancy and terror that its military establishment constructed as part of its Afghan and Kashmir policies.

The overt and covert support of Pakistan's military establishment to the militants fighting in Jammu and Kashmir had in some way promoted sectarian violence in Pakistan. The growing nexus between the Pakistan-based sectarian outfits and the militant organisations active in Jammu and Kashmir and Afghanistan has lately aggravated sectarian violence in the country. Originally a product of Pakistan's military establishment to beef up its security vis-a-vis India, these militant groups now visibly threaten the country's internal security.

While Pakistani military establishment's support for these outfits has kept the Indian army tied down in Jammu and Kashmir, it has created a serious principal agent problem for Pakistan on the domestic front. The linkages between militants active in Jammu and Kashmir or Afghanistan and those within Pakistan are not surprising since these jihadis share the same madrassas, training camps and operatives. By facilitating the actions of irregulars in the Kashmir valley, Pakistan actually promoted sectarian jihad and terrorism back home.

While attacking the religious extremists in his speeches, General Musharraf often claims that only one per cent of these extremists are holding hostage the other 99 per cent moderates. But the General's rhetoric apart, even a common man knows quite well that most of the leading jihadi outfits that had been patronized in the past have a direct or indirect hand in promoting sectarian violence in Jinnah's Pakistan.

Facing international criticism over its status as a host to several Islamic extremist elements, the Musharraf administration has, from time to time, sought to take steps to deflect criticism of the activities of the fundamentalist elements within Pakistan. However, some inner contradictions within the ruling establishment are bound to hamper these efforts.

For decades, Pakistan's Shia and Sunni communities lived side by side without developing any major problems. The conflicts between Shias and Sunnis began to escalate about two decades ago in the wake of two epic movements taking place in neighbouring Iran and Afghanistan. The first was the famous Islamic revolution of 1979 in overwhelmingly Shia Iran, which inspired many of the Pakistani Shias to demand more rights for their minority. The second was the decade-long war the Sunni Afghan Mujahideen waged against the Soviet occupation forces in Afghanistan.

In other words, the Iranian revolution and the Afghan resistance movement stimulated the Shia and the Sunni sectarian movements in Pakistan. While the Shias claim they are 20 per cent of the total Pakistani population, the Sunnis insist that the Shias only constitute 7-8 per cent of the country's 150 million Populace. Over 2,000 Shias and Sunnis have been killed and around 4,000 injured in more than 2200 sectarian incidents in Pakistan during January 1988 to October 2004.

With dollars coming from the American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) during the days of Pakistan's third military ruler, General Ziaul Haq, Islamabad's assistance promoted the proliferation of a huge number of militant groups and religious seminaries inside the country. At that time, the United States needed Islamists to wage holy war against the Soviet troops in Afghanistan, while Islamabad needed them to bring in billions of US dollars. Therefore, the Reagan administration and the Zia junta, both turned a blind eye to their radical ideology and methods. The shortsightedness of the American administration became apparent soon after the withdrawal of the Soviet troops from Afghanistan.

As the Pakistani establishment was busy creating the ghost of radical Islamists in Afghanistan in the shape of Taliban, their jihadi brethren had already resorted to sectarian killings inside Pakistan. Each act of sectarian killing used to provoke a cycle of revenge killings, with the government of the day failing to curb the menace. The very failure subsequently provided the fanatics and extremists to flourish and grow in strength, with most of the Shia and Sunni sectarian groups being sponsored by Iran and Saudi Arabia respectively.

As a natural consequence, after seizing power in October 1999, Pakistan's fourth military ruler, General Pervez Musharaff, had to face a formidable foe: well armed, well-trained, well-financed and well-entrenched sectarian organisations with a huge resource pool of recruits in thousands of religious madrassas across Pakistan. And dealing with such a mighty and organised foe was never going to be easy for an un-elected leader.

But his task was made somewhat easier by the 9/11 terror attacks in the United States and the worldwide backlash against extremist Islam that it unleashed. The Musharraf regime's U-turn on the Kashmir issue and his decision to limit support for the Kashmiri militants, also boosted its drive against sectarian groups. Before that, many sectarian groups had emerged and were being tolerated because of their links with groups waging a 'holy war' in Jammu and Kashmir.

Once the Musharraf administration decided to put the Kashmir issue on the back burner for the sake of better ties with India, it no longer had to put up with the jihadi groups operating in Jammu and Kashmir. The first clear sign of a shift in Islamabad's stated policy on Kashmir came through Musharraf's 12th January 2002 televised speech. While announcing a massive campaign to eradicate the sectarian menace, he banned three leading sectarian groups, Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), Tehreek-e-fafria Pakistan (TJP) and the Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat Mohammadi (TNSM). Six months later [on August 14, 2002], the General decided to ban two more sectarian outfits - Sipah-e-Mohammad Pakistan (SMP) and Lashkar-e-fhangvi (LeJ) - declaring them terrorist outfits.

However, the organizational infrastructures of the banned sectarian groups continue to function under new names and the same office bearers. Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Sipah-e-Mohammad remain underground. Other banned groups are still operating mostly out of their old office premises. Some of them have shifted to new premises. They are still bringing out the same periodical publications, mostly under the old names. They are discreetly raising funds and holding ijtimas (consensus) without any fear.

Though the Sunni-Shia conflict is centuries old, its more modern and virulent manifestation in Pakistan can be traced to Imam Khomeini's successful Iranian revolution and the setting up of a Shia state there. Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Fiqah-e-faferia (Movement for Enforcement of the Shariat Laws) or TNFJ was the first sectarian organisation founded in Pakistan soon after the Iranian revolution of 1979. The organisation emerged to demand religious rights for the Shia minority in Pakistan, including a separate syllabus of Islamic learning and national public holidays on Shia mourning days.

In response, extremist Sunni groups began to espouse the cause of transforming Pakistan into a Sunni state where Shias were to be made a non-Muslim minority. The military regime of Zia fostered the growth of sectarianism in a number of ways. He created a perception among the Shia community that his government was moving rapidly towards establishing a Sunni state in which the Islamisation of the Shariat laws was seen to reflect the Islam of the dominant sect.

However, the 1980 siege of the government secretariat in Islamabad by tens of thousands of Shias protesting against the proposed Islamisation of the Shariat laws forced General Zia to succumb to most of the Shia community's demands. But at the same time, his government continued the selective backing of the Sunnis-led Afghan mujahideen groups resisting the Soviet troops in Afghanistan, which corresponded to a sectarian pattern of preferences in the country that reinforced perceptions on both sides of the divide.

The emergence of the Sunni sectarian outfit - the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) in the 1980s was apparently a reaction to the TNFJ, although its rapid rise is also attributed to the money it received from Saudi Arabia, Iraq and a few other Sunni-dominated Arab states, which perceived the Iranian revolution as a threat. But after the Gulf War of 1991, neither a defeated Iraq was in a position to support anti-Shia outfits, nor was US-friendly Saudi Arabia interested in funding countries that had sided with Saddam Hussein.

At this stage, the Pakistani establishment tried to persuade the Sipah-e-Sahaba leadership to give up its militancy. The mainstream organisation agreed, yet a rebellious splinter group emerged in the form of the Lashkar-e-fhangvi (LeJ), with the sole objective of killing Shias, while describing them infidels. The emergence of LeJ gave birth to a splinter group among Shias - the Sipah-e-Mohammad. While the LeJ gradually flourished in the Taliban-run military training camps in Afghanistan, the Sipah-e-Mohammad Pakistan (SMP) militants were trained in Iran. By the end of the Zia rule, the consequences of his policies were fairly obvious. Over the last decade, there has been a major escalation in sectarian tension, the number of sectarian killings and armed sectarian groups. Among those outfits that have gained particular prominence are the Sipah-e-Mohammad Pakistan (SMP), an off-shoot of Tehrik-Nifaz-e-Fiqh-e-fafaria, the main politico-religious Shia party in Pakistan, later renamed Tehrik-e-fafaria Pakistan (TFP) and the other being Anjuman Sipah-e-Sahaba, later renamed Sipah-e-Sahaba-Pakistan (SSP), an off-shoot of the famiat Ulema-e-Islam (JVI), a leading politico-religious Sunni Oeobandi party. A further offshoot of the SSP, considered to, be the most violent sectarian outfit, is the even more militant Lashkar-e-fhangvi(LeJ).

The present state of organised sectarian conflict can be traced back to the murder of TNFJ leader Arif Hussaini in 1988. Others date it to 1987, when Ahl-e-Hadith leaders, Allama Ehsan Elahi Zaheer and Maulana Habib ur Rehman Yazdani were killed, along with six others, at a meeting near the Minar-e-Pakistan. Prior to this, there were serious anti-Shia riots in Lahore in 1986. In any case, the spiral of violence registered a sharp rise in February 1990 with the murder of Maulana Haq Nawaz Jhangvi, founder of the SSP. This was followed by violent clashes resulting in dozens of casualties and burning down of numerous houses and shops in Jhang.

The pattern and scale of violence indicates some key features. The contending groups are well organised and well armed. Their ability to maintain their effectiveness and to elude the law enforcement agencies also has to do with an extensive support network that includes madrassas, political parties, bases across the border and financial support from foreign countries if not foreign governments. It is generally believed that something of a proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia is going on in Pakistan, with different groups in Afghanistan weighing in as well.

In the process, the state authority stands eroded by the sectarian groups in one way or the other. The hate literature and cassettes from the two sides - easily available across the country - clearly violate the law of the land but seldom invite sanction. Offences such as murder and destruction of property do get a state response but it lacks the will to take the difficult steps necessary to deal with the phenomenon. A narrow law and order approach, with a police force unequipped to deal with highly motivated, well trained and well organised militants, has obviously not had much of an impact, particularly when the latter have state-of-the-art weapons.

The Muslims of Pakistan, both Shias and Sunnis, have apparently forgotten that religious exclusivism was the sole basis to the concept of Muslims as a separate nation, which divided the Indian sub-continent. Thus, the question of separate identity of Muslims in post partition India remains unresolved. The simmering Shia-Sunni conflict in Pakistan shows that there are virtually no sanctuaries left - neither home, nor mosque or the hospital. And being innocent is not the issue. Just 'being' is enough - being Shia or Sunni, Barelvi or Deobandi. One explanation for this is that in a situation where different sectarian groups are vying to prove themselves the standard bearers of Islam, one option is to stand out as being closer to 'true Islam' by displaying extreme hostility and intolerance to those designated as being un-Islamic by virtue of belonging to religious minorities and minority sects.

Kaththankudi clashes: Local feud given sinister twists By Champika Liyanaarachchi

Problem between Orthodox Sunni Muslims and followers of two Islamic heretics settled after 25 years

If someone managed to establish the presence of Islamic fundamentalists behind the recent clashes in the Eastern Province of Sri Lanka, the agenda of many groups would have been served.

The extent to which certain parties - both local and international - went to, in order to give sinister twists to the recent clashes in Kaththankudi, shows that there are quite a few parties out there, eagerly waiting to give the 'fundamentalist' tag to the Muslims here, for a variety of reasons.

The latest bout of the long drawn-out, yet not so organized clashes between the orthodox Sunni Muslims and followers of two Islamic heretics in the predominantly Muslim Kaththankudi, provided an ideal opportunity for the alarmists to propagate their unfounded theory.

While the clashes had caused considerable damage to property and left followers from both groups injured, in the final analysis however, it brought home the point that violence in the Muslim majority town had nothing to do with fundamentalism. It was part of the tensions between the moderate Sunni Muslims and the followers of two heretics who give a more modern but seemingly challenging interpretation to Islam.

Violence, irrespective of the causes, should be condemned and the perpetrators should be brought to book. There are no two words about it.

However, the recent escalation of tension between the orthodox Muslims and the followers of these heretics appear to have finally paved the way for a resolution of the conflict which had run for nearly three decades.

A 25-year-old controversial decree, excommunicating the most popular of the two heretics, Rauf Moulavi of Division 6 of Kaththankudi was repealed on Sunday evening by the Orthodox Ulemas.

Heralding the repeal as a genuine goodwill measure and that the Orthodox Muslim religious leaders are finally for a reconciliation, five Moulavis representing the Orthodox Muslims visited Rauf Moulavi's mosque and performed prayers there.

By that time there had already been public announcements on the agreement reached by the two conflicting groups.

Rauf Moulavi's interpretations that God has different forms and is in everything is a deviation from the concept of the omnipresence of God.

He along with the now octogenarian Pailvan, the other heretic to be excommunicated, propagated this teaching despite the anathematization.

Today, Rauf Moulavi has about 6,000 followers in Kaththankudi alone, with an all-island following close to 15,000. He is also the President of the All Ceylon Spiritual Movement.

Pailvan, who hails from Marathamuani, however, was never so popular. His teaching was limited to Kalmunai and Kaththankudi and he is learnt to have had just about 400 followers.

What really triggered the recent acts of violence was an anti-Pailvan leaflet distributed in Kaththankudi by one of his defectors - one Haneefa - among the Orthodox Muslims, after Friday prayers on October 29.

The day after the distribution of the scurrilous leaflets Haneefa was forcibly taken to one of Pailvan's mosques down Deen Road in Kaththankudi by a group of Pailvan's followers and released later.

It was this incident that led to the attacks on Pailvan's Mosque and houses belonging to his followers on Sunday.

On Monday night, in what appeared to be a counterattack, a grenade was lobbed at the Orthodox Irumbuthaika mosque during evening prayers, injuring over 20 people who were inside the mosque at the time.

Rumours began to be spread that the attack was carried out by Rauf Moulavi's men who were enraged by the attack on Pailvan's mosque.

However, Rauf Moulavi's followers strongly denied any involvement and said that it was the work of a group which was out to pit the orthodox Muslims against the followers of the heretics.

Despite this, a group of Orthodox followers went ahead and attacked two theological schools - madrasas - run by Rauf Moulavi.

The escalation of violence saw M.L.A.M. Hisbullah and newly appointed Minister of Rehabilitation for Batticaloa, Ameer Ali, one time arch rivals, flying together to Kaththankudi on November 2 in a bid to defuse the tension in the area.

By this time, moves were also under way by various other independent groups to reach a settlement and representatives of both conflicting groups were at the Divisional Secretariat.

However the arrival of Hisbullah saw the representatives of Rauf Moulavi walking out of the Secretariat.

While one cannot group the religious factions on party lines, with supporters of main political parties found in the Orthodox as well as the heresy, it was a known fact that Rauf Moulavi threw his weight behind a candidate of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress during the April general elections.

Despite the initial setback, Hisbullah however had his own contribution to the final settlement reached on Sunday between the Orthodox Muslims and the heretics which saw the rescinding of the decree passed some twenty five years ago.

While the 55,000-strong Muslim township appeared to have returned to normalcy following Sunday's settlement, the kind of distorted versions made of the clashes have opened the eyes of the community of the presence of a number of elements which are hell-bent on portraying them as fundamentalists.

Senior military officers in the area, on the other hand, say that they are only wondering as to who was behind the misinterpretations since there are no extremist groups in the area according to their knowledge.

As Civilian Affairs Officer of the Batticaloa Brigade, Major Berty Perera points out the whole situation 'has been blown out of proportion' making it difficult for anybody to guess what exactly happened.

Among those who gave the fundamentalist twists to the clashes, is the pro-LTTE media.

The Muslim townships in the Batticaloa district have always been viewed as a major threat by the LTTE, which along with the Tamil civilians in the district appear to be suffering from a majority-complex. With Batticaloa being the only Tamil majority district in the entire Eastern Province, the struggle to establish dominance has resulted in several anti-Muslim moves in the district, the last major one being the Valachchenai riots in July 2002.

Kaththankudy itself is somewhat synonymous with LTTE atrocities against the Muslims following the brutal killing of 141 Muslim devotees inside the Kaththankudi mosque during a prayer session on August 3, 1990.

All these only go to explain why the LTTE and the pro-Tiger media make it a point to brand the Eastern Muslims as fundamentalists. Given the developments in the international arena, especially after 9/11, attributing any violence where Muslims are involved, to Islamic fundamentalism, they know, is a sure way to divert elsewhere the sympathy the Sri Lankan Muslims have earned so far from the international community.

In addition to this, one can also trace part of the anti-Muslim propaganda during the last few days, to South Asian regional politics.

One may remember the manner in which a section of the Indian media rang alarm bells a few months ago, over the appointment of Pakistani High Commissioner for Sri Lanka Bashir Wali, a former chief of the Pakistan Intelligence Bureau (IB). Mammoth efforts were made to stop him assuming duties in Colombo with the preposterous allegation that one of the aims of his appointment would be to expand the Pakistani intelligence network through Eastern Muslims, among whom the Indian media said there were several extremist groups.

The Indian obsession of threats from Pakistan, have especially had its toll on the reputation of the Eastern Muslims.

Paranoid by its insecurities, the regional power has become ultra sensitive to even the negligible development in any part of the region and this has seen a section of its media giving totally misleading interpretations even to minor incidents.

The prevailing peace in Kaththankudi following Sunday's agreement does not at all mean that things will remain the same even in the months and years to come. There are still possibilities of eruption of violence in the area since it takes time to heal the wounds and for attitudes to change.

While the agreement between the two factions has been a landmark one, however what is perhaps more important is the lesson learnt during the clashes - the fact that there is a whole host of groups which are all out to tarnish the reputation of the Muslims in the East.

Policeman cut with sword by Norman Palihawadana

A policeman was cut with a sword and his gun snatched by a suspect he and a posse of policemen had gone to arrest, ASP Weligama Police, Chandana Galappaththi said.

The incident had taken place at Puhulwella in the Kirinda area.

The suspect was a member of a gang wanted by the Weligama police in connection with a number of robberies and other crimes. On a tip off that the suspects were hiding in a house in Puhulwella in the Hakmana police area, a police posse surrounded the house on Monday. One of the occupants of the house had come out through the back door and cut one of the policemen in the group and fled, taking the injured policeman’s gun, Galappaththi said.

However, police were able to arrest the suspect and two others of the gang with the robbed police gun.

Navy arrest 12 Indian fishermen

The Navy, in the early hours of yesterday, took into custody two Indian fishing trawlers which were poaching off Mannar. "We also arrested 12 fishermen. They were handed over to the Talaimannar police for further action" security sources said.

The suspects were to be produced in the Mannar Magistrate’s Court later Tuesday.

The sources said that two Indian trawlers were to be handed over to the Karainagar Navy base.

The arrests came hot on the heels of an assurance by the navy, at a conference held at the Bishop’s House in Mannar on Monday. The top brass assured the protesting Mannar fishermen that they would do everything possible to discourage the Indian fishermen from poaching in the territorial waters of Sri.

Following this, the fishermen suspended their protest campaign. (NP)

SLAF provides VIP chopper ride to Balasingham

A Sri Lanka Air Force helicopter, reserved for the use of VIPs, was yesterday made available to fly the LTTE’s Anton Balasingham, who arrived at the BIA in the early hours, to Kilinochchi, security sources said.

A few hours prior to Balasingham’s arrival, Norwegian special envoy Erik Solheim arrived in Colombo, the sources added.

Norwegian Foreign Minister Jan Peterson and his deputy Vidar Helgessen are scheduled to arrive in Colombo today

Tiger arrested with micro pistol meant for another

Police on Sunday night arrested an LTTE cadre travelling in a three wheeler in Vavuniya. Police said the man was armed with a sophisticated Chinese made micro pistol loaded with seven rounds of ammunition.

The 26-year-old Subramanium Thirumurugan is believed to have come to Vavuniya from Kilinochchi a few days ago. He had claimed that another LTTE cadre, identified as Kannan gave him the pistol. The sources said that Kannan appeared to have given the weapon to the wrong man.

"We believe the pistol was to be given to another man who was to stand close to the Swartha hotel at Vavuniya wearing a blue hat," the sources said.

LTTE majority in the ISGA and the Eastern Province By Neville Ladduwahetty

Despite warnings of dire consequences being expressed by the JVP, all indications are that the Government of Sri Lanka is gearing itself to resume negotiations on the basis of the LTTE’s proposals for an Interim Self Governing Authority (ISGA). Whatever else the LTTE may be prepared to compromise on during negotiations, one can be certain that they would insist on majority representation for themselves in the ISGA. It is the implications of this one aspect that Mr. Anandasangaree, the President of the TULF, warned in his letter to the LTTE (The Island, October 16, 2004). He said, "How can we expect any Government to agree to give majority representation for the LTTE in the Interim Self Governing Authority (ISGA). Whatever we demand the concerned parties must be in a position to concede. This demand for majority representation in the ISGA for the LTTE will only be the first step towards the de-merger of the North and East. Don’t forget that the Tamils, Muslims, and the Sinhalese who live in equal numbers in the Eastern Province will tend to oppose it and a demand of this nature will only increase the demand for de-merger of the North-East"(Ibid).

Mr. Anandasangaree’s appeal is not to precipitate a de-merger because the merger of these two provinces that has been "...achieved with the greatest difficulty by TULF leaders should be retained at any cost". The insistence on a unified region consisting of the Northern and Eastern Provinces is the single factor that would determine whether Sri Lanka’s national question would be resolved or not. As long as the TULF leadership or that of the LTTE insists on retaining the two provinces as a single unit "at any cost" there would never be any real peace for the Tamil community or for Sri Lanka.

While Mr. Anandasangaree and the TULF hope to retain a merged unit under a federal arrangement, the LTTE hopes to retain it with the gun. While Mr. Anandasangaree and the TULF hope to retain a merged unit by winning over the Muslims on the pretext of linguistic bonding as Tamil-speaking people, or through "indoctrination" as Mr. Chelvanayakam once put it, of the Eastern Province Tamils, despite the recent open defiance by Karuna and past electoral expressions of Eastern Tamil separateness from the Northern Tamils, the LTTE would retain a merged unit through coercion, intimidation or even by liquidating all those who are not with them or against them. In the final analysis, the intention of both Mr. Anandasangaree and the LTTE is to retain a merged unit "at any cost". Their difference lies ONLY in the means to achieve their goal. As far as the end result is concerned, there is no difference between the two, or for that matter any other Tamil political leader from the North: they all want a merged North-East unit.


Having accepted the fact that a separate state was not possible militarily, the LTTE had to come up with a proposal that would give them both, legitimacy as well as absolute power in a no-war situation. Since this was not possible constitutionally, the strategy was to propose an arrangement wherein an interim arrangement would be allowed to consolidate into one in which the LTTE would be accepted as the only authority for the defined region. Absolute authority was needed not only to assure their physical survival but also for their recognition as the political entity to represent the Tamil people since it was not possible to gain acceptance democratically. The LTTE’s need to retain majority status in an interim arrangement as in the ISGA was therefore inevitable.

Karuna’s open defiance was a fall-out of the ISGA. Karuna’s decision to defect from the LTTE followed the appointment of Northern cadres to positions of importance in the East ignoring those from the East despite the invaluable contribution made by them. This led to claims of discrimination by Karuna. The choice open to him was either to play a minor role in a future LTTE administration or to opt for a leadership role in the East. By opting for the latter Karuna was only giving expression to what thousands of others in the Eastern Province, including the Eastern Province Tamils, had expressed democratically at every opportunity offered to them through the ballot (in 1977 and 20003), that the wish of the East was to be politically separate from the North.

The significance of Karuna’s action is that for the first time the people of the Eastern Province are prepared to go beyond mere democratic expression of their desire to be politically separate from the politics of the Northern Province and to openly declare a separate political future for themselves. It is ironic that the resolve of the Tamil community to set up a separate state militarily is the very process that has provoked the East to defy the hegemony of the North. The dominance of Northern politics prevented the East from seeking a separate political future despite their social and cultural separateness from the North: a dominance amounting to oppression that even today calls for the East to be "retained at any cost".

Sri Lanka’s national question would be resolved the day the Tamils of the North decide to let go the Eastern Province. A recent newspaper article urged the Sinhalese to "Make up your mind forthwith to let the Tamils go"(Daily Mirror, October 7, 2004). Paradoxically however, the plea of the Eastern Province Tamils, expressed democratically whenever the opportunity was given and now defiantly by Karuna, is that the Tamils of the North must let the Eastern Province go. As for the Sinhalese, letting the Tamils go would not be a problem if the Northern Tamils did not try to take with them the Eastern Province the Sihalese had nurtured and forged over millennia.

Outlining the economic prospects of the Eastern Province, Mr. Chelvanayakam had stated: "The land which is now in jungle was studded with ancient irrigation works of great magnitude, which when restored, would supply sufficient water for the cultivation of the whole area"(A.J. Wilson, S.J.V. Chelvanayakam and the Crisis of Sri Lankan Tamil Nationalism, 1994, p. 31). It was the Eastern Province that contained the ancient irrigation works referred to, and they constituted an integral part of the Hydraulic Civilization developed by none other than the Sinhalese. Therefore, retaining the Eastern Province at "any cost" under any political arrangement is morally unacceptable. Furthermore, the claim that these lands were colonized has no relevance because one cannot colonize one’s own land. What took place was a return to one’s own ancestral lands with its "ancient irrigation works" that were temporarily abandoned during foreign colonial rule.


The merger of the Eastern Province with the Northern Province described by Mr. Anandasangaree as having been "achieved with the greatest difficulty by the TULF leaders", was accomplished with the assistance of India. It was the Indo-Lanka Accord that enabled the merger. As far as the TULF leadership is concerned its insistence is only for those aspects of the Accord that favour the merger to be implemented. This attitude goes for leaders of other Tamil political parties as well. On the other hand, the disingenuous of the Tamil leadership is reflected when they oppose the implementation of the remaining provisions of the same Accord, such as a referendum in the Eastern Province. Sri Lanka’s national question can only be resolved by India and Sri Lanka jointly living up to the commitments each undertook to implement when they signed the Indo-Lanka Accord.

Anything less would only make a mockery of India as a regional power and Sri Lanka as a weak nation-state without a leadership that is capable of living up to commitments it made to its Peoples. To allow developments in the Eastern Province to evolve without decisive action on the part of both India and Sri Lanka is to permit violence to determine the political future of Sri Lanka. This is unacceptable. Sri Lanka’s national question has to be resolved not through violence but ONLY through a DEMOCRATIC process that recognizes and respects the will of the Peoples.


If the Government hopes to resume negotiations on the basis of the ISGA and it accepts majority representation for the LTTE in such an arrangement, Mr. Anandasangaree has warned that it would lead to a de-merger of the Northern and Eastern Provinces. He has appealed to the leadership of the LTTE is to give up seeking majority status for the sake of retaining a single merged unit. To ask the LTTE to make such a sacrifice is to ask it to give up its role as the sole representative of Tamil interests. This would be a paradigm shift for the LTTE given its penchant for eliminating all opposition. Therefore, it is unlikely that the LTTE would abide by or even consider Mr. Anandasangaree’s request.

Instead, what the LTTE would hope to do is to "retain" the Eastern Province "at any cost" while also retaining its majority role in the ISGA. This is bound to lead to increased resistance from the Eastern Province, not only from Karuna, but from other groups as well. Consequently, the theater of violence would shift from the North to the East. If the Sri Lankan Government and India are genuinely interested in a speedy resolution of the national question both Governments should live up to their commitments as stated in the Indo-Lanka Accord and jointly hold a referendum in the Eastern Province.

As long as the Tamil leadership, whether TULF or LTTE, hopes to "retain" the Eastern Province "at any cost" Sri Lanka’s national question would not be resolved and the Tamil people would not know peace. As far as the Eastern Province is concerned there is little difference between the moderate Tamil leadership and the LTTE. Both claim entitlement to the Eastern Province without any justifiable basis, least of all on the basis of Democracy and the will of the people. Therefore, however difficult an adjustment it may be, it is ONLY by letting the Eastern Province go that the Tamil people can expect to find peace.

LTTE knowingly targeted Brig. Cdr.’s vehicle – Army

A senior military official yesterday said that the LTTE could not have targeted an army Brigade Commander’s official vehicle on Monday in Valaichchnai thinking they were attacking an ordinary military vehicle. "It was used by the Kakudah Brigade Commander for some time. That is a fact," the official said.

The vehicle came under pistol and hand grenade attack while it was proceeding towards Valaichchnai.

The left-hand side of the windscreen and the buffer of the vehicle had been damaged.

The Brigade Commander was not in the vehicle when it came under attack, he said.

Army headquarters said, "SLMM representatives visited the scene along with the Police and troops."

Reports further confirmed that two Eelam People’s Democratic Party (EPDP) supporters, who were engaged in distributing their party literature, had also been in the area when those unidentified men struck.

Both EPDP activists, Kannan and Seelan were in the area when the incident occurred but Kannan had just entered a saloon.

His fellow supporter, Seelan in the meantime was busy at his work beside a shop on the roadside in the company of three Policemen who were providing security to EPDP men at work.

The pistol men, believed to have operated seemingly from a roof-top or a raised platform, had fired towards the Army vehicle that was on the road at the same time.

In the melee, fear-stricken EPDP Seelan, seemingly aware what was going to happen, had taken to his heels and crept into a nearby hardware shop in search of protection, leaving behind the policemen.

The unidentified assailants then threw a hand grenade towards the fleeing EPDP supporter but it too missed the target and hit another civilian who rushed out from the shop to find what was happening.

The subsequent explosion of the hand grenade injured the civilian, Ahmed Lebbe (48) of Kattankudy after pistol men threw the hand grenade.

Policemen rushed the injured civilian to the Valaichchenai hospital for treatment but he was later transferred to the Batticaloa hospital since his condition grew worse.

The Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission was to be alerted about this violation of the cease-fire agreement.

The Kalkudah Police have commenced investigations.

All Lankan eggs in Indian basket?

The joint Indo- Sri Lanka statement issued after the visit of President Chandrika Kumaratunga to New Delhi and the proposed Defence Co-operation Agreement together with complementary agreements such as on Pallaly Airport are being hailed in all quarters here, except by the LTTE. There is much satisfaction because such Indo-Lanka co-operation, it is considered, would be a positive deterrent to LTTE terrorism breaking out again and would help resolve the 20 year- old North-East conflict.

The basic assertions of the Indo-Lanka joint statement reveals that there are no fundamental changes in India’s Sri Lanka policy and it is a reiteration of the former Indian position, even when relations were at their worst. India being committed to the unity, sovereignty, territorial integrity, their support for a negotiated settlement and opposition to terrorism in all its manifestations, have been stated in documents exchanged between the two countries much earlier and even quite recently. What is new is the warmth, friendship, and commitment of both countries to these stated objectives which are being bolstered by the economic and trade ties such as the Free Trade Agreement and more such agreements on economic co-operation in the offing.

The Indo- Sri Lanka Defence Co- operation is being welcomed even by those who opposed the hegemonic features in the Indo-Sri Lanka Agreement of 1987 because of the militaristic threat of the LTTE in the North-particuarly in the Jaffna peninsula. The Sri Lanka government is trapped in its own peace process from opposing the LTTE’s military build up. The LTTE, all concerned are aware, has been building up its military cadres and re-arming by smuggling of arms during the entire period of this cease- fire. A recent report by the prestigious London based International Institute of Strategic Studies has said that the LTTE has even acquired a light aircraft. On the other hand the ‘international community’ involved in our ‘peace process’ does nothing to halt this military build up and will howl if Sri Lanka commences rapid arming of its forces. America helps in training the armed services and perhaps may even provide some military intelligence but the European nations involved are doing nothing to prevent contributions flowing in from their countries into the LTTE war chest.

Thus, India whose security is being threatened on the Southern flank by this terrorist organisation is the only foreign power that will be committed to take on the LTTE militarily as it did in the late 1980s. As the former Indian Defence Minister George Fernandes has said: the security concerns of Sri Lanka are the security concerns of India as well.

But all this places Sri Lanka firmly in the Indian sphere of influence circumscribing its defence strategies and limiting its foreign policy options. It will no longer be have the freedom of action as it did as an independent, non aligned nation when it permitted Pakistani troops to pass through Sri Lankan ports from the west wing of Pakistan to the east wing during the Bangladesh war. According to reports there appear to be some hiccups about the agreement on the Pallaly Airport because the Indian government wants to limit its use to Sri Lankan and Indian Forces only. While such limitations will not be desirable in normal times, does Sri Lanka now have another option than to grant India’s request?

Former Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi made no bones about hiding Indian hegemonic desires in South Asia and used the Sri Lanka Tamil insurgency to make Colombo toe the New Delhi line. While Indians did realise its folly of using terrorism as an instrument of foreign policy and fought LTTE terrorism later on, today’s situation is that Sri Lanka has to depend on India to save its territorial integrity.

Perhaps, as some Indian political strategists maintain, no country is fully sovereign and certainly small countries such as Sri Lanka can enjoy only limited sovereignty.

But can Sri Lanka place all its eggs in the Indian basket? New Delhi’s Sri Lanka policy is also conditioned by the so-called Southern option—- central coalition governments depending heavily on support of South Indian parties, particuarly from Tamil Nadu. What would happen if a pro- LTTE Tamil Nadu party begins to rock an Indian coalition government?

What is required now is astute political leadership although the present incumbents are light years away from it. The only option available appears to be the Superpower or Hyperpower as it is now called. India too has its limitations when it comes to relations with the United States. Could our leaders be smart enough to use Lanka-US relations to influence India to our advantage? This will indeed be a long shot considering what President Ronald Reagan’s trouble- shooter General Walters told Colombo newsmen in 1987: ‘You settle your problems with India, we will not interfere.’

Right now, there appears to be no option but to place all Lankan eggs in the Indian basket.

Seven killed in Vavuniya blast [TamilNet, May 12, 1998 23:59 GMT]

Five members of the People's Liberation Orgainsation of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE), including its military wing leader for the Vavuniya district, Thas, alias Sinnathas, were killed and 6 others wounded, when a claymore mine exploded this afternoon. Two bystanders were also killed and two others were wounded, said police sources in Vavuniya.

The mine exploded under the van they were travelling in, around 1.15 p.m, at Umamaheswaran Road at Kovilkulam, 1 km east of Vavuniya, near SLA's sentry post.

"There was a huge explosion, followed by sounds of gunfire, belived to be from the SLA sentry" said one local resident.

PLOTE's military wing leader and the group's second in command, Mr. Manikathasan escaped as his vehicle had drove before the mine exploded, said sources in Vavuniya.

A wire leading from the area where the blast took place confirmed that the mine was activated from a bare patch of land on the side of the road, said sources.

The other PLOTE carders killed in the blast have been identified as: Julius (S. Pathmaseelan), Vinthan, Mayooran, and Shanthan, said police sources.

The wounded PLOTE cadres have been identified as Babu, Lal, Moses, Rajah, Kamal and Lawrence.

Srisobia, 17, and an another woman who is yet to be identified, were killed and Jeyanthi, 37, and Bahmini, 17, were wounded in the incident.

The PLOTE is active in the Vavuniya area where they work with the Sri Lanka Army (SLA) in tracking down the LTTE. The PLOTE has a fortified camp and several sentries in the area where the mine went off, said sources.

Hakeem - Solheim talks neither here nor there by Gamini Perera

Sri Lanka Muslim Congress leader Rauf Hakeem said his talks with the Norwegian Peace Envoy, Eric Solheim, were neither optimistic nor pessimistic.

" Solheim and I had a cordial discussion on the ongoing Peace talks. I, on behalf of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) put forward our proposals. But, I cannot say that the talks were as successful as we expected . However, they were very cordial,with Solheim giving our side of the story a serious ear," Hakeem said.

When Solheim was leaving the room after the talks, he was asked about the outcome. His reply was "Please ask Hakeem what went on. The talks were cordial and I have taken serious note of them."

Addressing the media, Hakeem said that the maximum pressure and effect must be generated to kick-start the peace talks at the earliest possible time."

"Even the President had not spelled out her firm determination towards the resumption of the peace talks and proposed that the government must co-operate with the opposition towards a permanent peaceful solution," Hakeem said.

He said that the JVP, based on the ISGA had once again shown its dissension over the peace talks. "The visit of the Foreign Minister, Jan Peterson and his delegation on Wednesday [10/11] will add much encouragement towards the resumption of Peace Talks."

Hakeem also noted that the speech by Prabhakaran, scheduled for November 26, will give an indication to what the future holds for the resumption of the Peace Talks.

"The delay in the resumption of the Peace Talks," Hakeem said "is a dangerous omen and this shows that the LTTE is still not prepared to come to the table for peace talks."

He also reminded that the Oslo talks in the latter part of 2002 was not a declaration, but a statement only.

"The SLMC has introduced a Muslim Rights Organisation to go into the losses of those Muslims who were forced to leave their homeland due to trouble erupting in the North/East.

SLMC MPs, Faiz Cassim, Basheer Segudawood, M.A Faiz, S. Najumudeen, Nizam Kariappah, member of the SLMC Politbureau, M. T. Hassen Ali, General Secretary, and M. A. Baiz represented the SLMC at the discussion.

SLAF gunship crashes [TamilNet, November 10, 1997 23:59 GMT]

A helicopter gun ship of the Sri Lankan Airforce crashed into the Kokkilai lagoon south of Mullaithivu about 11 a.m. this morning.

The helicopter, a Mi 24 carrying four security forces personnel, fell into the lagoon after it was hit by a missile fired by the Liberation Tigers say unconfirmed reports.

Sources said that three have been rescued by the navy by about 12.30. One is still missing.

Two Tiger boats sunk - SLN [TamilNet, November 10, 1998 12:41 GMT]

Sri Lankan Navy sources said that two speed boats of the Sea Tigers, the naval unit of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), were sunk in the seas off Saalai on the Mullaithivu coast last night.

Meanwhile three Sri Lankan Army (SLA) soldiers were wounded in a clash with the Liberation Tigers at Mankulam yesterday said SLA sources.

They also said that troops confronted the LTTE in Vannivilankulam and Paranthan. The SLA sources claimed that 2 Tigers were killed at Paranthan and 5 at Mankulam yesterday.

Arrests over attack on PLOTE [TamilNet, November 10, 1998 12:45 GMT]

The Counter Subversive Unit (CSU) of the Sri Lankan Police arrested 3 persons yesterday in connection with killing of Sinna Thasan, deputy military leader of the PLOTE (People's Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam) in Vavuniya and S.Shanmuganathan, a PLOTE MP.

Both were killed in claymore mine attacks in the northern border town early this year. The PLOTE MP Shanmuganathan was killed on July 15 and Sinn Thasan on May 12.

The PLOTE blamed the Liberation Tigers for the killings.

Grenade blast at Katunayake [TamilNet, November 10, 1998 00:05 GMT]

A Sri Lankan Air Force (SLAF) trooper guarding the runway at Colombo's Katunayake International Airport accidentally fired a rocket-propelled grenade at around 9.00 a.m., shortly before the plane carrying the British Foreign Office Minister Derek Fatchett landed.

SLAF sources said the RPG was fired into the air and caused no damage. The trooper responsible has been arrested for further questioning they added.

Passengers, along with the large number of Air Force men guarding the airport were panicked by the sound of the explosion the sources said.

British Minister Derek Fatchett, who is on a three day visit to Sri Lanka, arrived in Colombo at around 9.45. a.m., a day later than scheduled, as his first flight had to return due to technical problem, said sources. He was to open a British trade fair in Colombo yesterday.

Mr Fatchett is expected to meet the President Chandrika Kumaratunga and the opposition leader, Ranil Wickremasinghe.

Last week a six-member British Parliamentarian delegation also visited Sri Lanka.

President urges unity against terrorism [TamilNet, November 10, 2000 01:17 GMT]

(News Feature) Sri Lanka’s President Chandrika Kumaratunge told Parliament Thursday that she was prepared to talk to the Liberation Tigers about a solution to the island’s conflict within the limits of a united Sri Lanka, but said the war “against terrorism” would continue. Addressing Sri Lanka’s newly formed Parliament, she said that “military action against terrorists”, along with her proposed constitutional reforms and the forming of “national unity” was part of her government’s strategy to solve the island’s ethnic conflict. “It is our expectation to finish this war very soon,” she said.

“Although I have presented these [three]… in sequential order they should not be implemented one after the other but concurrently, together and in co-ordination with each other,” President Kumaratunge told MPs.

Despite having to “spend a huge amount of our national wealth” on the war, “we will not permit anyone to divide this country,” she said, adding that the Sri Lankan armed forces were fighting to “to free a section of our population that has come under the control of rabid fascism.”

Speaking about the meeting last week between the Liberation Tigers and a Norwegian delegation, she said Oslo was “now acting as facilitator” in bringing about negotiations. She was skeptical about the Norwegian delegation’s assertion that the LTTE leader, Vellupillai Pirapaharan, was “very serious” about political negotiations.

“We should give the most serious consideration as to whether [the Tigers] are trying to fool us too in the same way as they have fooled different governments through a period of fifteen years,” she said, adding her policy of "replying to terrorism through military action” would continue until the government was made aware of and had decided on what the LTTE had in mind as pre-conditions for talks.

The LTTE in a statement last week called for the de-escalation of the armed conflict and restoration of normalcy in the Tamil homeland as "essential pre-requisites" to resume political negotiations with the Sri Lanka government.

“By de-escalation Mr. Pirapaharan meant the cessation of armed hostilities, the removal of military aggression and occupation, the withdrawal of the economic embargo and the creation of conditions of normalcy in the Tamil homeland,” the statement said further.

However, President Kumaratunge said that the basis of a solution to the conflict must be clear before any peace talks or de-escalation was considered.

“What the LTTE should discuss with us should be clear and definite political issues,” she said. “If…by discussions, [the LTTE] only mean the lifting of embargoes and the supply of food and similar things which are advantageous to them, then there will be no purpose served.”

“This is because we have already taken such steps,” she added.

President Kumaratunge reiterated that any settlement to the conflict must be within a united Sri Lanka. “Looking at it from the point of view of the Tamils themselves the establishment of a separate state in the North and East will not bring about liberation for the Tamil people,” she said. “All our people will obtain liberation only when they begin to live in a united Sri Lanka.”

President Kumaratunge said her devolution proposals were “best democratic alternative that has been presented, of sharing power within a single united country.”

The devolution proposals came under vehement criticism form the Sinhala far-right and Sri Lanka’s influential Buddhist clergy and triggered widespread protests in August when the package was debated in Parliament. As a result, the government aborted plans to put the package to a parliamentary vote.

However, President Kumaratunge told Parliament Thursday that she would present the proposals to the Buddhist leadership for their consideration. The Maha Sangha is implacably opposed to power sharing with the Tamils.

Calling for unity amongst the MPs of the government and opposition, President Kumaratunge said “Let us set a side all differences and unite to solve the grave problems that the country faces today.”

“I call upon all Hon. Members in this House, whatever party they may belong, to abandon narrow politics, petty differences, jealousies and all other rivalries and join in the urgent and necessary task of achieving peace in our land,” she said.

“Let us all be united in ridding our land of terrorism and the culture of death,” she said.