Monday, October 03, 2005
Even the P-TOMS agreement which is a mere temporary aid-sharing administrative mechanism for the North-East which was most affected by the 26 December 2004 tsunami is anathema to the JHU/JVP combine. One wonders as to what he intends discussing at his proposed meeting with the LTTE leader! Clearly, Mr. Rajapakse is banking on the bulk of the Sinhala-Buddhist constituency with inroads even into the traditional UNP vote bank which does not exclude the Muslims, particularly in the East.
On the other hand, his rival, the Leader of the Opposition, projects a seemingly ‘moderate’ stance vis-à-vis the ethnic conflict with his verbal commitment to the P-TOMS and a ‘federal’ form of government. Of course, the extent to which he is willing to go towards federalism has never been spelt out. It should also be noted that it was the UNP, under his leadership, that literally tore up in parliament the devolution proposals of 2000 which was a diluted version of the 1995 PA proposals. Even the breakdown of the post-2002 negotiation process took place under his government in April 2003 in the immediate aftermath of the LTTE being insensitively kept out of the Washington D.C. preparatory meeting for the Tokyo Donor Conference. Mr. Wickremesinghe’s seemingly ‘moderate’ stance on the ethnic conflict evidently expects to harvest the vast majority of the minority vote, particularly that of the Tamils of all description while keeping in tact the bulk of the traditional UNP vote bank. The Opposition Leader’s stance seems to be, at least on paper, a shrewder tactic, given the presumably general all-round reluctance to venture into another high-intensity military conflict and external realities. If, as is possible, the Tamil voter turn-out in the North-East is low, it could spell serious trouble to Mr. Wickremesinghe.
It seems clear to this writer that both Presidential candidates are playing the now traditional political football at election time with the ethnic conflict. They are both reluctant to face up to the reality that unless and until the stranglehold of Sinhala-Buddhist majoritarianism is tamed, there is little hope to resolve not only the long festering ethnic crisis but also the more recent phenomenon of Christian-bashing.
What is happening in this country today in the name of Buddhism is an insult to the Buddha Dhamma. In this connection it will be prudent to consider the US State Department’s ‘International Religious Freedom Report 2004’ submitted to Congress which has a scathing reference to religious intolerance in Sri Lanka. Amongst others, it refers to “An overall deterioration of religious freedom due to the actions of extremists in Sri Lanka…. Buddhist extremists destroyed Christian churches and harassed and abused pastors and congregants”.
It is no accident that both Presidential candidates are silent on the proposed Anti-conversion Bill, which is now in parliament. The entire edifice of the Sri Lankan State is weighted heavily against minorities, particularly the Tamils, even today. The manner of the recent passing of the Emergency regulations in parliament, which largely result in the harassment of Tamils, is a reflection of this. The only minority support it obtained was inexplicably from the CWC, in spite of plantation workers of recent Indian origin being frequently at the receiving end of much harassment from the almost 100% Sinhala dominated security forces and police.
It is most unlikely that any of the two Presidential candidates elected on November 17 will have the political will and sagacity to meaningfully redress these issues.
The rise of Tamil militancy was in response to the implications of the stranglehold of this majoritarian syndrome, regular violence unleashed on Tamils and their property, a litany of broken promises and the offer of too little too late. Although those responsible for the more virulent attacks could be said to be in the lunatic fringe particularly in regard to Christian bashing, the plain fact is that there seems to be at least some tacit acquiescence to this as reflected by the silence of the vast majority of the southern polity. Even the few instances of disapproval for the most part have been muted. The contribution of successive governments to this state of affairs is manifested in different ways. This includes State-sponsored colonisation with overwhelmingly Sinhala settlers in the overwhelmingly Tamil speaking Eastern Province which became more aggressive soon after independence, the infamous 24-hour ‘Sinhala Only’ policy of 1956 making Tamils instantly ‘illiterate’, the tearing up of the ‘Bandaranaike-Chelvanayakam’ pact of 1957, the aborting of the ‘Dudley-Chelvanayakam’ pact of 1966, ‘standardization’ of university admissions in 1972 which mainly worked to the detriment of Tamils, thuggery unleashed at the 1981 DDC elections in Jaffna which included the burning of the world renowned Jaffna Public Library, the farcical Provincial Council system of 1987, the regular dilution of the 1995 Devolution proposals, the tearing up of the year 2000 constitutional proposals for devolution and more recently the strong opposition to the P-TOMS, which is a mere aid sharing administrative mechanism for the North-East which was most affected by the 26 December 2004 tsunami.
Even today, exaggerations, subterfuge, concealment and sometimes even utter falsehood are employed to deprive the Tamils of what is their due to live with dignity and security as equal partners in a truly secular and tolerant Sri Lanka. Alleged child conscription and the ‘Karuna’ bogey are examples of this.
In the UK, children as young as 16 years of age are routinely recruited into its armed forces. Recruiting campaigns often target the more deprived sections of the community through various incentives. While not for a moment condoning the deployment of child soldiers from any quarter, can the strong possibility be excluded that the best promoter of young people being attracted to the LTTE would be factors such as- the acts of omission and commission of successive governments in the form of serious discrimination, harsh treatment meted out by an almost exclusively non-Tamil speaking armed forces, stress caused by insecurity and terrible violence such as indiscriminate carpet bombing unleashed over the years on the hapless Tamil population? The ‘Karuna’ factor being projected as a force to be reckoned with in the east and thus posing a serious threat to the LTTE is an illusory creation of a section of the southern polity to dilute the north-east link. The present policy to marginalize the LTTE internationally, which appears to be gleefully welcomed by the southern polity, will prove to be as myopic and disastrous as the infamous ‘war for peace’ campaign. Conveniently overlooked in this endeavour, are domestic and international state terrorism in its different forms.
Not withstanding all this, there is no question that the LTTE should fast track its transition from militant freedom fighters to a responsible political organization based on tolerance, plurality and democracy. Unfortunately, the Sri Lankan State gives a very poor example in all round good governance which includes an atrocious human rights record.
As indicated earlier, unless and until the stranglehold of Sinhala-Buddhist majoritarianism is tamed, there is little hope of resolving these issues. An interesting phenomenon being witnessed is where large sections of Sinhala-Christians who find it discriminatory when their churches are attacked and desecrated, at least tacitly acquiescing by turning a blind eye to the far more serious and widespread discrimination and harassment perpetrated on Tamils. One wonders as to what chance there is for the Tamils of this country when even Sinhala-Christians are targeted for discrimination and the two Presidential candidates are not willing to even take a stand on the obnoxious anti-conversion bill which has been presented to parliament! Even the NGOs on the ‘peace’ gravy train are not pushing the two Presidential candidates to be more forthcoming on their plan of action towards resolving the ethnic crisis and to state their clear stand on the anti-conversion bill. For example, they should pointedly ask Mr. Rajapakse how realistic it is to seek a solution within a ‘unitary’ constitution, given the ground realities of the conflict which include the LTTE controlling vast extent of territory in the north-east and to unequivocally state whether there will be conscription in his strategy for war and more particularly whether his three sons will be sent to the war front. How the war will be financed is another issue of interest to the electorate.
Mr. Wickremesinghe should be asked to state in more specific terms, the extent of ‘federalism’ he will consider rather than merely repeating ad nauseam that it will be within a ‘united’ Sri Lanka. Also to be determined is his stance on the unit of devolution at least in broad terms. A glaring omission in the just released UNP manifesto is any reference to the P-TOMS. There is also an obvious reluctance to use the term ‘Federal’ which is merely implied in the manifesto. This immediately raises suspicion on his serious commitment for a negotiated solution. The Tamils and Christians are surely between the ‘devil and the deep blue sea’!
(The Special Task Force (STF) was formed in 1983 to operate as a counterinsurgency force in Sri Lanka, not as a military force but rather a highly specialized police unit. It later assumed the Counter Terrorist mission and – as the most highly trained police organization – would be the lead unit whenever law enforcement forces reacted against terrorists. The STF has been stationed in the Eastern Province in Sri Lanka where the LTTE is active. Other units are based in Colombo and they are used as V.I.P. security. They have received training from the British SAS as well as the security forces of India.)
Magistrate Kusala Sarojini Weerawardena asked the CID whether the ten policemen had received any death threats.
The Magistrate made this observation when the CID filed a report in connection with the identification parade held to identify the suspect Kathiramalai Vaithian alias Veerapandian alias ‘Gopi’.
“If the policemen cannot arrest and identify a murder suspect of a senior police officer, a serious question arises as to how they would act with regard to a killing of an ordinary person,” the magistrate said.
The identification parade was held at the prison premises and seven persons who had similar physical features as the suspect were produced. To maintain the credibility of the parade, the police had produced seven persons who had lost their hands.
The Magistrate ordered that the suspect be remanded till October 12.
Soon after the assassination, President Kumaratunga demanded an urgent meeting with the LTTE through facilitation by the Norwegian government to review the CFA. The scenario prevalent at that time forced the LTTE to change its hitherto adamant stand. It agreed to review the CFA immediately. It agreed to a meeting with the government to review the CFA. This can be considered as the second occasion when the LTTE was compelled to change its rigid stand.
The co-chairs of the Tokyo Donor Conference especially the US, Japan and now the European Union have made statements or expressed strong views regarding terrorism and terrorism financing.
“The US has extensive laws about terrorism financing. We are closely monitoring the charity organizations operating on US soil…We are constantly looking into organizations to see if they abide by the law…If the organizations do not abide by the law then we will take action…” US Ambassador Jeffrey Lunstead was quoted as saying.
It has been reported that the co-chairs of the Tokyo donor conference (Norway, Japan, European Union, US) have decided to demand that the LTTE desist from terrorism.
It is common knowledge that it was Norway that was strategically postponing the EU from taking a firm decision on banning the LTTE in EU countries.
“Southern politicians and diplomats are used to give a deceitful picture to the international community regarding the problems affecting the Tamils in Sri Lanka,” observed LTTE’s political wing leader S.P.Thamilselvan.
But now the LTTE is utilizing the presidential call for course correction to get involved in talks with the government to paint a better picture to the international community especially the EU to prevent the organization from being banned in the EU. There should be some sort of a plausible reason for Norway to fight for time. The most plausible way out for the LTTE would be to get involved in some sort of discussion with the government. That is why Thamilselvan is ready to talk even in the next minute.
It is clear that the international community has targeted the LTTE over its political killings and child recruitment.
Before the assassination of Lakshman Kadirgamar the LTTE vehemently opposed any discussion on reviewing the Ceasefire Agreement despite a call by the government. This was the time that the LTTE was ruling the roost.
The international community was in a way listening to the LTTE version as the ‘oppressed’ party. It was the late Mr. Kadirgamar who changed such attitudes. His assassination at the hands of LTTE created a stir in the international community.
Soon after the assassination, President Kumaratunga demanded an urgent meeting with the LTTE through facilitation by the Norwegian government to review the CFA. The scenario prevalent at that time forced the LTTE to change its hitherto adamant stand. It agreed to review the CFA immediately. It agreed to a meeting with the government to review the CFA.
This can be considered as the second occasion when the LTTE was compelled to change its rigid stand. The first occasion was the willingness shown to review the ISGA proposals in the face of a massive protest campaign.
So it can be safely assumed that the irreparable damage caused to the LTTE internationally has forced them to show a human face to the community. The LTTE is an organization that is quite adept at changing the face to get out of a difficult situation with the idea of getting back to terror business when the situation is ripe for that.
Hence, the LTTE would have expected, with the passage of time, to regain lost ground in the killing fields and to continue its terror acts unabashedly. But, with the banning of the Tamil Rehabilitation Organization (TRO) in UK and the threat for TRO in US and EU countries together with harsh EU statement on the LTTE on Tuesday the organization has been shaken to the roots. It is the flow of unlimited funds from the Tamil expatriates the world over that keeps the movement going.
In particular, the UK, US, Canada and the EU countries replenish the Tiger coffers. Hence any damage to their “reputation” would affect the flow of funds. These countries in Europe are now hell bent to curtail any type of terror acts on their soil after 9/11 and the recent 7/7 London bombings and other attacks in Europe. The LTTE automatically falls into this category of terrorism financing under various pretexts.
It was in this context that the US Ambassador was discussing TRO. The TRO of course is functioning as a non-governmental organization helping to rehabilitate Tamils. But that is just a front organization for the LTTE. What happens under cover is what matters most to the LTTE as well as the US, UK and Europe.
That is what prompted Thamilselvan to explain their stand in the Tamilnet website. “Southern politicians and diplomats are used to giving a deceitful picture to the international community.” This shows how much the LTTE is concerned about maintaining a good name and rapport with the international community to run their clandestine financial operations in other countries for their own survival.
In the local scene, the LTTE seems to be a bit worried. That is why the LTTE keeps on repeating that they are not interested in polls and instead call for immediate talks. The funniest part is that about a couple of weeks ago the very same Thamilselvan was reported to have said there will be no talks of any kind till the presidential election is over. 0They are so desperate to have talks to review the CFA to maintain the ceasefire agreement. What an unbelievable change of course. In fact it is not a course correction they are seeking now. It was the President who first wanted to review the CFA to have a course correction.
But now the LTTE is utilizing the presidential call for course correction to get involved in talks with the government to paint a better picture to the international community especially the EU to prevent the organization from being banned in the EU.
There should be some sort of a plausible reason for Norway to fight for time. The most plausible way out for the LTTE would be to get involved in some sort of discussion with the government. That is why Thamilselvan is ready to talk even in the next minute.
It appears that some other type of local influence too has prompted the LTTE to seek urgent talks. It was the normal practice for the TNA MPs to make the “pilgrimage” to Wanni to get briefed for their next action. This time the TNA members returned from Wanni without any directives as to how they should cast their votes at the presidential election. This is a very important decision because the Tamil votes from the North and the East would be a deciding factor at a national election. It is believed that the Tamil vote in such areas is more favourable to the UNP.
At a time when both presidential contenders are neck and neck what prompted the LTTE to postpone or negate the North East Tamil factor is questionable. When the TNA returned empty handed from Kilinochchi it was reported that the LTTE has postponed their decision. However Thamilselvan says, “the LTTE, which will not participate in the voting, does not plan to rally the minority Tamil community for or against either candidate”. Hence according to him this was not a postponement but a direct rejection.
Thamilselvan further says, “Both have victory as their objective and want to use the conflict of the Tamil people for their advantage – one wants to bash Tamils and get the majority Sinhala vote while the other wants to be seen as a moderate and win the minority vote.”
One can say that at last Thamilselvan has discovered the truth in the divisive party politics to make such a comment. In a way it gives the impression that the LTTE too has learnt the art of utilizing their vote bank for bargaining purposes. As a result this time the LTTE does not want to follow the traditional path and vote for the UNP blindly but lure both the contenders by dangling their 650,000 vote bank to get what they want.
Thamilselvan’s dictator boss who has never allowed democratic rights to his fellow beings seems to be utilizing the best carrot to manipulate the two presidential contenders.
The United States yesterday welcomed the European Union travel ban on the LTTE and said it believed the ban would remain till the purpose of imposing it was achieved.
Christina Rocca, US Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs, in an interview with the Daily Mirror said the EU ban reflected the international community's strongest message that acts of terrorism by the LTTE would not be tolerated.
"The travel ban is a concerted message from the Co-Chairs — the US, EU, Japan and Norway — which strongly felt that a wanton act of terrorism of the nature of the assassination of foreign minister Lakshman Kadirgamar should not go unpunished," Ms. Rocca said.
The United States, as a country which has designated the LTTE as a terrorist organization, strongly felt that strong action should be taken against the LTTE to stop the growing number of killings, other forms of violence and child recruitment, she said.
However, Ms. Rocca underscored the need to continue the peace process and reach a negotiated settlement to the conflict and observed that the United States expected that whoever won the presidential elections in Sri Lanka would continue the peace efforts.
"For the US it does not matter who wins the elections but we want to see a violence-free poll and a commitment to continue the peace process," Ms. Rocca said in the interview at the US State Department.
The assistance that came Sri Lanka's way following the December 26 tsunami, Ms. Rocca said, was ample evidence of the kind of support the international community, especially the US, would make available for Sri Lanka and that the government of Sri Lanka could count on such assistance always.
Washington diplomatic sources told the Daily Mirror it was the United States along with Britain — the current European Union president, which played the most decisive role in getting the ban through and Ms. Rocca herself played a crucial role in the discussions in the run-up to the travel ban.
Meanwhile, the Washington Post reported that Ms. Rocca would vacate her post as Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia in a few months and would be replaced by former State Department spokesman Richard Boucher.
"US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has reportedly proposed Boucher's nomination to the White House," the Washington Post said.
Thus we have Mahinda Rajapakse, whether pushed to do so by the JVP and JHU or not, saying he represents the will of the majority demanding that the unitary character of the state be kept intact. Then there is Ranil Wickremesinghe, pushed perhaps by the international community, the LTTE and other minority groups, vowing to work towards the dismantling of the unitary state by way of federalism and calling the entire solution a recipe for a united Sri Lanka.
Is a unitary state necessarily disunited? Is a federal set-up necessarily uniting? The answer to both questions is no. Notwithstanding this, what is pertinent to understand here is that unitary refers to the character of a well-defined political structure. United does not refer to the form of a given state. Instead, it describes or envisages a relationship between two or more entities, entities that are not necessarily political. For example, the entire nation was united in the shock and grief when the countryâ€™s coastline was devastated by the tsunami, but those who were shocked and aggrieved did not relate to each other in a federal kind of way.
Since we are on the subject, it is worthwhile putting federalism in the context of this unitary-united divide and thereby deriving their underlying meanings in the lexicon of the realpolitik.
A federal set up presupposes the existence of political entities that are distinct from one another and that they can reference well-defined geographies that are amenable to labelling as traditional/historical homelands. Self-determination or the right of self-determination must necessarily follow. Thus, such an entity is not granted federalism as such, but rather agrees to be party to a union on federal lines. And, just as a man and a woman have the right to marry one another without conceding the right that each has to separation and/or divorce, either of the two entities that come together in a federal model can choose to separate. It is as simple as that.
Federalism is therefore not a uniting mechanism but one in which is couched the right to separate and secede. Furthermore, when such a solution is proffered to a terrorist who is a chauvinist and who moreover is also an ethnic-cleanser, only the very naive or the worst coward can convince himself or herself that it will result in peace.
Unity under such a situation is utopian and is but an indulgence of the privileged those whose identities are wrought in monetary transactions and not parentage, culture, history, heritage and soil. The correct descriptive for the outcome of a federal solution is unadulterated disunity for decades to come. If you have any doubts, just look at what partition did to India and Pakistan. And in that case the Muslims had a legitimate claim. In ours, as Anandasangaree put it, even the P-TOMS would be legitimizing terrorism.
Just imagine what federalism would do.
In essence, then, federalism does not obtain unity and a federal "solution" therefore is a misnomer. We can only speak of a federal dissolution, if at all.
Who are the federalists in our midst? As Ranil Wickremesinghe told the JHU, it was Chandrika who introduced the idea. Wickremesinghe himself says the Oslo Agreement (i.e. federalism) should be the basis for a settlement. And G.L. Peiris, as though to ratify all this, says CBK and Ranil share the same view on federalism. The European Union wants the LTTE to accept federalism. Manmohan Singh is only opposed to a dictatorship in the North and East of Sri Lanka. He does not say no to a federal dissolution. In short, is he not saying, â€œWe donâ€™t want Helgesen or Balasingham or Prabhakaran, but our puppet?â€
The difference between India and Norway is simply that India would prefer a Hindu puppet while Norway would love a Christian one. This is what the tug-of-war between Norway and India regarding their respective roles in Sri Lanka is all about, really. They sugar coat dissolution of the Sri Lankan state with terms such as a solution acceptable to all or a just solution, taking care to write the Sinhalese Buddhists out of the equation, not just of the solution but the entire process of negotiations. They really donâ€™t care whether it is Chandrika or Ranil at the helm because they know that both individuals would happily embrace such dissolution, albeit for different reasons.
We all know that the EU, Britain, the USA, Norway and other foreigners are not in this for the love of peace or due to their extraordinary humanity.
Their histories, collective and separate, prove otherwise. Let us limit ourselves to the CBKs and Ranils here.
These two individuals, more than anyone else, represent the elite class of this country. They are the main representatives of the â€˜prabhu pelenthiyaâ€™, the relics of the British Raj. This is the key to understanding why they are getting hot under their respective collars about Mahindaâ€™s pacts with the
JVP and the JHU. In Chandrikaâ€™s case, she probably sees her legacy of betrayal being torn right down to its foundations. In Ranilâ€™s, it is his political future that is at stake. That is at the surface, I believe. At the core, they have failed or are facing the very real threat of failing their colonial masters. They havenâ€™t delivered or are facing the likelihood of failing to deliver. No wonder they are upset.
One can read this political in the rhetoric of the ball-boys as well.
Consider Rajitha Senaratne. He was, apart from GL, the most vocal proponent of the peace process between 2001 and 2004. At that time he urged the people not to get imprisoned in the terminology; ekeeya-sandeeya vage vachanavalata hira venna epa. Today ekeeya is like poison to Rajitha, as it is to Ranil and Chandrika.
In 1994, Chandrika rode to power in a wave of anti-UNP sentiment.
She redefined the mandate she was given as a mandate for division.
Ranil is merely attempting (once again) to run the second lap of that race.
In 1994, she called it a mandate for peace. In 2001, Ranil called his victory a mandate for peace. Today the cat, uncontainable, has popped out of the bag. It is pay-back time and both Chandrika (even in her reduced circumstance) and Ranil (in his last-gasp attempt) are giving it all theyâ€™ve got. The sheer vitriol in their utterances against the JHU and the JVP indicate this and little else.
All this was expected and this is why no one is really paying attention to Chandrikaâ€™s not-so-veiled threats against Mahinda Rajapakse. As a senior UNPer recently confessed, if Chandrika tries to subvert Mahindaâ€™s Presidential bid, it would only help him emerge as the quintessential champion of the anti-feudal. She could cause a lot of political instability but it would also mean that Mahinda can very well make a revolution. The man can ride to power on two very simple and eminently campaignable slogans: â€˜walau deshapalanayata thithaâ€™ and â€˜wedavasam yugayen obbatai.â€™ A full stop to manorial politics and proceed beyond the feudal era.
There maybe some in the UNP who would read Chandrikaâ€™s current anti-Mahinda theatrics as a blessing. The truth is that Mahinda did not inherit Chandrikaâ€™s party. He has given that party the signature of a polity that has been largely sidelined in post-independence politics. Chandrika is not a trump card for the UNP. She will prove to be its greatest liability.
Let us remember that the JHU secured almost 20% of the urban vote in Colombo, Kandy, Gampaha, Kalutara and Kurunegala. These were UNP votes.
Something has happened in society and the conditions have not changed since April 2004, except to further entrench the disillusionment of the voter with respect to the UNP's policy of appeasing terrorism, mollycoddling Christian zealots and pampering the robber barons (local and foreign).
Let us remember that village boys from the JVP secured more preferential votes than UNP candidates in many districts, especially Colombo, Gampaha and Kalutara. The electorate, when it rejected the UNP, was also rejecting Norway and everything that Helgesen stands for. Today the battle lines are sharper, and sharper shall be the voice of the voter.
Of course, this is not to say that Mahinda Rajapakse is not a friend of Norway. However, even at worst, he is not a slave of Helgesen or Solheim or whoever it is that is Balasinghamâ€™s current master. In any event, subsequent to the pacts with the JHU and the JVP, he cannot be someone elseâ€™s mouthpiece.
The difference between Mahinda and Ranil, if we were to really pin it down, is that the latter, even if he has a strategy to unite the minorities, does not have any strategy or a desire to unite the Sinhala Buddhists.
We have gone down that path for decades now and failed miserably. No strategy that ignores the unification of the Sinhala Buddhists can hope to obtain a unified multi-ethnic or a unified multi-religious, and certainly not a
united Sri Lanka. Indeed, both Ranil and Chandrika had a policy of dividing the Sinhala Buddhists, with the able support of the International Alerts, Jehan Pereras, Sunanda Deshapriyas and their funding masters of course. Mahinda, on the other hand, has united the Sinhala Buddhists or, more accurately, has had the Sinhala Buddhists united for him. He can proceed now to unite the country within a unitary state with devolution of power and decentralization of administration, as well as other safeguards.
It is still not too late for the UNP to put forward a candidate who is not perceived to be representing the feudal order, who too has decided to put an end to the illicit affair with Norway. Such a candidate might still make what is a foregone conclusion into a race too close to call.
It is imperative that the UNP consider this option, for the question that is being asked is not unitary or united? But unitary or divided? Put another way; are you for Norway or for Sri Lanka? These are the questions that the voters will consider and the UNP would do well to take note.
The Tamil men, both aged 23, were shot dead by unidentified gunmen just before midnight in Valaichchenai village, 220 kilometers (135 miles) east of the capital, Colombo, said Rohan Abeywardene, the region’s top police chief.
Around six hours later, an ice-cream seller, belonging to the Sinhalese majority was shot dead in the neighboring eastern district of Ampara.
The fresh outbreak of violence came as Rajapakse prepared to travel to the coastal village of Oluvil, in Ampara, to address an election rally.
Security has been bolstered by special anti-terrorist commandos and the police ahead of his visit, Abeywardene said.
He said while the violence is unlikely to have an impact on the premier’s visit, “we are not taking any chances.” Rajapakse will contest presidential elections expected on Nov. 17.
Authorities suspect the latest violence was linked to feuding between militant groups.
The split in the Tamil Tiger rebels in March 2004, sparked internecine clashes that have killed scores, mainly in Sri Lanka’s east. In recent months, the fighting has spilled over into the capital.
The Tamil Tigers began an armed insurrection in 1983, demanding a separate state for Tamils in Sri Lanka’s northeast and claiming discrimination by the Sinhalese.
The conflict killed more than 65,000 people before a Norway-brokered cease-fire was signed in 2002. Subsequent peace talks have been stalled since 2003 due to disagreements over power-sharing.
European truce monitors have warned the escalating violence could plunge the island back to war.
(Khaleej Times Online 2005/10/01)