Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Another five TRO staff reported missing

Five persons, four Tamils Rehabilitation Organization (TRO) Pre School Education Development Center (PSEDC) personnel, and their driver, have been reported missing in the East, the TRO said in a press release issued Tuesday evening. The team, which was expected to have returned to the Kilinochchi FORUT office Tuesday, had left Valaichchenai, Batticaloa District, Sunday around 7:00 p.m. The PSEDC personnel had gone to Batticaloa to carry out the final assessment of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) funded Temporary Pre School Construction Project for Tsunami Welfare Centers and to evaluate the progress of the construction of Permanent Pre Schools funded by Save the Children in Sri Lanka.

Full text of the press release issued by TRO's Headquarters in Kilinochchi:

31 January 2006
23:00 Sri Lanka Time

2nd Group Missing: Pre School Teachers and Administrators Disappear en route from Batticaloa District

The following Pre School Education Development Center (PSEDC) personnel and their driver have been reported missing to Colombo:

  • Mr. Kasinathar Ganeshalingam: PSEDC North-East Province Secretary
  • Ms. S. Dosini: PSEDC Divisional Coordinator Mamunai North Division
  • Ms. Nadeswari: Pre-School Teacher, Vavunatheevu Pre School
  • Ms. Chithravel Sivamathi: Pre School Teacher Vavunatheevu Pre School
  • Driver: Thangarasa
  • Vehicle Number: WP PA 3074, PSEDC vehicle donated by TRO USA

    These TRO and PSEDC personnel had traveled from Kilinochchi to the Batticaloa District to carry out the final assessment of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) funded Temporary Pre School Construction Project for Tsunami Welfare Centers (15 pre schools throughout the East) and to evaluate the progress of the construction of Permanent Tsunami Pre Schools funded by Save the Children in Sri Lanka (36 pre schools throughout the NorthEast).

    The appraisal team was to have returned to Kilinochchi in time for a meeting at the Kilinochchi FORUT office on the morning of Tuesday 31 January 2006. TRO Kilinochchi informed TRO Colombo of the team’s failure to attend the meeting late in the afternoon of 31 January 2006 at which point TRO Batticaloa was contacted and inquiries were made as to the team’s where location.

    TRO Colombo was informed that the team had left Valaichchenai, Batticaloa District at approximately 7 pm (19:00 hours Sri Lanka Time) on Sunday 29 January 2006. That was the last that anyone has heard of the team.

    TRO requests that the Police, Government of Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM), the ICRC, Embassies and Civil Society urgently investigate these missing humanitarian workers.

    In light of the disappearance of these five (5) persons and the internationally highlighted abduction of five (5) other TRO personnel who were traveling from Batticaloa on Monday 30 January 2006 it appears that a campaign of Terror has been unleashed on TRO personnel in the NorthEast.

    The Pre School Education Development Center (PSEDC) is an organization that is funded by TRO and implements projects in partnership with Save the Children in Sri Lanka, FORUT and UNICEF. PSEDC supervises the operation and coordinates the activities of Pre Schools in the NorthEast. The organization assures that pre schools in the NorthEast meet the minimum standards as set forth by the government of Sri Lanka. PSEDC also trains teachers and serves as a coordinating agency that ensures that there is a bottom up design and management of the pre school education of the children of all communities in the NorthEast. The PSEDC works closely with the Provincial Education Ministry and the Social Welfare Ministry.

    The PSEDC coordinates the activities of 2,990, 5.318 pre school teachers, and 87,045 children in the NorthEast and provides a valuable education for the children of all communities and works with all communities without regard to race, ethnicity, language group, religion, caste or any other basis.


Paramilitaries abduct 5 TRO staff in Welikande

"Five (5) staff members [of Tamils Rehabilitation Organization (TRO)] travelling from the Batticaloa office to Vanvuniya for training have been stopped by unidentified paramilitary personnel immediately after the Welikanda, (Polunnaruwa District) Sri Lankan Army Checkpoint at approximately 2:00 pm 30 January, 2006," TRO said in a press release issued Monday.

Full text of the TRO press release follows:

TRO has been informed that five (5) staff members travelling from the Batticaloa office to Vanvuniya for training have been stopped by unidentified paramilitary personnel immediately after the Welikanda, (Polunnaruwa District) Sri Lankan Army Checkpoint at approximately 2:00 pm 30 January, 2006.

Fifteen (15) TRO Batticaloa staff members were travelling from Batticaloa. The TRO staff vehicle had registered at the Welikanda army checkpoint and was continuing its journey when a “white van” that had been following them obstructed their path and forced them to stop. Five (5) members were dragged out of the TRO van and forced into the “white van” the others were assaulted and forced to go back to Batticaloa.

This incident occurred approximately 100 meters after the after the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) checkpoint on the A11 road from Batticaloa to Polunnaruwa. TRO Batticaloa Head Accountant Thanuskody Premini (also currently a student at the Batticaloa university) and four accountants from the TRO Children’s Homes (for orphans) in the Batticaloa District: Shanmuganathan Swenthiran and Thampirasah Vasantharajan of Shanthiveli Murakotanchani, Kailayapillai Ravinthiran of Vanni Nagar Palugamam and another as yet unnamed person were forcibly removed from the car. The other ten (10) persons in the vehicle were recent TRO staff recruits on their way to Vavuniya for office training.

TRO has contacted the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM), ICRC, various human rights groups, international NGOs, Members of Parliament and other significant actors in the Sri Lankan peace process in an attempt to discover the whereabouts and ascertain the safety of these loved TRO Staff Members.

TRO would like to appeal to the Government of Sri Lanka, the international community and the Sri Lankan Civil Society to make every effort to assure the safe return of these persons to their families. These TRO staff members have been involved in post-tsunami/post-war humanitarian relief and development work with orphaned children and are staff of a registered Sri Lankan National Non Government Organisation(Charity)


Tamil Tiger rebels threaten to pull out of Sri Lanka peace talks as 10 aid workers go missing by Shimali Senanayake

Sri Lanka's Tamil Tiger rebels on Tuesday threatened to pull out of next months peace talks over the abduction of 10 Tamil aid workers in the island's volatile east, officials said.

"It will damage the atmosphere of negotiations and make it difficult to resume talks," said Daya Master, spokesman for the Tigers from the rebel-held capital of Kilinochchi. "They should be released immediately," Master said, blaming the abductions on para-militaries supported by the Sri Lankan army. The military denies any involvement.

The Tigers' threat comes barely a week after Norway's top peace envoy Erik Solheim broke an almost three year deadlock to resume stalled peace talks between the government and the guerrillas amid fears that the island was on the brink of war.

The Tamil Rehabilitation Organization or TRO, a registered charity in Sri Lanka with alleged strong links to the Tigers said five among 15 of its members had been abducted by "unidentified gunmen," in the island's restive eastern Batticaloa, about 150 kilo meters from the capital Colombo, on Monday.

Less than a day later, the TRO reported that another group _ including three pre-school volunteer teachers _ affiliated to their organization had gone missing without a trace in the same area. "Under the circumstances, we fear that the same fate has befallen these humanitarian workers," said Arjunan Ethirveerasungham, the TRO's project development manager. "There seems to be a campaign of terror unleashed on TRO personnel in the northeast." He appealed to the Sri Lankan government and the international community to speedily investigate the abductions.

Earlier Tuesday, the United States embassy in Colombo, also urged authorities to "rapidly investigate," the allegations, while appealing to "all parties to exercise restraint and calm."

The kidnappings have been brought to the notice of President Mahinda Rajapakse and there was concern if the incidents will jeopardize the much-awaited negotiations to strengthen a fragile cease-fire.

European truce monitors said they had visited the scene but will return again Wednesday to probe the incidents further. "The LTTE has complained about these abductions and says this may jeopardize the whole Geneva conference," said Hagrup Haukland, chief of the 57-member mission. "We are very concerned as there are elements trying to disrupt the peace process."

The Tigers have been fighting for a separate state since 1983 for the island's ethnic Tamil minority, claiming discrimination by the Sinhalese majority. Nearly 65,000 people were killed before Norway brokered a truce in February 2002. Subsequent peace talks broke down a year later amid rebel demands for wide autonomy in the Tamil-majority north and east.

S.Lanka Tigers warn kidnappings may hurt peace bid by Peter Apps

COLOMBO (Reuters) - Sri Lanka's Tamil Tiger rebels said on Tuesday that the kidnapping of five Tamil aid workers in the island's east could affect next month's peace talks in Switzerland and added the government might be to blame.

The Tamils Rehabilitation Organisation (TRO), which is considered close to the Tigers, said five employees were taken away by unidentified men on Monday in Welikanda, about 150 km (94 miles) from Colombo, after their van crossed an army checkpoint.

"It will affect the atmosphere of the peace process," media co-ordinator Daya Master of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam told Reuters from the rebel-held north.

"This will create panic in the people again. These are innocent civilians. It may be the Sri Lankan forces or it may be the Karuna group," he said referring to a faction led by former Tiger commander Karuna Amman which has split from the mainstream.

An army spokesman said he had no knowledge of the incident.

A string of attacks on the military in the minority Tamil dominated north and east tested a 2002 truce almost to destruction, but international monitors said tensions fell after the two sides agreed last week to hold direct negotiations.

Diplomats warn more clashes, killings or disappearances could kill the Geneva talks before they began, with a host of parties from rogue Tigers to the Karuna group to Sinhalese majority nationalists seen keen to provoke war.

SHADOW WAR Cease-fire?

The Tigers last week said they would cease military action provided the government did the same and abuses against the Tamil minority stopped. Since then, one militant was killed in an attack widely blamed on the Karuna group, but the rebels said the Geneva talks remained on.

Diplomats say the meeting has a real hope of avoiding a return to the two-decade old conflict that has already killed over 64,000. But the gulf between the two sides remains vast -- with little common ground over demands for a Tamil homeland -- and aid agencies continue to draw up contingency plans for war.

The kidnapping of the aid workers took place on the main road to the east near a stronghold of the former Tiger commander Karuna Amman, who the rebels say is now a government-supported paramilitary who has been fighting them.

"They had just gone through an army checkpoint," said TRO project consultant Arjunan Ethirveerasingam, adding that his organisation did not know who was behind the kidnapping.

"A white van forced them off the road. Five of them were long-term TRO employees. They were taken. The other 10 were new TRO recruits and they let them go."

The government denies backing Karuna's group, but truce monitors say they have at least been turning a blind eye to his "shadow war". With no clear role in a peaceful Sri Lanka, diplomats fear he might be trying to sabotage the talks.

On Tuesday, Sri Lankan newspapers published a statement apparently from Karuna saying he was calling a unilateral cease-fire to help the government's peace efforts, but there was no way of immediately confirming its authenticity.


Monday, January 30, 2006

Blast hits causeway in rebel-held area of northern Sri Lanka by DILIP GANGULY

An explosion rattled a strategic causeway in a rebel-held area of northern Sri Lanka - on Sunday, a police official said. There were no immediate reports of casualties or damage. Elephant Causeway, located 250 kilometers (155 miles) north of the capital, Colombo, was the scene of repeated battles during Sri Lanka - 's near two-decade civil war. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam drove government forces back along the isthmus in April 2000 to secure control of the only road along which trucks can travel to deliver supplies to the area.

The Tamil Tigers began fighting in 1983 for a Tamil homeland, claiming discrimination by the majority Sinhalese.

Sri Lankan security forces, meanwhile, came under attack twice this weekend in the Jaffna Peninsula, leaving one soldier wounded, according to the military.

The violence Saturday came despite an agreement between the government and Tamil rebels to cease all hostilities and prepare for a new round of peace talks, to be held next month in Switzerland.

The Defense Ministry blamed ``terrorists'' for the attacks, but did not single out the LTTE by name. The guerrilla group, fighting to carve out a separate homeland for Sri Lanka - 's 3.2 million Tamils, is banned in the United States and neighboring India as terrorist organization.

The rebel group didn't mention the attack on its peace secretariat Web site, instead accusing the military of harassment.

``(The) Sri Lankan army's harassment, cordon and search operations and intimidation against civilians still continues in the Jaffna Peninsula though the government of Sri Lanka - and the LTTE have agreed to hold talks,'' the statement said.


Friday, January 27, 2006

Clash erupts in Sri Lanka a day after peace deal by Peter Apps

COLOMBO (Reuters) - Sri Lanka's military and Tamil Tiger rebels both said they came under attack on Thursday, a day after the two sides agreed to hold fresh peace talks in Geneva.

The rebels said the army had killed one of their men in an ambush, while the military said unidentified attackers had fired rocket propelled grenades (RPGs) at a bunker.

Military spokesman Brigadier Prasad Samarasinghe said he did not know who was behind the attack on a position near a major eastern supply route, but two RPG rounds were fired from a rebel area after an unconfirmed "incident" behind Tiger lines.

Tiger peace secretariat head, S. Puleedevan, said a senior Tiger fighter had been killed and another injured in an ambush in the east carried out by paramilitary forces and the army.

He did not say Wednesday's deal to hold peace talks in Switzerland was threatened, but said the rebels were upset.

"The leadership is seriously disturbed," he told Reuters from the rebel de facto capital Kilinochchi. "This is not going to help the peace process. Definitely it is going to create problems."

Earlier on Thursday, the Tigers freed a policeman as a goodwill gesture after agreeing to talks in Geneva with the government to stabilize the ceasefire.

The stock market soared on news of fresh talks, but many in the war-weary north and east were less euphoric even before the sides began trading accusations.

"I like peace," a soldier said as he patrolled the northern army-held enclave of Jaffna, surrounded by territory controlled by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and the scene of some recent attacks.

"But I have experienced peace talks three times and every time it ends with the LTTE attacking us."

One Tamil civilian was killed overnight by unknown gunmen in the east, the army said. Diplomats fear more killings could sabotage the peace deal, particularly if the government is not seen cracking down on those responsible. In Colombo, an army grenade misfire started brief bomb rumors.


A recent string of suspected rebel attacks on government troops nearly destroyed a 2002 truce and brought the island to the edge of a return to civil war.

Troops in Jaffna were still moving on foot instead of in vehicles, which have been repeatedly attacked by suspected Tiger ambushes, while the navy said it had intercepted a boat smuggling mine detonators heading toward rebel territory from India.

Although shaky, the current ceasefire is the longest since the Tigers began their fight for a Tamil homeland two decades ago. But fighters on both sides had expected war if Norwegian peace broker Erik Solheim had not been able to break a deadlock and agree a venue for talks.

The government had refused to go to Norway, which has been facilitating the island's peace process since 1998 but which some of the Sinhalese majority say is too pro-rebel. The Tigers had refused to go anywhere else.

Agreeing to meet in Geneva, the rebels said they would stop violence if alleged army abuse of Tamil civilians ceased.

They also pledged to release one of three child protection policemen held since September when they strayed into rebel territory as they tried to catch a suspected British pedophile. Diplomats said the policemen were being held as bargaining chips.

The rising violence since November knocked some 25 percent off the value of the stock market and left aid workers working on post-tsunami relief projects fearing they might have to pull out.

Solheim said the agreement for February talks in Geneva could be a turning point. But he added that while President Mahinda Rajapakse and LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran were both keen on peace, neither appeared keen on giving up stated goals.

"It's definitely important -- a clear positive step forward, but only one step," an exhausted Solheim told Reuters in an interview in the early hours of Thursday.

But he added: "There is real enthusiasm for peace but possibly not real enthusiasm for the necessary compromises."

Colombo's stock exchange closed a provisional 7.5 percent up on the day, with traders saying they were thrilled to avoid a war that could have seen suicide bombings in the capital. But some diplomats were less optimistic on lasting peace.

"We're no better off now than we were when the ceasefire was signed," one envoy said. "What's the best we can hope for? Probably some form of the status quo. I really don't see how the two sides can come together."

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

US slams Tigers, asks Colombo to disarm paramilitaries

The US today flayed Tamil Tiger rebels and asked the Sri Lankan Government to disarm paramilitary groups operating in the northeast to salvage the island's troubled peaceprocess.

"My visit together with (Norwegian peace envoy) Erik Solheim's is focused on getting diplomatic efforts to reinforce the ceasefire agreement," Burns told reporters here. He said this morning's bomb attack was 'reprehensible' and blamed the rebels for the deaths.

"The major part of the burden of peace rests with the LTTE....The Tamil people have genuine grievances and these should be resolved through dialogue not violence," Burns said. "We don't have direct contact with the LTTE, so we have to judge them by their actions. The actions of the last several weeks would indicate that this is an organization bent on provoking violence, as it commits violence, as it kills innocent people. "And so, if we see that kind of terrorism anywhere in the world I think all of us, as democratic citizens, need to reject it and need to call upon those who perpetrate it to stand down. So that's what the United States is saying today," Burns said.

Peace envoy Solheim told members of the Foreign Correspondents Association of Sri Lanka that the island is at cross roads. "My expectation is to find some ways for the parties to discuss how to reduce the number of (ceasefire) violations," he said. Burns also asked the government to take action against paramilitary groups operating in the northeast.

"There have been violence against Tamil civilians' activities of paramilitary groups have to be halted, investigated, people found responsible should be dealt with within the justice system. The government leaders I spoke to also believed that it (paramilitary groups) should be stopped," Burns said. His comments echoed warnings by the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) who recently faulted the Colombo government for not acting against anti-Tiger paramilitary units targeting the LTTE.

"The LTTE claims that 'the People' are behind the attacks on the military," the SLMM said in a statement. "SLMM finds this explanation unacceptable. It is safe to say that LTTE involvement cannot be ruled out and we find the LTTE's indifference to these attacks worrying." Meanwhile, the Tiger's London-based peace negotiator Anton Balasingham, flew to Kilinochchi on a Sri Lankan air force helicopter after arriving in the island this morning. Balasingham is to aid rebel chief Vellupillai Prabhakaran during talks with Solheim on Wednesday.

Some 149 people, including security personnel, have died since the fresh upsurge in violence began in December.

The Tamil Tigers, are asking for a separate homeland in the northand east of Sri Lanka and have accused the majority Sinhalesedominated government of discrimination.

More than 60,000 people died during nearly three decades of conflict, before a Norwegian-brokered truce came into effect in February 2002.

SLA attempt to enter LTTE area in Mannar thwarted

A seven-member group of the deep penetration unit of the Sri Lanka Army (SLA) fled leaving their bags inside the LTTE controlled Adampan area when members of the Civil Volunteers Unit and LTTE cadres counter-attacked them Saturday morning around 6:00 a.m., LTTE sources in Mannar said. The bag recovered by CVF volunteers and LTTE cadres was found with army uniforms, military boots and food packets, according to the sources.

SLA deep penetration group had entered the LTTE held Adampan through Papamoddai via Thiruketheeswaram area. Papamoddai area is also held by LTTE.

The sentry of the CVF and LTTE which is located at the entrance of Adampan Saturday early morning noted a group of persons walking towards their sentry in suspicious manner and started attacking them with small arms.

The DPU group thereafter dropped the bag and fled from the area, sources added.


"Burden of peace rests on the LTTE," says Nicholas Burns by M Rama Rao

New Delhi, 25 January (Asiantribune.com): Reaffirming U.S. support for Norway's efforts to revive the Lanka peace talks, the American Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Nicholas Burns, has asked the LTTE to end their violent attacks on the government forces. Simultaneously he told Colombo to investigate reported abuses of Tamil minority in the island nation.

He said the United States favours reinforcement of Lanka ceasefire and resumption of peace dialogue which has been stalled with discord over the venue for the talks.

Speaking to reporters in Colombo after meeting Lanka President , foreign minister and Norwegian special envoy Eric Soldheim, Burns outlined three goals of the United States' diplomatic efforts in Sri Lanka: "To reinforce the ceasefire; to convince the parties to agree to resume negotiations; and to see those negotiations succeed so that peace can be restored."

About his meeting with Norwegian envoy, Burns said, "We very much support an end to the violence and a return to negotiations, and the maintenance and building up of the Ceasefire Agreement. We think it's imperative that every step be taken by the Sri Lankan government and other parties to the conflict to show support to the Tamil community, for the needs of the Tamil community, and respect for the rights of the Tamil community."

"And it's certainly very important for the LTTE to end its violence, -- stop all violence so that negotiations may begin and peace may return to Sri Lanka. That has the support of my government, and we are very pleased to work in support of that with Minister Solheim and his government in Norway".

Deadly attacks by the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) against the army over the past two months have threatened a ceasefire brokered by Norway in February 2002. Norway has sought to bring the government and the LTTE back into negotiations, but as yet the parties have been unable to agree on a venue for the talks.

US official, who flew into Colombo on Jan 23 after talks in Delhi, said the burden of peace rests upon the LTTE.

"[W]e hope that the LTTE will understand that it will have no relationship with my government and, indeed, no effective relationship with any country in this world as long as it seeks to redress its own grievances through the barrel of a gun," he said.

The under secretary acknowledged that Sri Lanka's minority Tamil population has legitimate grievances but urged the Tamils to address those grievances through dialogue with the government.

"We think it's imperative that every step be taken by the Sri Lankan government and other parties to the conflict to show support to the Tamil community, for the needs of the Tamil community, and respect for the rights of the Tamil community," he said.

Burns said the United States would work to strengthen the capabilities of the Sri Lankan military through training and joint exercises. In the same breath, he condemned the reported activities of paramilitary organizations aligned with the Sri Lankan government and called for an end to such violence.

Excerpts from the press conference which opened with Burns’s observations.

Under Secretary Burns : Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. It's a great pleasure for me to be with you. I'm very happy to be here in Sri Lanka to visit this country for the first time.

I had excellent meetings today with the President and with the Foreign Minister. I was able to meet the Opposition Leader, to see a number of ministers and representatives of civil society, and, of course, fellow ambassadors from friendly countries to Sri Lanka. I had a wonderful lunch given by the Foreign Minister. I also was able to meet Minister Eric Solheim, and we compared notes on our mutual goal, and that is to work with the international community, and certainly work with the government, to try to restore peace and maintain the ceasefire here, and resume negotiations.

I want to say, first of all, we're very proud of the efforts of the American Embassy here, of Ambassador Lunstead, who has done such a wonderful job to represent the United States. We are a great friend to this country. We support its territorial integrity. We support the preservation of peace.

We work very closely with the government and we're proud of what the United States has been able to do as a friend to Sri Lanka. I think many of you saw that in the wake of the horrible tragedy of the tsunami. When our military came here, the U.S. Marines gave immediate help to the people who had been affected. We are also, in the longer term, very hopeful in 2006 we might reach an agreement with the Government of Sri Lanka to provide a considerable amount of economic assistance, so that reconstruction and rehabilitation of the country can continue, especially those areas that have been so badly affected by the tsunami.

In addition to that, I must say that the United States is dedicated to peace. We call upon the LTTE, especially, to cease and desist from the violence and terrorism that it has afflicted upon the people of this country. The bombing this morning, which cost two lives; the repeated attacks over the past several weeks; and of course the attacks over many, many years upon the political leadership and the average citizens of this country, are reprehensible and they are condemned by the international community.

And we hope that the LTTE will understand that it will have no relationship with my government and, indeed, no effective relationship with any country in this world as long as it seeks to redress its own grievances through the barrel of a gun. Now, we understand the Tamil community here has legitimate grievances, and legitimate issues that ought to be addressed by the government. And there out to be a dialogue, a better dialogue, between the government and the Tamil community.

But the responsibility here lies with the LTTE, which has taken up terrorism and violence as its political weapon. So we hope very much that Minister Solheim's visit here will result in a resumption of negotiations on a date certain, and in a place certain. For those negotiations to take place, we hope the ceasefire can be restored and we hope a final peace can come to Sri Lanka. The United States wants that very much, and we'll support the government in its effort to protect this country, and its territorial integrity as these negotiations resume.

So I wanted to begin with that very brief statement. I'm happy to take any questions that you might have.

Question: You talked about Tamil Tiger violence. In your meetings with the government, did you address the accusations levelled at the military about violence against Tamil civilians?

Under Secretary Burns: Yes, we did. In fact, we raised that with the President, and the Foreign Minister, and the other officials with whom we met. We said for sure that the activities of the paramilitary organizations also ought to be condemned and they ought to be stopped. And if there are allegations of military abuse of Tamil civilians, they ought to be investigated. If there are people found responsible, of course they ought to be dealt with in the justice system here. We raised those issues because they are important issues, and they are important to the Tamil community and we've heard from the Tamil community of how important they are. I must say that the response we received from the government is that the government leaders also believe that those attacks must stop, and they must not be carried out in the future.

Question: If the U.S. will not negotiate with Al Qaeda in its war on terror, why does it support negotiation with the Tamil Tigers on behalf of the government?

Under Secretary Burns: Al Qaeda is a terrorist organization that has no grievances whatsoever to negotiate with the United States of America or the United Kingdom or any other country in the world. It's a nihilistic terrorist organization that uses terrorism for reprehensible aims. We also condemn the LTTE, and we brand it a terrorist organization. We sanction any individuals or groups of individuals who would seek to give financial support to that organization. But I must say that all of us who are friends with this country understand that this long conflict is only going to come to an end when the LTTE and the government sit down and find a way forward to end the violence and convince the LTTE to stop using violence as a political weapon. That has to happen.

I think any realistic observer of this country's long struggle would say, and agree, that that kind of dialogue has to take place. I'm not aware of any government in the world, or any significant NGO in the world, who believes we ought to be sitting down with Al Qaeda given its agenda.

Question: Is there some kind of direct role the U.S. can play in bringing about a final solution to Sri Lanka?

Under Secretary Burns: We are supporting the core role, the first and foremost role, played by Norway. I had a very good meeting with Minister Eric Solheim this afternoon. I told him that we support his efforts 100 percent and that he can rely on the United States to back him up. We're also part of the Co-chairs group which meets, as you know, regularly to try to provide diplomatic support to those who would want to end this conflict, including the government. I am the American representative to the Co-chairs, and I assume we will be meeting fairly soon to continue the Co-chairs' negotiations.

If there's any weight that America can bring [it is] to try to convince the LTTE to come in and negotiate, and to try to give advice to our friends in the government that they ought to find a way not to respond to the obvious provocations of the last several weeks. I think that is really what America can do best here. We're a friend of this country. We respect its territorial integrity and want to see it preserved. And the people of this country ought not to have to live for another 15 or 20 years with this reprehensible terrorist group keeping this country verged on the edge of war. What is striking about the situation here, in Sri Lanka, is how so many people are concerned about the possible outbreak of conflict, of armed conflict, of a civil war.

It is incumbent upon all the friends of this country to band together, as we have in the Co-chairs group, to send a message that we support peace, and that we'll do whatever we can diplomatically to help prepare the road for peace. At the same time, we are trying to show our support for the government by providing military assistance and training for its officers, military exercises between our troops and the government's troops, so that the government can be strong and the government's forces can deter future attacks against the people of this country.

Question: In light of the escalating violence, if conflict does break out, what moves will the U.S. take to assist Sri Lanka in the background of the U.S. Global War on Terrorism?

Under Secretary Burns: We're focused not on hypothetical questions, but on the work at hand this week -- and that is to try to give stimulus to a diplomatic effort to do three things: To reinforce the ceasefire; to convince the parties to agree to resume negotiations; and to see those negotiations succeed so that peace can be restored. That's the immediate diplomatic agenda. And our weight is behind that agenda.

I want to say again: while we do believe that the Tamil population has legitimate grievances, and they must be respected by the majority population, and there has to be a way for the Tamils to be able to articulate those grievances, the full responsibility here really lies with the LTTE. That's the organization that has to choose peace, instead of the reprehensible policies of the past decade and more. And so we're working for peace, and we will remain, whatever happens here, a friend to this country, and obviously a friend to the government of this country.

Question: Mr. Under Secretary, Human Rights [Watch] in its annual report a couple of weeks ago criticized your government for human rights violations in pursuing the War on Terror since 2001. If the Sri Lankan government was to pursue similar policies in prosecuting the terrorist organizations like the LTTE, would the U.S. Government endorse such activities or would you crack down or pressure Sri Lanka not to pursue the program that you've been pursuing in your War on Terror?

Under Secretary Burns: You know we have a friendly relationship with the Sri Lankan government. It's a responsible government, and it's a government that's dealing with enormous challenges, from rebuilding after the tsunami to the effort to provide economic growth, but particularly the fight against [terror], to preserve peace here, and so we support that government. If, from time to time, there is evidence of human rights abuses, then the United States, of course, would be concerned and would talk as a friend to that country to try to see if that country could redress those human rights abuses. That is normal in international politics.

But for the most part, if I were focused on human rights in Sri Lanka, in addition to trying to give advice to friends -- and for instance, one of the issues that I did raise today in all of my meetings was the need for the government to make sure that there is no official support for the paramilitary groups, that there is no involvement by the military in attacks on Tamils. But the major part of our concern here is not with the government. The government is democratic, the government is composed of people who are responsible, who are good people who want to help this country.

Our major concern is with the LTTE. There is no moral comparison, no moral equivalency that we see between the government and the LTTE and we think the major part of the burden for peace rests on that organization.

Question: Does the United States feel the LTTE is genuinely interested in peace?

Under Secretary Burns: We don't have direct contact with the LTTE, so we have to judge them by their actions. The actions of the last several weeks would indicate that this is an organization bent on provoking violence, as it commits violence, as it kills innocent people. And so, if we see that kind of terrorism anywhere in the world I think all of us, as democratic citizens, need to reject it and need to call upon those who perpetrate it to stand down. So that's what the United States is saying today.

It's also the message of all the other friends of Sri Lanka, all the other governments that are here trying to support a process of peace in this country. We want to avoid a war, and that is the strong wish of the government, as we [heard when we] spoke to the President and others today. They wish to avoid war, and so all of us need to be here to help peace prevail.

Thank you very much.


Intelligence Chief Zacky in Jaffna to step up campaign

Director of Military Intelligence (DMI) Brigadier Rizvy Zacky, a hardliner, has been recently posted as Brigadier General Staff Officer (GSO, Intelligence) at the Sri Lanka Army Head Quarters (SF HQ) Jaffna in a major reshuffle of the SLA and Intelligence apparatus. Execution-style killings of five students in Trincomalee and three women members of a family in Jaffna mark a stark change of pattern in the escalation of intensified serial killings of non-combatant civilians in Sri Lanka Army (SLA) controlled areas in the NorthEast. The pattern of violence also marks the return of hardliners who seems to prefer terror to subdue a population.

In December 2005, Lieutenant General Sarath Fonseka, the new commander of the Sri Lanka Army (SLA) appointed by the SL President Rajapakse, launched a major reshuffle of the top brass of the Sri Lanka Army and the Military Intelligence.

Major General G.A. Chandrasiri from Armoured Corps was posted as the Jaffna Commander to Security Forces Headquarters Jaffna (SF HQ (J)) replacing the previous Jaffna Commander of the SLA, Major General Sunil Tennekoon.

Rajapakse's brother, Gothabaya Rajapakse, a former Lieutenant Colonel, who was brought back from his retirement in California, USA, and who served as a security consultant to Rajapakse while he was premier, was made Defence Secretary in Sri Lanka.

Gothabaya (then Major) Rajapakse took part in the SLA operation, Trividapalaya, with Lt. Gen. Fonseka (then Lt. Colonel), to rescue the soldiers from the Jaffna Fort that was under siege by the Tigers in 1990.

Soon after his new assignment Mr. Gotabhaya Rajapakse requested assistance from the Ambassadors of USA, Pakistan, India and China to fight the Liberation Tigers.

A retired Senior Deputy Inspector General of Police (Senior DIG), H.M.G.B Kotakadeniya, a hardliner and a politician from the extremist Buddhist Monks party, Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU), was appointed as the Defence Ministry Advisor. The execution style killing of five Tamil students, all under 20 years of age, at Dock Yard Road in Trincomalee town, was allegedly carried out by "a team of Police Special Task Force (STF) commandos," said the Situation Report column of Sunday Times in its 8th January Sunday edition.

The paper further said the deployment of the STF was ordered by "a retired police official who has now been named as an advisor in the Defence Ministry." The advisor referred by the paper was Kotakadeniya.

The posting of Rizvy Zacky to Jaffna, which is Fonseka's previous terrain, is said to signal one of the top priorities of the new SLA Commander Fonseka: the active integration of Psychological Operations (PSYOPS) with the counter-insurgency efforts in Jaffna peninsula. Zacky who has earlier been Brigadier of the Batticaloa District, and later in charge of the psychological operations of the Sri Lanka Army, served as Sri Lanka's Defence Attaché in Pakistan, prior to his appointment as the Director of Military Intelligence (DMI) in August 2004.

Ex-militant sources in Batticaloa describe Brig. Zacky as more hardliner in his dealings with the paramilitary cadres compared to the slain intelligence officers, Major T.N. Muthaliff, assassinated in May 2005, and Lt. Col. Meedin, assassinated in October 2005, both senior officers attached to the Military Intelligence Corps (MIC) in Colombo.

The slaying of the Intelligence officers was attributed to the LTTE by the Sri Lankan Military. However, investigations into the killings revealed complicity of underworld Sinhala elements in the killings.

Following the assassinations of the Intelligence officials, who were fluent in Tamil and had a reputation among the paramilitary circles for their sophisticated approach to intelligence operations, a degree of distrust also developed among the paramilitary operatives in Colombo. Some have left the country, informed ex-militant sources say.

Zacky, when he served in Batticaloa, was cautious in placing his trust on paramilitary cadres following his previous experience with ex-Tamil militants who were later identified as LTTE moles.

"Zacky would not tolerate even a small doubt on an agent or someone who serves under him," an ex-militant source said on condition of anonymity.

A hardline PSYOPS approach, dominated by an agenda of terrorizing non-combatants, as evidenced in Jaffna, Trincomalee and elsewhere in serial, spree and group killings, now appears to be the strategy behing SLA's covert war against the Tigers.

The recent unbalanced statements made by the US Ambassador Mr. Jeffrey Lunstead and the visiting US Undersecretary of Political Affairs, Nicholas Burns, have failed to reflect the scale of the negative impact of the killings, taking place in areas controlled by the SLA, on the peace process.

In the meantime, Defence Attaché at the US Embassy in Colombo, Lt. Col. James E Oxley and an assisting official have visited the SLA SF HQ in Jaffna following the reshuffle, according to the Sri Lanka Army website.

"US officials are aware of the background of the key military commanders in the Sri Lankan Government. But as a legitimate State, Sri Lanka Government has distinct advantages," says Selvam Adaikalanathan, the TNA MP who paid a visit to US a year ago.

"The 'white van abductions' and disappearances in Jaffna, create fear in the minds of Jaffna population, reminding the 'white van' abduction stories from Batticaloa and Colombo, of the past," says S. Gajendran, the Tamil National Alliance MP for Jaffna.

The reshuffle completed by Fonseka confirms his belief in techniques to create a fear-psychosis in the minds of the Tamils to crush their political uprising.

Analysts view that the appointment of Mr. Ratnasiri Wickramanayake was a clear message to the Tamils as well as to the international community of the hardline approach chosen by Rajapakse.

Mr. Wickremanayake, a well-known Sinhala hardliner, who has spoken against the peace process with the LTTE, Norwegian facilitation, and the existing ceasefire agreement, had earlier introduced the anti-conversion bill in June 2004.

The "inner circle" of the personalities associated with the former Presidents in Sri Lanka often dictated the direction of the Presidents in their approach to fight the Tigers.

Ms. Chandrika Kumaratunga, the Former President of Sri Lanka, chose her uncle Gen. Anuruddha Ratwatte as Deputy Defence Minister.

Fonseka was the commanding officer in Jaffna. And Jaffna has earlier witnessed Chemmani graves and mass disappearances.

Northeast witnessed a record high human rights abuses during the war waged under the leadership of the former president Kumaratunga.

Gen. Tissa Weeratunga, popularly known as "Bull" Weeratunga, was appointed the overall commander of the Sri Lankan Forces in the Northern Province, by the then Sri Lankan President J.R. Jeyawardene on 14 July 1989 with a mission to "eliminate" the "menace of terrorism" within 6 months, before December 31, 1979.

Jeyawardene, after appointing his nephew "Bull" Weeratunga to contain uprising in Jaffna, enacted the Prevention of Terrorism (PTA), which was modelled after the notorious Terrorism Act of South Africa. Jeyawardene termed his act to echo the British PTA of 1974, which was revised a year before in Britain, although the Sri Lankan PTA was modeled after Apartheid Era South African law, the Terrorism Act of 1967.

Jaffna District was placed under Emergency Regulations (ER), which gave the armed forces the power to shoot and kill any suspected persons and to dispose dead bodies without an inquest.

It was the beginning of arrests, detention of Tamil youths in Jaffna, an act that forced Tamil youths either into the militancy or exile, both of which were later described as having instrumental in fueling and sustaining the Tamil struggle.


Journalist killed for reporting on paramilitary abuses- RSF

Reporters sans frontières (RSF) in a press release issued Tuesday said that Subramaniyam Sugirdharajan, a correspondent of the Tamil-language daily Sudar Oli was killed for writing about "abuses committed in his region by Tamil paramilitary groups," and that in Sri Lanka, "the impunity enjoyed by the instigators and perpetrators of these murders encourages more violence against the press."

Full text of the release follows:

Reporters Without Borders today condemned the murder of Subramaniyam Sugirdharajan, a correspondent of the Tamil-language daily Sudar Oli in the eastern city of Trincomalee, who was gunned down early this morning after writing yesterday about the abuses committed in his region by Tamil paramilitary groups

³We are horrified by the level of violence against Tamil journalists,² the press freedom organisation said ³The impunity enjoyed by the instigators and perpetrators of these murders encourages more violence against the press We urge Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake to do everything possible to ensure that the police identify and arrest Sugirdharajan¹s murderers, as well as the murderers of Relangi Sevaraja and Dharmeratnam Sivaram, who are still at large.²

Sugirdharajan is the third Tamil journalist to have been killed in the past 12 months Ten others have been arrested, physically attacked or threatened by the security forces or the Tamil armed movements

Aged 35 and the father of two small children, Sugirdharajan was a Trincomalee port employee as well as a journalist He was shot dead at about 6 a.m. today as he was waiting for public transport to go to work His killers used a motor-cycle to get away after shooting him. Police went to the scene of the murder According to the Tamilnet website, he was gunned down near the governor¹s secretariat

In an article for yesterday¹s issue of Sudar Oli, he detailed the abuses committed by Tamil paramilitary groups including the EPDP in the Trincomalee region The newspaper also recently ran photos taken by Sugirdharajan showing that five Trincomalee students were shot dead at point-blank range on 2 January, disproving the army¹s claim that they were killed by a grenade explosion

Sudar Oli, which tends to support the Tamil Tigers (LTTE), was attacked and threatened several times last year Two grenades were thrown at the office of its advertising department on 20 August but did not explode Three days later, a staff journalist was roughed up and detained by the police on suspicion of being an LTTE spy. A security guard, David Selvaratnum, was killed in a grenade attack outside the newspaper¹s office in Colombo on 29 August Sudar Oli belongs to the Jaffna-based press group Uthayan, which has also been the target of attacks

Reporters Without Borders issued a detailed report on July 2004 about threats to journalists in eastern Sri Lanka : http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=10957


SL Intelligence, paramilitaries responsible for Manipay, Kodikamam killings - NESOHR

NorthEast Secretariat on Human Rights (NESOHR) in the case histories of Manipay killing of three members of the same family and the killing of a 15 year old youth in Kodikamam, released this week, provides details of involvement of Sri Lanka Intellligence operatives and paramilitary cadres belonging to Eelam Peoples Democratic Party (EPDP) in the killings.

With several Sri Lanka Army (SLA) soldiers wearing black bands covering their faces, clearing Kanagasabai Road leading to Bojan's family, nine members of EPDP paramilitaries scaled the fences of the two storied house at 10 p.m. and killed Renuka, 30, Shannuka, 23, and Arthanareeswary Bojan, 51, NESOHR said in its report after interviewing residents of Manipay and family members who escaped death. The killings took place on 14 January.

In the shooting death of student Thambirajah Arulajanthan, 15, of Kodikamam on 28 December, NESOHR report said, EPDP cadres and SLA Intelligence operatives had visited the house three times in search of Arul's brother-in-law Kirubakaran. Kirubakaran was an LTTE member and had left the movement six years ago, the family told NESOHR.

The family said the SLA for planted two grenades in their backyards to implicate the family for possessing arms.

The report said, on the day of shooting, gunmen had entered the house at 10.15 p.m. and when the family was awakened by the noise the invaders ran away after firing three shots. Arulajanthan was killed by the gun fire.

The report added that after the incident Kirubakaran escaped to LTTE area and another attempt by the paramilitaries to find Kirubakaran failed.


Prabhakaran, paramilitaries and peace by H. L. D. Mahindapala

By and large, the current phase of intensified violence has shifted from the east to the Jaffna and Trincomalee. When the violence reached a climax in the east Erik Solheim, the Norwegian led-Sri Lankan Monitoring Mission (SLMM), S.P. Tamilselvan, the LTTE proxies in parliament, the Tamil National alliance (TNA) and NGOs were blaming the "paramilitaries" (meaning Col Karuna’s TamilEelam Makkal Viduthalai Puligal - TMVP). Now that the violence has shifted to the LTTE-controlled areas of the north Erik Solheim, SLMM (to a certain extent), NGOs, Tamilselvan and TNA continue to blame the "paramilitaries" of the east.

This is also an indirect way of blaming the government even though they do not have the evidence, as stated by Ms. Helen Olafsdottir, the spokesperson for the SLMM, in her latest interview with Sunday Leader (15, January, 2006). She told the newspaper: "We do not have evidence that the government is directly supporting or harboring Karuna. But the government is aware of such a group and its existence but has not addressed it properly. This makes our monitoring even more difficult."

The accusation here is that the government "is aware of such a group and its existence but has not addressed it properly." She does not say how it should be addressed by the government though "addressing it (paramilitaries) properly" has serious implications. It means going to war with Col. Karuna who is waging a war against Velupillai Prabhakaran. Is this an option available to the government which is already besieged by the violence of the LTTE? According to the SLMM, international community, and NGOs the government must fight the wars against forces that "makes things difficult" for them (as stated by Ms. Olafsdottir) and not fight the enemy of peace – the LTTE. In any case, will the Norway, SLMM, Co-chairs pick up the bill of a war against Col Karuna and compensate for the human cost? Besides, a war against Col Karuna is not a war for peace but to strengthen the hands of the war-mongers in the LTTE. So how can peace or the people gain by waging another war against Col. Karuna?

Ms. Olafsdottir’s interview is in contrast to the casual approach of SLMM to violations of CFA and the obstructions to peace caused by LTTE with a regularity of the guns and grenades fired by Prabhakaran. Either the SLMM is totally incapable of comprehending the events exploding around them or it is in the business of manufacturing excuses for its own failures and that of the LTTE.

There is, however, a significant difference in the violence that went on in the east and the current violence that rages in the north: the violence in the east was sporadic with hit-and-run attacks but the northern violence has been escalating according to a pre-planned agenda accompanied by war hysteria. Ms. Olafsdottir, summed up the situation with a degree of accuracy when she said: "But now at present with the situation heating up the mood is changing and it is a question now as to how long we could keep the two forces away from each other. Escalations are very difficult to predict. You see, for a war to begin one does not have to wait for a signal from the top. The present escalation itself is sufficient."

She was not that alarmed when the violence was confined to the east. Quite rightly, she is alarmed now that the violence has been intensified in the north. She also says: "In the three-and-a-half-years (since the signing of the Ceasefire Agreement) there was no direct or return of fire. The forces were quite disciplined." And she concludes: "Escalations are very difficult to predict. You see, for a war to begin one does not have to wait for a signal from the top. The present escalation itself is sufficient."

She is right again. In the current "heated up mood" the most unexpected incident can spark off a war. However, she has deftly avoided identifying the source of "heating up the mood". If she had paused to consider the provocateurs she could have found out "as to how long we (SLMM) could keep the two forces away from each other." Since the general tendency of Erik Solheim, Anton Balasingham, Tamilselvan, and SLMM (to a certain extent) is to blame the "paramilitaries" it is necessary to examine the accusation.

For the moment, let us grant that the Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) signed in February 2002 has held for the last three-and-a-half-years, though the repeated questioning of its existence by the SLMM and others has undermined the underlying assumption. As acknowledged by her, the Sri Lankan soldiers have been extremely disciplined without returning fire despite grave provocations. So who is “heating up the mood” and who is reneging on the CFA for Ms. Olafsdottir and Erik Solheim to be so alarmed? Perhaps, the following flash-back to November 2005 will probably help to jog the memory of the peace-facilitators:

On November 19, 2005 Mahinda Rajapakse was sworn in as the fifth president of Sri Lanka. On November 27, Velupillai Prabhakaran, in his annual speech, said that he has "decided to wait and observe, for "sometime", his political maneuvers and actions….since President Rajapakse is considered to be a realist, committed to pragmatic politics…." Now “sometime” even in Tamil cannot mean December 5, 2005 – the day when Prabhakaran detonated two claymore bombs, killing six army personnel at Kondavil,. This was followed by killing another seven army personnel on December 6 at Irupalai Junction

Besides, when Prabhakaran launched his stealth war on December 5, 2005 – just eight days after he said "sometime" -- he contradicted the clarification issued by Balasingham who said that "news agencies have distorted and reported that Prabhakaran will start a war within a month. Prabhakaran did not say like that. Prabhakaran did not give a deadline of a month. He said a short period and it will be next year. He did not mention a date. But he has said he cannot wait for long. This is the important final news our leader." He added: "We are giving time for you. If you do not do anything for our people and drag on any talks we will start our war for right of self determination. "

Prabhakaran earlier warned the Government "Our people have lost patience, hope and reached the brink of utter frustration. They are not prepared to be tolerant any longer. The new government should come forward soon with a reasonable political framework that will satisfy the political aspirations of the Tamil people. This is our urgent and final appeal. If the new government rejects our urgent appeal, we will, next year, in solidarity with our people, intensify our struggle for self-determination, our struggle for national liberation to establish self-government in our homeland."

In this key paragraph neither Prabhakaran nor Balasingham refers to “paramilitaries” as the excuse. They emphasize the urgency, without dragging on the talks any further, as the reason for "starting our (next) war". Trigger-happy Prabhakaran stated on November 27, 2005: "Our people have lost patience, hope and reached the brink of utter frustration." The ploy here was to dress up the LTTE – instigated violence against the Security Forces as another Palestinian-style "intifada". It was a blatant attempt by the LTTE to hide behind the Jaffna population by projecting them as the impatient, frustrated people wanting another war. But this proved to be a hollow propaganda tactic which was dismissed by the University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna) and the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission as "unacceptable". Not even D. B. S. Jeyaraj, who was hoping that it would turn into something like an "intifada", concluded that it was an "intifada".

The identifiable source of violence was neither the people of Jaffna nor the "paramilitaries" of the east but Prabhakaran who revealed his latest blue print for the next war in his November 27, 2005 speech. He said quite bluntly that his planned Eelam War IV was halted by the unexpected blast he got from the tsunami. And he went on to emphasize that the war he postponed in 2005 will be launched in 2006 after giving "sometime" to "pragmatic" President Mahinda Rajapakse. The paramilitaries did not – repeat NOT -- come into his politico-military agenda as detailed by him.

Of course, Prabhakaran does not want the world to think that he is a bloodthirsty war-monger. He and his propagandist unfailingly project him as a man of peace. They deny that he is "heating up the mood" even when he is detonating deadly claymore mines. Tamilselvan says that the violence has been organized by the incensed Jaffna people. Now it is common knowledge that the only group capable of producing claymore mines and the technology to go with it, particularly in the north, is the LTTE. Naturally, political commentators and the diplomats have been asking pointedly: from where did the civilians (who are not combatants) get costly claymore mines and the skills to blast the soldiers? And if the "civilians" are planting these claymore mines are they "civilians" or a part of the LTTE killing machine?

Which also points to a serious chink in the LTTE armour: propaganda. The LTTE killing machine needs legitimacy for its brutalities. This task has been assigned to their apparatchiks abroad and, of the course the local NGOs. For instance, the killing of 13 soldiers in the north which sparked off the horrendous 1983 backlash against the Tamils in the south was justified as a revenge attack for raping an unnamed Jaffna woman. Every agent of the LTTE believed and propagated it. But it was later admitted by the LTTE that the killing of 13 soldiers in 1983 was retaliation for the killing of Col. Anthony by the Army. Prabhakaran was to name one of his sons after him.

LTTE propaganda is laboring tirelessly to (1) psyche its cadres and its population to be in readiness for its next war; 2) to whip up war hysteria to force its population to cross over to India as refugees – a move to win sympathy in Tamil Nadu and to neutralize the Delhi centre; and 3) to legitimize its violence that will be unleashed in its Eelam War IV. A part of the propaganda ploy is to raise human rights issues by faking human rights issues, more often than not. Example: an attempt was made to pin the blame on the Security Forces for the death of Tamil girl in Pungudutivu. The LTTE propaganda said that she was raped and killed by the Security Forces. But the SLMM and the University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna) both dismissed this accusation, proving that the LTTE propaganda has lost its credibility. It no longer has the clout it had in the past. Its war crimes and crimes against humanity have reduced the LTTE to a Pol Potist regime acting with impunity.

Even a pro-LTTE NGO agent like Kethesh Loganathan of the Centre for Policy Alternatives in Colombo is forced to admit that the LTTE is not for peace. Reuters’ (Nov. 8. 2005) Simon Gardner, quoting Loganathan said: "The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) -- blamed for the August assassination of the island's foreign minister -- are refusing to resume peace talks they pulled out of in 2003 because they are not ready for a long-term deal," analysts say. "The LTTE simply are not in a position to give up their demand for a separate state yet," said "It is one of the factors which is holding them back from entering into negotiations on a permanent settlement," he said.

In plain English, Loganathan, a pro-separatist participant at the Thimpu talks, is saying that the LTTE’s insistence on a separate state will not let them enter into negotiations for a permanent settlement. In other words, he is admitting that separatism and violence are inseparable. And yet Erik Solheim, SLMM, NGOs and TNA are making desperate bids to pass the blame on to the “Sinhala chauvinists” or to the paramilitaries. Besides, the reports of independent NGOs confirm that their excuses are wearing thin. The Human Rights Watch (HRW) has documented in its world report for 2006 issued on January 18, 2006 that the LTTE has been killing at the rate of one a day. It adds that this "alarming rate" is owed to the killing of "particularly of Tamils in opposition to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam….Tamil Tigers continued to assassinate political opponents with complete impunity," accuses HRW.

Those who refuse to acknowledge that the Prabhakaran does not need an excuse for killing, or for intensifying violence should not be in the peace process or in any political discourse on the peace process. Prabhakaran began his career in killing by first pinning insects he caught when he was a child, according to M. R. Narayan Swamy. He wrote: “He even inserted pins into his nails. At other times, he would catch insects and prick them to death with needles to gain the mental preparations to torture the "enemy". ” (p.52 Tigers of Lanka –from boys to guerillas). He graduated into killing humans by gunning down Alfred Duraiyappah in 1975. He hasn’t stopped killing since then. His whole career has been devoted to refining the art and technology of killing. It is second nature to him. Did the LTTE liquidate the entire Tamil leadership in the democratic stream because of "paramilitaries"? The prestigious Hindu states that the LTTE has killed more Tamils than any other force. Was it the "paramilitaries" that prompted him to kill the insects or the Tamils?

The horrendous tragedy is that Prabhakaran continues to treat Tamils like the insects. Each time he kills a Tamil he comes alive and feels that he is invincible. Liquidating his perceived enemies is a regular fix he needs to stabilize his quivering nerves. Is this the dignity he has given to the Tamils? There are even Tamil theologians in the Churches who are working to deify this "insecticide cult" as a divine mission. But not all Tamils are worshippers of this cult. A growing body of dissident Tamils is resisting this cult of sacrifice in the name of a devouring god. Unfortunately, for them the Ceasefire Agreement did not provide space for them. It provided arms only for the "insecticide cult" to thrive.

If the CFA acknowledged and allotted a political space for the democratic Tamils to exercise their inalienable rights by disarming the LTTE along with other armed groups the peace process would have had a better chance of ending violence. Instead it turned the CFA into an instrument of war by legitimizing the use of violence by the LTTE. No other government in the West who preaches peace and human rights to Sri Lankans would permit one armed group to retain their weapons to be used against those outside their ring of violence. Failure to disarm the deadliest fanatics of violence is fundamentally counter-productive to any peace process. Disarming armed groups is a pre-requisite for peace.

Of all the terrorist groups the LTTE is in a unique position because the Co-chairs (represented by Erik Solheim) acted on the belief that it is a great victory for peace not to disarm the LTTE. The inevitable consequence is there for all to see. But who cops the blame? Invariably, it is the LTTE complaints against the "paramilitaries" and/or the Sri Lankan government that takes priority at any discussion of advancing peace. Erik Solheim, the Pontius Pilate of the Sri Lankan crucifixion, also blames the Sri Lankan government.

Having paved the path for violence along with Ranil Wickremesinghe, Erik Solheim returns once again to the scene of his crimes. He will go to Vanni and will not hesitate to thank Prabhakaran for his offer of a towel to wipe his hands. Then, with some luck, he will come out of Vanni, may be with the LTTE agreeing to meet in Geneva. But for how long will the talks last? Erik Solheim has gone to Vanni to reap what he has sowed and – mark my words – to repeat the excuses trotted out by Prabhakaran.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Karuna in action! 10 Wanni tigers killed

Members of Karuna faction of the tiger organization had launched a massive attack on a camp of the Wanni tiger organization in Wanni and killed 10 tigers yesterday (13th) morning. In the attack one group had attacked the camp while another had ambushed the fleeing tigers. The 10 tigers killed were those in the camp. 7 tigers who were fleeing have been seriously injured say reports reaching ‘Lankatruth.’


Another Karuna loyalist shot dead

Navan Rasan(29), Karruna loyalist was shot dead by Wanni tigers on his way home after participating Thai Pongal pooja in Punacholai Kovil at Thirunethikirny, Ariyampathi east, in Batticaloa district. This incident occurred at about 03:30pm on today(14)


Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Kicking into our own goal


It is reported that the officer and the four soldiers, of the Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol, arrested and detained for days by a special police team recently, are contemplating legal action against violation of their fundamental rights. Details of the would-be lawsuit are not yet known but many a human rights lawyer of eminence is said to have offered to help them with their case free of charge.

Deep penetration operations are a closely guarded secret. They are suicidal missions. It takes years for some of these operations to be planned and executed against numerous odds. Long rangers by taking the battle close to the Tigers’ den have proved the capability of the Sri Lankan army to beat Prabhakaran at his own game - guerrilla warfare.

These men are seldom seen but their missions much admired. The killing of the terrorist kingpin Shanker, described as Prabhakaran’s right hand man, was blamed by the LTTE on these deep penetration units. When Tamil Chelvam, the notorious terrorist masquerading as a politician, had a narrow escape some months ago, the mine attack was also blamed by the LTTE on these groups.

It is also said that by the time the LTTE declared its unilateral truce, the LTTE had been compelled to restrict the movements of its leaders due to the successful forays of Long Rangers of the army. Withdrawal of these units from their territory is also said to be one objective of the Tigers’ truce.

It was alleged that the widespread pre-election violence unleashed by powerful ministers of the previous regime was with the help of certain military personnel. Some of them have already been arrested. So, when a tip off was given, the police team that arrested the Long Rangers for want of information to the contrary and perhaps being innocent of their existence, may have plunged feet first into action not knowing what they were really doing or the gravity of it. There had been no communication, as reported, between this police team and the military high rankers about the Long Rangers and their safe house.

But these police officers should have known better in that such operations are usually done undercover. Identity of the suspects and the details of their arms and equipment are kept secret to facilitate investigations. On the other hand, the police were dealing with an officer and his soldiers and they should have been cautious and wise not to create a bull-in-a-china-shop scene.

Over-enthusiasm often takes precedence over senses but this must not be so with a special police team led by a senior officer. At least after the arrests, the police should have restrained themselves and checked with the military top brass whether the army officer was telling the truth without subjecting them to humiliating treatment.

These long rangers, the pride of the Sri Lankan army, had, according to press reports, been treated like common criminals. They had been languishing in a remand cell following arrest and some ‘brave’ policemen had heaped abuse and humility on them. Ironically, the detention of these men combating terrorism had been carried out on orders issued by an SSP under the very Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), introduced to enable those dealing with terrorists to do so effectively. It is unfortunate that the arrest of these deep penetration men should have come at a time when the real terrorists are moving about freely thanks to the on-going truce.

It is a matter for happiness that Defence Minister Tilak Marapana saw to it that the military personnel were released and their names cleared albeit late. He should be thanked for having made that bold decision given the political twist that was being given to the incident.

As for the police and all others, who had a hand in the arrest of these long rangers and exposing their identity and safe house, they well and truly kicked into our own goal.

It behoves the government to prevent repetition of such unfortunate incidents. A public apology must be tendered to the officer and the soldiers concerned.


Vigilante Killings Fuel Cycle of Violence by Amantha Perera

COLOMBO, Jan 9 (IPS) - As the funeral procession carrying the coffins of five Tamil students, victims of Thursday's alleged vigilante killings, wound through the streets of the port town of Trincomalee, there were whispers among the mourners that retaliation would be swift.

The mourners burned down military checkpoints, emptied out for the procession, and warned visitors and journalists to leave town. Revenge was clearly in the air.

And sure enough, the Saturday morning calm in Trincomalee bay was shattered by a loud explosion -- a naval patrol craft had been rammed by an explosives-laden fishing boat, killing 13 of the 15-man crew on board.

The defence ministry later confirmed that the patrol boat, which was utterly wrecked, had been attacked by suicide bombers from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), also known as the Tigers.

That strike, the biggest against the Sri Lankan military by the LTTE since the February 2002, Norway-brokered ceasefire, was one more sign that the Tigers were ready for a revival of the two-decade-old civil war on the island.

Initially, the military maintained that the five Tamil youth had died when a grenade in their possession exploded accidentally. But medical examination of the bodies revealed that they had each been shot through the head.

The Tigers accused the Special Task Force (STF), an elite commando unit of the Sri Lankan police, of picking up students and shooting five of them through their ears. ‘'This is a planned attack against the Tamil people,'' S. Ellilan, the LTTE political head in Trincomalee told IPS.

Some newspapers, notably the Sunday Times, carried reports naming a retired police officer, now high up in the government, of having ordered the killings.

But STF inspector general Nimal Leuke denied that his commandos were involved.

Based on the spate of attacks and counterattacks, internationally-known security expert Rohan Gunaratne told IPS that he expected the Tigers to ‘'return to war and unless Sri Lanka builds a professional intelligence community and a fighting force, it will suffer gravely.''

"This is a very big concern to us," the head of the Nordic staffed Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM), Haugrup Hakland said. The mandate of the SLMM, however, limits it to a supervisory role and does not include any peace-keeping or implementation capacity.

Norway's special peace envoy to Sri Lanka, Erik Solheim, is due on the island on Jan. 23, in what is seen as a decisive visit to salvage the situation. But civilians in the war torn Jaffna have already had enough and are evacuating to safer places.

With the increasing attacks, President Mahinda Rajapakse, who assumed office last November, has come under pressure from his hawkish, pro-Sinhala electoral allies to adopt a tougher stance against the Tigers.

"This incident should not be considered as just another violation of the ceasefire agreement. By this attack the tiger terrorists have indicated that they are prepared to escalate terrorist war, in a wrapping of peace, to level,'' the People's Liberation Front (PLF), a Rajapakse ally said in a statement.

"President Rajapakse's administration should take actions to apprise the countries concerned about the peace process in Sri Lanka and take decisive measures to defeat Tiger terrorism in any manner they ask for,'' the PLF demanded.

The new President has thus far not changed his willingness to reopen negotiations despite the string of attacks. The Tigers and his administration have to first agree on a location for talks. Rajapakse prefers an Asian destination while the Tigers insist on Oslo.

Even the international stakeholders in the peace process have had limited success in trying to halt the violence. The United States, European Union, Norway and Japan met with the LTTE political leadership last month but came away empty handed.

Soon after Saturday's attack on the naval patrol craft, the U.S. state department voiced concern over the deteriorating situation.

The mid-sea attack was only the latest episode in a cycle of violence that began on Dec. 4 when an army patrol was ambushed at Kondavil in northern Jaffna, killing seven soldiers. A week before that, Velupillai Prabhakaran, the reclusive Tiger leader, had warned that if Rajapakse failed come up with a viable power devolution proposal, the Tigers would revert to war.

Prabhakaran, the undisputed chief in more than two decades of hostilities against successive Sri Lankan governments since the mid-1980s, has been demanding a separate state for the country's minority Tamils in the north east of the island.

More than 65,000 lives have been lost in the fighting that has split the country's majority Sinhala community and the Tamils. The February 2002 ceasefire has held so far, though direct negotiations between the government and the Tigers have stalled since April 2003.

Since the Dec. 4 attack, government security forces have been targeted both on land and in the sea. According to the defence ministry, Saturday's attacks brought the number of servicemen killed over the past month to 65. Military spokesman Brig. Prasad Samarasingha described some the attacks as well planned and coordinated. "The Tigers have always tried to attack the forces, now they are using civilians as cover," he said.

The Tigers, for their part, have denied any responsibility for the attacks. "We are investigating what happened, but we are not responsible for the attacks," Ellilan said.

In fact, the Tigers charge the government with deploying deep penetration units to carry out attacks on selected cadres inside Tiger held areas. Three mid-level Tigers were killed in two such attacks last week. One took place just hours after the naval attack in Trincomalee.

The Tigers say that the military is using the services of cadres loyal to renegade commander Vinayagamoorthi Muralitharan -- their erstwhile eastern military leader, who broke ranks and defected to government areas in April 2004. The military has denied any link with the rebel Tiger or his loyalists.

Meanwhile, a shadowy organisation, calling itself the Tamil Resurgence Force (TRF), has claimed responsibility for at least three recent claymore mine attacks on government forces.

Letters released by the group in Jaffna said the group consisted of civilians who were armed and ready to attack the security forces and the Tigers have been openly giving basic military training to civilians.

The TRF says that it is carrying out attacks as retaliation against harassment and violence by government forces. After 13 sailors were killed in the north western island of Mannar, on Dec. 23, the TRF claimed responsibility saying that it carried out the attack to avenge the alleged rape and murder of a Tamil woman in northern Jaffna.

During the funerals of the five slain youth, the TRF announced that Trincomalee would observe indefinite closure of public and private establishments till all new sentry points set up by the military are removed.

Unlike in Tamil-dominated Jaffna and Mannar, Trincomalee has large populations from the two other main ethnic groups, Sinhala and Muslim. Samarasingha acknowledged that the situation was delicate.

Civilians are taking no chances and most Tamils are heading for Tiger-held Last week, the Tigers said that at least 450 families had arrived in their political headquarters, Kilinochchi.

Visitors to the town said the figure could be as high as 1000. The military has reacted by arguing that most of the evacuees are either directly linked to the Tigers or have been trained by them.

But the signs are ominous. The last time such an exodus took place was in 1995, when government forces launched an all out assault to wrest control of Jaffna from the Tigers.

LTTE declares emergency in Wanni by: D.B.S. Jeyaraj

Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) leader Velupillai Prabakharan has declared a virtual state of "emergency" in the tiger controlled regions of the Northern mainland of Wanni in the aftermath of senior leader Vaithilingam Sornalingam alias Col. Shankar being killed by a claymore mine on September 26.

The overall deputy commander of the LTTE's military division Col. Balraj has been given special powers by the tiger chief to take all measures necessary to eradicate the selective assassination campaign conducted against its high-ranking leaders allegedly by a "deep penetration commando unit of the Sri Lankan army".

Balraj while functioning as special commander of the Manal Aaru or Weli Oya region will focus his energies on preventing more infiltration into tiger-controlled areas by the army, tracking down assault units in the jungles and weeding out all suspected informants and collaborators among Tamil civilians.

Fifty-two-year-old Col. Shankar, the man in charge of the LTTE's air wing, anti -aircraft unit and military intelligence, was killed when a claymore mine was triggered off at 10.45 a.m. in the general area of Oddusuddan.

He was travelling alone in a two seater four wheeled pickup vehicle from Oddusuddan to Puthukkudiyiruppu along a seven-mile interior road when the land mine was activated.

Defence Ministry Spokesperson Brigadier Sanath Karunaratna has denied army involvement in the attack and attributed it to infighting within the LTTE.

Shankar has been associated with Prabakharan for nearly three decades and was responsible for several pioneering ventures.

He set up the first office of overseas purchases to procure arms and armaments which is now run by Kumaran Pathmanathan alias "KP".

Shankar was also the founder-commander of the Sea Tigers division, underwater attack unit, the antiaircraft unit and the air wing division.

He possessed a variety of qualifications including certificates in marine and aeronautical engineering and a pilot's license.

Shankar was a trusted deputy of Prabakharan and was associated with him on several important missions including the trail-blazing meeting with Norwegian Special Envoy Erik Solheim at Mallavi on November 1 last year.

Apart from Shankar other senior leaders like Gangai Amaran, deputy chief of the sea tigers, Nizam, political head of Batticaloa - Amparai, LTTE and Mano, communications chief of the eastern tigers, have been killed in similar claymore explosions.

LTTE Deputy Military Wing Chief Balraj, Political Wing Head Thamilchelvan and senior commander Jeyam have also been targeted but escaped through luck.

The tigers suspect the army deep penetration unit of infiltrating the jungle regions of the Wanni from the military complex in the Weli Oya region.

They also suspect some Tamil civilians of being informants and collaborators in this.

It is felt that these persons are either doing it for monetary gain or are sympathisers of anti-tiger groups or a dissident faction supporting former LTTE Deputy Leader Mahendrarajah alias Mahattaya who was executed on charges of treason.

Tamil sources in the Wanni told The Sunday Leader by telephone that the LTTE's special commando unit known as "Leopards" and the civilian militia called "Ellaippadai" have launched an intensive scouring of jungle areas in the Wanni to comb out if possible the deep penetration unit.

The border areas have also been provided enhanced security through regular tiger cadres and the special civilian militia.

The tiger intelligence wing has commenced an elaborate campaign to detect informants and collaborators. Several houses have been searched and many taken in for interrogation on suspicion.

All such activity is coordinated under the command of Balraj who has been entrusted with this task by Prabakharan

" There is an emergency like situation here and the tigers have said that they will exercise full powers to prevent this assassination campaign," said a Tamil resident from the Wanni.

Analysts feel that the Weli Oya military complex would be subject to a security cordon amounting to a siege by the LTTE to prevent suspected infiltration.

The scenario is different in the east where at least five Tamil civilians have been arrested and executed by the LTTE for being involved in the assassination campaign. These were persons who had smuggled in explosive devices to be used in ambushes for monetary gain.

The LTTE has claimed that 37 bombs were detected and confiscated by them in the East after an intensive search

The LTTE has been greatly angered by the latest killing of Shankar and has issued a statement warning the government that "prospects for peace have been further set back by the killing of this senior LTTE leader"

(The Sunday Leader - 30th September 2001)

Deep penetration hit squads: deep probe essential by: D. B. S. Jeyaraj

Long Range Reconnaissance Patrols (LRRP), also referred to as deep penetration hit squads are very much in the news today. Reputed political commentators are hailing President Kumaratunga for officially sanctioning the LRRP project and giving the green light for hits on the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) command structure. The continuing inquiry of the Athurugiriya arsenal regularly throws up fresh yet sordid details of how a deadly 'secret weapon' like the LRRP covert action programme could be subverted for purposes not originally intended. It was the Athurugiriya incident that exposed the LRRP secret to the world at large.

Media reports reveal that persons connected with the LRRP are being systematically hunted down by the Tigers. An elaborate campaign is underfoot to blame conscientious police officers for doing their duty diligently and make them scapegoats for the LRRP fiasco. Efforts are being made to deflect attention away from the frightening ramifications of that episode and propagate a viewpoint that the country's national security has been compromised. Army Commander Lionel Balagalle has appointed a military court of inquiry with a restricted mandate that can only result in that tribunal functioning as a 'kangaroo court' and arrive at an obvious and foregone conclusion.

There is however much obfuscation and distortion of the real facts surrounding the LRRP covert action programme. The trial by media of the persons involved can only disclose partial truths. The loaded probe commissions initiated by Balagalle whose hands are extremely unclean on this matter cannot be informative in an impartial sense either. Persons involved in the Athurugiriya incident have been threatening to seek 'justice' for quite a while now without translating their words into action. Such a course of action should be welcomed as judicial proceedings held in an open court could shed more light on the dark and murky LRRP project.


It is doubtful whether those 'affected' by the Athurugiriya arrest will ever come forward and seek a legal remedy despite the self-righteous howls because of the dictum 'seek justice with clean hands.' Even if such a development occurs, the trial could only elicit part of the truth. What is required therefore in the larger interests of the country is a full-fledged public probe into the whole LRRP project with special emphasis on what transpired at Athurugiriya. Such a probe could de-mystify the LRRP hit squad project for what it is worth and prevent vested interests from misusing such types of covert activity for ulterior purposes.

Engaging in covert action projects to combat the Tamil guerrilla movement was first mooted in the mid-eighties when Lalith Athulathmudali was national security minister and Ravi Jayewardene security advisor under the J.R. Jayewardene government. Various blueprints were formatted by Israeli Shin Beth operatives and ex-SAS British mercenaries The go-ahead was given for some acts. The most notorious of these were some of the massacres of Sinhala civilians in the border areas. Hit squads impersonating Tamil militants executed them. Others involved fomenting friction between Tamils and Muslims in the east.

When the LTTE succeeded along with other groups in confining the army to military camps in the peninsula and creating a semi-liberated state in Jaffna, attempts were made to infiltrate and assassinate top Tiger figures. It is unclear as to how successful these missions were but Lalith Athulathmudali himself boasted to some foreign correspondents that the assassination attempt on former LTTE Jaffna Commander Sathasivampillai Krishnakumar alias Kittu was a "hit" scored by Sri Lankan intelligence. It was not publicised much in the Colombo based media. Subsequently Athulathmudali's claim was disputed by other observers who felt it was an internal matter. After the fall from grace of Gopalaswamy Mahend-rarajah alias Mahattaya the assassination bid on Kittu was also attributed among many things to his machinations.

The setting up of Long Range Reconnaissance Patrols to infiltrate LTTE controlled territory and assassinate top Tiger leaders was proposed to the Kumaratunga regime in 1996. It was suggested first by 'freelancing' intelligence consultants linked to the state. Plans were formulated in furtherance of this idea by Lionel Balagalle who was then the director of military intelligence. It is an open secret in defence circles that the LRRP project was fathered by Balagalle himself who was very much attached to this pet project.

Covert action

When the LRRP project proposal was submitted to President Kumaratunga for approval she rejected it out of hand. Kumaratunga, to her credit, abhorred such types of covert activity then. With her background of being involved in fiery French student politics of the late sixties, Chandrika hated all types of covert action for which the CIA was blamed then. Kumaratunga's policy as president was to defeat the LTTE militarily and not indulge in low level covert action. The project was shelved temporarily.

It was resurrected in the aftermath of the assassination attempt on Kumaratunga in December 1999. Kumaratunga re-elected as president was angry and vulnerable. Shedding her earlier inhibitions she approved two covert action projects. One was the elimination of persons suspected of being LTTE supporters or sympathisers in the south. Intelligence operatives had already monitored activity of some targets and had even established links with some of them.

After getting the go-ahead signal, a high profile Tamil lawyer cum politician was decoyed away from home and gunned down brutally in Colombo. A red herring that a Sinhala fascist outfit was responsible was strewn across the trail. The reaction to the killing was tremendous with a massive public outcry. With the finger of guilt being pointed by many to the then occupant of Temple Trees, the powers that be became worried about continuing with that project and so it was put on hold. Thus many other Tamils on that list are alive today.

The second project of setting up LRRP teams was also approved by Kumaratunga in 2000 but that too was put on the backburner because of the fallout to the first phase of the "elimination of the Tiger network." Also, the Norwegian facilitated peace process had begun and attempting to infiltrate the Wanni and assassinating LTTE leaders in the Wanni would have been problematic then. Subsequently in 2001 the governing elite in Colombo found the ongoing peace process an embarrassment. It was decided to provoke the Tigers into abandoning their unilateral ceasefire and resorting to war again. The LRRP plan of assassinating top LTTE leaders was regarded as suitable to goad the Tigers into war again.


Even as the plan was being put into action the armed forces launched a massive operation code-named 'Agni Kheela' to retake Elephant Pass. It was routed conclusively by the LTTE. This made the defence top brass realise that invading and acquiring Tiger territory through frontal assaults was ruled out for the time being. So insidious LRRP hit squads had to be deployed not only to disrupt the peace process but also as a means to hit back at the enemy. The state had been reduced to the level of 'terrorism.' If the LTTE could infiltrate the concrete jungles of Colombo and wipe out human targets, the LRRP too could do so in the north east jungles was the logic. The successful LTTE attack on Katunayake spurred the deep penetration squads further.

The LRRP was a top secret project launched covertly by military intelligence. But Defence Ministry circles say that Lionel Balagalle was personally supervising the programme from its inception. Specially trained commandos and from the special forces were deployed. Also inducted were Tamil and Muslim ex-militants from the north east. They brought in the intelligence input and knowledge of terrain required. The Muslims were from the home guard units doubling up as groups known as 'Jihad' and 'Hizbullah' etc. The Tamils were ex-LTTE men from the 'Mahathaya' faction, members of the EPRLF's 'Razeek' group and from the PLOTE faction led by Mohan. Some of these were inducted into the army as regulars while others collaborated on an assignment basis. Some Tamil civilians were also paid well to provide information and safe houses.

The LRRP squad made its first big hit by exploding a claymore mine at Kokkavil. LTTE Political Wing Chief, S.P. Thamilchelvan was targeted but the wrong vehicle was blown up and it was only the bodyguard who succumbed. Thamilchelvan was on his way to meet Norwegian Peace Envoy Erik Solheim at Mallavi. The LTTE charged publicly that the "claymore blast was set off by a deep penetration team of the Sri Lanka Army." Defence Ministry Spokesman Sanath Karunaratne denied government forces were responsible. "We have no involvement whatsoever in this," Karunaratne said. "This is an area where we don't have our troops."

Thereafter, several such attacks occurred at regular intervals in the north east. Top LTTE leaders were targeted. Among those killed were Pirapaharan's close friend and confidante, Col. Shankar, the head of the LTTE Air Wing. Lt. Col. Gangai Amaran, the deputy chief of the Sea Tigers was killed. Major Nizam, the eastern regional intelligence head was also killed. Among those who escaped assassination attempts were Thamilchelvan, Deputy Military Chief, Balraja, Wanni Commander, Jeyam, Batticaloa-Amparai Commander, Karuna Amman and Eastern Regional Political Commissar, Karikalan.


The LTTE's accusations that an army deep penetration squad was responsible was denied by the state. Instead counter propaganda that the killings were due to internecine fighting between LTTE cadres was propounded. Ironically the army denials were believed by many in the south because they never thought the armed forces were capable of such successful strikes. On the other hand, the armed forces enjoying some degree of success through the LRRP project could not flaunt it publicly. They were denying the only successful project they had launched in many years.

This was because the LRRP project, though euphemistically termed as covert action, was nothing but an exercise in cold blooded assassination. It was a glaring example of state terrorism. If the LTTE was terrorist because it targeted prominent government figures in Colombo and killed innocent civilians as 'collateral damage,' the LRRP assassinations also could be described as terroristic. It was not top LTTE leaders who alone died, but also civilians. A pathetic example was the blowing up of a tractor with civilians at Vaakharai in the east. Thus, in spite of the high degree of success achieved, neither the government nor the armed forces could take public credit for it. No democratically elected government claiming to fight a just war and dependent on western aid could own up publicly to deploying killer squads deliberately. Likewise no self-respecting army could claim responsibility either.

The LRRP activity however troubled the LTTE greatly. The Tiger reputation of impregnability and invincibility had been eroded greatly. Moreover the LTTE supremo Pirapaharan himself was vulnerable. The Tigers combed the north east jungles and border areas with their leopard commandoes and also the border security forces. The intelligence wing conducted a deep and wide ranging search. Also top LTTE leaders changed their mode of travelling in a bid to avert attention.


The LTTE was successful to some extent initially in identifying civilian accomplices and uncovering safe houses in the east. Five persons including a woman were executed and 29 claymore mines seized. A Tiger suicide bomber exploded himself in Batticaloa town and killed three Tamils working on the deep penetration project as part of military intelligence.

A major windfall for the LTTE was when the Tigers arrested a group of five men in the western regions of Batticaloa in December last year. They were suspected to be LRRP squad members. It was a heterogenous mix of Tamil, Muslim and Sinhala persons. Although some initial publicity was given in LTTE journals, a news blackout set in soon after. Obviously, the Tigers were keeping the matter under wraps for further interrogation and information gathering. Interestingly there was not a whimper in the south regarding this development.

This was understandable because officialdom could not accept openly that the killer squad was theirs. It was thought then that the LTTE would expose the capture of LRRP men at a conveniently time and embarrass the state. It is now believed that upon finding the group had been responsible for some killings the squad had been executed. Also, much information about the inner workings of the LRRP squads was also gleaned. This however was not put to much use as the December 5 elections saw Ranil Wickremesinghe becoming premier, leading to a transformation of the political climate.

The discovery of an arms cache including thermobaric weapons at Athurugiriya along with 66 LTTE uniforms and cyanide capsules was a further revelation and confirmation of the LRRP phenomenon. It proved among other things that the deadly and destructive thermobaric fire bombs were being used by the army. Balagalle had denied such allegations earlier as these weapons are tabooed by most civilised nations. Few governments would use them against their own people.

Dirty tricks

Moreover the discovery of LTTE uniforms, cyanide capsules and the presence of Tamil speaking personnel indicated that the 'dirty tricks department' was capable of conducting terrible acts and pinning the blame on the LTTE.

Interestingly enough and to the eternal shame of any professional army, the arrested persons through media outlets blew their cover wilfully. No covert action group or person would ever own up if captured or arrested but the Athurugiriya crowd did so. They claimed that they had engaged in LRRP work in the east and that they were in Colombo in that respect. In one move, the covert action programme was exposed by persons wanting to be freed from arrest, After an inexplicable initial silence, Balagalle also began to support the group who were later released.

It was widely suspected that there was a plot to assassinate Wickremesinghe and pin the blame on the LTTE. The squad in Athurugiriya was thought to be part of that. The explanation proffered eagerly by the arrested persons that they were part of a LRRP team was seen as an excuse to avoid apprehension. Patriotism and interests of national security inevitably invoked by anyone needing to hide anything sinister were bandied about. What many suspected was that the covert action programme was being abused to wipe out a political rival.

There were also reports that the five arrested at Athurugiriya had nothing to do with the LRRP squads at all. The police officer investigating the case has been pilloried and pressurised but nevertheless continues with his probe in a dogged manner. If Defence Minister Marapone and Internal Security Minister Amaratunga realise the gravity of the situation there is no doubt that the matter would not be treated in this way. But then certain ministers of this government are proving to be great disappointments in political acumen and administrative efficiency.

The Athurugiriya arsenal affair and consequent publicity provided the LTTE and the world with ample proof of deep penetration squads. It was indeed hilarious to see a bunch of 'toughies' claiming to be covert actionists pleading for clemency by admitting they were covert operatives; probing policemen were being accused of compromising national security. Suddenly the LRRP secret became a public achievement. Kumaratunga was praised for sanctioning such state terrorism. It was portrayed as the single biggest military achievement of the armed forces.

Stark reality

In fact the LTTE was perceived as being prepared to talk peace only because the Tigers feared the LRRP teams. It was indeed pathetic to see knowledgeable persons ignoring the stark reality behind the covert action project and proclaiming it to be a 'legitimate' success. It was like the American public lulling itself into a false consciousness about the Vietnam war through Sylvester Stallone and Chuck Norris movies. The LTTE however obtained the concurrence of the government in tabooing the deployment of LRRP squads in the north east in the ceasefire accord. The Tigers also got the CFA to stipulate that no Tamil paramilitary group would be allowed to function in the north east with arms. The Tigers thought that with these ceasefire agreement provisions, the deep penetration squad problem would go away. But it did not and the next twist was when the LTTE discovered signs of a plot to place explosives at a point close to where LTTE Leader Pirapaharan was staying. It was this that influenced the LTTE into staging massive security arrangements for the LTTE leader's press conference on April 10.

With the rekindling of suspicion that the deep penetration squads were being activated again, the Tigers began a hard response. Without adequate proof, complaining to the monitoring mission was ruled out. Instead a counter strike was planned. Intelligence Wing Chief, Pottu Amman travelled to the Eastern Province on a special mission to strengthen the intelligence network there. An important aspect of that enterprise was to focus on the activity and support structure of the Long Range Reconnaissance Patrols. Thereafter, reports are emanating about Tamils involved in the covert action project being targeted, one in Colombo too was shot and wounded. As long as state agencies cover up the covert activity and target the LTTE in more ways than one, retaliatory responses will recur.

Total dismantling

What is needed therefore at this juncture is the total dismantling of this covert action project. If LRRP acts continue clandestinely, then the Tigers too are likely to reciprocate. Moreover, the LTTE would eliminate Tamil collaborators as vengeful punishment and also to demolish the LRRP structure. Censuring and compelling the LTTE to desist from such activity can be successful only if the Directorate of Military Intelligence stops its provocative acts. The dogs of war must be called off by both sides.

In order to ensure that the Ranil Wickremesinghe government should know clearly and exactly all the ramifications concerning the LRRP project, it is imperative that the government knows what is happening in order to protect itself. There are many observers who feel that the government has not awoken to the harsh reality behind the Athurugiriya arsenal. It is very necessary that a detailed investigation be launched into the entire covert action project particularly at a time when Kumaratunga and cohorts are planning a prime ministerial 'change.' The deep penetration hit squads need to be probed deeply in the interests of national security and the nation at large.

(The Sunday Leader - August 11, 2002)