Sunday, February 26, 2006

Paramilitary operatives: ultimate victims of covert warfare?

Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) met in Geneva Wednesday and Thursday and reconfirmed their commitment to honour and uphold the February 2002 Ceasefire Agreement (CFA). The issue of paramilitary groups figured prominently in the discussions and the GoSL delegation undertook a commitment: that no armed group or person other than its security forces will carry arms or conduct armed operations in GoSL controlled territory.

"The GOSL is committed to taking all necessary measures in accordance with the Ceasefire Agreement to ensure that no armed group or person other than Government security forces will carry arms or conduct armed operations," the joint statement released at the conclusion of Geneva talks read.

"There is a two month space for it [the next round of talks].We have to see whether the government is going to disarm these [paramilitary] groups. And if they are disarmed and made disfunctional and their operations halted then we will send our political cadres into Jaffna and Batticaloa," LTTE's Chief Negotiator and Political Strategist, Anton Balasingham, said in a press interview commenting on the commitment undertaken by the Government of Sri Lanka.

Mr. Balasingham, in his opening address in Geneva on Wednesday, named and defined the Tamil paramilitary groups operating in NorthEast.

Karuna group, EPDP group, PLOTE group, EPRLF (Varathar) group and a Muslim group called Jihad group were categorized by the LTTE as the major five paramilitary groups involved in subversive warfare against the LTTE.

These Tamil paramilitary groups are "sustained, supported and controlled by the Sri Lanka military," Mr. Balasingham described.

"They are not simply 'armed elements' functioning independently in a political vacuum," he further explained , adding that these groups are organized militant forces, "properly trained and armed in subversive warfare and function covertly in connivance with the Sri Lanka armed forces."

The LTTE submitted documents detailing the nature of the paramilitary operations sponsored by the Sri Lankan armed forces.

The term paramilitary, in press usage, means “an illegal group, armed with assault weapons.”

Some argue that the above usage stems, as with “paranormal” opposed to “normal”, paramilitary means an entity “other than” or “outer” of "military."

The US Department of Defence Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms [12 April 2001, amended through 31 Aug 2005] definition of the paramilitary force, in practical usage has come to “apply everything from home guard-style militias to the counterguerilla "death squad," writes Michael McClintock, the author of Instruments of Statecraft: U.S. Guerilla Warfare, Counterinsurgency, and Counterterrorism.

The U.S. DoD dictionary definition reads: “Forces or groups distinct from the regular armed forces of any country, but resembling them in organization, equipment, training, or mission.”

Paramilitary groups in the Sri Lanka political discourse refer to the armed groups collaborating with the Sri Lankan state forces against the Liberation Tigers.

During the war, Sri Lanka Military deployed Tamil paramilitary cadres in covert operations, both defensive operations against the Tiger infiltrations in SLA controlled territories in the NorthEast and South, and offensive operations using Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol (LRRP), also known as Deep Penetration operations.

Two classic model operatives were EPRLF Razeek and PLOTE Mohan.

The Tigers successully employed pre-emptive counter strateties to cope with the threat of covert operations and to contain paramilitary groups as evidenced from the fate that befell the two paramilitary operatives from Batticaloa.

On 29 of May 1999, P. Ganeshmoorthy, known as Razeek was killed by an assassin riding a bicycle with explosives in an alleged suicide mission. Razeek's death was one of the first major blows to Sri Lankan Army's counter-insurgency operations in Batticaloa.

Razeek, who was recruited by the Indian Army, had led a ruthless death squad in Batticaloa during IPKF forces operations in Sri Lanka.

The Razeek group was the military wing of the Eelam People's Revolutionary Liberation Front (EPRLF).

Later, Razeek's paramilitary group was incorporated into the official structure of the Sri Lanka Army as the 9th Auxiliary Force.

Razeek's group, once had an estimated number of 250 cadres when Razeek was its leader. His cadres were trained at SLA's Infantry Training School in Minneriya, Polannaruwa, west of Batticaloa.

He was slain when Annamalai Varatharajaprerumal, former chief minister of the defunct north east provincial council, who returned to the island after a ten-year exile in India, was planning to re-establish himself as the EPRLF political leader, with the assistance of Razeek.

It was under Varatharajaperumal, the Indian Military trained and developed a paramilitary force named Tamil National Army (TNA). According to ex-militant EPRLF sources, there were nearly four thousand cadres in the North and five thousand cadres in the East, all conscripted, and many underage. Most of the youths were freed by the Tigers when they entered the cities as the Indians withdrew from the island. More than 400 were ex-militant hardcore cadres, and most of them escaped to India. Some returned later to engage in paramilitary activities (ENDLF collaborating with Karuna loyalist paramilitary cadres is a recent example).

The Razeek group which enjoys auxiliary force status in SLA has steadily losing its counter insurgency role since the slaying of Razeek.

Sri Lankan Defence analysts in late 1999 opined that the killings of Manikadasan, a PLOTE operative, and Razeek severely undermined the morale amongst the paramilitary cadres.

The surviving co-founder of the Razeek Group, Sivaguru Navaratnam, known by his nom de guerre Gandhi, appointed the leader of the Razeek group by the SLA Commander in Batticaloa after Razeek's killing, was killed in a grenade attack by unidentified attackers on 14 September 2005 when the covert-war intensified again. He was slain within the high security zone in Batticaloa town where Razeek group maintained a well fortified military camp attached to Sri Lanka Army base at Lake Road.

On 31st of July 2004, PLOTE Mohan, a key Military Intelligence Corps (MIC) operative, and described by Sri Lanka defense the most successful paramilitary operative in the Sri Lankan conflict ever, was gunned down in the heart of Colombo when he was riding in a autorikshaw.

Kandiah Yogarajah, 36, known by nom de guerre Mohan, was a member of PLOTE, an ex-militant organisation now collaborating with the Sri Lankan Army against the Tigers. Yogarajah was from Vavunathivu in Batticaloa (PLOTE later distanced itself from Mohan.)

He was recruited as a paramilitary agent by the Indian Army Intelligence when the Indian military was fighting the Tigers in the NorthEast in the late 80's.

Later, he became an indispensable part of Sri Lanka's intelligence and counter insurgency operations against the LTTE.

In 1993, a Special Presidential Commission headed by a retired supreme court judge which inquired into 1990-1992 massacres, rapes and murders by Sri Lanka Army and its collaborators, named Mohan and his Military Intelligence handler called Richard Dias alias Munaz as persons who were the perpetrators of the mass murder of more than 350 innocent civilians, including children and women, from the refugee camp in the Eastern University and the village of Saththurukkondaan near Batticaloa.

But the Sri Lankan government, ignored the commission report and continued to nurture Mohan as an invaluable military intelligence asset.

Tamil sources claim PLOTE Mohan was responsible for more than 600 killings and many disappearances.

Mohan succesfully managed to escape Karuna, while the latter was in command of the LTTE in the East.

The top paramilitary operative, who became a multi millionaire through his paramilitary assignments, was forced to shift to Colombo to escape from the Tigers.

In Colombo, Mohan worked as a counter intelligence operative against the Tigers and played a key role in the Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol (LRRP).

The LRRP was attributed to a deep penetration attack that claimed the life of an LTTE top official and the commander of Tigers air-wing, Col. Shankar. The LRRP, according to Sinhala press, has also claimed to have killed a high ranking Sea Tiger official and a senior Intelligence official of the Tigers in the East in separate ambushes.

The Sinhala newspaper Lakbima, in an appraisal article on PLOTE Mohan on 08 August 2004, states that Mohan was assigned the duties of a Major rank Military Intelligence Corps officer, Major Karunaratne, who was sent on leave.

Mohan treated as a VIP figure was respected higher than any Major rank official, worked closely with Major T.N.Muthaliff, the Military Intelligence Corps (MIC) official who was assasinated in May 2005.

However, when Mohan was slain, Sri Lankan defence sources did not acknowledge the significance of their slain VIP and did not honour him duly, charges another article that appeared on Lakbima.

This caused panic and enraged the other collaborators and paramilitary operatives, according to a Sinahala Daily Divaina report that appeared on 08 August 2004.

The article also states that there were attempts by the MIC, upon Karuna's defection, to enlist the former enemies to work together as paramilitary duo.

The LTTE which employed a preemptive strategy to neutralize paramilitary threat, by containing the paramilitary operatives domain to function, sustain and develop, has also been successful during peace time, in running a Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD) campaign against the paramilitary operatives, and succesfully containing them, say military analysts.

Deployment of paramilitary groups has been a widely adopted tactic in counter-insurgency offensive doctrine applied in various conflicts throughout the world.

The CIA's paramilitary projects that were run by its Special Operations Group (SOG) in Central America had "checkered results", writes Douglas Waller in a TIME magazine article in January 2003. "Because of past scandals the agency had largely dropped its paramilitary operations," he notes.

"The governments that the CIA destabilized in Iran, Guatemala and Chile were replaced by repressive regimes that ended up doing more damage in the long run to U.S. foreign policy," the writer further notes adding that the war on terrorism has brought the SOG back into the business.

Another TIME article on October 20, 2003, gives a personal account of an Iraqi underground operative, al-Jaburi, who had earlier served in Iraqi regime's most feared Special Security Organisation (SSO) before defecting to Jordan based Iraqi National Accord (INA) in 1999. The INA had close ties with the CIA.

Al-Jaburi is considered as a hero of the CIA on the battle for the Saddam International Airport, one of the keys to taking Baghdad. Upon successful completion of his mission, al-Jaburi was arrested by Saddam's secret police and tortured till his jailers fled the prison in Ramadi from the advancing Americans. Describing the prision as a slaughterhouse, al-Jaburi tells TIME that he was highly exposed and the U.S. was not doing enough to protect him. Two of his relatives were shot dead while driving his car. "The Americans are good-hearted. When they love you, they really love you, but when you finish your job, they forget you," he tells. Al-Jaburi who has appeared on a hitlist of the Fedayeen Saddam, complains that the U.S. has not given him a license to carry a gun to protect himself.

A classic example of paramilitary group in Latin America is the Colombian AUC (Auto Defensas Unidas de Colombia), a right-wing paramilitary group.

Numbering around 10,000 cadres, it is the largest paramilitary group to ever exist in the western hemisphere. The AUC, a state-loyalist paramilitary group, was formed to liquidate sympathizers of the left-wing guerrillas who control about 40 percent of the territories in Columbia and is responsible for the majority of civilian massacres and human rights abuses. The AUC earned the nickname "The Head Cutters" because its victims are usually tortured, mutilated, and then decapitated.

Mark Bowden, in his book “Killing Pablo” alleges that the U.S. Special Forces had ties with the paramilitary death squad.

Carlos Castaño Gil, the supreme leader of the AUC, who formed the paramilitary group in 1997, in an unsuccesful attempt to turn clean, lost his grip of the organisation in 2004.

U.S had sought extradiction of Castaño in 2002.

Castaño reportedly suffered an attempt on his life on April 16 2004 by paramilitary cadres.

Although the matter of his death is not yet clear, the fate of Castaño, serves as a verdict for paramilitary operatives, that they fall prey to their own plans in the end.

In ''My Confession," a self biography styled Interview in 2001, he said: ''I didn't start this war. We're an effect, not the cause,” and adds that only a country in the chaos of war could produce a man like him.


Karuna on a collision course with Sri Lanka Government.

Colonel Kauna in a combative mood adamantly refuses to disarm. The renegade Tamil militant leader told on Sunday that his group refuses to lay down arms and will end a unilateral ceasefire and fight the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) if attacked.

Karuna's uncompromising stance may be a new headache to Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajpakse, who has agreed to disarm all armed groups to prevent any future attack by the LTTE.

Sri Lanka Government agreed with the LTTE at a two-day conference held on 22 -23 February, in Geneva that no armed group other than government security forces carries arms or conducts armed operations subsequent to LTTE's insistence that the state act before new talks due in April.

Karuna thundered, "No one can impose their will on us to take (arms) them from us, which we use only for defensive purposes."

The unconciliatory position taken by the Colonel Karuna, according to a Colombo based diplomat would amounts to putting the President of Sri Lanka and the Government in a quandary.

V. Muralitharan alias Colonel Karuna former Batticalao – Amparai districts Special Commander of the LTTE in an interview with the Reuters News Agency said, "We are waiting to see how the sarong-clad Vanni Tigers ... who are terrorizing our people and the army in the north are going to be disarmed in the Jaffna peninsula following the Geneva decision."

"Any provocation or attack by the LTTE would lead to officially ending our unilateral ceasefire," Karuna has declared.

According to political observers, Colonel Karuna's refusal to give up arms would amounts to engaging in a collision course with the Sri Lanka Government.

"Without mincing our words we wish to tell (Prabhakaran) quite categorically that we have our resolve and moral right to hold onto our arms," Karuna told Reuters.

"No one can impose their will on us to take them from us, which we use only for defensive purposes."

Karuna while denouncing the LTTE said, "Our people ... have entrusted us to defend them from the LTTE. Our people will not like us to become submissive and just hand over our weapons to satisfy the LTTE brutes."

Disarming of Karuna was a key demand the LTTE put forward at Geneva in return for not attacking government troops and police personnel.

Accordingly, Sri Lanka agreed, "The GOSL will take all necessary measures in accordance with the Ceasefire Agreement to ensure that no armed group or person other than Government security forces will carry arms or conduct armed operations."

Meanwhile, the unflinching declaration by Colonel Karuna amounts to an affront to the authority of the Sri Lanka President, who claimed to have postponed war by succeeding in the first round of talks with the LTTE, which was described by him as "an important constructive step towards peace in the future."

The unfolding situation in the East according to political analyst put the country in a new threat for the government to tackle to usher in undeterred peace in the country.

The unanswered question facing the country is whether Mahinda Rajapakse dares to tame Karuna and his men?