Friday, March 24, 2006

Breakaway rebel group joins call for delinking provinces by Sinha Ratnatunga

Colombo: A breakaway group of the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) has joined hands with a nationalist organisation of majority Sinhalese calling for the delinking of the north and east provinces as one administrative unit, a long-time demand of the minority rebels.

Members of the "Karuna‚ group", former fighting cadres of the LTTE, who have hitherto been carrying out undercover military operations against the LTTE, have taken part in a meeting in Colombo organised by the Patriotic National Movement (PNM), an alliance of Sinhala nationalists to renew this campaign for "demerger" of the Tamil-populated provinces of the island, where the rebels are demanding a separate state.

Organisers of the event said the main aim of their campaign would be to de-merge the East from the Northern Province which is temporarily merged currently under the controversial 1987 India-Lanka peace accord, but other objectives would be to "protect the rights of the people in the east".

Tamil rebels belonging to the LTTE are opposed to the delinking of the two provinces.

The new alliance has formed a task force calling it "Defenders of Eastern People's Rights" comprising Sinhalese nationalist parties, and Muslim and Tamil groups in the eastern province where the country's three main ethnic groups are equally distributed.

This task force was launched after a meeting with the Marxists Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna, the Sri Lanka Freedom Party, the National Muslim Congress, the All-Island Tamil United Front and key operatives of the Karuna group.

A PNM officials said that the alliance was formed to fight a common enemy (the LTTE), and that though the group had political and other differences among themselves, they felt that they owed the people of the east a duty to be protected from the Tiger rebels.

Unicef: Tigers still recruit children

Children are still being kidnapped by Sri Lanka's Tamil Tigers to train as fighters, the UN children's agency Unicef says, but the abductions appear to be less frequent four years into a ceasefire.

The number of children taken by the Tigers has fallen every year since a 2002 ceasefire halted two decades of civil war, Unicef senior programme co-ordinator Yasmin Ali Haque said, but child recruitment was still continuing at an unacceptable level.

"Most of them are forcible," she told Reuters in an interview late on Wednesday in Unicef's Colombo office. "Children going home from school are apprehended. They're sat behind a motorcycle and then they're off. They're gone."

Finding a lasting end to a war that has already killed more than 64,000 people was key to giving children more options and stopping them from wanting to fight, she said. Talks between the government and Tigers are due to continue in Switzerland next month, but the rebels continue to threaten a return to war.


LTTE Sentry Point in Trincomalee ambushed, one dead, two wounded

A Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) cadre was killed and two injured in an attack on the LTTE Forward Defense Line sentry point located in Poonagar in Trincomalee district Thursday around 8 p.m., said LTTE sources in the east. The Tigers charged that the ambushmen had come from the Sri Lanka Army camp in Mahindapura.

Meanwhile, Sri Lanka Military spokesman Brigadier Prasad Samarasinghe refuted LTTE's claim that the attack was carried out by Sri Lankan troopers.

Gunfire over the Mahindapura SLA Camp was observed Thursday night, according to the Sri Lanka Military spokesman in Colombo.

Mr. S. Elilan, Trincomale District Political Head of the LTTE, has registered a complaint about the attack with the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission, LTTE sources said.


Newspaper correspondent meets political leader of the Karuna Group

Thuiyavan said his group is not a gang but an organization.

"Nobody can disarm us. We have our own arms. They are not given by the government or anybody else. We will hand over our arms on the day Prabhakaran hands over his. Until then we will not put down arms," said 'Thuiyavan', who introduced himself as the political leader of the Karuna Group, the breakaway faction of the LTTE.

He said so to the Lankadeepa newspaper when the paper’s provincial correspondent, Raj Weerasinghe, met a team of Karuna cadres in the government-controlled Wadumunai area near Welikanda town in the Batticaloa district.

The Lankadeepa newspaper published two photographs depicting two LTTE deserters surrendering themselves with arms to the Karuna Group. Thuiyavan said to the correspondent that their group is not a gang but an organization.

He said they fear the Sri Lanka Army and police, but bear arms to protect themselves from the LTTE.


Karuna Speaks: His political aims and objectives explained

In an interview V.Muralitharan alias Colonel Karuna speaks of his political aims and objectives. He has emphasised "We are people’s movement. We reflect the aspirations of our people. We do not have to act as proxy to any vested interests. It is the LTTE which is being funded by criminal means to attack the questioning voices."

Excerpts of the interview are given below :

Question : What is your group seeking to achieve by mounting attacks against the Tamil Tigers in areas they control? Are you trying to wipe the Tigers out?

V. Muralitharan: We are not mounting attacks on the Vanni Tigers at present. We are only defending ourselves from LTTE attacks. It was well reported that LTTE had declared open war against our movement and many of our cadres have perished in their brutal attacks. LTTE does not show any remorse and anyone making a mere comment against it could become its victim.

Many of our cadres who fought valiant battles including the take over of the major Elephant Pass camp of the Sri Lanka military are being hunted by the LTTE, just because they belong to our movement now. LTTE is a brutal force and unless we defend ourselves we will be wiped out mercilessly by the LTTE.

I am the leader of TamilEela Makkal Viduthalai Puligal (TMVP) a political party. Makkal means people. We are people’s movement. Unlike the LTTE, we want to play consensus politics as we represent the voices of all the Tamil people including the plantation Tamils in Sri Lanka and the Tamil Diaspora. LTTE is a self centred monolithic organisation. We are not trying to wipe out the LTTE. What we are trying to do is to release our people from the fascist clutches of the LTTE. This we are trying to do by politicisation and removing the hurdles our people are facing under the LTTE dictatorship. Our sustained work is having major impact on the LTTE.

If LTTE engage in any future unprovoked attacks against us, we will be reviewing our defensive position and will take offensive actions. We think this is the only language LTTE will understand.

Question : Why do you think the Tamil Tigers are unfit to rule in the North and East?

V. Muralitharan: The LTTE is a fascist organisation. It is only interested in creaming the Tamil society and run a business empire of Prabakaran under the name of LTTE. They are continuing to do all the dastardly things against the Tamil people. A simple assessment would confirm this.

Arbitrarily killing of Tamil people by the LTTE is disproportionately high in numbers compared to all the killings by Sri Lankan forces so far. Killings of our people using the guns taken to defend them are something of daily phenomenon for the LTTE. The LTTE gets sadistic satisfaction from killing, kidnapping, torturing etc., of our people.

Look at what they have done and still doing to our Tamil speaking Muslim brotherhood in the North and East. LTTE under its Jaffna command systematically drove away the Muslims from Jaffna in the 1980’s. These Muslims are inherent part of our Tamil society. This is what former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic did against Muslims which lead to him facing the international War Crimes Tribunal.

The LTTE does not recognise the Muslims as indigenous race even after 25 years of its existence. The Muslims have become victims to the LTTE attacks even after signing the peace accord with the Sri Lankan government in April 2002.

Our movement TMVP will work tirelessly to protect the Muslims from LTTE attacks and work to ensure those driven out from Jaffna are returned with dignity and honour at the earliest. The Tamil people generally do not accept what LTTE is doing to the Muslims. But unfortunately, they too are unable to voice against the LTTE because of fear of reprisals.

The LTTE machinery is spinning colossal sums of money by coercive tactics in Sri Lanka and from expatriate Tamils. The very same people from whom money is taken do not have any say in the politics or conduct of the LTTE. Even their present visit to Geneva has hidden motives. Why are they staying in Geneva for so long? For your information, the LTTE’s S.P.Tamilselvan, Nadesan and Col Jeyam are hosting a dinner party for Tamil business people at Martastr, 145, 89003 Zurich with the view to spin money. This itself confirm their insincerity.

Other interesting factor is LTTE does not believe in democracy.

Victories achieved in the military front must translate into negotiations to resolve the conflict. LTTE is not serious about negotiations and will ensure sabotaging them on petty parochial grounds. This is the history of LTTE. Any resolution to the conflict must be through due democratic process by negotiating with the Government of Sri Lanka involving all the parties concerned.

LTTE knows very well if people are allowed to cast their votes in a free and fair election they will have to jump into the sea and swim away. The other problem is, before finding solution to the conflict in Sri Lanka, we have to find safe heavens for the LTTE leadership. They have earned enemies all over and their survival in a democratic society will become very uncertain and life threatening for them.

Question: What do you see as the ideal solution to Sri Lanka’s ethnic conflict? Do you support the idea of an ethnic homeland?

V. Muralitharan: We all fought to carve out a separate Tamil state for our people. The Tamil people were pushed to take arms to exercise their inalienable right to self determination which was until recently centred on establishing a separate state. Tamils as a race meets all the criteria to decide for themselves of their political future. But unfortunately, our legitimate struggle has been mismanaged by the LTTE to protect its selfish hegemonic interests. Our people have been put through enormous hardships in the name of liberation struggle even during peace time. LTTE is not engaged in a national liberation struggle. It is trying to secure and extend its mafia state within the state of Sri Lanka. Our people are enduring real hardships and the LTTE does not realise that our people want just solution to this unending conflict.

It is our position that a federal solution recognising the territorial integrity of Sri Lanka is achieved by peaceful means. The federal solution must give maximum safeguards to all the communities in Sri Lanka and there must be constitutional safeguards enshrined with the agreement of all the parties for territorial integrity of the island state. The federal solution to the conflict is receiving wider support among Tamils and the international community too favour such model to resolve the conflict.

I do not think separate Tamil state will be a viable solution. In the fast progressing global village, unity and integration are playing important part. In this climate, there won’t be international support to establish a separate state. The Tamil people are aware of impracticality in a separate state. But unfortunately, the LTTE is intransigent. For their survival, they are advocating the separate state theory which is not a viable proposition at all.

Question: Do you have any plan to join the political mainstream?

V. Muralitharan: TMVP is a political party. We are working tirelessly to establish our grass root network. We will pronounce our democratic political objectives clearly once we establish the security and safety for our party members. This we anticipate will happen very soon. We will join the political mainstream and fully engage in participatory politics in every level. We are a powerful voice of all the Tamil people, the Muslims living in Sri Lanka and the expatriate Tamils who are also struggling to cope with the fascist antics of the LTTE.

Question: How would you run the Tigers differently from Prabakaran?

V. Muralitharan: First of all you must realise Prabakaran is a megalomaniac. He does not believe in democracy and diversity. He can only preside over deaths and destruction. Killing and presiding over suffering is simple thing for him. He will continue do this without any remorse.

Having been in the LTTE, I am privy to Prabakaran’s intents and his dogmatic and idiosyncratic mission to hold on to power in a ruthless manner. The Tamil people are realising that Prabakaran is a liability and their dissenting voices are now emerging from all corners of the world, which I consider is a writ served on him and his fascist organisation. This is a very positive and progressive development.

I am confident that we could give a vibrant leadership to that of Prabakaran’s antics. We are a politico-military organisation. We believe in democratisation of the Tamil society. Our military objective as said earlier is only for self-defence purpose at present.

Prabakaran has built up his military machinery which he his unable to control himself. The LTTE fellows are on the spree and are killing our people for petty and personal reasons. It is our intention to put an end to killing of our people irrespective of their political affiliations. We must disengage the intelligence network of the LTTE which is throttling our people.

On the wider context, we will be putting forward our policy on political-social-economic framework with the full participation of our people. We will work tirelessly to achieve unity among all the communities by practical means to achieve diversity and consensus to resolve this burgeoning conflict to an end. We believe in consensus politics which is essential for finding lasting solution to the conflict.

Question : President Rajapakse has vowed to rein in all armed groups in Government controlled areas. What will your group do if the military tries to do that?

V. Muralitharan: First of all we are not a group. We are a politico-military movement. Our political arm is known as TamilEela Makkal Viduthalai Puliakal. There does not arise any necessity to disarm us, as we carry arms only to defend ourselves from LTTE attacks. We are not a threat to our people or the Sri Lankan society at large. LTTE is worried about our strength and crying in hysteria to disarm us.

In a hypothetical situation if Sri Lanka forces disarm all the armed groups and us as you suggest, it will only give legitimacy for the LTTE to extend its writ to kill us. Any hand-over of arms must be part of conflict resolution process at a stage when normalcy and trust is established. It is important that LTTE too must handover its weapons at the same time under international supervision.

Question: Has the military or anyone else been helping your fellows to mount attacks against the Tigers? How long will your unilateral ceasefire last?

V. Muralitharan: We are not a mercenary group. We are people’s movement. We reflect the aspirations of our people. We do not have to act as proxy to any vested interests. LTTE is anti-social and we have inherited enough arms from the LTTE to safeguard us. It is the LTTE which is being funded by criminal means to attack the questioning voices.

With regards to our unilateral ceasefire, we will observe this until the LTTE keeps away from us. The ball is in their court now. If they attempt to impose their will by any violent means, we will end our self imposed declaration immediately. We will not even hesitate to start offensive actions against the LTTE.