Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Jaffna residents remember Nallur massacre. by K.S. Rajkumar

Tamil residents in Jaffna mourned the death of 63 Tamil youths who were detained and brutally killed by one of their the then area commander of the LTTE. March 30 th, 1987 was the day when Selvakumar Chellasamy, known as Aruna, a senior LTTE leader in Jaffna brutally killed 63 Tamil youths held as prisoners at an LTTE detention center in Jaffna. Most of the youths killed were EPRLF and TELO members who surrendered to the LTTE following the LTTE's crackdown on these groups. Among the victims were two Jaffna businessmen who were detained by the LTTE for ransom. Many Tamils in Sri Lanka and abroad who lost their loved ones at this tragedy refer the incident as the 'Kanthan Karunai massacre', named after house where the murdered prisoners were held.

Earlier on that fateful day in 1987, an attempt was made on the life of Sathasivam Krishnakumar alias Kittu, then Jaffna district leader of LTTE. A hand grenade was tossed at Kittu when he was leaving his girl friend's house located near the Jaffna central college after a “visit”. Mr. Krihsnakumar survived the attack, but lost one of his legs in the incident. Hearing about the incident, Aruna rushed to the LTTE's detention house, grabbed an AK-47 assault rifle and fired into the room full of prisoners, instantly killing all but two of those in the room. It was later alleged that another LTTE area commander Mahendirarajah (alias Mahathaya) was responsible for that attempt on Kittu's life.

The Kanthan Karunai massacre is often compared to the killings at the Welikada prison during the 1983 riots where 53 Tamil political prisoners were killed by Sinhala mobs with the connivance of the prison authorities . Unlike the Welikada massacre that occurred over a two days during an island-wide Sinhala on Tamil communal riots, the Kanthan Karunai massacre of prisoners was carried out by a senior LTTE leader a Tamil and the net results was the massacre of 63 Tamils within a span of 15 minutes.

In Jaffna a small number of relatives of the victims gathered at a Sivan temple in Nallur and participated in a special religious function. It is learnt that relatives of the victims attended special religious functions held in European cities. In Essen, Germany, a memorial service was arranged to remember the victims. It is reported that this year is the first time since the 'Kanthan Karunai massacres' that Sri Lankan Tamils remembered the victims in public.


Tigers pressure Norway to disarm Tamil rivals in Sri Lanka by Amal Jayasinghe

Tamil Tiger rebels Wednesday asked Norway's new peace envoy to make sure Sri Lanka's government disarms para-military groups ahead of a new round of truce negotiations in Switzerland.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) said they told Jon Hanssen-Bauer to ensure Colombo delivers on a pledge made in a previous round of talks in Switzerland in February to disarm groups that include a rival Tamil faction.

The LTTE said their political wing leader, S.P. Thamilselvan, expressed "concern and disappointment over non-fulfillment" of pledges relating to the activities rival Tamil militant groups.

"Our expectations were very high when the government delegation pledged... to end para-military activities and we are totally disappointed," the LTTE quoted Thamilselvan as saying.

The rebels had sought security guarantees to travel to Switzerland for talks tentatively scheduled for April 19-21 and issued veiled threats that they may not participate unless the rivals were contained by the government.

The government has denied Tiger allegations that it supports a breakaway rebel faction and other groups to carry out attacks against the main guerrilla outfit.

Hanssen-Bauer, Oslo's newly appointed emissary, travelled to the rebel-held northern town of Kilinochchi on Wednesday for discussions with the LTTE ahead of meeting with President Mahinda Rajapakse on Thursday.

The envoy's visit came as the government's main Marxist ally, the JVP, or People's Liberation Front, called for expelling Norway as a peace broker.

JVP spokesman Wimal Weerawansa accused Oslo of bias in favour of the Tamil Tigers and charged that it could become the first nation to recognise a separate Tamil state in Sri Lanka.

"Norway will be the first country to accept them (Tigers)," Weerawansa said in remarks published in the Daily Mirror newspaper here.

Norway rejects any allegation of favouritism toward the rebels.

The JVP call came after the government said Tuesday its peace moves had been boosted by local elections in which the JVP was routed.

Colombo's chief peace negotiator, Nimal Siripala de Silva, said he told Hanssen-Bauer on Monday that last week's win had strengthened Rajapakse's hand in seeking peace.

Political analysts and local media have said the president might call snap parliamentary polls if the JVP tries to block efforts to end the festering ethnic conflict.

De Silva said he told Hanssen-Bauer there was no change in the government's goal of resolving the conflict through a negotiated settlement.

More than 60,000 people have been killed since 1972.

Hanssen-Bauer arrived Monday on his first official visit to the island.

He will be joined Thursday by Norway's International Development Minister Erik Solheim, who is flying in for discussions with Rajapakse on the truce talks, officials said.

The government and the LTTE held talks in Switzerland in February and agreed to meet again this month on salvaging their troubled ceasefire.


Tamil rebels accuse Sri Lanka of failing to honor pledges given at Geneva talks by Vincent Jeyan

KILINOCHCHI, Sri Lanka (AP) _ The Tamil Tiger rebels said Wednesday that the Sri Lankan government has failed to honor a pledge made at peace talks in Geneva earlier this year to disarm paramilitary groups.

``Our expectations were very high when the government delegation pledged in Geneva to end paramilitary activities and we are totally disappointed now over the accelerated pace of paramilitary violence,'' Tamil Tiger political chief S.P. Thamilselvan said after meeting with new Norwegian envoy Jon Hanssen-Bauer, according to the rebel's Web site.

The Tigers split in 2004, and the mainstream group accuses the army of backing the breakaway faction. The government was not immediately available for comment, but Colombo has in the past denied such charges.

Hanssen-Bauer met with Tiger leaders in the rebel stronghold of Kilinochchi ahead of the next round of talks in Geneva, Switzerland later this month which will be crucial in view of the rising tension.

He was to return to the Sri Lankan capital later Wednesday and meet with Norway's top peace envoy, Erik Solheim on Thursday. The two will also meet with Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse.

Solheim, who has been appointed Norway's minister of international development, has handed the day-to-day management of monitoring the 2002 Norway-brokered truce to Hanssen-Bauer.

Tension has been mounting in Sri Lanka since Tamil Tiger leader Velupillai Prabhakaran warned in November that he would renew the violent struggle for an independent Tamil homeland if grievances with the government are not addressed.

Spiraling violence has put the cease-fire under tremendous pressure, with more than 166 people, including 87 government security personnel left dead since December.

Norway organized a meeting in Geneva in February at which the rebels and government pledged to scale down the violence, mostly in the north and east where the majority of Sri Lanka's 3.2 million Tamils live. They also agreed to meet again on April 19-21.

The interim period, however, has seen both sides accusing the other of violating the truce. The government accuses the separatist rebels of continuing to recruit underage combatants and attacking government troops.

In the most serious incident, suspected Tamil Tigers on March 26 blew up their fishing boat near a navy patrol off Sri Lanka's west coast, leaving six rebels and eight sailors missing, presumed dead, according to the military. The rebels denied involvement.

The Geneva meeting was the first high-level contact between the two sides since peace talks broke down in 2003 after six rounds of negotiation.

The Tigers began fighting in 1983 for a separate state for minority Tamils, claiming discrimination by the country's Sinhalese majority. The conflict has cost an estimated 65,000 lives.


S.Lanka talks hinge on disarming renegades-rebels By Joe Ariyaratnam

KILINOCHCHI, Sri Lanka, April 5 (Reuters) - Sri Lanka's Tamil Tigers received Norway's new special peace envoy at their northern base on Wednesday, urging him to press the government to honour a pledge to disarm renegades they say are attacking them.

The Tigers accuse the military of helping a breakaway rebel commander called Col. Karuna of mounting attacks on their fighters, and have warned a new peace bid to shore up a 2002 truce and avoid a slide back to civil war hinges on disarming them.

The government agreed at talks in Geneva in February to rein in armed groups the Tigers are complaining about, but now says it can't find anyone to disarm. Nordic truce monitors have urged the state to take a better look.

"There is limited time for the government to prove they are genuine before the next round of talks and their good will," S.P. Thamilselvan, head of the Tigers' political wing, told reporters after his first meeting with new Norwegian envoy Jon Hanssen-Bauer.

"The decisions and implementation in the next few days would decide the next round of talks," he added. The rebels have said they will likely attend talks on April 19-21 in Geneva, but have warned there will be no progress without active disarmament.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) are locked in a bitter feud with Karuna, who was widely seen as reclusive rebel leader Velupillai Prabhakaran's No.2 until a split in 2004.

Analysts fear the feud could lead to another spate of deadly attacks by suspected Tigers against the military as it did in December and January and possibly spill over into a return to a civil war that killed more than 64,000 people before the 2002 ceasefire.

Hanssen-Bauer, a peace adviser at Norway's Ministry of Foreign Affairs who has taken over day-to-day oversight of the peace process from Norwegian International Development Minister Erik Solheim, said the onus was on the Tigers and the government to make the talks work.

"It's up to the parties to make use of the possibilities in Geneva. We cannot define the content nor how it would happen," Hanssen-Bauer said before leaving the northern rebel stronghold of Kilinochchi. "I think both parties realise that peace is on the way."

The Karuna issue is expected to dominate the April talks in Switzerland. Karuna says his men will only disarm if the Tigers do too, and vows to fight back if attacked.

Karuna's band threatened this week to shoot dead Tiger supporters in the northern Jaffna peninsula unless they vacate homes and businesses appropriated from tens of thousands of Muslims the rebels forced to flee in the 1990s.

The Tigers, who want to carve out a separate homeland for minority Tamils in Sri Lanka's north and east -- where they already run a de facto state -- dismissed the threat.

"Karuna is despised by the Tamil people," Thamilselvan said. "The military is making use of Karuna as an agent to carry out abductions, killings, torture, extortion and various acts of violence against the civilian population with a view to create dissent."

Karuna's group denies having any links with the military, and says it plans to join the political mainstream and ultimately wants to displace the Tigers.

LTTE using truce to legitimise gains: JVP by PK Balachandran

The Sinhala nationalist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) says that the LTTE is in the peace process not to solve the ethnic question, but to get international legitimacy for its control over parts of Sri Lanka in the North and East.

In an interview to Daily Mirror on Wednesday, the JVP's chief spokesman Wimal Weerawansa said the LTTE would not break the ceasefire because it was gaining a lot from the ceasefire.

Over a period of time, it would claim that it was governing certain areas for a long time and seek legitimacy from the international community for it, Weerawansa said.

"The LTTE benefited immensely from the CFA (Cease Fire Agreement). They will not move out of it. Their gains from the CFA surpasses anything that they have got in the history of this country."

"Even if they leave it, it will be after securing an agreement that would give them even more benefits."

"They will make sure that they complete at least five years under the CFA, thereby showing the world that they have had their own governance for so long and pressure the international community to give legitimacy," Weerawansa said.

The LTTE was talking to President Mahinda Rajapaksa only to buy time, he said.

Threats by the LTTE to walk out of the peace process and resume war were not to be taken seriously. They were only a ploy to get the government to submit to their demands, he said.

Norway must be ousted

Weerawansa said that despite the colourless performance of the JVP in the March 30 local bodies elections, the party would press for the ouster of Norway from the position of peace facilitator.

The JVP leader said that the Norwegians were actually "LTTE's facilitators" who had given legitimacy to the LTTE through the peace talks process.

During the last Geneva talks, the LTTE delegation was treated as a state delegation, and after the talks, they were taken to weapons manufacturing factories in Norway, Weerawansa charged.

"The brochures of the military equipment that were with the LTTE when they returned were those of a Norwegian kind," he said.

Weerawansa recalled that the Norwegian chief facilitator Erik Solheim had told the Indian media that the Tamil people were harassed by the Sri Lankan army into fleeing to India, and asked: "Where did this happen?"

The Norwegians had no right to speak like this about one party to the peace process, he said.

"So we stand by our position that they cannot be kept as facilitators," he said.

The JVP leader further said that his party would continue to press the Rajapaksa government to amend the CFA and review the Norwegian role, as stipulated in the agreement President Rajapaksa and the JVP had had prior to the November 2005 Presidential election.

Weerawansa warned that if Rajapaksa deviated from the "Mahinda Chinthanaya", the common manifesto put forward during the Presidential election, the JVP would withdraw support to his government.

Rajapaksa can't do without JVP

Rajapaksa cannot take the JVP's threat lightly because his United Peoples' Freedom Alliance (UPFA) is still short of members in parliament.

The UPFA is dependent on the 39 MPs of the JVP to remain in power.

Norwegians in Colombo

It is significant that Weerawansa should give such a hard hitting interview at a time when Erik Solheim and the new de facto facilitator, Jon Hanssen Bauer, are in Sri Lanka to discuss the peace process with President Rajapaksa and the LTTE leaders.