Wednesday, April 18, 2007

‘REBELS’, ‘TERRORISTS’ AND BBC By Fr.Vimal Tirimanna, CSsR

When the LTTE launched a surprise pre-dawn aerial attack on March 26, the BBC news bulletins very correctly reserved their first headline for this event for it was the first time in the world that a terrorist organization had used air power of their own against a legitimate government. In reporting this event, the BBC kept on referring to the LTTE as "the LTTE rebels". This is not the first time (and it will surely not be the last time!) that the BBC used the word "rebels" to refer to the internationally notorious terrorist organization, the LTTE. Surprisingly, however, the writer, who is a daily follower of the BBC news, has never heard the same BBC ever referring to the Al Quaeda or the Hamas or the Hisabollah as "the Al Queada rebels" or "the Hamas rebels" or "the Hisabollah rebels". The unacceptable attack on the twin-towers in Manhatten in New York on 11th September 2001, is referred to by the same BBC always as "the terrorist attack" and never as "the rebel attack". At the same time, the same BBC never did refer to the attacks in Madrid or London, which followed the 11th September 2001, as "rebel attacks"! Moreover, whenever the BBC refers to the so-called "war on terror" of President George W. Bush it has never called it "the war on rebellion". As a close follower of the BBC news bulletin from my childhood, I cannot be the only person to be bewildered by this strange, haphazard use of the words "rebels" and "terrorists" by the BBC. What are the criteria used by the BBC to brand certain groups involved in terrorism as "rebels" while calling other such groups as "terrorists"?

The well-known American media expert, Wesley G. Pippert points out how a callous use of words in the media can distort public opinion:

It is easy for even the most talented journalist to lapse into stereotypes and clich├ęs that harm the pursuit of truth. The words that journalists use are important, perhaps as important as their stories, in the pursuit of justice and peace. Words often are used with unfortunate nuances that convey more meaning than their literal definition. [Wesley Pippert, An Ethics of News: A Reporter’s Search for Truth, Georgetown University Press, 1989, p.22].

The two English words "rebel" and "terrorist" have not only two different meanings, but they also convey very different subtle moral nuances. The Oxford Dictionary (which cannot be a stranger to the BBC English!) renders the noun "rebel" as ‘a person who refuses to continue allegiance to an established government’, ‘a person who takes up arms against the government’, ‘a person who resists authority or control’, ‘a person who refuses to obey’ or ‘a person who protests strongly’. The same Dictionary has placed the noun "terrorist" under the other noun "terrorism", and renders the noun "terrorism" as ‘the use of violence and intimidation, especially for political purposes’[Cfr., The Oxford Paperback Dictionary (Third Edition), Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988]. Another version of the Oxford Dictionary renders the noun "terrorist" as ‘a person who supports or participates in terrorism’, and renders the other noun "terrorism" as ‘the use of violence and threats of violence , esp. for political purposes’ [Cfr., Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary of Current English (Fourth Edition), Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992]. Any reader with a minimum sense of intelligence should be able to grasp here not only two different meanings of the two terms ‘rebel’ and ’, but should also be quick to sense a very clear moral distinction between the two terms. Terrorism is inherently associated with ‘violence’ whereas rebellion is not necessarily so; the word ‘rebel’ is much milder than the word ‘terrorist’ by any criterion of judgement. The BBC English news composers surely cannot pretend to be ignorant of this important, common sense linguistic and moral distinction between these two terms.

In view of the BBC’s apparent random usage of these two terms "rebel" and "terrorist", the all-important question is: How does the BBC determine that certain groups involved in terrorism or violence are "rebels" while the others are "terrorists"? Perhaps, the deaths and injuries caused to persons and the damage inflicted on property in the USA, Europe and the First World are construed to be different from other similar deaths, injuries and damages in other parts of the world. Consequently, though for any person with common sense the victims of terrorism are the same human beings all over the world, for the BBC, there seems to be ‘unworthy victims’ in the Third World countries (especially those countries that are not clients of the First World) and ‘worthy victims’ in the so-called First World (who owns and sets the agenda for the BBC and 80% of the international media). Accordingly, those innocent civilians (both Sinhalese and Tamil) who die in Sri Lanka due to LTTE suicide bombings and brutal killings are not considered to be ‘worthy victims’ whereas those innocent civilians who die in the First World countries such as those who died on 11th Sept.2001, in New York or in the subsequent terrorist attacks in London or Madrid are always considered to be ‘worthy victims’. The latter are ‘worthy’ to be given wide emotional media coverage and their killers are ‘worthy’ to be called "terrorists". The former victims are not only ‘unworthy’ to be given that much of media coverage and their killers are ‘unworthy’ to be called "terrorists"; so, those killers are called by the much milder term "rebels" which is non-offensive, and often, morally neutral.

Or could it be that the BBC has already determined that certain terrorist causes are ‘worthy causes’ while the others are ‘unworthy causes’, and consequently, those involved in terrorism to achieve those ‘worthy causes’ are called "rebels" while those involved in similar terrorism to achieve those ‘unworthy causes’ are called "terrorists"? But again, the all-important question is: What are the criteria used by the BBC to come to such conclusions? Still worse, who decides who is a "rebel" and who is a "terrorist"?

The irony, however, in the particular case of the LTTE is that most of the countries of the First World have already officially branded the LTTE as "terrorists" and included them in their lists of notorious international terrorist groups, along with Al Quaeda, Hamas,….etc. These countries include the USA, the members of the EU and India. The British government, the patron of the BBC too, has included the LTTE in the list of international terrorist groups. But for the self-righteous BBC (which often claims to be the most impartial international news reporters), for some strange, inexplicable reason, the LTTE are only "rebels" never "terrorists"! It is high time that the BBC came out publicly explaining to us, their long-time clients, how and with what criteria the BBC arrive at such judgments. If they don’t, then, we are not only free to put forward different hypothesis (as I have done above) for this strange random use of the words "rebel" and "terrorist", but we are to conclude that the BBC tacitly approves our hypothesis.

The BBC and the western media along with their governments are very vociferous about democracy in the world. Accordingly, they very correctly highlight media freedom as a cornerstone of democracy. But what sort of a media freedom is promoted by them , particularly the BBC, when they deliberately resort to this sort of double-dealing? Aren’t they promoting distortions when the perpetrators of the same immoral violent acts [acts of terrorism in our case] are called in certain cases as acts of "rebels" and in certain other cases as acts of "terrorists"? Aren’t they guilty of propagating deliberately distorted, manipulated information, information that is favourable only to their blue-eyed boys, such as the LTTE? Is this the media freedom that the BBC and all their international and local clientele are clamouring about?

In the BBC News Hour programme at 4 in the morning (GMT), on 26th March, after having reported that the "LTTE rebels" had used two light aircraft to bomb the Sri Lankan air force camp neighbouring the Colombo international airport, Dr.Saravanamuththu Pakkiyasothi was interviewed on this incident. One of the questions posed to him by the BBC was whether that was not a mere "symbolical" attack. One wonders whether the same BBC interviewed any US State Department official in the aftermath of the 11th September attack in 2001 to ask whether the attack on ‘twin towers’ too, was a mere symbolical attack! After all, by any standards, the twin-towers of Manhatten surely were symbolical for the US pride! But the BBC did not concentrate on the ‘symbolical’ aspect then; instead, they rightly highlighted the terrible damage done to human lives and property. How come the same BBC treats terrorist attacks in other parts of the Third World (especially, in Sri Lanka) very differently? We cannot help but conclude that according to the BBC, terrorist attacks on any western targets, are "serious terrorist acts", but similar attacks elsewhere (especially in Sri Lanka and elsewhere in the Third World) are harmless "symbolical acts" performed by a bunch of unruly "rebels"!

It is ridiculous to note how the BBC is trying to molly-coddle their blue-eyed boys, the LTTE whom their own government has branded as a "terrorist organization". It is precisely because the BBC sees no acts of ‘terror’ in the LTTE that they continue to use a less offensive term ‘the LTTE rebels’. It is also because of this BBC’s overtly partial and paternal attitude towards the LTTE that they always try their best to portray successive Sri Lankan governments as ‘enemies of Tamils of Sri Lanka’. [Notice carefully the BBC never makes the realistic distinction between the Sri Lankan Tamils and the LTTE]. That is why every time the Sri Lankan government retaliates LTTE terror by bomings an identified target, the BBC highlights the resultant civilian casualties and the displaced refugees. [The distortions the BBC made with regard to the numbers of the ‘fleeing Tamil refugees’ in the case of Sampur, last year, is a classic case in point, for which they never apologized]. The irony, however, is that when the USA and Britain fight the so-called ‘war on terror’ and indiscriminately bomb targets in Afghanistan, the same BBC does not seem to see any civilian casualties or any refugees fleeing. Similarly when both the USA and Britain closed their eyes and gave tacit approval for Israel to bomb Lebanon into pre-historic periods last year, claiming that they were trying to flush out Hisabollah terrorists, the BBC did not highlight the civilian casualties or the number of refugees fleeing. Even when they scarcely mentioned something in passing about civilian casualties or refugees fleeing in this Lebanese case, the BBC made sure to counter-balance it by immediately interviewing or quoting someone about the security of the State of Israel. The same holds good with regard to the current daily civilian casualties in Iraq which were in the first place triggered off thanks to the US and British led forces invading Iraq in 2003. Instead, today, the BBC is at pains along with their other western media agencies to project what is happening in Iraq right now as nothing but a mere internal rivalry between the Sunnies and the Shiites. In short when the US and British led western allies fight a so-called ‘war on terror’ even twisting international law [such as in the case of the notorious ‘legalised’ inhuman abuses of prisoners, as in Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghrahib prisons], the BBC does not see any moral problem, simply because they are supposed to be fighting whom the BBC calls "terrorists"! But when the government of Sri Lanka is fighting one of the deadliest terrorist organizations in the world [the only terrorist organization in the world to have sea and air power!], the BBC is very worried about the harassments of "the LTTE rebels" [not the "LTTE terrorists"!] by the Sri Lankan government. So, they take great pains to highlight the civilian casualties and the refugees fleeing! Here, the BBC never speaks of the national security of the State of Sri Lanka, but they used to trumpet aloud that of Israel when the latter was carpet-bombing another country, Lebanon, last year, claiming that it was for her national security.

Some two decades ago, Wesley Pipit pointed out the ambiguity inherent in the very word "terrorist" in its contemporary media usage:

The word "terrorist" is a loosely used accusation, especially in the Middle East. "The problem", it has been pointed out, "is that your terrorist is my freedom fighter – and vice versa". We may define "terrorism" as the use of calculated violence against innocent civilians, often with a political objective. In the Middle East, the word "terrorist" has become synonymous for many Americans with "Arab" and "Palestinian". Israelis always refer to members of the Palestinian Liberation Organization as "terrorists". On the other hand, the Israelis also called Lebanese "terrorists" even when these Lebanese were attacking Israeli military forces occupying southern Lebanon.

We may infer from what Pipit says above that those whom the so-called "international community" (including the USA and Britain) have called "terrorists", namely, the LTTE, are perhaps "freedom fighters", for the BBC. This may precisely be why they are regularly called "LTTE rebels", instead of calling them "terrorists". What is contested in this article is first of all that the BBC is using this difficult and morally loaded term at random, according to their own whims and fancies. Thus, groups like Al Quaeda are freely called "terrorists" by the BBC, but not the LTTE. Our crucial question is: What objectively perceptible difference is their between the two when it comes to performing same acts of terrorism? Our second concern [of course, closely linked to the first] is that the BBC should be consistent. Either the BBC should call all organizations involved in terror activities all over the world "rebels" or "terrorists". They ought to avoid their present political gimmick of calling at random only certain groups as "rebels" (even the ones which their own governments have branded as "terrorist") while calling other similar groups straightaway as "terrorists". Else, they are not only deliberately distorting their information but they are badly risking their credibility, if they still have any such thing called "credibility"!


A Jaffna Gentleman’s Exasperation by Nalin Swaris

He lives in an exclusive residential area in London but visits Lanka regularly. He had heard I was back un Lanka for the Winter, from a good friend who is his nephew. My friend called me to say his Uncle X, had read with enthusiastic approval most of my articles published in this newspaper and was very keen on meeting me. The immediate reason for wanting to meet me was his outrage at Amnesty International’s smear campaign against the Sri Lankan Cricket team. (Of this more below)

He was staying with relatives who live in a predominantly Sinhala Buddhist suburb of Colombo. He suggested we meet in a Colombo hotel where he has permanent VIP privileges. "Kotiya agents are all over the place and my relatives do not want me to meet strange people or talk politics at their place, out of fear for the Tigers. The meeting lasted about three hours. He talked. I listened, taking notes. He is eighty eight years young with amazing life experience.. At the zenith of his career, he was a dollar multimillionaire. He belongs to an outstanding Jaffna family and the names of his relatives read like a Who’s Who of Jaffna. He is a highly educated, culturally refined person and has been a patron of the arts in London. He has been on first name relationship with some of the big names of the British political establishment - like Ted Heath, Geoffrey Howe and Harold Wilson. He also has close personal relationships with the Saudi royalty and the sheiks of the emirates. " I have been a UNP-er from the first hour. It began with my close friendship with Sugathadasa. All the big names in the UNP from his time have been close friends or acquaintances. Esmond Wickremesinghe, Dudley, J.R., Anandatissa de Alwis and many others. "In those days when very little foreign exchange was allowed to Lankans, they have all been my house guests in London. Of course all of them including the Bandaranaieke’s had monies stashed abroad – but few could afford to live in luxury hotels - when in the opposition, of course! I grew up in a Jaffna village nd I am still at heart a village man. I have had a very good life and have seen it all. Today I have disposed most of my businesses and have enough to live a simple and comfortable life. I am a devout Hindu, a disciple of Krishnamurthy and a believer in Gandhian politics. I want to speak my mind but have to be prudent because of my younger family members. You can help me".

The following are some of the opinions of this extraordinary Jaffna gentleman. I have classified them according to topic. He was very keen on talking to me, because he thought that what I have written about the LTTE, the Norwegians and the so called international community was spot on. "I admire you’, he said, "because you are not overawed by the suddhas, and do not mince your words, when you challenge the high handed manner in which they treat this country. The white man has a sneaking respect for people like that. Whereas, despite the show of camaraderie, deep down they have contempt for people who live for 100% off their money. So whatever their claims to social status, westernized upbringing and education they are regarded as triflingly as the call girls or boys they could order from five star hotels, like this.

The Amnesty International Campaign

"Amnesty has descended into muck by its current campaign against Lanka by targeting our cricketers. ‘Sri Lanka Play by the Rules’ is a vicious slogan. They are doing this at a time when Bob Woolmer has been murdered and the air is thick with rumors of match fixing. The average cricket fan in the West Indies might get the impression that our boys too are involved in match fixing, ball tampering and bending the rules of Amnesty’s ‘gentleman’s game’. This is a truly national team. It has Sinhalese, Tamils, Hindus, Catholics, and Muslims. The team epitomizes what Lanka could be. Everyone has been impressed by their team spirit and camaraderie. This is an attempt to demoralize the players and undermine any chances they may have of winning the World Cup merely to damage any prestige that could come to Sri Lanka from it. They know Sri Lankan is a soft target. If they are genuine human rights defenders, there are other countries they could have picked on as well. Now the Tiger is out of the bag. Despite its claim to professional impartiality, Amnesty International has shown to the whole world that it is a willing to do the the LTTE’s dirty work. But what is the government and the cricket board doing? Should they not protest to the ICC about Amnesty’s attempt to turn the World Cup tournament into a political circus by sending out their clowns?

LTTE’s Cult of Blood and Death

That former gangster and smuggler from Velivetturai likes to be worshipped as Suriya Thevan. In fact he has developed a cult of blood and death around himself. This is pure Kali worship. How many of our young men and women have been sent to their deaths by blowing themselves up in order to kill a person Prabhakaran hates? How many civilians have been killed in the process? All this to satisfy the insatiable blood lust of one man? I feel depressd when I read all that abstract academic stuff by Tamils living in the safety and comfort of Colombo. Some of them have made good money abroad and have bought themselves expensive flats in well guarded condominiums located in predominantly Sinhalese areas. But have they ever paused to reflect on the irreparable damage the LTTE has done and is doing to the Tamil community in the North and the East? The whole community has been militarized and brutalised. I am a Hindu and in our traditions there is great devotion to family values and respect for the elderly. What happens when an entire generation of young men and women have been turned into ruthless killers? Think of all those poor little boys and girls who have been forced to carry arms and to kill without pity. This at a tender age when their moral sensibilities should be cultivated in the midst of a caring family. Let us say the LTTE gets their Eelam. How will the Tamil community recover from the damage done to their traditional values after years of mere podians being used to ordering the elderly around at the point of a gun - and after living in fear for years knowing that if they talk back they will be gunned down like dogs? What drives the LTTE is hatred, racist hatred of the Sinhalese and class hatred of their own elites. How can a movement driven by hate be liberating? This is what your Sinhala Leftists like Vasudeva and Wickramabahu should be asking themselves. Have you read anything by Prabahkaran that is an inspiration not just to Tamils but to people everywhere? Has he written anything that is even vaguely close to what a Che Guevarra, Mao Ze Dong, Ho Ch Minh or Amilcar Cabraal have written on the moral ideals of a revolution – of a new humanity and of a new society which will liberate even the oppressors of the people? He is a Tamil Pol Pot. He instills racist hatred of the Sinhalese people. Genuine revolutionary leaders have distinguished between a people and their governments. To understand this, you must understand the deep hatred and vengefulness that drive Prabhakaran and the other leaders of the LTTE.

An Unspoken Jaffna Secret

You may not like what I am about to tell you. But someone must be honest enough to say it. I know Jaffna society very well. I have lived in London most of my adult life. I am a Vellala but have no truck with caste oppression. Do you know that nearly 90% of the Jaffna people are farmers and therefore Vellala? Tamil Vellala’s are very caste conscious and Jaffna society is very caste bound. I am not talking about the morality of caste but about an undeniable cultural reality. Don’t be fooled by those high profile Tamil intellectuals in Colombo who pretend that they are not caste conscious and are liberals or cosmopolitans. Even those who have found high offices in the UN or international agencies will in an unguarded moment boast they belong to the Vellala aristocracy. Do you know that Prabhakaran is a karavar Christian? His religion now is blood sacrifice. He kidnapped a Hindu Vellalah girl and forced her to marry him. His son was named after a Christian LTTE ‘martyr’. I think the children are being raised as Christians because the papers reported that on New Year’s Day this year, his wife and children attended church service in St. Paul’s Cathedral London. Anton the LTTE ideologue was a Catholic before he embraced atheism and the LTTE in that order. He changed his surname from Stanislaus to Balasingham. Many of the LTTE leaders are Christians – that is why Christian religious leaders, Tamil and Sinhalese, have a soft corner for the LTTE - whom they see as champions of minority rights against the Buddhists. The majority of LTTE leaders and cadres are of low caste. Caste does not play a big role in public life in Sinhalese society. But the Sinhalese too are quite caste conscious and there is caste discrimination in rural areas. Look at the marriage advertisements in the Sunday papers. Hindus Buddhists and Christians mention their caste. Even the Buddhist clergy are divided along caste lines. However, Premadasa could become President. But the revolt against him was largely due to his caste.

But caste discrimination is a hundred times worse among the Jaffna Tamils. The Vellalas curse under their breath that Thamiselvam is a ‘bloody barber from Chavakaccheri’. Upper class Jaffna Vellalas do not go to barber saloon’s. The barber comes to them. Thamil Selvam’s father used to come to the back garden of Vellala homes. The men sit on a chair placed outside and as soon as the hair cut is finished, they go straight to the well and wash themselves because a low caste fellow has touched their head! Do you think that any of these people will be admitted to the inner sanctum of a Vellala home unless under threat of death? The LTTE has systematically eliminated distinguished Tamil men and women. The viciousness of the killings is motivated by caste hatred. Caste consciousness will become obsolete, when economic prosperity is generalized. It cannot be erased by terror and hatred. Think of people like Rajini Rajasingham, Neelan Thiruchelvam and Lakshman Kadirgamar. They were highly educated people of international repute. Do you think the fellows who were sent to kill them had any idea of the value of the lives they destroyed? The LTTE threatened to kill Ratnajeevan Hoole merely for accepting the post of Vice Chancellor of Jaffna University. He had to leave the country with his family. What a loss to the commuity. The Vice Chancellor of Batticaloa has gone missing. Jaffna has produced men and women of great distinction. What is happening today to education in Jaffna? Of course neither the Tigers nor their Colombo Tamil and Sinhalese supporters, want to acknowledge that the so called Sinhala government pays for the education of Tamils students in predominantly Tamil areas as everywhere else.

The Sinhalese People

Most of my best friends are Sinhalese. Supporters of Project Eelam forget that 60% of the Tamil people now live among the Sinhalese. Islamophobia is sweeping across Britain and other European countries. But despite the repeated killing of Sinhala civilians – consider the recent bombings of buses - the Sinhalese have not become paranoid at the sight of a Tamil. Tamils live peacefully among the Sinhalese, educate their children, carry on their professions and businesses. How many have moved from Jaffna to Colombo or its suburbs to live among the Sinhalese! Many of them show one face to their Sinhalese friends and another to one another. Do they appreciate the friendliness of the average Sinhalese person? The problem is mostly with the police and government officials. But do you think the ordinary Sinhalese are treated differently? In this situation not knowing Sinhalese becomes double jeopardy for Tamils. But who cares? When Tamil civilians were attacked, as in July 1983, it was organized by elements with links to the governments in power. In July 1983, the Sinhalese gave refuge to their Tamil friends and neighbours. My relatives too were protected by Sinhalese. The world should be repeatedly reminded of this. Are there any people anywhere in the world who can surpass the hospitality of the Sinhalese villager? The only other people I know are the Malaysian rural folk. Some Tamils living among Sinhalese have the delusion that the Sinhalese do not attack them out of fear for the LTTE. Instead of abstract and elitist political solutions which are far removed from the harsh realities of the people – we must build on the good sense and peaceful co-existence of our ordinary people, Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims. Integrate the people and territorial integrity will look after itself. Culturally speaking Hindus and Buddhists have so much in common. We celebrate the same New Year worship the same gods. Sinhalese nationalist politicians must remember this and open up to Tamil people. (To be continued – Karuna and the end of Project Eelam, Ranil – a born loser who got it wrong. Mahinda - only Sinhala leader who has correctly understood the Tigers. The dignity and citizenship rights of Tamil Speaking People.)


Military campaign in East enters decisive stage

*SLAF acquires ‘night strike capability’

Military action in the East has entered a decisive stage with the army stepping up pressure on LTTE units operating in the Thoppigala jungles. A senior military official yesterday said that troops were in the process of clearing Thoppigala, considered the last major LTTE stronghold in the eastern theatre of operations.

Fielding questions, he emphasized that there was no time frame for the conclusion of the offensive aimed at neutralizing, what he described as, depleted enemy units. "They are struggling in the face of mounting pressure and unbelievably high rate of desertion," he said, asserting that the enemy would not be able to resist the action spearheaded by Special Forces and Commandos.

Army Headquarters has committed sizeable forces to overwhelm the LTTE. The LTTE is likely to pull out cadres leaving a small group to mount hit and run attacks in Thoppigala.

The official expressed the belief that the LTTE would not sacrifice its heavy guns currently deployed in the Thoppigala area. "They have at least one multi-barrel rocket launcher [MBRL] and three or four 120 mm mortars," he said. They would try to pull them through a jungle route to the Vanni, he said, adding that the possibility of the LTTE having two six barrelled MBRLs could not be ruled out.

The assault on Thoppigala was launched against the backdrop of a series of military operations in the East over the past nine months which brought almost all civilian centres held by the LTTE, at the time of signing of the Oslo-arranged CFA, under government control. The military said that clearing of areas south of the Chenkalady-Maha Oya road paved the way for the assault on Thoppigala.

To facilitate the ongoing offensive action, the elite Special Task Force (STF) would continue to police areas regained by troops. Senior police and military officials emphasised that they had effectively neutralised the LTTE’s capability to mount a major offensive in the East.

Meanwhile, the SLAF has acquired a night strike capability. This would be of pivotal importance, a senior security official said, adding that both Israeli-built Kfirs and Ukrainian MIGs are equipped to carry out bombing missions in the night.

Armed Karuna faction running its writ in Pottuvil

The Karuna faction is said to be creating havoc in the Muslim-dominated Pottuvil town in Ampara, moving around freely with weapons in government-controlled areas while law enforcement authorities are allegedly turning a blind eye, the Daily Mirror learns.

Some Muslim youth in Pottuvil are threatening to take up arms for self-protection if Karuna cadres are not brought under control, according to sources from the area. This comes amidst allegations that the group is now playing the role of the police by urging residents to bring their concerns to the faction’s office in the area.

“They go around with weapons on motorbikes and are said to be threatening people on the streets. They have also extorted money from people. All this is happening while the police and the STF stand around doing nothing,” an area resident told the Daily Mirror.

Earlier this year the Daily Mirror reported similar activities by the Karuna faction in the Batticaloa district as well but despite concerns being raised the authorities have yet to take appropriate action to control the group who insists it is purely carrying out political work in government-held areas.

According to a police source the government had not granted any party or group, other than the police and armed forces, the authority to carry weapons and as such if Karuna cadres were seen moving around with weapons they should be taken into custody.Meanwhile, the Peace Secretariat for Muslims (PSM), a peace coordinating body set up jointly by the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress and the National Unity Alliance, told the Daily Mirror that it had already brought up the issue with the co-chairs as a matter of urgency.

“We have already brought the Pottuvil crisis to the attention of the co-chairs and are awaiting speedy action,” a PSM spokesman said.

The PSM is of the opinion that what was happening in Pottuvil town and other predominantly Muslim areas in the neighbourhood heralded signs of a major clash in the

near future and said it was the responsibility of the government to avert such a catastrophe.

“Maintaining law and order is the duty of the police, and in special cases the Army too has a role to play. But in Pottuvil the police including the STF and the Army have become mere by-standers while the Karuna group is running the writ through the town” said the spokesman.

“Muslims in Pottuvil see this as an extension of repression that existed during the LTTE regime. Whether it’s the rule of Prabhakaran or Karuna there is no peace for the Muslims here” he added.

When the Daily Mirror contacted the Pottuvil Police we were told the Officer In Charge (OIC) was not available and that they could not comment on the said allegations.

Tensions rose in Pottuvil last week when the Karuna faction was involved in opposing a Pradeshiya Saba (PS) decision to demolish a public building opposite the Pottuvil political office of the Karuna faction also known as the Thamil Makkal Viduthalai Pullikal (TMVP).

Area residents staged a hartal against the demolishing of the building while on Friday a vehicle belonging to the PS was set ablaze by an armed group after the driver was evicted.

However, Karuna faction spokesman Azad Maulana denied the allegations saying with regard to the PS issue the group had only mediated on the insistence of residents who were outraged at the demolishing of the PS building.

“I too was involved in trying to resolve the issue. We got involved because the people including the Muslims wanted us to mediate. If people come to us for assistance we will not turn a deaf ear. But at the same time we go through the police and do not act on our own. We did not threaten anyone,” Maulana told the Daily Mirror.

He also insisted that TMVP cadres do not roam around with weapons in government-controlled areas as alleged by several groups and added that if there were such allegations it should be taken up with the police.


Monks appeal to make use of Janaka Perera’s expertise

A group of leading Buddhist Monks from the North Central Province, have appealed to the Government to make use of Janaka Perera’s expertise to defeat the LTTE.

Two Bhikku organisations namely Desha Hithaishi Exsath Jathika Agamika Bala Bandalaya and North Central Bhikku Balamandalaya called on the government to make use of the expertise of Janaka Perera at this decisive moment which the country is facing regarding defence. The Bhikkus said in a release that military experts such as the late Denzil Kobbekaduwa, Wijeya Wimalaratne, and Lucky Algama had played a pivotal role to save the nation from terrorism for the last 25 years. The Bhikkus said Janaka Perera is the only surviving expert of this fame. “Therefore he should be made use of as he possesses a wealth of knowledge and expertise on the subject of war” they said.

They said Janaka Perera is the only hope of the Buddhist Monks who are defenders of the country.


Four civilians killed in suspected Tiger attack

Days after the killing of six civilians in Eravur, another four farmers were shot dead by suspected Tamil Tigers yesterday morning at Aralaganwila in Polonnaruwa, bringing the total number of civilians killed during the week to 28, police said.

“The farmers were gathering their harvest when armed Tigers descended on them, killing three on the spot while another died in hospital and two others were injured” a senior police official said.

He said he believed Tigers fleeing from Thoppigala now under siege by the military, might have carried out the killing.

The village of Nidanwela where the killings took place is situated some 17 kilometres from Aralaganwila bordering the Thoppigala jungle in the Batticaloa district.

Meanwhile, the police assisted by the army have tightened security in the area. On Sunday, a group of Tigers are alleged to have shot dead six workers in Mailambaveli in Eravur. The workmen who were building houses for Tsunami-affected people had been lined up in front of the ‘Village of Hope’ construction site and killed.

On Monday a bomb was exploded inside a passenger bus at Konduwattuvan in Ampara killing16 civilians and injuring 25.

A date with a renegade rebel Tiger

The BBC's Colombo correspondent Roland Buerk speaks to the reclusive Colonel Karuna - the leader of the breakaway eastern faction of the Tamil Tiger rebels in Sri Lanka

The worst bit was when they put on the blindfolds. They were polite about it - apologetic even - it was for our safety and theirs, they said.

But it was still nerve-wracking sitting in the back of a battered old minibus, unable to see, being driven at speed over rough roads to who knew where.

We were on our way to meet Vinayagamoorthi Muralitharan, better known by his nom de guerre, Colonel Karuna Amman.

He was once a trusted aide of Tamil Tiger leader Vellupillai Prabhakaran - Col Karuna described himself to us as having been the second-in-command of the Tigers.

He was the leading commander in the east, and one of the rebels' most successful men on the battlefield.

So when Col Karuna left the Tigers in 2004 taking many of his fighters with him it changed the dynamic of Sri Lanka's conflict.

Government forces have since driven the rebels from much of the Eastern Province.

Col Karuna rarely gives interviews and is almost never seen in public. Security around him is tight.

When the blindfolds came off we were in a tiny, sparsely-furnished bungalow, several hours' drive from the former Tiger commander's stronghold of Batticaloa.

'Not serious'

He emerged, smiling, from a bedroom to greet us.

Col Karuna says he left the rebel movement because disproportionate numbers of cadres from the east, like him, were being sacrificed on the battlefield, while the rebels from the north controlled the organisation.

And, he said, Prabhakaran was not serious about peace negotiations with the government of Sri Lanka and the now all-but-defunct 2002 ceasefire.

"I was a member of those talks," he said.

"What we were told by him was to drag these talks out for about five years, somehow let the time pass by, meanwhile I will purchase arms and we'll be ready for the next stage of fighting.

"That was his order. I told him many times, 'Let's get a federal kind of solution. This federal settlement will bring an immediate solution for the Tamils.' But he never really accepted that," he said.

The rebels have said an investigation was underway at the time he left to find out whether he had broken their code of conduct.

There were few personal possessions in the bungalow, just a small backpack lying on a bed, and a suit bag from one of Colombo's swankier menswear shops hanging in the wardrobe.

This was clearly a temporary resting place.

He had five mobile telephones.

There have been reports, denied by the government, that Col Karuna's cadres have been helping the Sri Lankan military as they have captured areas in the east that were under Tiger control.

Aid agency workers report seeing Karuna cadres carrying weapons in government-controlled areas.

'Lost strength'

He rejected those claims, but agreed his actions had had a major impact.

"By our coming out of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), I mean by me leaving the LTTE, they have lost 70% of their fighting capacity," he said.

"The LTTE has lost its strength to fight. That's an important factor. That has been a motivation for the Sri Lankan military.

"We being together with them (the military) is not right, we have never been together with them and we will not be together with them.

"But by our leaving, their [the LTTE's] strength has been broken, and by our leaving the morale of the Sri Lankan army has been boosted, morale has been built up.

"Because of that only Sri Lankan troops were able to capture most of the areas," he said.

The other allegation that has been levelled against Col Karuna's organisation is that it has been active in recruiting child soldiers.

A report by the New York-based Human Rights Watch said hundreds of children had been abducted in the east.

A UN envoy, Allan Rock, accused elements within Sri Lanka's military of helping the Karuna faction to recruit children as soldiers.

"Definitely we have no need to recruit them because we have no need of building up a military body," Col Karuna said.

"At the moment the Sri Lanka government, all three armed forces, are fighting against the Tamil Tigers. We have no need to do so.

"At the same time I would like to tell you clearly, this is also another reason for us to come out of the LTTE.

"Our eastern children had been taken to the northern fighting zone and sacrificed by Prabhakaran. We didn't accept that. Our eastern children should study, they should live in freedom," he said.

But when I pressed him saying researchers from Human Rights Watch had spoken to the relatives of some of the missing, he conceded that children might be in his camps.

"If we are receiving any accusations like that maybe there are people who had come willingly, maybe even the parents would have given the wrong information, saying that we have taken these people by force," he said.

"Definitely they can meet them and if they like, they definitely can return to their parents. At the moment we are not a military body, we are a political body so we have no need to keep fighters like that or to build up a fighting force."

Election plans

Col Karuna was wearing a suit and tie. He has literally shed his Tiger uniform to enter what he calls "the political mainstream".

His newly-formed party, the TMVP, would contest future provincial and general elections, he said.

Senior government figures have spoken of him being a possible future chief minister of the Eastern Province.

He says he has abandoned the idea of a Tamil Eelam - the Tamil homeland for which the Tigers have fought for decades - and now wants a solution to the ethnic conflict under one united Sri Lanka.

"For the economy and education we need a lot of say," he said.

"The northern districts and the eastern districts have to have a lot of powers because the northern and the eastern districts are the most affected by war.

"To build up these places we need a lot of economic power. We have a need to build up the education also, we need a lot of allocations for that as well," he said.

As we were about to leave I asked him whether he was worried about the possibility that the Tigers might try to kill him.

"I am really not looking at this as a major problem," he said.

"I am the one who protected Prabhakaran. There was a time when Prabhakaran was even facing threats from within the Tigers. While he was having major threats, and was shaking, I protected him and also made the Tigers known to the world and guided them.

"As to Prabhakaran calling me a traitor, I am really not worried. Today, that is what he is. It's because of Prabhakaran, a single man, that all these killings and violence have been taking place," he says.


Karuna allegedly sends questionnaire to NGOs

An email allegedly sent by the Thamil Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal (TMVP), the political arm of the Karuna faction, calls on several Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) in the east to fill in a questionnaire which seeks information on possible links between the NGOs and the LTTE.

The email, a copy of which was sent to the Daily Mirror, from the email address, while appreciating the rehabilitation work done by the NGOs in the north and east, asks the NGOs to fill out the questionnaire by the end of this month.

It however adds a veiled threat by saying “who are not registered with us, we are not responsible for your security in North and East. Stop your bad behaviour by supporting the LTTE, join with us to create peaceful country.”


Among the questions asked from the NGOs are whether the charity group has any intention of assisting the LTTE or only indulges in humanitarian activities and whether it has any plans to divide the country or disseminate LTTE propaganda.

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