Thursday, April 19, 2007

Vakarai: Life after Swarnam and Elilan

Special Forces that drove the LTTEaway from Vakarai, with a captured artillery gun

Sometime ago I maintained in an article in The Island newspaper (1st Sept.06) that the much flaunted "invincibility" of the LTTE was a very fragile one. Our security forces have proved me right in the eastern theatre of the conflict with the terrorist LTTE. They have been defeated in the east. They now do not occupy any main town in the east. They have been driven in disarray to the Thopiagala jungle without much food to sustain them and without many of their lethal weapons to wage war with the army. Given that they do deploy many suicide cadres, the LTTE would be able to mount many destructive campaigns in the areas under the control of the government. Eternal vigilance is the price we have to pay until the LTTE is substantially disabled and neutralised and peace is restored in the country.

Many LTTE sympathizers have tried to down play this crucial victory as a tactical withdrawal by the LTTE. With over 1000 dead and more than a 1000 badly injured the withdrawal was forced on the LTTE by our security forces. This certainly is a victory in my books and the territory gained is of immense significance, in that, the LTTE cannot now site their capital of Eelam in Trincomalee, the physical and political case for the merger of the east with the north has been demolished and the eastern Tamils, the Muslims and the Sinhalese have been liberated from the ogre of the LTTE oppression and the daily artillery barrages.

In the north the LTTE is still a formidable force. This force will now be reinforced by the eastern cadres who managed to escape to the Wanni. It probably has in its possession technically advanced weapons ready for effective use there when it matters by surprise attacks. More importantly, it has a substratum of northern Tamil society that supports the ideology of Eelam. Therefore a consummate military plan need to be put together and thoroughly tested for all conceivable contingencies before any onslaught is made on the LTTE in the north. Any hotch-potch campaign will result in another humiliating Muhamaly debacle. Given the efficient manner of the eastern campaign, one can be certain that our security forces will not again rush in where angels fear to tread.

Perhaps "little now and more later" policy is called for in the north while "the military assets of the LTTE are destroyed wherever they are found" and exposed. The President and the security forces ought also to be congratulated for the demonstrating to the country the successful alternative to Ranil’s abject appeasement policy towards the LTTE. Ghandian patience was endured by the government when the LTTE began their attacks in Dec.2005. This appeasement mode continued till April 2006. The international community did not much care about the deaths and destruction caused by the LTTE, nor did they do anything to rein in the LTTE, and their silence only encouraged the LTTE to greater outrages which ended at Mawil Aru. The new policy is the measured military response for any attack by the LTTE. As these unprovoked artillery attacks took place from their entrenched positions in the east, it became quite apparent that the LTTE ought to be chased out of the east for the attacks to stop and the people to live peacefully. This is what has been accomplished at minimum cost to the army and maximum cost the LTTE. All Sri Lankans should be proud of this achievement. We should evince our full support for our security forces in the frontlines.

In Vakarai and other towns captured from the LTTE security of the territory would be the urgent immediate concern. Security in terms of clearing the place of landmines and bombs is just one of the problems. The other is the infiltration by the LTTE as civilian returnees. They would return to dig up the weapons they had buried and start killing people, destroying property, disrupting commercial life and agricultural occupations, and de-stabilising society. The police therefore have a very difficult task of screening the returnees and keeping an ever watchful eye on those people. This is a thankless yet a necessary job. The pro-LTTE NGOs and other rabid Tamil nationalists are likely to resort to detraction of the police and accuse them of all sorts of crimes not excluding the manipulation of ethnic proportions in the area! Such treacherous conduct should be publicly treated with contempt. This situation calls for maintenance of adequate security personnel in the area and prevents them from being shifted to other areas of conflict. This redeployment of troops happened under Minister Ratwatte and the east fell like a ripe mango into the lap of the LTTE. Let it never happen again.

Once the security is established, and the returnees have been settled, the government should conduct a full population census of the areas not included in the 2001 census and update the electoral register. A reliable census is the basic information necessary for all other development work. Our security forces should never forget the fact that thousands of Tamil IDPs abandoned the LTTE and sought refuge in government controlled areas. They were confident that they will have not only food and shelter there, but also security of life and limbs and freedom from being used as human shields and slave labourers to construct LTTE bunkers. This is the life after Swarnam and Elilan they would now expect in the east. They cannot be thrust into the arms of other armed groups in the east nor should they be allowed to be exploited by such groups. The confidence of these marginalized people in the government and the security forces should be further reinforced by measures restoring to them what is their due in terms of economic development, social improvements, provision for wider educational opportunities and the enhancement of their health.

The government should stop acting as their nanny at the earliest opportunity. Simply handing out food, clothing and materials to build shacks might be considered as immediate necessities. But there is life beyond these immediate needs. For this the people need to be involved in the tasks of building their roads, bridges, schools, hospitals and communication facilities. They should be made to feel proud of being directly involved in building their towns and villages, and the infra structures necessary to sustain profitable economic life in a peaceful environment conducive to healthy life for themselves and their children. The days of victimisation and marginalization should be banished for good. They will recover their dignity when they are enabled to lead a life not dependent on handouts from the government and NGOs. Smiling faces in the midst of hard work to restore their shattered lives to normalcy should be the end-objective of the policy of the government and the security forces. The government simply cannot fail them at this juncture.

In rebuilding these devastated areas there is one policy the government has so far failed to consider let alone implement. I am referring to propaganda to de-eelamize these traumatised people. The government has been very successful in its current propaganda TV campaign in favour of the army. A similar local campaign in the east to wean the people from the LTTE is opportune at the moment. Posters, bill-boards local press and radio should be utilised on a daily basis to drive home the point that the Eelam dream of one man is the cause of their dire destitution, destruction of life and property. Pirapakaran has caused them utter misery and robbed them of their children and the future of their children. It is time to ditch him and win back the lives of misguided children under his jackboots. That these children have a real future to lead normal lives than be living as mindless cannon fodder for the LTTE. There is more satisfaction and joy in a society that cares and shares and lives in peace with the neighbours. Surely it is worth trying to instill the positive aspect of our lives living in one free multi-ethnic country rather than the life in a myopic ethnic and fascistic enclave that Pirapakaran had hitherto propagated in the minds of these unfortunate people.

The lynchpin to the successful re-integration of these abused Tamil people is the expected reasonable offer of a new deal to sort out all their problems both real and perceived. In this endeavour, one hopes that the government realises that there are also alternatives to NGO/Majority Comittee Report and Prof. Vitharna’s proposals. Justice and fairness to all both the majority as well as the minority should be the bottom line in any new deal.


Kanjikudichchi-aru offensive enters critical phase, one more base overrun

The ongoing counter-insurgency operation in the Kanjikudichchi-aru jungles has entered a decisive stage with police commandos targeting small groups of terrorists operating in the area.

"We are actually in the third phase of the offensive," a senior para-military officer told The Island yesterday. Although commandos engaged in the offensive forced the LTTE to abandon almost 20 bases along with a large quantity of supplies, small groups are believed to be re-grouping.

The current phase of the offensive was aimed at wiping out them, he said. Aggressive patrolling would continue to seek out and neutralize the enemy units.

Commandos on Thursday engaged two enemy groups at Udimbikulam and Darampalawa. According to the STF official commandos the first contact had taken place at Udimbikulam where commandos overran an LTTE hideout subsequently identified as Jeevananda base. "We hit them hard," the official said that subsequent inquiries revealed that five LTTE cadres had succumbed to their injuries. Commandos had recovered one multi purpose machine gun with 300 rounds of ammunition, 24 hand grenades, two communication sets and a large stock of rice, dhal and sugar.

The second confrontation had taken place at Darampalawa where police commandos ran into an LTTE ambush. One commando had been wounded and evacuated to the government hospital at Ampara. His condition is reported to be stable.

Commandos had also located a caterpillar and an earth moving vehicle near the LTTE base located on January 29.

The expert acknowledged that the setting up of new permanent bases would take place as aggressive patrols seek LTTE cadres who had lost their permanent bases. He expressed the belief that the LTTE would try to side-step the ongoing operations. "They would subsequently mount attacks on isolated bases and foot patrols," he said. "In fact, we have adopted a similar strategy. We are setting up new bases and sending out patrols to scour the surrounding jungles."

The official pointed out that there was a huge difference between jungle operations and fighting in built-in areas. Since the launch of the offensive the LTTE threat on Sinhala and Muslim areas had lessened, he said.


STF captures another base by Harischandra Gunaratna

Special Task Force on Thursday captured a Tiger support base called "Jeewananda Base" close to Kanchikudichciaru in Ampara district. Around 10 Tigers have been injured in the battle, Media Centre for National Security (MCNS) said. This base has been used mainly to train "child soldiers" and they have been given weapon training here. Among the items recovered from this camp were sophisticated weapons, hand grenades, communication equipment and suicide kits, detonators and live cartridges. According to the MCNS the LTTE had planned a series of suicide attacks in various locations originating from this camp.

Meanwhile the Tigers after their humiliating defeat in Vakarai had fled to Thoppigala and other are said to be without a leader after their leader Dayani was captured by troops. The beleagured cadres numbering around 350 are without a leader and want to surrender to the troops. After the defeat in the east the Tiger area leaders have been summoned to the Wanni by the LTTE hierarchy. One of the cadres had said that they were paid a salary of Rs 9,000 per month.

Aid groups express concern over paramilitary presence in east

* GTZ suspends Batti work
* SLMM says 16 children missing
* Karuna wants credible evidence

The humanitarian community has expressed serious concerns over the presence of paramilitary groups in the east with a leading German charity organization GTZ temporarily suspending its operations in Batticaloa after two of its offices were looted by armed men. Meanwhile, the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) says abductions still continue in Batticaloa and also noted in its latest weekly report that 16 children and 7 adults were reported missing in the district last week and raised suspicion of Karuna and LTTE involvement.

However, Karuna spokesman Azath Maulana played down the latest concerns and allegations raised by the NGOs and the SLMM and called for "credible evidence" to substantiate any claims of Karuna involvement in the said incidents or other child recruitment allegations. Incidentally, UN envoy Allan Rock was yesterday scheduled to present a report to the working group of the UN Security Council which he claimed contains "credible evidence" of Karuna and LTTE child recruitment and abductions.

As Mr. Rock had accused certain elements of the government forces of conspiring or in some cases directly assisting Karuna in abductions and recruitment, the government went public and refuted the claims and later demanded 'credible evidence' to back the allegations.

"There is still much abduction in Batticaloa district. 16 children and seven adults have been reported missing. Both LTTE and TMVP (Karuna) are suspected. Abductions are reported in the other districts as well, but not as many," the SLMM said. Mr. Maulana however said TMVP cadres had not recruited or abducted any children as of late and further disputed UNICEF figures of child recruitment by Karuna. "We have a total cadre strength of only 2000, so if you go by the UNICEF figures it would suggest most of our cadres are children and not adults. That is not the case and these are all fabricated allegations which ultimately play into the hands of the LTTE" The presence of political offices of the Karuna faction in the east has also raised concerns following a spate of abductions, most which remain unsolved and violent incidents with the Batticaloa police, also suggesting action to curb the uncontrollable activities of Karuna.

The weekly report of the Inter Agency Standing Committee (IASC) country team, an independent INGO monitoring body, notes that the general situation in Batticaloa remains tense with ongoing daily reports of security incidents within the town and throughout the district. "The humanitarian community is deeply concerned by the increased number of paramilitaries in Batticaloa town. In Ampara there are renewed reports of abductions. The increased presence of armed civilians has heightened fears in communities," IASC said this week.

Meanwhile, IASC also said that GTZ, a leading German based humanitarian organization has decided to temporarily stop its activities in the Batticaloa district after two of its warehouses, in Valaichchenai and Kaluwanchikudy, were looted by armed men this week.

Renegade LTTE commander says LTTE smuggled in 30 artillery guns during CFA

"Some six 130 mm artillery guns, four 152 mm guns and more than 20 122 mm guns and Multi Barrel Rocket Launchers (MBRL) were smuggled in. They were brought by ship and unloaded off Challai near Mullaithiv." says Karuna Amman, leader of TMVP, in an interview given to the local newspaper 'The Nation'. Read full article here.

Karuna Amman deserted the LTTE and formed his own faction 3 years ago. More than 1000 armed personnel are currently under his command. Before his desertion, he lead many successful attacks against the Sri Lankan army most natable being operation unceasing waves 1,2 and 3.

Meanwhile, LTTE shelled a large part of Jaffna city targeting both military and civilian structures today morning. 5 SLA soldiers were killed and more than 10 were wounded in the artillery strike.

LTTE artillery fire was directed at the Muhamalai entry/exit point simultaneously. Muhamalai is used to transport essential goods to civilians in the northern region.


Defeat terrorists for peace in SL: Karuna

LTTE is not the sole representative of Tamils in Sri Lanka

Vinyagamurthy Muralitharan (39), better known as Karuna, has become a household name in Sri Lanka, since his defection from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in March 2004. He is hated by the LTTE Wanni faction but praised by others keen on defeating the Wanni Tigers. In a wide ranging interview with Ruwan Weerakoon, at an undisclosed location in the east, Karuna spoke about the Tigers’ air capability, the military’s campaign and his own future plans, even as the government completed half its term in office, with parliamentary elections due in three years. He spoke of provincial council elections and the need for a referendum in the east in another two years to determine whether the easterners wish to merge or de-merge with the north.

Q: Recently, the Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) base at Katunayake was bombed by the LTTE. What are your views?
A: Ever since Jaffna was captured, Prabhakaran planned to purchase several small planes known as light aircraft from Thailand and other countries in the east to be assembled here.

Q: Was this after 1994?
A: Yes. After 1994, after the Riviresa operation, Prabhakaran started on a plan to purchase light aircraft. When the Cease-Fire Agreement (CFA) was signed between Ranil Wickremesinghe and Prabhakaran, the interim period was used to purchase light aircraft. He sent his cadres for training in private schools in Thailand and Malaysia. However, military-wise, this attack cannot be considered a major one. On the ground, Prabhakaran has lost many of his strongholds. The east is almost totally lost, while he is losing in the north. This attack on the air base is a propaganda stunt to create fear in the minds of the people. The aircraft will also be used for suicide missions. This was planned several years ago. Even if Prabhakaran purchases nuclear weapons, he cannot achieve his goal of a separate state.

Q: What is the exact year the LTTE purchased aircraft and how did it do it?
A: As per the CFA, the LTTE was allowed access to and use of the sea for training and fishing after five months, the LTTE commenced smuggling weapons, ordnance and dismantled light aircraft by ship, aided by the clauses in the CFA.

Q: What is the role played by Jeyakumar in Australia? Did he supply aircraft?
A: We heard that he has died. Jeyakumar was close to Prabhakaran and played a key role in fundraising. Though he played an important role in purchasing aircraft, his main role was fundraising. Those who played important roles in purchasing aircraft are K. Pathmanathan, better known as KP, and one Pradeep Master. Weapons, ordnance and aircraft are purchased from countries such as Ukraine. Even artillery is purchased from Ukraine. There are many brokers assisting the LTTE to purchase arms.

Q: What type of artillery was smuggled in during the CFA and how?
A: Some six 130 mm artillery guns, four 152 mm guns and more than 20 122 mm guns and Multi Barrel Rocket Launchers (MBRL) were smuggled in. They were brought by ship and unloaded off Challai near Mullaitivu.

Q: What advice do you have to destroy the LTTE’s air capability?
A: In fact, the LTTE’s air capability is not that great. There are only five or six small planes, which isn’t much. My advice is that three steps should be taken. Firstly, the LTTE strongholds on the ground should be captured, starting with securing the A9 route. Next, the Sri Lankan Government should strengthen the Sri Lanka Navy to be able to effectively prevent the smuggling of weapons and ordnance by sea, which is the main supply route for the arming of the Tigers. Thirdly, LTTE fundraising overseas should be stopped.Funds are raised in many ways, including illegal money laundering. If these are stopped, automatically, Prabhakaran’s organisation would come to a standstill. However, the capture of the ground level strongholds should be the primary objective. Then, LTTE activities will automatically come to a standstill. Then, the organisation won’t even have a runway for their small planes.

Q: The SLAF has taken on several targets. According to your information, were these targets accurate?
A: The many air raids launched by the SLAF are accurate. Many Sea Tiger bases and Forward Defence Lines (FDL) have been destroyed, with many commanders and cadres killed. But air raids alone would not help to completely destroy the strength of the LTTE. For example, a gravel road could be used as a runway for light aircraft. Hence, my suggestion is to first capture land and their strongholds, thereby destroying the LTTE.

Q: Do you think the Sri Lanka Army (SLA) is on the right track in taking on the Tigers? How do you rate the concept ‘seek and destroy’ by small group teams?
A: The present SLA Chief Sarath Fonseka has used these new changes as war tactics. During Operation Jayasikuru, scores of army personnel were involved in the operation and the army suffered heavy losses. As a war tactic the military has formed small groups. The army is successfully targeting and destroying the LTTE. What it is doing is drawing the LTTE towards it and making a frontal attack. Many LTTE cadres are killed as a result. In Vakarai, nearly 200 LTTE cadres died, with minimal loss to the SLA of just 40 or 42 killed. Although it is a slow process and time consuming, it is a good concept. It is good to build up the morale of the security forces, as they won’t get frustrated when losses are minimal on their side. The other aspect is that it has helped capture the strongholds. They are now consolidating in many places.

Q: Operations are to be expanded into the Wanni, Madhu, Kilinochchi and possibly, Mullaitivu. What do you anticipate?
A: When well planned tactics are employed, they succeed. After we quit the LTTE, the organisation lost its capability to launch offensives.

Q: Why?
A: When I was in the LTTE, 95% of the offensives were launched by my commanders and me. But now, there isn’t a single commander with that capability in the LTTE outfit. For example, three years have lapsed since we left the LTTE, and not a single army camp captured. For instance, last month, it could not even capture the Mavadivembu army camp, which had only 40 soldiers. In the past, military operations were launched for political gain, with much political propaganda about it. But now, military operations are for the purpose of destroying or eradicating terrorism. The army should be given complete authority to decide how to launch operations and attacks to destroy terrorists. Earlier, operations like Jayasikuru were used for political advantage.

Q: Can the security forces win this war or not?
A: The SLA is well organised. It has the capacity and the capabilities. Hence, once the decision making power is given to the SLA, there is no doubt that it will win this war.

Q: How about SLAF’s air power and the military in general?
A: SLAF’s power has been strengthened. Nowadays the targeting is accurate. The recent success of the military is because the commandos are used on the ground as commandos and the infantry as infantry, which situation was not there in the past. The Navy is also doing well. Within this month, four ships have been destroyed. The supply to the LTTE has been curtailed by the Sri Lanka Navy. They are performing well.

Q: What about the air targets – are they accurate or not?
A: The targets are accurate. The navy is doing well, and within this month, four ships have been destroyed. The supply to the LTTE has been obstructed by the Sri Lanka Navy. They are good.

Q: You mentioned Jayasikuru. Didn’t you attack the government troops from the rear?
A: Yes, we took all measures to counter that operation with our offensives. It is said that attack is the best form of defence. So our counter operations during Jayasikuru rendered the army helpless.

Q: Did Prabhakaran give you instructions regarding this particular attack that you launched?
A: Prabhakaran didn’t know anything. At that time, I drew up the whole plan and executed the counter operations during Jayasikuru. He appointed me to be in charge of counter operations. I was not involved in the counter operations during Riviresa.

Q: It is alleged that the Karuna group has connections to the SLA. What do you say?
A: That is not true. It is false propaganda. Our movement is a political movement. We have a military wing at our bases in the forest for self defence purposes. Hence, the allegation about our connection with the SLA is completely false.

Q: Do you totally deny any involvement with the SLA?
A: Military-wise, we don’t have any connection with the SLA. However, our political wing, which is unarmed, has requested security from the government. Security is provided to our offices in Colombo, Batticaloa and Trincomalee to enable us carry out our political activities.

Q: There are strong allegations that you abduct children and Human Rights Watch (HRW) has condemned you on this score. Even UN Special Representative Allan Rock alleged that the army is helping your faction in recruiting child soldiers?
A: It is strange to hear that the SLA is assisting us. Furthermore, we don’t abduct children. I would like to clearly state that nearly 20 of our offices manned by our cadres are functioning in government-controlled areas in the east. So, if those cadres had been recruited forcibly and sent to those offices, they would have escaped by now.

Q: But, couldn’t they be forcibly held by the military?
A: We don’t need to recruit children, since we don’t have a need to strengthen our military. Our military is only for self defence. Furthermore, we don’t need to strengthen our military to infiltrate because the SLA is doing that. It is defeating the LTTE. In areas liberated by the army, we are putting up political offices to help the people to rebuild and resettle in these places. Hence, we don’t have a need to strengthen our military by recruitment. We want to bring a complete stop to this war.

Q: Why is it that the LTTE does not use its power in the east? Why doesn’t the LTTE use its air capability in the east?
A: The LTTE’s air capability is not strong. It has some small planes, which are not enough to launch attacks on the ground.

Q: In that case, how did it attack the Katunayake Airbase?
A: It can’t launch a proper air raid, and engage in an air battle. It can only conduct hit and run raids.

Q: Why can’t the LTTE build a runway in your area?
A: It can’t do that.

Q: Why not?
A: Its territory is very narrow.

Q: LTTE Political Wing Leader, S.P. Thamilselvan has said very clearly that if the SLAF continues bombing LTTE camps, the LTTE will bomb Colombo. What is your comment?
A: Yes, as a terrorist organisation it will do this. In the past, there have been many instances where the LTTE attacked innocent civilians following battlefield losses. It plants bombs inside public transport. These are terrorist activities. My advice is that the Wanni has to be captured.

Q: What is the clout that LTTE Intelligence Wing Leader Pottu Amman has within the outfit?
A: In short, Pottu Amman is a butcher. He has killed many innocent Tamil civilians and political leaders. He is famous for killing. He has never participated in the battlefield.

Q: Is he a good intelligence leader?
A: No. All planning is by Prabhakaran and Pottu Amman carries out the orders. Hence, he Pottu Amman cannot be considered an intelligence leader.

Q: Why is Pottu Amman so influential?
A: Pottu Amman doesn’t have the capacity to lead. He is a killer. He is connected to the Rajiv Gandhi killing. He is a wanted person in many countries and that has made him famous. Other than that, he doesn’t have the capacity to lead the LTTE.

Q: Sornam, Bhanu, Soosai and Reuben are your past comrades. Ramesh is your good friend. Your comments, please?
A: Soosai belongs to the fisher folk from Velvetithurai, and a puppet of Prabhakaran, dancing to his tune. He has some experience in the sea, and that is all. Sornam has lost many battles and was punished by Prabhakaran. He was sent to the east after losing in the north. In the east too he was not successful. Now, he has been sent to Madhu. Rueben is not a commander or a leader. He took charge of the financial aspects of the LTTE. Ramesh was my subordinate and was working under me. He was under my control.

Q: Has Prabhakaran sent Ramesh to kill you?
A: Prabhakaran has told Ramesh to kill me, but Ramesh is not brave enough to do that.

Q: Has Prabhakaran made any attempt to kill you in the past three years?
A: From the day I quit the organisation, up to now, he has been attempting to kill me since I pose a serious threat to him. But he can’t do that. We are ready to face that challenge.

Q: What is the strategy to expand control of the east?
A: Politically, we are making the people understand that Prabhakaran’s struggle for a separate state cannot be achieved and hence, a hopeless one. Once the people realise this and accept it, the LTTE will not have the opportunity to infiltrate and will be defeated. Then, we would take control in the east.

Q: What is the LTTE’s strategy to counter your group?
A: The LTTE strategy to counter us has been destroyed. It was defeated. We will make the world realise that the LTTE is not the sole representative of the Tamils. We have the advantage of knowing the terrain. Hence, in this instance, Prabhakaran can do nothing in the east.

Q: Where were you in 1997, 1998 and 1999?
A: With the LTTE in Batticaloa

Q: Did the LTTE acquire planes during that period?
A: There were no planes in 1997 and 1988. In 1999, there were only two light helicopters. All the planes were acquired after the CFA.

Q: Tell me about the peace talks which you also attended. What happened?
A: We went for negotiations but we knew it would not succeed since, as a matter of fact, Prabhakaran did not have the will to arrive at a political solution. Before going for the talks, according to the discussion he had, he had asked his men to use this interval to purchase weapons. So, in fact, he had no intention of striking a peace deal.

Q: He just wanted to drag the peace talks?
A: It was a drama.

Q: What is the way out of this?
A: The Sri Lanka Government and the forces must defeat the terrorists and only then come for peace talks.

Q: As a former leader of the LTTE, you strongly believe that the LTTE has to be destroyed?
A: Prabhakaran does not have a single thought towards peace. Hence, destroying Prabhakaran is the only way at arriving at a lasting peace in Sri Lanka.

Q: Are you going to submit proposals to the All Party Conference (APC)?
A: Yes.

Q: What kind of political solution are you suggesting for the east?
A: What we wish is a political solution within a united Sri Lanka. We are drafting proposals for that and very soon we would be publishing them.

Q: Has the subject of north-east merger been included in the draft proposal?
A: We have to liberate the east from the oppression of the Prabha-group and thereafter, hold elections. Reconstruction and resettlement should take place after a provincial council election is held. Two years later, a referendum should be held in the east to ascertain the will of the eastern people as to merge or de-merge with the north. It is up to the people; they have to decide.


Pillaiyan, Commander of Karun group, targets proxy MPs of the Tamil Tigers

In a counter-attack on the pro-Tamil Tiger parliamentarians of the east who had accused the Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal (TMVP) led by V.Muralitharan (Colonel Karuna) of preventing them from visting their electorates, Pillaiyan, the Commander of the TMVP. told the Asian Tribune that this is a tactic of the Tamil Tigers to divert attention from their practice of killing all Tamil MPs in the democratic stream and threatening the lives of others like Douglas Devananda and V. Anandasangaree, the leader of the TULF.

Pillaiyan was targeting in particular T. Jeyanandamoorthy, one of the TNA parliamentarians for Batticaloa, who had told a pro-Tiger website, TamilNet: "Due to death threats from Sri Lanka Army (SLA) backed Karuna group in Batticaloa district, Tamil National Alliance (TNA) parliamentarians representing constituencies in the district have not been able to go to their electorates for the last six months. Batticaloa MPs have been unable to even participate in high level planning meetings where the district's urgent needs are discussed and decisions taken. “

When the Asian Tribune asked for Pillaiyan comments on this charge, he said that T. Jeyanandamoorth, who is proxy MP of the LTTE and now acting as the as the webmaster updating the TamilNet for his LTTE pay masters based in Oslo, Norway, has fabricated false allegations to cover-up for the atrocities committed by his political masters in the LTTE.

Jeyanandamoorthy and Pillaiyan’s brother are married to two sisters and are closely related to each other.

Pillaiyan said that TMVP has joined the mainstream politics of this country. "We believe in democracy, freedom of speech and freedom of movements. Unlike the Vanni Tigers led by Prabakaran, we do not believe in the utopian concept of “Tamil Eelam.” We believe in the oneness of Sri Lanka and wish to abide by the laws and rules of the country. Therefore we do not consider either the Government of Sri Lanka or the Sri Lanka’s armed forces as our enemies".

He added: "It is unfortunate even several international NGO’s are unable to digest our position. When we believe in democracy, pluralism and rule of law, then why should we oppose the Government and its armed forces?

"When this is our position, there is no reason for us to oppose the Tamil National Alliance MPs visiting the Batticaloa district. Though those MPs are considered as traitors who have betrayed the people by joining the Vanni Tigers, abandoning the eastern Tamils who voted for them, we have never opposed them visiting their electorates. But according to our information it is the people who voted for them that are opposed to them. These MPs are fully aware of the people’s wrath and fury against them. That is why they are not visiting their electorates in the district. To cover up their betrayal to the people who voted for them they come up with cock-and-bull stories.

“Before making false allegations they must remember that it was Karuna Amman who nominated them initially to contest as candidates of the Ilankai Tamil Arasu Kadchchi . Even after the split with the LTTE in 03 March 2004, Karuna Amman worked hard, ensured the victory of these 5 Members of Parliament from the Batticaloa district plus one in the Amparai district. After winning the elections they stabbed us in our back and joined the Vanni Tigers.

"Today they suddenly speak of electorates and decentralized budget allocations. I wish to ask the so called 6 LTTE’s proxies to give details of the monies they have allocated so far from the funds to the people of the east. Out of these funds how much money actually went to the so-called projects they have named and how much money went to the LTTE coffers for the purchase arms and ammunitions to fight the Sri Lanka Government?

"Also can Mr. Jeyanandamoorthy say openly how many times he smuggled arms and ammunitions to arm the LTTE in the Batticaloa district when he visited Batticaloa under police protection given by the Sri Lanka Government?

"Furthermore, in letters sent by Mavai Senathirajah, General Secretary of proxy MPs of the Tigers to Disaster Management Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe and Defence Secretary Gothabaya Rajapakse he had alleged, that TMVP was involved in preventing Tamil dailies, Thinakural and Virakesari week-end edition, reaching the people of Batticaloa due to restriction imposed by us.

"I wish to challenge the Mavai Senathirajah to prove this allegation. When we made inquiries, the people of Batticaloa told us that they are not satisfied with the partial and bias news items appearing in those newspapers. We also learnt that a group of youth conscious about the welfare of the people of the East has warned the news agents of these newspapers to request the newspapers to publish unbiased and impartial news items. As the newspapers failed to accede to their requests and were promoting the Tiger terrorists, its leader Prabhakaran and glorifying Tiger terrorism, the youths got annoyed and told the news agents not to bring down these papers to the East.

"In the Vanni Prabhakaran's Tigers adopt the same policy. They banned all the newspapers published in Colombo. Even in Jaffna they threaten regional dailies published over there not to print news items unfavorable to the Tigers. They dictate what should be published and what not be published.

"Vanni Tigers never allow even people to exercise their democratic rights. They continue to remote control the Vanni people and force them to participate in rallies and protests to impress the world. Even Mr. V. Anandasangaree who represented Kilinochchi for a long period of time, was not allowed to enter Vanni. The statute of Rajiv Gandhi was demolished by the LTTE barbarians in Kilinochchi
"TMVP do not follow these anti-people policies of the Tigrs.

Jeyanandamoorthy should first arrange his house in order before pointing a finger at us. He should first order the LTTE cadres in Paris to allow EPDP’s political weekly Thinamurasu be sold without any problem. He should also ask them to lift the ban imposed on Tamil shops in Paris selling Kuhanathan’s Eelanadu without any restrictions.

"Our information confirms that it is the people who voted for them that are now opposed to them for betraying them. Therefore, if Jeyanandamoorthy and the other MPs have any problem with the people in the east, I would kindly ask them to settle it with them and not drag us into their disputes with the people of the east. We believe in democracy and rule of law. We are not barbarians like Prabakaran and his terrorist gang." said Pillaiyan.


Govt. failing to stop Karuna group: HRW

The New York based Human Rights Watch said yesterday that despite promises to investigate child abductions by the Karuna group, the Sri Lankan authorities have taken no effective action to stop abductions.

While saying LTTE was still continuing to recruit children to be used as child soldiers, the HRW said that in February the organisation witnessed how children clearly under the age of 17, some armed with assault rifles, performing guard duty at various offices of the Karuna group's political party, the Thamil Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal (TMVP).

"Human Rights Watch saw a child with an assault rifle guarding the TMVP office in Kiran, home town of the group's leader V. Muralitharan, also known as Colonel Karuna. Other children, some of them armed, were seen in and around TMVP offices in the district, including in Valaichchenai and Morakkottanchenai, where the office is across the road from a Sri Lankan army base," it said.

HRW Asia director Brad Adams said when government troops at a military base looked across the street at children standing guard at a Karuna office and did nothing, it was hard to believe the government was taking any meaningful steps to end the abuse.

He said President Rajapaksa and other Sri Lankan officials have repeatedly said the government would investigate the allegations of state complicity in Karuna abductions and hold accountable any member of the security forces found to have violated the law. But to date, however, the government had taken no effective steps. According to UNICEF, there were 45 reported cases of Karuna child abductions in three months – ten in December, 24 in January and 11 in February.

Hunting NGOs or restoring and rewarding non-profit work

The week saw two developments. The first pertains to a significant number of NGOs who have received a request from the Select Committee of Parliament investigating operations of NGOs and their impact. The information requested includes: 1. All the monies received – give names of donors – and expenditure – give for what purpose – since its inception listed by month and year. 2. Names of all the directors and employees with all the monies paid to them since the inception including monthly salaries.

3. Names and topics of seminars, conferences, study tours, studies, papers etc. sponsored directly or indirectly and amounts paid to each attendee for travel expenses, honoraria etc. Give vocation of attendee. 4. Give copies of conference papers, conference programmes, conference speakers, studies, papers and all publications made by you and participants both local and foreign sponsored by you. 5. Names and vocations of all persons and organizations both local and foreign who participated in the events associated with or organized and the amounts paid to each attendee for travel expenses, honoraria etc. 6. List of foreign conferences attended under the sponsorship and amounts paid to each attendee (give his vocation) for travel expenses, salaries, exgratia payments, honoraria etc. 7. Names and beneficiaries of, and invitees for the above events and the monies spent on each of them by means of traveling expenses, honorariums and all other payments directly or indirectly. Give individual vocations of attendees. 8. List of journalists, politicians, government and private sector officers who have directly or indirectly benefited or participated in activities and the amounts paid directly or indirectly to them individually either through travelling expenses, honorariums, salaries, exgratia payments, and all other payments. Give the name of the beneficiary and the amounts paid. 9. List of all publications and studies done as a collective body or by those associated with them directly and indirectly.

10. Please give copies of all such publications. Please provide the information on the years 2006 and 2007 within one week and the information from the inception.

The letters request information within a week. Some have been at work for 30 years or more and others, have been there for 10 years or less. The questions in the minds of many is, are we looking at a reasonable review or as the title mentions, an investiation of operations. It brings to question the power to investigate, the role of other Government Agencies whose job it is to facilitate, monitor and review the functioning of NGOs.

The second development which was very refreshing was reportedly the hand-over of a long awaited Report focusing on strengthening and re-addressing the Voluntary Social Services Organizations Act No.31 of 1980. This column has received excerpts of the Report which are carried below.

In the wake of 2004 December Tsunami Disaster, large number of national and International Non-Governmental Groups raised public funds world over to assist the Tsunami Victims. The disaster overwhelmed the existing registration and monitoring mechanism of voluntary organizations and hundreds of NGOs were registered without much scrutiny. Within few months there was public questioning of the accountability and transparency of all national and international non-governmental organizations operating in Sri Lanka. Inadequacy and ineffectiveness of the existing legislation, more particularly the Voluntary Social Service Organizations (Registration and Supervision) Act No.31 of 1980 and Amendment Act No.8 of 1998 came to be highlighted.

In this background Hon. K.N. Douglas Devananda, M.P. Minister of Social Services and Social Welfare appointed five member Committee of Volunteers in January 2006 with the following “Terms of Reference”: To examine and report as to the present suitability of the Registration of NGOO Act of 1980 and propose amendments where necessary. To suggest methods to bring about professionalism in the NGOO sector and the necessity of a code of conduct. How to ascertain the competency of the people who arte delivering the services. How to enhance the transparency of the organizations, check the veracity of their claims, impact of the services provided, and linking the services with the mainstream. Is the registration be reviewed and be made bi-annually and the necessity to extend the issue of visas for the expatriates whose expertise can be found locally, and the volunteers who come without sufficient financial stability for their expenses as it becomes a hidden way of employment.

To suggest improvements to any other matters not mentioned above. In the above context, the Committee at its several deliberations considered the following relating to the Terms of Reference (ToR) which are summarized as below:

To examine and report as to the present suitability of the registration of NGOO Act and propose amendments where necessary.

Registration is necessary to enable NGOs to bring in the issues of Humanitarian space, respect of neutrality, provision of infrastructure support to projects, partnership avenues for communities to access aid given to government through tripartite agreements, honouring of commitments to MOU’s. The Committee looked at the various modes of registration available presently in Sri Lanka and observed the complexity involved in tracking down an organization as to its registration, identity and accountability in this context.

The following are various statutes/modes which were brought to the notice of the Committee, coming under both the National level and the Provincial/Divisional level: 1.Voluntary Social Service Organizations (Registration and Supervision) Act, No.31 of 1980 and Amendment Act, No.8 of 1998. 2. Companies Act, No.17 of 1982, Section 21. 3. Special Acts of Parliament. 4. Co-operative Societies Law of 1972. 5. Societies Ordinance of 1891, as amended. 6. Development Act, No.46 of 2000. 7. Rural Development Societies. 8. Protection of the Elders Rights Act No.9 of 2000. 9. Consumer Affairs Authority Act. 10. Trusts Ordinance.

The committee agreed that one system of registration should be introduced in order to enable the Registrar to have records relating to all the NGOs registered. Committee further discussed of the possibility of adopting a system similar to the one contemplated in United Kingdom’s Charity Commission Act.

The schedule hereto contains the following: A list of Organizations registered under the VSSO Act is marked as Annexure, “B”; A list of Organizations registered with the Registrar of Companies marked as Annexure “C”; A list of Organizations incorporated under Acts of Parliament marked as Annexure “D”;

To suggest methods to bring about professionalism in the NGOO sector and the necessity of a code of conduct.

It was suggested to look at rolling out the codes as already ascribed to and suggested that as a code NGOs must ascribe to as part of the registration process in Sri Lanka. Committee discussed that the proposed Commission/Authority could work towards creating an environment in which NGOs take an effort to put together a skills upgrading/ training program where staff can be sent for NGO specific management training and financial reporting will be an essential element.

How to ascertain the competency of the people who are delivering the services.

The proposed Commission/Authority should be given a mandate to promote Competency evaluation to be done of all staff each year and training needs of staff is identified. Under this scheme the State will also be able to access competency of all NGO workers.

Is the registration to be reviewed and be made bi=annually and the necessity to extend the issue of visas for the expatriates whose stability for their expenses, as it becomes a hidden way of employment. The arrangement, which is done to get visas in advance through GoSL, should be continued.

The committee also discussed this issue relating to the time frame and considered if registration should be done once in two years or if it should be done every six months, as it affects the annual planning of organizations.

How to enhance the transparency of the organizations; check the veracity of their claims, impact of the services provided, and linking the services with the mainstream services.
Committee made several deliberations in this regard as it is vital to enhance account-ability in NGOs. It considered the view that audited accounts and annual work plans should be shared with the State through the proposed Commission/Authority that is set up for the purpose of regularizing the registration, accountability and development of the NGOs. Similar to the system under the Companies Act requiring annual statement of accounts, the NGOs will then be liable to report to the proposed Commission/Authority with their financial status. It was also discussed to impose a penalty by way of fine or cancellation of registration, in the event an Organization violates the above to ensure that there is effective execution of the provisions relating to financial reporting.

To suggest improvements to any other matters not mentioned above.

Tax imposed on social service organizations and NGOs Social Service Organizations and NGOs is another important segment to the development of the country. They receive funds from benefactors and philanthropists who want to make a change in poorer societies. The committee discussed if taxation on donations other than what is acceptable should be reviewed as it is not an element promoted in many other countries. Freedom to be actively engaged in the social development of the country. Social service organizations and NGOs should be respected for what it has been contributing so far. The NGOs step into development processes, which the Government is reluctant to step into. An example is the Family Planning programme, which was carried out for the government.Hence, appropriate freedom to act in the development process should be made readily available and the Committee recognized that the rights envisaged in the Constitu5tion relating to freedom of association should not be violated or hindered in any manner in the course of implementing the suggested Commission/Authority’s mandate.

National experts to lead the sector

The National Policy of engaging local expertise should be strictly implemented. However, expatriates should be given the facility to visit the country and monitor the projects and programmes they fund.

Financial Support by State

The committee considered of the possibility of making suggestions to the Government to implement a scheme where a fund could be maintained to disburse finances among the NGOs to carryout development plans, through making Tax Exemptions for Commercial Entities that donate to such fund annually. A list of ‘well operating’ NGOs will be maintained for this purpose depending on the financial reporting and other steps taken towards accountability by them, who will be the beneficiaries of such a system. This environment is expected to promote accountability, provide financial stability throughout the year for CBOs and other NGOs, utilize tax payments directly for the development plans, liberate NGOs from foreign dependability, etc.

Foreign expertise to be used in the future ;

The committee decided to obtain expertise in the international Non Profit Management/ Legal Aspects in order to make its deliberations more productive and practical, to provide the Government with a well studied recommendation. For this purpose the International Development Law Organization, based in Rome, expressed its willingness to part with the services of an international expert in the field. Consequently, Ms. Lindsey Driscoll, a Member of Charity Commission, United Kingdom, Expert in NGO Legal Aspects, visited Sri Lanka and carried out a study of the present regime and the improvements to be made, from the 1st to the 14th November 2006. The Committee arranged sessions with the expert on the legal, developmental, accountable, managerial and social aspects relating to Non Profit/Voluntary Organizations around the world and through such exposure to be able to select a process much adoptable to the Sri Lankan context.