Friday, August 03, 2007

Batti Army Chief wants Karuna group disarmed - SLMM

The debate whether to disarm or not to disarm Karuna continues with a senior army officer telling the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission he felt the Karuna group, also known as the Thamil Makkal Viduthalai Pullikal should be disarmed if normalcy was to be restored to the east.

Major General Daya Ratnayake, Batticaloa District General Officer Commanding (GOC) 23 Division, expressed this view at a meeting with the SLMM recently. Its spokesman Steinar Sveinsson told the Daily Mirror adding however that he was unaware if the view was his personal opinion or official.

This is the first time the military had openly commented on the need to disarm the Karuna faction although government ministers and even the Defence Secretary in the wake of the capture of Thoppigala had expressed the intention of disarming armed groups in the east.

When contacted Military spokesman Prasad Samarasingha however refused to comment on the views expressed by Major General Ratnayake while Karuna Amman himself had said he would not disarm at this time. Meanwhile the SLMM said it had received several complaints regarding extortion and harassment by the Karuna group in Batticaloa and Ampara. It was also reported that the Karuna group summoned people to its offices for questioning.

The Inter Agency Standing Committee (IASC) in its latest weekly report released yesterday noted that there was a continued presence of armed civilians in the Batticaloa district, particularly in close proximity to certain political party offices.

It said in the past week some humanitarian agencies had received threatening phone calls requesting for shelter material. An armed group in Pottuvil Komari is reported to have forcibly taken the keys to 30 permanent tsunami houses and evicted the families, IASC added.

Speaking to reporters at the weekly situation briefing, Highways Minister Jeyaraj Fernandopulle said the Karuna faction should be allowed to contest the elections in the east if it wished to do so.

As was reported in the Daily Mirror earlier the Karuna faction was expected to be listed in a new report on child recruitment, to be handed over to UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon this month even as UNICEF and the Karuna faction traded charges over allegations of continued child recruitment.


Navy arrest LTTE extortionists

Navy personnel in Trincomalee yesterday arrested two persons suspected of being LTTE extortionists. The men had allegedly demanded Rs.300, 000 from a businessman in the area.

The Navy personnel who were on duty at the Hospital Junction had arrested the suspects for allegedly trying to extort money from an ice-cream dealer who had an outlet nearby, the Media Centre for National Security reported.

Questioning had revealed that the two LTTE agents were on their way to collect the initial payment of Rs. 75,000.00 from the ice cream shop when arrested.

The Navy also took a motorbike and two cellular phones belonging to the suspects into custody.

The suspects were later handed over to the Trincomalee police for further questioning.


Sailor injured in Mannar explosion

A sailor was injured in a claymore mine explosion suspected to have been triggered by the LTTE in Pallimunai- Mannar yesterday, the navy said.

Navy Spokesman D.K.P Dassanayake said the vigilant sailors engaged in clearing operations, on detecting a claymore mine on the roadside, took evasive action thus minimizing the effects.

Suspected LTTE operatives in fear of being exposed to the cordon and search operation hastily detonated the claymore mine and fled the area.

A sailor received minor injuries and was admitted to the General Hospital at Mannar for treatment.


Northern operation will not be a cake walk

* LTTE will not come begging to talks.
* India did provide support for strategic reasons.
* I don’t think the Tamil people in Tamil Nadu are
crazy over the LTTE now.
* No insurgency can be crushed 100%
* The IPKF failed because the political process that
was brought across was not carried through.

Col. R Hariharan, an intelligence specialist on South Asia, is a retired Military Intelligence officer. He served as the head of intelligence of the Indian Peace Keeping Force in Sri Lanka (1987-90). He was in Colombo to attend a seminar on the 20th anniversary of the Indo-Lanka Peace Accord by the South Asia Peace Initiative.

A much respected defence analyst, Col. Hariharan has continued to hold that Tamils are not Tigers; but they are not anti-Tiger either and that the Tamils can be won over to the idea of a different Sri Lanka. He tells Hard Talk that there must be a clear demonstration that the decision makers are serious about coming up with a political solution to the ethnic problem with or without the Tigers. He also holds that war is an ‘inappropriate and inadequate’ tool to bring about unity.

Q: What is your assessment of the LTTE- Do you think the LTTE can be defeated militarily?

There is no organization that can’t be defeated militarily. So I don’t believe in this myth of invincibility. But at the same time we shouldn’t forget who an LTTE cadre is. He is a citizen of Sri Lanka. So you are actually losing a human resource as well as a defender of civil law in the country (in the soldiers) through this war. No insurgency can be crushed 100% because the motivation is in the mind. You can’t vanquish an idea. The cadres are not only fighting for Prabakaran. It is something more. Each one in his own mind has what he feels is a possible solution. So he should know that there are other alternatives. It is not just whether the LTTE can be defeated, of course they can.

Q: So what went wrong with the IPKF? You had some of the best men on ground the battleships ready at sea and the air power but seemed to fail against the rebels. Why?

Someday the truth will come, because the LTTE keeps proclaiming that they were victorious, and many Sri Lankans have also bought that story. As at August 1998 in Operation Checkmate 2, all the LTTE from both North and East were cornered in the Wanni. From then onwards we were operating inside the Wanni. After that operation the LTTE could not do anything. They lost the middle level leadership. When we came they had batches of leadership in numbers one but as we left it had gone down to nine. It was a matter of time. We had restored the trains for the first time, the telecommunication system and the banks were dealing in cash and electricity was back, all in one year. How do you gauge success? By a head or body count? So I don’t agree with this thinking.

But yes it did fail in one respect because as soon as we left the LTTE came back again. But that was because the political process that was brought across was not carried through. This is why both the military and the political process must go together.

Q: It has been said that none of the key parties to the agreement were consulted or informed. Is this a true analysis?

Here they didn’t assess the opposition when President Jayawardena signed the agreement. The snow-balling opposition maybe due to nationalism didn’t like the foreign troops coming in, because they had earlier seen them training the Tamil militants, and now they themselves had come. There would have been sections that felt very nervous. PM Premadasa nor Minister Athulathmudali were consulted. There was no transparency in the whole transaction, both in India and here. In India too the very experienced who handled Sri Lankan affairs were not consulted; there was a new set of advisors who advised PM Gandhi. There was no ownership of the people.

Q: Are you saying that even in India it was a secret mission?

It was not secret but sudden. Nobody realized that it would come in this form or that the troops would be deployed. I was myself at Army Headquarters that day on some other work, my superior called me and informed me that there was likely to be an agreement of sorts and he didn’t know what it was nor had he been consulted, and he asked me to make a list of Tamil speaking intelligence officers. On July 27, 1978 we didn’t know troops were going to be deployed. It was disappointing for me when it ended up in a war. This is the problem with war- it overrides all other considerations. So what is a political move becomes a military issue.

Q: There has been growing criticism against the govt’s approach to the victories in the East, especially Thoppigala. And one serious criticism has in fact been the overriding of the other considerations. How do you see this?

As a military man I can say that the Sri Lankan army has done its homework and in a professional manner. I am glad because the Indian Army has also been involved in the training. And ultimately the government has now established its rule in the East. But if we think that its going to be like any other province it is wrong. It is not the end of the exercise. The government knows this and that’s why they are establishing 53 police stations. It’s been done because there is going to be an upsurge in infiltrations because they are scattered. Many of those cadres who are not from the Wanni may not run back to Jaffna either. The Army will have to prepare for small scale activities, scaling down the operations. It’s a good thing that the East is established under the rule of the government. It sends a message to the LTTE that the govt. is serious. The other issue is that you can’t copy a solution- each one is different. To my mind even the solution to the East will be different to the North. All communities have to be satisfied. The Muslims are already feeling let down. The danger is that they draw the conclusion that if they are peaceful they will remain ignored.

Q: Do you see a similarity in the way the government is handling the East now with Karuna, to when the IPKF cleared the LTTE and put the EPRLF to govern the East, in place of the LTTE? Is this a viable option after witnessing the first time around the whole process collapsed after IPKF withdrew?

It is a moment of truth for Karuna. He has to make up his mind how he is going to handle the situation. He can’t be another LTTE and he knows that- so he has formed a political party of sorts. I am sure he has been cooperating. I don’t know how he has been doing that. I have not met him. He has to decide on his political role because the elections are going to take place. He has no grass root political organization. There is also a contract on his head by LTTE and he has to protect himself. If he is armed how will the other Tamil parties operate? He has to decide what to do.

Q: But the ground situation in Batticaloa doesn’t seem that conducive to peace or an election especially with a view to Karuna’s own involvement. Do you think the strategy can work?

Yes, the government writ never ran from Batticaloa all the way West to Thoppigala. It will take a long time for the government to re-establish itself. Govt. should find a way to integrate Karuna in to some project in the area. It can’t be merely a military or some usual govt. project but something the people can relate to.

Q: The present strategy of the SL government is seen to be to militarily weaken the LTTE and then push a political solution through. Would you recommend such a strategy?

The LTTE is already weakened. The govt has proven itself. But the issue is does any one believe that the LTTE will come begging for a solution? It’s a wrong assessment of the LTTE. They will not come to talks like that. If you attack them what have they to lose- so they will fight back. You can see in the operations going on now that they will not give in so easily. It is going to be a long drawn out thing. But they must know what the end plan is. We should not repeat the mistake over and over again but be proactive. Without that it will simply become a govt. vs. LTTE fight.

Q: How do you see the Northern operation this time around?

East was not easy in the first place, let us not underestimate. The bulk of the cadres have escaped. In a way it has done good in a way to bring back the writ of the govt without merely slaughtering the LTTE. But in the North they are going to have their back to the wall. So it will not be a cake walk. The bulk of their artillery is there and I’m sure they have brought enough ammunition. The more you prolong you create three things. Internationally they have been tolerating, because they know the LTTE had not been keeping their promises on the CFA. But that is not going to last long. The human rights issues are going to snowball. This is one reason I am personally against aerial bombing. It will take three years and that is a long time for international diplomacy to keep quiet, however much you convince the local constituencies. We will be embarrassing all those people who are underwriting their belief in Sri Lankan democracy and governance if you have an operation for three years.

Q: Much fear initially rose over the air capability of the LTTE. What is your assessment of it?

It is not serious. We should not over estimate it. They have used it dramatically that is all. And they will do so. But we should not underestimate the impact on the public mind. This is where LTTE excels in studying the mind of the others.

Q: Is it the failed IPKP intervention that keeps India away today?

I think India should play a more positive role. It shouldn’t mince words. I think the coalition is overestimating the impact in Tamil Nadu. I don’t think the Tamil people in Tamil Nadu are crazy over the LTTE now. That honeymoon is over. The people are better informed and LTTE can’t get the same support. But the problem is the corruption, and the LTTE will buy influence just as they do in Colombo. The Indian government should give out a strong message that they can’t continue to meddle in issues. It wouldn’t mean they aren’t supporting the just demands of the Tamil people. They can say that in the same statement. Otherwise you are making the mistake of equating Tamils with the LTTE. They represent some and not all Tamils. But they are able to control all Tamils physically.

Q: But are they able to convince the Tamils?

Practically others have been eliminated from the scene so the Tamils have no choice because even the politicians have joined the band wagon- because you have provided room for that and have not provided a viable solution. You have gone back to separating the NE which gives no benefit to anybody.

Q: Do you think the govt. was pushing the people towards the LTTE by not providing that solution?

How long can they fight? They must be desperate and tired. If at the end, the Tamil Eelam they get is a cremation ground what is the point?

Q: SL has long held the notion that since India used the Tamil problem in Sri Lanka and created Tamil militancy; India should solve it. Is this a fair assessment?

That is over simplifying a very, very complex problem. I don’t think any country can do that to another country. But India did provide support for strategic reasons. Personally I feel no country should encourage any kind of insurgency. I feel it was an aberration but after ‘83 the mindset in Tamil Nadu was of one where they felt offended. It was a throw back. Delhi wanted to satisfy TN because it was an important state. And the personality of Indira Gandhi also came in, with the mix up of the notion of American influence in the region. We can’t undo what happened. But India should do more to help Sri Lanka, without just saying “go to peace talks”.

Q: The Indian National Security Advisor M K Narayanan recently claimed that “Sri Lanka should come to India as it was the big power in the region”. Would you subscribe to this notion?

I don’t agree with it. No country should go around saying it. It is a wrong statement and I don’t know why he said it. It must have come for some reason, but it was not evident in the statement. Maybe he was exasperated and it came out like this. I don’t think was correct.

Q: There has been much criticism about the CFA signed with the LTTE. How do you see the agreement?

It was a flawed agreement. It was not well thought of. I don’t think the Army was consulted on the HSZ. There was no action on what will be done in the case of a violation. There must be some accountability. But the point is that it is already there and talk of amending it is pointless, because it requires two parties.


Abductions, extortion: A new social crisis

Abductions, disappearances and extortion have been undoubtedly the chief topics of the country during the past two years besides the war. Frequent reports highlighted by the media, case studies and statistics issued by various bodies in this regard had not only roused the displeasure of foreign powers concerning the government’s lethargic peace efforts, but has also posed the threat of losing much needed funds.

But the accusations have come to a surprising halt over the last few weeks. Allegations of the government’s failure to take quick action seem to have subsided. It is questionable whether the recent arrests made by the Criminal Investigation Department of two groups claiming to be responsible for most of the abductions and extortion had helped put a stop to the issue.

But the sense of relief seemed short lived. Another Tamil national, a Communications Engineer by profession went missing on July 15 and his body was found on July 29 with police capturing two members of an extortion gang responsible for the murder and the demand for a ransom of Rupees five million from the victim’s family. The body of this 27-year-old resident of Kotahena, Vigneswara Mahodaral was recovered by the police after being dumped in a remote rubber estate at Puwakpitiya in Avissawella.

Allegations of secret government agendas, classified military operations in search of terrorist infiltration into government controlled areas, government-backed paramilitary groups operating with the motive of eliminating rivals as well as regular extortion and underworld gangs trying to seize the benefit of the moment were high during the past several months.

UNP MP Lakshman Seneviratne, making a controversial announcement in Parliament on June 6, revealed that retired Air Force Squadron Leader Nishantha Gajanayake, Colombo’s DIG Rohan Abeywardena and a highly placed group of intelligence men were involved in the abduction drama and extortion of millionaire businessmen in the country. He accused the government of covering up this group to conduct their duties undisturbed and demanded a Parliament Select Committee probe into the matter.

Despite intense verbal attacks by government parliament members, the matter was referred to the CID who took Nishantha Gajanayake and one of his accomplices identified as Nalaka Gajadeera, a businessman, for questioning on June 09.

Nishantha Gajanayake was arrested from room number 706 of hotel Holiday Inn in Colombo. The duo was reportedly questioned for several hours and statements were recorded before they were released the same night by the CID. However, after 12 days, on June 21, the CD arrested Gajaijayake for further investigations and he is still reportedly being detained at the “Fourth Floor,” of its Headquarters.

During this period a wealthy businessman of Kotahena, running a foreign employment agency was abducted by an unidentified gang while on his way to Kandy. The driver and the Turbo Intercooler vehicle he was traveling in were abandoned by the gang in the Gelioya area, taking the businessman with them. The gang had first demanded a sum of Rs. 50 million for his release but had reduced the ransom to Rs. 25 million which they collected before releasing him.

A special CID team under the instructions of its DIG D.W. Prathapasinghe and Director SSP Nimal Kulatunga, working on a single lead were able to track down a gang of 16 suspects allegedly responsible for this abduction as well as a series of other extortion cases. The mastermind of the gang, another Muslim businessman engaged in foreign employment had reportedly fled the country along with three other accomplices soon after his men were rounded up with ransom cash amounting to Rs. 10 million. It is significant that this is the only case proven and most suspects arrested for similar cases in the past.Meanwhile, the CID arrested several others linked to Nishantha Gajanayake, who was also the former Aide-De-Camp of then Air Force Chief Donald Perera. Officers mainly from various intelligence units of the government security forces, a Sergeant attached to the Air Force Military Police, a Constable attached to President’s Security Division, a Sub Inspector attached to the Prime Minister’s Security Division and two officers attached to Police Special Task Force Intelligence Unit were also arrested.

Investigations revealed that the detectives are on the trail of an OIC attached to a special police unit who is currently out of the country on a mission and a Sailor who is reportedly a close ally of a senior naval officer. It is also reported that the senior naval officer had personally warned the CID top brass who are to arrest the sailor.

It is evident that not only abductions of millionaire businessmen for ransom have been reported so far but also series of abductions of civilians, chiefly Tamils in Colombo, its suburbs as well as in the North-East operational areas, were also reported in great numbers. The figures of individual disappearances had risen to more than 100 within the last one-and-a-half years, making the authorities responsible not turn a deaf ear to this burning social issue anymore. Several organizations, both government and non-government, were set up, including a Presidential Commission headed by retired High Court Judge Mahanama Thilakaratne to probe into these abductions and disappearances.

The CMC has statistics and information of 132 missing persons countrywide. The CMC works on these cases individually and also to remind law enforcement authorities from time to time.

The extortion gangs have collected large sums of money from over 100 businessmen in the Pettah area alone during the past few months. Jewellery shop owners, wholesale grocery shop owners and many other traders have become victims of extortion gangs who merely call over the phone and demand money by threatening death or abduction. The trend had worsened since the traders are hesitant to report these incidents to the police while being ready to pay whatever amount demanded by the gangs to save their lives.

“I have personally come across such instances where many traders believe that the law enforcement authorities could do very little pertaining to the matter. These cases have not been recorded in any of the current files maintained by various government and non-government monitoring missions. It is still happening and very rarely reported by the media unless it is abduction cases, since most traders wish to remain mum due to the fear of threats posed to their lives,” Mano Ganesan said.

Concerning the abductions and the extortion drama, family members of the two victimized parties were willing to speak to the Daily Mirror. In both cases the family members had paid the ransom but only in one case had the victim returned home.
Case of Cecil Godwin
Entry # CMC/ABD/62
Full name of missing person:
Cecil Godwin
Identity: NIC-670590240 V
Address: Available with CMC
Date of disappearance:
Place of disappearance:
New Chetty Street, Colombo 3
Name of Complainant:
Available with CMC

Cecil Godwin (39) a father-of-two, was a businessman who was abducted by an unidentified gang on July 20, 2006. His wife Cecil Godwin Indrakanthi speaking to the Daily Mirror about the disappearance of her husband said Mr. Godwin who went to buy something in Bambalapitiya on Thursday July 20, never returned home.

“He left home around 10 am and when he didn’t retuned by 2 pm, I called his hand phone which was switched off by that time. I waited till evening and inquired from a family friend. But nobody knew what had happened to him. The next morning I lodged a complaint with the Kotahena Police. Meanwhile I received a call to my hand phone from a stranger saying that my husband is with them and for us to pay Rs. 5 million for his release.

“When I doubted the caller he passed the phone to my husband who spoke to me in great pain asking me to ready the cash soon. According to him, the abductors had hurt one of his legs and he was in great pain. The stranger called me everyday twice in the morning and night demanding the ransom money. I could only get Rs. 4.6 million ready and the abductors agreed to the amount and asked me to come with the money on Sunday to a place near the Samantha Theatre in Dematagoda at 2 pm. They specifically instructed me not to tell the police about this. I went there in a hired trishaw with my son and as soon as we left our place, I was told by the driver that a suspicious white van was following us till we got to Dematagoda.

“As I got near the Samantha cinema I received a call on my cellular from the stranger instructing me to hand over the bag containing the cash to a person of given description. Soon, a young man in his mid-twenties, wearing black pants, a yellow t-shirt and a pair of sunglasses approached me and asked for the cash. When I asked about my husband, I was told that he would return soon. Several days passes but he didn’t return. I kept on visiting the Kotahena Police Station looking for information on my husband till September 29 when the police had arrested a person involved in abduction cases. To my surprise, it was the stranger who came to collect the cash that day.

“I learnt that the police are trying to release the suspect for some reason. Then I informed the Civil Monitoring Mission and several Parliamentary and Municipal Council members immediately visited the Kotahena Police and opposed the release of the suspect while demanding tough legal action.

It was later reported that the suspect was transferred to the CID for further investigations. The CID also recorded statements from me several times. An officer who conducted my husband’s inquiry said several other suspects also linked to the abduction are evading arrest. And that the arrested suspect does not know the whereabouts of my husband. It has been a year to July 20, 2007 but I am yet to hear a word about my husband. Everyday I anxiously await news of him but it is only on hope that I’m living on now,” she said.

Unlike many other similar abduction and ransom cases reported, Mrs. Godwin is yet to see her husband, even though it is over a year after she had paid the demanded sum of money for his release.

Case of Ponnaiah
Entry #: CMC/ABD/109
Full name of missing person:
Ponnaiah Selvarajah
Identity: NIC 442230382 V
Address: Available with CMC
Date of disappearance:
Date: 07 Month: April
Year: 2007
Place of disappearance:
Bala Stores, Wellawaya
Name of Complainant:
Available with CMC

63-year-old Ponnaiah Selvarajah, a father of four was abducted from his grocery shop in Wellawaya on April 07, 2007 along with a 17-year-old boy called Selvatheepan who worked as an assistant, by a group of men claiming to be from the CID. The family members paid a sum of Rs. 2 million as demanded and the two were released within two months.

One of the three daughters of Mr. Selvarajah, Kaleichelvi Selvarajah, explaining her father’s abduction said her father and her brother are running a grocery shop in Wellawaya. On April 07 a group of men had stormed the place and taken her father along with a shop assistant saying they were from the CID and needed to ask several questions. The brother was also at the premises sleeping at that time and he had received a call from a stranger saying the father and assistant are with them and to pay a sum of Rs. 50 million for their release.

“The brother had immediately lodged a complaint with the Wellawaya Police and informed us at Wellawatta. When the abductors again called us, we explained our inability to pay the Rs. 50 million as ransom. They then reduced it to Rs. 15 million. The gang frequently contacted us for the next two weeks and we said that we could pay only Rs. 2.5 million. The gang then reduced the ransom to Rs. 7.5 million and threatened that the duo would be shot if the said amount is not paid. A few weeks later, the gang instructed us to come to Warakapola town. From there they gave instructions over the phone for us to proceed till we reached the final police post in a corner of Polonnaruwa District at Aralaganwila.

“There they ordered us to leave the Rs. 2.5 million at a dissident LTTE Karuna faction camp. But we refused to do so claiming the insecurity of the situation and returned to Colombo. However, later they instructed us to deposit the cash into an account number they gave us. Within a week of the payment, my father and his assistant came home.

“According to my father, they had been detained at a makeshift tent in a thick forest, with armed guards all 24 hours. On the day of the release they were brought to the Polonnaruwa railway station and sent to Colombo with Rs. 1000 as money for travel expenses.

“Yet they kept on calling us demanding for the rest of the Rs. 5 million, threatening to abduct the brother in the near future.”


Mano Ganesan discloses roots of abduction dramas

According to the Civil Monitoring Commission (CMC), the listed number of missing persons is 132, before two of them were recently released after collecting the ransom demanded by extortion gangs. Out of 130 cases, 125 have been reported between January 2006 to June 2007 while the highest number of cases had been reported between the months of August 2006 and January 2007.CMC Convener MP Mano Ganesan claimed that political abductions were chiefly carried out by groups operating close to the military by targeting those who act or bear different opinions or persons suspected to be involved in terrorist activists. Others were merely abducted by certain groups for ransom or extortion.

“Ninety percent of the abductions have been identified as politically motivated and the most serious. Relatives of victims in these cases claim of unidentified persons in plain clothes posing as secret police units coming in white vans to them away, saying they were doing so on suspicion and for questioning. But where are these people being taken to, where are they being held or whether they are still alive is a grave question faced by the helpless innocent family members of these missing individuals”.The Government and responsible authorities try to wash their hands of the problem by saying the abductions and disappearances have ceased after the capture of certain groups allegedly involved in the extortion business. “But who will look into the issues of the already missing persons?” MP Ganesan questioned.

According to him, the entire abduction drama had started after the failure of the Ceasefire Agreement signed between the LTTE and the then UNP government in 2002. With the signing of the MoU cessation of hostilities was evident as well as the LTTE setting up political offices in all chief positions in the East and the North. Educated youth from those surrounding areas were recruited as clerical staff for these offices.

The system was functioning smoothly for sometime till it turned volatile with the violations of the CFA and the country going back to a full scale war.

The LTTE political offices in government controlled areas were removed and most of its staff having no option, either fled to uncleared areas or came into government controlled areas, especially to Colombo.

Intelligence units in search of information related to the LTTE started hunting these characters who had settled in Colombo and its suburbs, saying it was for questioning. But many never returned, MP Ganesan categorically stated.


Young journalist killed

A young Tamil trainee journalist was shot dead in Jaffna early last morning (Wednesday) just a month before he was to complete his media diploma course. Sagadevan Nilakshan (22) was studying for his diploma at the Media Research Training Center (MRIC) of the Jaffna University at the time of his death. Police said that unknown gunmen had shot Nilakshan at his residence in Kokuvil Jaffna yesterday. Nilakshan had just returned to Jaffna after attending a media workshop in Colombo where he had the opportunity to visit Tamil publications and meet professional journalists. Jaffna police are probing the incident.

Meanwhile the Free Media Movement in a statement demanded an immediate, open and impartial inquiry into the killing of journalist Nilakshan Sagadevan.

The statement said: “Nilakshan is the 8th media worker/journalist killed in Jaffna since May 2006. International Press Freedom Mission which visited Sri Lanka in June this year has named Jaffna as one of the worst places in the world for a journalist to be in.

“MRTC affiliated to University of Jaffna was established with the support of UNESCO and being supported by Danida of Denmark for last two years. MRTC works in close association of Sri Lanka Press Institute (SLPI) of Colombo.

“During the last two weeks of July, Nilakshan was in Colombo with MRTC students doing internships and returned to Jaffna on Monday. FMM had a discussion on current media situation with visiting student group including Nilakshan on July 25.

“FMM is disappointed that none of media workers/journalists killings have been investigated to a completion by the Government. Viewing the prevailing culture of impunity as an indirect approval of killing the messenger in Sri Lanka today, FMM holds the government accountable for not carrying out to the end even a single inquiry on killed journalists.”


Politico’s brother mining sand illegally, claim residents

* Minister’s brother allegedly backed by paramilitary at Manampitiya
* Small-scale miners kept at bay
* People are afraid to complain, says JVPer

Residents in Polonnaruwa have complained to the environmental authorities that the brother of a powerful Minister in the area backed by a paramilitary group is engaged in illegal sand mining along the Mahaweli Ganga close to the Manampitiya Bridge.

They say that the politician’s brother is carrying out large-scale sand mining using backhoes.

“This person resorts to thuggery to keep the small-scale sand miners away,” another resident said. The affected sand miners have already taken up the matter with the relevant authorities.

The issue was taken up at the Polonnaruwa District Development Committee (DDC) meeting held on July 13, in the presence of the leading area politician concerned.

JVP MP S.K. Subasinghe who also participated in the meeting said yesterday that he found fault with the Minister’s brother.

Mr. Subasinghe said this illegal sand-mining was being done in the Mahaweli Ganga about one kilometre away from the Manampitiya Bridge.

“People are reluctant to lodge complaints with the police fearing reprisals from the leading politician. This sand mining mafia is well organized. Through my experience I have found that I cannot visit the sand mining sites without the mafia getting the information ahead of my visit. They have a very efficient spy system,” he said. He said the DDC had decided to refer the case to the environmental authorities and the Wildlife Department for further action.

When contacted by the Daily Mirror, an official of the Geological Survey and Mines Bureau which overlooks sand mining said, on condition of anonymity, that there were certain complaints against illegal sand mining activities by this politician’s brother.

The official, however, said they had not received solid evidence to prove this information.“If we receive complaints with evidence, we will take necessary action,” he said.


Record number joins army: Military

The Army in a drive to recruit 30,000 youth during the year has recruited a record number of youth within the first half of the year, a top military official said.

“Some 19,000 youths have been recruited by the Army so far this year,” Military Spokesman Prasad Samarasinghe told the Daily Mirror yesterday.

He said once the latest recruitment drive was over, the Army would recruit another batch of 7500 youth by the end of this year.

“This eagerness to join the army clearly shows the youth’s desire to wipe out terrorism from the country,” the spokesman said. He said recent military victories in the east had encouraged the youth to joining the force.

He said each youth would receive four and half months training at military training centers and would be deployed countrywide to meet the existing need.


Door open for Karuna cadres too?

Govt. starts recruitment of Tamil youth to police force in East

As part of measures to establish civil administration in the east, the government has started recruiting Tamil youth to the police force while speculation is rife that Karuna cadres may also be included.

With Karuna refusing to disarm in the east, sources said the invitation for ordinary youth to join the police force would give Karuna cadres the opportunity to be part of the state civil administration.

“A fresh recruitment drive is underway to recruit several thousands of Tamils especially from the eastern region,” a top defence official told the Daily Mirror.

Speaking to the BBC a day after the government celebrated the liberation of the east, Karuna said he had no intention of disarming as the LTTE threat still existed in the region.

“If we disarm now, it will be dangerous for us. We want to carry arms for self-protection,” he told the news agency soon after the government claimed that it had liberated the entire eastern province from the LTTE.

The defence official said the government had mooted the idea to recruit and deploy Tamil youth of the eastern areas to the police force even before military operations started to clear the LTTE from the province.

“Already some youth are undergoing training and will be deployed to police stations in the region,” the official said.

The defence official further added that the government expected to open more than 50 police stations in the newly captured areas including Thoppigala, Vakarai and Verugal. “We need some thousands of Tamil youths for this purpose,” he said.

The official said it was necessary to deploy Tamil officers in these Tamil populated areas to have a good rapport with the Tamil people.


Life In rebel controlled Killinochchi

A Tamil civilian rides his bicycle as female Tamil Tiger fighters run back to their base after guarding entry points overnight close to Kilinochchi, about 270 kilometers (169 miles) northeast of Colombo, Sri Lanka, July 12, 2007.

Palani Amma Subramaniyam sits surrounded by woven baskets and terra cotta pots in her deserted market stall in Tamil Tiger rebel-controlled town of Kilinochchi, about 270 kilometers (169 miles) northeast of Colombo, Sri Lanka, July 12, 2007.

A young female Tamil Tiger fighter stands guard on the main A9 highway close to Kilinochchi, about 270 kilometers (169 miles) northeast of Colombo, Sri Lanka, July 11, 2007.

A female Tamil Tiger fighter stands guard during a funeral of two Tamil fighters, as relatives grieve in the background in Kilinochchi, about 270 kilometers, 169 miles, northeast of Colombo, Sri Lanka, July 11, 2007.

S.P. Tamilselvam, second right, head of the political wing of Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) arrives at a cemetery for war heroes to attend the funeral of two Tamil fighters in Kilinochchi, about 270 kilometers, 169 miles, northeast of Colombo, Sri Lanka, July 11, 2007.