Daily Archives: May 1, 2006
A pattern of events in Trinco since the middle of last year reflects the Tiger mentality since the CFA was signed. The Tiger strategy of turning Trincomalee into an ethnic trap for the government seems to have achieved some success at least temporarily. A key figure in this plot – it is now revealed – was the late V. Vigneshwaran, the bank employee who was gunned down on April 7. He had been entrusted with the task of destroying the image of Tamil political stalwarts such as Sambandan who had wielded strong influence in the Eastern Province, since the days of the late TULF Leader A. Amirthalingam.
When Vigneshwaran – an eloquent speaker, Convenor of Pongu Thamil and the man behind the Tiger-sponsored `hartals’ in the town – was nominated to fill the vacancy created by Joseph Pararajasingham’s death, it was something that senior Tamil parliamentarians never expected. Around the same time the Wanni Tigers changed the list of nominees submitted by the TNA for the local government elections and instead nominated their favourites from Sampur. Since the earlier list had been prepared under Sambandan’s direction, he, as a man with self-respect, decided that he had nothing more to do with the elections and went abroad.
By April 6, several Tiger pistol gangs arrived in Trinco town to target selected personalities. Securirty forces’ investigations revealed that Vigneshwaran had established close contacts with these Wanni hit squads. On the morning of the day he was assassinated Vigneshwaran arrived at the Trinco Bank of Ceylon office, in the company of two others. The office is located at Inner Harbour Road, near the Police Superintendent’s Office. Eyewitness accounts say that Vigneshwaran came out of the bank office after a short while with one of the men who accompanied him. It was this man who shot him, according to people who claim that they had seen the incident but a mortally scared to give evidence in a court of law.
The million-rupee question here is that if (as the Tigers allege) the government was behind Vigneshwaran’s death would his assassins be so stupid to select a high security zone to commit the murder and make it obvious that the government was involved?
Although the Tigers wanted to make a major issue of it and declared a day of mourning in Trincomalee, the town was busy as usual and the public seemed indifferent to the declaration. When his body was being taken to Kilinochchi some people in the funeral procession had turned violent and damaged security forces bunkers on either side of the road, but no major clashes occurred.
On the day of his funeral on April 11, the Tigers targeted a navy bus near the 98th milepost on the Trincomalee-Kantalai Road, killing 12 naval personnel with a high-powered claymore bomb. But still the Sinhala residents of the area remained calm. On April 12 the terrorists killed two soldiers at Kumburupidiby blowing up a truck belonging to the Kuchchuweli camp. Still there were no signs of communal disturbances.
Before Vigneshwaran’s death, the Tigers had on and off killed 28 Sinhala civilians. The killing spree began in December 2005 with the aim of instigating communal clashes – sooner than the Wanni gangsters had earlier planned. It followed the serious setback that Prabhakaran and company suffered when Karuna Amman’s cadres launched an unexpected attack on the LTTE safe house at Selvanayagampuram state farm on July 9, 2005, according to two Divaina Journalists Janaka Liyanarachchi and Krishanthan of Trincomalee who probed the background to the murders. Karuna’s attack had deprived the LTTE of their hold on the town where hardly a fraction of the expected crowd attended the last Tiger-sponsored Pongu Thamil celebrations.
Around this time the Eastern Sinhala Organization, which had the Trincomalee fish market as its base, was actively involved in the controversy over the Buddha statue in the vicinity of the market Leading activists in the organization were fish vendors and three-wheeler taxi drivers.
The Wanni Tigers never expected this development and saw their plans going haywire. They were at the time in the process of forming differently named armed units centered around the Trinco suburbs such Pannambar, Thirankadaloor, Pallakottam, Selvanayagampuram, Anbuwelipuram, Palauththulinganagar, Orrs Hill and Sivam Kovil. At least 15 persons were being recruited to each of the units from each village with the hope of unleashing a massive final attack. But the lack of real public support for their goals had compelled the Wanni Tigers to bring forward the last item in their agenda. It was the plot to disrupt ethnic harmony in the town and cripple the activities of the town’s leading Sinhalese before driving away other Sinhala residents from the Trinco Municipal limits.
The LTTE pistol gang’s killing spree commenced with the murder on October 18, 2005 of W.A.P. Anura (28) – a young activist of the Eastern Sinhala Organization and a popular figure among both the Sinhalas and Tamils. The victim was a three driver who operated from Marathadi junction in Trinco. He was killed after two women lured him into the Orrs Hill area on the pretext of hiring his three-wheeler to go to the spot.
By this time the Prabhakaran’s gunmen had issued death warrants to all of the Sinhala Organization activists. The organization’s Advisor and Chief Incumbent of the China Bay Vihara, the Venerable Dehiowita Piyatissa was compelled to leave Sri Lanka in the face of Tiger threats.
Among the next to die was Rupasingha Arachchilage Hemapala alias Baby Mahaththaya (56) a strong UNP supporter and a well-known businessman who was more popular among Tamils than Sinhalese. He ran his commercial establishment at Mattikeli Junction on the Trincomalee-Kandy Road. Having lived in Trincomalee for over 50 years, he was one of the few Sinhalas who remained in the area when most others fled the place, during the communal violence that erupted soon after the arrival of the Indian Peace Keeping Forces in 1987.
Hemapala’s death shocked both Sinhala and Tamil residents alike. Two weeks later on December 3, K.B. Hemasiri alias Lokka Aiyya (49) was shot dead. He grew up in Trinco since he was 13 years of age and owned a fish stall in Trinco. He was killed right at the spot where he was doing business. The next murder at Alleswatte Junction on December 11 was of EPDP member David Michael after the LTTE branded him a Tamil traitor. Four days later another Tamil, Suresh, who was a home guard was gunned down. Many Tamil civilians were very depressed over these two murders.
On December 19 H.M. Chandradasa, a businessman and a father of six, residing at Lenin Mawatha, Abhayapura Trincomalee was killed. He had been in the vegetable business for over a quarter century at Anuradhapura Junction at Trinco. Chandradasa was killed when he was having his meals in Ansar Hotel at Anuradhapura junction. It was a most despicable in the eyes of the majority of Sinhalese since they do not normally kill even an animal when it is eating. Following his death two of the four Sinhala families residing at Anuradhapura junction fled the area. The other two were also warned to leave the place.
The day before Christmas – on Dec. 25, 2005 – LTTE murdered Albert Weerakkody, another prominent Sinhala businessman and popular figure in Trincomalee. He was well liked by Sinhalase, Tamils and Muslims in the area, having lived in the district for nearly 50 years. He too, like Baby Mahattaya did not flee the area in 1987 even after bombs were thrown at his house. Even after he was shot at in 1990 and stoned he continued to reside in Orrs Hill area, which originally had nearly a 100 Sinhala families. But LTTE threats reduced that number to about six.
The next LTTE victim was an Army Sergeant W. Sunil who was gunned down inside his home on December 27. His family was among the handful of Sinhala families that were living in the Tamil village of Sangam. After his death not a single Sinhala family is left in Sangam.
On April 12, the day after Vigneshwaran’s funeral a bicycle bomb went off in the Trincomalee market crowded with Sinhala New Year shoppers. People were blown to bits. One little girl was dead clutching a doll and a new pair of shoes, which had been given to her as New Year presents. More bombs exploded went off in the area on April 13 and 14 on New Year’s Day. But there were no festivities since the people were in no mood to celebrate. One of the bombs targeted the security forces at Alleswatte.
But the straw that broke the camel’s back came on April 14. It was abduction and murder of a Sinhala youth, B.H. Isanka (19) who was running a bakery with his father in the village of Mihindapura. He used to purchase the stuff needed for the bakery from a shop in the neighbouring village of Ambawelipuram. He felt no Sinhala Tamil differences. The bread he baked was sold in the Tamil villages and his fiancée was a Tamil girl. On New Year’s Day, his body was found blindfolded and shot in the head before being before being dumped in the Thorankaabu lagoon.
Enraged mobs ands criminal elements in Mihindupura went on the rampage, unleashing bloody violence of a sort that was not witnessed even in July 1983. Over 50 Tamil houses were destroyed. One woman was burnt to death inside a house that was set on fire. Many displaced Tamil civilians ended up in refugee camps while the Tigers forced even those not affected by the violence e to go to camps.
Soon afterwards Sinhala families in Mihindupura, Andamkulam, Sinhapura, Sangama and Fifth Mile Post fled the areas and went beyond Habarana, thus paving once again the way to mutual suspicion and hatred between the two communities.
The Wanni gangsters are no doubt jubilant. [By Janaka Perera - AT]
With the spate of Post-Geneva massacres that the LTTE has engaged in with the bombing of the Sinhalese dominated Trincomalee market, followed by the carnage at the historic village of Gomarankadawala where the Sinhalese created history by surviving in the midst of the jungle despite the abandonment of Rajarata and the march of the jungle tide, and the attempt on Army Commander Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka’s life it would seem that Geneva Round in which much faith was placed by the government as well as the international community is as good as forgotten, if not dead, though one may still try to resurrect it.
Prabhakaran decided on that at the first round itself. He does not want the LTTE delegation to go through it again. Balasingham felt it in Geneva when Prabhakaran was sneezing in his lair. That was the reason for losing his cool. Now he has said he is not available for talks. The ever-smiling Thamilchelvam (with the gun in his pocket) who has been ever ready to meet the Norwegians and the SLLM went missing suddenly and was not available. These were all signals. That talk of the meeting with the Eastern area leaders before Round II was sheer bluff dramatised for the international community to swallow. When did “Suriya Devan" (Sun God) ever start consultations with his area leaders except giving commands to them and seeing to it that they carried them out?
Wasn’t that meeting arranged to decide on the declaration of war itself and the strategies to be followed rather than on any issues that might arise at Geneva? That was to commence a surprise attack at a time when the security forces were not ready for war in the belief that Geneva is on. Let us see.
What were the issues that came up at Round One?
The issue on which the LTTE was cornered was the recruitment of child soldiers. That is not an issue on which the Eastern leaders have any special say. It is a decision which has to be taken by the top leader in the Vanni, or rather by Prabhakaran himself. He is not ready for conscription though he has spared his son of that, as one understands.
The other issue of importance to the LTTE is the so called para-military units, by which the LTTE means mostly, the cadres at the disposal of Karuna. What is there to discuss in that connection when the LTTE put the point across to the government at the first Session in Geneva? Perhaps, Prabhakaran who spends sleepless nights in the bunker not knowing who is friend and who is foe, – who believed Karuna will turn foe – might want to know why the Eastern leadership cannot handle that situation? Even that is already known through LTTE’s usual lines of communications. What is there to gain by asking the question at a face to face meeting?
The LTTE decided to attend Geneva Round One because of pressure from the international community, especially, their friends, the Norwegians. The Western response to non-attendance would have been the hardening of the E.U.’s posture towards the LTTE operations in Europe and elsewhere. The Norwegians were able to bring pressure on those countries to hold back their options and that is what the Norwegians used to impress the LTTE to get them on to the conference table. Now that Canada has put the screws on the LTTE, it should know that it would be a matter of time before the E.U. itself tightens its grip. The LTTE, of course, won their point in Geneva that there would be no renegotiation of the CFA. and the government had to cave in despite all the early rhetoric.
The government realised the issue of child recruitment was not to the liking of the LTTE. However, the LTTE could not reject it because the government was backed by international opinion which it used to the maximum. Prabhakaran is much irritated that his delegates allowed this to go without a contest.
Of course, the chief LTTE negotiator, Balasingham brought up the case of British and the U.S. using child soldiers in their armies till recently but that argument did not carry much weight. That argument was later picked up by a Tamil intellectual with international standing who argued (in mitigation?) that child recruitment was part of a world process of slavery, child labour being practised by developed countries. It was the next point that he adduced: “a group or country is driven to get the maximum possible manpower for its resistance against being openly overwhelmed by the enemy." That sounded alarming. Applying that thesis to the North East of Sri Lanka he argued that “there was no physical alternative to child recruitment as an additional resource ". He disapproved the use of “force, abduction from home, as violations with no excuse`85" but left out inducement, propaganda, and others, which he mentioned. He even seemed to endorse the recruitments when he said that “the well trained teenagers who were on R&R in Jaffna" were “looking self-confident, indeed with education , capable."
So Prabhakaran is not without intellectual backing for his child recruitment. As I said in my article, the new U.N. Special Representative on Children in Armed Conflict from Sri Lanka left for her new job with a message to look at issues from this alternative perspective. The world is now watching her carefully.`A0`A0`A0
So Prabhakaran would not let another international exposure of his child recruitment for war in Geneva. That is one way how Geneva Round II had to be understood.
The point about para-military forces, or rather getting the government to disband the Karuna group which has become more than a major irritant to the LTTE, and a factor to be reckoned with in any confrontation in the East, if not a real threat to his forces as a whole, has not made much headway as the LTTE expected.
The question now for the LTTE is to select the time for the final show down. Of course, this will be preceded by many acts of attrition and the field where such attrition is manifesting is widening. It is even engaging in embarrassing the government by introducing men wearing “Karuna Logo" in arms practices somewhere in the East before foreign television crews as happened recently. There were many cases of that type of LTTE financed journalists doing the dash to Jaffna and the Vanni across the Palk Strait in LTTE operated boat services (with Indian knowledge and encouragement) in the 1980s and their scoops claimed to be on the North being telecast on foreign TV and carried on printed media. In fact, LTTE and other training camps near Meenambikai airport near Madras were projected as those in Vanni. An editor of a leading French Newspaper whom I befriended later told me that that the account of the training camp he reported on after a stay of one week was not in Vanni as he had told me earlier but near Meenambikai. This he divulged to me only after the group he supported at the time was eliminated by the LTTE.
The use of “Logos" of the opposite side to mislead people is an old game. The entire Swiss media was angry with me once when I contested their reporting that the army was shooting at civilians. At that time it was not known that the LTTE used army type fatigues and the men and women on the street at Vavuniya on whom the reporters depended were confused and thought they were really the army. The whole Swiss media went to town and attacked me for this exposure of misleading the Swiss and international audience through over 100 hundred references in printed and electronic media. That was because a line of misrepresentation they engaged in wittingly or not, was exposed and their credibility was at stake. When the LTTE is capable of attacking innocent villagers in government held areas in broad day light why can’t they get 20 to 30 young people to pose for a foreign T.V. crew’s camera wearing Karuna T-shirts. Why should Karuna’s men use government held areas and expose themselves when they have the whole of Toppigala area for training themselves. Australian or any other T.V. should be wiser.
The massacre of six innocent Sinhalese farmers which included two students who were working in their family paddy fields at Gomarankadawala in the Kaddukulam Pattu in the Trincomalee District last week is a pointer that, as far as the LTTE is concerned, the Elam War IV is on, on all fronts, except open confrontation with the armed forces using heavy arms, whatever those who do not want to see the reality may say.
It is clear to any one who follows LTTE strategy carefully that the CFA which resulted after the unilateral ceasefire declared by the LTTE was a camouflage designed to rebuild its depleted forces on the one hand; and settle internal contradictions within its fold which were unfolding at the time and later manifested themselves after the breakaway of the Karuna faction in the East, on the other hand. The elimination of a few Eastern leaders, who went to the Vanni foolishly, when summoned by Prabhakaran, did not remove these contradictions. Now that the LTTE has achieved its objective of beefing up its armed forces with more child recruitments and military training given to civilians (that is the political work it did under the CFA) and the arsenal of weapons including the building up of an air wing, all indications are that it is ready for the final battle. These wars have their planned cycles, so it seems, and the one who determines the time and the place is none but the “Supreme Leader".
The choice of Gomarankadawala to launch attacks on unarmed civilian farmers is very significant.
It is a historic village which had survived the vagaries of change and environment. The village buried in the deep jungles of Kaddukulam Pattu when the British colonial Civil servants serving at the Trincomalee first discovered it along with several such others like Morawewa, Ethawetunawewa, Pettawa, Relapanawa, Kivulekada and Medawacchichiya, and others was hundred per cent Sinhalese. With other such villages it stood in a line on the ancient route from Tiriyaya/Kuchchiveli to Anuradhapura. What impressed these early administrators was the attachment of these villagers, few though they were in each village, not more than four or five families in each, to their village tank which they took care of despite their poor health. It was on this account that they recommended to the colonial government to renovate these small tanks but, they received no attention. So, these administrators did what they could do to help these poverty stricken people. The plan of the British government was not to help them, not even those in the most unhealthy areas even on humanitarian considerations but to settle South Indian or Jaffna immigrants in these areas in the hope of seeing green paddy fields here as the tobacco farms of Jaffna, not realising that those green tobacco fields were created by the Jaffna Vellalas on the sweat of South Indian slaves who came along with them in the 18th century and of the enslaved Sinhalese `Goviyas.’
The clearance of these jungles was left to the government employing southern youth under the Land Development Department during the Second World War. Once the land was developed it attracted the attention of Northern politicians. This is how the charge of Sinhala colonisaton came to be raised. As recorded by the British Civil Servants, the Jaffna settlers showed no inclination to clear jungles. As one of them, W.Ievers recorded, they had never seen a forest. Jungle clearance and land “asweddumasation" was a fotre’ of the Sinhalese people, as these officials noted. The Jaffna man only settled where others labouered.
Despite all claims of Sinhalese colonization these once hundred per cent Sinhalese villages in the Trincomalee district are mixed villages now as a result of settlement of Tamils by Tamil administrators and taking possession of lands in Purana villages by Tamil officials in government offices (this happened at Gomarankadawala) and by boutique keepers when these villagers could not redeem the mortgages taken during the planting season. The “Bayyas" as these villagers, descendants of ancient people, were called, were an innocent lot even a few decades back as the British officials found them in the mid 19th century. One British administrator complained that Tamil labourers from Jaffna “fleeced" these unsuspecting people by posing as “tank-menders." They got the villagers to cut a few branches and place them on the beaches of tanks on which they placed a few sods of earth, which the administrator wrote, got washed away with the first fall of rain! This was repeated year after year, the villagers not learning a lesson.
That shows how innocent these people were subject to fleecing by the Jaffna Tamils and itinerant Muslim traders. That is the sort of village folk that the LTTE has stuck this time in further pursuit of the undeclared war. The choice of the place which is 32 miles away from Trincomalee town is a clear indication that the LTTE would encircle the Trincomalee district and isolate it for ethnic cleansing as a part of its strategy of achieving `Eelam.’
Ethnic Cleansing and Backlash
The choice of this historic village to wage another front in the undeclared war against civilians after the bombing of the Trincomalee market a week earlier which is dominated by the Sinhalese, should therefore be crystal clear. It is a signal that the Elam War IV has commenced, though undeclared so far. The attrition which was first directed against the armed forces and the Police through claymore mines planted around Jaffna, Trincomalee, Mannar, Vavuniya and Ampara has been extended to innocent civilians, first at the Sinhalese at the Trincomalee market and now to the innocent Sinhalese farming community in the North East. It is quite clear that the LTTE is getting ready for an ethnic cleansing in the North East with the dual intention of causing a backlash in the Sinhalese areas in the country against the Tamil community; and finally, achieving the objective of ethnic cleansing of the North East Such ethnic cleansing also has its military objective in that the security forces would find it difficult to operate in an environment which entirely comprises of a people who can be subjected to the dictates of the LTTE.
Erosion of the Will
The attrition that the LTTE is causing is intended to make the people lose their confidence all round, first in the government’s ability to protect them; and secondly, by instilling a psychological fear over remaining in their land of birth and inheritance and forcing them to abandon these places. This is what they did during the early phases of the war. One need not predict the implications such a situation will finally lead to in the country. It is a situation that any government may find hard put to control despite all its resources. Ethnic emotions are so volatile that they exceed all bounds of reason and decency. In situations where it is bottled up, as at present, the explosion could become extremely violent.
It is that very situation that the LTTE would like to see taking place so that their problem is made easier. They themselves could participate in it right here in the South if they themselves would not ignite it to place the blame on others, as it is claimed by some, was what happened in July 1983. The result would be to find the country divided in two on ethnic lines as it happened in post- British India and in Cypress causing unimaginable humanitarian problems which would be worse than the war itself. The war itself could be avoided thereby. We would be giving it to the LTTE on a platter with the whole world on their side!
It is the immediate responsibility of the government not to allow things to drift along leading to such a situation but to immediately meet the LTTE threat using all the power at its disposal. Repeated verbal expression of courage and determination with no action will lead to erosion of confidence in the government. That will only earn applause from the international community without any meaning. The enemy must be made to understand what that message consists of. Action in Sampur is timely if not too late. The government needs to be reminded that time is running out and every moment lost is LTTE’s gain.
The international community should realize that it is wasting time in the hope that the LTTE could be attracted by a carrot dangled at it. The LTTE showed interest once when the prospects of big money coming its way was indicated before the Tokyo round; but it is clear that they are now not dependent on it. Perhaps, with the prospects of finding oil in the offshore North-East it is better for them to stick with the Norwegians who will prospect for the oil for them. The North-East does not make economic sense by itself except for this hope of finding oil. The oil vein in the Palk Strait that the Indians were exploring once but I believe, is being exploited now along with the Cauvery basin, make sense of that belief.
[Island by Bandu de Silva
In a scathing attack on the SLMM, the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) yesterday said that the truce monitors do not have any role to play in the country, as the LTTE has already turned the Cease-Fire Agreement (CFA) into a ‘document in tatters’.
"They might as well leave the country," JVP Parliamentary Group Leader Wimal Weerawansa told the Daily Mirror.
Mr. Weerawansa said that if the members of the SLMM are still sticking here, as they are ‘unemployed in their own countries’, they can gainfully engage in raiding ‘kasippu’ dens in the country, but not to monitor the ceasefire in the North and East.
He said this in response to the SLMM allegation that the Government’s retaliatory attack on the LTTE at Sampur, was a complete violation of the CFA and noted that the SLMM should choose either to leave or raid illicit liquor dens.
"Sri Lanka is a sovereign State after 1948 and its government, elected by the people’s mandate, has power and authority vested by its Constitution, to act accordingly, to safeguard national security, territorial integrity and its sovereignty. The Sampur attack was carried out by virtue of the afore-vested power and authority,"Mr. Weerawansa said, while noting that the Government is only accountable to the Constitution and not to a so-called CFA.
He also pointed out that President George W. Bush attacked Iraq and Afghanistan, which was not within American territory, after the World Trade Centre attack and the British army opened fire at an innocent civilian, without even confirming he was a terrorist, after serial bomb attacks in London, in order to safeguard their own country.
"Likewise, the Government of Sri Lanka also has its own right to protect the country and safeguard its people. The Sampur attack was carried out completely under this right. The so-called CFA, which is a total fraud, cannot challenge that right whatsoever," he said.
Mr. Weerawansa also charged that the SLMM is accusing the Government of violating a non-existent CFA, when it takes security measures to safeguard national security, instead of directly accusing the Tigers of the attempted assassination on the Army Commander.-Daily Mirror- By Gagani Weerakoon
The Government has done everything possible to bring the LTTE to the negotiating table and is very much on course with the peace process. It is the duty of all citizens to see that the present incidents should not lead to communal riots, said Enterprise Development and Investment Promotion Minister Rohitha Bogollagama at a Business leaders conference on Friday.
Minister Bogollagama said that almost all Business leaders, despite their precarious situation, had pledged to support the Government.
Minister Bogollagama stressed that the Board of Investment, Export Development Board and the Enterprise Development Ministry would make every effort to look after the investors’ interests and had looked at what had to be done.
Colombo could become vulnerable and the Government would have to ensure that the Katunayaka airport and the Colombo port’s entire operations go on smoothly.
A Steering Committee comprising Enterprise Development Ministry Secretary Thosapala Hewage and representatives of the Trade Chambers and the Investor Community has been formed to draw up a proper policy framework in place, the minister said.-Island- By Don Asoka Wijewardena