University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna)
Special Report No. 29
Date of Release: 21st February 2008
The Second Fascist Front in Sri Lanka – Towards Crushing the Minorities and Disenfranchising the Sinhalese
Certain names and references have been removed in this public version of the report.
This report deals with the following interrelated matters:
* The State falling prey to the anarchy of a fractious Sinhalese extremist lobby represented by the JVP and JHU under a fickle presidency
* The growing fascist environment, the leveraging effect in politics of a killer machine under the Defence Ministry and the far-reaching politicisation of the security services. In this connection it deals with unknown aspects of the Raviraj killing
* The human agony and insecurity, particularly in the North-East, resulting from this state of affairs and their absolute incompatibility with a credible political settlement
* Raises pertinent questions about the perversion of institutions meant to foster the rule of law.
The extent of interference and crime by an intelligence apparatus at the apex of executive power raises the question, Are we still a democracy?
The Ceasefire Agreement has been abrogated, the Nordic Monitoring Mission has left and it is now a war without witnesses. Civilians on both sides are the main victims as each side pursues military advantage regardless of them. One way or the other, singly or otherwise, each side has deliberately targeted civilians of the other ethnic group. The bus bombings in Okkampitiya in Moneragala on 17th January and near Madhu in the LTTE-controlled area on 29th January, claiming in all more than two score lives, including women and children, are notable among the continuing outrages.
The LTTE will not be party to any democratic settlement. It will continue along its malefic course giving mutual sustenance to its Sinhalese extremist counterparts. The State, which was functionally truncated into a “Sinhalese State” by the myopic politics of the South and precipitated the Tamil armed struggle, continues to foster impunity – the main tool of an ideologically motivated clique now in control of the government.
Regaining the sanction of the minorities is far from the aims the present government; and the long-term effects of pampering to the extremist and criminal elements are all too evident. Bolstering Sinhalese fears and sustaining itself through the rhetoric of a war to eradicate “terrorism” is its sole agenda.
The political task of marginalising the LTTE is clean outside the lexicon of hardcore “Sinhalese Nationalist” intellectuals – for that would be to win over the minorities by offering them a political settlement giving them a stake in a united Sri Lanka as equals. This for them is absolute anathema. Therefore it has not happened in 60 years of independence. The APRC fiasco extinguishes the final gleam of hope on the horizon. The present Government has shown itself is unwilling to go beyond any arrangement that would dilute the present structures of control of the North-East – control that is plagued by massive human rights violations, frequently by structures set up by the Defence Ministry outside the regular forces, reminiscent of some of the well-known repressive regimes in the past century. The rulers do not treat the North-East as a part of Sri Lanka.
We have written extensively about the LTTE’s fascism, its cost and what it portends. We opposed this current round of war, because less destructive political means of cornering the LTTE have not been tried, it has proved intensely callous of civilians and their protection and is not guided by any vision that offers light at the end of the tunnel.
The war has all the hallmarks of a war of conquest and subjugation in pursuance of a Sinhalese supremacist agenda using the LTTE’s intransigence as a pretext. This we argue is not necessarily because of foreordained malice on the part of President Rajapakse, but arises from his courting fractious extremist forces with their own power agendas and being pulled by them competitively and disastrously into greater extremism.
How did the present government get into this impasse? What does it portend? These are some of the questions we attempt to answer. It describes how extremist forces, have built structures and wield influence within the security establishment, control, influence and supervise actions of paramilitary groups particularly in the East, acting as their patrons and giving them access to persons at the apex of power. Such fascist structures establishing a stranglehold on the Government was unthinkable a short time ago.
The fight against Tamil Terror has become the opium through which the Sinhalese have, from 1977, been inured to an astounding range of abuses. Sri Lanka’s 77 years of electoral democracy is now being parodied by MPs being bribed or blackmailed to cross over in droves to the side wielding the purse and hatchet. The Government survives on the volatile support of 37 JVP MPs, 27 MPs from the UNP and a number of Tamil speaking Hill Country and Muslim MPs worried that defiance would bring violent consequences for themselves and their supporters. This is one element of the disenfranchisement of the population. Another is revealing of structures that are even more insidious for democracy.
The vote on the third reading of the bloated war-budget on 14th December 2007 was expected to be a close call. The total budget was LKR 925 billion against projected revenue of LKR 775 billion. Defence expenditure was increased 19% to LKR 166.5 billion. This means, economist Muttukrishna Sarvananda points out, an allocation of LKR 8536 per person for defence against 2974 for health and 2359 for education.
To justify the cost, the Government continually presented the South a rosy picture of the war. Army Commander Sarath Fonseka told the Sunday Observer (30 Dec.07), “Our daily target is to kill at least 10 LTTE terrorists”, and by so doing finish off the remaining ‘3000 LTTE terrorists’ and the job, now 50% done, by the end of the year. It was made to sound easy with the human misery largely confined to the North-East.
The SLMC decided to leave the Government and the Hill Country MPs representing the plantation Tamils were saying that their constituents were against the war-budget. Two SLFP MPs openly dissented and more were expected to follow if there was a visible tide against the budget. It also seemed, mistakenly, that the JVP too would vote against it.
The Pillayan group on 11th December 2007 abducted persons close to three Tamil MPs from Batticaloa threatening them harm if the MPs voted against the budget. Those abducted were Mr. Nagalingam, secretary to Miss. K. Thangeswary MP, Arunasalam Sivapalan, nephew of Mr. Jeyanandamoorthy MP, and Mr. Sriskandaseya, brother of Mr. Ariyanendran MP. The three MPs abstained from voting and the abducted persons were released. Previously, for the second reading of the budget on 19th November the same group abducted TNA MP Mr. Kanagasabai’s son-in-law S. Sajitharan, a teacher, threatening all Batticaloa MPs not to vote against. Mr. Kanagasabai refrained from voting, the three MPs above voted against. Sajitharan was later released.
The event is a grim reminder of the alarming rapidity with which the security forces have become politicised – a dangerous legacy that Pakistan is attempting to reverse. It further carried a message that offered grim choices to all MPs from the minorities. In another technique used for gerrymandering, the security details of several MPs from the minorities who voted against the budget were slashed, from 18 to just two policemen in the case of UNP MP Maheswaran. Maheswaran was gunned down as he worshipped at a Hindu temple less than two weeks later on 1st January 2008. He is the third Tamil parliamentarian to be gunned down. Another MP Mano Ganeshan, a member of the Civil Monitoring Committee, whose security too was slashed, was forced to flee the country.
Take Pillayan who was responsible for the abductions. In 2002 he was the transport head of the LTTE for Batticaloa-Amparai, among the key persons involved in child-conscription (see our Special Report No.14) and a noted thug. When the LTTE split in 2004, he joined Karuna. Now with Karuna in a British prison, Pillayan is being promoted as the Government’s chief flunkey against minorities in the East.
The level at which Pillayan moves and is managed emerged during the closing weeks of 2007. He and some of his fellows were guests for dinner of the Commander of one of the fighting arms of the security forces at his Trincomalee head quarters, to sort out matters of mutual interest. What was a professional service commander doing with Pillayan?
It was also the STF who on 5th November escorted the Pillayan faction to the Karuna office in Batticaloa, beat up the Karuna cadres and installed him there, and a month later likewise installed him in Karuna’s Araiampathy office after an exchange of gunfire.
Further, Pillayan is now patronised by the Patriotic National Movement (PNM), a rival to the JHU, an earlier patron of Karuna. We will see below that Pillayan is a creature of an intelligence outfit directly under the Defence Secretary who is also the President’s brother. The agents assigned to Pillayan, beside their own mischief, support and instigate killings, abductions, extortion and robbery by his men.
This places in context Pillaiyan’s abductions in aid of the defence budget. The Defence Ministry, which functions as the property of an American citizen and the President’s brother, moved virtually to extort public funds from Parliament, to serve also as a source of fat commissions. And we are celebrating 60 years of independence from colonial rule. The apparatus of state-terror now in place has a political agenda going well beyond taming the Tigers. The killing of MP Raviraj discussed below shows poignantly the Government going down to the lowest depths in a bid to control MPs by terror.
The record of Karuna, Pillayan and their cadres lays bare the hollowness of the LTTE’s attribution of divine, heroic status to such mortals, who are more than willing to stoop to the lowest levels for their survival. The LTTE’s claims of ‘purity’ and ‘sanctity’ and their unquenchable ‘thirst’ for Thamil Eelam are canards used to brainwash and entrap the impressionable young. LTTE apologists living in greener pastures ritually sustain the illusion of the LTTE’s death-defying eminence, hoping against hope that the Sri Lankan state would perpetuate and justify its existence.
Telltale signs of the emerging terror apparatus were evinced by Joseph Pararajasingam MP’s assassination at Christmas Mass in 2005. A graphic pointer to the new dispensation was the public execution of five students at the Trincomalee Gandhi statue on 2nd January 2006 (Special Report 24). The executioners were the STF team sent to Trincomalee by Defence Advisor and JHU Treasurer, former DIG Kotakadeniya, with, according to him, the concurrence of Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse. Police Superintendent Kapila Jayasekere, formerly of the STF, directed the plot.
After the Karuna group split from the LTTE and the Norwegians and Government abandoned them to LTTE killers, the JHU and JVP befriended them. The new influence the latter acquired under Rajapakse fed into the killer apparatus being assembled from the last months of President Kumaratunge. Whatever the understanding between President Rajapakse and the LTTE which crucially aided his victory by blocking votes for his opponent in November 2005, it broke down quickly.
The aftermath of the security-forces backed Trincomalee riots in April 2006 saw mounting violence and displacement in Trincomalee District. Following the failed LTTE suicide attack on the Army Commander, the Government moved to takeover the LTTE-controlled areas of Trincomalee District and eventually the whole of the East.
The killing of the Bojan sisters in Jaffna in mid-January 2006 was a definite sign that the EPDP had begun killing persons with family or other alleged connections to the LTTE. The EPDP followed this up with others including the attack on the Uthayan Newspaper office and killing two employees on 2nd May 2006 when President Rajapakse was hosting a World Press Freedom Day celebration in Colombo, and participating with the Navy in the Allaipiddy killings on 13th May 2006. These attacks could be seen also as part of tit for tat arrangements left behind by President Kumaratunge after the LTTE killed Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar on 12th August 2005 or even earlier.
A new compact in service of an extremist agenda emerged in May 2006. We piece the story together from information we received from a number of sources in response to inquiries over the killing of N. Raviraj MP. The various strands support the main drift, as also the revelations over the Gajanayake scandal by Lakshman Seneviratne MP.
It began at the Cabinet meeting held about Wednesday 17th May 2006, soon after the Allaipiddy killings. The President Mahinda Rajapakse openly castigated Minister Douglas Devananda in the presence of other Ministers for the Allaipiddy and other such incidents in Jaffna. Following the meeting, one source adds, “Devananda invited President Rajapakse and his brothers Basil and Gotabhaya (I am not sure if both brothers attended) for a kool feast on Sunday 21st May. Navy Admiral Daya Sandagiri was also there. Sivathasan was given the task of preparing kool for 25 persons (27 according to another source). The order was given on Friday and Palmyrah Board vehicles were used to buy the fish and other necessities. The invitees arrived at Layards Road at 3.00 PM and left at 10.00 PM. They posed for photographs with EPDP cadres.”
The first source who did not speak of Karuna’s presence at the meeting, said they spoke about operations in Trincomalee and the East in general and compliments were paid to Mr. Devananda for his ‘good work’ in the North. Complimenting Devananda’s good work in the North sits strangely beside castigating him in front of the Cabinet. Another source abroad said that Karuna was a good deal at Devananda’s Layards Rd. office around this time, adding that he said over the phone from the office that he was very disillusioned and wanted to go abroad, but Devananda (Annai) had given him hope and encouraged him to stay.
A senior person with good EPDP links assured us that Karuna was present at the party and the discussion proceeded with Karuna and Devananda seated on either side of President Rajapakse, while Sivathasan translated. The main outcome was that Karuna and Devananda agreed to cooperate with Rajapakse on the break up of the merged North-East Province (an anathema to the JHU and JVP). In return for the cooperation, Karuna was promised the interim administration of the East for five years and Devananda, that of the North for the same period.
The elements were already in place, such as the JHU patronage of Karuna and Devananda. Clearly, President Rajapakse was pleased. He left backslapping EPDP members Kiruban and Vincent in a comradely gesture. Sivathasan was very upset.
As a consequence of the pact, Karuna forces were to provide units to ‘fight for the liberation of the East’. There were not many more than 200 cadres under Karuna. The lack of numbers was solved by the government forces helping him to conscript boys for his army. This emerged on a conspicuous scale within three weeks of the Kool Party Pact. Human Rights Watch detailed this in a report in January 2007:
“In one incident in June 2006, the Karuna group abducted 13 boys and young men, holding some of them for a while in a shop across the street from an army post. Some of the parents pleaded with the soldiers to intervene. Two soldiers spoke with the Karuna group members, parents told Human Rights Watch, but the soldiers did not stop the abduction…In November , after UN envoy Allan Rock raised allegations of government complicity in Karuna abductions, the Sri Lankan government promised an investigation. Instead, government and military officials launched attacks against Rock’s credibility.” Another aspect of the pact is deeply sinister.
The Kool Party Pact foreshadowed a repressive order in the North-East unacceptable to Muslims or the Tamils. It was bound to run into opposition from all Tamil and Muslim politicians commanding public esteem and behind the move were the Sinhalese extremist forces with their own agenda. Further, sooner or later Karuna and Devananda would have to face elections of some kind.
Is it a mere coincidence that following the killing of Joseph Pararajasingham MP in December 2005, two popular politicians from Jaffna, former MP Sivamaharajah and MP N. Raviraj were gunned down in September and November 2006 respectively?
Raviraj was killed in Colombo on 10th November 2006 (Supplement to Special Report No.23 and Special Report No.26). Although the police story underwent changes, it seemed from what they said that two gunmen who came in an auto-rickshaw had been waiting on Elvitigala Rd. when Raviraj with his police security man Sgt. Lakshman Lokuwela drove out of Matha Rd. to cross the road and turn right. Two gunmen from the waiting auto rickshaw followed on foot and opened fire from behind the car, fatally injuring both occupants. Later information from a frightened witness suggested that a 4WD vehicle had blocked Raviraj’s car. Two men on a motorcycle, who had been there prior to the incident, saw it through and went away.
Early on trusted sources told us that the two killers in the auto-rickshaw were Karuna’s men, and the two men waiting nearby on the motorcycle were from the EPDP. From the number, the Police traced the motorcycle to the EPDP. This point is slightly misleading, as seen below.
The most astounding piece of information we received was that the two killers who were from the Karuna group were brought to Colombo from the East by an extremist Buddhist monk who had direct access to the Defence Secretary and was also close to Devananda. For many months we failed to make any headway on the identity of the monk and his temple. Devananda had ties with several monks – including one at Narahenpita Junction.
After many months, sources with inside knowledge of the EPDP told us that Devananda was close to and often visited a temple in Colombo North. The priest too visits Devananda and has been seen at his Layards Rd. office. These sources also told us that this temple had a room to put up Karuna cadres who were brought from the East for operations in Colombo and sent back.
Our sources said that the Karuna cadres used in the killing of Raviraj had been brought to the Buddhist temple in Colombo North and were taken back there after the killing. The temple with close links to Military Intelligence we learn has several pay-phone boxes so that people could go in without arousing suspicion, but of late those entering the temple have to go through a checkpoint. The priest, Ven. M, according to our sources has direct access to the President, besides his brother, the Defence Secretary. Ven. M, these sources say met the President within a few days after New Year 2008.
We heard from two different sources that Ven. M is affiliated to the JHU. That does not rule out his having links to other groups such as the JVP or PNM. At lower levels party divisions among extremists are not so important. Interestingly, there are a number of JHU establishments in Narahenpita near the scene of the Raviraj killing.
More important than any party affiliation to Ven. M’s role is his affiliation to the Defence Ministry and the President. The information from our first source of Ven. M’s closeness to the Defence Secretary would be further clarified below. Our sources also said that Ven. M carries a letter from the President, which helps him at police stations to get things done. On one occasion in 2006, Rudra of the Karuna group was caught near the Pettah CTB bus stand in Colombo in the act of receiving extortion money. It was Ven. M we learn who got him released by the Police.
The elements of the apparatus (which had been evolving for some months) following the May 2006 Kool Party Pact, we learn are as follows. Both the EPDP and Karuna group contribute persons for dirty operations. The coordinators were Kiruban for the EPDP (who left a little before the Raviraj killing) and Rudra (Thooyavan) for the Karuna (now Pillayan) group. Mr. DS who was used as a translator is from the Deep South and has been with the EPDP from about 1990 and speaks perfect Tamil. Mr. DS and Rudra coordinate with two officers assigned by the Defence Ministry from the intelligence services.
One feature of this apparatus is to render responsibility for killings so confusing and dispersed that it is easy for the Police to cover up. For example the motorcycle present at the scene of the Raviraj killing was traced to the EPDP and two persons who were not involved in the killing were remanded. Scotland Yard was called in and nothing more has been heard of it. The case would drag on at the magistrate’s court until it is forgotten. We will give some details to show how this happens.
Another fallout from the kool party was the rampant unchecked abductions and extortion of Tamil and Muslim businessmen that surged in August 2006. People observed in disbelief as these criminals went past numerous checkpoints in Colombo and outside taking their victims to places such as Maha Oya and Welikanda. Not in one instance did the Police charge anyone. According to a political source, Karuna cadres used in these operations have also temples around Maha Oya and Amparai town (not the prominent one) where they could lodge. Sources close to the state apparatus said that there are also other lodging places for Karuna cadres brought to Colombo for dirty operations, and in this game they use whoever is usable. Some army camps are also used.
Also of note is former Air Force Squadron Leader Nishantha Gajanayake who with some members of the Karuna group worked closely with the Defence Ministry in dirty operations as well as in abduction for ransom and killings (see Special Report No.26). His services according to press reports were offered to the ruling party independently of the JHU or JVP. The Senapathi column in the Nation of 24th June 2007 stated, “The CID maintains that there is evidence to show that Gajanayake was involved with the underworld and various police teams are currently probing different aspects. ‘Gajanayake is in deep trouble,’ and he has implicated at least one senior defence official in several abduction cases.” This was a further indication of the Karuna group being used by various parties.
Gajanayake was given bail on 18th January 2008, owing to the Sri Lankan epidemic of witnesses cowering in terror where any trace of the Defence Ministry is visible. We also cited inside information that Gajanayake was involved in the Raviraj killing. The case has been purposefully bungled. An eyewitness at the scene who saw a black 4WD vehicle obstructing Raviraj’s car was threatened by a security man on the spot that he had not seen what he saw. We have no public record of which way the killers escaped.
One instance among several where the Police had good evidence says it all. Thomas Jesudasan (37), father of two girls, was seen abducted from near his home in Kotahena on 7th January 2007. The Police obtained a video security record at an automated teller machine belonging to Commercial Bank showing the person pulling out the money using the victim’s card and his motorcycle number. We learnt authoritatively that the investigation was suppressed on the order of IGP Chandra Fernando. A poignant feature of the case is that the victim’s father had been an Inspector of Police – a colleague of the IGP. The Karuna name also served as a useful cover for security officers involved in crimes of abduction and murder.
As a matter of curiosity, one of those employed as a translator in this apparatus is a middle-aged lady from Mannar connected to the EPDP. She very likely took the job without knowing its nature. In Special Report No.28 the Police investigating an extortion racket in Pt Pedro involving the intelligence apparatus said that the victims were instructed to bank the money into the Mannar account of a lady named Savariammah!
For Karuna and Devananda who were desperate, and the LTTE gunning for them, what the State offered them was double edged. In their desperation they made a crucial error. In keeping their side of the bargain they blackened their name irredeemably. Pacts with a more powerful party where the weaker loses any ability to make the other keep its word are useless. Karuna and Devananda became a useful dump for the Government’s crimes. Allan Rock for example was not impressed by the Government’s evasions.
By mid-2007, government spokesmen were making virtuous noises about Karuna having to be disarmed. The interim councils Karuna and Devananda were promised became a pipe dream. Their dissatisfaction and fear of being cheated were evident in late 2007.
The killer apparatus, it was widely spoken and as the circumstances below strongly indicate, functioned under Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse. While the principal details below are from one trusted source, important ties have been confirmed by information from other independent sources, such as Pillayan’s relationship to the intelligence operative Wasantha and their PNM connections.
Two important intelligence operatives who deal closely with Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse (GR) are Kamaldeen from the Navy based in Trincomalee and Commanding Officer Tennekoon, of the Army from the Gemunu Watch, based in Welikanda. The latter has rank probably of major or above. Dealing with and directing killer operatives from the Karuna (Pillayan) group and EPDP are Sampath, ex-naval intelligence, who is under Kamaldeen and Wasantha who is under Tennekoon. Sources in Batticaloa have linked Pillayan with Wasantha and the PNM has also been mentioned to us in this connection.
Kamaldeen is also close to Devananda, and an ex-militant R, who had left the country in 1986, introduced the two. The three of them had a long meeting about mid-2007. Ex-air force squadron leader Gajanayake and his operatives being picked to work for the Defence Ministry also indicates that there are several groups operating in this manner. Kiruban who left the EPDP about September 2006 leads another outfit operating also under Kamaldeen. Under Kiruban are four Tamils, including John alias Raju, a former bodyguard of Devananda, later assigned to Kiruban. Though based in Trincomalee, this group is sent for killer operations elsewhere, including Jaffna, when required.
Kamaldeen like many others is motivated by the LTTE having committed crimes against persons very close to them. R who was involved in Joseph Pararajasingham’s killing lost his mother, mother’s sister and several members of his family to wanton murder by the LTTE. Two or three brothers of Kamaldeen were reportedly killed in Trincomalee by the LTTE during the 1980s. For persons in their state of mind anyone having even a political association with the LTTE had played with fire and deserves what he gets. The LTTE created a climate where the State could use lots of people blinded by a desire for revenge, for sinister purposes going far beyond purportedly defeating the LTTE.
Ven. M comes into this in more roles apart from sheltering Karuna cadres brought to Colombo for certain operations. Karuna was sent to India for a time and Kamaldeen was instrumental in making some of the arrangements. Ven. M was then a go-between for Karuna and his leaders in Sri Lanka. He carried letters, messages and CDs between them and also discussed party matters. Kamaldeen played an important role in the decision to replace Karuna with Pillyan as TMVP leader. The latter was thought to be more pliable. It was Kamaldeen who brought Pillayan to Trincomalee when the internecine conflict in the TMVP came into the open in May 2007.
We may describe the terror apparatus as having three levels. At the lowest are cadres from the Karuna group, operatives from the EPDP, Muslim paramilitary elements and deserters from the LTTE. The second comprises cadres from the JHU, PNM and the intelligence services, all dealing with persons from the third layer. The topmost layer comprises the State, represented by the Defence Ministry and especially the Defence Secretary, dealing with the second, and occasionally with the third, usually through the second. They try to negotiate boundaries, relations and tensions between the second.
Coming to something more easily verifiable, Chaminda and Jayasuriya who worked for the EPDP obtained the motorcycle present at the Raviraj killing. The two who were apparently earlier connected to the security forces were asked to obtain a motorcycle by Sampath and Wasantha. From around Tangalle, near their home, they obtained the motorcycle from an ex-army NCO Nalanda who suffered a grievous injury, which we understand was then registered under the name of one Ravindra. The latter is from a family that was in the late 1980s at the receiving end of JVP terror and made contact with the EPRLF (EPDP) in Trincomalee. They passed on or probably resold the motorcycle to Sampath and Wasantha in Amparai or Ratnapura.
At the time of the Raviraj killing Chaminda was in EPDP’s Layards Rd. office and Jayasuriya was in Amparai. These circumstances suggest that the two men who waited on the motorcycle and left after seeing the killing through were not EPDPers, but Sampath and Wasantha.
The Police arrested Chaminda, Jayasuriya and Nalanda. Chaminda was released sometime in 2007, reportedly because of Devananda’s influence. Jayasuriya and Nalanda we understand are still in prison. We reliably learn that Chaminda and Jayasuriya in their statement to the Magistrate fully disclosed the details of the motorcycle transaction. They, with Nalanda, were very angry that the Police kept them under detention to give the impression that they were in earnest about finding the killers, while Sampath and Wasantha have not been touched to this day.
The circumstances above point to Gotabhaya Rajapakse as ultimately the man who initiated the killing of Raviraj. The immediate purpose appears to have been the silencing of the Civil Monitoring Committee, whose reports on abductions, killings and extortion by Gotabhaya’s covert outfits, created a huge stink. It is hard to accept that the President who delegated the running of the Defence Ministry to his younger brother and was personally a patron of Ven. M was not party to what was going on. He has a good deal of explaining to do.
Even worse, no one could accuse Gotabhaya of being secretive. The country as a whole had a good sense of what was going on. People were being targeted and killed and were disappearing after abduction, the total now running into thousands, by killers closely linked to the Defence Ministry. Also killed have been a number of media workers. When the President persists in maintaining as defence secretary the very man who threatened the woman editor of a leading newspaper with the Karuna group and one of her staff with elimination, he has no real defence against the worst sort of allegations.
Almost the whole world has condemned the LTTE and rightly continues to interdict its operations. A State, which deals with the minorities and the opposition by the LTTE’s methods, deserves the strongest censure and appropriate sanctions.
President Kumaratunge and her advisors should never have allowed room for this state of affairs. Not having the courage to do her duty in giving Karuna and his men the protection of the law, she could not resist opportunistically using them in dirty work while showing a different face to Norway and the LTTE. She left them in the lurch to be picked up by extremist groups and the intelligence services. The resulting compact between intelligence services and extremist parties in their use of Tamils abandoned by the peace process, created an opening for fascist forces, which were waiting for a pliable presidential candidate. The result was the worst of all possible worlds for the people and in turn driving her successor to become the worst of all possible presidents.
Fascism is commonly understood as ‘a system of government characterized by strong, often dictatorial control of political and economic affairs, and often by warlike nationalism and brutal suppression of political dissidents and ethnic minorities’ (Wordsmyth English Dictionary). The extremist forces behind the Government may be termed a second fascist front, giving pride of place to the LTTE, which as a functioning organisation showed these characteristics from the early 1980s.
All extremist forces in the Sinhalese South, the JVP, JHU, MEP and sections of the SLFP, share much in common in ideas (the inexorable Sinhalese Buddhist character of Sri Lanka and opposition to a federated North-East) and objectives (e.g. Sinhalisation of the East). Particularly the JVP and JHU owe a good deal to the Jathika Chintanaya (National Ideology) movement of the mid-1980s. Formulated by Gunadasa Amarasekera and Nalin de Silva, it gave shape and form to scattered ideas that had motivated Sinhalese exclusivism for many decades. It critiques political institutions and systems (Marxism in particular) imported from the West, sees Sri Lanka as in essence Sinhalese whose genius is to be realised by a unitary state establishing its lost Buddhist ethos.
Like most writings of this ilk, ex-Trotskyite Prof. Nalin de Silva’s, though arcane, have a mesmeric quality for the young and impressionable, viz.: “The western Judaic Christian culture knows only of one consistency, defined with respect to two valued formal logic and only Newtonian bodies and mathematical structures respect this logic. Even quantum particles and bodies have no respect for two valued formal logic.” (The Island 1 Oct.03)
His obscurantism and intolerance of minorities and their sense of identity is also expressed in the same article: “It is unfortunate that since the Dutch period the demography in the Jaffna peninsula has been changed with the importation of labour for the tobacco cultivation from South India, and since then the western Christian colonialists have been successful in driving a wedge between the Sinhala Buddhists and the imported Tamil Hindus and creating and using a Tamil racism against Sinhalathva in this country.” It is history plucked out of thin air and violent in its realisation.
When advocates of ideologies, whether Marxist or Nationalist, are heedless of the core values of humanity, they closet themselves in very narrow interpretations, against the demands of responsible humanity. In canvassing their ideas they ultimately appeal to what is low and base in people. Humanism has no barriers, nor is it a preserve of the West. It is indeed very sad if those who are counted intellectuals among us do no better than breed hatred, intolerance and blindness to ‘others’, and their feelings, in the name of countering Western ideology.
Kanishka Goonewardena wrote (‘National Ideology’ in a Buddhist State’ Himal, Oct.07): “In spite of obvious historical and cultural differences, there exist some remarkable parallels between the ideological forms and epistemological claims of Jathika Chinthanaya, Hindutva and National Socialism: their emphases on harmony, community and nature; and their critiques of materialism, modernity and socialism... These groups desperately needed a community with which to identify, as well as an enemy to identify against, both of which were powerfully forged in these cases – as the fates of Sri Lankan Tamils, Indian Muslims and German Jews demonstrate.”
With so much in common, why are the Sinhalese extremist forces heavily at odds with each other and in the late 1980s even killed one another? Nalin de Silva sees both the SLFP and JVP as children of Bandaranaike’s Sinhala Only revolution of 1956 and as two groups that critically need one another. He was among those greatly pained when the JVP after agreeing to the DPA manifesto on the basis of which to support SLFP leader Mrs. Bandaranaike’s presidential candidature in late 1988, went on a violent binge and ensured her defeat and in February 1989 made an attempt on her life. The SLFP had illusions even after the JVP assassinated Mrs. Bandaranaike’s son-in-law Vijaya Kumaratunge in early 1988.
Political genealogy is awkward business for those who never repented their legacy of terror and conveniently undergo reincarnation as champions of anti-terror. Champika Ranawaka who is described as Jathika Hela Urumaya’s (JHU’s) chief ideologue and a right hand man of the President told the Daily Mirror (2 Feb.07) that he left the JVP in 1986 – “When they were taking [a] violent approach I left”. By this claim he whitewashed his association in the JVP’s terror including the abduction and murder of socialist student leader Daya Pathirana. We quote from ‘Politics of the South 2000 – 2005’ by Asanga Welikala and David Rampton:
“Some of the current figures in the current JHU (namely the Venerable Athureliya Rathana Thera, Champika Ranawaka and Udaya Gamampila) were once JVP organizers and were active during the 1980s agitation against the Indo Lanka Accord. At that time Ranawaka and Rathana were both ideologically aligned to Jathika Chintanaya and (as Inter University Students Federation leaders) to the JVP…However Champika Ranawaka was to play an integral role in the split with the JVP on two issues. First Ranawaka had a dispute with Wijeweera over the JVP’s ideological path, declaring Marxism dead and urging the JVP to wholeheartedly embrace nationalism as its central ideological engine – a line Wijeweera refused to countenance. Second, the JVP’s refusal to support Mrs. Bandaranaike’s candidacy for the 1988 presidential election triggered the final split between the JVP, Jathika Chintanaya and SLFP-aligned unions.”
In the 1990s, Ranawaka became active in the National Movement Against Terrorism (NMAT), a parent of Sihala Urumaya (SU). S.L. Gunasekera backed by professionals, university dons and retired army officers held the leadership of SU. At the October 2000 parliamentary elections the SU secured a single national list seat, which the faction led by Ranawaka took over after ousting Gunasekera by intimidation and thuggery worthy of the LTTE. However SU was no winner when it came to elections.
The change came in December 2003, when President Kumaratunge had paralysed the UNF (UNP) government of Ranil Wickremasinghe and was obliged to hold elections. Ven. Gangodawila Soma died naturally of a heart attack in St. Petersburg where he went to receive a degree. Sihala Urumaya and Ven. Ellawela Medhananda of its associated monks’ organisation JSS started a campaign insinuating that Ven. Soma was killed by a Christian fundamentalist conspiracy. A number of churches were attacked. Seizing the opportunity, the JHU was formed fielding all JSS monks for the April 2004 elections, SU ‘donating’ itself a vessel in service of the JSS monks. It won nine seats in its short run.
The JHU was a wild card from the start, ensuring the victory of the UNP candidate for speaker against the JVP-backed, SLFP-led government’s. It took Ranawaka’s long experience as a party infighter to bully, kidnap (once an MP monk who voted for the Government’s candidate for speaker who was forced to resign), fight Ven. Dhammaloka’s attempts to keep power a monopoly of monks, getting thrown out from his secretary’s post by Dhammaloka (who then left the party and campaigned for Ranil Wickremasinghe at the 2005 presidential election), before asserting himself in the party.
On the rival track to the JHU and NMAT, the National Patriotic Movement was preceded by the Organisation to Protect the Motherland (OPM) launched at a meeting in Maradana (Colombo) by Ven. Elle (Alle) Gunawanse on 15th January 2003. This was when Ranil Wickremasinghe was prime minister and had in talks with the LTTE agreed in Oslo to a federal settlement. Gunawanse had earlier been patronised by Gamini Dissanaike and President Premadasa.
Opposition bigwigs attended the meeting to endorse Gunawanse’s simple argument that the North-East which Jayewardene merged under Emergency Regulations in 1987, should now (15 years later) be de-merged as the Emergency had lapsed under the ongoing peace process. Leading persons at the meeting were Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapakse, Ratnasiri Wickremanayake, Dr. Gunadasa Amarasekera and Nalin de Silva from Jathika Chintanaya and Tilak Karunaratne from the Sihala Urumaya.
The next stage was on 1st October 2003, when Elle Gunawanse as convener of the meeting following a march from Kandy, inaugurated the National Patriotic Movement (PNM). Gunawanse accused Prime Minister Wickremasinghe of trying to divide the country. Among the participants were SLFP parliamentarians including Anura Bandaranaike, Dr. Gunadasa Amerasekara and JVP propaganda secretary and parliamentary group leader Wimal Weerawanse. Sihala Urumaya declined to participate.
The hostility within the extremist camp as represented by the PNM and JHU could be seen in their acrimonious exchanges. Jathika Chitanaya’s Nalin de Silva opposed the JHU monks contesting the April 2004 elections independently of the SLFP (PA)-JVP alliance as a divisive move. After the JHU upset the Speaker’s election, de Silva (Lankaweb 24 Apr.04) accused the JHU of being a plant of the Vijathika (alien) forces: de Silva said the JHU ‘were financed by Thilanga Sumathipala and his brother, Edirisinghes of Swarnamahal, and were given prominence in media that belongs to Thilanga, [UNP leader] Ranil Wickremesinghe's brother (TNL), Swarnavahini of Edirisinghe and Maharaja's MTV…the monks were put forward by non-national forces only to hoodwink the Buddhists.’
Going back to 7th August 2000, monks who later were closer to the PNM, including Bengamuwe Nalaka, Muruththettuwe Ananda and Maduluwawe Sobitha, were having a protest meeting against Kumaratunge’s proposed constitution at Abhayarama Temple in Narahenpita, when a bomb went off injuring some. Reports at that time suggested that supporters of Sihala Urumaya that had not been invited exploded the bomb.
Too weak to capture power, the JHU needed a deal with a potential winner, both naďve and pliable. This, the JHU, even as Champika Ranawaka staged his coup within, found in Mahinda Rajapakse and moved quickly in August 2005 to cut short Kumaratunge’s presidential term by an appeal to Supreme Court. A solid base of legal authority held the term ended in late 2006 (P. Rajanayagam with citations in Sunday Observer 8 Feb.04). The Chief Justice who needed new allies obliged the JHU. A pact was quickly made with SLFP presidential candidate Rajapakse who ditched the SLFP’s twelve-year stand on a federal settlement to the ethnic problem. Ranawaka became Minister of Environment in January 2007. The East tragically became the playground of rival extremists.
Mahinda Rajapakse became president after making promises to several parties who had only one thing in common – their mutual acrimony. The JHU moved to clip Kumaratunge’s term and lost no time in signing a pact with him, committing himself to abandoning a federal settlement. The JVP came on board on similar terms. Evidence indicates that he also made a deal with the LTTE, which handed him the election.
During the President’s two years, promises to arrive at a reasonable political settlement and to check human rights violations were repeatedly made and as frequently broken. Any criticism by concerned nations and the UN are met with abuse, and repeated pledges made to India were regularly broken, as by proceeding behind her back to de-merge the North-East. Could any president afford to be so indifferent to being taken seriously?
Rajapakse’s problems, which drove him in the current direction, are found in his promises. The de-merger of the North-East could be traced to Rajapakse’s flirtation with Elle Gunawanse and the PNM from 2003. It was the PNM that later petitioned Supreme Court on de-merger in 2006. Rajapakse’s insistence on a unitary state was part of his dealing with the JHU. What he promised the LTTE we do not know, but there appears to have been an expectation on its part that he would deal with Karuna in their favour.
The violence was comparatively low from the time Rajapakse was sworn in as president on 19th November 2005 until 2nd December when the LTTE began an intensive series of provocations through grenade and landmine attacks on the Army. That also provided the cue for Rajapakse’s extremist supporters to assert themselves.
The immediate cause for Rajapakse becoming president was the JHU. The JHU Treasurer DIG H.M.G.B. Kotakadeniya (Rtd.) was given a potentially powerful slot in the Defence Ministry as advisor on police matters. An early indication of his power and style was the exhibition massacre of five students on the Trincomalee beachfront on 2nd January 2006 (Special Report 24). In a Sunday Island interview (25 Sept. 2005), Kotakadeniya, while saying the only way to deal with the LTTE was to crush it militarily, indicated that there was no love lost between himself and the JVP: “The JVP had the same grievances as the LTTE and the JVP was crushed mercilessly without any talks”.
Kotakadeniya, the official of a party with a very divisive ethno-religious ideology, had retired just three years earlier (in 2002) and knew the Police department intimately. He was twice denied the top job of IGP. Appointing him to a commanding position of oversight over the Police was a giant step in the politicisation of the security apparatus.
The appointment as defence secretary of the President’s brother Gotabhaya, a retired lieutenant colonel, to what in virtue of that relationship became a position of overall command, was bound to leave serving officers feeling very uneasy. Such a person typically left the army young, before the age of 40, often because life was more attractive outside. But would typically harbour strong ideas about how he would have conducted the war, articulating anger and contempt for the well-justified caution of his seniors.
Uneasiness with a political appointee becomes even greater when officers are also pushed to sacrifice men to satisfy the political whims of the elder brother. A military operation in Jaffna was timed so that the President could interrupt the presentation of the 2008 budget on 7th November 2007 to announce a military success to sell the giant defence allocation. It went awry sacrificing scores of men.
The JHU’s commanding position in the security apparatus was bound to rattle the President’s supporters from the PNM and especially the JVP whose support in Parliament was crucial. Using the JVP’s parliamentary base, the PNM had cultivated a strong lobby in Trincomalee extending into the Navy. This power was brought to the fore in May 2005 when the PNM and JVP were behind the erection of the illegal Buddha statue in the sensitive area of Trincomalee. The Navy’s Eastern Commander Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekera openly identified with the provocation.
In retrospect we may view 2005 as a year when political change was in the air, and people in high places who should have been above politics were staking out political positions with their future in mind. The Buddha statue in Trincomalee may be considered a watershed. As with Rear Admiral Weerasekera, Chief Justice Sarath Silva too took the side of the PNM. The damage done to the security forces as institutions that upheld the rule of law was enormous. This would be discussed further in Appendix II.
Although the JHU exploited the same issues as the PNM in trying to build a support base among the Sinhalese population and the security forces in Trincomalee (Appendix II), it has not been able to match the visible influence of the PNM in Trincomalee and especially the Navy. However the PNM’s influence in the security forces could go further only if it had an institutional base.
Not surprisingly, the President was pushed to take another incredible step in the politicisation of the armed forces. On 17th July 2006, three days after the PNM presented the petition for the de-merger of the North-East in the Supreme Court, the President consecrated the Manel Mal (White Lily) Movement (MMM) – the PNM doubling up as a society to advance the morale and welfare of the armed forces. This provided the institutional base for the PNM’s penetration of the security forces and to consolidate its influence in the Navy.
Four days later, the Presidential Secretariat sent to Jaffna an MMM (PNM) team including JVP’s Weerawanse, PNM Chairman and Jathika Chinthanaya’s Gunadasa Amarasekera, PNM president Ven. Dr. Dambara Amila Thero and Bengamuve Nalaka Thero. The team gave the Army a morale boosting suggestion that the problem could be solved in 24 hours by bombing the place – ‘they are only Demalu’. After this was reported in the Press, such displays were curbed or at least not reported. But the PNM had already built a base within the Navy which was strengthened by the launching of the MMM. It is not hard to understand why violations by the Navy against Tamil civilians during the current round of war reached unprecedented heights.
Although the electoral support of the extremist parties would hardly exceed 15%, the President had cornered himself into satisfying their rival claims to stay in power. One instance illustrates his dependence and also the instability he must contend with. The JVP, which had voted against budget at its second reading, could hardly escape doing the same at the third reading on 14th December 2007 without losing credibility. It had a genuine problem. Unlike the JHU, it could not, however much it liked the war, go on telling its voters to support the war on empty stomachs, after having said also a great deal about corruption in the Government.
It was a largely PNM delegation led by Ven. Elle Gunawanse and Nalin de Silva that went to the rescue and pleaded with JVP’s Somawansa Amarasinghe not to jeopardize the fight against terrorism. While the JVP was active in the PNM through Weerawanse, it was not in JVP’s nature to be fully committed to any alliance. The PNM on which Rajapakse had come to depend had developed a large stake in the continuance of the war.
JHU’s Kotakadeniya had during Rajapakse’s election campaign insisted that their deal was only with Rajapakase and would not associate with his party on its election platforms. None of Rajapakse’s allies had any respect for the SLFP as a party. The SLFP had become a nullity. Others wanted to manipulate and use Rajapakse as an individual while it suited them. Unlike the JHU, the PNM had a closer and longer association with Rajapakse on chauvinist platforms.
For the Jathika Chitanaya leaders it was rather like 1988. They are again (through the PNM) brokers between the JVP and SLFP leader – a flirtation the JVP in 1988 ended in an explosion of violence, leaving both Jathika Chitanaya and the SLFP in the wilderness. Before the crucial 2008 budget vote, the JVP refused to talk to Rajapakse, who was obliged to depend on a rescue by the PNM. The JVP extracted its pound of flesh in the abrogation of the CFA. It is from this broker’s role that the PNM derives its strength, besides having Weerawanse of the JVP as general secretary. Rajapakse must hope and pray they could prevent the JVP doing a 1988 repeat of sorts. The relative influence of the JHU and PNM on Rajapakse would play itself out in the unfolding drama.
The fact that the minorities had almost zero executive influence in government has enabled an ideologically motivated few in all governments to form lobbies advancing the bane of colonisation. Typically, once Sinhalese colonies were established in areas where Tamils and Muslims predominate, the next step has been to constrict their space on various pretexts, denying them the use of lands that were part of their economic, social and cultural life, until they are thoroughly marginalised in their native surroundings. We take a case in Colombo itself.
R. Premadasa, who later became president, initiated a housing project by filling swampland in the Maligawatte suburb of Colombo where Muslims predominated. Such projects in a growing city are inevitable and tensions could have been managed. With the housing project there also came Bodhirajaramaya temple providing a foothold for Sinhalese extremist forces to move in.
In 1999 local Muslims built a religious school on a small piece of land belonging to them. In 2002 they sought to extend the school having purchased the necessary land. Monks from Bodhirajaramaya backed by Sihala Urumaya (later JHU) began an agitation against the construction and the local Police supported them on the grounds that it would disturb the peace. The Muslims got a court order permitting construction. Five days later the Police produced a letter written by Divisional Secretary, Colombo, disallowing it.
The letter had been written at the instigation of Venerable Thanabaddegama Sobitha, incumbent of Bodhirajaramaya. While Muslims argued with the Police who tried to stop the construction, Sinhalese mobs started attacking Muslims. The Police just watched. Later the Government imposed curfew, which did not prevent Sinhalese mobs from attacking Muslim houses and businesses.
Sihala Urumaya instigated in a leaflet, “Stop illegal construction! Mobilise for Buddhist rights! ... Unite the Sinhalese! Go forward fearlessly!” Its then leader Tilak Karunaratne said at a press conference that vigilance was necessary because Islamic religious schools have terrorist connections (K. Ratnayake, WSWS, 12 Nov.02). In an interview published in the Sunday Times, Ven. Sobitha explained the violence as that of underworld gangs operating in the area, but blamed the incident squarely on attempts to extend the Muslim religious school. The explanation is typical of instigators of communal violence. Ven. Sobitha later left Bodhirajaramaya and was replaced by Ven. Uvathane Sumana.
In the East, violence by Sinhalese thugs was used in the earlier stages to exclude minorities from colonisation schemes. Violence began with the attacks on Tamils in the Gal Oya Scheme in 1956 and Padaviya in 1958. There was progressive expulsion of Tamils from Kattukulampattu West in the Trincomalee District leading to openly violent expulsions in 1983. In 1984 the Weli Oya scheme was established through sheer violence by the armed forces leaving a number of Tamil villages in North Trincomalee and South Mullaitivu uninhabited to this day. Periya Pullumalai was deserted in 1986.
Violence also eased the way to the equally insidious parallel development of carving out new electorates and boundaries of administrative divisions – earlier AGA divisions, which were made DS divisions with powers over land settlement. Thus the Padavi Siripura AGA division was carved out of a portion of Trincomalee District coming under the Padaviya Scheme earlier meant for settlers from the minorities that was forcibly occupied by violent Sinhalese agitators in 1958. Then came the takeover of Tamil and Muslim lands in parts of the Allai Scheme for Buddhist purposes in the 1970s at the instigation of the priest at Seruvila. In the late 1980s, a mere 1600 Sinhalese served as a pretext to bring a vast area of Pottuvil Division under the newly carved out Lahugala division and thus exclude Muslims and Tamils who formed the majority in the area.
In 1921 just about 4% of the population in the Eastern Province was Sinhalese. Amparai District with 1775 square miles, which contained the Gal Oya colonisation scheme, was carved out of Batticaloa District in 1961. The 1981 census showed Sinhalese being 37.2% of the District’s population. But 76% of the land now falls in Sinhalese DS divisions. In 1976, 700 square miles (66.7%) of the 1048 square miles making up Trincomalee District was brought within the new largely Sinhalese Seruvila electorate, at a time when Sinhalese, brought in largely under two colonisation schemes, were about 30% of the population.
Such manipulation was possible under the unitary state where the administration and the security forces progressively excluded the minorities after Sinhala Only in 1956. All the mischief was done simply through Sinhalese ministers quietly giving instructions to Sinhalese officials in key administrative positions. (See also Sinhalisation of East: A reply to Minister Champika Ranawaka, by M.I.M. Mohideen, the Island 27, 28 Dec.07).
Although the groundwork for overwhelming the East with Sinhalese settlements had been laid, most governments understood its highly contentious nature and remained content with moving slowly – that is until the coming of the present government, whose reins are held by the JHU and JVP, which threw caution to the winds and bared its mailed fist.
The merger of the Northern and Eastern Provinces became a key Tamil demand in order to counter land aggression by a virtually Sinhalese state. Weli Oya in 1984 demonstrated the urgency. Despite the fact that Tamil nationalism lost its way and alienated the Muslims through insensate violence, the Muslims understood the value of the merger and sought remedial adjustments within it. The reasons why the Sinhalese extremists wanted to terminate even the toothless merger have been laid bare by the present government.
From August 2006 to July 2007 the security forces moved into the LTTE-controlled areas of Trincomalee and Batticaloa Districts causing much death, destruction and displacement among Tamil and Muslim populations. New facts were being established on the ground after expelling people by shelling without any consultation with them. People were being kept out of certain areas they were forced to flee. Displaced from Sampoor were excluded after proclaiming it a High Security Zone. Houses were knocked down and roads established through properties and rice fields as though Muslim and Tamil inhabitants had no rights. It was not as though the Government had defeated the LTTE and established order in the East. These were repressive plans of an army of occupation.
Following the military takeover of the East, the Government announced the Sunrise in the East programme for a 75% Tamil-speaking region, where the exclusion of Tamil speakers was soon evident. Apart from Sinhalese administrators being brought in for important positions, the key ones went to retired Sinhalese military officials: Governor (East), Rear Admiral Mohan Wijewickrema. GA (Trincomalee), Major General Ranjith de Silva. Rehabilitation Coordinator, Major General Amaradeva. Governor's Secretary, Capt. Patrick Jayasinghe. Further, Eastern Security Commander Maj. Gen. Pannipitiya confirmed in a circular in July 2007 that the security forces would supervise all development activity and disposal of lands in the East.
Putting in crucial positions hand picked retired military officers who share the present government’s ideological obsessions in the East, means also that regular officers in service cannot act independently. The ideological direction comes from the JHU and PNM. The Chief Justice’s role too would weigh heavily on the Judiciary’s reputation for years to come. The relevant sequence of events is contained in Appendix III.
The same aims of Sinhalisation were in evidence in the mid-1980s (see Special Report No.26 and references therein) with similarities as well as crucial differences. Both were rooted in Sinhalese nationalist ideology which regarded Sri Lanka exclusively Sinhalese and took deep offence at Tamil or Muslim demands for real autonomy in areas they dominated. President Jayewardene during his 1982 presidential election campaign envisaged ‘rolling up the electoral map of Sri Lanka’ for 10 years. To begin with he had a five-sixths majority in the 1977 parliament, the last elected under the first past the post system, which he extended controversially for 6 years by a referendum in December 1982. He had no problems with any legislation he wanted.
An important part of Jayewardene’s inspiration was derived from Singapore where Lee Kuan Yew’s People’s Action Party (PAP) had wielded power since 1958 with soft repression and elections regularly held. Jayewardene too hoped that the 1978 constitution, which made him executive president, along with his open economy, foreign investment and the Accelerated Mahveli Project, would create new electoral realities that would make the UNP the PAP of Sri Lanka. Although he had in 1977 acknowledged the ethnic problem, he could not face it within this authoritarian framework.
Soon after he came to power in 1977, his answer to the euphoria among Tamils after the TULF too won handsomely on a separatist platform (in fact a rhetorical bargaining position) was communal violence – executed by Ana Seneviratne (DIG Police North) whom Jayewardene later made IGP (see UTHR publication, the Arrogance of Power). A more permanent answer was to overwhelm the Tamils by Sinhalese settlements. Minister Lalith Athulathmudali told Parliament on the eve of the July 1983 violence, “In those days it used to be said that there was a Tamil majority in the North. But now it is different. The time has come that the majority of Tamils live among the Sinhalese”.
Soon after the 1983 violence the Government set up the Joint Services Special Operations (JOSSOP) involving retired and serving service commanders and administrators – similar to what the present government has set up for Dawn of the East (see Arrogance of Power or Special Report No. 26 for an account of developments). An important difference at present is in the rivalry between the extremist JVP/PNM and JHU, and their stranglehold on the Government.
The 2004 Parliamentary elections saw the JHU emerging a significant force in politics. As we see below, the Karuna split in the LTTE and President Kumaratunga’s and Norway’s failure to deal with it in a principled manner enabled the JHU to develop extensive contacts within military intelligence and patronise the Karuna group as in effect a paramilitary arm. These new institutional contacts brought possibilities not open to it before. Norway and President Kumaratunge let grass grow under their feet.
The Jayewardene government, and in fact all governments since 1956, have made use of extremist Buddhist monks. In 1983, The Mahweli Ministry under Gamini Dissanayake used the Venerable Dimbulagala Thero for an attempted mass encroachment in the Batticaloa District and later for the Weli Oya settlement. Dissanayake also patronised Elle Gunawanse. Invariably, the fate of the monks in politics is to be used and dropped. (An exception may be S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike who was killed by a monk.) In the JHU too the monks who wanted to dominate the party have been out-manoeuvred by Champika Ranawaka.
JHU’s influence was very visible in 2006. The execution of 5 students on the Trincomalee beach front by an STF unit under Inspector VAS Perera, one time head of the Karaitivu STF camp, dispatched there on the orders of Defence advisor H.M.G.B. Kotakadeniya was indicative of the JHU’s new influence and the future role of the STF.
As sinister was the killing of 10 Muslim labourers in Sastriveli south of Pottuvil on 17th September 2006 by a party under the command of Chief Inspector S.N. Gunaratne, STF. We quoted in Special Report No.26 two examples on the role of the JHU and politicians and administrators who share its aims in the East from the Territorial Claims, Conquests and Dispossesion in the ‘New East’: The growing concerns of the Muslims of Ampara by the Coalition of Muslims and Tamils for Peace and Coexistence (CMTPC):
In December 2005 soon after this government came to power, the GA Amparai wrote to the local councils asking for information on Buddhist sites, indicating ones already identified – seven in Pottuvil alone. In a move reminiscent of the fate of Sampoor, there were earlier rumours of making 1000 acres about the Shastriveli STF camp in the Pottuvil area a High Security Zone, depriving the Muslim population of the area its use. Actual intentions became clearer last September when 10 Muslim labourers who went into the area to repair an irrigation tank were massacred under the direction of the STF. Almost predictably, on 27th April 2007, Minister for Planning and Implementation P. Dayaratne, wrote to Divisional Secretary Pottuvil, instructing that 1000 acres around the STF camp be allocated to the Shastriveli Buddhist Temple…
Another minister throwing his weight in the area trying to take over land under various pretexts is JHU Minister for Environment Champika Ranawaka. On 21st March 2007 the JHU discussed at its Head Office in Colombo, collaboration with the Karuna group in Amparai, and the Defence Ministry subsequently posted armed Karuna cadres in the area …The Daily Mirror’s (16 Apr.07) reporting of Muslim displeasure over this was one of the issues that led to the Defence Secretary phoning and asking the editor Champika Liyannarachchi to resign, threatening her with the Karuna group, besides threatening to ‘exterminate’ another journalist on a separate article dealing with human rights issues of displaced Tamils.
Interestingly, ‘environment’ was already a buzzword bandied as a pretext for constricting the space of Tamils and Muslims living in the East. Lt. Col. A.S. Amarasekera writing in the Sunday Times three weeks after the massacre of Muslims (8 Oct.06) described Chief Inspector Guneratne as ‘a lover of the environment’. What would the Sastriveli Buddhist Temple do with the gift of 1000 acres of forest, other than fell the forest and settle Sinhalese? JHU ideologue Ranawaka was made Environment Minister in January 2007 in the wake of the Military taking control of the East.
In the new thinking at high levels, the environment is deemed clean if cleared of polluting agents such as Muslims and Tamils, who should be safely quarantined in ghettoes. This suggests itself in the Defence Secretary’s talk of ‘population control’ at the high-level security meeting on 4th June 2006 where instructions were given to deport a large number of Tamils from Colombo.
Even harder to understand is President Rajapakse’s angry demand to Muslim cabinet members in December 2007 that “The Muslims resettled in Puttalam must go back to their homes in the north. They cannot reside there permanently. They have given up their lands to the Tigers and come here. They must go back.” They were in fact forcibly evicted by the LTTE and lack the security to go back, as Rauf Hakeem pointed out, which is also the case with Sinhalese who left Jaffna (Sunday Leader 9 Dec.07).
In the same vein, Jathika Hela Urumaya leader and MP Puraviya Chakrawarthi Ellawala Medhananda Thero claims that Saudi Arabia and not the Eastern Province is the motherland of the Muslims. He adds that Eastern Province Muslims have taken over land after demolishing over one thousand Buddhist shrines (Lanka-e-News 12 Dec.07).
During the peace process Ranawaka wrote in the Sihala Urumaya (later JHU) Situation Report of 18th July 2002: “To prevent Karuna and Paduman from capturing the Eastern Province, there is a need for a massive Sinhala movement, which we are in the process of building. Pujya Ananda Himi from Ampara district and Pujya Piyatissa Himi from Trincomalee have come forward for this purpose.” Defence Advisor and JHU Treasurer Kotakadeniya voiced in the Island of 31st January 2008, his personal understanding of history, placing in bold perspective what this war is all about:
“The South Indian invaders not only destroyed this civilisation but ethnically cleansed the East of the Sinhalese and today the Tamils call this area their traditional homelands and some Muslim scholars have started claiming this area as Muslim lands as demonstrated by one Mr. Mohideen who wrote to The Island recently on this subject. ROBBERS OF REAL ESTATE SHOULD BE TOLD THAT THEY DO NOT AQUIRE OWNERSHIP RIGHTS TO THESE LANDS BY PRESCRIPTION. Overlooking the effects of ethnic cleansing would create a conducive environment for another UDI in the North and the East. We should not commit our heroic forces to another prolonged war. No region in the country should be allowed to be ethnically homogeneous and creation of communal enclaves by design should be made illegal by legislation.”
Amparai District remains the key obsession of the JHU in the East and the SLMC remaining the principal independent party representing the Muslims of the East is an irritation to both the Government and the JHU. Once the Government set about recapturing the East from August 2006, available evidence suggests that the influence of the PNM rose in the East at the expense of the JHU. Politically, egged on by both the PNM/JVP and JHU, the Government has placed all its eggs in the basket of a military solution. Politically its dependence on the PNM has increased.
As for rolling up the electoral map, we could only make an informed guess. Rajapakse narrowly won the presidential election in 2005 with 4 880 950 votes against the UNP candidate Ranil Wickremasinghe’s 4 694 623 votes, a majority of 186 327. This is considerably less than the extra votes Wickremasinghe would have received had not the LTTE imposed a ban on Tamils voting resulting in a turnout of 1.5% in Jaffna. In Vanni and Batticaloa nearly 80% votes cast were for Wickremasinghe, but the voter turnout was 34% and 56% respectively against a national average of 75%. It was an election handed over to Rajapakse by the LTTE. His fate in another presidential or other election that is free and fair would be extremely uncertain after alienating the Muslims as well.
In the unlikely event that the Government wipes out the LTTE in the North-East, the Kool Party Pact and his volatile extremist partners would hopefully become the key to Rajapakse’s electoral viability. The killing of several Tamil MPs opposed to the Government and the intimidation of others are portents to the future of free and fair elections in the North-East.
The following exchange between interviewer Shakuntala Perera and Governor, Eastern Province, Rear Admiral Mohan Wijewickrama in Hard Talk (Daily Mirror 21 Jul.07) has a strong hint about the future of free and fair elections in the East
Q: But can you ensure free and fair elections with the obvious difficulties for main Tamil parties like TNA fielding candidates with the presence of Karuna, who voted against the Bill?
Ans.: TNA will certainly have to prove it at another election. You can’t just be in Parliament and say that they represent the people. And maybe if there is an alternative party, they may grab power from them…if the TNA wants to be the power they were they will certainly have to work for it. And at the moment they are not doing anything. DM 21 Jul.07
Q: What do you mean they aren’t doing anything?
Ans.: Well other than just talking about their rights on media they are not on ground.
That is the crux of the matter. Will they be allowed to be on the ground when gangsters under the security forces, as the Rear Admiral well knows, abduct and kill on the instructions of their handlers, not sparing MPs?
Today the State’s sanction of terror would prevent the bulk of the TULF (now under the TNA banner) campaigning on the ground. The Tamils need to honestly face the fact that this terror receives sanction from the LTTE. The LTTE killed all who stood for elections independently of them. On the other hand, had the moderates in the TNA kept their moral authority and independence, the LTTE would target them. They have nothing to fall back on after their betrayal of the people by joining the TNA, which gave the LTTE a cloak of legitimacy for the murder of thousands of their opponents. The murder of Alfred Duraiappah in 1975 by the first shots fired to impose the electoral monopoly of Tamil nationalists is coming a full circle, menacingly.
The Government is presently forcing through local council elections in the Batticaloa District. Never serious about devolution for the North-East or in challenging the LTTE, governments covered behind holding local council elections, instead of elections for the North-East Provincial Council. All that was achieved in the local council elections for Jaffna in 1998, apart from some propaganda against the LTTE, was the LTTE’s killing of Mayors Mrs. Yogeswaran and Sivapalan – a complete waste of invaluable assets that drove the bulk of the TULF into the LTTE’s hands.
This time the purpose of the local council elections in the East appears to be to test the extent to which their protégé Pillayan could by hook and by crook deliver Tamil votes.
In the foregoing we have a recipe for rolling up the electoral map of Sri Lanka. Jayewardene’s recipe was centred on the Sinhalese and had a strong economic component to it – a centralised capitalist economy where radical transformation of economic and political relations was envisaged. He viewed the Tamil problem as an obstacle and a nuisance, which he tried to deal with in a crude and brutal manner, and was in turn undone by it.
The direction taken by this Government, rather than being centred on economic transformation among the Sinhalese, is centred on gambling all on a favourable military outcome in the North-East that would also place its vote bank under protégés of the Government. The South could then be handled by a mixture of basking in triumphal glory, and terror, the apparatus for which is already in place in relation to the North-East. This strategy has no economic component except certain ruin.
Until the signing of the CFA in February 2002, Tamil dissent, driven out of the North-East by the LTTE’s terror was able to negotiate an existence in the South. Neither the Government nor the Norwegians had the will to protect Tamil dissent as exemplified by the killing of dissidents like Subathiran in 2003. The fantastic attitude of the Norwegians and SLMM to the request for protection by dissident Tamils in the wake of the LTTE split was instanced in Bulletin 38 of July 2005:
“When would-be peacemakers tell opponents of the LTTE that their lives cannot be guaranteed unless they ask Karuna to stop attacks, the real message delivered is a raw military threat. This was the logic of Solheim’s response to non-LTTE political leaders in Batticaloa who made a plea to stop killings. In a subsequent meeting on the same subject with the SLMM’s deputy head Haukland, he ambiguously pointed to the clause in the ceasefire agreement, which required all paramilitaries to be disarmed and placed outside the North-East.”
The LTTE’s killing of dissident Tamils which recommenced despite the CFA in December 2002 peaked in mid-2004. The bulk of the NGO circles and the peace lobby in Colombo, had by the end of 1999 gone over to appeasement of the LTTE as the means to peace and began to feel flattered by contacts with pro-LTTE lobbies. A number of Tamil dissidents started feeling distinctly unsafe with erstwhile friends, who when not feeling sorry for these anomalies left behind by the tide, called them unpleasant names.
Those were strange times. In their demands to stop the LTTE’s conscription of children and end its political killings, Tamil dissidents had the most unexpected allies – the very persons and groups identified as Sinhalese extremists. During that period if a Tamil being targeted by the LTTE had neither state security, nor had the ability to move out of the country, there were just a few groups from whom protection could be assured, with strings of course – one is the state intelligence services, who were also at the receiving end of the CFA, the JHU and JVP. This is the story of the Karuna group.
The story of the EPDP, who were also victims of the CFA, is different. It asked and received state patronage from 1990 when Premadasa was president. They played the role of giving political legitimacy to governments, which found token Tamils a useful showpiece. Under proportional representation stipulated by the 1978 constitution, Kumaratunge though elected on a popular wave did not have the numbers in Parliament to push through constitutional change.
The nine seats the EPDP obtained in the Jaffna District in a very abnormal election became for Kumaratunge an invaluable asset. Splits could not be tolerated. While the LTTE leader used his own intelligence service to weed out dissidence, the EPDP leader came to depend on the state intelligence services to ensure obedience. The killing of his troublesome deputy Ramesh in 1999 was carried out by Devananda’s handpicked killers with state intelligence services providing logistics. The EPDP thus became closely integrated with the state intelligence services. Conditions under the CFA also gave it allies among Sinhalese extremists. In order not to interrupt the flow of this report, we move on to the Karuna group. The EPDP will be dealt with separately.
The terminal sickness in the Norway-led peace process is nowhere clearer than in its reception of the Karuna split in March 2004. Karuna wanted a separate MoU with the Sri Lankan government and for the SLMM to continue monitoring. Those who knew the LTTE would never come into a peace agreement as long as its repressive organs were intact, saw cracks in its body as the most natural and least painful means of curing society of the malignancy it represented. As a government responsible for the protection of all citizens it was the duty bound to seize the opportunity, grant protection to Karuna and his followers and argue clearly for bringing Karuna and his followers into the peace process and extend SLMM monitoring to them, and clearly point out that the LTTE’s opposition was not justified or in the interests of the Tamil people.
Norway’s imagination was stuck in the two-party peace process and could not countenance the existence of those who felt let down. Tamil dissent was dirt to be swept under the carpet, just as it did not want to face the reality of child conscription. Its envoy Erik Solheim declared on 11th March 2004, “We will not interfere in an internal matter of the LTTE”. ‘Exactly’ as they (Norway) did not involve themselves in discussions between the Prime Minister and the President, they would ‘not take any part in the discussion between the LTTE leadership and Mr. Karuna. The first is an internal matter for the South and the second is an internal matter for the Northeast.’ The SLMM stopped monitoring in areas controlled by Karuna. The door was open for the LTTE to crush Karuna and save a moribund ‘peace process’. President Kumaratunge declined to give Karuna any help, taking refuge in adverse reflections on his past.
Thus Kumaratunge, out of seemingly virtuous indifference, allowed the LTTE to crush the rebellion with about 200 Karuna cadres, including children, killed in the fighting, and knowingly allowed the intelligence services to pick up the remnants for their dirty work. The result was to bring the East untold misery. It was another demonstration that Sri Lankan leaders do not treat the North-East as part of their country. For the Rajapakse government two years later to be complicit in child conscription in Karuna’s name was the ultimate in perfidy.
While there were a number of incidents indicating that the intelligence agencies were manipulating Karuna’s remnants, one instance was most indicative.
On the evening of 5th July 2004, 14 Karuna cadres returning to the border areas of the East where their presence was least controversial, sheltered for the evening at Bodhirukkarama Temple in Diyabubula, Hingurakgoda, close to Polonnaruwa. They attracted the attention of the villagers by having a singsong. Acting on information sent by the villagers, the Police went there and took custody of the cadres and a considerable supply of weapons. A number of things remain unexplained. A note forwarded by Army HQ to Joint Operations HQ gave details of weapons and ammunition taken into custody and claimed also that two monks aged 12 and 14 were also taken into custody. There was a police guard at the temple when the raid took place.
There was embarrassment over the event. Those detained were taken away to a safe place for the night by army vehicles and the Karuna cadres were released on bail the next day by the Polonnaruwa Magistrate. TamilNet was about the first to report the incident. It claimed that the chief monk at the temple was a JHU candidate at the elections earlier in the year. It added, “The monk claimed that the youth were sent to him by the JHU headquarters in Colombo, Police sources said.” It was a time when TamilNet was under Sivaram. Later reports confirmed the JHU link, but it was not the 80 year-old chief monk who was the JHU candidate. This monk sustained injuries when a grenade was hurled into the temple on the 8th evening and later succumbed.
The Daily Mirror of 9th July reported, “Reports said that another monk who had contested from the Jathika Hela Urumaya at the last general election was away in Colombo when the attack took place last night. JHU sources confirmed the [grenade] attack but details were not available.” Less than 10 months later Sivaram had been killed.
The incident was a strong pointer that extremist groups together with the intelligence services were deeply involved in patronising and manipulating the Karuna group. This became very clear in the links to the Raviraj killing and in events in the East. The incident also revealed that it was not only the JHU, but the JVP was also cultivating ties with the Karuna group. At the time a grenade was thrown into the temple, the Daily Mirror reported that the two child monks were sheltering with the JVP MP of the area.
On 25th July 2004 seven Karuna cadres and a Sinhalese driver Neil Dhammika were killed by an LTTE infiltrator in a safe house in Kottawa. Neil had fled Polonnaruwa, his native place, after the Bubula incident. Well informed sources told us that JVP’s Wimal Weerawanse had visited that house. This meant that both the JHU and JVP were developing contacts within the intelligence services and the Karuna group.
This situation dragged on with the peace process formally in place, small scale attacks on the LTTE by the Karuna group, the LTTE accusing the Government of double dealing, often producing accurate evidence, the Government denying and a continuing rash of killings by the LTTE. The next turn of events was the LTTE’s abduction and murder in Jaffna of Police Superintendent Charles Wijewardene and twelve days later on 12th August 2005, the assassination of Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar.
In mid-October 2005, when Kumaratunge was still president, a worried senior police official in Batticaloa confided to a religious leader, “I don’t like what’s going to happen, there are going to be lots of killings soon.” He added that orders have come from Colombo for them to accommodate scores of Karuna cadres in police stations. Another inside source told us that a top level security meeting decided to assassinate the elderly Batticaloa TNA MP Joseph Pararajasingham who was killed on 24th December 2005, a month after the new cabinet was sworn in. The source affirmed that the decision was taken two months before the killing and Pararajasingham was tipped off. This was about the same time it was decided to place Karuna cadres in police stations.
Pararajasingham had already minimised his movements and visits to Batticaloa. He had also stopped his evening chats on the verandah having a view of the Batticaloa Lake. To the tip off he had responded, ‘What can I do?’ He thought no one would attempt to kill him at Christmas Eve Mass. According to witnesses that there was considerable police security at the Church in the high security zone before mass, and once mass began the police withdrew. Pararajasingham was gunned down by Karuna cadres and they were being supervised by a man brought from an EPDP camp outside town and a man from the intelligence services. DIG Police, East, was then Neville Wijesinghe, who had earlier served in the NIB, had close dealings with the EPDP and assisted, according to EPDP sources, in the 1999 killing of EPDP deputy leader Atputharajah.
We must conclude that machinery for targeted killings was already in place when Rajapakse became president. His party too had independently made contact with the Karuna group. Soon after his election as president on 12th December 2005, an LTTE press conference in Karadiyanaru presented two Karuna defectors, who revealed that Maithripala Sirisena, then general secretary of the UPFA, met Mangalan Master of the Karuna group in Welikanda and requested him to obtain at least 10 000 votes for Rajapakse, and Mangalan Master distributed the handbills provided by Sirisena. They also named Capt. Sureshkumara and Capt. Abeyaratne as the army intelligence officers who dealt with Pillayan and Iniyabarathy directly. This press conference was also very likely a reminder to the new president whom the LTTE helped to win. There were many parties vying for a stake in the Karuna group and causing divisions within.
Karuna himself was trapped in an unenviable predicament. He had been a general and acclaimed a brilliant field commander at Elephant Pass in addition to his notoriety. In splitting off from the LTTE he hoped for some place of honour. Instead he and his men led tenuous lives hounded by the LTTE and used by the intelligence services as mercenary killers, to be abused and disposed. He wanted to quit and go away.
Then came the Kool Party Pact, the President dangling before him the fiefdom of the East. As far as the pact went Karuna did his part or more accurately his name was used and abused. Killings, abduction and child conscription in the East instigated by the security forces went under the convenient brand name of Karuna. He was largely the nominal head of the organisation which had been broken up into about half a dozen sections with the intelligence services, the STF and extremist groups as handlers. In trying to remove him all together, the Defence Ministry opened a can of worms.
The ceremonially brokered electoral alliance between Pillayan’s TMVP and the Susil Premajayanth, general secretary of Rajapakse’s UPFA on 25th January 2008, is a milestone clarifying the break up of the Karuna group and the direction in which it has been moving from around August 2006.
JHU’s Kotakadeniya, as Defence Advisor in the new government had been the strongest public advocate of the Karuna group, mirroring the JHU’s stake in the group. He argued against the disarming the Karuna group for talks with the LTTE as demanded by the EU and Co-Chairs in the wake of steps taken against the LTTE in the West. He told the Nation (11th June 2006) that ‘unless there is a guarantee from the LTTE [underwritten by the international community], that they would not target them, the [Karuna group] would not turn over their weapons used for self-defence.’ That was about the last time.
We may trace the change to the new role the President gave the PNM by launching the Manel Mal Movement in July 2006. A striking change was evident in mid-November 2006 after UN Special Advisor for Children and Conflict on Sri Lanka, Allan Rock, told a news conference that he has ‘strong and credible’ evidence that certain elements of the government security forces were supporting and sometimes participating in the abductions and forced recruitment of children for the Karuna faction. The worldwide reaction was heightened by the death in army shelling of over two score displaced civilians at Vigneswara School, Kathiraveli.
The PNM was livid. Its Ven. Bengamuve Nalaka said the government should not have expressed regret after the killing of civilians in Kathiraveli. Weerawansa accused Rock of using LTTE cadres as translators. Dr. Gunadasa Amarasekera charged the UN with being party to an international conspiracy to tarnish the Sri Lankan forces by this ‘false and atrocious’ attribution, to pave the way for a UN peacekeeping force to aid the LTTE.
There was in contrast hardly any protest against Allan Rock from Kotakadeniya or the JHU. The tirade by the PNM and the JVP was as though the accusations were directly against them. Both issued separate and very similar statements, accusing Rock of being an LTTE agent.
Local information also suggests that about this time the PNM had become patrons of a section of the Karuna group and Pillayan’s ally. The Karuna – Pillayan split parallels the PNM’s new role as an extremist political front affiliated to the President, assisting the takeover of the East. Karuna had close ties with the JHU and, despite his crimes, he had his image as a soldier. His family too had ties to the UNP. This may have caused the Government worries about his future shifts.
Open clashes between Karuna and Pillayan loyalists began on 4th May 2007 when the 56 year-old father of Pillayan supporter Johnson Jeyakanthan (Sinthujan) was gunned down in Periya Kallar. Sinthujan was abducted and his body with those of 4 others was found in Kiran on 11th May 2007. From the middle of 2007, Pillayan and his supporters moved to Trincomalee where they were helped by PNM elements particularly in the Navy.
The quarrel between the two factions was patched up and new arrangements were negotiated. Karuna joined his family in Britain on 18th September 2007 using a forged passport and visa describing him as a wild life official on official business – arranged apparently by JHU environment minister Champika Ranawaka.
Karuna’s arrest by the British authorities on a passport offence on 2nd November 2007, gave the cue for the Government to replace him with Pillayan. The Karuna office on Covington Road, Batticaloa, near the prison on Hospital Road was under police protection. According to neighbours, on the night of 5th November, Pillayan’s party arrived at this office escorted by the STF commandos who surrounded it. Pillayan’s men went in, assaulted their former comrades, grabbed their weapons and threatened them to join their faction. Their leader, V. Thileepan who had been married six months swallowed cyanide.
Karuna’s Araiampathy office was under Veera. On 9th December 2007, Pillayan’s men went in, chased away Veera and his men and took over the office. Veera fled south and returned with a party including Bharathy (Iniyabharathy) and Jeeva. There was a terrible exchange of fire reportedly for two to three hours. Later, the STF who are in control of the area intervened and escorted Karuna’s men away, leaving Pillayan in charge.
Pillayan is present in Trincomalee town and in Batticaloa from south of Chenkalady to Araiampathy, including Batticaloa town. These are under Sitha Master, Markan, Rudra (Thooyavan), Seelan and Sasi. Azad Moulana (real name Mihilar Hanzeer) from Maruthamunai who was neutral is now Pillayan’s spokesman. Those who know him say he is primarily a good writer and not a gangster and the LTTE killed his father in India along with Padmanabha in 1990. The Karuna group is present all the way from Andankulam southwards to Amparai District, including Mandur; and from Chenkalady all the way north to Vaharai and Eechilampattai, and also in Welikanda. These latter are under Sinnathamby, Ranjan, Mangala Master, Illankeeran, Thatha and Master.
Since they all conscripted heavily, Karuna faction has a big military camp in Kiran under Sinnathamby with armed men wearing black uniforms. Pillayan has a big armed camp at Aithiyamalai under Rudra. There is virtually a state of war between the two factions, but government money for the Karuna faction is sent through Pillayan. The situation is further complicated by scores of Muslims, perhaps up to 300, trained by the Karuna group to fight alongside them against the LTTE during operations at the end of 2006.
The result of the power play is a form of anarchy that is hard to comprehend. Both Pillayan and Karuna are indulging in conscription, extortion, murder and robbery, hardly checked by the Police. Local sources allege that the bulk of the killings are done by the STF and Army in plain clothes or by Gotabhaya’s men referred to above and are conveniently attributed to the Pillayan or Karuna groups. On the other hand, handlers of these groups from the intelligence services and the PNM use the Pillayan group, for example, in violence against the Karuna group, against Muslims and against supposedly LTTE supporters.
Attribution of killings is thus difficult and the Police too hardly investigate when they suspect political direction. But sections of the Police are struggling to keep a measure of credibility with the people. The tenor of events is illustrated in Appendix I, Cases, Reports and Trends.
As things move, the SLMC seems to be at the receiving end of the armed Muslim groups, at least initially, set up by the State. We have two killings of SLMC supporters in the Valaichenai area. The situation parallels that in the Tamil community. For the Muslims who were humiliated by the LTTE, young men taking up arms were first heroes, and then they began fearing them. Now the Muslims are also being humiliated by the State.
What does all this mean? One view expressed by committed local persons is that the Government, intelligence services, the extremist lobbies, particularly the PNM, are deliberately manipulating all this inter and intra-community violence, so that in the end there would be a bloody war between the well armed Pillayan and Karuna factions and clashes between Tamils and Muslims resulting in the minorities becoming weak and servile. Even if there is some plan the rulers are working to, a characteristic of anarchy is that no one could control how thing would develop. The LTTE too is being forgotten.
This is a Government of Anarchy pulled in different directions by fractious extremist partners. There is little they could agree on except to wage war at any cost, Sinhalise the East and deny the North-East any real autonomy. Beyond this their interests diverge. Expecting a master plan from them is unrealistic. The coming parliamentary (2010) and presidential (2011) elections are not as crucial for the JHU and JVP as for the SLFP.
The way things are the President will receive next to no minority votes in a free and fair election and this could be fatal for him. The Tamil people in the North-East have been battered by the LTTE and now by the Government. Capturing the votes of such people using actors like Pillayan has precedents – the EPDP election campaign in the Islands in 1994 and the LTTE’s campaign in Jaffna in 2004. This is the context in which the President’s party, the UPFA’s, alliance with Pillayan must be seen. Under this dispensation free and fair elections in the North-East are very unlikely. The intimidation and killing of Tamil nationalist leaders is one aspect of it.
What is being played out was brought to light in a meeting of about half a dozen core leaders at EPDP’s Layards Rd. office in late 2007. Our sources say that those present were…. Asked whether there would be elections, Devananda we learn said that there may be elections in April or May 2008 and getting five seats in Jaffna would not be a problem for them. He did not suggest that this was due to the EPDP’s growing popularity. The reason was along the lines of how the electoral space in Jaffna earlier fell to the LTTE – namely the decimation of politicians not under their sanction.
The Muslims are a different proposition. They are not yet a battered community. They have not had a force like the LTTE running amok inside. They have a functioning political party – the SLMC – with leaders who have shown courageous defiance. The Government kept up the pressure on the SLMC, trying to break it up by offering perks to individual MPs, and by denying them adequate security. But the core of the party has distanced itself from the Government. Come an election, it is the SLMC that would command the loyalty of the voters. The Government is in a quandary.
Here is where divergences arise between the interests of the Government and its extremist partners. The interests of the JHU and JVP are mainly in the Sinhalese majority Amparai and Seruvila electorates of the Eastern Province. But the Sinhalese are about 25% of the Eastern Province electorate, and a presidential candidate with uncertain backing in the South cannot ignore Muslims and Tamils in the North-East. The JHU’s rhetoric and actions are utterly unhelpful for the President. The JHU has made no bones about its antipathy for the Muslims, making it difficult for the President’s Muslim allies.
The interest in Pillayan comes from the SLFP (UPFA) and its PNM ally. Obviously there is no agreement among the Government, the military and the JHU, who were among the first in courting Karuna. The majority of Karuna leaders stand away from Pillayan and there is an internecine war. This could not have happened but for political and logistical backing for those opposed to Pillayan, by those who still find them useful.
When parties to the Government cannot resolve the issue and the Defence Ministry is hamstrung, what would they do? Besides, the people on the ground – the Muslims and Tamils – do not matter one whit to those in power. From their standpoint the most convenient means of avoiding acrimonious contention among themselves is to goad the parties on the ground, and let them fight it out, whatever becomes of the people. And damn the conscripted children.
The Defence Ministry ordered the STF to install Pillayan in Batticaloa and has done little besides. The Karuna group (Bharathy) remains in Amparai District with which the JHU is obsessed and the Army in Welikanda has been helping Karuna, while the PNM and the Navy are behind Pillayan. The result may not be in the Government’s favour.
The Karuna cadres know that their position is tenuous and may find themselves dropped like a hot potato. There is a great deal of frustration. Scores have deserted. One section appealed to Devananda to take them into the EPDP. Devananda, we learn, dodged repeated requests. On a recent request from a reported 100 to 150 Karuna men, Devananda asked Military Intelligence if they had any objection to the EPDP taking them. The fact is that the Government does not want any Tamil to become too influential.
Meanwhile, sources on the ground place the LTTE presence in Batticaloa-Amparai at about 200 men, the bulk of them under Ram in Kanjikudichcharu between Lahugala and Sagamam, some under intelligence leader Keerthi and around 20 members of the pistol group under Shanthan roam the government-controlled areas. Some of the other leaders are Manju, Piraba and Nagesh. They all move about in small groups. These sources say Keerthi is talking to both the Pillayan and Karuna factions. The Government’s unprincipled manipulations and contempt for the people finally stand to strengthen the LTTE, which is yet to show its hand. The Karuna split which offered hope to the East in 2004 has been turned into a curse.
The Government is caught up in a spell of madness. Such spells cost the country dearly and come to an abrupt end only when the rulers are brought down to reality with a bump. Power and its retention become ends in themselves blinding those ensnared and made worse by that power being dangerously excessive. It happened to Mrs. Bandaranaike’s government in 1977. Jayewardene was brought to a realisation of the fickleness of power by an uprising of the JVP he had brought on stage and tried to manipulate. For a woman who came to power amidst high expectations, Kumaratunge went out in a murky struggle to shore up her authority. While the country is disillusioned with the excesses of presidential power, it fatally hooks those who promise change.
What the country faces today is a crisis in its democratic character potentially more dangerous than during the Jayewardene years. The armed forces then committed terrible crimes with political backing, but did not as a body become politicised although the danger was imminent. They largely kept away from election politics and did not get involved in political crimes. This is the first time forces with a fascist agenda such as the PNM and JHU have been let loose inside the security apparatus.
Under Rajapakse, the intelligence services have been complicit in the killing of at least two MPs, relatives of MPs were abducted by creatures of the State in aid of the defence budget, and there is fear of the security apparatus even among members of Parliament and ironically also among the very security men provided for them by the State. Political crimes are the ones where witnesses are least likely to come forward. In the East the security forces are interfering in election politics by promoting an ally of the Government and maintaining a state of terror aimed at opponents of the regime. The extent of interference and crime by an intelligence apparatus under the President’s brother raises the question, Are we still a democracy?
It may be only the North-East at present, but the disposal of power is decided by small margins of votes as happened at the last presidential election. These manoeuvres in the North-East have the potential to disenfranchise the Sinhalese as well. The performance of the leading opposition party, the UNP, has been pathetic. It has no imaginative programme to inspire the masses. On issues it has been simply reacting, such as by going back on its earlier pledge to a federal settlement to the North-East issue.
The UNP understands the urgency of the ethnic problem and twice undermined a settlement for purely petty reasons. Had it not pulled out of the APRC, the President could not have manipulated its findings in the crass way he did. To be the alternative party of government, a country to govern must be preserved.
Even more serious for the immediate future, are the UNP’s lack of action on threats to democracy and the rule of law. Its MP Maheswaran was killed and apart from the Government blaming the LTTE without evidence, it has prevaricated and the conduct of the Police suggests a cover up. Both identification parades were a sham. In the second unknown persons threatened the witness on his way. It was a minister quoting an injured bodyguard who first said that the assassin had a security affiliation. Apart from the Police’s attitude, which scared off witnesses, they quickly went to relatives of the suspect and effectively suppressed his photograph and true affiliations.
The UNP has the ability to make the truth public or make the Police come out with it. Instead, its contribution has been to snipe at the Government’s conduct and throw a few tit bits for Sunday entertainment. Even earlier UNP MP Lakshman Seneviratne made on the floor of the House serious allegations with important details pointing to a state terror apparatus directed from the top. They were given substance by the arrest of Gajanayake. Seneviratne’s courage has no doubt made life unpleasant for him.
The Press did its part, bringing out more details. Seneviratne’s well-connected party did very little to follow through. Gajanayake is now out on bail and the episode came and went as a Sunday’s entertainment. We have tried to do our share in following up, verifying our charges to the best of our ability. That too would be blown in the wind unless we have an opposition with a greater sense of purpose.
Impunity is the bane of this country. Our traditions built up over 60 years of independence are such that any new government would abuse the apparatus just as the previous one did, pushing the country further towards the brink. The Presidency is like bait one greedily grips in one’s jaws with all one’s might until the teeth come off. By now the UNP ought to know that this cannot go on, even as free and fair elections are being decisively undermined.
It falls to all those who see the urgency of the matter to form an alliance based on principles to protect our democratic heritage of 77 years. It cannot be done without a whole series of reforms to the constitution. A fair solution to the ethnic conflict cannot be delayed. The country cannot hope to progress leaving the North-East a foul, gaping wound providing dummy votes. That too is part of the refusal of the powers in Colombo to part with any real authority.
The presidency and six year terms which leave the country writhing for change at the end of each must go and give way to four year terms. The powers that be today do not see the Tamils as a problem. With the battering in progress they would be rendered putty whose votes it is thought could be bought by protégés for peanuts. It is the Muslims they see as the main obstacle and the community is under enormous pressure. It is left to the Tamils to acknowledge that night has closed on the day of Tamil nationalist rhetoric. Their best line of defence now is to form a coalition with Muslims, iron out in principle all that has kept them apart, and with good grace let Muslims take the lead.
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