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UTHR(J) Up Date :    20th July 2003

New Twists in East’s Continuing Tragedy

The LTTE’s campaign of violence against its critics has driven many Tamil political activists from their homes. Since P. Alahathurai, the EPRLF (V)’s Porativu Local Council chairman, was abducted and killed by the LTTE last December, a number of other local councillors opposed to the LTTE have met  a similar fate. As the danger became clear, many families of political activists fled to the precincts of Batticaloa to live close to security forces camps hoping this would provide some safety. But even in such areas the LTTE has acted with impunity. Those individuals under most direct threat left their families and moved to party offices, which had police protection, and visited their homes for short intervals. But this too turned out to be hazardous, as was the case for Ponniah Ramachandran of the EPDP, who was gunned down while returning to his Batticaloa office on 15th June 2003.

As in Ponniah Ramachandran’s case, PLOTE local councillor Vairamuthu Meganathan (32) was gunned down by the LTTE while going home from his party office in Pudur, off Batticaloa, on 4th July. He died while being taken to Batticaloa Hospital. The following day on the way to the cremation grounds, the relatives took Meganathan’s body to the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) office and demanded assurances from them that such attacks on opposition parties would be stopped. The SLMM refused, saying that it is a matter for the Police. When the SSP Police arrived, they asked him for an assurance that they would act to stop these killings and would further launch a full investigation into all cases of political abduction and murder. The SSP gave some partial assurances. A news report a few days later said that the SLMM office has been given police protection against further protests!

In this context, where killings of the LTTE’s Tamil political opponents are occurring regularly (almost daily for several weeks in June 2003) and they receive little or no active investigation by the Police or the SLMM, the task of identifying perpetrators is left to the community itself, and justice is unlikely to be served.  Eventually, as embattled as they are, the LTTE’s opponents may start fighting back.

On 11 July, Vellupillai Paraneetharan, a young member of the LTTE was shot dead, again in Pudur.   It is suspected that he was killed by a member of PLOTE, although first indications were that he was punished by the LTTE itself for misbehavior.

According to sources in the area, Paraneetharan, though an active member of the LTTE using the freedom under the MoU to the full, also had problems with his group. These included, reportedly, misbehaviour with a female recruit, suspicion that he had divulged sensitive information under recent police custody and embezzling money extorted for the group. These sources also said that Paraneetharan had been taken to the Tharavai LTTE base and questioned two weeks earlier. These gave rise to the suspicion that it was an inside job.

Notable among Paraneethanran’s recent activities was aiding the killers of Navasooriyan of Military Intelligence on 19th May, who, after being pointed out by Paraneetharan while having a haircut in a Batticaloa saloon, was shot by two gun men. The latter escaped reportedly leaving the weapon with Paraneetharan. The following day Paraneetharan was involved in an attempt to abduct the 12-year-old son of the deceased for their army. The attempt was foiled by relatives who screamed and later identified Paraneetharan to the Police. It was for this that he spent some time in police custody.

Paraneetharan had also been seen acting as pointer when LTTE gunmen shot PLOTE local councillor Meganathan. UTHR(J) now has reliable information that Paraneetharan was killed by a member of the PLOTE. However, the PLOTE leadership has been very timid in confronting the LTTE politically and the incident may point to other forces at work. While Meganathan was the first member of the PLOTE to be killed under the MoU, there have been several murders and abductions of Military Intelligence personnel. With the MoU almost in tatters, we may be seeing the beginnings of another dangerous twist.

Attacks on the families of Tamil opposition group members

The two incidents that follow are the first we know of the LTTE deliberately targeting family members of opposition groups since February 2002:

Murugamoorthy Thushyanthini, wife of Arafat, PLOTE

Arafat is a member of the PLOTE who now lives in the Batticaloa party office. His wife Murugamoorthy Thushyanthini lived close to the army camp in Chenkalady with her one year old child. Five members of the LTTE went to her home on 14th July. While three waited outside, two men, Vithya and Uma, went in and assaulted Thushanthini brutally. 

Sivapunniam Rathirani,  wife of Murugesu Varatharajah (37) of the EPRLF(V)

Murugesu Varatharajah (38) of the EPRLF(V) was vice chairman of the Porativu local council. After the chairman Alahathurai was killed by the LTTE, he left Mandur with his family and went to live in Kallady close to an Army presence. His neighbour was Thangarasa Ramachandran of Mankadu, Chettipalayam, another member of the EPRLF(V) who had to flee his village. Just after 8.00 PM on 5th May, LTTE men from the Kallady intelligence (but so-called ‘political’) office came into the area on 4 motor cycles and 2 push bikes as though going to the beach. Some women in the area recognized them, and, guessing their purpose, screamed. Varatharajan and Thangarasa escaped through the back fence to the Batticaloa EPRLF(V) office. Varatharajan now lives in the Chenkalady office of the EPRLF(V).

Varatharajan’s wife Sivapunniam Rathirani (37) continued living in Beach Road, Kallady with her two children Kishuthan (10) and Tharaniyan (9). On 15th July she went by bus to her husband’s office in Chenkalady to collect his salary for her household expenses. She left the Chenkalady EPRLF office for the bus stand at 3:00 PM. The following morning Rathirani’s mother came looking for her and reported her missing. It was feared that she had been abducted by the LTTE.  Under the MoU the LTTE has an office in Chekalady for ‘political work’.

At the bus stand Rathirani was accosted by members of the LTTE who came on 7 bicycles and a motorbike. They ordered Rathirani to get on to the pillion of a bicycle. Being a tough woman, she argued back and refused.  Meanwhile the Batticaloa bus arrived and she ran into it.  She went to the middle of the bus and sat with some women. Some of the LTTE men followed her and dragged her off the bus by her dress, while the others blocked the bus from both sides.

Once outside, another bus arrived. Rathirani ran and got into a second bus, but she was again dragged out and forced onto a bicycle. She was taken to the LTTE’s Chenkalady ‘political office’ that is under government control and detained there until after nightfall. In order to avoid the Black Bridge army check point, they then took her towards the sea, crossed the main road again near Eastern University, then across the lagoon by an unguarded bridge to a women’s camp near the LTTE check point on Badulla Road. Up to this time she had been beaten, but not badly.

The following day (16th July) she was taken further into the interior, beaten and interrogated by LTTE women. They asked for details about her husband, children, herself, and her connections in Pandirippu, Mandur and Kallady where she had resided.

She was told:

  1. Her husband must leave the EPRLF(V)
  2. She must bring a photograph of her husband
  3. She must report to the LTTE camp in Karadian Aru and sign a register every Monday
  4. She must follow their instructions and work for the LTTE.

Should she fail to meet these conditions, she was told, they would come home and kill her. She was advised to send her husband abroad.

On 18 July at 2:00 PM the LTTE put Rathirani in a Chenkalady bus. At Chenkalady she collected her identity card and passport from the LTTE office and went home. Earlier, persons who approached LTTE representative Kausalyan about the abduction were not given an answer, whether they had her or not. 

What are the SLMM Monitors doing?

The Monitors have claimed that their weapon is not the gun, but persuasion. If that is so they have failed. They have not had any influence over 17 months in bringing about a substantive change in the LTTE’s behaviour through their persuasion. The have failed to achieve even the appearance of impartiality. When violations by the LTTE have been reported to the SLMM by other Tamil parties, representatives have sometimes refused to go to the place of the incident altogether, or delayed their visit for many hours.

We learn that when known members of the LTTE threw a grenade which exploded after striking the boundary wall of EPRLF(V) Batticaloa leader Thurairatnam’s house early this year, it took the SLMM nearly a day, until the following evening, to go the house about 200 yards from their office.

By comparison, when the LTTE complained to the SLMM of an unexploded grenade thrown at their Batticaloa Arasady Road office, the SLMM, we understand, alerted the Police and took them there. The others have been told that attacks on them are Police and not SLMM matters.

On 2nd July, some members of the EPDP were distributing leaflets near the Vavuniya bus stand. They were surrounded by a group of LTTE members who tore up the leaflets, burnt them and assaulted the EPDP members. The EPDP informed the SLMM, who said that they would come to the EPDP office, but not to the place of the incident. The following day’s Tamil daily, Virakesari, carried an item by Sri Gajan headlined ‘Quarrel between the LTTE and EPDP, People Burn EPDP Leaflets’. The report claimed that the ‘people’ destroyed the leaflets and beat up two EPDP members. At the end the report indicated, as it were in the small print, that this is the LTTE’s version. The SLMM, the report said, spoke to both sides and solved the problem. 

.The SLMM’s biased and contradictory position of disowning their responsibility for violations committed against non-LTTE groups and civilians by dubbing these violations of the MoU as law and order matters meant for the Police to handle, discredits their role.

After all they are very interested in being taken to the scene when the Navy intercepts gunrunning by the LTTE – no less a law and order issue.

No one expects the Monitors to use guns, but as the term indicates, one expects them to be vigilant, to provide judgment of the true state of affairs,  apply pressure on violators and restore some sanity. What we are seeing instead is the systematic suffocation of truth  For instance, the impression is being created that the problem of child conscription is under control. But the reality is that in recent months people have been made very conscious of the LTTE’s apparatus of terror through a spate of political killings, and in areas where significant child conscription is being reported, community leaders are afraid even to hint at it.

No Peace Without Political Normalization

UNICEF’s strategy for dealing with child conscription by the LTTE, by treating it as a separate issue from democracy and political normalization, is looking increasingly hollow. It would amount to a humbug that simply pours money into the coffers of the TRO. We have reports that a significant number of minors have recently been conscripted in the Valaichenai area. On the night of 5th July, up to 25 conscripts were being driven in a tractor-trailer to Vaharai, when some of them escaped. A number of other reports too have appeared in the Press. One was of Ramupillai Subramaniam, father of 14-year-old Vijayanandini from Mutur, who committed suicide after he failed to obtain the release of his daughter who was abducted by the LTTE on 1st July. [Top]

 

                                                                                          


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