University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna)
Information Bulletin No. 39
Date of Release: 1st Nov 2005
If the peace process has degenerated into a killing spree, averaging more than one a day in early October, it is because there were no working institutional mechanisms to safeguard civilian interests and ensure that they remain primary. The LTTE had an agenda of monopoly control over the North-East, and its monopoly over killings was countenanced until the Karuna split. The manner in which the split was handled took no account of civilian interests. On Norway’s prompting the LTTE’s main faction was given a virtual free hand to crush the Karuna faction, conscript children and kill with impunity. The State while formally agreeing to Norway’s wishes could not resist winking at sections of the security apparatus covertly supporting Karuna. For the people of the East it was the worst of all worlds with several predators, including the State, and no protectors.
While the LTTE, harried and militarily challenged by the Karuna faction, remained responsible for most killings of civilians in the East, the pattern became hazier. This will be evident in the cases below. In a bid to bring the crisis to a head, hoping that the international community would intervene in its favour, the LTTE intensified provocations against the security forces targeting soldiers and policemen. A high point was the killing of SSP Charles Wijewardene in Jaffna in late July and the killing of the Foreign Minister two weeks later. The security forces did not respond overtly, but the LTTE was determined to raise the stakes.
The LTTE had mapped out an orgy of killing and the European Union’s ban on LTTE delegations visiting the Continent, which came into force on 26th September 2005, was not going to stand in the way. In early September, the LTTE withdrew the open presence of its cadre from government held areas, including Jaffna. Instead, its intelligence wing increased its covert presence and maintained a tighter grip on the populace. This was when Jaffna experienced a fresh upsurge of killings. The new level of menace is instanced by the killing of two widely respected school principals. It raises the question whether anyone with professional integrity can remain in Jaffna.
The first signs of intelligence arms of the State becoming directly involved were Sivaram’s killing in April and three Tamil youths being killed in Colombo last June, soon after the LTTE killed Colonel Muttalib of Military Intelligence. On 6th September, the bodies of two Tamil youths Kirupairasa Rupanraj (23) and Muthuvel Jegatheeswaran (19) from Alankerny, Kinniya division of Trincomalee District, were recovered with gunshot injuries in Ragama, north of Colombo.
It is however mistaken to look for certainties with regard to the perpetrators of all killings and in instances public perceptions have proved wrong. Having long borne the brunt of the LTTE’s terror, there is pressure within targeted groups to react against soft targets. There are some extremely tragic cases of individuals where about half the extended family, including women, have been wiped out by the LTTE (see Bulletin No.38). This further underlines the need for credible monitoring as things drift out of control.
In a speech to journalists in Colombo on 15th October, the visiting Norwegian envoy Maj. Gen. Trond Furuhovde, former head of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission, compared the situation in Sri Lanka with Iraq. He said, “This is subversive war. Both parties are involved in this. It is alarming. All war is alarming. This is dangerous for the ceasefire and for the country.” While it contained some truth, it was troublingly ambiguous like most statements by international actors, such as their reference to paramilitaries without saying who they are. This suggested that they were in general any group opposed to the LTTE. If Furuhovede meant state intelligence and covert support for the Karuna faction, it is also a sorry tale of misdoings by Norway and the SLMM. (We have discussed this at length in Bulletins 36 and 38.)
Another circumstance influencing journalistic perceptions was the murder of Mr. Nadaraja Sivakadatcham, principal of Kopay Christian College, on the night of 11th October, followed by the murder of Jaffna Central College principal Mr. Kanapathy Rajadurai the following day. The latter was critical of the LTTE and subsequent to his murder, the LTTE, which had been notably indifferent to Sivakadatcham’s killing, went all out to make him out to be their man. Many began to perceive the murders as tit for tat. In Jaffna however both murders came to be widely seen, after they ceased to be news, as the work of the LTTE.
The latter episode aided by Furuhovde’s speech left the Colombo-based media more ready to attribute killings to the EPDP speculatively, such as the following report in Xinhuanet (21 Oct.) cited in Lanka Academic: “A government official was gunned down in the northern town of Vavuniya, 255 Kms from the capital Colombo, around 5:30 p.m. local time (1130 GMT) Wednesday by suspected members of the Eelam People's Democratic Party (EPDP).” Such speculation was oblivious to the true position of the EPDP, whose defenceless cadres were being picked off at will throughout the North-East.
Uninhibited killing by the LTTE is founded on their total insistence that they are the sole representatives of the Tamil people with a monopoly over violence, which they feel free to inflict on all whom they regard traitors. To lose sight of this and to elevate the mistakenly survival-oriented, but callous, violence by threatened groups into a challenge to peace comparable with the LTTE’s actions, is to miss the wood for the trees. Whatever reservations we have about their political positions, we must accept the fact that the groups opposed to the LTTE have observed an unprecedented degree of restraint in the face of the LTTE’s relentless persecution. The failure to challenge the status of sole representatives attained by an extreme, maximalist group through sheer terror, which virtually eliminated the majority of elected leaders and terrorised the rest into abject sycophancy, is a glaring flaw in the present peace process.
In any other peace process groups with the LTTE’s ideological make up that allows no real compromise would have inhabited the margins of the political landscape as ‘spoilers’. The LTTE has been clever enough to exploit the fickleness of the Southern polity and, without any change of its ideology or terroristic methods, use the peace process to advance its goal of Eelam. The core of its propaganda is, as always, to belittle all other Tamils as persons who betrayed the cause of Eelam. The CFA was drafted without understanding the LTTE’s nature and the plight of the civilians caught up in this deadly game of peace.
To ignore this reality and accuse the LTTE’s opponents of being subversives and spoilers, in keeping with the assumptions and nuances of the current peace process, further justifies the LTTE’s targeting of unarmed political opponents. Moreover, the manner in which LTTE intelligence has used the ceasefire to infiltrate the Tamil opposition and all aspects of Tamil life through murder, temporary abduction and more sophisticated forms of intimidation should caution our judgments.
We mentioned the LTTE’s political cadre being pulled out of Jaffna and the intelligence wing being given a free hand. There were several indications that the LTTE had planned a killing spree in the North, particularly in Jaffna. Its aim as events revealed was to erase all traces of potential dissent, and terrorise the population into total submission. The principal targets for elimination included persons who had contact with opposition parties, particularly the EPDP, those using government funds in educational, social or religious work, and also persons who for quite innocuous reasons had contact with the Army.
The Army had long been in Jaffna and in many areas had developed a close rapport with the people. They visited shops and in places regularly called on civilians in their neighbourhood. This became a liability after the ceasefire, but many civilians found it difficult to tell soldiers not to come.
An important aspect of killing by the LTTE it is to maximise fear, to which purpose the LTTE would resort to the most sadistic violence as cutting up a family of three, including an 8-month-old infant, in Chavakacheri in January 2004 (Bull No.35). For the purpose of creating fear, those whom it could kill with little opposition are the so-called anti-social elements who do not conform to the LTTE’s utterly hypocritical puritan stipulations.
A recent notice by the LTTE front Sankilian Force forbade any contact with the Army, selling them vegetables or liquor, hiring out vehicles, any act of friendship such as exchanging gifts or passing on information. It added, “We have been observing such treacherous acts. Everyone knows how we punish treachery. We warn such offenders firmly and finally.” About this time student sources from Jaffna said that the LTTE had prepared a hit list numbering about 200 persons.
Looking through the lists, apart from the usual indications suggesting who was killed by the LTTE and who was not, there are several cases exemplifying the psychology of the LTTE. This is particularly reflected in Nitharsanam.com. When a person killed is associated with the LTTE, a photograph of the person when shown is a good photograph, and when the corpse is shown it is shown properly dressed with due solemnity. When the persons are victims of the LTTE, one is often shown the body bloodied, defeated and utterly humiliated: the back of a head with a gaping wound, a blood stained corpse sprawled in the dust; or a married parent who just dropped off his children in school fallen from his motorbike, helmet loose and congealed blood spreading on his shirt from the punctured chest.
On 24th September, two days before the EU ban, Nitharsanam started another practice coinciding with the onrush of killings. Less subtly, the news item signifying the killing of an opponent was frequently accompanied by the photograph of a menacing-looking revolver, whose barrel stared at the reader.
Both these come from psychological impulses the LTTE cannot resist. The sight of a middle-aged victim sprawled in gore, evokes no human pity from its camp. To LTTE supporters, it gives an exhilarating sense of power over their adversaries, which also loosens the purse strings of expatriate devotees. The abject humiliation and defeat in which the victim is depicted carries the message, ‘That is what you deserved and that is what you got’.
The revolver plays the same role, and puts the fear of Yama into the LTTE’s adversaries, telling them, ‘There is no escape for you. We always get our man’. The revolver, which began to make its appearance two days before the EU travel ban, was curtailed about 10 days later.
The exhilarating power over life and death is reflected in
the threats to Rajadurai, first in a leaflet signed by the LTTE front Ellalan
Force. To quote D.B.S. Jeyaraj (TamilWeek 16 Oct.05): “This was followed by the LTTE
Tamil website "Nitharsanam" operating in Oslo with Norwegian funds threatening him as an
The Nitharsanam also warned Rajadurai that his corpse would be found soon with a name board around his neck. Incidentally this writer and his photo has also been featured frequently in this website run by "Oothai (Dirty) Sethu" a man linked directly to LTTE intelligence chief Pottu Amman.” (e.g. Nitharsanam on 29th September described Jeyaraj as a tool of ‘Sinhalese majoritarians’ and emphasised the need to be watchful over him.)
Following Rajadurai’s murder, Nitharsanam openly gloated in its headline, “Douglas gang’s Jaffna Advisor K. Rajadurai shot dead.” In a number of murders, Nitharsanam and TamilNet by the manner in which they twist the facts, make a virtual admission of the LTTE’s agency in the affair: Unidentified gunmen shot dead the woman coming out of the army camp in the morning, The music teacher shot dead was an EPDP cadre, The university student (and driver) killed were involved in ‘illegal sand business’. Thus Rajadurai was publicly named in the hit list by Nitharsanam, and pledge or no pledge, it was carried out to prove that its terror allowed no evasion.
A phenomenon that accounts for a significant proportion of the killings is that of the double agent. The LTTE in these instances usually blames army intelligence and sometimes belatedly claims that the victim was their man. Inquiries on the ground fail to yield anything decisive. But one often gets the feedback that the victim is spoken of among the people as a ‘double agent’. Some instances are given below.
In many of these cases the persons are victims in part of an old callous trick of the Army’s. When they suspect someone in their beat of having links with the LTTE, they pay the man regular social visits. It is hard for a civilian to tell the Army to keep off, and so by default a relationship develops. Next, the LTTE starts getting angry and suspicious on its part. The man panics and tries hard to keep away from both parties, but cannot. He gets killed. As hard as one tries to find out, no one is sure. One hears it being said that he was a double agent! In such cases, we can make a fair guess that the LTTE was the killer. It strikes one as absurd when one hears that Pottu Amman’s man was having a shop close to a particular army camp for ages and the Army now suddenly took it upon itself to kill him.
An Army as an institution is fairly suspicious of people, and for many years now killing has not been the Sri Lankan Army’s modus operandi for dealing with middle class suspects in Jaffna. In one case below, there is no doubt that the LTTE killed the man, but the next day Nitharsanam claimed that he was a trustee of the LTTE mausoleum in Kopay! There are hints of this double agent syndrome in some other cases too. It is an angle worth looking at in Sivakadatcham’s case. Many of those in the LTTE’s hit list during the current killing spree fit the double agent motif. If a monitoring body cannot protect even such persons, it should start asking itself some serious questions. The first cases illustrate the double agent syndrome.
On 12th September, Jaffna’s political wing leader Illamparithy was interviewed from his new office in Pallai, where TamilNet said he had moved in response to the leadership’s decision to relocate its political cadres from government-controlled areas. The LTTE did remove its open (political and intelligence) presence from its political offices.
Illamparithy accused Sri Lankan Army intelligence of engineering ‘group clashes’ to destroy the unity of the Tamils, and appealed to the people to be vigilant against saboteurs. In the mid-1980s the LTTE leader said that the role of the political wing is to ‘explain’ the actions of the military wing. We shall see that their new role in the faltering CFA is to give public relations spins to the actions of the intelligence wing.
Nitharsanam claimed on 14th September, “Yesterday, within a space of 8 hours, two persons have been killed by the Government’s military intelligence. After the trustee of the Great Heroes Mausoleum was killed in Inuvil, Thavarajah Giritharan (sic) was killed in Nelliady in a most mysterious fashion as a suspected member of Tiger Intelligence. After the Liberation Tigers withdrew from Jaffna, the atrocities of the Army are increasingly being played out.”
Having said repeatedly that they had pulled out of Jaffna, the next day Nitharsanam published (quoting a Batticaloa correspondent!) the text of a statement by the Ellalan Force (another front for LTTE intelligence like the Sankilian Force) giving notice that the intelligence weasels had descended in force and the people were going to be under greater surveillance than before. It read: “The rising social degeneration in the Jaffna peninsula in recent times has caused everyone to bow their head in shame. We are in deep sorrow and our anger does boil over. In response to these degrading actions that bring scorn on the miraculous and beauteous land our Leadership is creating, we are determined to resort to very extreme measures…We will clearly identify the running dogs of the enemy that play with the future of our race and the thousands of lives sacrificed in its cause. We, who are descending into the field to take extreme measures against them, expect your cooperation. ”
13th September 2005: Balasingam Sivanesan (38): The victim, the owner of a fancy shop, father of 3 children and resident of Love Lane Uduvil, was abducted when he came home to lunch at 2.30 PM. The gunmen took him south to the paddy field, hidden by houses from the Manipay Road but conspicuous to residents at this noon hour, and shot him dead. Both TamilNet and Nitharsanam reports referred to the perpetrators as unidentified persons and are identical in substance. Both gave pictures of the man’s corpse lying in the field with his shirt bloodstained about the heart. There was no doubt that it was done by the LTTE.
Local talk was that the businessman had been a kind of double agent who was close to the LTTE and was also in contact with the Army. Later they said, he moved away from the LTTE and was perhaps perceived as being closer to the Army. It was the day after his death that Nitharsanam claimed he was their man in the form of trustee of their Great Heroes mausoleum.
13th September 2005: Thavarajah Girishanthan (19): The victim from Idaikkurichchi, Vadamaratchy, who worked in a garage about half a mile from Nelliady and went there early in the morning was found hanging dead from a beam. Local residents said that the deceased and a rival were interested in the same girl. The rival came with a gang and killed him. There has been an upsurge of gang violence in Jaffna because most gangs have been appropriated by the LTTE. On 9th October, Muthulingam Chandrakumar (24), a high spirited local youth from Alvai, Vadamaratchy, who had also been used in the LTTE’s unruly demonstrations was found in a vacant land assaulted after he was abducted and was hospitalised.
14th September 2005: Sabanatha Sarma (25): The young priest was shot dead by two LTTE women cadres who came on a motor cycle when he was returning home after finishing a pooja (worship session) at Anjaneyar Kovil in Maruthanamadam. The priest had a reputation for extra-marital flings, which is not a killing matter in any society or within the LTTE hierarchy. Another, perhaps more important aspect that would feature below is contacts with the Hindu Ministry and the armed forces. The victim is a father of two children and son of the chief priest more notably of Durgai Amman Temple, Tellippalai, among the most patronised temples in Jaffna, particularly also by Buddhist members of the armed forces. Nitharsanam, while referring to unidentified killers, showed the back of the victim’s head with a gaping puncture revealing red and white matter.
17th September 2005: Rathinam Sarvaloganathan (Nagulan) 45 years: The case assumes added interest because some quarters have accused the EPDP of murdering Nagulan, who was also a nephew (sister’s son) of the murdered Kopay Christian College Principal, Mr. Sivakadatcham. Nagulan from Valikamam East, Jaffna, had been a member of the EPRLF since the early 1980s and was detained for a time by the LTTE when it banned its rival groups in 1986. Following the Army taking control of Jaffna in 1996, Nagulan had served as an elected local council member for Valikamam East. As security deteriorated he moved with his family to Vavuniya and took up residence near the Buddhist temple, which was deemed relatively safe, where he lived with his wife and three children. For a living he farmed a piece of land, further south in the Sinhalese dominated Madawachchiya area. He had been for more than 15 years leading a completely civilian life. As a person he was helpful to those in need and was free in voicing his opinion when asked.
Nagulan was unmindful of his security. On 19th June for the murder anniversary of EPRLF leader Padmanabha, Nagulan was at the Vavuniya bus stand putting up posters. Though advised by friends not to go into Vavuniya town, he continued to go there. He went there on the evening of 17th September to purchase provisions and was shot dead by the LTTE while walking home, in front of Vavuniya High School, about 9.30 PM. Five bullets from a micro revolver were recovered from his body. An EPRLF colleague from Mannar had to go to Vavuniya and help his frightened family attend to formalities, collect his body and hold the funeral under police protection.
There had been at least one earlier attempt on his life. Once two LTTE men had come home as though to inquire about the purchase of a land, but Nagulan was out then. This is the modus operandi used in the killing of former Trincomalee mayor Sooriyamoorthy. Five days before Nagulan was killed he noticed a man monitoring him while he was at a bar. Leading persons who know the scene in Vavuniya are in no doubt that the LTTE is responsible for all killings there under the ceasefire.
The BBC Tamil Service reported that Nagulan's corpse was identified by his army identity card. While this claim gives the impression that Nagulan worked secretively for the Army, what was not mentioned was the fact that the Army had issued identity cards to all residents of Vavuniya which they were meant to carry and many continued to use it as a means of identification. The Uthayan published in Jaffna drew attention to the fact that there was liquor among his provisions. Two days later (19th) Yoganadarajah Sellathurai (45), an ex-PLOTE cadre, was shot dead in Pattakadu, Vavuniya, also with a 9mm micro-pistol.
How isolated such families could get is thus illustrated by the manner in which the murder was covered by two prominent outlets in the Tamil media that had kowtowed to the LTTE, further confirming that it was the LTTE that had killed him. We will further indicate below why the EPDP could be ruled out. Yet it played an indirect role in his death.
Suresh Premachandran splitting off into the LTTE camp had weakened the EPRLF and Vavuniya was left without a strong leader. The EPDP with its ambition of being the sole alternative to the sole representatives created a scene earlier this year by forcibly taking over the EPRLF office in Vavuniya and replacing the late Padmanabha’s picture with Devananda’s. Nagulan who had been leading a low-key existence in Vavuniya came out to confront the EPDP. EPRLF’s Sivam who had been lying low in Mannar brought the party vehicle from Colombo and accompanied by Nagulan went about attending to legal formalities contesting the EPDP’s takeover of their office. The result was to expose both, particularly Nagulan, to the LTTE as active supporters of the EPRLF.
There is also another circumstance adduced to make a case against the EPDP for Nagulan’s murder, relating to the early 1990s. This pertains to the period when Devananda and his deputy Ramesh having broken away from the EPRLF in 1987 to form the EPDP, were helping the Premadasa government with security operations in Colombo, exercising powers of detention and torture. In 1993 Ramesh arrested Nagulan and another EPRLF member Saravanan in Colombo because of an old grudge and tortured them, leaving Saravanan permanently handicapped. Ramesh is now dead (killed in Colombo, ostensibly on the order of Devananda). Devananda knew about it but did not interfere. The evidence to do with the current situation however speaks otherwise.
27th September 2005: Leelawathy Jeyaraja (alias Shanthy), 37 years: This mother of 4 children was shot dead by the LTTE near her home in Pommaiveli, Jaffna Town, when she went to the well to draw water early in the morning. In a bid to justify the killing, TamilNet and Nitharsanam claimed that she was coming out of an army camp (at 6.30 AM, when Jaffna and the army camp are very much alive!) when accosted by two masked men on a motorcycle, her killers (the witnesses?). Both said that she was chased and shot as she attempted to enter her house. Leelavathy Jeyaraja was in fact honoured as the mother in a Great Hero’s Family. A son had reportedly died in the LTTE and a daughter was in the LTTE. Leelawathy’s nephew, an ex-PLOTE man, was killed by the LTTE in Nallur in early May. Owing to poverty, she is reported to have got into the business of illicit liquor, where many of her customers were locals and policemen. She was reportedly warned by the LTTE. The claim that she was coming out of an army camp as claimed by the LTTE media, is according to local sources, totally untrue.
30th September 2005: Yogakumar Krishnapillai (38): The victim was killed by two gunmen in front of Hatton National Bank in Central Road, Batticaloa, while distributing the LTTE paper Eelanatham at 7.30 AM. On 18th October, the Police arrested two PLOTE men over the shooting of another man whose two sons were in the LTTE, also in Puliantivu. However, our sources hold the Karuna Group that is not permanently in town to be the chief suspects in this instance. Though there is a heavy presence of the security forces, the LTTE has also operated in the area with significant freedom. On 14th September, LTTE men who had established a vantage point in a neighbouring house threw a bomb at the toilet at the back of the army camp, also in Puliantivu, at 6.30 AM, killing Sivaguru Navaratnarajah, alias Kanthy (38), a former EPRLF member, later in the group of Razik (Muthulingam Ganeshakumar) and then the regular army. The Razik Group, which is now part of the Sri Lankan Army, is commanded by a Sinhalese captain. According to regulations, when they go out they must go as unarmed civilians and they seldom go out unescorted. The security forces too have been taking regular casualties from the LTTE and in instances have stopped the distribution of Eelanatham. How they calibrate their actions is a question without a simple answer, and probably has many individual variations.
3rd October 2005: Krishnan Parameswaran (40): This married music teacher at Our Lady of Refuge School, Jaffna, and native of Varani was shot dead by the LTTE in Anaikkottai, near Jaffna at 7.00 AM after having dropped off his wife. He had about five brothers and was from a depressed class family that came up through success in education. The brothers were all involved in social work aimed at community upliftment. Douglas Devananda channelled government money through local initiatives for projects such as building community centres. In the peace process environment, the LTTE resented it more strongly. It stopped their work and wanted Parameswaran to come to them for questioning. Parameswaran got frightened and sought shelter with the EPDP. He was first in the Chavakacheri and then the Jaffna office. Being knowledgeable, his conversation impressed visitors.
During this period he was out of work. Since he could not continue he got his brother employed by the University of Jaffna to talk to the LTTE. The brother received an assurance that he could lead a normal life unharmed. Devananda is believed to have helped him to get reinstated in his teaching job. The LTTE may have been suspicious that he was contributing to the EPDP’s radio programme and had reportedly been warned him. Nitharsanam made its case by describing the wife of the deceased as a teacher at the Sinhalese High School. TamilNet cleverly headlined the item EPDP cadre shot dead in Jaffna and said in its story that ‘EPDP sources in Jaffna have claimed that Mr. Krishnan was an EPDP cadre’. EPDP News said incorrectly that Paramewaran was a member of the EPDP. Nitharsanam showed two pictures of the man dressed in a sarong and wearing a helmet, fallen face downwards beside his motorcycle on a dust heap on the roadside. One gave a view of his heel and back, showing the inanimate body shapelessly sprawled.
3rd October 2005: Karthikesu Senthoorchelvan (22): This 2nd year commerce student at the University of Jaffna and native of Varani was killed about 4.30 AM in Kudatthanai by an LTTE gang led by the notorious Eeswaran, while supervising the carrying of sand from Manalkadu for the construction of a house for his aged parents with whom he lived. He had not paid the tax imposed by the LTTE for each load of sand. His body (with that of his unnamed driver according to TamilNet) was then burnt with the vehicle. Eeswaran has been identified as the killer of EPRLF leader Subathiran and also SSP Charles Wijewardene who was mutilated. Other reports said that the LTTE wanted to borrow the vehicle the deceased was using and he refused saying that he was using it, and also that he resisted routine demands the LTTE made on university students. When the news of the killing reached Jaffna University, the students broadcast funeral music over loudspeakers. The LTTE intervened and stopped it half an hour later, reportedly claiming that the shooting was a mistake. TamilNet claimed that according to civilian sources the victim was involved in ‘illegal sand business’ and that the Police had not established a motive for the killing. Nitharsanam, which first reported the killing to be one of two in 24 hours, the other being Parameswaran’s, described Senthoorchelvan as an unidentified labourer loading sand and that his body had been burnt. In a subsequent report it gave his name and said that according to the Police he was shot when loading sand illegally. It added that he was killed by unknown persons for loading sand contrary to instructions from the Police! Evidently, the Sri Lankan Police is enforcing LTTE tax regulations? One is reminded of Mahatma Gandhi’s salt march, which throws light on the kind of freedom the Tamils are allowed by their liberators.
4th October 2005: Rajaratnam Rajavinothan (30): Rajavinothan was shot dead when he left his video shop in Dutch Road, Uduvil at 9.00 PM. The victim had earlier, before the ceasefire, been LTTE area leader for Uduvil. He then ostensibly left the LTTE and opened a video shop near the army camp. Many believe that he worked for LTTE intelligence, which had set him up. His shop was frequented by both LTTE intelligence and the Army. One version holds that Military Intelligence killed him. The other holds that Rajavinothan had become a double agent and the LTTE had warned him before killing him. In reporting it, Nitharsanam virtually reported it as an LTTE job. It showed a barrel held by a hazy hand pointing at the reader, and said that unidentified persons shot him and escaped on a motorcycle.
Jaffna political leader Illamparithy told the SLMM on 10th October (TamilNet) that they had evidence from local residents confirming the involvement in the killing of Mahes Banda from Sri Lanka Military Intelligence. This was taking a sweeping shot. Mahes Banda was an army officer known in Uduvil in the late 1990s and was described as a tough man. He is still reportedly around Jaffna working for Military Intelligence. Moreover, local opinion though uncertain inclines towards the LTTE’s culpability. A number of residents with whom the Army had social or other dealings took no chances and packed off to Colombo. This is another instance of the double agent syndrome we described earlier.
4th October 2005: Seenimohamadu Wahab (34): The victim, a trader, was shot dead in Kalmunai by LTTE men who came on a motorcycle. His companion Mohamdu Janool was injured. The deceased was reportedly a supporter of the Muslim politician Athaullah who organised a well-attended meeting in Oluvil for SLFP presidential candidate Mahinda Rajapakse.
7th October: Kanthasamy Senthilkumaran (44): The victim, a trustee of Colombogam Pilliayar Temple near Jaffna town was shot dead while returning home on his motorcycle after dropping his children in school. His crime as described by TamilNet was that he had been employed by the Hindu Affairs ministry under the previous (pro-LTTE) UNP minister Mr. Maheswaran and continued in what was like any other government job under Mr. Devananda. He fell victim when he visited his family in Jaffna for the weekend. Nitharsanam, which simply said he was shot dead, gave a picture of the deceased lying in a pool of blood on the road chest down, his helmet on, face to a side and his feet touching the motorcycle.
The following day the LTTE abducted Swami Rajakumar, attacked him and left him injured in Inuvil, after which the Police admitted him to hospital. Two days later on 10th October the LTTE vandalised Swami Rajkumar’s Sri Gayathri Kamakodi spiritual refuge in Meesalai.
TamilNet reported: “The Spiritual Refuge was constructed with funding from Eelam Peoples' Democratic Party (EPDP) leader Mr Douglas Devananda'a Ministry at a cost of Rs 15 lakhs, sources said. Swami Rajkumar recently had organized a function honouring Mr Devananda's contribution to the Spiritual Refuge.”
18th October 2005: Kathirkamathamby Velupillai (49): Velupillai, who worked in a boutique near the Batticaloa Post Office was shot and admitted to hospital with injuries. Based on his identification, the Police arrested Arafat and Sivalingam from the nearby PLOTE office. Velupillai’s two sons were members of the LTTE. In an apparently unconnected incident, Segar from the PLOTE office died of a heart attack the same day.
20th October 2005: Perera Veerasingam (53): Veerasingam who was a village headman (GS) in Kankankulam, Vavuniya Dist., was shot dead near Kallar Bridge, near Cheddikulam at 5.15 PM by two gunmen who came on a motorcycle. He was riding back home to Vairavapuliyankulam, Vavuniya, on his motorcycle after finishing his duties. This was the case the report reproduced in Lanka Academic attributed to the EPDP, probably influenced by the TamilNet report that the deceased ‘was threatened by the paramilitary cadres belonging to Eelam Peoples Democratic Party (EPDP) two months ago, civilian sources said’. The latter expression was reproduced verbatim on its web site by the TELO, now a servile partner of he LTTE, even though it has independent sources in the area. Nitharsanam went one step further and said that the killers were the EPDP. We are assured by local sources that this allegation is total fiction and it was the LTTE that killed the man. The EPDP simply cannot function in that area from which all those politically opposed to the LTTE have fled and LTTE intelligence aided by TELO is thick on the ground. All those killed around Vavuniya, several during this period, were connected to PLOTE, EPDP or EPRLF. Members of these groups in the area and their families live under such acute intimidation from the LTTE that senior leaders have been strongly advised by trusted members not to visit these offices.
In the days leading to the killing of the principals, the EPDP’s vehicle was bombed outside its Thinamurasu newspaper office in Colombo on 6th October. The same day its member Kingsley Weeraratne (34), father of 2, was shot dead in the Palayootru suburb of Trincomalee. On 11th October, its member Sivalingam Vilvarajah (35) of Selvanayakapuram, Trincomalee, and father of 4 was abducted by the LTTE, tortured and killed. On the evening of the previous day (10th) Abubakar Sahabdeen (41) of Main Street, Pottuvil, father of 7 and EPDP member was shot and killed by the LTTE. This gives some idea of the real position of parties opposed to the LTTE. The murder of Veerasingam took place more than 10 miles from Vavuniya town where there is no possibility of the EPDP moving about.
The distortions regarding Veerasingam’s case in the LTTE media should alert us to something deeper. According to local sources Veerasingam had approached the Vavuniya Kacheri trying to defer a transfer order to an LTTE controlled area and had been severely warned by them. From our sources the murder has much to do with the LTTE’s programme to appropriate the government administration. There being government controlled areas and LTTE controlled areas in the North, the LTTE by using its virtual control of the District Administrations or Kacheris could dictate transfers and get the lower level officials moved around, monitored and ensure they work the way they want them to work.
Controlling village headmen (GSs) is also to control the people. The government’s social welfare measures, ration cards, identity cards and voters’ lists are all routed through the headman. From the 1990s the LTTE has used the headmen under its control to police the people, force them to attend demonstrations, perform compulsory military service as auxiliaries, impose punitive cuts of rations, fiddle government aid and report on those coming in and going out. Veerasingam had no political connections. The LTTE evidently would not allow him to set a precedent to headmen who disliked taking instructions from them. The Sri Lanka government may pay them, but whoever wished to live must understand that there is only one ‘who must be obeyed’. The stakes are too high.
Our sources said that Veerasingam had several years ago served in an LTTE-controlled area. There were no accusations of corruption against him. He was quite well to do and had sent his wife and children abroad, very likely to Canada, and was planning to join them in the not-too-distant future. This was perhaps one reason why he was reluctant to move to an LTTE-controlled area, which would have resulted in complications.
The cases above exemplify the pattern of killings. Where the LTTE is concerned, it is the “political work” for which the CFA gave them the green light. The number of circumstances where people can fall fatally foul of the LTTE is so alarmingly high that it is hardly possible to play safe. It is government money that runs all public services in the LTTE-controlled areas. But for a principal in Jaffna to accept government money for school improvement, or for a Hindu priest or trustee to have dealings with EPDP minister Douglas Devananda’s Hindu Ministry to improve religious services, earns the wrath of the LTTE. We now place in context the fate of the two school principals.
A healthy peace process should enable people to be honest with themselves, rather than spend their life paying lip service to a fascist cause and pander to its rituals that are calculated to entrap the whole society. Over the last three years of the peace process the lives of people have become less free and any trace of dissent more deadly. Once the fascists habitually take the obeisance of the people for granted, any tendency to dissent becomes absolutely intolerable. We think this was an important circumstance governing the fate of the two principals.
Both of them made compromises to survive under the LTTE. In making the case of tit for tat in the killing of the two principals, we argue that relatively minor differences have been exaggerated to make out that the first victim, Sivakadatcham, was very pro-LTTE and the second, Rajadurai, was anti-LTTE. Neither was suicidal, and both were careful in dealing with the LTTE, as were all government officers from GAs to DSs to village headmen (GSs), and from principals to teachers. They all attended LTTE functions when ordered to do so.
Unlike other categories, the principals faced a peculiar dilemma. The LTTE came in regularly to disturb the school routine and call out children for activities intended for recruitment. The parents looked to the principals and teachers to protect their children. What stand does a principal take when his own life is under threat? The last thing a principal wants to be is to play the LTTE’s servile wolf in the sheep pen.
In the early days of the peace process the Hartley College principal, Mr. Sripathy, tried to resist the LTTE’s incursions. On 19th September 2002, LTTE’s Jaffna political commissar Illamparithy called a meeting of principals in Vadamaratchy and said in a clear reference to Sripathy, “When rice shoots appear in the field they are indistinguishable from weeds. In time the weeds put forth flowers when they are clearly identifiable. Then comes the time to pluck them out”. Ilamparithy then reminded the principals not to have illusions that the MoU would deter them from taking action against undesirable persons (Bulletin No.30). Two days later, the LTTE abducted Sripathy from home in the night and beat him up at a cemetery. The bleeding principal was left to find his way home and to hospital. Thus notice was given to all principals.
Rajadurai apparently had more room to manoeuvre, although he had no illusions after the LTTE’s killing of St. John’s College principal Anandarajah in 1985 and the more recent fate of the Hartley College principal. Founded by the Methodist missionaries, Central College was one of Jaffna’s leading schools with a large number of old boys holding prestigious positions in Sri Lanka and abroad. He had recently returned from a successful world tour obtaining welcome support for school development.
Rajadurai’s brother Nadarajah played a leading role in building up the Palmyrah Development Board. Central College in 1996 was dilapidated by the effects of war and its environment and the old chapel was rubble. Rajadurai occupied the principal’s house on Vembady Road which was unsuitable for habitation and literally supervised the rebuilding of the school brick by brick and beam by beam to recapture much of its old splendour. His prestige became enormous. He earned the gratitude of other schools by making facilities at Central, such as the computer centre, available for the use of those that lacked them.
Like the older generation of TULF supporters and having progressive impulses, Rajadurai hated the LTTE. This was something of an open secret giving his friends considerable anxiety. Yet Rajadurai was cautious. For example when the LTTE sent virtual instructions to principals among others to attend the book release for Anton Balasingam’s ‘War and Peace’ at Jaffna University and purchase a copy, Rajadurai complied. Rajadurai, like Anandarajah, was appointed to the Council of the University of Jaffna during a transitional period of about 6 months and the LTTE first tried to stop it, but it was later not extended as is routinely done when a council’s term ends.
On the matter of the LTTE’s interference with the school routine, Rajadurai took his stand. He would not stand in the way of the LTTE, but when the LTTE asked him to tell the children to go whenever the LTTE summoned them, he refused. He declined to be the wolf in the sheep pen with his charges. The school was the recipient of government money channelled by Douglas Devananda, which too annoyed the LTTE. A short time before his death, after a direct threat was made to his life in the Norway based Nitharsanam.com, he went to Killinochchi. He explained his position regarding Devananda as dictated by the needs of education, to Jaffna political commissar Illamparithy and the LTTE’s director of education for Jaffna, Arul Master. Nearly all sources agree that Arul Master spoke to the LTTE leader and assured Rajadurai that there was no danger to his life.
Rajadurai was killed in the afternoon of 12th October in view of his students by gunmen, after riding the short distance from Central College to Veerasingam Hall on his motorbike to participate in pooja worship honouring Saraswathy, the Goddess of Learning. There was no doubt that the killers were from the LTTE. Even as Jaffna’s Political commissar accused the Army and EPDP of killing both principals, Nitharsanam.com gloated that the Douglas gang’s Jaffna adviser had been shot dead. The students and all those who held Rajaduai in high esteem as a great man, and an irreplaceable asset to education in Jaffna, rose in spontaneous protest that engulfed the City of Jaffna to the LTTE’s dismay.
Mr. Sivakadatcham as principal of Kopay Christian College, did not have the prestige and backing from influential former students that Rajaduai had. Moreover he had a past where he was closely identified with the EPRLF, as with his nephew Nagulan, which the LTTE banned in 1986 and then decimated, beginning with a massacre of prisoners in March 1987. This would have pushed Sivakadatcham to more compromises than Rajadurai for his survival. But those who knew him testify that he was a man to speak his mind out frankly when confronted with something that was obviously wrong.
Being a man involved in social work, the LTTE got him to work for them. Unlike many other public persons who work for the LTTE, Sivakadatcham in his speeches came across as moderate and never intemperate.
Sivakadatcham, father of 3 children, was killed on the 11th of October by gunmen who came home and called him out at 8.30 PM while he was watching television with his wife and daughter of 8. His home was about half a mile along the Manipay Road from Kopay Junction. TamilNet was at some loss when reporting the murder. While titling its piece ‘Tamil Activist Shot Dead in Jaffna’, its report simply said, “Two gunmen who approached Mr. Sivakadadcham's residence in Kopay North shot at him and fled from the scene on a motorbike”. In dark lettering it described him as the Kopay Division organiser of the Tamil Resurgence Task Force, the sort of job that the LTTE would force on any rural village headman or principal.
There was spontaneous student protest the next day, but nothing in which the LTTE actively participated. For a Jaffna where the LTTE habitually brought out street gangs, which it controlled, and instigated tyre burning, stone throwing at the Army and enforced stoppages over, for example, an army vehicle accidentally knocking down a civilian or a scuffle between a soldier and an LTTE cadre at a sentry point; there was so little to speak of.
This contrasts with the LTTE’s instigation of violence against the Army in Puttur East on 28th October over an incident at a house. Based on local testimony the material facts are that a man entered the compound of a family where the mother lived with 3 daughters at 3.00 AM. The women screamed, mainly suspecting the man to be a robber, and the man ran in the general direction of the army camp. There was no clear indication whether or not the man entered the army camp. The LTTE mobilised the people against the Army insinuating attempted rape. In the afternoon some members of the crowd threw grenades supplied by the LTTE at the Army and one civilian was killed when the Army fired back.
There was the good part of 24 hours between Sivakadatcham’s murder and Rajadurai’s that followed. But there was next to no sound of protest from the ‘public organisations’ and NGO consortia that issue strong statements at a signal from the LTTE as they did when journalist Nimalrajan was killed by the EPDP in 2000.
Another indication that the LTTE was not involved in the student protest in Kopay against Sivakadatcham’s murder came from the TamilNet report, which quoted a student spokesman “We demand urgent investigation into our principal’s murder and the perpetrators of the crime identified. Until then we will continue our protest.” The demand was the correct one, devoid of rhetorical accusations against the Army or the EPDP. The report contained a defensive note from students: The leaders of the protesting students assured this was neither a "strike action”, nor a call for "Shut-Shop”. For whom was that assurance?
The TamilNet report of the Kopay protest, which appeared in the afternoon at 4.44 PM local time, had no real reference to the students blaming the Army. Very likely based on a response to a leading question from its reporter, TamilNet said, “They pointed out that there was a team of Sri Lankan army troopers visiting their school during school hours looking for their principal in his absence before he was gunned down in the evening at his residence.”
The Nitharsanam.com report, which repeated the students’ demand for an investigation said nothing about the students accusing anyone. It shows that there was real confusion among LTTE supporters and even among the LTTE cadres about the identity of Sivakadatcham’s killers. All assumed that it was the work of LTTE. A spin suggesting something entirely different came after the LTTE got into the act, and was given in the Jaffna daily Uthayan the next morning, 13th, the day after Rajadurai was killed. The report claimed that the students accused Military Intelligence of the murder.
Reports from the ground confirmed that the LTTE played no role in the student protest by Christian College students the morning after their principal was killed. The LTTE started mobilising students in protest action (e.g. at Nachchimar Kovil and Nelliady junctions) only in the evening of 12th October, after they had killed the Central College principal, this time provoking a massive unforeseen protest. The LTTE taking over the funeral arrangements for Sivakadatcham, getting their front oganisations to move in, and claiming the deceased to be their man, gave the appearance of trying to upstage the student protests that had begun spontaneously, particularly over Rajadurai’s murder. This was clear in the call for a strike until 19th October by the University Students’ Front, an LTTE front, which accused the Army of killing educationists. This call, which came after Rajadurai was killed, did not mention his name at all, but eulogised Sivakadatcham.
The sequence of reports in the LTTE media suggest that even among the local LTTE there was the assumption that Sivakadatcham was killed by their organisation. Later the Jaffna district political leadership of the LTTE granted him the title of ‘Nattupattalar’ or ‘Lover of the Country’ (translated by TamilNet as Tamil National Patriot). Other well-known recipients of titles were Sivaram, Kumar Ponnampalam and Prof. Eliezer, who were awarded the title of ‘Supremely Great Man’ by the “Supreme Leader”. The LTTE Jaffna political wing’s citation referred to Sivakadatcham as president of the Kopay Region Resurgence Consortium, killed by “Intelligence operatives of the Sri Lanka Army (SLA) and traitors from Eelam People Democratic Party (EPDP).”
One earlier report in TamilNet referring to Sivakadatcham is purely local in character. On 24th December 2003, Sivakadatcham was called to speak at the renovated Tiger mausoleum in Kopay. Apart from that he was being a good principal working with GTZ to renovate school buildings. No one who met him came away with the impression that he was a Tiger ideologue. He was pleasant and cooperative in anything that raised the school’s standing. But remained essentially a local man.
Following his murder attention was drawn in LTTE reports to Sivakadatcham having organised the Tamil Women’s Resurgence Day events that were held in Kopay on Monday (10th October), the death anniversary of 2nd Lt. Malathy. Nitharsanam (4th Oct.) reported a meeting of the Tamil Resurgence Committee for Kopay a week before the Malathy celebration on 10th October, but did not mention Sivakadatcham or any office bearer. LTTE committees are not made of people who decide. Theirs is only to say yes to the functionary present.
Nitharsanam reporting on the Malathy observance in Killinochchi said that those attending (compulsorily) included schoolgirls and boys, government servants and NGO persons. It also pictured a member of the World Food Programme delegation at the observance.
This was another of those Tiger anniversaries which people are compelled to attend or preside over in village after village, week after week, to the point of mental exhaustion. There is nothing remarkable about Sivakadatcham presiding over one such observance in Kopay.
The point is that we do not find anything other than what is local and commonplace in Sivakadatcham’s activities. He was a minor figure. Why any of the parties, EPDP, Army or for that matter the LTTE, should target him is not clear.
If the idea was to hit at Pongu Thamil there was far bigger fish in plenty including university lecturers, vice chancellors, GAs, priests, moulavis and even Buddhist monks. There are for that matter dignitaries, an MP and a vice principal, to name two, who from Pongu platforms have threatened to make fertiliser of the 40 000 soldiers in Jaffna. Sivakadatcham was not characterised by such excess.
Quite apart from that Pongu Thamil has bankrupted itself and one of its leading lights, a university lecturer, was charged in court with abusing a 13-year-old domestic help. The Norway-based LTTE intelligence linked web site Nitharsanam (9th Sept.05 and later removed) accused the child of having had longstanding sexual relations with three men (on the basis of medical evidence!). Nitharsanam was apologising for an earlier routine report following local media where it said that the distressed girl had been trying to commit suicide. The new report accused the ‘treacherous’ EPDP of having planted the little Jezebel on the Pongu Thamil dignitary with the connivance of Indian intelligence!
We may not be able to say anything definite about the fate of Sivakadatcham, but we could say something significant about how the LTTE apparatus functions and the tensions and strains within it. In the first place, after he was killed, the LTTE functionaries usually dealing with Jaffna assumed that he was their victim and did not react to it. They perhaps lacked communication with the intelligence wing who would have known who killed whom.
It was after Rajadurai was killed that the Jaffna political wing woke up to a crisis on their hands. There was spontaneous massive student protest and it was directed against the LTTE. It was then that the LTTE moved to mobilise its front organisations in a bid to overwhelm and subdue the protest for Rajadurai. Duly, Sivakadatcham was awarded a title to make him look important to the LTTE. But the title and the manner of its award reveal a very grudging and deceptive conduct on the part of the LTTE.
How the award of the title was announced in the various outlets controlled by the LTTE tells an interesting story. TamilNet and Uthayan disguised the fact that the title originated from the Jaffna political wing and apparently took their cue from the latter. TamilNet stated that the award of the title ‘was revealed in a statement issued by the LTTE Jaffna district political secretariat located in LTTE held Pallai division in Jaffna district’ and followed this with the statement. Uthayan in a stronger variation said that the title was awarded by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. A casual reader would have assumed that the title came from the Supreme Leader.
Nitharsanam.com, which is controlled by the LTTE’s intelligence wing, referring to Sivakadatcham as secretary to the Kopay division Tamil Resurgence Movement, gave a hint of pique in the manner of its announcement. It prefaced the award statement that followed with: “The Jaffna District Political Wing of the LTTE honoured [Sivakadatcham] by awarding him the title of ‘Nattupattalar’”. It made it clear that the title was not from the Leader, intelligence head Pottu Amman or even from poor Thamil Chelvan who heads the political wing, but rather from Illamparithy, a district subordinate of Thamil Chelvan having little authority, who occupied the tragic seat of Thileepan.
The award of the title by Illamparithy, rather than the Leader, is inexplicable. A well-known holder of the title was Prabhakaran’s father in law, Erambu Master, who died on 23rd February 2005, who received it while living. Another instance confirms that it was Prabhakaran, as Head of State, who awards titles.
A person who received the title of ‘Nattupattalar’ or ‘Tamil National Patriot’ posthumously was Selliah Ratnam, former AGA, Jaffna, and retired government bureaucrat who had worked for the LTTE peace secretariat. TamilNet quoted Jaffna political leader Illamparithy saying in Ratnam’s funeral oration in Velanai on 19th August 2004, “Our national leader has conferred the title 'Tamil national patriot' on him taking into consideration the vital role he played in the Tamil liberation struggle…”
Why the LTTE leader did not want to commit his organisation as a whole to honour Sivakadatcham is an intriguing question.
It was through the mediation of Jaffna politial wing head Illamparithy that Jaffna education secretary Arul Master contacted the Leader and assured Rajadurai of his safety. His murder was a slap in the face to them. We reliably learn the Arul Master wrote an appreciation for Rajadurai and published it in the Uthayan under the name of K. Sivapatham. These are tokens of disquiet within the rigid organisation over Pottu Amman’s intelligence wing becoming all-powerful.
We do know for a fact that the LTTE is on a planned and focused killing spree. But no amount of argument based on circumstantial factors would carry a convincing conclusion as to who killed Sivakadatcham. What do we know from the ground that may throw light on this matter? The answer is little so far and there is so much fear. There are a few things we could say on the basis of the foregoing and inconclusive local information:
(i) Initially, an impression in Sivakadatcham’s family circle was that the LTTE had killed him. A reason for this is that when the killers who came on a motorcycle called him out, he said ‘Vaaran thamby’ (‘Coming sonny’) and went out promptly indicating he knew them. The LTTE had been meeting him in connection with local ceremonies.
(ii) Normally well-informed sources in Jaffna told us that Sivakadatcham had told his LTTE contacts recently that they must stop killings and curb their unruly behaviour.
(iii) The tit for tat theory that the Central College principal was killed to avenge the killing of Sivakadatcham gained credence among some circles after the LTTE gave publicity to Sivakadatcham variously as president, secretary or organiser of the Tamil Resurgence Movement for Kopay and gave him an award.
(iv) Although it was widely reported that Sivakadatcham was killed by Military Intelligence aided by the EPDP, the general perception among the people in Jaffna now is that both killings were done by the LTTE, as they do not believe that the EPDP has the capacity to move out of town in the nights and carry out killings of this nature and, moreover, in recent times almost all the killings in Jaffna were carried out by the LTTE. Illamparithy’s award to Sivakadatcham they now believe, was to cover-up.
(v) There is no evidence that Sivakadadcham did anything openly to earn the displeasure of the LTTE. Whether the LTTE had any doubts about him owing to his EPRLF background or whether the Army made regular visits to the school that would have made the LTTE suspicious of him, we do not know at present.
(vi) Having kept aloof after he was killed, the LTTE raised Sivakadatcham’s profile as an afterthought with a counterfeit award. This strongly suggests that the LTTE’s Jaffna political wing was confused and worked on the presumption that the LTTE did the killing.
(vii) If Military Intelligence were behind the killing with the support of a Tamil party or other Tamils youths in its service, it was because Sivakadatcham with his commonplace opportunism was a soft rather than a significant target.
That is all our present knowledge would enable us to say. No one can walk into Jaffna and conduct a free inquiry. The truth will come out in its time. For the present we will do well to concentrate on the broader picture. This would be to acknowledge the reality of the LTTE’s killing spree and what it means, that a large amount of confusion is being sown to confuse the issue of accountability, and recognise the need for a machinery to carry out investigations that are not being done.
The protesters that spontaneously spilled onto the streets after the killing of the principals caught the LTTE by surprise. Their killing spree had gone on so long without any meaningful resistance. Societies could tolerate prolonged repression if there is some promise of better times in the foreseeable future. But all that the people have seen in 19 years of LTTE monopoly is repression, destruction and murder and more repression, destruction and murder. A number of opportunities for peace with dignity have been spurned. An organisation depleted in quality leaders is cemented by terror within, signalled by the rise of the intelligence wing.
In demonstration of what the future offers, people are being killed for novel reasons as taking sea sand without permission, doing social work using government money channelled through a Tamil minister, for being a principal who does his job well and even farmers badly in need of relief are being threatened with death for selling vegetables to the Army – a treacherous act.
It would somehow be brought home to members of the enfeebled political wing, that they cannot hope to have legitimacy among the people through continuous murder and destruction of irreplaceable assets, such as good principals and teachers.
With the political wing losing control of the situation, the intelligence wing inevitably moved in to take charge directly. Their first task was to defuse the protests. The Central College vice principal and the head boy were contacted and told to keep the funeral quiet and modest. But events had moved on their own momentum and the protests continued. Students from Central College helped by other schools blocked Hospital Road at Vembady Junction. Intelligence cadres on motorcycles tried to bully their way through, but were not allowed. The intelligence men were incensed when the school children allowed through a group of soldiers mounted on motorcycles. The LTTE which had never thought twice about closing schools, killing educationists or throwing out the entire population of the Jaffna peninsula, put out statements that the protests must not continue after the 19th since they would affect the education of students.
From the 19th there was a new kind of intelligence operation in Jaffna. Masked LTTE men on motorcycles began assaulting persons gathered on roadsides and chasing them. This lasted several days. While the immediate provocation may be the student protests, one could also look at these as a continuation of the killing spree and threats against farmers selling vegetables to the Army. Locals have suggested that it is a move to keep roads clear during the nights for logistical movements. The rhetoric of the peace process from the start has been to make fertiliser of the 40 000 soldiers in Jaffna. Current developments with the political wing being completely overshadowed point to something menacing in the air.
The LTTE is organisationally weak and dependent on killers from its intelligence wing to maintain control within and without. It is patently a parody of a liberation movement. Yet it holds governments and millions of Tamils to ransom. While it has nothing to offer in the way of stability or prosperity, its strength is that it articulates a common perception shared by most Tamils on one matter – the obduracy and unreasonableness of the Sri Lankan state and the Sinhalese polity. The basis for such a perception is not far to seek. Take for example the failure of justice in the case of the Bindunuwewa victims and how the Supreme Court has functioned in this instance (Part I of Special Report No.19 and references to Alan Keenan’s work). A political settlement that would open a new chapter in Sri Lankan history has evaded us.
In this regard the coming presidential election places everyone in a difficult position, both people in this country and those far afield. The UNP candidate Ranil Wickremasinghe has long been openly contemptuous of human rights and democracy and would happily countenance any extent of killing in the North-East as long as it does not challenge his power in the South. The UPFA candidate Mahinda Rajapakse has made alliances pushing him into the kind of rhetoric that would make it difficult for him to move towards a political solution along federal lines, which has been verbally the norm for both the main parties since the 1994 presidential election.
Rajapakse’s manifesto promises to safeguard the Unitary State and he has been quoted speaking dismissively of the notions of a Tamil Homeland and the Right to Self Determination. It would be wrong to look for absolute or prescriptive meanings in these notions and it may be possible to hammer out a solution that could allay the fears of those who want a unitary state and those who desire a federal state. But these notions of homeland and right-to- self-determination encompass ideas and guidelines for a settlement that have emerged from decades of experience in a variety of situations around the world, and the particular context of Sri Lanka, that should inform our quest. They also form the mental furniture of three generations of fairly reasonable Tamils in search of a settlement.
What we fear is the rhetoric of the dismissive approach, which is calculated to appeal to that segment of the Sinhalese electorate that constantly asks without desiring an answer, “We are mystified, come, explain to us what this Tamil problem is all about.” To them the history of ideologically inspired violence directed against the Tamils, an experience which guided their perceptions, does not exist. ‘Explain the Tamil problem’ approach was largely that of a group of persons who needed to be satisfied with writing newspaper articles. Rajapakse has now brought it back to the mainstream. If he were elected, he would begin his presidency in the golden jubilee year of Sinhala Only, as though Lanka awakes ostrich-like to relive the horrors of those 50 years.
Homeland and federalism are about coming to terms with a very nasty history and there is no Rip van Winkle solution to this, which unfortunately is part of the JVP’s baggage taken over by Rajapkse. While claiming that he will not to be a prisoner to the federal concept, Rajapakse is very happy to be a prisoner of the unitary concept! If he says that he would be prisoner of neither the federal nor the unitary rhetoric, he may be on the right track. Being dismissive is a rhetorical position, and rhetoric in a sensitive matter that has had so much to do with our recent history can in time be as dangerous as the rhetoric of Sinhala Only proved to be, and what the Tiger rhetoric of making fertiliser out of 40 000 Sinhalese troops in Jaffna portends.
The 1994 presidential election was one fought by two political heavyweights who understood the world, whose positions were thought through and both portrayed a vision for the future of Sri Lanka. The 2005 presidential election is being fought by political lightweights, where one hardly sees any hint of a vision. The voter has a tactical choice based on how to best preserve the embers of democracy and human rights.
On the ethnic issue both may help the Tigers to regain ground lost, both at home and abroad, where dissident Tamils have recently posed a potent challenge. In facing the real world from a standpoint of historical amnesia, Rajapakse may be forced into even more harmful backdoor deals with the LTTE than have been made by Ranil Wickremasinghe and countenanced by Kumaratunge. The lessons from President Premadasa have been ill digested and Rajapakse’s promises of tete a tetes with Prabhakaran, rather than with the Tamil people, has a familiar disastrous ring.
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