stage for war
it becoming increasingly clear the outcome of the April 2
general election will be a hung parliament and greater
instability in the country, first signs of a possible return
to war were also emerging from the Wanni amidst reports
preparatory work was already underway.
Amman, Hans Brattskar,
Pottu Amman and Velupillai Pirapaharan
Chandrika Kumaratunga well knew when she chose to dissolve
parliament the peace process and economic development were moving
smoothly in spite of minor irritants and that if the trend was
allowed to continue, the people would before long reap the
benefits and the UNF administration of Prime Minister Ranil
Wickremesinghe was going to be a hard act to beat in a couple of
time for Kumaratunga was of the essence considering her own
political future hanging in the balance due to the expiration of
the second term in 2005 and decided to strike at the very heart of
the UNP irrespective of the consequences to the country, and
strike she did on February 7.
Kumaratunga, it was a simple case of power grab and in alliance
with the JVP decided to go for the kill having already laid the
groundwork by taking over the armed forces, police and media.
did not matter to Kumaratunga the government had a clear majority
in parliament, which she in writing to the Speaker pledged to
honour, and the stalled peace process was set to resume with the
LTTE having submitted its proposals for an interim self governing
far as Kumaratunga was concerned, she had to wrest governmental
authority to abolish the executive presidency and having failed to
get sufficient members of the UNF to cross over following the take
over of the three ministries in November, proceeded to strike a
deal with the JVP and dissolve parliament, hoping victory can be
secured at a general election.
victory, Kumaratunga strategised would allow her to form a
constituent assembly and introduce a new constitution abolishing
the executive presidency, thereby ensuring her political future.
The peace process, foreign investment, international opinion and
all other issues were secondary and to be dealt with after the
in making her move, Kumaratunga miscalculated badly the numbers
game under the proportional representation system, with it now
being certain, the Freedom Alliance will struggle to get 100
seats. This would leave the balance of parliamentary power in the
hands of the LTTE sponsored TNA members.
was however the possibility the Freedom Alliance could still
emerge as the party with the largest number of seats in
parliament, giving President Kumaratunga an opportunity of forming
a minority government and lobbying for crossovers from the UNF as
well as the CWC and Muslim Congress.
political hodge podge of this nature given their divergent
positions on the all important peace process could have only spelt
utter chaos and confusion in the country, a fact not lost on the
LTTE leadership in the Wanni.
on the one hand such a chaotic coalition under Kumaratunga would
ideally suit the LTTE to forge ahead with its objectives and win
the sympathies of the international community, it also held out
the real prospect of a return to war given the JVP factor in the
the LTTE responded tentatively to the overtures made by the
President through various informal channels in a bid to ascertain
her mindset and future strategy on the peace process to help them
make their own assessments and plan for the post election scenario
in the event of an alliance victory.
is in making this assessment that the LTTE leadership came to the
conclusion that an UPFA government under Kumaratunga could never
deliver an interim administration or a federal solution
considering the hardline position taken by the JVP, which party
the LTTE assessed would be the remote which controls a Freedom
Alliance government. To the LTTE, it was inevitable such a
situation would sooner than later lead to war and started taking
measures necessary to meet such a contingency.
far as the LTTE leadership was concerned, if war was to eventually
break out, they not only wanted to control the ground situation in
the north east but also the parliament in the south through its
numbers, thereby throwing the south into utter chaos. And
Kumaratunga had by her hasty action of dissolving parliament
catered for just such a scenario.
the LTTE leadership in the Wanni clearly sent word out that it
intends dominating the elections in the north east to offset the
JVP in the south and as such no Tamil candidates from either major
party should contest in the Northern and Eastern Provinces.
Towards this end the LTTE was bent on ensuring the TNA returns a
minimum of 22 members to parliament.
this time the UNF had decided to field a list in the Batticaloa
District led by Ali Mowlana, a former MP and comprising both
Muslim and Tamil candidates and LTTE's Military Wing Leader in the
east, Karuna sent word he had no objection to it, since the party
was campaigning on a peace platform.
with the Muslim Congress also contesting in Batticaloa, it was
later agreed between Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and SLMC
Leader Rauf Hakeem not to field any Muslims in the UNP list and
instead to field exclusively a Tamil list with which the Tamil
candidates had no problem given the assurances by Karuna.
giving the assurances though, Karuna advised the UNF candidates to
maintain a low profile stating an LTTE intelligence unit of Pottu
Amman was in the district monitoring the activities of all
of course had for some time now been making representations to the
Wanni leadership that there was a huge disparity in
responsibilities allocated to cadres from the north as opposed to
the east and called for it to be rectified, but with little
simmering discontent manifested openly with the advent of Pottu
Amman's intelligence team to Batticaloa and Karuna urged the Wanni
leadership to have them recalled, once again without success.
far as the LTTE leadership in the Wanni was concerned, the
election called for by the President could well create the grounds
for a return to war in the not too distant future and the
organisation had to prepare for it, whereas for Karuna it was an
opportunity of using the election to increase his bargaining power
with the Wanni leadership for more recognition to the easterners.
this time, Karuna had also received information from his own
intelligence unit and loyalists Robert and Ramanan that Pottu
Amman's team was submitting reports to the Wanni leadership
against Karuna and he decided to move swiftly to counter attack.
is in this backdrop, the UNF Batticaloa District candidate,
Sunderampillai came to be killed and Karuna was quick to distance
himself from the violence, not wanting to be blamed for violating
the ceasefire agreement.
fact, Karuna informed the Wanni leadership it was the first
political killing after the nominations and it did not reflect
well on him.
further, Karuna told the Wanni leadership, he wanted Pottu Amman's
team recalled immediately since such acts would seriously derail
the peace process once the elections were concluded.
Wanni mindset was different, taking the view there was a real
possibility of the war recommencing if Kumaratunga's Freedom
Alliance wins the elections and necessary preparations should
therefore be made to meet such a contingency.
in keeping with that assessment, the LTTE leader requested Karuna
to send 1,000 cadres to the Wanni for the necessary preparation, a
request Karuna declined to comply with.
so doing Karuna pointed out, 5,550 cadres from the east had
already sacrificed their lives in addition to 2,270 in the Wanni
to successfully defeat the Jayasikurui operation but that such
commitment by the eastern Tamils had not been recognised by the
had also made reference to the fact there were 30 wings in the
LTTE, including, military, police education, finance, etc., but
that no easterners were appointed to head these outfits.
was further agitated that a large number of scholarships provided
for LTTE cadres to travel overseas on study tours following the
commencement of the peace process were heavily weighted towards
the northern cadres and on this issue too, he was openly critical.
this situation, Karuna had made his own alignments and
unofficially stripped Batticaloa Political Wing Leader Kaushalyan
of all authority and replaced him with former head, Karikalan and
also gave added authority to his deputy, Ramesh. Karuna had in
fact wanted Kaushalyan removed, arguing his loyalties were to the
north given his association with a female from the Wanni.
a step further in this fast developing hostile environment, Karuna
also had arrested some of Pottu Amman's intelligence cadres in the
east, including one 'Keerthi' who later escaped.
this time tension was rising and Kaushalyan and his loyalists made
preparations to leave hurriedly to the Wanni with word out Karuna
might strike and leave he did.
was around 9 a.m. Wednesday morning that Kaushalyan made his move
in a Hiace van together with Thevan and four others including a
small child, reaching the government controlled Omanthai army
checkpoint and seeking clearance to proceed to the LTTE controlled
him was the LTTE's Political Wing Leader of Vavuniya, Eleelan in
whose pickup were two women and it was Eleelan who proceeded to
the army check point and spoke to the officers concerned and got
clearance for Kaushalyan and his team to crossover to LTTE
in fact crossed over with Kaushalyan and having proceeded to LTTE
territory transferred the two women in his pickup to Kaushalyan's
van and drove back.
prior to their departure, Karuna sent a message to Army Commander
Lionel Balagalle with a request not to allow Kaushalyan and team
to leave Omanthai but Balagalle having consulted the Defence
Ministry and the President decided not to oblige Karuna.
thus appeared the stage was set for a confrontation and Karuna
made the first move by making contact with the Norwegian
Ambassador, Hans Brattskar and Head, Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission,
Trond Furhovde, informing them of the ground reality.
communicating through his Spokesman Varthan had said he will
operate with his cadres separately outside the authority of the
LTTE but would honour the ceasefire agreement and fully support
the peace process until such time a separate agreement can be
signed with him.
LTTE's Batticaloa Military Wing Chief had gone on to disclose
details of the request for 1,000 cadres by the Wanni leadership
and the activities of Pottu Amman's intelligence unit in the east
and disassociated himself with the violence. He had also indicated
a press statement would follow to ensure a wrong message did not
go out from the Wanni against him.
Norwegians who saw the serious repercussions to the peace process
and the ceasefire agreement in this development quickly apprised
the President's office and before long the news reached the public
as well, of trouble brewing in the LTTE via the radio channels.
very Wednesday night, at 10.30 p.m. Brattskar and Furhovde also
met with Prime Minister Wickremesinghe, government negotiators G.L.
Peiris, Milinda Moragoda and Foreign Secretary Bernard
Goonetillake for a full briefing where the Premier made it clear,
the government will not fish in troubled waters.
Wickremesinghe said it was of paramount importance for the country
that the ceasefire holds and in that context, the probability of a
rapprochement between the eastern and northern commands should be
explored to keep the process alive.
well knew that an outbreak of violence now in the north east with
the President holding the defence and interior portfolios would
help him politically but insisted the interests of the country
should come first and the situation not allowed to get out of
that objective in mind, the Norwegians made contact with LTTE
theoretician Anton Balasingham in London to act as mediator
between Karuna and the Wanni leadership. Balasingham in turn said
he had no idea about the developments and would need a little time
to reflect on the issue and revert.
Balasingham subsequently did and also made contact with Karuna to
diffuse the crisis.
Thursday, negotiations were underway to resolve the dispute but
the same day, on Karuna's instructions, the TNA candidates in the
Batticaloa District were summoned for a meeting by Karikalan to
Kokkadicholai for a briefing on the unfolding developments.
despite efforts to bring about a rapprochement of the two parties,
the situation took a turn for the worse with LTTE supremo
Velupillai Pirapaharan livid at Karuna's conduct, accusing him of
violating the organisation's disciplinary code.
position conveyed was that there was no room for compromise and
Karuna will be dealt with for violating the LTTE's disciplinary
code. He was particularly angry over Karuna's claim that the Wanni
leadership wanted 1,000 cadres sent up north in preparation for a
fact by Thursday, the LTTE leadership in the Wanni got in touch
with SLMM Chief Furhovde and requested authority to send 20 of
Pirapaharan's senior cadres to the east, a request which was
forwarded through the Peace Secretariat to the Defence Ministry in
the President, seeking to win back the confidence of the LTTE and
possible support of the TNA after the election, the current
predicament of the Tigers presented an ideal opportunity and
approval was granted for the movement of cadres as requested from
is the Defence Ministry that also gave the green light for
Kaushalyan's group to proceed to Wanni from Omanthai and the
second request was also to be granted.
as Karuna was digging his heels in for a confrontation, so was
Pottu Amman who sent word out that the LTTE's Batticaloa Military
Wing Chief had overestimated himself and would be dealt with for
LTTE Intelligence Chief had also said the eastern cadres killed in
battle adverted to by Karuna laid their lives for the cause of the
Tamils and not Karuna and they would continue to battle for the
cause even after Karuna is replaced.
this time Pirapaharan was also fully activated and got through to
Karuna's Deputy Ramesh, who too took off to the Wanni without
notice to Karuna. Ramesh was informed he would be appointed
eastern commander after Karuna is removed for indiscipline.
there was information Karikalan too was under pressure by his wife
to leave for the Wanni and Karuna had himself approached Karikalan
and said he was free to do so if he so wishes.
the ups and downs of this battle, Karuna on Thursday, March 4,
wrote to Pirapaharan offering a compromise formula to settle the
Karuna - "Please let us function independently under your
direct leadership. We are not leaving you. We are not opposed to
you. I do not want to commit the historical mistake of not
pointing out to you the aspirations of our people, disregarding
their feelings and those of our fighters here. If you love the
people here and if you trust the fighters here, please let us
function independently and directly under your leadership."
has proposed an administrative structure for Batticaloa parallel
to the other divisions functioning directly under Pirapaharan as
part of the compromise.
he - "In the current opportune moment, I want to do my duty
by the people of southern Tamil eelam. It is my final goal that I
should fight for these people and die at their feet. I do not want
anyone to interfere in this."
also states he wants to function directly under Pirapaharan,
avoiding the divisional heads of Tamil eelam, thereby indicating
his problem is with the likes of Pottu Amman and not Pirapaharan.
LTTE Leader however was not impressed and wants Karuna to first
subject himself to the organisation's disciplinary code.
on the very Thursday, LTTE Political Wing Leader, S.P. Tamilselvan
met with Furhovde and assured, the problem will be resolved
shortly and the ceasefire not compromised.
danger in this whole scenario of course is that it could explode
into an all out battle threatening the entire peace process and
the elections in the Eastern Province.
given the fact Karuna has already informed he is operating outside
the LTTE, there will be no control over the activities of each
group or accountability in the event there are ceasefire
violations, not just in the north east but elsewhere in the
country as well.
in a highly tense election environment, it will be the ideal
condition for wreaking havoc and carrying out assassinations by
interested groups not only in the north east but also in the south
and pointing to the LTTE or the Karuna group.
is also pertinent to note in the overall context, a revelation
made by the President in an interview with India's Hindu newspaper
critical of the peace process conducted between the Premier and
the LTTE and the MoU, the President has revealed she has always
had channels of discussion with the LTTE, though declining to
the President has discussed with the LTTE remains a secret and if
Kumaratunga is to be believed, discussions indeed were had. But it
would make a mockery of the entire PA/JVP campaign to oust the
government on the basis of compromising national security to the
LTTE when it has now agreed firstly secretly and subsequently
publicly that an alliance government will negotiate with the LTTE
on the strength of the interim administration proposals and honour
question also arises whether Kumaratunga in fact has a secret deal
with the LTTE, given her own admission of having discussions.
question is particularly relevant in the context of the killing of
the UNF candidate in Batticaloa and the subsequent withdrawal of
several other candidates whilst the new alliance candidates are
freely campaigning in the east.