The Sunday Leader

Karuna At The LLRC

Karuna Amman walks into the commission, an improbable brunette at his side. This former warrior, warlord, some would say war criminal, is now thoroughly domesticated, clad in a suit too big and speaking English a tad bit inadequate. He never hits a flow, never perceives the cracks in his interrogators’ colonial legalese, to their fault. Some have called Karuna a puppet, and the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission led him mercilessly.

Karuna before the LLRC

At some points, Karuna would say an answer they didn’t like and the commissioners would just ask over and over until he agreed. In one case, they were asking if Norway gave money for LTTE arms. Karuna said they gave money but that everybody knew the LTTE was spending on arms. That everybody included you, me and the Pope, but the Commission seemed intent on indicting the Norwegians. They kept asking till Karuna, essentially agreed.
For a national commission, one striking feature is that the LLRC is largely conducted in English. This is not a complaint, just an observation. It is also important to note that I think the LLRC, while biased, is doing very good work. Just visit their website. www.llrc.lk, click on ‘Activities & Events’ and you can view transcripts of an awful lot of the public sittings. They have also gone directly into the North and spoke directly to affected people. Whatever the LLRC’s faults, it is doing good work.
The issue with the LLRC is that the lessons have already been learnt and reconciliation is largely out of its purview. From attending the sessions a few times, it is clear that the main lesson is that the CFA was a bad idea and that everyone involved was to blame. Their questioning rarely ventures into the latter phases of the war, except to praise its decisiveness.
This is obvious in the mandate of the Commission, which is “[to find] the facts and circumstances which led to the failure of the cease-fire agreement operationalised on 21st February, 2002 and the sequence of events that followed thereafter up to the 19th of May, 2009.” It is also obvious in their questioning. It is also, generally, obvious. No commission appointed by the President is going to indict the President or his conduct of the war.
Anyone — especially in the diaspora — expecting a commission on the actual war, isn’t going to get one until there’s another president. Anyone asking for an international commission is, in my opinion, politically tone-deaf as such a commission would destabilise the government we have and replace it with nothing. The only immediate commissions have been against people that lost wars, essentially the only enforceable war crime. Everything else takes time and it takes the perspective of history.
This current LLRC is essentially manufacturing history just as Mahinda has masterfully branded the war and continues to brand it through parades and events and even reality shows starring the military. The LLRC, however, is also recording history and making it available online which I think is a good thing.
Out of the sessions I’ve seen, Karuna did not perform well, Gotabaya Rajapaksa was not questioned with any vigour and many others were forgettable. Some people, however, did say what they thought, even controversially and reading the sessions from public sittings in the North is eye-opening. There are pleas from mothers to release their husbands from arrest and the questioners — much to their credit — get the names and documentation to look into it.
This is not reconciliation along the lines of the famous South African Commission, but there is also no amnesty either. For example, when Karuna was asked about the infamous slaying of surrendered police officers in the East under his command, he simply said he wasn’t there. What else would he say? People are speaking with extreme caution because the commission offers no amnesty, because it has a transparent bias and because it’s obvious who pulls the strings. They are speaking, however, which —if you read between the lines — is something.
Coming back to Karuna, however, the man simply has very little to say. He says that he joined the LTTE after A/Levels when he first saw refugees from the 1983 riots in Batticaloa. Later he speaks better (according to my friend) in Tamil, but with no particular increase in valuable content. Karuna’s narrative is essentially that bad politicians caused ‘83, he joined the LTTE after that, did nothing terrible, tried to reason with Prabhakaran to take a peace deal and left when he couldn’t. Now he thinks Mahinda has done well to end the war and that they are working together to build the peace.
The commissioners went ahead and filled in the gaps they need for their report — about the flaws of the cease-fire and the flaws of the facilitators in particular. On the whole, however, this is the general lesson learnt. Reconciliation is, essentially, everyone reconciling themselves to Mahinda.

16 Comments for “Karuna At The LLRC”

  1. raj

    WiKiLeaks:
    updated news. Some paramilitary did prostitution business and abducting boys for labour. We need to find whether it is true or not.

    • palitha

      Well, some of these stooges can sell thier own mothers , sisiters and daughters to get any power. And the GOSL have to rely on these, otherwies can’t do business there. Fate of Sri Lankans. they desrve it

  2. NeutralTamil

    only fools will think LLRC is really for wat it was suppose to be.
    LLRC is just to shut the mouth of US n UN.
    they know its fake too
    if india wasn’t supporting sri lanka.
    the US n the UN should have come to sri lanka n conduct its own investigation without bothering about SL gov.

  3. gabriella

    Karuna’s tailor should be shot . In a conciliatory manner .

  4. Calahan

    Karuna did nothing terrible while in theb LTTE?
    What a joke. :)
    If you ask me, he is the most despicable guy out there.
    600 police officers slaughtered in cold blood……under his command!!!!!!!!!
    And then he has the audacity to say that he wasn’t there……..how sick!
    Don’t know how Mahinda could look this guy in the eyes and smile……He should be waterboarded.

    • ex

      Karuna was there. Karuna was leading the attack on police stations. Infact there was a picture of him talking to some of his Dpty at that time in front of capterd wepons.

  5. vintage voter

    WAS ZAHIR MOULANA TOO WITH KARUNA WHEN HE APPEARED BEFORE THE COMMISSION. ? ZAHIR ONLY HELPED KARUNA, AND HE WAS UNDER THREAT, WHEN HE MOVED TO THE USA AND WAS ALSO REWARDED WITH
    A POSTING IN OUR EMBASSY.

  6. Shiva

    Thsi is the biggest joke of the century. karuna should be sent to ICC to face trial over there.

  7. Shiva

    Rajapakses’, Dr. Manmohan Singh and SItalian Sonia Gandhi’s days are coming to face the ICC for war crimes.

    Ban Ki-Moon is the most disgracefull and biased UN Secretary ever who failed to take a firm action against war Criminal regimes.

    • Jaffna Tamil

      Shiva, every secy general of the UN is more of a joke. They hold fantastic jobs and do nothing at the end of the day. Ban Ki Moon did nothing for the Tamils and others did nothing when the Rwandans were murdered, Bosnians were slaughtered……the list goes on.

  8. Salasaka

    This is why the real hero who fought bravely and selflessly to save the motherland from terrorism did not want to deal with these filthy, opportunistic and corrupt Rajapakse and their cowards.

  9. Wikileaks_era

    If you think Karuna was a naughty boy when he was with LTTE…
    The great work of Karuna and Douglas after combining with GOSL.

    Wikileak
    - In Jaffna the EPDP paramilitary group was running prostitution rings for soldiers, taking women and forcing them to have sex with between five and ten soldiers a night. (para18).
    - The EPDP also child trafficking rings from its base in Delft. Tamil children were taken and sold them abroad into slavery, usually boys to work camps and girls to prostitution rings, using the EPDP’s networks in India and Malaysia.
    - Preying on the ‘large number of widows’ in Jaffna, EPDP cadres seduce women with children, especially girls, with the promise of economic protection (para17).
    - The children are taken “sometimes by force and sometimes with the promise that they will be provided a better life” (para17).
    - The EPDP operated “in concert” with the Sri Lanka Army (SLA) in extra-judicial killings, forced prostitution and child trafficking (para15).
    - Families began “arranging marriages for their daughters at a very young age in the hopes that the EPDP and [SLA] soldiers will be less likely to take them” (para18)
    - In the east, the TMVP operated prostitution rings for the military out of government-run refugee camps, and also forced women to give up their children for trafficking (para11)
    - The TMVP, which also became activite in government-controlled Jaffna “operates under government protection” and “is allowed to operate throughout the East in close proximity to SLA bases” (para5,8).
    - The average age of TMVP cadres was 14 and “the GSL allows Karuna’s cadres to recruit children forcibly from within IDP camps in the East” (para8).
    - As in Jaffna, in the East, “families sometimes try to arrange their daughters’ marriages at the age of 12 or 13 in the hope that it will reduce the likelihood of their being forced into prostitution.” (para11)

    The US cable also notes that:

    Forced abortions, often under the guise of a regular check-up, [are] being performed on Tamil women suspected of being aligned with the LTTE. (para15)
    In addition to trafficking in children, the EPDP operates an illicit alcohol smuggling ring using child “mules.” (para18).

  10. Many who wanted to give evidence before the LLRC were warned against doing so and even forcibly prevented by paramilitaries in the north and east, of the EPDP & TVMP.
    Karuna was sent to UK on a fase passport which he said was provided by Gotabaya – this was in all media. He was jailed in UK for travelling on a false passport. He has now been made a Vice President and a Minister, to shut his mouth about this matter, among other things.
    Karuna was rated the best commander under Prabakaran and he fell out with the latter because Prabakaran wanted the LTTE cadres under him recruited from the east, to be sent to the north – which Karuna refused to do, as he had promised their parents that they will not be sent north.

    • Jaffna Tamil

      Gamarala:
      Fact 1: VP and karuna fell out because Karuna played out LTTE money and VP had asked him to come to the north to see him. Karuna realized VP was going to place a pottu on his forehead with the pistol he carries on himself and joined GOSL for protection.
      Fact 2: VP always murdered his top commanders when they got too close to him or became too popular.
      Fact 3: Karuna is a disgrace. I still cannot believe the Sinhalese people still tollerate this degenerate after he ordered the killing of 600 surrendered policeman, maybe based on orders from VP.
      Fact 4: Karuna went amok in Thailand when he was sent there for peace talks, which itself was a bluff by both parties. Karuna has said to have had sex with Thai hookers and disgraced the LTTE. On this department, the LTTE has remained decent, respect to women. But other issues are up for discussion.
      Conclusion: every fellow in Lanka who carries a weapon has blood in their hands. Most times, innocent blood.

      God bless Sri Lanka.

  11. Wickrama

    No matter if they have an LLRC or TLLRC or what ever, the case against the Human Rights abuser and his band of murderious brothers and the army will not escape the Human Rights Commission. The LLRC is just a government gimmic.

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