over landmarks of a war
LTTE has been kept quite busy this month, as usual. July has always been
a month of action for the LTTE starting from July 15, 1983 when Jaffna
Commander, Charles Anthony was killed.
commemorated the over running of the Mullaitivu army camp on July 19,
the Black Tigers on July 5 and last week held a ceremony at
Thirunelvely Junction on the Jaffna-Pallali Road to commemorate
Sellakili, the LTTE leader who died during the attack on the Four Four
Bravo patrol on July 23, 1983.
after the LTTE moved into Jaffna, a large billboard of Velupillai
Pirapaharan was put up at the location of the attack. About two months
back it was removed in the night. The LTTE planned to erect a memorial
for Sellakili to mark the 20th anniversary of his death.
memorial was ready by Wednesday noon, but the army was not willing to
play ball. Around 12.30 p.m. officers and soldiers who arrived at the
second mile post junction where the LTTE had organised the ceremony to
be held later in the day informed
the residents that the memorial and the ceremony were both illegal - the
memorial since it was erected on government property.
arrival of the army also meant that people including LTTE sympathisers
had converged at the memorial. When crowds began to swell and get
agitated, the army had covered the memorial with asbestos
and planks, and called in a riot squad and the Sri Lanka
Monitoring Mission (SLMM.) Covering the memorial and the banning of the
ceremony was nothing new to the army. When it moved into Jaffna in 1996,
the army destroyed an earlier memorial built at the same site.
LTTE's case was taken up by students of the Jaffna University among the
crowd of about 400. The students were arguing that the memorial was not
illegal and that the army had no right to intervene. Despite such
claims, officials of the SLMM too initially agreed with the army saying
that the memorial and the ceremony were both illegal.
was then that others among the crowd had intervened. Sources present at
the site told The Sunday Leader that the persons who intervened were
senior LTTE cadres in their 40s.
The army and the SLMM had not been aware that they were affiliated to
told both the army and the SLMM that the memorial was on private land
and that the owner had given permission. The owner confirmed that he had
given his permission. Then the argument was that the memorial faced the
main road and that it could not be allowed.
the LTTErs brought the example of the former parliament premises at
Galle Face where all the statues in front are placed facing the road.
The impasse however persisted, till the SLMM got a call from Colombo and
the army soon afterwards received orders from the Palaly Base to
the SLMM in Jaffna has now written to the Jaffna Municipality requesting
it to look into the legality of the Sellakili Memorial. The SLMM wants
the municipality to make it clear whether the memorial that is at the
edge of the main highway and facing the road is within the normal legal
parameters. If it is not, the SLMM would request the LTTE to remove it.
municipality now is literally stuck between the deep blue sea and the
fact the army may have done the LTTE a favour by intervening in such a
manner. "They (army) created the interest," residents in the
area later said. A lacklustre event was given some colour due to the
morning's commotion. The speeches that were delivered in the evening
dealt more with how the army was out to scuttle the peace process than
on Sellakili's life.
the commemoration ceremony could proceed though, the organisers ran into
a major hitch. There was no
photograph of Sellakili. Riders were dispatched to Nelliyadi,
Sellakili's home town and even to Mullaitivu to locate a photograph. By
the time the ceremony commenced at 6 p.m. the riders had returned with
statue was garlanded by Kanndappa Vigneswaran who witnessed the attack
on Four Four Bravo in 1983. Vigneswaran has related the story many a
time. Around 11 p.m. on July 23, 1983, 15 LTTE cadres led by Sellakili
had arrived at the location in army like uniforms, placed a clay-more
mine and laid in wait. Sellakili's family members say that Pirapaharan
was not involved in the attack, neither was Kittu. Of the 15 man team,
only Baby Subramanium is still alive. Subramanium now oversees education
in the LTTE controlled areas.
life of Sellakili is typical of the early LTTE cadres. Born to a farmer
family on June 21, 1953 he was the third in a family of three boys and
two girls. One of his sisters is still living in Jaffna. He left school
after grade eight and was gearing himself for an "armed
struggle" by the time he was 17. He used a lathe machine at home to
manufacture rudimentary arms and according to the family sold two cows
to buy his first pistol.
members relate that Sellakili was talking of a "freedom
struggle" when the likes of Uma Maheswaran and Pirapaharan were
squabbling over leadership issues. He was also not too taken up by the
spate of bank robberies committed in the Jaffna peninsula during the
teething stages of the Eelam war.
the time the attack on Four
Four Bravo took place, Sellakili was an experienced hand. He had been
running from police for years. Once he was arrested by a police party
near Puthukkudiyiruppu in the Mullaitivu District. He told the police
officers that he had to attend a call of nature and ran off to the
jungle. On several other occasions he had got out of the hook simply by
saying that he was not Sellakili.
was a frequent visitor to Sellakili's home and so were Kuttumani,
Thangadurai and Sri Sabaratnam. Sellakili is believed to have been
involved in the murder of police officer Bastiyampillai in the Madhu
jungles and days before he died had killed a wounded comrade to prevent
him from falling into government hands.
was mortally wounded in the Thirunelvely attack.
Sellakili commemoration gave the LTTE the opportunity to keep the PR
machine going. There was no such commemoration last year. The string of
commemorations has been used for the LTTE to up the ante.
the anniversary celebrations of over running of the Mullaitivu base
camp, Vidusha, who heads the Malathy Special Forces in the LTTE,
reiterated the LTTE's commitment to war.
only way the Tamil people could achieve total freedom is through an
armed struggle. This is the truth we have learnt from past
experiences," Vidusha said at the ceremony.
however pointed out that the LTTE should make sure that whatever action
the LTTE is taking at present does not undermine its future. And the
organisation is still in a position of strength to wage
war, according to the female Tiger leader.
LTTE is also mounting a letter campaign. Vidusha related that after the
death of 12 Sea Tigers recently, ordinary folk in the Wanni had written
to Pirapaharan encouraging the LTTE Leader not to give in to government
similar letter has been handed over to the LTTE office by residents in
Jaffna requesting the organisation not to return to the negotiating
table till the government clears the High Security Zones.
warned in her speech that the government should not use the negotiating
process as a bargaining chip and that the LTTE should have the right to
decide on the future of the Wanni.