vs. Karuna: clash of the "Ammans"
in Jaffna Tamil dialect refers to maternal uncle. It is also
used as a form of respect in addressing seniors. The
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam organisation has had quite
a few leaders called "Amman" by their followers.
There was Kittu Amman and Ponnammaan a while ago. Nowadays
there are (or were) two senior Ammans in the LTTE.
Amman and Pottu Amman
is the much feared Pottu or Pottu Amman, head of the LTTE
intelligence wing known as Tiger Organisation Security
Intelligence Service (TOSIS). The other is Karuna or Karuna Amman
who was until last week the LTTE's eastern regional commander.
was dubbed a traitor and expelled from the LTTE for raising a
regional cry and rebelling. The revolt however did not occur in a
vacuum. It was the culminating point of simmering tensions and
tries to portray his revolt as an altruistic action on behalf of
the down trodden eastern cadres in the LTTE. The Tiger hierarchy
says that Karuna had committed serious offences and was required
to face an inquiry in the Wanni.
refused to comply and instead to protect himself led a revolt
against perceivednorthern hegemony. Karuna denies these
charges and insists that selfish motives had nothing to do with
his courageous rebellion.
is the first casualty of war. In this war of words between
Mattakkalappu (Batticaloa) and Kilinochchi the truth is fast
becoming a casualty. The truth however is that there is some truth
in the positions of both sides. The complete truth is beyond the
reach of anyone but the nearest to that truth lies somewhere in
the middle between the stances of both parties.
in this verbiage of charges and counter charges is the role of the
LTTE Intelligence Wing and its Chief Pottu Amman in creating and
aggravating this crisis. It is not the sole reason for the current
crisis but is certainly a major cause for it.
underlying factor in this crisis is the deep seated and long
standing rivalry between Pottu Amman and Karuna Amman. It has to
do with personality differences, seniority within the movement,
aspiring to become de facto no. 2 and jockeying to gain closeness
is also a product of Pirapaharan's own 'divide and rule' policy.
He engages in subtle stratagems of promoting rivalry between his
senior deputies to stimulate healthy competition and get the best
out of them. At the same time such divisiveness prevents a closing
of ranks that may engineer a coup d'etat against the Number One.
extent of Pottu's role in the crisis is not known fully. But
Karuna certainly sees him as the villain of the peace.
Demonstrations in Batticaloa carry Pottu's effigies in procession
and burn them; one of the preconditions Karuna has set for
reconciliation is the dismissal of Pottu from Intelligence Wing
Chief office; in interviews to Tamil media organs Karuna is
explicit in naming Pottu as the primary cause for the split;
has charged that just as the People's Liberation Organisation of
Tamil Eelam (PLOTE) was ruined by its one time intelligence chief
Manikkathasan, the LTTE too is being undermined by the antics of
its own intelligence chief Pottu Amman.
Pottu and Karuna joined the movement in 1982. Pottu was from
Ariyalai in Jaffna but resident in adjoining Nayanmarkaddu. Karuna
was from Kiran in Batticaloa.
training in India both began working for the TOSIS in India then
headed by Anton Master. There was an incompatibility of
temperament between both resulting in much friction.
Karuna returned to Batticaloa and joined the regulars. He rose up
in ranks and in keeping with the new LTTE policy of giving
leadership positions to people of the area, Karuna soon became
regional chief in 1987.
around this time Pottu too came to Batticaloa as intelligence
chief. Before Karuna, the east had been commanded by people like
Basheer Kakka, Aruna and Kumarappa, all of them from Jaffna.
relatively junior Karuna found it difficult initially to establish
his authority in Batticaloa. Pottu exercising authority as
intelligence chief of the area was not helpful either. Both of
them clashed often. Ironically Pottu fell in love during his stay
in Batticaloa with a lass from Karuna's village Kiran.
there was clear division of labour and Pottu became chief of the
entire intelligence wing and was stationed in Jafna and later the
Wanni. Karuna now commander of Batticaloa and Amparai Districts
became the uncrowned Tiger king of the east.With less interaction
there were little chances of friction and an uneasy dtente
stock went skyhigh in Pirapaharan's estimation after fighting in
the Wanni. He virtually saved the LTTE and was field commander in
battle. A grateful Pirapaharan made him special regional commander
and gave him a great deal of autonomy. It was also said that
Karuna was now the de facto No. 2 in the LTTE.
progress of the peace process also saw Karuna climbing the ladder.
He was on the negotiating team with Balasingham and Tamilselvan.
Karuna was representing both the Military Wing as well as the
Eastern Province. Karuna also established much rapport with
overseas Tamils during his foreign jaunts.
also had other dimensions. One was that the major contradiction
between the state and its armed forces on the one hand and the
LTTE and Tamil people on the other had temporarily ceased. Instead
the lesser contradictions within the Tamil community and LTTE
began surfacing.Unity at times of war gave way to disunity in
second problem was that the LTTE's centralised departments began
expanding activities to the regions in a big way. During times of
war mobility and functional capacity was restricted. So the
regional leadership had greater control of even spheres coming
under centralised authority. Now the situation was changing.
the same time regional leaders too enlarged their activity in many
ways transgressing on centralised departments. Friction was
increasing. The centralised departments were functioning
independent of the regional command in most matters. Thus, the
regional commander was being undermined and his authority eroded
in the eyes of cadres.
process had particular effect in Batticaloa. Karuna was a powerful
personality and was not prepared to relinquish authority so
easily. Secondly, there were regional tensions between the north
and east and so a greater sensitivity was required. Thirdly, most
of the central departments were headed and manned by northerners.
sense of hostility and resentment began to develop. This was
particularly so in the case of the intelligence division led by
Pottu that was monitoring regional activity. The internal affairs
section is universally resented by others. This was so in this
instance. Furthermore, the personal enmity between Pottu and
Karuna complicated matters further.
relying more and more on Pottu Amman in recent times turned a deaf
ear to Karuna's complaints in this regard. The first major
incident came after the first round of Tamil-Muslim violence.
Pottu Amman investigated it and found Karikalan, Thurai, Visu -
all of them Karuna's deputies - had been involved in aiding and
summoned them to the Wanni and asked Karuna to suspend them.
Karuna removed them from office but kept them in Batticaloa
defying the leader's instructions. Karuna and Karikalan also did
not cooperate in implementing the LTTE-SLMC accord. Karuna felt
that he had to be consulted before the LTTE Leader signed it with
"Pottu's people" began intensifying their activity, an
enraged Karuna started his own intelligence wing called "BAI"
(Batticaloa-Amparai Intelligence). This was ironically enough led
by Ramanan who has now escaped to the Wanni and has been appointed
as military intelligence chief. The BA intelligence began
monitoring the activities of Pottu Amman and his employees in the
intelligence wing led by Pottu functioned entirely independent of
Karuna. There were many problems. One was the seizure of luxury
vehicles by Pottu and the trasportation of those into the Wanni.
case was Pottu taking around 29 vehicles of an NGO in Batticaloa
to the Wanni. Karuna was very angry because the Tamil
Rehabilitation Organisation funds were not utilised in Batticaloa
and Pottu had crippled the NGO trying to help in rehabilitation.
alienation with Praba and anger against Pottu was increasing. At
the same time the intelligence wing, police service and revenue
division conducted an elaborate combined investigation into
Karuna's financial irregularities and other alleged offences. An
infuriated Karuna asked Praba to stop it but found no response.
charge sheet was formulated outlining alleged offences. Since
Pottu, Nadesan, the police chief and Thamilendhi, the revenue head
were all involved in this combined investigation, Karuna was angry
with them and this explains his demand that all three be removed
if he is to reconcile again with the LTTE.
repeated orders that Karuna come to the Wanni and face a
disciplinary inquiry, the eastern leader refused to comply. Apart
from the fact whether he was guilty or not, Karuna was extremely
suspicious of Pottu. He feared that he would be arrested by Pottu
and a confession extracted through torture as in the case of
Mahathaya. So Karuna did not budge.
furious Pirapaharan suspended the monthly issuance of rupees one
crore to the eastern region for administrative expenses. This was
a pressure tactic to get Karuna out. Also Karuna was excluded from
the recent European trip undertaken by Tamilselvan to solicit
funds for development. Earlier Karuna had participated in all
international activity on par with Tamilselvan.
became further suspicious when nearly a 100 cadres belonging to
the LTTE Intelligence Wing were stationed in Batticaloa. He saw it
as a move to curtail his power further. Recently Pottu got wind of
a plot to capture him alive and take him to the Wanni for inquiry
or kill him if necessary. Karuna also identified a 23 man special
squad sent as part of the intelligence personnel to Batticaloa by
Pottu for this purpose. It is then that Karuna began conspiring
with his trusted deputies to counter strike, his greatest obstacle
in this was preventing information about his plans being
discovered by Pottu Amman's accomplices. Karuna succeeded in this
and Pottu Amman was clueless about the whole project until after
loyal cadres in one swift strike rounded up the 23 man special
squad first. He also
placed all intelligence personnel under house arrest at
Kannankudah on the western shore.
some of Karuna's erstwhile deputies like Ramesh, Ram and Ramanan
did a somersault and escaped to Wanni. They also succeeded in
freeing some of the detenues. A furious Karuna executed 12 of
Pottu's special squad. Neither Karuna nor the LTTE have revealed
this incident so far in keeping with typical Tiger practice. The
score will be settled quietly without a beep in protest. It is
considered infra dig if the incident is publicised.
two other suspected infiltrators were shot dead at Punaanai by
Karuna's men. Karuna also closed down all centralised LTTE
structures like the courts, police stations, tax offices etc. and
expelled the northern personnel.
has been shrewd in downplaying his personal problems with Pottu
and instead focusing attention on regional grievances. He
highlights the fact that the LTTE eastern cadres have done much
sacrifices that have not been reciprocated or compensated.
the other hand the LTTE is releasing bits and pieces of
information about Karuna's alleged misconduct. He is accused of
building a house at Aayithiyamalai from LTTE funds;
misappropriating LTTE funds when building the "Thenagam"
complex at Karadianaaru and "Meenagam" complex at
is also charged with having an illicit affair with a senior
women's brigade leader "N." She had gone to Colombo for
an abortion it is alleged. The driver Ranjan
who took her was later murdered to silencehim. It was made
to look like a heart attack.
rumour being circulated after Karuna's rebellion is that Karuna's
wife Nira and their three children have gone abroad to Malaysia.
It is said that she took two suitcases of money with her. Former
Batticaloa MP and ex-cabinet Minister Chelliah Rajadurai now in
Malaysia is said to have helped them reach Kuala Lumpur. The
family is supposedly moving to the USA.
and his loyalists deny these charges vehemently. They describe
these efforts as typical LTTE devices to character assassinate and
discredit him. The idea is to make him lose face with the cadres
it is alleged.
truth of these allegations and counter allegations can be
ascertained only through an exhaustive inquiry undertaken with due
process of law. Neither the LTTE nor Karuna will agree to that.
The LTTE type of Kafkauesque trials by a kangaroo court as in the
case of Mahathaya will not suffice.
spite of LTTE assurances that Karuna would be given an amnesty,
the chances of Karuna accepting it is extremely unlikely. Karuna
Amman knows that Pottu Amman will get him one way or the other.
The fate of Saddam Hussein's sons-in-law are a pointer in this
regard. There is no way out for Karuna as long as Pottu is there.
any case both sides know that the Rubicon has been crossed. The
problem is too deep seated for reconciliation despite the lip
service by both. Karuna being a veteran Tiger knows that what lies
in store for him is punishment by death and nothing less. But he
simply won't godown without fighting. The final verdict however
could be rather unexpected.