and dagger politics over Karuna
Tamilselvan, Erik Solheim, Chandrika Kumaratunga, Ranil
Wickremesinghe and Karuna
the ceasefire agreement and the peace process delicately poised
following revelations that military intelligence was harbouring
LTTE's breakaway eastern commander Karuna, President Chandrika
Kumaratunga last week unsuccessfully attempted to deflect the
issue by offering to resume negotiations based on the Interim Self
Governing Authority (ISGA) proposals.
for President Chandrika Kumaratunga is fast running out with the next
presidential election less than 17 months away and there at the moment
appears little prosect of abolishing the executive presidency through
the mechanism of a Constituent Assembly and considering the peace
process also stalled, there is next to no chance of a new constitution
being adopted before end next year.
this situation, the political lifeline of President Kumaratunga is
increasingly wearing thin and with desperation mounting, she was
cartwheeling on the peace process, thereby losing credibility with each
passing day which the LTTE has been quick to seize on.
even as she offered once again to resume talks based on the ISGA as a
tactical ploy, the JVP dismissed it off hand stating the UPFA policy is
to the contrary and that the party will not permit negotiations based
only on the ISGA.
make matters worse, the US$ 4.5 billion pledged by the donor community
and linked to progress in the peace process was hanging by a thread and
the drift in government with soaring prices and failure to deliver on
the election promises too were having a telling effect in the south.
fact the failure of the government to deliver on its promises and the
disgraceful conduct in parliament were already being felt with voter
apathy expected to reflect the fast losing confidence in government at
the provincial polls.
the UPFA is expected to win a majority of the provinces at the poll
considering it is only three months into government, the failure to
capture the imagination of the people after the April 2 victory is what
is expected to be reflected with a huge drop in the number of votes the
Alliance will poll on July 10.
indictment is expected to be particularly telling in the backdrop of the
UNF three months into government having increased its vote bank by a
huge margin at the March 2002 local polls which followed the general
election in December 2001.
that as it may, this crisis in government of course came to a head with
the role played by military intelligence in the Karuna affair and it is
in this backdrop, Norway's special envoy Erik Solheim returned to the
island last week to indulge in a trust building exercise of the
and Ambassador Hans Brattskar, first met with Foreign Minister Lakshman
Kadirgamar on Tuesday to ascertain the ground realities, at which
meeting, Brattskar communicated the LTTE concerns which were told
him by Tamilselvan the previous week in Kilinochchi.
informing Kadirgamar LTTE's position that the continued support for
Karuna by the government would seriously jeopardise the ceasefire
agreement and the peace process, Brattskar also pointed out the Tiger
ire over what it considered government manipulation of the Sri Lanka
Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC) Tamil service to carry out a campaign
Foreign Minister of course pleaded ignorance on the subject but agreed
to look into the allegations and rectify any lapse. He also denied
military involvement in the Karuna affair.
the Karuna issue was taking centre stage became all the more evident
when Solheim and Brattskar the very Tuesday met with Opposition Leader
Ranil Wickremesinghe and Colombo District MP Milinda Moragoda at the UNP
leader's Cambridge Terrace office.
this time, the role played by UNP's Ali Zahir Mowlana in bringing Karuna
to Colombo was also in the public domain with government spokesman
Mangala Samaraweera accusing Wickremesinghe of manipulating the whole
drama and totally denying involvement of the UPFA.
the initial revelations and Mowlana's resignation, independent
investigations carried out by the party on the directions of
Wickremesinghe came out with a frightening scenario based on which the
UNP leader made his position clear to the Norwegians.
the UNP, the whole exercise smacked of a covert operation by a section
of military intelligence and a group within the government backed by the
likes of Ram Manikkalingam to break the TNA from the opposition ranks
and secure a majority for the government.
is with that objective in mind, Mowlana was baited into bringing Karuna
to Colombo, giving the whole drama a UNP colouration was the assessment.
is intriguing in the story related by the four women cadres who had
purportedly escaped from military intelligence and rejoined the LTTE is
the involvement of a number of UNP members with Karuna, as per reports
published in the Tamil media.
thinking of the UNP following their own investigation on the issue which
it intends going public with shortly is that the women cadres may well
have been debriefed by military intelligence and sent back to the LTTE
with the specific objective of implicating the UNP with not only Karuna,
but the events that followed in the east. The other possibility
considered is that Karuna had briefed the women cadres of reported
meetings with the UNP on the instructions of the military intelligence
and later facilitated the escape of the unsuspecting members in a bid to
convince the LTTE, it is the UNP that is the bad guy and not the UPFA.
women cadre, according to Tamil media have said while Ali Mowlana
brought them to Colombo, UNP Chairman Malik Samarawickrama, MPs S. B.
Dissanayake, Rajitha Senaratne and T. Maheswaran met with the rebel
leader at the Hilton and discussed the possibility of forming a separate
political party in the east.
to the version of the four women cadres, it is Karuna who had related
details of his alleged meetings with the UNPers including a telephone
conversation with Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe which
Wickremesinghe later scoffed at stating Karuna must first explain in
which language they communicated given that Wickremesinghe does not
speak Tamil and Karuna neither English nor Sinhala.
is interesting in this context that the version related by the women
cadre is based on some facts personally experienced by them, taken
together with what Karuna had allegedly told them giving the story taken
as a whole a ring of truth. In that context, bringing in military
intelligence into the picture as well though not in too much detail gave
the overall story incriminating the UNP credibility or so it was
is also intriguing that the four women cadres kept under tight military
security by their own admission, so easily managed to escape and report
back to the LTTE.
raised the possibility of their escape being facilitated to take back
the message the military intelligence and Karuna wanted them to, to the
LTTE or that they were willing tools who were asked to relay a set of
events and steer LTTE thinking in a particular direction in keeping with
the government's political agenda.
is no gainsaying, none of the UNPers mentioned other than Mowlana ever
met with Karuna in Colombo which raised the question why they were
implicated by the four women cadres. Either Karuna deliberately lied to
them having set the stage with military intelligence for their escape or
the women cadre having been planted once again with the LTTE are
themselves lying at the behest of Karuna and military intelligence.
LTTE are of course no spring chicken in this game of cloak and dagger
politics and whilst debriefing the women cadres, are carrying out their
own independent investigation to ascertain the truth behind the drama.
fact days after the women cadres spilled the beans, head of LTTE's Peace
Secretariat, S. Puleedevan called Rajitha Senaratne and inquired after
the whole issue.
told Puleedevan categorically, he had not met Karuna at any time and it
was a diabolical lie aimed at creating a rift with the opposition to the
advantage of the government.
was particularly significant in the statement attributed to the escaped
women cadres was that as opposed to the UNP, not a single member of the
government met with Karuna.
the UNP leadership, this raised a further problem with serious
ramifications, namely security.
these statements and the number of para military units of Tamil groups
operating with military intelligence, the UNP leadership believed there
could be an attempt to assassinate some of them and place the blame on
the LTTE for the party's purported role in the Karuna affair.
Wickremesinghe was told by party seniors would not only put the LTTE on
the backfoot internationally, but tremendously help the government both
in its battle in parliament as well as putting the LTTE on the defensive
and getting them back to the negotiating table.
is in this overall backdrop Wickremesinghe and Moragoda met with Solheim
on Tuesday, June 29 and requested him to inform the LTTE, neither the
opposition leader nor the party had any role in the Karuna issue.
said the party's position in opposition as a government was one of non
interference in the internal dispute of the organisation and that
Mowlana had acted on his own without any reference to the party.
UNP is now expected not only to issue a statement on the Karuna affair
this week but also despatch a party delegation to Wanni.
LTTE for its part has also sent word to the UNP to tighten their
security since there could be an attempt to carry out assassinations and
put it on them.
for the government however,
despite the attempt to project the UNP as masterminding the Karuna case,
it was the President and military intelligence the LTTE targeted,
possibly seeing through the red herring.
even prior to Solheim's visit to the Kilinochchi, Tamilselvan who met
the head of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM), Trond Furuhovde in
the company of Puleedevan and Tiger Police Chief P. Nadesan made the
position of the organisation clear on the issue.
Tamilselvan - "We now have very reliable evidence that the Sri
Lankan army is using Karuna as a pretext to murder and to create mayhem
in Batticaloa. We have indisputable proof that he is working with the
Sri Lankan Military Intelligence. The LTTE will not recommence meetings
with the Sri Lankan army while the government and its military continue
to harbour Karuna and continue to instigate murder and confusion in
message was chilling as it was clear the LTTE will have no dealings with
the government and the military until such time Karuna is moved out of
stopping at that, Tamilselvan went onto say numerous problems have
arisen with regard to the ceasefire agreement after Chandrika
Kumaratunga's government came into power, particularly in relation to
land and sea movements and that it was putting a strain on the
future of the ceasefire and the peace process is in the hands of the
army, SLMM and the facilitators," Tamilselvan also said.
went on to charge that the women cadres who escaped from military
intelligence had revealed many facts including the involvement of
military intelligence in the murders of academic Thambiah and journalist
is 48 hours after this meeting that Solheim and Brattskar met with
Tamilselvan, where his message was largely the same.
told the facilitators, if the President and government are serious about
the ceasefire agreement and talking to the LTTE, they should stop
sheltering Karuna and backing the murder and mayhem in Batticaloa
carried out by the renegade commanders, "henchmen."
made it clear they were not prepared to consider dates for talks even if
the President is offering to negotiate on the basis of the ISGA
proposals, until such time the Karuna issue is resolved to the LTTE's
LTTE Political Wing Leader also said they were fearful for the ceasefire
agreement if this dangerous trend continues.
Norwegians for their part communicated both the government's position as
well as that of the UNP with regard to non involvement in the Karuna
said the LTTE is in the process of debriefing the four women cadres and
it was demonstrably clear, there is military intelligence involvement
with Karuna and the murder and mayhem in Batticaloa.
further said the government is being duplicitous in agreeing to
negotiate on the basis of the ISGA proposals on one hand and allowing
Karuna to carry out murder and mayhem on the other.
this situation is allowed to continue, it will jeopardise the ceasefire
agreement and the entire peace process," Tamilselvan also warned.
after the meeting speaking to journalists, Tamilselvan mentioned the
UNP's message of non involvement but warned the government not to
jeopardise the peace process and the ceasefire agreement by sheltering
Karuna. In effect, what Tamilselvan did was acknowledge the UNP's denial
of involvement in the Karuna issue while rejecting the government's
denial by calling on her not to shelter Karuna.
this meeting, Solheim himself sounded a note of pessimism stating there
was no breakthrough but that they will continue with their efforts at
air of pessimism was also evident when Solheim later briefed Premier
Mahinda Rajapakse on the talks stating the LTTE was very concerned with
the Karuna affair and unless steps are taken to resolve the dispute, it
would have a serious impact on the peace process.
for his part said he did not believe there was government involvement in
the Karuna affair but added it was the President who was dealing with
the peace process and would be in a better position to give a clearer
that the President did, once again denying any government or military
involvement in the Karuna affair whilst urging for early resumption of
talks based on the ISGA proposals.
however has to overcome the conflict with the JVP on pushing the core
issues to the backburner, for which the Norwegians have now come up with
an ingenious theory.
position to be touted is that inherent in the interim administration
proposals are core issues and therefore in discussing the ISGA, the core
issues could also be discussed simultaneously.
remains to be seen whether the "Salmon eating busybodies," as
the UPFA described the Norwegians will be able to effectively market
that theory to the "lotus eaters" of Sri Lanka but for now, it
is all systems "no go."