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20th February, 2005  Volume 11, Issue 32

First with the news and free with its views                                     First with the news and free with its views                             First with the news and free with its views                                    

Focus

LTTE and the Karuna phenomenon

By D.B.S. Jeyaraj

What goes around comes around! When John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963,Black American leader Malcolm X observed that "the chickens have come home to roost" implying that the US, having exported political violence.....

More..... 


 More Focus Articles

> JVP - sticking like flies

> Resettlement in limbo as lands stand in the way

> Pitching into the journos (...Thelma)

> Chandranehru: patriot of the east

> Confessions of a workaholic Prez!


LTTE and the Karuna phenomenon

S. P. Tamilselvan, Karuna Amman, Kausalyan and Velupillai Pirapaharan

By D.B.S. Jeyaraj

What goes around comes around! When John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963,Black American leader Malcolm X observed that "the chickens have come home to roost" implying that the US, having exported political violence including assassinations abroad, was now faced with it domestically. Violence, however, is corrosively contagious and some years later the very same Malcolm X was assassinated.

The spectre of political violence has loomed large over Sri Lanka in many ways. One of its most virulent manifestations has been in the Tamil community.

The arms raised proudly at one time in defiance of the 'oppressive' Sinhala state later turned inward. The militant groups engaged in internecine warfare debilitated the Tamil polity. Sadly this intra-Tamil violence continues to this date.

The latest such violence was in the east on February 7 when six people including Tiger political commissar for the east and former Parliamentarian, Chandranehru Ariyanayagam were assassinated. The LTTE has accused "paramilitary" elements of being responsible. It is widely believed that cadres belonging to the Karuna faction of the LTTE were aided by some sections of the armed forces in this.

Weak argument

The LTTE however considers it infradig to even acknowledge openly that a 'Karuna Amman phenomenon' exists. As far as the LTTE is concerned its erstwhile Eastern Regional Commander, Vinayagamoorthy Muralee-tharan alias Karuna Amman is not a factor worthy of reckoning.

The Tigers therefore emphasise the alleged complicity of armed forces in the killing as being the vital factor in the Kausalyan assassination. Tiger propaganda organs at home and abroadamplify and echo this charge ad nauseam.

This singular focus on alleged security force involvement in the killingsappears a weak argument when offset against some ground realities.

The LTTE has sought and obtained helicopter transport for some of its senior cadres to move about in the north east. It also procured security forces escort for several cadres travelling to and from the Wanni to the east for Kausalyan's funeral. The security forces also provided aerial transport for Tiger leaders to go to Trincomalee.

It does seem incongruous that an organisation accusing security forces of being responsible for assassinating comrades could request and utilise transport and protection from the same.

This blatant contradiction however does not diminish the threat perception of the LTTE in the east. This was patently visible in the conduct of its Political Wing Head, S.P. Tamilselvan. Having obtained helicopter transport to reach Batticaloa, Tamilselvan also wanted aerial transport to go to Thirukkovil in Amparai from Kokkadicholai in Batticaloa to attend the funeral of Chandranehru. The unavailability of a helicopter resulted in Tamilselvan being a conspicuous absentee at the funeral ceremony.

Tamilselvan is one who has fine-tunedhis survival skills over the years. His obvious reluctance to risk a road journey in eastern territory denotes the insecurity he experiences in the east. The custom of sympathisers calling on the bereaved family to express condolences was reversed because of the paranoid Tamilselvan.

Chandranehru's wife and son travelled up to 'safe' Palugamam to meet Tamilselvan who conveyed his sympathies. A photograph of the meeting showed Tamilselvan having a firearm strapped to his waist. This again demonstrated the security consciousness of the political commissar.

Tamilselvan's obsession with security also exposed the hollow emptiness of the LTTE claim that all was quiet on the eastern front after the Karuna revolt. It revealed clearly the beleaguered feeling of the top Tigers in the region. In a replay of the chickens coming home to roost, the predator had now become prey.

The invincibility myth of the LTTE has been badly undermined. There is no doubt that the Tigers face a serious threat from what may be termed the Karuna phenomenon.

When the Karuna revolt occurred this column was one of the few voices urging rapprochement in the larger interests of the Tamil people. Even the LTTE English Journal published in London, The Tamil Guardian, changed its earlier stance of advocating a settlement.

This column pointed out then that Karuna could not fight the LTTE and the state simultaneously and that he would have no choice other than to throw in his lot with Colombo if the mainstream LTTE drove him up against the wall.

Security force protection

This column also said that there could be no military solution to what was essentially a political question. The pro-LTTE elements fired up by fairy tales of 'superman' type special forces were in no mood to countenance moderate counsel and could only vilify this column.

One Tiger sycophant went to the extent of urging the LTTE to "spit" on this column. Today this column has been proved right. Karuna and his followers are compelled to seek security force protection and in return function as cat's paws.

There are around 200 to 300Karuna loyalists actively opposing the LTTE in the east. The presence or absence of Karuna is immaterial to this development. The LTTE betrayed the terms of its understanding with Karuna when it executed erstwhile commanders of Karuna who surrendered.

The witch hunt for Karuna loyalists and the arrest of over 200 cadres suspected of having supported the Karuna revolt has worsened the situation. The fate of these cadres taken to the Wanni for interrogation is unknown.

The Tigers were unwilling to even let Karuna loyalists seek safety elsewhere. Ex Tiger cadres considered Karuna loyalists were killed mercilessly in many parts of the east and Colombo. The most horrible massacre was in Kottawa.

Eight persons including Karuna's treasurer, Kuganesan and chief bodyguard, Castro were drugged and then massacred in cold blood as they lay on their beds and mats in a stupor. The Tigers are now shouting about the cowardly killing of Kausalyan. If one is to talk about cowardly killings, the Kottawa massacre has no equal.

Treacherous killings

The Tigers talk of treacherous killings in the context of Kausalyan's murder. Again it must be pointed out that the LTTE cannot take moral high ground on this. The treacherous killing of Karuna's brother Sivanesathurai alias Reggie as he was sleeping by someone he thought was trustworthy is a glaring example.

So too was the killing of Satchi Master in the Batticaloa jail by a man who had wormed his way into his confidence. The killer had done menial tasks like massaging Satchi's feet and pouring water for bathing, etc. Treacherous killings are a Tiger hallmark.

If the Karuna faction is now doing it then one can only say that both are same mattaigal  (husks) soaked in the same kuttai (puddle).

The LTTE also talks of unarmed cadresbeing killed at a time of ceasefire in a government controlled area as being reprehensible. Certainly that is true. Again the Tigers are the people who started this practice. Nearly 200 unarmed activists belonging to groups like the EPDP, EPRLF and PLOTE were killed in government controlled areas including Colombo.

Robert, Mohan, Varathan, Sinna Bala, Bawan, Singham... the list is exhaustive. A suicide killer was sent to assassinate a Cabinet Minister, Douglas Devananda. People who kept silent about this killing spree have suddenly found their voices when the LTTE gets a taste of its own medicine.

Against this backdrop Karuna loyalists had no choice other than to throw in their lot with the security forces. It was sheer survival. Today these men are holed up mainly in areas north of Chenkallady in Batticaloa. They are also living in the areas on either side of the Batticaloa-Polonnaruwa border. Some stay in jungle areas. Others take refuge with Sinhala and Muslim people.

Most Karuna cadres are careful in staying close to security force camps. They may even be frequenting those places often. There is no doubt that some sections of the security forces are helping to sustain them. Security personnel are most probably turning a blind eye to their movements.

Mutual bloodshed

Like the snake ensconced in safety around Lord Siva's neck insolently inquiring after the health of its nemesis, the kite bird, Karuna loyalists too engage in anti-Tiger attacks. In this tragic climate of mutual bloodshed several Tigers regarded as 'Praba loyalists' have been exterminated. Notable among these are Senathi, Bawa, Yoga and now Kausalyan, Pugalan and Senthamilan.

Two notable civilians executed by the Karuna faction are journalist Nadesan and politician Chandranehru.

The killing of a political leader like Chandranehru has to be condemned firmly. There is no doubt about that. His TULF and TNA colleagues have protested loudly. But then what an exhibition of hypocrisy!

A fellow candidate on the TNA list for Batticaloa, Rajan Sathiyamoorthy and his brother-in-law were gunned down in cold blood while praying at the shrine room in their home. Later Sathiyamoorthy's buried corpse was dug up and thrown elsewhere in a half burnt state. The LTTE defileda person it killed even after death.

Then take the case of another TNA ex-parliamentarian, Kingsley Rajanayagam. This man who won an election was intimidated into resigning his seat. He was taken into LTTE custody and 'effectively' persuaded to resign his seat. Later he was brutally assassinated to issue a 'warning' to anyone desirous of joining Karuna's political party.

Lamentable state

The TNA that beats its breasts now kept silent when all this was happening. This is the lamentable state of Tamil politics today. The politics of terror is applicable both externally and internally.

When the Karuna revolt occurred, this column predicted that at best Karuna would be like the Afghan warlord Rostom and that at worst he would be the leader of a group affiliated to the security forces like those led by EPRLF Razeek, PLOTE Mohan and TELO Varathan. That has now come true.

The so-called Karuna faction is now an appendage of the state fighting as the running dogs of majoritarian hegemonism. In what may be a pleasant irony to security forces both segments are in need of them. The Karuna faction needs security force patronage to survive. The LTTE needs security force protection to move about in Tamil areas. O Tempora! O Mores!

The salient aspect of the Karuna phenomenon is that his followers do not need his physical presence. Karuna is now a brand name taken under a bizarre franchise by loyalists.

The five main groups fighting as autonomous unitsin the east are led by Pillaiyaan, Iniyabharathi, Sinnathamby, Mangalan Master and Markan.

They are scattered in different areas of northern Batticaloa and border areas of Polonnaruwa. The two strongholds are in Omathiyamadhu and Senaitheevu. The Vadamunai jungles are also areas of habitation for these cadres.

There is no doubt that these elements will continue to fight for their survival under the Karuna brand name regardless of whether Karuna wants it or not. The consequences have overtaken the cause.

The mainstream LTTE that failed to resolve the Karuna crisis through dialogue and discussion earlier is showing no signs of a reappraisal on this front even now. Too much of water or blood has flown under the Valaichenai bridge for the LTTE to revise its approach now.

It is a case of the jungle law prevailing now. Jack Londons Buck in his Call Of The Wild put it best - "Kill or be killed; eat or be eaten."

Additional cadres in the east

The LTTE while obtaining security force protection for its top notch leaders has also been quietly sending additional cadres to the east over the past few weeks. A squad of 35 men from Pottu Amman's dreaded Intelligence Wing is now in the east to help discover the whereabouts of Kausalyan's killers and also places where Karuna faction cadres are located.

Two units of leopard commandos and special forces trained in jungle warfare  are also in Batticaloa now, with 125 men under Tharan and 75 under Jegan. Ina disturbing development it is also reported that assassins have been sent to Europe to kill Karuna supporters engaged in propaganda through the internet.

On the other hand, Karuna's supporters in the east are claiming that Karuna is back with a vengeance. April 12 will be the first anniversary of his ignominious exit from Batticaloa. April 14 will herald a new year.

It is said that Karuna has sworn to transform the eastern situation before these significant dates. He and his loyalists can only do this by violent mode. The Tigers too will resist this by violence.

The hapless eastern Tamils have suffered a military tsunami and a natural tsunami. Now they are in for a third tsunami of intra-Tiger violence.


JVP - sticking like flies

Chandrika - get out                                                                Vijitha - not yet

By Dilrukshi Handunnetti 

This coalition government has been doomed since its very formation. Hence, the current deadlock between the two main constituent parties of the UPFA is almost child's guesswork - it has been coming for some time.

Unlikely partners with diametrically opposite economic policies and political agendas, both the SLFP and the JVP formed the ad hoc alliance to defeat the UNF government a year ago. Having accomplished their common objective and pledging this nation a new social order, they even weathered the teething problems, creating the impression that they would somehow pull it along.

It has not been a happy marriage from the beginning with a belligerent partner eternally threatening to break the marriage.

So, when President Chandrika Kumaratunga gave a piece of her mind, so to speak, at a rural bank opening in Nittambuwa exactly a week ago, on February 13, it did not surprise the nation. There she announced that a particular coalition partner was eternally threatening to leave the government and in fact if such was their desire, they were welcome to do so and welcome to match their words with action.

It seems that Kumaratunga has reached the end of her tether. Her presidential diplomacy extended only to the extent of not naming the political party as she lambasted one constituent party that was in the habit of threatening to leave at every turn.

In a rare demonstration of statesmanship, she did not attribute this to the regular conflicts in opinions and the war of words. Instead, she connected it to the urgent need to initiate a peace dialogue and identified the said party as the trouble-maker and the stumbling block which prevents the government from moving towards bringing about a lasting peace.

"They fight over a mere word. It is a joke, and a sad one at that," said Kumaratunga at the bank opening.

Nepotism

Then she expressed her desire to root out nepotism in politics and expressed her wish to ban the entry of other members of political families from running for office. To this too, she identified the same constituent ally as being the stumbling block. "Who stands in my way but a party that addresses people as brothers and sisters who are attempting to fish out SLFP party cadres," she alleged further.

And she minced no words when she made the most stinging comment about "our people will kill me before Pirapaharan does." The statement itself is ample proof that Kumaratunga has no love for the red-capped Marxists and those who know her chequered personal as well as political history cannot blame her for the negative sentiments expressed.

Kumaratunga, having made the last allegation has nevertheless failed to lodge a complaint with the police station. Inspector General of Police Chandra Fernando confirms that no complaint has been lodged by the President on a possible threat of elimination from any quarter.

But what cannot be doubted is her refusal to trust her constituent partner and her innermost fears that get expressed when least expected, as happened at the bank opening. Despite the politics played with the assassination of her husband Vijaya Kumaratunga, the founder of the more liberal Sri Lanka Mahajana Party (SLMP), it is widely believed he was gunned down by the military arm of the JVP at the height of the 1987insurgency.

Hence Kumaratunga's aversion to the red types can well be understood.

It is also an opinion she freely expressed before the signing of the memorandum of understanding between the two parties where she warned her party cadres that they might all live to regret this decision and urged them to reconsider. Finally agreeing to the alliance, she went on record having stated that she was falling in line with the collective party sentiment and this in no way reflected her personal view of what the SLFP's future should be.

JVP in denial

On February 13, Kumaratunga may have said a mouthful but what is interesting to note is the JVP's stoic denial to rise to the bait, something they were so good at just a few months ago.

There is no denying that the inference was to the JVP, though the President stopped short of identifying the particular belligerent constituent partner.

The Mahajana Eksath Peramuna (MEP), Community Party (CP), Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP) and the National Unity Alliance (NUA) have not said a word to offend the main constituent party, the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), and have collectively toed the line without a whimper of protest since they came on board. To that extent, they have maintained collective responsibility.

Not even the vocal MEP Leader, Minister of Urban Development and Water Supply, Dinesh Gunawardene has maintained his Sinhala hard-line politics since he joined the coalition. The left parties in Sri Lanka have long since paid a huge price for a few portfolios and hence, this inference has no bearing to any of them.

Which leads to the ultimate conclusion that it is the JVP that has been identified as a personal threat to the President's security as well as to a negotiated political settlement to the ethnic conflict.

The twin concerns are bad enough and the President had said that much, and has in fact asked the belligerent group to leave the coalition. To that, there is deafening silence from the JVP, a trait developed since of late to appear nonchalant and unanswerable.

The JVP joined the coalition with much fanfare pledging many benefits to the populace. The battle was on from the moment the new government began assigning portfolios, with the JVP behaving like Shylocks.

Various compromises were made, but soon the reds were made to eat political humble pie.

They opposed the UNP's and the PA's privatisation programmes and threatened severe action if the coalition acted in contravention of the agreement reached. Often, Rural Industrial Development Minister K.D. Lalkantha is seen actively encouraging the working classes to take to the streets in protest against the government's various policies. Yet, they stick on like flies glued to a festering carcass.

Same cronies

Today, the UPFA too is guided by the same "cronies" the JVP alleged the UNP was guided by. Thus, there are various commitments made to the lending agencies and developmental work that have urgent targets to meet on top of rebuilding this nation after a devastating tsunami.

And much of the tsunami second phase relief is connected to peace. That requires some quick action, if the pledges are indeed to be converted into reality.

The UPFA too has initiated a restructuring programme - the politically correct word for privatisation. The government last week called for expressions of interest on the Valachchenai Paper Mills and the CEB restructuring will continue despite protests.

One of the worst indictments of the JVP's duplicity was bared when four JVP ministers signified their consent to a new water policy that would convert a basic right to a commodity, regulation of water resources and issuing permits to obtain consumer rights.

In public, they continue to make passionate speeches about not allowing it to happen, despite a May 15 deadline that would translate the policy into an ongoing programme.

The JVP has also been denied an active role in the post tsunami relief distribution scheme and the SLFP and the JVP have been trading charges on the issue for over a month.

What's more, Kumaratunga has reimposed emergency regulations under the Public Security Ordinance (PSO). It was the tsunami that led to the invoking of these provisions, but over 1,000 workers have been discontinued under these regulations while the champions of the working class maintain a deafening silence.

What is strange about the JVP's conduct is that despite their regular threats of disassociation, abuse and criticisms, they still continue confining opposition to mere words. What they pledged the public has not materialised and even the party itself has been forced to remodel itself to follow a compromised political agenda. They have been compelled to make serious compromises on their advocated Marxist polices. Yet through it all, the JVP has shown a relentless commitment to the power game.

The JVP too has indicated about the sour relationship with the most prophetic statement being made by Parliamentary Group Leader, Wimal Weerawansa a fortnight ago. Announcing the JVP's decision not to participate in the the tsunami debate, when he said, "silence could be stronger than a thousand words sometimes. This could also be the beginning of a longer tale," said Weerawansa, his statement loaded with meaning.

Laughable statement

 Following Kumaratunga's speech, only National Heritage Minister Vijitha Herath has made an official comment that they would continue to oppose decisions that are to the detriment of the public - a laughable statement considering how quick they have been to hang on to the presidential saree pota.

However, Herath has also said that Kumaratunga's statement is not considered a big issue by the JVP. But news reports appeared quoting unnamed JVP sources that claimed that the JVP was earning the presidential ire due to the SLFP getting defeated at the Gampaha co-operative polls recently.

The JVP on February 14, boycotted an all party meting on disaster preparedness. The meetings have taken place on a weekly basis following the tsunami with Weerawansa representing the party.

While the JVP considers its next move, Kumaratunga it appears is keen on converting the international goodwill received during this nation's hour of need into a more politically significant one. Hence, nobody could fault her for considering the urgent need to resume peace talks. And as she says, she does not need allies who oppose a "single word" in the draft document for talks and stand in her way. In that sense, President Kumaratunga has shown courage by asking the JVP to simply get out of the coalition, leaving her and her supportive allies to follow a political path that collectively suits them - and to pursue peace leaving the Marxists to indulge in more effigy burning before the Norwegian Embassy - the kind of activity they are best at.


Resettlement in limbo as lands stand in the way

Minister Dinesh Gunewardena and Minister Maithripala Sirisena

By Dilrukshi Handunnetti 

Eight weeks after the tsunami, the country's post tsunami reconstruction effort is still in disarray with the government initiative limping and its ambitious target to build 60,000 houses in three months yet to take off ground.

The original fervour has died a natural death with the government still being engaged in identifying lands for the construction of houses - leave alone the building effort itself. However, notice has been issued to those with fully damaged houses within the 100 metre buffer zone that they would be relocated shortly.

It is learned that the lands identified in the immediate aftermath of the tsunami have been declared unsuitable and impracticable by the authorities charged with the responsibility of building houses, which has led to a second round of land selection.

By now, the state policy is settled - that is to provide land free of charge to all builders. Initially, it was confined to the National Housing Development Authority (NHDA) but with the private sector also offering to undertake massive construction projects on behalf of the tsunami affected, the government a fortnight ago took a policy decision to provide land free to all builders - the state housing construction agency, private sector builders, non-governmental organisations and foreign donors.

With a massive demand for permanent housing following the permanent displacement of some 250,000 people, many offers have come the government's way to rebuild their shattered homes.

Red tape

Despite the open policy of offering land to any well-wishing builders of homes, some private builders, particularly foreign NGOs and groups find the red tape too restrictive.

Several foreign groups told The Sunday Leader that they came here with specific building plans and technical support to identify possibilities of building on the land granted. "It was a nightmare. We bring a plan and that clashes with the government specifications," said a construction engineer from the Netherlands.

Further, it is learned that the authorities actively discouraged a team of Germans who visited Sri Lanka to remodel a village according to their specifications. The Germans had their own plan and the Sri Lankan authorities insisted on following the local specifications to the letter.

"It is necessary to adhere to government specifications provided by the NHDA under UDA instructions. But remodelling of towns is a different task for we look at much more than mere construction of houses. It deals with town planning," added one German builder.

This complaint is not uncommon. While the government certainly has the writ to decide as to how the lands provided should be used for housing construction purposes, these donors claim that plans that differ from those of the government are sometimes rejected.

When queried whether they felt there was prejudice, the German builder said a vehement "no", but added that the government requested him to donate the money to the state's tsunami fund for the government to undertake the construction programme.

State account

And that's the first snag - the state's request to direct money to the government fund. Most builders find this completely unsatisfactory, as they prefer to build on their own and hand over the houses to the Sri Lankan government. Some builders (for example a Dutch team), were disappointed that their enthusiasm to build houses for the displaced was not shared by the authorities who requested them to direct funds to the state.

Manager, SEEDS Southern Region, Daya Walegedara told The Sunday Leader that Sarvodaya, one of the most effective non-governmental organisations in helping tsunami victims, that they too have requested state land. SEEDS is an affiliated organisation of Sarvodaya which has come into a partnership with Holcim International Ltd. Holcim Ltd has invested Rs. 65 million in the construction of 42 houses in Galle and Matara each.

As for the land, victim families with lands beyond the 100 metre buffer and those with families or friends willing to offer land for the construction of houses have been chosen.

"That is only for this phase. We also will require state grants to go beyond this," says Walegedara who is confident of completing the houses before the Sinhala-Hindu New Year.

According to government rebuilding plans, some 110,000 houses are to be constructed for the fisher folk. This will include 60,000 walk in flats and 50,000 housing units in cluster settlements.

And this requires finding state land in safe areas close to the affected areas. "That's the policy. People should not be completely removed from their original environment. There are difficulties in doing this, as land is not always available where you want to find it. This is why some of the originally identified lands were not acceptable for this purpose," says Mahaweli and Rajarata Development Minister, Maithripala Sirisena, also a member of the newly appointed parliamentary select committee on disaster preparedness.

Already identified

Accordingly, lands have been already identified in certain districts. The state, according to Sirisena is keen to minimise relocation problems and is prepared even to purchase private land, if necessary. "But only if owners are willing. We invite philanthropists to hear our call and assist us," adds Sirisena.

But he admits that the government has no clear idea as to how much should be paid for such land acquisition, besides be guided by the prevailing land prices. Admittedly, state acquisition of both buildings and lands leads to heavy under-valuation of property resulting in a reluctance to sell property to the state - even for a public purpose of this nature.

Minister of Urban Development and Water Supply, Dinesh Gunawardena says that though there is an urgent need to resettle the displaced, the state should be guided by a fresh map of Sri Lanka which would clearly identify disaster prone areas.

"This reconstruction phase should be different. Land selection and acquisition should pay heed to possible threats," says Gunawardena who believes that that houses for tsunami the ravaged should not be built in landslide prone areas either.

"What I mean is that we should do this scientifically. So naturally it takes time and people are compelled to stay in camps. Their return may still be unsafe," he adds.

As for the need for all houses to conform to UDA specifications, his answer is unclear. "It is how government housing schemes are created generally," he notes, but adds that private builders should have a certain amount of discretion in the construction process, now that they have come into the construction effort magnanimously.

According to Ministry officials, the construction of cities and townships affected by the tidal waves could differ as donors may exercise some level of discretion.

Besides those who must relocate and move into new houses, there is the other category of legal dwellers of the coastal buffer who prefer to relocate though not affected by the tsunami. The government policy for these people is unclear.

Grappling with the issue of clearing land and building over one million houses, the government is yet to consider those who would voluntarily relocate." We haven't decided who to deal with such persons. If they live within the buffer, they cannot reconstruct their houses, so they must move," admits Minister Sirisena.

Loan scheme

What is recommended in such situations is the special long-term loan scheme for rebuilding purposes. Most banks are coming up with their own special loan schemes to help tsunami victims, the pioneer loan scheme being Susahana introduced by the Central Bank.

The quantum of payment for the construction of a fully damaged house is Rs. 400,000, yet there is no decision on the partially destroyed houses - a category that is able to resettle faster than the former.

These houses, however would not have structural designs to weather natural disasters, an aspect some of the foreign investors are worried about as they prefer to invest in a plan that has a more scientific approach.

According to the government, the completed houses will have Jayabhoomi deeds - issued by the state.

Jayabhoomi deeds can be issued only by a presidential writ and accordingly, plans are afoot to empower the President to alienate land for the post tsunami-rebuilding programme.

According to a Lands Ministry source, only the President could alienate land under both the Land Development Ordinance as well as State Lands Ordinance.

It is learned that some 4,000 acres coming under the Land Commission as well as 300 acres coming under the Land Reforms Commission will be alienated for this purpose.

In addition to the above, so far uncultivated land in areas where housing needs are urgent will also be acquired by the state. Private land for acquisition will be after evaluation of displaced needs and then distributed. Quantum of compensation, has not been decided on.

However, pressurised to provide shelter to the homeless, the current regime has decided to utilise agricultural land by filling them with sand to urgently relocate affected families, authoritative sources said.

According to estimates the per capita extent of land available in the year 2003 was 0.29 ha which has further declined. With a projected population of 25 million by the year 2030, the per capita extent of land availability will be 0.22ha, it is estimated.

However this is expected to reduce drastically after families affected by the tsunami are relocated at new houses that are being built on unutilised land. In Hambantota, some 500 acres of forestland is being cleared to create a new town.

Ironically, the vision of the Land, Irrigation, Livestock and Agriculture Ministry is to become the optimal user of land resources among Asian countries. The Ministry website states that its mission is the management of land resources with optimal utilisation, with the objective of sustainable development through a national policy, while maintaining the environmental equilibrium.

Adding a new dimension to the land saga is the Surveyor General's Department which is faced with a new legal problem with some 600,000 deeds being washed away by the tsunami. Compounding matters, most demarcations have also been altered or destroyed making land alienation even beyond the 100 metres in certain areas somewhat difficult.

Senior Deputy Surveyor General, A.K. Visumperuma says that terrible alterations of the geographical features have occurred in certain coastal areas. It is another problem the government will soon have to deal with, if alienations are to be done shortly.

More trouble

But that is only the beginning of further trouble. With extensive sea erosion, the existing boundaries such as fences and parapet walls too have been destroyed. A fresh problem has surfaced with most coastal dwellers being displaced - that of outsiders attempting to encroach upon the coastal properties.

According to Visumperuma, the department would strictly confine itself to demarcating land on behalf of legal dwellers. " Half the population living at the water's edge were unauthorised dwellers," say department officials.

Before a demarcation exercise is undertaken, what Visumperuma suggests is the conducting of a special census on land ownership in the coastal belt. "We have no mandate and the state should get other agencies to complete the task," notes Visumperuma.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Justice has prepared a new law titled "Tsunami Disaster Special Provisions Act" relating to tsunami victims as an urgent bill. The bill with retrospective effect will prevent any descendants, ascendants and collaterals from making any legal claims to the property of the dead or those listed missing following the December 26 tsunami.

What transpires in the end is that if the reconstruction of homes is to take off, especially the government initiative, the land alienation aspect has to be immediately dealt with. It so far has not, not to the extent that builders could start construction. Those who are currently involved in construction have received land from private parties or affected people or their families. Two months after the tsunami, this country should be experiencing a construction boom.

Government policy on land alienation

By Wilson Gnanadass 

The government policy specifically regarding reconstruction, rehabilitation and resettlement of tsunami victims who have lost their houses is still not clear although lands for these purposes have been identified in certain areas.

The National Housing Development Authority (NHDA) has already identified lands in Hambantota, Kalutara, and Galle to construct houses for the tsunami victims.

According to NHDA Chairman M.N.Junaid, the authority is in the process of identifying lands in Ampara, Batticaloa and Trincomalee for the same purpose.

The task of building new houses has been entrusted to donor agencies and local private companies that have come forward to help build houses for the tsunami victims.

Therefore the lands identified by the state would be handed over to both the local and foreign donors and once the houses are built they will be given back to the state, which will in turn identify the beneficiaries.

According to the government specification, the donors are expected to build each house to the value of Rs. 400,000 with basic amenities like water, electricity and sewerage facilities.

The house will have two bedrooms, one sitting room, one dining room, a toilet and a kitchen. The extent of the house will not be less than 500 square feet.

The government will identify lands according to the land limits established by the Urban Development Authority (UDA).

The criteria adopted by the government to obtain lands are firstly through the state lands, secondly obtaining lands from the state agencies like the NHDA, UDA, Sri Lanka Railways and local authorities and finally if these lands are inadequate, to meet the demand by buying land from private property owners.

Junaid explained that in the process of acquiring lands from private individuals the government would be extremely cautious, as this method cannot forcefully enforced.

The government will inform private residents owning lands in the coastal areas (outside the stipulated buffer zone) of the plan and invite them for a discussion.

The government would make an offer to purchase a portion of the lands owned by private residents and if the respective residents do not respond favourably, then the government would acquire the identified lands under the Land Acquisition Act Section 2 and 38 (A).

As the majority of the houses damaged in the tsunami disaster belong to the fisherfolk Junaid says priority would be given to rebuild houses for this community.

According to him, the donors have already started constructing houses in areas identified by the state, especially for the fishermen.

Speaking of the situation prevailing in the north east, the NHDA Chairman says before launching reconstruction projects the access roads must be finished.

He says even to build houses, the roads in some of the areas are so badly damaged that the reconstruction process cannot be undertaken by the state.

Meanwhile, the government will also vest the originally devastated lands in their legal owners but would offer a different block in an area identified as "safe". However, the owners, despite legal ownership cannot erect structures in the tsunami-ravaged land. They could be used for cultivation or some other industrial purpose under the supervision of the Coast Conservation Department (CCD) and the Urban Development Authority (UDA).


The Papua New Gunea example

With dams and massive developmental activities being identified as the main causes of massive displacement, UNHCR, the UN agency dealing with refugees has called for the reconsideration of the 100 metre strict coastal buffer.

With the world's population doubling in the past 40 years, between 30% to 60% of the urban population in developing countries currently live in slums and informal settlements, according to the World Report on Displacement. It is predicted that populations would swell in the next decade causing more disease in the populated cities.

While there are many sad examples of forced evacuations causing massive displacement, there has been the occasional instance of prudent handling. Papua New Guinea was devastated by a tsunami in 1998 and in its aftermath, a survey was conducted and it was decided that nobody should leave their original land or lose their land if such could be facilitated. Only those who migrated following temporary displacement lost their lands and livelihood while others after some time returned to their original homes and livelihood.


2003 draft land policy

According to the draft policy prepared by the Ministry of Lands in the year 2003, land was identified as a " scarce resource" in a densely populated country such as Sri Lanka with a population of 18.01 million people.

One of the salient features of the said draft was to grant some one million landless people with land, minimise excessive use and ownership of land and to ensure most people would eventually own a plot of land.

The new policy, according to its drafters was necessitated by the fact that there was a plethora of decision making institutions and a complicated legal system resulting in overlapping policies that lacked an integrated approach,

According to former Lands Minister Dr. Rajitha Senaratne, the granting of land was based on a "land suitability evaluation" while reservations of lands in environmentally sensitive areas were meant for conservation. The policy also discouraged conversion of agricultural land in urban fringe areas for non-agricultural uses.

"Our policy looked into victims of floods, famines, droughts, sea erosion and earth slips. We decided to give the victims legal ownership of both is original land and the new block," he adds.


Pitching into the journos 

By Thelma 

My Daahling Satty,

Yikes! That bally worm is still in my bubbly! No good screeching really. Worms may turn but they never seem to go away. To think dearest, here I am, back from the Bahamas suntanned and gorgeous, and there you are, I mean to say, just as you were. And I can bet my last condom at a builders' convention that the same media worm is still in your bubbly too.

I can't wait m'deah to catch up on all the latest goss. I'll get my people to call your people and we'll set an informal meeting over a bag of tea or a dish of tsunami relief or something.

Dahling, if there's one thing a delicate nose-job doesn't bargain for it is to be hit a good one on the aquiline by your incessant and tedious appearance on telly and in the front pages of the Daily Noise. It's not that I object to an occasional horror story but is it too much to ask that it be confined to the last day of October.

But I see from the daily rags that finally, you and I see eye-to-eye on something - especially if you were to quickly slip on those newly acquired high heels of yours. I was as thrilled as a dog on a road full of lamp posts to read that finally, you too feel that your kept press is going overboard like a drunken sailor caught in AA. Oh well alright then.....caught in a tsunami. The kept press is packed, you say, with baseless and absurd reports. So much so you assert, with womanly warmth, which always becomes us girls well, you have been reduced to the sorry state of only being able to read foreign news rags. Tsk. Tsk. First you stopped reading this bally rag in public although our spies.....I mean flies on the wall maintain staunchly that you still read us in the toilet. Then you lashed out at independent media and now you stop reading altogether. Not even your own bally rag. Who can blame you?

The noisy rag, apart from being an empty vessel, is, like her mistress also given to lying (to use a term once frequently employed by you) like a Trojan. A term I might add the late old fox once called a misconception of classical history, when you, in the days of your youth, observed in a girlish manner that the old fox was, 'lying like a Trojan.' At which comment, JRJ was to softly point out that it wasn't the Trojans who lied. Touch‚.

I am unaware of the quality of your speechwriters dahling, but from the tenor of your speeches I can deduce that they ain't much. Elementary, my dear Watson. It has been a habit of yours dear, a habit about which I would like to have a long discussion with you, to make veiled references in a sweeping kind of way. Thus in Hiniduma you say that an opposition politician is working like a bally beaver to stop tsunami aid. In much the same way that in Colombo you recently sought to assert that all judges are corrupt. Much, I say again, in the same way as you once at your official palace said that a Supreme Court judge was corrupt, causing seismic tremors of 9.1 on the Richter scale to hit the apex court premises.

A master...sorry...mistress of innuendo under cover of presidential immunity, you seem to be blaming the NGOs and some mystical European country for amassing tsunami relief and not giving it personally to you. Oh my dear! The hills are not going to be too much alive with the sound of music if you keep talking in that offensive way about 600 million smackers. Or should I say, doe a deer?

And if you mean who I think you mean when talking of the opposition politician stopping tsunami aid, my darling, I can scarce forbear to giggle. The theory that Ranil was hopping about in the Netherlands stopping this and that was the tale your own Daily Noise carried in its front pages as an investigative piece supplied by you. I may as well tell you sweetheart, he is as likely to stop aid to a devastated Paradise, as a shy and retiring deputy vicar standing on his left leg in a rural parish in Cornwall is likely to pounce on some Hollywood superstar.

You, stopping this and that like an overzealous traffic policeman I can understand or even imagine. But him? Out of the bally question. You make him sound like some broken down traffic light. In that respect my darling, if you ask me, he is as unlike you as a Japanese teashop girl is to the chief of a Corsican clan.  So you see deah, it is hardly profitable to be talking about Ranil in this wild way. A man who often reminds me of a wide-eyed Hamlet in a constant state of indecision. That same sort of moodiness and irresolution coupled with a strongly marked disposition to see things. That is all that even the most dyspeptic critic can say of old Amdo.

On the subject of dashing male figures, I have to admit darling that the arrival of Clinton today is making my heart go boombudi-boombudi-boom-boom-boom. I am a girl who likes the odd cigar. But what will you talk about dear? May I suggest you go easy on the NGO-bashing for the nonce? A modicum of caution dear. Puffing yourself out like a captive balloon and hissing will get you nowhere. Counter productive if you get my drift. Thelma, as you know has always been a staunch supporter of the upper classes and ever ready to trod down on the masses with you, but even I, cannot allow you to put your foot in it at this crucial time. I advise you to therefore put a sock in it instead.

If tempted to speak, why don't you say a neutral something like etcetera etcetera etcetera? A word you have always liked. And a helpful addition to any sentence often employed by you I notice in my astute way, to make others believe that you know more than you actually do. In this case it might just save you.

One final word on these journo chaps my sweet. In Hiniduma last week you glibly called the independent media a curse. Tsk. Tsk. Dahling! Not done no. Hey, wait just a minute...that's what they call you. Hmmm! There's a copycat in our midst and we know who! Ta- ra!


Chandranehru: patriot of the east

By D. B. S. Jeyaraj

THE Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam awarded its highest civilian honourposthumously to former Ampara District Parliamentarian Chandranehru Ariyanayagam who was gunned down along with Kausalyan, the Tiger political chief for  Batticaloa - Amparai and four others along the A-11 highway on February 7. Chandranehru became the first Eastern Tamil recipient of the "Maamanithan" or "Great Person" honour conferred by LTTE Supremo Velupillai Pirapaharan.

Chandranehru known generally as Chandra and/or Nehru was the latest casualty caught up unfortunately in the crossfire of a dirty war between the LTTE and its former Eastern Commander Vinayagamoorthy Muraleetharan alias Karuna. He had gone by van to help out Kausalyan returning home from the Wanni. Nehru had met the LTTE Political Head for the east and his comrades at Polonnaruwa and was transporting them back when assassins struck fatally at Pillaiyaarady about five kilometres from the Welikanda Army camp. His death was a tragic instance of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The LTTE Leader's decision to award Nehru the 'Maamanithan' honour was not motivated by Nehru's service to the Tigers in this respect alone. It was due to a combination of reasons. In the first place, Chandranehru was an avowed LTTE supporter and never hesitated to assert that position in public. Even after failing to win a seat at the last poll, the man had continued to serve the people of Ampara to the best of his ability.

Close relationship

He continued to maintain a close relationship with the LTTE and in recent times became a trusted confidant. His last act of going out of his way to give Kausalyan a ride being a good example. He was also involved with the LTTE affiliated human rights outfit known as the North-Eastern Secretariat on Human Rights (NESOHR)

In a climate where civilian supporters of the LTTE could have been intimidated by this type of killing, it was necessary for the LTTE to boost civilian morale by honouring people like Nehru who were murdered by its foes. As a former parliamentarian and a human rights activist, Nehru in the LTTE's eyes had the necessary credentials to deserve such an award. Also it served to highlight the gruesome killing thus earning the LTTE some plus points. The Tigers are now engaging in a lot of propaganda over Nehru's killing as they hope it will generate a lot of sympathy.

Regional considerations also played a part. Earlier the LTTE had given Nehru the "Naatrupatraalar" title posthumously. This means "patriotic citizen" and is regarded as the second highest civilian award of the LTTE. Subsequently, the Tigers revised their position and honoured him with the greater award. The 'Maamanithan' was given to Kumar Ponnambalam too in 2000 when the Tamil Congress leader was killed in Colombo.

It was  realised later that Nehru not being given the highest civilian honour may not go down well with the eastern Tamils. The high-profile LTTE contingent that came down to the east from the Wanni to participate in the funerals felt in their interaction with people that this could be perceived as discrimination towards the east. The Karuna faction could have pinpointed this further. With the LTTE fighting a politico-military battle in the east to win back the hearts and minds of the Tamil people, awarding the 'Maamanithan' became almost an imperative.

The award was handed over to Chandranehru's widow at a special ceremony held at Paavattai LTTE base in the Kanchikudichhaaru region of Ampara District. Nehru's wife is of mixed Tamil-Sinhala parentage and lives in Komari. Chandranehru's only son who lives in Britain, as well as his siblings living in Canada and elsewhere were present. LTTE Batticaloa-Amparai Military Commander's Ram presented it to Chandranehru widow after reading the citation signed by Pirapaharan. The LTTE Leader praised Chandranehru's exceptional service to the Tamil people and the Tamil cause amid adverse circumstances.

Former Batticaloa - Amparai special commander Ramesh, ex-Political Chief Karikalan, LTTE Financial Controller Thamilendhi and ex- EROS leader and current Senior Member of the LTTE Kamalisini Velupillai Balakumaran also spoke at the ceremony. Nehru's body was lying in state at the Tiger camp. Earlier the body was taken around Batticaloa and Ampara Districts for people to pay their respects. After the award ceremony the body was brought back to Nehru's native Thirukkovil and buried according to Christian rites conducted by Methodist priests.

LTTE Political Wing Head S.P. Tamilselvan and the Batticaloa-Ampara Special Commander Col. Bhanu were also expected to pay their respects at Nehru's funeral but could not do so as they were not given helicopter transport from Kokkaddicholai to Thirukkovil. Chandranehru's wife and son however went up to Palugamam later and met Tamilselvan. The LTTE Political Wing Chief consoled the family and expressed his sympathies.

Chandranehru Ariyanayagam was a colourful character with a flamboyant personality. He was an old 'sea dog' with about 30 years service as a mariner. Of these at least 20 were as captain of a mercantile vessel. Years of sea going however did not diminish the patriotism of this eastern son of the soil whose family was steeped in Tamil nationalist politics. He returned home a few years ago to set down roots in his motherland and took to politics in a big way.

Hailing from Thirukkovil in the south of the Ampara District Chandranehru was the son of a well-known pedagogue, K.A.W. Ariyanayagam who made a name for himself in the Gandhiyan way of Tamil national struggle some decades ago. Ariyanayagam was a founder member of the Federal Party led by the "Gandhi of Eelam," S.J.V. Chelvanayagam.

Like Chelva he too was a Protestant Christian. If the north was a preserve of the American missionaries, the east has been a Methodist stronghold from the time of William Ault who came along to Ceylonwith the pioneering  seven Methodist missionaries led by Thomas Coke. Thirukkovil was one place that took to Methodism in large numbers. This Christianisation however did not prevent Tamil nationalism entrenching itself there.

Non-violent struggle

Ariyanayagam Senior participated in all the non-violent struggles of the '50s and '60s that the Tamils engaged in to win back their lost rights. He was the uncrowned king of the Ampara District Tamils and fostered principles of non-violence in them. As a result, he was called "Arappor" (Ahimsa struggle) Ariyanayagam. He also wrote the Tamil national anthem of yesteryear  Engal Eelath Thamil Thiru Naadu modelled on Tamil Nadu poet Bharatidasan's 'Thiraavida Ponnadu.'

Young Chandranehru also participated in many demonstrations during his student and early youth, including the 1956 and 1961 satyagrahas. Like many Tamils, he became disillusioned with non-violent struggle and in later years an ardent devotee of the armed struggle and the LTTE. He believed firmly that only an armed struggle waged by the LTTE could win back the lost rights of Tamils.

Entering government service, first as a Fisheries Department employee he worked in Kalpitiya. The lure of the ocean was irresistible and he quit government service and joined a Maldivian ship as second officer. In six years he was captain of his own ship. He worked for many years on Maldivian ships. He also got married during this period.

If life on the high seas took Chandranehru's mind off Tamil politics, a nasty experience in the mid '80s  brought him back to reality. Coming home on vacation he was arrested under the Draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act and incarcerated in Boosa for more than a year. The experience made him a determined Tamil nationalist espousing separation through armed struggle.

Returned home

He bade adieu to sea-faringat the end of the last century and returned home to Thirukkovil. He bought a complex of shops and became a businessman. Politics was in his blood. Soon came the 2001 elections. Nehru contested on the Tamil United Liberation Frontticket in Ampara District where Tamils were only 19% of the total population. Though a newcomer who had been away from the country for decades, Nehru was able to win a seat of the total seven in the district.

One thing that helped him was the family background. His father Ariyanayagam would have been an MP in 1960 when Ampara District was carved out of Batticaloa but for the fact that the Tamils willingly 'sacrificed' the seat due to them to allow the Muslims additional representation during electoral demarcation. Such was the amity that prevailed between both communities then. In 1977 when Pottuvil was made a multi-member constituency, Ariyanayagam would have been the first choice had he been living. He passed away in 1972 and so entered M. Canagaretnam.

Popular

Apart from this one of Nehru's brothers, Ruban, was a popular Methodist pastor. The Christian community rallied strongly behind Nehru because of this. Another factor that helped him was the fact that the Thambiluvil-Thirukkovil people mobilised strongly in his favour because Nehru was a man from that area.

Nehru's parliamentary baptism was funny. He came wearing a batik bush shirt and the speaker refused to let him take his seat as he was improperly attired. So Nehru had to borrow the white long sleeved shirt of a parliamentary staffer and take his seat. He was a firebrand and often made controversial pronouncements. He took no effort to disguise his unbridled admiration of the LTTE.

When the Tamil Nadu assembly passed a resolution calling for Pirapaharan's arrest and deportation to India, Nehru lost his temper. He described India not as "Thainadu"(Mother Country) of the Tamils but a "Pei Nadu" (Devilish Country). He also threatened to bring Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalitha Jayaram to trial under the Tamil Eelam penal code.

The irony in all this was that his father Ariyanayagam was a great admirer of India. He himself was named after two great sons of India. The Chandra was for Subash Chandrabose and the Nehru obviously for Jawarhalal Nehru.

When the Karuna revolt occurred, Chandranehru was in a quandary. He took no sides initially and urged unity saying "Pirapaharan and Karuna were the right and left eye of the Tamils." Later he was compelled to throw in his lot with Karuna and spoke at a rally where Pirapaharan's picture was burnt publicly.

Despite this Nehru was not trusted by Karuna who had brought in Pathmanathan earlierto contest on the TNA ticket along with Nehru. Pathmanathan was from Karaitheevu and married in Thambiluvil. Thus he dented Nehru's Thirukkovil-Thambiluvil vote bank while garnering Karaitheevu votes too.

History

In the early stages, Nehru was backed strongly by the Ampara District Tiger Political Wing Chief, Bawa. About a week before the election Bawa deserted Karuna and went over to the Wanni. This left Nehru in the lurch and deprived him of LTTE support. The intra-Tamil National Alliance campaign between Nehru and Pathmanathan was very fierce, leading to much violence before and after the elections.

Another factor was the religious card being raised. The support of all Hindu temple trustees was obtained to mobilise Hindu voters and keep the "vedhakkaran" (Bibleperson) out. Despite this Nehru lost only by a narrow margin to Pathmanathan.

The eastern situation changed within a week of the 2004 election. Karuna left Batticaloa after some fighting and the Wanni hierarchy re-gained the upper hand. Nehru appealed that he should be given the national list nomination for the east, but did not succeed. It was given to Joseph Pararajasingham who had boldly hitched his wagon to the Pirapaharan star while Chandranehru had been vacillating between Pirapa and Karuna.

As time progressed Nehru re-established better relations with the Tigers in the east as well as Wanni.Kausalyan in Batticaloa and Balakumaran in the Wanni helped Nehru salvage himself politically with the LTTE Supremo.The Tiger hierarchy realised that he was an ardent Tamil nationalist whose heart was in the right place in spite of temporary problems.

District rep

He was then made Ampara District representative of the North-Eastern Secretariat on Human Rightsheaded by Rev. Karunairatnam. In a newspaper interview Nehru waxed eloquently about the NESOHRand what he proposed to do. He stated that it would be even handed and pull up the LTTE too if it violated human rights. This however had to be taken with more than a pinch of salt.

In practice, the NESOHR is yet to prove its impartiality and independence. Its reports are an exercise in glossing over alleged LTTE offences and whitewashing it. When it was formally inaugurated at Kilinochchi, Tamilselvan went public with the pronouncement that the NESOHR was being set up to take forward the Tamil national leaders' ideas and thoughts.

In recent times there has been alot of tragedy in Chandranehru's family. He  lost two brothers in the past two years. Both died due to illness. The recent tsunami disaster hit Thirukkovil hard and according to a close relative, 26 of Chandranehru's relations were killed. Now Chandranehru himself is no more. He leaves behind his wife, son, mother and seven siblings.


Confessions of a workaholic Prez!

What with rebuilding after tsunamis, killings of Tiger politicos and myriad visitations by foreign dignitaries - tsunami surveyors and peace facilitators alike - local politicians have certainly had a busy year so far. None more so of course than President Chandrika Kumaratunga herself, who between hosting banquet after banquet and hopping off on various visits to say 'thanks,' not to mention her threatening-to-boil-over stew with the JVP, apparently has no time to breathe. Oddly enough, despite her round-the-clock work schedule and appointment of numerous committees, two months after the monster waves not a single reconstruction project is off the ground yet.

"I am a workaholic. And we have I think achieved quite a lot. We have also had many failures. But when one has a vision and one wants to do things and you see that something is happening for the people of the country, especially the underprivileged, it is very soul-satisfying, but also it has been very difficult."

- President Chandrika Kumaratunga in an interview with Pakistan Television on February 9.

Then again, her confessions MUST be true - after all she wants to go on 'working' even after her term is up!



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