By Amantha Perera
In the early 1990s when the Tamil Tigers were
talking peace with the administration of
Ranasinghe Premadasa, Tiger
intelligence head Pottu Amman dispatched a
young cadre he had met only recently to
Colombo. The cadre may have been young, but
the mission he was on was not small.
Based on intelligence that then Minister of State
for Defence Ranjan Wijeratne was planning to
target Tiger Head Velupillai Pirapaharan in
Jaffna, Pottu Amman dispatched young
Shanmuganathan Ravishankar to Colombo to
thwart the plans.
Wijeratne was assassinated when a powerful bomb
ripped through his motorcade on Havelock
Road during the morning hours on March 2,
1991. Ravishankar's role in the
assassination was only vaguely
hinted at 17 years later, during a
funeral oration delivered by his original
handler Pottu Amman at Ravishankar's own
"When our organisation was involved in peace
talks during the period of Premadasa, we
received credible intelligence reports that
Ranjan Wijeratne, the then defence minister
and the Sri Lanka military were hatching a
plan to assassinate our national leader in
Jaffna. With our limited resources available
to us at that time, we foiled their plans
and forced them to restrict their activities
Nullify the plan
"Col. Charles went to the capital, and with
meticulous planning, he was able to thwart
the efforts of the enemy and nullify their
murderous plan," Pottu Amman said at
the funeral held on January 7 in Kilinochchi
according to TamilNet.
Ravishankar who was known by his nom de guerre
Charles died under similar circumstances as
Wijeratne, his van was targeted by a
powerful claymore mine in at Palaimadhu,
north of Mannar on January 5 evening.
Pottu Amman did not elaborate whether Charles
returned to the Wanni or remained in Colombo
for a lengthy period of time after the
Wijeratne murder. But soon after his death
both the government military and Tigers
acknowledged his role in handling Tiger hit
squads and the Black Tigers in the south and
the Wanni. In addition to whatever role he
played in the Wijeratne assassination he was
the main mover in a string of attacks in
Colombo and elsewhere.
Soosai, the Sea Tiger leader said at the funeral
that Charles was instrumental in organising
the Black Sea Tigers and added that many did
not know him.
"Charles was in charge of such a group - the
incognito Black Tigers - and faced the
pressures of huge responsibilities of
coordinating their activities with great
courage," Pottu Amman said.
Responsible for attacks
The Defence Ministry and the Media Centre for
National Security said that Charles was
responsible for a series of attacks in
Colombo mostly carried out in the '90s.
Among such attacks "planned and executed by
Charles was the bombing of Central Bank,
Colombo in 1996. In this attack, 86
civilians were killed and over 1400 others
"According to defence intelligence sources,
terror chief Pirapaharan had presented a 'Pajero'
jeep to Charles for his success in the
Central Bank bomb attack. Charles was also
known to have been involved in terrorist
attacks at Kolonnawa fuel storage,
Kelanitissa power plant, JOC bomb in
Colombo, and assassinations of key political
figures and armed forces personnel in the
country," the Defence Ministry said.
The MCNS said that he was part of the planning
team that carried out the assassination of
Indian PM Rajiv Gandhi, two months after the
Wijeratne killing in May 1991.
The senior Tiger leader was also
linked to the attack on the Dalada Maligawa
in January 1998.
"He was also responsible for the attack in
Rajagiriya in the year 2000. He had planned
several attacks using suicide bombers on
EPDP Leader, Minister Douglas Devananda.
However these attacks on the Minister were
all unsuccessful. The other attacks planned
by 'Charles' targeted the Ratmalana Air
Force Base in 1997 and the attack on the
Galadari Hotel in Colombo Fort in
1997," the MCNS said.
The MCNS put his age at 35, meaning if correct if
he was a very young operative when the
attacks in Colombo were carried out.
Information received from inside
According to the Defence Ministry the attack on
Charles was based on information received
from inside Tiger held areas. "The
attack was carried out with accurate ground
information received from LTTE dominated
Wanni region," it said.
The Ministry also hinted at misunderstandings
between Charles and his mentor Pottu Amman.
"Pottu Amman being senior to Charles in
the outfit was said to have become jealous
of Charles for his ability to win the
confidence of the terrorist leader. Just
before the 2002 ceasefire, Pirapaharan had
to move Charles to Batticaloa due to the
rising hostility between his two
intelligence leaders. It was only in 2005;
Pirapaharan could bring Charles back to
At the time of his death Charles was the head of
Tiger internal intelligence and was also
reportedly involved in plans to eliminate
senior intelligence operatives from within
government forces and handling informants
within forces as well as others in the
A small attack
party consisting of a handful of special
forces personnel was in place when the white
van with Charles and three others approached
their hideout during the evening of January
5 in Palaimadhu located about 5km. from
where heavy fighting has been raging between
government troops and the Tigers.
Deep penetration team
The claymore killed all in the van. While the
Tigers had launched an immediate search
operation in the area to hunt down the deep
penetration team, there was no indication
that the party had been detected.
The Charles killing carries multiple threats to
the Tigers. It was well known that senior
Tiger cadres have been relocated along the
Vavuniya-Mannar line of control in the last
two months with fighting intensifying and
government troops increasing forays into
Among those in close proximity to the fighting are
Bhanu, Jeyam and Vidusha, the head of the
female Tigers. The attack on Charles would
severely restrict their movements even if it
was a chance occurrence as the Tigers say it
was. Additionally he became the second top
Tiger leader to have fallen in three months
following the death of S. P. Tamilselvan
during an air raid on November 2 early
Successful military operation
The Tigers have exhibited a penchant for moving
senior cadres into the battle front to pump
cadre morale. Junior Tigers from the east
would show with glee the exact location
Karuna led battles on the Elephant Pass
Front in 1999, the last successful military
operation by the Tigers.
An early indication of the Tiger reaction to the
government onslaught into their areas in the
east came when most of the senior cadres
were pulled back to the Wanni. At one time,
seniors like Bahnu, Balraj, Swarnam and
Jeyam were all in the east. The current
military spokesperson for the Tigers, Rasiah
Ilanthirayan alias Marshall also was based
in the east.
The Tiger reaction to the murder of Charles was
swift; in the morning of January 7, a
claymore blast shattered the passenger side
of the jeep in which Minister of Nation
Building D. M. Dassanayake was travelling to
Colombo to attend parliament at Tudella,
Dassanayake who was seated in the front passenger
seat suffered severe head injuries and died
two hours later at the Ragama Hospital.
Reconstruction of east
Dassanayake's direct involvement with anything to
do with the war was being in charge of some
areas of reconstruction in the east - he had
visited Vaharai once or twice. But there are
at least two other non-cabinet ministers who
serve in the same capacity and there are
five non-cabinet ministers of nation
building, the portfolio Dassanayake held.
The attack on Dassanayake opens a new dimension in
the south, that anybody associated with the
government or the military can be a target.
"Defence observers are of the view that LTTE
terrorists will continue to carry out this
type of cowardly attacks in the south, in
order to divert the attention of the
security forces from northern battlefronts
to the south," the Defence Ministry
warned just hours after the assassination.
The Tigers did not or were prevented from carrying
out retaliatory attacks after the
Tamilselvan murder though there were threats
made by the likes of Pottu Amman.
The Charles hit came amidst heavy and continuous
fighting in areas north of the former
Uylankulam crossover point. Heavy fighting
was reported at Parapakandal and Adampan
south of Pallaimadu where Charles was killed
on January 5 morning.
Confront the Tigers
Government troops in small groups continue to move
ahead of positions and confront the Tigers
the government said, and that along with
Charles and the other three who died in the
claymore attack, over 20 Tigers were
presumed killed in the confrontations on
Government troops were attempting to move ahead of
the defences through last week, but were
faced with stiff resistance. The government
advances have been backed by artillery fire
and multi-barrel fire.
The Tigers said that three hours of battles were
reported in Parapakandal
and Mullikulam areas ahead of the
Vavuniya-Mannar line on January 8 and a
government advance was fought back. They
said that the advancing troops were
supported by air force jets that flew
sorties over the area.
Early morning on January 11 too Tigers had
launched a concerted attack on government
troops fortifying positions in the
Parapakandal area. Initial reports said that
two soldiers and seven Tigers had been
killed during the clash. The military had
launched a fierce assault on the Tigers in
Parapakandal the morning before. Air strikes
were reported over Mulaithivu as well.
The army however has not launched a massive
offensive involving hundreds of troops in
the area yet and so far has been intent on
carrying out operations using small but
mobile formations. Holding land
has also not been the main concern of
The Tigers said that they had killed four soldiers
during the January 8 confrontations.
If the army succeeds in denting Tiger control in
the area one of the prime locations on the
wish list would be Vidattalthivu, the small
bay like area just north of the Mannar
It is one of the main supply bases used by the
Tigers to unload fuel and other small
supplies from India. In fact the Tiger
flotilla that was encountered by the navy
off the southern coast of Delft on December
suspected to have moved to Vidattalthivu
after the confrontation. The Navy FAC P413
was sunk in the attack.
Vidattalthivu remains the most important supply
base for the Tigers on the Mannar coast.
By January 10, clashes were also reported at
Muhamalai south of Jaffna. Government forces
had moved ahead of their positions around 5
am and confronted Tigers and said that five
Tigers were killed in two separate
The Tigers reacted to the abrogation of the
ceasefire for the first time last week. They
released a statement soon after political
head P. Nadesan met with SLMM head Lars
Slovberg on January 10.
Norway as facilitator
The Tigers said that they were still agreeable to
continue with the 2002 ceasefire and Norway
as facilitator. But they also stuck to their
previous hard-line stance that all the
conditions of the CFA have to be respected
to the letter. And one of the main demands
the reopening of the A9 road, closed
since August 11, 2006.
"With no regard to the CFA, the GoSL began
undertaking large scale military offensives
creating immense human misery in the Tamil
homeland. Despite this, respecting the
wishes of Norway and the international
community that the CFA must be strengthened
and the two sides must take part in direct
talks, the LTTE took part in two direct
talks in Geneva in 2006.
"Even in these two direct talks in Geneva,
the LTTE reiterated over and over again that
the CFA must be implemented 100%. The LTTE
also expressed its readiness to implement
the CFA 100% on its side and requested the
GoSL to implement, on a humanitarian basis
for the sake of the more than 400,000 people
trapped in the open prison that is Jaffna,
just one clause in the CFA about the
opening of the A9 highway. The GoSL rejected
this humanitarian call and as a result the
peace efforts again came to a stand
still," the Tigers said.
The government position has been that it was the
Tigers who forced the closure of the A9 by
attacking government lines at Muhamalai
This kind of rhetoric has been heard for over two
years now and the ensuing results are
abundantly clear, a ceasefire in shambles
and a country on the fringe of unbridled war.