The explosive rift in the LTTE

Topic started by Internet (@ on Tue Mar 16 04:38:36 EST 2004.
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The explosive rift in the LTTE

By Keith Noyahr

From time to time during Asia's longest civil war, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) took time off to wipe out other Tamil militant organizations in its struggle for supremacy. The many internecine wars finally subdued the other militant organizations that eventually became democratic parties and contested elections.

Democratic opponents were also assassinated in large numbers and the fear psychosis drove the traditional Tamil political leadership into submission. Four Tamil political parties eventually formed the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and returned 15 MPs from the North and East at the last parliamentary elections in 2001.

In the two years it functioned it became evident that the TNA was nothing but the mouthpiece of the LTTE. Far from being independent, the TNA turned out to be a front organization for the rebel movement. The TNA was not only not represented at any round of talks, but was not even part of the delegation that toured Britain and Ireland to prepare a set of proposals for an interim administration.

The LTTE continued its hegemonic tendencies and ordered Tamils not to contest on the ticket of Sinhala-dominated political parties.

Though Thamilselvan tried his hand at damage control by saying he was misquoted, the LTTE's actions in the East gave credence to the original story or warning.

Killing in battle is understandable, but shooting an injured person seeking treatment in a hospital is a gross violation of the Geneva Convention.

The action is so repulsive as it was performed not during times of war but during a cease-fire agreement, in a hospital, and perpetrated on a 66 year-old man.

This is not simply an election offence but also an unprovoked violation of the CFA as well as the human rights of a fellow Tamil, whose community the LTTE seeks to represent under duress.

The same day an EPDP cadre was also killed in another election-related incident that is equally repulsive as it was done in the presence of his wife and two children. Again it was unprovoked and pre-meditated and in a government-held area. Any action by the police?

The message was conveyed and several candidates subsequently withdrew from the race. The LTTE must be mistaken if it feels it could impress the locals or the international community by getting an endorsement for its Interim Self Governing Authority at gunpoint.

But the biggest gun battle- the battle for the East is yet to unfold after LTTE’s Eastern Military Wing Leader V. Muralitheran alias Col. Karuna broke ranks with the northern leadership this week.

The two sides are bracing for a bout of internecine war as Prabhakaran’s elite troops are moving to the east to strike Karuna.

The President and the caretaker government should not be seen taking sides and should do all they could in their command to prevent an outbreak of war between the two LTTE sides in the interests of the peace process.

In a bid to find a permanent solution to the ethnic conflict in the North and East, what the southern leadership should ensure is that all grievances of the entire region should be addressed and resolved.

Karuna defected after citing more than half a dozen grievances that have to be addressed for a lasting solution.

"Our people are asking why, among the 30 top officials of the Tamil Eelam administration, there is none from the Batticaloa-Amparai district. Because of this our people doubt if they will get justice under the Interim Self Governing Authority (ISGA) which the LTTE is to set up in the North Eastern Province (NEP)," said Karuna in one of his several grievances made public on Thursday.

Though the LTTE tried to downplay the revolt initially, the cat is already out of the bag and the striped cat will be on the prowl. LTTE Political Wing Leader S.P. Tamilselvan will hold a press conference today in northern Kilinochchi and it will be interesting to see whether he will try to cover up things or expose Karuna as a traitor to the cause and even sack him. The chances are that he will try to mend fences realizing that Karuna is different from Mahattaya the former deputy leader from the north who was assassinated by the LTTE leadership that declared him a traitor.

Karuna also controls between 6,000 to 8,000 troops and is certainly a force to reckon with in his own terrain that however has been infiltrated by the northern leadership.

As the northern leadership holds onto hundreds of troops from the east, Karuna likewise has put nearly a thousand troops from the north under house arrest. Any harm that befalls one side is bound to re-bound on the other.

Karuna’s deputy Ramesh has played into the hands of the leadership of the LTTE and has fled to the north possibly eyeing the post.

LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran would certainly have placed Ramesh below Karuna for a purpose.

Another plausible theory is that Karuna got wind of a move to get rid of him and in a bid to block it went public about the grievances of the eastern Tamils in the LTTE. In fact he has asked for Norwegian protection.

One of the several grievances in a pamphlet distributed in the east said:

"So far, 2,302 cadres from the district have died fighting in operations in the North and 2,248 have been killed in the East. Even now, more than 600 cadres from the district are engaged in sentry and security work in the forward lines and bunkers in the North.

Cadres from the district are providing security to more than thirty top level functionaries of the LTTE enabling them to move about in their luxury vehicles without any fear."

While these and other grievances have been there for years if not decades the immediate reason for the split or difference of opinion was the recent killing of candidates and supporters of parties other than the TNA and the refusal to send 1,000 troops to the Wanni.

"The Intelligence unit under Pottu Amman has been responsible for the spate of murders and hijacking of vehicles in the district. Complaints about this to the leadership in the Wanni were of no avail.

The intelligence units' cadres were in fact encouraged to indulge in these activities," he said.

"Because of the differences between the district leadership and the leadership in the Wanni, attempts were made by the latter to foist charges on the former and punish them. It amounts to betrayal of a district leadership which had sacrificed lives and conducted brilliant military operations, some of which are turning points in the history of the Tamil struggle, to safeguard the Tamil National Leadership."

"In order to prepare for another war, the leadership in the Wanni had ordered the dispatch of thousands of fighting cadres from the Batticalao-Amparai district to the North. Parents from the district had voluntarily given their sons and daughters to the LTTE to safeguard their district. And it was to respect the assurances given to the parents and to use the cadres for development work in the district that the order to send the troops was not carried out," said Col. Karuna who appears to have the backing of the people in the East.

The old divide between northern (Jaffna) Tamils and the eastern Tamils and the superiority of the former that boasts of brain as against brawn seems to resurface. In fact differences between Karuna and the northern leadership mainly Thamilselvan has been obvious for some time. Some impute a caste struggle while others say Thamilselvan has been throwing his weight around and humilitaing Karuna even in the presence of officials. The estrangement between LTTE’s Anton Balasingham and Thamilselvan recently was again a clash of personalities.

"While other cadres are utilizing the current peace to acquire news skills, go home and meet their loved ones or go on pleasure trips abroad, why should our boys alone spend all their time in bunkers and sentry points?" asked Karuna.

While Karuna was part of the LTTE delegation at three rounds of talks it is understood that he was sidelined though physically present. In Balasingham’s absence Thamilselvan did most of the negotiating.

It is alleged that of the 30 LTTE leaders who have toured several foreign countries in the recent past, only two from the east were accorded that chance.

The LTTE leadership which tried hard to get an all-Tamil party including the hill country Tamils of Indian origin to contest under one umbrella but failed, now faces an uphill task to keep even the East with it.

"Thousands of LTTE cadres from the Batticaloa-Amparai district have participated in the fighting in the North and laid down their lives, but their home district has continued to be in a state of great neglect without any development work. Murders and destruction of property are the order of the day.

Even though the land is fertile, the people are poor," said Karuna in an appeal to win the support of the masses there."We appeal to our people to understand the malevolent actions of the Wanni leadership and conduct themselves accordingly," said Karuna in a strongly-worded statement circulated among the people.

Unless the rift is patched up, there is bound to be an impact on the peace process. One school of thought maintains that this is the right time to move for a demerger to obtain the backing of many for the deal.

While this may be a good move vis-a-vis the Muslim stance on a resolution of the conflict, it must be understood that both Karuna and Karikalan who replaced Kausylan as Batticaloa political leader are anti-Muslim in outlook. But, it is possible that they could change and accomodate other communities once they assume the leadership of the region, if that ever happens. Funds are controlled by the Wanni leadership.

The current rift, unprecedented in the regimented control of the LTTE, like an act of providence, could force the Tigers to be more flexible at future negotiations on the ISGA as well as a final solution.


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