Fear of violence in Sri Lanka

Amantha Perera

When Vasanthan Vallipuram rammed a truck laden with explosives into a building full of soldiers in northern Jaffna Peninsula, 18 years ago, internecine killings within the Tamil Tiger militant group would have been the last thing on the mind of that member of the elite ‘Black Tiger’ suicide squads. Since that fateful attack on Jul 5, 1987 Vallipuram alias Captain Miller has been synonymous with the almost legendary loyalty the suicide cadres have shown Velupillai Prabhakaran, leader of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), and the day itself celebrated annually. Things changed, last year, when Ramalingama Padmaseelan alias Senathiraja, the Tiger political head in the eastern town of Batticaloa was shot inside the government held town on July 5 morning while reviewing commemoration for the ‘Black Tigers’ in the rebellious East of the island. At least 264 Black Tigers have died carrying out suicide missions, the best known one being the assassination of former Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi carried out in May 1991, in revenge for setting the Indian army on the LTTE under an accord between New Delhi and Colombo.

The Tigers blamed Padmaseela’s murder on the faction supporting renegade commander V Muralitharan alias Karuna who broke ranks in April 2004 and defected to government held areas in the east. Reprisals came within days when a Karuna loyalist was gunned down inside the Batticaloa Prison while several others were killed inside a ‘safe’ house in Colombo.

Within the last six months of 2004 at least 76 persons were killed in the East and the total figure from the internecine fighting exceeds 200, with an attack being reported almost daily. While the ceasefire has more or less held in other parts of the island, the East has been wracked by the violence and growing distrust between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), as the Tigers are formally known, and Sri Lankan security forces. The already strained relationship between the Army and the Tigers came under further pressure when a bus carrying 40 LTTE cadres hit a claymore mine at Welikanda about 70 km from Batticaloa on July 26. The Tigers issued a two week ultimatum to government forces to guarantee safety of cadres and asked that members of the security forces members travel in the same vehicles as Tigers as gurantee.

Tension has been mounting since the murders of three members from the Army on June 30 just outside of Batticaloa town. If violence increases in the East one of the fallouts would be disruption of reconstruction efforts that followed the Dec 26, 2004 Asian Tsunami. President Chandrika Kumaratunga recently entered into a mechanism with the Tigers to handle aid but Muslim opposition soon erupted into public protests. She also lost parliamentary majority after a coalition partner quit protesting against the mechanism. However, international donors

who have pledged US 3.5 billion dollars for the reconstruction effort have welcomed the aid-sharing mechanism. Already the Tigers are disconcerted by the political uncertainty in Colombo. In this situation will Chandrika government like to implement the signed P-TOMS (the mechanism) or can it implement the signed P-TOMS,” the official Tiger newspaper

‘Viduthalaipillikal’ has questioned. — IPS