On 4th August 2006 17 aid workers were extrajudicially executed in their Action Contre la Faim (ACF) compound in Mutur town. Through blatant cover up by the Sri Lankan authorities, their experts, Attorney General and diplomats overseas the facts of killings have been suppressed along with any potential association between this massacre and the killing of five students on the Trincomalee foreshore on 2nd January 2006.
With the support of individuals equally interested in bringing out the truth and finding justice we have uncovered information that reveals that the 17 aid workers were killed by at least one member of the Muslim Home Guard (Jehangir) and two police constables (Susantha and Nilantha) in the presence of the Sri Lankan Naval Special Forces. Four different types of guns were used. Evidence suggests that the killers had prior approval from ASP (Sarath Mulleriyawa) and OIC (Chandana Senayake) for their vile enterprise. But it is highly unlikely that the ASP and OIC would have taken a reckless approach or that they had any particular reason to want the aid workers killed and they had earlier received orders from Trincomalee to ensure the safety of the aid workers. We believe they may have received an instruction from their superiors in Trincomalee (namely the DIG Rohan Abeywardene and SSP Kapila Jayasekere) that the aid workers should be killed. The commandos must have been informed by their superior to let the killings take place and may be directly responsible for firing the bullets that killed at least one of the aid workers.
SSP Kapila Jayasekere, along with Zawahir (OIC Crime Harbour Police, Trincolmalee), is widely known to have been responsible for planning, orchestrating and covering up the killing of the five students by STF assassins amidst a naval security cordon and hundreds of witnesses, who were part of a captive audience. The intimidation of families and witnesses and the killing of witnesses and a journalist who pursued the case are well documented. This includes the family of Hemachandran, one of the five students killed, in particular Hemachandran’s brother, Kodeeswaran. Kodeeswaran had spoken to a member of the STF killing team, believed to be VAS Perera its head, who answered one of the victims’ mobile telephone just prior to the killing of the five students. Kodeeswaran was then systematically harassed by the security forces until he was killed in the ACF massacre seven months later. We believe that the 17 aid workers would have lived, had disciplinary action been instituted against SSP Jayasekere over the killing of the five students.
The murders of the 17 aid workers and the five students are among thousands who have died by violence during the past 26 months. Perhaps we know more about these 22 tragedies because of contact with some of the families, but the ones we do not know are no less poignant. The stories of thousands of young dying and maimed in the Vanni, having been forced to fight for the LTTE against their will, remain a closed book until perchance a plaintive unsent letter is recovered from a dead cadre.
These two cases, given also the international interest, remain the most promising means of making cracks in the prison of impunity, which grips the nation. In the history of crimes of this nature, even when they lead to investigation and court proceedings, we are left in the dark about the deeper political underpinnings of the crime, instigation at higher levels, the thinking behind and motivations, knowledge of which are key to exposure and deterrence.
The country has learnt to be comfortable with grave crimes going unpunished one after another, with the certainty that even graver ones would follow. The answer to the question why Sri Lanka is steeped in recurrent gross crimes, especially against the minorities, that go unchecked is not far to seek. The rulers without good sense or vision would fight hard against command responsibility being invoked in judicial practice. This would have been relatively harmless if the politicians and security forces were reasonably law abiding. Unfortunately, this country is determined to earn the contempt and ridicule of the rest of the world.
For years the State has gone on denying, obfuscating, abusing detractors, intimidating or killing witnesses and making matters progressively worse. Our envoys like the foreign minister, foreign secretary, minister for human rights, Attorney General and many more have tried to cover the country’s shame with rhetoric–’We have our Supreme Court, our judges, our own Police Force, Attorney General, forensic pathologists and ballistic experts. We don’t need foreign help in investigations that are progressing well’.
The ACF case by itself proves this rhetoric to be empty–not because of local incompetence but because of malice. Malice against justice and against the minorities. We use the word malice advisedly because it is an unvarying condition, with no desire for correction.
As for the Police that was directly responsible for the killing of both the Five Students and the ACF staff, it has largely ceased to be a police force. The Police are more involved in perverting the evidence and silencing witnesses than in any real investigation. In a state that has deliberately truncated itself to a Sinhalese State, the Police have been increasingly used as its criminal arm.
The hypocrisy about our state institutions has to stop and the fact has to be faced that there has now been a long history of justice being out of the reach especially of minorities even for sensational crimes that draw world attention.
It is not without great pain that we appeal to the outside world for justice. It abases us and hurts our pride and often, for unfair reasons, our self-respect. When we had working institutions solving the cases above was routine work. But today the criminality of the very institutions that are meant to deliver justice has thrown huge barriers against justice and the people are helpless.
Early attempts to get information from sources close to the Police and Home Guards were fruitless. What was clear was that they knew, but were very scared to talk. And so, it was maintained, their superior SSP (Operations) Kapila Jayasekere knew about the killings only when apparently an anonymous caller told Prem working at the Trincomalee ACF office on the 6th and he told the Police resulting in Jayasekere ordering SI Gunawardene to investigate. Contrary to what the Police maintain, a local councillor Ragees from Mutur had informed ACF Trincomalee on the 5th morning and also told the BBC the same day.
After a search by friends, we came across a number of sources with a good knowledge of goings on at the Police Station. Several sources are involved and we will merely describe what happened. A number of persons would speak out if they would not suffer adverse measures from the protectors of the law.
Having gone through over a year of deception by the Police and Attorney General’s Department, a simple policeman with a sense of shame who was then in Mutur confessed, “Ape kattiya thamai marala dhamma. Kaatath kiyanda bahe. Api boruwata thamai satchi dhunna.” Rendering the Sinhalese idiomatically into Sri Lankan English, it reads, “Our chaps only killed and dumped them. It is a shame we can’t tell anyone. For lies only we gave
evidence.” Indeed, just before the policemen went before the Commission of Inquiry, a senior officer told them to maintain that they were stuck in the Police Station and did not know what went on outside.
About 3.00 PM on 4th August it got around the police station that a message had come from a senior officer of the Trincomalee Police that the ACF staff was stranded, to take care of them and send them to Trincomalee safe and sound. Our sources said that the police officers in charge did not act as though this was their intention.
After the Naval Special Forces patrol came back to the Police Station around 4.00 PM there was a sense of relief. They were sure that the LTTE had left Mutur town. Jehangir, who had come to know that the ACF staff had stayed back had been insistent about the ACF being an LTTE base. We believe that anything that Jehangir said in anger was a pretext for others high up who wanted to harm the ACF staff, as all responsible persons knew that it was civilians who were at the ACF office. Jehangir as a home guard had no rank and was lower than a constable. Such persons are at best servitors and scavengers used in dirty work (See Appendix I). In Mutur, Jehangir had been guiding the commandos and had in the meantime become very chummy with them.
The ASP and OIC asked Jehangir, the OIC’s bodyguard Susantha, and another favourite Nilantha, who received a minor injury on the 2nd from LTTE fire in an incident described above, to go with the Special Forces to see if there were any LTTE cadres at the ACF. A party of about two-dozen went including a dozen commandos (Naval Special Forces) and the rest home guards and policemen. On the way Jehangir spoke to men who came on a
bicycle who confirmed that the ACF staff was there.
Led by the commandos, Jehangir and the rest of the party including policemen and home guards turned left from the main road past the Hospital, and went to the ACF. The commandos surrounded the place. Those at the ACF were drinking tea and eating biscuits, stuff they had bought a little while ago.
The commandos called the ACF staff and asked them in Sinhalese what they were doing there after everyone else had left. The latter replied that their Trinco office had asked them to remain. Jehangir butted into the conversation and without giving the ACF staff a chance to explain, insisted that the staff were LTTE. Susantha and Nilantha, the two policemen with him said nothing. The commandos remained passive. Jehangir got the staff to kneel, and the victims were fired upon as they begged for mercy. It was all over within five minutes from the time they arrived. Two were killed away from the others, apparently trying to run away and their bodies were found separately.
The main persons who fired at the ACF staff were Home Guard Jehangir, Police Constable Susantha and Police Constable Nilantha. The party got back to the Police Station by 5.00 PM. The word of a mere home guard and servitor of dubious reputation sufficed apparently for the commandos and policemen to commit the atrocity.
Upon their return, there was an air of celebration. Jehangir, Susantha and Nilatha were given a heroes’ welcome by ASP Sarath Mulleriyawa and OIC Chandana Senanayake, who warmly shook hands with them.
This was very strange. The fact of the ACF staff being stuck in Mutur was much talked about in INGO circles. There had been a meeting of INGOs and NGOs at 11.00 AM the same day at the Trincomalee UN office where the matter was taken up. Most importantly, the ASP and OIC in Mutur had been asked to ensure that the ACF were safely conveyed to Trincomalee.
How does one explain the celebration of murder at the Mutur police station? The way it happened and the far reaching cover up, all go to suggest that it was not the ASP and OIC who took the decision to kill. Despite their receiving instructions from a senior officer to safeguard the ACF staff, someone else more powerful, it seems, gave instructions to use some pretext to kill them. Jehangir and perhaps some other hotheads who wanted revenge may have provided such a pretext. The commandos must have been instructed by their commanding officer to let it happen. We explain later why someone more senior in Trincomalee may have welcomed the pretext provided by Jehangir for the executions.
One thing is certain about the ACF killings. They would not have happened if minimally, timely disciplinary action had been taken against SP Kapila Jayasekere once his role in the Five Students outrage became widely known. Instead he was promoted to SSP in July 2006. The ACF killings followed just after-a celebration observed by the Mutur ASP and OIC with handshakes. Jayasekere may not have spelt out the order for the ACF killings, but in his presence the air in the Police Force was reeking with impunity-anyone could do anything. Both killings flowed from the same compulsion to kill young Tamils.
That brings us to the State. For two years it has gone on denying, obfuscating, abusing detractors, intimidating or killing witnesses and making matters progressively worse. Our envoys like the foreign minister, foreign secretary, minister for human rights, attorney general and many more have tried to cover the country’s shame with rhetoric–’We have our Supreme Court, our judges, our own Police Force, Attorney General, forensic pathologists and ballistic experts. We don’t need foreign help in investigations that are progressing well’.
The ACF case by itself proves this rhetoric to be empty–not because of local incompetence but because of malice. Malice against justice and against the minorities. We use the word malice advisedly because it is an unvarying condition, with no desire for correction.
Take the Chief Justice’s role as ex-officio chairman of the Judicial Service Commission. He had the ACF case transmitted to the Anuradhapura Magistrate after the Mutur Magistrate had issued orders in the exercise his investigative function (Special Reports 25 and 27). The public senses the true intention of such meddling. For one, it scares off witnesses. An important witness Haji Abdul Rahuman, who was earlier down to testify, is now missing. A bold local magistrate who is strict with the Police can do a great deal for justice and this instance, the case was moved out of the locality. There are at least two more important instances of the JSC removing magistrates from cases to cover up for the security forces (Special Report No. 25 and Appendix III of Special Report No.29)
The Attorney General’s Department that has led the evidence at the Commission of Inquiry purposefully relied on the distorted evidence and accounts provided by the Police. It has not helped in making any honest breakthrough, in contrast with the alacrity with which it set out to quash Dodd’s identification of a 5.56 mm projectile.
We must also question the bona fides of JMO Anuradhapura who was mysteriously imposed as pathologist for this case. We now know that the time he put down in the inquest reports, ‘Most likely in the early morning of 04 August 2006′ was very misleading. He must also explain the missing original photograph of the ‘5.56 mm’ bullet found in Romila at the second autopsy that has remained a subject of controversy. Now that we know that Uzi submachine gun and other bullets had also been used that did not turn up in the investigation, we must ask if the Anuradhapura JMO removed any evidence during the first post mortem.
Further, the fact that only one type (7.62 mm) turned up in the investigation, whereas the fact that at least three different types of bullets were used, along with controversy about the type of bullet found in Romila, questions the integrity of the process of collection, preservation and transmission of evidence and ballistic analysis.
As for the Police that was directly responsible for the killing of both the Five Students and the ACF staff, it has largely ceased to be a police force. In a state that has deliberately truncated itself to a Sinhalese State, the Police have been increasingly used as its criminal arm.
The hypocrisy about our state institutions has to stop and the fact has to be faced that there has been a long history of justice being out of reach especially for the minorities, even in respect of sensational crimes that draw world attention. This hypocrisy reaches bewildering heights when our Foreign Ministry secretary Dr. Kohona, an Australian citizen, articulates Asianness (New York Times 9 Mar. 08) as governments who are nice and courteous to each other–leave alone however abominably they treat their own people.
The ACF case has been an act of grand perjury where the entire hierarchy down to the Attorney General’s Department and Police have misled the evidence. We will not insult the AG’s Department by supposing that the truth evaded their intelligence. The President disingenuously cited the paucity of witnesses in the Five Students case and allowed Kapila Jayasekere to get a promotion. The Government has piously refused any foreign role in checking our institutions citing their virtues that now lay naked before the world. Who will now see that a measure of justice prevails in Sri Lanka?
It is not without great pain that we appeal to the outside world for justice. In our courts and police we had institutions that were working quite well until the communal violence of 1977 when the new UNP regime used the Police as an instrument of appalling crime against a minority. The institutions never recovered since, but deteriorated further. This is not going to change overnight and certainly not under this Government. We have no alternative but to eat humble pie and accept outside help.
It abases us and hurts our pride and often, for unfair reasons, our self-respect. When we had working institutions solving the cases above was routine work. But today the criminality of the very institutions that are meant to deliver justice has thrown huge barriers against justice and the people are helpless.
In this connection we welcome UN Human Rights Commissioner Louise Arbour’s statement on 15th January with regard to the Sri Lankan conflict where she pointed out that international law prohibited all sides in the Sri Lankan conflict from committing unlawful killings or torture, arbitrary detention, recruiting or deploying child soldiers, and forcing people out of their homes. She said “Violations of these rules by any party could entail individual criminal responsibility under international criminal law, including by those in positions of command.” It is now time for her and others of a similar mind to get a move on.
A Note on the Addendum and Witness Protection
We received important testimony that corroborates aspects of the evidence cited above. Every revelation of sensitive evidence at present leaves someone potentially vulnerable. We are constantly faced with the dilemma of balancing the public good that revelation would bring with the danger faced by witnesses. Young Tamils are being targeted by the Defence Ministry’s killers simply because they were active or showed some spirit-that is all the 22 victims considered in this report were guilty of. The recent case at the end of Appendix II shows how little a life counts under this Government. No investigation and even the Press too scared to report it. The Tamils certainly need liberation from the Tigers but not to live under a regime that is no better.
After 15 months of the Commission of Inquiry there is no meaningful protection for witnesses or others. Three witnesses were killed. Haji Abdul Rahuman, a key witness in the ACF case, is missing from late 2006 after the Police had identified him as a witness. The Police has thoroughly misinformed the CoI about him. Others affected in the two incidents have been continually harassed and intimidated into leaving the country. Some did not have the means or the will to carry on in Sri Lanka. Asylum in a few prominent cases cannot be the solution to a much larger problem. This should never be lost sight of.
[This is the summary and conclusion of special report no 30 by the University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna) titled" Unfinished Business of the Five Students and ACF Cases–A Time to call the Bluff"]
It was very early on a Saturday morning, we were all gathering in front of the Fort Railway Station. No we were not planning to go on a trip, We were the wives/sisters of the four journalists taken into detention on March 7th. Saturday is visitor’s day to the Terrorist Investigation Department (TID). Family members of the detainees have to gather at the Fort Railway Station between 9 a.m and 12 noon. There they are checked, bundled into a police van and taken to the TID.
So the five of us together huddled together at the station – half ashamed and hoping no body would notice us. We reminisced the many times our husbands/brothers had come to this very station to ‘cover’ various protest rallies but how there were none for them. A man approached us asking if this was the line for those waiting to board the train to Anuradhapura we waved him on embarrassed in case he found out where we were really going.
Suddenly the police jeep appeared and all of the families of the detainees got up from their own little groups and surged toward it. There were plainclothesmen shouting at us to get into lines – men on one side and women on the other. There were very few men going to visit people at the TID and most of them had come to accompany the wives, sisters and mothers of detainees. As this was the first time that I was doing this I just followed the rest of the families as they seemed to know the system. The checking began through the hustle and bustle with babies crying and plainclothes men yelling at the families to keep to their lines. Loud wails from the checking room emanated as carefully prepared food parcels that the families were bringing the detainees were man handled and made unfit for consumption.
Finally we were bundled into a large blue police jeep, which one had to climb into. It was too high for everyone and all the elderly ladies had to crawl in on all fours or be carried in by the other members of the family. We were packed liked sardines. For if we got late that was so much less time to see our loved ones, so we were all eager to go as soon as possible. One elderly gentleman had a problem with his knee and therefore he could not bend it but had to keep it stretched out. The plainclothesman yelled at the gentleman to put his leg inside the vehicle. The gentleman being a monolingual Tamil speaker was bewildered at this barrage of Sinhala. Those of us who knew Sinhala tried to explain to the plainclothesman the plight of this man. The plainclothesman then yelled at some people who were already in the van to get down and after they got out, he pushed the elderly gentleman’s leg inside the jeep and slammed the door shut. The elderly gentleman was in pain all the way to the TID on Chaitya Road.
As we were dropped outside the TID office on the roadside the plainclothesmen shouted at us to get into the nearby bus that was parked on the side of the road there, so we could be transported to see our loved ones. Those of us ‘newbies’ who were able to do the jump from the back of the jeep by ourselves, scrambled to get the front seats of this bus. As we neared it, the plainclothesman laughed out loud the bus had all of its tires deflated. This was his little joke to rag the newbies who did not know the system!
Another TID officer came up to the broken bus and he asked us for the names of the detainees that we had come to see. Then came the long slow wait in the relentless sun. At first we (journalists’ wives) did not speak with the relatives of the other detainees. Then as the hours wore on we went from timid smiles to exchanging information.
One lady had been a bride of one week before her husband was detained. Now he had been detained for 3 months and no reason had been given to him or to her as to why he was in custody.
Another had a babe of three weeks in her arms, her husband had also been held for three months without reason being given for detention.
This was the first time that her husband would be seeing this child. One other lady had to come from Kurunegala every week just to see her husband. He had been held for six months and not yet been charged.
As we stood exchanging stories in the blistering sun it became clear that while all of our races, backgrounds and cases were different what bound us together was fear. Fear of what might be happening to our husbands inside the TID, fear that neighbor’s might find out our husband’s were in detention and hound us from our homes, and fear that any of our actions could be misconstrued by the police and TID officers there and that could lead to the further detention of our husbands.
All of us, regardless of ethnicity or case had been warned by the TID officers not to take this matter to court or involve any lawyers. If we did involve lawyers then our husbands could be held indefinitely we were told. I, in my desperation to ensure my husband’s freedom was also thinking that I should not stand up for my husband’s rights. But then in the blazing sun I realized that for 20 years my husband had worked for the rights of the people of Sri Lanka and that in his own case he would not want me to stay quiet about his own rights.
In the early 1990’s my husband worked for the Organization of the Parents and Families of the Disappeared-an organization that worked in the South helping Sinhala families get justice for their children who had disappeared. My husband was one of those who compiled the documents that contained the names of the disappeared that then MP Mahinda Rajapakse took to Geneva in 1992. Today he is being accused of being a terrorist for seeking justice for those who had disappeared in the North and East. Here was a man who truly believed in the Rights of all people in Sri Lanka, who worked unstintingly for peace with ministers of this government and of members of all parties at the One Text Initative. He is now being incarcerated for speaking up for the people of his country.
When I looked at the tired, scared faces around me, I asked myself whether I should be ashamed of my husband or of my country?
[Ronnate is the wife of journalist JS Tissainayagam who is being held in detention from March 7th. A fundamental rights petition filed on his behalf has been given leave to proceed by the Supreme Court. It is to be taken up on March 31st. Meanwhile the Terrorist investigation dept has sought a court order seeking to seal up the Tissainayagam residence. It is also learnt that a detention order for three months was issued on March 27th against Tissainayagam]
Doing the same in North, just as in the East is going to work-is the mistaken belief that is hovering major diplomatic, economic and militaristic burdens for the Government of Sri Lanka today, says Irasiah Ilanthirayan, the Military Spokesman of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
Fighting a war for political reasons and unable to pull out due to the fanfare shown at the start of the warfare is turning the Northern war front into a quagmire for Sri Lankan forces according to Irasiah Ilanthirayan.
The LTTE Military spokesman talked to the Australian Tamil Broadcasting Corporation on the prevailing conditions at the Vanni theatre of war.
Excerpts from his comments as follows:
“The war towards North that began on 15th of March 2007 in Vanni continues through this day. There is a vigorous war going on in several parts of Mannar and Manalaru.
The major thrust that was started in a similar manner on the 11th of October in 2006 in Killali, Mukamalai and Nagar Kovil areas have not advanced an inch. Attempts to advance from these areas are being made continuously. Under the guidance of our leader V.Pirapaharan, our Colonels and cadres are waging a vigorous fight utilizing the landscape and tactically appropriate ways to inflict casualties.
There are several reasons for Sri Lanka armed forces to keep targeting the areas around Mannar. In accordance with their agenda, bringing the greater Mannar area under their total control and opening a land route along Mannar-Poonaryn is important for them.
There is a striving to gain politically as well by trying to push towards the holy shrine of Madhu in the meantime.
If a specifically named military operation is conducted consisting of a mission and goal, it will also have to spell out the time limitations to accomplish them. In order to avoid being entangled in such circumstances, vigorous attacks and tactics utilizing large number of forces are increasingly being carried out in those areas.
Through these attacks they may attempt, to capture places that they could mention; or to gain politically, by bringing the holy area of Madhu under control.
They have not announced a time frame under these circumstances, but the push towards capturing the greater Mannar areas and securing a land route along them is on.
The armed forces are using maximum strength in these operations. 57th and 58th divisions along with several sub forces, guard troops, special forces, and artillery units are being put into action with great anticipation. But the war is grinding on over years.
What is the result of this ’serial’ operation? What are the loses to the armed forces during this war that has spanned over an year? And many analysts have begun to look into what the implications will be from these.
Mannar is our soil. We will fight for it intensely. Operation is underway to open a land route to Jaffna and also political purposes. But Sri Lankan forces are in deep angst on the prospects of capturing these areas as time goes by.
In these areas, in accordance with the prevailing conditions we employ several tactics by going forward and backward; such as attacking sideways after allowing to advance and attacking by intervening the moving forces.
The forces may arrive at Madhu tomorrow. The following day we will be in Mathawachchi. This is a rotating aspect. What losses will the forces encounter on every inch they advance.? Our cadres carryout their maneuvers in this war, by grasping the befalling realities when the Sri Lankan forces feel for their losses in the battlefield.
The Sri Lankan military base in Anuradhapura is being used as the command center for these continuous operations.
As I said earlier there are several reasons for these operations. Even though there is no clear vision, there are compelling political reasons. There are no accomplished victories to speak of and politics is preventing to curtail the operation that began with much fanfare. This is what the Mannar battlefield is today. They have fallen into a quagmire.
When Mahinda Rajapakse came to power, war was a sub text. But now it has taken full embodiment of his administration. His early dazzle was that over powering the Tigers will be easy. But Rajapakse has repeated the same historical mistakes made by previous Presidents and Armed Forces Generals.
With the set time frames within only them and not in the limelight, operations are being carried out by playing a mere numbers game. The same errors were made previously in the math of the war.
Propagandas trumpet that hundreds of Tigers are dying while just a few government soldiers are getting wounded. They are unable to avoid this. Propaganda is a tool to deflate and distract the feelings on inflation, distrust over the Rajapakse brothers and resulting confusions and mistrust of the government in the South when the truth of the war zones creeps amidst the iron clad on the media.
As in Mannar, the Armed Forces are attempting to advance in Manalaru as well. But we have very strong defense structures there. And like Mannar, Manalaru is also our heartland. Our forces are engaged in two types of warfare there.
It is a suitable terrain for conventional as well as guerilla warfare. The Sri Lankan forces are stuck there too without moving forward.
As far as the Northern battlefront is concerned, skirmishes in Mukamalai, Kilali and Nagarkovil are of continuous daily occurrences. They are unable to inch forward while facing casualties here too.
Amidst this, they have built up the troop strength in the peninsula. This is due to their fear that the Tigers may land there and launch attack anytime. This is why their most trusted 53rd division elite forces are stationed there. Some support guard troops are also accompanying them.
The Air Force base is nearby. With this facility they could transport the wounded and attend to other logistics faster. But they are unable to do much with all these capabilities.
Success and failure in a battlefield is determined by meeting set goals. Since 2006, we have been succeeding on the warfare of attacking, upon cutting short the advancement of troops in the Northern front.
The situation of the Sri Lankan armed forces is like ‘Thinking of unhusked rice and pounding the mortar’. Even the international watchers of this conflict are now saying this. Those who invested believing in the tactics of the Sri Lankan Army are now questioning the results. Part of this development is what has led to President Rajapakse and Military Generals to now say that time limits cannot be imposed on winning the Tigers, as previously thought of.
As far as the East is concerned our need is to wage a fight with intense. Within that limit we are managing to fight a war. This situation has forced the government to station troops there.
When armed forces have to be deployed elsewhere as new fronts open far from the East, government is facing the necessity of replacing them.
Doing the same in North, just as in the East is going to work-is the mistaken belief that is hovering major diplomatic, economic and militaristic burdens for the Government of Sri Lanka today. And the battle front is turning towards our favour at this critical juncture.
The Sri Lankan Armed forces have come to know of the intensity of our attacks over numerous times. For example, our attacks on the Anuradhapura and Katunayake Air Force bases are of one kind. Then there is ‘Unceasing Waves’. And there is another kind, in which our fight back against ‘Agni Kela’ stands proof of the parity of our forces on the balance of militaristic strength.
When such reality prevails, international analysts are vociferously pointing out to the Sri Lankan government the larger reality, that the Tigers have not lost their capability to carry out such attacks. Have you done anything to change the attack capabilities of the Tigers is what these analysts are asking the government.
[BBC News footage on the recent sinking of Sri Lanka boat off Mullaithivu seas]
Mullaithivu Black Tiger Attack
I cannot say anything in detail on the attack on the seas of Mullaithivu a few days ago. The fallout from this attack is huge for the government. We have brought this sea lane under our control, which is also the distribution route to the Sri Lankan armed forces in the North.
The Black Tigers have again challenged the notion of maritime sovereignty of the government of Sri Lanka. The questionable status of Sri Lankan maritime waters sovereignty is lingering in the international arena today.
The Sri Lankan government has vast militaristic resources and we cannot match those. But our determination is greater than that of the Sri Lankan forces. They go through a lull in the war as they don’t have justness to wage this war.
The armed forces are now aimless. They distrust the task at hand. They are depressed and in deep angst. In these circumstances their determination is dented; their will is getting destroyed.
[This report is a translation of an article that appeared in the Sri Lanka Tamil Daily Thinakkural]
Reporting on events in Tibet, Myanmar and Thailand, the Associated Press recently headlined a news story ‘Monk led protests show buddhist activism,’;
“There is the responsibility of every individual, monks and lay people, to act for the betterment of society,” said Samdhong Rinpoche, prime minister of the Tibetan government-in-exile and a high-ranking lama to the Associated Press in Dharmsala, India, discussing protests in Tibet this month that were initiated by monks.
Many reports include mention of activism by monks in Srii Lanka as well, from the assassination of Prime Minister S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike to the stand of Jathika Hela Urumaya party in pushing for brute force against the LTTE. They also mention Sri Lankan Buddhist monks carrying out projects to provide drinking water in the villages of Sri Lanka to fighting for the rights of “the untouchables,” the lowest caste in India.
And the Web Portal Tehelka says in new a report that, activism by Sri Lankan monks in Tamil Nadu is being called a ploy to wean Dalits away from the Tamil separatist cause.
Full Report by Vinoj Kumar, in Tehelka-Buddhist Visitors Bring No Peace:
Sinhalese delegation that included many prominent Buddhist monks recently laid foundation stones for several Buddhist places of worship in Tamil Nadu. The visiting delegation held dedication events for Buddhist temples at Perur village near Trichy and at Alangulam in Tirunelveli district. In addition to the monks, the delegation included the main opposition United National Party (UNP) MP Jayalath Jayawardena. ‘ We are grateful to India for giving us our Buddhist culture and heritage. We want to show our gratitude to India by building these temples,’ Jayawardena said on his arrival. ‘Buddhism belongs to mankind, not to the Sinhalese alone.’ The delegation’s actions, however, triggered a strong response from Tamil groups.
Viduthalai Rajendran, general secretary of the pro-LTTE Periyar Dravidar Kazhagam (PDK), termed the temple-building a ploy to woo Indian Dalits and pit them against Sri Lankan Tamils on religious lines. ‘We won’t let the Sinhalese set foot on Tamil soil and engage in their conspiracy to divide Tamil society,’ he said. Rajendran’s PDK is a non-electoral party and an offshoot of the socio-political reformist movement Dravidar Kazhagam. It has been organising agitations in Tamil Nadu against the Sri Lankan Mahinda Rajapakse-led government, which it describes as a Sinhalese chauvinist regime. On March 3, one such agitation led to the arrest of several PDK workers.
Displaying black flags, they had been protesting the Sinhalese delegation as it conducted a bhoomi pooja at the Perur village site. In his daily show on Win TV, ‘News and Views’, political analyst TSS Mani fuelled the fire with his comments on the issue. ‘The Lankan government is playing the Buddha card to divide the Tamils. It is their strategy to counter the Tamil support for Eelam Tamils.’Mani also claimed that circumstantial evidence supported ‘the hand of the Lankan government’s National Intelligence Bureau’ in the Buddhist temple-building ‘campaign’. In Sri Lanka, many Buddhist monks are members of the chauvinist Sinhalese parties Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna and Jathika Hela Urumaya.
The Dalit groups affiliated with the visiting Sinhalese monks deny any pro-Sinhalese sentiment. Thangavayal Vanidasan, founder of the Dalit Makkal Munnani, says, ‘I have always been a supporter of the Tamils in Sri Lanka. Our connections with the Sinhalese monks are limited to our spiritual needs.’ According to Vanidasan, only the Buddha statue was given to them by the Chennaibased Mahabodhi Society of Sri Lanka. The organisation mentioned by Vanidasan, the Mahabodhi Society of Sri Lanka, is the nerve centre of Buddhism in Tamil Nadu. Its headquarters is in Sri Lanka, where it was founded in 1891. The society’s leader in Chennai, Sinhalese monk Kalawane Mahanama Thero, described the visiting monks as belonging to another sect and said he was keeping away from them. ‘ They don’t seem to be doing any real religious work,’ he said.
Interestingly enough, the senior MP in the delegation, Jayawardena, is Catholic. Thero ascribes a political motive to his involvement:’ He wants to show to the Sinhalese people that he is doing great service to Buddhism not only in Sri Lanka but also in India. He has been claiming that he is building Buddhist enclaves in India.’ For his part, Jayawardena dismissed claims of ulterior motives. ‘ If anyone had the slightest doubt about my intentions, do you think a person like Chakravarthy Naidu, a senior BJP leader, would have donated an acre of land in Tirutani for building the temple?’
Meanwhile, PDK leaders claim they are not against Buddhism but only against the Sinhalese monks. PDK general secretary Viduthalai Rajendran said that as followers of Periyar, they welcomed the Buddhist movement because of its anti-Brahmin plank. But he was quick to add, ‘No one can deny the fact that Sinhalese Buddhists have practised chauvinistic politics against the Lankan Tamils. It is because of this reason we are opposing them.’
The thirteen men and four women who were killed in the deadliest
attack on aid workers in Sri Lankan history would not have even
thought for a moment that they were walking into a death trap. It is
difficult to fathom what final thoughts crossed their minds while
watching their colleagues being shot. There was a father, a driver and
a daughter, a programme officer among the deceased. Which one of them
died first? Who had to bear the agony of watching their loved one
being killed? These are questions that would plague our collective
psyche to which answers may never be found.
[An aunt of Ambigavathy Jayaseelan, one of the 17 Action Contre la Faim aid workers killed, gives evidence in front of a panel of judges in Colombo March 24, 2008-Pic: Buddhika Weerasinghe, Reuters via Yahoo! News]
Setting off on a deadly journey
Mr. Ponnathurai Yogarajah’s eldest son Kodeeswaren was also killed in
the ACF massacre. He had already lost another child, Hemachandran in
January of the same year, when five students were killed in
Trincomalee after tensions arose due to the construction of a Buddhist
statue in the town.
“Before my son Kodeeswaren left to Muttur at about 6.00 a.m. on August
2, I gave him Rs. 200 for his meals. That was the last time I spoke to
him,” he sobbed while giving evidence to the CoI via video
conferencing from an undisclosed location. Mr. Yogarajah fled the
country due to threats on his life and family.
“I spoke to him for the last time on August 3, 2006 after 6.00 p.m. He
told me that there were LTTE terrorists on the main street in Muttur,”
the grieving father said.
A relative of Ambikapatthi Jayaseelan, who received Rs. 480,000 as
compensation from the ACF, recounted the beloved boy’s final departure
through tears, unable to appease her sorrow after almost two years.
“I took Jayaseelan under my wing from the time he was 10 years old. He
had no father and his mother found it difficult to raise four
children. I spent for his education and looked after all his needs.”
“After he passed his OL exams he did his AL’s. Then he followed a
computer course and also completed a pharmacists’ course. He joined
the ACF in February 2005,” she added. Jayaseelan who worked as a water
supplying officer attached to ACF’s Trincomalee office usually took
the ferry to Muttur at 7.30 a.m. and return on the same night.”
“They will come and take us”
On August 4th he was trapped in Muttur because the ferry service had
stopped due to the heightened security situation.
“We could hear explosions from the sea. When I spoke to Jayaseelan he
said that he was frightened. He said that there was ongoing fighting
and that people have been asked to get out of the area,” she continued
recollecting the final conversation with him. “We are alone here. The
Trincomalee office wants us to stay in the compound and not go out
because it would be difficult to trace us then. We are dependant on
them to come and take us because we can’t get out,” late Jayaseelan
had said in that conversation. I rushed to the Trincomalee ACF office
and pleaded with them to do something. I tried to call him again on
Friday but the line wasn’t clear. The next day, I went again to the
Trinco ACF office. There were no foreigners there at that time. The
local staff said that the phones were out of order and that they were
trying to use the radio link. They asked us not to worry and to go
home,” she said.
Helpless and distraught without any information, on Saturday (August
5) afternoon the witness then went to Konaligam Madya Maha Vidyalaya
which had turned into a temporary shelter for refugees flooding out of
Muttur. But this also proved futile. “On my return, as I was entering
the house, the phone started ringing; it was a call from Muttur.
The person identified himself as a Muttur Pradeshiya Sabha MP. He said
that he had received information that the 17 aid workers at the ACF
office had been killed. He asked us to make arrangements to get the
bodies,” she explained.
The identity of the call is yet unconfirmed.
Stumbling on the bodies
A government official in Muttur left home at about 7.30 a.m. on his
routine rounds of the refugee centers. While he was at a junction on
the Main Street in Muttur, near the turn to Abdul Cassim Mawatha on
which the ACF office is located, he saw a villager from his own
village gesturing at the AFC office, trying to give him a signal.
“The villager made a hand motion towards the ACF office and walked on.
I saw crows flying overhead. So I turned my motorbike and went to see
what it was,” the witness said. “I saw the bodies lying between the
front wall and the portico. They were bloated and a strong stench was
emanating from them. The blood splattered all over had clotted. Based
on these observations I concluded that they would have been killed
about 24 hours earlier. I made these observations based on my
experience,” he informed us.
When asked whether he informed any authorities in the immediate
aftermath of the discovery he said, “I knew that there weren’t any
proper authorities to take necessary action at that time in Muttur. I
went straight to the Al-Hilal Boys’ Maha Vidyalaya refugee camp. That
school had a three story building. I could only get clear signals on
my mobile phone from the third floor,” the witness continued.
“The camp housed Muslims from the Muttur beach area who hadn’t left.
People frantically wanted to know whether their relatives were safe.
It was utter chaos. There were some people who didn’t even have the
phone numbers of their relatives but as they are illiterate people
when they saw the phone in my hand they thought that they can talk to
their families. I was trying to help them. A person called Imam Asally
wanted to get a phone call. I knew he could handle a phone so I gave
it to him. At that moment a call came and someone asked ‘what happened
at ACF?’ I said that I saw that some people were dead. There was no
time to ask the caller who he was because there were people waiting in
queues for the phone. Thereafter, calls came continuously from the
Trincomalee ACF office and others inquiring about the incident.”
In the meantime the witness had related the incident to a journalist
from a Tamil FM station. After the news was aired he was flooded with
Faced with the problem of giving more details about the incident he
went back to the ACF office and while standing outside the compound,
counted 15 bodies. “Nine of them were wearing ACF t-shirts. I had to
go back to the refugee camp to get the phone signals. After confirming
the death of 15 persons I started getting calls asking about what
happened to the other two.”
The witness went back to the scene, this time with a team from another
humanitarian organization and entered the compound. That’s when he saw
the other two bodies, one near the garage and the other in the
Let’s not forget
The relatives of victim Madawarajah Kedeeswaren – a 36 year old
programme officer who supervised road work and sanitation projects -
received his remains in a sealed coffin with his picture pasted on it
“Kedeeswaran had said that there were problems in Muttur and that they
found it diffcult to come alone and that the ACF Trincomalee office
had told them that there was an important meeting in progress when
they had called and once that was over they would come to Muttur and
take them back,” a relative of late Kedeeswaren said recounting a call
between the deceased and his father.
“We sent our child to an international organization. We wanted our son
to work in a respectable place. He went there to work and he had to
come back in a coffin. We couldn’t even open it and see the body.
They are all educated children,” Jayaseelan’s relative said.
Independent reports compiled by the University Teachers for Human
Rights (UTHR) went as follows.
“Before a large crowd walked to Killiveddy at about 8.30 a.m. on
August 4, a Christian priest and the Divisional Secretary had gone to
the ACF and advised the workers to join them in going to Killiveddy.
The ACF workers had said that their Trinco office would send a vehicle
for them and had asked them to remain where they were.”
“A man who was from Mullipotana said that some of them went to the ACF
office and asked Mohamed Jaufer of the ACF who was also from
Mullipotana to join them. Jaufer said that he must stay with the
others. This was around 2.15 p.m. or 2.45 p.m. on August 4. Another
ACF worker M. Narmathan was asked by his cousin who worked for the DS
office in Muttur to join him and leave on his motorcycle. Narmathan
declined saying that a vehicle would be sent to escort them out. This
was around 3.00 p.m. on the same day.”
“Different organizations have different policies about staff safety
and security. But it is better to let those who are in the situation
to make the decisions on what emergency steps to take especially in a
very volatile situation, where it is very difficult to decide the best
strategy while sitting in Colombo without access to adequate
information on the ground situation,” an aid worker attached to a
humanitarian organization said on grounds of anonymity.
A code of ethics for humanitarian agencies
A spokesperson from an umbrella organisation for humanitarian agencies
said that they were currently working with the government’s NGO
secretariat and other stakeholders to device a code of ethics for the
non governmental organizations sector. “Transparency and
accountability are of paramount importance if aid agencies are to
function effectively, while winning the trust of different
stakeholders, especially in volatile situation. Therefore, we are
working on a code of ethics which our members should abide by,” he
said. “The NGO secretariat has the option of making it mandatory for
everyone to adopt this code of ethics,” he added.
Finding the crucial evidence
The team from another humanitarian organization that managed to
capture the first photographic evidence of the ACF massacre on August
6 recounted the fateful events which took them to the crime scene in
an exclusive interview with the Daily Mirror. They were instrumental
in revealing the facts of this gruesome horror to the world and in
creating enough pressure to ensure that bodies “just didn’t
evaporate.” It was a perilous journey that they embarked on to assess
the humanitarian crisis triggered by a mass exodus of over 40,000
people from Muttur.
“We didn’t have plans of going to Muttur at first, but when we got to
Kanthalai people were pouring out in hand tractors and on foot and
they were asking for a safe place to stay. Rows of aid agency vehicles
were parked near the Kanthalai DS office, because they were unable to
proceed without information on the situation. It was a pathetic
scene,” a team member who wished to remain anonymous said. “We felt
that there was an urgent need to assess the ground situation due to
conflicting reports on deaths and injuries en-route and of others
trapped in Muttur who needed immediate attention. When we reached the
army checkpoint in Sirimangalapura we saw an ICRC convoy and two ACF
vehicles waiting to get clearance.”
“Although the army gave all of us the green light to proceed we had to
go through a cluster of Singhalese villages, whose inhabitants had
stoned aid agency vehicles on the previous day because they were
furious about not receiving assistance in securing drinking water
after the Mavil Aru incident when the water supply was cut. That was
when we saw an army tank bulldozing its way through and we just put
our vehicle in front of it and drove on. Later we learnt that the ICRC
convoy and the ACF vehicles had to turn back after being stoned,” he
They passed through ghost towns in Serunuwara and crossed the
Kiliveddi bridge. The few people they met; those who had come to
collect some of their belongings had said that a group of Tamil
civilians had fled in the direction of Ichalampattuwa, towards LTTE
controlled areas, while others, mainly Muslims were fleeing to
Kanthalai. “We met with the BBC correspondents by chance in Thoppur.
They decided not to come with us due to the continuous shelling. By
this time I had received two SMS’s from colleagues alerting me about
15 ACF workers in Muttur who were believed to be missing,” he told us.
“When we entered the town, we saw army personnel trying to restore
electricity. They told us to ask the people to come back because there
was no more fighting. We started asking civilians where the ACF office
is. Then one person on a motorbike asked us whether we wanted to go to
the ACF office. We followed him without knowing what was in store,”
the witness, who had given evidence to the CoI said.
“There was a short parapet wall around the compound. When we parked
the vehicle, we could see the bodies that were stretched on the floor,
face down near the gate. All the bodies were bloated. Gun shot
injuries to the back of their heads were visible. Some of them were
wearing ACF t-shirts. We counted 15 bodies. Two others were on the
“We went inside the office which looked ransacked. There was one room
that was locked. We spent about 10 or 15 minutes there, took the
photographs and left. The shelling was still on. There was no police
station around and at that moment we were afraid because anything
might happen to us because we had this vital evidence. So we didn’t
approach any authorities at that time,” he added.
The team went on to inspect refugee camps in Muttur and then Kinniya
and returned to Trincomalee for the night. “We e-mailed the report and
the pictures to Colombo on that night itself. Once the details were
out, with photographs to prove it, we could ensure that the bodies
were retrieved and handed over to the families. If not there may have
been a possibility where the fate of these aid workers would still be
a mystery. Although we were the first to disclose this incident with
proof, there have been no personal threats so far,” he added.
Commissioner in the line of fire
Feathers were ruffled when the counsel for the army, Dayasri Gomin
called for Commissioner Dr. Devanesan Nesiah to step down, citing that
he was a “paid employee” of the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA)
who had acted as a reporting agent and had represented the
organization at international fora. This issue arose after a group of
civil society organizations, including the CPA was given
representation status on the CoI cases.
“The rule that a person who has an interest in the matter should not
be in any way play the role of a judge disqualifies him. More serious
is the failure on the part of Dr. Nesiah to disclose his role and
failure to do so amounts to misconduct. Therefore he should not sit in
the commission,” Mr. Gomin asserted. “In public sittings the
likelihood of bias arises if the public gets the impression of a bias
due to the presence of a judge who may have an interest. If an order
is made by such a person the entire report can become flawed. That is
the danger,” he added.
Mr. Gomin used information available on the CPA website, like Dr.
Nesiah’s official CPA email address and reports to which he was a
co-signatory as exhibits to bolster his objection. However, as a CPA
spokesperson pointed out all that information was available on a
publicly accessible website and therefore allegations of
non-disclosure is dubious.
“Dr. Nesiah was only a consultant of CPA and not a member of the
director board and even other commissioners are attached to similar
organizations in similar capacities. The CoI is not a judicial setup
with parties. It is a quasi-judicial process with a fact finding
mandate,” the spokesperson added. Dr. Nesiahs’s résumé posted on the
CoI website also states that he is attached to the CPA as a consultant
from 2004 to this date. ________________________________
Does the minister know who the killers are?
All hell broke loose when a President’s Counsel made a “foot in mouth”
statement, which he later denied, claiming that an important cabinet
minister in a “confidential discussion” had allegedly revealed that he
was aware of the perpetrators of the ACF massacre. This astonishing
statement, blurted out while an aggrieved relative of a victim was
still in the witness box, created an uproar among the State Counsel
who called on Mr. Desmond Fernando (PC) to “gracefully volunteer” to
become a witness if he was privy to such critical information.
However, this matter hangs on the balance due to a technical glitch.
“Unfortunately the statement may not have been recorded because only
four microphones can be used at the same time. We will have to check
the official recordings later,” the CoI Chairman N. Udalagama said.
While some commissioners seem to have not heard the statement clearly,
it was evident that it had registered in the CoI Chairman’s ears when
he said, “He [Mr. Fernando] said that a particular person in authority
has claimed that he knows who the killers are.” [courtesy: DailyMirror.lk]
Sri Lanka Army Headquarters
P.O. Box 553, Colombo.
Editor, The Bottom Line
Rivira Media Publications (Pvt) Ltd.,
742, Maradana Road ,
March 12, 2008.
Clarification on feature ‘LRRP Infiltration Demolishes Impregnable Tiger Terrain Myth’ in your March 12, 2008 issue:
1. Your kind attention is drawn to the above article written by Mr. D.B.S Jeyaraj, in which he has compiled a catalogue of killings and retaliatory attacks that have been attributed to a so-called ‘Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol of the Army.’
2. More importantly, the writer, since the beginning of the report, has strongly implied that the TNA Parliamentarian K. Sivanesan’s death was caused by this alleged wing of the Army, which was repeatedly denied earlier by the Army and rejected outright.
3. Most of the contents in the article were largely based on assumptions and hypotheses, in some instances even going to the extent of blaming the Army for attacks on school buses and ambulances.
4. The Army categorically denies having to do anything with the TNA Parliamentarian’s untimely death in the un-cleared Kanagarayakulam area and also the presumed LRRP operations, as stated in the report.
5. The Army also wishes to request the journalist or any other party to keep the Army informed of existence of any such wing in anywhere of the island under the Army, as stated in the report, supported by substantial evidence or eye-witnesses.
6. You are kindly requested to give this clarification also its due prominence in your next Wednesday’s issue.
The heading and general thrust of the article outlined Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol (LRRP) activities of the Army in general and pointed out in particular that the impregnable LTTE terrain myth had been exploded as a result.
In such a situation, Army directors of media would usually be happy but Brig. Nanayakkara seems to be an exception. He refers to my having compiled a catalogue of attacks ‘attributed to a so-called Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol.’
I would like Brig. Nanayakkara to clarify what he means by ’so-called’ LRRP? Is he denying the existence of the LRRP or is he unaware of the existence of the LRRP?
I wish to point out that one of his predecessors, Brig. Sanath Karunaratne, used to deny the existence of the LRRP and blamed killings of LTTE leaders inside Tiger-controlled territory to internal rivalry until events blew up in his face. The result was that the Army Spokesman of the day cut a sorry figure as far as credibility was concerned.
The LRRP, described as deep penetration unit by the LTTE, was officially acknowledged by the Ceasefire Agreement of February 22, 2002.
Article 1.2 of the CFA debarred offensive military action by either side and included certain acts specifically. Among those mentioned were the deep penetration units.
Consequent to the arrest of some members of the LRRP at Athurugiriya, the entire LRRP story became known to the country. Sections of the media went to town about the fact that an injustice had been done to members of the then LRRP. Some even went to courts admitting that they were members of the LRRP and that their rights were violated.
Subsequently, the then Defence Minister Mr. Tilak Marapone ordered an inquiry through then Army Commander Gen. Lionel Balagalle. Another inquiry was ordered by then Prime Minister Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe through the Defence Secretary of the time, Mr. Austin Fernando. Former President Mrs. Chandrika Kumaratunga also appointed retired Appeals Court Judge D. Jayawickrema to inquire into the matter.
All three inquiries confirmed beyond doubt the existence and functioning of an Army unit known as LRRP. I am therefore puzzled as to why Brig. Nanayakkara is denying the obvious by referring to a ’so-called LRRP.’
If the name of the LRRP has been changed, then it is Brig. Nanayakkara’s duty as media director to reveal it.
The media director also refers to my ‘catalogue’ of attacks. May I ask him whether he feels these incidents also fall under the “so-called” label?
Brig. Nanayakkara also refers to ‘assumptions and hypotheses’ by me. My analysis is based on the incidents that occurred.
Many people including both LTTE members and innocent civilians have lost their lives. These are undisputable facts.
I also wish to point out that there were glowing media reports about the LRRP and even its modus operandi when LTTE Military Intelligence Chief ‘Col.’ Charles was killed on January 5 this year. I do not recall Brig. Nanayakkara protesting against such media references to the LRRP or issuing clarifications then. Why did he not do so and deny the existence of the ’so-called’ LRRP then?
In my article I have clearly explained the dilemma faced by authorities with regard to unorthodox outfits like the LRRP and the fact that many of their successes are un-claimable. I also called LRRP operatives unrecognised heroes.
It is a pity that these nuances have escaped Brig. Nanayakkara, who tries to invoke sarcasm by referring to ’so-called’ LRRP.
I would also like to ask Brig. Nanayakkara whether he admits to LTTE leaders like Shankar, Kangai Amaran, Charles, Nizam, Mano, etc., being killed. If so, will he let us know who killed them?
Brig. Nanayakkara categorically denies that the Army did not kill the TNA Parliamentarian Mr. Kiddinan Sivanesan. I state categorically that the LRRP was responsible for Mr. Sivanesan’s death.
I also understand that there are certain acts that cannot be officially acknowledged.
Brig. Nanayakkara also calls upon the media to keep the Army informed of the existence of any such wing (LRRP) supported by substantial evidence or eyewitnesses.
The Army Media Director must understand that it is not the role of the media to keep the Army informed privately. Whatever is known will be reported publicly by the media.
But the question that arises is, how will the Army respond to such reports? If Brig. Nanayakkara’s clarification is any indication, only ‘hurrah’ stories will be responded to positively, it seems.
If Brig. Nanayakkara is truly in the dark about the LRRP, it is inappropriate for him to seek media assistance in this matter. He should go through proper channels and seek enlightenment from the Directorate of Military Intelligence about the LRRP.
Brig. Nanayakkara can also read the proceedings and reports of the three inquiries to find out all about the LRRP.
I thank Brig. Nanayakkara for issuing this clarification and request him as Director Media to keep the media informed regularly with authentic information to enhance the quality of reporting on military matters without endangering national security.
An important militaristic development is unfolding in the Northern theatre of war!.
The 57, 58 and 59 divisions of the army continue to battle it out with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) within the Mannar, Vavuniya and Mullaitheevu districts in the North – west, south and South – east of the Northern Province while the 53 and 55 divisions are engaging in combat along the Kilaly – Muhamaalai – Nagar Kovil axis inside the Jaffna peninsula.
While fighting goes on almost on a daily basis in the Northern mainland known generally as the Wanni the Peninsula witnesses intense exchange of artillery fire each day.
There are also occasional skirmishes and minor offensives of a limited nature.
Line of control
As of now the initiative is with the security forces who are frequently launching attacks along the Kilaly – Muhamalai – Nagar Kovil axis.
The time, place and intensity of such attacks is decided and determined by the security forces.
The LTTE for the time being is merely reacting and responding to military initiatives by fighting what is essentially a defensive war.
The greater part of the Jaffna peninsula and outlying Islands are under the control of the armed forces. The LTTE controls the under – developed, sparsely populated areas in the South, South – west and south – east of the peninsula.
These areas consist of the Pachchilaippally AGA division and parts of the Thenmaratchy and Vadamaratchy – east AGA divisions. Some of these areas fall under the Jaffna district while others come under Kilinochchi district.
All areas of the Peninsula south of Nagar Kovil on the east coast, Muhamaalai in the middle and Kilaly in the west are under LTTE control.
Thus the effective line of control is along an axis comprising Kilaly – Muhamaalai – Nagar Kovil.
This is a “rekha” that both sides have been trying to cross for many years.
The LTTE conducted phase – four of its staggered “unceasing waves” (Oyatha Alaigal) operation in 2000 to extend this line further north but failed.
The tigers also made an abortive attack in Muhamalai in August 2006 to reach the defences at Muhamaalai.
The armed forces conducted “Operatio Agnikheela” in April 2001. It was a colossal disaster. Security forces also made a determined push in October 2006 that failed.
There were also two limited offensives in November and December last year.
Retaking Elephant Pass
The strategic objective as far as the security forces are concerned is to drive the LTTE away from the peninsula and re – take the Isthmus of Elephant Pass that links the Peninsula and mainland.
For this the armed forces need to progress southwards about 10 to 12 miles from where they are located now.
[near Elephant Pass:pic by Oliver van Straaten]
The terrain consists of plains, grasslands, fields, marshes, scrub jungle, coconut and palmyrah groves etc.
Despite the overwhelming military superiority of the armed forces they have found it difficult to dislodge the LTTE from entrenched positions.
The tigers holding on to territory are engaging in positional warfare like a conventional army to defend and retain it
The army is determined to push forward and re- take Elephant pass in the near future.
A key element of the military plans to push forward in the peninsula is the large – scale deployment of its newly created Mechanized Infantry Division.
The MID is a brainchild of Army commander Lt. Gen Sarath Fonseka . It was formally “raised ” on Feb 14th 2007.
The MID is in actuality the 53 – 4 brigade that was designated later as the mechanized infantry brigade.It consists of three battalions called the first, second and third mechanized infantry regiments or MIR
The military personnel deployed in these MIR’s come from the 3rd light infantry battalion,10th Sinha regiment, 4th Gajaba Battalion, and 5th and 6th reconnaissance regiments of the Sri Lanka Armoured corps.
The MID has a variety of armoured vehicles including BTR-80A, BMP-2 , Type 63 and WZ551 for operational purposes.
Baptism of fire
The MID had a baptism of fire , literally.
It was on 14th February 2007, at the Regimental Headquarters of the 53 Division located in Kodikamam that the Mechanized Infantry Regiment was ceremonially inaugurated.
While the ceremony was in progress the LTTE fired its artillery accurately from across the lagoon in Poonagary on the mainland.
The Brigade Commander Lt Colonel Ralph Nugera , Lt. Col. Sumith Atapattu, Major Harendra Peiris, and two staff officers were injured.
A major factor that led to the establishment of the MID was the military debacle on October 11th 2006 when the army tried to push southwards to Elephant pass.
The LTTE allowed the soldiers to proceed to some extent and then counter attacked.
[Abandoned armoured vehicle at Elephant Pass: pic by Thomas Berg]
An important highlight of the fighting on that day was the severe losses of armoured vehicles by the army. At least twelve armoured fighter vehicles (AFV) and Armoured personnel carriers (APC) were put out of action by the tigers in three hours of fierce combat.
Even as fighting progressed, GOSL troops backed by artillery went forward. The advance was slowed down to some extent by tiger artillery as well as mines.
Two Main Battle Tanks (MBT) were hit by anti – tank “monster” mines. These mines were placed and triggered by the Victor unit of the LTTE which specialises in anti – tank and anti – armoured vehicle warfare.
After the first MBT tank was hit and rendered non – operational the second MBT overtook it and proceeded ahead. This too was hit in turn by a “monster” anti – tank mine.
A third armoured vehicle moved in a different direction and fell into a deep, waterlogged ditch. It was a pit dug and covered up with vegetation.
It was a well camouflaged tiger trap.This too was laid by the Victor unit and demonstrated that the LTTE excelled in both using modern weaponery as well as engaging in comparatively “primitive” yet effective warfare tactics.
LTTE’s Victor Tank Unit
The LTTE’s Victor anti – tank and armoured unit continued engaging in action during intensive fighting too. Despite having lost its founder – commander Lt. Col Akbar to a random army shell on Oct 7th members of the unit fought fiercely.
In addition to the earlier losses of two armoured vehicles to “monster” mines and another to a camouflaged pit – trap , three more Armoured fighting vehicles (AFV) were hit by anti – tank RPG’ s and destroyed.
Six AFV’s comprising 4 Czhech built T – 55 ’s and two Russian built ones were put out of action by the Victor unit.
The Victor anti – tank and armoured unit also fired at Chinese built Armoured Personnel carriers with success. Three APC’s were totally destroyed while another three were extensively damaged .
Altogether the Victor unit had put six armoured fighting vehicles and six armoured personnel carriers out of action within a few hours of fighting.
The armed forces had never sustained such massive losses in this manner before.
Significantly the LTTE had suffered a major loss four days before the fighting.
On Oct 7th Lt. Col Akbar of the LTTE was killed along the Muhamaalai FDL as a result of an army shell.
Akbar, a Batticaloa Tamil was the head of the Victor anti – armoured artillery unit.
Akbar who joined the LTTE in 1990 got married in 2003. He was from its inception the chief of the Victor unit.
It was named after former Mannar tiger commander Victor.
This unit known generally among LTTE cadres as the “RPG Commando” had its roots in the “Col” Kittu artillery unit and had its baptism of fire during “operation Sathjaya” in Kilinochchi.
It then became a sub – division of the “Imran – Pandian” unit named after two of Prabakharan’s trusted bodyguards.
By 1997- 98 the anti – armoured artillery unit began functioning independently under Akbar.
Members of this unit have vertical and not horizontal stripes on their uniforms.
Though many stalwarts of this unit like Maj. Navachandran, Lt.Col Manivannan and Lt. Col Chutta are no more Akbar had survived despite being a veteran of many “Jayasikurui: and “Oyatha Alaigal” battles.
Lt. Col Akbar’s death at a critical time may very well have affected LTTE fortunes as the Victor unit was of crucial importance in countering army advances.
His death however seemed to have inspired his unit members to perform well during war. Instead of being a bad omen it seemed to have become the “blood sacrifice” made to the Gods before war to ensure victory.
This was a practice in the lost martial tradition of the Tamils that has been revived by the Liberation Tigers.
Incidently R. Pageerathan alias Illango who led the attack on the Anuradhapura Air Force base in Saliyapura last October was also a stalwart of the Victor Unit
Illango’s greatest military achievement prior to the A ‘pura attack had been at Ithavil during the Elephant pass operation. LTTE cadres brought by sea had landed at Vadamaratchy east and moved inland.
They had penetrated Ithavil along the A – 9 highway at interdicted military movement along the road to Elephant pass/Iyakkachchi.
The security forces were fighting hard to drive the tigers away and clear the road so that supplies could reach beleagured troops at Elephant pass. The use of tanks and armoured cars placed the LTTE at a disadvantage.
It was then that the Victor anti – tank unit named after former Mannar LTTE commander got into action. Two armoured cars were hit by Light anti Tank weapons.
At one stage Illango is said to have jumped on top of a Buffel tank and shot dead the gunner. Illango had then turned the tank ’s weapons on the security forces. This act helped turn the tide of war it is said.
Deployment of the MID
The deployment of the mechanized infantry division is expected to turn the direction of the war in favour of the armed forces. Massive destructive power is to be unleashed on a terrific and widespread scale as the MID gets going.
The earlier role of Infantry advancing with the aid of armoured vehicles will be reversed with the armoured vehicles advancing with the infantry behind.
On Jan 31st this year the MID had its first taste of success. Thanks to the rapid deployment of the MID the armed forces overan the first line of LTTE defence along the Muhamaalai front. Around 25 bunkers were destroyed.
In mid – March the armed forces undertook another major push. The tigers quietly retreated and waited. Smelling a rat, the armed forces also opted to stay put for several hours and then withdraw.
Consequently military intelligence uncovered the LTTE strategy.
Apparently the tigers in anticipation of the mechanized infantry had embarked upon classical trench warfare.
In a bid to entrap the advancing tanks and armoured vehicles the LTTE had constructed a wide, deep ,and long trench behind their second line of defence.
Two other defence lines consisting of a network of trenches had been constructed behind the major trench.
The giant trench is wide and deep so the tanks could not bridge over the top but instead would fall into the trench and not be able to get out.
Welded “stars” of steel or specially designed blocks of concrete have also been placed in the way of the tanks so they could not get over or around.
The LTTE has forced a large number of civilians to engage in digging trenches and bunkers as part of defence preparations.
Every able – bodied man was required to do a minimum of seven days enforced “shramadana” in digging in one stretch.
If anyone wanted to opt out of it they had to pay a “fine” of 5000 rupees per week. The LTTE used that money to pay people doing manual labour to do the digging.
The LTTE kept 1000 rupees of the fine and paid the hired help 4000 Rs for a week’s work.
It is noteworthy that the LTTE is engaging in trench warfare to confront the mechanized infantry formations when they advance.
Earlier the familiar tactics of the LTTE was “in – depth defence” where the security forces were encouraged to advance deep into tiger territory and were then counter – attacked.
Interestingly “tanks” were developed during world war one to overrun trench based defences.
During world war two trench warfare was modified to prevent defences being overrun by the mechanized and armoured divisions.
The French for instance constructed the famous Maginot line trench complex to stop German invasion but Hitler’s Panzer divisions just rolled around the end of it and kept going ahead.
A recent event of significance in the annals of trench warfare has been the construction of deep trenches in Western Golans by the Israeli defence forces.
Massive trenches are being dug by troops and civilians behind the slopes of the Golan heights in anticipation of a possible advance by Syria.
Meanwhile the Sri Lankan armed forces have also “delayed” their plans in the aftermath of knowing the trench warfare plans of the LTTE.
The Mechanized infantry division is being put through different types of tactical training to surmount anticipated trench based warfare of the tigers.
The unusually long rainy season is also a deterrent to the MRD as soggy, muddy terrain is not very conducive to forward movement by heavy vehicles.
In any event both sides are getting ready for the inevitable “big” bang.
There is no doubt that the mechanized infantry will play the decisive role in breaking down LTTE defences.
On the other hand the Victor anti – tank and anti – armoured vehicle unit will play a crucial role in countering the MID advance.
Ultimately the renewed battle for Elephant pass could be a novel form of trench vs tank warfare or. mechanized infantry vs anti – tank unit confrontation.
(D.B.S. Jeyaraj can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)
My relationship with the Bandaranaikes started from the time of my father, K D Chandrapala, who was Village Council Chairman for Dompe and who maintained close links with S W R D Bandaranaike, Sirimavo Bandaranaike and, later, with Felix Dias Bandaranaike.
It was in 1980 that J R P Suriyapperuma asked me to meet Mrs Bandaranaike along with my cousin, Upali Gunaratna, who is now chairman of the National Savings Bank. We went to Horagolla where she was residing at the time. She reminded us that our family were loyal to the Bandaranaikes. She said she had decided to make Anura the SLFP organiser for Dompe and that she was ‘entrusting’ him to us. We readily agreed to support him.
I was electoral secretary for Dompe. We developed a strong friendship. I worked closely with Anura in politics. And when he crossed over to the UNP, I went along. My decision to switch parties was based entirely on the fact that Anura had decided to join the UNP. I did not consider the political consequences for myself. I had no grievance against the SLFP. I can still remember how Mrs Bandaranaike told me, ‘If your father was alive, he wouldn’t have done this.’
I recall the day Anura was suspended from the SLFP. I was with him at Rosmead Place when he got the letter of suspension. He opened it, read it and started crying. Such was the man. He called his sister, Sunethra, who came and tried to console him. That evening he decided to go out of Colombo. People were telephoning him with questions. Anura was not the type who could handle that kind of situation. He was emotional by nature. Politics had no bearing at times like that. He couldn’t give interviews to the press saying, ‘This is my line and this is what I will do’. We went to Nuwara Eliya where we stayed for five days. He spoke constantly of his father and what he, Anura, had done for the SLFP.
Back from Nuwara Eliya, Anura resigned from the SLFP and went abroad. To see him off at the airport was Mahinda Rajapaksa, who implored with him to return to the SLFP fold. Anura told him that he would consider it. But when he came back, he had decided to join the UNP. He was made Minister of Higher Education and leader of the Gampaha district. I realised later that he was not satisfied with the position he got as Minister of Higher Education. He had been hoping for the Foreign Affairs portfolio. He was in two minds while he was with the UNP. That uncertainty was also a part of his character. He made decisions as if he was bold but he regretted them after some time.
It was after Chandrika returned from abroad that Anura was suspended from the SLFP for reasons now known to everybody. Chandrika became actively involved with the party. At the time, I did not agree with Mrs Bandaranaike because I felt Anura was more suitable for the job given to Chandrika. I was critical of Mrs Bandaranaike’s decision. Anura had done an excellent job as Leader of the Opposition, helping Mrs Bandaranaike return to parliament with a large number of SLFPers in 1987. But Mrs Bandaranaike said she had her reasons, and that Anura doesn’t work enough.
Looking back, I would agree that, politically, Mrs Bandaranaike was right-and we were wrong. If I may analyse Anura’s character, I considered him to be a very intelligent man. He was well read and could speak eloquently in both languages. He had a pleasing personality and his family background was incomparable with that of any other Sri Lankan. There was nobody else who had the kind of qualifications that Anura did to be the head of this state-education, family background, knowledge and ability. Then why didn’t this man make it to the top?
“Lokka, oya eka”
My feeling is that he thought he was destined to get that position so he didn’t go the extra mile. That mindset alone-when you think you have all the qualifications and that you are destined to get a position-won’t take you there. He’s a classic example of it. Some people blamed those around him, saying they were responsible for his disaster. I don’t agree because he was a man who did not listen to anybody. That was his nature. If he did not listen to his mother, whom he was so found of, he would not listen to anyone else. Anura had a varied circle of friends. There were people who offered him any support-whether intellectual, organisational or financial-for him to go that extra little bit. But he never made use of them.
I must also add that Mahinda Rajapaksa did everything possible at that time to make Anura leader of the SLFP. Whatever he organised, whether it was a ratha yathra or pada yathra, he gave leadership to Anura. He would always say, “lokka, oya eka”. “Boss, you’re number one.” I have heard him say that. Mahinda may have hoped to make Anura leader so that he could be second in command.
When the UNP was defeated shortly after he joined them, Anura was very, very upset. He had spent 17 years in the opposition where he had worked tirelessly. He joined the UNP at the last moment and that party lost. I was with him on election day. I continued to stay at Rosmead Place for a month after the election because he was so upset. He needed someone to talk to, someone to help him get over it. Fortunately, I was a bachelor so I had time. I think he felt that he had made a mistake in joining the UNP but he was too proud to admit it. He usually preferred to say that wrong was done unto him rather than take responsibility.
During that period, Anura even contemplated quitting politics. Someone suggested that he should be made ambassador to Washington-and he would have accepted the job but Chandrika ruled it out. His relationship with her was not good at the time. It was maintained through messengers, mostly Mrs Bandaranaike.
Mrs Bandaranaike died on the day of the next parliamentary election. From the moment he heard that his mother had died, he was crying throughout. By the time we arrived at Rosmead Place, he was really gone. It was then that I realised how much he loved and was dependent on his mother, even while fighting with her. He had always been fond of his mother. She was a hero in his eyes. But they had a love-hate relationship, as everyone knows. I feel that this was because he behaved with his mother like a child although his mother considered him to be an adult. She wanted to groom him and take the party forward.
Back to the SLFP
After the election, which the PA won, Anura was informed that the SLFP would support his candidature if he was willing to become Speaker. The UNP also backed his appointment. He was happy that he could be Speaker with the support of both parties. He also reconciled his differences with Chandrika. He later left the UNP and decided to contest the next parliamentary election on the PA ticket. It was at that election that the PA lost and the UNP took over. Anura then brokered a deal with the JVP, pressurised Chandrika to take over three Ministries, to dissolve parliament and to call an election. The PA won and he became a Minister.
My political association with Anura stopped after he crossed back to the SLFP. I had followed him blindly to the UNP but when he was returning to the SLFP, he didn’t even ask me whether I wanted to go back. He had decided what was good for him. But I continued my friendship with Anura because he was a good man. I didn’t advise him politically and my frequent visits ended. Still, we kept in touch on the phone. I went for his last birthday party.
Anura was meticulous in his dress and in everything else he did. He had an old typewriter that he had been using since university. He would type his own letters on this contraption. Every document he owned was filed. Before his speeches, he would read books, talk to people related to the subject, make notes and type the entire speech himself. He also loved to watch films. In my view, I think he might be one of the few people in the world who have seen 90 per cent of the films Hollywood has produced. He would spend time in Los Angeles, watching movies. He would return with posters, get them framed and hang them. He would cut out newspaper and magazine reviews of the most interesting films he had watched. He would paste them and file them.
Anura loved his family. I have heard that Chandrika was closer and more protective of Anura, even though they had fallen out at one point. They had a close bond. He was fond of her children. Anura loved all children and would dote on them. A little girl of about two-and-a-half years lived next door to Anura at Rosmead Place. I can still remember how, every morning, he would send the servants to bring her to his house. She would spend a few hours with him, playing, eating chocolates and other snacks, before returning home. He would bring gifts for her from his foreign trips. They moved house but kept in touch. I was happy to see them at his funeral the other day. The little girl has grown up now.
He loved to play practical jokes on people. He would often ask uninvited guests to turn up at the houses of friends on their birthdays. So people kept turning up at houses even when there was no party. One day, his friends turned the tables on him and invited all kinds of people-including Bradman Weerakoon and J R Jayawardene-to Anura’s house on his birthday. Most of them turned up, dressed to the nines. They were sent away at the gate. Luckily for J R, he called Anura beforehand and was told that there’s no party! Once, he invited beggars to the house of friend who lived at Barnes Place. He even printed invitation cards saying that women would be donated a sari, the men a sarong and toys to the children. About 60 of them turned up at 7 am. When this friend opened the gate to go to the temple, they rushed into his garden shouting “apey mahattaya”! He had to give them money to get rid of them. I saw Anura last just before he went to Singapore for treatment. He didn’t talk about his condition. He isn’t someone who can discuss bad news. He said he was going for a health check. I didn’t ask him anything more.
If you ask me if he was happy, I wouldn’t say he was happy or unhappy. Then again, in retrospect, I wouldn’t say he was happy.
Provincial council elections for the Eastern Province are scheduled for May 10th this year. According to gazette notification on March 13th, nominations for Eastern provincial polls will be accepted from March 23rd to April 3rd. It appears that the eastern provincial stakes would attract more political parties than the recently concluded local authority polls for Batticaloa district.
While the spotlight is all on the east ,the north is being neglected in the current scheme of things. When the All Party Representative Committee (APRC)changed direction by shamelessly surrendering to Rajapakse’s diktat and presented the President’s directives as APRC recommendations , some mention was also made of the North.
It was said then that the North too would get it’s own elected provincial council when the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam(LTTE) organization was dislodged from its present position and the whole province came under Government writ. Until that distant date an interim Advisory council (IAC)would be set up it was proclaimed.
Soon there was hectic lobbying for posts in the envisaged IAC. While anticipatory coo – cooing reached a crescendo within the dovecotes of the hangers – on , a “spoiler”, set the cat among the pigeons.
This was none other than former defence secretary Austin Fernando. In an article published in special section of “The Nation” dated Feb 3rd 2008, Mr. Fernando raised some pertinent doubts.
Mr. Fernando’s chief observation was that there was a difference between a” Provincial Council” and a “PC area”. PC and PC area were two different entities.He pointed out that though this Government had created the northern PC area as a de – merged unit, it had not created a PC under Article 154 A of the Constitution.
Austin Fernando who described himself as a “layman” in law went on to argue eloquently that the proposed Interim administration or IAC ran the risk of being “invalid” in law.
Since the IAC was not an “institutional arrangement to advise the Governor or PC” under the Constitution or any other law the possibility of the IAC being “interpreted as inconsistent with the Constitution” was there stated Austin Fernando.
There was a response to Mr. Austin Fernando the following week in “The Nation” of Feb 10th 2008. This was by Dr. K. Vigneswaran the General Secretary of the Akhila Ilankai Tamil United Front and former Secretary to the Chief Minister of the North-East Province
In 2006, Dr. Vigneswaran was a signatory to the Majority Report of the Experts Panel, appointed by the President to assist the APRC.
Here are some excerpts from Dr. Vigneswaran’s article
“Mr. Austin Fernando raises the question whether the appointment of an IAC for the Northern Province would be legal. Such a question could be applied to the Eastern Province as well. He rightly argues that a Provincial Council has not been constituted for the Northern Province under Article 154A(2).”
” I would go further than that and state that the two Provincial Councils established for both the North and the East under Article 154A(1) have not been constituted under Article 154A(2) since constitution takes place only upon the election of the members of such Councils. ”
“It therefore follows that a Provincial Council which has been established, but not constituted could only exercise executive powers vested in the Governor of the Province and nothing more. Legislative powers conferred on a Provincial Council cannot be exercised. As a corollary, it cannot also exercise executive powers conferred on the Province in respect of the Concurrent List since such powers cannot be exercised without the power to make statutes. Also, Articles 154K, 154L and 154M will not be applicable to the Provincial Councils of the North and East.”
After explaining further Dr. Vigneswaran then went on to suggest -
“The only other alternative would be to revive the merged North-East Provincial Council, the merger of which had been held by the Supreme Court to be ‘void ab initio’ for the tech nical reason that section 37(1)(b) of the Provincial Councils Act No.42 of 1987, was not properly amended prior to President Jayewardene making the Proclamation under section 37(1)(a). In my view the President has to take a bold initiative and present a Bill to Parliament an amend section 37(1)(b) with retrospective effect. Article 75 of the Constitution provides for enacting laws having retrospective effect.”
“If the President were to take such a bold initiative he would be applying a soothing balm to the deeply hurt Tamils of this country and would be able to convince the moderates of this country as well as the international community that he is genuinely interested in sharing power with the Tamils and the Muslims. I see this as a window of opportunity for the President to prove his bona fides.”
Whatever the validity and legal viability of Dr, Vigneswaran’s plea to the president that the North and East be re- merged, there is very little chance of Mahinda Rajapakse being amenable as the political implications of such an act would be massive.
The Sinhala ultra – nationalist agenda of the Rajapakse regime deems it imperative that the East remains separate from the North to facilitate speedy “sinhalaisation”. Thus the option of “re- merger” though legally practical is seemingly impractical politically.
The “debate” generated by Austin Fernando and K. Vigneswaran had its effect. The Government realised that there was a problem over appointing an Interim Advisory council. The idea was shelved and the appointment of a separate governor to the Northern province became important.
There is however much bickering among the Tamil lackeys of this regime to be Northern governor. At the same time there is also pressure on the president that a Tamil should not be appointed as governor to the pre-dominantly Tamil (95%) Northern province.
Thus the issue seems to be on hold for now and Eastern province governor Mohan Wijeywickrama continues as acting governor of the north too.
There is however a question of legality surrounding the issue in the aftermath of the Supreme court judgement of Oct 16th 2006 whih paved the way for North – East de- merger. Just as the merger was deemed illegal the legitimacy of the North – East governor is also disputed.
The de- merger of the North and East brought about through the historic SC judgement of Oct 16th 2006 has come to stay.
It was the chief justice Sarath Silva himself who wrote the ruling with supreme court justices Jayasinghe, Udalagama, Fernando and Amaratunga concurring.
The crux of that landmark judgement was as follows -
“The next question to be decided is in relation to the validity of Order P2 effecting a merger of the Northern and Eastern Provinces. Section 37(l)(b) contains two mandatory conditions that have to be satisfied before a Proclamation effecting a merger is issued. The address made by the President to Parliament and the statements made as to the security situation seeking an approval of the Proclamations of the state of Emergency in the year 1988 referred to in the preceding analysis clearly establish that the President could not have been possibly satisfied as to either of these mandatory conditions. The endeavour to amend the mandatory conditions by recourse to the Emergency Regulations demonstrates that the President in his own mind knew that the two mandatory conditions have not been satisfied. An axiomatic principle of Administrative Law is thus formulated by Wade and Forsyth early in the treatise as follows
“Even where Parliament enacts that a minister may make such order as he thinks fit for a certain purpose, the court may still invalidate the order if it infringes one of the many judge-made rules. And the court will invalidate it, a fortiori, if it infringes the limits which Parliament itself has ordained.
(9th Edition page 5)
The Proclamation P2 made by the then President declaring that the Northern and Eastern Provinces shall form one administrative unit has been made when neither of the conditions specified in Section 37(l)(b) of the Provincial. Councils Act no. 42 of 1987 as to the surrender of weapons and the cessation of hostilities, were satisfied. Therefore the order must necessarily be declared invalid since it infringes the limits which Parliament itself has ordained ”
The SC judgement has been hailed by many for effectively de- merging the North and East by declaring that “merger” null and void. What has been overlooked in this is the logical consequences of such a lofty verdict.
For it stands to reason that the resultant consequences of such a judgement cannot be confined to limited spheres alone.One cannot engage in cherry – picking in this.
The Supreme Court decreed that the “merger” that had been in force for twenty years was null and void. Thus an “illegitimate” set – up was deemed to have been in force for two decades
Since the North – East merger was invalid , the old order had to be torn down and separate Provincial councils,administrations and governors have to be created for both provinces.
The perplexing question at this juncture is about the legal status of other related matters too. For instance how legitimate was the appointment of the governor for the merged North – Eastern province?
The same judgement that renders the merger invalid also by extension makes the N- E governor null and void .Therefore was the N- E Governor appointment legitimate or illegitimate?is the question.
This column posed this query to President’s counsel Dr. Jayampathy Wickramaratne who was until recently an adviser to the minister of Constitutional Affairs.
Dr. Wickramaratne has also played an important role in formulating the draft Constitutional reform bill of 2000 and was also a signatory to the majority report presented by the APRC experts panel.
Here is what Dr. Wickramaratne had to say about “legality” -
“According to the judgement, the Proclamation of the merger has been made when neither of the conditions specified in Section 37(l)(b) of the Provincial. Councils Act no. 42 of 1987 as to the surrender of weapons and the cessation of hostilities, were satisfied. “Therefore the order must necessarily be declared invalid since it infringes the limits which Parliament itself has ordained”, the Court held. ”
“The Court has held that conditions precedent to the exercise of the power to merge the Nothern and Eastern Provinces had not been satisfied. Although the words “void ab initio” were not used, that is implied. ”
“The resulting position is that all that followed the illegal Proclamation is also void. The appointment of the Governor is void. Acts of that illegally appointed Governor such as the appointment of the Provincial Public Service Commission are also void. Acts of the Provincial Public Service Commission are also void.The Commission must have made thosands of appointments and exercised disciplinary control over hundreds of officers. ”
Dr. Wickramaratne also ventured to opine ” Article 154 (3) of the Thirteenth Amendment states that Parliament may by law provide for the merger of two or three provinces. The merger was under the Provincial Councils Act. It may be possible to validate acts done consequent to the merger by special retrospective legslation. ”
“This is a matter that has to be looked into carefully” he emphasised.
This column also asked Colombo University Law professor Dr. Rohan Edirisinha to comment in this regard. Dr. Edirisinha together with Asanga Welikala, his colleague at the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) responded to some of the queries submitted via electronic mail.
Here are some excerpts from the observations made by Rohan Edirisinha and Asanga Welikala to the issues raised by this column.
On the questions of N- E de-merger, P.C’s, 154 A (3) and the validity of the appointment of Governor for merged North – East province -
” If one looks at the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, 154 A (1), it seems clear that a Provincial Council has been established in the northern province and the eastern province by virtue of a gazette notification of 3 Feb 1988 and referred to by the Supreme Court in its demerger judgement – Wijesekera at al v Attorney General, SC FR Appl. 243 245/06. ”
“It may be possible to argue however that a Provincial Council has not been constituted in the northern or eastern provinces as elections have not been held separately in each of the provinces. See Art 154 A 2.According to Art 154 B, a Governor shall be appointed for a Province for which a Provincial Council has been established. ”
“Art 154 A (3) is interesting as it commences with the words “Notwithstanding anything in the preceding provisions of this Article..” and then provides that Parliament may by law provide for two or three adjoining provinces to merge to form one unit with one Governor. This presumably even covers situations where the provincial councils have not been constituted. ”
“In the demerger case the Supreme Court declared that the merger of the northern and eastern provinces by the president acting under Section 37 of the Provincial Councils Act, was void. This was on the basis that the mandatory conditions that had to be fulfilled under that section for the merger to be effected had not been fulfilled and also on the basis that the president’s amendment of the mandatory conditions via an emergency regulation was ultra vires and, therefore, invalid.”
“The Supreme Court declared in its judgment that the merger of the two provinces was void but is silent on the validity of acts done pursuant to such a merger and also the validity of the appointment of the Governor of the merged north-east province. It could be argued that if the merger was void ab initio, then logically all acts that flow from such an act are void.”.
They also observed in this respect that -
” The Supreme Court of Sri Lanka usually is very concerned about not disturbing continuity, certainty in the law and settled expectations etc. These are the phrases used by judges to reject challenges to the constitutionality of legislation and even sometimes to refuse to overturn legal precedents which may be wrong, but have been accepted as law for a long period of time.”
” The fact that in the demerger case, the Supreme Court did not address this issue- the issue of the legality of the various initiatives, development programmes etc administered under the aegis of the North-Eastern Provincial Council is surprising, out of character and could even suggest a lack of concern about development and administration in the north and east from 1988 to 2006.”
” It could be argued that it demonstrated a primary concern for legality and technicality over empathy for the people/s of the north and east”.
Asked about the legality or illegality of the N- E governor and acts done by him , Edirisinha and Welikala said -
“Another possible approach is to argue from a kind of “presumption in favour of legality” perspective. Those who want to argue that the existence of a Governor of the North East is illegal will then have to challenge his appointment or his actions after the judgment, and until that is done and the courts declare his actions illegal, they remain legally valid. One will have to wait until this is done.Venturing an opinion before that would be premature”.
Asked whether re- merger of North – East was necessary for rectifying the issue their response was -
“The argument that the only way to legalise past decisions/actions is to merge the north and east again by retrospective legislation is weak. Parliament could instead by retrospective legislation merely validate all actions, appointments made by the Governor without going beyond that and merging the north and the east.”
Asked whether the fact that executive power remains with the President had a bearing on this, both replied -
“The argument that notwithstanding the 13th Amendment, executive power remains substantially with the President, (the position of Sharvananda CJ and the majority in the case on the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution 1987 2 SLR 312), that some clauses in the 13th Amendment itself, eg- Art 154 B (2) that provides that the Governor holds office, in accordance with Article 4 (b), could be used to argue that the President’s considerable executive power, in a way, validates everything.”.
Asked what the situation could be if the N-e governor position is legally challenged and upheld to some extent, Edirisinha and Welikala said -
“If the actions of the NE Governor or even his position is legally challenged and if there is a likelihood of the courts holding that some of these acts/ the Governor’s appointment itself was invalid, the President and Parliament can with a combination of the President’s executive power and the enactment of validating legislation avoid the possibility of ALL acts of the North-East administration being declared void. We are not necessarily endorsing such a course of action but suggesting that Sri Lanka’s constitutional tradition of ensuring executive convenience probably enables a government to deal effectively with such a challenging situation.”
Asked to speculate on how the courts may view the issue if it came up, both of them responded thus –
“There are no clear and obvious answers to the questions of constitutional interpretation raised. Various options exist, several arguments may be developed. A lot will depend on the attitude of the courts. Now that the Supreme Court has demerged the north and east, the court may well wish to cooperate with the executive in ensuring that what has happened in the past few years in the North and East in terms of administration and development, is not undone”.
It can be seen therefore from the comments made by Jayampathy Wickramaratna, Rohan Edirisinha and Asanga Welikala to the questions posed by this column that the legality of the appointment of the Governor to the merged north – eastern province is seriously doubted. The rationale for “merger” being null and void applies here too.
This then raises pertinent questions of a serious nature. If the N – E governor was “illegitimate” then what is the position of all acts done in an official capacity?
Can the fact that the President retains executive power suffice to justify or override the “illegality” issue?
In any event the power to make certain appointments was vested earlier with the cabinet of ministers and later the provincial public services commission and not the executive president.
Is re – merger of both provinces mandatory in a legal sense to rectify the situation? If so what are the political consequences?
Is new, enabling legislation with retrospective effect necessary to remedy the situation?
Why was this issue not addressed adequately during the landmark case and judgement of October 16th 2006?
Also why were not these crucial matters addressed in the aftermath of the judgement?
The focus has been on the dismantling of the merger alone without heed for other resultant effects.
How will the S- C respond if the legality of the N- E governor appointment is challenged before it as in the case of the N- E merger?
As the legal and Constitutional experts themselves have stated there are no definitive answers here.
In the final analysis it is the Supreme Court which ruled the merger invalid that must clarify all these issues and provide guidelines.
The “illegitimate” appointment of the North – Eastern governor issue is but illustrative of the problem and requires SC perusal and opinion.
With all due respect to the Supreme court it does appear that the October 16th judgement was only of a “limited” nature. There are other areas too that require clarity and a clear sense of direction.
This can only be done by the Supreme court in general and the present chief justice himself in particular.
For that to happen the issue must be raised in courts. The President or Government could explicitly seek SC direction.
Some civic minded individual or organization could also go to courts and seek a ruling.
Even some person affected by the N- E governor “legitimacy” issue could seek redress from the judiciary.
As is the case in many matters , this important issue about N- E governor legality has been allowed to drag on for too long.
It is imperative that it be addressed and rectified quickly.
A proud claim by President Mahinda Rajapakse’s government during its military offensive in the Eastern province was that the armed forces were liberating Tamil civilians from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
The Rajapakse regime also boasted that no civilian was harmed when the security forces moved into the regions dominated by the tigers.
Foreign affairs minister Rohitha Bogollagama stressed this point when addressing members of the diplomatic community to explain the military successes of the east.
This columnist then wrote a series of articles in another newspaper exposing the blatant falsehoods and hollow propaganda of these claims.
[Walking past an office of the Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal Party Pic: Pablo Bartholomew NYTimes.com]
Technically the Rajapakse regime was correct in claiming that no civilian was harmed when the armed forces were physically moving into former LTTE controlled areas like Sampoor, Verugal, Vaakarai and the Western hinterland of Paduvaankarai (shore of the setting sun).
This was due to the fact that most civilians had vacated or been forced to evacuate from their homes prior to the armed forces moving in. Thus most of these places were virtually deserted when the military juggernaut rolled in.
In such a situation there were no civilian casualties simply because there were no people there. So there were no incidents during the physical occupation of areas controlled by the LTTE.
The government was therefore telling the “truth” partially in making these claims.
But the whole truth was starkly different.
The security forces had engaged in aerial bombardment and artillery shelling of the LTTE regions for weeks and months before the actual act of moving in took place. Hundreds of civilians were killed or injured. Their dwellings were destroyed or damaged.
Moreover these tiger controlled regions were in a state of siege for a long period during which the supply of food, medicine and essential items was restricted.Transport was curtailed. The chief means of livelihood , Agriculture , fisheries and dairy – livestock were affected.
All these were part of a cruel but effective strategy to compel the civilians into moving out from their traditional homelands.
So the people for no fault of their own were made “internally displaced persons”. At one stage the number of the IDP’s topped 350,000 in Batticaloa and Trincomalee. B’caloa in particular became a district of the displaced.
It was Mao Ze Dong who compared guerillas amidst the people to fish in an ocean.
The idea was to deny the “guerilla fish” the “ocean of people” to swim about
This strategy did succeed in the East. It is now being followed to a certain extent in the Vavuniya – Mannar districts of the North.
Despite the government boasting that no civilian was harmed when the armed forces seized tiger territory the reality was different.
The civilians had indeed been affected severely but not during the time when the armed forces were actually moving in.What the government did then was to obscure and distort the reality for propaganda purposes.
The recently concluded polls to local authorities in the Batticaloa district of the Eastern Province evokes a sense of Deja Vu.
Once again the Rajapakse regime is boasting about restoring democracy to the East. It is also citing the very low level of violence on election day and during the election campaign as proof of the polls being free and fair.
Much is being made of the low level of violence and government propagandists are pouring scorn on those who expressed pessimism about the polls being free or fair.
The situation is reminiscent of the times of eastern military offensives.
Yes it is true that the level of violence was very low if not altogether absent during election day. The “campaign” too was significantly devoid of major violence in the Tamil areas.
Comparatively the violence in Muslim areas was more than what happened in the Tamil areas.
The overall argument of the Government is that the Batticaloa local authority elections were free and fair.
If one were to look at what happened on polling day in a superficial manner without any understanding of the complexities involved it is possible to arrive at such a conclusion.
But the devil as they say is in the details.
In this instance it was not actual election day and the polls campaign that mattered but what went on before those developments in the East in general and Batticaloa in particular.
There was a time when the people of Batticaloa were caught between tiger terror and state terror.
With the conquest of tiger territory by the armed forces and large – scale re-location of LTTE cadres from the east , the threat of one terror has diminished.
The elections witnessed the tigers being conspicuous by their absence.
This has not been the case in the other type of terror.
The LTTE may not be there but the mantle of terror is now worn by its off – shoot the Tamil Makkkal Viduthalai Puligal (TMVP)
In plain English the TMVP means Tamil People Liberation Tigers.
The TMVP is nominally headed by “Col” Karuna now languishing in a British jail.
[Pillaiyaan casts his vote at a polling station in Pettalai, Pic: Eranga Jayawardena, via Yahoo! News]
In practice , the TMVP is led by his deputy leader Pillaiyaan who is now the most” powerful” Tamil in the East.
The TMVP functions as a para – military force in association with the security forces. It practises terror as a matter of routine.
The state and sections of the media who complained loudly against LTTE terror are deafeningly silent about TMVP terror simply because these guys are our guys or “Apey Kollo”.
In a bid to gain respectability the TMVP contested the recent elections. In the B’caloa municipality the TMVP contested under the aegis of the government adopting the betel symbol of the UPFA.
The TMVP has made a clean sweep of the B’caloa municipality and eight Pradeshia Sabhas it contested.
What is important in this so called victory is the fact that these polls occurred in a climate of calculated terror. Thus there is a serious crisis of credibility about elections amidst a culture of fear.
An important aspect of these elections is that apart from the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress, all other contesting parties and independent groupings were connected to the Governmen in some way.
The chief opposition party the United National Party (UNP) and the premier Tamil party the Tamil National Alliance did not participate.
Thus the SLMC was the only credible “opposition” party to participate in these elections.
The absence of the UNP and TNA practically eliminated the necessity for a hard – fought election in the Tamil majority areas. This was a major contributory factor to the low level of violence in the Tamil areas.
Because of SLMC participation and the on going feud between Kattankudi’s Hizbullah and Oddamavaddy’s Ameer Ali the level of violence was considerably higher in the Muslim majority areas.
If the SLMC did not contest then the violence would have been much reduced in Muslim areas also.
If there is one political party deserving boquets for democratic performance that party is the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress.
Apart from the risk it ran of encountering violence during the elections the SLMC also withstood great pressures while campaigning.
The only signs of genuine electioneering were only in areas where the SLMC campaigned.
The Police and Government officials were heavily “biased ” against the SLMC. Many of its complaints were not taken note of by the authorities.
Despite the odds being against it, the SLMC performed creditably. It appears that around 75% – 80 % of the Muslim votes cast were in favour of the SLMC.The SLMC got the most number of Muslim local representatives.
The SLMC has demonstrated that it is the premier political party representing the Muslims in general and of the East in particular.
During earlier local authority polls the SLMC won 11 of the 13 Muslim majority local authorities in the East. The only two it failed in were Oddamavaddy and Akkaraipatru where Ameer Ali and Athaullah exercised considerable influence.
The current elections were for local authorities dominated by Tamils. There is a sizable Muslim population in some of these local authority areas but the Muslim are only a minority here.
Besides these mixed areas are only in the littoral “Eluvankarai” or shore of the rising sun. The hinterland is homogenously Tamil.
Theoretically , keenly contested elections may have been possible in the Tamil areas if the UNP and TNA had contested.
This did not happen and that is the main reason for the comparative absence of election related violence in the Tamil areas of the district.
The reason for the UNP and TNA keeping away from elections was due to terror and fear.
If these parties had dared to contest the candidates would have been snuffed out or made to disappear. Close relatives and active supporters would also have suffered.
Moreover free and fair campaigning would not have been possible. Vote rigging and ballot box stuffing would have been rampant.
Since the UNP and TNA did not contest there was no necessity for large – scale violence or fraud. Thus the polls have a thin veneer of being free and fair.
A culture of fear caused by a climate of terror has been spreading in the district. It was this that deterred the TNA and UNP from contesting.
The TNA has been at the receiving end of anti – tiger violence in the east for quite a while now.
TNA national list MP Joseph Pararajasingham was shot dead by the TMVP in a Catholic Church. Former TNA Amparai district MP Chandranehru Ariyanayagam was shot dead at Welikande by the TMVP. Several elected TNA members of eastern local authorities in Trincomalee and Amparai districts have been killed.
There was also the spectacle of close relatives and aides of TNA Parliamentarians being abducted by the TMVP during budget voting days. The son in law of Kanagasabhai , brother of Ariyanendran, son in law of Jeyanandamoorthy’s sister and the secretary of Ms. Thangeswary were all abducted to intimidate the MP’s into refraining from voting against the budget.
It was obvious therefore that the TNA would have been subject to terrible violence if they had dared to contest.
Thus by restricting participation the violence succeeded in preventing a free and fair election from taking place from the time that nominations closed.
Moreover violence and intimidation was prevalent to some degree at least. Some incidents were reported but many went unreported.
The TMVP forced many persons to “contest” on their lists. Some who refused like the teacher trade unionist Nandakumar were killed.
The “opposition” to the TMVP came from the EPDP – PLOTE – EPRLF independent groups and the EDF group. These are also linked to the government. By participating some semblance of a contest was afforded to the polls.
Even here the close relative of EROS local leader Prabakharan was abducted and killed by the TMVP.Also local supporters were warned that if any posters came up they would be killed. So the few non – TMVP posters came up only near army camps and police stations.
But in the grand scheme of things envisaged by the Rajapakse regime Jaffna is for the EPDP and Wanni for PLOTE but Batticaloa is for TMVP.
So the EPDP and PLOTE may be given a place but certainly not pride of place in Batticaloa.
The lions share in Batticaloa is for the renegade tiger faction .
The TMVP also terrified many Tamils into voting for them as they were now holding the “gun” just as the LTTE did sometime ago.The people were told that if they did not vote in large numbers their children would be conscripted by the TMVP.
Suspected supporters of non – TMVP parties were threatened with death if the others fared better than the TMVP at polls.
More importantly many Grama Niladhari’s were warned of dire consequences if the TMVP fared poorly. Also most government servants were terrorised into submission while the Police and army were patently partisan.
Voting cards were seized in many cases. No supporters or agents of non – TMVP were allowed in the rural voting booths. Few neutral observers or election monitors were seen outside the urban areas.
There were instances of ballot box stuffing and vote – rigging. Another big mystery was the sudden “black – out” during the counting of votes.
Still this does not necessarily mean that all voting was enforced. Also, not all the votes for the TMVP were cast unwillingly.
The Tamil – Muslim divide played a role in increasing voter turn – out just as in the 1988 North – East provincial council polls. Fear of the “other” community getting more representation by default was exploited to encourage voting.
There was also a sense of pragmatism. It was obvious to the average Tamil voter that the power equation had changed in the district. The new “power” was Pillaiyan and his henchmen.
There was also no real contest in the elections as the UNP or TNA were not in the fray.
Even if the non – TMVP groups won they would not be allowed to function by Pillaiyan and his cohorts. So in pragmatic terms the only choice available was the TMVP. It was Hobson’s choice.
During earlier times the Tamil people were conditioned through terror into submission by the LTTE. Now the Tamil people are submitting to TMVP terror. Masters may change but slavery contiues.
[President Rajapakse swearing in Sivageetha Prabakharan of TMVP-pic: Puthinam.com]
In Batticaloa there was a limited sympathy factor also in the case of Sivageetha Prabakharan alias Padmini who got the most number of preferential votes and is now the mayor.
She is the only daughter of Rajan Sathiyamoorthy the pro-Karuna TNA candidate brutally murdered by the tigers who later dug up and defiled his body.
The TMVP boys who concealed their weapons for a short period and were on their best behaviour for some time during elections are now back to the old ways. Armed cadres are visible once again. Taxation continues and conscription goes on.
Some TMVP goons are keen on using their new power in procuring spouses. Some girls have been abducted while others are being forced into marriage.
Most of the lists of elected TMVP representatives are likely to be re- constituted. Lackeys and loyalists of Pillaiyan are likely to be nominated.
[At the swearing in event-pic: Puthinam.com]
A group of nine civil society organizations undertook a three day fact – finding mission to Batticaloa in Fenruary and issued a report titled “Afraid to even say the word:Elections in Batticaloa” The group urged that elections in the East should not be held as they wont be free and fair.
An observation made by the grroup about the political environment in Batticaloa summed up the scenario precisely.The pre – polls assessment has been proven right in a post – polls situation.
Here is the relevant excerpt:
“If one uses a ‘toolkit for democracy’ and simply checks the presumed indicators without an understanding of the complexities and the instilled culture of fear, then the Batticaloa election process approximates freedom and fairness. But an examination of the whole structure of elections in Batticaloa reveals serious issues that undermine any such possibility: from the Election Commissioner, appointed in breach of the 17th Amendment; to the electoral lists, which do not include all eligible voters; to the decision by the UNP and TNA not to contest out of fear for their prospective candidates, thereby shrinking the choices available to voters; to the nomination process which has involved violence against unwilling candidates; to threats against voters and candidates alike. Even a few of these elements would undermine the credibility of an election; seen altogether, that credibility collapses utterly.”
Meanwhile provincial council elections for the Eastern Province are scheduled for May 10th this year. According to gazette notification on March 13th, nominations for Eastern provincial polls will be accepted from March 23rd to April 3rd. It appears that the eastern provincial stakes would attract more political parties than the recently concluded local authority polls for Batticaloa district.
It was President Mahinda Rajapakse who decided to go ahead with plans to hold Provincial council elections for the Eastern Province. He imposed his will on the All Party Representatice Committee (APRC) and made that entity “resolve and recommend” that elections be held to the Eastern Provincial council (EPC).
The Rajapakse regime’s undue haste in going through with EPC elections is rationalised on the basis that the long – suffering people of the province must have democratically elected representatives.
There is nothing wrong in this “noble” intention. But there is also a hidden agenda with an “ignoble” objective.
The merger of the Northern and Eastern Provinces was rendered invalid on procedural grounds by the Supreme Court (SC)in its path – breaking judgement of Oct 16th 2006.
Thereafter the option of re- merging both provinces through appropriate procedure was always available to President Rajapakse.
Rajapakse who had been against the N- E merger right from the beginning utilised the opportunity provided by the SC judgement to de- merge and dismantle the Indo – Lanka accord legacy.
The joint N- E administration gave way for separate provincial administrations. The N- E governor Mohan Wijewickrema was re- appointed as governor of East and acting governor of North.
Once the EPC elections are held an “elected” administration for the Eastern province will be in place. Thereafter the de – merger would be concretised.
The Indo – Lanka accord provided for a “merger” first and subsequent ratification through a separate referendum for the Eastern province.
But once the eastern provincial council becomes operational after polls the EPC would acquire permanency.
Thereafter a referendum may be decreed necessary for re – merger. Given the current politico – military configuration in the East such a possibility via referendum is extremely unlikely.
Moreover the “de- merger” of both provinces could be made permanent after EPC elections.
The newly “elected” council with a “Tamil” chief minister may pass a resolution calling for de – merger and request a referendum to decide upon it.
Thereafter President Rajapakse may hold an eastern referendum and settle the merger issue once and for all.
The setting up of an “elected” Eastern provincial administration is also essential for the Rajapakse regime’s “re- awakening of East” project. India has promised massive assistance to the EPC once it is set in motion.
The official name for the renewal of east project is “nagenahira Navodhaya” though the province is 74% Tamil – speaking.
The Eastern project supervised and co-ordinated by the President’s sibling Basil Rajapakse has grandiose plans for reconstruction and development.
Though some development schemes are on the cards for Tamil and Muslim areas the overall thrust of the project will be demographic engineering.
The groundwork is now being laid for the gradual settlement of outsiders in the province. Within the province traditional Tamil and Muslim areas will be appropriated in the name of security, development and archaeology.
What is being envisaged is demographic alteration that would ultimately result in “Sinhalaisation” of the East.
For this a “puppet” provincial administration imposed upon the people through a questionable electoral process would be of great use.
The fact that the new administration could be headed by a Tamil is immaterial in this if the new CM is going to be a Government stooge.
The recent local authority polls was only a dress rehearsal of what is in store for the east in the name of democracy.
A puppet provincial council would also be of use in preserving supremacy of the security forces in several spheres of control in the east.
All these could go on in the name of democratising the east.
The local authority polls in Batticaloa was not a litmus test for democracy but a limited experiment to see how LTTE terror tactics can be replicated into winnig an election as done in April 2004.
The modus operandi will be duplicated in the eastern provincial polls and later extended to the north also.
The tried and tested methods can be adopted for Parliamentary and Presidential elections also.
If unchecked and unfettered this means an extra 20 – 25 seats for the Rajapakse regime in the next Parliamentary polls and a minimum of 600, 000 extra votes at the Presidential stakes for Apey Mahinda !.