Sunday, December 30, 2007

The supreme skill - winning over the Tamils – to defeat the LTTE

By Lalin Fernando
Fighting to win 100 victories in 100 battles is not the supreme skill. However to break the enemies’ resistance without fighting is the supreme skill" (Sun Tzu – circa 400-320 BC)

What is it that keeps the LTTE fighting despite completely losing its hold on the east and its eastern commander and cadres due to respectively the unrelenting actions of the defense forces and mass desertion by its eastern cadres while being restricted to just 5% of its claimed land? Add to this that the western international community (IC), amongst whom one million Tamils live, declared them terrorists, froze their bank accounts and began prosecuting their ‘collectors’. It must be something more than just their fighting skills and spirit or the very lucrative Diaspora funding or any other thing. It has to be their unbroken will power that comes from a deep belief in their cause and a courage that defies death. To defeat the LTTE the state whatever else it does must break that very will power by attacking and destroying the support, faith and confidence that sustains it.

It was not always clear as it must be now that the key to the state defeating the LTTE was by winning over the hearts and minds of the Tamils and thus isolating the LTTE. Without the support of the Tamils, the LTTE’s will power cannot be sustained. Defeating it in battle and destroying its international funding and supply chain will help to erode its morale and spirit considerably but will not stop it from continuing to fight. The state’s focus however appears to be to convince the IC, but not the affected Tamils, that while pursuing its military options it does not humiliate or discriminate against the Tamils. Even so very serious allegations are made of abductions and other violations of the human rights (HR) of the Tamils. The state has thus handed over a global propaganda bonanza to the LTTE and its local allies who look forward to deliverance by the IC by way of severe, mainly economic, strictures on the GoSL with the threat of direct intervention. Not surprisingly most Tamils believe the issue is still in the balance and are constrained to keep their own counsel.

The LTTE cannot sustain the high level of casualties it suffers for ever. The trapped Wanni Tamils, their only source of reinforcement, are steadily abandoning the dwindling areas controlled by it. It has to rely on its hard core and child cadres, many of them women to prop up its strength. All its fighters are either abducted or conscripted unlike the state forces which are purely voluntary, something that many tend to overlook when forecasting the future. Very many Tamils have already been decimated by the LTTE for refusing to accept its leadership. Karuna must have known that the LTTE would in time want to annihilate the easterners like the North Vietnamese army did to their spearhead, the Vietcong, after defeating the US backed Saigon government. Hitler did the same to his possible rivals like Roehm after the Reichstag fire. Fifty percent (400,000) of Tamils in the Jaffna district alone have already fled from the LTTE in the 25 years of fighting. This does not include 50,000 Muslims who were evicted overnight. Attrition in the ongoing conventional battles will cause further critical manpower shortages for the LTTE. However its ability to wage guerilla war and mount terrorist attacks can be sustained for as long as its will power remains unbroken and especially while its suicide cadres exist. They make the LTTE though considerably weakened, a still very formidable force. To believe otherwise is to fantasize. It unfailingly gives us reminders of its vapourizing suicide prowess. That power is as lethal as a nuclear deterrent. This is the reality. The LTTE threat cannot simply be willed away by politicians making hysterical claims to the media.

Mao Tse Dung said that ‘power comes out of the barrel of the gun’ but he more pointedly and importantly also said that to win in guerilla warfare one must drain the water (Tamils) from the pool in which the fish (LTTE) swim. He like all great leaders understood that without the support of all the people, victory in guerilla war would be unattainable. Maybe our leaders believe that the support of the majority of the people would be enough. However without the firm support of the Tamils for whom the LTTE says it is fighting, this war is unlikely to end.

Another fallacy is to believe that this conflict is a continuation of political intercourse by other means. It is not. This is about 2 cultures which have over 2000 years kept warm a shared antagonistic history mixed with bloody myths and legends which emphasize their differences, yet they share a great deal more in common. Despite the efforts of those who dare (and dared) to cross the lines it has been very difficult to consign these differences to where they belong –history. The problem will not be solved as long as the people concerned selfishly and supinely allow politicians to exploit these differences. By doing so they perpetuate the agony that they have suffered for 25 years.

The LTTE is and was a racist, totalitarian organization and can claim no place in a democracy. It claimed it was the sole representative of the Tamils which some politicians and a prejudiced IC used to regurgitate until very recently but Chilcott from St James has belatedly realized and openly admitted the LTTE is not and cannot be the ‘sole rep’. Its pretensions at wishing to negotiate, which earlier seduced the IC, no longer mesmerizes the general public. Minister Douglas Devananda, a former rebel, who has survived regular attempts at assassination by the LTTE, puts it more succinctly when he says that "even if you could achieve such a feat as brushing the teeth of a cobra, ploughing the sea or squeezing an elephant through the eye of a needle, you cannot make peace with the LTTE". However it still does not mean that a peaceful resolution to the problem should not be pursued.

Unlike the Jewish Diaspora which vowed "tomorrow Jerusalem" every day for nearly 800 years, the vast majority of Diaspora Tamils after 25 years of war, especially the younger generation, have little or no desire to return to SL even though their parents still give monetary and moral support to the LTTE. The Tamils of and in Colombo who have not done too badly for themselves, sacrificing little have no desire to live in a fascist state which extols and offers its unique gift- martyrdom. Yet even though they are 40% of the population of Colombo, the Tamils are loath to speak up mainly through fear of the long reach of the LTTE and their natural loyalty to members of their own community who are ‘fighting’ for them and exclusion from the decision making process of the state as to their own future. Well known Tamil leaders like Mr. Anandasangaree who has to be the bravest man in SL and the outspoken and blunt Professor Hoole who for his views on the villainy but not only of the LTTE, have unequivocally said that the LTTE and not the SL armed forces will destroy the remaining Tamils of SL.

LTTE survival tactics too have seriously eroded its self proclaimed posture as the saviour of the Tamils. The Tamils are aware that it is the Tamil children less Prabakaran’s and women but not the LTTE hard core cadres in the Wanni, who make the greatest sacrifice. They are used as expendable screens in human wave attacks and female suicide bombings. A movement that makes a pact and virtue of suicide, a negation of the human spirit, must lead itself to the grave. But the Tamils in general without choosing alternate leaders, have not dared to take a stand. The very comfortably well off Colombo Tamils, must now be encouraged to come out of their luxury bunkers and take their places in the FDLs by speaking out if they wish the war to end so that at least the children of this country might prosper. They must not stay on the side lines any longer, silently watching the LTTE destroy every chance for peace whenever it surfaces, use poor women and children in the Wanni as human shields and murder democratic Tamil political leaders or ‘moderates’ as Chilcott calls them They must be aware that the LTTE’s plan to deal with them later for not taking part in the struggle will not be painless.

Winning over the remaining SL Tamils, here and abroad will be the winning factor. Simply ‘developing’ the east and the north however well that is done, will not be enough, unless those areas are as free as the south to administer themselves and develop in the way its wants. The anti Syrian politicians in the Lebanon who on being compelled to be state guests for their own safety in the luxurious International Hotel said it best when they remarked that though they were well fed and looked after but did not have the liberty to leave their hotel, they were no better off than prisoners. Who would want to live under those conditions? The Tamils wherever they are, like the Muslims and the Sinhalese, must be able to have equal administrative power in the provinces they outnumber others. If steps are taken rapidly to initiate meaningful steps, the Tamils who are sitting on the fence will be encouraged to get off it onto the side of the state. The acid test however will be to persuade the TNA, the 22 proxies of the LTTE. When that happens it will be a decisive and mortal blow to the LTTE .At the moment being afraid of the merciless justice of the LTTE, the TNA 22 are soulless.

"Results of war in the last resort are an affair of body not mind, of physical force not plans or intelligence. …There is no known example in military history of a weaker force achieving victory in a protracted conflict". (Intelligence in War - John Keegan). It is known that in war however well one side performs it is the side that has the endurance to slog it out, bigger troop strength, demographic advantages and resources that will prevail. This is something the Tamils should take cognizance of when looking at the future without relying on the warped dreams of a megalomaniac and manna from the IC. The LTTE believed that endurance of the government, affected by pressures of the IC together with political bickering and combat difficulties, would run out. The hypnotic power of suggestion made the state doubt that which seems so obvious now, that having over 70% of the population on its side, it could never be held to ransom by at most 3-5 % of its people to hand over anything. According to the very reliable University Teachers’ for Human Rights, Jaffna (UTHR) communiqués the people in the Wanni curse the LTTE silently as they remove the dead bodies of their conscripted children who had been used as machine gun fodder by the LTTE. Thamilchelvam's death brought on no mass demos. Few in the Wanni readily express themselves for fear of extreme reaction by the LTTE pistol gangs and the Gestapo like justice there but it does not mean they support them. They wait the day of liberation from the LTTE after making sacrifices and suffering deep despair for 25 years such as seeing their children being abducted and their loved ones being conscripted to die so that Prabakaran can succeed. Their liberation will come when the Tamils finally desert the Wanni in great numbers and the Colombo Tamils step up and toe the line in the affairs of state. As the LTTE’s dream of eelam evaporates its will power will crack. It will then be up to Prabakaran to take Hitler’s remedy.

"In the conduct of war it is better to take the whole state than destroy it; it is better to capture the enemies’ army intact than to destroy it". (Sun Tzu). Surely this is the time and manner to drain the water (Tamils) from the pond and put the fish (LTTE) in tanks. The LTTE will not voluntarily lay down its arms and talk as long as the vast majority of Tamils remain leaderless and silent. The state must seek the support of the ‘moderate’ Tamils by initiating development and giving them political power. It could start with the return of Tamil lands especially in the HSZs as soon a possible. This should apply to the Muslim lands in Ampara too. The Tamil language must have equal status with Sinhalese in affairs of the state. There should be rapid development of the economy and infra structure of the affected areas, easing of travel restrictions, improving personal security and the conditions for refugees to return, provision of land, securing jobs with priority being given to the integration of youth of all communities into development plans and into the forces and police and sharing all the benefits of life enjoyed by those not in the conflict areas. Under such an onslaught when the LTTE realizes that even their protégés prefer desertion to living under them in the Wanni, their ongoing moral collapse will reach its inevitable end. Their weapons will no longer be of any use. They will want peace. That is the time they will lay down their arms.

What is required to defeat the LTTE without destroying them in battle is the unqualified support of the majority of the Tamils for the state. The Tamils will then not feel the bitterness of defeat and have any desire for revenge which was the LTTE’s motivating force, because being equal partners; this will be their victory too. That will be the supreme skill.

Given below is a quotation which may be relevant to all actors and communities:

"I consider it an offense against the Serbian people and the betrayal of the civic notion of society when evil is identified with the Serbian nationality. But I find it equally misguided when evil is not defined at all, for fear of hurting Serbian feelings. All people have their Karadzics and Mladics, either real or potential. If such men - as a result of a mix of historical, social and cultural circumstances gain greater influence than they have in other parts of the world, it does not mean that they come from a criminal people… (This) is a conflict of principles not of nationalities … in other words let us beware of attempts to lay the evil on whole peoples. That would be tantamount to adopting the ideology of fanatics"

(Vackev Havel- former Czech president who was said to have been one of contemporary Europe’s great visionaries)

(The writer is a retired career military officer holding the rank of Major General)


Friday, December 28, 2007


Independent media reports that the President is on a campaign to intimidate the officials at Rupavahini Corporation following the attack by Rupavahini employees on Mervin the thug who walked into assault their collegues is troubling indeed.

"(LeN, 2007 Dec. 28, 7.00 PM) President Mahinda Rajapakse has thoroughly reprimanded the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation (SLRC) authorities for allowing the outsiders to enter into the premises after the staff was agitated following Minister Mervin Silva's physical intimidation of the SLRC News Director.." reports LankaEnews.

It further reports that the Prez also ordered the incident not to be reported on State media. While this is authoritarianism of an unacceptable level, it also infringes not only on media freedom but also on the rights of individual citizens who have every right to know what is happening.

Further re-inforcing the thug-cum-politico Merv's behavior, the Presidential advisor is said to be compiling a list of those who counter-attacked Mervin when he physically assaulted the Rupavahini Corp officials.

The only good news seems to come from the judiciary, where Colombo's Chief Magistrate Macky Mohammed has demanded a comprehensive Police report on the assault by Mevin the political-thug. Sri Lankans need to support and demand impartial judicial performance if we are to live without shame, since the world is watching.

Thursday, December 27, 2007


Sri Lankan Minister Attacks TV Station

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — A government minister and his bodyguards rampaged through the offices of a state television station Thursday, assaulting its news director before employees fought back and took them hostage, officials and witnesses said.

Press freedom advocates demanded punishment for Labor Minister Mervyn Silva, who has repeatedly been accused of threatening reporters.

"This is not the first time Minister Silva did this. The government should take strict measures against him," said Sunanda Deshapriya, an official with the Free Media Movement, a local media rights group.

Silva's alleged attack and the employees' retaliation captivated this war-torn country as it unfolded throughout the day.

The violence began Thursday morning, when Silva and a group of his bodyguards entered the offices of the Rupavahini Corporation and attacked news director T.M.G. Chandrasekara for not broadcasting one of Silva's speeches, said Kanchana Marasinghe, a station employee.

In an interview aired later on Rupavahini's news station, Chandrasekara said that one of Silva's aids attacked him and ripped his shirt open while Silva threatened to destroy the station's offices if his speech was not aired.

Angry staffers quickly chased the attackers into the chairman's office and refused to let them out for three hours as soldiers and police gathered outside to defuse the situation, a standoff that was broadcast live by Rupavahini.

Silva was eventually freed after issuing a public apology to the staff and left the office escorted by police amid hoots and jeers from station employees.

"I express my apology to the staff and Rupavahini for this incident," he told reporters.

Television footage showed the minister covered in red ink and staffers stoning his car.

Silva was admitted to Colombo hospital with a head injury, which was not critical, said hospital director Dr. Hector Weerasinghe.

Police arrested one person on suspicion of assaulting Chandrasekara, the news director, a senior police officer said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

Silva is one of the government's 36 non-Cabinet ministers, who have less authority and fewer privileges than the 50 Cabinet ministers. Another 20 lawmakers are deputy ministers.

The minister had previously been accused of storming into the offices of the Upali group, a private-owned newspaper company and Sirasa, a private television channel, threatening journalists at both places.

The government quickly condemned Silva's actions.

"We will not approve this kind of behavior," Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena, the non-Cabinet minister for media, told Rupavahini.

The ruling Sri Lanka Freedom Party also planned to take disciplinary action against him, party secretary-general Maithripala Sirisena said, according to the Daily Mirror newspaper's Web site.
[ ]

Tuesday, December 25, 2007


A great article by Dayan Jayatilleke


“…You can’t make the mistake of being weak. If you’re weak with security, you are defeated.”  - Fidel Castro: My Life (2007: 321)

We are about to step into 2008, the 60th year of Sri Lanka’s Independence. It shows every sign of being a decisive year. Indeed it must be made so.  Sixty years after independence is the right historical and psychological moment to resolve the major problem facing Sri Lanka. That is the reunification of this small island. Sri Lanka’s natural borders must be its political boundaries. Its armed forces must enjoy the sole monopoly of violence throughout its territory. Whatever its internal arrangements, the country must be one, single, indivisible political entity.

What does this mean in concrete terms? It means that the LTTE must be eliminated as a military challenge to Sri Lanka’s unity and territorial integrity. This in turn means that the Tigers must no longer be an armed force capable of rivaling Sri Lanka’s armed forces. The LTTE must no longer exist as a parallel army. This entails the destruction of the LTTE as a fighting force; the elimination of its leadership, its armed cadre and military assets.  This would create the opportunity for the LTTE to convert itself into a democratic political formation, provided it accepts that any solution to Tamil political grievances and identity issues must be pursued peacefully and democratically within the parameters of a single, united Sri Lanka.


60th year of Independence

A great article by Dayan Jayatilleke

“…You can’t make the mistake of being weak. If you’re weak with security, you are defeated.” - Fidel Castro: My Life (2007: 321)
We are about to step into 2008, the 60th year of Sri Lanka’s Independence. It shows every sign of being a decisive year. Indeed it must be made so. Sixty years after independence is the right historical and psychological moment to resolve the major problem facing Sri Lanka. That is the reunification of this small island. Sri Lanka’s natural borders must be its political boundaries. Its armed forces must enjoy the sole monopoly of violence throughout its territory. Whatever its internal arrangements, the country must be one, single, indivisible political entity.

What does this mean in concrete terms? It means that the LTTE must be eliminated as a military challenge to Sri Lanka’s unity and territorial integrity. This in turn means that the Tigers must no longer be an armed force capable of rivalling Sri Lanka’s armed forces. The LTTE must no longer exist as a parallel army. This entails the destruction of the LTTE as a fighting force; the elimination of its leadership, its armed cadre and military assets. This would create the opportunity for the LTTE to convert itself into a democratic political formation, provided it accepts that any solution to Tamil political grievances and identity issues must be pursued peacefully and democratically within the parameters of a single, united Sri Lanka.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

The suicide option...

I thought this article was really well written, even if it only elaborates what's known to each and every person who knows anything about the terrorism issue in Sri Lanka.

I found this article in the Independentsl website which usually re-publishes others' articles and regularly fails to give credit where it is due. Therefore I am unable to source this accurately without being fair by the correct publisher and the author. Nevertheless it is well articulated and the true author deserves due recognition.

LTTE has only suicide to offer to Tamil people

Indi's Column

There’s video of the bra bomber on the net. You can see her sit down at a desk, in orange sari, thin and seemingly attractive. A man points at her chest, something odd. Her chest explodes, sending her torso flying and the man reeling into a pool of blood. It’s pretty sad, meaningless, and, well, just sad. At this point – after 25 years of armed failure – you have to realize that the suicidal path has failed. When the latest suicide bomber could be the child of the first - when it has become generational - suicide bombing ceases to be a tactic. It is now a way of life. Suicide bombing used to be a means. Now it’s just an end. The Tamil nation under Prabhakaran is just committing suicide.

Terrorism has failed. It simply doesn’t terrorize like it used to. People hear about the No Limit bombing – at one of the more crowded intersections in Colombo – and many just worry about the traffic home. Within minutes there are jokes around the water cooler because, as sad as it is, this is not that unusual. We all know someone who missed the Nugegoda bomb by minutes. But then they kept driving. And we all keep going. It’s just another day in a war that has lasted a lifetime.

There is nothing the LTTE can do to us that they haven’t already done. Attack the armed forces, done. Hit the Central Bank, done. Religious sites - bombed and machine gunned. Airport - struck, shut down, etc. Civilian massacres - but of course. Dead Presidents, Prime Ministers, Indian Prime Ministers, leaders and civilians? In the dozens. Bus bombs, trishaw bombs, assassinations, etc, ad nauseum, yadda yadda. Been there, done that. LTTE terrorism doesn’t shock anymore, and terrorism without shock value is just amateurish war.

In another video youth mill about in fatigues, carry guns, smiling and unsmiling. It’s the Anuradhapura attack where 20+ suicide cadres died while destroying millions worth of military hardware. Out of a budget of billions. The LTTE trained for months and lost all that human capital. For what? Really, just to make a statement. Just to show that they could. But all those young lives are irretrievably lost.

After 25 plus years, the suicide cult is stripped of all pretense. The LTTE is not a suicide cult that will lead to Tamil Eelam. It is just a suicide cult. Its cadres aren’t committing suicide towards an end anymore, they’re just committing suicide. Prabhakaran has said that if he betrays the dream of a separate Eelam, to kill Prabhakaran. And if the Tamils give up the dream of Eelam? If they decide they’d like to live in Wellawatte or travel and trade among the whole island? Then kill all the Tamils. That is what Prabhakaran is doing. His terrorism has failed. It does not work anymore. All he has to offer the Tamil people now is suicide. "

Friday, December 21, 2007

India's increasing influence in the Sri Lankan anti-terror war

India Plans Military Exercises in South to Ward Off Terrorists

By Jay Shankar

Dec. 20 (Bloomberg) -- India will hold military exercises in its southern peninsula next year, a move defense analysts said is aimed at controlling terrorists such as Tamil Tiger fighters operating from neighboring Sri Lanka.

The military plans to extend exercises to the far south, Mahesh Upasani, a spokesman for the Indian air force, said in New Delhi. Aircraft, naval vessels and troops ended maneuvers last week near the southern Indian cities of Thiruvananthapuram and Hyderabad, the Ministry of Defense said in a statement.

``The navy is spreading its wings by going to the southern part of the country,'' Bharat Karnad, a defense analyst at the Centre for Policy Research, said in a telephone interview from New Delhi. ``One of the aims of the military exercise could well be dealing with the menace posed by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.''

India and Sri Lanka have increased naval patrols in the Palk Strait between the countries to combat the LTTE, which is fighting for a separate state in areas of Sri Lanka it controls. The Indian navy said the LTTE changed its arms smuggling operations in response, India's state-run broadcaster Doordarshan reported on Nov. 26.

An estimated 60,000 Sri Lankans are in camps in India's southeastern Tamil Nadu state that lies about a two-hour boat ride across the waters, the United Nations says.

Air Patrols

French-made Mirage-2000s, Russian-built Su-30s, Mi-8 helicopters and unmanned aircraft were involved in last week's exercise, the ministry said in the statement. Fighter jets simulated ``friendly and hostile forces'' over long aerial ranges and air-to-air refueling units were used.

The navy and coast guard provided rescue ships and the army deployed troops and manned a communications network. Satellite images provided analysis of the simulated attacks on targets, the ministry said.

The exercise was aimed at protecting sea lanes and air space, Upasani said in a telephone interview from New Delhi. The headquarters of Southern Air Command is based in Thiruvananthapuram, the capital of Kerala state.

Next year's training will be ``the first time that such a peninsula-based exercise of a tri-service nature is undertaken by the army, air force and navy in the southern states,'' Dipankar Banerjee, director of the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies, said in an interview from New Delhi.

The LTTE has an estimated 12,000 fighters in its land forces and a 4,000-member naval unit known as the Sea Tigers. It unveiled an air wing when light aircraft bombed areas near the capital, Colombo, in March and April.

``One worrying factor is the aerial capability of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam,'' Banerjee said. ``It poses certain challenges to the Indian coast.''

Sea Tigers

The conflict between the Sri Lankan navy and rebels is also on the rise, Banerjee said.

``Concerns have widened in recent years,'' he said. ``This exercise is a response to the changing situation.''

The LTTE is moving operations to Kerala from Tamil Nadu, Doordarshan cited Vice Admiral Sunil Damle, who heads India's Southern Naval Command, as saying last month.

The Indian navy in February began round-the-clock patrolling of its waters off Tamil Nadu and coastguard vessels are monitoring the International Maritime Border.

Thirteen nations, including Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore are participating in a military gathering in January in Port Blair, the capital of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands located in the Bay of Bengal, Indian naval spokesman Neeraj Sinha said from New Delhi.

``This is more of a consultative engagement,'' Sinha said. ``There will be no big exercises.''

To contact the reporter on this story: (Jay Shankar in Bangalore at

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Sights of Sri Lanka

EU requests JVP not to accuse UNICEF

(LankaTruth: 19th December 2007 06:30 S.L.T )

European Union has requested the JVP not to consider charges against organization affiliated to united Nation such as UNICEF as final conclusions until investigations prove facts.

A European Union delegation headed by the south asian region chief Mr. Robert Even made this request when they met JVP leader on 17th Dec. The delegation comprised seven EU representatives.

In response to their request, JVP leader said that they raised the matter in parliament based on very reliable information.

JVP leader pointed out that international interference had made the national question in Sri Lanka pathetically complicated and he emphasized that international interference was not necessary for the resolution of the problem in Sri Lanka. He also pointed out that divisions based on communal and religious lines were country was colony.

This discussion took place tat JVP Headquarters which was also attended by JVP parliamentarian Mr. Sunil Handunnetti.

Who is responsible for weakening the LTTE

- R Jayadevan

News reports give undue credit to the President of Sri Lanka as solely responsible for creating a situation for defeating the LTTE in the near future. The government machinery and the Tamil hating JVP and JHU are euphoric that defeat of the LTTE in the hands of the government forces is not far in sight.

A dissection to find the contributory factors causing the present predicament of the LTTE will reveal many important players effectively playing their due role that has helped the GOSL to falsely claim the undue credit.

First of all, credit for exposing the ugly face of the LTTE must go to the Opposition Leader Ranil Wickramasinghe. By signing the peace agreement with the LTTE in 2002 when he became the Prime Minister, Ranil Wickramasinghe knowingly or unknowingly opened the Pandora’s Box of the LTTE’s credentials to claim itself as the sole representative of the Tamil people. During the four years of relative peace since signing of the peace accord, the LTTE came under considerable exposure. The Tamil Diaspora which funds the LTTE came to know its true colours and the international community too found it is hard to work with the LTTE, as they were not interested in finding a lasting resolution to the conflict through peaceful means.

The Diaspora Tamils were exposed to the highhanded conduct of the LTTE and progressively started to criticise and distance itself from supporting them. Countless killings, kidnappings, threats and intimidations of the LTTE against its own people became knowledge to the Diaspora Tamils, which led to considerable dissatisfaction being expressed within the community.

During the peace time, many Tamils from overseas went to visit their relatives in Sri Lanka. Leaving aside the experience they underwent at LTTE checkpoints, they were able to hear first hand account of the aggression of the LTTE against the Tamil civilian population. This unexpected engagement was not helpful to the LTTE. When the Diaspora Tamils went to the LTTE controlled areas and Jaffna, they were pursued for money by the LTTE and some of them were put through harrowing experience. Even those who flew to Jaffna were followed from the Palali Airport in motorcycles and intimidated to pay large sums.

When the LTTE fundraisers knocked at the doors of Diaspora Tamils on their final war for Eelam project, many people slammed the doors and some even flatly refused to pay. The police too received complaints against the LTTE. The LTTE activists went on with their tried and tested methods of intimidation and coercive tactics without realising laws of the lands are becoming focussed on them.

LTTE’s aggressive and illegal campaigns reached the corridors of the governments, many non-governmental organisations and the media. The arrogance of the LTTE failed to realise the pressures that was building against it and attempted to confront them with its thick skinned approach. Human Rights Watch report on LTTE fundraising published in early 2006 opened the pressures on the LTTE. Following this, Canada and the EU effectively proscribed them. The US took definitive steps against the fundraisers and their arm procurers. The British government too decided get into action by implementing the ban on the LTTE.

The LTTE’s effort to head on challenge the governments to continue with its dictates earned the wrath of many countries, resulting in the arrests of scores of its leaders under terrorism charges.

The international governments realised the need to deal with the LTTE as its violent campaign in Sri Lanka was causing serious anti-social problems and debilitating effect on the Diaspora community. LTTE writ was suppressing the Diaspora community to such an extent that violence, threats and intimidation were becoming part of life for the Tamil people.

With the governments taking effective measures against the LTTE, its Diaspora fund bank started to dry up and the LTTE became acutely constrained without recourses.

Pirabakaran’s trusted man Col. Karuna packing his bags from the LTTE was another major contributory factor for the decline of the LTTE. Karuna’s leaving, progressively denied the eastern front for the LTTE. Sri Lankan forces for over two decades were fighting on many fronts to retake the LTTE controlled areas without success. Karuna’s departure was easy victory given in a golden platter for the government.

If the status quo pre 2002 remained unchanged for the LTTE, the Sri Lankan government would not have had hope in hell chance of claiming its subjective victories. The GOSL and the so called racist Red Boys JVP and its parallel Monk Boys JHU are euphoric about the present situation and are drum beating for the blood of the LTTE. Their agenda is not only the LTTE blood and is for every Tamils blood in the LTTE controlled Vanni for remaining with the LTTE. The government forces records on massacres and random shootings against the Tamil civilian population are unforgotten experience for the Tamils.

Any future government war in Vanni must be carried out under international scrutiny, as the government’s blood thirsty mission to suppress the Tamils will help extend its decades old anti-Tamil fervour to further its Sinhalzation policy.

[Source: ]

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


Nov 14th 2007
From the Economist Intelligence Unit
Source: Country Forecast

Security is likely to remain poor in Sri Lanka, particularly in the north and east, as the military pursues its offensive against the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE, Tamil Tigers). The government is reluctant to initiate reforms that might grant the autonomy desired by the Tamil minority, suggesting that military options to resolve the conflict, rather than political ones, will be preferred. The political scene is likely to remain turbulent, hampering the implementation of economic reform. Real GDP growth is forecast to average 5.2% a year in 2008-09, supported by strong growth in manufacturing, private consumption and investment, but downside risks continue to be posed by the security situation and rapidly rising prices. Inflows of remittances will help to limit the current-account deficit in 2008-09.

Key changes from last update

Political outlook

The government repaired some of the damage done to its prestige by the LTTE's October raid on an air force base, when it killed S P Thamilselvan, the head of the rebels' political wing, in November.

Economic policy outlook

Under pressure from the government, in October plantation firms agreed to give their workers a further wage rise. In return, the Ceylon Workers Congress party (whose core constituency is made up of plantation workers) agreed to rejoin the government.

Economic forecast

Year-on-year consumer price inflation reached 19.6% in October. Owing to the fact that the money supply and credit are still growing rapidly, and that there is little sign of significant fiscal tightening, the Economist Intelligence Unit has revised up its forecast for average inflation in 2008-09, to 11.3%. In related revisions, GDP growth forecasts have been lowered, and the Sri Lanka rupee is expected to depreciate against the US dollar at a faster pace.

[ ]

India, Lanka hold talks on security issues

Colombo (PTI): India and Sri Lanka have decided to enhance coordination on major issues concerning security with special emphasis on the maritime boundary of the two countries.

This was decided during talks between a high-level Indian defence delegation and Sri Lankan Army Chief Sanath Foneska, according to sources.

The two sides also discussed the security situation in the island nation.

The six member Indian delegation, which arrived here on Sunday night on a three-day visit, included senior Air force, coastguard and army officials.

Meanwhile, the 'Daily Mirror' newspaper quoting sources said the Indian delegation would discuss the defence needs of Sri Lanka.

"They (sources) said the delegation arrived on an invitation from the Sri Lankan government and focussed on providing new radar systems while modifying the current radar systems," the report said.

The daily also said Colombo sought advanced weapons for its armed forces from the high-level Russian delegation, which is also here.

The six-member Russian delegation led by Colonel General Vladimir Ilyich Moltenskoy met Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa and held extensive talks to review the defence needs of the war-torn Sri Lanka.

Last week, the delegation called on Army Commander Sarath Fonseka at the Army headquarters to discuss military cooperation between the armed forces of the two nations and the defence needs of the Sri Lanka Army, the report said.

[Source: ]


When the Suicide Bomber Is a Woman
[Courtesy: ]

On the day before she set out to blow up the Sri Lankan prime minister, Menake went shopping for a sequined top to hide the vest full of explosives that would turn her into a human bomb. It was the cyanide necklace that gave her away.

The denim vest is a simple garment, tailored to fit the young woman’s body. Narrow shoulder straps hold the midsection in place. It’s not high fashion, but that doesn’t matter, since the first time it’s worn will also be the last. The large disk that rests under the breast area is filled with a mass of 3-mm steel balls, and behind that, next to the skin, sits a C-4 plastic explosive. Two detonators, one on either side of her body, require just a gentle tug. Then, in an instant, the vest wearer becomes a human bomb, capable of killing or maiming dozens of people within a 100-foot radius.

Menake’s vest fit her well. She tried it on several times to make sure it lay snugly against her chest. She practiced reaching for the detonators without arousing suspicion. She thought hard about the best outfit to disguise its deadly purpose, settling on a sequined top whose shimmer would distract the eye from what lay beneath.

The 27-year-old woman is not what we picture when we hear “suicide bomber.” With her long black hair neatly pulled back from her chocolate-colored skin, she is shy, soft-spoken — the kind of person you’d trust with your kids. But Menake is also a member of the Black Tigers, the suicide commando squad of Sri Lanka’s Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), a terrorist group that has more female suicide bombers than any other organization in the world.

For three days last September, Menake staked out the tree-lined streets of Colombo’s richest neighborhood, home to Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake. Watching from the shadows, observing the prime minister’s mansion from all angles, Menake devised her plan. She memorized his comings and goings, the government sedan he traveled in. The neighborhood — a sort of Embassy Row filled with colonial-style mansions and expansive gardens — was protected by heavily guarded gates and security checkpoints. Menake took note of all this, looking for the weakest link.

Though she kept a low profile, her presence didn’t go unnoticed. For one thing, miniskirts and blue jeans dominate the fashion scene in this upscale area of Sri Lanka, and Menake dressed in a traditional shalwar kameez — a long tunic over baggy pants. In those clothes, she could have been a servant, but her face wasn’t familiar to the police patrolling the area. For another, her pattern of movement, unlike that of the servants scuttling between homes or to and from the marketplace, was unpredictable. She seemed to appear and vanish, only to re-emerge on another nearby street.

For two days, Menake skillfully evaded the authorities. But on her third day, as she made her final recon mission, she was stopped by guards outside the prime minister’s mansion. When her cover story — that she was visiting a sick aunt — didn’t wash, they demanded to see her national ID card, something all Sri Lankans over 14 are required to carry. When her card revealed her to be from Jaffna, an LTTE stronghold, the police took Menake into custody.

The cyanide necklace was her ultimate downfall. The macabre piece of jewelry — deadly cyanide crystals encased in a small glass vial suspended from a cord around the neck — is worn by every member of the LTTE. Once arrested, the wearer is supposed to bite down on the glass capsule. Through the tiny cuts in the mouth, cyanide races into the bloodstream and blocks the body’s absorption of oxygen, leaving the victim fatally convulsing and gasping for air. When the police saw the capsule, they beat Menake unconscious.

She was then shipped off to the notorious Boosa Detention Center, where prisoners can languish for years without access to lawyers or family members.

Last March, Menake was brought back to Colombo after Chandra Wakishta, director of Sri Lanka’s Terrorist Investigation Division, realized Menake’s potential value as an informer against her handler. Catch a suicide bomber, and you stop one explosion. Catch a handler, and you stop dozens.

The suicide-bomber vest was the brainchild of Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tigers — the design has since been used by Hezbollah, Hamas, and reportedly al Qaeda, and its murderous effects are felt daily in Iraq. The vest was first worn in May 1991, when Thenmuli Rajaratnam, best known by her nom de guerre, Dhanu, blew up herself and 18 bystanders seconds after draping a welcome garland of flowers over the shoulders of India’s prime minister, Rajiv Gandhi, at a political rally. Gandhi’s violent assassination, caught on film, was televised around the world. In the years since, the LTTE has killed one Sri Lankan president and blinded another. Weekly LTTE suicide bombs cause heavy casualties. They are cheap and efficient: On average, suicide bombings kill four times as many people as other acts of terrorism. Up to 40 percent of these attacks are carried out by women.

If not for its bloody recent history, Sri Lanka might well be a honeymooner’s paradise. It is a breathtakingly beautiful country, a teardrop-shaped island off the southern tip of India. But for the past 24 years, the LTTE (comprised mostly of Hindu Tamils but with some Christian members) has been fighting for its own independent state in northern Sri Lanka, which the Sinhala-Buddhist government has been resisting just as fiercely. In that time, 70,000 Sri Lankans have been killed, tens of thousands have fled abroad, and some 600,000 have been displaced within the country. Children on the way to school are regularly abducted and forced to become soldiers. Sri Lanka is also infamous for its vast number of disappeared people — 60,000 abducted and never seen again.

The LTTE is considered one of the most ruthless terrorist organizations in the world, using extortion to raise upwards of $30 million a month from Sri Lankan expatriates. It also maintains a fleet of suicide boats lined with explosives and a burgeoning air division. The planes, smuggled into the country in parts and reassembled in remote jungle bases, were first used to bomb the main airport in March 2007, causing foreign airlines to halt flights to Sri Lanka.

Last August, when I learned that the Sri Lankan government had a failed female suicide bomber in its custody, I wanted to talk to her. I negotiated with the government for months — the Sri Lankans trying to determine if I was a security risk (was I an LTTE sympathizer?), our communication breaking down repeatedly as fighting in the north heated up. Finally, last December, I received the answer I’d been waiting for: an agreement to give Marie Claire an interview — the first they’d ever allowed.

It’s a sunny, hot day when I arrive at the prison, a former fortress that seems to attract the heat. Menake is brought up from her isolation cell behind a massive steel door to meet me in the interrogation room at the Anti-Terrorism Division Headquarters in Colombo.

Dressed in a simple maroon tunic and pants and green plastic flip-flops, Menake takes a seat opposite me. (For security reasons, the government asked that her last name not be used.) The blacked-out windows make the space uncomfortably warm. In her unventilated 7’ x 5’ cell in solitary confinement, Menake has no access to water or a toilet unless she can persuade hostile prison guards to unlock her cell and escort her to both. She sleeps on the bare, tiled floor without a mat or sheet.

She is clearly surprised to be sitting in an armchair — albeit one that is aged and leaking foam rubber — rather than the usual hard seat in front of the interrogator’s desk. When tea is served to me, she appears so unnerved she has to be coaxed into accepting a cup. The hospitality makes her suspicious. In the past, interrogators have threatened her with beatings, rape, and torture.

Menake is hesitant to talk about her life in the LTTE. “Maybe there are Tamil Tigers inside here,” she says nervously, through an interpreter. It’s not an unreasonable fear — the terrorist organization has successfully infiltrated Sri Lanka’s army and police force. As she speaks, three miniature security cameras, monitored by two technicians at computers behind a screen, capture her every word and movement. “I’m frightened if I talk to you, they will find out and kill me. My life is at stake. Maybe one day I will walk out of here, and then what will happen to me?”

The irony of a suicide bomber fearing for her life is not lost on either of us. “I was fed up with life before I was caught,” Menake says, her voice so low I have to strain to hear her. “But now, I feel I could lead a normal life. I want to live, not die.”

“Do you know the legal penalty for trying to assassinate someone?” I ask, expecting a hardened reply. To my surprise, she begins to cry, burying her face in her lavender-colored dupatta, a shawl which conservative Sri Lankan women use to cover their upper torsos. “The punishment is jail for the rest of my life,” she murmurs. She also knows she may hang — capital punishment was reinstated in Sri Lanka two years ago after a government crackdown on suicide bombers.

The look on Menake’s face turns to wild desperation. She wrings her dupatta in her hands. “I beg you, can’t you get me out of this country?” she pleads, almost hysterically. “I want to live. To live the life I might have had before, if I wasn’t going to kill myself.”

Of course, it’s the life she had before that brought her to this point. Home was an impoverished fishing village in northeast Sri Lanka. Her alcoholic father drank more than he fished, and he often hit his wife. Menake was 3 when her mother died from one of his frequent attacks. When Menake was 7, her father raped her repeatedly for four days during a drunken binge. Finally, her grandfather rescued her, and her father disappeared. She never saw him again.

Rape is something many female suicide bombers have in common. Considered spoiled goods and unmarriageable in their patriarchal cultures, they view becoming human bombs as a form of purification by fire. Dhanu, Prime Minister Gandhi’s assassin, was also allegedly raped by soldiers from the Indian Peacekeeping Force when it was posted in Sri Lanka for three years.

When Menake was 15, her grandparents died. Her uncle and aunt reluctantly took her in, making it known that she was a burden. Two years later, in 2000, faced with a shortage of fighters, the LTTE levied a human tax — Tamil families were ordered to give a member, male or female, to the organization to be trained for combat. Menake’s relatives gave her up for the cause.

“They just said, ‘She is yours,’” Menake tells me. “I cried. I begged [the LTTE] not to take me. I told them I didn’t want to die so young. But a woman officer told me, ‘Sorry, we can’t help you. Your relatives said you came here of your own volition.’”

For seven months, the LTTE training camp was Menake’s home, with its tents for sleeping and cement-block classrooms, surrounded by dense jungle. She lived with 150 other conscripts, all females in their teens and 20s. She was given the Tamil Tiger green-and-yellow camouflage uniform to wear.

The training-camp rules were rigid: The LTTE prohibits alcohol, tobacco, and drugs. “Unlawful sex” — anything ranging from masturbation to romantic relationships — is banned. Velupillai Prabhakaran, the cultlike founder of the LTTE, executed two of his closest aides after they were caught having intercourse. Marriage was initially outlawed by Prabhakaran, now 53 — until he fell in love with a female prisoner, an agricultural student kidnapped by his guerrillas. The rules were subsequently altered to allow senior cadres to wed. More recently, the LTTE decreed that members may marry once women turn 35 and men turn 40.

For Menake, daily life in the camp was hard and monotonous, starting at 4 a.m. with an hour-long run. “At 5 a.m., we got tea and a bucket of water to wash with,” says Menake. “Then we did push-ups.” The raw recruits spent hours learning to dismantle, reassemble, and fire their guns. “They watch you closely. Some girls were so fast they won prizes — clothes, a watch. I was always in the middle. If you were slow, you were punished. Sometimes I’d get so tired, I’d fall asleep in class. Then I had to run 20 times around the camp perimeter [about 18 miles] or do jumping jacks until I thought I’d die. You’d be so exhausted, you could hardly move.” The rest of the day was divided into sessions of intense political indoctrination and sentry duty.

Listening to Menake talk, it’s hard not to sympathize. Her fingernails are bitten down and raw. Her face is streaked with tears and sweat. Her future will be at least as grim as her past has been. And yet, had she not been apprehended, her legacy would have been that of a mass murderer. I ask her how she learned to kill.

Menake remembers her first weapons class: “They gave us sticks at first, just poles, to practice with. Then we got Kalashnikovs. I’d never held a gun before. I knew I would eventually have to kill another human. They said we needed our country, and we would have to take lives to get it. When you’re with the LTTE, there’s nothing else to think about; it’s all they put into your head — the Sinhalese are our enemy, the Sri Lankan government is our enemy. That’s all you’re allowed to concentrate on. Before, I never thought about whether the Sinhalese people were good or bad. But the officers kept telling us about murders committed by these people. They said we must kill them to regain our Tamil motherland.”

Every evening, Menake and the other recruits watched military films, many of them Chinese, some produced by the LTTE. “They were always about war,” she says. “The training videos showed us how to fight, how to use weapons, how to kill. Some talked about how, when girls die, they become heroes.”

Escape attempts were rare. Those who tried were invariably caught and never seen again. “I don’t know what happened to them,” says Menake. “We were closed up in the camp, with so many restrictions. It was dangerous to try and escape. The jungle was thick with poisonous snakes and wild elephants. When the elephants were nearby, we’d set fire to bushes or bang metal plates together to scare them away so they wouldn’t trample our tents. But even if I could have escaped, who would have taken me in? I was an economic burden. On my own, I would have starved.”

At the end of basic training, the recruits were split up and dispatched to other divisions. “I was supposed to get computer training,” Menake says, “but that went to a girl who had lost both her legs in the fighting. So I was sent to the intelligence-gathering camp.” There, she claims, she spent her days clipping newspaper articles on the conflict. “It was very boring.”

In 2002, the LTTE and the government signed a cease-fire agreement, putting Menake and the other Tamil Tigers’ lives on ice. Both sides suspected it wouldn’t last. During the four years of uncertain peace (throughout which the Tigers continued their military training in secret), Menake wrote to the LTTE secretariat. “I’m willing to become a Black Tiger,” she wrote. “It would be an honor. Please let me have your permission to join.”

“I was depressed and in pain,” she says simply when I press her as to why she made the leap from fighter to would-be martyr. “I had nerve damage to my spine after falling from an LTTE tractor. The doctor said I might become paralyzed when I got older. I thought, Why continue to live? A lot of girls were volunteering to be suicide bombers, so I thought I would, too.”

It was more than a year before she received a response that summoned her for an interview. The LTTE, preferring its suicide bombers to be stable (by which it means sufficiently brainwashed to the point of reliable devotion) and idealistic (and therefore likely to carry out their assignments), screens candidates carefully.

In a region where women’s rights are few, the LTTE provides an ironic twist: One reason the group is believed to have the highest number of female suicide bombers in the world (and a high percentage of female fighters) is its vocal emphasis on gender equality. Army roles are gender-neutral, and the glory of martyrdom can be bestowed equally upon men and women. But unlike young men who seek the role of suicide bomber with great fanfare from their families, some female bombers gravitate toward the role as a last resort.

“Do you understand you will become a human bomb?” Menake was asked by the Black Tiger leaders in her interview.

“I told them that I did,” she says. “I felt I had no other choice.” The LTTE calls its suicide missions thatkodai, Tamil for “gift of self.” It made her feel, Menake says, that her life still had a purpose.

Then came the training. “We were taught how the vest works, how to jump onto a vehicle in case our target was a bus or a truck,” she says. She learned how best to position herself, depending on her target.

“Do you know what a suicide bomb would do to your body when it explodes?” I ask her.

“I know once I put it on, I will kill people, and I will also die,” she says unemotionally. “My whole body will be in pieces. But this type of death is very fast.”

I ask Menake about her victims — the ordinary people passing by who would be killed or maimed in her attack. “I came to Colombo to destroy, to kill. We are taught to forget the victims,” she says. (Her handler remained close by, to make sure she didn’t have a change of heart.) “I was just focused on the target. I never had time to think about who else I would kill. I was simply told it was the enemy. It was a job to go and do.”

This automaton-like reaction is not unusual. “I knew I was going toward death and just kept walking,” says Menake. “You’re told this is part of your duty. I didn’t think about fear. I was shown what to do, and I never questioned it. We knew there would be a time when we would see today and not see tomorrow. I saw other girls go off who never came back. Then, in the next batch, they took me.”

In 2006, after a four-year cease-fire, fighting broke out again in northern Sri Lanka. On August 6, Menake was informed that her target had been chosen — she was being sent to Colombo. Like all suicide bombers, she was given a last supper with an LTTE leader — in this case, Pottu Amman, the LTTE’s second in command and head of intelligence. She was offered her choice of meal and selected chicken, fried rice, vegetable curry, and vanilla ice cream. Wanted by Interpol and the Sri Lankan government, Amman seemed like a movie star to Menake.

“He was tall and handsome,” she says, her voice lighting up for the first time. “We had a last photograph taken together” — the idea being, once she was dead, the photo, decorated with flowers, would go on display at the local clock tower, as happened with the images of other suicide bombers before her. Amman told her she would be known as a mahaveera, or “great warrior,” and venerated in a way she’d never been in life. Only then would she be given a military rank, based on the importance of her target.

The LTTE financially rewards the families of suicide bombers by paying for a surviving brother to go to college, for instance, or helping a family build a home. “When you die, your relatives get the honor. But my aunt and uncle betrayed me,” Menake says angrily, “so I said no to any money for them. It would have been different if my mother were still alive.”

After the hour-long dinner, Amman was all business. “He said, ‘We expect you to do a good job. Don’t change your mind. Don’t mess up. We’re watching you,’” Menake recalls. The following day, she headed to the capital, where she planned to buy the sequined shalwar kameez.

I imagine this small, stocky woman, who barely had enough money to buy basic clothing, splurging on a festive top that Sri Lankans wear to weddings — the sequins glittering in the sunlight as she headed off to die. I ask her if she considered changing her mind at any point.

“If I felt sad, it was because I would never have the opportunity to have a family and children, to hold my own baby in my arms. That was my biggest sorrow,” she says. “The difference between Black Tigers and normal Tamil Tigers is that normal Tigers don’t know when they will be killed. Black Tigers know only their ultimate achievement.”

At the beginning of September, Menake checked out of the Appolli Inn, a low-cost lodge on the edge of Colombo, and caught a bus into town for a final reconnaissance of the prime minister’s home. As she approached the building, three police officers stepped from their security booth and stopped her in the street. Menake’s suicide mission was over.

Later, after Menake has left the interrogation room, officials carry in a crumpled-up piece of clothing. When they stretch it out on the table in front of me, I see the vest. As I stare at it, all I can think is, Who made this? Did they ever stop to think about the young woman who would wear it?

I place a call to Irasiah Ilanthirayan, the LTTE military spokesperson. (Despite their secretive attacks, the LTTE is remarkably visible on the global political scene — a few strategically placed phone calls put me in direct contact with its headquarters in Kilinochchi, in the northern region of the country, although cell and e-mail communication with the LTTE is frequently disrupted by the Sri Lankan government.) I ask Ilanthirayan how his organization justifies sending young women to kill innocent civilians and, ultimately, themselves. “Our suicide bombers do not take their own life, but give it to the cause,” he says. “They are not killers, they are givers. They give their lives for the Tamil nation.”

And the cyanide? “Even myself, I still wear it,” Ilanthirayan tells me. “Our secrets should be protected. My son, my father, and my sons and daughters to follow would prefer to die before bowing down in front of the enemy.”

As for a solution to the conflict, Ilanthirayan sees only one: “We were two nations, Tamil and Sinhalese, before the European [colonials] came. And two nations is a very good model, a very good solution to this problem.”

The conflict has become increasingly intractable. While the Sri Lankan government officially states that a military solution is not the answer, it launched major offensives against the LTTE this past winter and spring. It also stands accused of bombing a Tamil orphanage (the government claims it was an LTTE training camp) and shooting 17 Tamil aid workers point-blank in the head. In response, the U.S. and U.K. suspended aid to the Sri Lankan government.

The day before I left Sri Lanka, I learned that two suicide-bomber vests had been found during a security sweep of a train coming into Colombo. The bombers, taught not to stand near their lethal cargo, planned to retrieve the vests upon arrival and disappear into the throng of passengers disembarking at the Fort Train Station, the city’s main terminus. This time, at least, the antiterrorism unit got there first.

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Monday, December 17, 2007

Clinton fundraising ties to terror group

Special investigative report: “Tamils for Clinton”

By Doug Hagmann Saturday, December 15, 2007

On December 4, 2007, we reported that members of the terrorist organization Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), more commonly known as the Tamil Tigers, were arrested in New York for their plot to use stolen credit card numbers and other methods to steal $250,000 in New York “and tens of millions from ATMs worldwide.”

One of the men arrested worked three jobs at Newark Airport as a security agent and baggage handler with complete security clearance. The Tamil Tigers are well known for their use and “perfection” of terrorists’ “suicide belts” and vests, and the use of females as suicide bombers as illustrated in our report published earlier this month.

Further investigation conducted by this investigator of Tamil Tiger activity in the U.S. confirmed published reports that at least one well-known supporter of that terrorist organization, 56 year-old New Jersey resident Ramanathan RANJAN is actively soliciting funds for New York Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton

RANJAN, of New Brunswick, NJ was identified as an approved recipient for funds solicited by Pat PATHMAKUMAR through her e-mail campaign containing “Tamils for Clinton” in the subject line. A fund raising event this week in New Jersey at The State Theater in New Brunswick, advertised on Clinton’s web site, offered potential donors tickets ranging from $100 - $2,300, depending upon seat selection. Although the referral list has been removed from the site, the Northeast Intelligence Network was able to secure a list of referrals that included the names of both RANJAN and PATHMAKUMAR.

Notably, RANJAN was an organizer of “LTTE Heroes Day,” an event that praised and eulogized LTTE terrorists and homicide bombers on December 2, 2006. That event was held in the auditorium at the south Brunswick Middle School in New Brunswick, New Jersey. According to reports of the event, the terror group’s flag was raised as those in attendance sang the LTTE anthem.

RANJAN is noted to be the state coordinator of the Tamil Rehabilitation Organization (TRO), identified by the US State Department as a front organization of the LTTE.


Amplify and celebrate Tamil voices of moderation

Report no. 28 brought out by the University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna), UTHR, just ahead of the Human Rights Day on Dec 10, is an eye-opener not just for the graphic account of the plight of the Sri Lankan Tamils but also for the tone of moderation.

In a world increasingly sought to be painted in black and white, those concerned about the plight of our brethren yonder have been forced either into supporting the violent acts of the LTTE or into staying silent seemingly indifferent to the issue.

Perhaps, no one follows the credo of “if you are not with us, you are against us” more virulently than the LTTE and by implication the Tamils who back it.

The price that moderate Tamil politicians and thinkers have paid for differing with the LTTE has indeed been too high. Neelan Thiruchelvam, Thambirajah Subathiran and Ketheeswaran Loganathan, who were shot dead for daring to speak in a voice different from that of the Tigers, serve as reminders of what awaits political activists who refuse to subscribe to extremist thought.

It is for this reason that the UTHR report assumes significance. Holding the LTTE equally responsible for the sad plight of the Sri Lankan Tamils, it adds in no uncertain terms, “The LTTE having irretrievably bound itself in suicide politics, would continue to plead the futility of a political settlement with Sinhalese Governments. Both sides would trot out seemingly logical arguments to back their stand. That is the tragedy of Sri Lanka.”

The LTTE’s instinct in putting all its destructive genius into a relentless quest for Eelam runs counter to well founded arguments that it would come a cropper against local, regional and global realities.

This instinct, in which Tamil nationalists feel continually vindicated, is one that sees the Sinhalese political leadership as permanently malignant, unable, even out of enlightened self-interest, to advance a rational political approach one for which there are ample precedents around the world.

In the hands of the LTTE, this instinct is bolstered by the confidence that even when rays of hope dawn on the Sinhalese political landscape, it could by strategic acts of violence extinguish this hope, by pushing the Sinhalese polity into a reprisal mode. And thus the LTTE’s narrow nationalist instinct wrought the most dreadful suicide cult a negation of humanity, vindicated and continually reinforced by the State.”

Such strident criticism is contained in its website, in the alternative media, that the Sri Lankan Tamils have so cleverly exploited to further the cause. But most observers will vouch for the fact the war has extended to areas beyond the North and East of Sri Lanka. It has moved on to cyber space. And it is as deadly as in the North and East of the island.

If civil society has been the casualty in the North and East, public sphere has been hijacked in cyberspace. If the LTTE has developed sophisticated weapons to counter army attacks and silence their critics on the ground, the ‘Tamil nationalists’ have ways of silencing dissenting voices in cyberspace.

It probably requires an ethnographic study to assess how indeed the numerous ‘Tamil nationalists’ who people the virtual world zero in on commentaries that are perceived as not supportive of the struggle or the LTTE, but much like in the North and East they attempt to create an atmosphere of fear where people who have reservations about the issue dare not speak up for fear of reprisal.

The number of Tamil websites is innumerable and keeps growing. All that is needed is for one Tamil website to take slight to an article and put out a stinging rejoinder and it is picked up and reproduced in countless other websites.

A long list of writers who have not toed the extremist line have been purposely misunderstood, quoted out of context, vilified and ridiculed in cyberspace and the Internet being what it is, the links remain for all to see. Reproduction of the articles or even providing links to them would be pointless as it would only further the cause of the online nationalists.

In an atmosphere of heightened national rhetoric and hyperbole, the UTHR’s report provides perhaps the only oasis of sanity. Its effort is indeed remarkable considering that its founding member Dr Rajani Thiranagama, the author of the book The Broken Palmyra, was shot dead by the LTTE for her views and the organisation now functions from outside Jaffna for ‘obvious reasons’.

It is now perhaps one of the few organisations that has not changed its professed aim since 1988: “to challenge the external and internal terror engulfing the Tamil community as a whole through making the perpetrators accountable, and to create space for humanising the social and political spheres relating to the life of our community.”

The UTHR stands out for its attempts “to argue that the political imperative is to deal with the political aspect of the problem and find ways and means to restructure the state in a more meaningful way to accommodate the aspirations of the ‘others’.”

Even though, by its own admission, it does not function as it used to in the early days, its efforts “to make room for free expression and an edifying debate” need to be lauded.

Perhaps with the likes of Neelan Thiruchelvam, Thambirajah Subathiran and Ketheeswaran Loganathan removed, the Tamils who have found in the Internet another weapon in the war against the state, have set about ‘cleansing’ cyberspace as well.

In an atmosphere where political activism is suicidal, the occasional voices of moderation need to be celebrated and amplified.


Ethnic divide marks attitude to Sri Lanka war

Monday December 17, 02:03 PM
Colombo, Dec 17 (IANS) Sri Lankans are divided on ethnic lines on President Mahinda Rajapaksa's war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), a survey conducted by the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) shows.

Interviews with 1,600 Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims and Indian origin Tamils conducted in eight of the nine provinces in November revealed that 87.3 percent of Sinhalese - the majority community - were 'satisfied' with the way the government was waging the war.

But the minority communities were clearly unhappy. The lack of support was striking in the case of Sri Lankan Tamils and Indian origin Tamils. The Muslims were somewhat evenly divided.

According to the 2001 census (which could be conducted only in 18 of the 25 districts because of the conflict in the northeast), the Sinhalese constitute 82 percent of Sri Lanka's then population of 17 million people.

It was to this constituency that Rajapaksa had appealed in the November 2005 presidential election on the basis of an agenda proposing a tough line against the LTTE's separatism and promising not to yield to even the moderate Tamil demand for a federal constitution.

In contrast to the enthusiastic Sinhalese, only 21.3 percent of Sri Lankan Tamils - the island's original Tamils - were happy with the conduct of the war. The Sri Lankan Tamils constitute 4.3 percent of the population outside the northeast, where they constitute the overall majority.

As for Indian Tamils who are concentrated in central tea-growing highlands and who form 5 percent of the population, 77 percent said they were unhappy with the way the war was being fought.

Muslims (8 percent of the population) were more evenly divided, with 49.9 percent saying they approved the president's way of fighting the LTTE while 35.1 percent were unhappy.

As regards the peace process, now virtually dead, 52 percent of the Sinhalese felt that Rajapaksa had handled it the way it should be. But 70 percent of Sri Lankan Tamils felt he had bungled and plunged the country into war.

Indian origin Tamils seemed to be particularly hard hit by the absence of peace. Over 80 percent said they disapproved the way the government conducted the peace process.

The survey shows that Rajapaksa's power base is quite clearly among the majority Sinhalese, with the Muslims being evenly divided on him. He appears to have alienated the Tamils.

This is because the war is being fought mostly in the Tamil-speaking northeast of the country. According to the latest report of the London-based Minority Rights Group, 290,000 civilians, mostly Tamils and some Muslims, were displaced and over 3,500 of them were killed in military operations in the east in 2006 and 2007.

The Indian origin Tamils have become victims of the war not because they voice secessionist sentiments or seek a federal system but simply because they are Tamil.

In the eyes of the Sinhalese-dominated police force, the Indian origin Tamils are as suspect as the Sri Lankan Tamils. And in cordon and search operations in Colombo and other places, they are also arrested and questioned.

In early December, the Ceylon Workers Congress (CWC), which represents Tamils of Indian origin, had to move the Supreme Court to secure the release of hundreds who were detained in a massive cordon and search operation in Colombo and nearby areas.

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Rajapakse's nationalistic foreign policy pays dividends

By P.K. Balachandran, IANS

Colombo : Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse's foreign policy based on an aggressive display of nationalism appears to be paying off.

In the two years Rajapakse has been in power, the government has taken on the UN and the West and has rapped multilateral bodies on the knuckles for being soft on the Tamil Tigers.

It has also demonstrated closeness to China and Pakistan regardless of how India, the only neighbour, may view it. But Colombo has been none the worse for all the boldness, even if it has smacked of adventurism and abrasiveness at times.

There has been consistent and strident international criticism of the way the regime is handling the ethnic crisis, especially the huge humanitarian problem unending fighting has triggered. But foreign governments and multilateral organisations have been reluctant to translate expressions of displeasure into corrective action.

As an analyst put it, "The international community has barked, but not bitten."

Western governments and West-based international organisations had got into the habit of making unsolicited comments on the internal affairs of Sri Lanka, often lecturing to its leaders on good governance, democracy and prudent political management. Not surprisingly, Sri Lankans find this condescending and annoying.

Under the regime of Rajapakse, the popular trend here is to launch hostile campaigns against foreign governments and international bodies including those affiliated to the UN. At times, cabinet ministers and leading lights in parliament spearhead these campaigns.

Surprisingly, the responses of the affected governments and organisations have been tepid. There has been no threat of withdrawal from the country by any group. Nor has there been any significant reduction of aid, on which Sri Lanka is so heavily dependent.

Some time ago, Britain and Germany had announced cuts in their aid, citing the continued conflict and slow progress in the peace process. But the amounts were small. And Japan, the single largest donor, has stated that it will continue to aid Sri Lanka despite the human rights violations, because stoppage of aid will only harm the innocent poor in the country.

Although depending on the US for help to fight the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) globally, Rajapakse recently paid a state visit to Iran, America's enemy. The visit was a success in terms of project aid, as Iran gave Sri Lanka what Rajapakse asked for.

At the Commonwealth summit at Kampala, the Sri Lankan stand on Pakistan's expulsion was at variance with that of the others, including Britain, Canada and Australia whose help too is vital to break the LTTE's global links.

Sri Lanka went out of the way to tout Pakistan's case even at the risk of alienating India. But Colombo was none the worse for all that. It was made part of a group charged with the task of talking to Pakistan.

Rajapakse's highly publicised support to Pakistan at Kampala was an expression of gratitude for helping out Sri Lanka with urgent military aid in 2000 when the LTTE was knocking at the gates of Jaffna and India failed to respond to cries of help.

Sri Lankans never tire of pointing out that it was to India that they had turned first but all that New Delhi offered was help to evacuate the beleaguered Sri Lankan troops.

The president has cleverly made use of both Pakistan and India in his fight against the LTTE. While the Indians have been made to supply "defensive" equipment like radars, Pakistan has been involved in the enhancement of the strike capability of the Sri Lankan Air Force. Successful air actions have helped curb the LTTE.

Regardless of possible repercussions for India, Rajapakse had got China to fund a major development project with international strategic implications. Chinese help for a mega international port at Humbantota in the south did set off alarm bells in India but New Delhi did little to prevent the president's lurch towards Beijing.

The success of Sri Lanka's aggressively independent stance was reflected in the outcome of the 6th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva that concluded Friday.

To the great embarrassment of Sri Lanka, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, declared that the Colombo government's human rights enforcement machinery was ineffective and urged the setting up of a UN rights monitoring office in the country.

Arbour's call came in the context of the fact that, through 2006 and 2007, 290,000 civilians, mostly Tamils and some Muslims, had been displaced by the war and over 3,500 were killed. Attacks, extortions, abductions, disappearances and arbitrary detentions were going on, sometimes with state backing and aided by the tough anti-terror law made in December 2006.

The delegations of the US, EU, France, South Korea, Sweden, Canada and New Zealand voiced support for Arbour's call to set up a UN monitoring office in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka seemed to be isolated, but it fought the move tooth and nail -- and succeeded in scuttling it.

Talking the battle into the adversary's territory, its ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Dayan Jayatilleke, said his country did not want to be "preached" by states whose human rights record was "far from perfect". Sri Lanka would take advice from international bodies only when these had "transparency of funding" and when their agendas were "not donor driven", he declared brazenly.

Sri Lankan officials had kept hammering the point that their country could not be asked to observe Queensberry Rules in a war-cum-insurgency situation in which a beleaguered state was battling one of the most ruthless and well-organised insurgent groups in the world. They accused the UN agencies and international rights organisations of not taking adequate note of the LTTE's rights violations or rapping it hard enough.

To the delight of Sri Lankan delegation and disappointment of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, the UN council concluded its deliberations without passing the expected resolution castigating Sri Lanka. Japan, India and the Philippines had thrown their weight behind Sri Lanka at the council.

Clearly, the LTTE's behaviour since the Norway-sponsored ceasefire agreement in 2002 had helped the Sri Lankan government bolster its case against censure.

The LTTE had scuttled peace talks, provoked the government to take military action, bombed civilians outside the war zone and assassinated political leaders by using suicide bombers.

The international community was indeed concerned about the suffering of the Tamils and Muslims in the war zones of the north and east. But this concern could not be translated into concrete support for these communities because the LTTE would not play ball. The LTTE was also using forms of violence like suicide bombing which are deplored in the present day world.

India shared Sri Lanka's views on the LTTE as it had discovered, over years of close interaction, that it could not have any meaningful interaction with that militant group. The LTTE was too narrow minded and intransigent for that.

As for Japan, it had turned hostile to the LTTE after its repeated efforts to get it to the negotiating table failed. The LTTE had also spurned Japanese offers of development aid if it took the path of peace. No wonder then that both New Delhi and Tokyo stood by Colombo at Geneva.

While Colombo's case at the Human Rights Council may have some merits, the persistent attacks against UN organisations and international NGOs seem to be needlessly confrontational. But here again, there has been no backlash of any kind from the affected parties.

Unicef has come in for much flak both in parliament and outside for having, in its offices, "Ready to Eat" food packets supplied by a French military contractor. It was alleged that the packets were meant for the LTTE's fighting units!

Unicef explained that such packets were routinely distributed among its offices in conflict areas across the globe as part of a survival kit. But the government remained unconvinced and police sleuths were told to probe the allegation.

International NGOs working in the conflict zone routinely face hostility, both in word and deed.

British High Commissioner Dominic Chilcott appealed to Sri Lankans not to demonise UN organizations, but this fell on deaf ears. At any rate, Chilcott had spoilt his case by saying that the LTTE's demand for an independent "Eelam" was not "illegitimate".

The government not only summoned him for a dressing down but also announced that it would complain to the Foreign Office in London.

Earlier, in August, cabinet minister Jeyaraj Fernandopulle called the UN Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, John Holmes, a "terrorist who had taken money from the LTTE". Holmes had said that Sri Lanka was a "risky" place for aid workers.

When UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon described Fernandopulle's remark as "unacceptable and unwarranted", the minister made it plain that he did not "care a damn." The UN's response to this was silence.

(P.K. Balachandran can be contacted at

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