by Sachi Sri Kantha
No, no, I am not asserting a new discovery which would contradict a well-certified zoological fact. The title of my commentary relates to the opinion piece of D.B.S. Jeyaraj, The Sunday Leader (Colombo)’s token Tamil pontificator, which appeared on July 24, 2005. In the imagination of Jeyaraj, pigs are indeed flying in Batticaloa, and he has seen them from Canada – of all locations. That is how one has to infer the cockamamy yarn Jeyaraj provided under the caption, "Tigers get a taste of their own bitter medicine."
For those who have missed reading Jeyaraj’s yarn, I reproduce the initial segment consisting of 214 words.
"For the first time in many years the Tigers feel threatened and beleaguered. The organisation that revels in terrorising others particularly those of the Sri Lankan Tamil community through violence finds itself at the receiving end.
In a remarkable reversal of roles a motley group of various anti-Tiger Tamil elements aided and abetted by the security and intelligence networks of the state is providing the LTTE a taste of its own bitter medicine. Naturally the Tigers are not relishing it.
The Karuna factor dismissed derisively by the Tigers and their sycophants is looming large on the eastern horizon. Karuna himself shuttles between Sri Lanka and a southeastern country where his family resides. He left Sri Lanka last on May 6. Some say he has now returned.
In any case, as this column stated earlier, Karuna is now a brand name. A large number of Tiger cadres loyal to him are now in the Eastern Province and Polonnaruwa District. They are kept in different units in different locations. They are functionally autonomous but are helped and to some extent logistically supported by the security network.
Sri Lankan military intelligence provides some guidance and direction. It also exercises some amount of control and restraint. The espionage agency of at least one country has provided financial aid…."
Jeyaraj is a master of ‘hide and seek’ and learnt his journalism from the Madras Hindu school of camouflage, so he would neither identify his "sources" nor mention any names. He has not a single ‘Deep Throat,’ but dozens of ‘Deep Throats’ to protect. Check again his last sentence quoted above. "The espionage agency of at least one country has provided financial aid…"
This is presented by Jeyaraj as a big finding, while every Tamil child in Jaffna, Batticaloa, Trincomalee and Vavuniya would name names. That espionage agency has an acronym - RAW - and its headquarters are in New Delhi.
Relating to the issue of how defector Karuna is shuttling between Sri Lanka and an unnamed "Southeastern [Asian] country where his family resides," I have heard from a Batticaloa source who visited Batticaloa in June and July. His assessment of the ground-level situation is interesting and I would like to pass it on to readers.
Defence Analyst Iqbal Athas’s View
Before that, I also would like to present excerpts [published on the same day, July 24, 2005, in the Sunday Times] from the commentary of Colombo defence correspondent Iqbal Athas, which somehow contradicts the ‘Pigs are Flying’ yarn of Jeyaraj. Pertaining to the recent assassination of LTTE Sea Tiger leader, Dikkam, and one of his colleagues, Iqbal wrote:
"Senior Army officials who spoke to The Sunday Times on grounds of anonymity insisted that neither their intelligence arm nor other personnel were involved in the attack [in Chelvanayakapuram, Trincomalee]
At least one suggested it could have been the work of the dissident Karuna faction, though the group has dwindled in numbers and had its ammunition stocks run low. Even if they were behind the attack, the source argued, the LTTE would not concede it because that would amount to giving credit and credibility to the dissident group as a formidable rival…"
Then, contradicting Jeyaraj’s ‘Pigs are Flying’ tale, Iqbal described the Sri Lanka’s military establishment’s view of how the LTTE countered the loss of Sea Tiger leader Dikkam. As I have previously written in my ‘Pirabhakaran Phenomenon’ series, the LTTE leader is a master of the ‘Jimmy Malone offense,’ which I named after the Sean Connery character in ‘The Untouchables’ movie.
"…LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran ordered a stepped up campaign to eliminate personnel of all state intelligence agencies in the East. Operatives of the country’s premier intelligence organisation, the Directorate of Internal Intelligence (DII) in the east were ordered to remain indoors. Personnel of the Army’s Directorate of Military Intelligence were told they required the permission of their superiors before they ventured out to meet informants.
In a separate development, President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga tasked Major General Kapila Hendavitharana, now Director General of Military Intelligence (DGMI) for a temporary foreign assignment. This came amidst reports that Tiger guerrillas had planned to eliminate him first, before they killed Lt. Col. Tuan Nizam Muthaliff. They had mounted surveillance and found that he frequented a market area on Sundays. This is where the attack was to be carried out but he had gone abroad that week, as revealed in The Sunday Times (Situation Report) of July 10.
Maj. Gen. Hendavitharana, a former Director of Military Intelligence, was attached to the Joint Operations Headquarters (JOH). His post as Director General of Military Intelligence (DGMI) is to remain suppressed until his return to Colombo. However, retired Major General Chula Seneviratne, Chief of National Intelligence (CNI) is to overlook his responsibilities. A routine Posting Order on Thursday attaching Maj. Gen. Hendavitharana to Army Headquarters had fuelled wild rumours that he had been removed from his post.
It turned out that intelligence operatives in the East were not the only targets Tiger guerrillas were pursuing…"
Iqbal continued further, which rather reflects the sense of haplessness prevailing in the Sri Lankan military establishment, as opposed to the LTTE’s no-nonsense response to the activities of puppet-masters and their puppets.
"….The head of the Military Intelligence branch at the Army’s 22 Division Headquarters in Trincomalee, responsible for intelligence activity in the district, was immediately transferred to Colombo. This week, President Kumaratunga spoke to General Officer Commanding (GOC) 22 Division, Major General Sumith Balasuriya, an experienced officer, about the prevailing situation in the area and on other important matters. This came amidst a number of other steps she took in her capacity as Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces. The Sunday Times learnt she has initiated a top level inquiry to ascertain who was responsible for the Chelvanayakapuram incident. The probe which was under way in Trincomalee this week was also trying to ascertain whether "a hidden hand" was behind the string of incidents in the East including grenade throwing in order to sabotage the peace process.
Some senior military top brass have been ticked off for not being aware of what was going on under their very nose. A state run Sunday newspaper even suggested that pro Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) recruits to the Army were behind attempts to trigger hostilities…"
In sum, Iqbal Athas - reporting from Colombo - has debunked the delusion of D.B.S.Jeyaraj and has inferred that ‘Pigs are not flying on the Eastern Front.’
Now, I provide my correspondent S. Sivakumaran’s field report from Batticaloa in response to my request. He visited Batticaloa in June and stayed there till mid-July. He works outside the boundaries of Sri Lanka.
S.Sivakumaran’s report [via e-mail] on Karuna’s current status in Batticaloa
As for the Karuna affair, both the UNP and SLFP are playing on the same side. Remember the role played by Ali Zahir Moulana (former MP from Eravur) and his vanishing act from the scene when his link came out in the open. Ranil Wickremasinghe and the UNP have, for the moment, safely extricated themselves from the Karuna affair.
Now, Karuna is being harboured and used by President Chandrika Kumaratunga and her army. Whether it is Ranil or Chandrika, the Sinhalese army remains the same. Also, the entire puppet show is being run by the Indians (UNP, SLFP, JVP - on the Sinhalese side; Karuna, Anandasangaree and other Tamil paramilitaries, on the Tamil side). This is an open secret to all in Sri Lanka. So, now the only game in town is the LTTE (Eelam Tamils) vs Indian tentacles, namely - RAW. Now, RAW has access to any place or any facility in Sri Lanka, except in LTTE-controlled areas.
Karuna cannot be (need not be) in Sri Lanka. He is only a faceless, phantom figure used by the Indians (and Sinhalese) to break- up Tamil solidarity, mainly the bond and linkage between the North and East. It was reported in July/August 2004 that Karuna’s wife had left for Malaysia with a few bags full of cash. This "bags full of cash" part of the Sinhalese media story was to stress that Karuna’s wife had gone to Malaysia with this booty. Most probably it appears that Karuna and his family have landed in India, well guarded by RAW, using Malaysia as a transit point; RAW guys have worked this in the past, for Varatharaja Perumal (EPRLF). In Malaysia, who will provide security to Karuna and his kin, around the clock? Moreover, in Malaysia, RAW cannot have Karuna under their effective control. Like how Varatharaja Perumal was kept in cold storage during the 1990s, Karuna is being kept now, in one of the North Indian states.
No, Karuna can never physically appear anywhere in Batticaloa hereafter; especially in Kiran. The presence of the LTTE is very strong in the Valaichennai, Kalkudah and Kiran areas. Also, Kiran is predominantly a LTTE support area. When Karuna was a very successful LTTE commander, he was widely respected, more so in Kiran and Batticaloa, as a son of the soil. This fame and respect for Karuna was an extension of that for the LTTE, for its efforts towards the Tamil cause. As an individual, without his LTTE connections, Karuna is a zero. Now that he has defected from the LTTE, even in Kiran his support is very suspect.
Since Batticaloa town is under the control of Sri Lankan forces, all the anti-LTTE paramilitaries (PLOTE, EPRLF, the Razeek group, ENDLF, etc) have their bases and camps in the town area, especially in Puliyam Tivu, an island surrounded by the lagoon with only three access bridges, which are well guarded by the police and army. Also, people supportive of these anti-Tamil groups and their families have moved into Batticaloa town area as it is a safe haven for them.
So, an outsider, when entering into Batticaloa town, finds quite a handful of groups that are against the LTTE.
During my vacation (June/July) I traveled quite widely in Batticaloa district and interacted with the ordinary people at various villages and spoke to my friends. A few of these friends are government servants in various departments; others are ordinary traders who sell firewood, curd, etc. I found that Karuna does not have any support among this populace. Also, what has Karuna done to the public since he left the LTTE, to command their support? Everyone knows that he has betrayed the Tamil cause and is now with the Special Task Force (STF) and Army who killed our youngsters until 2002. Since Karuna is an ex-LTTE commander, he knows fully well that he cannot come out in public - neither in Batticaloa nor in any foreign land. So Karuna will only exist in the romantic yarns penned by guys like D.B.S. Jeyaraj and B. Raman.
In Batticaloa, the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission’s (SLMM) head office is located on Lake Road, a stone's throw from my house. The very next compound to this SLMM office is the camp where Razeek group personnel are being housed. Next to the SLMM's main gate there is a road barrier, manned by the Razeek group boys, with a long log across the road. This Razeek group camp compound belonged to the EPRLF-politician Sam Thambimuttu, killed in 1990.
One early morning I met Karuna's maternal uncle, (Mrs. Vinayagamoorthy’s younger brother) Mr. Kumarakuru. In the past, he was working at Valaichenai Paper Mills Corporation as a foreman, in charge of the "Weighing Bridge." During the 1980's, till I left the Paper Mills Corporation office in late 1989, he served as the President for the Jathika Sevaka Sangamaya (the UNP trade union). I met him around 6.00am, while he was doing his morning walk in Adidas. I was very careful with him and just inquired about the general welfare of him and his family and did not bother to ask about Karuna.
To sum up, in reality, Karuna now remains faceless except in some 'Pigs are Flying' stories.
Posted August 5, 2005