Topless Dance of a Transmuted Karuna

by Sachi Sri Kantha

A week ago, the voice of Karuna – the sacked LTTE colonel – was heard again, in the Bangkok-based blog sheet Asian Tribune [dated Aug.10, 11 and 12].  One reader requested me to comment on these interviews.  My one sentence answer is nothing but: "Karuna shows some flare for a short Las Vegas-style act of ‘Shuffle and Shtick.’  It is a bravura topless dance act by Karuna, a la Carol Doda."

First, here is a little bit (by Arthur Berger) on how Carol Doda appeared 40 years ago on San Francisco’s Condor club’s stage, since I can see parallels between the acts of Carol Doda and Col. Karuna.

"She comes ‘floating down from the heavens’ on a $3,000 grand piano. First you see her legs, turning and twisting, as the band blasts out wild rock and roll rhythms. Gradually the rest of her body comes into view, glistening in the bright lights, and you see her breasts. They are enormous, and for a good reason. They have been enlarged… ‘And now’, shouts the band leader, ‘Miss Carol Doda will perform the swim!’  With that, her eyes flashing, she starts some gyrations for a minute or two, and then she stops.  As she does, the lights start flickering so that the performance takes on an ethereal quality.  She freezes between each rendition.  When the next dance number is announced, the bright lights turn on again and she performs; this is followed, once more, by the flickering lights.  She becomes, once more, a vision…she’s there, she isn’t, she’s there.  After about ten minutes of dancing she is pulled up into ‘the heavens’ and her performance is over.  The audience applauds, then leaves." [source: Journal of Popular Culture, Sept.1970; pp.419-424]

If one substitutes basically the gender specific ‘she’ to ‘he’ and one organ in the upper half of the body with another, the recent Karuna interview to the Asian Tribune was no different from Carol Doda’s act described by Arthur Berger. Whereas Carol Doda’s act was bare-breasted, Karuna’s act was bare-brained! – all the same, topless.  Also, whereas Doda descended to her audience’s view on a grand piano, Karuna’s vehicle was the Asian Tribune blogsheet.  In addition, while Carol Doda’s physical presence was certifiable, the location of Karuna’s physical presence still remains hidden, even in the Asian Tribune’s descriptions.  So much for his vaunted courage! Below are two quotes of Karuna's, from the interview:

Quote 1: "Yes, I went with Ali Zahir Moulana to Colombo and he provided me with the transport facilities. I went to Colombo, because I had something to do in Colombo."

Quote 2: "My life is not that dear to me, when compared with my cadres who believe in me and trust and place confidence in my leadership."

It is rather funny that only around April 10-11th of this year, Karuna had "something to do in Colombo" urgently, when LTTE troops crossed the Verugal river and advanced to Vakarai.  What probably was this "something"? – an SOS plea to his once targeted adversaries for urgent help in saving his skin?  Also, if as Karuna says that his "life is not that dear to me," he wouldn’t have left his camp in Batticaloa.  He would have stood his ground, as he had boasted he would to the Sinhalese and international newsmedia for the whole of March this year.  Karuna’s bravura act in March flopped badly since he couldn’t match his words appropriately with the deeds.  To overcome this flop, now Karuna has come out with a topless dance act from a stage away from Sri Lanka or Eelam.

A brief Sunday Leader (Aug.15, 2004) commentary on Karuna’s purported last week’s interview had this to say, under the caption ‘A renegade’s pipedream’:

"The past few weeks have certainly not been an easy ride for the LTTE's former Eastern Commander, Karuna Amman.  With his supporters being wiped out like flies both in Colombo and the east, the renegade commander's plans to form a political party that would oppose Wanni's policies have also taken a severe beating.

"An interview in the Asia Tribune, however, saw Karuna stoically proclaiming that he would soon regain control of the east and then show Kilinochchi who's the boss in that part of Tigerland at least.  All this despite the fact that the last few days have seen military personnel and peace monitors taking on the task of travelling around the eastern region picking up the bodies of alleged Karuna supporters that Wanni is systematically taking out.

Defence analyst Iqbal Athas in Sunday Times (Aug.15, 2004) devoted the whole space of his weekly commentary to Karuna’s debacle and his current plight.  It is relatively more revealing on how Karuna was ‘quartered’ by at least two demons [the SLFP demon and Karuna’s own selfish demon] during the "14 weeks of ‘protective custody’ for Karuna and his inner circle" provided by the Sri Lankan military folks.  Athas has asserted, "Karuna is no longer in the hands of the Army. Neither is his wife nor their three children. They have all departed from Sri Lanka to another country."  Iqbal Athas, being a journalist who has to earn his paycheck by praising the actions of the Sri Lankan military, is definitely not forthcoming with all the dirty secrets.  However, Karuna’s purported interview to Asian Tribune’s blogsheet had to be understood from his current status as a frustrated exile.  He gambled on the help of Eelam Tamils’ adversaries and lost everything – his name, his fame and his future.  After all , he is only 38 years old.

Reading from Iqbal Athas’s report, one can sense that even the Sri Lankan military folks are rather peeved with Karuna’s Asian Tribune interview.  To quote Athas, "After all, he [Karuna, that is], his confidantes and later his family were all in Army custody for more than 14 long weeks. They were fed, protected and their needs including medical requirements were looked after. Why then is he making such wild allegations knowing too well that they are false and misleading?"  I would say, that Iqbal Athas has economized with all the facts of what transpired between Karuna and the Sri Lankan military establishment.  In the process of ‘debriefing’, the Sri Lankan military would have bilked and squeezed from Karuna all the ‘intelligence’ they would like to gather about the LTTE’s personalities and assets.  Thus, Karuna and his entourage did not receive ‘free board and lodge’ for 14 weeks.  Indeed, Karuna berating the Sri Lankan military folks after leaving their ‘custody’ is to be expected.

I hate to dignify Karuna’s vituperative attacks on the LTTE and especially Pirabhakaran by commenting on them. His ungentlemanly words on Pirabhakaran remind me of two thirukural couplets from sage Tiruvalluvar. The Tamil sage of Mylapore has said it all in four lines.

Couplet No.102

Kaalathinal seytha nanri siritheninum

Gnalathin maanapperithu.

[Even small an assist done at appropriate time

is bigger than the world.]

For the timely assistance Col.Karuna provided in blunting ‘Operation Jayasikuru’ of the Sri Lankan army from 1997 to 1999, LTTE leader Pirabhakaran brought Karuna into the media limelight on April 10th 2002 in his international press conference.  By this act of gratitude, Pirabhakaran was openly gracious in acknowledging Karuna’s military service to the LTTE.  After all, Karuna was not a founder member of the LTTE.  He belonged to the second generation of LTTE fighters, who joined the movement only after the 1983 anti-Tamil riots.  For Karuna to think and talk along the lines that, without his service, the LTTE would have disappeared, is utter lunacy.

Couplet No.110

En-nanri konraarkum uyvundaam- uyvillai

Sei-nanri konra maharku.

[Those committing any offence has redemption- except

for those who defile gratitude.]

Tiruvalluvar’s maxim on defiling gratitude has stood the test of time and has been proved once more in Karuna’s case.  However Karuna attempts to score a point against Pirabhakaran, Eelam Tamils are no fools to believe a word of his false charges and insincere insinuations.  As Iqbal Athas has noted, the only ‘weapon now in Karuna’s possession is a mobile phone equipped with international roaming facility.’  Thus, with all the vigor left in him, Karuna is cursing "besides the LTTE, everyone else he has had something to do – the UPFA government, the Sri Lankan armed forces, the Norwegian facilitators and the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM)."  A topless act on a new stage, definitely playing for seedy customers.

Eelam Tamils know for sure that Pirabhakaran and the LTTE made Karuna a man of some recognition, and not vice versa.  By his own admission, Karuna stated in the Asian Tribune interview, "There were so many [Tamil liberation organizations] at the time [immediately after the 1983 anti-Tamil riots] to choose, but my brother and me decided to join the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam."  If Karuna and his brother had joined any of the other 4 or 5 so-called Tamil liberation organizations who were manipulated by the Indian intelligence agencies like puppets, they certainly would have become history a long time ago. Thus, it was the LTTE and Pirabhakaran who nurtured Karuna and not vice versa.

Again, by his own admission, Karuna has stated, "I have participated in all the major attacks that took place in the Jaffna and Vanni region in the North. It all started with the Pooneryn Army camp attack and I was in charge of one of the two battalions that went to attack the Sri Lanka army camp." Fine! Karuna became a front line leader only with the Pooneryn Army camp attack? When was this? The ‘Operation Frog Leap’ initiated by the LTTE commenced on November 10, 1993, and the base was captured on November 13, 1993.  This demonstrates that Pirabhakaran had led LTTE in the battlefield successfully for a complete decade [from 1983 to 1993; battling the armies of both Sri Lanka and India during this period] without Karuna’s front-line leadership.  Thus, Karuna’s retrospective claim for too big a role in the the LTTE’s battlefield success is nothing but exaggerated.

A word on the pesky scribe of the Asian Tribune

One has to be cautious in distinguishing how much of what appeared in the Asian Tribune blogsheet as Karuna’s interview directly came from his mouth.  This is because the language of the ‘purported interview’ would have been – by all probabilities - in Tamil, and what was posted in the blogsheet was an English translation.  Thus, there exists a definite possibility of the interviewer subtly inserting his as well as his sponsor’s bias into the text of the English translation.

Assuming that the interviewer of Karuna was none other than K.T.Rajasingham, I would categorically note that this journalist has a decades-long track record of working for anti-Tamil interests.  His past employers [the Dawasa Group] in Sri Lankan journalism and his past allegiance to the SLFP party in politics are nauseating to Eelam Tamils.  It also appears to me that K.T.Rajasingham is angling to be ‘Karuna’s Balasingham.’  It is none of my business to oppose such a symbiotic partnership.  But, I was curious to know, who are their current sponsors.  Could it be the Indian RAW or associated groups?

In one sentence of the interview, Karuna is purportedly saying: "I know that he has also put a price to my head – Rs. 25 million (2.5 corers)…."  Karuna’s reference to "he" was none other than Pirabhakaran. Obviously I wondered why the need for this parenthetical inclusion "corers" (sic). It should actually refer to crores. Crore [107], as a unit of money, is predominantly used in India, but not in any other country – including Sri Lanka. Thus, why Karuna’s quote needs to be inserted in a crore figure within parenthesis?  Would it be wrong if I infer that this is because the sponsors and readers of Asian Tribune are from India?

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Posted August 20, 2004