POLLS BREAK FOR ARMY
run up to the Batticaloa District Local Government polls, to be
conducted tomorrow, has been relatively peaceful. In fact, it has been
more peaceful than the April 2004 General elections, with the LTTE on
the rampage, in the wake of the split in its ranks. The Karuna faction
broke away from the Wanni Tigers on March 2, 2004.
Last Sunday marked the 4th anniversary of Karuna’s defection.
Though Karuna Amman, the former military wing leader of the LTTE, is no
longer in the scene in eastern Sri Lanka, his political and military
contribution has caused a huge dent in the once monolithic organization-
Firstly, he challenged the LTTE with the regionalism card and sought to
break the back of the organization by saying that, in the separatist
war, Tamils in the East were deprived of top positions within the
organization and simply treated as cannon fodder by the Wanni Tigers.
As if that was not enough, when Eelam War IV began, he shared secrets of
the Tigers’ military strength, thinking, plans and counter plans and of
course, helped fight them on familiar terrain. He played the role of a
devil’s advocate in exchange for protection and security, which he
forfeited when he was dispatched to London.
He is now under interrogation by the British Immigration office and the
police and faces possible charges under international law.
However, Karuna’s legacy is the Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal (TMVP)
he founded with the support of Rehabilitation Minister and EPDP Leader
Pillayan, the beneficiary
Now, led by Pillayan, the TMVP is expected to sweep the polls
contested by 22 independent groups and six political parties, including
the EPDP-PLOTE and EPRLF combine. A former PLOTE cadre was killed in
KoKokodicholai three dsays back, instilling fear in the minds of voters
Pillayan and Karuna’s former spokesman Azad Moulana, along with TMVP
party officials, were in a closed-door meeting last night, hours before
There are 4,200 election officials for a total of 270, 473 eligible
voters, which works out to one official for every 65 voters, making it
difficult for rigging, particularly, given that 6,425 police personnel
have been placed on duty.
But, given the fears and uncertainties, it’s possible that there could
be a low voter turnout, which of course provides an opportunity to stuff
the ballot boxes, unless election department officials and the police,
used for transporting the boxes, are not coerced into ‘conduct
The SLMC candidates have been reportedly threatened by both TMVP and
the LTTE for different reasons. The TMVP wants to grab as many seats and
the LTTE was keen on demonstrating that it was a one-sided contest.
If the LTTE is still doted, it is possible that voters could
deliberately spoil their votes, as a mark of protest. Protest for what,
we may ask, as the people of the Batticaloa District, who have not seen
development, either during times of war or peace, would be waiting for a
return to normalcy and a better life.
The TMVP is certainly raring to go and is bound to do a job of work to
win the hearts of the people and perhaps become a serious political
party. They would want to be a responsible party, with eastern Tamil
leaders ready to manage the affairs of their people, much to the chagrin
of the LTTE.
It is for this reason that, even after nominations were called, one did
not see armed TMVP cadres roaming the streets in February and even
March, according to eyewitnesses.
UNP and TNA, the ultimate losers
If a free and fair election could be held, this would be a triumph
for democracy. But, the fact that the main opposition UNP and the Tamil
National Alliance (TNA) are boycotting the election, giving the TMVP a
walk over, seriously questions whether democracy is upheld and those
elected are truly representative of the people. In other words, there is
the possibility of a skewed representation. Who is to be blamed? It is
the TNA and the UNP. These two parties should not have shirked their
responsibility, come what may.
This will be to the disadvantage of the UNP and the TNA, should a
general election follow. The ruling TMVP (even at local government
level) would be at an advantage, as it would have the machinery at its
disposal to face general elections, even though party funds would be
Added to that, contesting the general elections in the first flush of
the local polls victory, would give it an added impetus. The party would
have the opportunity to prove to the people that it is industrious and
could be trusted.
Perhaps, the TNA and the UNP could still contest a general election,
with some hope, as what is expected of the local councilors is different
from that of Members of Parliament or, for that matter, Provincial
Even if a General election were to follow later, a Provincial Council
(PC) election was very much on the drawing boards to set up the Eastern
But, if a General election is held, in line with the thinking of
President Rajapaksa and his advisors, such a move would further reduce
the LTTE’s representation of Tamils through the TNA.
It is believed that a new alignment of Tamil parties and forces at the
local, provincial and centre, would strengthen the SLFP.
The JVP, too, was likely to lose its clout, as its numbers would come
down by a third. The JVP’s main platform to militarily defeat the
Tigers, has been plundered by the SLFP. The SLFP and the Rajapaksa
family, which, however, would have to face criticism on allegations of
corruption and nepotism, removal of the Director General of the Bribery
and Corruption outfit and failure to constitute the Constitutional
Council and thereby, give effect to the 17th Amendment to the
TNA MPs under threat
The LTTE has already lost ground in the east and any further loss of
political representation in there would seal the fate of the
organization vis-ŕ-vis the east.
The TNA would also lose seats to the EPDP and PLOTE in the north and
Mannar,. Prospective candidates of the TNA would think twice before
entering the fray, given that, already, three TNA MPs and a fourth Tamil
MP were gunned down, even before a General election was announced.
This week, Jaffna District TNA MP K. Sivanesan was killed in a claymore
mine blast at Kanakarayankulam on the A-9 highway, between Puliyankulam
and Mankulam, closer to the latter region. The LTTE blames the action on
the Army’s deep penetration unit, while the military says the LTTE did
it to bring the government into the bad books of the international
community, even while the 7th Session of the Human Rights Council is in
progress in Geneva. But, unwittingly, the LTTE does not realize that by
accusing the Army of killing Sivanesan, it is conceding that the
military is very close to Mankulam.
(See box story for more details)
Eleven weeks back, on December 16, Senpathi observed that events
indicate that “General elections were on the cards, sooner than later.”
The SLFP, the main constituent of the ruling UPFA, would not want the
Army to go all the way into Mullaitivu, once it reaches Mankulam.
Party stalwarts and strategists are aware that the military was routed
in Mankulam and Oddusudan, more than nine years ago, in an operation
that Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka himself participated along with two other
Alive to the fact that the LTTE had seven long years to prepare its
defences in peace times and almost two years of undeclared war,
government advisors and military planners could be tempted to take the
serious bite, once it possibly wins a second term. Any major military
rout, ahead of elections, in the last lap of this government, has the
potential of ruining the main ruling party’s re-election bid.
After gaining a foothold in Adampan, the 12th Gemunu Watch on
Tuesday launched a major offensive on LTTE groups led by Bhanu, to
secure a kilometer stretch of land at Karukkankulam, north of
The Army was engaged in heavy fighting in the Parappaankandal area in
Mannar yesterday. The pro-LTTE website Tamilnet reported that heavy
fighting occurred here yesterday, but the defence ministry website had
not reported the incident, even though newspapers said that the area had
been secured by the troops. However, neither side gave casualty figures,
even though the LTTE reported that the Mannar-Medawachchiya Road was
closed the whole morning for civilian traffic, as it was used for
rushing ambulances to Anuradhapura.
The LTTE is offering heavy resistance in Mannar, but was likely to
withdraw in the Madhu area, in the face of advancing troops.
The military plans to reach Mankulam on the A-9 Road, after securing
Vidattaltivu from north of Mannar, where there is a decent road to this
Meanwhile, 57 Division under Brig. Jagath Dias, was advancing in the
direction of Madhu and Palampiddi, from where it hopes to extend it up
to Puliyankulam, to force the Tigers operating north of the Madhu area,
in the jungles beyond, to flee.
But, the LTTE leader in Mannar, Luxman, appears ready to do battle. He
has ordered the withdrawal of women cadres from the Madhu jungle area
and has now deployed male cadres to form a forward defence line linking
Periyamadu, Palampiddi and Palaimoddai, to resistt the advancing forces.
This is an admission that the security forces have advanced and an
indication that pitched battles were likely sooner than later.
There would also be a forward thrust from Omanthai to Mankulam, in the
days ahead. By bypassing the enemy, what the military plans to do is
make areas south of the Vidattilativu- Mankulam line, redundant.
Madhu shrine in the way
The church authorities maintain they have no say over the jungle
area of Madhu. They, however, are resisting any presence of the warring
parties in the shrine area, saying that this was likely to attract
artillery and direct fire from the other side, rendering the church
The shrine area is a very small area and is not occupied by the Tigers,
but the 50-odd acres of jungle beyond the shrine area, is occupied by
the Tigers. However, during four feasts, throughout the year, the
Government Agent is permitted, by law, to take this area under church
control, for the benefit of pilgrims who come from all parts of the
Meanwhile, Presidential Secretary Lalith Weeratunga’s acknowledgement to
Mannar Bishop Rt. Rev. Rayappu Joseph’s letter, was received on Friday.
The Mannar Bishop spoke to Presidential Advisor Basil Rajapaksa, ahead
of the letter sent to President Rajapaksa dated February 20, but
received six days later.
The letter was an urgent plea to maintain the sacred shrine of Madhu as
a zone of peace. Previously, the Bishop, together with the Archbishop of
Colombo, met President Rajapaksa along with the Madhu administrator Rev.
Fr. Emil Emilanaspillai, on October 26, seeking to discuss the zone of
peace in the sacred shrine area.
Mankulam memories linger
Once the Madhu shrine area and the jungle beyond are bypassed, and
the entire Mannar area under the military as before, the security forces
would like to take on the Tigers at Mankulam.
As the reserve strike forces advance, the holding divisions move up,
but, given the high casualties figures announced by Prime Minister
Ratnasiri Wickremenayake, it could be a high-risk gamble for the
government to conduct this operation in one go.
But, that would be no easy task. While time and money is on the Tigers’
side, morale and numbers are on the forces side, as of now. The Tigers
have lost quite a number of its cadres, and are yet to prove their
mettle in Eealm War IV. But, the military is not that better, by
The government has no exit strategy, as the LTTE would demand the
opening of the A-9 Road, to commence any form of negotiations, which the
administration would not agree to. The LTTE would not want to come for
talks at this juncture, as it has lost the east, even though it has
proved to have the conventional capability to hold territory in the
The next best option for the government would be to go for snap
elections and receive a fresh mandate to carry on the war to a finish,
as the Tigers have been greatly weakened.
Passage to India
Army Commander Lieutenant General Sarath Fonseka, was
away on a week-long crucial overseas visit to India from Sunday March 2,
to strengthen military ties between the two countries.
“Militarily we have very good relationships for long time and we hope to
continue relationships that we are having right now. We are very happy
with that,” Lt General Fonseka said after a Guard of Honour outside the
Lt. Gen. Fonseka, who is accompanied by Defence Secretary Gothabaya
Rajapaksa, pledged to defeat the LTTE at the earliest, but no deadlines
Sri Lanka needs international support if it is to defeat the LTTE and is
increasingly looking at China and Pakistan for weapons supply as India
was reluctant to provide sophisticated arms.
General Fonseka visited Jammu and Kashmir on Monday to learn about
Indian Army’s anti militancy operations and during his tour to areas
close to the Line of Control (LoC) in north Kashmir he was briefed on
anti-militancy measures by senior commanders of India’s northern
He also met his Indian counterpart General Deepak Kapoor, Air Force
Chief Fali Homi Major and Naval Chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta and called
on the Defence Minister A K Antony, and met with Defence Secretary Vijay
Singh and National Security Adviser M K Narayanan.
District Tamil National Alliance (TNA) MP Kiddinan Sivanesan did his
duty by Parliament by being present on Wednesday (5). As expected of the
TNA, which does the bidding of the LTTE, he voted against the
Emergency.Having, faithfully, done his duty, he was heading for
Kilinochchi, the LTTE headquarters, for an urgent meeting with the
political leadership. In fact, all TNA MPs had been summoned, but, given
the short notice, 24-hours, except for Sivanesan, the rest skipped it.
With the Tigers losing the military side of its struggle, its political
representatives had a greater role to play. They had to highlight the
excesses of the security forces and the sufferings of Tamil civilians.
While the rest of the TNA MPs gave the meeting a slip, as they suspected
that they were in for some stick, for failing to use their good offices
to obtain a meeting with UN Assistant Secretary General Angela Kane,
Sivanesan, nevertheless, dutifully headed for Kilinochchi.
It was Mahasivarathri Day. Even that had not discouraged him from doing
his duty by the organisation.
Killed in the line of duty
“Sivanesan is a unique individual who functioned selflessly,
honestly, and with courage. He was simple, courteous and loving. He was
a sincere politician who possessed high ideals. He laboured tirelessly
for the advancement and welfare of the workers,” said none other than
LTTE Leader Velupillai Prabhakaran, after, posthumously, conferring the
LTTE’s highest civilian honour- ‘Maamanithar’ (great human being) title
on the slain MP.
The 51-year-old MP, K. Sivanesan, leaves behind his wife and four
children, two sons and two daughters. Before he took to politics, he was
the General Manager, Northern Region Palm Development Co-op Society,
between 1996 and 2004. He worked as an accountant at Jaffna Union of the
Palm Development Cooperative Society and as Secretary, Federation of
Popular Associations in Mallaavi, Wanni.
Sivanesan succumbed to his injuries on the way to Mankulam hospital,
while his driver, Maheswararajah (27), from Cheddikulam in Vavuniya, was
killed on the spot and a 13-year-old cyclist, Arulnaathan Louisnathan,
injured in the attack on the A-9 Road.
A-9 is surely turning out to be the highway of death, but Sivanesan, who
passed the Omantai entry-exit point, would never have imagined what was
to befall him. As he passed Puliyankulam, and approached Mankulam, he
probably would have contemplated the military battles ahead and the
consequent deaths. As for his own death, it would not have crossed his
The driver died instantly, when his vehicle caught the blast. Shortly, a
vehicle arrived and sped off with the injured MP to Mankulam hospital.
Along the way, the MP breathed his last.
His death, like several others’ in this fourth Eelam War, has been
shrouded in mystery, of whodunit.
The Army claims the LTTE killed him, possibly to embarrass the
government fighting a difficult human rights war. The LTTE immediately
pointed a finger at the Army’s deep penetration unit. The fact is that
the blast occurred 25-km into the A-9 Road, from Omantai, a considerable
If the LTTE’s accusation is correct, the organisation is in deep
trouble, as its enemy has managed to penetrate a considerable distance
on this highway, even as troops are inching forward in the jungle