Tamil Parliamentarians: The unceasing
Kiddinan Sivanesan was the latest in the long line of Tamil
Parliamentarians and ex-Parliamentarians to suffer death through
Sivanesan, a former Cooperative Society Store Manager and trade
unionist, was returning home to Mallavi after attending
Parliament when a claymore mine exploded. Both the Tamil
National Alliance (TNA) MP and his driver were killed.
It is widely believed that Sivanesan was killed by an
assassination squad of the armed forces known as the Long Range
Reconnaissance Patrol (LRRP). Defenders of the state have
stoutly denied the charge.
The funeral, held in the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)-controlled
region of the northern mainland known as Wanni, was attended by
15 TNA Parliamentarians. A grand funeral ceremony was held.
LTTE Chief Velupillai Prabhakaran, who sustained minor
injuries in a bombing incident in the Kilinochchi suburb of
Jeyanthinagar on November 28, 2007, made a rare appearance and
paid his respects.
The Tigers also held a number of meetings at different places to
pay homage to Sivanesan.
The LTTE and supporters/propagandists have utilised the killing
to engage in anti-government propaganda as well as whip up
emotions among the Tamil diaspora. Many memorial meetings were
held in diverse international locations.
Tiger media organs are continuing to give much prominence to the
killing of Sivanesan. The Tigers are trying very hard to create
mass frenzy among Tamil expatriates over the killing.
Pro - LTTE groups are also lobbying intensively by citing the
killing as one more brownie point in support of the argument
that separation is necessary.
The LTTE honours its dead cadres as ‘Maaveerar’ or ‘Great
Heroes.’ Non-combatant supporters are awarded two types of
The lesser honour is ‘Naatrupatraalar’ or patriot. The greater
honour is ‘Maamanithar’ or great person. Sivanesan was given
‘Maamanithar’ status by the Tiger Supremo.
Here are some excerpts from Prabhakaran’s statement about
“He is a sincere politician who possessed high ideals. He
laboured tirelessly for the advancement and welfare of the
“He yearned for a free and honourable life for the Tamil people
in their land without the torments that have afflicted them.
“He took up the responsibility of representing the people of
Jaffna and roamed the world seeking justice for the Tamils.
“He raised awareness among our people and gathered their
“He exposed the atrocities of the Sinhala state and its
occupying military to the world.
“He was courageous even in the midst of repeated harassments and
threats of the Sinhala military.
“His service for the liberation of Tamil Eelam through his hard
work and exemplary skills are immeasurable.”
All the above lines refer to Sivanesan but strange as it may
seem, they are more applicable to another Tamil political leader
who was brutally assassinated more than 18 years ago.
He was none other than Appapillai Amirthalingam, the former
secretary general of the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF)
and ex-leader of the opposition.
Indeed, Amirthalingam was a man who “yearned for a free and
honorable life for the Tamil people in their land without the
torments that have afflicted them,” and in his time “roamed the
world seeking justice for the Tamils,” and in his own way
“exposed the atrocities of the Sinhala state and its occupying
military to the world.”
More importantly, when Amirthalingam made a statement or
levelled a charge, it carried weight and credibility. It was
taken seriously at international levels. His complaints could
not be dismissed lightly as Tiger propaganda.
This was not the case with Sivanesan, a Tiger acolyte, whose
‘propaganda’ was limited mainly to pro-Tiger Tamil media.
Against this backdrop, the ‘Sinhala-dominated’ Sri Lankan state
had more to fear from a man like Amirthalingam than a man like
Sivanesan. But who killed Amirthalingam?
It was not the ‘Sinhala’ state but the self-styled saviours of
the Sri Lankan Tamil people. It was the Tigers who murdered
Amirthalingam in cold blood!
When news of Amirthalingam’s death was conveyed to then
Opposition Leader Sirima Bandaranaike, her immediate reaction
was, “Who did it?” On being told it was the LTTE, she
spontaneously exclaimed, “Thank God, no Sinhalese did it!”
The point behind invoking the Amirthalingam assassination in
this context is to illustrate three related points.
Firstly, the so-called ‘Sinhala’ state or government is not the
only agency killing Tamil MPs or ex-MPs. This has been going on
for a long time and Sivanesan was not the first Tamil
Secondly, more Tamil Parliamentarians have been killed by Tamil
and not Sinhala assassins. Even in the case of Sivanesan, there
is reason to believe that the actual LRRP perpetrators were
Of course, the state bears a moral responsibility in killings
done by paramilitary ‘dogs of war.’ Yet, the fact remains that
Tamil hands have shed more Tamil ‘Parliamentarian’ blood than
Thirdly, many Tamil groups and organisations were involved at
various stages and levels in this bloodshed. Yet the LTTE is
responsible for killing more Tamil MPs, ex-MPs and other major
Tamil political leaders than any other Tamil organisation.
In fact, this pattern of assassinating Tamil political leaders
was pioneered and developed by the very same LTTE that is
hypocritically mourning and condemning Sivanesan’s killing now.
January 1 this year saw UNP Colombo District MP Thiagarajah
Maheswaran being killed on the premises of Shree
Ponnambalavaneswarar Sivan Temple in Kotahena. Maheswaran was
about to return home after worshipping when he was shot dead.
The first assassination
However, when the ongoing saga of Tamil political
assassinations first began on July 25, 1975, it was a man on his
way to worship at the Varadarajapperumaal Vishu Temple at
Ponnalai who was shot outside the Kovil.
This was Jaffna Mayor Alfred Durayappa, who though a Christian
by birth, became a sort of theosophist in later life and used to
worship at Hindu temples also.
Durayappa was the independent MP for Jaffna in 1960 March and
July. He contested as an SLFP-backed independent in 1970 and
lost by a tiny margin of 56 to C.X. Martyn of the Federal Party.
Durayappa was the uncrowned king of Jaffna Municipal politics
and had been mayor many times or installed his supporters as
He disavowed communal politics and steered clear of both the FP
and Tamil Congress. These parties called Durayappa a “thurogi,”
The killing of Durayappa was the first time a Tamil ex-MP or
mayor was assassinated. Seven Tamil youths were charged in court
and later acquitted.
Prabhakaran was not one among them but his name transpired
during court proceedings. Later in a media interview Prabhakaran
was to boast of the Durayappa assassination as his first
Tamil militant mood
The 1970-’77 period saw many amateurish assassination
attempts of Tamil MPs supportive of Sirima Bandaranaike’s
government, but none of them were successful.
It was the Tamil ultranationalist poet Kathamuthu Sivananthan,
known as Kasi Ananthan, who articulated the Tamil militant mood
by declaring publicly, “The six traitors who voted for the
Republican Constitution of 1972 must not have natural deaths.”
The six Tamil MPs referred to by Kasi Ananthan were C.
Arulambalam, A. Thiyagarajah, C.X. Martyn, C. Kumarasuriar, M.C.
Subramaniam and Rajan Selvanayagam.
The 1977 elections saw 18 TULF members in Parliament. All of
them were elected on a mandate for Tamil Eelam.
One of them was M. Canagaretnam, the second MP for Pottuvil, who
had worked in Singapore as a civilian employee of the Indian
National Army of “Netaji” Subash Chandrabose.
Much was made of this Netaji connection during the TULF election
campaign. But Canagaretnam crossed over to the UNP during the
budget period of 1977.
In a heated atmosphere, Amirthalingam burst out in Parliament
that a thunderbolt would fall on Canagaretnam.
On February 4, 1978, Junius Richard Jayewardene became executive
president by way of the Second Amendment to the Republican
On the same day an assassination attempt was made on
Canagaretnam in Colombo. He survived but his health deteriorated
and he died after some months. The LTTE (undivided then) was
The 1981 elections to the District Development Councils (DDC)
saw former Karainagar Hindu College Principal Dr. A.
Thiyagarajah contesting on the UNP ticket.
He was the Vaddukkoddai MP elected on the Tamil Congress ticket
in 1970, who later crossed over to government ranks.
Thiyagarajah was killed at Moolai while addressing an election
meeting. The People’s Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE)
The LTTE had split and a strong Tiger contingent had come
together as the PLOTE, under Umamaheswaran. The PLOTE wanted to
disrupt the DDC polls.
The July 1983 anti-Tamil pogrom saw the political situation
transformed. The Sixth Amendment to the Constitution saw
secessionism being disavowed. This resulted in many TULF
Parliamentarians going abroad.
Among those who remained in Sri Lanka were former MPs for
Manipay, Point Pedro, Udupiddy and Kopay – V. Dharmalingam, K.
Thurairatnam. S. Rasalingam and M. Aalaalasundaram in Jaffna,
and Mannar MP P. Soosaidasan and Vaddukkoddai MP Dr. Neelan
Tiruchelvam in Colombo.
The India-sponsored talks between the government and Tamil
representatives were held at the Bhutanese capital of Thimphu in
1985. The talks broke down.
Subsequently there was some disagreement among Tamil
representatives with the TULF, supported by PLOTE, taking up one
stance and the rest another.
The Tamil Eelam Liberation Organisation (TELO) led by Sri
Sabaratnam wanted to teach a lesson to the TULF. The TELO
decided to target the affable, left-leaning Dharmalingam.
“Dharmar” was not only from the TULF but also the father of
current PLOTE Chief Siddharthan, who was then the PLOTE
representative at Thimphu talks.
In order to avoid suspicion, the TELO also decided to ‘dump’
(euphemism for kill) Aalaalasundaram. “Aalaal” as he was called
was a relative of Sri Sabaratnam and regarded as being close to
Therefore, if Aalaal was killed along with Dharmar, suspicion
would not fall on the TELO, it was believed.
So Aalaal was taken away from his house at gunpoint and
compelled to call out to an unsuspecting Dharmar. Later both
This double killing indicated the depths to which the Tamil
militant movement had sunk. Also, the very same TULF that flayed
its political rivals as “treacherous weeds needing to be weeded
out” was now at the receiving end of Tamil militant violence.
The Indo-Lanka Accord and consequent developments resulted in
the political situation transforming again. There was a sharp
intra-Tamil divide, causing bitter polarisation. The LTTE
regarded those being supportive of India as collaborators.
The LTTE used the opportunity provided by the Ranasinghe
Premadasa regime, which began talks with the Tigers in Colombo.
The LTTE began spreading its tentacles in Colombo.
The Tigers identified Amirthalingam, who was once again in
Parliament, as the pivotal force of the TULF and mainstay of
Tamil moderate politics.
Initially, the LTTE tried to lure Amirthalingam to the Wanni
under the guise of peace talks and make him ‘disappear’ there.
But Amir would not swallow the bait.
Then the LTTE tricked the lovable but naive former Jaffna MP
Vettrivelu Yogeswaran into promoting a TULF-LTTE dialogue in
Three Tiger operatives went to the TULF Bullers Lane residence
on July 13, 1989 and met with Amirthalingam, Yogeswaran and TULF
President and ex-Nallur MP Murugesu Sivasithamparam.
After eating biscuits and drinking tea, the Tigers pulled out
their guns and fired.
A startled Sivasithamparam rose up suddenly from his seat. The
bullets aimed at the head hit the six-footer in the chest. Thus,
the TULF President survived with injuries. But Amir and Yoges
The bodyguards at the residence managed to shoot dead all three
assassins. Visu and Aloysius were killed upstairs and Arivu
Tragically, the bodyguards had been forced to allow the Tigers
inside with weapons because of a ‘request’ made by Yogeswaran
Apparently, Yogeswaran had said that the Tigers were feeling
‘insulted’ over being searched and asked the security to refrain
from doing so.
This was how LTTE assassins broke all cultural norms of Tamil
hospitality (virunthombal) and assassinated Amir and Yoges.
The very same LTTE is now shedding copious tears over the
killing of TNA Parliamentarians.
Spate of killings
In 1990 June the LTTE struck in Madras (now Chennai). The Eelam
People’s Revolutionary Liberation Front (EPRLF) was having a
meeting at Zackaria Colony in Kodambakkam. A Tiger hit squad
invaded and sprayed bullets.
Among those killed were EPRLF Leader Padmanabha, North-East
Provincial Minister Kirubaharan and Parliamentarian Yogasangari.
Current EPRLF leader and MP Suresh Premachandran had a
miraculous escape as he had left the place a few minutes with
another to smoke a cigarette outside.
The EPRLF had contested Parliament under the TULF umbrella in
1989. Yogasangari was elected from Jaffna District. He was the
nephew (brother’s son) of present TULF President Veerasingham
Some weeks later the LTTE struck again in Colombo. Batticaloa
District MP Sam Thambimuttu and wife Kala were on their way to
the Canadian High Commission to get a visa when a Tiger assassin
on a motorcycle fired and killed them both.
Sam Tambimuttu was a long-standing member of the FP and then the
TULF but was now with the EPRLF. His wife Kala was the daughter
of former FP senator Manickam. Their Tamil nationalist
credentials were impeccable, but were perceived as traitors by
The next TULF MP to be killed by the LTTE was former Trincomalee
District MP Arunasalam Thangathurai in 1997. He was killed while
returning from a school function. An explosive device was flung
and some teachers and government officials were also killed.
Then Dr. Neelan Tiruchelvam was assassinated on July 29, 1999 in
Colombo while on his way to his office in Kynsey Terrace when a
suicide killer blew himself up.
Dr. Tiruchelvam had played a key role in maintaining TULF
independence and also in attempting to reform the Constitution
into accommodating Tamil rights.
After Dr. Tiruchelvam’s death, the ‘soul’ went out of the TULF.
The bulk of what was left of the TULF simply prostrated itself
before the LTTE and accepted Tiger hegemony.
Only Anandasangaree, elected TULF president after
Sivasithamparam’s demise, rebelled against Tiger overlordship.
He remains virtually a solitary TULF figure ‘unbowed and
unafraid’ against the LTTE.
Another Tamil MP from the PLOTE was also killed by the LTTE
during the ’90s of the 20th Century.
This was Shanmuganathan, alias Vasanthan, who was elected in
1994 from the Wanni electoral district. The vehicle he was
travelling in was hit by a Tiger landmine in Vavuniya.
Meanwhile, the EPRLF breakaway faction led by Kathiravelu
Devananda alias Douglas had formed itself into the Eelam
People’s Democratic Party (EPDP).
Using the ‘captive’ votes of the islands of Jaffna, the EPDP,
with about 10,000 votes, got nine seats from Jaffna District.
The rest of the voters lived in LTTE-controlled areas and were
not allowed to vote by the Tigers.
One of those elected on the EPDP ticket was Nadarajah
Atputharajah, alias Ramesh, who edited the Thinamurasu weekly.
Serious differences arose between Douglas and Ramesh with the
latter gradually following a pro-Tiger line in the Thinamurasu
tabloid. Douglas found it increasingly difficult to control
Then Ramesh and his brother-in-law were shot dead at Wellawatte.
With that killing, Douglas re-established control over the
paper. Though the LTTE was blamed by Douglas, it was widely
suspected that it was an internal EPDP killing.
Ramesh’s death triggered off an exodus of EPDP Parliamentarians
to foreign countries. Today Devananda is the lone EPDP MP in
None of those elected as MPs from the EPDP are in the party
today except for Devananda’s uncle Sivathasan and Batticaloa’s
Most of the EPDP ex-Parliamentarians are abroad and many of
them, in their refugee claims, have blamed the Ramesh killing on
Douglas. This speaks volumes about the inner democracy within
Another MP from the TULF was killed in the east in 2000.
Nimalanayagam Soundaranayagam was elected from Batticaloa
District. He was regarded as being close to the LTTE. He was
shot dead near Kiran.
Initially, most people including this writer thought the LTTE
was not responsible as Nimalan was perceived as pro-Tiger. The
story behind the killing came to light gradually.
The LTTE Eastern Regional Commander of the time, “Col.” Karuna
had asked Nimalan to smuggle in two Tiger suicide killers to
Parliament. This was refused.
This defiance was strongly resented by the LTTE. Suspecting
perhaps that Nimalan may leak out the matter, Karuna ordered his
‘Tiger Nominated Agents’
The 21 Century saw the TULF, Tamil Congress, sections of the
TELO and EPRLF submitting to LTTE authority. The newly-formed
TNA consisted of all four entities and became a Tiger lackey.
As the EPDP’s Devananda is fond of saying, the TNA began to mean
‘Tiger Nominated Agents.’
Surrendering to the LTTE ensured TNA safety at the hands of the
Tigers, but made it vulnerable in another sense.
Also complicating matters was the split in the LTTE where a
sizeable section of the eastern Tigers revolted under the
leadership of Karuna and formed the Tamil Makkal Viduthalai
During the Parliamentary elections of 2004, TNA candidate Rajan
Sathiyamoorthy and his brother-in-law were shot dead by the
mainstream LTTE at their home.
Sathiyamoorthy was close to Karuna who staged a grand funeral
for him and buried him with honours. In the night the LTTE dug
his body up and threw it elsewhere in a half-burnt state.
The Tigers also forced another elected MP from Batticaloa,
Kingsley Rajanayagam, to resign his seat. Kingsley was perceived
as a Karuna loyalist.
After a while, when the Tigers suspected that the Karuna faction
would take on a political role with Rajanayagam’s help, they
assassinated him in Batticaloa.
Roles were reversed as the TMVP and EPDP, with state
backing, began to adopt an aggressive approach. However, the
killing of Tamil Parliamentarians and ex-MPs continued.
Former Ampara District TNA Parliamentarian Chandranehru
Ariyanayagam, along with LTTE Political Commissar for Batticaloa
Kausalyan and some others, were killed at Welikanda on the
This was done by the Karuna faction led in the field by
Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan, alias Pillaiyan. The armed forces
were accused of aiding and abetting the killing.
Veteran eastern Tamil politician and TNA National List MP Joseph
Pararajasingham was shot dead at the St. Mary’s Cathedral in
It was on Christmas Eve and Joseph and his wife Sugunam had
received Holy Communion from Batticaloa Catholic Bishop Kingsley
Swampillai and were returning to their pews.
The TMVP’s Sitha, alias Pradeep, and another, entered the church
and shot them. Again, security force collaboration was visible.
Later Trincomalee TNA stalwart Vickneswaran was to be appointed
in Pararajasingham’s place. Vickneswaran was assassinated in his
office just 24 hours before he was to be nominated. The TMVP was
responsible. Subsequently Chandranehru’s son Chandrakanth was
nominated as National List MP.
Jaffna District TNA Parliamentarian Nadarajah Raviraj was the
next TNA victim. He was shot dead in broad daylight in Colombo
just as he left home with his bodyguard.
The EPDP was implicated in this killing. The killers are
suspected of having hidden in a place of worship before taking
on their target. The slow ‘progress’ of the investigation makes
many suspect high-level connivance in the killing.
The EPDP also struck in Jaffna when former TULF Jaffna District
Parliamentarian Sivamaharajah was killed. Since Sivamaharajah
was also running a newspaper, his killing was seen as being a
His political background was overlooked. Incidentally
Sivamaharajah and Devananda share a common ‘caste’ constituency.
The next Tamil Parliamentarian to be assassinated was the UNP’s
Thiagarajah Maheswaran. He was killed at the Sivan Temple
The EPDP was suspected because of business rivalry between
Devananda and Maheswaran and also because the Colombo District
MP had threatened to expose alleged EPDP killings in Jaffna.
Since the LTTE had tried to kill him in 2004 through an
underworld killer, the LTTE was also suspected.
The brazen attempt by Police Chief Victor Perera to ‘influence’
investigations and point the finger at the Tigers seems to
suggest that the state-backed EPDP was responsible. A massive
cover-up may be in progress.
It is against this backdrop of a very long list of Tamil
Parliamentarian assassinations that the killing of Sivanesan has
to be viewed. The LRRP Deep Penetration Unit is suspected of
If recent history is any indication, this certainly will not be
the last assassination as far as Tamil Parliamentarians are
Today the LTTE and its supporters are lamenting loudly about
elected Tamil Parliamentarians being assassinated. True!
At the same time, the LTTE is being selective in this and does
not mention anything about the Tamil Parliamentarians and ex-MPs
killed by the Tigers themselves.
This article is confined to only the assassinations of Tamil MPs
and Tamil ex-MPs. Many Sinhala political leaders have also been
killed by the LTTE and the JVP.
Likewise, the LTTE has killed at least one Muslim MP and a
Muslim ex-MP. The Tigers have also killed a number of Tamil
politicians who were not Parliamentarians or
Former DDC Chairmen S. Nadarajah and R. Sambandamoorthy and
Mayors like Sarojini Yogeswaran and Pon Sivapalan are but a few
When John F. Kennedy was assassinated, Afro-American radical
Leader Malcolm X said, “The chickens have come home to roost.”
Yet, within months, Malcolm X too was assassinated.
When the LTTE commenced killing Tamil politicians with different
views after dubbing them as traitors, the moderate Tamil
nationalists did not protest.
Soon the guns turned against them. The cancer infected other
groups and also breakaway factions.
Surrendering to the LTTE removed one danger for Tamil
Parliamentarians but rendered them vulnerable to other
What goes around comes around!
The violence continues. The cream of Tamil Parliamentarians was
wiped out by the LTTE. The flotsam and the jetsam are being
eradicated by state-backed Tamil groups.
Tamil Parliamentarians may come and go, but the violence against
them continues like unceasing waves.
What is required now is not selective condemnation of one or the
other side, but a genuine, wholesale rejection of political
Tamils who thought that violence was the way to redress
grievances and achieve aspirations began the armed struggle.
Today the dream has become a nightmare and the very same
violence is reducing the community to a sad plight.
The assassinations of Tamil MPs and Tamil ex-MPs are but a
microcosm of the violent destruction enveloping Tamil society.
What Tamils society needs today is freedom from the ecology of
the gun and liberation from an environment of political
Jeyaraj can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)