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 Post Posted: Thu Sep 01, 2005 4:52 pm 

by B.Raman
Copyright © South Asia Analysis Group

Four police officers were killed and 10 others along with two civilians injured on the morning of July 7, 2004, when a woman suspect, who turned out to be a suicide bomber, set off an improvised explosive device (IED) concealed in her person as she was about to be physically searched by the police at the Kollupitya police station in the heart of Colombo located next to the Sri Lankan Prime Minister's official residence. The incident has been attributed to the LTTE, which in keeping with its policy of ensuring the deniability of its suicide missions, has not claimed responsibility for the incident.

2. She had been picked up under suspicious circumstances by the officers responsible for the security of Douglas Devananda, Minister for Hindu Religious Affairs, as she was trying to gain entry into his office and resisted physical checking. She was then taken to the police station for questioning and search. Her action in killing herself before the IED could be discovered would appear to have been meant more to protect herself from detention and interrogation than to kill the police.

3. She was definitely on a suicide mission, but her target was apparently Devananda, a Tamil himself and an acknowledged adversary of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), who had in the past escaped similar attempts, attributed to the LTTE, to eliminate him. He had come in for redoubled anger from the LTTE after some of his recent statements interpreted as sympathetic to self-styled Col. Karuna, the former LTTE commander responsible for its operations in the Batticaloa area of the Eastern Province, who split with Prabhakaran, the LTTE leader, in March last and raised the banner of revolt in the Batticaloa district.. In a series of statements and interviews, he had accused the LTTE's Jaffna-based leadership of following a discriminatory policy against the Tamils of the Eastern Province and of not giving them adequate importance commensurate with their contribution to the LTTE's freedom struggle in the decision-making bodies of the organisation.

4. An offensive launched by the LTTE from around the Easter time in April in the Batticaloa area to put down the revolt by Karuna and those supporting him led to their melting away from the area without offering any resistance. However, this has not led to a re-assertion of the LTTE's authority in the area. While it has claimed to have won back de jure control of the area without facing any resistance from Karuna and his followers, re-assertion of effective de facto control has eluded it even three months after it launched its anti-Karuna operations.

5.While avoiding a direct, frontal confrontation with the numerically superior forces of the LTTE sent by Prabhakaran to reclaim control of the area, small groups of apparently well-motivated, well-trained cadres of Karuna, operating in ones and twos, have managed to keep up a well-planned guerilla campaign against LTTE supporters, killing, through assassinations and other means, nearly 40 of them within a period of three months.

6. The continuing guerilla campaign of Karuna's men poses a dilemma for the Jaffna-based LTTE leadership for the following reasons:

* The successes of Karuna's men would not have been possible without local support in the Batticaloa area. This shows that sections of the local Tamil population apparently share Karuna's perception of the discriminatory nature of the Jaffna-based leadership and its policies.
* The longer the anti-LTTE guerilla campaign lasts, the weaker will become Prabhakaran's claims of enjoying the overwhelming support of the Tamils of the North as well as the East and, hence, of its right to be the interim ruler of both as a prelude to the negotiations with the Sri Lankan Government for a final solution to the aspirations of the Tamils.

* The Eastern province and particularly the Batticaloa District had always been an important recruiting ground for the LTTE and the recruits from the area, including Karuna himself, had played a legendary role in the successful operations of the LTTE--- as members of its conventional units as well as of its Black Tiger suicide squads. Unless and until the LTTE is able to win back not only the effective control of the area, but also the total loyalty of its people---which it had enjoyed in the past, but which it apparently no longer does now--- question marks will remain over its capability to engage in another round of direct military confrontation with the Sri Lankan Armed Forces, should that become tactically necessary in retaliation for the perceived intransigence of the Government.

7. The Jaffna-based LTTE leadership suspects, not without valid reason, that the survival of the Karuna-led resistance movement would not have been possible without the clandestine support of the Sri Lankan Armed Forces, particularly the military intelligence wing. While the Sri Lankan Government has not ruled out the possibility of individual elements in the Army having unauthorisedly helped Karuna in the past, it denies the involvement of the Army as an institution.
8. There are lingering question marks over the role of the Army and the games it might be playing in apparent attempts to divide and weaken the LTTE. It did not attempt to prevent either the induction of LTTE reinforcements into the Eastern Province to crush Karuna's revolt or his escape along with some of his cadres out of the area. Karuna's successful escape might not have been possible without at least some complicity from sections of the Army. Similarly, his continued successes in his guerilla operations and in evading elimination by the LTTE's intelligence wing and the Black Tigers indicate that he enjoys strong protection in a safe sanctuary, which is not possible without the knowledge, if not the complicity, of the Army.

9. The LTTE suspects that Karuna has been co-ordinating the guerilla operations in the Batticaloa area from a safe sanctuary in Colombo. It does not look upon its operations mounted against Karuna and his men as constituting a violation of the cease-fire accord, an interpretation with which the Norwegian monitoring mission seems to agree. At the same time, it looks upon the alleged support of the Sri Lankan Army to Karuna and his men as constituting a violation of the provision of the cease-fire accord, which proscribes the use of paramilitary elements by the Army after the ceasefire.

10. The LTTE seems to hold that it has a right to mount operations to crush the internal revolt, wherever support for the revolt might be forthcoming---not only in Batticaloa, but also from outside. Since it strongly suspects that Karuna is operating from Colombo, it is apparently determined to carry its anti-Karuna operations to Colombo to neutralise not only Karuna and his men, but also others outside the LTTE supporting him. In the LTTE's view, Devananda comes in that category.

11. Kollupitya is the beginning of the extension of its operations to Colombo in its hunt for Karuna and his supporters.

(The writer Is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Distinguished Fellow and Convenor, Observer Research Foundation (ORF), Chennai Chapter. E-mail: corde@vsnl.com )

Copyright © South Asia Analysis Group

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