Sri Lanka President declares ‘victory’ over rebels

Posted in Sri Lanka on May 16, 2009 by The Foodie

By Munza Mushtaq in Colombo

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa today declared the end of his country’s quarter decade war with the Tamil Tiger rebels at the G-11 summit in Jordan.
“I will be going back to a country that has been totally freed from the barbaric acts of the LTTE. This freedom comes after 30 long years,” the president who is scheduled to arrive in Sri Lanka tomorrow declared.

The president’s statements was however made despite continued fighting in a small area of 1.5 square kilometres in the island’s north which continues to be controlled by the LTTE and believe to house several senior rebels including the outfit’s leader Prabhakaran.

“The defeat of the LTTE on the ground heralds a new era in Sri Lanka. It provides all Sri Lankans with a brand new opportunity for peace and development. The liberation of regions hitherto controlled by the LTTE, which amounted to a fourth of Sri Lanka’s land mass, paves the way for democracy to root itself and development to march ahead after decades of conflict. Efforts are already underway to complement the humanitarian mission with a political solution,” Rajapaksa said.

According to the President, his government has so far succeeded in rescuing over 210,000 civilians who were being used as human shields by the LTTE.

He however noted that despite the LTTE’s defeat on the ground, it could well continue to sustain itself overseas. “Our timely action must therefore ensure that the LTTE and other like-minded terrorist groups do not continue to circumvent the law by indulging in illegal operations, through various front organizations located overseas,” the President said.

“Developed and developing countries must recognize this fact and continue to support each other to eliminate terrorism from the face of this earth. It is worthwhile reminding ourselves over and over again that there are no good terrorists and bad terrorists. Terrorism anywhere is terrorism and should be treated in the manner it deserves,” he said.

Rajapaksa also urged the UN and its affiliated organizations to understand the suffering of the people in countries affected by terrorism and pro-actively support legitimately elected governments to eradicate this menace. “Pressure to contain military operations when terrorism is being eliminated can be very frustrating as terrorists through such interventions will get another lease of life. Countries that are successfully progressing to eliminate terrorism must be encouraged through assistance for purposes of development by international lending institutions without being ‘put on hold’,” he added.

Sri Lanka’s bloody war, on its last leg

Posted in Sri Lanka on May 16, 2009 by The Foodie

By Munza Mushtaq in Colombo, Sri Lanka

The next few hours will prove to be the most crucial in Sri Lanka’s quarter century long ethnic conflict, as government troops made their final push mercilessly flushing out the Tamil Tiger terrorists who are on the verge of total collapse and trapped within a mere two square kilometres of land in the island nation’s embattled north.

Just hours after Sri Lanka’s President Mahinda Rajapaksa declared that his soldiers would end the island’s bloody civil strife in 48 hours which expires Saturday; security forces overran the entire coastal area held by the rebels, taking control of the island’s entire coastline cutting off any sea escape for Tamil Tiger leaders trapped in remaining rebel territory.

The rebels more commonly known as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and dubbed as one of the most ruthless terrorist organizations in the world are now trapped alongside with approximately 50,000 civilians in a tiny land area.

“Now we have linked up on the coastline and the Sea Tigers’ activities are no more,” military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara said.

He said that the rebels are now confined within a land area slightly less than two square kilometres and troops were continuing to advance in their effort to capture the remaining land area from the LTTE.

According to the military spokesman, military intelligence also indicates that the terrorist organisation’s elusive leader Velupillai Prabhakaran and other senior Tigers are trapped in the remaining LTTE territory.

Both the military and the LTTE are now engaged in close-quarter combat, it is learnt which has also resulted in heavy casualties to both sides.

Amidst military advances, international concern has also grown owing to mounting civilian causalities over the past few days with humanitarian organizations in the likes of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) ceasing operations in the conflict zone citing security concerns and warning of a looming humanitarian catastrophe.

“Our staff are witnessing an unimaginable humanitarian catastrophe,” Pierre Krahenbuhl, ICRC director of operations, said in a statement. “Despite high-level assurances, the lack of security on the ground means that our sea operations continue to be stalled, and this is unacceptable.”

United Nation’s Secretary General Ban Ki-moon rushed his chief of staff, Vijay Nambiar, to Sri Lanka for a second time to try to bring the conflict to a peaceful conclusion but an adamant Sri Lankan government who was near ‘victory’ was refusing to pause the onslaught against the rebels.

According to the UN, 7,000 civilians have been killed and 16,700 wounded in the fighting from January 20 until May 7. More than 200,000 civilians have escaped the war zone in recent months and are being held in displacement camps.

According to the Government Information Department, the number of civilian influx from rebel controlled territory to government controlled territory since Thursday alone has been approximately 16,000.

However, as the 48 hour deadline neared, security in the country’s commercial capital was also strengthened fearing a backlash after police found four explosive-laden suicide jackets in a plush apartment complex in Colombo.

Meanwhile, a pro rebel website claimed that an estimated 1,700 civilians had been killed since Tuesday in military shelling incidents, a claim out rightly denied by the government.

However despite the government denying using heavy and artillery weapons, satellite images taken on May 10 and analyzed independently have shown what appeared to be new heavy-impact craters in the combat zone.

The LTTE on Saturday warned that a conventional victory would only mean a new phase of conflict galvanised by the deaths of Tamils, a pro-rebel web site quoted a senior Tamil Tiger leader as saying.

“Colombo’s approach to finish the war in 48 hours through a carnage and bloodbath of civilians will never resolve a conflict of decades,” S. Pathmanathan was quoted as saying.

“On the contrary it will only escalate the crisis to unforeseen heights,” Pathmanathan, who has been the Tigers’ chief weapons procurer and is wanted by Interpol, said.
Meanwhile, Sri Lanka also dismissed a US threat to link a nearly two-billion-US-dollar International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout package to ending the war-torn island’s humanitarian crisis.

“The lending rules of the International Monetary Fund did not suggest political factors could be looked at when deciding on funding,” Sri Lanka’s Central Bank Governor Nivard Cabraal was quoted saying.

His comments was in reaction to a statement made by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who said it was not the right time to consider the bailout as Colombo and the Tamil rebels had failed to stop fighting which the UN says has led to a “bloodbath” for civilians.

“We think it is not an appropriate time to consider that (loan) until there is a resolution of the conflict,” Clinton told reporters in Washington.

Despite Clinton’s remarks, Cabraal said he was confident the rescue package would be approved.

Meanwhile, IMF President Stauss Kahn was reported to have said that Sri Lanka does need IMF help, and a decision on the matter would be reached during the coming weeks.

AI tells UN to try Sri Lanka’s human rights violators

Posted in Sri Lanka on May 14, 2009 by The Foodie

By Munza Mushtaq

Amnesty International (AI) today urged the United Nation’s Security Council to stress individual responsibility for crimes under international law and to ensure the creation of a commission of inquiry, as a first step towards establishing accountability for alleged breaches of international humanitarian and human rights law during the quarter century long Sri Lankan conflict.

The international human rights organization also called on the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) to immediately heed demands by the Security Council and similar calls made by US President Barack Obama and allow tens of thousands of civilians to leave the ‘No Fire Zone’.

Amnesty International welcomed the Security Council’s statement as a first step in addressing the humanitarian and human rights crisis in Sri Lanka but called for an end to the use of heavy calibre weapons and for the UN, the Red Cross (ICRC) and other humanitarian organizations to be allowed immediate access to the 50,000 civilians, or more, trapped in the ‘No Fire Zone’ on the island’s north east coast.

“The Security Council must now ensure that its demands are promptly implemented, that the situation in Sri Lanka is formally put on the Council’s agenda and kept under close review. It also needs to address accountability for the grave violations of international humanitarian and human rights law by both parties in future” said Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Director.

Amnesty International welcomed separate statements from the Security Council and President Obama condemning the LTTE for its use of civilians as human shields and calling on the government to take urgent action to ensure the safety of civilians. The Security Council told the Sri Lankan government to fulfil its commitment not to use heavy calibre weapons in areas with high concentrations of civilians – a promise it has broken in recent weeks – causing the death of many civilians.

AI’s Secretary General, Irene Khan, wrote on 12 May to the Security Council calling for immediate action to address the appalling situation in the ‘No Fire Zone’. She expressed grave concern about the large numbers of civilians being killed, including many children and warned of growing evidence that the government and the LTTE are committing serious violations of international humanitarian law

Civilian bloodbath overshadows Sri Lanka’s winning streak

Posted in Sri Lanka on May 12, 2009 by The Foodie

By Munza Mushtaq in Colombo, Sri Lanka

A weekend bloodbath which killed scores of innocent civilians including at least 100 children in Sri Lanka’s Northern Province has overshadowed the South Asian nation’s winning battle with one of the world’s most ruthless terrorist organizations, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

The bloodbath blamed on the government security forces who had allegedly shelled rebel territory over the weekend is believed to have killed some 380 civilians including 100 children who continued to be trapped in rebel territory, said the United Nations which stressed that the organisation’s ‘worst fears’ was now coming true.

Thousands of trapped civilians fell victim to a barrage of artillery shells by government troops meant to be for the rebels who are now cornered to some four square kilometres of land in the northern province, where it once dominated.
UN spokesman in Colombo Gordon Weiss alleged that according to government doctors working inside the Safe Zone some 380 civilians including more than 100 children were killed and at least 1100 more injured.
“We warned of a bloodbath taking place and now we are seeing that happening”. Weiss said.

The government has however flatly rejected the UN claims and have blamed the incident on the rebels and have also emphasized that the claimed made by the organisation which went by a statement by government doctors lacked a certain amount of authenticity.
“The Government utterly rejects these claims of civilian casualties being caused by shelling from the security forces on May 9th and 10th. The Government notes that there is no independent verification possible to the tenuous security situation caused by the LTTE’s last-ditch attempts to save itself from military annihilation. The Government’s view is that to treat the doctor’s statement as evidence of irrefutable and incontrovertible fact is unwise. It is patently obvious that any story coming out of areas unlawfully occupied by the LTTE does not emanate without the imprimatur of that organization. To treat the statement of any official (albeit one employed by the Government) living under the domination of the LTTE as independent and believable is extremely risky in reaching an objective conclusion on the current situation. The video footage supposedly of the no-fire zone which is attributed to a Tamil pressure group is also of dubious provenance and probative value,” the statement issued by the Sri Lankan government stated.

The incident has however being roundly condemned by the world led by the United Nations General Secretary Ban Ki-Moon who said he was appalled by the incident.
The secretary-general also reiterated his call upon the parties to the conflict to stop using heavy caliber weaponry, including mortars, in the areas with high civilian concentrations and pressed both sides ‘in the strongest terms possible,’ to adhere to their obligations under international humanitarian law, reminding them that the world is watching events in Sri Lanka closely.
“The LTTE must allow the remaining civilians in the conflict zone — estimated by the United Nations to be more than 50,000 — to leave immediately, and urged the government to bring the conflict to an end “without further bloodshed,” he said.

Colombo however struck to its guns and continues to reject a worldwide appeal for a pause in fighting saying a pause in fighting at this stage would prove beneficial to the rebels.

Sri Lanka gears for its deadliest and bloodiest bath ever

Posted in Sri Lanka on April 24, 2009 by The Foodie

By Munza Mushtaq

Colombo – As the stage is set for the deadliest and bloodiest final showdown in Sri Lanka’s three decade long ethnic conflict, the Sri Lankan government and its security forces are set to go all out against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) who snubbed a 24-hour government ultimatum to surrender which expired early this week.

While the security forces and the Tiger terrorists battle it out in northern Sri Lanka, despite mounting international pressure urging both sides to lay down arms and go in for political negotiations, a large number of civilians trapped in the fighting zone appeared to be paying the price for ‘peace’ with life.

The government portrayed an overly ‘rosy’ picture announcing only the positives of the ongoing operations in the north which included a massive rescue mission of civilians who were trapped within a rebel controlled 20 square kilometre area in the Northern Province. The mission which was launched on Monday has seen more than 100,000 civilians being rescued so far from LTTE controlled areas. The rescue mission dubbed as one of the largest humanitarian operations in the world by the country’s Defence Ministry is continuing and according to unofficial information an estimated approximately 20,000 civilians continue to be trapped in this area.

The rescue mission however appeared to have been flawed with the terrorists accusing the military of killing at least 1000 Tamil civilians and injuring nearly 2300 after using them as human shields during its operations and via shelling. The accusation has however been flatly rejected by both the government and the military who claimed the rebels allegations as ‘utter rubbish and false propaganda in the face of imminent defeat.’

The military on the other hand has accused the LTTE of firing at civilians who were fleeing from rebel controlled territory. No independent verification is available to the media on both counts as private media has been barred from traveling to the conflict zone, however both parties have issued photographs and video clips to back their claims, the authenticity of which are questionable.

Meanwhile, the New York based Human Rights Watch (HRW) in a statement Tuesday accused the Sri Lankan army of using heavy artillery in attacks on densely populated areas and urged the military and the terrorist organization to take all feasible precautions to minimize harm to civilian life and property.

“The continuing laws of war violations by both the Sri Lankan army and the LTTE indicate the need for a United Nations commission of inquiry to investigate war crimes by both sides,” Human Rights Watch said.
Since January, both sides have shown little regard for the safety of civilians in the embattled Vanni region in the country’s north, and more than 4,500 civilians are believed to have died in the fighting, according to United Nations estimates.

“The LTTE has violated the laws of war by using civilians as “human shields,” by preventing civilians from fleeing the combat zone, and by deliberately deploying their forces close to densely populated civilian areas. The Sri Lankan armed forces have indiscriminately shelled densely populated areas, including hospitals, in violation of the laws of war,” the HRW noted.

Despite suffering from heavy defeats, the LTTE is also putting up strong resistance and has announced that it will never surrender but will continue to fight head on with the military. “The LTTE and the fight for our freedom will also continue. The methods may vary but Sri Lanka will never be able to live in peace, as it imagines a military victory will bring,” the LTTE said in a statement.

According to Sri Lanka’s military spokesman, Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara, the LTTE is now confined to an area less than 20 square kilometres in the north.

“We have received reliable information to the effect that LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran‎ and its intelligence chief Pottu Amman are within this area along with almost the entirety of its cadre base,” Nanayakkara said over telephone.
The military is however not planning to launch a fresh operation to apprehend the LTTE leader who was issued a 24 hour ultimatum on Monday by the President Mahinda Rajapaksa led government asking him and his cadres to surrender and to release all civilians held hostage by the terrorist outfit. Instead, according to Nanayakkara, the military will concentrate on removing the remaining civilians from the LTTE areas and once all civilians are safely moved to government territory, a fresh operation will be launched to apprehend the LTTE leader.

Meanwhile President Mahinda Rajapaksa addressing a private ceremony at his office in Colombo early this week promised to rehabilitate LTTE leader Prabhakaran and his cadres if they lay down arms and surrendered. A call out rightly cold shouldered by the LTTE.

Boosted by its relentless gains in the military front, the Sri Lankan government is showing no signs of ‘cooling down’ and has ignored mounting international pressure advicing Colombo to go slow and minimize civilian casualties.
As Tamil political parties in India intensified pressure on the Indian Government to intervene in the conflict, New Delhi has cautioned Colombo not to be oblivious to the evolving human tragedy and the fate of the Tamil civilian population.
In the US, the Obama Administration expressed its concern, describing conditions for civilians inside the conflict area as terrible.

“We are very concerned about the humanitarian situation there. It is dire,” the State Department’s acting spokesman, Robert Wood said.

President Rajapaksa on Tuesday rejected a fresh call by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown for a fighting pause, citing his government was on the verge of crushing the rebels and putting an end to the quarter-century-long conflict.
The president’s office said in a statement that Rajapaksa deemed a pause ‘unnecessary’ considering the ‘unexpected exodus of civilians’.

(The writer is an independent journalist from Sri Lanka with more than nine years writing experience. A former News Editor, she writes extensively on Sri Lankan political developments and contributes to various local and international media organizations)

Sri Lankan officials in the firing line

Posted in Sri Lanka on January 28, 2009 by The Foodie

By Munza Mushtaq

COLOMBO – As Sri Lanka’s security forces make massive inroads against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), a top United States constitutional lawyer may prove to be an impediment against the military’s accomplishments if he triumphs in getting indictments against two of the island’s very high-profile military officials, both US citizens who are spearheading the offensive against the Tamil Tigers.

If constitutional lawyer Bruce Fein, a former associate deputy attorney general, is successful in what could be termed as anything but a mundane task, Sri Lanka’s controversial Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa and army commander Sarath Fonseka will be the first US citizens to be tried for genocide.

Fein has over the past few weeks been preparing a 1,000-page model indictment against both US citizens for allegedly violating Section 1091 of the United States Criminal Code.

The model indictment is scheduled for publication within two weeks and will be presented to the US Congress, the Department of Justice and the State Department.

The lawyer represents Tamils Against Genocide, a non-profit organization based in the United States, whose mission is to obtain US or international indictments against the two US citizens or green card holders currently serving in the government of Sri Lanka for alleged complicity in genocide, crimes against humanity, or war crimes, including torture and extrajudicial killings, against Sri Lanka’s civilian Tamil population.

The US criminal code punishes genocide, torture, or war crimes perpetrated by United States nationals and non-nationals. Extra-judicial killings may also be sanctioned in US courts under the Torture Victims Protection Act.

The move comes at a time when the government is mulling an end to the three-decade long ethnic conflict with the LTTE, which has been fighting for a separate homeland in Sri Lanka, which has a population of approximately 20 million.

The government security forces on Sunday captured Mullaitivu town, in Northern province, dubbed as the LTTE’s final bastion following a month-long battle. The capture of Mullaitivu comes just days after security forces consolidated and overthrew the rebels from Kilinochchi, which is the LTTE’s headquarters.

Fonseka, in a special address telecasted live on national television, announced that the Tigers were now confined to a 20-by-15 kilometer area, indirectly saying an end to the ethnic strife was very close.

However, while the military onslaught showed no signs of slowing, Fein, delivering a public lecture in the US, stressed that the situation in Sri Lanka was actually not a war against ethnic groups but was in reality a systematic genocide against Tamils by the Lankan government. He said global attention needed to be shifted from the war onto the innocent lives which have fallen to the guns of the Sri Lankan army.

Fein claims he had evidence that points to the systematic deprivation and isolation of Tamil civilians.

He also presented statistical data which claimed to show the Sri Lankan army responsible for at least 3,000 extra-judicial killings and the disappearance of civilians between November 2005 to December 2008. “That is nearly three murders and three disappearances every day,” he said.

For its part, the Sri Lankan government has appointed commissions of inquiry, but they are bogus panels, he charged.

As many as 189 military camps have come up in Tamil areas and no one could wriggle even a finger there without the permission of the Sri Lankan military.

He also disclosed that he had with him thousands of documented evidence, which showed that at least 1 million people had suffered in the form of starvation, deprivation of medicine and displacement due to the ongoing war in Sri Lanka. He noted that the situation had led to a countless number of civilians suffering from psycho-social trauma.

While stressing that garnering support from US politicians for his cause would likely be difficult, he expressed hope that the US media would stand by him.

He also urged the Tamil diaspora to unite and look for cracks within the Rajapaksa government, which will help the case in prosecuting government officials who were responsible for the alleged genocide against the Tamil community in Sri Lanka.

Fein accused the Sri Lankan government of labeling the genocide as counter-terrorism and getting international approval for it. “The model indictment is an effort to make the US and the international community takes notice of the genocide,” he reportedly said.

Despite Fein’s consistent accusations against the two high-profile officials, Professor Rajiva Wijesinha, who functions as the secretary general of the government Peace Secretariat and who is also the human-rights secretary, has challenged the charges and also announced his willingness to engage in public debate with Fein over the issue.

Sri Lanka’s former foreign minister Mangala Samaraweera has also found fault with the United States government and maintains that the US owes an explanation to Sri Lankans for the undemocratic conduct of American citizen Rajapaksa.

Samaraweera, in a strongly worded statement, emphasized that the US, which preaches the importance of democracy, media freedom and the rule of law to the world, should be ashamed of Rajapaksa and his repeated threats on journalists.

The former minister, who serves in the island’s 225-member legislature, noted that Rajapaksa, being an American, cannot be permitted to use resources belonging to the Sri Lankan state, including national television, to spread hate and destroy democracy.

However, a senior Tamil politician had a contrasting opinion when he claimed that despite the charges, in reality the Tamils were not facing a genocide situation in the country and in particular the war-torn North and East provinces.

V Anandasangaree, the leader of the Tamil United Liberation Front, reportedly told civilians in the Northern province of Jaffna that the government was not committing any acts of genocide against Tamils and all such charges were “rubbish and made for petty gains”.

East a liberated ‘hell’, government looking the other way — HRW

Posted in Sri Lanka on November 30, 2008 by The Foodie

By Munza Mushtaq

It was not long ago that President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his government along with the top military brass boasted scrumptiously of the ‘liberation’ of the eastern province from the clutches of the Tamil Tiger rebels, by holding the costly spectacle ‘Nagenahira Navodaya’ at Independence Square mid last year.
But some 14 months later — and a costly spectacle after —- it appears that the so- called liberated eastern province is slipping back to crisis proportions, with an ever swelling human rights abuse record to boot, making thousands of distraught civilians anxious about their future.
A leading international human rights group has brought to light the increasing trend of a deteriorating human rights situation in the eastern province, due to regular kidnappings and killings.
The New York based Human Rights Watch (HRW) in a special report issued Monday, implicated that armed elements of the Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal (TMVP), a government ally was involved in most of the abuses being carried out in the province.

Killings and abductions rife
Highlighting the severity of the issue facing the east, HRW’s Asia Director Brad Adams said that, “The Sri Lankan government says that the ‘liberated’ East is an example of democracy in action and a model for areas recaptured from the LTTE. But killings and abductions are rife, and there is total impunity for horrific abuses.”
Investigations have found that there have been at least 30 extra-judicial killings in the East since September.
In one recent case, the bodies of two young Tamil men who had been detained by the police on October 3, 2008, during a security round-up in the town of Batticaloa, were found on a beach six days later with their hands and legs tied to a concrete pole, the corpses showed signs of severe torture.
The police claimed that the men, Kandasamy Kugathas, 18, and A. Gunaseelan, 26, were released on the morning of October 4. But a family member of one of the men saw them at the police station that evening. A HRW investigation found that the two were taken from their cells at about midnight by men in civilian clothing who had asked for the two by name. “Since the killings, the police have intimidated witnesses into changing their account of the killings and falsified important evidence,” the report claimed.
However, Secretary to the Human Rights Ministry, Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha who also functions as the Secretary General for the government’s peace secretariat denied outright HRW’s allegations of a “prevailing culture of impunity in the province.’’

He insisted that the government is pushing the law enforcement authorities to investigate, arrest and punish the culprits behind all kidnappings and killings, and that despite police being slow to investigate in some instances due to various reasons, there have been arrests made of certain perpetrators.
“For example, in September the police arrested two gangs in Batticaloa and Trincomalee who had been behind a series of kidnappings. After the arrests were made, the kidnappings subsided for a while. And upon investigation we found out that the abductions were carried out entirely for monetary reasons and not for political reasons as claimed by some,” Wijesinha told LAKBIMAnEWS. He however agreed that over the past few weeks, there had being an increase in killings and kidnappings in the East as per reports. “I am not denying that the killings and abductions have stopped altogether. There has been an increase in killings and abductions over the past month or so, but we are pushing the police to investigate and punish the culprits,” the human rights secretary insisted.

The Eastern province kill-list…
On November 2, unidentified gunmen shot and killed five Tamil youth at Kalmunai beach in Ampara district. On October 20, three Sinhalese contractors working in Kokkadichcholai in Batticaloa district were shot dead. On October 16, four farmers, two of them Tamils and two Muslims, were shot dead close to their farmland. The killings were in a restricted area near a Tamil Makkal base, accessible only with a police pass.
In Trincomalee on September 21, Sivakururaja Kurukkal, chief priest of the Koneswaram Temple, was shot dead in broad daylight while riding his motorcycle in a high-security area near several government checkpoints.
In addition to the recent killings, Human Rights Watch reported at least 30 abductions in Akkaraipattu and Addalachchenai divisions in Ampara district in September and October. Witnesses said the abductions were carried out by armed men in civilian clothes who spoke Tamil, suggesting they belonged to the TMVP or other paramilitary groups.
Members of civil society organisations and journalists in the East have also been threatened and attacked. On October 29, Sankarapillai Shantha Kumar, a member of the NGO Consortium in Akkaraipattu, was abducted around midnight from his home and is missing to date.

On September 8, Radhika Thevakumar, a journalist with Thinakaran, who at the time was working for the Pillaiyan faction of the TMVP, was shot and severely wounded in Batticaloa. On September 10, K. Kunarasa, provincial correspondent for the Thinakaran Tamil-language daily in Ampara, received death threats that caused him to severely limit his reporting work.
These and other threats and attacks against journalists have caused the media to curtail reporting on the security situation in the East.
“Many in the East believe that the government has given its blessing to these abuses,” said Adams. “It is important for the government to take action against perpetrators to demonstrate that this is not the case.”
Meanwhile, Colombo district parliamentarian and convener of the Civil Monitoring Commission, Mano Ganesan claimed that the power struggle within the TMVP between its founder leader Karuna and deputy leader Pillaiyan was aggravating the human rights situation in the eastern province.
“There have been instances where TMVP cadres have been killed, and the Karuna and Pillaiyan factions are accusing each other of committing the crime…so this situation is making matters worse in the East,” Ganesan noted.
He also emphasized that the government’s bombast about liberating the Eastern Province does not mean anything to civilians living in the province —- as liberating land will not necessarily grant them a peaceful life.
“Capturing land is not liberation. When impunity prevails and criminal incidents happen, how can people enjoy ‘real liberation’,” Ganesan told LAKBIMAnEWS.
A clash between the two TMVP factions on October 28 in Chenkalady, Batticaloa, resulted in the death of four members, including a 16-year-old who had been forcibly recruited by the group. Five others were reported missing after the incident which included another boy.

Shot dead
On November 14, the president of the TMVP party and Pillaiyan’s private secretary, Kumaraswamy Nandagopan, known as Ragu, and his driver were shot dead in Colombo.
“Far from being a reformed and responsible party ready for government, the TMVP is still actively involved in serious human rights abuses. Instead of holding the group accountable, the Rajapaksa government has provided unqualified support. The government needs to open independent investigations into all serious human rights violations and hold perpetrators accountable,” Adams highlighted in the report.
However, human rights ministry secretary Wijesinha was quick to come to the defence of the TMVP noting that despite accusations leveled against the party by the HRW, it was the TMVP that was the actual victim here, as the party had lost several of its cadres during the past few weeks. He implicated the LTTE in TMVP cadre killings, adding the LTTE was now ‘very desperate’ as they were losing ground in all areas.
“The HRW has failed to mention anything about the LTTE, they have instead found fault with the victim (TMVP), and not the culprit (LTTE),” he noted.
He also reiterated that the government will not force the TMVP to disarm, as it realizes the threats the TMVP is facing from the terrorists. – M.M