Submission to LLRC Part XII: To-date, Sri Lanka has failed to inquire into the 1990 killing of 600 innocent Policemen. Why?
The question is still being posed why successive governments including the present one have failed to inquire into the killing of innocent policemen by the Tigers? It is learnt that at present the Sri Lanka Government is in a position bring those responsible for those killings before a court of law. Why so far no action has been taken?
Even at the second round of talks between the government and the LTTE, held from June 16 to July 2-1989 at the Hilton International Hotel, the reclusive leader Prabakaran did not emerge but the LTTE delegation in Colombo was in constant radio contact with him for the duration of the talks.
The LTTE managed to convince the Sri Lankan delegation and the president that they were under intense attack by the IPKF, particularly because they were directly negotiating with the Sri Lankan government.
On July 2, the parties concentrated on the controversial letter from Rajiv Gandhi. LTTE delegates expressed regret that India had simply ignored the cessation of hostilities.
Adele Balasingham, the official "note-taker" of the talks, wrote about the last day's deliberations of the second round of talks in her The Will to Freedom, as follows:
"Insofar as ceasefire between the IPKF and the LTTE was concerned, Mr Gandhi had stipulated two conditions, the Tiger delegates argued. One was that the LTTE should resume surrendering arms and second was that it should renounce violence against all other citizens of the Northeast.
The disarming task of the IPKF was a total failure. The very de-commissioning process transformed a bloody war into a protracted war and the IPKF turned into a killing machine and thousands of innocent Tamils perished in the process. Since the peace talks had been initiated by the Sri Lankan president, a dramatic new situation had arisen and India should face the objective reality.
"The negotiations between the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE were taking place unconditionally, without the obligatory constraints of the Indo-Sri Lankan accord. The question of possession or de-possession of arms was now an issue between Sri Lanka and the LTTE and had to be resolved through the negotiations between the parties to the conflict. Therefore, the LTTE delegates suggested that the Sri Lankan government should impress upon India that the question of the responsibility of resolving the issue of arms lay with the government of Sri Lanka.
"Furthermore, the Tiger delegates urged the government to register strong protests with Delhi over the building up of a powerful military machine in the name of the Tamil National Army. Under the cover of the disarming process, the IPKF was actively involved in a massive militarization program in the Northeast, the Tigers charged.
With regard to the second demand, the LTTE was prepared to extend the ceasefire to 'all citizens of the Northeast, if India gave a guarantee that IPKF and its quislings armed groups cease violence against the Tigers', the LTTE delegate said.
The Tigers were also prepared to enter into the democratic political process. But it was only possible if the Indian armed forces occupying the Tamil homeland were totally withdrawn, the Tigers declared. The government delegation assured the LTTE that President Premadasa would take up on the issues raised by the LTTE with the Indian prime minister." - pages 241-242
Against this backdrop came an announcement by the Northeast Provincial Council's chief, Varatharaja Perumal, the Chief Minister, that the Tamil National Army would commence operations against the LTTE. Immediately, Anton Balasingham called for an urgent meeting with A C S Hameed to explain the ground situation. He said that, angered by Premadasa's aggressive diplomacy, the Indian Army and the Tamil militant forces were determined to destroy the LTTE and its leadership. As New Delhi's fury was now turned against the LTTE, Balasingham cleverly appealed to Sri Lankan government for arms and ammunition for the LTTE, to defend itself against the joint assault of the IPKF and the Tamil National Army.
After a lengthy discussion, Hameed agreed to convey the request to the president. The following night, Hameed, along with General Sepala Atyagalle, the Defense Secretary, went to the Hilton Hotel to meet Balasingham and other LTTE delegates. They told Balasingham that the president had agreed to help. They further said that as it was a very sensitive issue, there was every chance of the Sri Lankan Army getting very upset, so the help would be rendered covertly.
The LTTE delegates, in consultation with Prabakaran, produced a list of weapons, and within a week the government delivered the arms and ammunition to the Tigers through a Sri Lankan army camp located along the borders at Weli Oya (Manal Aru), in the Mullaithievu region.
According to Rohan Gunaratna, in his Indian Intervention in Sri Lanka:
"Subsequently several truckloads of weapons and ammunition were given to the LTTE from the arms and ammunition stockpiles of the armed forces of Sri Lanka. Later, arms and ammunition were imported through Colombo by the LTTE for the LTTE, mostly T-56 and FNC weapons and corresponding ammunition. Confirming this, Ms Srimavo R D Bandaranaike, the SLFP leader, states that 'Eleven lorry loads of arms have gone to them.' She also stated that army trucks loaded with arms and ammunition left the harbor to a number of destinations through the Panagoda army camp, carrying arms and ammunition for the LTTE. Often they were driven to Vavuniya, to Weli Oya and handed over to LTTE cadres.
"The Sri Lankan Ministry of Defense helped with the purchase, transportation, clearance and security consignment. On one occasion, Major Bohran, Yogi, Lawrence and Shanker helicoptered to Weli Oya to receive the arms and ammunition which were brought by the land. Among the other imports which came through the STF base at Katukurunda were consignments of finger and hand cuffs, batons, torches, etc for the LTTE police force, air guns from London for the training of the LTTE cadres, huge drills and powerful communication equipment. The LTTE had established their own communication lines from Katukurunda to Colombo, and towards the Northeast covering Batticaloa, Trincomalee, Vavuniya, Jaffna and South India, but their communication was monitored both by Sri Lanka and Indian intelligence." - page 300
According to M R Naryan Swamy, in his Tigers of Lanka, from Boys to Guerillas,
"This was not the first time the LTTE had got weapons from the Sri Lankan state. The first batch of arms was given in June 1988, by Brigadier Denzil Kobbekaduwa of the Sri Lankan Army (SLA). Brig. Kobbekaduwa approached the LTTE's Trincomalee chief, Padaman, and asked him to stop killing Sinhalese villagers. He promised in return that the Tigers would be given arms and not disturbed when they used the areas bordering the northeast sanctuary to escape the IPKF heat. It was a virtual carte blanche to inflict losses on the Indian troops in the northeast and flee into the Sinhalese-populated areas outside the region, so that the IPKF could not hunt them down. The weapons supplied by Brig Kobbekaduwa were collected by the Tigers from the SLA's Adampan army camp in Mannar. But the arms deal could not last long. Once Jayewardene was informed about this by the Indians, he had it stopped at once." - pages 303-304
Indian Autonomy Style for Tamils
Rajiv Gandhi was accommodative, but he told of his own concerns and compulsions. He explained that India had signed an Accord as guarantor, with the promise that India would obtain for the Tamils such autonomy as was enjoyed by the Indian states. It was on that promise that the Tamil militant groups had agreed to lay down their arms and enter mainstream of politics.
Rajiv Gandhi said, "If Colombo devolves power to the Tamils, I will gladly recall my troops. Tell your government to honor its obligations. Tell your president that I am not prepared to be called a betrayer by the Tamils. Tell your president that I have very good working arrangements with former president Jayewardene and I would like to have a similar relationship with him."
Accordingly, the Indian government held strongly that a troop pull-out was linked with the implementation of the terms of the accord. The Government reiterated its offer of negotiations on the devolution of powers to the North-East Provincial Council and the IPKF withdrawal.
Rajiv Gandhi responded to Ranasinghe Premadasa's telex message of July 4, 1989, as follows:
"Dear Mr President,
"I have your letters of 30th June and 5th July. I do not wish to enter into a debate on various interpretations of mutual obligations assumed by your sovereign nation. These are quite clear. I also do not wish to go into the validity of assertions like the LTTE having resumed violence on 2nd August 1987, whereas the arms surrender started and the amnesty letter was handed over by the Sri Lankan government to the LTTE three days later. We should let facts speak for themselves.
"There is an agreement between our two countries. This agreement is meant to preserve the unity and the integrity of Sri Lanka and to ensure the safety, security and legitimate interests of the Tamils. Nearly a thousand Indian soldiers have made the supreme sacrifice in the fulfillment of India's obligations as the guarantor of this agreement. Since the signing of this agreement, not only have the Provincial Council elections been held, but also parliamentary and presidential elections. The situation in the North-Eastern Province is far more settled and peaceful than elsewhere in Sri Lanka. Despite all this, the devolution package promised to the Tamils has not been implemented. These are incontrovertible facts.
"Both of us agree that IPKF should be withdrawn. Both of us agree that we have commenced the withdrawal before you asked for it. A broad timeframe for the IPKF's withdrawal had in fact been discussed. Discussions in finalizing details were proposed by your Foreign Minister at Harare only a few days prior to your unilateral announcement of 1st June. I have repeatedly said that the IPKF's withdrawal schedule should be worked out through joint consultations along with a simultaneous schedule for the implementation of the Indo-Lanka agreement. We are willing to resume discussion on this subject at any time and place of your convenience. Your colleague Honorable Mr S Thondaman, who met me here, would have conveyed to you our desire for friendly relations and our willingness to resolve any misunderstandings through mutual consultations. If, however, discussions for this purpose are not acceptable to you, we will have to decide the details of the IPKF's withdrawal unilaterally consistent with our responsibilities under the Indo-Sri Lanka Agreement.
"While I reiterate the government of India's willingness to cooperate with your government to resolve pending issues, I must emphasis to Your Excellency that India has traditionally been mindful of the sanctity of the agreement it signs with other countries and commitments solemnly undertaken under such agreements. India will under no circumstances deviate from this policy affecting our concerns.
"It has been our practice to maintain the confidentiality of official correspondence, particularly between heads of state or government, unless otherwise agreed upon. However, the gist of your messages to me was more often than not made available to the media before they reached me. Now I find that all our recent correspondences has been officially made public by the Sri Lanka Government. I may thus be constrained to depart from tradition by authorizing this communication being made public, after you receive it."
Meanwhile, the entry of Amirthalingham into active politics was not taken well by the LTTE, who disliked him. He spoke in parliament in June 1989, arguing that the IPKF should not be withdrawn in a hurry from the North and East of Sri Lanka. The LTTE took umbrage to this speech, which was directly against the stand of the LTTE, which wanted the IPKF to be withdrawn immediately.
But on July 13, 1989 LTTE gunmen shot and killed Amirthalingham and Yogeswaran at the Colombo residence and seriously injured TULF President M.Sivasithamparam. As usual, the LTTE denied involvement in the killings and blamed "diabolical forces at work to disrupt the on-going peace talks between the LTTE and the Sri Lankan government". It was interesting to note that Adele Balasingham, who was at that time staying with the LTTE delegation in Colombo, purposely avoided mentioning even one sentence about the assassination of Amirthalingham in her book The Will to Freedom. She might have to explain one of these days the reason for omitting the recording of the deaths of a Tamil leader whose career spanned the political horizon of Sri Lanka for well over four decades.
In December 1995, this writer went to London to the Public Document Office to do research on Sri Lanka, during the British colonial administration. While in London, this writer received a message that Ms. Mangkayakarasi Amirthalingham, the widow of Amirthalingham, who was living in London, who had expressed a wish to meet me. Accordingly, we met on May 26, 1996, at her house in Surbiton, Surrey, outside London. I was shocked to see her plight. The beautiful woman I had met for the first time in 1961 at the Jaffna esplanade when she led girl students on a protest march was now a streak of sorrow was written all over her face and age had begun to tell. With her was her second son, Dr Baheerathan (Ravi) who came over to help us in our conversation.
Mangkayakarasi told me that she never dreamt that "Thamby" - that is how Prabakaran was called - would ever arrange to kill her husband. "He spent his teenage days in our house, holding my pettycoat and always calling me akka [sister]." Mangkayakarasi asked me why Prabakaran was so monstrous to have arranged to kill her beloved husband. "What harm had my husband has done to him? It was he who brought all the youths into politics and the limelight. He treated all those youths as his own children." She almost wept when she explained the murder details that took place on July 13, 1989.
She explained to me that she was now a refugee in England, living on the subsistence given by the government. In his latter days, it was known that Amirthalingham was virtually a pauper and lived on whatever allowance he received as a parliamentarian. He gave up his lucrative legal practice at the Bar and was a fulltime politician.
Ultimatum to IPKF
By the middle of July, with no quickening of the pace of the IPKF withdrawal, Premadasa decided to force the issue by playing a trump card. This was to be the ultimatum to the Officer Commanding the IPKF forces in Sri Lanka, from himself as Commander-in-Chief. Its objective would be either to have the IPKF withdrawn on July 29, or order them to get back into their barracks and negotiate the logistics of withdrawal with the Sri Lankan security forces. This ultimatum, which the team officials who worked ceaselessly with him during this period called the 'Whereas' document, since it was studded with 'Whereas' and legal terminology, was to be delivered personally to Lieutenant-General Kalkat in Trincomalee at 3pm on Friday, July 23. Kalkat himself appears to have had a premonition of such an order, because on the evening of July 27, he had told some Indian reporters that IPKF would attack if the Sri Lankan forces came out of their barracks into which they had been sent in terms of the July 1987 Agreement. Kalkat is quoted as having said:
'My mandate includes the provision of security and peace for all in the North-East Province and to keep the Lankan forces in their barracks. Any change in mandate by force and my soldiers will reply to it. On-going operations against the LTTE a matter will continue despite Mr Ranjan Wijeratne's demand for a unilateral ceasefire. We will not tolerate any violence and the IPKF is fully prepared to meet any eventuality.'." Premadasa of Sri Lanka: A Political Biography by Bradman Weerakoon, pages 80-81
Even after the IPKF had formally ceased operations in Sri Lanka on September 29, 1989, Indian troops with the view to help the NEP government continued to surround localities and search for deserters or escaped TNA conscripts.
As a final blow, developments in Sri Lanka took a serious turn when in the ninth parliamentary elections in India the Indian Congress, led by Rajiv Gandhi, was voted out of power. Of the total of 523 seats in the Lok Sabah, the Indian National Congress captured 193 seats and was unable to form the government despite the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kalagam (AIADMK), led by Jayaram Jayalalitha from Tamil Nadu, supporting Gandhi with their 11 parliamentary seats. So the Janata Dal, which captured 141 seats, was invited to form the government. On December 2, 1989, Viswanath Pratab Singh, the leader of the Janata Dal, was sworn in as India's Prime Minister after the Baratya Janata Party, with 87 MPs and the CPI, with 45 MPs, came forward to join the five-party coalition of the National Front Government.
Viswanath Pratab Singh, the new prime minister of India and leader of the five-party National Front coalition government, announced the withdrawal of the Indian Peace Keeping Forces (IPKF) from Sri Lanka, by March 31, 1990. This was his major foreign policy decision, largely to prove that everything the preceding premier, Rajiv Gandhi, had done in domestic and foreign policy was wrong.
Singh said, "In the first place, it was a mistake to have sent our troops to Sri Lanka. The whole affair started on a wrong note. We favor phased withdrawal of the IPKF. We want our boys back home the earliest."
The victory of Singh was also considered a great victory for Ranasinghe Premadasa, the Sri Lankan president. V P Singh appointed Inder Kumar Gujral as Minister of External Affairs and Hari Kishore Singh as the Minister of State for External Affairs. The prime minister himself held the defense portfolio, and appointed Dr Raja Ramanna as Minister of State for Defense.
Ranjan Wijeratne, the Sri Lankan Minister for Foreign Affairs, was the first foreign dignitary to rush to New Delhi to meet the new Indian leadership, where he discussed the role played by the IPKF. V P Singh and I K Gujral expressed surprise, when the foreign minister reported that the IPKF was subverting Sri Lanka by arming and training an illegal army.
After this, the Indian premier requested M Karunanidhi, the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, to explore the possibility of solving the Sri Lankan conflict. Meanwhile, after meeting the new leaders in New Delhi, Wijeratne visited Madras and met M Karunanidhi. The Sri Lankan foreign minister requested him to use his influence to bring about peace between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and other Tamil militant groups. Karunanidhi agreed.
As the IPKF would be withdrawing completely from Sri Lanka by March 31, 1990, Indian government leaders were keen on obtaining an assurance from all the Tamil groups in Sri Lanka that they would not fight among themselves. All those Tamil groups that had worked with India against the LTTE sensed very clearly that, the government of V P Singh was bent on betraying them, and Karunanidhi, who is considered a patron of the LTTE, would be highly impartial against them.
The move of the unilateral declaration of Eelam by the EPRLF sent shock waves through India and the rest of Sri Lanka. It was a real embarrassment to New Delhi that the announcement came from a Tamil group widely seen as pro-India.
Meanwhile the lone UNP member in the council, M Majid, came out of the Provincial Council Assembly hall and ran to the administrative office to telephone President Premadasa in Colombo. He conveyed the dramatic development in the meeting. The president asked Majid what he had been doing when the resolution was being introduced and subsequently passed. He said, "I walked out before it being passed." Premadasa just said, "Good".
The hasty move by the EPRLF and Varatharajah Perumal with the Unilateral Declaration of Independence for a separate state of Tamil Eelam presented an opportunity for the Sri Lankan government to dissolve the North-East provincial government. Bradman Weerakoon, in his book Premadasa of Sri Lanka: A Political Biography, wrote, "All political parties in parliament, except the EPRLF condemned Varatharajah Perumal's move. Under the Provincial Council Law of 1987 one of the safeguards to guarantee some autonomy to the Provincial Council had been that the government could not dissolve a Provincial Council by executive fiat. Varatharajah Perumal's UDI provided the opportunity for the government to bring in amending legislation which enabled the government to dissolve, ‘where more than one half of the total membership of a Provincial Council, expressly repudiated or manifestly disavowed obedience to the constitution.” - pages 69-70
On March 10, 1990, Varatharajah Perumal left Trincomalee with his wife and three daughters, first for Mauritius in an aircraft charted by RAW. From Mauritius he was taken to India and put up at Haveli in Madhya Pradesh. In September 1992, the Indian government shifted him to Ajmer, Rajasthan, where he would be able to arrange educational facilities for his daughters.
Pathmanabah and 275 of his supporters and sympathizers also flew to India in an Indian Air Force transport aircraft. Meanwhile, the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Karunanidhi refused to let two chartered ships carrying 1,355 pro-Indian Tamils, including women and children, to dock at Madras. Sri Lankan president Ranasinghe Premadasa ordered that a fitting farewell ceremony be accorded to those Indian soldiers who had fallen in battle in Sri Lanka. On March 24, 1990, one week before schedule, the last of the Indian soldiers was ready to leave. It was a moving farewell on the docks of Trincomalee. Ranjan Wijeratne, the Deputy Minister of Defense, rose to the occasion with some well chosen words and the Indian soldiers waved their goodbyes, as the last ship started moving from the Sri Lankan coast.
The IPKF casualties mounted. For the 32 months in Sri Lanka, the IPKF lost 1,115 soldiers and 2,984 were injured. From July 29, 1987, the IPKF operations in Sri Lanka were also a big drain on the Indian Exchequer. Nearly 50 million Indian rupees were spent a day. Further, it was estimated that the IPKF killed more than 5,000 Tamil civilians, some accidentally, but often deliberately and mostly as reprisals, during their stay in the North and East of Sri Lanka. When they left, the IPKF claimed that they had released nearly 472 LTTE cadres captured and held in their custody, but they failed to reveal the details of those who died in their captivity.
According to some independent sources, which could not be confirmed, it was reported that the LTTE lost nearly 2,500 of its cadres, and 1,500 were wounded.
When the IPKF reached India, they returned unnoticed, a sad end to India's biggest-ever military overseas expedition. At the port of Madras, Dr P C Alexander, the Tamil Nadu Governor, Dr Raja Ramanna, the Minister of State for Defence, and a small number of civilians were present.
Karunanidhi and the DMK (Dravida Munnetra Kalagam) political leaders boycotted the welcome ceremony, saying that their presence would jeopardize their political position with the Tamils in the state. "The humiliation was not in Sri Lanka, but in India," said Lieutenant-General A S Kalkat, the IPKF Commanding Officer in an interview given to rediff.com - an Indian news website. "India's Vietnam: IPKF in Sri Lanka 10 years on.”
”Yes. There was some feeling in my soldiers. The humiliation was not in Sri Lanka, because there was no humiliation. The humiliation came when we came back to India. The question people asked was, Why did we go there, what were you doing there? When you send soldiers to such an area, you don't ask them these questions, you don't ask them what were you doing there. Those are things that you should have sorted out earlier.
"No, never. But when the public started saying this, and the soldier starts hearing it, he gets hurt. And the main thing was the so-called boycott of IPKF soldiers, when they arrived at Madras port. I think that was a needless act. It was no good. I think the DMK was [then in power in Tamil Nadu] the one, they boycotted it. The Government in India did the right thing, they said if they will not participate in the welcome, fine, we will send our people from here.
"So the Defense Minister that time, Raja Ramanna, came from Delhi and others came from Delhi. Governor of the state Dr P C Alexander was there. But that leaves a bad taste. It could have been avoided because it was not conveying anything to me."
Meanwhile, on March 28, 1990, Sri Lankan Prime Minister D B Wijetunga resigned with effect from March 30, thus dissolving the Cabinet and by law, paving the way for the President to appoint a 26-member cabinet along with 23 project ministers and 29 ministers of state on 30 March.
President Ranasinghe Premadasa got rid of Gamini Dissanayake and instead, made Ranjan Wijeratne the Plantation Industries Minister, and he continued to hold the post of Minister of State for Defence and Harold Herat, a newcomer and had earlier been a minister without cabinet status, was sworn in as Minister of Foreign Affairs.
A C S Hameed was allotted the Justice portfolio and he also retained higher education, which was a ministerial portfolio without cabinet status. At the same time, Vincent Perera was relieved of justice, but he retained parliamentary affairs and remained the Chief Government Whip, but in addition he was given environment.
Despite these changes, A C S Hameed remained as the leader of the Government delegation that was negotiating with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. The entire ground situation had changed, once the IPKF left Sri Lanka. The LTTE decimated its opponents, the Tamil National Army (TNA), and was ensconced in the North and East.
A C S Hameed flew to Palaly airport, Jaffna, to meet the LTTE delegation for talks. And Yogaratnam Yogi was at the airport to meet him. But, a Sri Lankan soldier, at the sight of Yogi, opened fire at him. Yogi managed to escape unscathed and the soldier was immediately arrested. Later, Hameed met the LTTE delegation, which told him, "Our leader wants to meet you."
Hameed went with his security officer for the meeting with the LTTE delegation led by Prabakaran, the Tiger Supremo. Subsequently, Prabakaran suggested to Hameed that he stay over in Jaffna a few more days, as the LTTE leader was very keen to meet him more often. Later, Hameed said, "Prabakaran was charming and did not give the impression of being rough or unreasonable. Nevertheless, Prabakaran dominated the conversation. One made the decision and the finality was his own monopoly."
Hameed misunderstood the position of Prabakaran, when he remarked, "One made the decision and the finality was his own monopoly." Prabakaran was the leader of a militant organization which functioned like an army. LTTE cadres always carried out orders when "General" Prabakaran gave them. The LTTE was not a political organization and it did not believe in the democratic forms and structure. As it was a militant outfit, "the decision and finality was his monopoly".
Hameed made conciliatory overtures to Prabakaran to visit Colombo, but his advisers cautioned him against such a visit. Bradman Weerakoon states that, it was this inaccessibility to Prabakaran that led the "irascible Ranjan Wijeratne to opine that Prabakaran in fact was dead - killed in a duel by his deputy Mahatahya and A C S Hameed has only met Prabakaran's double in Jaffna".
Furthermore, reflecting Premadasa's thinking on the reclusive LTTE leader, Weerakoon states, "Be that as it may - and Prabakaran was to reappear several times thereafter - this elusive quality added to his charisma and image as a ruthless and implacable military leader whose battle strategies were imaginative and daring."
Dissolution of NEPC
Sri Lankan President Ranasinghe Premadasa continued to drag his feet on the dissolution of the Northeast Provincial Council, as well as on the issue of repealing the Sixth Amendment to the constitution. The President further compounded the problem by initiating and negotiating with the EPRLF and other non-LTTE Tamil groups. The Sinhalese parties also urged the Government to prevent the Northeast Provincial Council coming under the control of the LTTE. The opposition political parties carried out an intensive campaign against the LTTE and the Government. They intensified their campaign, demanding that the Northeast Provincial Council should not be given to the LTTE, and also that President Premadasa was betraying the Sinhala-Buddhist sector, and they vociferously called on the Government to disarm the LTTE.
The Sri Lankan military encamped in Batticaloa and in other parts of Jaffna, too, resented being confined to base. Tension between the LTTE and the army began to increase in the latter part of May 1990 and culminated in the early part of June. During this period, the army found to their utter dismay that the LTTE was constructing bunkers and implementing other defense measures close to their camps. When this matter was brought to the notice of the Defense Ministry, instructions were given for them to carry on as before - to eat and sleep inside the camps without interfering with the LTTE.
One noteworthy incident took place close to an army camp in Batticaloa in the first week of June. The army arrested two LTTE cadres and they were ordered to kneel on the road opposite their camp in the scorching sun for over six hours, amid bantering and other sorts of humiliation from the watching army personnel. One LTTE cadre bit his cyanide vial and died. Subsequently, the other was beaten and sent away. Incidents of this nature were reported to the LTTE leaders in Jaffna and they served to inflame the LTTE. Meanwhile, Sinhala and English newspapers in Colombo began to unleash a venomous campaign against the LTTE and against the Government for being soft with them.
The army, having quelled the JVP (Janata Vimukthi Perumuna) uprising in the south, was proud of its achievements. Similarly, the LTTE, which took on the mighty Indian army and which had been engaged in the duel for 20 long torturous months, was celebrating the final departure of the Indian army, so they were equally proud of their achievements. Gradually, tension began to mount between the LTTE and the Sri Lankan army.
Prabhakaran as usual has conveniently forgotten the financial and arms assistances he recieved from President Premadasa. He started annoying the Sri Lankan Army by his irregular and unanounced attacks.
On June 7, a group of army personnel proceeding by vehicle from Vavuniya to Mullaithievu were fired on by the LTTE at Thandikulam. One soldier was killed and nine were injured. According to reports, the soldiers from the Gajabahu regiment did not retaliate, instead they complained of the incident to the authorities. They received instructions that the troops must be patient and not retaliate against the LTTE.
While these incidents were taking place, the indomitable Shahul Hemeed, the Government's chief negotiator, was in Jaffna. Hameed flew to Jaffna with his delegation on June 7 and had discussions with the LTTE in a house just behind the Nallur Kandaswamy temple, Jaffna.
On June 10, 1990, in one fateful incident, a Muslim youth was found in a compromising position with a Sinhala woman, in a refugee camp in Batticaloa town. The enraged husband assaulted the youth before taking him to the police, who locked him up and tortured him.
The police were not aware that the arrested Muslim was a tailor, and that he stitched the uniforms of the LTTE. At about 9.30 in the evening armed LTTE cadres arrived at the police station, alleging that the police had assaulted the Muslim youth. The cadres demanded his release. The LTTE were told that the youth had been sent to hospital, but the LTTE did not believe this and they abducted two Tamil policemen who were on sentry duty outside. They also threatened that all the policemen in the station would be chased out if the tailor was not released immediately.
On the following day, at 6 am, LTTE cadres surrounded the Batticaloa police station and abducted three armed policemen. An hour later, nearly 250 armed LTTE cadres surrounded the station and occupied it. On the orders of the LTTE, the Sinhala policemen and their families were sent to the airport, where they were accommodated at the air force base. The Tamil policemen and their families left for St Mary's Church in Batticaloa town. The acting Officer-in-Charge and four other policemen were detained. The LTTE also removed Rs 45,000,000 in cash, gold jewelry and a cache of firearms: 109 T 56 rifles; 77 T 84 S rifles; 28 light machine guns; 29 self-loading rifles; 65 sub machine guns; 78 .303 rifles and 78 SAR 80 guns.
On June 11, the Tigers ordered police personnel in the Eastern province to vacate all police stations with their families by 2.30 pm, or face the consequences. The information available was that police headquarters in Colombo instructed the policemen to surrender to the LTTE. But by noon hundreds of policemen and their families had streamed into security force camps and air force camps. In Batticaloa, the Tigers arranged refugee accommodation for Tamil policemen in a nearby school. Sinhalese refugees were taken to air force bases.
Meanwhile, a total of 899 police personnel were abducted by the LTTE. About 125 of them escaped from the LTTE. Subsequently it became clear that almost all the policemen had been killed by the Tigers in cold blood. They were lined up and shot with their hands tied behind. Assistant Superintendent of Police Ivan Boteju refused to surrender and kept on fighting the LTTE, until he was ordered to surrender. Police officers laid down their arms after being promised safe conduct and subsequent release.
In the Kalmunai area, a large number of policemen who had surrendered were driven off to an undisclosed destination. On 17 June newspapers quoted Ranaweera, a policemen who escaped with injuries, as saying that he and 113 of his colleagues from the Kalmunai police station has been lined up and shot at. The fact the there had been resistance in Kalmunai, together with Tiger casualties, may have influenced the conduct of the Tigers. This in turn would have influenced the conduct of the army when it re-occupied Kalmunai.
At Kalmunai, the Tigers engaged an army convoy, killing 10 soldiers. At Kalmunai and Kalawnachikudi police stations, fierce fighting raged before the policemen surrendered. At Kalmunai, eight policemen were reported killed. The LTTE also suffered casualties - two killed and 17 injured, according to reports.
Most police stations appeared to have surrendered without a fight. By the end of the day, the Tigers were in control of a number of stations, including Batticaloa, Vellaveli, Kalmunai, Valachenai, Kalawnchikudi, Samanthurai, Eravur and Akkarapattu.
According to reports, 324 of the police officers who surrendered were Sinhalese and Muslims and they were taken to the jungle in Tirukovil, blindfolded, their hands tied behind, made to lie down on the ground and shot. It became known that the LTTE abducted and killed about 600 Sinhalese and Muslim police officers from Batticaloa and Amparai districts. A further 78 were abducted from the Trincomalee district and murdered.
The LTTE cadres also stormed stations in the Jaffna district and ordered the policemen to leave, at stations at Kankesanthurai, Valvetiturai, Point Pedro, Kilinochchi, Vavuniya and Murunkan. On the same evening, the LTTE launched an attack on an army detachment at Vallavadi in Amparai.
The army retaliated. Due to heavy LTTE fire, the navy evacuated the troops and Sinhala fishermen to Trincomalee. Also, a detachment at Kalwanchikudi was attacked. The Sri Lankan air force was summoned and planes fired at the attacking LTTE cadres. Three soldiers were killed due to LTTE fire. Similarly, a detachment at Kalmunai came under fire. Air and artillery fire support was made available. Two soldiers were killed in the attack.
On June 12, A C S Hameed, the chairman of the North-East Peace Committee, had planned to meet LTTE leaders for another round of talks. Subsequently, on two occasions, June 13 and 16, ceasefires were agreed between the LTTE and Hameed. Both these ceasefire agreements, broke down shortly.
The ceasefire was arranged over the telephone at midday on June 13. The LTTE subsequently alleged that the Government did not maintain the ceasefire, while the Government claimed that the LTTE ignored the ceasefire regulations.
On the same day, the Minister of State for Defence, a planter turned politician, Ranjan Wijeratne, said from the floor of parliament, "Mr. Prabakaran has done Perumal. Perumal had to leave the country. I wish the same to Prabakaran." He further added, "No person in this country, whether Sinhala, Tamil or Muslim, will be allowed to establish a dictatorship in any part of this country, through the power of the gun. We shall meet this situation head-on if it come to that."
Wijeratne emphasized, "It is not a party business" and he asked for the cooperation of all and he described it as, "a matter of national importance". He further said, "All communities must be united. There are Sinhalese, Tamils and the Muslims here. This is not a fight against Tamils. This is a fight against criminals. There is no half way house with me. Now I am going all out for the LTTE. We will annihilate them." It was said that Ranjan Wijeratne reflected the mood of the country when he spoke in parliament.
Nine policemen were abducted from a post at Mullaithievu town on June 13. Jeyakumaran, the Assistant Superintendent of Police and Jeyakumar, the Headquarter Inspector of Police, Mullaithievu, went to negotiate with the LTTE, but they too were detained. On the same day, the LTTE removed firearms, vehicles and radio equipment from the old police station at Vavuniya.
On June 14, the army detachment at Kilinochchi came under heavy attack. Troops fought effectively with artillery and air support. On the same day, around midnight, the LTTE attacked an army detachment at Thalaimannar old pier. Seven soldiers were killed and 11 reported missing. Also, the LTTE attacked a mobile army patrol sent out from Vavuniya, at Marathanamadu, on June 15. In the battle, five soldiers were killed and the driver of the vehicle reported missing.
On June 14, the LTTE captured the police stations at Mankulam and Odduchuddan. The LTTE continued to attack Jaffna Fort and encircled the Northern Security Forces Headquarters, the Military Complex at Palaly.
When the war broke out, the LTTE delegation was still in Colombo. It was lodged at the Hilton Hotel, with high security provided by a Special Task Force (STF) of the police. The Government took immediate action to transfer the LTTE delegation comprising Jude - the LTTE communication specialist - Lalith and Lawrence, two military wing cadres, to an camp at Kalutura. A few days later, this delegation was escorted to Ratmalana airport to be flown to Jaffna. The chief government negotiator told the Police that the bags and luggage of the LTTE delegates should not be searched. A small Cessna aircraft with passenger capacity of five persons, including the pilot, was arranged for the LTTE team to leave for Jaffna. The pilot requested the weapons of the LTTE for safe-keeping and said that he would return them after landing in Jaffna. The LTTE cadres refused and demanded to speak to Hameed.
By this time, the atmosphere at Ratmalana airport had became very tense. The families of the armed forces who had died in the East were at the airport to receive the bodies of their loved ones, as well as those injured in the military campaign against the LTTE. When some of the army personnel saw the LTTE men and those protecting them, they became angry. When the time to leave came, the airplane was not big enough to take the men and their luggage.
According to Major General Munasinghe, in his book A Soldiers Version, "The LTTE radio operator [Jude] had a message from Prabakaran, 'Whatever happens, ensure that the money offered is brought with you." - page 101
Subsequently, a decision was taken to change for a bigger aircraft and the luggage, bags and boxes of the LTTE were loaded into a Y-12 aircraft, which was used to transport troops as well as dead bodies. The two pilots of the aircraft insisted that they would only fly if the LTTE cadres handed over their weapons. The three LTTE men did so, to Eric Perera, the intelligence officer who was escorting them and the aircraft departed to Jaffna with three air force gunners and one air force officer. By the time they arrived at Palaly airport in the evening, LTTE armed cadres had encircled the airport with bulldozers and also surrounded the Sri Lankan army camp. Clearance was given for the aircraft to land and Kannan of the LTTE received the cadres.
War Breaks Out
On June 15, the LTTE attacked the police stations at Elephant Pass in the Jaffna district and Mud Cove in the Trincomalee district. Also, the LTTE attacked army camps at Elephant Pass, Muttur, Kinniya, Kiran, Kaluwanchikudy, and the central camps at Amparai and Talaimannr in Mannar district. In the meantime, Hameed flew again to Jaffna for further negotiations. He met Anton Balasingham in Nallur. That evening, Hameed flew back to Colombo and met President Premadasa and took up several issues raised by the LTTE during the Nallur talks. Again, on June 16, Hameed flew back to Jaffna to continue the negotiations with the Tigers, but was unable to meet them on that day or thereafter as LTTE fire was directed towards Palaly and Jaffna Fort.
It was reported that Hameed returned from Colombo on June 16 to seek assurances and guarantees from the LTTE leadership that they would cease all hostilities and release the 850 police personnel in their captivity and return all arms and ammunitions captured from the police stations and other government security bases. The LTTE agreed to halt the war, but the fighting erupted on the following day.
When, on June 11, 1990, the LTTE broke the ceasefire it had entered into with the Government in June 1989, the army camps on the mainland Northern Province including Kokavil, Mankulam in the Mullaithievu district and Killinochchi and camps west of Mankulam, which included Kondachchi and Silavathurai, were abandoned, leaving the army with detachments at Mullaithievu, Mannar, Elephant Pass, Pooneryn, Vettilaikerni, Idaikadu, Jaffna Fort and Palaly, and also those of Weli-Oya and later Kankesanthurai, and the islands located off the Jaffna Peninsula. The LTTE gained control of a vast track of the Northern Province. Also, the LTTE thus managed to cut off the land route to Jaffna Peninsula, this resulted in supplies and men having to be transported to army bases either by sea or air.
The sea route became difficult for the Government when the LTTE formed the Sea Tigers, a version of the LTTE's navy, which began to sink and steal Sri Lankan supply and naval boats and ships. When a large tract of land in the Northern Province came under the LTTE, they managed to set up a parallel administration in the region. They established their own police force, judiciary, prison, public service, immigration and tax collecting departments. Heads of all these departments were military-trained LTTE cadres, who owed allegiance to the LTTE supremo, who was also their Commander in Chief. The officers attached to this government took orders from the LTTE leaders mostly out of fear for their lives.
Meanwhile, up to date, the LTTE has not come forward to explain why it had launched a full scale military campaign from June 11. The exact reasons for the resumption of hostilities, the launching of Eelam War-2 had not been fully and officially explained by the LTTE. Similarly, the Government failed to come up with an official explanation as to why Earnest Perera, the Inspector General of Police, instructed police in the Eastern Province to surrender to the LTTE. The country had only heard rumors that Perera had acted on the orders and instructions of Hameed. According to police records, nearly 1,000 policemen surrendered to the LTTE and 630 were still missing.
Unfortunately, to date, the Sri Lankan Government has failed to institute an inquiry into this incident. This reflects that the Government did not wish its weaknesses to be exposed. Someone, somewhere felt that it was a grave mistake to have asked the policemen, the law enforcing authorities, to surrender to a militant organization, who in no way constituted a part of the Governmental machinery. The serious lapse on the part of the government and its leaders, including the President, reflects that they had neglected their duty to the country and also failed to bring justice to the families of the policemen killed by extra-judicial means.
It was alleged that the LTTE commander for Batticaloa and Amparai district was involved in the abduction and the cold blooded killing of those policemen.
Unfortunately even the present Government has failed to investigate and bring those involved in the killings before the law of the land. Instead they have rewarded those left the LTTE and joined the rank and file of the Government.
Without bringing them to face the legal process and without offering a general amnesty, those involved in the henious crimes against the country are rewarded even with nominations as party list members of parliament and went a step further by nominating them as deputy line ministers.
Adele Ann Balasingham in her Women Fighters of Tamil Eelam writes about the about turn in LTTE-Premadasa relations:
"The talks between Premadasa's regime and the Tamil Tigers - which started with positive hopes - ran into serious difficulties by the intransigent attitude of the Government. As the Government refused to offer any substantial proposals to offer to resolve the basic issues, the talks dragged on without any concrete results. President Premadasa was primarily concerned with the evacuation of the Indian occupation army. The presence of the Indian army had sparked off widespread violence in the South, instigated and organized by the JVP (Janata Vimukthi Perumuna).
"During the withdrawal of the IPKF, Premadasa's Government ruthlessly suppressed the Sinhala militant organization, slaughtering thousands of radical Sinhala youth. The successful extermination of the JVP made the Government and the Sri Lankan military apparatus over-confident and belligerent. Premadasa deliberately undermined the direct dialogue between the LTTE and the Government by promoting the so-called 'All-Party Conference' with anti-LTTE Tamil groups and by advocating a 'consensus' approach. The Sri Lankan armed forces, on the other side, adopted a bellicose attitude towards the Tigers which sparked off several nasty skirmishes and confrontation between the Sinhala soldiers and the LTTE. The hostilities finally broke out into a full-fledge war between the LTTE and the Sri Lankan army on the June 10, 1990." - pages 67-68.
It was astonishing as to how the LTTE, which was considered an urban guerilla outfit, had changed into a conventional army able to withstand the Sri Lankan army and fight a conventional war. S L Gunasekera, who was a member of the Government delegation to the Thimpu talks in Bhutan 1995 and who opposed the Indo-Sri Lankan accord, wrote in his book Tigers, Moderates and Pandora's Package, "Never at any time before the Premadasa peace talks had the LTTE been able to make a frontal attack on the fortified or defended army camp nor to sink or steal a naval ship or gunboat; nor did it have any mastery over the East; nor the strength nor capacity to run a parallel administration or government in the North where it was strongest. The opportunities given to it by the Premadasa peace talks changed all.
"The intense preparation of the LTTE was enabled during the Premadasa peace talks and saw the LTTE being transferred from a purely guerrilla force capable at the most of murdering civilians, ambushes and hit and run attacks on the army, sabotage and destruction of Government property, and over-running police stations, into a well equipped conventional fighting force with 'infantry battalion' and improvised 'amour' capable of over-running even company and battalion strength camps of our army, as well as with a 'navy' named the 'Sea Tigers' capable of sinking our ships and even stealing our gun boats." - pages 100-101.
(To Be Continued)
- Asian Tribune -