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EROS founder member dead

By V.S. Sambandan

COLOMBO, JAN. 10. Shankar Rajee (55), a founder member of the Eelam Revolutionary Organisation (EROS) died here early this morning of a "sudden massive heart attack," his family and associates said.

Mr. Rajee complained of "severe chest pain" early this morning. "An ambulance was called for, but he passed away by the time medical help could reach him." A post-mortem is underway and the results are likely to be announced tomorrow.

Mr. Rajee was among the first Tamil militant leaders, along with Rathinasapapathy, the founder of EROS, to establish contact with the Palestine Liberation Organisation and a personal rapport with the late Palestinian President, Yasser Arafat. He quit his job as an engineer with Ford Motors in London to start the EROS and was in-charge of its military wing till 1987.

As one of the earliest militant groups formed in 1975, the EROS took the initiative in arranging training facilities for other militant groups.

The then chairman of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), Uma Maheswaran, was among the first to be sent by the EROS for training to Palestine. Mr. Rajee was a representative of the EROS at the India-mediated peace talks in Thimpu 1985.

Articulate exponent

An articulate exponent of the Tamil cause, Mr. Rajee established a rapport with members of all militant groups, political sections and journalists. "His friendship cut across party lines and he sincerely tried to bring all Tamil parties to an understanding," Dharmalingam Sithadthan, President of the People's Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE), said.

Suresh Premachandran, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) MP for Jaffna, said: "He relinquished the comfort of the western lifestyle, came to Sri Lanka and played a pioneering role in establishing Tamil resistance. He understood the Indian role in the Sri Lankan conflict and was close to the Indian establishment."

Terming his demise, a "personal loss" and "shocking," Mr. Premachandran, also a founder member of the EROS, said "he still had a lot to contribute to the Tamil cause and his demise will be a loss to the future political outcome as he was experience in both democratic and militant phases of the Tamil struggle."

The EROS split in 1979 and led to the formation of the Eelam People's Revolutionary Liberation Front (EPRLF), a party now led by Mr. Premachandran, a constituent of the LTTE-backed TNA.

Despite being the leader of the EROS, which won 13 seats in the Sri Lankan parliamentary election in 1989, Mr. Rajee did not opt for a parliamentary seat. The EROS split after the departure of the Indian Peacekeeping Force in 1990, with its leader, V. Balakumaran, joining the LTTE.

After the tsunami, Mr. Rajee "was thinking along the lines of reconstruction of rebuilding the livelihood of the affected people ," a close associate of Mr. Rajee said.

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