Frontline Volume 16 - Issue 17, Aug 14 - 27, 1999
India's National Magazine
from the publishers of THE HINDU


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SRI LANKA

Chronicle of murders

T.S. SUBRAMANIAN

THE assassination of Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) vice-president and parliamentarian Neelan Tiruchelvam testifies to the observation that moderate politicians are vulnerable to death threats from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

The LTTE has a horrible record of cold-blooded murder of individuals, mostly unarmed, who sought a peaceful resolution of the Sri Lankan ethnic strife. It has also indulged in an intense fratricidal war, killing members of other Tamil militant organisati ons. The devices used by the LTTE have been varied - members of its Black Tiger suicide squad who wore belt bombs or rode motorcycles or bicycles after strapping explosives to their bodies; assault rifles; pistols; landmines; grenades and so forth. It ha s also resorted to the hanging of "traitors" from lamp-posts.

The LTTE's "diary of murders" had its first entry on July 27, 1975 with the killing of Jaffna Mayor Alfred Duraiappa of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party.

In May 1986, it hunted down and shot dead Sri Sabarathnam, the charismatic leader of the Tamil Eelam Liberation Organisation (TELO), as the organisation's proximity to India posed a threat to the Tigers' hegemony. Sri Sabarathnam was killed in a betel pl antation in the Jaffna peninsula. The Tigers then executed several hundred TELO militants.

A. Amirthalingam, secretary-general of the Tamil United Liberation Front, who was assassinated in 1989.

The LTTE later targeted pacifist leaders of the TULF, who pressed for a negotiated settlement to the long-drawn-out war in the northern peninsula. On July 13, 1989, TULF secretary-general A. Amirthalingam and polit bureau member V. Yogeswaran were shot d ead at the latter's home in Colombo by two LTTE militants, Visu and Aloysius. It was a typical LTTE operation. The two militants had earned the trust of Yogeswaran by meeting him frequently as part of the parleys to sort out the differences between the t wo groups. But the gregarious Yogeswaran was led up the garden path. On that fateful day, when Visu, Aloysius and another LTTE militant Vignan came visiting, Yogeswaran, in a show of trust, told the securitymen not to frisk them. Vignan stayed at the gat e, while the other two went in. A little later, Amirthalingam and TULF president M. Sivasithamparam joined Yogeswaran. Yogeswaran's wife Sarojini served them tea. Visu and Aloysius treacherously opened fire, killing Amirthalingam and Yogeswaran. Sivasith amparam survived the attempt with wounds. The LTTE had taken umbrage to Amirthalingam's speech in Parliament in June 1989, pleading for the continued presence of the Indian Peace-Keeping Force (IPKF) in Sri Lanka.

In separate incidents, the LTTE killed George, an affable leader of the Eelam People's Revolutionary Liberation Front (EPRLF), and R.R. Vasudeva, a top People's Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE) leader.

These killings took place on Sri Lankan soil. But the LTTE also had the temerity to carry out its operations outside Sri Lanka. On June 19, 1990, the Tigers stormed into an apartment at Zachria Colony in Kodambakkam, Chennai, when the central committee m eeting of the EPRLF was under way, and sprayed bullets. Thirteen top EPRLF leaders, including its soft-spoken secretary-general K. Padmanabha, Finance Minister in the now defunct Northeastern Provincial Council P. Kirubakaran, and Member of Parliament Yo gasankari, were killed. While escaping in a car after the attack, they killed two local people. The killers fled to the Jaffna peninsula from the Vedaranyam coast of Tamil Nadu.

While the LTTE was fighting the IPKF in the Northeastern Province, the EPRLF backed the Indo-Sri Lanka Agreement, which was a red rag to the LTTE. Moreover, the EPRLF ignored the LTTE's call to boycott the Northeastern Provincial Council elections in 198 8. It participated in the elections and formed the Council with the Eelam National Democratic Liberation Front (ENDLF) headed by Paranthan Rajan alias Gnanasekaran. This naturally upset the LTTE and it was biding its time. When the EPRLF leaders came to Tamil Nadu after the IPKF pulled out of the island in March 1990, the LTTE struck in the most brutal manner.

Rajan Wijeratne, Minister of State for Defence, was killed in the most audacious manner. The high-profile Minister branded the LTTE a "baby brigade", dared it to take him out and wished it "good luck". On March 2, 1991, when the planter-turned-politician was travelling in his bullet-proof Mercedes Benz in the heart of Colombo, the LTTE detonated about 100 kg of explosives planted in a car. The explosion shattered the Minister's body.

On May 21, 1991, the LTTE struck again in Chennai. At a Congress(I) election meeting in Sriperumbudur, 50 km from Chennai, an LTTE belt-bomb assassin, Dhanu, garlanded Rajiv Gandhi and, bending to touch his feet, triggered the device blowing up herself a nd the former Prime Minister.

SHANKER CHAKRAVARTY
EPRLF leader K. Padmanabha, who was killed in Chennai.

On August 8, 1992, 10 top Sri Lankan Army officers including the dynamic and popular Northern Commander Maj. Gen. Denzil Kobbekaduwa, and Maj. Gen. Wijeya Wimalaratne, Jaffna Area Commander, were killed when the vehicle in which they were travelling at A raly Point in the Kayts Island off the Jaffna peninsula, was blown up when LTTE cadres detonated a landmine. LTTE supremo V. Prabhakaran felicitated the militants who had discovered the disused mine and triggered it. In November 1992, Vice-Admiral Clancy Fernando was killed by an LTTE suicide-bomber in Colombo.

On May 1, 1993, the LTTE killed President Ranasinghe Premadasa when Sri Lankans were celebrating May Day. In central Colombo, Premadasa, sporting a green cap with "victory" written on it, was directing the United National Party's (UNP) procession. A yout h with explosives strapped on to his body cycled towards the President and when securitymen stopped the bicycle, he detonated the device killing the President and 24 others.

Gamini Dissanayake, the UNP's presidential candidate, had just addressed an election meeting in a Colombo suburb. The meeting concluded a little after midnight on October 24, 1994. Dissanayake checked the time on his watch and wished the gathering "good morning". An LTTE woman militant, who was sitting in the second row of the audience, stepped forward and exploded herself, killing Dissanayake and several others in the process.

On July 5, 1997, Arunachalam Thangadurai (62), TULF's Trincomalee district MP, was about to get into a vehicle in Trincomalee town when three LTTE men lobbed a grenade and opened fire. The mild-mannered parliamentarian was killed instantaneously. In June 1990, a motorcycle-borne LTTE gunman killed Sam Thambimuttu, TULF MP from Batticaloa, and his wife, Kala, outside the Canadian High Commission in Colombo.

Jaffna Mayor Sarojini Yogeswaran, the widow of Yogeswaran, was felled by an LTTE hit man's bullets at her home in the Sri Lankan Army-controlled Nallur in Jaffna town on May 17, 1998. Three days prior to that, the Army's Vadamarachchi Commander Larry Wij eratne was assassinated by an LTTE suicide bomber at Point Pedro in the Jaffna peninsula.

The LTTE also targeted another TULF leader Ponnuthurai Sivapalan who succeeded Sarojini Yogeswaran. On September 11, 1998, Sivapalan, Jaffna town commandant Brigadier Susantha Mendis, and several senior police officers and officials of the Municipal Coun cil were killed in a powerful blast in the Jaffna Municipal Council building at Nallur.


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