Prabhakaran, Karuna blacked out in east Sri Lankan elections

March 8th, 2008 - 9:52 am ICT by admin  

By P.K. Balachandran
Colombo, March 8 (IANS) Elections in the eastern Sri Lankan Tamil-speaking district of Batticaloa are being fought without any mention of two militant leaders who held sway over the area till the other day. In the campaign for the local bodies elections of March 10, no party has mentioned Velupillai Prabhakaran, the leader of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) or Karuna, the local LTTE commander who had broken away and founded the now powerful Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Puligal (TMVP).

“Even the TMVP, which is contesting the elections, does not mention Karuna or his arch rival, Prabhakaran!” said a principal of a school in Batticaloa, who did not want to be named.

“The TMVP is not using Karuna’s pictures or speaking about his role in reviving eastern regional consciousness,” he told IANS.

The blackout of Prabhakaran and Karuna is amazing because the LTTE, led by Prabhakaran and ably assisted by Karuna, had held sway over 60 per cent of Batticaloa district till 2004, when Karuna, the local military commander, broke away complaining of discrimination against easterners in the LTTE.

He formed the TMVP; and then joined hands with Sri Lankan government forces to drive the LTTE out of the eastern districts and restore peace last year. The TMVP had stepped into the shoes of the LTTE to become the “sole representative” of the Batticaloa Tamils.

However, Karuna had not been an unmixed blessing for the Sri Lankan government, the people of Batticaloa, or even the TMVP. Within no time, he became internationally notorious for child recruitment, murder and extortion. Subsequently, he managed to escape to the UK on a forged diplomatic passport, but only to be caught, tried and sentenced to nine months in prison.

Eventually, the TMVP went into the hands of Karuna’s deputy, Pillaiyan. And it is Pillaiyan’s pictures which find place in the election posters of the party.

However, without mentioning Karuna, the TMVP is highlighting some the issues raised by him when he broke away from the LTTE.

He had said that fighting for “economic development of the east” was more important than fighting for a separate “Tamil Eelam”. In its campaigns, the TMVP is stressing the need for economic development in a region which had seen only war and destruction for two decades continuously.

But the TMVP is doing this without mentioning Karuna or carrying on a tirade against the LTTE or Prabhakaran, who had allegedly trampled over the feelings of the easterners.

Though accused by its rivals of using violence and strong arm methods to capture the local bodies called “Pradeshiya Sabhas”, TMVP’s cadres are not walking about with weapons in their hands, according to Batticaloa sources.

“This election is remarkable for the absence of violence,” one of them said.

The TMVP’s rivals do not agree, but their efforts to stall the elections on the grounds that they are not free and fair, have failed.

A bid by a human rights body to get the Supreme Court to order the government to disarm the TMVP and any others who might be armed, failed. Earlier, the pro LTTE Tamil National Alliance (TNA) had tried in vain to get the apex court to postpone the elections on the plea that the playing field was not even.

Sri Lanka’s a main opposition party, United National Party (UNP), is boycotting the elections, saying that the “violent” TMVP and the government are in an unholy alliance. The TMVP is fighting the elections in some of the local bodies in alliance with the ruling Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) led by president Mahinda Rajapaksa.

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