Sri Lankan Supreme Court petitioned to disarm political parties

February 29th, 2008 - 10:52 am ICT by admin  

By P.K. Balachandran
Colombo, Feb 29 (IANS) An independent Sri Lankan election monitoring body has gone to court seeking an order to disarm all political parties ahead of the March 10 local body elections in the eastern Tamil-speaking district of Batticaloa. Following incidents of abduction, intimidation and murder, allegedly involving a pro-government armed group cum political party, the Peoples’ Action for Free and Fair Elections (PAFFREL) filed a fundamental rights petition in the Supreme Court Thursday, seeking the immediate disarming of all armed groups.

The breakaway Tamil Tiger group, now called the Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Puligal (TMVP), is generally accused of indulging in intimidation using the gun. It is said to be getting away with these acts because it enjoys tacit government support.

Rasamanickam Thiyagarasa, the 26-year-old younger brother of Rasamanickam Yogarasa, an Eelavar Democratic Front (EDF) candidate in elections to the Valaichenai Pradeshiya Sabha, was kidnapped Feb 21, poisoned and abandoned in a remote area. He died at the Batticaloa General Hospital Feb 25.

Nesan Shankar Raji, a senior EDF leader, blamed an un-named armed group for the murder.

Remnants of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and the TMVP are the only armed groups in Batticaloa district. While the Tamil Tigers are relatively inactive after the Sri Lankan military drove out most of them in 2007, the TMVP has been active, allegedly forcing a number of Tamils and Muslims to contest under its banner and intimidating its rivals in a variety ways.

Earlier, the TMVP had banned the pro-LTTE Tamil National Alliance (TNA) from functioning in Batticaloa and Amparai districts. The TNA’s bid to get the Supreme Court to postpone the elections until normalcy was restored, failed. Not surprisingly, the TNA is not contesting the local body elections.

The Eelam Peoples’ Democratic Party (EPDP), led by Sri Lankan Social welfare minister Douglas Devananda, is in the field, but has found it difficult to operate because of threats from the TMVP.

Devananda’s appeals to his own government to disarm the TMVP have fallen on deaf ears.

The Eelam Peoples’ Revolutionary Liberation Organisation (Varadan group) also feels intimidated. It too has failed to get redress from the government.

Sri Lanka’s main opposition party, the United National Party (UNP), is not contesting the elections saying that they will not be free and fair.

However, the ruling United Peoples’ Freedom Alliance (UPFA) led by Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa, is contesting in select local bodies, including the Batticaloa municipality, in alliance with the TMVP.

Meanwhile, the LTTE has begun operating in Batticaloa and Amparai districts after a gap of more than six months. A suspected Tamil Tiger suicide bomber killed two candidates belonging to the TMVP in Kalawanchikudi Feb 24.

However, according to EDF’s Nesan Shankar Raji, the suicide bomber’s real target was not the TMVP’s candidates, but the EDF’s Batticaloa mayoral candidate and top party leader, Rajanathan Prabaharan.

Raji told IANS that the LTTE was targeting EDF candidates because it did not want EDF to strike roots in the eastern Sri Lankan districts, which the LTTE had had to vacate as a result of the Sri Lankan government’s military operations in 2006-2007.

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