Hero Turned Zero; Karuna Amman Will Be The Ultimate Loser
BY Gagani Weerakoon
With his miscalculated boasting of killing 2000 to 3000 soldiers overnight during the war, has unsurprisingly stirred the masses in the country and put Karuna Amman in a politically as well as legally compromising position. In short, irrespective of the context or what led him to declare his atrocities after one-and-a-half decades of defecting from the LTTE, Karuna Amman is in hot water.
Within a few hours of his claim, two things were witnessed as immediate changes. Karuna who was considered all these years as the turning point of weakening the LTTE which gradually led to its defeat, turned traitor once again. Secondly, he went back to being referred to as ‘Karuna Amman’ from Vinayagamoorthi Muralitharan.
Corona vs Karuna
“Yes, I am more dangerous than COVID-19. Karuna Amman has killed 2,000 to 3,000 Sri Lankan Soldiers in one night at Elephant Pass when I was in the LTTE, as opposed to the number of lives claimed by COVID-19 in Sri Lanka,” Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan told a gathering.
He was responding to a statement made by the Chairman of the Karathivu local government body, who said ‘Karuna is more dangerous than the COVID-19’.
For V. Muralitharan, the Leader of the Tamil United Freedom Front, the statement would have been a mere response to his opponent at an election campaign. Karuna is said to have turned down Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa’s invitation to enter Parliament once again on the National List. He also has informed Prime Minister Rajapaksa that he would come to the latter again with a mandate from the people and does not wish to have a National List post.
Either he was genuine when he said, after recording a statement with the CID that he did not mean to hurt feelings of any party or community in society when he made the claim or he was completely ignorant and miscalculated how politics in this country works.
Can it be ignored?
Calls for proper investigation againt Karuna’s claim comes from all factions in society.
Close ally of former Minister, Patali Champika and supporter of Samagi Jana Balawegaya, Kaduwela Municipal Councillor Boseth Kalahepathirana, on Thursday (25), filed a Fundamental Rights Petition seeking a Supreme Court directive to the acting IGP Chandana D. Wickramaratna, to apprehend Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan, alias Karuna Amman, and to enforce the law.
Attorney General dappula De Livera, IGP Wickramaratne and Karuna Amman have been named as respondents.
The petitioner has stated that while addressing a public meeting in Digamadulla on 19 June, Karuna Amman had claimed that he is more dangerous than COVID-19 and that he had killed 2,000-3,000 Sri Lankan soldiers in one night at Elephant Pass.
The petitioner has told the Supreme Court that through this statement, Amman has committed offences under Sections 293 and 294 of the Penal Code, as well as the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights Act. Kalahepathirana has said that according to Section 17(1) of the Evidence Ordinance, this constitutes an acceptance of and a confession to a crime and therefore the law should be enforced against Karuna Amman.
In the meantime, he also faces a CID investigation that started on the directives of the Acting IGP C. Wickramaratna.
Calls are being made to the effect that Sri Lanka at least now should begin investigating Karuna for recruiting children to LTTE and put them to warfront.
Former LTTE militant Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan alias Karuna Amman should be investigated for the widespread recruitment of child soldiers, stated the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Following Karuna’s statement, the Office led by High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet, stated on 25 June via their official Twitter account that the former LTTE Commander, who is currently being questioned for alleged past crimes, should also be investigated for the recruitment of child soldiers, which is a crime under international law. The Office further stated that the accountability for such a crime should apply equally to all in Sri Lanka.
What was the motive?
Karuna Amman clearly does not hold a strong vote base in the East or amongst the Tamil population as he was considered a ‘traitor’ by the majority of his own community with his defection by ‘betraying’ LTTE Leader Velupillai Prabhakaran who is fondly referred to as Anna.
It is a well-known fact that the LTTE, during their time exerted fear amongst people for their survival and to have control over the years. They say old habits die hard and the same applies to Karuna aka Vinayagamoorthy Muraliltharan. Though kept suppressed under circumstances, when returned to his usual grounds, he would have felt free to show who he really is.
After all, Karuna was never really put through a proper programme to reintegrate into society, most probably he was not given proper psychological counselling too, a much-needed element for an ex-cadre who has been brainwashed and accustomed to killing.
On the other hand, what most people may have forgotten or not really have realised was that Karuna actually left the LTTE and Prabhakaran in fear of his own life and not with a genuine need of becoming a civilian.
Former Parliamentarian, Ali Zahir Moulana, who orchestrated Karuna’s safe journey from Thoppigala jungle to Colombo, recalled his endeavour during an interview with this writer in the last week of December 2009, upon his return to the country after fleeing to USA in fear of his life.
As he recalled;
“.....I was heavily involved in it peace negotiations) as an MP from the East as well as an advisor to then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. At that time, Prabhakaran had appointed Karuna as the Eastern political leader. So, I had the opportunity to work with the three ‘K’s in the East – they were Karuna, Kaushalyan and Karikalan. One day, when I met Karuna, he said that, after fighting a war with the government, they had come to a point where they can discuss matters in a civilised manner, without having any confrontation. He, in fact, told me that, once the ceasefire was signed, he asked his cardres to lay down arms and get back to normal life. Asked them to get married, visit their families and live like ordinary men. Then I realised, here is a man inclined towards wanting to come into mainstream politics. During these discussions, I realised this man was having problems with Prabahakaran. During the negotiations in Oslo, he came to me and said ‘Annan (brother), now the federal system is to be introduced, and even Norway is pressing us to solve this matter through negotiations. So, I told Anton Balasingham to sign it without consulting Prabhakaran’.
That was where the problem started. He was not demanding a complete Eelam. Then, Anton Balasingham was later questioned by Prabhakaran as to why he agreed without consulting him (Prabhakaran). When Balasingham said that Karuna and the rest were pressing him to do so, and he also felt that was right, Prabhakaran asked Karuna whether he too was trying to do what Mahattaya attempted to do. It was Rudrakumaran who provoked Prabhakaran against Karuna. When Karuna heard Mahattaya’s name, he knew his life was in danger. So, he consulted SLMM, and did whatever possible to get back to the East, and told me what happened, on my return. I was so concerned; I informed the situation to the then Government and PM Ranil Wickremesinghe. But they ignored it, as they completely believed the power of Vanni, and thought Karuna was not important. But I realised the importance of the Karuna factor to the country. So, I was making all possible arrangements to safeguard his life, if worse came to the worst. What I did was simply not the taxi man’s job. I was disassocited from the Government and my life was in danger. Some people openly called me a fool, to antagonise the LTTE, while in the East. My children couldn’t go to school, as the LTTE was planning on kidnapping them. So, with my family’s help, I made arrangements to go abroad. Still there were people in that Government who believed in Vanni power, who said, no matter where you run to escape, the LTTE will hunt you down. So, having done all this, can’t I claim the credit?
Q:How and when did you bring Karuna to Colombo, without him being arrested at any of the checkpoints, and where did you hide him?
A: The LTTE, through the SLMM, asked for Naval escort, saying that they need to come to the East. During the CFA, Sri Lankan forces were supposed to escort LTTE cadres, but they were not supposed to carry weapons. So, on this particular day, LTTE boats came with Navy escort under the patronage of the SLMM, and launched an ambush on Karuna cadres, starting from the Verugal area. At this point, Karuna contacted me and informed me of what was happening. I requested him not to return fire or counterattack, as civilians could get caught in the crossfire. I asked him to withdraw, and he withdrew to the Thoppigala area. I went inside the jungle, picked him up and proceeded to Colombo. That was 12 April 2004. We were stopped at several checkpoints, but since we were not armed or carried any weapons, there were no problems.
I made arrangements for him to spend the first night in Colombo at the Jaic Hilton, and informed chief of the Peace Secretariat, Bernard Gunatillake. After that he took charge of the situation.”
Moulana also recalled how he stopped at a popular hotel in Habarana-Dambulla area, so that Karuna and the team, who at the time looked exhausted, could have refreshments.
This, was in fact true as the news of Karuna defecting came to the newsroom of a leading national daily English newspaper even before Moulana or Karuna reached Colombo. A senior political reporter of the newspaper, who happened to sit with another group of journalists and civil activists, identified Karuna and immediately informed his Editor that Amman and few others were sitting few tables away from him.
With his open declaration, this writer recalls meeting a group of ex-LTTE cadres in 2018 in Mullaithivu and Kilinochchi. They were slowly being integrated into the society after going through Government’s rehabilitation process.
Thamilchelvam who was amongst those who last surrendered in Mullivaikkal was put under rehabilitation and released in 2012. He said that he saw history repeating after 30 years.
“After returning from the rehabilitation camp, it felt like the period we first came to Vishwamadu from Matale. War was over and I was in my mid 40s. I didn’t know what to do for a living. Part of society didn’t want to give us employment because they found it difficult to believe that we were reformed and will not take up arms again. The other part treated us like traitors.
““Why did we fight for 30 years? My blood is red and so is yours. Sinhalese and Tamils fought each other but if you look far back into the history of both, you will find links of the other races somewhere. We all are connected somehow. We fought because we were given no alternative. No one wants to go back to that time again. The war ended and we were declared rehabilitated. But who looked after us after that? Neither a Sinhala nor a Tamil politician came and asked how we were doing. Not a single politician provided us with food. We had no jobs and had nothing to do in this godforsaken place,” he added.
Asked whether he believes that the two communities could reconcile and live in harmony, Thamilchelvam said reconciliation could only be achieved if both parties could wholeheartedly believe it.
“Language is the key. If you know my language and I know yours we can communicate with each other. If not, we have to depend on an interpreter like myself. I have now being registered as a licensed interpreter and also could teach government officials. I am teaching Tamils Sinhala language. Interpreters would only do 6—70 per cent of the job. It is through language that people could feel each other and understand each other. As long as our two communities don’t completely understand each other without having a third party in their midst we will continue to treat each other with a tinge of mistrust,” he emphasised.
Reconciliation cannot be achieved overnight; he said while noting that it needs lots of courage, caring, respect, love and massive change of attitude and behaviour.
“Now we have a Minister who is in charge of national co-existence. In reality, his existence is felt only on facebook. If you go to his facebook account you can see what he’s been doing and where he has been. But if you want to know how to achieve real reconciliation, come to CSD in Vishwamadu, Kilinochchi or Mullaitivu. The majority of us who are in these bases are LTTE cadres who fought against Government Forces. Now it’s been almost four years and the Army officers we have here have not even referred to us and even jokingly said ‘oh, so you were fighting against us!’ We never felt insecure or threatened in their presence, because they have the right attitude. They know that lasting peace could be achieving only by letting go of the past, while learning whatever positivity from the past,” he added.
Thamilchelvam or any other ex-cadre, irrespective of the fact whether they were area commanders or regional leaders, despite being repeatedly asked refused to divulge details of the battles they fought or whose life they took, prompting the writer to ask why none of them refused to do so.
“Like we said, none of the soldiers or officers recall those as they want to make sure we are comfortable. Likewise, there is some kind of a bond and trust developed between you and us. We shared food and water and by accepting whatever we give, you indirectly implied that you trust us as much as you trust anyone here. If we talk about all atrocities we did and by chance, one of your family members was a victim, as a human will it not affect this bond?” they asked.
This exactly is what has happened to Karuna now. The moment he mentioned his atrocities, all his political colleagues have now started disassociating themselves from him.
By attempting to exert a sense of violence amongst people in the East, Karuna has probably further lost his vote base in the East amongst moderates while, there is already a faction who still consider him as a traitor.
On the other hand, Karuna has compromised his political camp and colleagues, who are mainly garnering patriotic nationalist votes. War heroes or the military forces and the war victory have been the deciding factor of any Election in the past two decades and thus, it would be natural to see Karuna Amman being isolated in the coming weeks and probably will have to face severe consequences, which also means ending all the perks he has been enjoying over the years since 2004.