Batticaloa, Human Rights, Human Security, IDPs and Refugees, Peace and Conflict, Politics and Governance

Impact of the Batticaloa Conflict and the situation of Muslims

The Kattankudi Jamiyyathul Ulama had requested all the newly elected Muslim members of the Eastern Provincial Council to boycott its inaugural session to highlight the demand of strengthening security of the Muslim community in the east. Ethnic violence has flared in the east between the Tamil and Muslim communities since the EPC polls were conducted and tense situation prevails in the east putting into question the government claim of having liberated the east from the clutches of the LTTE. Political analysts indicate several possible reasons for the above situation.

  1. An LTTE attempt to regain control of the eastern province through inciting ethnic violence.
  2. Karuna cadres’ plan to capture power authority in the east.
  3. Opposition politics drive to gain political benefits.
  4. Government security systems.

The LTTE lost their power in the east after losing their final bastion in the east at ‘Thopigala’. It was a big draw back for the LTTE. However the situation in the east calmed a little with the eviction of the LTTE reducing forced taxations and incidences of ethnic killings. The Tamil and Muslim communities tried to return back to their normal life with co-existence, because; they were fed up of the sufferings due to the ethnic conflict of over twenty years.

On the other hand it is a fact that movements, such as the LTTE, draw their strength from a polarized community base. Therefore the LTTE created violence between the Tamil and Muslim communities from time to time in the past.

After the separation of TMVP, regionalism took hold among Batticaloa Tamils. They started to support TMVP and the LTTE lost their power there. However the TMVP held up Muslim community’s support till it strengthened the faction. Finally the LTTE was wiped out from east with the help of TMVP. A popular Tamil politician said that around 512 LTTE cadres had joined with the TMVP again and that most of them jointly worked with Karuna’s supporters and that they are waiting for the LTTE command. They are holding TMVP label, but working for LTTE. In the mean time the Karuna Pillayan clash took place in the field. Pillayan won the game and Karuna left the country finally. Thus the TMVP internal clash was solved.

However Karuna had made mistakes in the TMVP setup. He had changed regional leaders and their positions too. Due to these changes few of the cadres got fed up and some had even joined the LTTE also. Jeyam, (now he is at the position of Pradheep Master), and Paarathi are both misusing their power. They created tension in the Tamil – Muslim relationship. Also the other Tamil movements like EPDP, EPRLF, TELO, etc had worried regarding TMVP activities in the east. Several clashes happened recently.

Any way Karuna’s cadres worked separately within the Pillayan faction. In Ampara, Parathy and in parts of Batticaloa area Jeyam, Sinnathampy, Mangalam master and their cadres are working according to the Karuna’s command. They are not satisfied with Pillayan. The Karuna’s faction had already been isolated by Pillayan due to lots of corruption. The Karuna wing leader Sinnathampy was affected by a Pillayan faction claymore attack at Valaichchenai in the period of tug of war between Karuna cadres and Pillayan cadres. Parathi had escaped several times from targeting. Following the above incidents the Pillayan faction controlled the Batticaloa town area. However the cold war between two parties is continuing.

This clash between Karuna and Pillayan was an opportunity for LTTE in recapturing the east. They escalated attacks against the government force. Around 100 well trained cadres arrived in the east within a few months –. 40 cadres from Amapara under the leadership of Ram, Janarthan, 30 cadres in Batticaloa under the leadership of Rahuvaran, 35 cadres in Trincomalee under Wijayakhanth are fighting against the govt. forces. Others, who are invisible within the TMVP, are creating violence according to the instruction of Vanni leadership indirectly. They increase the clashes between Karuna faction and Pillayan faction and at the same time do the same between the Tamil and Muslim communities.

In this background Santhan was later put in charge of Batticaloa TMVP and pushed forward in the TMVP. He was from an affected family from Kattankudy boarder village and was displaced in his childhood in the early 1990’s. Therefore he joined with the LTTE and started to take revenge on the Muslims in Kattankudy. Especially the Karbala issue was created by Santhan after he joined the TMVP. The government intelligent forces suspected Santhan on several incidents that happened in Batticaloa and Arayampathy areas against the government forces. The military unofficially said that several reports have been recorded in NIB against Santhan. He also worked with Karuna faction. All these things were a headache for the Tamil-Muslim communities, TMVP and government forces.

Finally Santhan was shot dead by unidentified persons at Kattankudy. The incident turned into an ethnic conflict by the LTTE as planned. They are expecting to wipe out support of Pillayan from Muslim community. The Karuna faction as well is hoping to isolate Pillayan from the ground by this incident.

The opposition used the tragic incident to create a bad name on the government and to direct the Muslim’s grief towards the government. The government is dumb due to pressure from Karuna’s faction as it is in need of Karuna in the Vanni battle field. His knowledge now is necessary for the advancing of the government forces inside the Vanni. The UK government is going to repatriate Karuna soon to Sri Lanka. Therefore the government doesn’t like to take any action on TMVP.

Issues such as these are big inside the TMVP. One senior leader said: “the government believes Karuna faction likes Parathy, Sinnathampy. But they are working against the government”. The question is if Pillayan is a real peace maker, he has to solve the problems and punish their cadres involved with the killings, abductions, demanding of taxes etc. even if they belongs to Karuna’s faction. Already they have sacrificed several lives to capture Batticaloa again. Therefore, he has a duty to solve these issues.

This is totally a political game playing on the sensitivities of the communities. They are playing with innocent lives. The government, TMVP, oppositions and LTTE has to take responsibility for security of Muslim community. The Muslim theologians have to take part to direct people in the correct and peaceful path. Muslims lost the opportunity to get Chief Ministerial Post in the eastern province. So, now the only way left is dialog with the other community and sharing rights, powers etc with them through negotiations.

Otherwise we will be making a big mistake in the future.