"Col" Karuna, the leader of the pro-government breakaway LTTE group Tamileela Makkal Viduthalai Puligal (TMVP), now held in the UK for possessing a false passport, would be dealt with according UK law, the Sri Lankan Foreign Secretary, Dr Palitha Kohona, told Hindustan Times on Saturday.
The BBC had quoted a British Home Office statement on Friday to say that Karuna was arrested by the newly set up Border and Immigration Agency and the London police. "He is now being held in immigration detention," the statement said without giving details. A section of the media in Sri Lanka said that he was arrested at Heathrow airport, others said that he was arrested at his house.
Sri Lankan Foreign Secretary Dr Kohona remarked that it was significant that Karuna should be in the UK when the international interlocutors (UN and other members of the international community), International NGOs and human rights groups were accusing him of committing crimes in Eastern Sri Lanka!
However, it is widely believed that the Sri Lankan government was indeed embarrassed by the charges against Karuna, especially the ones which said that the Sri Lankan armed forces were complicit. Karuna was accused of running an extortion racket, abduction for money and recruiting children for his military wing.
It is said that eventually, government allowed Karuna to leave the country to a safe haven abroad. The media reported that he was in the UK but there was no confirmation.
As a man hunted by the mainstream LTTE led by Velupillai Prabhakaran since his defection in March-April 2004, Karuna feared for his life, and was living under tight security in undisclosed places in Sri Lanka before he fled the country recently.
To add to his problems, a split had occurred in his group, with Pillaiyaan, his military second-in-command, breaking away after violent clashes in which several cadres were killed.
The media reported that the government had begun to back Pillaiyaan as Karuna had outlived his use. Pillaiyaan was the man on the spot, and Karuna was a man in hiding, a virtual fugitive, though he was the more known figure with many past military exploits to his credit as one of the top commanders of the LTTE led by Prabhakaran.
A cosmetic patch up between Karuna and Pillaiyaan was affected by the State, with Pillaiyaan being asked to restrict himself to Trincomalee district, leaving Batticaloa and Amparai districts to Karuna.
But the ambitious Pillaiyaan did not want to be confined to Trincomalee, where the TMVP had no great influence anyway. He wanted Batticaloa, the home turf. Pillaiyaan started coming back to Batticaloa and establishing offices and camps and Karuna could little to thwart the move.