There are conflicting claims about a "patch up" between the Karuna and Pillaiyaan factions in the pro-government Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Puligal (TMVP) founded by Karuna in Eastern Sri Lanka after he broke away from the LTTE led by Velupillai Prabhakaran in 2004.
The Karuna faction says that, as per an agreement reached on Sunday, Karuna will be the leader of the group and that Pillaiyaan will be the military chief. But the Pillayaan faction says that all decisions will, from now on, be taken by a new Central Committee. The Karuna group claims suzerainty, which the Pillaiyaan group still does not recognise.
Independent observers say that while a patch up has been effected, due to pressure from the Sri Lankan armed forces with which the two factions are cooperating, it may not last long.
"The wounds and scars of the conflict are too deep," an informed source told Hindustan Times on Monday.
In the past few months, differences had arisen between Karuna and Pillaiyaan over the command structure and the crores of rupees allegedly collected through illegal taxes and extortion. The Pillaiyaan group, which has been operating in the field, resented Karuna's remote control, it is said.
Recently, this resulted in bloodshed, with the Karuna group killing among others, Sindujan, one of Pillaiyaan's chief lieutenants. Pillaiyaan is said to have fled from Batticaloa district to Trincomalee district with about 350 cadres.
Alarmed that the conflict might go out of hand soon, the Sri Lankan armed forces brought about a patch up on Sunday, political courses said.
"In the cordial talks between our leader Karuna Ammaan and Commandant Pillaiyaan and various other high ranking commandants on Sunday, an agreement has been reached," announced Azad Mowlana, spokesman of the Karuna faction, in an interview to the BBC's Tamil service.
Differences of opinion in a "democratic party" could not be taken to mean a split, Mowlana pleaded.
Speaking to the media he said that as per the agreement, Karuna would remain the overall leader, and Pillaiyaan would be the military chief.
Speaking to media, an un-named spokesman of the Pillaiyaan group said that all decisions in regard to military and civil matters would be decided by a Central Committee. The group would "wait and see" how this system worked before taking the next step, he added. Meanwhile, the Karuna group would operate in Batticaloa and Pillaiyaan would be operating in Trincomalee.
LTTE watching with interest
Any split in the TMVP will be to the advantage of the LTTE, which is fighting the Sri Lankan armed forces in Batticaloa and Trincomalee with its back to the wall.
It is rumoured that the LTTE will try to get Pillaiyaan over to its side. Sources in Trincomalee said that the LTTE might have infiltrated the Pillaiyaan group in Trincomalee and that this was a cause of worry for the Sri Lankan armed forces.
"The conflict and the tension are hampering rehabilitation work in Trincomalee district," an official of an international relief agency told Hindustan Times.