The pro-government, break-away LTTE leader, Col Karuna, who is in custody in the UK since late last week on a charge of possessing a false passport, has sought political asylum, informed sources in Colombo say.
"Apparently he feels that he is not safe in Sri Lanka," a senior government source told Hindustan Times on Monday.
Karuna, who founded the Tamileela Makkal Viduthalai Puligal (TMVP) after breaking away from the mainstream Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) led by Prabhakaran in March-April 2004, was accused by the UN, the international community and human rights groups, of indulging in large-scale extortion and recruitment of kids for his armed group in the Tamil-speaking Eastern districts of Batticaloa and Amparai. And the Sri Lankan government was accused of being "complicit" in his crimes.
In course time, the TMVP itself split, with the second-in-command, Pillaiyaan, breaking away, apparently with government support. It was said that the Sri Lankan armed forces did not need Karuna any more and were promoting Pillaiyaan instead. A cosmetic patch up was effected, but it came unstuck.
Isolated and unwanted, Karuna fled Sri Lanka recently, and was reportedly living in the UK.
On hearing about his detention by the British Home Office, the Human Rights Watch (HRW) urged the British government to bring Karuna to justice. Apparently, Karuna fears that other international rights groups, and the UN, might echo HRW's demand.
Karuna, who was an ace commander of the LTTE in the 1990s, is today a wanted and hunted man, not only by LTTE leader Prabhakaran's hit squads, but the UN and several international human rights groups.