The controversial LTTE dissident, Colonel Karuna, is believed to have left Sri Lanka recently, following trenchant international criticism of the activities of his group, the Tamileela Makkal Viduthalai Puligal (TMVP), in the eastern Tamil-speaking district of Batticaloa.
Media reports said on Wednesday that Karuna had left for Britain. But independent sources could only confirm that he had left the country temporarily. The Scandinavian-staffed Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission and the New York-based Human Rights Watch had both criticised the TMVP for forcibly recruiting children and extorting money from the people in Batticaloa.
Every UN and EU rights body had been urging the Sri Lankan government to disarm or rein in the Karuna group. And time and again, they had expressed dismay over Colombo’s turning a deaf ear to these pleas. But the Sri Lankan government needed the Karuna group to help track down the LTTE and help police the area recently cleared of the rebel group.
While the government needed the Karuna group for military purposes, it was ill at ease with its political ambitions. The TMVP had been nursing ambitions of emerging as the voice of the Tamils in the East, especially Batticaloa district, and winning the proposed elections in early 2008.
To prevent the emergence of any new popular Tamil group in place of the LTTE, and to win the hearts and minds of the Tamils, the Rajapaksa government itself started doing relief and rehabilitation work in the war affected areas.
All efforts in this direction began to be directed by Basil Rajapaksa, senior advisor and brother of President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Government ministers were asked to make frequent visits to the rehabilitation centres and announce development programmes worth millions of rupees.