The pro-government Tamil militant group led by the former LTTE commander Karuna has reportedly split, with Karuna and his deputy, Pillaiyan, falling out over money and the command structure.
Quoting military sources The Nation weekly said on Sunday that Pillaiyan had fled to Trincomalee from Batticaloa with 150 of his followers.
Pillaiyan, as the man in the field, had resented Karuna's remote control, reliable sources told Hindustan Times.
The Nation said that the infighting had led to the killing of Sindujan, a Pillaiyan loyalist who was the head of the Karuna group in Amparai district.
Sindujan and the group's intelligence chief, Seelan, were called for a meeting where a Karuna loyalist, Iniyabharathi, killed Sindujan. Seelan escaped miraculously, the paper said. The clash within the group had erupted over the distribution of money.
On the day Sindujan was killed, Karuna had invited Pillaiyan to come over for a discussion. But Pillaiyan had chosen not to go as he knew what awaited him, The Nation said.
Those in the know recall that the Karuna-Prabhakaran split in early 2004 had also occurred over the use or misuse of money. The LTTE's financel department and its intelligence chief (Pottu Amman) had alleged misappropriation of funds by Karuna, who was then the Batticaloa and Amparai district commander.
They asked the Supremo, Velupillai Prabhakaran, to take action against Karuna. Prabhkaran summoned Karuna to the Wanni for a discussion. But Karuna chose not to go because he knew what awaited him.
Instead, he split, struck an alliance with the Sri Lankan government, and formed his own Batticaloa Amparai-based politico-military organisation called Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Puligal (Tamil Peoples' Liberation Tigers).
Informed sources say that in the fight within the Karuna group, Karuna will have the upper hand because he represents the 'brand'. Given his past as Prabhakaran's deputy, Karuna is likely to get outside support and not Pillaiyan.
It is likely that Prabhakaran will try to get Pillaiyan and his men to come over to his side, taking advantage of the offer of amnesty including jobs overseas.
Pillaiyan may find it hard to survive on his own. But it remains to be seen if he will exercise the option of seeking refuge in Prabhakaran.