Kohona: paramilitary link with "lowest rank" of SL forces

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 23 May 2006, 16:50 GMT]
Amidst increasing accusations against Colombo of Sri Lankan troopers alleged involvement in extra-judicial killings and the terror-campaign let loose on Jaffna islets, Dr. Palitha Kohona, the Head of Sri Lanka Peace Secretariat, on Tuesday said that he suspects there might be contacts with the paramilitary cadres and the lower rank Sri Lankan troops.

Following the increased civilian killings and attacks on Tamil parliamentarian offices, the top brass of the Sri Lankan forces have been accused of masterminding escalating violence and creating fear psychosis in the minds of the Tamil population.

The Head of Sri Lankan Peace Secretariat, Palitha Kohona, who has been denying any existence of link between the Tamil paramilitary groups, and the Sri Lankan military and the political establishment, changed his position, in an exclusive interview to the Reuters.

"[...] human contacts that were established during the three years of ceasefire may have continued. I don't have any evidence as to whether they are continuing or not, but we suspect there might be," the Head of Sri Lankan Peace Secretariat was quoted by the Reuters.

"It is not going to be an easy task to ensure that government soldiers break off all their contacts that existed previously with the now Karuna's men," Kohona further said.

He continued: "...given human nature, I wouldn't be surprised that people fraternise with each other ... They fraternise, they drink with each other, they visit each others' homes. As to what happens beyond that I do not know."

This is the first time, a Sri Lankan official has attempted to provide an explanation to the charges of paramilitary - Sri Lanka military link.

The Liberation Tigers have been accusing Colombo for violating a crucial clause of the Ceasefire Agreement. The clause 1.8 of February 2002 CFA states that the Sri Lankan military should disarm the Tamil paramilitary groups.

Although the Government of Sri Lanka agreed to disarm the armed groups, at Geneva Talks in February this year, the paramilitary violence resumed within three days after the talks.

The paramilitary violence later spread to Vavuniya and Jaffna.

An elite commando unit of the Liberation Tigers, on April 30, launched a surprise attack inside the Sri Lanka Army (SLA) controlled Welikanda in Batticaloa- Polonnaruwa border, killing at least 18 cadres of the paramilitary Karuna Group. Tigers also said they killed five Sri Lankan soldiers, including a Captain rank officer, who took part in a paramilitary rescue operation.

Since the defection in April 2004 to the Sri Lanka Army of the renegade LTTE commander, Karuna, following the crushing of his rebellion against the LTTE leadership the violence against LTTE cadres and supporters has escalated sharply.

Apart from prominent academics, journalists and political activists supportive of the Tamil nationalist struggle, many ordinary civilians suspected of sympathy for the Tigers and some with relatives in the LTTE have been murdered.

Following the collapse of his rebellion in the face of a lightning offensive by the LTTE over the Easter 2004 weekend, Karuna escaped to Army-controlled territory with a handful of loyalists. They were given safe escort to Colombo by the Sri Lanka armed forces.

Kaunra cadres have been operating out of safehouses in Colombo provided by Sri Lankan Military Intelligence (MI), deserters from his ranks say. At least one Colombo safehouse was attacked by suspected LTTE commanders in late 2004, resulting in the deaths of eight paramilitaries and their MI handler.

Karuna himself established a close relationship with the one-time head of Military Intelligence, Sri Lanka Army Major General Shantha Kottegoda. It was during Kottegoda's - then promoted to Lt. Gen. - tenure as head of the SLA that paramilitary violence against LTTE cadres and, primarily, supporters became widespread.

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