Despondent paramilitaries mull arms surrender

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 26 February 2002, 15:48 GMT]
The Sri Lanka army has given 48 hours to Tamil paramilitary groups operating in the Batticaloa district to disarm or join the military and serve outside the Northeast, the regional Tamil daily, Thinakathir reported Tuesday, quoting sources in SLA's 23-3 Brigade Headquarters in the eastern town.

According to the Thinakathir, the SLA had asked the local leaders of the EPDP, PLOTE, the EPRLF (Varathar Faction) and the TELO at a meeting for them in the 23-3 HQ Tuesday to provide details of the weapons in their possession. The TELO's chief organiser for Batticaloa, Mr. Indrakumar Prasanna, had left the meeting after informing the SLA that his group doesn't carry weapons.

indrakumar_prasanna.jpgMr. Prasanna was a candidate of the Tamil National Alliance for Batticaloa at the elections to the Sri Lankan Parliament in December last year.

Mr. Viji Thangarajah, the Batticaloa district leader of the EPDP, Mr. Raj Mama, the PLOTE's local leader, and Mr. R. Thurairatnam, the EPRLF's (Varathar faction) took part in the meeting at the 23-3 HQ Tuesday, according to the paper which is published in Batticaloa.

The SLA had informed them that under the provisions of the Memorandum of Understanding between the government and the Liberation Tigers they and their cadres have to disarm or join the army as regular soldiers and be deployed outside the north and east.

The local leaders of the paramilitary groups, however, told the army that they would have to consult with their leaders in Colombo regarding the matter. They also asked the SLA time to submit lists of weapons in their possession.

paraneetharan_p.jpgMr. P. Paraneetharan, the spokesman for the EPDP in Batticaloa told the Thinakathir that his group needs the weapons for security reasons and that it will never join the Sri Lanka army.

"Morale among our cadres is low. I am going to have a tough time convincing them to stay on", an area leader of a paramilitary group in Batticaloa town told TamilNet when asked about the SLA's dead line.

"That the matter has come out in the press have made matters worse for us vis-à-vis the public", he added.

The EPDP, PLOTE and EPRLF (Varathar Faction) have camps in the high security zone of the Batticaloa town. The PLOTE and EPRLF military camps in Chenkalady and Valaichenai, north of Batticaloa. All the paramilitary groups extort money from shops, co-operative societies, farmers, and brick kiln owners.

Armed cadres of the Tamil paramilitary groups man positions ahead of the Vavunathivu entry point, 4 kilometres Southeast of Batticaloa and the Black Bridge entry point in Chenkalady, 16 kilometres north of the eastern town. They extort money and goods daily from civilians, farmers and traders from the LTTE held region who pass through the entry points.

According to reports in the Thinakathir, several armed cadres of these paramilitary groups who had attempted to extort money posing as members of the LTTE were apprehended by civilians in Valaichenai, Chenkalady, Batticaloa town and Kaluwanchikudy in recent weeks. Others were caught in Karaithivu and Thirukkovil in the Amparai district.

Speaking to the press at the LTTE's District Secretariat in Kokkaddicholai last week, the Deputy leader of the organisation's political wing, Mr. Karikalan, charged that the paramilitary groups were deliberately extorting money from Muslims and Tamils in the east at the instigation of 'certain sections in Colombo that are bent on scuttling the peace process' to bring the Tigers into disrepute.

 

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