Government sidelines Karuna, promotes new front in East
In a significant shift of strategy and political alliances in the east, the Government is believed to have virtually dumped the Karuna faction and is supporting a new Tamil front for local elections in the east later this year, political sources said.
The new front led by Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) leader V. Anandasangaree and including the People’s Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE) and the Eelam People’s Liberation Front (EPRLF – Pathmanabha Wing) is to begin its political activities in the east within the next few weeks.
It is due to function as the Tamil Democratic Alliance (TDA) and is inviting other Tamil parties to join the alliance to contest local elections followed by provincial elections in the east.
Apparently as a sign of support, the government this week provided a helicopter to Mr. Anandasangaree, PLOTE leader Dharmalingam Siddharthan and EPRLF-Pathmanabha Wing General Secretary T. Sridharan to visit Batticaloa and have a hurriedly summoned meeting with government officials and representatives of international and local non governmental organisations.
The visiting delegation told the NGO community that the purpose of the visit was to listen to the problems of the people of the area and convey them to President Mahinda Rajapaksa to find solutions.
Among the grievances which they listened to were issues about continued child recruitment by the Karuna group in the government-controlled areas and the difficulties in travelling to some of the areas newly regained from the LTTE. The delegation was later flown to Vakarai, before returning to Colombo.
On Friday night the visiting delegation met President Rajapaksa and briefed him about the visit as well as the problems in the area.
Mr. Siddarthan who took part in the meeting told The Sunday Times said their plans were to contest the two upcoming elections and their visit was aimed at looking into the grievances of the people in the Eastern Province and the NGOs working in the region.
During the meeting, he said the President had promised to expedite the ongoing relief and development activities in the cleared areas of the east.
The fresh move has angered the Karuna faction which is claiming that the step was aimed at sidelining the group which was involved in assisting the security forces in the recent months.
Ganesh Mahesh, spokesman for the Thamil Makkal Vidithalai Pulligal (TMVP) – the Karuna faction’s political wing — told The Sunday Times that the government was promoting groups which had never sighted the areas when the people were facing difficulties.
Government’s plans to promote the new political front come amidst criticism that the Karuna group has been permitted to move about with weapons in government-controlled areas and no action was taken against them. The group also has been accused of forcible recruitment.
Currently the TULF, the PLOTE or the EPRLF’s Pathmanabha wing do not have any parliament representation.