(Former Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam(LTTE) political commissar for Batticaloa and Amparai districts Eliyathamby Nagenthiran Lingarasa alias Kausalyan was assassinated on February 7th 2005. This article published in “The Sunday Leader”then is reproduced to denote his 10th death anniversary…..DBSJ)
It was the third day of March last year. Around 125 to 150 senior stalwarts of the Batticaloa – Amparai Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) were gathered at “Thenagam” conference hall at Karadiyanaaru in Batticaloa District. Former Eastern commander of the LTTE Vinayagamurthy Muraleetharan alias “Colonel” Karuna was holding the floor. The man who had led the Tigers in the east from 1987 wasrevolting against his leader Velupillai Pirapaharan.
Many of those present could not believe their ears. Karuna “Amman” was related a litany of complaints against the LTTE hierarchy. His chief targets were Intelligence Head Pottu Amman, Financial Controller Thamilendhi and Police Chief Nadesan. What Karuna wanted was for the eastern LTTE component to have autonomous authority. He advocated that the eastern Tigers should be free of central control by the LTTE hierarchy. “We will throw off the northern yoke and create an eastern renaissance,” Karuna said.
Many were flabbergasted. Some who know about Karuna’s mindset were not surprised, but did not expect such open defiance. Whatever their inner thoughts or misgivings almost everyone seemed to agree. Some kept silent, but many articulated their willingness to go along with Karuna openly. Ironically some of the wildly enthusiastic lieutenants were Ramesh, Karikalan, Ram, Ramanan, Kuyilinban, Bawa, etc. All of them later went over to Pirapaharan and turned vehemently against Karuna.
There was only one open dissenter. This courageous “Akela” who dared to defy the eastern supremo was none other than Kausalyan who was gunned down brutally at Namalgama last week. Kausalyan was then as he was now the Political Wing Chief of the Batticaloa – Amparai LTTE. Kausalyan respectfully told Karuna that the destiny of the eastern and northern Tamil was inextricably inter-twined. The Tamil people had to be united. Disunity meant the end of the armed struggle, he pointed out. All problems with the leadership should be resolved through discussion. Kausalyan urged Karuna to refrain from this course of action and go to the Wanni and meet leader Pirapaharan directly.
Karuna argued back and did his best to change Kausalyan’s stance. At one point he asked Kausalyan himself to write the amount of income earned by the LTTE in the east and remitted to Wanni. With trembling fingers Kausalyan did so. “With all that money we can make our ‘Batticaloa motherland’ a golden Eastern Eelam,” said Karuna. Kausalyan stood his ground. He could have been executed by the impulsive Karuna. Yet Kausalyan did not relent. Finally, Karuna lost his temper. He scolded Kausalyan in filth and asked him to get out. “Go to Wanni immediately. Take your Manisi (woman) with you. I don’t want to set sight on you. If I see you again I will finish you.”
First to go
While a dumbstruck audience watched, Kausalyan left the place. Losing no time he went to Ambilanthurai and picked up his fiancee Pushpa then a final year undergraduate at the Eastern Campus. He made his way quickly to the Wanni even as news of the revolt reached Pirapaharan. There was no doubt that the LTTE leader was happy to see Kausalyan. They were immersed in discussions for a long time. Thereafter people like Ramesh, Ramanan, Ram, Praba, Karikalan, etc., deserted Karuna and came over. But the man who fearlessly defied Karuna’s divisive revolt was Kausalyan alone. The Tiger leader was greatly appreciative of Kausalyan’s loyalty and in a few weeks time witnessed his marriage to Pushpa.
Quiet and contemplative,the soft-spoken Kausalyan was not an extrovert. Gentle and mild-mannered he was by nature shy. Yet the docile exterior belied an inwardly strong character with nerves of steel. He was firmly stubborn in negotiations. He did not argue boisterously, but never relented from his position. He would seem charmingly agreeable, but would remain firmly inflexible. Though an introvert Kausalyan got along well in interacting with the people. His trouble-shooting skills were legendary. With his demise the LTTE has lost someone who in the future could have become a great leader and possibly second in command.
Eliyathamby Nagenthiran Lingarasa alias Kausalyan was born on October 16, 1972 in Pandariyaweli. This was on the west coast of the Batticaloa lagoon. The littoral to the east of the lagoon was known as “Eluvaankarai” or shore of the rising sun while the western hinterland was “Paduvaankarai” or shore of the setting sun. He came from peasant farmer stock, but his lineage was that of a warrior clan.
Kausalyan belonged to the dominant social group in Batticaloa – Amparai known as “Mutkuhar” but known colloquially as “Mukkuwa.”
His sub-sect or matrilineal clan was “Kaalinga Kudi.” The Paduvaankarai region including villages like Pandariaveli, Padaikathaveli, Arasaditheevu, etc., were populated to a great extent by people of this clan or kudi. The Kalinga kudi derives its name from Kalinga and claim to be descendants of warriors of Kalinga kings from Deccan India. As time went on they turned to agriculture, but were generally impoverished as agrarian workers.
Kausalyan like Ramesh, Thurai and Nagesh, etc., of the LTTE belonged to this clan. A whole bunch of this clan joined up with the LTTE during the Indian Army period. Earlier the bulk of LTTE recruits came from other caste groups. Kausalyan then 16 plus joined in early 1989 and received training in the Kanchikudicharu jungle. He was later stationed in the Vadamunai jungle areas.
When war broke out with Colombo after the IPKF left, Kausalyan again fought in the Kumburumoolai region. He also fought in the Vaaharai – Kadiraveli region. Possessing leadership potential he went up the ladder quickly and by 1993 was in charge of district finances. He was in Jaffna in 1994 and worked under finance controller Ranjith Appa who later took the “Pure Tamil” nom de guerre Thamilendhi. He returned to the east in 1995after the ceasefire and continued to be in charge of finance and taxation.
In 1995 Kausalyan went up to the Wanni where the LTTE had re-grouped after withdrawing from Jaffna. He fought in the Mullaithivu battle of July 18, 1996. He was also involved in logistics during the Wanni fighting of 1996-1997/8. He returned to the east again in 1998 and was again in charge of finance for both Amparai and Batticaloa.
Kausalyan dealt with millions of rupees but was scrupulously honest. His integrity was above reproach. No one including Karuna can point a finger at him for financial impropriety or embezzlement. Despite this squeaky clean record, Karuna removed him in 2001 and made him deputy political commissar to Karikalan. Seemingly a promotion, the move was calculated to get Kausalyan out of Nidhipporuppu or financial control. With Kausalyan out, the way was cleared for Karuna and his coterie to ‘misappropriate’ money under the new finance chief Reginald (not Karuna’s brother Reggie). This was the beginning of Karuna’s downfall.
After Karikalan fell out of favour with Pirapaharan over the Muslim question and was removed, Kausalyan succeeded him as political commissar of Batticaloa – Amparai. He remained so till his death. One of his greatest achievements was mending fences to a great extent with the estranged Muslim community. He took exceptional care to prevent Tamil – Muslim enmity erupting. His death is a great loss to Tamil – Muslim brotherhood. The spontaneous hartal observed in Muslim areas to protest his killing and the remarkably large Muslim attendance at Kausalyan’s funeral at Thandiaddy is illustrative of his relationship with the Muslims.
Kausalyan had left leaning tendencies. Coming from an agricultural worker background he was interested in land reform. Kausalyan spearheaded the acquisition of land from rich Tamil and Muslim landowners and distributing it in small allotments to landless peasants. Unfortunately for Kausalyan his attempts to transform the semi-feudal “Podiar” (landowner) agro-system in the east did not succeed. It ended in abysmal failure as the new owners did not have the capacity to work the land consistently and continuously amid adverse circumstances.
Given the LTTE preoccupation with war it was unable to provide the support systems necessary to small landowners. As a result of this ‘land reform’ and the escalating war the entire agricultural output of what was once the paddy bowl of Lanka decreased drastically.
Apart from formulating and enforcing a tax scheme that rapidly pauperised the middle classes, Kausalyan also pioneered income-generating projects for the LTTE in the east. Stone quarrying, construction contracts, sand business, bakeries, hiring vehicles, setting up bakeries, financing small boutiques, textile retail, etc., were some of these projects. Not all of these were successes, but they were run honestly. After his removal most of these projects became hotbeds of corruption.
The overall LTTE Political Commissar Tamilselvan came over to Batticaloa to preside over Kausalyan’s funeral. He along with Bhanu, Thamilendhi, Balakumar and Nagesh came by air force helicopter after charging the security forces of complicity in Kausalyan’s death. Thirty five others including Ramesh, Karikalan, Para and Nadesan came by road with the SLMM. Tamilselvan lambasted the forces in his funeral oration. After doing so he will travel back in a Sri Lanka Air Force helicopter again.
Despite this posturing, the same Tamilselvan gave Kausalyan a lot of harassment when he was eastern political chief. He was cold shouldered in many respects. When Tamilselvan led a political delegation to Europe after Karuna’s rebellion he kept Kausalyan out. When pro-Karuna websites raised the issue of discrimination against eastern Tigers the team was hastily revised and Kausalyan included. Kausalyan with his modest, pleasing manner was a great hit abroad. He met a lot of Batticaloa Tamil expatriates and convinced many of Karuna’s folly.
Kausalyan enjoyed great popularity in the east. The upper and upper-middle classes may not have liked his social reform and taxation but the lower-middle and pooer classes loved him. In spite of 57 years of independence and 30 years of liberation struggle it is people of that strata who make up the majority of the eastern population. The people who paid their respects and attended his funeral did so out of genuine sorrow.
Whatever his critics may say about him none can fault him for dishonesty in monetary mattersor insincerity towards the cause. The death of this eastern warrior is truly a great loss to the LTTE.
DBS Jeyaraj can be reached at ~ firstname.lastname@example.org