The 21 km long Puthukkudiyiruppu – Oddusuddaan road progressing through the hinterland of North – Eastern Mullaitheevu district, links Puthukkudiyiruppu on the A- 35 Paranthan – Mullaitheevu highway and Oddusuddaan on the A -34 Mankulam – Mullaitheevu highway. It was along this road that a trusted deputy of Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam(LTTE) supremo Veluppillai Prabhakaran was killed by the deep penetration squad of the Sri Lankan armed forces on September 26th 2001. Vaithilingam Sornalingam alias “Col”Shankar the founder-chief of the tiger air wing was killed by a claymore mine hung on a tree as he was driving his two-seater four wheeler pick up vehicle alone. The killing caused shock waves amidst LTTE circles as it demonstrated the fact that the armed forces were capable of infiltrating the heartland of tiger – controlled territory and inflicting lethal damage.
The time was around 4.45 am on Friday June 22nd 2018 when a three-wheeler proceeded northwards along the 21 km Puthukkudiyiruppu-Oddusuddaan road towards the direction of Puthukkudiyiruppu. The blue three-wheeler bearing the No NP JY 8007 was signalled to stop at the Paeraaru Junction by four Policemen attached to the Oddusuddaan police station. They were Sgt Niranjan and Constables Ekanayake, Thinesh and Ratnayake.It was simply a random check to ascertain whether the driver had proper identification and authorisation documents. Initially the vehicle drove up speedily as if it intended defying the Police signal. However it suddenly screeched to a stop.
When two Policemen walked up to the three-wheeler, one of the passengers who appeared to have lost part of his hand from elbow downwards jumped down from the vehicle and ran off in one direction. The second passenger got down from the other side and ran off in a different direction. Two cops gave chase to the second man and managed to apprehend him while a third constable ran after the other man who managed to elude arrest. The fourth Policeman prevented the three-wheeler from escaping although the driver did not display any signs of trying to do so.
A quick search of the vehicle showed that two bags and two parcels were being transported in the three-wheeler. The parcels were wrapped in newspapers.The cops were shocked when the cursory inspection of the contents revealed explosives, arms and ammunition in addition to material connected to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam(LTTE). The two arrested men along with the vehicle and baggage was taken to the Oddusuddaan Police station. Threafter officers from the Police Special Task Force(STF) were brought to help Police search the seized materials in general and explosives in particular. A thorough search resulted in the discovery of one Claymore mine, two pressure mines, two hand grenades, 98 rounds of T-56 ammunition, Four remote control devices, Six electronic detonators, Two LTTE military fatigues, three tee-shirts embossed with the tiger logo, tiger capsTwo red and yellow LTTE flags and two rolls of wire.
Terrorism Investigation Division (TID)
The revelations shocked the Oddusuddaan Police who immediately alerted the Terrorism Investigation Division (TID) unit of the Police stationed at Mullaitheevu town Police station. TID officers from Mullaitheevu arrived at Oddusuddaan and took away the two arrested persons, three-wheeler and items seized to Mullaitheevu. The TID hierarchy immediately dispatched two special teams from Colombo and Vavuniya to Mullaitheevu district. A perusal of the Claymore mine revealed that it was an LTTE manufactured explosive named “Bhavaan”. The claymore weighing 15 kilos by had been named after an LTTE cadre “Capt” Bhavaan also known as “Aiyaah” who was killed in combat in 2005.
A swift search was conducted by a contingent of olicemen from Oddusuddaan ;led by Sub-inspector Chaturanga in the semi- jungle areas surrounding Paeraaru junction for the man with an impaired limb who had escaped. He was known as “Aehaambaram”. The other arrested person was called “Dinesh”. It was suspected that Aehaambaram and Dinesh were not their real names but conveniently used nom de guerres.The three-wheeler driver when interrogated said that he had nothing to do with the arsenal and other LTTE material in the three-wheeler and that they were being transported by Dinesh and Aehaambaram. Dinesh said that the vehicle was proceeding towards a house of a friend of Aehambaram in Devipuram in the Puthukkudiyiruppu area. . The TID then led a search party to Ganeshapuram in Devinagar and conducted a search of the residence. The occupant of that house Harihararaja Anbarasan was also arrested. An intensive search was conducted in the Oddusuddaan and Puthukkudiyiruppu areas. Several people were taken in for questioning and released. The three arrested persons and LTTE materials seized along with the three-wheeler were taken to the TID northern headquarters in Vavuniya for further interrogation and closer scrutiny.
It was disclosed through further interrogation that the escapee Aehaambaram as well as the arrested Dinesh were former members of the LTTE who were recruited as child soldiers.Both had been detained after the LTTE was militarily defeated in May 2009 and were subsequently released after undergoing rehabilitation. The man calling himself Dinesh was found to be Rasenthiran Risikeshan from Ariviyal Nagar in Kilinochchi. It was revealed that Aehaambaram was the real name of the man who had escaped. His full name was Vellaisamy Aehambaram also known as “Aegaa”. He was a resident of Saanthapuram in Kilinochchi. The three-wheeler driver named Ariyaratnam Kantharasa was from Thiruvaiyaaru in Kilinochchi and was apparently hired by Aehaambaram on a long term basis. It was also discovered that the driver had at one time been arrested on suspicion of transporting smuggled “Kerala Ganja”. A special TID led Police squad was sent to Kilinochchi for further inquiry.
An intensive cordon and search operation was undertaken in Saanthapuram, Ariviyal Nagar and Thiruvaiyaaru by the TID with the aid of the Kilinochchi Police.Many were questioned. Among these were the elder sister of the hand – impaired man known as Aehaambaram. The sister told Police that her brother had gone “missing” in January 2016 and that she had not sighted him since then. She said that a complaint to the Police had been made by her about her brother’s alleged disappearance in 2016. She also said that her brother had close contacts with military intelligence personnel in the North. Aehaambaram’s elder sister also said that her brother had lost a hand accidently while making an improvised explosive device for the LTTE. She also said that two of her brothers and a sister were also LTTE members and had been killed in the war with the armed forces.
Search In Thiruvaiyaaru-Kiinochchi
The search in Thiruvaiyaaru – Kilinochchi in the vicinity of the three-wheeler driver’s residence resulted in the discovery of four motor cycles hidden in the premises of a house in the neighbourhood. Members of the family living in the house said that the vehicles belonged to Veluppillai Ketheeswaran known as Kethees who was currently warded at the Kilinochchi hospital due to a stomach ailment. Kethees a child soldier of the LTTE had been released after rehabilitation. However he had been re-arrested two years ago on suspicion of being involved in an attempt to revive the LTTE in the north. He had been released after a period of detention and interrogation.
As news of the detection of the LTTE arsenal and tiger related material and consequent arrests began spreading in the northern mainland known as the Wanni, many ordinary,peace-loving residents got perturbed. They had suffered much during the war and wanted no return to LTTE violence in any form. The Police found itself receiving much information from the Tamil civilians. Many of the tips were useless and turned out to be false alarms. However one constructive tip-off received by the Maankulam Police resulted in the elusive Vellaisaamy Aehaambaram being taken into custody while travelling along the Mallaavi – Maankulam road at Vannivilaankulam on Saturday June 23rd night. This was followed by the arrest of Kethees on Sunday June 24th. TID officials waited until he was discharged from Kilinochchi Hospital and arrested him just outside the hospital precincts.
All five key suspects namely Vellaisaamy Aehaambaram, Rasenthiran Risikeshan Harihararajah Anbarasan, Veluppilaai Ketheeswaran and Ariyaratnam Kantharasa are now being detained at Vavuniya and interrogated by the TID. In addition to these five another twelve suspects are also being held in Vavuniya. Police sleuths are tracing the telephone numbers recorded on the mobile phones recovered from the arrested persons. Apart from these seventeen persons a number of others have also been questioned and statements recorded. Some whose statements did not seem satisfactory were taken to their respective area Police stations and intensively interrogated. They were released after their statements were recorded in full. It is learnt that about 15 to 20 persons have had their statements recorded in this manner. They have been told to make themselves available to the Police for further inquiries whenever necessary.
The TID probe is still in a preliminary stage and a composite picture of the situation is yet to materialise. However initial investigations have raised the spectre of an attempt to foment violence in the North in the name of the LTTE again. It is premature to say whether the LTTE is being revived or the tigers are re-grouping but it certainly appears that a fresh attempt is underway to foment violence in the name of the tigers to create a demonstration effect that the LTTE is capable of raising its head again and inflict deadly damage.
Distinctive Mark of the Tiger
It is well -known and widely accepted that the day of the LTTE as a conventional militia occupying territory is over. It also cannot be a powerful guerilla force capable of confronting the armed forces directly now. What LTTE or pro-LTTE elements can hope for now is an isolated attack of the hit and run variety. It is possible to plan an assassination or set off an explosive attack in the present politico-military environment prevailing in the North. Against that backdrop it is suspected that the claymore and pressure mines could have been used to trigger of a landmine explosion targeting an important Politician or key administrative or defence services official. The LTTE flags and fatigues could have stamped the exercise with the distinctive mark of the tiger.
It is strongly suspected that the attempt to foment violence in the name of the LTTE is being backed financially by tigerish elements in the global Tamil Diaspora. Preliminary investigations have revealed that the chief suspect known for the present as Aehaambaram has a number of identity cards under false names. He also has several bank accounts under different names where sums of money amounting to 30,000 and 40,000 rupees per instalment have been deposited regularly. The money has reportedly been deposited through banks in Switzerland. It has also been found that the man travelled to Jaffna recently for an extended stay in the peninsula during which he reportedly interacted closely with a prominent LTTE Diaspora activist vacationing in the North. It is indeed a sad fact of life that the “freedom from fear”ushered in by the Sirisena- Wickremesinghe Govt is being exploited by known Diaspora tiger operatives to travel to Sri Lanka freely and possibly encourage the return of political violence. The TID has also identified a key figure who is suspected of being the leader- co-ordinator of this group. An intensive search is underway to arrest the suspect now.
However a troubling factor in this state of affairs is the alleged links of the man known as Aehaambaram to the military intelligence division of the army. It is an “open secret” that the “intelligence” agencies are keeping hundreds of ex-tigers on their payroll as informants. They are paid a monthly stipend and also provided immunity from arrest. There is always the possibility of these ex-tiger informants being utilised by intelligence agencies for covert operations. It is also likely that some ex-tigers may turn “rogue” and work according to a Diaspora tiger agenda while retaining links with the military for their own protection. If proven concretely that the key suspect operating under the name Aehaambaran is indeed a double agent serving both the state and the LTTE it could drastically alter the course of inquiry pursued by Police sleuths so far.It is very likely that more details would emerge when many of the important suspects are taken to Colombo by the TID and when the key suspect is apprehended.
Meanwhile the detection of LTTE material, explosives,arms and ammunition at Oddusuddan was officially acknowledged by Deputy Minister of Law and Order Nalin Bandara who according to a news report in this newspaper said the Government would not allow terrorism to raise its head again.Addressing a news briefing, Nalin Bandara said the Terrorist Investigation Division (TID) officers were conducting a special investigation into the incident. “Investigations are underway to find out whether there is secret movement or organization that assists the scattered LTTEers to reorganize again,” the Minister added.
14 Individuals With LTTE Links Designated
Interestingly enough , just two days prior to the tiger arsenal detection at Oddusuddan the Sri Lankan Government issued an extraordinary gazette notification placing 14 individuals living abroad with suspected links with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) on the list of designated persons, thereby banning them from entry to Sri Lanka. The amendment to the list of designated persons under the United Nations Regulations Number One of 2012 has made through a gazette issued by Secretary to the Ministry of Defence and President’s Counsel Kapila Waidyaratne.The 14 individuals included in the said list who have been barred from entry to the country over alleged connections to the Tamil Tigers are namely;
1.Nadaraja Sathyaseelan alias Seel Maran (intelligence),
2.Kamalasingham Arunakulasingham alias Kamal,
3.Antonyrasa Antony Calistor alias Parathan (intelligence),
4.Sivasubramaniyam Jeyaganesh alias Ganesh (international finance) and a.k.a Samraj,
5.Ponnaswami Paskaran alias Jeyakaran,
6.Velaudan Pradeepkumar alias Kaleeban,
7.Sivarasa Surendran alias Waddann,
8.Sivagurunathan Murugadas alias Kadirawan,
9. Thirunilakandal Naguleshwaran alias Pushpanadan,
10.Maheshwaran Ravichandran alias Mendis and a.k.a Thirukkumaran,
11.Suresh Kumar Pradeepan,
12.Kandasamy Krishnamoorthi alias Moorthi,
13.Jeevarathnam Jeevakumar alias Siranjeew Master (intelligence)
14.Tony Jehan Murugesapillai.
The Sirisena -Wickremesinghe Government decision to designate 14 individuals within the global Tamil Diaspora as being linked to the Proscribed Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam(LTTE) and ban entry into Sri Lanka raised many eyebrows. The Government of Mahinda Rajapaksa had in March 2014 had proscribed by gazette 16 diaspora organizations and 424 individuals under the United Nations Act No 45 of 1968.. However after the regime change in January 2015 the new govt reversed this designation drastically In November 2015 the present Govt de-listed 8 organizations and 269 individuals from the previous list. This resulted in only 8 organizations and 155 individuals remaining on the proscribed list. Although this de-listing was severely criticised from a national security perspective, the then foreign affairs minister Mangala Samaraweera justified it on the basis that it was necessary ” at that juncture to help expedite the reconciliation process”. Incidently the de-listing was done on the eve of a visit to Sri Lanka by then US envoy to the UN in New York Samantha Power.
Now the same Sirisena – Wickremesinghe Govt seems to have had second thoughts on the listing issue. The reasons which led the Govt into designating 14 LTTE linked individuals remains so far in the realm of the unknown and will very likely become the focus of a forthcoming article in these columns. However there are a few puzzling points deserving mention at this point of time.
At least two of the designated individuals Kamalasingham Arunakulasingham alias Kamal and Jeevarathnam Jeevakumar alias Siranjeew Master have for long been suspected of maintaining links to Sri Lankan intelligence agencies. The Sri Lankan intelligence network succeeded in infiltrating many LTTE Diaspora organizations in the aftermath of the war against the LTTE and Kamal and Siranjeevi master were allegedly key instruments in this exercise. In fact a few Sri Lankan journalists were even politely requested not to write about these two by informed sources. While Kamal based in Norway operates mainly in Europe, Siranjeevi Master handled Asia shuttling between Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia. However Siranjeevi has reportedly shifted to Japan recently.
Sivasubramaniyam Jeyaganesh Alias Samraj
Another person of interest in this list is Sivasubramaniyam Jeyaganesh alias Ganesh . Jeyaganesh based in France is widely known among Tamil Diaspora circles as Samraj. Jeyaganesh alias Samraj is currently in charge of overseas LTTE finances in Europe. He is said to be running a number of commercial establishments in different parts of Europe registered in the names of trusted confidantes. Jeyaganesh alias Samraj hit the headlines when his 41 year old wife Paheerathy Murugesu and 8 year old daughter Pahalavi Jeyaganesh were stopped by TID officials at Katunayake Airport in March 2015. They had arrived in Sri Lanka in February 2015 and were to board a flight back to France after a month long vacation. The TID let the daughter a French citizen go but continued to detain the mother a permanent resident of France saying she had been a former member of the LTTE sea tigers. It later transpired that the ulterior objective behind the detention was to pressure the husband Jeyaganesh to come to Sri Lanka and then detain him. The plan did not work as Jeyaganesh and Paheerathy who married in 2005 had formally divorced in 2012. After much legal wrangling Paheerathy was released. She returned to France while Jeyaganesh in his Samraaj avatar continued to oversee LTTE finances in Europe.
The gazetting of 14 LTTE members including Samraj, Siranjeevi master and Kamalan evoked a derisive reaction from former President Mahinda Rajapaksa.According to a news report in “Ceylon Today” Mahinda Rajapaksa commenting on the gazette notification banning 14 persons had said that the move came in the wake of the 14 arriving in the island, travelling to Kilinochchi, getting what they wanted done and leaving with money.The former President noted that in light of this, the issuing of the gazette was laughable as it was akin to closing the stable door after the horse had bolted.“At a time when the majority of the countries in the world are acting against terrorism, why is the Government of Sri Lanka following a lax policy and according to whose agenda?” He queried.
The former president’s statement about shutting the stable door after the horse had bolted provides much food for thought. Does Mahinda Rajapaksa have reliable information that the 14 persons had travelled to Kilinochchi , accomplished what they wanted to do , got what they wanted and returned safely to their countries? If so have the Sri Lankan authorities been caught unawares and are reacting only after the damage was done? Worse still have the overseas tigers with links to Sri Lankan intelligence taken their handlers for a ride? Or is the Medamulana Machiavelli simply trying to score debating points against his political rivals?
“Freedom From Fear” Exploited
One is unable to furnish definite answers at this point of time but the existing reality in the north tallies with the essence of what Mahinda has been saying. Ever since the Sirisena – Wickremesinghe Govt came to power and removed the fear element prevalent under the Rajapaksa regime and ushered in “Freedom from fear” there has been an influx of overseas Tamils into Sri Lanka. Many Tamils who feared arrest in Sri Lanka for having attended a LTTE event abroad now felt secure in travelling to Lanka. Unfortunately this freedom has been exploited by LTTE and pro-LTTE elements who too have been sojourning in Sri Lanka without fear. The tigerish elements have been promoting an extremist agenda in Lanka in the recent past. It is felt that a lot of tiger money is being pumped into Lanka to foment violence. What the tigers need at this point of time is not sustainable violence with a long term perspective but an immediate exhibition of violence for short -term demonstration effect.
In that context it must also be noted that attempts by Diaspora tigers to foment violence in Sri Lanka did not commence after the present coalition Govt came into power only. Though Mahinda Rajapaksa is trying to project an impression that tiger activity did not exist under his rule from 2010 to 2015, the reality is different.There have been many attempts by the Diaspora Tigers to foment violence in Sri Lanka after the war ended in May 2009. Mercifully none of them were successful.A brief re-run of post -war history shows that there have been several such attempts in the years after 2009. Some of these happened during the time Mahinda Rajapaksa was president and his sibling Gotabhaya, the all powerful Defence Secretary. Some have occurred after the current Govt came into power. Most of the Diaspora LTTE – backed abortive attempts to cause violence have been written about in detail in these columns in the past. Tiger mouthpieces however routinely deny such attempts and with the aid of some NGO’s try to portray the abortive attempts as ruses by the Sri Lankan authorities to create false impressions of the LTTE re-emerging.
One does not know how the investigations into the Oddusuddaan detection would proceed or whether details of a Diaspora LTTE backed plot to foment” tiger violence” would be uncovered but there are two salient points that need to be emphasised here. The first is that the LTTE has indeed been militarily wiped out in Sri Lanka but the fact remains that the overseas tiger branches described wrongly as the “rump” are not destroyed yet. Secondly the overseas Tigers are capable of fomenting violence in a bid to revive the LTTE in Sri Lanka or project an impression that it is being done so . It is important to distinguish clearly between a real revival , genuine a revival attempt and an exercise aimed at creating an impression that the LTTE is being revived.
Tamil People Wont Extend Support
A full scale revival of the LTTE and a return to the past where the Tigers were a formidable force is virtually impossible in the present situation. There could however be no guarantee that attempts would not be made to revive the LTTE despite those efforts proving unsuccessful. Since Tiger elements in the diaspora would continually finance such attempts the dangers exist. There is a need therefore for constant vigilance as there is little room for complacency in matters like these. At the same time it must be realised that the Tamil people who have suffered much during the war are in no mood for a return to LTTE sponsored conflict again. Whatever the attempts by Tigerish elements in the Diaspora to promote violence in Sri Lanka, it is doomed to fail in the final analysis because the Tamil people themselves are unwilling to extend support.
This article is an updated version of an article written for the “DBS Jeyaraj Column” appearing in the “Daily Mirror” of June 30, 2018. It can be reached via this link:
DBS Jeyaraj can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org