This column has for the past three weeks been focusing on the abortive Coup d’etat conspiracy of 1962. There has been much reader interest in the articles. I have been pleasantly surprised to receive a lot of responses ranging from persons related or connected to some of the coup suspects to people from different walks of life evincing much interested in an important event in Sri Lanka’s history.
However I shall depart from the 1962 Coup topic this week and instead write about a politico -military assassination that took place 17 years ago. In February 2005, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam(LTTE) Political Commissar for Batticaloa and Amparai districts , Kausalyan was gunned down along the A-11 highway at Namalgama in the East. I have written about this killing when it happened years ago.This column will revisit that incident and related matters this week. The series of articles on the 1962 coup will continue intermittently from next week onwards.
A – 11 Highway
February 7th 2005 was a Monday. A Toyota Hiace van bearing the number 57 – 1020 was going along the Maradankadawala -Thirukkondiadimadhu road or A-11 highway. It slowed down as a vehicle with blinking lights was parked ahead on the right side of the road. With the lights signalling to go ahead, the van slowly passed the white coloured van parked alongside the road with its motor running. The time was around 7.45 p.m.
There were nine people inside the Hiace van. In front, seated next to driver Vinayagamoorthy was former Amparai District TNA Parliamentarian, Ariyanayagam Chandra Nehru. Sitting next to him was a policeman from Thirukkovil, Chandrasekeran. In the middle was the LTTE eastern political Commissar Kausalyan, his comrade at arms Pugalan and another constable Nagarajah. Three other LTTE cadres Senthamilan, Nithimaran and Vinothan were seated at the rear.
Even as they passed the parked vehicle the front seat occupants saw two or three men in uniform standing ahead in front of the white van. One of them raised a hand as if hailing them or asking them to stop. The van that was already moving at snail’s pace now slowed down further. Suddenly all hell was let loose. Rapid gunfire from behind and to one side of the Toyota ensued. Vinothan seated behind saw the driver and Kausalyan slumping forward.
The two policemen inside the vehicle were bodyguards assigned to protect exMP Chandra Nehru. They had a T-56 each. Furthermore, Chandra Nehru had a licensed 9mm pistol in his possession for his personal protection. There was no time for any counter fire. Even as the vehicle and occupants were hit in a hail of gunfire, at least one of the cops jumped out but fell down on the ground. The five LTTE men were unarmed. Without any retaliatory fire, the attack simply amounted to a cold blooded massacre. Within two minutes it was all over and the assassins fled away in their vehicle.
Five of the men inside – Kausalyan, Pugalan, Nithimaran and Senthamilan and the driver Vinayagamoorthy were killedon the spot. The two policemen, Chandra Nehru and LTTE cadre Vinothan were injured. In about 10 minutes after the shooting soldiers from the Welikanda camp, about five km away came to the scene.
The dead and injured persons were taken to Welikanda and then transferred to the Polonnaruwa Hospital. The injured persons were later airlifted to Colombo and admitted to the National Hospital. Emergency surgery was performed on Chandra Nehru who was later placed in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). Initially, Nehru showed signs of recovery but started sinking later and passed away.One Policeman and One LTTE cadre survived and later provided details of what had happened.
Ambush Between 104th nd 105th Mileposts
The ambush had taken place on the deserted stretch of road between the 104th and 105th mileposts on the A-11 highway. It was in the vicinity of a comparatively new Sinhala settlement known as Namalgama. It was suspected that the parked white van was the same vehicle that had been following the ill fated Toyota Hiace after they had passed the 23rd brigade headquarters at Welikanda. It had overtaken them at Pillaiyarady between the 103rd and 104th milepost when the driver Vinayagamoorthy and the two policemen had alighted to worship at the shrine dedicated to Lord Ganesh.
The incident had occurred near the Polonnaruwa and Batticaloa District border. The two nearest military camps on the A-11 highway – at Welikanda and Punanai – were about 14 km apart. The attack happened at a spot five km from Welikanda. Yet the assailants had apparently vanished without a trace.
When news of the ambush became known the immediate suspects were cadres of the LTTE breakaway faction under former Tiger Eastern commander Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan alias “Col” Karuna .Lingering doubts were dispelled the following day when some of Karuna’s operatives began tellling people in Batticaloa and abroad by phone that the military wing of the newly formed Tamil Eelam Aikkiya Viduthalai Munnani (Tamil Eelam United Liberation Front) was responsible. This front was a merger between Karuna’s tiger faction and the Eelam National Democratic Liberation Front (ENDLF), led by Gnanapiragasam Gnanasekaran alias Paranthan Rajan.
What had happened then was that in March 2004 the Eastern Tiger leader “Col”Karuna had split from the LTTE. The mainstream LTTE struck back in April 2004. Karuna and some of his followers fled to Colombo and took refuge in safe houses in the south.Other members of the Karuna faction sought sanctuary in security force camps in the Est or took cover in the jungles along the Batticaloa and Polonnaruwa district border. Meanwhile the tigers sent killer squads to Colombo targeting Karuna and his cadres.
At one point Karuna went to India clandestinely via Nepal and aligned with the Paranthan Rajan led ENDLF. The ENDLF had in the military campaign against the LTTE openly supported the Indian Army from 1987 to 1990. Some members of the ENDLF became members of the North – Eastern Provincial Council. One became a Provincial minister but was assassinated by the LTTE. Another ENDLF Member was appointed MP from the Jaffna district. The ENDLF escaped to India following the Indian Army withdrawal from Sri Lanka in 1990.
The ENDLF based itself in the Orissa (now Odisha) state of India and the Bengalooru areas of Karnataka state.It is believed that the ENDLF enjoyed the patronage of India’s espionage agency the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW). In the aftermath of the LTTE split , Paranthan Rajan reached out to the ex-eastern commander. Karuna feeling increasingly insecure grasped Rajan’s offer and went over to India. The TMVP led by Karuna and the ENDLF led by Rajan formed the Tamil Eelam United Liberation Front. The military wing of the new outfit was known as the ‘Thamizh Thesiya Padai’ or Tamil National Force (TNF).
On Thursday, February 10, 3 days after Kausalyan’s killing , a statement was issued in Europe by a person calling himself Cheran. It was openly claimed that the TNF was responsible for Kausalyan’s killing. By this time the Batticaloa grapevine was humming with the news that five people comprising both ex LTTE and ENDLF cadres were responsible for the attack.
Mangalam Master and Thooyaseelan.
It later became known that the actual firing had been done by Mangalam Master and Thooyaseelan.Both were Karuna loyalists. Thooyaseelan had earlier been LTTE chief of the Kaluwankerny area. Mangalam Master was an aide de camp to the former Vinothan Regiment Commander, Bharathidasan who was killed at Vaaharai in the LTn nTE internecine warfare in April 2004 . An AK 47 assault rifle and an HK 33 sub machine gun had been used.
Whatever the circumstances of the killing, there was no doubt that the Karuna and Paranthan Rajan combine had made a significant hit at that point of time.Lt. Col. Kausalyan, Major Pugalan, Major Senthamilan and 2nd Lt. Nidhimaran were all promoted posthumously. Chandra Nehru was given the “Naatuppatraalar” (patriotic citizen) award by the LTTE. This was the second highest civilian award of the LTTE . The greatest loss to the LTTE was of course its Political Wing Head for Batticaloa and Amparai, Kausalyan.
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 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 in 2005 lost someone who had the potential to become a great leader and possibly be 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.
The “Kaalinga Kudi” Clan
Kausalyan belonged to a dominant social group in Batticaloa – Amparai known as “Mutkuhar” but known colloquially as “Mukkuwar.”His sub-sect or matrilineal clan was “Kaalinga Kudi.” The Paduvaankarai region including villages like Pandariaveli, Padaikathaveli, Arasaditheevu, Kokkaichoalai, Kaludhavalai etc were populated to a great extent by people of the Mutkuhar/Mukkuwar group . The Kaalinga kudi derived its name from Kalinga and claimed 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 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 were 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 Indian Army 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 former LTTE finance controller Ranjith Appa who later took the “Pure Tamil” nom de guerre Thamilendhi. Kausalyan returned to the east after the ceasefire with the Chandrika Govt 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 Mullaitheevu 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 placed 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 LTTE eastern chief Karuna could 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. Though it appeared to be 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 within the LTTE.
Mending Fences with Muslims
When the then eastern Political commissar Karikalan fell out of favour with tiger supremo Prabhakaran and was removed, Kausalyan succeeded him as political commissar of Batticaloa – Amparai. He remained so till his death. One of Kausalyan’s 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 was a great loss to Tamil – Muslim brotherhood. The spontaneous hartal observed in Muslim areas at that time to protest Kausalyan’s killing and the remarkably large Muslim attendance at his funeral at Thandiaddy was illustrative of Kausalyan’s relationship with the Muslims.
Kausalyan had left leaning tendencies. Coming from an agricultural worker background he was interested in land reform. Kausalyan alog with Ramanan 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 as finance head, most of these projects became hotbeds of corruption oiling the palms of Karuna and his lackeys.
Enjoyed Great Popularity
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. 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 could fault Kausalyan for dishonesty in monetary matters or insincerity towards the cause.
A remarkable episode in Kausalyan’s life was his conduct at the time of the Eastern revolt led by Karuna. Kausalyan at great risk to his life openly defied Karuna by refusing to support him despite being a son of the eastern soil. The courageous response of Kausalyan when Karuna announced his decision to break away from the Prabhakaran led LTTE is known to very few people. This little known tale is worth recounting here in dramatic detail.
“Col” Karuna’s Eastern Tiger Revolt.
It was March 3rd 2004. Around 125 to 150 senior stalwarts of the Batticaloa – Amparai LTTE were gathered at “Thenagam” conference hall at Karadiyanaaru in Batticaloa District. “Colonel” Karuna was holding the floor. The man who had commanded the Tigers in the east from 1987 was now rebelling against his leader Veluppillai Prabhakaran.
Many of those present could not believe their ears. Karuna “Amman” 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 knew 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 later went over to Prabhakaran’s side and turned vehemently against Karuna.
There was only one open dissenter. This courageous lone wolf who dared to defy the eastern supremo was none other than Kausalyan.He 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 Prabhakaran 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 foul language 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.”
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 Prabhakaran. There was no doubt that the LTTE leader was happy to see Kausalyan. They were immersed in discussions for a long time.
Only Kausalyan Fearlessly Defied Karuna
Subsequently people like Ramesh, Ramanan, Ram, Praba and Karikalan too 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.
DBS Jeyaraj can be reached at email@example.com
This Article appears in the “D.B.S.Jeyaraj Column” of the “Daily Mirror” dated Feb 6, 2022. It can be accessed here: