By Walter Jayawardhana reporting from Los Angeles

Shimalee Senanayaka, the first journalist to break the news of the most serious internal clash of Sri Lanka’s Tamil rebel group, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) met the rebel among the Tamil rebels, Eastern military leader Col. Karuna and quoted him as saying that he and his troops were ready to attack back his former leader Velupillai Prabhakaran and his loyalists if he or his troops were ever harmed in any way.

Interviewed by a London broadcasting station and introduced as the first journalist to meet the rebelling LTTE leader Col. Karuna, after his publicly announced break up with his former leader Velupillai Prabhakaran, Senanayaka said Karuna expressed the thoughts of attacking back Prabhakaran’s troops in case they were attacked.

Karuna’s threat of reacting violently brought the latest dimension to Sri Lanka’s Tamil civil war which had been in the past marked with the most bloody internecine warfare between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and its past competing groups like TELO, whose leader, T. Sabarathnam and his men were burnt alive by the LTTE, after a surrender .

The threat also came at a crucial time, when the LTTE was attempting to build up an image of itself through various political manipulations in the Tamil National Alliance contesting in the elections that it was the “sole representative of Sri Lanka’s Tamil people.

After decades of propaganda work by the LTTE to that effect was shattered to pieces so badly by the present crisis, commentators said the Tamil Tigers were facing the worst crisis in their history since this cannot in anyway compared with Velupillai Prabhakaran’s former clash with his Deputy Maththaya who was imprisoned in a dungeon and killed. They said Mahaththaya was stationed in Wanni at the time of his arrest while Karuna was safe and away from the Tiger stronghold of Kilinochchi, protected by his troops.

Correspondent Shimali Senanayaka , who was interviewed immediately after her visit to the Eastern Province to meet Col. Karuna in his first meting with an outside journalist , said in an interview with BBC’s Sinhalese language service, the Sandeshaya that Karuna alleged Prabhakaran of using the troops from the East for their own personal ends. Karuna reportedly said that he refused to send one thousand troops to Wanni as requested because the Eastern troops had been always used at the front lines while the others led a luxurious life enjoying all comforts in the North. He reportedly alleged the lives of 2300 troops had been already sacrificed for the personal protection of Velupillai Prabhakaran.

Karuna during the meeting with Senanayaka reportedly said while the intelligence head of Prabhakaran, Pottuamman was busy doing political assassinations in the East without his knowledge, he had to answer to the Norway managed Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission and the “international community” about the very assassinations. Karuna was referring to the assassinations of the UNF candidate in the Batticaloa Hospital and an election worker of the EPDP in Valachchenai during the last few days.

During the interview, Senanayaka said, Karuna alleged that none of the economic benefits of the current Ceasefire had been delivered to the Eastern province . He alleged the Tiger leadership of using luxury vehicles out of international funds at the Tiger stronghold of Kilinochchi and building up a new town over there while the Eastern town of Batticaloa was utterly neglected. Karuna reportedly told her that Norwegian and Swiss money that reached Kilinochchi never came to the Eastern Province for the benefit of the people. He said he pointed out several of those issues in many letters written to Velupillai Prabhakaran for which he did not receive any reply.

Karuna reportedly said he had given leadership to many hard won battles and he was not afraid of his personal safety. He also reportedly told the correspondent that if he or his troops were harmed the LTTE leadership would be held responsible by the ‘international community” and he would violently retaliate back.

Meanwhile commentators in Colombo hinted that even “regional powers “ may have had some hand in the break up of the LTTE. By regional powers the commentators obviously meant India with whose Tamil separatists the Kilinochchi leadership of the LTTE constantly kept a working relationships.

With the interference of such powers and Karuna’s long grown and familiar leadership inside the LTTE any internecine warfare between Prabhakaran and Karuna could be a long drawn and bloody affair , they said.



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