Tamil People’s Liberation Army Formed in Sri Lanka
Posted by Ka Frank on December 9, 2009
The Times,December 7, 2009
New Tamil group People’s Liberation Army vows to start fresh war
A Marxist group of Tamil militants with connections to the Palestinian Liberation Organisation and Cuba is preparing to mount a new insurgency in Sri Lanka six months after the Government declared an end to the 26-year-old war there.
The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) was founded in eastern Sri Lanka four months ago and has vowed to launch attacks against government and military targets unless its demands for a separate Tamil homeland are met.
“This war isn’t over yet,” Commander Kones, head of the PLA’s Eastern District military command, told The Times during a night meeting in a safe house in the east of the country last week.
“There has been no solution for Tamils since the destruction of the LTTE [Tamil Tigers] in May. So we have built and organised the PLA and are ready to act soon. Our aim is a democratic socialist liberation of the northeast for a Tamil Eelam [the desired Tamil state].”Kones, a nom de guerre, claimed that the PLA had 300 active members and expected to recruit 5,000 volunteers from the 280,000 Tamil civilians recently freed from detention camps.
He said that the PLA, commanded by a ten-man committee, was an entirely separate organisation from the LTTE, but said that former LTTE cadres would be able to join the organisation provided that they swore their allegiance to the PLA’s political aims.
“There are former LTTE members in the PLA now,” he said. “But the LTTE was an extremist organisation that fought only for itself rather than the people’s needs.
“It is totally destroyed now and I don’t worry about it. We are socialist ideologues and we are trying to draw different Tamil groups together for a people’s struggle, a people’s war.”
Although the PLA’s capabilities remain unclear, it includes in its ranks several experienced insurgents who fought against the government forces in Sri Lanka in the 1980s before falling foul of the LTTE and either leaving the country or becoming dormant.
Commander Kones, now in his forties, had himself been given guerrilla training at a camp in Uttar Pradesh, India, in 1983, where his trainers included fighters from the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO).
“We still have a relationship with the PLO, as well as Cuba and Indian Maoist groups,” he said. “They fight for their rights just as we do.”
During later action against government forces in eastern Sri Lanka he was imprisoned and tortured, before escaping from the country to live in Europe.
The threat of an aspiring new Tamil insurgent group comes at a complicated time for the Sri Lankan authorities.The unified image that accompanied their decisive victory over the Tamil Tigers in May has been eroded. The architect of that victory, General Sarath Fonseka, has become embroiled in a political scrap with the incumbent President Mahinda Rajapaksa as both men vie for a presidential election victory next month.
Their rivalry could split the vote of the Sinhalese majority, offering the swing vote to the country’s Tamil minority, who have yet to declare their political allegiance. A new round of violence during this period could have a dramatic reversal on efforts to stabilise the country.
“We are much more politically skilled than the LTTE ever were and know how to avoid the ‘terrorist’ label that they acquired,” Kones said.
“Our enemy is simply the Government here, and we fight just for Tamil rights. We are not against the international community,” he said. “Indeed, we want them to support us in pressurising the Sri Lankan Government.”
Kones said that he had no intention of trying to emulate the Tigers’ style of warfare, but suggested a more asymmetric strategy involving attacks by widely dispersed PLA cells. However, he added that his targets would include economic and administrative centres, as well as military forces.
Other PLA insiders said that one of their likely first fights would be with groups of former LTTE cadres led by the infamous Colonel Karuna. Karuna split from the LTTE ranks in 2004 and later joined the Government, but still holds influence in eastern Sri Lanka.
“We are getting stronger by the day, much stronger than any other group,” Kones said. “The day of action is close.”
A few nights after meeting Commander Kones, deep in a rural area, The Times encountered three young PLA recruits waiting for a guide to take them to one of the organisation’s jungle training camps. Two were 15 years old, one was 16. “The PLA sound very interesting to us,” they said. “They are the only ones now doing something for the Tamil people.”
Theirs was not, however, a pervading sentiment. Shattered by their experiences in the war zones this year, depressed by their subsequent incarceration in detention camps, few Tamils expressed any great enthusiasm for a return to war.
“I’m not interested in Eelam,” Raja Muragaswaran, 31, who was released from a camp last month, said. “I lost everything that I had ever worked for in the name of Eelam. How many died for Eelam, and all for what? We just want peace.”