The debate whether to disarm or not to disarm Karuna continues with a senior army officer telling the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission he felt the Karuna group, also known as the Thamil Makkal Viduthalai Pullikal should be disarmed if normalcy was to be restored to the east.
Major General Daya Ratnayake, Batticaloa District General Officer Commanding (GOC) 23 Division, expressed this view at a meeting with the SLMM recently. Its spokesman Steinar Sveinsson told the Daily Mirror adding however that he was unaware if the view was his personal opinion or official.
This is the first time the military had openly commented on the need to disarm the Karuna faction although government ministers and even the Defence Secretary in the wake of the capture of Thoppigala had expressed the intention of disarming armed groups in the east.
When contacted Military spokesman Prasad Samarasingha however refused to comment on the views expressed by Major General Ratnayake while Karuna Amman himself had said he would not disarm at this time. Meanwhile the SLMM said it had received several complaints regarding extortion and harassment by the Karuna group in Batticaloa and Ampara. It was also reported that the Karuna group summoned people to its offices for questioning.
The Inter Agency Standing Committee (IASC) in its latest weekly report released yesterday noted that there was a continued presence of armed civilians in the Batticaloa district, particularly in close proximity to certain political party offices.
It said in the past week some humanitarian agencies had received threatening phone calls requesting for shelter material. An armed group in Pottuvil Komari is reported to have forcibly taken the keys to 30 permanent tsunami houses and evicted the families, IASC added.
Speaking to reporters at the weekly situation briefing, Highways Minister Jeyaraj Fernandopulle said the Karuna faction should be allowed to contest the elections in the east if it wished to do so.
As was reported in the Daily Mirror earlier the Karuna faction was expected to be listed in a new report on child recruitment, to be handed over to UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon this month even as UNICEF and the Karuna faction traded charges over allegations of continued child recruitment.