Political circles are agog for news of renegade LTTE military commander Karuna s return after serving a sentence in the UK for the violation of the British immigration laws. Speculation is rife about his political plans. Before his arrival last week, it had been posted on the grapevine that upon his return he would re-join the LTTE to take on the army in the Wanni. But, as he was received with open arms by the government and given shelter, an attempt is now being made in some quarters to have us believe that he would vie with the Eastern Province Chief Minister and his deputy S. Chandrakanathan for the leadership of the TMVP. The fact that Chandrakanthan had not met him immediately after his return is being cited as proof of a leadership tussle in the TMVP.
Why did Britain release Karuna prematurely from prison? Let it not be said that his early release was solely due to his `good conduct` in the pen. No sooner had the British government thrown him behind bars than it felt the need to throw him out of prison. For, he became a hot potato which Britain was desperate to drop. Had it known the mess it was getting into by arresting him, perhaps it would have turned a blind eye to his bogus passport the way it had ignored the late Anton Balasingham`s illegal travel to the UK holding a British passport in the late 1990s from Sri Lanka via Thailand.
It may be that the British authorities sought to interrogate Karuna and elicit, inter alia, whatever information its military intelligence needed from him as regards the eastern theatre of war where operations were on to flush out Tigers at the time of his arrest, the LTTE split etc, but the situation got out of hand and he had to be incarcerated.
Then the international human rights groups like the HRW launched a campaign demanding that he be tried for `war crimes`. Their campaign unmasked Britain, which refused to try him for such offences, in spite of being a global campaigner against war crimes. Britain had a good reason to ignore those calls. Had it yielded to pressure from HRW etc, and tried Karuna, it would have had to try the LTTE leaders operating on her soil as well and it would have also had to explain why it had refused to extradite Pinochet, who, too, was wanted for war crimes such as his much dreaded Caravan of Death, which left thousands dead in Chile.
International human rights groups which have branded Karuna a war criminal and demanded that he be made to stand trial ought to make their position known on the LTTE leaders responsible for war crimes active in western capitals, especially London. Unless the HRW and other human rights outfits campaign for having all terrorists tried for war crimes, they will look, in the eyes of the discerning, a bunch of hypocrites peddling a hidden agenda. Why is it that they want only Karuna to be hanged? Let all those who have committed war crimes be dealt with.
The only way Britain could wriggle out of the mire it had got into because of Karuna was to send him whence he had come. However, the timing of Karuna`s release is of great import. It smacks of a move to unsettle the TMVP, which is busy consolidating its power in the East and checkmate Chandrakanthan, who has become the b te noire of the Western bloc sympathetic to the LTTE. Prior to Karuna`s departure, there had been a leadership crisis in the TMVP, which the LTTE propagandists used to revel in. Karuna`s return couldn`t have come at a better time for the LTTE and its proxies in politics as they believe the rivalries between Karuna and Chandrakanthan would resurface sooner or later threatening the unity of the TMVP.
Chandrakanthan has reportedly offered to step down, if Karuna wants his job. But, it is highly unlikely that he would do as promised, having savoured power which has a corrupting influence on one and all. Karuna is reported to have said he is not interested in a chief minister`s post. He has indicated his willingness to prepare the TMVP for a general election. However, if he takes over the reins of the party, he will only make its enemies happy. For, the jail term he has served in Britain will be used to destroy whatever image the TMVP has built painstakingly for the past few years.
The international allies of the LTTE and some retired officers of the Indian army who failed to crush the LTTE in spite of the presence of over 150,000 IPKF troops in the North and the East of Sri Lanka have found it difficult to come to terms with the fact that the LTTE has been banished from the East and is cornered in the Wanni with the army closing in on it. They seem to hope for an LTTE comeback in the East. They are now clinging to a recent incident, where the LTTE fired at a low flying VIP chopper with small arms to bolster their claim that the East is still vulnerable and the LTTE is far from vanquished in that part of the country.
They have conveniently forgotten that no country is safe from such attacks. In December 2001, the Indian Parliament came under a suicide attack launched by five gunmen, who killed 12 persons before being done to death after one hour of fighting. Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee considered the attack a warning to the nation and vowed to wage a do-or-die war against terrorism. Terrorists have to be lucky only once !
Now that the East has been cleared, a strong TMVP is a sine qua non for the fruition of the government`s political project in that province. A leadership crisis in that party consequent upon Karuna`s return will stand in the way of the government s plans, cause the disillusionment of the people and lead to political uncertainty. Whether the government will manage to use the Karuna factor wisely remains to be seen.
Britain must be heaving a sigh of relief that her `problem has gone back home`!