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Cablegate: Sri Lanka: Karuna Faction Forms Paper Tiger Party

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS COLOMBO 001703

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

STATE FOR SA/INS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PTER PGOV CE LTTE
SUBJECT: SRI LANKA: KARUNA FACTION FORMS PAPER TIGER PARTY

REF: COLOMBO 1588

1. (U) On October 12 the Tamil vernacular media received a
press release announcing the formation of a new political
party by Karuna, the former Eastern military commander for
the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), who split with
LTTE headquarters in March. (Note: Karuna fled the East
after the break and is widely believed to be living in
another Asian country. Since the split, LTTE headquarters in
the north, in an effort to reassert its control, has killed a
number of Karuna cadres, including his brother.) According
to the press release, the new party, named the People's
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, is dedicated to the
restoration of the rights of the Tamil people, who have been
"misguided by the terrorist Prabhakaran. . . .We started our
struggle against the government . . . but today we have to
fight to be liberated from Prabhakaran." The announcement,
signed by "Secretary Gnanarajah," offers a website and an
e-mail address (www.tmvp.org and contact@tmvp.org,
respectively) but, not surprisingly, no telephone number.
Also not surprising is the fact that the Batticaloa street
address listed for the "office" provides only a road name
(Lake Road, a big main thoroughfare in Batticaloa) with no
identifying house number. Like its name, the party's logo
depicted on the website looks suspiciously similar to the
LTTE logo, with just a few variations in color and detail.

2. (SBU) Sources in Batticaloa, whose residents live in
fear of the continued factional fighting and periodic LTTE
reprisals against suspected Karuna sympathizers, reported no
public reaction (other than skepticism) to the announcement
of the new "party." One contact attributed the apparent lack
of interest to fear of being identified as a member of the
new rival movement. Even people who know each other well,
he said, are circumspect in their comments.

3. (SBU) Comment: The new party's similarity in name and
logo to the LTTE is an obvious and intended affront to the
Tiger leadership in the north. Despite its identification
with Karuna, we believe the real father of this party is
Douglas Devananda, head of the Eelam People's Democratic
Party (EPDP) and former anti-LTTE paramilitary-turned-Cabinet
Minister. Following Karuna's split last March, Devananda
infuriated the LTTE leadership by publicly offering to set
Karuna up in politics. In September Devananda claimed to
poloffs that he was in constant contact with Karuna and was
prepared to help him launch his party at the propitious
moment. (Note: The EPDP Spokesman disavowed any knowledge
of the press release when we contacted him October 12.) Why
now is the propitious moment is unclear, but the recent
murder by the LTTE of Karuna's deputy and brother (Reftel),
coupled with the absence right now of much of the LTTE
leadership on a highly publicized visit to Europe, could be
factors. That said, with Karuna out of the country and his
followers either dead or on an LTTE hit list, we do not
expect this party to register with the Election Commission or
conduct a successful membership drive anytime soon. For
right now, we expect Karuna's People's Liberation Tigers of
Tamil Eelam to remain very much a paper tiger.
LUNSTEAD

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