Former Sri Lanka rebel leader condemned as ‘barbaric’

Sri Lankan foreign minister, Dinesh Gunawardena said that Amman’s confession “paved the way for countries pointing the finger at Sri Lanka to gain a clear understanding of the extent of the brutality of the LTTE.” (AFP)
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Updated 25 June 2020

Former Sri Lanka rebel leader condemned as ‘barbaric’

  • Sri Lankan police ordered an immediate investigation into Amman’s comments

COLOMBO: A claim by a former Tamil Tigers commander that he had killed as many as 3,000 Sri Lankan troops during the country’s bloody civil war showed the rebel group’s “brutality and barbarism,” Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena said on Wednesday.

Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) deputy Karuna Amman, also known as Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan, told a political rally on Friday that he had murdered thousands of troops during the civil war, which began in 1991 and lasted more than three decades.

Sri Lankan police ordered an immediate investigation into Amman’s comments.

The foreign minister said that Amman’s confession “paved the way for countries pointing the finger at Sri Lanka to gain a clear understanding of the extent of the brutality of the LTTE.”

He added: “Certain Western countries keep silent on atrocities committed by LTTE terrorists.”

Speaking at a political rally for the twice-delayed parliamentary polls on Aug. 5, Amman said: “When I was a member of the LTTE, I killed 2,000 to 3,000 Sri Lankan army personnel in one night at Elephant Pass. I have killed more in Kilinochchi. That is certainly higher than the number of lives the coronavirus has claimed in Sri Lanka.”

The former rebel leader was responding to a comment by a local government chairman that Amman was “more dangerous than the coronavirus.”

On Tuesday, Amman was ordered to make a statement to criminal investigators, but failed to appear, citing ill health.

Former Western Province Gov. Azath Salley said that Amman’s comments were “serious” and constituted a “warrantless offense.”

“Assassination of 2,000-3,000 army troops is a warrantless offense. According to the criminal code, a warrantless offense allows a peacekeeper to arrest a person without a warrant,” Salley told Arab News on Wednesday, adding that there was “no need for a formal inquiry” into the case.

Meanwhile, human rights activist Shreen Saroor said that Amman’s claims were part of a populist strategy to provoke people against the Tamil separatists and gain more Sinhalese Buddhist votes in the east. 

Amman “seems to believe that playing into Buddhist extremism and military heroism can bring victory,” she said.

Former parliamentarian Mujibur Rahman agreed, saying that Amman had formed an alliance with the ruling Sri Lanka’s People’s Front (SLPP), led by Premier Mahinda Rajapaksa, and was contesting the poll in a Tamil-majority area.

“The statement has a two pronged-purpose. One is to gain Tamil preferential votes from the Tamil-dominated areas in the north and eastern parts of the country, and the other is for Rajapaksa to gain Sinhalese Buddhist votes in other parts of the island — a win-win situation for Amman and Rajapaksa,” Rahman said.

In 2004, Amman abandoned the LTTE to form his own political party, the Tamil People’s Front for Liberation Tigers (TPFLT), leaving the LTTE weakened and resulting in the group’s demise at the hands of government troops in 2009.

A year later, Amman was elected to parliament and became a deputy minister in the-then Rajapaksa government.

He is currently representing the TPFLT at the Aug. 5 polls.


Australia’s internal borders to stay shut as COVID-19 daily deaths reach record

Updated 25 min 19 sec ago

Australia’s internal borders to stay shut as COVID-19 daily deaths reach record

  • But some evidence that drastic lockdown measures in the city of Melbourne were having an effect
  • Australia’s federal political system has led to its eight states and territories taking different measures in response to the crisis

SYDNEY: Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said internal border closures were unlikely to lift before Christmas, as the country on Monday reported a record single day rise in COVID-19 deaths.
There was, however, some evidence that drastic lockdown measures in the city of Melbourne were having an effect, with daily new infections in the state of Victoria slowing to a near two-week low.
“I am more hopeful of that today than I was in the course of the past week,” Morrison told reporters in Canberra, as he called on state leaders to cooperate to allow stranded residents to return home.
Australia’s federal political system has led to its eight states and territories taking different measures in response to the crisis, resulting in several internal border closures.
Victoria state, which is home to Melbourne, the country’s second biggest city and the epicenter of its second coronavirus wave, reported 19 people had died from the virus over the past 24 hours. With some other states still to report daily new case and death numbers, that already marks the country’s biggest single day rise in fatalities.
However, Victoria officials also reported 322 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours, the lowest single day rise in new infections since July 29.
Melbourne, home to nearly 5 million people, has been in lockdown since early July, with people largely confined to their homes and business shuttered.
State Premier Daniel Andrews said on Monday he understood frustrations but declined to put an end date on the lockdown.
“If I could paint you a picture that had any kind of reliability for next week, let alone five weeks away, then, of course, I would,” Andrews said during a televised media conference.
With around 21,000 COVID-19 cases and 314 deaths, Australia has still recorded fewer infections and fatalities than many other developed nations.
It was considered a global leader early in the pandemic, when it was swift to close its international border, impose social distancing restrictions and implement mass virus testing.
But as the country began to reopen, community transmissions rose significantly in Victoria, where triple digit daily new cases have now been recorded for weeks.
Authorities worry the spike in cases in Victoria has already spread to other states despite borders border closures.
Australia’s most populous state, New South Wales, reported 14 new cases, and no deaths, on Monday. Twelve cases were linked to known clusters while another was a person in hotel quarantine after returning from overseas, leaving one case with no known links.