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.