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Sri Lanka- An Update


Note 9 

Visit of a Buddhist delegation to Jaffna. : 

In the second week of this month,  a Buddhist delegation led by monk Kamburugamuwe Vajira accompanied by the Roman Catholic clergy visited the northern part of the island under the  control of LTTE.  They met many of their leaders.  The monks were happy with their interaction with the LTTE leaders.   They were received cordially and were able to move around and talk to the people.   On their return, the delegation  urged the government to talk to the LTTE for a peaceful solution to the ethnic problem They  also announced that the monks  will hold demonstrations on Feb. 26 to urge the authorities to open negotiations to put an end to the fighting. 

The initiative taken by the clergy augurs well for the majority Sinhala community.  In the past, vested interests both in the UNP and the PA have always given the impression that the Buddhist Clergy has been against extending any concession to the minority community.  Barring two major incidents, one, way back in 1984 when the sacred place of worship at Anuradhapura was fired at and later in Jan 1998, the bombing of the sacred Buddhist Shrine -the Temple of tooth at Kandy, the LTTE has generally avoided messing up with the Buddhist clergy.  Except for a few "fringe" elements (which one finds in all groups), the clergy  always stood for an end to fighting and solving the ethnic problem by peaceful means.  It must be remembered that at the height of IPKF operations when the ruling  UNP aroused the Sinhala passions against India, a top delegation of all the major Buddhist chapters visited India on the invitation of the Indian Buddhist clergy. 

Emergence of Varadaraja Perumal: 

The surfacing of Varadaraja Perumal, the former Chief minister of Northeast Province and a leader of the EPRLF has added another dimension to the ethnic problem in Sri Lanka.    Varadaraja Perumal,  an acknowledged leader of the EPRLF has been away from active politics for the past eight years.  He was last elected as Chief minister of Northeastern Province in November 1988.   With the killing of Padmanabha and the exile of Varadaraja Perumal, the EPRLF led by Premachandran has been steadily losing ground to other non LTTE Tamil groups.   The Sri Lankan Press has already started spreading the "story" that India wants to  play a more "active" role by sending Varadaraja Perumal to Sri Lanka  at this point of time.  Nothing could be farther from this, as the Indian government has said before and continues to take the position that it has no intention of interfering with the "problem."   An advantage Perumal has over all other Tamil leaders is that he was close to President Chandrika Kumaratunge and her late husband Vijaya Kumaratunge.  His arrival may not only revive the EPRLF, but he will also be able to put forth forcefully, the problems faced by the Tamils. 

Visit of South African Press Delegation to the North: 

A South African Press delegation was taken on a conducted tour of the north.  They held a meeting at Jaffna Secretariat to meet the people and ascertain the local situation.  In the presence of a large number of security personnel it is doubtful whether people would have conveyed their real problems.  The visit is significant as LTTE has informally moved its headquarters to South Africa. 

War situation in the North East: 

Operation "Jaye sikuru" appears to have been officially given up.  The garrison at Mankulam however has been making tentative moves to break out north towards Killnocchi.  There were three major clashes with the LTTE, one on 31st January and another on 4th Feb. and a third one on 18th Feb., when the army suffered heavy casualties.  There have been minor clashes at Nedunkunnam, Oddusudan, Kanjikudicharu, Pulmodai and Paranthan.  While the LTTE has been holding its own in land, it is in the sea that they appear to be having more casualties.  In one major incident off Katchathivu, 13 LTTE cadres were killed on 9th Feb.  LTTE sources have claimed that one more Devora class gun boat of Sri Lankan Navy  was damaged in the exchanges.  It is seen that LTTE continues to be vulnerable in the sea. 

The period since the last update appears to be one of probing the defences of each other for some major clash in the near future.  
 Dr.S.Chandrasekharan.                            22-02-1999