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Army-backed paramilitaries target TNA MPs

Army-backed paramilitaries this week began targeting parliamentarians from Sri Lanka’s largest Tamil party, killing a prominent eastern MP and warning others to quit or face the same fate.

Joseph Pararajasingham, a stalwart of the Tamil National Alliance, which swept the Northeast in last year’s parliamentary elections, was killed when gunmen opened fire at him and his wife, Sugunam, whilst they were attending Christmas mass in Batticaloa.

The 71 year old legislator had just received Holy Communion and was returning to his pew in St. Mary''s co-cathedral church in Batticaloa town at 1am Sunday when he was shot in the chest.

Eight other people were also wounded by the hail of bullets, including a Catholic nun, and were admitted to the main hospital in Batticaloa. Mrs. Pararajasingham was seriously wounded, but is said to be out of danger now.

The Liberation Tigers have condemned the murder of the MP, well known for his strident criticism of human rights abuses by Sri Lanka’s armed forces, and blamed Army-backed paramilitaries.

The LTTE says Sri Lankan military intelligence is deploying five paramilitary groups in a concerted campaign of violence against its members and supporters in the eastern province.

The Sri Lankan government has however accused the LTTE of carrying out the killing in a bid to detract attention from ongoing violence in the north. In a statement it also condemned the killing.

Condemning the killing as ‘despicable and dastardly,’ the TNA pointed out that “while the road leading to the church was manned by the armed forces, police personnel were [also] on duty outside the church [which is] within Government-controlled territory.”

“The meaningful continuance of the peace process has been long disturbed by certain Tamil paramilitary groups functioning in close collaboration with sections of the Armed Forces, particularly the Military Intelligence Wing. The assassination of Mr. Pararajasingham is clearly attributable to this ongoing clandestine relationship,” the TNA said.

“We call upon the Government to immediately take necessary corrective action by dismantling all such clandestine relationships, which would be the only way to infuse any confidence in the peace process,” the TNA said.

A hitherto unknown paramilitary group, the “Sennan Brigade” of Eastern Soil has claimed responsibility for Mr. Pararajasingham’s killing and warned other TNA MPs from the east to resign or die.

But many believe the Sennan Brigade is a thinly veiled front for the Karuna Group, named after a Tiger commander in the east who defected to the SLA in April 2004 following the collapse of his six-week rebellion against the LTTE leadership.

Since Karuna’s defection, several LTTE cadres and supporters, paramilitaries and security forces personnel have been killed in violence that has come to be characterized as a ‘shadow war.’

“The death punishment was meted out by us to Joseph Pararajasingham for his treachery to our Eastern people and its soil as well as his facilitation for the annihilation of Eastern people by causing a war in collaboration with the Tigers,” the Daily Mirror newspaper quoted the group as saying.

The group also issued a public warning to TNA MPs Jeyanandamoorthy, Ariyenthiran, Sambanthan, Thurairetnasingham, Kanagasabai, Pathmanathan and Thangeswari to resign from “without engaging in betrayal against the Eastern people.”

“If not, if they partake any role with the collaboration of the Tigers in strategy to annihilate our people, death punishment would be executed by us very soon, it warned, adding the death sentence awaits those who collaborate with the Tigers.

Pararajasingham is the second prominent member of the TNA to be killed by paramilitaries. Mr. Ariyanayagam Chandra Nehru, a former MP for the Amparai district was killed when paramilitaries ambushed and massacred a team from the LTTE’s political wing travelling through Army-controlled territory in February this year.

Mr. Nehru was travelling with Mr. E. Kousalyan, the LTTE political wing leader for Batticaloa-Amparai and his team when gunmen stopped their van and shot dead the occupants.

The LTTE has conferred the titled Maamanithar (Great Humanbeing) on Mr. Pararajasingham in recognition of his services to the Tamil people. The movement accorded the same honour to Mr. Nehru.

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