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Government sidelines Karuna, promotes new front in East

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In a significant shift of strategy and political alliances in the east, the Sri Lankan Government is believed to have virtually dumped the anti-Tamil Tiger Karuna paramilitary Group and is supporting a new Tamil front for local elections in the volatile east later this year, The Sunday Times reported.
 
The new front is led by the leader of the splinter Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF), V. Anandasangaree and includes the People’s Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE) and the Eelam People’s Liberation Front (EPRLF – Pathmanabha Wing)
 
Currently the TULF, the PLOTE or the EPRLF’s Pathmanabha wing do not have any parliamentary representation.
 
The trio are due to function as the Tamil Democratic Alliance (TDA) and is inviting other Tamil parties to join the alliance to contest local elections followed by provincial elections in the east, the Sunday Times said.
 
The TDA is to begin its political activities in the east within the next few weeks, the paper said.
 
Apparently as a sign of support, the Sri Lankan government this week provided a helicopter to Mr. Anandasangaree, PLOTE leader Dharmalingam Siddharthan and EPRLF-Pathmanabha Wing General Secretary T. Sridharan to visit Batticaloa and have a hurriedly summoned meeting with government officials and representatives of international and local non governmental organisations.
 
The visiting delegation told the NGO community that the purpose of the visit was to listen to the problems of the people of the area and convey them to President Mahinda Rajapaksa to find solutions.
 
Among the grievances which they listened to were issues about continued child recruitment by the Karuna group in the government-controlled areas and the difficulties in travelling to some of the areas newly regained from the LTTE.
 
The delegation was later flown to Vakarai, where for months tens of thousands of Tamils were subject to indiscriminate Sri Lankan bombardment, before returning to Colombo.
 
Last Friday night the visiting delegation met President Rajapaksa and briefed him about the visit as well as the problems in the area. Mr. Siddarthan who took part in the meeting told The Sunday Times said their plans were to contest the two upcoming elections and their visit was aimed at looking into the grievances of the people in the Eastern Province and the NGOs working in the region.
 
During the meeting, he said the President had promised to expedite the ongoing relief and development activities in the cleared areas of the east. The fresh move has angered the Karuna faction which is claiming that the step was aimed at sidelining the group which was involved in assisting the security forces in the recent months.
 
Ganesh Mahesh, spokesman for the Thamil Makkal Vidithalai Pulligal (TMVP) – the Karuna Group’s political wing — told The Sunday Times that the government was promoting groups which had never sighted the areas when the people were facing difficulties.
 
Government’s plans to promote the new political front come amidst criticism that the Karuna group has been permitted to move about with weapons in government-controlled areas and no action was taken against them.
 
The Nation reliably learns that Douglas Devananda, leader of the Eelam Peoples Democratic Party (EPDP), Sri Lanka’s largest Tamil paramilitary group cum political parry has urged the government to make sure that the Karuna faction conducts its political activities unarmed.
 
There have been several clashes between EPDP and Karuna Group gunmen in the east in the past few weeks.
 
For several weeks Sri Lankan press reports have been suggesting the TMVP will not be allowed to contest the Eastern Province elections to be held later this year.
 
The TMVP initially submitted their application to the Department of Elections on October 12, 2004 to be a registered and a recognised political party in Sri Lanka.
 
“However, it’s been nearly three years since the application was handed over to the department by TMVP Secretary General G. R. Gnanarajah, but the department is yet to recognize this party,” highly placed sources told The Nation newspaper.
 
“Some parties who submitted their application seeking approval from the department many months after the TMVP handed over their application, have already received recognition from the department,” sources added.
 
The latest list updated by the Elections Secretariat as of July 10, consists of 53 recognised political parties with each of these parties being granted a unique symbol, but the list does not include the TMVP.
 

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