Bid to assassinate Ananthi Elilan aimed at eliminating war crime witness

Keeping the country largely on a war footing with heavy military presence in the former war-zones of Jaffna and Wanni districts, the incumbent government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa has held the maiden election for the Northern provincial council mainly to deceive the outside world that democracy and rule of law have been restored in all parts of the island nation. 

The prompt statement by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon hailing the government’s effort to hold the election in the North is certainly a diplomatic propaganda victory for the government.

Election is only an aspect of democracy and cannot stand as its substitute.

The government tried its level best to capture the provincial administration, making full use of the state resources and its proxy paramilitary outfits while adopting military terror tactics against the opponents and the voters. It could not still prevent the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) from registering a landslide victory and securing the maiden administration of the province.

This is a clear message to the Rajapaksa regime that the Tamil people are not mere economic animals and the state military might cannot simply take away their just political aspirations.

Nevertheless, the government appears to be precise about its priorities. The hawkish regime has been flatly rejecting the increasing international call for international independent probe into the credible allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by its armed forces during the final months of the war. Ironically, it adopts an offensive diplomatic approach in this regard, in many occasions, against the very same countries that have knowingly aided and abetted such crimes being committed in the name of war on terror.

If it vehemently claims at international forums that its troops have carefully adopted a zero-civilian-casualty policy throughout the war, on the ground it meticulously clears the evidences and eliminates the witnesses of war crime, using the very military resources.

Why targeting Ananthi?

It is in this backdrop that the politico-military authorities appeared to have decided to assign teams to assassinate Mrs Ananthi Sasitharan, the wife of former LTTE’s political wing head for Trincomalee Elilan, using the northern provincial election.

The ground realities show that the commando style attack on the home of number one candidate of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) shortly after midnight on Thursday, is not just a “politically motivated election related isolated incident”.

Commenting on the attack, a senior Tamil journalist in Colombo said that the government “would have faced the problem of plenty, had it wanted to kill any top candidates of the TNA for political reasons. Even the chief ministerial candidate and retired judge C.V.Wigneswaran would have been a sitting duck”. 

“But why they were after Ananthi Sasitharan’s life is something that should be looked beyond provincial council elections,” he told JDS, adding that the politico-military higher-ups in Colombo have taken a great deal of pain and effort to assign teams of heavily armed military personnel in uniform and paramilitary operatives in civvies to carry out this attack on the 42-year old wife of Elilan.

A retired university academic said that Ananthi was constantly under threat and intimidation especially after she appeared before the Lesson Learnt Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) in September 2010.

“Failing to reach her on two previous occasions during the month-long hectic election campaign, during which she organised and addressed several election rallies, pocket meetings and house-to-house campaigns, the authorities this time targeted her the day after the election campaigns ended, so that they can cover it up just as a poll related violence,” he said.

Least knowing that she has swiftly moved with her three children to a neighbouring house for safety reasons minutes after noticing the suspicious movements of strangers outside her house, the men with guns, swords and heavy poles stormed her home at Chuzhipuram in Jaffna.

Angered by her escape, they mercilessly beat up nine of her supporters and a local election monitor with assault riffles and heavy poles and left them to bleed during the 45-minute carnage. The attackers did not forget to take away all the mobile phones from the victims before leaving the scene, fearing that the live video clips of them carrying out the attack could soon reach the television channels outside the island.

Jaffna judicial medical officer has confirmed that ten people were admitted to the hospital, many of whom with serious wounds resulting from boots and pole attack. “But they have all got themselves discharged from the hospital against strong medical advice, due to fear of further attacks,” the Jaffna doctor said.

This again shows how the military conducts its affairs in the North with absolute impunity.

Talking to media a few personnel who were there to cover the election, Ananthi said this attack was “clearly an attempt to kill me”.

“There is no doubt about it. Fortunately, I kept my three children away following a series of threats and intimidations. The attack has affected me psychologically. I know that weakening my psychological strength was one of their major motives,” Ananthi said immediately after the attack. 

A living witness

“She is one of the few living witnesses of the surrendering of the LTTE leaders and cadres to the army. Among those who surrendered to the army in Mullivaikkal and has gone unheard of since then, was her husband, Elilan, the LTTE’s political commissar for Trincomalee. This is therefore a well-planned systematic attack on her by the military not just for contesting on the major Tamil party’s ticket, but mainly for being vociferous on the controversial surrendering of the LTTE cadres to the military on the final day of the war in May 2009,” the retired Jaffna University academic told the JDS on condition of anonymity.

Despite facing many intimidations, threats and targeted attacks previously during the election campaign, she has been resilient single-handedly on the surrender issue ever since her appearance before the Lesson Learnt Reconciliation Commission (LLRC). She made use of all the election platforms to revisit the saga of LTTE surrender in Mullivaikkal and expose the genocidal acts of this government.

Giving witness statement at an open hearing of the LLRC, she said that her husband Elilan and other top-ranking LTTE leaders such as Yogaratnam Yogi and Lawrance Thilakar, political wing deputy head Thangan, former political commissar for Jaffna, Ilamparithi, head of administrative unit Poovannan, Piriyan and Theepan were among those surrendered to the Sri Lankan forces under the coordination of a Catholic Priest at Vadduvaakal in Mullaitivu on 18 May 2009 in front of her eyes. But there has been no news of them since then with the government constantly denying no knowledge of them.

Knowing that there are thousands of Tamils missing their loved ones before, during and after the war, she is assuring them to have their voices heard and fight on till the truth is established and justice is done by punishing those who are accountable for the crime.

According to analysts, the likes of Ananthi empowering themselves politically is not something what this government would want to see.

“She is seeking justice, not rewards, compensation or political recognition. As for the government and its military apparatus, the likes of Ananthi are a living dragon that they would always want to eliminate. Therefore, it is incumbent on the international community, especially the UN and human rights watchdogs to ensure her safety, because the enemy needs to be lucky only once,” the Jaffna academic said.

Image courtesy: Kuni Takahashi /The New York Times