LTTE fails to utilise political opportunity
By D.B.S. Jeyaraj
The killing of two Northern school principals by two different sets of killers on
successive days has brought in its wake widespread condemnation. The Eelam
Peoples Democratc Party and Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam are the prime
suspects. While the EPDP was allegedly responsible for killing Kopay Christian
College Principal Nadarajah Sivakadatcham on Oct 11th the accusing finger points to
the LTTE in the case of Jaffna Central College principal Kanapathy Rajadurai on Oc
As stated in these columns last week the EPDP as well as the LTTE are trying to pin
the blame for both killings on each other. Douglas Devananda went on the air over
BBC "Thamizhosai" and the EPDP radio "Ithayaveenai" accusing the LTTE for both.
LTTE political commissar for Jaffna Ilamparithy told the BBC that the EPDP backed by
military intelligence was responsible for both killings. A press release issued by the
LTTE to that effect was also published by the Jaffna newspapers.
The people of Jaffna however were not deceived for long. They soon realised who the
guilty parties were. LTTE front organizations and Tamil National Alliance
Parliamentarians were in the forefront at Sivakadatchams funeral. He was given a
posthumous National patriot award by the LTTE. Though the pro - tiger and tiger
media lamented the killings of both principals the bulk of coverage was devoted to the
The anti - tiger media also condemned both killings but devoted excessive space to
the Jaffna Central Principal. An EPRLF (Varathar) faction website for example had 7
stories on Rajadurai and only one on Sivakadatcham. Thus both sides demonstrated
clearly that they were partial towards one of the victims alone while condemning the
deaths of both. Though charging each other for both murders the two sides exposed
themselves by the comparative lack of concern expressed for one or the other of the
The situation was in a way bitter irony for the LTTE. The tigers had killed a number of
people in the past three years and blamed the security intelligence and their acolytes
for them. Organizations like the EPDP had suffered greatly. The LTTE controlled
Tamil media had reported the killings to be the handiwork of "unidentified "persons.
Most Tamils in Jaffna knew that this meant the LTTE.
Now the situation was on the verge of change. The shadow war or to use Trond
Furhovdes description "subversive war" had begun in the North. Members of Tamil
groups backed by the intelligence apparatus like the EPDP were targeting the LTTE
and its supporters. The killing of Sivakadatcham was one instance. The blame
however was being placed on the tigers themselves. Cabinet ministers like Nimal
Siripala de Silva and Douglas Devananda were quick to denounce the tigers. A
demonstration was held opposite the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Colombo. Even if
the Tamil people of Jaffna knew the truth "Sinhala" Sri Lanka and the international
community were being fed anti - tiger propaganda.
More details about both killings are now emerging. Some of the earlier reports had
inaccuracies. In the case of Sivakadatcham the killers had not stormed the house.
They had entered the compound through the gate and called out "Master" to him. The
principal who was watching television at the time had opened the front door and gone
outside. When the assassins fired shots at close quarters the victim collapsed on the
front porch. His wife, ten year old son and undergraduate daughter had rushed out
screaming. The killers fled on their motor cycle.
It was drizzling at the time. Later it began raining. The body remained outside as
neither the Police nor the Army arrived until past midnight. Both the Police Station and
Army camp were quite close. The body of the man killed at 8. 35 pm was taken to the
hospital only after midnight 12. 30 am. Usually Sivakadatcham a workaholic returns
home only after 9 pm. On that day he had come early for the Saraswathy pooja at
According to close relatives Sivakadatcham was an ardent Tamil nationalist. He had
aroused displeasure among security circles because of the success of the recent
Pongu Thamil. When a university lecturer responsible for organizing the event was
arrested and detained on a sexual offence charge the Pongu Thamil was expected to
be a damp squib. But Sivakadatcham as secretary of the Tamil resurgence committee
filled the vacuum and made the event a success. He also organized the 19th
anniversary of the first LTTE woman martyr Lt. Malathy in Kopay successfully.
Family circles said that some security personnel had recently "advised"
Sivakadatcham not to identify himself with pro - tiger activity but the man was not
intimidated. On the morning of the day Sivakadatcham was killed two youths
suspected of being EPDP had made inquiries in Kopay about the principals residence
and come to the front gate. They had not entered the house. With the wisdom of
hindsight this behaviour is now seen as a reconnaissance mission.
Sivakadatcham was from Kandarmadam in Nallur, Jaffna. He had married in Kopay
and settled down there. After years of teaching in Trincomalee he was transferred to
Kopay Christian College 18 years ago. He had become principal four years ago.
In their bid to prove the LTTE killed Sivakadatcham his killers have unleashed a lot of
reasons. The main propaganda is that Sivakadatcham had fallen out with the LTTE
over the killing of Nagulan his nephew. Nagulan who belonged to the
Varatharajapperumal faction of the EPRLF had quit the movement a few years ago
and was living in the Sinhala division area of Vavuniya. His killing some weeks ago was
blamed on the tigers. This killing was cited as a major cause of Sivakadatchams
estrangement with the LTTE.
Fresh information received by this writer last week provides a different picture.
Informed circles say that Nagulan though from Kopay was not a close relative of
Sivakadatcham at all. Though a possibility of distant kinship among people of the
same stock in the same village is there Nagulan certainly was not closely connected.
Thus the rationale for estrangement with the LTTE is not there.
Moreover there are serious doubts as to whether Nagulans killing was done by the
LTTE at all. Though out of active politics Nagulan had recently incurred EPDP wrath
in Vavuniya. Some members of the EPRLF faction had defected and joined the EPDP.
This led to that party appropriating the EPRLF office building in Vavuniya and making
it an additional EPDP office. Even a bust of former EPRLF chief Padmanabha was
supposedly destroyed by the EPDP.
This incensed a "Nabha" loyalist like Nagulan. Re - emerging from retirement Nagulan
resisted the EPDP highhandedness and initiated legal action to get the property back..
He also protested directly to Devananda. It is now suspected by Nagulan's friends that
it was the EPDP which killed Nagulan while foisting alleged responsibility on the LTTE.
Whatever the background to Sivakadatchams murder the EPDP has certainly
succeeded to a great extent in averting responsibility and diverting the blame on the
LTTE both nationally and internationally. The tigers contributed to this situation
greatly by the hasty , tit for tat murder of Principal Rajadurai. Two killings one after the
other created chaotic confusion.
If the LTTE used its political acumen and adopted restraint after Sivakadatchams
killing it could have exploited the situation to tiger advantage. If Sivakadatchams
murder was an isolated act then it would have become transparent that he was killed
by elements opposed to the LTTE. The killing of a school principal in Jaffna by
whichever party or for whatever reason would have been condemned.
The LTTE could have raised a terrible outcry and launched a massive campaign
condemning the killing. This would have placed the state and the EPDP in the dock.
But the tigers who think that violent force is the only method for any problem reacted
by killing another principal. By doing so the LTTE goofed and goofed badly. The
Rajadurai killing has created a new set of serious problems for the tigers. All these
could have been avoided if the LTTE had responded politically to the Sivakadatcham
killing. Now it is one more instance of a missed opportunity for the tigers.