Subsequently Rajani played a leading role in reopening the University after the devastating war of October 1987. She worked shoulder to shoulder with lab assistants and employees to get the university open and ready for teaching. For Rajani and others close to her the University would be the voice of the people standing up to all armed actors, who would rather have the University serve their ends. This effort to regain a functioning university was in fact supported by the Indian Army as they wanted to show that they were restoring normalcy. From the first however, we in the university community made it clear that we had a will of our own.
Brigadier Manjit Singh of the Rajput Rifles
was then in charge of the University. Near the Railway Station in
Major Bhatt and
Colonel Chatterjee, who too frequently came to the
University, were part of the force that took
Sritharan was very restless during that period. During night curfews he paced up and down, his lightning sharp intellect trying to pierce the fog of hopelessness and figure out initiatives the community could take and their possible consequences. By day he rode about on his bicycle at considerable risk with a cane basket hung on a handle, as though looking for food, but trying to find out what was really going on. It was his idea that he and I should go to the town commandant’s office and ask for permission to inspect the University, an action that expedited its reopening.
On one occasion late in the evening there was a tense encounter at the Science Faculty with Brigadier Manjit Singh, when Dr. Sritharan charged Indian soldiers of willfully damaging several computers. Manjit Singh made legalistic denials. Both voices rose to a crescendo. The lateness of the hour with Manjit’s bodyguard of half a dozen Sikh soldiers looking on inscrutably added to the tension in the atmosphere. Thankfully it ended and the interlocutors parted company. It had a funny sequel. Some days later Sritharan passed Manjit Singh’s vehicle on the road near the Nallur Education Office. Manjit Singh was not in it. The vehicle reversed fast and braked near a startled Sritharan. Manjit’s bodyguard grinned and gave Sritharan a friendly wave. They were seemingly pleased that someone told their boss off…
Some of us at
the University, especially Sritharan and Rajani, felt
that if we were to have some normality and a functioning civil life, we should
demand that the Indian Army observed certain norms in dealing with the
civilians and instituted some accountability; the damage the LTTE was doing
could also be minimised. We sent a letter in early
1988 and received an invitation to the Jaffna Kacheri.
Rev. Dr. Guy Rajendram was the most senior among us.
Only Rajani came from the Medical Faculty and was the
only woman in the group. The Indians took the meeting seriously even if it was
only to tell their point of view. Their team was led by Major General Sardeshpande, the officer commanding the
Rajani who was in a white sari
expressed very powerfully the plight of the civilians, her dismay at the way
the Indian Army took
The notion of an
independent voice was anathema to the LTTE. They tried repeatedly to provoke a
clash with the Indian Army and to close down the University. On
Within a short time the Town Commandant, Brigadier R.I.S. Kahlon, arrived at the University. Behind his tough exterior he was obviously upset. Significantly, he repeatedly asked why we waited so long and failed to contact him at the outset when trouble was imminent. Rajani and Sritharan protested vehemently that the Army opened fire at a peaceful, unarmed demonstration. While field officers might have felt differently, a normally functioning university was important for the military administration.
Active staff members like Rajani extracted promises from officers, such as Kahlon, to not harass unarmed persons for their political views. Thus the University was able to challenge the Indian Army over arrests of students and demand their release. The Indian Army had been known to harass and threaten individual staff members, too. But this was challenged and in general limits were observed. The UTHR(J)’s documentation of violations by all parties was in the same spirit of standing up for the community…
Piecing together Rajani’s subsequent assassination revealed to us the large network of political advisors, intelligence operatives and student spies that the LTTE maintained within the University, particularly the Medical Faculty…
Although the controversy about private medical colleges came to be mixed up in lethal power play, the differences between the LTTE and JVP on the matter point to the different social classes whose support each considered crucial. The NLMC was a misadventure tied up with Rajani’s fate.
started ringing when the Senate of the University of Colombo in a controversial
vote allowed NCMC students to sit for the same examinations as medical students
of the university and hold degrees of the University of Colombo. Protests by
The NLMC was
Having paid large sums of money, the NLMC students were left in the lurch as teaching virtually ground to a halt. There were two desperate parties – the students themselves and the organisers of the venture. In a climate of civil war where gun culture provided a short cut to getting things done, even a crisis among the elite was bound to take unpredictable turns. In university circles it was said that the directors of the NLMC were prevented at gunpoint from closing up and going away. The next move in the matter came in early 1989 when Rajani was back.
In late 1987, after the Indian Army offensive, Rajani had worked hard to reopen the Medical Faculty with the vision that the University would become the centre of revival for a society torn apart, torn asunder by social strife and violence. She strongly disagreed with her faculty colleagues who kept it closed for six months as a means of drawing attention to the shortage of staff. She wanted them to do a job, earn respect and persuade Tamil doctors living abroad to help them by doing short tours of teaching…
Rajani was the only member of the medical staff who openly objected to the incorporation on the grounds that even the Jaffna Medical Faculty was grossly understaffed and for the few available teachers to do a second job at the NLMC would adversely affect standards. Rajani moreover pointed out that Anatomy was the most substantive pre-clinical subject and being the sole qualified anatomist at the Department (one among perhaps four qualified anatomy teachers in the whole country at the time) she could not physically handle three batches simultaneously. The Dean repudiated her with vehemence at faculty and senate meetings. Many agreed with her but chose not to confront authority.
students in the
Besides, the ethics of the NLMC were mired in a serious conflict of interest. The students who worked hard and made it into the state-funded university system would be in competition not with products of an independent university, but with those of a commercial establishment purporting to be a private university, but using the same teachers from the state-funded system and paying them twice of what they received from their principal affiliation, the University of Jaffna.
the NLMC, including several of those involved with the LTTE, called regularly
at the Medical Faculty for discussions with members of the staff who supported
the NLMC. According to the student we shall refer to as L whom the LTTE installed as president
of the Medical Students’ Union (more of him later), the Dean had importuned him
to sign a letter purportedly from the Union to the parliamentary select
committee, certifying that the Jaffna medical students supported the
incorporation of the NLMC into the Eastern University. He added that some LTTE
members interested in the matter had said at the Medical Faculty that whoever
opposed the scheme for incorporation of the NLMC into
Hardly any members of the Faculty were LTTE supporters in any but a wishy-washy sense; many were just nationalists of the TULF mould. Like the students admitted to the NLMC, they too were desperate and were willing to pull any string that came to hand whether in the North or the South. They were desperate and angry. One instance gives an idea of how it possibly compromised the University. The course of events suggest that the Indian Army had their own informants in the University and knew what was going on inside and used it to arm-twist members of the university community. It is not unlikely that the Indian Army knew that the LTTE dealt with a section of the medical dons, even if they did not know it was about the NLMC. The incident described below illustrates this point well.
1989, Neethirajah, a second-year medical student, was
assaulted by an Indian officer when he tried to intervene on behalf of another
student. He reported this to the Dean of Medicine who was briefly Acting Vice
Chancellor. The Dean promptly and confidently complained by letter to General Kalkut, GOC Indian Forces in
For about two nights Major Nautyal from Tinnevely Junction, with another officer, visited the Dean and had apparently searched his place. Major Nautyal in due course called on the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Thurairajah, who had returned, and told him that the Dean had several live bullets at home, which was a serious offence. Nautyal added that he was prepared to overlook the offence if the Vice Chancellor would withdraw the complaint about the assault. Prof. Thurairajah asked the Dean of Medicine about this, and out of concern for his safety, advised him to go abroad for some time. The Dean admitted to having the bullets and was not interested in going abroad. Thurairajah could get no more clarification from him about what had really happened, and reluctantly withdrew the complaint.
In this affair, the Faculty became compromised partly on account of the intrigues concerning the NLMC in which it had the LTTE’s support. On this count too Rajani became isolated. LTTE cadres took advantage of this situation and hid arms on the premises and even slept there. In this murky situation, the Indian Army too had its sources of information and Rajani despaired of what might happen if they decided to act.
The significance of the NLMC affair for Rajani’s killing is that her principled stand on issues and her interest in the welfare of the University and the larger community had thoroughly isolated her within the Faculty, as would be seen in the sequel on how indifferently the Faculty reacted to her murder. The LTTE knew of her isolation and it helped them enormously to dampen the effect of her loss. Had they thought that the Faculty would firmly stand up and condemn the killing and highlight the irreparable loss, it would have acted as a strong deterrent to killing Rajani. Yet the Faculty, which was closed for six months the previous year to protest the lack of staff, carried on almost as though her loss was of meagre significance. Her loss as a teacher of Anatomy, who could also train others to succeed her cannot be overestimated. To this day, the medical faculty has found no adequate replacement for her...
The next opportunity for change came when Prof. A. Thurairajah of the Open University, who was Co-Chairman of
the national UTHR, was appointed Vice Chancellor of the
Young active staff members and students became unusually visible in the University. Understandably, it made some older academics unhappy and nervous (as we were to learn). The academic community in Lanka had come a long way from its halcyon days of the 1930s to 1960s when it appeared to stand for intellectual freedom and open discourse. The fact that its complacency had not been shaken by the passage of the Citizenship Bills of 1948-1949 which virtually made serfs of the Hill Country Tamil plantation labour, was a disturbing sign portending its impending surrender to ethnic chauvinism and the brutality dictated by class interest during the JVP-led Sinhalese youth uprisings of 1971 and 1987…
In November 1986 the university student Arunagirinathan Vijitharan, from Batticaloa, was abducted by the LTTE and killed apparently for the reason that in boyish fashion he had poked fun at a medical student, the girlfriend of LTTE leader Kittu. The student protest by the University drew in the schools and a large segment of ordinary people who had grave reservations about the direction that the LTTE was taking. The academics largely stayed on the fence. A few were openly contemptuous of the students. Some seniors came in as honest brokers between the students and the LTTE and persuaded the students to call off their protest on verbal assurances from the LTTE for the safety of their leaders and a promise that they would look for Vijitharan. Once the students called off their protest and the LTTE began hunting the student leaders (one of whom it later killed), the academics remained silent. It must be placed on record that the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Vithiananthan, conducted himself with dignity and with genuine concern for the students.
Vimaleswaran was then the student
leader who led the protest when the leaders undertook a fast. A rural youth
from Pooneryn, Vimaleswaran was politically astute, having been a member of the PLOTE; he left the group in
the wake of its internal killings. Leading members of churches and of the elite
who came to make peace thought they scored a coup when they persuaded LTTE’s
Vimaleswaran said that Kittu’s conciliatory gestures had no meaning when the
reality behind the scenes was that student protesters were being hounded and
harassed by the LTTE. After the protest, with few means at his disposal, Vimaleswaran became a helpless fugitive. In 1988, he tried
to make a meagre living for himself and his family,
giving tuition. On 18th July the LTTE shot him dead after a class on
Rajani then had just returned from
“Let us now imagine that one day something in our greengrocer snaps and he stops putting up the slogans merely to ingratiate himself…And he even finds the strength in himself to express solidarity with those whom his conscience commands him to support. In this revolt the greengrocer steps out of living within the lie…He discovers once more his suppressed identity and dignity. He gives his freedom a concrete significance. His revolt is an attempt to live within the truth…
“The system, through its alienating presence in people, will punish him for his rebellion. It must do so because the logic of its automatism and self-defense dictate it. The greengrocer has not committed a simple individual offence isolated in its own uniqueness, but something incomparably more serious…He has upset the power structure by tearing apart what holds it together. He has demonstrated that living a lie is living a lie. He has broken through the exalted facade of the system and exposed the real, base foundations of power. He has said that the emperor is naked.”
Where Rajani drew most from
…Rajani played a leading role in several important local initiatives, apart from the writing of The Broken Palmyra and the work of the UTHR (Jaffna). These included the founding of Poorani Illam, a home for abused and destitute women, several structures and initiatives at the University, including the Staff, Students and Employees Consultative Committee, and her mobilizing of the non-academic staff to reopen the Medical Faculty after the war in 1987. She was part of a women’s drama group to bring out the situation of women living under multiple oppressions which produced Aduppadi Arattai (Musings by the kitchen hearth) staged at the University’s Kailasapathy Auditorium. Further, she played an active role in initiating a system organised within the teachers’ unions to go to the relevant army camp immediately and challenge the arrest or harassment of any university person. This broke down after she was killed and the LTTE asserted control.
After her assassination there were scores of arrests, incidents of torture, assault and disappearance, especially of university students, first by the LTTE and then by the Sri Lankan forces. In its inability to articulate civic responsibility as a body, the University largely ended up accepting the status quo laid down by the powers that be – one that was brutal and demeaning. Any challenge carried a high price…
The UTHR (Jaffna) acted with considerable autonomy. The reports once compiled were shown to Prof. Thurairajah, who readily consented, before release. Prof. Thurairajah was under much pressure. While his course of promoting a more democratic university ethos had a support base within the University and could negotiate the rocks, there was no problem. As we discuss later, Rajani’s murder ended this period and signalled the reassertion and punitive vengeance of the old establishment.
The controversy that UTHR (J) reports would excite became clear after the publication of our second report in March 1989 on the developing situation after the parliamentary elections and issues confronting the Tamils. To compile this report, UTHR(J) had obtained help from Mr. Selvendra, Chairman of the Valvettithurai Citizens’ Committee, to meet victims of violence from that area and in particular the victims of an incident at Udupiddy. Mr. Selvendra had a liberal education and was a professional, and we sent him our first two reports through an engineer whom we will call Anandan, also of VVT origin. Anandan was two years the writer’s senior at university and was helpful to us with information. It was our hope that the reports would be treated in the spirit in which they were written. We were critical of all violations and their perpetrators, along with the LTTE’s child recruitment, but tried our utmost to be impartial with facts.
About a month
later Prof. Thurairajah sent for one of us and gave
without a word the copy of Report No.2 we had sent Mr. Selvendra.
The report had copious comments penned on it, especially on our criticism of
the LTTE recruiting children and using them in lethal tasks. A particular bone
of contention was on our reporting of the incident in Udupiddy (4.6 of http://www.uthr.org/Reports/Report2/Report2.htm).
We then had no
explanation for why the convoy had stopped. We learnt from a university lady
from the locality that the LTTE had been in the area, and withdrew after firing
a token shot to demonstrate their opposition to the elections. The people of
the area had at that time moved out sensing trouble. Subsequent to the shooting
of the two ladies, Rev. Tharmakulasingam observed a
Sikh soldier seated on the ground, weeping aloud. We pointed out that this was
not the only incident when a Sikh soldier was found weeping after such a tragedy,
perhaps recalling disturbed conditions in their own villages back home in
We heard no more until Anandan paid the writer a visit and related Selvendra’s objections. Anandan, who was always affable and, besides, somewhat naive, changed tone at one point and said severely of our reports, “If you want to write this kind of thing, you have to do it from [the protection of] an army camp.” Anandan stiffened involuntarily when he added that the kind of work the UTHR(J) was doing ‘would not be allowed’! The menace in these words became plain in the months and years to come. Anandan was simply repeating words of the LTTE-supporting elite among his contacts. The words were also an indication of how the UTHR(J) would be assailed by LTTE-supporters in the future. Contrary to our uncritical hopes, once bitten by the bug of extreme nationalism, the maxim “facts are sacred” has little resonance even among those with a good liberal education.
It was April 1989 and the LTTE was about to embark on talks with the Premadasa government. Anandan further said, “The LTTE is entering talks just to get the Indian Army out. Once that happens there would be a long and final battle for Eelam.” The full import of that statement seemed to be lost on him: the imposition of yet another war on a battered and weary population.
Anandan was at pains to say that the VVT elite, like those in the VVT Citizens Committee, were distinct from the LTTE although they supported its aspirations. He explained that the LTTE had recently given public offence by abducting a goldsmith for ransom while he was worshiping at the major Sellasannathy temple festival. The Citizens Committee urged the LTTE to release him, but they kept him until they got the last gold ingot demanded. He said the LTTE had a mind of its own and no one could influence it. Their relationship to the LTTE, one gathers, resembled that of devotees to an extremely harsh and capricious tutelary deity, whose will was not theirs to question. The visit was a sincerely meant friendly warning.
Anandan had earlier objected to our coverage in Report No.1 of the murder on 21st October 1988 of Mr. Sivanandasundaram, a senior citizen from Vadamaratchy who led the Tamil Makkal Manram, of whom our report stated, “His organisation is known to have taken the stand that the LTTE were the legitimate heirs of the Tamil National cause, and the other groups were even termed ‘traitors’.” He was returning from a meeting commemorating a dead LTTE cadre in Ariyalai, when his bus was stopped in Vallai Moor and he was taken out by three gunmen and shot dead, as the Indian Army provided cover for the killers. Anandan found our reference disrespectful of the man.
This was a case at the heart of our work. As a man, the deceased and his family were socially close to some of us. The problem was how normally amiable people changed and became totally unable to see the other side, once bitten by the bug of LTTE ideology. They became obsessed by blind hatred – the universal hallmark of gentleman chauvinists. Many LTTE-supporting elite saw in Sivanadasundaram – who was spouting venom against other militant groups – a great man. They could not see that they made the old man a hero after encouraging him to make intemperate speeches, which they had better sense not to deliver themselves.
We clearly condemned these killings as a perpetuation of blind intolerance by both sides. The killer in this instance was a member of the EPRLF from Valvettithurai (later EPDP), who was badly mauled and narrowly survived the Welikade prison massacre of July 1983. Such a man must have felt deeply offended when, after what he had been through, others who retired from hum drum government service, and had taken no comparable risks, should call him a traitor. From the start the UTHR(J) pleaded that our common stakes were too high for us to drown ourselves in such intolerance.
Anandan’s visit was the first sign that we were entering tempestuous waters…Meanwhile, gambling on the strength of assurances and weapons given by the Sri Lankan government, the LTTE ratcheted up the harshness of its actions, deliberately provoking a blood sacrifice in Prabhakaran’s birth place. It was Prabhakaran’s protege Pottu Amman who was in charge of the area.
Indeed, as was revealed, Anandan was in possession of knowledge of the LTTE’s long-term intentions. The LTTE did indeed go to peace talks only to remove the Indian Army, as he predicted, and did go to war with the Premadasa government in 1990. It was a drama in which neither the Government, the VVT CC nor the LTTE quite knew where they were headed except for wanting the Indian Army out for disparate reasons. They were all out of their depth.
In mid-1989, the LTTE
regularly provoked the Indian Army in all other parts of Vadamaratchy bringing about regular reprisals against the people. There was anger among the
people in Vadamaratchy that Valvettithurai was allowed to enjoy peace for several months because it was the home town of
In both these
instances the Indian Army showed creditable restraint. In Adampan,
on the night of 31st July a large group of the LTTE came into the
jungle behind the hospital and fired missiles at the Madras Regiment on the
other side of the hospital near Giant’s Tank. The officer in charge immediately
contacted the doctor at the hospital and asked all of them to vacate as they
were going to retaliate. Thus civilians escaped any harm. On 9th August, the Indian Army lost several men at
A week earlier,
on 2nd August, three days after the attack on
By attacking the Indian patrol, the LTTE killed two birds with one stone. It made the Indian government look foolish, and neutralised the charge of LTTE’s favoritism toward Valvettithurai (VVT). In a grotesque reversal of the tide of the Tamil militant struggle, during the Indian Army’s reprisals in Valvettithurai (Report No.3)President, many people from VVT sought shelter at the local Sri Lankan army camp; and the VVT CC prepared documents with necessary affidavits and details of the dead and sent them to President Premadasa, who in turn sent his deputy defence minister Ranjan Wijeratne to commiserate with the people of Valvettithurai over the Indian Army’s killings, even as the twosome presided over mass killings in the South to suppress the JVP.
It was much later that we learnt of the sleazy side of the affair. The VVT CC had, acting on behalf of the LTTE, forged a gentlemen’s agreement with the Indian Army to the effect that the two sides would not exchange fire in VVT. During those months in 1989, both sides passed each other along parallel lanes or alleys showing no signs of alarm. By breaking the truce with its calculated attack on the Indian soldiers, killing them, the LTTE successfully provoked the Indian Army; it reacted with anger and force against the people of Valvettithurai.
The VVT CC of course knew danger in collaborating with the LTTE, knowing well its methods and the unreliability of its word. The game of on-off war and peace for transient gains, forced on the Valvettithurai people the indignity of refuge in the Sri Lankan army camp – at a time when it was killing Sinhalese people and would return to killing Tamils in less than a year.
It was all meaningless, even as the VVT CC followed the LTTE’s prescription for useful human rights activism. Who would have dreamt that the LTTE would in ten months provoke the Government by killing hundreds of surrendered policemen, the way it did the Indian Army in VVT; that soon afterwards Deputy Defence Minister Wijeratne who commiserated in VVT would preside over an orgy of killing thousands of Tamil civilians in the East enforcing the President’s boast of putting down the LTTE as they had done the JVP, or that the LTTE would kill its allies of convenience: Ranjan Wijeratne in 18 months and Premadasa in four years?
Had we been more alert, we would have realised that the desperation and nastiness in the LTTE had reached a point where they saw any restraint as inimical to their interests. The Indians had blundered in their arrogance and the Sri Lankan government was contemptuous of the Tamils. The constellation of forces that had given Tamil dissent some room to manoeuvre by taking modest risks had broken down. If the LTTE went this far in harming the people of VVT in a desperate game of power, what chance did those like Rajani have against their compulsive desire to achieve totalitarian control? Intuitively or otherwise Rajani felt it, but tried not to alarm the rest of us…
pre-publication edition of The Broken
Palmyra was released in May 1989 and Rajani went
Colonel Sashikumar of the Gurkha Regiment, who hailed from Kerala, had dealt with the University from 1988. In his own way he tried to maintain a clean record, especially with the University. When a university don’s house was raided in November 1988, probably on a tip off about a book in compilation, the Vice Chancellor made a complaint to Brigadier Kahlon, and in turn General Dhilon who was at Jaffna Fort, called the vice chancellor’s office and wanted the don to call on the local commander Colonel Sashikumar. As was then the practice this don was taken to the Tinnevely camp by fellow members of the staff, including Rev. Dr. Guy Rajendram.
The conversation was frank and in a way friendly. The purpose of the meeting from the Army’s point of view was to be better informed about the ground and to build cordial relations with the don whose home was raided. All materials removed from the don’s home were filed and returned, including photographs of civilians killed by the Indian Army in 1987 (obtained from Arasu).
with the fact of the dirty war, which took the form of getting rid of LTTE
supporters, Sashikumar responded obliquely by giving
his perception of
We may note here the care Colonel Sashikumar took in dealing with the University. The Indian Army may not have lost any
sleep over humbler civilians killed, but were very sensitive to bad publicity
arising from incidents involving members of the elite. It is evident in the
bureaucratic manner in which the Indian Army dealt with complaints. There would
be queries and calls for reports down the line. The Indian Army knew that the
Medical Faculty, the university students’ centre and canteens were being used
and arms were being stored in the premises, but never once raided the place.
They watched the place closely and kept their fingers crossed. In the course of
the Indian pullout, Sashikumar ignored a warning from
an LTTE sentry and drove into Ariyalai East to rescue
a group of the ENDLF who were surrounded by the LTTE. Colonel Sashikumar was killed about
While the Indian Army had no intention of physically harming any of us, being an intelligence man however, S.K. Singh could not get out of his head the suspicion that someone paid big money to have The Broken Palmyra written, but that is a different matter.
The LTTE had obtained a pre-publication copy of the The Broken Palmyra and translated sections of the book for their own authorities in order to make a decision on what to do. Our suspicions that this had happened were corroborated in 1997 when we were given direct confirmation by an editor privy to the events.
During 1997 the
government with the help of the Sri Lankan Army organised seminars in
To the visitor’s
surprise the veteran began with an outburst of wariness and trepidation, “You
don’t understand. We could write 99 things they (the LTTE) want us to write,
but then if we write just one thing they disapprove of, that would be the end.”
The veteran continued, “You may know that the Rajasingam sisters worked untiringly for the LTTE and did so much through very difficult
times. But then, see, they killed Rajani without any
mercy.” The visitor’s ears pricked up and he urged the veteran to continue.
The following is what the veteran journalist from
In late August 1989, the veteran was given a copy of The Broken Palmyra by Major Shastri of the Indian Army in charge of a camp near Chundikuli and was asked as a favour to make a copy for him, as the Major knew that he had a copying machine. While copying, the veteran was told of references to his paper by the person handling the copying; he became interested and had an additional copy made. This was seen by his brother-in-law, a news paper proprietor, who began reading it. Subsequently, the Assistant Chemist, Chemical Lab, at the Cement Corporation’s KKS cement factory from Vadamaratchy visited this proprietor. The latter, with no harmful intention, told him about the book to be published and that it would expose the LTTE. A couple of days later, Pottu Amman, who was then LTTE’s area leader for Vadamaratchy, sent some of his men to the veteran journalist with paper and made a copy which they took to Vadamaratchy.
Chemist then lived in Pt Pedro. The LTTE then approached Mr. Rudra, a senior lawyer in Pt Pedro, to translate The
Broken Palmyra for them. The lawyer, who knew the family, wriggled out of
it but later told Rajani’s father Mr. Rajasingam, also a native of Pt Pedro and an old boy of
Subsequently, about early September 1989, a son of Saloysius, a sworn translator in Nelliady, Vadamaratchy, who worked for the journalist, rushed to him with the news that that a party working with the Indian Army had abducted his father, the translator. He wanted the matter given press publicity. Before the next edition went to press, he came back and told the veteran to take the item out because it was the LTTE that had taken the translator. After mid-September the LTTE released the translator, and the veteran learnt that his job under custody had been to translate excerpts from The Broken Palmyra. Within a few days of his release Rajani was assassinated.
Having obtained the copy, the LTTE would have taken it to someone conversant in English to tell them what was in it, perhaps to the Chemist himself who alerted them in the first place, to point out extracts for translation, for dispatch to their superiors in the Vanni.
It is apparent that Pottu Amman wanted to keep this operation within a closed circle. For example, the Valvettithurai Citizens’ Committee was a window for the LTTE in sensitive matters and continued to function, chiefly because the LTTE and the Indian Army found its existence useful as a channel. Other citizens’ committees had been closed down by the LTTE, either by intimidation or by killing their leaders, notably Principal Anandarajah of the Jaffna Citizens’ Committee.
Having the translation done in Valvettithurai would have been easy for Pottu Amman, but he decided otherwise. This brings us to undercurrents of divisions and competing interests and furtive manoeuvrings within the LTTE, which came to the surface in 1990, which make it difficult to trace the chain of decision making that led to the killing of Rajani.
Mahattaya was in charge of field operations at that time even as moves were under way to cut him down to size. Pottu Amman, who may have known in 1989 that Prabhakaran was grooming him for the job of intelligence chief, was, not long after, used to edge Mahattaya out and strike the final blow against him. His increasing authority is further evident from the fact that the LTTE used him to provoke an Indian Army massacre in Valvettithurai on 2nd August 1989, described above, which created considerable resentment among the local folk. Pottu Amman was an outsider and both Mahattaya and Prabhakaran were from Valvettithurai.
In early May the
LTTE team was in
 This was on the fifth anniversary of the LTTE’s order for the Muslims to quit the North en masse.
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