Court begins case involving LTTE attack on Socialist Equality Party
10 December 2002
The Magistrates Court on Kayts Island in northern Sri Lanka began hearing charges on December 4 against Karthikesu Amirthalingam, a member of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), who is accused of assaulting Nagarajah Kodeeswaran.
Kodeeswaran, who is a member of the Socialist Equality Party (SEP), was attacked on October 8, causing serious injuries to his head, neck and shoulders. The assault took place after the local LTTE officials issued a series of death threats against SEP members for opposing the hand-over of funds from a local fisherman’s union to the LTTE.
Police only detained Amirthalingam following a campaign by the SEP and World Socialist Web Site to demand that the LTTE end its threats against the party and guarantee the SEP’s right to conduct its political work free of intimidation.
Having been compelled to charge Amirthalingam, police prosecutors now appear to be playing down the significance of the attack. A sergeant from the Kayts police station, who is prosecuting the case, told the court that the assault had been carried out with a blunt weapon and had only caused minor injuries. He provided no details of the type of weapon used.
Kodeeswaran’s lawyer insisted that a comprehensive medical report be presented to the court and that the prosecution be based on its findings. He explained that the attack had been carried out with a knife, not a blunt instrument, and warranted more serious charges.
Kodeeswaran was bleeding heavily after the attack and received initial treatment at the nearby Velanai hospital. Because of the serious nature of the wounds, however, the staff on duty insisted that he be transferred to the Jaffna General Hospital, where he was admitted later that day. He was hospitalised for four days.
The presiding judge, Mrs Ilangkovan, ordered the Judicial Medical Officer (JMO) to submit a full report and postponed the case to January 14.
The police have charged Amirthalingam with assault causing simple harm with a blunt weapon—a charge that carries a penalty of up to one year in jail, or a fine of up to 1,500 rupees ($US15), or both. The magistrate also has the power to simply refer the matter for mediation. More serious charges such as attempted murder or assault causing grievous harm carry heavier penalties and may be heard in a higher court.
From the outset, the police have sought to minimise the significance of the attack on Kodeeswaran, initially refusing to even record that Amirthalingam was an LTTE member. Just prior to last week’s court hearing, Kodeeswaran’s lawyer visited the Kayts police station to inquire about the case. When it became clear that the police intended to minimise the injuries, he insisted on a full medical report but was unable to get a direct answer.
The attitude of the police to the attack underscores the character of the deal being worked out between the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE to end the country’s long-running civil war. Under the proposed power-sharing arrangements, Colombo will rely on the LTTE to suppress the opposition of working people to the impact of the economic and social policies being dictated by the IMF and World Bank. The LTTE’s attack on the SEP is a sharp warning of the measures that will be used against the working class in the future.
We urge all our readers to support the campaign to defend the SEP by sending letters of protest to the LTTE leadership, demanding that it repudiate the threats and guarantee its right to conduct political work free of harassment, intimidation and physical assault. The SEP also urgently requires donations to its 50,000-rupee ($US500) defence fund to cover legal and other campaign costs.
The WSWS has recently received a number of protest letters.
PK, an engineer from Sri Lanka, wrote: “It is significant that this attack has been directed against an organisation which has fought to defend the rights of Tamil people against state oppression and racism relentlessly, throughout its political existence... During the most difficult times, including the period of genocidal attacks on Tamils in July 1983, they were fighting a lone battle, campaigning amongst workers, students and oppressed masses for a complete withdrawal of armed forces from north and east.
“I was a student at University of Peradeniya in May 1983, when a large group of racists unleashed an attack on the Tamil students. The SEP’s predecessor, the Revolutionary Communist League (RCL), was in the forefront of the struggle to defend the rights of the Tamil students to an education. Their struggle was instrumental in building a powerful movement against racism, which included students, teachers and university workers. During the days that followed, university authorities were compelled to take at least minimal action against a few of the racist goons.”
Prominent Sri Lankan dramatist, film director and actor, Dharmasiri Bandaranayake, issued a statement condemning the LTTE attack on SEP members.
“We, as Sri Lankan artists, appreciate the historical mission carried out by Socialist Equality Party in Sri Lanka. The SEP is waging a struggle to defeat the communalist and extremist political processes, which suppress Sinhala communities in the south and Tamil and Muslim communities in the north and east. This party has been fighting against the racist war conducted by Sri Lankan governments for about 20 years, which has destroyed the lives and spirits of many Tamils and Muslims living in north and east.
“We were surprised to hear that the activities of such a party had been banned in Jaffna by the LTTE. We urge the political leaders of the LTTE not to implement such an order in such a moment when repressive policies must be condemned.”
Letters and statements should be posted or emailed to:
LTTE Jaffna Office
Potpathy Road, Kokuvil
c/- Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission
PO Box 1930
They can also be posted or faxed to:
c/- Eelam House
202 Long Lane
London SE1 4QB
Please send copies of all statements to the WSWS at:
United States: 248 967 3023
Britain: 0114 244 0224
Australia: 02 9790 3501
Donations can be sent to:
Account Number 1472834301 at the Kirullapona Branch of the Commercial Bank of Ceylon
94A Pamankada Road