Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Paramilitary Question

According to the shorter Oxford English Dictionary-Volume –II, P, 2096 , a Paramilitary force is defined as an Organization or unit which is not a professional military force, but which has ancillary or analogue function or state. According to Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, a paramilitary organization is a group of civilians organized in a military fashion. Paramilitary, like paramedic and paralegal, comes from Greek para ("beside"). Paramilitary means auxiliary military, that is, something not quite military performing military duties.

As described by Pablo Policzer, Non- state armed groups have always existed; to this day there is no clear consensus on how to describe or define them or on what should be expected from them.

To qualify as an armed group, working definitions normally focus on roughly four characteristics.

  1. Some level of organizational coherence or hierarchical structure,
  2. The use of violence for specifically political ends,
  3. At least a minimum degree of independence from state control,
  4. And (usually) some degree of territorial control.

The most acceptable definition is seen in the Geneva conventions. Protocol II , for example, stipulates that the conventions apply to groups that have a clear organizational hierarchy that enables leaders to control subordinates, and which control sufficient territory to permit them to carry out ‘sustained and concerted military operations’. However, in actual practice, an armed group or paramilitary group may lose all or many of these distinctions. They may operate in furtherance of their own tactical, economic or political interests, either in accordance or in detachment of the policies of an established state or military. Examples would be the Colombian right wing paramilitary groups such as the AUC and loyalist paramilitaries in Northern Ireland, such as the Ulster Volunteer Force, UFF or UDA.

A closer reading of the 2002 Cease Fire Agreement in Sri Lanka reveals that the agreement refers to the parties to the conflict, namely the government and the LTTE and ‘their armed forces’. This term does not cover Tamil Paramilitaries. Article 1.8 refers to the disarmament of the Paramilitaries. Since article 1.8 does not cover the Karuna Group, as it emerged after the CFA, can it be dealt with the normal laws of the land? What use are these groups and why are they despised by the LTTE?

The Sri Lankan conflict is a war without fronts since it spans the entire island. The physical borders become shady in intelligence and counter-intelligence warfare. This is why the Tamil paramilitaries are an effective force for the government. In the absence of the paramilitaries there will be greater chances of collateral damage perpetrated by the Security Forces against the Tamils. The paramilitaries have become a valuable counter-insurgency weapon at the hands of the Security Forces. Many paramilitary cadres have made the supreme sacrifice for their ‘services’. On 29th June 2007 a freezer-truck filled with over a ton of high explosives was detected by a paramilitary group from Panikkyar, in Trincomalee, which was capable of destroying a large area in Colombo.

Perhaps the greatest-ever sacrifice made by the paramilitaries (Tamil paramilitaries) was immediately after the exposure of the Army’s Long-Range Reconnaissance Patrol at a Safe-house in Athurugiriya. following this exposition, on 16th January 2002 V. Vidyarathan, alias ‘Mike’, who was the head of the paramilitary intelligence unit of the Army’s Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol was captured by the LTTE. Four days later Mike was executed at Kokadicholai. On 10th February 2002 Lance Corporal "Clarry" was abducted and later executed by the LTTE. On 3rd July 2002, Lance Corporal Saundrarajan was captured by the guerillas and later executed. On December 11, 2002, Ganeshamoorthi alias Thilakaraj was killed. Lance Corporal Pulendrarasa was killed on 3rd January 2003. Kadirgamathamby Ragupathi alias Ragu was shot dead on 18th March 2003. On April 2nd, 2003, Sinnathambi Ranjan alias Varadan was shot dead. On April 26 2003, Lance Corporal Kalirasa Devarasa was assassinated at DEehiwala, forty five minites after leaving the Army Transition Camp at Kohuwala. Lance Corporal Paramanathan Ravindrakumar was shot on 15th July 2003 but survived the attack.

The LTTE’s reasons to despise paramilitary groups are fundamental to its existence and leadership in the Tamil community. The LTTE doesn’t want any rivals from the Tamil Community. Since it is in a confrontational stance with the government, the LTTE cannot afford any rivals. To the LTTE, paramilitary groups are a fifth column.

The LTTE would be comfortable fighting a purely Sinhala Security Forces who are non-indigenous to the NorthEast, whose language and customs are alien to the People of the NorthEast. These limiting factors could work to the LTTE’s advantage if not for the anti-LTTE Tamil elements. In part, this is a failure by the successive Sinhala governments to understand that this has been largely a military response by a Sinhala-speaking Army.

The LTTE’s rage towards the Army’s use of paramilitary cadres erupted when LTTE’s second-in-command, ‘Colonel’ Shankar was killed in an ambush deep inside LTTE controlled Mullaithivu on 6th September 2001. The attack was a culmination of a series of other similar attacks such as the attack on Sea Tiger commander ‘Lt. Col.’ Kangai Amaran on 29th June 2001. On 16th May 2001, the LTTE’s Political Wing leader, S. P. Thamilchelvan narrowly escaped a claymore mine attack while traveling in LTTE area. Karikalan, the LTTE’s political wing leader for Batticaloa under Karuna and ‘Colonel’ Karuna himself had narrow escapes when powerful fragmentation mine attacks missed their targets. LTTE’s Political Wing Leader ‘Colonel’ Kousalyan was killed, allegedly by the paramilitaries on 7th February 2007 at Welikanda.

The paramilitaries can become a hindrance to Tamils and the general population at large unless they are disciplined and deployed with a rank and file. Many of the leading fighters who disbanded along with Karuna (including Karuna himself) were punished by the LTTE for a lack of discipline. They could be a severe burden to the enforcement of law and order in the island. Therefore the pros and cons of using paramilitary groups must be measured carefully by the political and military hierarchy.

One way of solving this problem would be for government forces to start enlisting Tamils or even better, start enlisting the Tamil anti-LTTE groups. This has happened to an extent. However a drastic change in thinking to include large numbers of Tamils in the Army might prove a challenge. The recent interest in Eastern Tamils to join the police force could be a start in the right direction. The tactic up to now has been primarily to work with anti-LTTE Tamil groups who are not fully integrated into the Security Forces, making them a deniable, loosely-controlled auxiliary force that does not always come under the rank and file of the Military. However these types of loose network groups are hard to shut down when you are finished with them and may prove to be counter productive in the longer-run.

1 comment:

Golgotha said...

what is the diffrence between thugs, militia group and paramilitary? or armed gangs..

I think there can be only two. regular army or guerrilla.

What is the standard to distinguish?

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