|Member of the Sri Lankan Parliament
for National List
7 October 2008 – 26 June 2015
Kiran, Batticaloa District
|Political party||SLFP, formerly TMVP|
Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan (nom de guerre: Colonel Karuna Amman; Tamil: விநாயகமூர்த்தி முரளிதரன், born 1966) is a Sri Lankan politician and former militant. After fighting for the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam for over 20 years, he rose to prominence as the leader of the Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal (TMVP), a breakaway faction of the LTTE.
After giving up arms and entering politics, he was appointed as a National List Member of Parliament for the ruling United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA), the party of President Mahinda Rajapakse, in 2008 and sworn in as Minister of National Integration on March 9, 2009. He later joined the Sri Lanka Freedom Party, the largest party in the UPFA, and on April 24, 2009 he appointed a Vice President of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party.
Muralitharan was born in Kiran, a village in the Batticaloa district in eastern Sri Lanka to Vinayagamoorthy, an agriculturist from the Vaisyas Caste (Farming and Business Community). He joined the LTTE in 1983 and became a top commander of the Eastern Province. He was a former bodyguard to LTTE chief Velupillai Prabhakaran.
Break with LTTE
In March 2004, Muralitharan broke away from the Tamil Tigers after he alleged they were ignoring the interests of the eastern Tamil people, and claimed to have renounced violence at this point. This move by Karuna, to break away from the LTTE and renounce terrorism has been claimed to be one of the major turning points that brought about the end of the two and a half decade conflict. He betrayed and helped to capture LTTE bases. Former Member of Parliament Seyed Ali Zahir Moulana has been hailed as being instrumental in Karuna renouncing terrorism, who in turn joined the democratic mainstream.
The LTTE alleged that the real reason he broke way was because the LTTE's intelligence wing was closing in on him for alleged financial and personal misconduct, terming his break a "temporary aberration". The Tigers reacted to his defection by launching attacks against Muralitharan's forces, and heavy clashes ensued. They claimed to have fully evicted his forces from the area he controlled in mid-2004.
However his group, dubbed the Karuna Faction by the media, continued to maintain a stronghold in the southeast of Sri Lanka with a force estimated to number a few hundred. They also regularly attacked the LTTE. In 2006 the Sri Lankan armed forces launched a major campaign to evict the LTTE from the east of the country, with the assistance of the Karuna Faction. They succeeded in clearing the east of Sri Lanka by July 2007.
Karuna has alleged that Prabhakaran intentionally dragged out peace talks so that the rebels could use the cessation in hostilities to re-arm for further combat.
In March 2007, Colonel Karuna accompanied by Supreme Commander Pillaiyan, Senior Commander Jeyam and other TVMP officials spent two days at a TMVP base in the east. A number of his statements there were widely reported.
At the same time the TMVP announced that it was setting up a "special attack force" and a "spy attack force". Internal cohesion within the TMVP has been a problem, particularly disagreements between Pillaiyan and Karuna over finance. In May–June, a number of cadres were killed in factional clashes, most notably an intelligence operative named Senthujan Senthamorthanan. Another TMVP cadre named Seelan was also badly beaten but escaped. Pillaiyan was reportedly also targeted but escaped to Trincomalee with about 200 supporters although he has since been reconcilled to Karuna.
Allegations of human rights violations
Colonel Karuna was the LTTE head of the Eastern province in 1990, when between 113 police officers who surrendered to the group were subsequently massacred.
When Colonel Karuna was part of the LTTE, he was also implicated in the massacre of Muslims, including the Kattankudy and Erovar massacres in the eastern province. According to Sri Lankan military intelligence sources, "Karuna was not in the East province but in the Vanni during the time of the attacks on Kattankudy and Eravur Muslims. He was however intercepted giving orders to his cadres in the East in relation to various activities.".
His armed group has been accused by human rights groups in the increasing involuntary disappearances of civilians in the Jaffna peninsula. They have been accused of taking part in death squad activity against civilians. They are also accused of child soldier recruitment by UNICEF, Human Rights Watch, and others. Additionally, a report by the United States Department of State claims that Karuna's group "was believed also to have killed 20 civilians."
Karuna has categorically denied these allegations in interviews claiming the LTTE is trying to discredit his party.
Imprisonment in the United Kingdom
Karuna was arrested in London on November 2, 2007 following a joint operation between the Metropolitan Police and the Border and Immigration Agency. It is thought that he was found in possession of a forged passport and firearms. According to the Sunday Times, a weekly English newspaper published in Sri Lanka, the British authorities have claimed that they have enough evidence to show that the Sri Lankan government was complicit in helping Karuna receive a diplomatic passport.
Karuna said in court that the government, through Permanent Secretary for Defense Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, had given him the passport. On January 25, 2008 he was sentenced to nine months in prison. He was transferred to an immigration detention centre in May 2008.
A number of human rights groups, led by Amnesty International, urged the Metropolitan Police to investigate Karuna for war crimes including torture, hostage-taking and recruitment of child soldiers. The Met Police did not respond and Karuna was deported back to Sri Lanka on 3 July 2008.
- Renegade sworn in as Sri Lanka MP BBC BBC News – October 8, 2008
- Karuna joins Cabinet The Hindu – March 10, 2009
- Karuna appointed as vice president of the SLFP
- Prabhakaran was with 18 men when he was killed: Karuna Times of India – May 20, 2009
- Interview: 'Colonel Karuna' Al-Jazeera – April 29, 2009
- THE LTTE CRISIS Frontline – Volume 21, Issue 7
- "Questions over renegade Tamil Tiger". BBC News. 9 May 2008.
- "Sri Lanka's Tamil rebels warn of retaliation against Sinhalese", Associated Press, September 6, 2006
- Buerk, Roland. "A date with a renegade rebel Tiger", BBC News, April 4, 2007. Retrieved May 4, 2007
- ""Sri Lanka is our Motherland. We respect the constitution, the President and the government" – Col Karuna", Asian Tribune, March 4, 2007. Retrieved April 5, 2007
- "Karuna's election Campaigne takes off", www.independentsl.com, Retrieved April 5, 2007
- "Rebel Tiger leader visits former bastion", The Hindu News Update Service, March 4, 2007, Retrieved April 5, 2007
- Nine recommendations for improving the state of press freedom, Reporters Without Borders (July 19, 2004)
- Denyer, Simon. ""Disappearances" killing on rise in Sri Lanka's dirty war". Reuters, September 14, 2006. Retrieved April 5, 2007
- University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna), "The Wider Implications of the Human Rights and Humanitarian Crisis in Jaffna", Information Bulletin No. 41, September 14, 2006. Retrieved April 5, 2007
- University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna), "When Indignation is Past and the Dust Settles", Special Report No. 21, May 15, 2006. Retrieved April 5, 2007
- UNICEF, Statement on Sri Lanka from the UN Special Adviser on Children and Armed Conflict, November 13, 2006. Retrieved April 6, 2007
- "Complicit in Crime: State Collusion in Abductions and Child Recruitment by the Karuna Group", Human Rights Watch 19 (1(C)), January 2007
- Ross, James. "When Ceasefire Fails", Foreign Policy in Focus, September 15, 2006. Retrieved April 6, 2007
- U.S. Department of State, 2005 Human Rights Report, March 8, 2006
- "Solheim in the pay of Tigers: his house in Norway bought with Tiger money – Col. Karuna", Asian Tribune, November 27, 2006. Retrieved April 6, 2007
- UK detains breakaway Tamil leader, BBC News, 2 November 2007
- Karuna arrested
- Karuna arrested in London
- Britain unimpressed with government explanation on Karuna passport
- "Renegade Tamil rebel jailed in UK", BBC News, January 25, 2008.
- "UK transfers renegade Tamil Tiger", BBC News, May 9, 2008.
- UK: Failure to protect witnesses allows suspected war criminals to avoid prosecution, Amnesty International, 3 July 2008
- Renegade sworn in as S Lanka MP
- Official Party Website
- Voice of East
- BBC interview with Karuna 4 March 2007
- Interview with Karuna, Asian Tribune
- BBC profile of Colonel Karuna, BBC News, March 5, 2004. Retrieved April 6, 2007
- "US slams police, Karuna, LTTE", BBC News, March 10, 2006. Retrieved April 6, 2007
- "A documentary about Col. Karuna", Video Documentary about Col. Karuna