Saturday, January 9, 2010

People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in Sri Lanka

A hitherto unknown terrorist group calling itself the People's Liberation Army (PLA).

The report said the PLA was founded in eastern Sri Lanka and had vowed to launch attacks against government and military targets unless its demands for a separate Tamil homeland are met. "This war isn't over yet," Commander Kones, head of the PLA's Eastern District military command, was quoted as saying.

Government officials quickly rejected the claims while spokespeople from the Palestinian and Cuban embassies in Colombo refuted any connections with the group.

This group of Tamil militants with connections to the Palestinian Liberation Organisation and Cuba is preparing to mount a new insurgency in Sri Lanka six months after the Government declared an end to the 26-year-old war there.

The People's Liberation Army (PLA) was founded in eastern Sri Lanka four months ago and has vowed to launch attacks against government and military targets unless its demands for a separate Tamil homeland are met.

Although the PLA's capabilities remain unclear, it includes in its ranks several experienced insurgents who fought against the government forces in Sri Lanka in the 1980s before falling foul of the LTTE and either leaving the country or becoming dormant.

Commander Kones, now in his forties, had himself been given guerrilla training at a camp in Uttar Pradesh, India, in 1983, where his trainers included fighters from the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO).

"We still have a relationship with the PLO, as well as Cuba and Indian Maoist groups," he said.

"They fight for their rights just as we do."

During later action against government forces in eastern Sri Lanka he was imprisoned and tortured, before escaping from the country to live in Europe.

The threat of an aspiring new Tamil insurgent group comes at a complicated time for the Sri Lankan authorities.The unified image that accompanied their decisive victory over the Tamil Tigers in May has been eroded. The architect of that victory, General Sarath Fonseka, has become embroiled in a political scrap with the incumbent President Mahinda Rajapaksa as both men vie for a presidential election victory next month.

Their rivalry could split the vote of the Sinhalese majority, offering the swing vote to the country's Tamil minority, who have yet to declare their political allegiance.

A new round of violence during this period could have a dramatic reversal on efforts to stabilise the country.

"We are much more politically skilled than the LTTE ever were and know how to avoid the 'terrorist' label that they acquired," Kones said.

"Our enemy is simply the Government here, and we fight just for Tamil rights. We are not against the international community," he said. "Indeed, we want them to support us in pressurising the Sri Lankan Government."

Kones said that he had no intention of trying to emulate the Tigers' style of warfare, but suggested a more asymmetric strategy involving attacks by widely dispersed PLA cells. However, he added that his targets would include economic and administrative centres, as well as military forces.

Other PLA insiders said that one of their likely first fights would be with groups of former LTTE cadres led by the infamous Colonel Karuna. Karuna split from the LTTE ranks in 2004 and later joined the Government, but still holds influence in eastern Sri Lanka.


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