British Foreign Minister to meet Pillayan - reports

[TamilNet, Monday, 14 July 2008, 19:40 GMT]
Britain’s Foreign Minister, Lord Malloch-Brown, is to meet Pillayan (Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan), Chief Minister of the Eastern Province and leader of the Army-backed paramilitary group, the TMVP, Sri Lankan press reports said. Lord Malloch-Brown is on a four day visit to Sri Lanka this week, The Island newspaper said.

During his visit Lord Malloch-Brown is also scheduled to hold discussions with President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, and several other government officials, the paper said.

The meeting with Pillayan is expected to take place in Trincomalee, the paper also said.

Recently, a high level European Union delegation declined to meet Pillayan, who took over the leadership of the TMVP, an Army-backed paramilitary group blamed for widespread human rights abuses, from the group’s founder, Karuna (Vinayagmoorthy Muralitharan).

Karuna, the LTTE’s long-standing eastern commander, rebelled in 2004 against the LTTE leadership. He formed the TMVP after defecting to the Sri Lankan armed forces after his rebellion was crushed in an LTTE offensive.

Pillayan, Karuna’s deputy in the TMVP, last year assumed command of the paramilitary group amid reports of infighting between the two men.

Amid a spate of factional killings, Karuna, interestingly, escaped to Britain travelling on a Sri Lankan passport issued by the Colombo government.

He was arrested in November 2007 at his Kensington address by British immigration police, served several months of a prison sentence for travelling on the ‘false’ passport and was recently deported back to Sri Lanka.

Pillayan, meanwhile, became Chief Minister of the Eastern Province, after his TMVP contested Provincial Council elections in alliance with the ruling UPFA of President Rajapaksa.

In polls marked by blatant intimidation, vote-rigging and violence, the TMVP-UPFA alliance secured enough votes on May 10 to enable Pillayan’s claims for the Chief Ministership.

Despite the vehement, if ineffectual, protests of the main opposition United National Party (UNP) and its main partner, the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC), Pillayan was sworn in on May 16.

Pillayan and Karuna are reported to have patched up their differences in recent weeks, following the latter’s return. Pillayan’s spokesman has been quoted in press reports as saying Karuna is still leader of the TMVP.

It is not clear if Lord Malloch Brown met Karuna whilst the latter was in London or if he will do so during his visit.

This is Lord Malloch-Brown’s first visit to Sri Lanka after becoming Foreign Minister, The Island said. He has visited Sri Lanka twice before as Deputy Secretary-General of the UN.



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