COLOMBO: The Sri Lankan Prime Minister, Ranil Wickemesinghe, on Tuesday requested President Maithripala Sirisena to temporarily remove Vijayakala Maheswaran from the Council of Ministers for publicly seeking the revival of the terrorist group Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

The Prime Minister wanted the suspension of Vijayakala, who is the State Minister for Women and Child Welfare, till an investigation into her controversial remark, made at a public meeting in Jaffna, is completed.

Rising crime in Sri Lanka’s Tamil-majority Northern Province, ranging from armed robbery to rape and murder, coupled with a perceived unwillingness or inability of the police and the military to act, had made Vijayakala call for the return of the LTTE , an organization which was known for brutality as well as puritanism and zero tolerance of crime in the areas it controlled.

The LTTE was annihilated by the Sri Lankan armed forces after a 30 year war in May 2009.

While Vijayakala’s statement in Jaffna found resonance in the local Tamil population which has had to put up with unbridled crime in the past few months, political parties in the Sinhalese-majority South Sri Lanka have called for stern action her for seeking the revival of a banned organization.

On Tuesday, the issue rocked the Sri Lankan parliament. It had to be adjourned with the opposition vociferously demanding action against the Tamil minister. To mollify the agitated MPs, Speaker Karu Jayasuriya promised to seek the advice of the Attorney General on what action could be taken against the minister. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said that he would talk to Vijayakala to find out what made her go hyperbolic on the issue.

Although Vijayakala did not make a public statement herself, whether reiterating or retracting her remarks, she told cabinet minister Akhila Viraj Kariyawasam, that as State Minister of Woman and Child Welfare, she was so perturbed by the rape and murder of a six year old child by an uncle of hers and the rape and murder of a 60 year old woman in front of her husband ,that she lost control.

Whether this will wash with the politicians and the media in the Sinhalese-dominated South is doubtful, because there is already a fear of the resurgence of extremism in the Tamil North.

Chief Minister C.V.Wigneswaran and the Northern Provincial Council have been asking for self-determination and also calling for the withdrawal of a substantial number of Sri Lankan troops. Meanwhile, in the South, President Maithripala Sirisena and other politicians have publicly stated that while separatist terrorism has been defeated, separatist mentality is still prevalent in the North. There is a general call for eternal vigilance in the North.

The recent discovery of a cache of arms, explosives and suicide jackets in the North which led to the arrest of some former LTTE cadres only strengthened the majority Sinhalese’s belief that a revival of the deadly LTTE could not be ruled out.

It is noted that the pro-LTTE Tamil Diaspora which filled the LTTE’s coffers, is yet to cease its activities even nine years of the decimation of the LTTE’s military machine. Recently, the government banned 14 Diaspora Tamils from entering Sri Lanka reversing a 2014 order by which many Diaspora organizations and individuals were delisted to promote ethnic reconciliation.

The Northern Tamils, however, have a totally different take on the situation and its underpinnings. They believe that the criminals roaming amidst them are actually the creatures of the security forces who use them to penetrate Tamil society and terrorize them periodically.

They believe that an increase in crime would also redound to the advantage of the government because it can then justify the presence of a disproportionate number of troops in the North.

The State’s stake in an increase in crime is hinted in the statement of even a senior and moderate Tamil leader like R.Sampanthan of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) who is also Leader of the Opposition in the Sri Lankan parliament. Sampanthan said that the recent upsurge is not a spontaneous but is a “well planned” one.

However, Sampanthan’s party colleague and fellow MP, M.A.Sumanthiran, said that crime, violence and even the call for the return to the LTTE era are the result of a general glorification of violence.

Such glorification has to be discouraged if the present dangerous trend is to be arrested, Sumanthiran said.