Having been born and brought up as a Western person and having travelled in various countries such as; Italy (once liberated from fascism), India (colonised but later liberated through an independence struggle) and South Africa (liberated from Apartheid by a freedom movement) – I am proud and happy to give a message for the 50th Birthday of Mr. Velupillai prabhakaran, Leader of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.
I do not want to hide the truth, what I say comes from my heart. In Italy, Modern History includes liberation from, and the overthrowing of, the dictator Mussolini. Popular culture in Italy still reverberates with the sense of that historic liberation, in song and in other art forms. In India the struggle for independence from the colonial power was built on a mass freedom movement, celebrated world-wide in writing, film and popular wisdom.
Perceived as non-violent, nevertheless blood was shed for liberation. In South Africa, liberation from white colonialism and its apartheid structures brought signs of freedom based on justice and equality, votes for all regardless of race or colour. I saw something different in the NorthEast of the island of Sri Lanka, where Mr Prabakaran today celebrates his 50th birthday. A sense of freedom in action. Well-planned technology projects, based on sustainability; projects uplifting the poorest sectors of society, based on nutrition programmes for infants and back to work programmes for their parents; caring and careful planning and implementation of projects for the futures of children whose lives have been devastated by war and who have lost parents; for women who are mentally affected by their traumatic experiences of war; for the land itself as de-mining is organised, freeing more areas.
During my four visits to this island, which has seen twenty years of bloody conflict, I have travelled from Matara to KKS, including Batticaloa, Trincomalee and Upcountry. I have met and had discussions with people from many walks of life, and from different ethnic backgrounds. What I have seen, leads me to compare the areas in the NorthEast called “government-controlled areas” and the LTTE administered areas.
One can see how massive the difference is between them. In the latter, under the guidance of Mr V.Prabakaran, initiatives have been taken to look after the war-affected children, women, differently-abled cadres, and civilians – all with absolutely no help from the government. This has made not only me, but many other Western people who have visited there also, wonder in amazement at the numerous activities and wonderful successful ongoing work of many kinds.
I do not hesitate to say that what one witnesses, is that Mr Prabakaran has taken immense steps in building a nation, respecting culture, the arts, religion, gender equality, education, mental and physical health needs, all aspects of civil life which are precious to people. All of this is held in the context of a well-functioning law and order system. The police and independent judiciary operate with the full cooperation and respect of the people and have many women in senior and other positions.
After 50 years of discrimination, persecution and oppression against Tamils, (paralleled by long years of non-violent protest which was mercilessly repressed, organised resistance and finally a long war) whether one accepts the fact or not, a nation is being built. Already, the people’s needs are being served in exemplary ways. It has to be said that the nation is being built, not to serve the needs of Western ideologies, but to meet the needs of its own people.
The Colombo media, the Western media and various websites can say what they like – but as a person who has travelled to many corners of the NorthEast, and also to the South. I simply state what I feel about what I have witnessed, expressing how much Hope and Dignity I saw in the nation which is being guided by Mr Prabakaran.
Once again, I am proud and honoured to convey my birthday greetings to one of the most successful freedom fighters in the world.
I wish Mr Prabakaran my sincere good wishes, good health and every success in the coming years and decades.
24th October 2004
Human rights activist.