Who is the LTTE?
They are a misunderstood group of people which I explain all about in this video. More commonly known as The Tamil Tigers are now looked down upon by many people since losing the war. This heartfelt passionate rant is directed towards everyone who needs a reality check!
Every year, in the month of November, Remembrance Day is commemorated to remember the fallen soldiers who defended liberty, equality and humanity of their homeland with their life – this is observed in North America and in many parts of the world. Many of those wars were fought outside their homeland to prevent the invasion of their homeland and a dictatorship state.
As the people of Tamileelam, we commemorate our Remembrance Day, Maveerar Naal on the 27th of November. In Tamileelam before 2009, there was the Maaveerar Week that had incorporated many festivities in different cities were people showcased their love for our heoroes of Tamileelam. Themes such as sacrifice, determination, dedication were very dominant. Almost every family had a Maaveerar who sacrificed their life for Tamileelam. Thuyilum Illam was filled with not just graves, but legacies of the past that our resistance movement was built on. I was told how even vehicles passing by Thuyilum Illam slowed down to show their respect to our fallen.
I can only imagine how much our people held this month dear to their hearts in Tamileelam because I never had the chance to go back to my homeland. I didn’t even get the opportunity to be born in my own homeland because of the genocidal Sri-Lankan onslaught against our people, which forced my parents to flee the country.
Today in our homeland, everything has been wiped out to erase our identity, history and pride. Will this stop us from remembering our heroes of Tamileelam in our homeland and the diaspora? Will this shake our morale to such an extent to forget the 30+ years of legacy that paused in Mulivaaiykal?
During the early stages of our resistance movement, the honourable national leader of Tamileelam, V. Pirapaharan, showed the outmost importance to our heroes starting from Shankar Anna. They are the heart and soul of our struggle, without them there will be no progressive resistance movement for the people of Tamileelam. The goal of the resistance movement was not to bolster the armed struggle but to develop and build on the concept of self determination, nation and homeland which led to the formation of the defacto state of Tamileelam.
Almost many recognized nation state during their independence movement, never had the idea of having a rememberance event during their struggle but were commemorated after. We have a proud history were we remembered our heoroes who sacrificed their lives from the early stages of our resistance movement against the Sri-Lankan genocidal opression. Moreover, when most wars were fought outside the borders, ours has to do with resisting the genocidal opression of the Sri-Lankan state in our homeland. The Sri-Lankan state can try to convulute the history of the Tamils of Tamileelam but our heroes made sure our history and identity stayed intact by sacrificing themselves.
Many heroes took a bullet in their chest so we could escape the genocide, many heroes gave up on their everyday life for a life of war so people in Tamileelam would be able to have an everyday life. If the commonwealth cannot forget their heroes so cannot the citizens and diaspora of Tamileelam. You can destroy the Thuyilum Illam physically present in Tamileelam but not the Thuyilum Illam we built for the thousands of Maaveerar in our hearts. What the resistance movement did in 2009 was temporarily silence the arms in their hands and accelerated the feeling of Tamil nationalism thereby strengthening the movement for free Tamileelam worldwide as one powerful force to reckon with. We will only rest when we see our homeland of the Eelam Nation with right to self determination.
Written By: Prynth N.
A: Although it was the bitter truth, when I say it was a running Army, I know many senior officers who were serving in the Army will get offended. Since we actually ran to Thandikulam within two-and-a-half days, I wanted to call it the ‘running army’. I apologise for using the incorrect or wrong word to give a clear idea about how we fought in the past. Former Army Commander Lt. Gen. Cecil Widyaratne retired saying that he did not want to command a losing army. He tried his best to revamp and uplift the status of the SLA but he failed.
However, people didn’t think that the SLA would be victorious until the last Eelam war. A senior minister of a previous government told me during peace time: “You can’t win the war with the LTTE.” When I said that we could, he said: “Colonel, your people have been fighting with the LTTE for so long and couldn’t win a battle so that is why we have to go for peace talks.” I have mentioned this in my book. People of this country, the governments and even our own soldiers thought that the LTTE was a superior fighting force. But in 2009, we reduced the LTTE to just an ideology. I even don’t think that the LTTE will make a comeback with the same magnitude as Prabhakaran, who was an equally committed, dedicated, disciplined and ruthless terrorist leader, is no more.
He may have been uneducated but he maintained strict discipline among himself and also within the outfit. He is the man who showed the art of suicide bombing. Before Al Qaeda’s first suicide bomber, Prabhakaran had over 200 suicide bombers in the LTTE. Most of the suicide cadres were females and were ready to sacrifice their lives at the command of their leader. There is no evidence to show that he abused those female cadres in the LTTE.
He was a loving family man. The SLA recovered over 10,000 photographs of Prabhakaran, his family and LTTE functions but we never found a picture of Prabhakaran with a glass of alcohol. He was a disciplined leader and he maintained a law deadlier than Sharia law. If you steal, you lose your hand under Sharia law, but under Prabhakaran’s law you lose your life. Although he was a Hindu, he never believed in God. Once he said that God was there for the powerful countries. He was a different kind of a man and he had some good characteristics for someone to learn.
He was a firm decision maker. Whether the decision was right or wrong, he didn’t care and once a decision was taken, then it was implemented. Killing Indian Premier Rajiv Gandhi was among the most unwise decisions he had ever made. By killing Gandhi, he knew that India in its entirety and the world would come against him but still he wanted to take revenge from India for deploying the IPKF in Sri Lanka to crush the LTTE. So he killed him because he was ruthless. He had lots of patience and he was not hurry in his missions and waited for the right moment to strike.
Q: But S. Thamilini, the LTTE’s Political Wing Leader, cited in her book that war fatigue and the LTTE’s senior commanders getting old were among reasons for the LTTE’s defeat in the final battle. Your comments?
A: I have not read her book yet, but I don’t agree with these reasons for the fall of the LTTE. Whether Prabhakaran was young or old, he was the same ruthless man and his leadership until the last minute of the battle was excellent. The other leaders like Banu, Ratnam Master and Soosai also had an excellent command. Due to Soosai’s command during the last few days, nobody wanted to turn back. Their commandos performed well under the command of these leaders.
The LTTE had also suffered as it lost the leadership of Balraj, who died of a heart attack. He was one of the best commanders of the LTTE. Then the LTTE lost Karuna Amman, who was also one of the best fighting commanders. The next best commander was Theepan, who fought till the fall of Puthukkudiyiruppu. The top leadership was strong and fought till the last few hours of the final battle.
Q: Finally, LTTE leader Prabhakaran had his final 45-minute battle with your soldiers. Were you confident of capturing him?
A: I was very confident that the SLA would capture him soon. I knew it when I saw the influx of displaced people fleeing to our side seeking protection. When we looked at the map, we saw the LTTE-held areas were shrinking rapidly. Then when we came to know that the LTTE cadres were fleeing mingling with civilians to our side abandoning the outfit, we knew that the outfit was in disarray and we wouldn’t have to fight for long as Prabhakaran’s days were numbered. On the evening of 18 May 2009, the war was virtually came to an end but Lt. Gen. Fonseka and I had the same big question in our minds. Where was Prabhakaran?
I called the Commander to say that we had captured every inch of the north but he said without capturing Prabhakaran, the war would be never ended. While everyone was eagerly waiting to see Prabhakaran, the troops of the fourth Vijayaba Infantry battalion killed him after a 45-minute-long confrontation at the Nandikadal Lagoon.
Q: Some say that he was brought to Colombo and killed. Your comments?
A: This is a rumour and will remain as a rumour. The truth is he was killed during the confrontation. Nobody knew Prabhakaran was there till 19 May morning. It was the last confrontation we had with the LTTE.
As a soldier, the most unforgettable moment in my life was having the man who had played with our lives for nearly three decades lying in front of me and my men was cheering saying, “Sir, we killed Prabhakaran.” While I am being proud I must say that the war ended due to immense dedication of all the division commanders and soldiers. It was a collective effort.
Q: How do you recall the days when you were fighting in Eelam II and Eelam III?
A: It was sad to say that in those days, people were not bothered even if the LTTE had killed 50 soldiers. But the entire nation mourned if a cricketer had a run out for a few runs. This happened because the Army was losing continuously in the battlefronts. People didn’t have much faith in the fighting strength of our soldiers and thought the LTTE was more powerful than us. In all the operations, except for a few operations like Balawegaya, in which we liberated Elephant Pass and Thrividabalaya, in which we rescued Jaffna Fort, we ended up with disasters.
If you take the Jayasikuru operation, in which we advanced for more than two-and-a-half years, many soldiers were wounded and killed in action. Though we reached Mankulam, we couldn’t hold the position as the LTTE was heavily attacking us, so we ran up to Thandikulam within two-and-a-half days. Why? Because we were short of manpower to fight and hold the position. Thanks to one Col. Roshan Silva, we stationed at Omanthai.
Daily FT: http://www.ft.lk/article/566048/Road-to-Nandikadal
On 18 June 2009,
the 31st Day of Prabhakaran’s Death[see also Velupillai Prabhakaran – Undying Symbol of Tamil Resistance to Alien Rule]
I have never met Velupillai Prabhakaran. Neither have I ever spoken to him. I did not know him personally. Again, it is not that I have agreed with everything that he said or did. Yet, when he died on 17 May 2009, I felt a deep sense of personal loss. I grieved. In my grief I was moved to revisit the words of Fidel Castro Ruz at his trial in October 1953 –
‘…The man who abides by unjust laws and permits any man to trample and mistreat the country in which he was born is not an honorable man. When there are many men without honor, there are always others who bear in themselves the honor of many men. These are the men who rebel with great force against those who steal the people’s freedom, that is to say, against those who steal honor itself. In those men thousands more are contained, an entire people is contained, human dignity is contained … “
Velupillai Prabhakaran rebelled with great force against those who stole his people’s freedom. In him, something of the honour and dignity of an entire people, an entire nation was contained. It is not surprising therefore that his death evoked a deep sense of personal loss amongst those who feel – and who feel deeply – that they belong to that people and to that nation. It would have been surprising if it had not.
It is also understandable that there are those amongst the Tamil people, in Tamil Nadu and elsewhere, who have found it difficult to reconcile themselves to his death and want to believe that he continues to live. Understandable, but they do a great disservice both to Velupillai Prabhakaran and to the cause for which he gave more than 37 years of his life. I agree with Krishna Ambalavanar who wrote from Switzerland on 31 May 2009 –
” … மேதகு வே. பிரபாகரன் அவர்களின் மரணம் தொடர்பாக இருக்கின்ற முரண்பாடான கருத்துகள், அடுத்த கட்டம் பற்றிய எமது சிந்தனைகளையும் மாற்று நடவடிக்கைகளையும் முடக்கிப் போட்டிருக்கிறது. அந்த மரணம் ஈழத் தமிழனத்தால் மட்டுமன்றி உலகத் தமிழினத்தாலேயே ஏற்றுக் கொள்ள முடியாத ஒன்றாக – ஜீரணிக்க முடியாத ஒன்றாக இருப்பினும் யதார்த்த நிலையில் இருந்து தான் அதை நாம் நோக்க வேண்டும்… இந்த விடயத்தில் ஈழத் தமிழினம் பிளவுபட்டு நிற்பது வேதனைக்கு உரியது. வெட்கத்துக்கு உரியது. தனது வாழ்வின் 37 வருடங்களை முழுமையாகவே ஈழத் தமிழருக்காகவே அர்ப்பணித்த ஒரு ஒப்பற்ற தலைவனுக்கு இறுதி மரியாதை கூடச் செய்ய முடியாதளவுக்கு நாம் முட்டாள்களாக நிற்கிறோம்…” கிருஸ்ணா அம்பலவாணர், 31 May 2009
I said that I did not know Velupillai Prabhakaran personally. But I knew some who had worked with him closely and many who had met with him and had spoken with him.
Sathasivam Krishnakumar (Kittu) was one who had worked closely with Prabhakaran and I came to know Kittu well during his stay in the United Kingdom and in Europe in the 1990s. On Kittu’s death in January 1993, I wrote –
“…Kittu belonged to the true intelligentsia of Tamil Eelam. Not to the pseudo intelligentsia which reads books that other people write to find ideas which they can then expound or worse still, pass off as their own. Not to the pseudo intelligentsia which writes and thinks in English and has little understanding of that which is felt and thought by the Tamil people. Not to the pseudo intelligentsia which quarrels endlessly about what ought to be done without knowing how or when to start. Not to the pseudo intelligentsia which, deprived of direction, is intent on getting there fast. Sathasivam Krishnakumar, abstracted and conceptualised his own experience, read widely, sought to integrate that which he read with his life and then set about influencing a people to action. To him, theory was a very practical thing.” – Sathisivam Krishnakumar, the Struggle was his Life, 1 February 1993
And I have always felt that if Velupillai Prabhakaran was able to command the unswerving loyalty of a person such as Kittu, then Prabhakaran too must have had qualities which matched or bettered those that Kittu had. Kittu would often speak of Prabhakaran and of some of the things that he had said to him. Some of those statements have stayed with me over these many years. Statements such as ‘Orators do not become leaders but leaders may become orators’, ‘You can wakeup someone who is sleeping but you cannot wake up someone who is pretending to be asleep’. ‘New Delhi are traders – வியாபாரிகள் – they want to bargain with our demand for freedom – விலை பேசுகிறார்கள்‘. I remember on one occasion Kittu telling a Tamil Eelam activist in London who had complained to Kittu about the lethargic response of a Tamil expatriate – ‘What is your problem. Go and meet him again. After all Thalaivar came to my home six or seven times to persuade me to join.’
There are also other memories that I have.
An Australian Tamil Eelam expatriate who I have known personally for many years, visited the Vanni in 2003 and met with Prabhakaran. In the course of a conversation, Prabhakaran remarked casually to him in Tamil – ‘ உயிரைக் கொடுக்கத் தயாராய் இருக்கிறவர்களைத்தான் அவர்கள் வேட்டையாடுகார்கள்’. – ‘You know, it is those who are prepared to give their lives that they hunt. ‘
A UK medical consultant and his wife for both of whom I have a high regard spoke to me about their meeting with Prabhakaran and his family in the Vanni in October 2004 –
“… To us Pirabaharan came across primarily as a soft spoken, deep thinking person with considerable depth of knowledge in what ever topic we discussed, with a keen desire to gain a proper understanding of each and every matter that he came across during our conversation… At lunch our two hosts made sure that my wife had her vegetarian dishes and both supervised personally the servings and Pirabaharan took a great pride in explaining the various dishes and how many vegetables and fruits were now grown in Vanni. He made sure all others at the lunch table ate well too. It was typical Thamil hospitality at it’s best, showered on us by a person who could have been very aloof and remote to the two unknown visitors but chose to be a ordinary man doing his duties as a host as expected by our traditions and customs, with out any effort but naturally as it would come to a brother feeding his long lost family…”
And I can understand the feelings that moved M.Thanapalasingham, an erudite Tamil scholar, a citizen of Australia, an accountant by profession, and a brother of a Maha Veeran who had given his life in the struggle for Eelam, to tell two police officers from India when they interviewed him in Sydney in 2001 –
‘… I have but a feeble and weak body and lack the courage and commitment required for membership of the LTTE. To be eligible for membership of the LTTE requires a level of determination and fearlessness that cries out ‘I will not lose my freedom except with my life’. This I do not have. No, I am not a member of LTTE…. No, I have not met Pirabaharan. Like millions of Tamils living in many lands and across distant seas, I do dream of meeting him one day. To meet him so that I could bow my head in front of him and with all humility say to him: ‘Thank you, thank you for restoring our dignity. Because of you, we Tamils are walking with our heads held high’. This is my dream. .’ – An Australian Tamil Stands Up for that which he believes…, 31 May 2001
‘..It is our duty to pay for our liberty with our own blood. The freedom that we shall win through our sacrifice and exertions, we shall be able to preserve with our own strength…. Freedom is not given, it is taken.. One individual may die for an idea; but that idea will, after his death, incarnate itself in a thousand lives. That is how the wheel of evolution moves on and the ideas and dreams of one nation are bequeathed to the next……’
One individual may die for an idea; but that idea will, after his death, incarnate itself in a thousand lives. That is how the wheel of evolution moves. I also take some solace from the reflections of Velupillai Prabhakaran himself –
“‘…Perform your duty without regard to the fruits of action’, says the Bhagavad Gita. I grasped this profound truth when I read the Mahabharata. When I read the great didactic works, they impressed on me the need to lead a good, disciplined life and roused in me the desire to be of service to the community. Above all, Subhash Chandra Bose’s life was a beacon to me, lighting up the path I should follow. His disciplined life and his total commitment and dedication to the cause of his country’s freedom deeply impressed me and served as my guiding light.” Velupillai Prabhakaran, How I became a freedom fighter – Interview, April 1994
“Nature is my friend. Life is my teacher of philosophy. History is my guide… Not the existence of man, but the action of man sets the wheel of history of the struggle in motion…History is not a divine force outside man. It is not the meaning of an aphorism that determines the fate of man. History is an expression of the dynamism of man. Man creates history. Man also determines his own fate… Simplicity is born as the highest fruit of wisdom; simplicity appears devoid of selfishness and pride. This simplicity makes one a handsome man; a cultured man…Fear is the image of weakness, the comrade of timidity, the enemy of steadfastness/ determination. Fear of death is the cause of every human fear. Who conquers this fear of death, conquers over himself. This person also reaches liberation from the prison of his mind.. Even an ordinary human being can create history if he is determined to die for truth…” Reflections of the Leader: Quotes by Veluppillai Prabhakaran Translation of Tamil Original by Peter Schalk and Alvappillai Velupillai. Published by Uppasala University, Sweden
Perform your duty without regard to the fruits of action.
“…That which was said by Lord Krishna to Arujna in the battlefield was both simple and fundamental – simple to declare but fundamental in content. It was a call for action in the battlefield and where else is there a greater need for action. And Lord Krishna urging Arjuna to do battle against those whom Arjuna regarded as his friends, his teachers and his relations, tells Arujna, “To action you have a right, but not to the fruits thereof.”
This oft repeated statement of the Gita is of very direct relevance to all of us who are engaged in activity or action of one kind or another. The detachment which the Gita speaks about is not the opposite of attachment. It is not a dead detachment. It is not a negative detachment. Understanding the Gita is not a mere intellectual exercise in the trap of opposites…. There is in each one of us a path of harmony, our dharma, and it is this path of harmony which the Gita enjoins us to follow. For Arujna that path was to engage in battle.” – Reflections on the Gita – Nadesan Satyendra, 1981
For Velupillai Prabhakaran, his dharma as he saw it, was to engage in battle. But Velupillai Prabhakaran was no sun god. Neither was the LTTE without its failings. Nevertheless, Velupillai Prabhakaran will live in the hearts and minds of generations of Tamils yet unborn as the undying and heroic symbol of Tamil resistance to alien rule – a Tamil resistance rooted in the moral legitimacy of the Tamil Eelam struggle for freedom from oppressive alien Sinhala rule.
அஞ்சாமை திராவிடர் உடமையடா
ஆறிலும் சாவு நூறிலும் சாவு
தாயகம் காப்பது கடமையடா
And as Tamils living in many lands and across distant seas face the future, they will remind themselves yet again of the words of Ernest Renan more than a hundred years ago –
“Where national memories are concerned, griefs are of more value than triumphs, for they impose duties, and require a common effort. A nation is therefore a large-scale solidarity, constituted by the feeling of the sacrifices that one has made in the past and of those that one is prepared to make in the future. ” Ernest Renan in What is a Nation, 1885
[ Saturday, 11 July 2009, 11:38.41 PM | Tamil Nation ]
by Nadesan Satyendra [sangam.org]
The revolutionary ardour of the Tamil youth, which manifested in the form of indiscriminate outbursts of political violence in the early seventies, sought concrete political expression in an organisational structure built on a revolutionary political theory and practice. Neither the Tamil United Front nor the Left movement offered any concrete political venue to the revolutionary potential of the rebellious youth.
[ full story |
“Our organisation, as well as our people do not want war. We want peace and we want to resolve our problems through peaceful means. We are deeply committed to the peace process. It is because of our sincere commitment to peace that we are firmly and rigidly observing ceasefire. It is our organisation that took the initiative of declaring the cessation of hostilities unilaterally and observing peace for the last two years tolerating the provocative actions of the state’s armed forces. . “
– Hon. Velupillai Pirapaharan, the national leader of Tamil Eelam, in his Heroes’ Day Message, 2003.
frontline Interview with V. Prabhakaran 1987
V. Prabakaran, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) leader, is a key player in the dramatic developments represented by the Indo-Sri Lanka agreement and its implementation. He was invited to New Delhi before the agreement was signed, raised apprehensions and objections, met Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi for a frank discussion of the situation and the problems, and returned to Jaffna in early August. On August 4, Prabakaran made a speech that drew wide attention: in it, he analysed the situation from the LTTE’s standpoint, expressed his dissatisfaction with the agreement but also his closeness to India and said the LTTE would hand over arms basically because it “loves India” and did not want to clash with the Indian peace-keeping force. A week later, a Frontline team comprising writer T.S. Subramanian and photographer D. Krishnan met him for this session in Jaffna. Soon after this, fresh Indian assurances led to the LTTE deciding to go ahead with the handing over of arms.
For his first extended interview after returning to Jaffna from Tamil Nadu in January 1987, Velupillai Prabakaran, the Supreme Commander of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, meets representatives of Frontline and The Hindu in the second week of August in Jaffna. The interview, conducted in Tamil, lasts over an hour.
The LTTE leader looked cool and relaxed. He sets the ball rolling by suggesting that we should go to the Eastern province where the Sri Lankan soldiers, he alleges, are still harassing Tamil civilians.
There was a media story that when the Sri Lanka armed forces began their offensive against the Vadamarachchi region of the Jaffna peninsula on May 26, you were trapped in Velvettiturai and you managed to escape. Is this version true?
(Smiling): I moved to Jaffna on the night of May 25. They began the offensive the next day morning. They attacked Velvettiturai thinking that I was there.
What is your assessment of the Indo-Sri Lanka agreement? What are your apprehensions about it? You say there is a shortfall in relation to your expectations. What are the main areas of dissatisfaction?
As far as the agreement is concerned, they say that there will be a referendum in the Eastern Province even on the merger of the North and the East. Moreover, they say the referendum will be decided by a simple majority. It is not a question of the merger of the North and the East. It is our homeland. There is no question of any negotiation on this.
There are some further complications. It is an agreement between the Government of India and the Sri Lankan government, as far as we are concerned…. In 1983, there were only a few Sri Lankan army camps in the North and the East. But now there are some 200 camps. The Sinhalese settlements could not be removed or dissolved without removing these army camps and, in fact, the camps ‘legitimised’ the Sinhala settlements. An important aspect (in the agreement) is that there is no room at all for the removal of the camps. To stop such settlements and prevent atrocities, the Indian Army should stay there.
But a strange thing is that there are no Indian Army camps beyond the Elephant Pass or Jaffna peninsula. But today, Indian Army camps have been established at Kodikamam, Achuveli, Palai, Vannankerni, Yakkachi junction, Thalaiyadi coast, Pandatharippu and Kankesanthurai Light House. There is no need (for Indian Army camps) in these places, because there are no Sinhalese here. But the Indian Army has set up camps there.
We say the 200 (Sri Lankan) Army camps should be removed. But the Indian Army is establishing more camps. This itself has led to doubts and dissatisfaction among the people, at a beginning stage. There is no atmosphere of safety for the refugees to return. Security and surveillance zones have not been lifted yet. The Indian Army camps have been established. This has led to dissatisfaction among the people. They came to the LITE’S office to give petitions and we told them to give the petitions to them [the Indian peace-keeping forces].
You said the text of the Indo-Sri Lanka agreement was not given to you.
They took away the copy. Mr J.R. Jayewardene today says there will be a referendum. The Bill has not been moved in Parliament.
[At this point, Yogi, one of the political organisers of the LTTE, intervenes to say that there are “technical difficulties” in the passing of the Bill. The Sri Lankan government is not sure of getting the two-thirds majority required to pass it. “So, the changes in the Constitution cannot take place,” Yogi says.]
The question of cut-off points should be settled. The Government Agents say that people who had fled their places after 1983 could return. But people left their places even before 1983. There are two important aspects in this agreement. One is related to our homeland consisting of a unified North and East. The second is our land. Both are complicated problems, major complications. The agreement has not solved these two questions. This is the fundamental problem.
What is your attitude towards the Government of India and Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi?
I mean your standpoint.
As they took into consideration their own interests and hurriedly arrived at the agreement, they have not looked after the grievances of the people who have been affected for so long.
There are refugees in Mullaitivu. People are taking out processions. But before that, we have to lay down our arms. However, the people’s problems have not been solved. The problem is that people must return to their land. To facilitate that, the [Sri Lankan] army camps should be removed. But the Indian Army is not prepared to remove the [Sri Lankan] army camps and this will not bring about a solution. If this had been discussed before the agreement was arrived at, we would have laid down certain conditions. We would have said the Army camps should be removed. But this has not taken place. When we say the Army camps should go back to the position that obtained on May 25, then why do they establish more Indian Army camps in Kodikamam? People are not able to go back first; the refugees are unable to return. [At this point, Prabakaran asks his bodyguards to bring the Jaffna Tamil newspapers and says we should know the situation. He reads out the title of a local newspaper’s editorial, “Nobel prize is calling”.]
Addressing the public meeting on the Sudumalai Amman temple grounds on August 4, you said you had a heart-to-heart discussion with Rajiv Gandhi. You also mentioned that he gave you some assurances and then you relented. What are the assurances?
Mr Rajiv Gandhi gave the assurance that we, the Tamil people, will be protected in the North and East. But people are not able to return to the East.
The Indian Army has gone there but the Tamil people are not able to go there – because there is an increasing opposition from the Sinhalese Home Guards and the Sinhalese people. There are army camps there in individual houses, schools and cooperative stores. But the Indian Army has not been deployed in such places. The Ceylon Army has not been evacuated, the problem has not been solved. Another thing is the people’s lack of faith arising out of the non-removal of the Ceylon Army. Even if the Indian Army goes, occupies such places and later vacates, the Sinhala army will come back. Further, we wouldn’t have arms.
What did Rajiv Gandhi say about the removal of 200 army camps?
V. PRABAKARAN: “WE have not been properly respected.”
We opposed the agreement on this point. Nobody was prepared to consider it.
Yes, in Delhi [firmly].
In the future political set-up of the North and East, what is the role you envisage for the LTTE, once the laying down of arms is completed?
When we say political role, we have contacts with people at the organisational level and we are strengthening it. We are strengthening our organisation in the East also. We are already working with the people in Trincomalee and Batticaloa districts. This is not a difficult task.
Is the LTTE strong in the East?
In the East our people are active even in areas where there are Sinhalese. When the people hoisted the LTTE flag at Mudur, they were shot dead. The Indian Army and the Government Agent wanted the flag to be removed. To that extent, people are conscious of things.
Will you accept a multiparty, competitive political system? You said earlier that there should be a one-party democracy on the lines of Yugoslavia.
This is important and you should know our position. We have not achieved Tamil Eelam. I had expressed my views on a political set-up for Tamil Eelam. But there is no separate country now. This is an agreement imposed on us. In this [set-up] everyone is equal, everyone is the same. We will fight for our political objective. We will take the Eelam political objective in a sustained manner before our people.
What I said then was to be done after the establishment of our own state. But there cannot be any compatibility between one-party rule and what obtains now. What is taking place now is this. Sri Lanka and India have concluded an agreement. The Indian Army is here and is asking for our weapons. If we don’t do that, we will have to fight the Indian Army. To avert that, we accepted these arrangements, but we have not abandoned our political objective.
There are conflicting or varying reports on what you said during the press conference you held in Jaffna on August 5. While one report said that you would not allow the “anti-social” militant groups to contest the elections, other reports said you would allow other groups to contest. Which is true?
Everybody will be allowed to contest elections. We will place our views before the people.
What is the role you see for the TULF [Tamil United Liberation Front] as the elected representatives of the people?
You are aware of what they did before. What do they know but the job of fighting elections? They will go back to fighting elections. We don’t want power to pass into their hands – that is our intention and our stand. Let the people decide. They will contest elections. We will stand against them in the furtherance of our cause. The people will decide on whose side they will stand.
At the Sudumalai public meeting, you said the LTTE would take to different forms of struggle. What are they? Will it be a mass-based struggle, a revolutionary party, a non-violent struggle or will you take to armed struggle again?
We will resort to a mass-based struggle.
But isn’t LTTE a purely military organisation?
Today, the LTTE is a mass-based organisation. You would have noted our May Day rally. There is military rule here during the time of the rally. Military helicopters are firing from above. At the same time, the Sinhalese people in the South are not able to celebrate May Day. In this kind of dangerous situation, if we are able to mobilise 200,000 people and take out a rally in the burning sun, it does mean we are a mass-based organisation. We have built up such a strength. If ours had been merely a militant organisation, people would not have attended the May Day rally in such a massive way.
What is your attitude towards the Muslims in the East?
We don’t look upon the Muslims as a separate category; we consider them an integral part of the Tamils. It is a question of people united by language and differentiated by religion. [At this point, Yogi made a remark to the effect that it was the Sri Lankan government which separated the Muslims from the other Tamils.]
President Jayewardene has been appealing to the people in the East to vote against the merger in the referendum. What will you do if the Muslims vote against the merger?
We have not planned for that situation. It is something that is going to happen in the future. We can respond to the problem only at that stage.
In a system where there are going to be elections – a competitive political structure – what are the problems you foresee?
We have already met such political competition. We are no strangers to such competition. Let the people decide ultimately whom they want. Let them choose for themselves a proper leadership to free themselves from this confusion.
What will be the future of your cadre, estimated to number 5,000?
We will devise a proper plan for their future life. We will not abandon them. We will find a way out for them to continue their livelihood…. We will create job opportunities. Those who want to study will be allowed to study. We will arrange for them technical training. All of us will remain disciplined and create opportunities in a collective way.
What was the reaction of your cadre to the agreement and to the pro- position of handing over arms? Did they oppose the handing over of arms?
As far as the cadre are concerned, they have much faith in me personally. That is why they deferred to my word. But even today there is no protection. Dangers arise for us from the cadres of the other armed organisations and from the Sri Lankan Army.
Was there any opposition?
As regards opposition, I myself was not willing. Then, imagine the feelings of the cadre. There is no security. So many cadre have died.
What happens to the cyanide capsules that your men wear round their necks? Are they necessary when there are no arms?
I think the capsules are needed most, they are indispensable now. They are the only weapons for the cadre to protect themselves in the Eastern province from hoodlums, the rival groups and the Sinhala army. Not only that, they would continue to wear them in remembrance of those comrades who fought along with them and sacrificed their lives. [At this point, Prabakaran asks Yogi, one of the political organisers of the LTTE, whether he sports the cyanide capsule. Yogi pulls out the capsule tied to a string around his neck. It is made of white-and-black plastic. Prabakaran also pulls out his capsule from under the collar of his shirt and shows it to us. When we ask him whether we can photograph him at this moment, he politely declines the proposition.]
How do you feel when your fighters are killed? For example, you have named your son Charles Antony in memory of a loyal LTTE fighter who was killed in a clash with the Sri Lanka Army in July 1983.
As far as our feelings are concerned, we have been very deeply affected in our hearts. Having fought so much, having sacrificed so many lives and having lost 20,000 people… all this has been subordinated to India’s strategic interests. Not only that, we, the representatives of such martyrs, have not been properly respected. Hence in this kind of situation… during the interim arrangement… we feel that we want to demonstrate to the Government of India the support we have from the people. India has not given us our due. Without consulting us, they have arrived at an agreement. Hence, we would like to enter politics with the people’s support and with the goal of Tamil Eelam. That will be the fitting reply.
Today’s Tamil papers in Jaffna quote an LTTE representative as saying the organisation would not fully surrender arms.
Yes, we made the statement. It is better to fight and die than surrender the weapons in an insecure environment and die on a mass scale!
What are the shaping influences on your life?
Ra. Su. Nallaperumal’s serial Kallukkul Eeram (“It is wet inside the stone”) published in Kalki magazine. I have read it five times. It revolves round the Indian freedom struggle. Mr Nallaperumal balances the ahimsaic struggle and the armed struggle. Generally, I read anything on any freedom movement. I used to read books on Joan of Arc, Napoleon and so on. I was always interested in history. Shivaji was the first guerilla to have fought against Mughal rule. When I was young, I always had a picutre of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. I used to keep his picture on my table when I used to study. I had written on my table, “I will fight till the last drop of my blood for the liberation of my motherland.”
Thank you Mr Prabakaran.