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]
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.
VELUPILLAI PRABHAKARAN Press Conference at Killinochi, Tamil Eelam –10 April 2002
Press Conference at Killinochi, Tamil Eelam
10 April 2002
Tamil rebel chief Velupillai Prabhakaran answering a wide range of questions at Wednesday’s press conference said the group was not yet willing to drop the demand for a separate state, but said he was willing to consider if the demand for a Tamil homeland, Tamil nationality and Tamil rights are met.
Following are excerpts of the press conference held at the Political School of the LTTE in Kilinochchi.
Q: From the inception you have been struggling for an independent state. Are you willing to renounce that and accept any federal model.?
A: Conditions have not arisen to abandon an independent statehood. The struggle for Eelam is a demand of the Tamil people. In the 1977 elections, people have given a mandate to the TULF to fight for a separate state.
Q: How serious are you about the peace process. There has been doubt about your genuineness?
A: We are sincerely committed to the peace process. It is because we are sincerely committed to peace that we continued a four month cessation of hostilities.
Q: Since you have accepted an interim administration under the Sri Lankan government will you accept the hegemony of the Sri Lankan state?
A: We have not discussed the formalities or the framework of the interim administration . It has to be discussed with the Sri Lankan government . This does not arise since we have not started the peace process.
Q: Will you go to Thailand with this idea?
A: So far on the demand for Eelam we have not decided as yet. We are going to Thailand to discuss the interim administration as proposed by the government.
Q: What about the ban on the LTTE imposed in India ?
A: We want the government of India to lift the ban on the LTTE. We will raise the issue at the appropriate time.
Q: You have been indicted in the Gandhi assassination ?
A: This case is going on. Four persons have been convicted. They are seeking amnesty at the moment. We do not want to make any comments at this moment.
Q: Are you denying involvement in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination?
A: (Mr. Balasingham). I know this is a sensitive issue, not only for you but for us as well. You are raising an issue that happened 10 years ago. We want to have friendly relations with India.
Q: What have you to say about the charges ?
A: This is a “tragic incident.” that has taken place ten years back. We cannot comment on the issue.
Q: The Rajiv Gandhi assassination…
A: (Dr. Balasingham) You are trying to dominate the press conference. You have come here when the peace process is on. You are talking of an old incident. Do not dig into the past.
Q: Why should anyone should believe that the ceasefire will lead to peace or why the LTTE will not start fighting back as happened in the past.
A: This is the first time that a third party, Norway, has got involved as a facilitator. We believe that the peace process will work.
Q: There is widespread feeling that the reason you are speaking now is because of the action by the United States against terrorism, after the events in September 11. Do you agree with that?
A: The LTTE has initiated peace moves before the September 11 incident. Furthermore Norway’s peace envoy Erik Solheim has been given an assurance that we want a negotiated settlement.
Q: For 25 years you have been adopting a military strategy to achieve your goal, but now you seem to be embarking on a political path. Is the tiger changing its stripes ?
A: Our political struggle began in the form of non-violence. Leaders in the past believed that they can use a non-violent method. Because the non-violent methods were crushed we were forced to take up arms to defend ourselves. We were compelled to take arms. Whenever there was an opportunity we have opted to settle the problem peacefully.
Q: Is there any message you hope to give, by inviting us here today ?
A: There has been lot of misunderstanding about the LTTE. We would like to explain through the international media that the LTTE is committed to peace and a negotiated settlement.
Q: Will you allow other parties to function in the north and what do you feel about the collaboration between the Sri Lankan and US Governments ?
A: We can assure you that other political parties whatever their policies may be, will be allowed to function in the North-East and participate in the democratic political process. As far as the collaboration between the US & SL governments is concerned it is not of our concern to condemn or criticise the current global developments or the position of different political regimes. As far as we are concerned we are determined to fight for the political rights of the Tamils, irrespective of whether Sri Lanka is aligned to America or the Soviet Union or any other world power. We are committed to the emancipation of our own people.
Q: You have apologized to the Muslims but not made an open invitation for their return.
A: We have already apologized to them. If we invite them, there should be some conducive set up for them to live. Our leader will certainly extend an invitation for them to come to the north and live with us.
Q: There are reports about Muslims in the East being harassed. It is reported that they have no rights to the land.
A: We have called the service commanders from the east to discuss the alleged harassment of Muslims. We have called Karikalan for a meeting and asked him what has gone wrong. He has assured us that he has made no such statement and it is a distortion. We believe that the Tamil homeland belongs to the Muslim people and we believe that there is no dispute that Muslims have a right to own land. When Mr. Hakeem comes we will discuss the matter.
Q: You say you will allow political parties to function in the north and east. How can you seriously say so when the LTTE has assassinated Tamil moderates ?
A: We do not want to go into details, as there have been contradictions between Tamil parties in the past. Now almost all the Tamil parties in the north and east are supporting the LTTE. There are some Tamil armed groups that we do not consider as political entities as such, but as mercenaries and they support the Sri Lanka armed forces against the LTTE. So we have requested that the armed groups be disarmed. Now the situation is almost that all parties that contested in the north & east are supporting the LTTE. In future there will be no problems. We will allow the genuine democratic Tamil parties to function in the north-east as democratic entities.
Q: Are you ready to give up your armed struggle and if not why?
A; We will seriously consider renouncing the armed struggle if a solution acceptable to our people is worked out.
Q: Upcountry youth have been in custody for several years, what about these people. But no leaders are taking any action.
A: We have been constantly campaigning for the release of these prisoners. Most of them are suspected LTTE members. They are kept without any trial. We have requested Tamil parties to agitate for their release and we are going to appeal to the government to repeal the PTA.
Q: What are the conditions that you say would be right for you to give up your armed struggle? Can you please explain the impact of the ban on your organization throughout the world?
A: There are three fundamentals. That is Tamil homeland, Tamil nationality and Tamil right to self-determination. These are the fundamental demands of the Tamil people. Once these demands are accepted or a political solution is put forward by recognising these three fundamentals and our people are satisfied with the solutions we will consider giving up the demand for Eelam.
It is true that several countries have imposed the ban due to the malicious campaign by the Sri Lanka government against the LTTE. It is because of these reasons we have appealed to the government of Sri Lanka to de-proscribe our organization before the commencement of negotiations. Once our organization is de-proscribed we will campaign in the rest of the world to get the ban lifted in the rest of the world.
Q: Will Mr. Pirabaharan accept any responsibility under the Interim administration?
A: We haven’t started any dialogue about an interim administration. When that arises I will think whether to accept any responsibility or not.
Q: Will you allow Muslim participation in the peace process?
A: Certainly we will allow Muslim representation in the peace process as it is crucial.
Q: You said the Gandhi assassination was a tragic incident. How do you look at other tragic incidents. Are you satisfied with the pace of the peace process. Also what is your greatest military victory?
A: I am pleased with the peace process and also want to compliment Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe for the action he has taken to proceed with the peace process and the goodwill measures taken in the north-east towards normalcy.
Q: There have been incidents in the past that led to your proscription. What would be your message to the other side that would be incidents of the past.
A: (Dr. Balasingham). I have openly said that we want to have friendly relationships with India and that we want a positive participation of India in the peace process. I myself openly requested India to give me a venue so that I can land in India, for two reasons. One is for logistical reasons and the other for medical reasons. I am a transplant patient. I have a serious kidney ailment and if India provides me with a passage or venue to land in any of the cities in Tamil Nadu, I will be pleased. I have to come and consult Mr. Pirabaharan if the peace process is initiated. India’s active participation in the peace process is crucial for the Tamil people because India is a regional super power. Since India was not taking any active interest in the process, the government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE have requested the Norwegian government to play a facilitatory role. It is not to isolate or alienate India from playing an active role.
Q: Have you directly requested the Indian government?
A: We have requested Norway to make the request. They (India) have not rejected our request, but still it is on the agenda.
Q: Mr. Pirabaharan, you are said to have told your cadres that if you give up the demand for Tamil Eelam, you can be shot. Does that statement stand?
A: That statement stands.
Q: How do you plan to respond to allegations of human rights violations and recruitment of child soldiers now that the LTTE is keen to be an acceptable member of the global community?
A: The allegation that we are recruiting children is untenable and unacceptable. We have decided to recruit people over 18. The people below 18 who came to join us were sent back to their parents and we are collecting letters from their parents. There is no need at this present stage to recruit children. It is impossible for the LTTE to conduct an effective war with children or a baby brigade. We have child welfare centres and orphanages to look after children.
Q: You have been living an underground life and you may be frustrated with the underground life . Is that the reason to come out?
A: We are not the people who are worried about the underground life or a strenuous life . We are prepared to fight for the political rights of our people.
Q: Are you ready to take up a political responsibility?
A: We have been fighting this guerrilla war for the liberation of our people – for the welfare of our people. Therefore we are not concerned about our personal political life. That is a secondary matter where I have not seriously thought about accepting a political position or a political leadership in the future. Even now we are engaged in this press briefing because we are really concerned about peace and a peaceful settlement of the ethnic war. It is our genuine concern for the welfare of our people that has made us get involved in the current peace process.
Q The question is about working within the democratic system. Would Mr. Pirabaharan be ready to do so rather than head a military outfit.
A: The solution is within the democratic, political framework . Our organisation will seriously participate in that process and our cadres will also involve themselves in the political mainstream.
Q: What do you mean by self determination. You say you are fighting for the right of your people based on the right for self determination, therefore, what do you mean by self determination?
A: By self determination we mean the right of our people to decide their own political destiny It can also mean /apply to autonomy and self government. If autonomy and self government is given to our people, then also we can say that the internal self determination is to some extent met. But if the Sri Lankan government rejects our demands for autonomy and self government and continues with repression, then as a last resort we would opt for cessation. That also comes under self determination. So self determination entails autonomy and self government. In an extreme case, in the last resort, it means cessation. Therefore we say, if the Sri Lankan government offers the Tamil people the form of self government and autonomy in recognition of our nationality and also the right to self determination then we will consider that offer. But if the government refuses to give us proper autonomy, proper self government and continue with this repression, then we have no other alternative but to fight for political independence and statehood. That is our perspective.
Q; What will you do if the government finally betrays you or if these talks collapse?
A: As far as we are concerned we have faith in the present government and we will continue to work with this government until a solution is reached. We cannot answer hypothetical questions.
Q: Do I understand you right that the events of September 11 and the international focus on terrorism has not changed your strategy and thinking at all. Have you not had cause to reassess the value of suicide bombing on civilian targets and assassinations in the light of September 11th?
A: We have issued an official statement condemning the incident of September 11th. We strongly condemn this act of violence perpetrated on innocent civilians under the name of a religion which advocates peace. Since we have adopted a peace process and that now we are committed to peace, we don’t want to make any comments about suicide attacks at this stage.
Q: You wanted the government to make a second proposal. What is your formula/vision ?
A: We have made a statement saying that a formula has to be worked out based on the Tamil demand for a homeland, nationality and self determination. We want a framework which recognises this fundamental core issue. It is on that basis that we are requesting the government to put forward a counter proposal and if the counter proposal envisages or embodies these demands and offer a substantive solution that satisfies the aspirations of our people, we will seriously or favourably consider such a framework .
Q: Do you think that the Ranil government can offer such a solution?
A: We don’t think Ranil Wickremesinghe is capable of addressing the core issues and offer us a permanent solution at this stage because you know executive powers are vested with the President and his powers are limited to Parliament. It is because of that, that we are suggesting the formation of an interim administrative set up so that we can run an administration in the N/E. The LTTE can participate in an interim administration in the N/E. In the meantime, Ranil Wickremesinghe will have enough space to build up southern Sri Lanka economically. So it will be advantageous for the Tamils as well as the Sinhalese to work out an interim set up for the time being. Once the interim set up is established then we are prepared to discuss the core issue and negotiate for a permanent settlement of the ethnic question. But we wish to insist that Ranil’s government is not politically stable or authoritative or powerful enough to take up the core demands of the Tamils and offer us a permanent solution.
Q: Do you think Chandrika Kumaratunga will scuttle the process?
A: We don’t anticipate that President Kumaratunga will create any serious difficulties for the peace process. Even if she tries to scuttle the peace process, its up to Ranil Wickremesinghe to ensure that such difficulties doesn’t arise and he should act in such a way that this process succeeds.
Q. How do you expect us to believe that you are genuine about pursuing democracy allowing other Tamil parties to survive in this area, when you spent your entire career sending suicide bombers to kill democratically elected politicians. And even today, we’re being filmed surrounded by goons. And you have the whole appearance of a military dictator. How do you expect us to take you seriously ?
A: We’re going to meet four Tamil political parties the day after tomorrow. These are the political parties, which once upon a time had serious differences with our political organisation. Now the whole scenario has changed and we’re inviting them to talk and discuss about various issues. If we are an authoritarian organisation trying to repress other political organisations, there is no need for us to call them and discuss. Similarly we’re calling the Muslim leadership and the plantation leadership also. So therefore the times have changed and we are adopting new strategies. Please understand.
The Wanni is an area controlled by the LTTE. There are security issues, there are security concerns. In the past you would have heard that there has been deep penetration groups who have penetrated into this areas and killed several of our senior leaders. So we have intensified our security systems here to protect our leadership. So today Mr. Pirabaharan is attending this conference. You are here, we have to ensure that no acts of violence or any disturbance takes place. Therefore we have allowed the Tamil police officers to guard these areas. So it doesn’t mean this security system indicates an authoritative system as such. In Colombo you will have far more intensive security arrangements when such events take place.
Q: There are so many countries. Why did you go far away and choose Norway as a facilitator ?
A: Norway is reputed for resolving international conflicts. Norway has undertaken peace missions in several countries. And secondly, it is the Government of Sri Lanka which opted for Norwegian facilitation and we decided that Norway would be an appropriate facilitator because of its neutrality and it has no strategic interest in this region.
Q: Has Norway facilitated or brought about a settlement with regard to the Palestinian issue. Now the Palestinian-Israeli problem is hotting up. Don’t you think that the Tamil problem will also end up in chaos if Norway initiated this peace process.
A: In the peace process there are times when difficulties arise and even peace talks collapse and war breaks out as we have experienced in the past. But that doesn’t mean we should give up our pursuit for peace and political settlement. We know the Palestinian problem had got into serious difficulties. But our problem is entirely different. At the same time, we want to use the Norwegian facilitation to engage in the peace process in Sri Lanka and we hope that this peace process will succeed.
Q: Will you (Mr. Pirabaharan) participate in talks in Thailand, because the Interpol representative was in Sri Lanka and he said that the Indian government has requested them to arrest Pirabaharan. So I want to know, in this situation, what is the answer. Will he be there ?
A: Mr. Balasingham will be the Chief Negotiator and he will be participating in the peace process. Even now we’re going to talk about the interim administration, not about a permanent solution. When peace talks for a permanent solution take place, we have to think about my participation. An the same time, Mr. Balasingham will visit me now and then from Thailand to consult on the formulation of this interim administration set up. So I’m not going to Thailand to engage in this current negotiation which will be confined only to the formulation of an interim set up.
Q. My question was re Interpol. India has requested the Interpol to arrest. What is your stand ?
A: We don’t want to make any comments on that, because we are still waiting for a positive response from the Government of India with regard to at least a passage through India for Mr. Balasingham to come from London and meet me. And I think the Government of India will favourably consider in the coming days by offering a passage for Mr. Balasingham to visit the Wanni. That’s all we can say.
Q: Will the peace talks take place after the de-proscription of the LTTE or not ?
A: Only after the de-proscription will we participate in the peace process.
Q. Does Mr. Pirabaharan fear America’s intervention if the peace process collapses.
A: I don’t consider that America will intervene in this conflict, if the present peace process collapses.
Q: Do you mean to say that talks in Thailand will be held only after the LTTE is de-proscribed?
A: Yes, that is our position. We have informed the government, we have told the Norwegians that de-proscription is a necessary condition for the commencements of talks.
Q: Will you settle for a suspended de-proscription ?
A: No. We want to be de-proscribed properly and the Prevention of Terrorism Act has to be properly amended so that we have to be de-proscribed and accepted as the authentic representative of our people, so that we participate in the peace process as the representative of our people with equal status. That has been our official position.
Q: Is the LTTE using the ceasefire as an opportunity to re-arm?
A: It is during the armed conflict that we were able to amass a large quantity of weapons and it is during peace time that we are deprived of that opportunity. During the battle of Elephant Pass we were able to acquire a large quantity of arms worth millions of rupees and also ammunition in large amounts. It is during the peace process that we are deprived of this opportunity.
Q: What does Mr. Pirabaharan consider as the greatest LTTE victory ?
A: I consider the government’s attempts to open up the A9 highway by military means. We defeated the armed forces in this military engagement, which is a major success that the LTTE has achieved so far.
Q. Which military general does Mr. Pirabaharan remember the most ? And for what?
A: I don’t consider any particular general as posing a serious challenge to the LTTE.
A journalist tries to thank the LTTE for organising this press conference and journalists shout asking him to sit down.
Q. What makes you think this ceasefire agreement will succeed when previous ones have failed?
A: Compared to the past ceasefire agreements this one is different for two reasons. One is that it is facilitated by a third party – the Norwegians. Secondly Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe is seriously and sincerely committed to peace and therefore appropriate conditions are available now for a permanent and stable peace than in the past.
Pirapaharan commits to peace, self determination
[TamilNet, Thursday, 11 April 2002, ]
It was reportedly the largest media event ever held in the island. The scale of the international and local media interest reflected the impact Mr. Vellupillai Pirapaharan has on Sri Lanka’s politics. His first press conference in over a decade – announced just a week in advance – drew almost six hundred reporters, photographers and cameramen from around the world to the war devastated town of Kilinochchi.
Flanked by the LTTE’s chief negotiator and political strategist, Mr. Anton Balasingham, Mr. Thamil Chelan, head of the LTTE’s political section and – unexpectedly – by two of his top commanders, Col. Karuna and Col. Pathuman, Mr. Pirapaharan fielded questions for over two and a half sometimes chaotic hours. Mr. Balasingham translated English questions and all of Mr. Pirapaharan’s responses for the benefit of the international press. As the LTTE’s chief negotiator and political strategist he also fielded questions or expanded on Mr. Pirapaharan’s responses.
As indicated on the movement’s press release announcing the conference, Mr. Pirapaharan spoke at length on the Norwegian peace initiative.
“I am very, very, pleased with the development of the peace process and I want to compliment Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe for the bold action he has taken to promote [this] and the goodwill measures in the north east,” he said.
“We want to use the Norwegian facilitation to engage … with Sri Lanka and we hope that [the peace process] will succeed,” he said. “We are sincerely and seriously committed to peace.”
Dismissing accusations the LTTE was insincere about peace and that the Tigers were under pressure due to the international war on terrorism, Mr. Pirapaharan pointed out his organisation had, among other moves, unilaterally observed a ceasefire for four months early last year. (The truce was rejected by Sri Lanka.)
“The LTTE has undertaken peace initiatives before the September 11th,” he said. “[Apart from the unilateral truce], I met with the Norwegian peace envoy Eric Solheim [ In Nov 1999]and gave him an assurance that the LTTE wanted peace and a negotiated political settlement.”
When asked if the ‘Tiger was changing its stripes’ as the LTTE was now adopting a political path after 25 years of armed struggle, Mr. Pirapaharan said “Our political struggle for the Tamil people began in the form of non violence., through peaceful methods. … It is because these non violent peaceful agitations were crushed by military means, by repression, that we were forced to take up arms to defend ourselves.”
“It is because of the objective conditions, the historic conditions that we were compelled to take up arms but whenever there were opportunities for peace in the past, we have opted for peaceful methods to resolve these problems,” he said further.
When asked about reports of violations of the indefinite ceasefire by the LTTE, Mr. Pirapaharan said the monitoring committee has not lodged any complaints or accusations that we have violated the terms of the ceasefire.
The LTTE leaders reiterated that the proscription of the LTTE would have to be lifted before they would participate in imminent negotiations in Thailand. They stressed they would not accept a temporary suspension of the ban.
“We want to be described properly. And the PTA has to be amended,” Mr. Balasingham said. “We want to be accepted as the authentic representatives of our people, so we can participate in talks with equal status.”
When asked if he would now renounce the independent state the LTTE has been fighting for and accept an alternative, Mr. Pirapaharan said “the right conditions have not arisen for the LTTE to abandon the policy of an independent statehood.”
“So far as the demand for Eelam is concerned , the LTTE has not made any decision so far as whether to give up the demand or accept an alternative,” Mr. Pirapaharan said.
“The struggle for political independence and statehood, the struggle for Tamil Eelam, is the demand of the Tamil people, not the LTTE as such,” he said further, stating that the popular endorsement given in 1977 by the electorate to the Tamil United Liberation Front’s independent state policy underpinned the LTTE’s objectives.
When queried as to what the LTTE required for a solution to be acceptable, Mr. Pirapaharan said: “There are three fundamentals; that is Tamil homeland, Tamil nationality and Tamil right to self-determination.”
“Once these fundamentals are accepted or a political solution is put forward by Sri Lanka recognizing these three fundamentals and if our people are satisfied with the framework of a solution that recognises these core issues then, we will consider giving up the demand for Eelam,” he said.
When queried what the LTTE meant by self-determination, Mr. Balasingham, in his capacity as the movement’s theoretician, replied: “we mean the right of people to decide their own political destiny – it can also apply to autonomy and self governance.”
“If autonomy and self governance is given to our people we can say that internal self-determination is to some extent met,” he said. “But if the Sri Lanka government rejects our demand for autonomy and self governance and continues with repression, then as a last resort we will opt for cessation – that also comes under self-determination.”
“Therefore we say if the Sri Lanka government offers the Tamil people a form of self government and autonomy in recognition of our homeland, nationality and the right to self-determination, then we will consider that offer,” Mr. Balasingham said further.
When asked if the LTTE would give up the armed struggle following a permanent solution, Mr. Pirapaharan said: “We will seriously consider renouncing our armed struggle if a solution acceptable to the people is worked out.”
However the LTTE leaders cautioned that the Wickremesinghe government was not stable and that it lacked sufficient leverage to solve the ethnic problem. A proposed interim administration would permit the de-escalation of the conflict, while allowing the newly elected government leeway to strengthen its position, they said.
“We do not think that Ranil Wickremesinghe is capable of addressing the core issues and offer us a permanent solution at this stage; because the executive powers of governance are vested with the president and his powers are limited to parliament,” Mr. Pirapaharan said.
“But we wish to insist that the Ranil’s government is not politically stable or authoritative or powerful enough to take up the core demands of the Tamils and offer us a permanent solution,” the LTTE leader stated.
“But, it is because of that we are suggesting the formulation of an interim administration set up in which the LTTE can participate in the north east. In the meantime Ranil Wickremesinghe will have enough space to build up southern Sri Lanka economically,” he said.
“As far as we are concerned we have faith in the present government and we will continue to work with [it] until a solution is reached,” Mr. Balasingham said.
Mr. Pirapaharan said he did not think President Chandrika Kumaratunga could derail the peace process. “Even if she tries to scuttle the peace process it is up to Ranil Wickremesinghe to ensure that such difficulties do not arise and ensure the peace process succeeds.”
Elaborating on the interim administration, Mr. Pirapaharan said the LTTE’s negotiators, led by Mr. Balasingham “are going to Thailand with the objective of discussing the formation of an interim administration.”
“The functions and duties of the interim government, the distribution of power, are issues that we have to discuss . So we cannot comment on the structure and nature of the interim administration now,” he said further.
On being asked if the LTTE would allow other Tamil political parties to operate, Mr. Pirapaharan said: “We can assure you that other political parties – whatever their policies may be – will be allowed to function in the north east and participate in the democratic electoral process.”
When asked why that assurance should be accepted, the LTTE leader pointed out “we are going to meet four Tamil political parties in two days. These are the parties once upon a time that had serious contradictions with our organisation. Now the whole scenario has changed and we are inviting them here to talk and discuss about various issues.”
“If we are an authoritarian organisation trying to repress other political organisations, there is no need for us to call them and with discuss with them. Similarly we are calling the Muslim leadership and the plantation Tamils’ leadership also,” he said. “Therefore the time has change and we are adopting new strategies.”
The LTTE leaders reiterated the movement’s earlier requests to the Indian government for a renewed, friendly relationship. “Without India’s active support and sympathy, this [ethnic] problem will not find a permanent settlement,” Mr. Balasingham said. “India’s active participation in the peace process is crucial for the Tamil people. … We don’t want to alienate or isolate India in the peace process.”
Mr. Pirapaharan refused to comment on the Rajiv Gandhi issue, point out that “this case is going on. There are four persons who have been condemned to death. They are seeking an amnesty from the government of India. Therefore at this critical juncture we don’t want to make any comments that might affect their status.”
When some Indian reporters persisted on the subject, Mr. Balasingham also said no more questions would be entertained on the subject. “You are raising an issue that has happened ten years ago,” he told one reported. “It is a tragic incident and therefore we are not in a position to make any comments at this stage.”
Asked if the LTTE was prepared to forget about the war with the Indian Peace Keeping Force, Mr. Balasingham said “at a particular stage in history, the government of India wanted to help the Tamil people by resolving the problem. They mediated; and unfortunately the proposals envisaged by government did India did not satisfy the aspirations of Tamil people’s.”
“We had discussions, and expressed our disapproval and finally the contradictions between India and the LTTE led to an armed conflict, and the IPKF committed quite a lot of atrocities amongst our people,” he said.
“But yet, with all that, our people love and respect India. India and the people of India are different from the power structures or the armed apparatus of India. We are culturally and ethnically linked to the Indian subcontinent. As Tamils we have our roots in India,” he added.When asked his opinion of the Sinhala-nationalist Janatha Vimukthi Perumana (JVP), Mr. Pirapaharan said “we do not consider the JVP a progressive political force because of their chauvinistic attitudes towards the Tamil people.”
Asked about the estate Tamil community, Mr. Pirapaharan said “We want build a better relationship with the leadership of the plantation Tamils. We have invited them here. We will discuss their concerns and problems and cooperate with them in their struggle for the political rights of the plantation Tamils.”
Mr. Pirapaharan rejected as “untenable and unacceptable” accusations the LTTE was using child soldiers. “There is no need for us at this present stage for us to recruit children. It is impossible for the LTTE to conduct an effective conventional war with child soldiers,” he said
“Recently, following the UN resolution, we have decided to recruit people from the age of 18. In future we want to recruit for the purpose of involving our youth in political and administrative purposes,” he added.
Commenting on international bans on the LTTE, Mr. Pirapaharan said “Those countries who are waging a war against terror should come out with a clear and precise definition as to who constitutes a terrorist and who are freedom fighters.
“We are not a terrorist organization, but a liberation movement. We are fighting for the liberation of our people,” he said.
Asked about prisoners of war being held by the LTTE, Mr. Balasingham said only six personnel were being held, and that the ICRC regularly visits them and has established contacts with the PoWs and their families.
When asked about the LTTE’s taxes, Mr. Pirapaharan said that “just as the Sri Lanka government taxes Sri Lankans in its controlled areas to run the state administration, to run the administration in our controlled areas, we levy a tax system.”
Asked about the LTTE’s economic philosophy, Mr. Pirapaharan said an “open market economy.” But he pointed out that: “We can only think about a proper economic structure when the ethnic problem is resolved. … What form and what structure this economic system is to be instituted in can only be worked when we have a permanent settlement or independent state.”
Tamil rebel chief Velupillai Prabhakaran answering a wide range of questions at Wednesday’s press conference said the group was not yet willing to drop the demand for a separate state, but said he was willing to consider if the demand for a Tamil homeland, Tamil nationality and Tamil rights are met.
To the memory of Velupillai Prabhakaran, the leader of LTTE, and his erstwhile colonels (other than traitors like Karuna and K.P.), I submit this felicitous essay on his 60th birthday.
In March 1, 2010, I contributed a parody of a beautiful poem by John Godfrey Saxe (1816-1887), captioned ‘The blind men and the elephant’. I titled my parody as, ‘Six Blind Women of Gringo Land – who went to see the Tiger’.
There is a reason why I bring my 2010 creation here. First, to refresh the readers of what I wrote, ‘with apology to John Godfrey Saxe’.
It was six women of Gringo Land to learning much inclined
Who went to see the tiger though all of them were blind
That each by observation might satisfy her mind
The first approached the tiger and happening to fall
Against her broad and sturdy side, at once began to shriek
‘God bless me! But the tiger is very like a slippery pestle!
The second, feeling the canine, cried ‘Ho! What have we here
So very round and smooth and sharp? To me ‘tis mighty clear
This wonder of a tiger is very like a spear!
The third approached the animal, and happening to take
The growling jaw within her hands, thus boldly up and screamed:
‘I see,’ quoth she, ‘the tiger is very likely a terror!’
The fourth reached out an eager hand, and felt about its fur
‘What most this wondrous beast is like is mighty plain’, quoth she:
‘Tis clear enough this tiger is very likely a bear!’
The fifth, who chanced to touch the claw, said: ‘E’en the blindest woman
Can tell what this resembles most; deny the fact who can,
This marvel of a tiger is very like a needle blade!’
The sixth no sooner had begun about the beast to grope,
Than seizing on the swinging tail that fell within her scope,
‘I see,’ quoth she, ‘the tiger is very like a rope!’
And so these women of Gringo Land disputed loud and long,
Each in her own opinion exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right, and all were in the wrong!
Pat Oliphant cartoon on sexual violence in US militaryI also quote excerpts from the first paragraph written then. “I should identify these six blind women from Gringo Land, who went to see the Tiger. Five of the six were from the venerable New York Times. The grandma was Barbara Crossette who was there in the late 1980s. Then, she was followed by Celia Dugger in the late 1990s. Amy Waldman and Somini Sengupta covered the 2000s. Lately, Lydia Polgreen has moved in. There was another one, Mia Bloom, who was a pretending terrorism scholar and linguist during the CFA period (2002-2004). None of them could read, write or speak either in Tamil or in Sinhalese. Their coverage about the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam was sloppy at best and humor-generating at worst….”
The main focus of these six Gringo women were to portray the Tamil Tigers as terrorists, suicide bombers and ‘child’ soldiers. None of them cared to present the positive side of Prabhakaran’s Tiger army. Sex equality and lack of sexual harassment in LTTE army were special attributes of Prabhakaran’s discipline training. These were totally ignored by these blinded journalists. Punishment for such heinous crimes for disregarding the discipline inculcated by the leader was instant death. Even traitor Karuna (after he was sacked from the LTTE) had described in 2004, a case of two young love-struck LTTEers (a guy and a girl) who disregarded the discipline relating to sexual conduct were served with death as punishment.
Karuna’s main motive in announcing this particular case to the media, was to splash mud on Prabhakaran’s cruel mindedness. But, Karuna had ignored the discipline Prabhakaran wanted for his army. What is Karuna’s plight now, after 10 years? What happened to all the empty boasts of him, as a better leader for Tamils than Prabhakaran? Was he able to project any leadership? He could only function as a sin-eater to the Rajapaksa clan without having any following either among Tamils or Sinhalese or Muslims.
Sex crimes in US military ‘soaring’ May 9 2013
The concept of sex equality was a non-entity in the Sinhala army, well into 1990s. Only after Prabhakaran showed the lead, the Sinhala army came to subscribe to this concept reluctantly. About the sexual harassment traits, torture and rapes perpetrated by the Sri Lankan army on Tamil population who were detained by them, the less said the better. The Lancet medical journal in 1999 and 2000 published two short reports describing the sexual torture on Tamils perpetrated by the Sri Lankan military personnel.
Lately, decades old, entrained culture of sexual harassment in Uncle Sam’s military had burst open (See below the Sources, for selected news reports on US military sexual assaults). Check also the Pat Oliphant’s cartoon, presented nearby, on this theme. Early this year, Helene Cooper reported that, “In 2012 there were an estimated 26,000 sexual assaults on military men and women, but only 3,374 were reported and only 880 cases were prosecuted. The implication is that keeping prosecution of those cases within the chain of command intimidates victims, who fear retribution from sexual assault to their commanders.” Last year, Jennifer Steinhauer reported, “A recent Pentagon survey found that an estimated 26,000 men and women in the military were sexually assaulted last year, up from 19,000 in 2010.” Compared to the performances of recent American Presidents and the Pentagon’s five star Generals, Prabhakaran’s record on military discipline for more than a quarter century was implausible and imperishable indeed. Isn’t Prabhakaran a pioneer in military discipline?
Prabhakaran – a victim of Procrustean Bias
For those who are uninitiated on Procrustean bias, I provide the details first. According to Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, “Procrustes, in Greek legend, was a robber of Attica, who placed all who fell into his hands upon an iron bed. If they were longer than the bed he cut off the overhanging pats, if shorter he stretched them till they fitted it. He was slain by Theseus. Hence, any attempt to reduce men to one standard, one way of thinking, or one way of acting, is called placing them on Procrustes’ bed.”
Academics and journalists from the West have a specific mind-set of whom to designate as a terrorist (who doesn’t have a Christian name or a Jewish name and whose skin color is not ‘white’), who can be fitted in their Procrustes’ bed. A study of their books and research papers reveal this Procrustean bias. I wonder how could those six Gringo women (who had regular eyesight) ignore the positive traits in Prabhakaran’s leadership? I have yet to come across in the writings of any of these six women on Tamil Tigers, a particular distinction which separated LTTE soldiers from that of the beastly Sri Lankan army (1983-87 and 1990-2009 and up to 2012) and the Indian army (1987-1990). Not only these journalists, but also incompetent terrorism scholars among men (the likes of Robert Pape, Bruce Hoffman, Walter Laqueur and Rohan Gunaratna) are also blind to this Procrustean bias. University of Chicago’s political science professor Robert Pape’s book, ‘Dying to Win’ (2005) is an excellent example for such Procrustean bias-tinged analysis.
Tamil detainees raped Feb 28 2013
Sources (chronologically arranged)
Ivor H. Evans: Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, Centenary Edition, harper & Row, New York, 1970, p. 865.
Welsh J.: Sri Lanka: torture continues. Lancet, 1999 July 31; 354: 420.
Peel M, Mahtani A, Hinshelwood G and Forrest D.: The sexual abuse of men in detention in Sri Lanka. Lancet, 2000 June 10; 355: 2069-2070.
Robert A. Pape: Dying to Win, Random House Trade Paperbacks, New York, 2005.
Jennifer Steinhauer: Remark by Obama complicates military sexual assault trials. New York Times, July 13, 2013.
Helene Cooper: Senate rejects blocking military commanders from sex assault cases.
New York Times, March 6, 2014.
Helene Cooper: Two cases, one conclusion on military justice. New York Times, March 21, 2014.
by Sachi Sri Kantha, November 25, 2014
The Meaning of the Man
Is Pirapaharan dead?
Ten years back, TamilNet senior editor and military analyst Taraki Sivaram wrote a brilliant piece on the political legacy of Pirapaharan at fifty. Come 26 November this year, the founder-leader of the LTTE and one of the most brilliant military minds of South Asia will turn sixty. Quite a lot has been said, by both admirers and adversaries, about the life of the man. But what is his meaning?
It is impossible to understand Pirapaharan unless one understands the interrelated essences of Sangam poetry – love and war – and its influence on the Tamil military tradition. The ethics of Tamil akam poetry, that of unconditional love towards the object of concern influences the ethics of the puram poetry, which calls for unconditional fidelity to the king and the kingdom. However, even this unconditionality carries within it a condition that reinforces the unconditionality. For instance, the woman of virtue (Tamil progressives will, and with ample justification, criticize this, but let us leave discussions about gender problems in epic poetry for another day) is the object of love because she is a woman of virtue, the love has a platonic character because of the virtuous nature of the object. Likewise, the soldier’s fidelity to the king is because the king is loyal to the kingdom, and the king’s loyalty to the kingdom commands the soldier’s fidelity. The object of love and the object of fidelity function as cornerstones in a discursive network, without which the network would collapse. In other words, they provide meaning to the meaning of things.
In a sense that is Pirapaharan. At sixty, in what some call the ‘post-conflict era’, the symbolism of Pirapaharan speaks that Tamil nationalism is alive and kicking. The 5 lakh students who got out on the street in Tamil Nadu in early 2013, and thousands of protestors in the diaspora who challenged the injustice of the international community carried his image. These activists believe that this image signifies Tamil nationalist resistance to oppression. But isn’t this ‘idol worship’ problematic?
Commenting on the veneration of revolutionary leaders, Scottish philosopher Thomas Carlyle writes “‘Hero-worship’ becomes a fact inexpressibly precious; the most solacing fact one sees in the world at present. There is an everlasting hope in it for the management of the world. Had all traditions, arrangements, creeds, societies that men ever instituted, sunk away, this would remain. The certainty of Heroes being sent us; our faculty, our necessity, to reverence Heroes when sent: it shines like a polestar through smoke-clouds, dust-clouds, and all manner of downrushing and conflagration.” An oxymoronic, mostly moronic, ‘liberal left’ discredits the idea of leadership. No less a person than Lenin believed that a revolution required revolutionary leaders who stuck to their principles, and were willing to make decisions that the ordinary could not make. This belief is reinstated by contemporary philosophers like Slavoj Zizek and Alain Badiou, who also argue that a true revolutionary leader represents a Universal over and beyond narrow particulars.
While Lilliputian minds would fix a region, religion or caste label to Pirapaharan, the real ideological significance of Pirapaharan is that he transcends these narrow particularities and serves as a Universal referent for Tamil nationalists. Not only is Pirapaharan now a symbol of Eelam Tamil nationalism, he has also transfigured as a symbol of Tamil civilizational consciousness. What else explains the tens of thousands of youth in Tamil Nadu considering an Eelam Tamil leader as their own Tamil hero who provided a promise of Tamil renaissance?
But every great uniter is also a divider. As Pirapaharan becomes the symbolic standard that unites patriots, he is also the standard that separates traitors. The Pirapaharan school of thought, which is the radical extension of the thoughts of V. Navaratnam and SJV Chelvanayagam, as much as it is a standard for evaluating patriotism, also becomes the scale by which treason is judged. To be a true Christian, it is imperative to believe in the struggle between Good and Evil, not just external Evil, but also the Evil that is internal. Likewise, to be a Tamil nationalist in the footsteps of Pirapaharan means not just an opposition to the Sinhala state and its allies, but also traitors who undermine the struggle from within. And for that, we need to keep reminding ourselves what Pirapaharan means, what is the idea of Pirapaharan.
Coming back to the original question – Is Pirapaharan dead? This might confuse some people, but I would say that Pirapaharan the individual died when he founded the LTTE. Ever since, what has existed is an idea. An idea that means sovereign Tamil Eelam; the creation of a society that is based on universal principles of justice and equality; a society without regionalism, communalism, sexism or casteism; a society where the love of heroic passions replaces the lust for trivial sentiments; a society without particularist chauvinism or cheap liberal cosmopolitanism; the creation of a people who resonate the glories of the Tamil past purging it of all darkness and enriching it with the emancipatory narrative of a universal future; the idea that the impossible can be made possible by the Will to Freedom.
And ideas, like heroes, are immortal.
Finally, when people ask questions like “Will Pirapaharan come back,” I remember a conversation I had with a Jesuit in Chennai. I asked him “Do you really believe in the Second Coming of Christ?” He replied nonchalantly, “I do not know if he will come or not. But if he does, I want to be sure that I have remained a true Christian, that I have done all in my power to serve the humanity he so loved so that he will be pleased on arrival.” This is precisely the spirit that Tamil nationalists must adopt now.
by Karthik RM, November 21, 2014
Karthick RM is a writer based in the UK.
LTTE Commanders speak on Pirapaharan’s 50th [TamilNet, Saturday, 27 November 2004, ]
Senior Commanders of the Liberation Tigers (LTTE) and Senior members of LTTE’s Political Wing, sent congratulatory messages to the Leader of LTTE Velupillai Pirapaharan on reaching 50 years, France-based Tamil Television Network (TTN) reported.
Head of LTTEs military intelligence, S. Pottu Amman, in his message to the Tamil people noted the failure of the past political leaderships of the Tamils. He said that the LTTE leader has changed the history of Eelam Tamils. “Our struggle has gained international focus. Tamils no longer fear subordination and freedom to the Tamil Nation is within reach.”
Col. Soosai, Special Commander of the Sea Tigers in his message said that the Tamils were forunate to have a gifted leader with a vision. “Tamils traditional Tamil homeland is is surrounded by sea on three sides. Our leader brilliantly forsaw the criticality of sea power, created a naval wing of the LTTE and nurtured it into a formidable force.”
Col. Vithusha, Commander of the Malathy female regiment in her message recalled how their leader guided and shaped the lives of LTTE fighters when they were a guerilla force 16 years ago. “Although the movement has evolved into a conventional force with the capability to challenge State’s forces, he continues to provide guidence and direction with the same level of intensity and care,” she said.
V. Manivannan (Castro), Head of the International Secretariat of the LTTE in his message conveyed the greetings on behalf of the international offices and the Tamil diaspora.
K.V. Balakumaran, a senior LTTE member and former EROS leader said that LTTE leader is a man beyond the scope of simple characterisation and definitions and described him as the nature’s gift to the Tamil people. “Our leader’s politico-military strategies and tactics need to be seen with a philosophical and deep understanding. His unique qualities evolve with the time. He has remarkable ability to calculate and predict political development – be it in the movement level, islan -level or at International level,” Balakumaran said.
Mr. Kousalyan, Political Head of the LTTE in Batticaloa-Amparai his greeting said that the strategies and forsight in the form of unique leadership of the LTTE leader would bring success to the Tamil nation under one flag. The history of Tamil struggle evidences that the Tamil national leader, relying solely upon the shoulders of the Tamil people, has no difficulty facing any challenge.
Col. Jeyam, commander of the LTTE’s Northern Front Forces, Col. Athavan, Ms. Thamilni, Head of the women’s political wing of the LTTE and many other officials and commanders conveyed their messages to the Tamil people on the 50th birth day of LTTE leader Mr. V. Pirapaharan.
Tamils celebrate Pirapaharan’s 50th birthday [TamilNet, Friday, 26 November 2004, ]
Tamil people in the NorthEast and countries across the world are celebrating the 50th birthday of the Leader of Liberation Tigers, Velupillai Pirapaharan, Friday, 26 November. There were special prayers in churches and temples. Pirapaharan has led the Tamil struggle through three Eelam wars since he founded Tamil New Tigers in 1972, at the age of 18, and later renamed the organisation as Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in 1976.
Widely regarded as an accomplished political strategist and military tactician even by his opponents, Pirapaharan emerged as the Tamil National Leader through 32 years of liberation struggle.
Annually he outlines the policy of his movement in his annual speech that falls on Martyrs Day Saturday.
Sources close to the LTTE said that their head office was receiving greetings wishing the LTTE leader’s 50th birthday from across the North East, South and from the Tamil diaspora.
Sinhala travellers enjoying birthday sweets at Pallai
International Federation of Tamils, a consortium of expatriate Tamil organizations based in Geneva, issued a press release on this occasion. Fulltext of the press release follows:
“The International Federation of Tamils, IFT, proudly joins hands with the Tamils, spread the world over, in felicitating Hon. Velupillai Pirapakaran, the national leader of Tamil Eelam, on the occasion of his fiftieth birth day, expressing solidarity with him.
From time immemorial, according to a belief that prevails among the Eastern nations, a true leader will emerge to redeem his people, during a period of ecliptical calamity. It becomes incumbent on the people of that nation to distinguish the true, impeccable leader from the selfish, opportunistic fakes. Any nation that expunges fakes and follows the true leader in his struggle for emancipation, will be triumphant in the end. The Bible and Indian epics bear testimony to this belief. Whether we quote from the ancient history of the Jewish nation that had its long march led by Moses, or from the modern history of Lenin’s Russia, Mao’s China, Gandhi’s India, Ho Chi minh’s Vietnam or Mandela’s South Africa, it is clear that the people in each of these countries had identified its leader and stood firm, supporting him through thick and thin.
The people of Tamil Eelam, both at home and in exile, have identified their genuine leader. They have entrusted into his care their future and their destiny. The IFT, while saluting the national leader on this occasion, commends the Tamil nation on its ingenuity in trusting their leader.
Velupillai Pirapakaran who inculcated the spirit of Tamil Eelam into the minds of his people, has gradually emerged as the indisputed national leader of Tamil Eelam. Instilling the spirit of nationalism in the hearts of Tamils across the world, he has come to be honoured as the Tamil national leader.
It is natural for a dynamic leader to attract followers who inevitably become his generals and soldiers in carrying out military or peace missions. Tamil Eelam is blessed with these committed followers, ready to serve its leader with his vision of building up a nation, sharing harmony and peaceful co-existence in the region.
The IFT wishes the national leader and his followers well.”
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