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Tamilnation > Struggle for Tamil Eelam > Conflict Resolution - Tamil Eelam - Sri Lanka > Norwegian Peace Initiative > Geneva Talks & After > LTTE Political Wing Leader Tamilchelven & Sri Lanka President Rajapakse on the Peace process - in TIME, 12/13 February 2006
LTTE Political Wing Leader Tamilchelven & Sri Lanka
on the Peace process - in TIME, 12/13 February 2006
First Accept The Sovereignty Of Our People
Aside from one press
conference in 2002, Vellupillai Prabhakaran, the leader of the Liberation Tamil
Tigers of Eelam [L.T.T.E.] declines all requests for interviews and delegates
meetings with all but the most senior foreign diplomats. Since the Tigers agreed
a cease-fire with the Sri Lankan government in 2002, the rebels' public face has
become Suppiah Paramu Tamilchelvan, a former fighter who walks with the aid of a
cane and is head of the L.T.T.E.'s political wing. He spoke through a translator
with TIME South Asia bureau chief Alex Perry at the Tigers' administrative
headquarters, the Peace Secretariat, in Killinochchi, in rebel territory in
northern Sri Lanka.
Tamilchelvan: There is a war environment. The government
is seriously engaged in provoking people and creating an environment that looks
On a daily basis, three or four people are being killed and in places that
are fully under military occupation. Even a Sri Lankan Monitoring Mission office
outside a military base was attacked. This shows the degree of government
involvement. The Tigers are not engaged in any [similar] effort. Our commitment
to take things forward as we have done in the last three to four years remains
A.We don't need to think of rogue elements in the Sri Lankan
army forces. It's very clear that the military structure under [Sri Lanka
President] Mahinda Rajapakse is made up of hardliners who believe in war. They
have a history of it. They are hawks. These things come from the top. On one
hand, the government makes statements that it is committed to peace. On the
other, it openly commits atrocities.
A.The sophistication in which the attacks have been carried out
does not necessarily mean the L.T.T.E. is involved. All the battles we had with
the Sri Lankan army [during the 1983-2001 civil war] were done with the full
participation of civilians. Over 100,000 underwent training and without them we
would have not been successful.
A. We are prepared to cooperate in any investigation. Today
we're going to meet the Norwegian ambassador and we are going to put forward our
resolution to cooperate in any proceedings they deem fit to satisfy them that we
are not responsible.
A. As a responsible political organization, we're not provoked.
We have a commitment to the
and the international community's concern for peace in Sri Lanka. What [worries]
us is the grave risk to the ceasefire by the civilians who are being
and arrested, and kept under military occupation, people made to feel helpless,
who are resorting to actions that any normal human being would take.
A. We would like to join the people, but not in the way you
suggest. We would like to join them in the peace process and alleviate their
hardship. But if people continue to be harassed, we will definitely defend them.
A. We appreciate your realistic assessment of the situation.
Yes, this island is blessed with such potential in manpower and material
resources. Why are we unable to tap this potential? Well, look at countries that
are prospering. Those countries too have different nationalities, traditions and
cultures. But they commingle. There is a dignified approach to governance. The
people, whichever race they belong to, consider themselves rightful citizens and
contribute towards the country's prosperity.
A. You may be correct. But our position
is based on historical fact. Both nations have their own way of life,
culture and language. If all that is restored, and respected, and we are
returned our dignity and
right to self-determination, then moving away from federalism will be ruled
out. We can have a relationship and political arrangements can be worked out.
But first, accept the sovereignty of our people.
A. We are not a separate entity from the people. When you say
'you' and 'the people', that is inaccurate. We are part of the people. I and
other L.T.T.E. members came from the people. Our families were affected by the
war and by the tsunami. To ask about our compassion for the people is
irrelevant. We are part and parcel of the same unit. The L.T.T.E. spearheads the
freedom fighters, but we are the same community.
A. War is not gentle and nice. It's definitely going to be
cruel. We hate war and we do not see it as an option that will produce a
political solution. But we were forced into war. The decision to avoid such
bloodshed, to avoid the killing of thousands of people, is for the occupying
military power, the prosecutor of war, not the oppressed.
A. The international community is serious and relentless in its
pursuit of peace and we appreciate that. But they are finding it very difficult
to handle the situation in the south, because of the hardliners. Our opinion is
that the international community has to bring about sanctions on a rogue state.
A. [Laughs] Boycotts are nothing new to the Tamil people. They are born out of frustration and the Tamils have always given Sri Lankan presidential elections a lukewarm response. If Mahinda is a hard-liner, the Tamil people do not see [losing opposition candidate] Ranil [Wickremesinghe] as any different. He didn't do anything for us. The Tamil people had no reason to participate in the election.
"My patience should not be taken as weakness,"
- President Rajapakse
Alex Perry, TIME South Asia bureau Chief, interview with Sri Lanka President,
Mahinda Rajapkase, 12 February 2006
Rajapakse: The L.T.T.E. [Liberation Tamil Tigers of Eelam] is trying to force us into war. They have killed over 70 soldiers, and destroyed one of our ships. But we're very patient. We're still ready for talks. People call me a hawk or a warmonger. That's propaganda. I am a Buddhist.
I believe in the
importance of tolerance. Whether we're Sinhalese or L.T.T.E., we are human
beings, many of us are related, and we are all from Sri L anka.
A. My problem is that I have to keep the south silent,
have to keep the armed forces together, and there is a limit to all this. My
patience should not be taken as weakness. I hope there will not be a war. But I
will not hesitate to defend my country. And the armed forces are ready to face
A. I have already started an inquiry. People suspect the STF
[Special Task Force, the Sri Lankan paramilitary intelligence wing]. There may
be one or two black sheep, but
our forces are very disciplined.
A. This is what I can't
understand. My priority is peace and economic development.
A. The people
suffer, yes. My feeling is that [L.T.T.E. leader] Prabhakaran and his men
have a responsibility. If they want to 'liberate' the Tamil people,
develop them. Unfortunately, that's not happening.
Within a few days [of my election], they attacked. They did not even allow
me to breathe.
A.I am ready to go the extra mile for peace. Let's sit and
discuss what they want and what we can give.
A. Look at September 11. This is the same thing. React like
A. Yes. But I hope the L.T.T.E. comes for talks. They must.