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Selected Writings by Dharmeratnam Sivaram (Taraki)
What went wrong between the Tigers and Premadasa
Tamil Times 15 June 1993
What went wrong between Prabhaharan and Premadasa? It was almost a fanatical belief among many Sinhalese and even among some Tamils who are usually well informed that President Premadasa was somehow in cahoots with the LTTE. The diplomatic cocktail circuit and the intelligence community which normally hold the prerogative on the truth of such momentous issues contributed in no small measure in entertaining and propagating this belief. And of course it suited the political objectives of those who stood to benefit from this beliefs persistence.
And hence the question 'What went wrong between Prabhaharan and Premadasa?' is naturally bound to arise among those who have fervently subscribed to the belief that Premadasa would ultimately talk to the Tigers. The question sounds almost silly if one were to view the position taken by the LTTE from the time it had talks with the government, in 1989.
It would also demonstrate how a large number of decisions and perceptions which have determined the course of the war and its politics have been essentially shaped by interpretations arising from certain fundamental beliefs about the ethnic conflict, which have gained currency in the south from time to time. The LTTE had made its point clear from last year –that Premadasa's pro-Tamil stand was an insidious sham.
The message reiterated was this –the Tigers brook no one who dares to lead them up the garden path with view to ultimately destroy them.
The Hot Spring, currently Jaffna's only English tabloid which was established and edited by Mr. S. Kodeswaran – (the man from Trincomalee who figured in the case on language rights which became a landmark in the legal history of Sri Lanka) carried an article by one S. Alagaratnam six days before Premadasa was blown up.
The writer takes to task those in the south who were crying foul at Bishop Kenneth Fernando for undertaking a peace mission to Jaffna. He says:
The writer goes on to say:
Of course it was quite clear six days later that the task of punishing Premadasa was not left to the whims of Karma but to the lethal determination of a Black Tiger.
The Tigers began to identify President Premadasa as the chief belligerent among the Sinhalese from mid last year. Around that time Erimalai, an official LTTE magazine put out in France with material prepared in Jaffna, had this to say commenting on the pacifist image Premadasa had managed to cultivate among the Tamils.
It appears that the LTTE had come to the conclusion that Premadasa was actually setting about creating the ideal political and international environment for facilitating the military effort against them. And their problem seems to have been that he was doing it subtly and effectively. But then Premadasa in a moment of supreme confidence slipped, when he nonchalantly told a delegation of Tamil political leaders early last year that he would stand by his party's decision to campaign for the demerger of the northeast.
The Tigers became quite wary of Premadasa's intentions after this. They had characterised him as a Sinhala chauvinist leader who was anyway a better bet for them because he was a strong nationalist – meaning that he would not seek Indian assistance to fight them. It is in this context that they tried to save him during the crisis created by the impeachment. LTTE's decision to send the eleven EROS MPs who were under their control for the purpose of voting with the government on the impeachment, was based on the perception that the Indians were behind the move to impeach Premadasa and that they would prop up Gamini Dissanayake, who according to them would have no qualms about inviting India to crush them.
But it appears that from mid '92 the LTTE was becoming suspicious that Premadasa was gradually being drawn wittingly or unwittingly into the Indian orbit. It was noted in the Peninsula that Premadasa was giving a free hand to what was described as the militarist lobby to push the line publicly that it would be stupid to talk to the LTTE and that it should be defeated militarily at whatever cost. Continued on page 29