The 'Illustrated Weekly of India' (December 18, 1983) published a special
report on Sri Lanka by Pritish Nandy under the heading `Where are the
Fountains of Paradise?' This report included interviews with three Ministers
in the Cabinet of President Jayewardene. Mr Anandatissa de Alwis, Minister
of State, accuseds the foreign hand of the KGB for the violence and damage
in July 1983 and said that India has behaved with great restraint and
dignity, while Mr Cyril Mathew, the Minister of Industries, sees 'the dirty
hand of India' behind all the troubles. However, Mr S. Thondaman, Minister
of Rural Industrial Development, puts the blame on 'important people' who
'are part of this government'.
"Behind All This is the Foreign Hand: KGB, to be Precise" - Anandatissa de
Alwis, Minister of State
P.N. How are your rehabilitation efforts going on?
Ah, you are David Selbourne's friend.
P.N. Yes, I am, if by that you mean David writes for our magazine. I know
he is persona non grata here.
Of course he will be. He is forever lying. It is people like him who have
further damaged this already critical situation.
P.N. But how did this critical situation arise?
It was inevitable. The terrorists were fermenting trouble over the years.
There were countless acts of violence and crime. Policemen on duty were
being shot down in broad daylight, and we could do nothing about it at all.
Finally, in July, when these 13 soldiers were killed in ambush, the
people could take it no longer. They rose in sheer anger and went berserk.
We tried our very best to bring it under control as soon as we could.
P.N.But, by then, vast damage had been caused to Tamil lives and
That is true. But what could we do? This was part of an international
conspiracy to destabilise us. We know who are behind it all. I have even
told the nation this.
This is not the first time they have tried this. You know what happened
in the past. These people are jealous of the success of our experiments with
a free economy. That is why they are trying their best to set us in flames.
Behind all this is the foreign hand: the KGB, to be precise. I am not afraid
of saying this openly.
P.N. What do you think of India's response?
India is our friend. She has behaved with great restraint and I have
nothing but admiration for Mrs Gandhi herself. Your country could have tried
to take advantage of our difficulties. But it didn't. You behaved with great
P.N. How are you planning to meet the danger of the foreign hand that you
We are not scared. Their motives have been exposed. All the Marxist
elements in the country have been outlawed. Their support base is only
marginal. The people in this country are firmly behind us — the Sinhalese
and the Tamils. What can a handful of foreign agents do?
P.N. Is the army back in the barracks now?
They were brought back to the barracks immediately after the tragic
incidents of July.
P.N. Not really immediately? If it was immediately, the damage would have
been much less.
It was not possible to do it immediately because things happened so fast
that they caught us unaware. Buy the time we swung into action it was a hit
late, I admit. The arsonists had lists in their hands and they went from
house to house wreaking savage violence on the Tamils. It was a planned
strategy to embarrass us.
P.N. How are you going to fight this politically?
By taking firm and courageous action. We will not allow ourselves to be
bullied by anyone, whoever it may be.
"Behind All This is the Dirty Hand of India. We All Know This" -
Cyril Mathew, Minister of Industries and Scientific Affairs
P.N. Where do you think lie the roots of this violence, this ethnic
I hate all you journalists. You are liars and dishonest people. I would
not even have deigned to speak to you if the Ministry of State had not
insisted. There is nothing that I hate more than journalists, particularly
Indian ones. You are always lying.
P.N. Why have you had such a raw deal from the Indian press? Your
colleagues in the Cabinet don't feel so strongly about it.
Because I have the courage to speak for my people. The Sinhalese will not
be held to ransom by a bunch of ordinary criminals and terrorists. We are
the majority community on this island and yet we bye in constant fear of
being attacked by this small band of insurgents who think they can rule us
by tear and intimidation. It is time we stood up for our own rights.
P.N. What are these rights you speak of? As the majority community on
this island, you have all the rights that are possible
What rights do we have? These people have guns in their hands and they
are constantly shooting down our boys. Look at the number of police stations
that have been closed down in Jaffna because no one wants to be on duty
there. Who wants to risk his life? Will you risk your life in such a
dangerous situation ?
Law and order have been subverted. These people are trying to break up
our country, destroy our heritage, force us to yield our most valuable
assets. How can we allow them to do this? How can you in India support such
acts of terrorism? How do you offer these people shelter and guns?
P.N. So you think that India is being unfair? That we are playing a
Behind all this is the dirty hand of India. We all know this. We have the
evidence. If you did not give protection and shelter to these terrorists,
our problem would have been over a long time Back. For we know how to to
P.N. What have you done?
They are only a handful of people and I don't think that they have the
kind of support base they are claiming.
P.N. Who backs these terrorists?
I don't know. India, I would imagine. Otherwise, why does the Tamil Nadu
government refuse to hand over these murderers to us even when we have
water-tight cases against them? Is this fair? Is this in accordance with
inter-national practice? Is this how you should behave with your neighbour.
You must read the Sansoni Commission report. I will send you a copy of
it. It proves without any shadow of doubt that these terrorists are nothing
more than ordinary criminals
P.N. Do you see the danger of an Indian military intervention in the
What can we do even if you did intervene? You are much bigger than us,
much stronger. On our side, the only thing we have is truth. That will
perhaps see us through.
'Behind All This Are Our Own People. The Racist Elements' - S.
Thondaman, Minister of Rural Industrial Development, points his finger at his
own political colleagues
P.N. Who do you think is responsible for fanning these communal passions?
We all know who these people are. I am not naming them right now because I
don't want to embarrass the President, who is a good man and an honest man. He
is trying his best to heal the situation. That is why I am keeping quiet.
P.N. But is any action being taken against these people?
How can any action he taken against them? They are important people. They are
part of this government, just as I am. Behind all this are our own people. The
racist elements. We all know them.
P.N. But unless you take some action against these people, or isolate them,
the problems will recur. Won't they?
We have to take long-term measures. The Indian Tamils have suffered for too
long. They are the real minority in Sri Lanka, and vet no one speaks of them and
their needs. Now that things are bad, very bad, they are listening to me. But it
is too late.
P.N. What is to be done now?
Only India can help us to tide over this crisis. Wherever I went in India, I
found people were very concerned about Sri Lanka and our ethnic troubles. Mrs
Gandhi is our hope. India is our hope. You can help us survive without being
P.N. You don't believe that Eelam is inevitable? The only way out, under the
No, no. Sri Lanka must solve its problems without being dismembered. I don't
rule out anything, not even a separate Tamil state, but this is not the time to
talk of it.
P.N. But where does India come in? The talks must obviously be within Sri
Lanka, between the different communities, the different political groups.
India has the most important role to play. She alone can force us on to the
I have been travelling extensively in India and everyone is keen that we
should come to some kind of understanding, so that the interests of the Tamils
are protected. Unless this is done, we will have to take our own decisions.
P.N. You mean, go to the streets? Like the others?
P.N. How do you hope to do this politically?
You ask tricky questions. There is no question of hoping. I have to do this
politically. And India alone can help me. That is why I have been asked by the
President to go back to India with him, when he goes for CHOGM
P.N. Do you have any hopes of success?
Of course, there are answers. We will have to find them. All of us together,
with your help.
P.N. Don't your colleagues disapprove of your links with the Tamil
How can they? There are extremists on both sides. I stay in touch with one
kind of extremists. They stay in touch with another kind. The important thing is
to bring everyone back to the negotiating table. That alone will resolve our