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Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."
Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 

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Black July 1983: the Charge is Genocide

Where are the Fountains of Paradise?

Pritish Nandy, Illustrated Weekly of India
18 December 1983

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 property?

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 dignity.

P.N. How are you planning to meet the danger of the foreign hand that you speak of?

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 confrontation

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 negative role?

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 handle them.

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 offing?

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 dismembered.

P.N. You don't believe that Eelam is inevitable? The only way out, under the circumstances?

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 negotiating table.

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?

Yes, yes.

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 extremists?

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 problems.



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