Tamils - a Trans State Nation..

"To us all towns are one, all men our kin.
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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Home > Struggle for Tamil Eelam > International Frame of  Struggle for Tamil Eelam  >  India & the Struggle for Tamil Eelam > Rajiv Gandhi assassination �a monumental historical tragedy� � Balasingham



Father Chandiravarman Sinnathurai on Palacingham Pragmatism 
India and the LTTE: Out of the Box - K.T.Kumaran
India bristled at the LTTE leaders statements, AFP Report, 27 June 2006
Sri Lanka says Tigers virtually admit Gandhi killing, Reuter Report, 27 June 2006
Parts of LTTE leader's interview blacked out says Tamil daily, PK Balachandran, Hindustan Times, 28 June 2006
Since the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, India played a detached role in Sri Lanka's peace process, said Balasingham, Bloomber Report, 28 June 2006
Tamil Tigers "regret" Rajiv Gandhi assasination
Australian Broadcasting Corporation: Asia Pacific Programme, 28 June 2006
also in Audio
India rejects Tamil Tiger apology, Times On Line, 29 June 2006
What Balasingham should understand - Hindu Editorial, 29 June 2006
Tigers' Travesty - Meenakshi Iyer, Hindustan Times, New Delhi, July 1, 2006
Balasingham, a foil for Prabhakaran  - PK Balachandran
Rajiv Gandhi Assassination: The Verdict - Nadesan Satyendra
Rajiv Gandhi's War Crimes நெற்றிக்கண் திறப்பினும் குற்றம் குற்றமே...

India & the Struggle for Tamil Eelam

Rajiv Gandhi assassination
�a monumental historical tragedy� � Balasingham

TamilNet, June 27, 2006 

[see also LTTE Political Wing Leader, S.P.Thamilchelvan
on Anton Balsingham Statement, 8 July 2006]

In an exclusive interview with India�s NDTV, the LTTE�s Chief Negotiator and theoretician, Mr. Anton Balasingham, described the assassination in 1991 of Rajiv Gandhi as a �great tragedy, a monumental historical tragedy.� Saying �we call upon the Government of India and people of India to be magnanimous to put the past behind and to approach the ethnic question in a different perspective� Mr. Balasingham said the event has to be seen in its political and historical context of the time, involving the military intervention of India and a war between the Indian Peace Keeping Force and the LTTE.

In response to a question by NDTV correspondent Noopur Tiwari on whether the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord led to Rajiv Gandhi�s death, Mr. Balasingham said:

�No. It happened later on. What has happened is, since we rejected the Sri Lankan accord there were a lot of events that took place creating a gulf between the LTTE and the Govt of India and the Indians later sent an IPKF - Indian Peace Keeping Force to disarm the LTTE and eventually broke out into an open confrontation. We fought a guerrilla war against the Indian army for 2 years and finally the Sri Lankans. We had a negotiation with Sri Lanka and secured the withdrawal of the Indian troops in the 90's and of course finally it was followed by the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi. As far as that event is concerned, I would say it is a great tragedy, a monumental historical tragedy for which we deeply regret and we call upon the Govt of India and people of India to be magnanimous to put the past behind and to approach the ethnic question in a different perspective.�

On being asked by NDTV if the LTTE can give any sort of assurance to India that such an event wouldn�t happen again, Mr Balasingham said,

�We have made pledges to the Govt of India that under no circumstances we will act against the interest of the Govt of India and that ever since the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, India played a detached role. What we feel is India should actively involve in the peace process.�

Elaborating on the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord itself, Mr. Balasingham said:

�We were not very happy with the political solution proposed by India because it did not satisfy the political aspirations of our people. If India has offered a federal solution as she has in her own country then we would have definitely responded positively but the provincial administration suggested by India was totally inadequate to meet the demands of the Tamil people so that�s why we did not support the accord.�

Commenting on the possible role that India could play in resolving the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka, Mr. Balasingham said that the LTTE did not want any military intervention by India as had happened in the past. He also made it clear that India cannot play a mediator�s role as long it keeps the LTTE proscribed.

Mr. Balasingham further said it would be difficult for India to play a mediator�s or facilitator�s role without a working relationship between the government of India and the LTTE.

�The only role which India can play [now] is diplomatically and politically persuading Sri Lanka and the LTTE to seek a negotiated settlement.�

Mr. Balasingham also complimented Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's for admonishing Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse over the Sri Lanka armed forces� violence against innocent Tamil civilians and for suggesting a form of regional autonomy for the Tamils as a solution to the decades long conflict.

India bristled at the LTTE leaders statements
Pratap Chakravarty - AFP, 27 June 2006

NEW DELHI (AFP) - A Sri Lankan Tamil Tiger rebel leader expressed regret over the 1991 assassination of former Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, in an interview aired on Indian television.

"I would say it is a great tragedy, a monumental historical tragedy for which we deeply regret and we call upon the government of India and people of India to be magnanimous, to put the past behind (them)...," Anton Balasingham, Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) chief negotiator, told private NDTV station.

Gandhi was killed when a woman detonated explosives strapped to her body in the southern Indian town of Sriperempudur in 1991 while he was campaigning in the runup to general elections.

India blamed the LTTE but the Tamil Tigers denied their involvement in the attack, which also killed 14 others.

As premier, Gandhi was responsible for sending Indian peacekeepers to Sri Lanka in 1987 following an agreement with Colombo to help the military stabilize the country. Some 1,200 Indian troops were killed in subsequent fighting with Tamil Tiger rebels, forcing India's pullout in 1990.

Balasingham Tuesday urged India to help resolve the bloody ethnic conflict between the LTTE and the Sri Lankan government that has killed hundreds in recent months and left a 2002 truce in tatters.

"We are prepared to build up a new relationship with the Indian government provided she makes a positive gesture. We have already pledged never to do anything which is inimical to the geo-political interest of India.

"And so, if the past is put aside and a new beginning is made then there is possibility of India playing an active role in bringing a resolution to this conflict," he said.

His call came as Sri Lankan peace broker Norway head into crisis talks on Thursday to try to salvage the island's faltering ceasefire, as the assassination of a top army general underscored the threat of renewed war.

He added that Gandhi's assassination was linked to his decision to send soldiers into Sri Lanka.

Tamil Tiger leaders expressed regret in 2002 for the assassination but stopped short of accepting responsibility for the "tragic event".

"We had a negotiation with Sri Lanka and secured the withdrawal of the Indian troops in the 1990s and of course finally it was followed by the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi," Balasingham said in the television interview.

India bristled at the LTTE leaders statements.

"The people of India cannot forget the dastardly crime committed by the LTTE or at their behest," India's Junior Foreign Minister Anand Sharma told reporters.

"Seeking our forgiveness would be tantamount to endorsing their philosophy of terror, violence and assassination," said Sharma, who was a close aide of Gandhi.

He also lashed out at the LTTE.

"They still continue to believe in the politics of terror and violence and there cannot be any solution through violence, assassinations and military conflict," Sharma said.

"India is for peace, stability and the unity of Sri Lanka and we have been supportive of the peace process and it is very sad it has got derailed," the foreign minister said and ruled out any direct talks with the group.

The LTTE is a banned organisation in India. "It is for the LTTE to renounce violence and return to the negotiating table," Sharma said. Gandhi's Italian-born widow, Sonia, currently heads the ruling Congress party which leads a coalition government in New Delhi.

Sri Lanka says Tigers virtually admit Gandhi killing
Reuter Report, 27 June 2006

COLOMBO (Reuters) - Comments by a senior Tamil rebel leader on the 1991 assassination of former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi were tantamount to an admission of the group's guilt, Sri Lanka's government said on Wednesday.

London-based Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) ideologue Anton Balasingham told Indian television on Tuesday the killing was "a monumental historical tragedy" which the Tigers deeply regretted, and called on India to be magnanimous and put the past behind it.

But Balasingham did not explicitly admit to the killing, and analysts said his comments were broadly in line with a similar statement made just after a 2002 ceasefire was agreed between the rebels and the Colombo government.

"It is an admission of guilt, certainly," said Kethesh Loganathan, Deputy Secretary General of the Sri Lankan government peace secretariat. "But it is neither an acknowledgement nor an apology to the government of India and the people of India."

"An apology is where Balasingham says the LTTE is sorry for having killed Rajiv Gandhi and we apologize ... It comes nowhere close to that."

Gandhi was killed by a suicide bomber while addressing an election meeting near the southern Indian city of Chennai in May 1991. Indian courts have named senior Tamil Tiger leaders as the prime accused, but the group has in the past denied responsibility.

Balasingham said in Tuesday's television interview: "As far as that event is concerned, I would say it is ... a monumental historical tragedy ... and we call upon (India) to be magnanimous to put the past behind and to approach the ethnic question in a different perspective."

He also appealed to India to get more involved in Sri Lanka's peace process, which analysts said appeared to be a conciliatory -- if unexpected -- gesture by a group increasingly isolated by international terrorism bans.

"Maybe the LTTE is seeking to redress the isolation it is facing now, and has seen an opportunity in the apparent distance between the Sri Lankan and Indian governments on the issue of the peace process," said Jehan Perera of non-partisan peace advocacy group the National Peace Council.

"India is urging a political approach that the Sri Lankan government is really not following," he added. "It's also the LTTE's recognition that India will play a central role in a Sri Lankan solution in the long term, and that somehow Tamil nationalism has to come to terms with the Indians."

The Tiger statement comes as the island's protracted peace process is deadlocked, and as a rash of deadly ambushes and military clashes that have killed more than 700 people so far this year threaten to rekindle a two-decade civil war.

Since the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, India played a detached role in Sri Lanka's peace process, said Balasingham, Bloomberg Report, 28 June 2006

Sri Lanka's rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam group said it regrets the 1991 assassination of former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and asked the Indian government to ``put the past behind.''

Gandhi's death was ``a monumental historical tragedy for which we deeply regret,'' Anton Balasingham, the LTTE's chief negotiator, said in an interview yesterday with India's NDTV network, according to a TamilNet report. ``We call upon the government of India and people of India to be magnanimous to put the past behind.''

India can help Sri Lanka's peace process by trying to persuade both sides to seek a settlement, Balasingham said. India cannot play a mediating role as long as it continues to designate the LTTE as a terrorist organization, he said.

Gandhi, who sent Indian peacekeeping soldiers to Sri Lanka in 1987 as part of an accord with Sri Lanka's government, was killed in southern India by a woman suicide bomber. India blamed the LTTE for the attack, a charge the group denied. Indian soldiers completed a withdrawal from Sri Lanka in March 1990 after two years of clashes with LTTE fighters.

Tamils rejected the 1987 accord between India and Sri Lanka because it didn't satisfy the political aspirations of the Tamil people, Balasingham said. ``There were a lot of events that took place creating a gulf between the LTTE and the government of India,'' he said.

Detached Role

The LTTE has made pledges that it won't act against the interests of the government of India, he said.

``Since the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, India played a detached role'' in Sri Lanka's peace process, Balasingham said. India's government should be actively involved now playing a diplomatic role, he said.

Almost daily violence in Sri Lanka is threatening a return to civil war and putting at risk aid worth $4.5 billion dollars pledged by donor nations on the condition there is progress toward peace. A suicide bomb attack two days ago killed Sri Lanka's army deputy chief of staff. An April suicide bombing in Colombo wounded the army commander and 60 civilians were killed in a June 15 blast on a bus.

The army increased its use of roadblocks and searches of road transport in response to the June 26 attack, which the government blamed on Tamil Tiger rebels.

India, in a message sent to the Sri Lankan government after the bombing, pledged its support in the fight against terrorism, Sri Lanka's military said on its Web site. A peace settlement must take into account the aspirations of all the Sri Lankan people and uphold the country's unity and territorial integrity, the Indian government said in the statement.

Truce Monitors

The LTTE is intent on crippling the work of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission that oversees a 2002 cease-fire, Sri Lanka's government said in a statement yesterday.

The LTTE has demanded the withdrawal from the SLMM of European Union members Sweden, Denmark and Finland after the EU on May 29 declared the group a terrorist organization. Norway leads the SLMM, which also includes Finland.

Sri Lanka's government and the LTTE have both said they want to uphold the cease-fire. The LTTE should resume peace negotiations either directly or with Norwegian mediation, the government said June 19.

The Tamil Tigers have been fighting for a separate homeland in the north and east. The rebels want an interim self-governing body established in areas they control before a peace settlement is reached. Sri Lanka's $24 billion economy has had uninterrupted growth since the truce, brokered by Norway, halted the two-decade civil war, in which more than 60,000 people died.

Parts of LTTE leader's interview blacked out: Tamil daily
PK Balachandran, Hindustan Times, 28 June 2006

A leading Sri Lankan Tamil daily has said that key sections of the interview given by the LTTE's chief negotiator Anton Balasingham to the Indian TV channel NDTV, were edited out to give the impression that he had "apologised" for the assassination of former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991.

The daily Sudar Oli said on Wednesday that nowhere in the interview did Balasingham say that the LTTE was owning the assassination and that it was apologising for it.

"Only a portion of the interview was shown, and that was made the basis of comments and conclusions," the paper said in a front-page piece. Balasingham had only said that the LTTE deeply regretted the assassination and had described it as a monumental and historical tragedy.

This was only an extension of what the LTTE chief Velupillai Prabhakaran himself had said in a press conference on April 10, 2002, the paper pointed out. Asked if the LTTE assassinated Rajiv Gandhi, all that Prabhakaran said was that it was a "thunbiyal nigazhvu" (Tamil for tragic incident). Sudar Oli's case is that neither Prabhakaran nor Balasingham has admitted involvement in the assassination nor tendered an apology for it.

According to the paper, which gets many exclusives from Balasingham, the LTTE's negotiator had, in fact, explained the chain of events, which led to the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi. But this had been edited out. Balasingham had said that India should not consider the assassination as an individual act of murder but as part of a chain of events.

And India should see the incident as being part of the history of its own military involvement in Sri Lanka. But this was cut out, the paper charged.

To cut this out and say what Balasingham never said (that the LTTE was apologizing after 15 years) was an attempt to create an illusion that the LTTE had acknowledged responsibility for the assassination, the paper said.

It further said that the interview done on Sunday was analysed word by word, certain portions were deliberate chosen and others left out, and an opportunity was given to the Indian government to respond.

And to mollify Balasingham, he had been told that the full interview would be telecast later, the paper reported.
Tamil Tigers "regret" Rajiv Gandhi assasination
Australian Broadcasting Corporation: Asia Pacific Programme, 28 June 2006

Fifteen years after Rajiv Gandhi was assasinated, Sri Lanka's Tamil Tiger rebels have for the first time expressed public regret over the death of the former Indian prime minister. The top rebel negotiator has told Indian television that Mr Gandhi's death by a suicide bomber was a "monumental tragedy" but he's stopped short of claiming responsibility. During his time as leader, Rajiv Gandhi designed a solution for the Sri Lanka problem that some still regard as the best yet. But others say his efforts were the very reason for his assasination. 

Audio  Listen 

Presenter/Interviewer: Zulfikar Abbany
Speakers: Dr Jehan Perera, Sri Lanka's National Peace Council; S. Puleedevan, LTTE's Peace Secretariate

ARCHIVE MATERIAL: Here is a special news bulletin. We regret to announce that the former Prime Minister and Congress Party President, Mr Rajiv Gandhi, has been killed in a massive bomb blast. An angry mob has gathered outside the Gandhi home, where they're blaming anyone and everyone.

ABBANY: Then, as now, tension and violence were the order of the day. Rajiv Gandhi was killed in 1991, during national elections in India. On his initiative, four years earlier, Mr Gandhi reached agreement with the Sri Lanka government to deploy Indian peace keepers to stabilise the country. As a result, around 1,200 Indian troops were killed in clashes with Tamil Tiger rebels. He was about to give an election speech when he was killed. He was out of office at the time. But some, like Dr Jehan Perera, of the National Peace Council in Sri Lanka, say the Tigers were worried Mr Gandhi would be re-elected.

PERERA: Rajiv Gandhi came in trying to solve the Sri Lankan problem, he brought in the Indian army as peace keepers, he designed the solution for Sri Lanka that today many of us think was the right solution and which went the furthest in giving the Tamil people the right of self government in their area. This was not properly implemented. The Indians were asked to leave Sri Lanka, to take their peace keeping army away.

ABBANY: Now, fifteen years later, the peace process and ceasefire of 2002 have all but failed. And Dr Perera says that the Tigers find themselves without much support. Especially, after the European Union recently labelled their organisation, the LTTE, a terrorist organisation. The head of the Tamil Tiger's Peace Secretariat, S. Puleedevan, disputes that the LTTE is isolated. He insists the EU has only frozen the LTTE's assets, but otherwise continues to work for peace in Sri Lanka. He also maintains that the LTTE is not giving up on Norway as the main peace broker, in calling on India's help.

PULEEDEVAN: It is not true that the LTTE is being isolated. Even though the EU put the ban on the LTTE, that's only for freezing the assets. They like to keep the channel open and they also like to help to our peace process and to the LTTE also.

ABBANY: Dr Perera says the Norwegians have shown the Tigers the kind of respect that others have denied.

PERERA: No, I do not think the LTTE would want to give up the Norwegians because the Norwegians have been very steadfast both in their commitment to the peace process and to treating the LTTE with a measure of equality and status which the LTTE really crave for.

ABBANY: But Dr Perera also says that the peace process in Sri Lanka depends on India.

PERERA: Ultimately we all know without Indian blessing and backing and pressure this conflict probably will not be solved.

ABBANY: Whether India responds to the Tiger's appeal is another thing. The Indian government says it is unsatisfied with the LTTE's expression of regret. India still wants an admission of responsibility. But that's one thing that the Tiger's Peace Secretariat, S. Puleedevan, says is not on offer.

PULEEDEVAN: No, no, we don't want to say anything about our responsibilities, but we only can say this is a monumental tragedy.

ABBANY: And so you're asking India to put the past behind it, to get India back on board, to work toward peace?

TAMIL: Always it is good to forget the past and work for the future. That's always a very good thing to do.

ABBANY: But from India's point of view, the Tiger's move may be a case of them wanting to forget the past before the victims of the past have come to terms with it.

PERERA: Also the sense I guess that this is a tactical move on the part of the LTTE because if they were really sincere about peace based on compromise then they wouldn't be engaging in the horrendous acts of violence and terrorism that they are engaging in in Sri Lanka at this time.

India rejects Tamil Tiger apology
Times On Line, 29 June 2006

India said that it was not ready to forgive the Tamil Tigers after the rebel group came the closest yet to admitting that it killed Rajiv Gandhi, the former Indian Prime Minister. It also rejected calls to mediate in the Sri Lankan conflict.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam were apparently making overtures to establish a measure of rapprochement with India. The group has become increasingly isolated and feared a Sri Lankan military crackdown, analysts said.

India was reacting to a statement made to the Indian NDTV by Anton Balasingham, the Tigers� ideologue, that the killing of Gandhi was �a monumental historical tragedy� that the group deeply regretted. He also called on India to be magnanimous and put the past behind it. Although Mr Balasingham did not explicitly admit to the killing, the Sri Lankan Government said that the comments were tantamount to an admission of the group�s guilt.

Leaders of Mr Gandhi�s ruling Congress party, now headed by his Italian-born widow, Sonia, dismissed the comments as nothing new. The rebel initiative coincided with fresh violence in which twelve Tigers and five Sri Lankan sailors were killed in clashes near a naval base on the west of the island. (Reuters, AP)
What Balasingham should understand - Hindu Editorial, 29 June 2006

As the peace process in Sri Lanka totters on the brink of collapse and the screws of international sanctions tighten on the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, Anton Balasingham, Political Adviser to the organisation's supremo, has come up with a clever, perhaps over-clever, play. This is in the form of an interview to NDTV � the highlight of which is a so-called confession on the LTTE's role in the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi at Sriperumbudur in May 1991 combining with an appeal to India to be "magnanimous," "put the past behind [it]," and shape "a new foreign policy towards her neighbour" on the basis of "a new understanding ... [and] a new relationship" with the Tigers.

This is clearly meant to soften New Delhi's unrelenting hostility, legal and political, towards the LTTE � now proscribed or listed by most major countries as a terrorist organisation � and also to create confusion in the Indian public mind about the organisation's real aims and intentions.

The `confession,' couched in ambiguity, is classic double-speak. The Rajiv assassination, according to Mr. Balasingham, was "a great tragedy ... a monumental tragedy ... which we deeply regret, and we call upon the Government of India and people of India to be magnanimous ... to put the past behind [them] and to approach the ethnic question in a different perspective."

This statement can be read in any which way. It will certainly not qualify in any court of law as a confession since Mr. Balasingham can offer the following defence: "What I meant was that the LTTE regarded the Rajiv Gandhi assassination as a great or monumental tragedy and since India seemed convinced we were behind it, I appealed to it to put the whole tragic experience behind it and approach Sri Lanka's ethnic conflict from a fresh perspective."

But the answer to the LTTE spokesman's appeal to India to "actively involve [itself] in the peace process" cannot be in any doubt. Given the circumstances, India cannot play any direct role in Sri Lanka's peace process. At the same time, this country has a deep interest and stake in its neighbour coming out of its time of troubles on the basis of a non-military, negotiated, and just political settlement of the Tamil question along federal lines � and within the framework of Sri Lanka remaining one.

It can be added that The Hindu has, over the past half century, shared this perspective and consistently championed the cause of the Tamils of the island within this just and anti-secessionist framework. Further, New Delhi has made it abundantly clear that it will "maintain an abiding interest in the security of Sri Lanka and remains committed to its sovereignty and territorial integrity." What Mr. Balasingham needs to understand is that this national policy has solid support across the political spectrum, barring some small pro-LTTE parties and elements in Tamil Nadu that stand isolated from mainstream democratic opinion.

Tigers' Travesty - Meenakshi Iyer,
Hindustan Times, New Delhi, July 1, 2006

The Tamil Tiger's recent volte-face on Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi's assassination has shocked political analysts worldwide who know A to Z about LTTE. Ever since the killing of India's charismatic leader in 1991, the Tamil rebel group has never admitted its guilt.

In fact, at one of the Oslo peace talks sessions in 2002, Anton Balasingham - the ideologue who did the needful for the LTTE this time - himself had "categorically" denied any involvement, and had stormed out of the room looking "very angry".

"It is a monumental hypocrisy, an insult to Indian public opinion as well as international opinion. The Tigers don't clearly say in the tape that they did it. This kind of statement by Balasingham does not absolve them of the culpability," says General VR Raghavan, Director of Centre for Strategic Analysis.

In an interview to a private channel in New Delhi, the LTTE's ideologue had said that what happened in 1992 was a "great tragedy, a monumental historical tragedy, for which we deeply regret and we call upon the Government of India and people of India to put the past behind".

What took the LTTE so long to realise their "monumental blunder"? Have the Tigers really changed their stripes, or is it just another classic LTTE ploy?

"The LTTE is isolated internationally. They have nothing to show as a peace dividend in spite of a ceasefire of four years. They must know by now that without India's intervention there can be no solution."

"And they will know that India's involvement, if not directly but indirectly on behalf of the Sri Lankan government will be worse for them," reasons Dr S Chandrasekharan, Director of South Asia Analysis Group.

The move by the Tamil rebels comes amid mounting violence in the island nation. The group's image suffered a severe blow after it was banned by the European Union.

"In the very first place, the Tigers are trying to sidestep the tragedy by saying that it is a monumental tragedy. Secondly, they are trying to create differences between the Sri Lankan and the Indian governments. LTTE now wants India on their side," clarifies General Raghavan.

What Raghavan asks is: "Are these the Tigers who conspired with President Premadasa in the 90s to oust the Indian Peace Keeping Force?"

"Sorrow", "repentance" and "forgiveness", which smack of sublime spirituality, can never be in the vocabulary of a killing machine, which vows adherence to ways of the brute, says Sri Lanka's leading paper Daily News.

The Tigers' recent act has become more or less a "tragicomedy" the world over.

While a few parties in India call it "silly", back home in Sri Lanka too, the Tigers are being laughed at!

"Repentance for the spilling of innocent blood, coming from an organisation, which seems to be having an insatiable appetite for terror, is an incongruity, which is comic in the extreme," says the Daily News editorial.

Both Raghavan and Chandrasekharan say that it is difficult to forget and forgive such a dastardly attack and believe that India should now drag the Tigers to the court of law.

If indeed, the LTTE wanted to apologise for Rajiv Gandhi's assassination, it should say that publicly, in court, where there a criminal case pending against the Tiger chieftain Velupillai Prabhakaran, according to a Sri Lankan government spokesman Keheliya Rambukwela.

Prabhakaran and his Intelligence Chief Pottu Amman, who are the first and second accused in the case, are still "proclaimed offenders" and the Interpol has been on the hunt for them. Also, aptly, India has made it clear that forgiving the Tigers is tantamount to endorsing the philosophy of terror, violence and political assassination. The Sri Lankan media reiterates this view.

"Even if the LTTE goes on its bended knees to India over the granting of a pardon for the assassination of former Premier Rajiv Gandhi, India would remain unswayed, for this would amount to endorsing the Tigers' policy of using terror for the achievement of political aims," says Daily News.

The Secretary General of the government Peace Secretariat Dr Palitha Kohona describes Balasingham's "apology" as a "political ploy" to prevent India from taking any decisions which might affect the LTTE adversely.

Clearly, Balasingham's ploy has failed.He had wanted a sympathetic response in India. But all he got was brickbats and egg on his face.Even the response in Tamil Nadu has been extremely lukewarm with Chief Minister Karunanidhi saying that Balasingham's statement is confusing!

The Tiger's think tank will now have to come up with another ploy.
Balasingham, a foil for Prabhakaran  - PK Balachandran is Special Correspondent of Hindustan Times in Sri Lanka, 3 July 2006 Courtesy: www.hindustantimes.com  

Recently, when the chief negotiator of the LTTE, Anton Balasingham, supposedly apologised for the assassination of former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, one of the questions raised in the highest Indian circles was whether he represented the voice of supremo Velupillai Prabhakaran.

It was felt that Balasingham could be voicing his personal opinion, and the interview he gave to the Indian TV channel might well be a desperate individual initiative to reach out to India at a critical time in the history of the LTTE when it was facing international isolation.

A related assumption was that in the LTTE, divergent opinions, views, and proposals could be publicly expressed.

But keen observers of the LTTE say that these assumptions and theories are erroneous.

The truth, according to them, is that no one in the LTTE ever publicly airs his personal views, and that on the question of Rajiv Gandhi's assassination, Balasingham had only aired Prabhakaran's view, the one and only view in the LTTE.

Prabhakaran had said in his epoch making press conference in Kilinochchi on April 10, 2002, that he considered Rajiv Gandhi's assassination a "tragic event" and sought a rapprochement with India saying that the past should be forgotten.

The Tiger chieftain had cleverly dodged the question, which was, whether he would apologise to India for assassinating its leader.

What Balasingham said in the TV interview four years down the line, was pretty much the same. Neither Balasingham nor Prabhakaran had admitted to the crime or apologised for it. The way the April 10, 2002 press conference was conducted showed how close the two were, and how identical their views were.

When journalists bombarded Prabhakaran with questions, Balasingham, the supposed translator, interjected and brazenly declared that he would take the questions.

And when a foreign journalist protested, he declared: "My views and Prabhakaran's views are the same!" Very significantly, there was not a whimper of protest from the chieftain.

Different but complementary This, of course, does not mean that Balasingham and Prabhakaran have no differences or have had no serious differences. But they have always made up, never bringing the differences out into the open.

Balasingham and Prabhakaran are completely different from each other, but they complement each other. Balasingham does what Prabhakaran cannot, and Prabhakaran does what Balasingham cannot.

Both are wedded to the core values, goals and techniques of the LTTE, though allowances are made for differences on peripheral matters.

And there has been a remarkable consistency. Others may have come and gone, but Balasingham has been with Prabhakaran, and that, in the inner circle, right from 1979, when the LTTE was still in its infancy.

Balasingham has the unique distinction of being the leader of the LTTE's negotiating team on every occasion barring the talks with the JR Jayewardene government in Thimpu in Bhutan in 1985; and the meeting with the Nordic monitors in Oslo on June 8 and 9, this year.

He could not go for the Oslo talks this time because of ill-health. And during the Thimpu talks, he was on the hotline acting as a link between Prabhakaran and the LTTE delegation.

Writing about the Balasingham-Prabhakaran relationship in her book' The Will to Freedom' (Fairmax Publishing Ltd Mitcham, England, 2001) his wife Adele Balasingham says: "The relationship between these two single-minded individuals has been unique.

It is one of those relationships where two different personalities come together at a specific conjuncture and play significant roles in the movement of history."

While Balasingham is the philosopher and the theoretician of the movement, Prabhakaran is the quintessential activist, and also the final decision maker.

Balasingham is the negotiator, with a preference for peaceful methods of conflict resolution based on compromise and step-by-step movement.

But Prabhakaran, the warrior, pitches for the extreme and is uncompromising. But there has been a fruitful division of labour between the two, by mutual, tacit consent.

"Bala" as Adele refers to him in her book, is the political interpreter or translator of the LTTE's actions to the outside world, a tough task now, given the global hostility towards violent non-state actors and terrorists.

He is the interface with the genteel world, given his felicity with the English language, the gift of the gap, his wide reading, and his academic and journalistic background.

He is adept at handling political leaders, heads of governments, officials and journalists from across the globe.

In arguments, Balasingham can be reasonable and persuasive as well as intimidating, carping, and sarcastic when the occasion demands. Prabhakaran, on the other hand, is shy and retiring. He speaks only Tamil. He also has strong views. But he determines the basic goals of the organisation, its basic strategies and tactics and is entirely in-charge of the military aspect of it.

Despite his privileged and unique place in the set up, Balasingham has never overstepped his limits and has always worked within the unwritten parameters of his relationship with the supremo.

"Bala has always viewed his role with the LTTE and the struggle as the advisor and theoretician to Pirabakaran and the organisation," writes Adele.

In line with the Tamil way, Adele spells the Supremo's name as "Pirabakaran" and not "Prabhakaran" as it is spelled generally in line with the Sanskrit original.

Balasingham has scrupulously avoided military matters because these are sensitive. In such matters, he will wait for Prabhakaran to brief him. And according to Adele, Prabhakaran would unfailingly brief him so that the required press releases could be written and the concerns of the outside world addressed.

Role of trust "Trust" has been the basis of the relationship between the two.

Though holed up in a jungle hideout in the Wanni in North Sri Lanka, with little or no interaction with the world outside, Prabhakaran has never felt insecure vis-�-vis Balasingham, who, living in the UK for years, has the skills to interact with outsiders and has been in close touch with them.

Prabhakaran has never feared that Balasingham may be weaned away from the fundamentals of the LTTE by "pernicious" outside influences.

"Bala's lack of concern for power, his preparedness to restrain his role to writing, teaching and advising, and his obvious commitment to the struggle, eventually made Bala the most reliable and trustworthy advisor to Pirabakaran," writes Adele.

Balasingham's willingness to speak the truth as he sees it, is appreciated by Prabhakaran. He will not utter a falsehood, simply to please Prabhakaran.

On this Adele writes: "One quality that Pirabakaran has admired and valued in Bala all these years, is his commitment to truth. Bala has always acted on the principle that he should convey accurate and truthful advice in the best interests of both Pirabakaran and the struggle."

"Whether Pirbakaran has always heeded the advice or was displeased by what he frankly conveyed, was not Bala's concern." "As the advisor to Pirabakaran, Bala has many times told me, it was his duty to tell the truth, regardless of how unpalatable it may be."

Academic orientation Balasingham has had an academic orientation right from the earliest days unlike Prabhakaran who quit formal education at 16 and has had some disdain for conceptualisation and theorisation.

Though born Christian, Balasingham took to the Hindu Vedantic philosophy in the early days. And many Sinhala Buddhists will be surprised to learn that he was strongly attracted to Buddhism and had gone about giving lectures on it.

Later, while in the UK, he read widely on Western philosophy and Marxism and enrolled for a doctorate on a comparison of Marx and Freud. But he could not complete the thesis because of his involvement with exiles from the Third World who were fighting for liberation.

Very soon, he found that Marxism had to be tempered by the ethnic dimension if the Sri Lankan situation had to be fully and correctly grasped.

According to Adele, he found that a pure Marist analysis would not be able to explain the core concerns of Jaffna Tamil society, steeped as it was (and still is) in Hinduism, Tamil culture and history, and the caste system.

Balasingham lectured to young Tamil arm chair revolutionaries and wrote tracts on the guerilla campaigns of Che Guevara and Mao. He wrote pamphlets on the Sri Lankan Tamil issue also, putting it in a conceptual framework.

Before long, these works attracted the attention of Prabhakaran who was then living in exile in Chennai, India. Prabhakaran expressed a wish to see him and Balasingham and Adele journeyed to Chennai in 1979.The link established then, has remained unbroken till date.

"Although they liked each other from the outset, it took many years for both to cultivate a unique friendship based on profound mutual understanding," writes Adele. Prabhakaran had by then seen the need to impart to his cadres a knowledge of larger social, economic and political issues.

These were necessary for developing a commitment to the Tamil cause, which was larger than just setting up an independent Tamil Eelam by force of arms, he felt. Balasingham was assigned the task of giving orientation lectures.

Personal advisor Within a few years of interaction, Balasingham had become a close personal confidante of Prabhakaran's.

When Prabhakaran fell in love with Madhivadhani, a young recruit from Jaffna, and wanted to marry her, but was constrained by the norm that cadres should not marry or have sexual relations, Balasingham argued for a change in the normative system to accord with nature, and got Prabhakaran to change the rules.

It is noteworthy that Balasingham has always accepted the final judgment of Prabhakaran on any matter. He has had implicit faith in Prabhakaran's intuition and felt that the leader has been right every time.

In his book War and Peace (Fairmax Publishing Ltd. Mitcham, England, 2004) Balasingham gives a telling example.

He says that just prior to the signing of the India-Sri Lanka Accord on July 27, 1987, Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi had proposed a "secret pact" with the LTTE in a last ditch effort to secure Prabhakaran's consent.

He promised to give the LTTE a dominant position in the proposed Interim Administrative Council of the new North Eastern Province; wink at a token surrender of arms; and grant Indian Rupees five million monthly to help the LTTE maintain its cadres in lieu of the right to levy taxes.

Despite pressure from the Tamil Nadu Minister Panrutti Ramachandran on Prabhakaran to enter into the secret pact, the LTTE Supremo was glum. Later, he told Balasingham that he did not trust the Indians, and had no faith in their promises, whether written or unwritten.

According to Balasingham, subsequent events proved that Prabhakaran was right because New Delhi seemed to be doing the bidding of the JR Jayewardene government in regard to the implementation of the 1987 Accord.

Toes the Prabhakaran line In all negotiations and dealings with the Jayawardene government and the successor governments of R.Premadasa, Chandrika Kumaratunga, Ranil Wickremesinghe and Mahinda Rajapaksa, Balasingham has invariably followed the line laid by Prabhakaran.

Many in Sri Lanka and India like to believe that Balasingham is a moderate and that Prabhakaran is the extremist - the real hindrance to any compromise or settlement.

Balasingham is often quoted as saying informally to members of Sri Lankan peace delegations that it will be better to settle the Tamil issue while he is around, because the likely successors at the negotiating take are confirmed extremists.

But keen watchers of the LTTE feel that this may be a ploy to get the Sri Lankan state and the international community to blindly accept the LTTE's demands.

Many in Sri Lanka and abroad like to believe that Prabhakaran was very angry with Balasingham's decision to sign the "Oslo Declaration" of 2002 wherein the LTTE supposedly agreed to find a "federal" solution within a united Sri Lanka.

There was speculation that the supremo might appoint a new chief negotiator.

But no change took place, because the Oslo Declaration was nothing but an expression of an interest on the part of the two parties in trying to find a federal solution. It was not a commitment to finding a federal solution.

What was committed to did not run counter to Prabhakaran's stated policy. In speech after speech on November 27 every year, the Tiger Chieftain has said that the LTTE will consider any proposal that may satisfy the needs and aspirations of the Sri Lankan Tamils.

Earlier, in the later 1980s, during the talks with President Premadasa, the LTTE's delegation led by Balasingham agreed to stand for elections to the North Eastern Provincial Council (NEPC).

This surprised Adele. And when she asked Balasingham whether this was not compromising the LTTE's rejection of the Sri Lankan state and its institutions, he said that by seeking this alternative, the LTTE would not lose anything.

It would only help promote the cause of establishing Tamil Eelam.

Adele quotes Balasingham as saying that if the Tigers won the elections, they would transform the concepts of Tamil homeland and Tamil nationhood into concrete realities, which were their declared ideals.

Far from acting differently, Balasingham has unwaveringly and effectively furthered his supremo's objectives in areas assigned to him.





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