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"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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India & the Struggle for Tamil Eelam

India must stop assistance to Sri Lankan government: Thamil Chelven

Courtesy P. C. Vinoj Kumar, tehelka.com
29 January 2007
[see also International Community's flawed approach assists Colombo- Thamilchelvan ]

Sri Lanka is in the grip of an undeclared war. The 2002 Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) is on the verge of collapsing. Hundreds have died in intermittent fighting between the two sides since the beginning of this year. Both sides have accused each other of violating the CFA. If the LTTE was accused of carrying out an attempt on the life of Sri Lanka Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse, the GoSL and pro-government paramilitary groups face charges of having had a hand in the killings of pro-LTTE parliamentarians Joseph Pararajasingam and Nadarajah Raviraj.

In his recent heroes' day address, LTTE chief Velupillai Prabhakaran said there was "no other option but an independent state for the people of Tamil Eelam." What is LTTE up to, Tehelka asked LTTE political head SP Thamilchelvan. Excerpts:.

Tehelka: Has the LTTE called off the ceasefire with the Sri Lanka government? In his heroes' day address, Prabhakaran has said "the uncompromising stance of Sinhala chauvinism has left us with no other option but an independent state for the people of Tamil Eelam." He had also spoken about "recommencing" the "journey on the path of freedom."

Thamil Chelven: Our leader has explained our policy position lucidly. He did not mention anything about leaving the CFA. He had elaborated on how the government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) has made the CFA defunct by blatantly breaking its clauses through the occupation of Sampur and Vaharai that were declared as our areas in the CFA. GoSL military also attempted to move into our area from Muhamalai. It has bombed and shelled our civilian settlements. Contravening CFA clauses, it has destroyed normalcy in civilian life. It closed main highways and enforced economic blockade on our people.

This has forced a war environment on our people, who are facing untold miseries as a result of these actions by the military. Our national leader has pointed out that it is indeed the GoSL that has made the CFA defunct by its ethnic genocide programme. GoSL, through the disruption of all opportunities that we provided over the last five years, has demonstrated that an independent state is the only option available to the Tamils. The inflexibility of the GoSL and its ethnic genocide is not going to accommodate a solution to the Tamils. I believe this is what has made the Tamils re-embark on their path towards their goal.

Tehelka: How would you assess President Rajapakse's Indian visit?

Thamil Chelven: It is the tradition of the GoSL to let loose an ethnic genocide on our people whenever our struggle gains strength politically or militarily. It is also its tradition to stage dramas to trap other countries in an illusion to hide its genocide programme and also to drive a wedge between us and countries like India. Rajapakse's latest Indian visit is part of this drama staged by the GoSL to handle the pressures from international community, in particular from the Tamils of Tamil Nadu.

Rajapakse is adopting the same racist approach of all other Sinhala leaders. Among the Sinhala leadership, he is in fact showing himself as one with extreme racial hatred against the Tamil community. He has embarked on a drive to intensify his ethnic genocide. The purpose of his Indian visit was to obtain military assistance. I believe his visit was a failure because of the opposition to his visit from Tamil Nadu leaders and the firm stand taken by the Indian Central government.

Tehelka: Articulate democratic leaders perceived to be voicing LTTE viewpoint like Joseph Pararajasingam and Nadarajah Raviraj have been murdered by unknown assailants. What information does the LTTE have on these killings?

Thamil Chelven: Sri Lankan military has already killed more than 1,200 innocent civilians during the rule of President Rajapakse. Among those killed are our political representatives, community leaders and journalists. We have evidence to prove that Joseph Pararajasingam was killed by the Karuna paramilitary group. Raviraj, a young and energetic member of parliament, who voiced the rights of the Tamil people at many platforms, was shot within the high security area in Colombo. He was killed by the Eelam People's Democratic Party (EPDP) paramilitary group. We have evidence that this murder was carried out with the full cooperation of the military.

Tehelka: The Sri Lankan military appears to be showing scant respect to international opinion and has been continuing with its military offensives. The latest killings of about 50 civilians in Vakarai have evoked condemnations from Amnesty International, and the International Committee of the Red Cross. The Rajapakse government appears to be moving toward a military solution.

Thamil Chelven: Had the Sinhala leaders respected international opinion the ethnic conflict would not have worsened to this degree. Whenever international community raised its concerns, GoSL acted deceptively to misguide them. It did not try to address the basic causes of the Tamil struggle and make an attempt to find a solution for it.

Rajapakse government is following the same path. It would rather wipe out the Tamil people from this island and convert it into a Sinhala Buddhist country according to the Buddhist ideology in this island. The international community must go beyond simply expressing its condemnation and take a strong stand against the GoSL. Only when it takes concrete actions such as declaring the GoSL a terrorist state, and halting all its assistance to it, the GoSL can be brought in line. Through past and present lessons we have learnt that mere condemnations and concerns from the international community are not going to be of any use.

Tehelka: There is a view that Sri Lanka enjoys the military advantage now and the LTTE has been put on the defensive � repeatedly issuing threats to back out of the CFA, but refusing to do so. Is it correct to say the LTTE has been weakened militarily and it is not the same force as it was, say in 2000?

Thamil Chelven: As far as our movement is concerned we are very strong. As our national leader noted in the heroes' day speech, when we came forward to undertake the peace efforts in 2001, we did so from a position of strength. We had recaptured the Vanni mainland; and captured the Elephant Pass military complex. It is from this position of strength we have undertaken the peace efforts for the last six years. During these six years we have defeated many plots against our struggle by the GoSL. They may think that their military is strong because it did not face any losses for five years. For us, our greatest strength is our people. Our struggle is a self-defence struggle. We are struggling to have a peaceful life devoid of military occupation. Our entire people are behind us; this is our moral strength. No other powerful force can defeat it. The environment has risen where the fake confidence of the GoSL will be shattered. We have the competence and the strength to defeat the military oppression. I firmly believe that we will achieve our goal very soon.

Tehelka: Sri Lanka's defence expenditure continues to spiral and it is expected to cross one billion dollars this year. It has become one of the most militarised nations in the region with the highest army personnel: civilian ratio. (According to a report, it is 8:1,000, as against 1.3:1,000 in India and 4:1,000 in Pakistan.) Sri Lanka is also getting military assistance from Pakistan. How do you view the situation?

Thamil Chelven: This is clearly pushing Sri Lanka into an economically weak situation. Blowing the size of the military establishment out of proportion to its capacity, hoping to destroy the Tamils, is in fact pushing Sri Lanka into abyss. Sri Lanka is buying large quantities of weapons from Pakistan. It is creating a situation that threatens the stability of this region. I do not believe that other countries in this region, including India, are going to allow this conduct of the GoSL.

Tehelka: How does LTTE view Pakistan? Jaffna district MP MK Sivajilingam told Tehelka in a recent interview that the ISI had penetrated Amparai, Batticaloa, and Trincomalee districts in the Eastern Province. Reports even suggested that Pakistan might help Sri Lanka target Prabhakaran using bunker buster bombs.

We have recently confirmed that GoSL is receiving large quantities of military equipment and assistance from Pakistan. This is dangerous and must be stopped. However, I do not believe such efforts by the GoSL will provide victories to the GoSL. I believe there will be a backlash on countries like Pakistan that assist the GoSL knowing well that GoSL is involved in an ethnic genocide of the Tamils.

Tehelka: How would the LTTE deal with the Sri Lankan Air Force with its fleet of Kfir and MIG-23 fighter planes in the event of a full-scale war? Isn't the air force a big threat to the LTTE?

Thamil Chelven: These air force fighter planes are not something that came into being only yesterday.Throughout our struggle we have battled the GoSL air force, navy and the land-based forces. We have faced this air force during 2000 when we retook the Vanni mainland and the Elephant Pass military complex. In the end, we destroyed these fighter planes in their own airport. That is the history known to everyone. Our leadership has many strategies to defeat these mercenary forces. We will implement these strategies to defeat them in the future. We are confident that no force however powerful can defeat the moral strength of our people. We will win.

Tehelka: According to reports, people of Jaffna are facing shortage of food, medicine, fuel and other essentials due to the closure of A9 highway � the road that links Jaffna to the rest of the island. Tamil National Alliance (TNA) MPs and the LTTE have been demanding the reopening of the road, but to no avail. What will be the consequences of this stalemate?

Thamil Chelven: GoSL violated some of the important clauses in the CFA in an attempt to make it invalid. They have closed main highways used by our people, particularly the A9 highway to Jaffna, and subjected 600,000 people (in Jaffna) to misery. It has made the position of the CFA very precarious. Neither the people nor the LTTE will continue to tolerate such actions against the people by the GoSL. The people and the LTTE will together defeat this action and set up our land route. This is the only option open to us.

Tehelka: The Supreme Court of Sri Lanka recently ruled that the merger of the Northern and Eastern provinces was unconstitutional, illegal, and invalid. Is it an indication that any settlement to the ethnic conflict can only be within the framework of the Sri Lankan constitution? It also brings us to the basic question; does the LTTE respect the Sri Lankan constitution?

Thamil Chelven: The Sri Lankan constitution was not drafted with the cooperation and consent of the Tamil people. On the contrary this constitution was drafted with the intention of marginalising and destroying the Tamil people. Therefore, this constitution will never give justice to the Tamil people. Tamil people have been struggling against these Sri Lankan constitutions for the last 50 years. It is exactly this constitution that has blocked even minor progresses made in the peace process. Even minor structures created for carrying out humanitarian work (post-tsunami) for our people were blocked by the Sri Lankan courts citing this constitution. There are no surprises here. Sri Lankan constitution is not going to accept any agreement or resolutions that will benefit the Tamil people. This justice department reflects the ethnically biased government and therefore it will always make decisions against the Tamils. We cannot see any possibility for us to live together with Sri Lanka. Our leader has lucidly expressed this by saying that this has urged us to walk on the path towards our goal.

Tehelka:How have the Co-chairs (Japan, Norway, US and the European Union) reacted to the recent Lankan military offensives?

Thamil Chelven: They have expressed their concerns only through condemnations. This will never bring the ethnically-biased Sinhala Buddhist leaders in line. The GoSL has simply ignored these reports and is continuing with its war against the Tamil people. Therefore, as I mentioned earlier, the international community must take decisive concrete actions.

Tehelka: Who are your allies in the international arena today � countries that you think are sympathetic to your cause?

Thamil Chelven: Presently the entire Tamil people on this globe are standing behind us in our struggle. It is their support, participation and co-operation that are our biggest strength. I do, therefore, believe that countries that respect justice will in the future stand with us. I believe that the possibilities for this eventuality have increased.

Tehelka: In Tamil Nadu, Chief Minister M Karunanidhi made an appeal recently to the Central government to think of an appropriate solution to end the war. It marks a shift from his earlier stand. How do you view this development?

Thamil Chelven: The entire Tamil population living in Tamil Nadu is opposed to the ethnic genocide currently let loose by the GoSL. They have risen up with demands, that the ethnic genocide must be stopped, that their brethren in Tamil Eelam must be protected, and that they must live with freedom in their homeland. Since the chief minister represents the Tamils from the Tamil Nadu, and his party is supporting the Central government, his view represents the view of the entire Tamil Nadu Tamils. I believe the Central government too, which by now would have understood the character of GoSL, will take a firm decision regarding the GoSL.

Tehelka: What is your appeal to India and the world at large?

Thamil Chelven: India is the regional power. Specifically it is a country where millions of our brethren live. Indian government must therefore understand the just aspirations of the Tamil people and give us moral support. India must stop giving all financial assistance to the GoSL and act to bring the GoSL in line. In addition, it must urge the international community to do the same. I also appeal to the international community to act with an understanding of the just aspirations of the Tamil people.




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