Press Conference at Killinochi, Tamil Eelam
Sri Lanka Sunday Times, 14 April 2002
Q: From the inception you have been struggling
for an independent state. Are you willing to renounce that and
accept any federal model.?
Conditions have not arisen to abandon an independent statehood. The
struggle for Eelam is a demand of the Tamil people. In the 1977
elections, people have given a mandate to the TULF to fight for a
Q: How serious are you about the peace process.
There has been doubt about your genuineness?
We are sincerely committed to the peace process. It is because we
are sincerely committed to peace that we continued a four month
cessation of hostilities.
Q: Since you have accepted an interim
administration under the Sri Lankan government will you accept the
hegemony of the Sri Lankan state?
have not discussed the formalities or the framework of the interim
administration . It has to be discussed with the Sri Lankan
government . This does not arise since we have not started the peace
Q: Will you go to Thailand with this idea?
So far on the demand for Eelam we have not decided as yet. We are
going to Thailand to discuss the interim administration as proposed
by the government.
Q: What about the ban on the LTTE imposed in
A: We want the government of
India to lift the ban on the LTTE. We will raise the issue at the
Q: You have been indicted in the Gandhi
A: This case is going
on. Four persons have been convicted. They are seeking amnesty at
the moment. We do not want to make any comments at this moment.
Q: Are you denying involvement in the Rajiv
Balasingham). I know this is a sensitive issue, not only for you but
for us as well. You are raising an issue that happened 10 years ago.
We want to have friendly relations with India.
Q: What have you to say about the charges ?
A: This is a "tragic incident." that has
taken place ten years back. We cannot comment on the issue.
Q: The Rajiv Gandhi assassination...
(Dr. Balasingham) You are trying to dominate the press conference.
You have come here when the peace process is on. You are talking of
an old incident. Do not dig into the past.
Q: Why should anyone should believe that the
ceasefire will lead to peace or why the LTTE will not start fighting
back as happened in the past.
is the first time that a third party, Norway, has got involved as a
facilitator. We believe that the peace process will work.
Q: There is widespread feeling that the reason
you are speaking now is because of the action by the United States
against terrorism, after the events in September 11. Do you agree
A: The LTTE has initiated
peace moves before the September 11 incident. Furthermore Norway's
peace envoy Erik Solheim has been given an assurance that we want a
Q: For 25 years you have been adopting a
military strategy to achieve your goal, but now you seem to be
embarking on a political path. Is the tiger changing its stripes ?
A: Our political struggle began in the
form of non-violence. Leaders in the past believed that they can use
a non-violent method. Because the non-violent methods were crushed
we were forced to take up arms to defend ourselves. We were
compelled to take arms. Whenever there was an opportunity we have
opted to settle the problem peacefully.
Q: Is there any message you hope to give, by
inviting us here today ?
A: There has
been lot of misunderstanding about the LTTE. We would like to
explain through the international media that the LTTE is committed
to peace and a negotiated settlement.
Q: Will you allow other parties to function in
the north and what do you feel about the collaboration between the
Sri Lankan and US Governments ?
can assure you that other political parties whatever their policies
may be, will be allowed to function in the North-East and
participate in the democratic political process. As far as the
collaboration between the US & SL governments is concerned it is not
of our concern to condemn or criticise the current global
developments or the position of different political regimes. As far
as we are concerned we are determined to fight for the political
rights of the Tamils, irrespective of whether Sri Lanka is aligned
to America or the Soviet Union or any other world power. We are
committed to the emancipation of our own people.
Q: You have apologized to the Muslims but not
made an open invitation for their return.
We have already apologized to them. If we invite them, there should
be some conducive set up for them to live. Our leader will certainly
extend an invitation for them to come to the north and live with us.
Q: There are reports about Muslims in the East
being harassed. It is reported that they have no rights to the land.
A: We have called the service commanders
from the east to discuss the alleged harassment of Muslims. We have
called Karikalan for a meeting and asked him what has gone wrong. He
has assured us that he has made no such statement and it is a
distortion. We believe that the Tamil homeland belongs to the Muslim
people and we believe that there is no dispute that Muslims have a
right to own land. When Mr. Hakeem comes we will discuss the matter.
Q: You say you will allow political parties to
function in the north and east. How can you seriously say so when
the LTTE has assassinated Tamil moderates ?
We do not want to go into details, as there have been contradictions
between Tamil parties in the past. Now almost all the Tamil parties
in the north and east are supporting the LTTE. There are some Tamil
armed groups that we do not consider as political entities as such,
but as mercenaries and they support the Sri Lanka armed forces
against the LTTE. So we have requested that the armed groups be
disarmed. Now the situation is almost that all parties that
contested in the north & east are supporting the LTTE. In future
there will be no problems. We will allow the genuine democratic
Tamil parties to function in the north-east as democratic entities.
Q: Are you ready to give up your armed struggle
and if not why?
A; We will seriously
consider renouncing the armed struggle if a solution acceptable to
our people is worked out.
Q: Upcountry youth have been in custody for
several years, what about these people. But no leaders are taking
A: We have been constantly
campaigning for the release of these prisoners. Most of them are
suspected LTTE members. They are kept without any trial. We have
requested Tamil parties to agitate for their release and we are
going to appeal to the government to repeal the PTA.
Q: What are the conditions that you say would
be right for you to give up your armed struggle? Can you please
explain the impact of the ban on your organization throughout the
There are three fundamentals. That is Tamil homeland,
Tamil nationality and Tamil right to self-determination. These are
the fundamental demands of the Tamil people. Once these demands are
accepted or a political solution is put forward by recognising these
three fundamentals and our people are satisfied with the solutions
we will consider giving up the demand for Eelam.
It is true that
several countries have imposed the ban due to the malicious campaign
by the Sri Lanka government against the LTTE. It is because of these
reasons we have appealed to the government of Sri Lanka to
de-proscribe our organization before the commencement of
negotiations. Once our organization is de-proscribed we will
campaign in the rest of the world to get the ban lifted in the rest
of the world.
Q: Will Mr. Pirabaharan accept any
responsibility under the Interim administration?
We haven't started any dialogue about an interim administration.
When that arises I will think whether to accept any responsibility
Q: Will you allow Muslim participation in the
A: Certainly we will
allow Muslim representation in the peace process as it is crucial.
Q: You said the Gandhi assassination was a
tragic incident. How do you look at other tragic incidents. Are you
satisfied with the pace of the peace process. Also what is your
greatest military victory?
I am pleased with the peace process and
also want to compliment Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe for the action he
has taken to proceed with the peace process and the goodwill
measures taken in the north-east towards normalcy.
Q: There have been incidents in the past that
led to your proscription. What would be your message to the other
side that would be incidents of the past.
(Dr. Balasingham). I have openly said that we want to have friendly
relationships with India and that we want a positive participation
of India in the peace process. I myself openly requested India to
give me a venue so that I can land in India, for two reasons. One is
for logistical reasons and the other for medical reasons. I am a
transplant patient. I have a serious kidney ailment and if India
provides me with a passage or venue to land in any of the cities in
Tamil Nadu, I will be pleased. I have to come and consult Mr.
Pirabaharan if the peace process is initiated. India's active
participation in the peace process is crucial for the Tamil people
because India is a regional super power. Since India was not taking
any active interest in the process, the government of Sri Lanka and
the LTTE have requested the Norwegian government to play a
facilitatory role. It is not to isolate or alienate India from
playing an active role.
Q: Have you directly requested the Indian
A: We have requested Norway
to make the request. They (India) have not rejected our request, but
still it is on the agenda.
Q: Mr. Pirabaharan, you are said to have told
your cadres that if you give up the demand for Tamil Eelam, you can
be shot. Does that statement stand?
That statement stands.
Q: How do you plan to respond to allegations of
human rights violations and recruitment of child soldiers now that
the LTTE is keen to be an acceptable member of the global community?
A: The allegation that we are recruiting
children is untenable and unacceptable. We have decided to recruit
people over 18. The people below 18 who came to join us were sent
back to their parents and we are collecting letters from their
parents. There is no need at this present stage to recruit children.
It is impossible for the LTTE to conduct an effective war with
children or a baby brigade. We have child welfare centres and
orphanages to look after children.
Q: You have been living an underground life and
you may be frustrated with the underground life . Is that the reason
to come out?
A: We are not the people
who are worried about the underground life or a strenuous life . We
are prepared to fight for the political rights of our people.
Q: Are you ready to take up a political
A: We have been
fighting this guerrilla war for the liberation of our people - for
the welfare of our people. Therefore we are not concerned about our
personal political life. That is a secondary matter where I have not
seriously thought about accepting a political position or a
political leadership in the future. Even now we are engaged in this
press briefing because we are really concerned about peace and a
peaceful settlement of the ethnic war. It is our genuine concern for
the welfare of our people that has made us get involved in the
current peace process.
Q The question is about working within the
democratic system. Would Mr. Pirabaharan be ready to do so rather
than head a military outfit.
solution is within the democratic, political framework . Our
organisation will seriously participate in that process and our
cadres will also involve themselves in the political mainstream.
Q: What do you mean by self determination. You
say you are fighting for the right of your people based on the right
for self determination, therefore, what do you mean by self
A: By self determination
we mean the right of our people to decide their own political
destiny It can also mean /apply to autonomy and self government. If
autonomy and self government is given to our people, then also we
can say that the internal self determination is to some extent met.
But if the Sri Lankan government rejects our demands for autonomy
and self government and continues with repression, then as a last
resort we would opt for cessation. That also comes under self
determination. So self determination entails autonomy and self
government. In an extreme case, in the last resort, it means
cessation. Therefore we say, if the Sri Lankan government offers the
Tamil people the form of self government and autonomy in recognition
of our nationality and also the right to self determination then we
will consider that offer. But if the government refuses to give us
proper autonomy, proper self government and continue with this
repression, then we have no other alternative but to fight for
political independence and statehood. That is our perspective.
Q; What will you do if the government finally
betrays you or if these talks collapse?
As far as we are concerned we have faith in the present government
and we will continue to work with this government until a solution
is reached. We cannot answer hypothetical questions.
Q: Do I understand you right that the events of
September 11 and the international focus on terrorism has not
changed your strategy and thinking at all. Have you not had cause to
reassess the value of suicide bombing on civilian targets and
assassinations in the light of September 11th?
We have issued an official statement condemning the incident of
September 11th. We strongly condemn this act of violence perpetrated
on innocent civilians under the name of a religion which advocates
peace. Since we have adopted a peace process and that now we are
committed to peace, we don't want to make any comments about suicide
attacks at this stage.
Q: You wanted the government to make a second
proposal. What is your formula/vision ?
We have made a statement saying that a formula has to be worked out
based on the Tamil demand for a homeland, nationality and self
determination. We want a framework which recognises this fundamental
core issue. It is on that basis that we are requesting the
government to put forward a counter proposal and if the counter
proposal envisages or embodies these demands and offer a substantive
solution that satisfies the aspirations of our people, we will
seriously or favourably consider such a framework .
Q: Do you think that the Ranil government can
offer such a solution?
A: We don't
think Ranil Wickremesinghe is capable of addressing the core issues
and offer us a permanent solution at this stage because you know
executive powers are vested with the President and his powers are
limited to Parliament. It is because of that, that we are suggesting
the formation of an interim administrative set up so that we can run
an administration in the N/E. The LTTE can participate in an interim
administration in the N/E. In the meantime, Ranil Wickremesinghe
will have enough space to build up southern Sri Lanka economically.
So it will be advantageous for the Tamils as well as the Sinhalese
to work out an interim set up for the time being. Once the interim
set up is established then we are prepared to discuss the core issue
and negotiate for a permanent settlement of the ethnic question. But
we wish to insist that Ranil's government is not politically stable
or authoritative or powerful enough to take up the core demands of
the Tamils and offer us a permanent solution.
Q: Do you think Chandrika Kumaratunga will
scuttle the process?
A: We don't
anticipate that President Kumaratunga will create any serious
difficulties for the peace process. Even if she tries to scuttle the
peace process, its up to Ranil Wickremesinghe to ensure that such
difficulties doesn't arise and he should act in such a way that this
Q. How do you expect us to believe that you are
genuine about pursuing democracy allowing other Tamil parties to
survive in this area, when you spent your entire career sending
suicide bombers to kill democratically elected politicians. And even
today, we're being filmed surrounded by goons. And you have the
whole appearance of a military dictator. How do you expect us to
take you seriously ?
A: We're going to
meet four Tamil political parties the day after tomorrow. These are
the political parties, which once upon a time had serious
differences with our political organisation. Now the whole scenario
has changed and we're inviting them to talk and discuss about
various issues. If we are an authoritarian organisation trying to
repress other political organisations, there is no need for us to
call them and discuss. Similarly we're calling the Muslim leadership
and the plantation leadership also. So therefore the times have
changed and we are adopting new strategies. Please understand.
The Wanni is an area controlled by the LTTE. There are security
issues, there are security concerns. In the past you would have
heard that there has been deep penetration groups who have
penetrated into this areas and killed several of our senior leaders.
So we have intensified our security systems here to protect our
leadership. So today Mr. Pirabaharan is attending this conference.
You are here, we have to ensure that no acts of violence or any
disturbance takes place. Therefore we have allowed the Tamil police
officers to guard these areas. So it doesn't mean this security
system indicates an authoritative system as such. In Colombo you
will have far more intensive security arrangements when such events
Q: There are so many countries. Why did you go
far away and choose Norway as a facilitator ?
Norway is reputed for resolving international conflicts. Norway has
undertaken peace missions in several countries. And secondly, it is
the Government of Sri Lanka which opted for Norwegian facilitation
and we decided that Norway would be an appropriate facilitator
because of its neutrality and it has no strategic interest in this
Q: Has Norway facilitated or brought about a
settlement with regard to the Palestinian issue. Now the
Palestinian-Israeli problem is hotting up. Don't you think that the
Tamil problem will also end up in chaos if Norway initiated this
A: In the peace process
there are times when difficulties arise and even peace talks
collapse and war breaks out as we have experienced in the past. But
that doesn't mean we should give up our pursuit for peace and
political settlement. We know the Palestinian problem had got into
serious difficulties. But our problem is entirely different. At the
same time, we want to use the Norwegian facilitation to engage in
the peace process in Sri Lanka and we hope that this peace process
Q: Will you (Mr. Pirabaharan) participate in
talks in Thailand, because the Interpol representative was in Sri
Lanka and he said that the Indian government has requested them to
arrest Pirabaharan. So I want to know, in this situation, what is
the answer. Will he be there ?
Balasingham will be the Chief Negotiator and he will be
participating in the peace process. Even now we're going to talk
about the interim administration, not about a permanent solution.
When peace talks for a permanent solution take place, we have to
think about my participation. An the same time, Mr. Balasingham will
visit me now and then from Thailand to consult on the formulation of
this interim administration set up. So I'm not going to Thailand to
engage in this current negotiation which will be confined only to
the formulation of an interim set up.
Q. My question was re Interpol. India has
requested the Interpol to arrest. What is your stand ?
We don't want to make any comments on that, because we are still
waiting for a positive response from the Government of India with
regard to at least a passage through India for Mr. Balasingham to
come from London and meet me. And I think the Government of India
will favourably consider in the coming days by offering a passage
for Mr. Balasingham to visit the Wanni. That's all we can say.
Q: Will the peace talks take place after the
de-proscription of the LTTE or not ?
Only after the de-proscription will we participate in the peace
Q. Does Mr. Pirabaharan fear America's
intervention if the peace process collapses.
I don't consider that America will intervene in this conflict, if
the present peace process collapses.
Q: Do you mean to say that talks in Thailand
will be held only after the LTTE is de-proscribed?
Yes, that is our position. We have informed the government, we have
told the Norwegians that de-proscription is a necessary condition
for the commencements of talks.
Q: Will you settle for a suspended
A: No. We want to be
de-proscribed properly and the Prevention of Terrorism Act has to be
properly amended so that we have to be de-proscribed and accepted as
the authentic representative of our people, so that we participate
in the peace process as the representative of our people with equal
status. That has been our official position.
Q: Is the LTTE using the ceasefire as an
opportunity to re-arm?
A: It is during
the armed conflict that we were able to amass a large quantity of
weapons and it is during peace time that we are deprived of that
opportunity. During the battle of Elephant Pass we were able to
acquire a large quantity of arms worth millions of rupees and also
ammunition in large amounts. It is during the peace process that we
are deprived of this opportunity.
Q: What does Mr. Pirabaharan consider as the
greatest LTTE victory ?
A: I consider
the government's attempts to open up the A9 highway by military
means. We defeated the armed forces in this military engagement,
which is a major success that the LTTE has achieved so far.
Q. Which military general does Mr. Pirabaharan
remember the most ? And for what?
don't consider any particular general as posing a serious challenge
to the LTTE.
A journalist tries to thank the LTTE for organising
this press conference and journalists shout asking him to sit down.
Q. What makes you think this ceasefire
agreement will succeed when previous ones have failed?
Compared to the past ceasefire agreements this one is different for
two reasons. One is that it is facilitated by a third party - the
Norwegians. Secondly Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe is seriously and
sincerely committed to peace and therefore appropriate conditions
are available now for a permanent and stable peace than in the past.