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Home> Struggle for Tamil Eelam > Velupillai Pirabaharan > Interview with Sunday Magazine, 1985
Interview with Sunday magazine, India
Q: Why did you choose to go underground?
A: I did not leave with the intention of going under ground. I had to attend to some work in my country. I had to discuss certain matters relating to the peace talks with my lieutenants. I also had to assess for myself the situation and reaction in the Tamil areas. While I was there certain incidents took place (referring to the deportation of A. S. Balasingham, official spokes man of the LTTE) so I continued to remain there.
Q: What is the reaction of your lieutenants to the cease-fire?
A: The cease-fire is a drama. Under its guise, the Sri Lankan armed forces are continuing to perpetrate atrocities against our people, massacres are still going on, Tamils are still being driven out of their homes. If it is a true cease-fire, our lieutenants will be happy. We followed the cease fire in letter and spirit and stopped all our guerrilla operations. But the Sri Lankan armed forces continued to attack civilians, forcing us to retaliate. I find I have to handle the present situation very carefully. The cease-fire itself is a farce and I also have to handle my lieutenants, who know only too well that it is a drama where the Sri Lanka government is covertly going ahead with its genocide of the Tamils!
Q: Why did you choose to go under ground when Balasingham was de ported?
A: I could have come back immediately. But I wanted to express my resentment at the deportation order.
Q: You continued to remain inaccessible even when Rajiv Gandhi summoned the ENLF leaders. Don't you think your inaccessibility has strained relations between the government of India and you?
A: But I wished to convey my dissatisfaction also, as I strongly felt that the deportation order was unnecessary.
Q: Then what made you surface again ?
A: There were many reasons. First, because I was underground there were some negative forces, certain anti-liberation forces which in my absence were trying to portray us as dangerous terrorists who were opposed to the peace talks. Second, there was an attempt to isolate and single us out as hard-liners who wanted only a military solution. Rumours were being floated in the public and in some newspapers which started giving grossly exaggerated and distorted news about us, painting us as dangerous terrorists. Third, the Sri Lankan Government was exploiting my absence and blaming the LTTE for having killed the TULF ex-MPs.
Q: What do you hope will come out of your meeting with Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi?
A: We hope to explain our problem clearly to him. Among the issues we want to raise with him is the fact that Jayewardene is using the cease-fire as a front while he goes about systematically massacring the Tamils. We want to try and convince him that what is going on in Sri Lanka is genocide of a race. We want to give him details of what exactly is going on in Sri Lanka even though there is supposed to be a cease-fire. We also want to highlight the fact that the Sri Lanka government has so far not put forward genuine, meaningful set of proposals. So far we have had contacts with the Indian Prime Minister only through third parties. We want to meet him directly so that we can clear a lot of misunderstandings and suspicions.
Q: Do you think the PM will be sympathetic?
A: I trust he will be.
Q: Do you feel that in the last three months the Indian government's attitude towards the militants has hardened?
A: In the beginning I did not think so but after Balasingham was deported I am inclined to believe that the attitude has hardened.
Q: What do you think has caused this change in the Indian government's stance?
A: I don't know what has caused this change. Perhaps, some international crisis or pressure is responsible. It is not possible for us to ascertain immediately as to what has caused this change, but with time I am sure the reasons will come out.
Q: Do you think that India has become more pro-Sri Lanka?
A: So far we have not thought along those lines. But certain incidents create doubts in our minds.
Q: Why did you not respond immediately to Mr. Gandhi's summons when Thimphu II talks had failed?
A: Though both the LTTE delegates had come away, one delegate of the other groups was kept back in Thimphu. India wanted the ENLF leaders in Delhi so that they could somehow resume the peace talks. But when massacres were going on in Vavuniya and Trincomalee, isn't it a mockery that we, who are supposed to defend our people, are engaged in peace talks? When there is no sense of responsibility on the part of the Sri Lanka government to adhere strictly to the cease-fire regulations peace talks become meaningless. The Sri Lanka government gave no assurances that such massacres will not recur. In the circumstances we decided not to terminate the talks.
Q: Did the LTTE kill the two TULF ex-MP's? The Indian intelligence agencies are positive that you were responsible.
A: We are not responsible for the killing. What can we do if Indian intelligence agencies make such claims? Immediately after it took place, we denied the claim made by the Sri Lanka government that we were responsible. The ENLF also issued a denial. Even if the Indian intelligence agencies claim that we are responsible the people in Jaffna know that we have not done it. Maybe the Indian intelligence agencies have assumed that we did it without any evidence. Because I had gone underground they may have come to such conclusions. If we had done it, we would have claimed responsibility, giving our reasons for doing it. We undertake an operation only on the basis of our conviction. So, if we had done it we would not have gone about hiding the fact. For instance, when we shot Alalasundaram (the ex-TULF MP who was killed recently had earlier been shot in the leg by the LTTE) we claimed we had done it.
We did not kill him because we thought it was unnecessary. We punished him for his anti-social activities: he had a hand in the cooperative fraud. We produced evidence of his embezzlement. Incidentally, a lot of the documents exposing his nefarious activities were set ablaze on the cooperative premises. We also claimed responsibility when we shot Anandarajah (principal of St. John's School in Jaffna). When the Sri Lanka government announced a reward of Rs. five lakhs for information leading to the arrest of his killers, the people of Jaffna came to know the basis of his relationship with the Sri Lanka government.
They kept quiet fully understanding why we had killed him. Anandarajah was planning to hold a cricket match with the armed forces at a time when they were killing our people, arresting young Tamil boys indiscriminately, burning Tamil property and raping Tamil women. We had to do away with him because the government was using the impending cricket match as propaganda to give the impression to the world that the Tamil civilians have very cordial relations with the Sri Lanka armed forces and that the ethnic problem is something created by a handful of militants.
Q: Could not the ex-TULF MPs have been killed by some rebel LTTE members?
A: Absolutely not. Nothing happens in the LTTE without my permission. About the killing I want to say something. I met TULF leaders and assured them that we had not done this killing and that they need not worry about facing such consequences from us. I told them that just because we had shot Alalasundaram some time ago, it did not mean that we were against the TULF. However, I pointed out to them that the gap between them and the younger generation was widening most alarmingly.
The younger generation look upon them as betrayers who have given up the struggle for Eelam. The gap is widening all the more because they are not in Eelam facing the people. They have been completely isolated from the realities in Eelam. So, as long as they remain isolated from the Tamil people, they are likely to face such drastic action from the younger generation. The reality is that if I were to give up the Eelam struggle I would face similar action from them.
Q: You mean to say that the younger generation is even more committed to Eelam?
A: The incidents in Eelam show that a Eelam, a separate state, is the only solution. After facing so many genocidal attacks, the Tamils realise there is no solution other than Eelam for them if they are to live in peace I and security.
Q: Apparently the killing of the TULF MPs, for which the LTTE was held responsible, has hardened Mr. Gandhi. In fact, he did not rescind the deportation order on Balasingham even though he had been on the verge of doing so...
A: We have no connection with the killing. If the Indian government does not rescind the orders because it assumes that we killed the TULF' MPs, then it is its mistake. There is no point in punishing us. They should punish the agency that is really guilty so that such incidents do not occur again.
Q: What was your reaction when Balasingham was deported?
A: We had cooperated so much with the Indian government, so when it happened we felt we had been wronged. The incident has created a certain amount of bitterness between us and them.
Q: How would you define your relationship with Balasingham?
A: He is our political advisor. As a true patriot, he reflects the national sentiments of our people.
Q: Why did India deport Balasingham?
A: India has said that he was deported in "public interest." But the reason appears to be farcical. Sending him away while keeping us here for peace talks just does not make sense.
Q: Do you think the real reason was the assumption in Delhi that without Balasingham you would not be able to function?
A: If they think that, they are making a mistake. They are not dealing with just individuals - Balasingham or Pirabhakaran - but are dealing with the popular will of the people.
Q: Do you think the Indian government will revoke the deportation orders
A: I certainly hope so.
Q: Is the ENLF firm on the demand that the negotiations cannot resume unless Balasingham is brought back?
A: Without Balasingham I will face problems and difficulties regarding the peace talks. He is the expert on constitutional maters so his presence is crucial for the negotiations. I will explain these reasons when I meet the PM and urge him to withdraw the deportation order.
Q: What will happen if the PM says he is not willing to rescind the order?
A: Then it will create difficulties as far as the negotiations are concerned.
Q: When you meet Mr Gandhi will you state your view that Eelam is the only solution?
A: Definitely. We will point out that Eelam is the only solution and also the historical factors that have driven us to this conclusion.
Q: But the PM has gone on record to state that he will not support any separatist cause.
A: We will take the opportunity to convey our decision to the PM. If India has another solution, it can be presented to us. But in that case they will have to prove to us why that solution will be effective.
Q: Do you think a fair and just settlement can be arrived at through these negotiations?
A: Seeing the way the Sri Lanka Government is acting it is impossible for us to believe that they are serious about settling this problem by means of a negotiated settlement. During the cease-fire they have been purchasing a lot of arms and ammunition. It clearly shows that they are intent upon a military solution. Even as the talks are going on they are going about driving Tamils out of their homeland and making them refugees. There are now 35,000 Tamil refugees in Trincomalee. Nearly 600 innocent Tamils were killed when there was supposed to be a cease-fire.
Q: There were reports that you had been sighted in Batticaloa disguised as a priest in a cassock
A: It is true that I was in Eelam. But the rest is all make-believe.
Q: Considering that you all firmly believe that there is genocide of Tamils in Sri Lanka, what do you think is the best way for India to solve the problem?
A: They can stop the genocide by helping the freedom-fighters. They can help those who are trying to protect the Tamils. We do need India's moral support.
Q: Do you think India should opt for a military intervention in Sri Lanka?
A: I don't support this argument. It will create a lot of problems for India in the international fora.
Q: Has Rajiv Gandhi's attitude to the Sri Lanka Tamils changed from that of his mother's?
A: I don't see any big difference.
Q: One-and-a-half years ago, in an interview to SUNDAY you had predicted that there would be army violence in Vavuniya and Trincomalee. On what basis had you made this prediction which has come true?
A: I knew that there would be attacks by the army in these areas because there was hectic colonisation there. There is a systematic campaign to encroach on our territory and push all the Tamils into the Jaffna peninsula. We knew what their tactic was so we went ahead and developed bases in Vavuniya and Trincomalee to thwart these attempts. Just yesterday (15 September) we shot down a helicopter in Trincomalee. It is of utmost importance that we protect the frontier or the frontier will come to our doorstep.
Because of our bases, Jayewardene has not been able to push our frontier in and he will not be able to do so in the future.
Q: What do you think will happen in the near future?
A: The struggle for Eelam has blossomed, gathering momentum with each passing day. There will be a separate Tamil Eelam. No force on earth, however mighty, can stop the processes. The only other eventuality is that, all the Tamils will perish in this struggle. We may all be eliminated so that the Tamils as a race is wiped out from the island.
Q: The Sri Lanka government has claimed that the militants are planning a major offensive. Is this true?
A: We have not taken any such decision. We have never made false claims or come out with exaggerated stories.
Q: Balasingham said that Tamil civilians would be armed by the LTTE soon.
A: He was talking about the future. It is bound to happen in the future.
Q: Do you expect the Sri Lanka government to launch a massive attack on the Tamils?
A: Yes we do. It will be on a larger scale than what we have seen in Beirut. The Trincomalee and Vavuniya incidents were far worse than the holocaust in July 1983. Such incidents will occur again with greater savagery. The air attacks on Tamil civilians is the first indication of the determination of the Sri Lanka government to exterminate us.
Q: What good can your determination do when a couple of bombs are dropped in the Tamil areas?
A: Bombs and nuclear weapons can kill thousands. But the point is, who have the weapons with them? At the moment the weapons are with the Lanka government. But it is not very difficult for us to capture it from them. After all, most of our weapons are those which we captured from the Sri Lankan armed forces.
Q: Will you agree to an extension of the cease-fire?
A: We are not carrying on a war. Ours is a defensive action against the genocide of our people. If the genocide attacks stop, we are willing to stop our guerrilla operations. But it is difficult for us to agree to an extension if there is no outside agency to supervise the cease-fire to ensure that there are no truce violations. If cease-fire is to be extended, we would expect both the Sri Lanka government and India, that is acting as mediator, to give us an assurance that there will be no cease-fire violations. Some non-governmental agencies like the International Red Cross, could be entrusted with the task of monitoring the cease-fire and looking into the conditions of the political prisoners.
Q: Do you think the Sri Lankan army has gone out of control?
A: I don't think so at all. Jayewardene is masterminding these attacks on the Tamils. He is playing a double game. He gives his army instructions to unleash havoc and then claims that his armed forces have gone out of control as if that would exonerate him. If there was mutiny in the armed forces there would have been a coup by now, overthrowing Jayewardene.
Q: Do you think Jayewardene is insincere about a political solution? Will the chances for a negotiated settlement brighten if some other leader is in his place?
A: We don't think a change in the Sinhala leadership will solve the problem. Our history has shown that we have been betrayed and deceived by successive Sinhala governments.
Q: Are you prepared to face violence and bloodshed on a long-term basis for the sake of Eelam?
A: Certainly, No nation in the world has ever achieved freedom without bloodshed and sacrifice. We Tamils are prepared to pay for freedom with our lives.
Q: But, as in South Africa, the freedom struggle can go on for decades without achieving anything?
A: No time limit can be imposed upon a liberation struggle. Till the goal is achieved it is an ongoing struggle. It is a people's war. So, the death of a few guerrilla fighters will not put a halt to the struggle. Often it is the people's determination and international support and circumstances that make a liberation struggle achieve success. We are fighting in the hope that we will see Eelam in our lifetime. We don't want to pass the burden of a liberation struggle to the next generation: they must enjoy the fruits of our toil. But in case we do not succeed in our lifetime, we have a vision to see that the struggle is passed on to the next generation.
Q: Will you participate in the next round of peace talks?
A: That would depend on the composition of the Sri Lankan delegation.
Q: Do you think India will impose a settlement upon the militants?
A: No, I don't think so. There would be no point in trying to impose a settlement because we will not accept anything that will not fulfil the legitimate aspirations of our people.
Q: Do you think the peace talk is Jayewardene's ploy to buy time while he strengthens his military?
A: Of course it is. But then time benefits us too.
Q: You have become something of a folk hero in the Tamil areas. What do you think are the reasons for your becoming a legend in your own lifetime?
A: That is for the people to say. Basically, I hate such sentiments because they pander to one's ego. A liberation fighter has to transcend the confines of his ego and his self to immerse himself whole-heartedly in the struggle. We are only symbols of the aspirations of the Tamil people.
Q: Suppose, due to circumstances, the relations between the Indian government and Tamil militants are strained to such an extent that India withdraws support to you, will you be in a position to continue your liberation struggle alone?
A: Do we have any other alternative? Fight we must, till our goal is achieved. India's sympathy is a morale-booster, but should India withdraw support it would not mean the end of our liberation struggle. After all we did not start our liberation movement with India's support or with the help of some other external forces. We will fight till we die. When I die someone else will take over. As Subhas Chandra Bose said, 'No liberation fighter can delude himself that he alone can deliver freedom.' If my generation dies without attaining freedom the next generation will carry on the struggle.