all towns are one, all men our kin.
|Home||Whats New||Trans State Nation||One World||Unfolding Consciousness||Comments||Search|
Home> Struggle for Tamil Eelam > Velupillai Pirabaharan > Interview with the Week Magazine, December 1986
Interview with The Week Magazine, India
Velupillai Prabharan, the all-powerful chief of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) looked vulnerable. The ruthless guerrilla fighter, whose writ runs unchallenged on the Tamil-dominated Jaffna peninsula, appeared friendless in his Madras 'fortress' after his host, the Tamil Nadu government, rudely pulled him down from his high pedestal.
Uncharacteristically, he resorted to the Gandhian way of protest. He went on a fast after the latest police swoop on the militant groups. That succeeded; the state government capitulated within 24 hours. The effects of the fast were hardly visible when he met THE WEEK. He was confident, cautious and yet forthright. Excerpts from the interview.
Q: How do you view the recent actions of the state government against the militants having offices and headquarters in Tamil Nadu?
A: We have not yet been able to understand the reasons behind the police action here. But one is given to understand that these actions did not have the Centre's clearance. Whoever had ordered these actions, I can only say they have embarrassed the government of India and helped the Sri Lankan leaders, such as Prime Minister Premadasa who went on to say that the Madras police actions only proved his own complaints made at the Harare conference regarding the militants' activities in this state.
The mediator image that India had in world opinion is now threatened and it is made to look as if India is acting against us and in support of the Sri Lankan government. Also these actions have created suspicion in our minds about the intentions of the government here. But recent assurances of the Government of India have helped to reassure us to some extent.
Q: What do you propose to do to regain the goodwill here?
A: These erring militant groups will have to correct their ways and behave in such a way that they do not create problems for the people here. My group would like to demonstrate once again that we are not here to fight with our hosts and we will settle any problem in a peaceful manner.
Q: What is the situation on the negotiation front?
A: A Tamil homeland is our basic demand and there cannot be any further dialogue if this issue is not settled to our liking. Adjustments in the spirit of give-and-take could be consider later. Not only the militants, but even the moderates in the Tamil parties have made this position quite clear. If Jayewardene is to continue with his proposals without touching on this homeland, where are the chances for a settlement.
Q: But President Jayewardene has been saying that all the people living
on your island are Sri Lankans and so they should come under a single national identity. So, where is the relevance for a Tamil homeland now?
A:That is his view. We do not agree to that. What I am saying is that there are only two linguistic groups in Sri Lanka and there cannot be any difficulty in dividing the island into two linguistic divisions. Just as India has been divided into linguistic states, let them agree to such linguistic divisions in Sri Lanka too. And if Jayewardene says that all people on the island are Sri Lankans why are his troops massacreing the innocent people in the Tamil areas?
Q:Will there be peace and good relations between the Sinhalese and the Tamils once a settlement is reached?
A:It will be difficult, almost impossible to live together. There is a long history of religious hatred built up by their Buddhist monks and their politicians. It was only after we were absolutely convinced that living together was impossible that we began this fight for a separate state.
Q: Jayewardene truly believes in a political settlement wherein Tamils and Sinhalese are going to live together as nationals of the same country, why is he still continuing this active colonisation of the Tamil areas with his Sinhalese people? Why can't he leave these Tamil areas in the north and the east alone? He cannot do so because he is sure there is going to be no political settlement and there is going to be Eelam in the end and in such a situation, he should have as much of Tamil land as possible by his quick colonisation schemes.
But the Muslims do not want to join you in forming this Tamil homeland. Also, what about the plantation Tamils in the central provinces? Their leaders too are only thinking of a Sri Lankan citizenship.
A:That is absolutely untrue. The muslims are with us. It is only a few Muslims who are living under the patronage of the Sri Lankan government who are trying to mislead people. We have several Muslim boys in LTTE and in other militant groups. The Muslims are also Tamils; they do not speak Sinhalese. They are vulnerable if they are not united with other Tamils. It does not matter if we are Hindus and they are Muslims. What is important is that we are all Tamils and there is a history of oppression against us which we cannot overlook in preference to these insignificant religious differences. The Muslim Tamils will be safe with us and they know that.
And as for the plantation Tamils, it is my view that they should move out of those areas and head north to come to us. We have plans to rehabilitate them among us. Then there can be one contiguous Tamil land and we will be saved. Even while he was peddling his proposals, Jayewardene had 18 plantation Tamils massacred by his troops quite recently. This is why I say that the Tamils-be they Hindus, Muslims or plantation workers - can live in peace and dignity only in a single Tamil unit.
The Tamil Nadu chief minister said recently that there would not be a settlement to the issue because you had rejected the Jayewardene proposal and because there was no understanding among the various militant groups.
The chief minister is right in that there is no likelihood of any settlement proposal emerging from the present Sri Lankan stance. It is also unfortunately true that there are differences among the various Tamil groups. However, there is total agreement on the demand for a Tamil homeland.
Q:Your group is acknowledged to be the biggest guerrilla force out there, having very sophisticated weapons such as SAMs and rocket-launchers. Are you confident that, if negotiations fail, you will be able to win a battle with the Sri Lankan forces?.
A:We cannot talk about such an all-out battle because of the nature of our struggle and the terrain on which we are fighting, which is peopled by thousands of Tamil civilians. It is going to be a long-drawn fight but it will be to a finish and that is bound to be in our favour. The Sri Lankan troops cannot win; you can be sure of that.
Q: Why did you defer your decision to leave India and return to your Eelam to continue this fight? Also, why did you defer the decision to announce a unilateral declaration of independence from Jaffna?
A: (Laughs loudly) Do you want me to go away? Well, it is true that we had taken a decision to shift our people and leaders to Tamil Eelam gradually. I had also thought I must leave. But some recent statements coming from the Government of India indicate that goodwill and support for our cause continue to be there. So we may not leave in such a hurry. Besides, if I must go, I am not going to announce my date of departure. If you do not find Prabhakaran for a few days, you will know he is gone.
As for this declaration of independence, we had never decided we are going to do it. It has been misreported in the media. What we had said was that we are going to streamline the administration on the peninsula and some adjoining Tamil areas, where we are in full control and the people are even paying us taxes. We are virtually running the government in these areas.
Q: You have found a new weapon now the satyagraha-with which you got back your seized communication equipment. Are you planning to use this weapon whenever you find some pressure on you from the governments n Delhi and Madras?
A: Why not? This is a very civilised form of protest and with this I have got the communication equipment, belonging not only to LTTE but all the other groups, returned. I have also demonstrated to the people here and else-where that we are not merely harsh guerrilla fighters but also could rise to the needs of the occasion. If the Indian or Tamil Nadu government brings pressure on me to accept a Sri Lankan proposal that is not good for my people, I will surely resort to this Gandhian form of protest. I have already decided I will die for my people and I only hope that my hosts here will not like to see me die fasting.
Q:The Israeli president visited Colombo recently, Do you think there is any significance militarily?
A: The American government is neck deep in our issue and they are using it as a front to move on to the island. The Americans do not want to supply arms direct to Jayewardene, so they have opened up several supply agents, such as Israel, Pakistan and China. Trincomalee is very important to the Americans who badly need a base in this part of Indian Ocean. And that we are not going to allow because Trincomalee is the capital of Tamil Eelam.
Q: Your group had clashed with TELO and PLOTE and is at loggerheads with EPRLE It is only EROS that seems to have friendship with out. Your critics call you a dictator and an intolerant person. Any comment?
A: I have never wanted to hurt anyone who is genuinely fighting for the liberation of our people. But when a liberation organisation veers away from its goal and indulges in anti-social and anti-people activities which result in a public outcry-and sometimes the public is even driven to question the relevance of the freedom movement itself because of such activities of these groups- I will certainly act against such erring groups. This is why we had clashed with some groups in the past. And we will do that again if anyone turns against the very people they are
posed to protect.
Q: What in your opinion is the role of TULF now?
A: TULF has lost its respect among the people of Tamil Eelam and therefore it has no political relevance there. It is only here (In India) that it is being given some importance.