VKS: Are you also looking for support from politicians in Tamil Nadu?
KP: Exactly, the Tamil Nadu people, they are a very emotional people. We have the same language and same religion. That emotion we should use positively, not negatively. If Tamil Nadu population use their assets or thinking in a positive (manner), in a matter of weeks we (can) develop our people.
VKS: You saying that the people of Tamil Nadu, if they want and if they are positive, can bring the change within a week?
KP: Yes. Three persons came from Tamil Nadu to make a mushroom project here. They have the technology. Another team is coming for food production and they are going to teach and start up life. The Malaysians of Indian origin are coming to teach something. I want to say to Tamil Nadu politicians, especially Vaiko (V Gopalasami, leader of the MDMK in Tamil Nadu, and a close LTTE supporter), come here and find a way to solve (problems). The people here are in enough pain, so if you can help really these people, if you have the feelings, you can help these affected people.
We have an office. You can come, anybody can come. If you want to come, I will arrange an NGO, or MoD (Ministry of Defence) clearance. You can visit the people for genuine humanitarian projects. Don’t be involved in any kind of politics. We don’t have politics, only humanitarian work. So that I am saying again to Tamil Nadu politicians – don’t start anything controversial…don’t let our youth again into the cycle of struggle. Enough.
VKS: You asking Tamil Nadu politicians to forget the past but in order to forget the past, the truth of the past must also be told. You are a senior member of the LTTE, you know the truth. Isn’t a fact that several politicians and political parties did support and push several Tamil people into violence? Can you name any political party and say the truth?
KP: In our struggle, sometimes we (have) depended on Tamil Nadu. When we started our struggle, it was very clean. We did not involve Indian politicians.. When we had problems, we went to India for some time and then come back. We didn’t meet anyone. This was the beginning of our struggle.. The problem was when we first met politicians in Tamil Nadu – for example when Prabhakaran and Uma Maheswaran fought on the streets of Tamil Nadu and were put in jail – we sought the help of politicians to get bail. That was the start of Tamil Nadu political influence…
Then we know what the real problem is in Tamil Nadu. You know Periyar, who started the Dravida Kazhagam movement. He wanted separation from the North (of India). He meant Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra to be separated from the North. It was from this social base that Annadurai (former DMK CM before Karunanidhi), and Karunanidhi came. The movement failed, but we still have people with this policy (Veeramani, Ramakrishnan…these people had the same mindset). They don’t accept change, and the world is changing.
Sometimes we have dreams, but whether these are possible or not we have to evaluate. We have to calculate. So, Dravida Kazhagam, which has been there for 100 years, even after Periyar is gone, is still passing on its ideas to (people like) Prabhakaran, especially anti-Brahminism. Prabhakaran’s idea was to struggle against the Brahmins.
Because of this (DK background), Tamil Nadu politicians made a marvelous hero out of Prabhakaran. They compared him to old Tamil Kings, and his colour changed. That’s why he made this blunder against Rajiv Gandhi.
VKS: Are you saying the DMK, in a way, ideologically influenced Prabhakaran to take the step of Rajiv Gandhi’s assissination?
KP: This I cannot say yes, but you know that influence…they (Tamil politicains) fed him against the Brahmins. That’s why he hated the Prime Minister of India. He was a young leader and he wanted to be fast. He tried to solve the problem as soon as possible.
VKS: There are pictures of Vaiko sitting with Prabhakaran. How did Vaiko manage to come to the Vanni region?
KP: I think that he was a member of parliament and he was with DMK. He had a problem in the party. He wanted to be leader of the party next to Karunanidhi but some people inside didn’t like him. They wanted Stalin (Karunanidhi’s son). So he (Vaiko) wanted to gain popularity on the basis of LTTE…He wanted the LTTE’s support, since Tamil Nadu people are emotional, and they were behind the LTTE…He (Vaiko) even violated the law and came here and met Prabhakaran.
Prabhakaran, until he met Vaiko, didn’t know that he came alone without Karunanidhi’s permission. He was surprised and asked how he came without Karunanidhi’s permission.
The point is that it’s a personal interest. Some people have a personal agenda…
Even with Jayalalithaa you see that…I don’t think that will change, but I request them to change…
VKS: What about DMK? How do you support DMK?
KP: Vaiko, some DMK MPs and MLAs were very close to us. Karunanidhi is a senior politician but he also used this (LTTE) card from time to time…(he wants to say) “I am close to Prabhakaran” because that will get him the vote. They are a well off party, but they only need votes.
VKS: What about Jayalalithaa?
KP: She is very smart, she is a very educated women and she knows how to handle things. She has become Chief Minister (again) and we have to wait and see… she is now the pulse of the people.
VKS: Was she or wasn’t she in the hit-list of LTTE?
KP: She feels that (she was on the hit-list). Maybe if the LTTE got the chance they may have tried (to kill her), because she was always against LTTE…she always took action against the LTTE. Everyone will how that LTTE are…they tried their maximum…
VKS: Even though you are in custody, you are trying to bring change in the way people are thinking in the Tamil Diaspora…More importantly, you are trying to convince Tamils in Sri Lanka to become more mainstream, integrate and look for a new future. In that context, how do you see Jayalalithaa’s statement recently where she cast aspersions on the President of Sri Lanka with regard to the UN report on (war crimes).
KP: Earlier, I told you that she is a smart lady, with enough experience. She has put the ball in the Centre’s court. For the emotional people of Tamil Nadu, it means that ‘Our Amma is going to do something for Tamils in Sri Lanka…”. She is a smart lady…
But the Central Government is close to Sri Lanka. They are diplomatically tight. They have this bond, a 1,000-year relationship between two countries. Even the Congress party cannot break this tradition.
VKS: What role do you think Jayalalithaa can play?
KP: She is the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister. She has enough experience. She can take the Tamil Nadu people in a positive direction…
In India, if you look at Punjab, they too had an armed struggle, but now they are developed….when we see Punjab in TV, it has beautiful, educated people. They are well off. I need to see TN people develop and, second, here our own people are in enough pain. They are struggling for food, struggling for education…So Jayalalithaa also has a duty to do this, she can help the Tamil people.
VKS: You are saying that Jayalalithaa as Chief Minister of TN can, on her own, announce a development package for the Tamils in Sri Lanka. She can encourage industrialists to invest here and engage in developmental activities?
KP: Exactly. She can put some factory in Vanni, she can send her industrialists to meet the Sri Lankan government and start some factory and give some opportunity to this war-affected people to start up their life…First
I want to start their lives, their smiles…
VKS: If I may take you a little back to your past and then talk about your future later on, you were one of the chief arms procurers of your organisation. There has been a lot of talk about how the LTTE trained Indian Maoists. Can you shed some light on that?
KP: Until 2002, we didn’t have any contact with any overseas group. We had political relations with some groups, but no arms link. Until 2002, I was the person in charge… I was very keen on that (maintaining distance from other groups) because we don’t like our leg to be put on fire…Every organisation, every struggler, is unique. So we didn’t want to involve in that…we didn’t have any contacts with Maoists…
VKS: After 2002?
KP: After that I have no inputs on LTTE until 2009, but around this time, 2002-2003, I heard lots of things from friends. Maybe this will be another reason we failed in the struggle.
VKS: Is this assertion valid, because Indian agencies have been constantly saying that Maoists – they are called Naxals in India – have some kind of training, especially in the manner they set up explosives – from the LTTE?
KP: I also heard that but really know the truth. What heard from Indian side and from my ex-friends about this thing – like procuring this kind of thing (arms)…I also hear about this..
VKS: Now, from being part of an organisation that was engaging in war and violent conflict, you have now moved away from that ideology. You are in custody but you trying to help the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil population. What is it that you are contributing?
KP: I am helping the Tamil people even though I am in custody…From January 2009 to May 2009, I tried to stop the war because lots of people were in trouble…I tried as much as possible…But I am sad that the LTTE wasn’t ready to negotiate…So it lost.
I look at TV and radio and see that our people are suffering. So I want to give them the kind of oxygen that will start up their life…it’s a feeling inside the heart. I feel guilty but I am also one of them. Again I say the war is over, and it’s the beginning of new era. But some people will still speak of extremism.
You see, when Khalistan was over, some people somewhere still talk about it. They still have some small groups sitting in coffee shops talking about it. Some people in the Tamil Diaspora still talk about it (liberating Tamil Eelam).
VKS: Conflict is an industry?
KP: Yes, more than once I heard that in 2005 or 2006 that nearly US$3,000 was paid as salaries to (people collecting money) for Tamils…
VKS: Where did the money come from?
KP: From the people. If you suddenly stop, where will they go? (The fund collectors). There are still people in the UK collecting funds and saying we are coming from the head office… this cycle can go on for a while. Now people know the truth (about the LTTE’s defeat and the changed mood in Sri Lanka), and so these people cannot go and collect funds…It’s going to happen very soon.
VKS: You have stepped out in the open, you have spoken, and you are trying to reconcile yourself with your past and looking forward to the future. Do you have dream?
KP: You see of the 35 years I have spent in the arms struggle, two years I have been under house arrest (since August 2009). The custody may continue for another 10 years. I don’t know how many years I have life here, but for the rest of my life I want to spend with innocent children who were affected by the war. These children don’t have any love, they don’t have care, and they don’t have parents or a good education. They don’t have a future. I want to spend the rest of my life with them.
I request the Sri Lanka Defence Secretary to let me stay with the children in Vanni. There is nobody to look after them, especially the disabled. Especially young disabled girls. I have a dream to let them be happy…I want to see their happiness on their faces. I should help them start a new life, and hope…If in the rest of my life I achieve that, that’s enough for me.
VKS: On that note KP, thank you, for giving your first interview to Mediagrove.
KP: Thank you very much. You gave me a good opportunity….we will meet again some more time.