Full text: KP interview
LTTE head Kumaran Pathmanathan puts his heart on a myriad of issues in an exclusive interview to VK Shashikumar
KP INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPT - PART 1
SPECIAL TO FIRSTPOST
“The UN report on war crimes will benefit no one”
Shanmugam Kumaran Tharmalingam (alias Selvarasa Pathmanathan, Kumaran Pathmanathan, or simply KP) is head of the now decimated Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). A wanted man in several countries, including India, in connection with Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination, KP had an inside view of the organisation that was once the most-dreaded terrorist organisation in the world before Al Qaeda upstaged it after 9/11. Among other things, he was considered LTTE’s arms procurer, though he now denies it. He also had insights into the thinking of LTTE’s supremo, Velupillai Prabhakaran.
VK Shashikumar, head of THL Mediagrove, interviewed KP, 56, in a safe house in Sri Lanka earlier this month. This is his first interview to anyone outside Sri Lanka, and he seems a much changed man. Having been through the experience of a no-holds-barred civil war that brought no benefits and only suffering to the Tamil people in whose name it was undertaken, KP had a good view of what was happening in the LTTE during its warring years. In his interview, KP speaks in broken phrases (See video excerpts), but Firstpost has edited his phrases and completed his half-sentences to make them read better and look coherent. Excerpts:
V K Shashikumar (VKS): Mr. Selvarasa Pathmanathan, you are popularly known as “KP”. This is your first interview and it is a significant one because you took over the leadership of LTTE after the death of V Prabhakaran. Subsequently you were arrested and brought to Sri Lanka. When you look back at the war which leads to the end of LTTE, what are the first reflections that come to your mind?
KP: It’s the beginning of a new era. The war (is) over. We fought for freedom (and) it failed. It’s over. The new world order (after the Cold War) taught us that we have to…live together. We learnt from our past experience also that we should make a bridge between the two races (the Sinhalese and the Tamils).
This country, a small island, has suffered a lot. You know there have been many (armed) struggles— against JVP, against LTTE. It’s enough. I feel this is a small country, small population. We paid a high price and we got pain. Enough! We should live together, respect each other and accept each other’s dignity, enjoy life and give the new generation a future. Our lives are nearly at an end but the new generation should live peacefully in this country. That is what we are working on.
VKS: Now when you look back, what are those mistakes that you think your organisation has committed?
KP: If you look at world history, guerilla warfare started with Che Guevara. This spread all over the world, but achieved (success) only in Cuba. But in many countries lot of youths gave their lives. This is also (true) in Sri Lanka.
In this country, when armed struggle started, it was (around) the time the Cold War was nearing its end. Our armed struggle was late. That is an important reason (for its failure) because the world (wanted people) to be united. After the Second World War and until the Cold War, the world was separated (by ideology - capitalism and communism). That was the time when new countries were born. Separatism was part of this Cold War order. But the New World Order after the end of the Cold War changed the global political environment. That is the main reason (why our armed struggle failed).
Second, India is our big brother. Without India’s support (we) cannot achieve anything. In this region India is the big brother and …a powerful country. When LTTE had a conflict with India, that was (another reason for) failure…
Third, as an organisation (engaged in) a liberation struggle, we lost the people’s support on the ground. It was a lengthy war, more than 35 years. People were fed up. Moreover there were lots of casualties. People paid a high price.
The new world order was against all separatist struggles. If you recall in 2006, when Prabhakaran appealed to the world community to accept the freedom struggle (the armed movement of the LTTE), not a single country stepped out to give support. So that is what I mean when I say that the world was against separation.
Even after 2001, after 9/11, the world gave us a chance for a peaceful settlement. They (the world community) did not give this kind of chance to Hamas, this opportunity (for arriving at a peace settlement with the Sri Lankan government). The international community gave us this opportunity for a peaceful settlement. You know Germany, Norway, America, Canada, Japan - these countries tried so much to bring about a peaceful solution to the (ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka). But the LTTE was not ready to negotiate or have a flexible policy. They continued to have a strict (stance) on their goal of separation.
I remember when war (Sri Lankan Army’s final war against LTTE) started (in 2008), the American President gave a statement to the UN or the European Union (asking) for stopping all funds (to the LTTE). We cannot stand alone against the world.
VKS: How do you see the UN report alleging war crimes (by the Sri Lankan army)?
KP: We have the beginning of a new era. Past is past. The two parties, as the UN report says, have made mistakes. This report wouldn’t help (with) any reconciliation. It is disturbing. It disturbs reconciliation. No one will get any benefit from this report. It’s a fact-finding mission. It’s a report. If you go to Vanni and (discover) 1,000 families or 100,000 families benefiting from this UN report, then it’s a different story. But the truth is that no one gets any benefit from such reports. The whole country is against this report. You have to understand the reality on the ground. The past is past. War means first (many people) die. War means who dies first. Truth (also dies). War means the same everywhere. You cannot say good war and bad war. War is war.
In Sri Lanka, both parties tried maximum (to win). If we put a UN report for every war where is the end? I feel war is over and it’s more than two years. Here is the critical point. In this war the government is the winner and the LTTE is the loser. But the loser’s side still has some people left. They are (living) at present here, including me. I am also a member of the LTTE even though I did not participate in any attack or any military action.
Who got benefit (from the war)? No one. The people want food and clothing and they want to re-start their life. The UN report is (an outcome) of a fact-finding mission. It is a report. Why give it so much weight?
KP INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPT - PART 2
SPECIAL TO FIRSTPOST
“Some Tamil groups in Europe are trying to spread the poison”
VKS: So you are saying basically Tamils in Sri Lanka need education, development, health. These are the things that are required now?
KP: Exactly. The war is now over for two years. But people are still suffering. Ok we have had many bad experiences. The past political dialogues failed. Many things have happened in the past but we cannot always speak about the past. In life sometimes we have bitter experiences, sometimes we have good experiences. We face them with the hope that we have to work together and find a solution; find a way to live together. War-affected people are asking exactly what you say. They need food, they need some jobs, they (need) clothes, and they need milk for their babies. They are asking for their basic needs. So this is what I am asking from the international community and the Tamil Diaspora.
VKS: What you are telling the Tamil Diaspora?
KP: First, they have to work for these people. For example, if they are crying for milk we cannot say ‘wait, wait, the UN is coming, and after the political solution (will come through), after that we will help you’. They (Tamils in Sri Lanka) will die, no? So they are crying for food now. First everyone (should) work for that. When they (Tamils in Sri Lanka) start living normal lives then we can ask what they want. Now, if you go and ask the people in Vanni (Tamil-dominated Northern Sri Lanka) about the 13th Amendment (to the Sri Lankan Constitution for devolving power to the Tamil areas, which was never implemented), they look like this (looks up with a blank face). They only know about bread and rice. The problem is that they should understand the ground reality. First, let them (Tamils) stand on their own legs.
VKS: So you are basically saying that the Tamil Diaspora, Tamils who are citizens of other countries and are well settled and who have never come to Sri Lanka but have funded the armed struggle and all of that…You telling them to step back and work for peace?
KP: Exactly! What I am saying is that war is over more than two years ago. We have one way, one chance. That’s the peaceful way, peaceful negotiations and continuous engagement.
(There are) lots of trust (issues), 100 years of problems. The government system is slow and I understand. But that is the only way we have to go through - peaceful manner and with patience to bring peace. You heard about Thondaman (leader of up-country Tamils in Sri Lanka who primarily work on the tea estates). He was patient. He waited more than 50 years for his time, to achieve citizenship for more than 100,000 up-country people (Tamil tea plantation workers).
I had a chance to chat with him and he told me that your people are educated people, but you don’t have good leaders. You don’t have flexible leaders. We need flexible leaders. That’s why our problem has (festered) for such a long time.
Negative emotion cannot bring any good thing. Yes, we have had a war and there is a 100-year problem (between Sinhalese and Tamils). So we will take some time to sort it out. Again we will come back to the Diaspora. I am very closely working with them. 90 percent of the Diaspora are very good people. Some have spent their lives here, and some were born in Diaspora and they have good feelings about their kith and kin here. They have supported the people (Tamils in Sri Lanka) here and also the armed struggle.
The problem is that now I am facing a 10 percent extremist group. They are disturbing these people (Tamils in Sri Lanka).
VKS: Can you name them?
KP: Yes! They are Nediyawan, Vinayagam, Father Emmanuel, Jeyachandran (who runs a website named Tamilnet, BTF (British Tamil Forum) in UK and GTF (Global Tamil Forum). These groups are well off in Europe. Their children are very well off. They are poisoning the younger generation. Their kids are well off, but they look (to see) where they can spread the poison. But I will not let them play this game here. If they want to poison here, then first they will have to kill me. Then only they can go inside. Already they have spent three decades, more than 30 years (in conflict). I want these people (Tamils in Sri Lanka) to be happy. You cannot see the faces of people here (now). They are always sad, never happy. I want to see their happiness, see them smile.
From the time these people (Tamils in Sri Lanka) were born they have never seen happiness. The children of these (Tamil Diaspora) groups are very happy. They live a luxurious life. But here in Vanni the children aren’t happy. The children don’t have bicycles to go to school. In the morning if you walk along the road you will see students walking for two kilometres, three kilometres. That’s life here. They (Tamils) are crying for the future. I cannot let them again fall in the wrong place.
(Editors’ Note: Father S.J. Emmanuel, former Vicar-General of the Jaffna Catholic Diocese, heads an umbrella group of 14 Tamil Diaspora groups called the Global Tamil Forum (GTF). The most active group of GTF is the British Tamil Form (BTF), which has funded the setting up of the GTF secretariat in London.
Norway-based Perinpanayagam Sivaparan, popularly known by his nom de guerre, Nediyawan, is now considered by Tamil extremists within the Tamil Diaspora to be the new head of the international wing of the LTTE, after the arrest of Selvarasa Pathmanathan. Sri Lankan intelligence sources believe that he now controls millions of dollars collected from Diaspora Tamils.
New York lawyer Visuvanathan Rudrakumaran heads the Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE)
Jeyachandran Gopinath, alias Jeya Annai , editor of LTTE website “Tamilnet,” is the political advisor of Nediyawan.
Vinayakam, deputy commander of the LTTE’s Sea Tigers, who was reported as being killed in battle in February 2009, surfaced in Norway in 2010 and is openly mobilising resources and Tamil extremists to re-launch a new version of the LTTE.)
KP INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPT - PART 3
SPECIAL TO FIRSTPOST
How the UN and West made one last effort to rescue LTTE leaders in May 2009
VKS: You were saying you will not allow these minority groups in Europe and elsewhere who are trying to revive the arm movement?
KP: Exactly! If they mobilise, if they try to create trouble here, I will not let them do it. First they have to kill me.
VKS: Isn’t it also a fact that some countries in Europe, during the last stage of the war, were somehow trying to rescue the top leadership of LTTE?
KP: Exactly! In January 2009 we were trying to stop the war. I tried very hard day and night to stop this war, but especially our side (LTTE), until the last moment, were (un)willing to support that. So I lost that hope. At the last moment, around 16 or 17 May (2009), or 15 May, they (UN and a foreign government) asked if they (some LTTE leaders) were ready to leave the country, they could send a ship and go somewhere.
VKS: Which country?
KP: Actually, it was UN with another country. I don’t like to mention the name of the country, but it’s a western country.
VKS: Did they try to rescue you?
KP: Ya, they tried to rescue, but it was too late. From January 2009 I saw that every time we were late, every move…
VKS: Why? Why do you think the LTTE kept missing opportunities for peace starting from 2002 onwards?
KP: Not only from 2002. Even at an earlier stage, when Indian Prime Minister, the late Rajiv Gandhi, talked with the Sri Lankan President Jayewardene, he arranged some kind of settlement. Even before the 13th amendment (was passed for devolution of power), he tried, but the LTTE missed the chance. Again, when the India-Sri Lanka agreement (to send in the Indian army to keep the peace) came, we lost the chance.
(For) Prabhakaran, he knew only one thing, and that is “Tamil Eelam” - separate state. He was not ready to negotiate this one…so with this dream he is gone.
VKS: Do you think the 2002 ceasefire was merely a ploy, just a delaying tactic?
KP: Exactly. The LTTE at that time had won a battle, but it was in a very bad shape economically – food and everything. The outside world was different. After 9/11, the American President put very strict conditions and good network (to track terrorists). After 9/11, all armed struggles, armed movements become terrorist organizations. It was a big setback. After 9/11 we faced lots of problems.
VKS: Lots of delegations went out in that period post-2002. An LTTE delegation went to Europe, apparently for peace talks. Why did that fail? Was something else happening behind that?
KP: As I told you before, Prabhakaran never felt he should negotiate Tamil Eelam. Simple.
VKS: Those trips to Europe made by LTTE leaders, what were they about?
KP: It was part of peace talks because they needed some time to regain strength. Everyone knows that at public meetings they spoke one thing, at the negotiating table another thing, and to the Diaspora another thing.
VKS: So basically around that period they were actually preparing for war?
KP: They were preparing to strengthen the arms side and the economic side.
VKS: Do you regret it? You were heading the international secretariat of the LTTE and helping them procure arms and other weapons. How do you look at your role?
KP: In 1970, the Tamil youth in Sri Lanka were emotionally moving towards a freedom struggle and I am one of them. We lost a lot of Tamil youth in this armed struggle. You see, before independence, (Tamil leader) GG Ponnambalam asked for 50:50 representation for Sinhalese and Tamils in Parliament. Finally, the majority decision came to 55-45. But even then the Tamil party did not agree to this division of Parliament seats. Today, we (Tamils) are at the third stage; The Sinhalese come in the first stage, then Muslims in second stage and Tamils in third stage. So from the possibility of 50:50 representation in Parliament we have been reduced to merely 15 to 20 seats in Parliament.
(Editor’s note: Ganapathipillai Gangaser Ponnambalam, known as GG Ponnambalam, was a Sri Lankan Tamil politician in British Ceylon. He founded the first Sri Lankan Tamil political party, the All Ceylon Tamil Congress.)
KP INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPT - PART 4
SPECIAL TO FIRSTPOST
Why Indira Gandhi backed Tamil groups, and why she failed
VKS: How do you look back at the Indian involvement in all of this?
KP: In 1980, during Mrs Indira Gandhi’s period…that was the time when the Cold War was nearly at its end, even though it was still Cold War time. Sri Lanka was close to America, India and (former) USSR had a strong alliance. So there were differences. So when our issue burned Indira Gandhi, put the hand on that…
VKS: “Put the hand” means what?
KP: At that time I remember Narasimha Rao was the Foreign Minister. The Diaspora Tamils were invited and they met Narasimha Rao. They had talks with the Indian government. That was the first step. The talks were called Thimpu talks (held in Bhutan). The Indian government called the Sri Lankan side and all the Tamil groups. But the talks failed. Around that time the Indian government gave (military) training to Tamil youths. So we (LTTE) had a base in Tamil Nadu. We had a (military) base in India. All the four Tamil groups, very strong groups, were trained and armed by India. Like I told you, that was the Cold War period and the international environment was such. During that time it was Mrs Gandhi’s idea that she may be able to escalate LTTE’s armed struggle to a certain level and use that as negotiating leverage to settle the (Tamil) issue in a peaceful way. Unfortunately, she was gone (assassinated in 1984).
After that Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi came. He was a modern leader and he was very fast (with decisions). His approach was different. By then RAW (Indian spy agency Research & Analysis Wing) was heavily involved with all the Tamil groups. At that time (SC) Chandrahasan, SAV Selvanayagan’s son, had close links to the Telo (the Tamil Eelam Liberation Organisation). It was at that time that a misunderstanding between Prabhakaran and RAW started.
Then Sri Lankan President Jayewardene and Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi tried to sort it out. But again LTTE did not accept the proposals. But Rajiv Gandhi pushed (for it) and so LTTE reluctantly came to an agreement (referring to the India-Sri Lanka Accord). But actually LTTE rejected the agreement (internally).
1. The Thimpu Declaration was a set of four demands put forward by the Sri Lankan Tamil delegation at the first peace talks undertaken with respect to the Sri Lankan civil war. In July–August 1985 the Indian government organised peace talks in Thimpu, Bhutan, aimed at bringing an end to the Sri Lankan civil war between Tamil militant groups and the government of Sri Lanka.
The declaration stated:
1. It is our considered view that any meaningful solution to the Tamil national question must be based on the following four cardinal principles:
- recognition of the Tamils of Ceylon as a nation
- recognition of the existence of an identified homeland for the Tamils of Ceylon
- recognition of the right of self-determination of the Tamil nation
- recognition of the right to citizenship and the fundamental rights of all Tamils of Ceylon
The Tamil delegation consisted of representatives from the Eelam People's Revolutionary Liberation Front (EPRLF), Eelam Revolutionary Organisation of Students (EROS), Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), People's Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE), Tamil Eelam Liberation Organisation (TELO) and the mainstream Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF).
The Sri Lankan government rejected all but the last principle as they violated Sri Lanka's sovereignty.
2. SC Chandrahasan is the son of SAV Selvnayagam, a Tamil leader who was known as the Mahatma Gandhi of Sri Lanka. After the island-nation’s ethnic conflict began in 1983, Chandrahasan founded the Organisation For Eelam Refugees’ Rehabilitation. He believes that Tamil militants, especially the LTTE, severely damaged the possibility of a federal solution which his father had enunciated.
3. SAV Selvanayagam was the leader of the Tamil people from 1948 to 1983. He founded the Federal Party of Ceylon. He believed that a federal solution was possible.
4. The Tamil Eelam Liberation Organization (TELO) was a militant group campaigning for the cause of Tamil Eelam. By 1986, nearly 400 of its armed cadres were killed by the LTTE and the group was virtually wiped out. Its surviving members reorganised themselves as a political party. The TELO currently has two Members of Parliament. It is part of the Tamil National Alliance, a coalition of Tamil parties which won 2.9% of the popular vote and 14 out of 225 seats at the 2010 parliamentary election in Sri Lanka.
VKS: Then the IPKF (Indian Peace-Keeping Force) came?
KP: When the IPKF came here the LTTE were all right, but after some misunderstandings grew, they started the war against IPKF.
KP INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPT - PART 5
SPECIAL TO FIRSTPOST
Why Prabhakaran hated Rajiv Gandhi – and who plotted the murder
VKS: Can you tell us, once and for all, did Prabhakaran plan Rajiv Gandh’si assassination?
KP: That is exactly (true). Everyone knows the truth. Those who were involved in this murder were from the LTTE intelligence wing and those who were arrested. It was well planned and done actually with Prabhakaran and (intelligence chief Pottu Amman). Everyone knows the truth.
I want to say to the Indian people and especially the Gandhi family… I want to apologise for Prabhakaran’s mistake. Please forgive us, we beg you. Our people are struggling here, please help our people to live as humans. Sorry for all this, we know the feelings of the son (Rahul) of Rajiv Gandhi. It’s human nature - how father and daughter are attached (reference to Rajiv’s daughter Priyanka).
VKS: You asking the Indian government to engage with Sri Lanka in a manner that allows for a peaceful settlement which gives a chance to Tamil to develop and forget the past?
KP: Exactly! If you look 50 years back, our people - educationally, economically – they were first. Today, we are behind them 50 years ..So the point is that these people should live and work on modern technology…it’s a new era…If you go to your country you will see internet, computer facilities (everywhere). If you go to Mulakanvil, they don’t have any facilities - nothing.
I feel that our people should live as humans. We have already paid a high price we don’t have anything to lose.
KP INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPT - PART 6
SPECIAL TO FIRSTPOST
How Tamil politicians used Eelam cause for their own advantage
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.
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