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.)
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