The UN report on war crimes will benefit no one
This is the first part of the entire text of the KP interview transcript where he discusses, Sri Lanka's past and future.
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:
VK 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?
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