2nd Lead (Adds corrections)
"Weakening LTTE, main aim of SL Govt"- Balakumaran
[TamilNet, Sunday, 12 September 2004, 13:57 GMT]
"Absolutely nothing fundamental has changed on the ground. There can be absence of war, there can be prospects of peace talks, or involvement of the International community, or there can be press releases issued by Chandrika Kumaratunge. But, precious little has changed in the feelings or nationalistic thinking of our people. War has not ended yet," said K.V.Balakumaran, a Senior Leader of the Liberation Tigers, in an interview with the Sydney Tamil Radio Thamil Muzhakkam's "Mannin Mainthargal" program during his recent visit to European countries.
Balakumaran who changed his name to "Kanagambigai Velupillai Balakumaran" to include his mother's maiden name as his show of respect to his mother, cautioned the expatriates not to fall into a false sense of security by thinking that peace is near.
An edited translation of his full interview originally given in Tamil follows:Radio:
You founded EROS [Eelam Revolutionary Organization of Students] in the seventies and tamil youths viewed your organization with great respect during that period. Can you tell us why and when you decided to join forces with the Liberation Tigers?Balakumaran:
EROS was not started by me. I joined EROS after it was formed. Your listeners know that during the seventies, as a result of discrimination and oppression by Sinhala rulers, large number of tamil youths were joining different liberation movements. I was one of them. As struggle progressed, especially after the handing over of arms to the Indian Peace Keeping Force, I kept thinking about the dangers of our struggle deviating from its main mission. In 1987, many senior leaders of EROS including I decided that without being able to carry out armed struggle it will be a traitorous act to continue to function as a movement. So we decided to disband EROS. Many members continued to be involved in the struggle in their own separate ways. I decided to join the LTTE. I am glad to say that many who left EROS then are re-joining LTTE now.Radio:
In what ways have you been contributing to the struggle after joining the LTTE?Balakumaran:
I am someone driven to act along the dictates of my instinct and wisdom. I am serving my people mainly working in the background by educating them in political matters with the best of my ability and encouraging them to work towards our goal of liberation. My visit to Europe is a continuation of this work.Radio:
Sri Lanka Government is delaying the peace talks saying that LTTE's Interim Self Governing Authority (ISGA) is a step towards separation. Sri Lanka's President is requesting the LTTE leadership for compromise. How will you explain to our listeners the LTTE's stand on ISGA?Balakumaran:
Current political situation needs to be looked at with the full understanding of our past history. The struggle, the peace talks, the agreements..these did not happen recently. Our actions now are governed by our experiences throughout our long struggle. Talks started in the 20's. Then, Ponnambalam Ramanathan and his brother Arunachalam used the concept "Tamil Aham" (Tamil Homeland). Our history abounds with talks, S.J.V.Chelvanayakam on federal structure, 1967 Chelva-Dudley pact, talks with J.R, Thimpu Talks..in all of these the Sinhala leaders asked the Tamils to climb down, to compromise. What can we compromise? When we climbed down they trampled us, they sent the security forces to threaten and suppress us. Our response to the violence perpetrated by the State was the beginning of our armed struggle. Now the Sri Lanka military stands defeated, unable to fight. But the Sinhala political leaders are singing the same song. They want us to climb down. Since the international community is also involved in the peace process we are being cautious in our response. But I again want to stress, the ISGA is the collective outcome of our past experiences. We cannot move even an inch from its contents. We are fully aware that the Sinhala leaders still harbor ambitions of defeating us militarily and are always looking for an opportunity to do so.Radio:
Violence has escalated after Karuna's affair. Sri Lanka media has described these as killings between LTTE factions. Can you explain to our listeners the background to the violence?Balakumaran:
We wanted to stop all violence. That is why LTTE leadership unilaterally suspended hostilities and created the opportunity for peace. However, the Sri Lanka Government and some international players have consistently attempted to use this space to weaken the LTTE. Karuna's affair and subsequent violence are also manifestations of these attempts. Killings are the results of Sri Lanka Government's covert attempts to destabilize some regions. We totally reject violence. We have repeatedly warned the Sinhala leadership not to create opportunities for further violence and bloodshed. But we recognize the need to be alert and to be prepared to respond to violence with the full knowledge that Sri Lanka Government is waiting for the smallest of opportunities to re-ignite war.Radio:
What are your views on how the multi-cultural community, Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims can live within a united Sri Lanka, within a federal framework as agreed in Oslo, recognizing the rights of Tamils for internal self-determination?Balakumaran:
This is the key question of our time. I can give you a very clear answer. The demand for a separate state did not spring from our generation. The demand originated in 1975, 1977. We adopted and acted on the demand, after recognizing its legitimacy and importance. The situation we now have resulted from the strength we displayed in our armed struggle. The international community after meetings in several foreign capitals expressed their views. Although knowing well of dangers inherent in peace talks weakening the resolve of a revolutionary movement, we decided to participate in the talks. To provide another opportunity to the Sinhala leaders -an opportunity where the communities can again live in peace- we climbed down from our position, suspended fighting and for the first time placed a proposal, the ISGA, as a key step towards creating conditions for permanent peace. Although we are waiting for a response, you know what Sinhala leadership is trying to do. When we are the aggrieved community what is the reason for the Sinhala leaders to prepare an alternative proposal? Radio:
What changes, in your view, should take place in the South that will allow reconfigurion of Sri Lanka's political framework?Balakumaran:
We are repeatedly calling the Sinhala leadership to free themselves from the old chauvinist mindset. The mindset that Sri Lanka is a Sinhala, Buddhist country, that there is no Tamil homeland. We ask them to correct this historical misstep. We invite them to create new history, to see the future with an open mind. We request the Sinhala leadership to view themselves as their own truth commission and accept their past mistakes.
We have little hope that this will happen. The history of rivalry within Sinhala parties, the UNP and the SLFP, is well known to you. Now the JVP has joined the fray and advancing the chauvinistic policies of the past Sinhala leaders to another higher sophisticated level by appealing to rural youth. Even today I read a news item on JVP's opposition to peace talks.Radio:
Norway is a key participant in Sri Lanka's peace process. In this context what do like to tell Tamil Norwegians?Balakumaran:
Tamil expatriate population now accounts for nearly 25% of Sri Lankan Tamils. Tamils in Norway are serving as a model expatriate community..They are seamlessly integrating and peacefully living with the population of the host country and tirelessly helping their homeland. They also realize their political potential and are organizing themselves to participate more forcefully in local politics. I was pleased with their efforts to preserve their culture and provide education in language and history to their children.
Future Tamil Eelam will place a historical burden on the expatriate population towards NorthEast's development and progress, and I am glad to say that the close knit community I find in Norway is well prepared to carry this responsibility.Radio:
Do you like to convey any of your thoughts to the expatriate Tamils, especially to Australian Tamil community?Balakumaran:
When living long distances away from NorthEast, news reports in websites and papers may give an impression that peace is in sight or that war has permanently ended. Or that Sinhalese have finally changed or the LTTE will compromise its standing to reach a settlement. There is an imminent danger that people will become complacent with a perceived false prospects of peace.
One of the main objectives of my visit to Europe is to emphasize the importance of not falling into a false sense of security that peace is near. Absolutely nothing fundamental has changed on the ground. There can be absence of war, there can be prospects of peace talks, or involvement of the International community, or there can be press releases issued by Chandrika Kumaratunge. But precious little has changed in the feelings or nationalistic thinking of our people. War has not ended yet. All efforts by the Sinhala leadership during the current climate of peace are ploys to weaken the Tigers. Our expatriates should clearly understand this and act accordingly. Our leader Pirapaharan wanted to convey this message: that "Our expatriate Tamils should continue with the same vigor and focus in providing support to alleviate the suffering of those affected by war in the NorthEast. That they should continue to dream of their homeland, that one day they will make their home in the NorthEast."