Anton Balasingham addresses London Heroes Day
[TamilNet, Saturday, 27 November 1999, 19:12 GMT]
Anton Balasingham, the Liberation Tigers political advisor, addressed the Heroes Day function in London Saturday, his first public appearance since his arrival in the United Kingdom earlier this year. In a spirited and humorous hour long speech, Balasingham emphasised the need for mediation to settle the conflict in Sri Lanka and spoke of the developed strength of the LTTE.
Accompanied by his wife, Adele, the senior LTTE official appeared on stage at the London Arena to enthusiastic applause from the six thousand people who attended the function.
He delivered his hour long speech in Tamil whilst standing, though he admitted he was undergoing treatment for kidney failure.
Interspersing his address with humour, he drew enthusiastic applause when he spoke of the LTTE's determination to secure the Tamil people's aspirations, and to drive out the Sri Lanka Army from the Tamil homelands.
"They (local Tamil activists) normally get various people from India and so on to speak, but it looks like they were unsuccessful and were finally forced to asked me!" he joked. "They brushed my protests about being ill aside, promising a stretcher if I needed one""
Balasingham said that third party mediation was necessary for negotiations because the Sri Lankan government could not be trusted. The government had attached conditions to mediation, he said.
"Chandrika offered to negotiate with mediation three times, but stated unacceptable conditions," he said. The Commonwealth Secretariat and Norway were suggested as possible mediators, he said.
"She wanted us to negotiate in secrecy, without the knowledge of the world, the Sinhala people or the Tamil people," he said. "We could talk in a foreign country out of public view, she suggested"
"This secrecy is unacceptable to us and the Tamil people," he said, to applause.
"Furthermore, Chandrika wants us to negotiate in secret whilst the war goes on," he said. "How can we sit ant talk in a nice hotel in a foreign country while our people are being killed and starved? This was completely unacceptable to us (LTTE)."
He said the Liberation Tigers ongoing offensive "Unceasing Waves 3" had not concluded, and that LTTE fighters were resting. "It has just begun," he said.
He said the Liberation Tigers wanted to negotiate a solution, but only in open and "in a suitably conducive atmosphere."
"The Liberation Tigers have sufficient manpower, firepower and people's support" to liberate the Tamil homelands, he said. "And our recent successes have demonstrated our capability, giving new confidence that an independent Tamil Eelam can be established."
"Before [Unceasing Waves 3] some people wondered if it was possible, if the Tigers were capable," he said. "We have demonstrated our capability now."
"Sinhala troops must leave the Tamil homelands for peace to be possible," he said.
"They must leave or the LTTE will drive them out," he added, drawing applause and cheers.
"We have liberated the Vanni. Jaffna and some parts of the east are still occupied," he said. "But we will take care of this soon."
He spoke of the forthcoming elections in Sri Lanka. "I am often asked what we (Tigers) think about this and what we would like the Tamil people to do," he said.
"The Tamil people know what to do, we don't have to say anything," he said. "They know there is little in Sri Lanka's politics for Tamils."
"They also know what Chandrika has done to the Tamil people in the past five years. They know the hardships, the atrocities, the deaths."
He said the Sri Lankan government was exceptionally cruel.
He said that when he fell ill in the Vanni with kidney failure, President Chandrika had been approached by Britain, Norway and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to allow his transport abroad for treatment.
Even though the LTTE released captured Sri Lanka Army (SLA) soldiers as a sign of good will, the government had seized the opportunity to impose conditions on the LTTE he said.
"They wanted the LTTE to cease operations in Jaffna, not interfere with local administration and not target the supply ships to the Army there," he said.
"All these things which, peculiarly enough, had nothing to do with my kidney" he said drawing laughter.
"Then the LTTE told me not to worry, that they would take care of my transport requirements," he said, "I was brought out by LTTE boat and ship."
"A government which would exploit my illness is not going to be bothered by the hardships of the Tamil people," he said.
He said that India was important to the Tamil struggle. The LTTE is not opposed to India's interests he said.
The future state of Tamil Eelam would be an ally to India, he said, drawing applause from the audience.
"Various people cite fears that Tamil people in India will demand a separate state if Tamil Eelam is achieved, but this is baseless," he said.
"The Tamil people in India are not being starved and bombed and persecuted. Why would they want a separate state?" he asked.
He concluded his speech with a message to the London audience from LTTE leader Vellupillai Pirapaharan, with whom he had spoken before the event. He said that the LTTE leader had thanked the Tamil expatriates for their strong support, on behalf of the Tamil people in the homeland.