Q and A session with Wathsala, from the Sunday Leader, 1 August 2010
The LTTE chief renditioned by Sri Lanka from Malaysia, has spoken from being under house arrest and declared that “in our lifetime, there will be no more armed struggle”. Speaking exclusively to The Sunday Leader on Tuesday, July 27, KP struck a conciliatory tone immediately. It was clear that there was an implied and tacit agreement on the part of the government to allow KP some freedom not otherwise afforded to others who are captive. This tacit agreement manifested itself in many forms: the use of the internet, the use of a mobile telephone just for starters. KP confirmed that he had visited the Wanni and also the camps. He admitted to being “very sad” at the plight that innocent men women and children had to face as a result of the LTTE military defeat.
KP was pragmatic and realistic: he assured this columnist that there was no way, that in “our lifetime” there would be a resurgence of the separatist war. KP went on to say that the monies being now collected by the Tamil diaspora was being done so by giving the Tamil people false hopes and in essence leading them up the garden path. The Tamil people in the West were being told lie after lie and their media spin departments were extremely vociferous and worked hard. The government must, he advised, combat this problem and enlighten the diaspora of the ground reality.
Speaking with the confidence of the leader of the Tamil people or at least the diaspora, KP made it plain that the people suffering were “my people” and said that it was his first mission to help those suffering along the way to a permanent peace. What is clear is this: that either way, the government faces a tough call when it comes to a decision about rehabilitating KP and letting him play the lead role to gather together the diaspora in aid of the cause of a permanent peace. They may well be gambling with a possible resurgence or they may well take the view that the LTTE is done with forever.
Either way the government is set to take the least contentious route and use KP as a state witness on the way towards achieving their objective of a permanent peace with the minority Tamil people. KP also spoke to a daily newspaper the day after he spoke to us. We reproduce some of his comments not published previously:
Wathsala: So what was the deal?
KP: (laughs) Deal means? What deal? What do you mean?
Wathsala: What do they plan for you? What are they going to do with you? The deal: that you struck with the ruling family, the Rajapaksas; that you relinquished control of vast sums of monies to the Rajapaksas in exchange for the relative freedom that you have, that you will not go to prison that you will be given a modicum of freedom in exchange for information and money that you controlled!
KP: No, no no. (laughing) there was no such deal. I relinquished control of my responsibilities with the LTTE in 2003. Thereafter I had no proper role to play. I did not have big sums of monies as you say. This is all propaganda. I have no knowledge of these matters.
Wathsala: What about the ships? You were in charge of those things. What happened to the ships? To which brother did you give up those to?
KP: Many of the vessels were destroyed towards the end of the war. There was nothing to give up.
Wathsala: But they were not all destroyed. What happened to them? You must know that?
KP: There was perhaps two or three ships in the end. The government may well have captured them I do not really know for sure but if they did it was maybe two or three ships. No more.
Wathsala: Where were you captured?
KP: In Malaysia.
Wathsala: So what was the Thailand angle?
KP: Maybe speculation, but I was held in Malaysia.
Wathsala: Who got you?
KP: The Malaysian intelligence. I was taken away to the airport and I was handed over to the Sri Lankan intelligence when I was on the aeroplane. I came on SriLankan Airlines from KL. They blocked business class off and after they boarded the other passengers they put me on the business class. Before they kept me 24 hours.
Wathsala: Under what conditions are you being held? How do you feel right now?
KP: I am under sort of house arrest and I am guarded. Well I am under guard, arrested, I feel like the other people who are arrested. I don’t really know the location. It’s a house.
Wathsala: So what about you personally? Will they invite you to join hands with the government in the pursuit of peace? Will you be imprisoned? You personally is what I would like to know.
KP: Well we have discussed. I want to help my people and if they are talking of a permanent peace then I am willing to help my people to solve the problem of permanent peace. My first mission is to help the people. Actually a lot of people are suffering. First I have to bring them to a normal life. I was not involved very much for the last year. I feel however that everyone, all the Tamil people as well must all focus on the rehabilitation and the development. I don’t agree that we have some people who are suffering and the other people who are talking. I don’t agree with that.
Wathsala: What was your role in the year before the end of the war?
KP: We tried to end or stop the war and we spoke with everyone, the UN, other countries. We tried to bring this to a peaceful end. The war. From January to May but we could not end it.
Wathsala: What was your role. Were you the banker or the chief procurer for the LTTE?
KP: No I was in charge of International relations – I was the peacemaker.
Wathsala: Is it true that you controlled vast sums of monies?
KP: From 2003 thru 2009 I don’t know. But there was also a lot of debt. I finished in 2003.
Wathsala: When did you last visit Sri Lanka?
KP: During President Premadasa’s time when we had some peace talks. After that never I visited Sri Lanka.
Wathsala: Have you visited Batticaloa since your return?
KP: Not Batticaloa but I have been to the Wanni. I invited a delegation of senior diaspora to come here and see for themselves what is going on and so that they can be practical and all help and work together with the government to start on resolving the problems in a peaceful way.
Wathsala: How sad were you when you visited your former battle ground?
KP: When I visited the camps I was very sad; the suffering that innocent civilians had to go through because of the war, it was sad. It moved me to tears. I resolved even stronger then that we had to start the peace by ensuring these people were all returned to their homes. The humanitarian problem to be sorted first.
Wathsala: So you never gave the government any money!
KP: No never, I believe in the truth and honour my word. This is absolutely not true, it must be talk from some of the diaspora.
Wathsala: So how old are you? Do you have a family? Children?
KP: Well I am 55 years; I have a wife she is Thailand and I have a daughter who is 18.
Wathsala: Do you speak to them by phone daily or maybe through Skype? Any plans for them to visit you? Or are they fearful?
KP: Not daily perhaps two or three times a week. Let’s see, maybe they will come to visit me lets see.
Wathsala: Is it true that the government has obtained your help to help to bring the diaspora back here and to obtain their help too towards development, rehabilitation and peace?
KP: We had discussions. They spoke of a way to make an NGO help these people. I got nine senior members of the diaspora to come here in June and visit and see for themselves the efforts and the task the government is faced with. They saw with their own eyes. Here they saw how people are suffering for their food for example. And the diaspora are in a different world. I want to show them the real picture. Together we can solve the problem.
Wathsala: Did you go with diaspora delegates anywhere?
KP: Yes to the Wanni.
Wathsala: What did you feel?
KP: I couldn’t sleep for many days thereafter. I felt I have to work much harder to help my people. The suffering. I was moved to tears for my people. A lot of people are suffering.
Wathsala: So KP when you revisited Kilinochchi, how and what did you feel? Did you see that in spite of the millions of dollars collected and spent on arms and ammunition your LTTE did not do anything for your people. How did you feel about that? About no development?
KP: About development we have to start from zero. In the Wanni most of the people were affected. I feel the LTTE money and the diaspora money should come to help the people and development.
Wathsala: Now that the war is finished, do you feel that it was worth it? The entire 30 year effort?
KP: Everywhere in the world there have been wars and experiences for a long time: the Punjab, the IRA, Kurdistan. The world order has also changed and unfortunately we had a bitter experience.
Wathsala: Are you sad that so many, so many young people lost their lives?
KP: Exactly. These people gave their lives to the cause and we finally lost all and so very sad yes.
Wathsala: So how strong is the LTTE internationally?
KP: Some of the people at the LTTE don’t speak the truth at all. Some of them still lie saying that Prabha is alive and the battle is still on. It’s all impossible. They are not on the ground, I have visited the camps. The boys and girls in the camps spoke to me they said they want to get on with their lives. Not even 1 per cent said that they wanted to return for the war. I spoke to some personally, privately. They all said they wanted to go back to a normal life. There’s no point in some of the diaspora talking of continuing the war. They lie and are not in touch with reality.
Wathsala: So do you feel that the LTTE will never emerge again in Sri Lanka ever again?
KP: We did this war for some 35 years. The freedom struggle. We gave it 35 years of our life. The world order has changed and will never support an armed struggle. It is now time that they will only support peace when we talk and solve it peacefully. I do not think that in our lifetime it will happen. The world itself has changed.
Wathsala: But the quest for funds continues. They continue to collect funds. That has not stopped.
KP: Yes that is true. But it cannot last for long. When the work of the NGO starts and when the diaspora themselves see that development is happening there will be a gradual understanding and along with that the funding will come down. Slowly slowly people are getting information that the lies being said now will come to light.
Wathsala: What has happened to the ships?
KP: I gave up control in 2003 to someone else to manage. Some of the vessels were destroyed. It is not in my hands since 2003. I heard though I am not 100 per cent sure, that the government may have got two or three ships in their control.
Wathsala: So you have no knowledge?
KP: (Laughs.) I am not involved, don’t have first hand knowledge but I understand that two or three maybe the government has recovered.
Wathsala: Did you have any knowledge of your impending arrest?
KP: None at all. Completely surprised. Until the Malaysian Intelligence turned up at that hotel.
Wathsala: Any political ambitions? Are you going to be a free man?
KP: Well I have no political ambitions other than to solve the problems of my people in my lifetime. I would love to be free yes of course. But let us see.
Wathsala: Finally would you like to say something instead of just answering the questions?
KP: I want to bring my people back to a normal life, the diaspora must come and see for themselves about the suffering and help. The Tamil people must come together. That is what I want to say.
Wathsala: It’s been good talking to you, thank you very much.
Also see Shamindra Ferdinando’s Q and A interview presented in three parts in the Island, 28, 29 and 30 July 2010 and also reproduced in www.transcurrents.com . especially pertinet is the revealing item by DBS Jeyaraj, entitled “What is happening to the Ex-LTTE cadre surrendees?” in www.trasncurrents.com on 10 July 2010 — drawing, as usual, many comments.