I –“Former LTTE leader slams Tamil Nadu politicians,” IANS item, 21 July 2012
A former Tamil Tiger rebel now in the custody of the government Sunday slammed Indian Tamil politicians for using the Tamil issue in Sri Lanka for their political gain. Kumaran Pathmanathan, better known as KP, who was once the chief arms procurer for the Tamil Tigers, said politicians in Tamil Nadu were using Sri Lanka to bag votes in elections, Xinhua reported.
“Innocent people who don’t know their political agenda believed them but it is sad and unfortunate how this pack of politicians used them as a tool to strengthen their vote base,” Pathmanathan told state media. He said it was hilarious to see the concern of Tamil Nadu politicians to create a separate land for Tamils in an era when Sri Lankan Tamils want to live in a united country.
“I strongly believe now that no external force can solve our problems, which are unique to us,” he said. Pathmanathan issued an open challenge to Tamil Nadu politicians to show their genuineness by voicing their concerns on behalf of more than 100,000 Sri Lankan refugees in Tamil Nadu who are living in poor conditions.
“(The refugees) are struggling to live. Children don’t have proper education as they don’t have birth certificates. They are still languishing in camps with poor living conditions,” he said.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalitha and her predecessor M. Karunanidhi often voice concerns on Sri Lanka over various issues and seek the intervention of the Indian government. Pathmanathan was arrested in Malaysia by the Sri Lankan intelligence soon after the war ended in May 2009. He has been in Sri Lankan custody since then.
II — Shanika Sriyananda’s Preamble to Interview under heading “No external force can solve our problems -KP”
Shanmugam Kumaran Tharmalingam alias KP, former arms procurer of the now defunct LTTE, questioned the concern of the Tamil Nadu politicians in creating an Eelam state in Sri Lanka, while Tamils here want to live peacefully in a united country.
“It is hilarious to see the concern of the TN politicians to create a separate land for us in an era where the Sri Lankan Tamils want to live in a united country. I strongly believe now that no external force can solve our problems, which are only unique to us”, he said.
In an exclusive interview with the Sunday Observer KP, who is under a protective environment, said Sri Lankan Tamils know how to solve their problems and don’t want external intervention.
Discussing the issues such as the intention of the Tamil Nadu politicians to intervene in Sri Lankan issues, political mishaps of Tamil politicians in Sri Lanka, the forthcoming event – the Tamil Eelam Supporters Association (TESO) conference in Chennai and the dubious role of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), he said he believed the problems of Tamils could be solved through devolution of power.
He invited the Tamil Nadu politicians to voice on behalf of Sri Lankan Tamils in refugee camps there and against Indian fishermen intruding Sri Lankan waters if they are truly concerned about Tamils in Sri Lanka.“Karunanidhi is a seasoned politician and he knows how to play the political game. For him there are no new issues in Tamil Nadu to talk, so he has picked up Eelam to retain his popularity”, he said
III — Q and A between Sriyananda and KP
Q: The Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu (TN) and DMK President M. Karunanidhi was advised by the Indian government not to speak about Eelam at the forthcoming conference by the Tamil Eelam Supporters Association (TESO). What is your comment?
A: Yes, though it’s appropriate advice, Karunanidhi has reiterated that he has not dropped his Eelam concept, yet, and somebody has misquoted him. I must say that Karunanidhi or any of the other TN politicians are not willing to support the people of Sri Lanka who were affected by the decades long battle. From the beginning they took the issue of our problems onto their political stage as it was the trend in TN to keep their vote base alive. Their strategy was to grab votes by showing their concern about Sri Lankan Tamils. During each battle against the LTTE, these TN politicians, who were active, sought the support of the international community to talk on behalf of us- the Wanni civilians.
But innocent people who don’t know their political agenda believed them but it is sad and unfortunate how this pack of politicians used them as a tool to strengthen their vote base.
It is hilarious to see the concern TN politicians have to create a separate land for us in an era when Sri Lankan, Tamils want to live in a united country. I strongly believe now that no external force can solve our problems, which are unique to us.
We, the Sinhalese and Tamils lived together for centuries. There is ample evidence in history. In those conflicts we solved our problems without external help. We don’t want to see any other force pressurising us to solve our problems.
For example the Indian community in Malaysia never allowed TN politicians to interfere with their issues. I want to ask the TN politicians whether they will they allow our Tamil politicians to take decisions on behalf of their people? No. They will not allow us to interfere in their problems. Why do they want to poke their noses into our problems.
Q: However, the TN Chief Minister has said that their efforts and the TESO conference would help to create a separate Eelam. Will this conference be successful?
A: Karunanidhi is a seasoned politician and he knows how to play the political game. For him there are no new issues in TN to talk so he has picked up ‘Eelam’ to retain his popularity. It will not be successful. They will try to glamorise issues in Sri Lanka but the war-affected Wanni people will get nothing out of this.
Q: But they are to discuss the issues like the safety of Tamils and livelihood restoration.
A: (He answered with a sarcastic smile) Whatever they like let them speak there. We don’t have any links with them. The biggest joke is how they hold fora to discuss our issues and who are they to do all this. If we have problems, we – the Sri Lankan Tamils will discuss them among ourselves and the Government to get solutions. The ordinary Tamils never asked or wanted TN to discuss our problems and find solutions.
As I explained earlier, it is a power struggle and a game to retain in politics. In this game, they don’t spare anyone and they try to get mileage from everything. This is Karunanidhi’s practice and the others – Nedumaran, Vaiko, Seeman – will follow him.
I challenge these TN politicians to show their genuineness by voicing on behalf of more than 100,000 Sri Lankan refugees in TN who are virtually living in hell. If they want to support the Sri Lankan Tamils then voice on their behalf for those living for more than 25 years there. They are struggling to live. Children don’t have proper education as they don’t have birth certificates. They are still languishing in camps with poor living conditions.
If they are so concerned about us, I request them to stop Indian trawlers intruding into our shores and over harvesting our fish resources. The livelihood of the fishermen in the coastal belt is threatened and their families suffer a lot due to the poor income that is earned.
These are the issues they should look into help us. We don’t want Eelam but Sri Lankan families who were caught in the battle want to live peacefully. If TN politicians are genuine they should help us not by holding talk shows but send money spent on these conference to uplift the lives of affected Tamils in Sri Lanka’s North and East.
Q: Though you say there is no link with local politicians here as far as the conference is concerned, the TNA is to take part in the event. How do you see the TNA’s stance?
A: (His sarcastic laugh once again) I saw the TNA leader commenting about the conference saying his party has not yet decided to participate. But it is no surprise, if the TNA flies to TN to be there. The TNA leader is famous for making contradictory statements. What I feel is the party lacks leadership.
Q: How can you say that because Mr. Sampanthan is a seasoned politician?
A: I don’t underestimate his political experience but his comments show the party needs a strong political personality. The May Day issue proves it. Sampanthan hoisted the National Flag along with Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe but TNA MP Maavai Senadiraja apologised saying he did it without the consent of the Tamils. Then Sampanthan got afraid as most of the pro-LTTEers criticised him as a traitor.
He knew that he was losing support and at the 14th Convention of the Illankai Thamil Arasu Katchi (ITAK) in Batticaloa, he took a different stance by saying that the Tamils should prove to the international community that they would never be able to realise their rights within a united Sri Lanka. His speech was again misleading the Tamils in Sri Lanka.
The Tamils want politicians who are genuine in solving their issues and don’t want to be misled. But these politicians who are selfish are engaged in the same old strategies. I have never seen these politicians living with ordinary Tamils in the Wanni. Only during the election campaign they mingle with the people to grab their votes.
Sampanthan as the TNA’s leader can’t change his politics and stance from time to time. This is not the quality of matured leaders. When he is discussing with the Government his stance is different to what he discusses with people outside. Why is this dubious role? Tamils, I want to say, have been fooled once and misled but they are not ready to be misled again. Politicians need to be aware of this.
Q: You are a key person who supported the LTTE’s separate State ideology and it took 30 long years for you to realise that it was futile. Will the Northern people drop this idea while the TNA is propagating it?
A: If someone read TNA MP Maavai’s speech in Jaffna last week he will be surprised and question the motive to mislead Tamil youth again. He requests them to read Western revolutionary stories. Again he made a statement in connection with the Provincial Council elections that Tamils should vote for the TNA to make the West understand that Tamils need a political solution.
The West has its own problems and don’t have the time to be bothered about provincial elections in Sri Lanka. Six months ago, they ran to India to lodge their political grievances but now they have started to fly to the West and the UN to seek redress.
I want to recall the former TN Chief Minister, C.N. Annadurai’s statement. In the US, he had a discussion with a journalist, he said TN could solve its own problems locally and no external help was needed. Even Nelson Mandela didn’t seek the support of others to solve problems of South Africa as they could be handled locally. But the TNA runs to India or the US or any other Western country even for a ‘common cold’.
If they are genuinely interested in helping Tamils in their issues, they should first meet President Mahinda Rajapaksa. But their trend is to seek support internationally. This is just another step to cheat the Tamils of this country, as a sovereign nation will not accept packages offered by other countries.
Q: One main reason that damaged the historical friendship between the Sinhalese and the Tamils is language. The Government has started several courses for Tamils and Sinhalese to learn these languages and those who are conversant in these languages are given priority. Do you think this effort will bear fruit?
A: Yes, definitely. I am sad I have very little opportunity to learn Sinhala. I am always busy taking care of orphans in the North. Language can do wonders to bridge the gap between communities. But as Tamils we should oppose the TNA for trying to prevent Tamils learning from the Sinhala language. Early this week TNA MPs criticised ex-LTTE cadres for studying Sinhala.
Once a person learns another language, his ability to communicate improves and also he gets better opportunities. As Sri Lankans we should know each others language well to understand each other. If a Tamil wants to come beyond Vavuniya, he needs to know Sinhala to communicate and its vice versa. So this is the best opportunity. The same politicians don’t oppose diaspora children living in Canada learning French. There children are encouraged to learn French to get more opportunities.
I can recall how we, as young students were misled by our Tamil leaders saying they would not allow Tamil children to learn Sinhala. Everyone knows the repercussions today. This hatred made us both to suffer for three decades.
It is sad that the same politicians who prevented us from learning Sinhala, sent their children to Colombo and gave them a good education, and they are fluent in all three languages. Our Tamil children were used as baits and are deprived of facilities and education and remained in the North to fight for an unrealistic cause.
Unfortunately, the politicians still promote this and there is no politician on this earth who oppose his own people learning another language. The most important factor in the post conflict era is reconciliation. Language is a key factor to reconcile among the communities. The true political leaders encourage reconciliation but these politicians are an unqualified lot.
Another reason for them to think like this is they have not been ‘rehabilitated’ like me. (He laughed) I was trapped in the separatism ideology; but once I was brought back to Sri Lanka I am under a ‘protective’ environment.
This facilitated me to undergo ‘self rehabilitation’ and think more about the importance of reconciliation among the Sinhalese. These pack of TNA politicians who are trouble makers and who are still poisoning youth about separatism, need a similar type of rehabilitation as they were connected to the LTTE earlier. I feel sorry for them as they are now facing difficulty in reforming themselves in post conflict issues to help Tamils.
TNA MPs – Sridharan was an ex-LTTEer, Suresh Premachandran was a Mandayan Group leader, Maavai, though he didn’t carry arms had motivated youth to take up arms. As they missed the opportunity to convert themselves they still don’t see the ground realities in the North. Those who promote separatism and carried weapons were appointed by the LTTE to be people’s representatives.
Like how Nelson Mendela directed the African National Congressmen to rehabilitation to commence reconciliation, I think these MPs need to follow a similar process to drop their damaging ideas.
Q: If you take main Tamil political parties, though they clamour for Tamils rights, they are not united. Don’t you think they are doing a great injustice to the Tamils of this country by taking them for granted for their survival?
A: Yes, of course they do. That is why I say there is a power struggle and no genuine effort by these Tamil politicians to help the Tamils of this country. They are well established and politics is a means to get an additional income. As they have just parachuted they don’t know the value of being a politician and also how they can serve the people. They are selfish. Politicians should come from among the people then they know the people’s problems. It is sad to say these politicians will not expedite decisions when ordinary people seek help, but when they have problems they will meet ministers or government officials to find solutions.
These TNA politicians never raised a voice regarding the Indian fishermen issue because their families are settled in TN.
Q: TN politician Viko had accused you for betraying the Tamil cause and becoming a partner of the Government. How do you respond to him?
A: First of all I want to ask him who is he to blame me for betraying the Tamil cause. I am a Sri Lankan and I fought for a separate state for the Sri Lankans. I have realised I was misled and it was an unworthy cause I dropped it and try to serve my people. It is true we had a dream but all our dreams will not come true.
He should recall for what the leader Periyar wanted – a separate Dravidian state with Andra, Malayalam, Kerala and TN together as one country but it failed and still these states remain as individual states. This was their dream. Vaiko was among the dreamers. How can he forget his dream. The same fate befell Eelam too. Only one country succeeded in guerrilla warfare. How many youth followers were there for Che Guevara. We also failed. We are the affected party and we know how we suffered and what we want in the future but the TN politicians like Vaiko, never experienced the gravity of the war. I don’t take these accusations seriously as he is not a Sri Lankan Tamil to blame me. This is my motherland and I know what is best for my country and my people.
Q: Do you have plans to enter politics?
A: No! I don’t have any plans to be a politician. But I have a mission. That is to see my people in the Wanni, who suffered for decades, live peacefully and happily. I want children and youth to study well and to see that they stand on their own feet. At any cost I will do my best to fulfill my mission. There are many rumours about me entering politics but these are all rumours.
Q: Are you happy with the freedom you enjoy now?
A: Yes. I don’t think I am confined to a particular area. I am connected with people and I am given freedom to engage in service to my people. I meet the Tamil diaspora. I am happy as I can serve the people. I feel I too am undergoing rehabilitation and it gives me the opportunity to purify myself from misleading ideas. I hope I will be a complete man once I finish this process. It is a new era and we all need to work hard to develop our motherland. I am happy as I am engaged in that now.