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Home > Tamil National ForumSelected Writings by Dharmeratnam Sivaram (Taraki) > What went wrong between the Tigers and Premadasa

Selected Writings by Dharmeratnam Sivaram (Taraki)

 

What went wrong between the Tigers and Premadasa

Tamil Times 15 June 1993

[see also Sri Lanka - LTTE Talks: 1989/90 - A Report by Bradman Weerakone, Adviser to Sri Lanka President Premadasa]


What went wrong between Prabhaharan and Premadasa? It was almost a fanatical belief among many Sinhalese and even among some Tamils who are usually well informed that President Premadasa was somehow in cahoots with the LTTE. The diplomatic cocktail circuit and the intelligence community which normally hold the prerogative on the truth of such momentous issues contributed in no small measure in entertaining and propagating this belief. And of course it suited the political objectives of those who stood to benefit from this beliefs persistence.

And hence the question 'What went wrong between Prabhaharan and Premadasa?' is naturally bound to arise among those who have fervently subscribed to the belief that Premadasa would ultimately talk to the Tigers. The question sounds almost silly if one were to view the position taken by the LTTE from the time it had talks with the government, in 1989.

It would also demonstrate how a large number of decisions and perceptions which have determined the course of the war and its politics have been essentially shaped by interpretations arising from certain fundamental beliefs about the ethnic conflict, which have gained currency in the south from time to time. The LTTE had made its point clear from last year –that Premadasa's pro-Tamil stand was an insidious sham.

The message reiterated was this –the Tigers brook no one who dares to lead them up the garden path with view to ultimately destroy them.

The Hot Spring, currently Jaffna's only English tabloid which was established and edited by Mr. S. Kodeswaran – (the man from Trincomalee who figured in the case on language rights which became a landmark in the legal history of Sri Lanka) carried an article by one S. Alagaratnam six days before Premadasa was blown up.

The writer takes to task those in the south who were crying foul at Bishop Kenneth Fernando for undertaking a peace mission to Jaffna. He says:

'I have gone through tens of letters to the editor of the Island including that of a lady of 83, and several, articles on the subject of the Anglican Bishop of Colombo meeting with Prabaharan. It is a pity the Sinhalese people as a whole (Vasudeva Nanayakkara –one swallow does not make a summer) fail to understand the aspirations of the Tamil people and the acute problems they are facing, problems forced on them by successive Sinhalese governments from the day this island gained independence.'

The writer goes on to say:

'some of the writers question the propriety of Prabhaharan bringing in shiploads of arms while speaking of peace, is not President Premadasa purchasing Puccara bombers, supersonic bombers and what not, while always saying there will have to be a political solution and not a military solution to the ethnic problem? If Prabahaharan is not armed and ready to repel the invading forces what right has he to talk of peace?

`One of the writers says the Rev. Bishop should have sent a bullet through Prabhaharan's brain. The most suitable person to receive this gift in his brain is President Premadasa, as commander of the forces ordering the firing of artillery shells from army camps and navy vessels all the 24 hours of the day.

`Does not this cowardly act kill the ordinary innocent Tamil, destroy his house, destroy his temple, school, market, shop and what not besides playing psychological havoc especially among women and children? This type of war was not carried out against the JVP because the victims will be Sinhalas, his kith and kin. And practically every day this President says aloud that the war is only against the Tigers and not against the Tamil people.

`Why do not these writers and the Sinhalese people as a whole see this diabolic crime? One can understand the firing of these when the army is on the move to capture a Tiger held area. . . .but to do this practically every day and at all hours even in the nights is pure simple genocide.

`Here I would like to remind the efforts made by Chancellor Helmut Khol to punish Eric Honecker for ordering the killing of east Germans crossing into West Germany.

`Now who is going to punish Premadasa for this heinous war crime?

`Has to be left to Karma only' (The Hot Spring – 25-04.93).

Of course it was quite clear six days later that the task of punishing Premadasa was not left to the whims of Karma but to the lethal determination of a Black Tiger.

The Tigers began to identify President Premadasa as the chief belligerent among the Sinhalese from mid last year. Around that time Erimalai, an official LTTE magazine put out in France with material prepared in Jaffna, had this to say commenting on the pacifist image Premadasa had managed to cultivate among the Tamils.

"There is nothing more false than the claim that the president desires peace, but has to go along with the desire of the army to achieve military victory. The Sri Lankan president is the supreme commander of the armed forces. He presides at the Security Council meeting every week. The truth is that it is the President who is trying to guide the army towards a military victory., (p.18).

It appears that the LTTE had come to the conclusion that Premadasa was actually setting about creating the ideal political and international environment for facilitating the military effort against them. And their problem seems to have been that he was doing it subtly and effectively. But then Premadasa in a moment of supreme confidence slipped, when he nonchalantly told a delegation of Tamil political leaders early last year that he would stand by his party's decision to campaign for the demerger of the northeast.

The Tigers became quite wary of Premadasa's intentions after this. They had characterised him as a Sinhala chauvinist leader who was anyway a better bet for them because he was a strong nationalist – meaning that he would not seek Indian assistance to fight them. It is in this context that they tried to save him during the crisis created by the impeachment. LTTE's decision to send the eleven EROS MPs who were under their control for the purpose of voting with the government on the impeachment, was based on the perception that the Indians were behind the move to impeach Premadasa and that they would prop up Gamini Dissanayake, who according to them would have no qualms about inviting India to crush them.

But it appears that from mid '92 the LTTE was becoming suspicious that Premadasa was gradually being drawn wittingly or unwittingly into the Indian orbit. It was noted in the Peninsula that Premadasa was giving a free hand to what was described as the militarist lobby to push the line publicly that it would be stupid to talk to the LTTE and that it should be defeated militarily at whatever cost. Continued on page 29

 

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