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Home> Struggle for Tamil Eelam > Velupillai Pirabaharan > Interview with BBC, 1993
Interview with Anandhi Sooriyapragasam, BBC Tamil
2 March 1993
English translation of the Tamil version of the interview
as published in the LTTE’s weekly ‘KALATHTHIL’ published from London.
Q: How will you assess the present military-political situation?
A: There is nothing specific I can say about the present military-political situation. As far as the political atmosphere is concerned, as usual a gloomy situation prevails. There is no sign of any effort being made to peacefully solve the Tamil problem. In this connection, there have been no fresh initiatives. The government appears to place a newly found confidence in the anticipated final report of the Parliamentary Select Committee. However, the Tamil people do not believe that the Parliamentary Select Committee would put forward a just reasonable solution to our problem. That is because the main Sinhala parties that are represented in the PSC are not ready to accept any of the fundamental demands of the Tamils. It has to be said that there has been absolutely no change in approach of the Sri Lankan government.
Q: During my visit to Jaffna, I saw with my own eyes the indescribable sufferings experienced by the people because of the economic blockade imposed on Jaffna. When will the war that is dragging on and the sufferings of the people come to an end?
A: The continuation of the war, the ending of the war and finding a peaceful solution — all these depend only on the decision of the government. It is the government that started the war and is prolonging the war. It is the government that believes in a military solution to the Tamil problem. In spite of the fact that we have on several occasions requested that the war be brought to an end and that the problem be solved in a peaceful way, the government appears to have turned a deaf ear. On the contrary, the government is engaged in intensifying the war and escalating the economic pressure upon the people. This war is directed at the Tamil people. It is the aim of Sinhala chauvinists to enslave the Tamil people by inflicting destruction and suffering upon them, by breaking their determination and by weakening their fighting spirit. The western countries are indirectly giving assistance to this ethnocidal war. It is with the help of loans granted by the west that the government is continuing the war. If the west stops the assistance given in the form of money and weapons, the government cannot continue the war. Then only an atmosphere conducive to peace will be created.
Q: The number of government troops is 60,000. Your strength is estimated at 10,000 fighters. In this unequal situation, are you confident that you will emerge victorious in this war?
A: The strength of weapons or manpower does not undermine the victor in a war. The testimony for this is provided by the history of wars of liberation in the world. Did not the superpowers with massive manpower and military might face defeats in Vietnam and Afghanistan? Unshakable determination, valour and fervour for liberation are the determining qualities for achieving victory. Our fighters and our people possess these qualities in full measure.
0: It is reported that the Sri Lankan military have acquired several modern weapons. Are you in a position to withstand these weapons?
A: From time to time, the Sinhala forces have introduced several modern weapons. The government seems to believe that it can achieve victory by introducing modern weaponry. They thought so when they purchased the Sia Marchetti planes and later some tanks. Even now they are buying hordes of new weapons. But weapons do not determine victory. A people in revolt cannot be destroyed by weapons.
0: From where do you obtain your weapons?
A: Weapons are forced out from the enemy-forces. We fight the enemy with the weapons taken from the enemy. For example, in this war we captured a large quantity of weapons from the enemy last year. During last year, we captured a large quantity of weapons from the Sri Lankan military including 1172 automatic rifles, 106 light machineguns, four 50 calibre heavy machineguns, 23 anti-tank weapons, 25 rocket launchers, 1622 rockets, 30 communications instruments, 700,000 rounds of ammunition.
Q. When I journeyed to Jaftna, I had to travel through the Kilaly lagoon with great danger to my life. Because the use of this route has been prohibited by the security iorces, the plight of the people has become worse due to their inability to travel to and from Jaffna. If the Tigers and the government were to come to an agreement on this issue, people can travel without fear. What is your stand on the UNHCRs efforts to open up the Sangupiddy-Kerativu ferry route?
A: It is also our stand that the Sangupiddy-Kerativu route should be opened for travel. People must be able to freely use this route without any harassment from the security forces. In order to achieve this, there should be no military posts or checkpoints, and we insisted that the army should move a little distance away from this route, but the army was not prepared to agree to this proposal. The army wants everyone who travels through this route to be subjected to their checking. But this would result in danger to the people, and in particular to our supporters and sympathisers. Because of the stubbornness of the army on this issue, the UNHCR’s efforts have proved a failure. That is why we have suggested that at least the prohibition imposed on the Kilaly lagoon should be removed. Surely, it should be possible for the UNHCR to bring pressure on the Sri Lankan government to remove the prohibition on humanitarian grounds.
Q. It is believed that the Parliamentary Select Committee appointed to find ways and means to solve the Tamil problem is to put forward a federal scheme on a provincial basis, that is to treat the northern and eastern provinces as two separate units. Will you accept such a federal proposal?
A: Even the Colombo-based pro-government Tamil groups have expressed their strong opposition to this federal scheme on a provincial basis. How can we, therefore accept such a proposal which dismembers our Tamil homeland?
Q. Now, suppose If a federal scheme encompassing the northern and eastern provinces as a merged single unit Is put forward, will you accept such a scheme?
A: If a federal scheme that recognises the territorial integrity of the Tamil homeland is put forward, we are ready to consider it. There are many forms of federal systems of government with varying degrees of powers that are devolved. We are prepared to consider a federal system which provides for sufficient autonomous powers that fulfils the political aspirations of the Tamil people.
Q. What Is your stand in regard to the Muslim people?
A: We have to approach their problem on the basis that the Muslim people are an ethnic group possessing their own cultural identity. We are of the view that, while the identity and land rights of the Muslim people are preserved, it is by living together with the Tamil people that their social, political and economic life will be enhanced. Sinhala chauvinists and selfish Muslim politicians are attempting to promote differences and enmity between the Tamil and Muslim people. The Muslim people should not fall victims of such conspiracies.
Q. Muslims are also people of Jaffna. Then why did you expel them from Jaffna?
A: In the Amparai district, communal riots broke out in 1990 in which a considerable number of Tamils were killed, and following this there was the danger of riots breaking out in Jaffna also. In those circumstances, in the interest of the security of the Muslim people, we requested them to temporarily leave Jaffna. But once the war ends and a peaceful atmosphere prevails, we will permit them to settle again in Jaffna.
Q. You oppose the settling of Sinhalese people in the northern and eastern provinces. The Tamil people have the right to go and settle in any part of the country. Don’t you think the Sinhalese people also have the same right?
A: We are not opposed to the Sinhalese people settling in the Tamil areas. We are opposed only to the planned colonisation settlements in Tamil areas.
Tamil people are being driven out from Tamil villages, and in their place Sinhalese colonisation is taking place. These colonisation schemes are undertaken with the intention of splitting and dismembering the Tamil homeland, and it is these types of colonisation schemes that we oppose.
Q. What is your view about the Indian government’s present tough actions taken against the Tigers?
A: It is because of the wrong and exaggerated fear about the Tamil liberation struggle that India is adopting a tough approach against us. India is apprehensive that our freedom struggle will instigate separatism in Tamil Nadu and act as an inspirational force for national struggles in India. During the last ten years, the Indian government has, in various ways, interfered with and obstructed our struggle in view of this unnecessary and exaggerated fear. It is determined to destroy our movement which is taking forward the liberation struggle of the Tamils. The Indian government has misunderstood our legitimate struggle against genocide and we have been gravely affected by the unjust actions it is engaged in. The conditions of our people have been worsening. Encouraged by India’s hostile approach, the Sinhala government has been mercilessly intensifying its genocide of our people.
Q. Are the speculative reports about differences of opinions within the Tigers and removal from positions of certain leaders true?
A: They are not true. There are no differences of opinions in our movement. Certain changes have been brought about in our organisation. Responsibilities of certain senior members have undergone change. These have been misunderstood giving rise to speculations.
Q. Was Kittu’s journey a peace effort?
A: He undertook the journey to Jaffna with a view to creating an atmosphere of peace in Thamil Eelam and with a peace proposal from some western countries to commence negotiations about the Tamil problem. He tried to come to Jaffna only for the purpose of discussing the peace proposal with us. The Quaker organisation has confirmed the intention of his journey.
Q. What do you feel about Klttu’s death?
A: I cannot describe in words the depth of feeling that has affected me. Kittu was a pre-eminent Commander. He was a great fighter with an ideal. He was a great man of action. Kittu’s death is a massive loss not only to our movement, but also for our country.
Q. Will this war which has gone on for ten years end with a peaceful solution?
A: If there is to be solution to our problem by peaceful means, there should be a fundamental change in the attitude and approach of the Sinhala chauvinist rulers. If such a change takes place, I believe that a peaceful solution to our problem is possible.
Q. Mr. Pirabaharan, are you ready to genuinely enter into peace efforts? And what are your conditions?
A: I genuinely wish for peace. My aim in life is that my people should live in peace, in freedom and with dignity. We have not prescribed any conditions for peace. It is the Sinhala government that has been prescribing preconditions for peace and negotiations.