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20th December 1998

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Death of an ex- journalist

Former Lake House journalist Rohan Perera died on Friday afternoon at a private nursing home following a long illness. Mr. Perera was an all round and well acknowledged journalist at Lake House. Later he joined the French Embassy as press officer.

He leaves behind his wife Sheila and two children, Rukmal and Surangi. The cortege will leave his residence at Susilarama Road, Malabe at 4 p.m. today for service and burial at St. Mathews Anglican Church, Battaramulla.

Deen to head IPS UN bureau

The Rome-based third world news agency, Inter Press Service (IPS), has appointed Sri Lanka journalist Thalif Deen as its United Nations bureau chief. Mr. Deen, twice runner-up for excellence in UN reporting at the annual awards presentations by the United Nations Correspondents' Association, is also editor of the IPS daily journal which is widely read in the UN community.

TULF renews call for talks with LTTE

By Roshan Peiris

Joseph PararajasinghamA TULF leader has described the LTTE as a key player in the Tamil conflict and said the crisis could be resolved only if talks were held between the government and the rebels.

TULF parliamentary group leader Joseph Pararajasingham in an interview with The Sunday Times said that in the party's view the LTTE was not a terrorist group but a freedom fighting group that was carrying on the struggle of the Tamil people. However, he totally condemned violence and the attacks on innocent people or sacred places. Excerpts:

Q: Isn't the TULF today a victim of its own folly? It promoted a separate state idea, only to find itself sidelined by the LTTE . Any comments?

A: It is a long political story. The TULF originally as the Federal Party led by S.J.V Chelvanayakam, felt that in a pluralistic society a unitary constitution would be harmful to the minority Tamil community. Thus Mr. Chelvanayakam advocated a federal constitution which he hoped would satisfy the aspiration of Tamil-speaking minorities.

He tried to come to a settlement with the Sinhala-dominated governments within the framework of a united Sri Lanka. It is most unfortunate that the majority community failed to respond. Thus he believed the Tamil people who had a separate kingdom earlier should try to restore it.

"It was in these circumstances, that the TULF passed a unanimous resolution at Vaddukkodai in 1976 that a separate state was the solution to the minority problems.

Q: But hasn't LTTE sidelined the TULF?

A: Yes I agree. This was because the Tamil youths were frustrated when avenues for entering universities and finding jobs were closed to them.

So the youths decided that passive resistance was not the answer. Humiliated by violence in 1958, 1961, 1972, 1977 and 1983, the youths resolved that only through hard struggle could they achieve a separate state.

But subsequently after the Indo-Lanka Accord of 1987 all the militant Tamil groups except the LTTE entered mainstream politics. The LTTE still continues the struggle.

Q: But the TULF was all but sidelined and ignored. what about that?

A: I won't say that TULF was ignored. The present political scenario has made moderate political parties, particularly from the North and East somewhat ineffective.

Q: The TULF is for talks with the LTTE. What do you want to talk about?

A: The TULF does not want to talk with the LTTE. But the stark reality is that a conflict is going on with two parties, that is the government and the LTTE. As long as these two parties fight, the problem will continue.

Therefore it is necessary that the government talks to the LTTE to settle the ethnic problem. I believe that the LTTE is the key player in the Tamil problem and therefore any settlement to the question can only be arrived at by talking to the LTTE.

Q: Don't you still accept the harsh reality that the LTTE wants to eliminate the TULF from the face of Jaffna politics? That there can be no co-existence between the LTTE and the TULF.

A:The LTTE has not given up its struggle for the benefit of the Tamil People. Therefore it is better for any Tamil political party not to disturb and topple the apple cart of the struggle.

Q: Don't you think the TULF can function only in a climate of no violence in domestic politics. Not the ordinary sort of violence I mean, but the extra ordinary violence which is a hallmark of the LTTE?

A: I feel the LTTE has not obstructed normal politics of the TULF. For instance, the three TULF MPs of Batticaloa District are allowed to continue their political activities for the welfare of the Tamil people of the area.

Q: But you have forgotten what the LTTE has done in Jaffna by preventing the TULF dominated Municipality from continuing and even killing two TULF Mayors.

A: This is a sensitive question and I don't want to answer it now.

Q: Even your relations with the Government are seen as being neither here nor there. The TULF did say it won't vote for the Budget because of the high military expenditure. But then all of you want military protection. Is it the LTTE or anyone else, who is posing a security threat?

A: The TULF has been objecting to the increase in the military expenditure. We see the Tamil problem as a political problem and it can only be resolved by political means. The increase in the defence expenditure means that the government is trying to resolve the question militarily. The TULF opposes such a move.

As for the second part of your question the TULF has never sought military protection.

Q: The TULF gives the impression that it is running with the hare and hunting with the LTTE. Your comments?

A: We understand the reality of politics in the North and East. It is known that it is the LTTE that is still continuing the struggle on behalf of the Tamil people. We for our part and I in particular will never term them as terrorists. We call them freedom fighters who are fighting for an oppressed community.

Q: Do you still call them freedom fighters and not terrorists after such acts as bombing the Dalada Maligawa, other places of worship and massacring school children and even Buddhist monks?

A: We don't support or condone any killing of civilians or destruction of sacred places of worship. We condemn such acts of violence.

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