26th November 2000

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Minister's guards assault driver

Ministerial Security Division officers are alleged to have assaulted a private bus driver when the bus obstructed a vehicle carrying two ministers near the Parliamentary complex.

Ministera H.B. Semasinghe and Alavi Moulana were travelling to Parliament in Mr. Semasinghe's vehicle, when the incident occurrred after the private bus had overtaken and blocked the Ministers' car.

The MSD guards of Minister Semasinghe had then got out of their vehicle, boarded the private bus and allegedly assaulted the driver.

Minister Moulana told The Sunday Times the private bus had swerved without a signal and forced their car onto the sidewalk. However, he had advised the guards to forget the matter and drive on.

Minister Semasinghe was not available for comment.

Ratnasiri raps coordinator son

Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayke has cautioned his son about maintaining discipline within the party after the son's photograph appeared in a state newspaper identifying him as a co-ordinating secretary to the premier.

The Prime Minister in a letter to his son Vidura Wickra-manayake cautioned him saying that he was not the co-ordinating Secretary of the Prime Minister, but a Co-ordinating Secretary to the Ministry of Buddha Sasana.

Prime Minister Wickrama-nayake holds the portfolio of Buddha Sasana. The son's photograph attending a religious ceremony before assuming duties at his office in Horana appeared in Friday's Dinamina.

The Premier has reminded his son that he cannot operate from a separate office and if he wishes to work independently he should resign from the post of co-ordinating Secretary of the Buddha Sasana Ministry.

The Premier has said 'discipline should be maintained within the party'.

Bus-bomb defused

A 10 kilo bomb was detected last night inside a CTB bus plying between Chilaw and Negombo, police said.

They said the detection was made possible due to a tip-off. The Army bomb disposal squad took the bus to the beach and defused the bomb.

Peace? End violence, occupation

LTTE's political wing leader S. P. Thamilchelvam responding to questions put to him by freelance journalist Upul Joseph explained the rebel group's position on the Norwegian peace initiative. Mr. Thamilchelvam, who was associated with his leader Velupillai Prabhakaran during talks with Norwegian Special Envoy Erik Solheim early this month provided answers made available exclusively to The Sunday Times on wide ranging issues, both on the ongoing war as well as peace talks. A few questions and answers have been deleted due to reasons of space.

Q: Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar said in Norway that the government had the capability to carry on the war for at least 100 years, but the problem is whether the LTTE can carry on with it at least for the next 50 years. What is your comment on this statement?

A: I do not consider it necessary or rather prudent to respond to the wild allegations of Mr. Kadirgamar. But at the same time it is interesting to look back and consider the deadlines. Mr. Kadirgamar in particular and the government of Chandrika in general, have been fixing deadlines to eradicate the Tigers and also there is humour in their perceptions of the Tamil freedom struggle during the last six years. You will find therein unmet deadlines and a fanciful dream in all their proclamations.

It is a fact of history that any nation of people who fight for freedom and justice do attain it however long it takes. The oppressor's success in aggression has always been short-lived. With whose assistance the aggressor plans to subjugate? The same people wake up in course of time and reverse the oppressor's plans. History is replete with instances of powerful superpowers facing defeats. It would thus be seen that the life span of freedom struggles as against oppression has been eternal. Unfortunately one sees in people like Mr. Kadirgamar a state of adamant refusal to understand and any efforts to convince these people will end up in the proverbial straightening of the dog's tail. Thinking of people like Mr. Kadirgamar, we are only reminded of the fellow who pretend to be sleeping you cannot wake up these people.

Q: Mr. Kadirgamar said the government was ready for peace talks, but the LTTE was not. Does this imply that the LTTE is against peace?

A: I have in my response to your earlier question said that Mr. Kadirgamar has never maintained consistency in his political utterances. However, you will pardon me for being repetitive, in that I need to elaborate further on this issue.

The Liberation Tigers or for that matter the Tamil nation as a whole, have never been against peace. What we are fighting against is the military aggression and our goal therein is a peaceful life with rights and dignity in our homeland. If sincere, genuine and meaningful measures are adopted to bring about peace, we will be the happiest of people and the LTTE will extend its co-operation to any peace initiative that would bring lasting peace with dignity.

Q: What is the relationship between peace and Jaffna? Is it a policy decision to capture Jaffna before holding talks for peace? Can you capture Jaffna?

A: For any peace initiative to succeed, the Tamil people not only in Jaffna but also in the entire Tamil homeland, should be made to feel that normalcy has returned that they can live peacefully without fear and intimidation.

You have asked whether we can capture Jaffna. Before I proceed to answer this question direct, it is pertinent to refer you to the fate of the 'occupation' army in the mainland Wanni. After many months, of grandiose military plans, you know what happened to thousands of Sinhala youths in the Wanni. Chandrika or those who help her cannot and do not understand this. The end result of these grandiose military occupation of Wanni was the killing and maiming of several thousands of Sinhala youths and economic burden on the civilian populace in Sri Lanka.

I do not think it necessary to elaborate on the fate of those military personnel stationed in thousands in Elephant Pass the gateway to Jaffna, Iyakkachchi and Pallai. The tragedy of innocent Sinhala youth being made prey to ambitious politicking will have to end one day, and towards this I am, certain that the Sinhala nation will stand to reality and rise up against this oppressive regime.

To retain power at any cost, this government has pushed the military personnel into a trap, not taking into consideration the human disaster that would ensue. The head of this government will definitely be detested by the Sinhala nation who will bring an end to this oppressive regime. If you will care to analyse the ground reality in Jaffna peninsula, therein you will find an answer to your question.

Q: How do you view the mediation of a foreign country, especially Norway?

A: We accept any meaningful intervention of any agency that would stand by its commitment to truth and justice. Contribution of Norway in this respect is viewed with optimism, in that we are confident that saner counsel would prevail.

Q: Do you think that India can play a role?

A: India, by virtue of its position in South Asia, we believe extends its moral support to the freedom struggle of the Tamil people to ensure peace with dignity.

Q: There is a rumour that some Indian ministers are supporting the LTTE. And our President states that India did not assist in protecting Jaffna from the LTTE. Nevertheless, the rumour is that India shows support to the President's decisions and policies to solve this problem. The speculation is that India wanted very much the proposed constitution be approved. How do you view Indian government's policy in this regard ?

A: There is a litmus test as regards the peace initiative and the political solution put forward by the government of Chandrika. India or for that matter any other nation or forces that have familiarized themselves with the problems and the freedom struggle of the Tamil people, the necessity underpinning their freedom struggle, will definitely support that. India notwithstanding any country that promote peace, will prefer a situation wherein meaningful negotiations sans military coercion would lead to peaceful settlement of this problem. Whether Chandrika's political reforms are genuinely intended to resolve this conflict or they are as usual a step in political duplicity, has to be judged in course of time.

Q: Thomas Pickering, US Under Secretary of State once commented during his visit to Sri Lanka that an Eelam state can only be created in another planet, What do you have to say about this comment?

A: I think Mr. Pickering has responded on the premises posited before him rather than passing judgement premised on truth, historical reality and more than anything, an unswerving commitment to justice. The emergence of freedom movements by oppressed nation of people, has always been viewed as terrorism at the initial stages by the international community. History has on record gradual transformation of this thinking pattern of the international community with passing of time. Our freedom struggle too is no exception and we are confident that we will be judged in the right perspective by the international community as events unfold.

Q: The Sri Lanka government keeps saying that it has won over international community against the LTTE. Do you agree?

A: To a certain extent, yes. With resources aplenty, oppressors tend to have a good beginning in their campaign of disinformation. They succeed or rather believe, in this illusory make-believe setup of disinformation. But the resolute defiance of the people who struggle against injustice, succeed in getting their message penetrate through the walls of disinformation built up by the aggressor.

The international community then joins force with the freedom struggle of the oppressed people and the naked face of the aggressor stands humiliated in the eyes of the international community. This is history and we believe in it.

Q: The President claims that the LTTE is attacking herself and her government because during her term of office the LTTE suffered a major setback. What do you have to say about this?

A: Chandrika has a perspective and sympathy earning attitude in this matter. The Tigers do not single out anybody in their attacks. They fight against all those who have let loose violence, terror and genocide against the Tamil nation.

It is during Chandrika's time, the Tigers transformed themselves into a conventional army. Her naive militaristic approach resulted in the loss of lives of several thousands of Sinhala youth, military hardware, ammunition dumps and also the loss of strong military complexes maintained for ages. These statements therefore are intended mainly to distract the Sinhala masses.

Q: The President and the government claim that the LTTE and the UNP have secretly vowed to destroy her as well as her government. A document of such kind was produced before the general election. Is it true ?

A: This is another canard of Chandrika. Earning sympathy by this type of canards is to perpetuate herself in power. Creating dissension among the people and take revenge on political opponents are the ulterior motive. This, in other words, is the story of one stone and two mangoes. True enough, both these parties, the UNP and the PA, only rely on racism for their political survival.

Q: Did the LTTE find the need to bring the UNP into power, during the general and presidential elections?

A: Neither the LTTE nor the Tamil people had any interest in both the elections, because history has taught the lesson that both these parties have been competing with each other in letting loose state terrorism on them.

Q: The Tamil parties became a decisive factor in the formation of the government after the general election. It is because of the EPDP, that the government stands to-day. How do you view this development ?

A: The EPDP has been right throughout an opposing force in the freedom struggle of the Tamil people. They are a group of aggrendizers interested only in their self. Whichever major party that feeds, them, they will support it genuflectingly. Furthermore, these are the people who found their way into parliament by fraudulent means. They therefore do not deserve comments.

Q: What are your comments on the North-East election results?

A: We do not consider the militaristic government prevailing in the north-east, as something conducive to any democratic exercise including general election. People are living under violence-filled military rule added to the prevalence of armed gangs. The sham election was conducted under coercion and armed pressure. We therefore do not consider it worth commenting.

Q: During the past six years, the president and the government have mentioned that at each election, the people have given their consent to destroy the LTTE. Do you agree? Do you have any message to the Sinhala people.?

A: A majority of Sinhala people hate this war. They do not like their children becoming cannon fodder in this meaningless war. Also they are burdened with the rising cost of living. The economic burden as a result of war has become unbearable. This type of misreading of the people's verdict will only result in mass uprising and deposing of the ruling elite.

Q: The LTTE was accused of being involved in the loss of the president's eye and assassination attempt on her. Despite this, she still extends her hand for peace. Are you ready to welcome her? And do you trust her?

A: The president has maintained an ironic consistency in her duplicity in politics. We consider that her tenure is filled with falsehood and deception and hence her present stance has to be tested with the passage of events.

Q: If any peace process happens to be successful, is your leader prepared to be a part in achieving the Nobel Prize along with the President?

A: Our leader did not venture on this struggle to win a Nobel Prize or to achieve fame. He is, in fact a, self-made leader propelled to this position by his relentless fight against the opposition of his people who are made to lose their self-respect and dignity in their land of birth. The Tamil nation considers him as a star of hope and personification of sacrifices. They consider him as a factor culminated by events of history filled with persecution and genocide.

Such a person who loves his land and people more than anything, will be the first person to be happy when the aspirations of the Tamils are fulfilled.

Q: There is an accusation that your leader did not, or would ever participate in any negotiations with the government and thus it is said he is against peace.

A: Round table conferences, peace talks and agreements, have in the minds of the Tamil people an indelible impression that they were cheated. Our Tamil leaders have had innumerable instances of political deceptions. Much of our people's time was wasted in these deceptive steps taken by successive governments.

These measures are really meant for civilized people and undertaken by just governments. Unfortunately governments with racial prejudice and ethnic hatred as the one in Sri Lanka are not the appropriate agencies to put through such sincere and meaningful measures.

Reality being this, it is unreasonable for one to accuse us of being against peace. It is through genuine sincere and meaningful political will and commitment that you can have a negotiated settlement.

Q: A foreign magazine claimed that Mr. Prabh-akaran was one of the Asians from Sri Lanka who created history in the 20th century. But the same magazine portrays him as the most ruthless terrorist guerrilla leader. How do you describe him in this context?

A: Usually truth and political realities emerge when facts and history are viewed in the right perspective. On the other hand when facts are intermingled with fiction, one cannot arrive at a sensible decision. It is only when such fiction is removed one can see the truth.

As far as our leader is concerned he is on the side of truth and justice. He leads a nation of people oppressed for several decades with commitment to the cause. A proper assessment of the man needs an unbiased assessment and not political expedience to suit oppressive regimes.

Q: Do you think that Mr. Prabhakaran can become another Mandela or an Arafat?

A: Nelson Mandela and Yassar Arafat are people who were committed to the cause freedom for their people. Our leader is also leading our people, who are subject to political tyranny and he is being loved and admired by his people in the same way that Mendela and Arafat are.

Q: Do you believe that the day your leader dies, inevitably this ethnic problem and war would also be extinguished?

A: The emergence of a leader to lead a nation of people who have been subject to persecution and second class treatment is a historical compulsion.

Our leader is one such phenomenon. Destroying such an individual will in no way result in the struggle being wiped away from the political horizon. The freedom struggle will continue till such a time our people win their freedom.

Q: Do you believe the background can be set to achieve peace through the new constitution put forward by the government?

A: The so-called political reform package or the new constitution has not reached us as yet. From what we reliably understand, this is just a cosmetic exercise purported to contain refinements to the various constitutions of the previous chauvinistic regimes. They probably contain concessions which are far below in meeting the aspirations of the Tamil people. The struggle of the Tamil people, it should be understood, is for their rights and not for concessions. If those who profess to be in the democratic stream of politics, the so-called moderates themselves, cannot agree on these proposals, one wonders as to how these proposals will be implemented to create peace and harmony in this country.

Q: Do you think a ceasefire is necessary to create a conducive environment for peace?

A: The path to peace needs as a pre-requisite, a conducive environment, free of violence and military occupation. Whoever who decided to place war as a tool to achieve peace, should remove it first of all. It is then and only then can we achieve peace.

Q: Some say a ceasefire would be advantageous to the LTTE. Do you agree?

A: Instead of weighing the advantages and the disadvantages to the LTTE, it is prudent and circumspect to weigh the adverse impact this war has on the country and act with statesmanship rather than politicking.

Q: Will your organization agree to hold peace talks amidst the war?

A: It is only when hostilities cease, the economic embargo on a nation of people are removed and when the people too have the peace of mind can lasting peace efforts succeed.

Q: Will you agree to hold peace talks in a foreign country?

A: If genuine efforts are made with sincerity to promote peace, our leadership will consider a positive response to this question.

Q: Is mutual agreement a compulsory element with the two main parties to achieve peace?

A: It is essential that both these parties give up their anti-Tamil and militaristic approach and commit themselves for peace and justice and it is only then does a consensus become meaningful.

Q: Do you have any comments to make on the Bindunuwewa incident?

A: This is only one incident in a series of genocidal programmes of this government. Civilized world and the human race at large have identified the anti-Tamil culture nurtured and developed by this government. This is a blot in the history of the human race and has created a deep wound in the minds of our people.

Q: Our president is virtually a prisoner at her official residence and your leader is also imprisoned. They both face threat from each other's cadres. So how about our President and your leader sitting at one table to talk on saving the lives of others?

A: Is the President imprisoned in the Temple Trees or has she imprisoned herself by the dictates of her conscience? We will be delighted to know which of the two is correct. Unlike the President of Sri Lanka, our leader is with the people and the freedom fighters. He is leading this struggle and taking the freedom fighters along with him on the path to freedom for the people.

It is true that our leader does not have a luxury mansion similar to that of the President but that does not mean he is in a prison. Our recent military achievements and political moves are all given the lead by our leader personally and it is surprising to find that you are not fully aware of the happenings. I think the day that the President of Sri Lanka and the Tamil National Leader sit together and talk is the happiest day for both nationalities Sinhalese and Tamils. This is quite possible when the oppressors realize they are oppressing.

Q: Is there anything else to say?

A: The recent brutal killings of the Jaffna journalist who had the courage to enlighten the outer world on the human rights violations in the North and the killing of the Tamil parliamentarian who was loved by all the Tamil people in Batticaloa, both by the armed gangs masquerading with state patronage, are ominous warnings of how this government, under the cover of the Prevention of Terrorism Act and the various draconian legislation act. These are clear messages to the civic minded citizens of this island to act without delay.

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