30th November 1997

Jain Commission points accusing finger at Premadasa

By a Special Correspondent

The Commission has come down heavily on President Premadasa’s policies and actions,
which it says, helped the LTTE recover from the grievous wounds it received at the hands
of the IPKF and join in the destruction of the 1987 Indo-Sri Lanka accord .

NEW DELHI: It is by now common knowledge that the Jain Commission’s interim report on the conspiracy behind the assassination of former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi has sharply indicted two former Indian prime ministers, a state Chief Minister and the intelligence agencies for creating conditions which enabled the LTTE to carry out the daring attack.

Premadasa:"remarkable diplomatic feat" redused to oblivion
But what is not so well known is that the Commission has pointed an accusing finger at the then Sri Lankan President R. Premadasa, also. The Commission has come down heavily on Mr. Premadasa’s policies and actions, which it says, helped the LTTE recover from the grievous wounds it received at the hands of the IPKF and join in the destruction of the 1987 Indo-Sri Lanka accord which, if sincerely implemented, could have curbed Tamil militancy and brought peace to both Sri Lanka and India.

India would not have lost its “charismatic leader” if Mr. Premadasa had not served an ultimatum to the IPKF to quit before it had completed its task under the accord, the interim report said.

“If Premadasa would have allowed the IPKF to achieve its objectives and goals for which it was sent, that is, to establish a stable civil administration and bring about normalcy and peace to the North Eastern Provinces, history of Sri Lanka and India perhaps would have been different. Premadasa would have seen in his own lifetime, peace in the North and Eastern Provinces and India too would not have lost its charismatic leader,” the report said (para 22 pages 183 and 184).

On Pages 231 and 232, the report described the Indo-Lanka Agreement as a “remarkable diplomatic feat,” and then went on to lament the non-implementation of the Agreement due to opposition from President Premadasa and his “unholy” alliance with the LTTE.

Reinforcing the case President Premadasa had shown poor political foresight and judgment on the twin issues of the Accord and the role of the IPKF, the Jain Commission report points out that the Sri Lankan President’s alliance with the LTTE had led to his own death at the hands of the LTTE.

The Commission contended that the fears of Premadasa or of some other quarters in Sri Lanka about India’s intentions, especially about the length of the IPKF’s tenancy in the island, were not well founded. The process of the IPKF’s withdrawal was already on when the ultimatum was given, it pointed out.

“How India could have acted contrary to the stipulations in the Agreement?” the Commission asked. “The IPKF was sent at the request of the President of Sri Lanka and would have remained in Sri Lankan territory under the Agreement till its tasks were performed and normalcy returned by disarming of militants including the LTTE,” it said.

“The whole anti-agreement and anti-IPKF propaganda is far from truth,” the Commission contended. “Neither there was any militarisation nor there was raising of any army in the form of CVF by the IPKF and it would be wrong to name the IPKF as an occupation army. The IPKF did not indulge in excesses and atrocities either against the civilians or even against the LTTE cadres. The operations of the IPKF were only to disarm the militants,” the Commission argued.

However the Jain Commission’s main findings have to do more with the culpability of forces within India, rather than those outside it. With the material before it, the Commission could not but nail the then DMK government in Tamil Nadu led by M. Karunanidhi, the then Prime Minister, V. P. Singh, the Intelligence Agencies, and Mr. Singh’s successor, Chandra Shekhar, in that order. The panel has viewed President Premadasa as a contributory factor, not as a prime factor shaping the conditions which enabled the LTTE do what it did.

Karunanidhi’s regime

justice Jain concedes that before the DMK assumed office in Tamil Nadu in January 1989, the LTTE was using the state as a resource base for its fight against the IPKF. But this was due to “some laxity in the enforcement of law” (pages 936-937) para 73.15). After the arrest and subsequent deportation of 157 LTTE cadres including ‘Kittu’, in Oct. 1988, the LTTE’s activities had been arrested considerably, he said. But the DMK’s assuming charge in 1989, brought about a change in the situation.

“The LTTE was getting its supplies including arms, ammunition, explosives, fuel and other items from Tamil Nadu to continue its fight against the IPKF, that too with the support of the DMK government, the State Administration and connivance of the law enforcement agencies,” the report points out.

It characterizes the LTTE’s fight against the IPKF as “anti-national” and by implication, dubs those aiding and abetting the LTTE as anti-national.

The Commission draws attention to the clandestine and illegal visit of the DMK MP, V. Gopalsamy to the LTTE areas in north Sri Lanka between Feb. 8 and March 3, 1989 and says the way the DMK government treated the visit shows that pro-LTTE activities, including patently illegal ones, were tolerated by the regime. But while pointing an accusing finger at the DMK regime, the Commission seems to have glossed over Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s inability to take the DMK regime to task. It points out that in the midst of all this Mr. Gandhi has asked Mr. Karunanidhi to help him resolve the Lankan Tamil question.

When V. P. Singh replaced Mr. Gandhi in Dec. 1989. Mr. Karunanidhi was asked by the former, to talk to all the Tamil militant groups to explore ways of getting them to join the democratic mainstream in Sri Lanka. But the LTTE refused to give up its demand for “Eelam.”

The Commission says that in this the LTTE had the support of the DMK. “The LTTE got encouragement to operate in Tamil Nadu.

The indictment is clear on page 940 para 73.21. “The year 1989 signified the perpetuation of the general political trend of indulging the Tamil militants on Indian soil and tolerance of their wide- ranging criminal and anti-national activities even at the cost of deterioration of the general law and order situation in the State. The State law enforcement machinery was seen as apathetic and ineffective to deal with the growing aggression of the LTTE in the State. The LTTE activities of arms smuggling, abduction of Indian citizens were tolerated.”

On pages 941 and 942, the report talks of police connivances with the LTTE and attributes this to the Tamil Nadu police’s “awareness that the LTTE had political patronage of the ruling party.” On page 943, the panel refers to credible reports of the LTTE having “continuous interaction with Chief Minister Karunandhi, primarily to ensure that their activities continue unhindered even after the Padmanabha killing.”

EPRLF leader K. Padmanabha and 15 others were gunned down by the LTTE in Madras on June 19, 1990 and the assassins escaped to Jaffna thanks to the alleged co-operation of the Tamil Nadu police.

The Commission says that Mr. Karunanidhi’s boycotting the reception for the returning IPKF at Madras port was not in accordance with the Central government’s policy and that it amounted to pandering to the LTTE which approved of the boycott.

However, both the Karunanidhi and the V. P. Singh governments had a policy of allowing injured LTTE cadres to secure treatment in India, the Commission points out. This policy “enabled the LTTE to further consolidate their network in India.” (page 941). The Commission also points out that at this time, Tamil chauvinist groups were getting encouragement from the state, again to the delight of the LTTE. The nexus between the LTTE and the Tamil chauvinists in India was evident in P. Nedumaran’s visit to the LTTE HQ in 1990.

V. P. Singh

Indicting the Central government led by V. P. Singh the Commission said though the Centre was told about the LTTE-DMK nexus, Mr. Singh did not take effective steps to check it.

For its links with the LTTE, the DMK government was sacked in January 1991, by Mr. Singh’s successor, Chandra Shekhar.

The Jain Commission’s main charge against V. P. Singh and Chandra Shekhar is that they had not given Mr. Gandhi the Special Security Group (SPG) protection on the spacious grounds that he was only an ex-prime minister. An exception was not made in the case of Mr. Gandhi. Nor was an alternative arrangement, suggested by some officials, tried out. V. P. Singh had passed the buck on to the states when no effort was made to see that the states got an adequate security system.

Indicting V. P. Singh, the Commission says on pages 336-337: “It appears that V. P. Singh only extends his lip sympathy when he states that he had the highest respect for Gandhi family and Rajiv Gandhi’s security was his personal concern.”

The Commission points out that Mr. Singh and Chandra Shekhar ignored RAW’s reports that the threat to Mr. Gandhi from the LTTE, Sikh, Kashmiri and Assam militants had in fact increased since he demitted office and that the threat to him was higher that to the serving PMs. But the intelligence agencies themselves underestimated that threat from the LTTE (page 186-187) despite the assassination of Amirthalingam and Ranjan Wijeratne in the heart of Colombo at that time.

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