`An individual's problem'

Published : Apr 09, 2004 00:00 IST

Interview with LTTE's political wing leader S.P. Tamilchelvan.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam's political wing leader S.P. Tamilchelvan maintains that its Eastern military commander Karuna's revolt and continued defiance has not affected the organisation "even in a small way". Excerpts from an interview he gave V.S. Sambandan in Kilinochchi:

What, in your view, will be the impact of the current crisis on the LTTE following the "discharge" of Karuna from the organisation?

As far as we are concerned, under the present circumstances the problem created by Karuna is shocking. We have faced several betrayals. Karuna violated our principles and code of discipline. As a result we have taken disciplinary action. The present crisis is that he has not abided even by that. But our leader's [V. Prabakaran] desire is that we should handle it carefully. Importantly, we want to bring him under control without any losses. As we have to manage this without affecting the prevailing peace it could take some time. However, we will bring it under control very quickly.

You mean the situation would be brought under control without any harm to the cadre or the civilians?

That is our intention.Can you elaborate?

Important commanders have come here [Kilinochchi]. Only the innocent cadre are under Karuna's control. Karuna has created a situation whereby our positions cannot be conveyed to them. For that we have charted out some strategies. It is our desire to overcome that through a plan of action. It is not our desire to be in a hurry, as every day there are hundreds of fighters deserting him [Karuna]. Several are coming here, several are going to their homes, so he is now heading towards a point of isolation. Under these circumstances, we have extended the time-frame.

How do you compare your past association with Karuna and the present situation?

Karuna did not reveal his weaknesses. The days I spent closely with him are few. It was only during the [peace] talks that we were close to each other. He has spent most of his days in Batticaloa-Amparai. It was in the recent days, with full autonomy granted by our leader for Batticaloa-Amparai, that such activities have been on the rise. It is his personal weaknesses that have pushed him to this situation.

Our organisation has a very strict approach to discipline. If these are transgressed, be it an ordinary cadre or anyone holding high positions, they will be [treated] in the same manner. Disciplinary action is unavoidable. He has now made it a big split, whipped up regionalism and attempted to weaken us. I can refer to some of his ridiculous statements, such as the one about the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi [that it was the gravest mistake by the LTTE's intelligence wing]. When you journalists asked our leader those questions [at the April 10, 2002, press conference], he was also there. He could have stated his stand on that day or at other occasions. Today, after he has been expelled from the organisation, after disciplinary action has been taken against him, out of spite he has been spreading canards to seek international respectability and support.

He did this with the motive of levelling false, untrue allegations against the leadership. He has also mentioned that the struggle is meaningless. Thousands of cadre, including several hundreds under his command, have lost their lives. If he is aware of that only now, to that extent these false allegations by him are propaganda to hide his personal weaknesses and the charges against him.

How does this affect the LTTE at this stage, after the war, after peace talks, and when the LTTE is supporting the Tamil National Alliance in the elections?

We do not see this as a setback or damage because it has become an individual's problem. If he had ceded with his fully armed force as a region, it is a different problem. But all the deputies who were under him have come to our leader and he is becoming isolated. Under these circumstances, we are not affected even in a small manner. We are confident. He is trying to create an illusion called the East. It is only in Batticaloa-Amparai that he has started such canards. Even in the elections the TNA is contesting with clear positions. This is not going to affect us in the elections or in people expressing their aspirations or in our liberation struggle as it is a problem by a single individual. With his increasing isolation we do not see it as a big setback.

For the first time, the LTTE is supporting a political party in the elections. Is this an indication for what the LTTE wants to do in future?

Certainly. In the 1977 polls, the Tamil nation voted for separation. After that we did not have any confidence in the Sri Lankan parliamentary system. That system was not putting forward any solution for the Tamils. Even now, though we don't have confidence, we are using it as an opportunity to express Tamil sentiments. As the TNA has accepted the LTTE and its leadership and is putting forward Tamil aspirations, we are supporting it fully. We are also using this opportunity to tell the international community and the Sinhala nation the view of the Tamil people.

President Chandrika Kumaratunga recently said she would talk to you if she comes to power. What are your comments?

If [the party] elected to power by the Sinhala nation and the Sinhala people is willing to carry on with the peace process sincerely based on continuity with the past, we are prepared to talk with such a political leadership.

What are you comments on Karuna's statement on the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi?

As we see it, by making such outrageous statements and giving prominence to the Rajiv Gandhi issue at this time, his intention is to weaken us as we are improving our relations on the international front. Karuna's announcements are intended to tar our national leadership and our struggle.

What do you think lies ahead for the LTTE now?

We are moving on a clear path, with a clear position. We are resolved to take forward the peace process. We are firm in wanting to implement the ceasefire agreement and to prevent war. The government fell because of the power struggle in the south. When that situation is restored and the conditions for taking forward the peace process are restored, the LTTE will strengthen its path even more.

Karuna revealed that Tamil Eelam was not discussed during the talks, but only a federal system. He has also said that a separate Tamil Eelam is not possible without international support.

That is Karuna's position. As far as we are concerned, we are attempting to find a practical solution. That depends on the situation, we shall decide depending on the extent to which a solution put forward by southern Sri Lanka is willing to accommodate Tamil aspirations. We have been clear about it.

You have been on the military as well as the political wing of the LTTE. How do you see the difference?

We see this as a duty to our people. When we were fighting the war, we saw it as a duty. When we are carrying out political programmes, we are also taking it as our duty. For us there is no big difference between the two.

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