‘We will fight for our political objective’

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V. Prabakaran, LTTE leader, consoling the mother of Sadasivam Krishna Kumar (Kittu) in Sri Lanka. Photo: The Hindu Archives

In his first extended interaction with the media after the signing of the Indo-Sri Lanka agreement, LTTE supremo V. Prabakaran told T.S. Subramanian in Jaffna in August 1987 that “it is better to fight and die rather than surrender weapons in an insecure environment”. Excerpts from the interview published in the September 4, 1987, issue.

What is your assessment of the Indo-Sri Lanka agreement? What are your apprehensions about it? You say there is a shortfall in relation to your expectations. What are the main areas of dissatisfaction?

As far as the agreement is concerned, they say that there will be a referendum in the Eastern Province even on the merger of the North and the East. Moreover, they say the referendum will be decided by a simple majority. It is not a question of the merger of the North and the East. It is our homeland. There is no question of any negotiation on this. There are some further complications. It is an agreement between the Government of India and the Sri Lankan government, as far as we are concerned.

In 1983, there were only a few Sri Lankan army camps in the North and the East. But now there are some 200 camps. The Sinhalese settlements could not be removed or dissolved without removing these army camps and, in fact, the camps ‘legitimised’ the Sinhala settlements. An important aspect (in the agreement) is that there is no room at all for the removal of the camps. To stop such settlements and prevent atrocities, the Indian Army should stay there.

But a strange thing is that there are no Indian Army camps beyond the Elephant Pass or Jaffna peninsula. But today, Indian Army camps have been established at Kodikamam, Achuveli, Palai, Vannankerni, Yakkachi junction, Thalaiyadi coast, Pandatharippu and Kankesanthurai Light House. There is no need [for Indian Army camps] in these places, because there are no Sinhalese there.

You said the text of the Indo-Sri Lanka agreement was not given to you.

They took away the copy. Mr J.R. Jayewardene today says there will be a referendum. The bill has not been moved in Parliament.

What is your attitude towards the Government of India and Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi?

Attitude?

I mean your standpoint.

As they took into consideration their own interests and hurriedly arrived at the agreement, they have not looked after the grievances of the people who have been affected for so long.

How?

There are refugees in Mullaitivu. People are taking out processions. But before that, we have to lay down our arms. However, the people’s problems have not been solved. The problem is that people must return to their land. To facilitate that, the [Sri Lankan] army camps should be removed. But the Indian Army is not prepared to remove the [Sri Lankan] army camps and this will not bring about a solution. If this had been discussed before the agreement was arrived at, we would have laid down certain conditions.

Addressing the public meeting on the Sudumalai Amman temple grounds on August 4, you said you had a heart-to-heart discussion with Rajiv Gandhi. You also mentioned that he gave you some assurances and then you relented. What are the assurances?

Mr Rajiv Gandhi gave the assurance that we, the Tamil people, will be protected in the North and East. But people are not able to return to the East. The Indian Army has gone there but the Tamil people are not able to go there – because there is an increasing opposition from the Sinhalese Home Guards and the Sinhalese people. There are army camps there in individual houses, schools and cooperative stores. But the Indian Army has not been deployed in such places. The Ceylon Army has not been evacuated, the problem has not been solved.

What did Rajiv Gandhi say about the removal of 200 army camps?

We opposed the agreement on this point. Nobody was prepared to consider it.

In Delhi?

Yes, in Delhi (firmly).

Will you accept a multiparty, competitive political system? You said earlier that there should be a one-party democracy on the lines of Yugoslavia.

This is important and you should know our position. We have not achieved Tamil Eelam. I had expressed my views on a political set-up for Tamil Eelam. But there is no separate country now. This is an agreement imposed on us. In this [set-up] everyone is equal, everyone is the same. We will fight for our political objective. We will take the Eelam political objective in a sustained manner before our people.

What I said then was to be done after the establishment of our own state. But there cannot be any compatibility between one-party rule and what obtains now. What is taking place now is this. Sri Lanka and India have concluded an agreement. The Indian Army is here and is asking for our weapons. If we don’t do that, we will have to fight the Indian Army. To avert that, we accepted these arrangements, but we have not abandoned our political objective.

What is your attitude towards the Muslims in the East?

We don’t look upon the Muslims as a separate category; we consider them an integral part of the Tamils. It is a question of people united by language and differentiated by religion.

What happens to the cyanide capsules that your men wear round their necks? Are they necessary when there are no arms?

I think the capsules are needed most, they are indispensable now. They are the only weapons for the cadre to protect themselves in the Eastern province from hoodlums, the rival groups and the Sinhala army. Not only that, they would continue to wear them in remembrance of those comrades who fought along with them and sacrificed their lives. (At this point, Prabakaran asks Yogi, one of the political organisers of the LTTE, whether he sports the cyanide capsule. Yogi pulls out the capsule tied to a string around his neck. It is made of white-and-black plastic. Prabakaran also pulls out his capsule from under the collar of his shirt and shows it to us. When we ask him whether we can photograph him at this moment, he politely declines the proposition.

How do you feel when your fighters are killed? For example, you have named your son Charles Antony in memory of a loyal LTTE fighter who was killed in a clash with the Sri Lanka Army in July 1983.

As far as our feelings are concerned, we have been very deeply affected in our hearts. Having fought so much, having sacrificed so many lives and having lost 20,000 people... all this has been subordinated to India’s strategic interests. Not only that, we, the representatives of such martyrs, have not been properly respected. Hence in this kind of situation, during the interim arrangement, we feel that we want to demonstrate to the Government of India the support we have from the people. India has not given us our due. Without consulting us, they have arrived at an agreement. Hence, we would like to enter politics with the people’s support and with the goal of Tamil Eelam. That will be the fitting reply.

Today’s Tamil papers in Jaffna quote an LTTE representative as saying the organisation would not fully surrender arms.

Yes, we made the statement. It is better to fight and die than surrender the weapons in an insecure environment and die on a mass scale!

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