The Tigers' refrain

Print edition : December 19, 2003

A DAY after he turned 49, the leader of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, V. Prabakaran, denied charges that his group's recent counter-proposals were a stepping stone to separation. However, sticking to the organisation's decades-long position, Prabakaran maintained that the LTTE "would have no alternative other than to secede" if "Sinhala ruling elites" continued to "oppose reconciliation".

V. Prabakaran lights an oil lamp on "Heroes Day" in Vanni on November 27 to honour his colleagues killed in fighting.-REUTERS/LTTE HANDOUT

In substance, Prabakaran's annual Heroes' Day speech did not differ much from the ones in the past. However, given the current political situation in the south, Prabakaran's speech had an "I-told-you-so" tone.

Dwelling at length on the political divide, Prabakaran accused President Chandrika Kumaratunga of having "severely damaged" the peace process through her "sudden intervention". Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe's "regime has become paralysed without power", Prabakaran said, referring to the takeover of the portfolios of Defence, Interior and Mass Communication by the President.

He said: "President Kumaratunga has put forward two reasons for her intervention. One is that the national security and sovereignty of Sri Lanka are threatened as the LTTE has been strengthening its military structure and preparing for war. Secondly, the government of Ranil Wickremesinghe has provided too many concessions to the Tamil Tigers. I wish to deny categorically that there is any truth in these allegations." He described them as "false accusations levelled against" the LTTE "to tarnish the credibility of our liberation organisation and to disrupt the peace process".

Maintaining the LTTE's past position, Prabakaran said: "Our people do not want war. We want peace and we want to resolve our problems through peaceful means. We are deeply committed to the peace process. It is because of our sincere commitment to peace that we are firmly and rigidly observing ceasefire." He also said that it was the LTTE that "took the initiative of declaring the cessation of hostilities unilaterally and observing peace for the last two years tolerating the provocative actions of the state's armed forces".

As for the LTTE's proposals for an Interim Self Governing Authority, Prabakaran said that they "do not constitute a framework for a permanent, final settlement". The speech, it appeared, was aimed at presenting the LTTE's case to the global community. The LTTE, he maintained, had "renounced violence" and was "making every effort through non-violent means to promote peace and reconciliation". The "international community," he said, "is fully aware of this."

Blaming the Sri Lankan political divide, he said that the Tigers "cannot allow" the "systematic destruction" of Tamils "in the web of Sinhala chauvinism".

Referring to the "opposition" to the LTTE's counter-proposals by "Sinhala racist forces", the critical reviews by the Indian media and political analysts and the "vehement critique" by the former Foreign Affairs Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar, the LTTE chief said, "what was shocking and disappointing" was that Chandrika Kumaratunga had taken over "three crucial Ministries" a few days after the draft proposals were released. "Whatever reasons" the President "attributes for her actions, it has now become a universal truth that she took this serious action as an immediate response to our draft proposals," he said.

Conceding that the LTTE's counter-proposals "call for substantial self-governing authority without which resettlement and rehabilitation programmes could not be undertaken", Prabakaran said that "large areas of the northeast are under our effective jurisdiction and efficiently administered" by the rebels. "I wish to point out that this is the reality," he said.

The "draft framework", he said, was "a concrete structure to find just and reasonable solutions" to "harsh oppressive conditions" that "prevail in the North-east with continuous military occupation and persecution by the armed forces".

The southern "power struggle that erupted between the heads of two major political parties of the Sinhala nation has shaken the very foundation of the state structure", Prabakaran said. "Sinhala racism, which has been denying the rights of the Tamils, now stands exposed with its mask torn apart, revealing its true, ugly face to the world," he said. The situation was described as a "tragic drama without an ending" as a result of which "the Tamil ethnic conflict continues forever".

"Whenever the party in power attempts to resolve the Tamil issue, the party in the Opposition opposes it and derails the effort"; this trend continued "even when the Opposition becomes the ruling party and attempts reconciliation", he said. "This Sinhala political drama with its typical historical pattern has been staged regularly for the last 50 years. The directors of this bizarre drama are the two major Sinhala political parties. Though the main actors have been changing over time, the theme of the story is the same," Prabakaran said.

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