Another Heroes' Day speech

Print edition : December 31, 2004

`Col' Karuna. - ANURUDDHA LOKUHAPUARACHCHI/REUTERS

ON November 27, the former special commander of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam V. Muralitharan (`Col.' Karuna) did some plain-speaking in his maiden Heroes' Day speech.

Be it in attacking LTTE supremo V. Prabakaran or in setting conditions to the Sri Lankan government, `Col.' Karuna sounded firm and direct. He described Prabakaran as "unfit to lead the Tamils" and "claim the status of sole representative" as he was "responsible for large-scale killing of Tamils". He wanted the Sri Lankan government to discuss the basic issues of the conflict in order to find a solution. Suggesting a two-year time-frame to solve the crisis, Karuna said: "If we cannot resolve our problems, we should agree to separate."

Describing India as better suited to resolve the Sri Lankan crisis, compared to the Scandinavian countries, Karuna said it was India's responsibility to help in finding a solution to the conflict and that his party was of the view that India should accord prime importance to peace in Sri Lanka, while ensuring that "Tamil-speaking people live in peace, dignity and security". The years of armed struggle and the deaths of LTTE cadres in battle, he said, were "to live, not to be destroyed".

The address, which was also Karuna's first since launching the Tamileela Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal this October, set out a six-point plan of action for the fledgling party. As Prabakaran, "the mass killer, who has killed so many Tamils, cannot assume to be the sole representative," Karuna said, "attempts would be made" to tell the world that "the arch enemy of the Tamils is none other than Prabakaran". Secondly, concerted action would be taken to "safeguard, unite and preserve Tamils who are on the verge of being gradually decimated" internally and on foreign soil.

The third plank of the party would be to "negotiate with the government regarding primary and basic issues of the Tamils that have led us to the launching of the liberation war - issues such as land, language, employment, education, administration and more importantly, the security issue".

Equal socio-economic and educational status for Tamils and Sinhalese and the eradication of "all anti-human and anti-social activities now practised by Prabakaran", such as "tax collection, seizure of property, abduction, holding people hostage, denying education to the youth" will be another plank of the party. On India, Karuna said: "We are of the candid opinion that India is the only country that will be able to help us find a reasonable solution to the problems confronting the Tamil-speaking people and we believe that India is in a position to undertake and provide necessary security arrangements."

Describing Prabakaran as a person "who has the habit of killing those who helped him as well as those who have saved him," Karuna said he was "the reincarnation of Godse, Hitler, Pol Pot, and Nero, all put together into one".

On the path ahead, Karuna said his party's policy was to "prepare plans and schemes and negotiate for all the ethnic communities in Sri Lanka to live together peacefully, enjoying equal status. If we fail to find solutions to all the issues, then we should separate".

Karuna's speech has not yet generated the expectation that has come to surround Prabakaran's annual speeches, but in making his maiden speech, the former military commander of the LTTE has taken one more step towards occupying an important role in Sri Lanka's politics of separatist conflict.

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