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Sunday, 28 April 2013

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TNA has not done anything for the Tamils' well-being:

Only the Govt can deliver the goods - Deputy Minister V. Muralitharan

He was not trained at the prestigious Sandhurst, Aldershot or Kakul Military Academies but only a guerrilla fighter. Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan, popularly known as Karuna Amman joined the LTTE during his teens and was promoted Commander of his outfit. Having realised the futility of war against the State, he gave up fighting and joined the democratic mainstream.

Today he is the Deputy Minister of Resettlement and the Vice President of the SLFP. The Deputy Minister in an exclusive interview with the Sunday Observer stressed the importance of being with the Government if one genuinely wishes to uplift the living conditions of the Tamil community and develop the Northern and the Eastern Provinces. If the Tamil people elect another two or three Parliamentarians to join the Government rank, they would be able to secure more benefits for them and fulfill their aspirations. He said apart from engaging in racist politics, the TNA has not done anything for the well-being of the Tamil people so far. This is the true situation that the Tamil people should realise.

The Deputy Minister said that the Tamil Nadu politicians are using "Eelam" for their political campaigns. When an election is on the cards, Karunanidhi begins to talk about the grievances of the Tamils in Sri Lanka. He told Tamil Nadu politicians that there are only three communities live in Sri Lanka, while there are more than 24 communities in India.

He queried if all such communities are living peacefully in India, why can't the three communities Sri Lanka do likewise? In Sri Lanka, the Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim communities are living in peace and harmony. Why should the Tamil Nadu politicians disturb the peaceful co-existence of these communities? That is the question that we have to ask these Tamil Nadu politicians.

The people in the North and the East will never think about the war again since they have suffered a lot as a result of the terrorist war. Now only they want to live a peaceful life. The Tamil diaspora should also understand this is the aspiration of the people in the North and the East.

Excerpts of the interview:

Q: Is there any truth in the allegation that you broke away from the LTTE movement with the signing of the Ceasefire Agreement by Ranil Wickremesinghe with LTTE Leader Prabhakaran or what led you to give up arms and enter the mainstream politics?

A: That is true. I also represented the LTTE delegation at the peace talks held in Oslo. Our Chief Negotiator was Anton Balasingham. Then we had done six rounds of peace talks. When we were at Oslo at the final rounds of talks, facilitators of the Scandinavian countries told us to sign an agreement with the Government and proceed with peace talks.

This agreement envisaged a federal solution and I agreed to sign it. When Anton Balasingham said that he could not sign it as he had to ask Prabhakaran, I told Balasingham to sign it. Otherwise, nothing would happen and we would be back in Vavuniya. I was of the view that if only we signed the agreement we could continue peace talks. Then Balasingham, Thamil Selvam, lawyer Rudhrakumaran, Dr. Maheshwaran and myself discussed this matter further and finally I told them to sign the agreement. But Thamil Selvam and Rudhrakumaran asked not to sign it as it seemed to be a sort of trap. I persuaded Balasingham to sign it as it there was nothing like that, but only a few key words were there in the agreement to the effect that it would consider a federal solution. At the last moment Balasingham accepted my request and he participated again in the discussions. Anton Balasingham on behalf of the LTTE and Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris on behalf of the Government signed the agreement.

After signing the agreement, Balasingham told me that he could not go back to Vanni because Prabhakaran will shout at him. He asked me to talk to Prabhakaran and accordingly I went to Vanni and handed over the Agreement to Prabhakaran. Before I went to Vanni, Thamil Selvan and Rudhrakumaran had told Prabhakaran that it was I who persuaded Balasingham to sign the Agreement, when they didn't want to sign. Prabhakaran turned furious and called a Central Committee meeting the same day night and accused me that I betrayed their freedom struggle. I explained to Prabhakaran that I only expressed my view - the inability to form a separate country within Sri Lanka. I told him it was better to go for a negotiated solution as we cannot go on fighting. He didn't accept this position and said that we should have thrown this agreement away. Then I told Prabhakaran that I cannot fight with him. That is how I broke away from the LTTE and later entered the mainstream politics.

Q: LTTE movement was so strong that the national and international perception was that it was an invincible military movement. But under the able direction of President Mahinda Rajapaksa it was militarily crushed in 2009. How do you view this?

A: When I was in the LTTE, we engaged in a near 30 year war. I was with Prabhakaran for nearly 26 years. During that period, we fought against several Presidents such as J.R Jayewardene, R. Premadasa and Chandrika Kumaratunga and whenever the LTTE was weakened, they wanted to go for peace talks. The government too responded. That was LTTE's strategy. During this period we obtained weapons, collected money and strengthened ourselves. Again we abandoned peace talks and fought the government forces.

This continued until President Mahinda Rajapaksa assumed office. After President Rajapaksa came to power though the LTTE tried several times, he didn't give any chance to the LTTE to rearm itself. When the LTTE wanted to go for peace talks again President Rajapaksa didn't respond and it was a very good strategy on the part of the President. I was the Military Commander of the LTTE when I broke way from it. At that time, I sent more than 6,000 LTTE cadres back to their homes. They were the veteran fighters at that time. Therefore, after I broke away, the LTTE became weakened militarily. President Rajapaksa however, took a strong decision to destroy the LTTE.

Three factors are important for a military victory. They are decision-making, planning and implementation. The decision-making is always at the supreme level under the purview of the President. The President took a strong decision to destroy the LTTE through military means. Whatever international pressure exerted, the President never yielded to such pressure. Despite pressure exerted by various countries the President didn't stop the war against the LTTE. When we fought the Sri Lankan Army, the Government held talks with the LTTE behind the screen so that Sri Lankan Army got demoralized. Presidents R. Premadasa and Chandrika Kumaratunga also followed the same strategy. But President Rajapaksa never gave a chance to the LTTE. The second important thing was planning. The President appointed Gotabaya Rajapaksa as the Defence Secretary and he formulated a systematic plan to destroy the LTTE. Third, the implementation of this plan by the Armed Forces. The Army was well-disciplined and well-organised so that they implemented their strategy very well, and the Government could completely destroy the LTTE.

Q: As a politician who work for the social, economic and political advancement of the North and the East, are you satisfied with the post conflict development projects carried out in the North and the East?

A: I am fully satisfied with the projects so far carried out. At present the Government has implemented a large number of development projects in these provinces. After end of final war against the LTTE terrorism, we had nearly 300,000 people released from the LTTE custody. At that time the people criticised the Government that it was going to keep the IDPs for many years without being relocated. The Government however, sent them back to their homes within two years. At present all the people have been resettled in their native villages. Now the Government is providing the facilities to uplift their livelihoods. Infrastructure projects and road works are also going on very well. The Government is providing electricity to the people in the North and building houses for them while many health and drinking water projects have been implemented

so far. At present all the line ministries are working for the betterment of the people in the North. Economic Development Ministry is doing a tremendous volume of work in the North. Likewise all line ministries are supporting the people to uplift their livelihoods.

There are no big problems in the Eastern Province. All people have been completely resettled. We have some small problems in the North because we sent back the people to their homes recently. So we need time to improve their livelihoods. The Government has already provided substantial assistance for them.

Q: Despite the attempts by the Government to defeat the LTTE, still the pro-LTTE Tamil diaspora continues various disinformation campaigns against the Government and the country. How do you look at this scenario?

A: First of all, they have not understood what is really going on in the North and the East, because some of the Tamil diaspora members had left this country about 40 years ago. Most of their children were born after they left for those countries and they don't know anything about the North or the East. They are only breathing the disinformation spread by the pro-LTTE diaspora. At the same time, they have to create a problem to justify their existence in a foreign country because they always entertain the fear that they will be sent back to Sri Lanka. So they are carrying out false propaganda campaigns against the Sri Lankan Government by levelling baseless allegations on the violation of human rights. But nothing happens in Sri Lanka as claimed by them.

At present the Government has launched a number of development programs with the help of the Army. We are effectively using such manpower for the development drive. In Mullativu we are putting up a housing project with the help of the Army. The pro-LTTE Tamil diaspora attempts to create unnecessary problems in Sri Lanka.

We have to portray the true picture of our country through our ambassadors. Those who spread various disinformation against Sri Lanka should realise that when they go to London, they are not asked whether they are Sinhala, Tamil or Muslim. When they ask where are you from certainly you will have to tell them that you are Sri Lankans, but not Sinhalese or Tamils. They are living all over the Europe with Sri Lankan identity. I think today the situation is getting better since many people have changed their mindset. During the past they had to remit their contributions to the LTTE else they could not live there. The Pro-LTTEers went from house to house to collect money.

Q: Could you describe the transformation the Eastern province has undergone today from a terrorist-held ghost town to a free society?

A: The people in the North and the East were never engaged in an arms struggle.

They suffered a lot as they lost their children, parents and other loved ones. They will never think about the war again.

They want to live a peaceful life whether in the North or the East. The diaspora should understand these aspirations of the people in the North and the East. When we go to the Eastern Province, we can't see any check-points or road-blocks. Only the Police is maintaining the law and order. Development in the Eastern province is going on very well. Tourism is booming and there is a significant development in the Eastern Province.

Q: According to you what went wrong with the CFA when it had all the blessings of USA, Britain and other watch-dogs of democracy and world peace?

A: We can't put the blame on the Government. The international community too tried to push the LTTE into the mainstream politics and Prabhakaran didn't like that. He was always for a separate country, which was his policy and finally he died.

Q: Was it true that during the final phase of the terrorist war there was an international plot to airlift the LTTE high command and provide them political asylum in a European country?

A: No. I think that was not possible. The Government faced mounting pressure from the international community to stop the war. At the last moment the Government called upon the LTTE to give up their war and surrender to the Government, but they used 300,000 civilians as a human shield. Finally the Government was forced to launch a rescue operation to safeguard the lives of the civilians. It is difficult to prevent casualties in a rescue operation. I don't think the LTTE high command had a plan to escape at the final stage of the war.

Q: Eelam in a small country like Sri Lanka is not a viable project when Tamil Nadu, the origin of Tamil life and culture with its 70 million Tamils is the ideal geographical entity for Eelam. Your comments?

A: Eelam is never possible in a country like Sri Lanka. This terrorist war was started in Sri Lanka due to mistakes on the part of our politicians in the past. At the same time a number of foreign countries also wanted to create a problem in Sri Lanka and I don't wish to mention their names. Sri Lanka is a strategic point. Therefore, the Western countries are very keen on Sri Lanka and they may attempt to use it to realise their military or economic plans. They gave weapons and supported the LTTE. That is how the terrorist war was launched on a massive scale in Sri Lanka. Tamil Nadu also supported. The Indian Government policies were very clear and India would never allow to dismember Sri Lanka. That is the Indian Central Government policy. The Tamil Nadu politicians are using Eelam war only to realise their political ambitions. When an election is due, Karunanidhi begins to talk about Tamils in Sri Lanka.

I would like to tell them that there are only three communities in Sri Lanka, while there are more than 24 in India. If they are living peacefully, why can't these three communities in Sri Lanka live together peacefully? Why are they disturbing us? That is the question we have to ask these Tamil Nadu politicians. We live together in harmony and we don't want a separate country. In Sri Lanka, all Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim communities are living together peacefully.

Q: What are your views about the Tamil Nadu political extremists openly supporting LTTE terrorists hoisting Prabhakaran's portraits and asking Indian Government to intervene in Sri Lanka?

A: First of all, if they are Indians, they have to obey the Indian Central Government. Former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was killed by the LTTE. If they are Indians why should they support Prabhakaran since he is not their Leader? They are using Prabhakaran's name also for their political survival. Then only they can become popular. Otherwise, they can't come to power.

Q: LTTE didn't have a political ideal, but bomb explosions, killings and blood thirst. What made you to join such an organisation and leave it suddenly in search of freedom?

A:That is a very important question. It is not only me, but most of the Tamil youth joined the LTTE after 1983 July riots. When 13 soldiers were killed by Prabhakaran at Thirunelveli, Jaffna on July 23, 1983, the Government in power could not control the situation. As a reaction to the incident, riots broke out in Colombo and its suburbs. Many Tamil people were killed and their properties were destroyed by the Sinhala extremists and the Tamil refugees came to the North and the East from Colombo. At that time, I was studying for my Advanced Level Examination. When I returned from school, I saw lots of refugees were coming. They said they were coming from Colombo and their people were killed by the Sinhalese. At that time, I didn't know anything about politics. In addition to my studies I was engaged in sports. That was my life. My ambition was to enter the university. After I saw the refugees coming in, I began to think what was going on Sri Lanka? At that time, the LTTE also exploited that situation.

They distributed small leaflets alleging that Tamils were killed and as such the armed struggle was the only way to safeguard our people. "I also wanted to join the LTTE. At that time, the Indian Government supported the LTTE and they had provided military training to the LTTE. I also got military training in India. The Indian Government encouraged and supported the LTTE. President J.R. Jayewardene was in power. If he had controlled the situation in Colombo, the war would have never happened.

Q: Today you are living among the Sinhala people and freely move about in society. Could you say whether Tamils are persecuted, harassed or discriminated on any grounds?

A: No, nothing. I am moving freely with the people and they support me immensely. I have lots of friends in the Southern, and Central Provinces and everywhere. No discrimination against the Tamils. Many Tamil and Muslim people are living in Colombo.

They have not faced any problems. When some of our clergy went to Tamil Nadu, they were harassed in an unruly manner. Many Indians are living in Sri Lanka. No such incident has ever been reported against any Indians living here. Our people respect the Indian Government and the Indian people as well. Nobody has ever asked any Tamils not to purchase lands from Colombo. Most of the buildings in Colombo are owned by Tamils and Muslims. But Sinhala people are never jealous of them, but living with them harmoniously. I would like to call upon the Northern and the Eastern people to welcome them. Some extremist Tamil political parties say that Sinhala people can't buy the lands there. Then how do all those MPs of that extremist political party live in Colombo? The Sinhala people in Colombo never ask them not to buy lands or stay in Colombo. So why does some of these extremist Tamil political parties make such utterances? Even in the Eastern Province, all three communities are living peacefully.

Q: Minister Douglas Devananda and you have accepted Government policies and work for the well-being of the Tamil people. Why cannot TNA too co-operate with the Government to advance the cause of the Tamil people without subjecting them to enormous difficulties as it happened under the LTTE?

A: If we want to improve the living conditions of Tamil people, we should stay with the Government. Then only we can get the funds to carry out the development projects.

That is what we are doing right now. Minister Douglas Devananada is launching many development projects in the Northern Province and I have also launched lots of development programs in the Eastern Province. Bridges, road development, health sector projects and drinking water programs have been completed in the Eastern Province. A sum of Rs. 11,000 million has been spent for the drinking water projects in the Eastern Province which have benefited over 300,000 people. That is how we have contributed for the well-being of the people. But the TNA politicians have not done even a hundred meter long concrete road. We have completed many concrete roads everywhere in the North and the East. The TNA is engaging only in racist politics.

At present the younger generation is well aware of the Government's development drive. The Government's development works are going on very well. I appreciate the fullest co-operation extended by President Rajapaksa and Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa to develop the North and the the East. The President has allocated vast amounts of money to develop these two provinces. Last month President Rajapaksa opened the Kalladi bridge, the biggest in Batticaloa district constructed at a cost of Rs. 2,000 million. Therefore, if we only stay with the Government, we can launch these development works and fulfil the rights and aspirations of the Tamil people. I am the Vice President of the SLFP. At the Central Committee Meeting, I can draw the attention of the President to many issues pertaining to the Tamil people. If we stay with the Opposition we can't do anything except criticise the Government. The TNA has not done anything for its people so far. This is the true situation the people have to realise. If the Tamil people elect another two or three parliamentarians to join the Government rank, they can certainly derive more benefits.

 

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