Liberation And Prabhakaran
Are Far Apart"
By Nilantha Ilangamuwa & Satchi Sithanandan
31 July, 2007
Prominent writer on Sri Lankan issues and editor of the Subidchamand
independendentsl.com websites published from Germany and USA Satchi
Sith ananthan, was in Sri Lanka for a few days recently following his
tour of some countries where Sri Lankan Tamils have made their new homes.
He spoke to us freely about the current situation in Sri Lanka and the
Tamil Diaspora and also made pointed references to certain historical
realities in the country to which our politicians had turned a blind
eye thus causing deadly consequences.
In his exclusive interview with ‘coutercurrents.org’ he
stressed the utmost importance for the country to seek a federal solution
and also avoid flirting with all kinds of overseas interests.
He was deeply saddened by the fact that terrorism has become ingrained
in Sri Lanka not just in Wanni alone, and corruption at all levels of
the society is the vehicle that continues to sutain this nightmare.
Terrorism in Sri Lanka is no more of the LTTE alone.
He emphasized: 'The LTTE has grossly failed the Tamils, even betrayed
them but has succeeded in planting the seeds of terrorism in the entire
country and this is exacting a terrible price and the politicians continue
to ignore the vicious coils that are strangling the nation. Sorting
out the ethnic issue would be in the best interests of the entire country.'
Excerpts from the interview;
Q: You have arrived in the country after a long absence but you have
kept in touch with the country's affairs. Can you make a primary observation
on Sri Lanka in the current context?
Sithananthan: There is a terrible dearth of committed leadership in
the country and Sri Lanka is hurtling towards a chaotic disorder virtually
on all fronts, sadly including the judicial and the security systems.
What is even more shocking is that even after six decades of independence,
the country is looking for overseas impact for answers and solutions.
The flirtation with Norway is an example and now some overtures are
being made to China. Sri Lanka must learn to rely on its own skills
and abilities and also value regional interests as primary. This is
certainly not happening.
Q: You have come here [ Sri Lanka] after visiting the Tamil Diaspora
in Australia , New Zealand , the UK, India and some other countries
too. Could you explain to us the current attitude of the Tamil Diaspora
on Sri Lanka?
Sithananthan: The Tamil Diaspora has been caught between the devil and
the deep blue sea - the devil is the LTTE interests in countries like
Switzerland, France, Canada, the United Kingdom, Norway and others and
the deep blue sea is the continued ineffectiveness of Sri Lanka to address
honestly and honourably to the ethnic question.
Unless Sri Lanka makes an honest effort, this situation will continue
to the utter peril of the country. The LTTE will cease to be a problem
to the Tamil Diaspora quite soon but it has already caused a major destruction
to Sri Lanka. New generation of the Tamil Diaspora is easing out of
the tentacles of the LTTE and they are fast adjusting to the lifestyles
of the countries their parents have chosen for them when Sri Lanka abused
their rights. They were left with no choice but to flee Sri Lanka.
Q: When did you flee the country and what were the reasons to desert
your homeland that you love so much?
Sithananthan: I was one of those who left great prospects overseas and
returned to my homeland to serve my community on certain fronts that
demanded lot of committed and dedicated action and determination especially
in the north. There was much personal sacrifice involved but this is
nothing compared to the joy of serving one's own homeland. Unfortunately,
there came a situation that in the sphere of my commitment I was faced
with a terrible choice: either continue my work from the safety and
security of an overseas circumstance or face the barrel of a terrorist
be it the LTTE or even the security forces that had a field day under
President Junius Jayawardene. I have not failed my mission and the mission
remains strong and steadfast and Subidcham is one of the vehicles. I
am also interacting with some young Sri Lankan journalists whose commitment
is laudable. They are like those people who are valiantly trying to
float a sinking ship.
Q: You have been a journalist for more than four decades. Your roots
are in Jaffna. Can you give us a brief note on the growth of Tamil militancy?
Sithananthan: Tamil miltancy took the Tamils by surprise but I must
say a pleasant surprise because Colombo governments continued to fail
the minortities insensitive to their rights and being victims of southern
racists. Tamil leadership was visionless and not at all reflective of
grassroot interests. Tamil leaders had no social concerns. They were
the relics of Bristish capitalist norms and values. Unfortunately the
pleasant surprise turned sour and became a boa constrictor of Tamil
rights and now threatens the entire country.
Q: Do you think the Tamil political leaders influenced the Tamil youth's
Sithananthan: Foolishly they became their cheerleaders and this showed
their political ignorance and and lack of commitment. The TULF especially
placed the LTTE on the forefront of its political campaign. It was mainly
responsible for the murder of Mayor Alfred Durayappah and this has become
a curse on the Tamil community. Those who use the sword perish by it
and the LTTE proved this adage right. The same awaits the LTTE and all
forces that use violence as the means to an end.
Q: Some people claim the Vaddukoddai Resolution that created the TULF
as the one that sparked Tamil militancy movements. What do you feel
Sithananthan: Hindsight is always 20-20. I cannot comment on it now
after several years except to say that the Tamils needed a consorted
action on the ethnic issue but it turned out to be a weak union of forces
that did not have a total commitment to unite. In fact Thondaman pulled
out of it soon afterwards and G G Ponnambalam was never ever honest
with the Tamil people.
S J V Chelvanayagam had a measure of integrity about him but he had
a following in the Federal Party that was suspect. Appapillai Amirthalingam
was a good man, ambitious and had all the potential to be a good leader
but he was totally misdirected by his wife Mangayakkarasi and the company
she kept whuich was largely composed of youth who took to militant options.
Prabhakaran was among them.
Q: - The Vaddukoddai Resolution said: 'Ours is a non-violent, civil
disobedience movement.' How can this be true for a leadership that supported
the use of arms?
Sithananthan: One must admit that this was all a farce perpetrated on
Sri Lanka especially on the Tamil community. The Federal Party and thereafter
the TULF never understood what non-violence meant and what it entailed
to be involved in a civil disobedient movement. On platform after platform
the TULF leaders raged in violent oratory and stirred the youth to liberation
action without training them to commit themselves to the tenets of Satyagraha.
Q: You have a good understanding of the country's racial impasse. Can
you give an insight into the impact of southern politics on the Tamil
community and the Tamil militant movement?
Sithananthan: Due to short-sighted political visions at the dawn of
independence of certain Sinhala leaders who built up a Sinhala racist
foundation, the majority community got trapped in a Pan Sinhala-Buddhist
mindset and even read history steeped in prejudicial interpretations
ignoring the reality that the Sri Lankan nation was multicultural enriched
by four of the world's leading religious traditions. What should have
been an advantage for nation building was used as a fodder for communal
and religious rage and rancour. On the Tamil front, the leadership was
rootless in the community and there were no grassroot understanding
or involvement. This vaccuum sucked in political action that was bent
on tit-for-tat response and the helpless Tamil masses were forced to
become a party to it because for the first time they had leadership
at the grass roots and this came from those who sought the gun. The
1977 racial riots were bad and the 1983, near genocidal and there is
enough evidence that President Junius Jayawardene fanned them with all
his might. While he wanted the racial riots, the LTTE needed them to
have total control of the Tamils.
Q: Would you say that all our leaders have been playing with the people
and their rights?
Sithananthan: You might say that just as much as our leaders abused
minority rights, they also failed the majority community and fanned
up anti-minority feelings and sentiments using all kinds of base issues
when they should have seen every community as part of one nation and
each with its unique traditions that could have been built into a harmonious
Sri Lankan nation.
Q: What do you think about the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam [LTTE]
and their leadership, also their struggle?
Sithananthan: Whatever may be claimed in favour of the LTTE, it was
never ever a political institution. It was built on a smuggler pedestal
and its ultimate aim was to set up a mafia state on Sri Lankan soil.
Prabhakaran never had any political visions. He kills, kills to ensure
that nobody ever challenges his control of the Tamils. Today he is a
sick man used by certain people to keep up a front necessary to continue
fooling the Tamils in Sri Lanka and the Tamil Diaspora. There is a massive
underworld activity that is covered by the image of Prabhakaran as a
leader of Tamil liberation. Tamil liberation and Prabhakaran are far
Q: What is the alternate form of action available to the Tamils to win
their just rights?
Sithananthan: There are people like Mr Anandasangary struggling hard
to explain to the majority community and the government that the Tamils
will support fully any action by the government to ensure that the rights
of Tamils are honoured. Apart from the Tamils, it is also very much
in the interests of the Sinhalese to solve the ethnic crisis.
Haven't they realized the inmmense harm the communal problem has done
to the country? More than the harm done to the Tamils, the LTTE has
succeeded in sowing the seeds of corruption among the majority community
at all levels and also totally demoralized the nation. The country has
been brought to its knees. So much so, for its economic shortfalls it
depends to a large extent on slave income from its young women and men
in the Middle East. This is a disgraceful state of affairs that must
Q: Could you explain the Norwegian role in Sri Lanka?
Sithananthan: Norway began as an NGO player in North Sri Lanka early
1970s and soon became a bit of a giant in the country and even the Colombo
bureaucrats began to flirt with it. Whatever Norway touched has failed
and its representatives saw Sri Lanka as a good place for activities
that gave them a working holiday in the sun. Since some of the early
Sri Lankan migrants went to Norway and they were principally from Prabhakaran's
caste, a kind of political involvement attracted Norwegian attention
and involvement. Once involved with the LTTE, Norway ended as the man
who snatched the tail of the tiger. Now it sees its role as a future
player of great consequence in South Asia and Norway needs the LTTE;
may be as a proxy to the US.
Q: Can you specify the intentions of Norway and India in respect of
Sithananthan: India is a neighbour, a mighty neighbour and all the inhabitants
of Sri Lanka trace their ancestry to India. India should never be considered
as having militaristic intentions over Sri Lanka, a false emotion-driven
contention made by irresponsible politicians in the past. Norway is
an outsider and is likely to have ulterior motives that are counter
to the interests of the people of Sri Lanka.
Q: Both India and Norway have been involved in arms facilitation to
the Tigers. Are their objectives same?
Sithananthan: There have been successive racial riots against the Tamils
beginning from 1956 and even before that, thousands of Tamil workers
on the estates were disenfranchised. It must be appreciated India exercised
great restraint and the training given to Tamil cadres was aimed at
forcing the Sri Lankan government to come to a solution on the ethnic
On hind sight this may be judged differently but never ever forget that
Junius Jayawardene was determined to destroy the Tamils. He had genocidal
intentions. As for Norway, its motives were different. Norway is the
sixth largest producer of arms and it has also desecrated its own fishing
banks and a country with developed industry in this field, it could
very well be seeking fresher pastures. More than everything there is
the possibility of oil in the region and Norway would love to stake
a claim to it.
Q: Norway became the main facilitator of the peace process and its role
was accepted by the country's leadership. Why should you blame Norway?
Sithananthan: Norway stole into the affairs of the country like a Trojan
Horse and it was bent on giving an illegal position to the LTTE and
a control of a certain region that is not alienable. The leadership
that allowed Norway to call the tune betrayed the country and its action
Q: Some of your features have attacked certain Catholic priests but
you are a Catholic by faith and how come you have attacked them?
Sithananthan: Do you mean to say that since I am a Catholic I should
keep my mouth shut and my pen dry when a number of Catholic priests
in the US are involved in sexually abusing children? The same goes for
politics too. These guys may be wearing the habit of a religious order
but they are open supporters of terrorism. This applies to the Buddhist
Q: Please share with us your opinion on the Cease Fire Agreement [CFA]
signed in 2002.
Sithananthan: In plain single language it was a most foolhardy action
to which a weak leader succombed to pressures from a foreign government
that was determined to help the LTTE.
Q: Can you comment on the Karuna phenomenon?
Sithananthan: The whole episode only proves that whatever born without
grass root involvement of the people will fail even if terrorism is
employed. All forms of violence whether by state or others will eventually
be destructive. We have to get away from this trap. Since many forms
of violence are prevailing in Sri Lanka today including many that are
not political, it is evident that the country is on a downward slide.
Karuna phenomenon is also a part of this nightmare. It falls on the
government to bring about an end to it and the key factor is the solution
to the ethnic crisis.
Let me also state that the fundamental rights of every Sri Lankan citizen
is under threat now. The country depends on slave trade in the Middle
East when it could easily have vast sums invested in Sri Lanka by the
Tamil Diaspora if only the ethnic issue is solved. Like the proverbial
man who was axing away the branch on he was perched, the country's leaders
are only forcing the same consequence on the majority community.
It is no wonder that Prabhakaran now vies the entire country as a mafia
state of the future.
Q: In what way are the other Tamil liberation movements different from
Sithananthan: The idea of liberation became highly contagious very soon,
and mindful of various social problems in the Tamil community. various
groups began to emerge to stake their own grounds in the process. But
only the LTTE had a smuggler base and its ultimate intention was to
serve its smuggler interests. Prabhakaran knew that if he was to succeed,
he must out-gun them mercilessly and that's what he did.
Q: You have to accept that the LTTE became a strong movement among the
Sithananthan: When one is not careful about certain matters, he may
fall on evil grounds. The LTTE stole the Tamil leadership when the community
felt that it had no option without realizing that Prabhakaran's motives
may be counter to the Tamil interests. The Tamils were cheated all along
but being cheated by the LTTE was the worst. Having started in all pretense
as a liberation movement. it eventually forced the community into total
subjugation by force.
Q- How do you grade the Mahinda
administration based on the Mahinda Chintanaya?
Sithananthan: What we need today is action and the absolute urgency
is to sort out the ethnic issue on the basis that every citizen is entitled
to the same rights as the other, majority or minority. Thoughts or chintanayas
or even wordy formulas that merely circumnavigate around key issues
are delaying tactics employed by political leaders who lack strong and
committed leadership. The people of Sri Lanka want to be freed of the
menace that rides in the country. What is not needed are chintanayas
but honest and honourable action right NOW.
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