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"Tamil 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 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 ‘’ 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 arms struggle?

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 about it?

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 apart.

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 be stemmed.

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 Sri Lanka?

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 crisis.

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 was traitorous.

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 monks too.

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 the Tigers?

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 Tamils.

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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