Who are ‘My people’?
By Shivanthi Ranasinghe
Last week, for Ceylon Today, Mirudhula Thambiah interviewed leader of the newly-formed political party, Rehabilitated Liberation Tamil Tiger (RLTT)-and a former LTTE-Intelligence operative for Trincomalee, Kandaswamy Inbarasa. Inbarasa declared that they have not been defeated, but have entered the democratic path to serve their people. If Inbarasa is to succeed, he must seek the truth and be truthful. Otherwise, he will either lead his people to the death trap his former leader Prabakaran did, or become a hostage to international powers, as Sri Lanka's incumbent Opposition Leader Sampanthan.
When Prabakaran was alive, Sampanthan was forced to acknowledge him as the supremo, and the Tamils' only representative.
Inbarasa recalls, "In 1994, Sampanthan was under the influence of the Government, and he was given a house and a vehicle. Our organization was dissatisfied with his stance. He was a politician groomed by our leader. LTTE Leader Prabhakaran said that intellectuals like Sampanthan should be protected even if he was not on the correct path at that time. Our community should safeguard our intellectuals, the leader said. Prabhakaran influenced the formation of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) as a coalition of some Tamil political parties like the ITAK."
Emelda Sukumar refutes this statement in her interview with Sunday Observer. She was the first Tamil woman to be appointed as a Government Agent of Killinochchi and Mullaitivu. She served for more than eight years, and was the Mullaitivu GA when the LTTE was at its strongest and weakest. She explains that most of the LTTE leadership had only studied up to Grade 5 and none beyond Grade 8. She asserted that their fall was because they undermined the values of the educated people.
Indeed, among the noted intellectuals assassinated by the LTTE are:
- 27 July 1975: Alfred Duraiappah - former Sri Lanka Freedom Party MP for Jaffna District and former Mayor of Jaffna; 20 April 1980: M. Canagaratnam, former TULF MP for Pottuvil; 26 June 1985: C.E. Anandarajah, educationist and former principal of St. John's College, Jaffna; 12 February 1988: S Nadarajah, lawyer, politician and former member of the Senate of Ceylon; 01 May 1989: VM Panchalingam, leading Tamil civil servant and former Jaffna District Secretary;
13 July 1989: A. Amirthalingam, former Opposition Leader; 13 July 1989: V. Yogeswaran, former TULF MP for Jaffna District;21 September 1989: Rajani Thiranagama, university lecturer, human rights activist and feminist; 9 May 1990: Sam Tambimuttu, former EPRLF MP for Batticaloa District; 19 June 1990: G Yogasangari, former EPRLF MP for Jaffna District; Abducted on 30 August 1991 and executed thereafter, Chelvy Thiyagarajah, founder of feminist journal Tholi, International PEN award winner in 1992; 5 July 1997: A. Thangathurai, former TULF MP for Trincomalee District; 17 May 1998: Sarojini Yogeswaran, former Jaffna Mayor; 15 July 1998: S. Shanmuganathan, former DPLF MP for Vanni District; 7 November 2000: Nimalan Soundaranayagam, former TULF MP for Batticaloa District; 16 August 2004: BalanadarajahIyer, Sri Lankan Tamil activist, writer and poet; 12 August 2005: Relangi Selvarajah, Tamil broadcaster and actress; 12 August 2006: Ketheesh Loganathan, Tamil political activist, human rights advocate and deputy Secretary General of the Secretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process.
Therefore, Prabakaran did not "protect" Sampanthan because he was an intellectual. The Tamil National Alliance got Prabakaran's support to win 16 seats from the North and the East and became LTTE's political proxy. Thus with Sampanthan's face, Prabakaran managed to infiltrate our Parliament.
Prabakaran's legacy continues to dominate Sri Lanka's politics because Sampanthan is still in Parliament. While the hardcore LTTE are still under detention and others spent time in rehabilitation, Sampanthan's role had never been judged.
It was a strange twist of fate that Sampanthan outlived the younger, more ruthless terrorist who had his head metaphorically on the block. When Sampanthan accepted the LTTE as Tamils' sole representative, he did it to save his life. He did so when the LTTE forcefully conscripted thousands of children without once protesting against this despicable practice.
Today, Sampanthan continues the LTTE legacy for his political survival. If he was to move out of this political thinking line, no longer insist on a merger of the Northern and Eastern Provinces, refrain from demanding more power devolution for Tamils, desist the devious plot to hoodwink the Constitution to say 'unitary' but be 'federal', would he still be the Opposition Leader? Would the west-led international community recognize a man whose alliance has only 16 seats from two provinces out of the nine as the Opposition Leader? Would they still claim democracy has been restored? Would they continue to ignore the group whose alliance has won over 50 seats from almost all provinces?
Sampanthan's only focus has been his political career. The LTTE may have established Sampanthan's political career, but Sampanthan knew exactly where he stood with the LTTE. Having outlived his hostages, he is not grateful to them and certainly will not care for them.
It is the same with the Tamil Diaspora. Their own importance lies with how much confusion they create in the country. When enough fuel is poured to a small community to continue a demand that no other reasonable citizen will support, that country is distracted from developing economically and socially. This creates the grounds for interference in the name of 'assistance'.
The ex-LTTE cadres are ostracized in their own community. It is to them that the Tamil Diaspora injects hope, by forming a political party, only to discredit it and disband it. Thus, as Inbarasa explains, it is one man who is behind the three political parties formed to represent rehabilitated ex-LTTE cadres and the Tamil community. That very same person is engineering disharmony among the ex-LTTE cadres.
Inbarasa is fudging
However, Inbarasa himself is fudging the truth. First, he says that they struggled for 30 years for a political solution. They did not. They engaged in terrorism to forcibly make two provinces as their exclusive homeland. Each successive Government, often with the international community, tried to negotiate with the LTTE, but they wanted nothing less than an exclusive homeland for "their people". As such, it was not a political struggle, but an illegal armed struggle. Therefore, those still under detention are not political prisoners, but terrorists who engaged in crimes against humanity.
Second, he claims that the fight was not against the Sinhala or Muslim community. Then, why were so many innocents killed?
Third, he accuses "the former Government did not treat us well with any livelihood assistance." Factually, a unique scheme was launched after the war by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) with the support of international donors. The project provided assistance to those who fought for the LTTE to help them return to civilian life in a dignified and timely manner. This assistance provided grants, jobs, educational opportunities or vocational training. They also provided specialist services that gave the ex-LTTE access to health, psycho-social and legal support.
Then, he outlines his vision as "to obtain equal rights for our people similar to the majority community of this country". There are no exclusive rights for the majority community. Vithya's murder trial was conducted entirely in Tamil. One reason those convicted need to wait five years for the Supreme Court to hear their appeal is because of the time needed to translate the judgement that runs into 5,600 pages. This is a privilege a Tamil has anywhere in Sri Lanka but not in countries like India, Malaysia and Canada that have larger Tamil populations than in Sri Lanka.
The above list of lives destroyed by the LTTE is not comprehensive. The same day that Selvarajah was killed along with her husband, leaving their daughter who was less than a year old orphaned, former Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar was also assassinated by the LTTE.
Nine days after Tambimuttu was killed, his wife also died from the gunshot wounds received from the same gunman. Their only child incidentally happens to be the same age as Inbarasa. While Inbarasa is from Trincomalee, Tambimuttu is from Batticaloa.
Tambimuttu was 15 years old when he lost his parents. Ironically, Inbarasa joins the LTTE exactly four months later on 9 September 1990.
The difference between Tambimuttu and Inbarasa today is that Tambimuttu no longer sees only Tamils as his people, but all Sri Lankans. Well educated, widely travelled, Tambimuttu refuses to harp the same rhetoric that had cost him so much. He is back in Sri Lanka and is also keen to serve, but by "his people" he means every Sri Lankan.
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