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Tamil Nationalist Movement leader Pazha Nedumaran is one of the most vocal supporters of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and its supremo Velupillai Prabhakaran. In a rare interview to rediff.com's Shobha Warrier, he talks about the civil war raging in Sri Lanka [Images].
When I interviewed you in 2000, you stated that the LTTE [Images] was a freedom movement and not a terrorist organisation. At that time, it had been banned in India after the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi. Do you still believe that?
Yes, there is no doubt about it. The LTTE is a freedom movement. They are fighting for a cause at the moment. They have been treated like secondary citizens in their own country because of Sinhalese chauvinism. A systematic genocide is going on there. The LTTE is the only organisation which is protecting the Tamils living there. If the LTTE was not in the picture, almost all the Tamils in Sri Lanka would have been annihilated ruthlessly by the Sinhalese.
The LTTE has been banned and branded as a terrorist organisation by the international community also.
The Indian government banned the LTTE for political reasons. Some of the countries which banned the LTTE did so under the influence of the Sri Lankan government. Wherever a freedom struggle is going on, the respective government brands the organisations spearheading it as terrorist organisations. What happened in South Africa [Images]? They called Nelson Mandela a terrorist, and put him in prison for 27 years. His organisation was banned by the racial government of South Africa.
What happened to Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose and his Indian National Army? The British called the INA a terrorist organisation.
What about Yasser Arafat? He was called a terrorist by the Israeli government and America. Later, they invited Arafat and Mandela to America and the American President went to the airport to receive them. So, it is the way of doing things.
Many people, including officials from the Indian government, say that we have to differentiate between the LTTE and the Tamil people of Sri Lanka. They say that our sympathy should be with the people and not with the LTTE. What is your reaction to this?
How can that be possible? The LTTE is the only organisation accepted by the Tamil people in Sri Lanka. There is no other organisation there. Even in the past two parliamentary elections, the Tamil United Front, which is supporting the LTTE, won all the Tamil seats in Sri Lanka. Trying to separate the Tamil people in Sri Lanka and the LTTE is a foolish act. It cannot be done. Without the support of the Tamil people, the LTTE could not have survived or fought there.
The criticism against the LTTE is that it has killed many Tamils and many of its own leaders.
This is a baseless charge against the LTTE. Almost all other organisations are under the control of the Sri Lankan government and the intelligence agencies. They are helping the Sri Lankan army fight the LTTE. You cannot allow this kind of people to remain during the war. They are not freedom fighters fighting for a cause. They are only stooges of the Sri Lankan government. So, the LTTE has to fight against them also.
What about the murder of some of the top LTTE leaders? It is alleged that Prabhakaran is behind those murders.
You should not ask such foolish questions. I will give you an example. In the INA, under Bose's order, a leader had to be court martialled and sentenced to death. Why? Because he was a secret spy working for the British. Was it right or wrong? What do you do with spies?
Are you still in touch with Prabhakaran?
How can I? (laughs). That is not possible. There is no telephonic connection from here. So, we cannot talk to him. It is impossible to contact him now.
The Sri Lankan army claims they have captured many areas in the north and Killinochi. Do you think Prabhakaran will be captured?
They are bluffing. They could not capture Killinochi at all. Fighting is still going on there.
The Sri Lankan President (Mahindra Rajapakse), in an interview to The Hindu, said that once the army captures the entire north from the LTTE, he would ensure that there is a political solution to the problem. Do you expect something of that sort to happen?
Nothing will happen. He is bluffing. He is always talking nonsense.
Do you want the Indian government to work towards a ceasefire?
Sri Lanka is in the Indian sphere of interest. So, the Indian government should not allow any other country to interfere in the matter. During Indira Gandhi's [Images] time, she was aware of this, and never allowed any country to step into Sri Lanka.
Unfortunately, Pakistan, China, the United Kingdom, the United States Israel and every country has entered the scene now. They are giving arms and economic aid to Sri Lanka. Why? Sri Lanka is not a big market for them to sell their goods. It is a small country. They just wanted to use Sri Lanka against India. That is why all these countries are giving all kinds of help to the Sri Lankan government. India must understand that this is dangerous for it.
How do you expect the war to end now? Will they destroy the LTTE?
They have been trying to destroy the LTTE for the past two years but they could not do so. They will not be able to do so even now. All the news stories are false. Why don't they allow the international press to go to the warfront? The international press will reveal the truth. That is why they are not allowing the international press to go near the war zone at all.
From where does the LTTE get arms to fight the Sri Lankan army, now that it has been banned internationally?
From where does the Sri Lankan government get its arms? The LTTE is also procuring arms in the same way. The people are against the Sri Lankan army and with the LTTE. Without the support of the people, the LTTE would not have been able to resist the army.
In an interview to rediff.com, Samuel Selvanayagam's son Chandrahasan said that the Sri Lankan Tamils were better off without the LTTE...
Chandrahasan has not visited the Tamil areas in Sri Lanka in the last 30 years. He never saw his people. He is hiding in Chennai. What right does he have to say these things?
Suddenly, all the political parties in Tamil Nadu are interested in the Sri Lankan Tamil issue...
It is not suddenly. When our brothers and sisters are dying there, how can we keep quiet?
Do you think that after the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, the people of Tamil Nadu sympathise only with the Tamils of Sri Lanka and not with the LTTE?
I don't think so. Recently The Indian Express conducted a survey and they found that more than 51 per cent of the people support the LTTE.
How do you expect the current turmoil in Sri Lanka to end?
The international community must come forward to intervene in the matter.
Will there be a political solution then?
If the international community interferes, a solution will emerge automatically.
The Norwegian negotiators went back...
The Norwegians negotiated for five years. Unfortunately, the Sri Lankan government kicked them out. The international community should have warned the Sri Lankan government, but they didn't do so.
By international community, are you referring to any particular country or the United Nations?
I mean the United Nations and all the countries that supply weapons to Sri Lanka. It is the duty of every country in the world to intervene in this issue. They should have asked the Sri Lankan government, how can you kick out Norway?
Do you agree with the secession of the country? Or will the people of Sri Lanka be able to live amicably?
For more than 30 years, the Tamil people conducted their agitation in a peaceful way. They wanted equal rights. When they wanted to eliminate all the Tamils and a systematic genocide was conducted there, the Tamils finally picked up weapons. Otherwise, all the Tamils would have perished. This is not terrorism. They are fighting to save their people from the clutches of the Sri Lankan army.
Will there be a peaceful solution? Do you hope that both the Sinhalese and the Tamil people live amicably one day?
I am hopeful that one day the Tamil Eelam will be formed.
Photograph: Sreeram Selvaraj
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