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Apply adequate pressure on Colombo for ceasefire and negotiations: LTTE

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 31 March 2009 07:48 One Comment]

Selvarasa_Pathmanathan_02 The LTTE is not a movement believing that war is the only means to achieve the aspirations of the people it represents. But, political solution needs an environment conducive to it. The IC can play a positive role by adequately pressurizing Colombo for ceasefire and by promoting negotiations between GoSL and the LTTE as equal partners with due recognition, said Selvaraja Pathmanathan, the LTTE plenipotentiary for international relations, in an interview to TamilNet on Monday. On the issue of civilians, Mr. Pathmanathan said they have already asked the IC, what international instruments now hold GoSL accountable for the denial of basic rights of the people already moved and presently living in the internment camps.


Pathmanathan’s interview was a summary of the LTTE’s endorsed position on the current situation.

 

“No amount of international concerns or guarantees had enabled the Sri Lanka government to provide a swift and just solution for the displaced in the past”, Pathmanathan said, citing the examples of the people of Valikaamam, Jaffna, in camps for 19 years and the people of Ma’nalaaru and Thiriyaay in the East for 14 years.

“It is unrealistic to expect that the people of Vanni who have shown allegiance to the LTTE will be treated any differently or with justice”, he said.

While insisting that the IC should ensure adequate food and medicine to the civilians of Vanni in the safe zone as a priority, Pathmanathan said that such a humanitarian response is an important step, but band-aid solution will not deal with actual grievances of the people.

Responding to the human-shield accusation, he said that they were people living with the LTTE, sought protection from the LTTE and always chose to move towards LTTE, even when they were displaced and had chances to go to Colombo’s side. “ LTTE has a moral responsibility to protect them”, he said adding that people should not be coerced to leave their place of choice by denial of food and medicine and by continuously placing them under shelling.

Laying down arms before any political solution is unrealistic, he told TamilNet, pointing to the Sri Lankan context where the government has built up a brutal force and the peaceful demands of the Tamils in the past have always been met with violence of the Sri Lankan forces.

“It is wrong to assume that the versatile and resilient LTTE is in a weakened position”, he said.

Looking upon Tamil Nadu as an emotional and geographical base for Eezham Tamils in any fall back and appreciating the support of the people of Tamil Nadu, Pathmanathan said that the Tamils who have genuine sympathy for India have never been opposed to its strategic interests.

On the uprisings of the diaspora, Pathmanathan foresees further strengthening and resoluteness, if there is escalation in the aggression of Colombo. The right to self-determination is of paramount importance to the diaspora and it has clearly recognized the role of LTTE in any solution to the conflict, he said adding that diaspora should be given with a chance of being heard by the IC.

Full text of the interview with the head of LTTE’s International Diplomatic Relations follows:

TamilNet: How do you view the response of the International Community to the humanitarian catastrophe caused by the intense war in Vanni?

Mr. Pathmanathan: It is apparent that the international community has been observing the developing situation in Sri Lanka with greater interest. However the responses from them to address the situation to find tangible solutions need to be more persuasive. Today, thousands of Tamils are under siege by the Sri Lankan armed forces in Vanni. Their circumstances are dire. Having been subjected to an intense war during the recent months their day-to-day existential situation has become acute with shortage for potable water, food and medicine and extremely inadequate sanitation.

Medical facilities and health services have become over stretched with the needs of the large population and the multitude of war related injuries. The number of people affected by psychological disorders and trauma has multiplied several folds due to the constant fear of shelling and bombing, particularly the children and women. Severe malnutrition is taking a toll on children, pregnant and lactating mothers, elders and sick. The people are becoming increasingly vulnerable to even simple and treatable ailments such as diarrhea, high fever, malaria and diabetes.

The International Community can do two things at this juncture. The first is to apply adequate pressure on the Government to enter into a ceasefire with the Tigers. The second is to ensure that adequate food and medicines are sent into the conflict areas.

While humanitarian response is an important step in the current climate, addressing that alone without addressing the long term and fundamental issues will only provide a band aid solution and not deal with the actual grievances of the people.

TamilNet: How do you view the role of the IC in finding a negotiated settlement?

Pathmanathan: LTTE clearly identifies the importance of the International Community and is open to wider engagements.

LTTE is representing the rightful aspirations of the people, as mandated by them, and as a freedom movement spearheading the Tamil struggle for decades. It is important that the international community recognizes this.

It is only when the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE are engaged in a constructive manner, a lasting solution could be found to the conflict, satisfying the needs and aspirations of our people.

The International Community should play a positive role promoting a conducive environment for negotiations to take place between the GoSL and the LTTE, as equal partners with due recognition.

TamilNet: Despite the upsurge of sentiments against Colombo’s war, the Indian government has been continuing its support, including military assistance, to the Sri Lankan government. How do you read the current developments in India?

Pathmanathan: We are grateful that the people of Tamil Nadu have expressed so much solidarity with Eelam Tamils. These are true feelings of the people without any political or vested interests. It gives us solace to know that our brethren across the sea are one with us in our time of grief and sorrow. The sentiments and emotions poured out by the people of Tamil Nadu, and the cries of the Tamils in the island, are bound to reach the hearts of the Government of India.

The cultural affinity of the people across the Palk Strait has historically been strong. Whenever our people were attacked and killed their first choice of refuge has been India. Eezham Tamils have always looked to the people of India and the Government of India with genuine sympathy.

The Tamil people have never been opposed to the strategic concerns of India. Furthermore, it has been their expectation that the Indian government would extend its support to their national aspirations.

TamilNet: Some members of the IC have urged the LTTE to consider negotiations to lay down its weapons, which is practically interpreted as nothing else than calling for a surrender. What is your opinion on this?

Pathmanathan: Historically, there has never been a precedence of asking a freedom movement to lay down its arms before a political resolution has been reached. This is particularly pertinent to Sri Lanka where all peaceful demands for the rights of the Tamil people have historically been met with violence, intimidation and brutality by the Sri Lankan forces.

The Tamil youth were compelled to wage an armed struggle only when all political and democratic processes to redress the injustices against Tamils had failed. The LTTE plays a paramount role leading the struggle against the oppressor, the Sri Lankan Sinhala rulers, to defend the rights of the Tamil people.
The war machinery built up by the government of Sri Lanka is a brutal and indiscriminatory force.

To expect the LTTE to lay down the arms before any political solution has been reached is not realistic.

TamilNet: Colombo, and its military negate the call for ceasefire by arguing that it would provide an opportunity for the LTTE to re-group, strengthen and come out of its ‘weakened position’. What is your response?

Pathmanathan: The LTTE’s insistence of a ceasefire is purely from a humanitarian perspective, to give relief and respite for the people caught in the conflict.

It is a myth that LTTE had built up its military capacity during the ceasefire. Looking at it carefully it will become evident that the Sri Lankan government was the one that militarily strengthened itself during the 6 year ceasefire between 2002 and 2008 and not the LTTE.

If you observe the history of the conflict, the LTTE was strong during periods of conflict. The battles for Mullaiththeevu, Ki’linochchi, Elephant pass and the Sri Lankan Operation Jayasikuru were all fought and reversed when the Sri Lankan Government had an upper hand.

It is wrong to assume that the LTTE is in a weakened position. LTTE is a versatile and resilient movement. Control of territory has constantly changed hands during the past thirty years of war. Several examples of reversals have been witnessed in the past. To believe that the LTTE is a spent force is not correct.

LTTE is not a movement that believes that war is the only means by which the aspirations of our people should be met. We strongly believe in a political solution. However, to reach a political solution, there needs be a conducive environment. It is only in this background can a meaningful dialogue be held. However, if the Government of Sri Lanka insists on war, the LTTE will be forced to the inevitability of defending its people. It is in the interest of the Sri Lanka government to engage politically with the LTTE to bring a lasting solution to the conflict so that both the Tamil and Sinhala communities can live in peace in the island. A prolonged war is not only against the interest of the people’s welfare but is also economically un-sustainable for the Sri Lankan state.

TamilNet: What do you have to say to those who argue that the Tigers are holding civilians as human shield?

Pathmanathan: The LTTE is not holding the people against their will. The Tamil people have lived with us in the areas that were under our governance and have moved with us in the recent displacements seeking our protection. LTTE has the moral responsibility to protect the people.

The people of Vanni are fully aware of the mistreatment that has been meted out to them historically by the Sri Lankan military and other Sri Lankan instruments whenever Tamils were displaced. They still have painful memories of the Kokkaddichchoalai massacre, Batticaloa Oo’ra’ni massacre, Polonnaruwa Mayilanthanai massacre, homicides in Allaippiddi and Vangkaalai and of Chemma’ni mass graves. No amount of international concerns or guarantees had enabled the Sri Lankan government to provide a swift and just solution for the displaced in the past.

The people of Valikaamam in the Jaffna peninsula continue to lament in transit camps some 19 years after their homes were occupied by the military. The people of Ma’nalaa’ru and Thiriyaay continue to suffer in makeshift camps in the East after 14 years of displacement. The situation is similar for the people displaced from Vaakarai and Moothoor after Colombo’s offensive in the East. In this context, it is unrealistic to expect that the people of Vanni who have shown their allegiance to the LTTE will be treated any differently or with justice.

In our discussions with the international community we had queried the international instruments that can be used to hold the Government of Sri Lanka accountable for the people who moved from Vanni and are now living in camps in Vavuniyaa. Even the sick and injured have been denied their basic human rights.
It has been the choice of the people to remain where they are. It is the intimidatory tactics and the constant shelling of the people living in the “safety zones” that could compell the people consider leaving the area under pressure of survival, against their will. These people should not be coerced into leaving their place of shelter by denying them the necessary food and medical assistance and by continuously placing them in imminent danger.

TamilNet: World over the Tamil Diaspora in very large numbers has exhibited their solidarity with the people caught in the conflict. Do you see an increased role for the Diaspora in years to come in determining the political future of Tamils in Sri Lanka?

Pathmanathan: In recent events, the Tamil Diaspora unlike at any other time has expressed their solidarity with their brethren in their homeland in huge numbers. This is a reflection of the increased violence perpetrated by the Sri Lankan military machinery and the denial of rights by the GoSL. It is increasingly apparent that any increase in aggression by Sri Lanka against the Tamils will only further strengthen the resoluteness of the Diaspora to stand against the dehumanizing treatment.

The Diaspora has always played an important role in the history of our struggle and has been an important instrument in highlighting the existential ground reality in an otherwise blacked out war that has no witnesses.

The Diaspora’s role in engaging the international community to creatively and positively contribute to the solution of the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka is clear. This will only increase in the future. The Diaspora after thirty plus years is also becoming more integrated in their countries of residence and getting more involved with taking part in mainstream activities. This too has implications for the way in which they relate to the conflict in Sri Lanka.

The Diaspora feels strongly that the international community has to give them a chance and hear their opinion for the solution of the conflict in Sri Lanka. The international community needs to assure the Diaspora that their opinion is being taken into account. Recent resolutions passed in Diaspora gatherings have clearly recognized the role of LTTE in any solution to the conflict and that the right to self determination of the Tamils is paramount.

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One Comment »

  • S.V.Ramanan said:

    LTTE for political solutions?Negoiated settlement-probably with LTTE?
    Trapped civilians are under protection of LTTE?
    Goebbels is a toddler before LTTE.