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Majority of Tamil diaspora backing government’s efforts: Sri Lanka

[Hindu, Friday, 30 July 2010 07:50 No Comment]

AP Internally displaced ethnic Sri Lankan Tamil civilians travel on a tractor after being sent home from refugee camps, at Kathankulam village in Mannar. File Photo

Kumaran Pathmanathan seeks welfare funds from Tamils overseas

The Sri Lanka government maintains that the Tamil diaspora is now divided into two groups and the majority is supporting its efforts towards improvement of the living standards of Tamils in the northern and eastern provinces.

Government spokesman and Media and Information Minister Keheliya Rambukwella told a news conference here on Thursday that the group representing the Tamil diaspora, which was forced to fund the militant activities of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, was now willing to contribute to the welfare of the war-displaced civilians.

The Minister was referring to an interview given to a local daily by Kumaran Pathmanathan alias KP, who succeeded V. Prabakaran as LTTE chief until he was taken into custody by the Sri Lankan security agencies in August last year.

Mr. Rambukwella said KP, who was responsible for raising funds for purchase of military materials for the terrorist outfit, too had realised the past follies and joined the group which was willing to help in development activities.

Under the existing laws, the government could enlist any person as a “crown witness” in the interest of the country and give him protection, the Minister said.

In an exclusive interview with The Island newspaper, KP answered questions on a wide range of issues, including his capture, breakdown of the various attempts to negotiate peace and a desperate bid to thwart annihilation of the LTTE’s military leadership in May 2009.

He was confident that a group of like-minded Tamils based in various parts of the world would support the initiative for the benefit of Sri Lankan Tamils, and said President Mahinda Rajapaksa was genuine in his efforts at resolving differences among communities and helping to re-build the war devastated regions.

“Within a year of the conclusion of the war, the majority of the people displaced by the conflict are back in their villages and ex-combatants of the LTTE are undergoing rehabilitation and the international community, too, is supportive of Sri Lanka’s efforts. None of these would have been possible without the political leadership given by President Rajapaksa,” he told the paper.

“Review strategy”

According to KP, it was essential for the Tamil diaspora to realise the ground realities in a post-LTTE era in the island nation and review its strategy to meet the new challenges.

Emphasising his determination to go ahead with what he called a tangible action plan, he said everybody should come forward and assist in the rebuilding efforts without trying to live in the past.

Referring to a new outfit floated by him recently, Mr. KP told the paper that “The North-East Rehabilitation and Development Organisation’ (NERDO) was ready to play a key role in the rehabilitation, reconstruction and resettlement processes.

NERDO is engaged in various activities in support of the Tamil-speaking people. Its main office is situated at No 10, 1st Lane, Kathiresu Road, Vairavaputiyankulam, Vavuniya.

“We are only concerned about the welfare of the people, particularly children, though some seek fresh funding to cause mayhem. People are fed up with war and every effort should be made to alleviate their suffering without playing politics with a purely humanitarian motive. We are appealing for funds — $1 from each Tamil living abroad on a monthly basis. To facilitate fund- raising activity, we recently opened an account at the Vavuniya branch of the Commercial Bank bearing 1610046482 (Code CCEYLKLX),” he told the paper.

Turning point

Asked about the turning point in the Eelam war IV, Mr. KP said, “Multi-pronged al-Qaeda 9/11 attack on the U.S. changed it all. Within 24 hours, the international community led by Western powers moved against all armed groups causing immense damage to our operations. There are many other factors, but the primary reason is nothing but the rapid rise of al-Qaeda, which prompted the West to change its attitude.

“This brought about a drastic change in the attitude of political leaders in the other parts of the world. Circumstances made propagation of separatist sentiments extremely difficult in many parts of the world. Unfortunately, an influential section of the LTTE, including its leader Velupillai Prabakaran did not realise the urgent need to change its strategy. Had he done that the situation would have been different today. There is a new world order today, which does not tolerate armed campaigns and that is the hard reality.”

On the ground situation in Sri Lanka, he said that it much better than he had expected. “Although, there is lot to be done by way of confidence building, we should appreciate what the government has done since the conclusion of the war. The Tamil community should not solely depend on the government, U.N. agencies and NGOs for their needs.”

Mr. KP told the paper that no one would have believed a common programme involving the Tamil diaspora and the government was possible.

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