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The Eye of the Tiger | 'Newsweek'- August 1986 | Hon. V. Prabhakaran

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"The Eye of the Tiger"

For the past 14 years Velupillai Pirabakaran has led an armed
struggle to create a separate Tamil state in Sri Lanka's volatile
north-eastern region. Pirabakaran, 32, commands the Liberation
Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), the strongest of Sri Lanka's
numerous Tamil separatist groups. It is generally acknowledged
that peace negotiations with Colombo are unlikely to prove
effective without the LTTE's involvement. Last week, shortly before
his group rejected Colombo's latest proposal for peace talks,
Pirabakaran spoke with NEWSWEEK'S Sudip Mazumdar in Madras.

Mazumdar: Your opponents often charge that innocent civilians are
often killed in your military offensives. How do you respond?

Prabhakaran: The LTTE has never killed any civilians. We condemn
such acts of violence. There were occasions when we had to kill
home guards. But they are not civilians. They are trained  non-
combat draftees who carry guns.

How many troops do you have under your command and where do
they train?

That's a secret. I can tell you we are strong enough to take on
the51,000 strong Sri Lankan military and well enough equipped to
carry on protracted guerrilla warfare.

Why do you think LTTE has taken the lead among other groups?

Discipline and order are most important. We emphasise personal
morality and a sense of patriotism. Our cadres carry cyanide pills
with them to avoid falling into en enemy hands. Most of all, the
people are behind us.

"We have imposed a strict moral code on ourselves, not to use even liquor. How can one suspect us of drug trafficking which we condemn?"

Critics charge you that you rely on drug trafficking to raise money
for your military activities. How do you respond

Our people support us financially. We capture arms and
ammunition from the enemy and also buy them on the international
market. We don't get support from any other country. Here in India
we are living as political refugees and the government of India
extends moral support to our existence here. We have imposed a
strict moral code on ourselves, not to use even liquor. How can one
suspect us of drug trafficking which we condemn?

Press reports say that you received military training in Cuba. How
did you manage to acquire your-how?

Through sheer personal training. I use my natural instincts and I
watch war films and westerns by [American movie actor] Clint
Eastwood. If I were trained in Cuba, I would have been a better

What is your assessment of the latest round of negotiations
between moderate Tamils and the Sri Lankan government on
evolution of power to Tamils?

The proposals (put forward by Colombo) are insufficient even to
start negotiations. We have enunciated four principles as the basis
for talks: the traditional home land of the Tamils must be
recognised; Tamils should be (officially) recognised as a (separate)
nationality; their rights to self-determination should be recognised;
and the civil rights of the stateless Tamils should be recognised.  A
framework should be worked out incorporating these principles.
Then we will consider [negotiations].

How serious do you think President Junius Jeyawardene is in
solving the Tamil problem?

This so-called peace initiative by Jayewardene is an at tempt to
hoodwink the world. That these negotiations are eyewash is clear
from the fact that even while the talks were on the military killed
nearly150 innocent Tamils. Talks with Jayewardene? Possible, but
only on the question of demarcation of our boundaries [as two
separate nations].

Why do you think India allows you to operate from here?

Purely on humanitarian grounds. There is genocide going on in Sri
Lanka. India knows we are fighting against genocide and trying to
protect our people.

Opponents charge that India is abetting "terrorists" by giving you
sanctuary, while New Delhi blames Pakistan for training Sikh
terrorists? What is your view?

There is a fundamental difference here. Our people are facing genocide where as the Indian Army is not committing genocide in Punjab.

India favours a negotiated settlement of the ethnic problem and
opposes your goal of a separate Tamil state. What is your view?

The world is constantly changing; so is politics. We rely on the
hope that changing circumstances will finally lead to India's
recognition of our struggle. India has recognised various liberation
movements. At a later stage India may be compelled to recognise
us as it did the PLO and SWAPO.

What do you expect from the United States? We want to appeal to
the American people to realise that we are a nation of people facing
genocide. And we appeal to the US government to stop all aid to
the Sri Lankan government which will be used for the destruction of
our people.

"We want to establish a socialist society. Ours will be a unique
socialist model, neither Soviet nor Chinese nor any other."

What kind of a political system do you envisage for an
independent Tamil state?

We want to establish a socialist society. Ours will be a unique
socialist model, neither Soviet nor Chinese nor any other.

Have you ever considered calling for India's military intervention to
stop what you call genocide?

India's military intervention is not necessary because we have a
fighting force capable of facing the military. In fact, India's
intervention may allow other international forces to meddle in Sri
Lanka, and create [chaos].


Courtesy: NEWSWEEK   11 August 1986

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