50 Indian RAW Agents Were in Wanni Without Colombo Government’s Knowledge
Somawansa Amerasinghe Talks to Shakuntala Perera
(Leader of the JVP tells Hard Talk that the issues affecting the Tamil people would be resolved in giving the Tamil people the equal opportunities they seek, and maintains that the government is failing to understand the real issue nor seek realistic solutions. He warns the government and the country against the threat of separatism that still persists in the guise of peaceful settlement of the national issue, espoused as strongly as the military struggle of the LTTE, by others who supported the LTTE.)
Q: The President recently announced that he would present a final political solution after seeking the mandate of the people through a Presidential poll. Certain minority parties are expressing concern that this may lead to an undue delay in meeting minority concerns. Is there a delay at all in your opinion?
He already has a mandate which he received in 2005. No one wants the Presidential election to be held next year before he ends his term. And he doesn’t have a mandate for an election before. There is an agreement with the JVP which specifies that the Presidential system will be abolished. That is really what we should do. We don’t even want to talk about an election or the mandate he’s seeking till 2010. There will be agitations in the country if he moves away from the agreement.
Q: As the Party that supported the government in the war against terrorism, why is the JVP blocking his path today, when the President has kept his part of the bargain in ending that war?
I don’t think the country expects us to support him unconditionally. We supported him to defeat terrorism in this country unreservedly. I don’t think anyone will want us to support this government to continue the corruption it practices. We can’t support a government already violating the wishes of the people and being inefficient. We can’t support a government like that. Ours was support to end terrorism, establish democracy and exercise good governance. The agreement is very clear on what our support was based on; the Mahinda Chintana was based on that.
Certainly, separatist terrorism has been defeated. But separatist tendencies and those forces that espouse that thinking is still there and is much stronger.
We are concerned about the fact that the country is bankrupt both internally and externally. We don’t have enough foreign reserves, which is why we had to go to the IMF with the begging bowl. That is why the government had to increase taxes and is already reducing monies spent on education and health. National income is low. The people are already fed up of this government that is why they are having elections two years earlier.
Q: But given the military victory over the LTTE, isn’t it in fact true that the government is at its most popular today? Wouldn’t you say that the outcome of the election is already a foregone conclusion given the popularity it enjoys in the country today?
Yes, but not everything depends on popularity. The JVP always analyses the situation, on the situation prevailing in the country, and does not let it be dazzled by such victories. This country needs to win over, mobilizing the people to obtain other victories like development. This is why we expected the President to come out with such a programme on the 17th when he addressed Parliament after defeating the LTTE. But there was nothing. It was because we knew that victory was definitely ours that we had a plan for development and hoped to contribute to whatever plan the President would announce to the country. Now the victory has already become meaningless, because we are not implementing anything to achieve national integrity and development.
Q: But in all fairness to the government wouldn’t it be correct to say that given the pressures of meeting the immediate needs of the IDPs the government needs some extra time before it starts working on those aspects of the problem?
Certainly, but the government is not even addressing the issues of the IDPs. Everyone can see that. The government mustn’t forget that it was they who invited the Tamil people to come on to its side; it should have been ready to meet their needs. They can’t now say that they have 300,000 people whose needs are difficult to be met. It’s too late now. There are a lot of concerns in the international community today, they should not have left room for that. This is why we recommended initially that there be a Committee of all political parties to attend to the burning issues of the IDPs and the country. There was no response to it. Yet, again we came out with another initiative to minimize the problems confronted by the Tamil people. These are very simple solutions that could be taken without thinking of long procedures. This would have been a good beginning for national unity to be achieved. We are losing the potential and wasting time.
Q: Are you saying that the government is losing the minority support when it was clear that the President tried to approach them as a first step when he told Parliament that there were no longer any minorities in the countries?
Yes and this is very bad in trying to achieve national integration. The Tamils are not happy; this is what we observe. From the day on which terrorism was defeated the government did not tackle it properly. When I was informed by the government that Prabakaran was defeated, my only request from the government was to see that the Tamil people were looked after. It is ok to celebrate victories but our real concern should be to look at the bigger picture.
Q: The President has however spoken about his willingness to pursue the 13th Amendment with greater powers which would be seen as meeting the demands of the Tamil political elements. But it is political parties like yours who are opposed to any form of devolution of power. ?
The JVP is the only party proposing something far beyond the 13th Amendment; something more than even Tamil Eelam. We are proposing that we first establish democracy and equal opportunities so that we go towards equality. Equal opportunities are what the people need far more than Tamil Eelam or 13+. Those Ministers who speak about these solutions speak about give and take.
But who has the right to give anything when they don’t have anyone’s rights in their pockets? Those rights are with the people. That is their power.
If we allow that it will become a bargain between the people and the elite. The President must address the legitimate grievances of the people by establishing equality and democracy in the country.
The 13th Amendment on the other hand was drafted by India and imposed on this country with their national interests at heart. The late PM Indira Gandhi treated the national interests of Sri Lanka in terms of interests of India. That was India’s foreign policy then. This is why we had to sign the Indo Lanka accord in 1987. An agreement is usually among equals but this was imposed on us after President Jayawardene knelt before India. It violated our sovereignity.
The Indian government interfered in internal affairs of Sri Lanka on the pretext of being the saviours of the Tamil people. If they had the interest of the Tamils then how did the oil tanks in Trincomalee creep into the agreement; or the Ports in the Sri Lanka creep into it? According to this the Sri Lankan government can’t take any decision regarding the ports, harbours or the airports. We should understand the concerns in India about their ports. We are living in a region where there is only one neighbour. Having said that, our own policy should be that this country is not used against India either.
President Jayewardene didn’t understand that. I remember the then Political Secretary of the Indian High Commission in Colombo telling me that ‘we must teach him (Mr. Jayawardene) a lesson.’ But by doing that it was India that learnt the biggest lesson. They lost 1500 of their men; men of the 4th largest army in the world. They were humiliated and lost also one of their PMs. We did warn India that India will suffer if they continue to support separatism in this country.
They trained the terrorists, financed them and gave them the diplomatic and political recognition they needed. They built an army to invade this country. It was an invasion. This agreement should not be accepted because it was not based on equality. The danger is that the agreement still stands and India could interfere in this country on the pretext of suppressing terrorism.
The greater problem is that India doesn’t think about what will happen to them if we implement this agreement in full. In 1988 they didn’t think about the 13th Amendment to the Constitution seriously. Today it is a bridge towards separatism. Although India says they don’t want to see a separate state in Sri Lanka they can’t stop it because that is already starting here. Now we will have to act very soon to stop that process which is gathering momentum after the defeat of the LTTE.
Although the LTTE was also fighting for separatism, those who are advocating separatism and federalism have become legitimate, lawful, peaceful and democratic. But they really are not. And they have not given up the idea of establishing a separate state in this country.
Q: Who specifically are you talking about?
Those who were with Prabhakaran earlier and have left later. They have the right to advocate what they think. We are using that same right to analyze what they say to make the Tamil people aware about what will happen if a separate state is established in this country. Why it is important to live in a united country. The problem is that those who are fighting for the 13th Amendment to be implemented will not stop at that. They have already come halfway towards a separate state, and there will be one if we don’t prevent it. Today it will not too clear and may seem too early because it can’t be understood. But what is happening now couldn’t be understood earlier in the same way. The problem is that India doesn’t take it seriously. We say very clearly that India’s territorial integrity will be threatened by what is happening in Sri Lanka now. The separatist forces have not stopped their forward march, they will fight for it until they achieve it. They are talking about aspirations and aspirations can’t be satisfied.
Q: Would you say that such political agendas are being using what they are terming the aspirations of the Tamil people for this same purpose?
This is not a problem of the aspirations of the Tamil people, but those of the leaders of the Tamil people. Such aspirations of the Tamil leadership will only have its end in getting a separate state in this country. That is when it will affect India, beause, already India is having trouble in her own states like Nagaland or Tripura or Orissa. That form of development will gather momentum once a separate state is established in Sri Lanka. It will be too soon to expect but it will happen. No one expected the youth league of the TULF to take up arms. No one expected Sri Lanka to fight this war for 30 years. All we had then was a peaceful Vadukoddai resolution. This is why we emphasize that separatism is defeated with the same vigour. At this moment India is also pressing for the implementation of the 13th Amendment. When that happens there will be a separate state. Then the Constitution of this country will be changed. And it won’t be a qualitative change, because now we have unitary state and if implemented completely this nature of the state will become a federal state instead. That is why those advocating for 13th Amendment are refusing to discuss the nature of the state, claiming these are just words. No these are not just words there is a meaning. There is a big difference with a clear definition. They make these arguments to deceive the people. The nature of state is the very basis of a Constitution. This is how one recognizes a state.
Why doesn’t the UNP or the UPFA go before the people if they have the support of the people for the 13th Amendment ? They are worried about the vote base among the Sinhalese; that is why they don’t want to talk about equal opportunities. It is the JVP that started that dialogue, because this is the only way to start national unity. They don’t go before the people and say they are for federalism if they are genuine? Because, they are racist on that basis. I’m not saying they are, in every aspect, but on that, they are. We challenge them to go before the people if they are so sure of their positions.
Q:The argument is made that given the geo- political nature of today’s conflicts and the support that Sri Lanka needed from India during the war, the government may not have a choice but to implement the 13th Amendment?
Then what about the fact that India trained and financed the LTTE? It was only after they realized their mistakes that their approach changed. The danger is that they are still being fooled by the separatist forces. Don’t forget that during the height of the war there were 50 RAW agents in the Wanni without the knowledge of the Sri Lankan government. They only gave a list and requested Sri Lanka to look in to their safety later. Why did they come? These are not secrets.
RAW has been working even after the killing of PM Rajiv Gandhi in Sri Lanka. They continued links with the LTTE. This is why we want to see India change its policy. It achieved what it aimed in the 1980’s for their interests. They are making use of the oil tanks and in Trincomalee they’re given 679 sq. km surrounding the harbor, and even members of the Parliament are not allowed to go inside on grounds that this is an exclusive Indian economic zone. It was Sri Lankans that got killed and to liberate these lands. Whose occupying these lands now?
Even if LTTE were fighting the state, these were still misled Sri Lankans who died, who have sacrificed for India to make use of the land. India today need to dominate us and take our resources and politically establish their domination. There are 1500 Indian men there. Why are Indians carrying out demining? Sri Lankans can do these jobs. These are not assistance but dead ropes. These are assistance with strings attached. We need not have any enmity with India that is not what we need to do at all. That is why we say India will suffer one day. This is a friendly warning that India must take precautions because this problem of Sri Lanka is going to affect them. They can’t avoid that. The Sri Lankan government must also see that the territorial integrity of this country is safeguarded. That is the mandate given by the people of this country.