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This is No Joke, Battlefront Not on Toronto Streets –EPRLF (P)

By Anuradha K. Herath

For decades, T. Sritharan, general secretary of the Eelam Peoples' Revolutionary Liberation Front-Pathmanabha wing (EPRLF-P), engaged in politics covertly. Under the watchful eye of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), he and his political party struggled to get their politically moderate message across to the people of the north and east. Despite the LTTE's claim of being the sole representative of the Tamil people, there were those who disagreed. Those dissenters were often suppressed.

2009-09-26-SritharanTC.jpg"Our people couldn't live anywhere," Sritharan says. "Our people were living only in a very low-profile way. They couldn't (engage) in any political activities. Anybody thinking against the LTTE, they kill. That is the problem. LTTE not only killed political leaders, they also killed intellectuals, even NGO people. They also killed [politically] left people and trade union people."

The EPRLF (before it split into two groups), along with other Tamil political parties, was banned by the LTTE in 1986. But Sritharan managed to survive the LTTE's ruthless elimination of those it considered Tamil moderates. Today, Sritharan and his party are allied with the government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, working to address the grievances of the Tamil minority in post-war Sri Lanka.

In an interview in Colombo that lasted nearly two hours, Sritharan spoke candidly about the issues facing Sri Lanka's Tamil population.

The Diaspora

For decades, the Sri Lankan diaspora -- both Tamil and Sinhala -- played a crucial role in the conflict. Political scientist Christine Fair wrote about the Tamil diaspora communities in Nationalism and Ethnic Politics in 2005.

"As has been noted, the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora has been a fundamental component of the Tamil insurgency," she writes. "It has been the backbone of the LTTE's global operations and has been a financial lifeline of the militancy."

The last stages of Sri Lanka's 30-year conflict with the LTTE saw massive protests staged in capitals around the world against the government's military offensive. Toronto was a key flashpoint. According to some estimates, the city has a Tamil population of approximately 200,000, including many LTTE supporters. Thousands from Toronto's Tamil diaspora poured on to the streets to protest, forcing road closures and disrupting civil life.

Now, with the military struggle over and the LTTE defeated, Sritharan says the diaspora will have to assume a new role.

"The Tamil diaspora in the last 20 years, a section of the diaspora, supported to build up the LTTE war," he says. "They also, right or wrong, contributed a number of children. Now, their contribution [must be] to the upliftment of the people and their lives. They must contribute very positively."

"[In] their countries also, different kinds of people are available. Different societies also tolerate each other. Living in another country, your experience, your education (and) your wealth must be shared locally."

Speaking emotionally about the numbers of Tamil people killed, injured and widowed through the conflict, Sritharan accused the Tamil diaspora of not understanding the realities on the ground.

"They think the children are poor peoples' sons and daughters," Sritharan says. "Some people in Toronto, in LTTE uniforms, rallying [demonstrating]. The ordinary soldier from the Sinhala south is also from a poor peasant family. These children are from poor families. These people are also fighting in the front. It is not some school program or sports meet."

Sritharan's contention is that diaspora communities have the luxury of observing from a distance. They have the luxury of free speech in countries such as the United States, Canada, Britain and Australia (with large Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora populations) to protest and speak out without having to face dangerous consequences. But they have "no sentimental attachment with the land," Sritharan says, and the children of poor Tamil and Sinhala families end up fighting for the cause.

"The battlefront is not on Toronto's streets," he says. "This is not a bloody joke. These kinds of people also exploit the ordinary peoples' life and limb."

Working for Peace

On Sept. 7, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), widely known as the LTTE's proxy party, met with President Rajapaksa for the first time since the defeat of the LTTE. The TNA consists of five Tamil political parties: Ilankai Thamil Arasu Kadchchi, All Ceylon Tamil Congress, Tamil United Liberation Front, EPRLF-S (Suresh wing led by Suresh Premachandran) and Tamil Eelam Liberation Organization. The focus of the meeting was the humanitarian crisis in the north, particularly the resettling of internally displaced persons.

Sritharan did not attend this meeting but says he spoke about the issue with President Rajapaksa when he attended an all-party meeting July 2.

"I mentioned to (President Rajapaksa), you also played a good role in the latter part of the 80s on human rights," Sritharan says. "You also played a historical role for 20, 25 years to eradicate the Tamil fascism. In the same way, you will try to devolve the powers to the other communities, Tamils including other communities, as well as value the peoples' respect and dignity."

Sritharan believes President Rajapaksa faces pressure from the People's Liberation Front (JVP) and Jathika Hela Urumaya parties against devolving power, but he is hopeful.

"Now the government must take some risks," says Sritharan. "Peace is the main agenda. Free the people from camps. Celebrate the peace. At that time, if one or two LTTE (members) create problems, the people will punish them. Now if the (existing) situation continues, that is a fertilized ground."

Sritharan calls on the government to release from IDP camps those who can easily be identified as not being a threat -- families with five or six children, widows, pregnant women and the elderly.

"Now people also want to live," he says. "They want their children educated. They want jobs. They want peace."

courtesy: The Huffington Post

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How many in your party? 5???

Are you still allowed to use Eelam?


Posted by: aratai | September 27, 2009 07:37 AM

1. The Tamil diaspora members in West are more worried about their half million dollar house mortgages, private school tution fees, cost of tennis, ballet and piano lessons of their children, leasing instalements of the new four wheel drive and the size of the plasma TV than in welfare of IDP's in Sri Lanka. Just talk to them and ask what their priorities are. They will talk about their pension funds, stock investments, financial crisis in wall street, rented properties and negative gearing,tax audits and childrens university education. The LTTE activists still scream about IDPs because it is a good way to collect money from stupid people. Well, only yesterday I found there are nearly 30 million IDPs in the world, 95% created by actions of western nations. That's food for thought...

2. Gotabaya is becoming the most popular name for new born boys in Sri Lanka. I rest my case....

Posted by: aravinda | September 27, 2009 06:33 PM

oh yes, there 30 Million IDPs in the world so Sri Lanka can keep their share as so called Citizen of their country(?) Fare rule ah. Let us take another leaf from Idi Amin and Saddam to kill their own citizen?

I too rest my case

Posted by: Harrison Ford | September 27, 2009 11:28 PM

Tamil Diaspora is not the cause of war ... Tamil diaspora ready to wrok positively for the Sri Lanka's growth.. if the Gov of Sri Lanka talk with Diaspora , they can work together on mutual benefit and work for long lasting peace ....... Forget the past, forgive the anger, hope for a new future.. Diaspora ready to visit their back home and work best for Sri Lanka. Is Sri Lanka ready???

Posted by: tamil lankan | September 28, 2009 10:24 AM

Mr Sritharan, sir, are you allied to the Rajapaksa regime because they wield enormous power in Sri Lanka or do you really think the regime is going to treat Tamils as equals? When it comes to treatement of Tamils, do you think the Rajapaksa regime is any less fascist than the LTTE? seriously?

Posted by: Kaz | September 28, 2009 06:44 PM

*** Tamil diaspora ready to wrok positively for the Sri Lanka's growth.. if the Gov of Sri Lanka talk with Diaspora ***

The SRI LANKAN GOVERNMENT Does Not Talk to TERRORISTS.... stop waving LTTE Flags, stop FUNDING TERRORISM and stop Demanding EELAM,... then we will consider talking to you. Tamil Diaspora are in no position to make demands to Sri Lanka. You tried to Destroy the country in the last war, now you are the losers. We'll Decide if we want to Talk to you if we see a considerable change in your behavior.

Posted by: Devinda Fernando | September 29, 2009 11:11 AM

Dear aratai,

"How many in your party? 5???"

However large or small it is, the EPRLF-P is currently doing much better in Sri Lanka than the LTTE!


Posted by: wijayapala | September 30, 2009 04:02 PM

The claim made by Mr. Sritharan that Rajapaksa faces pressure from the JVP and JHU--implying that otherwise he would have done something to help the Tamil people--is twaddle.

Rajapaksa and his family have never been committed to equal rights for the Tamil people. They agree with Sarath Fonseka's claim that Sri Lanka belongs to the Sinhalese only. Steeped in their historical ignorance and Southern myths--though they don't say this publicly--Tamils are recent immmigrants who don't need to be treated fairly. It is something I have heard even from many well-educated and talented people from the deep South.

The claim that so and so has a Tamil in his extended family and therefore must have no problems toward them is laughable.

LTTE's Nadesan had a Sinhalese wife. SWRD and J.R.J also had Tamils in their extended families. H.L.D. Mahindapala has a Tamil wife, and we know about all the racial venom that flows out of his pen.

Posted by: Expatriate | October 1, 2009 07:25 PM


If what Sri Tharan is saying is 'twaddle' because you are of the view that 'all the Sinhalese are steeped in historical myths, and JVP and JHU are holding the barrel of their guns on the heads of the Tamils as you to imply together with HLD's pen spouting venom on them,in spite of his Tamil wife' What do you suggest we do? Like you we all cannot become Expatriate?

Do you seriously believe that the ordinary Sinhalese have nothing better to do than be preoccupied hunting down and killing Tamils where ever and whenever they see them? In other words if you are seriously suggesting they are all of that sick and imprisoned mind-set and temperament, it is best you remain an Expatriate and be unconcerned about what happens here.

I am no supporter of the MR government nor do I condone its methods or style of conducting its affairs. But as it exists and happens to be in power, all what can be done is to cope with that reality until the country's people decide what can be done at the next hustings or otherwise.

What Sri Tharan is doing is exactly that,supporting the positive aspects of the government and countering it's negative aspects.Why grudge that?

Posted by: R.S.Ganeshan | October 17, 2009 10:59 AM

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