‘The war is over… We’ve one way, one chance. That’s the peaceful way, peaceful negotiation, continuous engagement’

When you look back at the war which led to the end of the LTTE, what are the first reflections that come to your mind?

It’s the beginning of a new era. The war is over. We fought a freedom struggle. It failed. It’s over. Now it’s the beginning of a new era. The New World Order taught us that we have to… we have to live together. We learnt from our past experience also that we should make a bridge between the two races.

This country, a small island, has suffered a lot. You know of the many struggles —the JVP, again the LTTE. It’s enough. I feel this is a small country, a small population. We paid a high price. We got the pain. Enough! So we should live together, respect each other and accept each other’s dignity, enjoy the life and give a future for the new generation. Our lives are nearly at an end but the new generation should live peacefully in this country. That’s what we’re working on.

Now when you look back, what are those mistakes that you think your organisation committed?

You know that if you look at world history, guerrilla warfare started with Che Guevara. This spread all over the world, but achieved [success] only in Cuba, success in Cuba. But in many countries lots of youth especially gave their lives. This is also [true] in Sri Lanka.

So in this country, when an armed struggle started, it was the time when the Cold War was nearing its end. Our armed struggle was late [in the day]. That is an important reason, because the world turned to be united. After the Second World War and until the Cold War the world was separated [by ideology: in terms of capitalism and communism]. That was the time when new countries were being born. Separatism was a part of this Cold War order. But the New World Order after the end of the Cold War changed the global political environment. That is the main reason if you look [at why our armed struggle failed].

You see, India is our big brother. So without India’s support [we] cannot achieve anything. In this region India is the big brother and India is a powerful country. So, first the LTTE had a conflict with India, that was one failure…

And as an organisation [engaged] in a liberation struggle we lost the people’s support on the ground. So that was another big problem. It was a lengthy war, more than 35 years. People were fed up. Moreover, there were lots of casualties. People paid a high price.

Again, that New World Order was against all separatist struggles. If you recall, in 2006 I remember Prabakaran appealed to the world community to accept the freedom struggle. Not a single country stepped forward to give support. So that is what I mean when I say that the world was against separation [separatism].

Even after 2001, after 9/11, the world gave us a chance for a peace settlement. They [the world community] did not give this kind of a chance to Hamas, this chance, this opportunity [for arriving at a peace settlement with the Sri Lankan government]. The international community gave us this opportunity to [reach] a peaceful settlement. You know, Germany, Norway, America, Canada, Japan —these countries tried so much to bring about a peaceful solution [to the conflict in Sri Lanka]. But the organisation, the LTTE, was not ready to negotiate or have a flexible policy. They continued to have a strict [stance] on their goal of separation.

I remember that when the [final] war started [in 2008] the American President gave a statement to the UN or in the European Union: let them try and stop all the funds [to the LTTE]. We cannot stand alone against the world.

How do you see the UN report, which has created so much controversy in alleging war crimes?

We have the beginning of new era. The past is past. The two parties, as the UN report says, have made mistakes. This report wouldn’t help any reconciliation. It is disturbing. It disturbs the reconciliation [process].

So we feel no one will get any benefit from this report. It’s a fact-finding mission. It’s a report. If you go to the Vanni and [discover that] 1,000 families or 100,000 families are getting a benefit from this UN report, then it’s a different story. But the truth is that no one gets any benefit from such reports. The whole country is against this report. You have to understand the reality on the ground. The past is past. War means first die. War means who dies first. Truth dies . The truth is that. It’s the same everywhere. You cannot say good war and bad war. War is war.

Both parties try the maximum. If we put out a UN report for every war, where is the end? I feel the war is over and it’s more than two years. Here is the critical point: if they ask what they speak, if they take action, then let’s say, OK, in this war the government is the winner and the LTTE is the loser. But the loser’s side still has some people left. They’re [living] present here, including me. I’m also a member of the LTTE even though I did not participate in attacks or any military action. But I’m also a member of the LTTE. Who got the benefit? No one. The people want food and clothing, and they want to start up their life. The UN report is [the outcome] of a fact-finding mission. It’s a report. Why give it so much weight?

They [UN] put out the report and they asked for an answer from the government, and they’re moving diplomatically. It’s just a report.

So basically you’re saying that the Tamils in Sri Lanka need education, development, health. These are the things that are required now.

Exactly. The war is now over, for two years. But people are still suffering. OK, we have had many bad experiences. Past political dialogues failed. Many things have happened in the past, but we cannot always speak about the past. In life sometimes we have bitter experiences, sometimes we have good experiences. We face them with the hope that we’ve to work together and find a solution; find a way to live together. War-affected people are asking exactly what you say. They need food, they need some job, clothes, and they need milk for their babies. They are asking for their basic needs. So this is what I’m asking from the international community and the Tamil Diaspora.

What you are telling the Tamil Diaspora?

First they have to work for these people. For example, if they are crying for milk we cannot say ‘wait, wait, the UN is coming, and after the political solution [comes through] and then, after that, we will help you’. They [the Tamils in Sri Lanka] will die, you know. So they’re crying for food now. First everyone [should] work for that. When they start living normal lives, then we can ask what they want. Now if you go and ask the people in the Vanni [the Tamil-dominated northern Sri Lanka] about the 13 th Amendment or whatever, they’ll look like this [ looks up with a vacant face]. They [now] only know about bread and rice. The problem is that they should understand the ground reality. First let them stand on their own legs.

So you’re basically saying that the Tamil Diaspora, Tamils who are citizens of other countries and are well settled and who have never come to Sri Lanka but have funded the armed struggle and all that… You’re telling them to step back and work for peace?

Exactly. What I’m saying is that the war was over more than two years ago. We’ve one way, one chance. That’s the peaceful way, peaceful negotiation and continuous engagement.

Lots of trust [issues], a hundred years of a problem. The government system is slow and I understand [that]. But that is the only way we have to go through. In a peaceful manner, and with patience, to bring peace. You heard about [S.] Thondaman [the late leader of the upcountry Tamils who primarily work in Sri Lanka’s tea estates]? He was patient. He waited more than 50 years for his time, to achieve the citizenship of more than 100,000 upcountry people.

I had a chance to chat with him and he told me: your people are educated people, but you don’t have good leaders, you don’t have flexible leaders. We need flexible leaders. That’s why our problem has [festered] for such a long time.

Negative emotions cannot bring any good thing. Yes, we have had a war and there is a hundred-year problem. So we’ll take some time to sort it out. Again we will come back to the Diaspora. I’m very closely working with them. Ninety per cent of the Diaspora are very good people. They spent their life here, and some were born in the Diaspora, and they have good feelings with their kin and kith here. They’ve supported the people here [Tamils in Sri Lanka], and also supported the armed struggle.

The problem is that now I’m facing 10 per cent of the extremism group. They’re disturbing these people [Tamils in Sri Lanka].

Can you name them?

Yes. They are Nediyawan, Vinayagam, Father Emmanuel, Jeyachandran who runs a website named TamilNet, BTF [British Tamil Forum] in the UK and GTF [Global Tamil Forum]. These groups are well-off in Europe. Their children are very well- off. They are poisoning the younger generation. Their kids are well-off, but they look where they can spread the poison. But I’ll not let them play this game here. If they want to [spread] poison here, then first they’ll have to kill me. Then only they can go inside. Already they have spent three decades, more than 30 years [in conflict]. I want these people [Tamils in Sri Lanka] to be happy. You cannot see the faces of people here [now]. They’re always sad, never happy. I want to see their happiness, see them smile.

From the time these people were born they have never seen happiness. The children of the [Tamil Diaspora] groups are very happy. They live a life of luxury. But here in the Vanni the children aren’t happy. The children don’t have bicycles to go to school. In the morning if you walk along the road you’ll see students walking 2 km, 3 km. That’s the life here. They’re crying for the future. I cannot let them fall in the wrong place again.

Are you saying that as long as you are alive you will not allow the Tamil extremist groups in Europe to revive the armed movement?

Exactly. If they mobilise, if they try to create trouble here, I’ll not let them do that. First they’ve to kill me.

Isn’t it also a fact that some countries in Europe, during the last stage of the war, were somehow trying to rescue the top leadership of the LTTE?

From January 2009 I tried to stop the war. I worked day and night to stop this war. But especially our side, the LTTE, until the last moment they were not willing to support an end to cessation of hostilities. Actually I lost all hope. But during the last moments [of the war], I think it was May 15 because I remember that they [representatives of the UN and officials from some Western countries] asked me if they [the LTTE leadership] was ready to leave the country. They said: give us a list with names and other details. They said they can send a ship so that they could be sent somewhere safe.

Which countries?

Actually it’s the UN, allied with some other countries. I would not like to point to the names of the countries. But all of them were Western countries.

Did they try to rescue you?

Yeah, they tried to rescue, but it was too late. From January 2009 I see that every time we were late, every move we made was late.

Why do you think the LTTE kept missing opportunities for peace from 2002 onwards?

Not only from 2002. Even during earlier stages, when Indian Prime Minister the late Rajiv Gandhi talked with the Sri Lankan President, J.R. Jayawardene, and arranged some kind of settlement. This was before the 13{+t}{+h} Amendment. That time also the LTTE missed the chance. Again, when the India-Sri Lanka Accord was signed, we lost the chance.

Especially Prabakaran: he knew only one thing, and that was ‘Tamil Eelam,’ a separate state. He was not ready to negotiate this one. So with this dream he is gone. That’s it.

Do you think the 2002 ceasefire was merely a ploy, just a delaying tactic?

Yes. The LTTE on the one hand had won some battles, but on the other hand they were in very bad shape. Economically they were weak. There was a shortage of food and other supplies. Besides, the world outside had changed, everything was different from what it used to be.

9/11 was a big thing. The American President put very strict conditions [on armed struggle by non-state actors] and a good [intelligence] network [was put in place]. After 9/11 all armed struggle, armed movements, were defined as terror organisations. It was a big setback for the LTTE. We did not know how to come out of this situation, and we faced lots of problems.

Lots of delegations went out in that period, post-2002. An LTTE delegation went to Europe. Apparently they went for peace talks. Why did even that fail? Was something else happening behind the scenes?

I earlier told you that Prabakaran never felt [the need] that he should negotiate ‘Tamil Eelam’. Simple.

Those trips to Europe made by LTTE leaders, what were those about?

It was part of the peace talks, because they needed some time to strengthen [themselves again]. It was part of the peace talks and so [they] met the [Tamil Diaspora] supporters. Everyone knows that they have public meetings. And they speak one thing at the negotiation table and they speak other things with the Diaspora Tamils. The [Sri Lankan] Embassy people recorded these statements of the LTTE in official and non-official forums. So they [the Sri Lankan government] knew that the LTTE was not serious about the peace talks. Everyone knew about it.

So, basically around that period they were actually preparing for war?

They [were] preparing for the strengthening of their arms [military capabilities], the economic side and the technical side. That’s what they did.

Do you regret your role in the LTTE? You were heading the international secretariat of the LTTE and helping those procuring arms and other weapons. How do you look at your role?

In 1970, here in Sri Lanka Tamil youths were emotionally moving towards a freedom struggle and I was one of them. We lost lots of Tamil youths in this armed struggle. Lots of people were lost. After 35 years of war when we look back, for example, I feel that Tamils have not only lost this armed struggle. From 1950 Tamils were losing step by step.

You see, before Independence G.G. Ponnambalam asked for 50:50 representation for Sinhalese and Tamils in Parliament. Finally, the majority decision came to 55-45. But even then the Tamil party did not agree to such a division of Parliament seats. Today we [Tamils] are at the third stage; Sinhalese comes in the first stage, then Muslims in the second stage and Tamils in the third stage. So from the possibility of 50:50 representation in Parliament we’ve been reduced to merely 15 to 20 seats in the Parliament. So this is how we’ve been losing step by step. The problem is that we’re losing opportunities. I want to put the brakes. So you see, we’re losing and losing, and it’s not a good sign. We’ve to stop somewhere and start life. But again they [the proponents of armed struggle within the Tamil Diaspora] are poisoning the young generation. I don’t agree on that.

How do you look back at the Indian involvement in all this?

In1980, during Mrs. Indira Gandhi’s period… that was the time when the Cold War was nearly at its end, even though it was still Cold War time. Sri Lanka was close to America; India and the USSR had a strong alliance. So there were differences. So when our issue burned, Indira Gandhi put the hand on that...

“Put the hand”?

At that time I remember [P.V.] Narashimha Rao was the Foreign Minister. The Diaspora Tamils were invited and they met Narashimha Rao. They had talks with the Indian government. That was the first step. The talks were called Thimpu talks. The Indian government called the Sri Lankan side and all the Tamil groups. But the talks failed. Around that time the Indian government gave [military] training to Tamil youths. So we [LTTE] had a base in Tamil Nadu. We had a base in India. All the four Tamil groups, very strong groups, were trained and armed by India. As I told you, that was the Cold War period and the international environment was such. During that time it was Mrs. Gandhi’s idea that she may be able to escalate the LTTE’s armed struggle to a certain level and use that as negotiating leverage to settle the [Tamil] issue in a peaceful way. Unfortunately, she has gone.

After that, Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi came. He was a modern leader and he was very fast [with his decisions]. His approach was different. By then RAW [India’s external intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing] was heavily involved with all the Tamil groups. At that time Chandrahasan, S.A.V.Selvanayagan’s son, had close links TELO [Tamil Eelam Liberation Organisation]. So at that time the misunderstanding between Prabakaran and RAW had already started.

Then Sri Lankan President Jayawardene and Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi tried to sort it out. But again the LTTE did not accept the proposals. But Rajiv Gandhi pushed and so the LTTE reluctantly came to an agreement [the Indo-Sri Lanka Agreement). But actually, in reality, the LTTE rejected the agreement.

Then the Indian Peace Keeping Force came?

When the IPKF came here, at that time the LTTE was a little bit all right with India. But after that there were misunderstandings, and the LTTE started a war against the IPKF.

Can you tell us once and for all: did Prabakaran plan the Rajiv Gandhi assassination?

Everyone knows the truth. Everyone knows who is involved in this murder. For example, Desavarajan. He was a member of the LTTE’s intelligence wing headed by Pottu Amman. Even from [the accounts of] those who were arrested at that time it was very clear who was behind the assassination. It was well-planned and done with the concurrence of Prabakaran and Pottu Amman. Everyone knows the truth.

I want to say to the Indian people and specially the [Rajiv] Gandhi family. I want to apologise for Prabakaran’s mistake. Please forgive us, we beg you, our people are struggling here, please help our people to live as humans. Sorry for all this. We [know] the feelings of the son of Rajiv Gandhi and those of his daughter. It’s human nature, the bonding between father and daughter, the attachment.

You are asking the Indian government to engage with Sri Lanka in a manner that would allow for a peaceful settlement, which gives a chance for Tamils in Sri Lanka to develop, and forget the past?

Exactly. In this country if we look 50 years back, our people, educationally, economically, they [stood] first. Today if you look back we are 50 years behind. So the point is that these people should have the benefits of modern technology. In your country you will see the Internet, computer facilities… and if you go to Mulankavil in the Vanni, there are no [such] facilities. Or in Mullaitivu. There is nothing. These regions are backward by 50 years. I feel that our people should live as humans. They’ve already paid a high price and so they don’t have anything to lose.

Are you also looking for support from politicians in Tamil Nadu?

The Tamil Nadu people are very emotional people. We have the same language and the same religion. We have a link. That emotion we should use as positive emotion, not negative emotion. If the Tamil Nadu population uses their assets or their thinking in a positive manner, then it is a matter of only a week to develop our people.

You’re saying that the people of Tamil Nadu — if they want and if they are positive — they can bring the change within a week?

Yes. Even recently three persons came from Tamil Nadu to set up a mushroom [cultivation] project here. They have the technology. Also, another team is coming for food production and they are going to teach and start up the life of these people. Malaysian people of Indian origin are also coming to teach something. I want to tell the Tamil Nadu politicians, especially Vaiko, Nedumaran, Seeman and Karunanidhi and all others: Here the war is over. The government and the TNA [the Tamil National Alliance] are talking. Let them talk. Let them find a way to solve the problem. Give them some time.

The people here have already endured enough pain. So if you can really help these people, if you have the feeling, then let the Tamil Nadu people help these affected people. You don’t say that the government should do certain things or that the government is not allowing people to come in. We have set up an NGO, NERDO (North-East Rehabilitation & Development Organisation) in Kilinochchi on the A-9 Road. We have an office. Anybody can come. I will arrange MoD [Ministry of Defence] clearance. There is no restriction on genuine humanitarian projects.

I don’t involve in any kind of politics. We’re not engaged in politics, only in humanitarian work. So I’m saying again to Tamil Nadu politicians — don’t put out any controversial [agendas] …don’t let our youth to again get into a cycle of struggle. It’s enough.

You’re asking Tamil Nadu’s politicians to forget the past. But in order to forget the past, the truth of the past must also be told. You were a senior member of the LTTE. You know the truth. Isn’t it a fact that several politicians and political parties did support and push several Tamil people into violence? Can you take names?

You see that during our struggle we sometimes depended on Tamil Nadu. When we started our struggle it was very clean and we were firm on our policy. We did not want to involve Indian politicians. We would go to India to buy something and come back. We did not meet anyone. This was at the beginning of our struggle. The problem is that we had to eventually meet some politicians in Tamil Nadu to resolve our issues. For example, the fight between Prabakaran and Uma Maheswaran on the streets of Chennai eventually landed both of them in a police station. We had to contact politicians to get them bail. These kinds of incidents enabled Tamil Nadu politicians to gain influence over the LTTE.

But we know what the real problem is. In Tamil Nadu, Periyar (E.V. Ramaswamy) wanted the Dravida Nadu, meaning he wanted Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Andhra separated from the North. From this base of Dravidian politics emerged Annadurai and Karunanidhi. This ideology failed its course. The idea of separatism failed, people who believed in this policy [ideology] remained. There are many people still with this mindset. They don’t accept that the world is changing.

Sometimes we have some dreams, but we must evaluate whether it’s possible to achieve them or not. We have to calculate. So the Dravida Kazhagam is already a hundred years old. Periyar has passed away and everything that he propagated went with him. But still the politicians who emerged from Periyar’s movement continue to carry those ideas. They passed these ideas to Prabakaran. They influenced him with anti-Brahmin ideas and the goals of the Dravida movement. They told him that his fight was based on the ideology of Dravida Kazhagam, to struggle against Brahmins.

The Tamil Nadu politicians made him a marvellous hero. They compared him with ancient Tamil kings. That made him change his course and that’s why he made all those blunders, like that against Rajiv Gandhi. They lost their course and then they moved on to use Prabakaran to achieve their goals.

Are you saying the DMK in a way ideologically influenced Prabakaran to take the step of the Rajiv Gandhi assassination?

This one I cannot say ‘yes.’ But you know they fed him with some kind of influence against Brahmins. This may be one of the reasons. That’s why he hated the Prime Minister of India. He was a young leader and he wanted to do things fast. He tried to resolve [the Tamil issue] as soon as possible

There are pictures of Vaiko sitting with Prabakaran. How did Vaiko manage to come to the Vanni region?

I think at that time he was a Member of Parliament and he was with the DMK. He had problems inside the party. He wanted to be the leader of the party next to Karunanidhi. But some people inside the party did not like him. They wanted [M.K.] Stalin to be the second-in-command. So Vaiko wanted to create his popularity. The only thing that could get him popularity was support for the LTTE. People in Tamil Nadu are emotional. They were behind the LTTE and so he decided to get close to the LTTE. He wanted the votes. So he violated the law to come here to meet Prabakaran…

Until he met Vaiko, Prabakaran did not know that he had come alone, without Karunanidhi’s permission. He kept wondering at that time how Vaiko had managed to come without Karunanidhi’s permission. He was surprised.

The point is that Vaiko’s visit happened out of a personal interest. Some people have personal agendas.

What about the DMK?

Vaiko was earlier a part of the DMK. Some DMK MPs and MLAs were very close to us. You know, Karunanidhi is a senior politician, but he also used this [LTTE] card from time to time. Vaiko tried to show that he was close to Prabakaran because he thought this would fetch him votes. Most politicians in Tamil Nadu have used this card.

What about Jayalalithaa?

She is very smart. She is a very educated woman. She knows how to handle these matters. She has just become the Chief Minister and we have to wait and see because she knows the pulse of the people in Tamil Nadu.

Was she on the hit-list of the LTTE?

She always felt so. Also, if the LTTE got the chance it would have tried [to assassinate her] because she was always against the LTTE. She always took action against the LTTE. Everyone understands the nature of the LTTE and what they are. They [the LTTE] tried the maximum but sometimes they couldn’t succeed.

Even though you are in custody, you are trying to bring a change in the way people think in the Tamil Diaspora, within the Tamil population in Tamil Nadu. More importantly, you are trying to convince Tamils in Sri Lanka to become more mainstream, integrate, and to look forward to a new future. In that context, how do you see Jayalalithaa’s statement yesterday, where she cast some aspersions — on the President of Sri Lanka with regard to the UN report alleging war crimes?

Earlier I told you that she is a smart lady. She has enough experience. She has put the ball in the Centre’s court. But some people who look deeply into what is happening, they understand what she is doing. But the emotional people of Tamil Nadu think ‘our Amma is going to do something on this issue.’ Or they think that ‘Amma is going to take the President [Mahinda Rajapaksa] or the Defence Secretary [Gotabaya Rajapakse] to the International Court of Justice. She is a smart lady. She simply put the ball in the Centre’s court.

The Central government, everybody knows, is close to the government of Sri Lanka. Diplomatically and politically, both countries have a bond. They share a thousand-year relationship. How can this relation be broken? Even the Congress Party cannot break this relation between the two countries.

What role do you think Jayalalithaa can play?

She is the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister. She has enough experience. She is a smart lady and she can take positive steps with regard to Sri Lankan Tamils.

Here our people are in pain and they are struggling for food, struggling for education, health and their life. So Jayalalithaa also has the duty to do this, because she has always promised help to the Tamil people.

I want to point this out that [she] has the duty to help these people. If she is willing to help these people, then please come here and help these people. Or you have many other ways to help these people. First give first aid. See, if someone is going to die and then you speak of political rights instead of giving first aid, isn’t that funny?

Anyone who likes to talk about my people, whether they are from the Diaspora or Tamil Nadu or anyone, first gives them the food, after that you can talk.

You’re saying that Jayalalithaa as the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu on her own can announce a development package for the Tamils in Sri Lanka? That she can encourage industrialists to invest here and engage in developmental activity?

Exactly. She can put up factories in the Vanni. She can send industrialists from Tamil Nadu to meet the Sri Lankan government. She can start some factory and give some opportunities to this war-affected people to start up their life.

You were one of the chief arms procurers of your organisation. There had been a lot of talk about how the LTTE trained Indian Maoists, popularly called Naxals. Can you shed some light on that?

Until 2002 we did not have any contact with any overseas group. We had political relations, but no armed link. Until 2002 I was in charge, and I was very keen on that because we don’t like to put our legs on fire. Every organisation, every struggle, is unique, so we did not want to get involved in other groups. So we did not have any contacts with the Maoists. I established the LTTE’s international network from 1984 to 2002. Till then we were steadfast and disciplined to follow our goal of freedom struggle.

After that?

After that I did not have any involvement with the LTTE until January 2009. But between this period there was a lot of mess-up. Lots of things happened. I heard from my friends that this [links between Maoists and the LTTE] was also a reason for the failure of the struggle.

Is this assertion valid, because Indian law enforcement agencies have been constantly saying that the Maoists, or Naxals, have received some kind of training, especially in the manner in which they set up explosives, from the LTTE?

I also heard that, but I don’t really know the truth. I heard from the Indian side and from my ex-friends about this… I also heard about this…

From being part of an organisation that was engaged in war and violent conflict, you have moved away from that ideology. You’re in custody but you’re trying to help the Sri Lankan government and Sri Lankan Tamils. You have moved away from war in the direction of peace and settlement. What is it that you contributing?

I’m helping the Tamil people [in Sri Lanka] even though I’m still in custody, after May 2009. From January 2009 I tried to stop the war because lots of people were in trouble. I tried as much as I could. But I’m sad that the LTTE was not ready to negotiate. Every day I watched TV and listened to the radio and saw how our people were suffering.

So I want to give them oxygen to start up their life. I have a feeling inside the heart, and I feel guilty, because I was also one of them. So I was also part of the reason for which the Tamil people suffered and struggled. Again, I say, the war is over and it’s the beginning of a new era. We can continue to speak for the next 100 years on ‘Tamil Eelam’ and extremism, but nothing will come out of it. You see, the Khalistan movement is over but still some people are continuing to speak about it on the radio. There is a small group that sits in coffee shops and speaks about a movement which is already over. This has been going on in the Diaspora for some time. These small groups of people can’t stop it because that’s their life. This is how they earn their income. I told Vaiko and Nedumaran: if I stop them, where will they go for a salary? That is the problem.

Conflict is an industry?

Yes. More than once I heard that in 2005 or 2006 — that nearly $300,000 was the salary the LTTE gave some people in the Diaspora.

Where did the money come from?

By collecting it from the people. So suddenly if I say ‘stop’, where will they go? Even last week I heard that someone went to a house [in the U.K.) and said that they had come from the head office of the LTTE in the Vanni. But the head office in the Vanni was over two years back! Still people in the U.K. are collecting money and saying that they are from the head office of the LTTE. You know, this is a cycle. But now the people are getting to know the truth. It will increasingly become difficult to collect funds in this manner.

You’re trying to reconcile yourself with your past and looking forward to the future. Do you have a dream?

You see, I spent 35 years with the armed struggle. For the last two years I’ve been under house arrest. Custody here may be for another 10 years, and I don’t know how many years I have [left] to live. The rest of my life I want to spend with the innocent children who have been affected by the war. These children don’t have love, they don’t have care, they don’t have parents, they don’t have a good education, and they don’t have a future. So I want to spend the rest of my life with these children.

I’ve requested the Defence Secretary to let me stay with the children in the Vanni. I also want to look after the elders, those who have lost their children in the war and have nobody to look after them. I want to care for the disabled people, especially the young disabled girls. My dream is to see happiness on their face.

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