By D.B.S. Jeyaraj
(CONTINUED FROM LAST WEEK)
QUESTION: Thank you for relating these details about these important events of the recent past. Your input provides fresh insight into these matters. But now I want to ask you about the present.
Let me start with your relationship with this government particularly the Defence secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse. You have already told me about your arrest and your first meeting with the defence secretary. It’s obvious that both of you have established good rapport. But there are lots of allegations about this. Several opposition leaders and sections of the media have alleged that there is some kind of shady deal in between . What do you have to say?
Gotabhaya Rajapakse ~ pic courtesy: businesstoday.lk
ANSWER: My answer is just the truth. It really is a simple story…… There is no deal of any kind. There is only an understanding. A genuine understanding. Both of us have some common objectives. So we are working together to achieve those goals. That is our point of agreement. Nothing else.
Q: Could you elaborate further please? What exactly is this meeting point?
A: The war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam(LTTE) is now over. The Defence secretary Mr.Gotabhaya Rajapakse who coordinated and planned the war effort is now engaged in a different role. The Defence secretary has to maintain peace and prevent any possible eruption of violence again. Both he and the Govt of President Mahinda Rajapakse realise that much has to be done to resolve the problems caused by the war. There are a large number of former LTTE cadres in custody. The Internally displaced persons (IDP) being re-settled have to be rehabilitated and normalcy restored.The President and his brothers want to address these issues.
At the same time I am also concerned about these issues. I too want to see the boys and girls released as early as possible. I want them to be given a fresh start in life. I want the IDP returnees resettled and rehabilitated. So there is agreement between us in these matters. The Defence secretary has provided an opportunity for me to get involved in these matters to a certain extent and do what I can. This is our meeting point or area of agreement.
Q: But the question puzzling many is why you the former head of the re-structured LTTE is being given a chance to get involved in these matters?
A: I think the best person to answer this question is the Defence secretary himself or some responsible government minister or official. I can only answer from my perspective or what I think is behind the Government’s thinking…
Q: Please do. Tell me why you think you are being given this opportunity?
A: What I think is that they have a tricky dilemma. They want to release,rehabilitate and resettle detenues and IDP’s as soon as possible. The longer they delay the greater the international criticism.
But on the other side they are also cautious about the security angle. They don’t want these released and resettled people to be used by interested parties for anything in the future that could result in the separatist demand being raised again or an outbreak of political violence.
Because of this the government authorities are very careful. This has resulted in matters moving slowly. This slow pace also results in the govt getting criticised.
So the govt is looking out for ways to help them address these matters faster and also ensure security interests are met. It is here that I come in I think. They are giving me a chance to play a small role in these matters like the squirrel in the “Ramayana” who helped build a dam across the sea. This gives me an opportunity to do something meaningful in my life. So I am very happy and glad.
Q: But why you? Why not some NGO or group of NGO’s? Why not the Tamil parties aligned with the government?
A: You asked me about NGO’s and Tamil parties and why they are not being given a role. Again I can only say what I think from what I have heard.
What I feel is that the govt does not trust most NGO’s due to bad experiences in the past. This is why I think only limited access is given to many NGO’s.
They are also very disappointed with some Tamil parties who abused and misused the access given earlier.
The issue of thousands of ex-tiger rehabilitees is a highly sensitive matter with political and security implications. The govt does not want to take a risk in this even if it gets criticised. The impression I get about the defence secretary is that he would prefer to get criticised rather than risk a grave security breach by letting each and every organization interact with the ex-tiger cadres
In such a situation I am getting a chance to play a role. The govt is prepared to let me interact with ex-tiger rehabilitees and others to be of some service. They trust me and also have nothing to fear about me because after all I am in their custody too. As for me I welcome this chance to be of service to some of my people particularly the ex-tiger cadres.
Q: What is it that motivates you in this respect?
A: I am perhaps the most senior among former tiger leaders today. I feel very very guilty when I see the tragic plight of the Tamil people today. I feel extremely sad and bad when I see the fate of these young people. I cannot deny that many of these children were forcibly recruited against their will.
I also feel a lot of remorse when I see the civilians of the Wanni. They were prosperous once but are now in abject poverty due to the war. Because of this I want to do some penance at least by helping them as far as possible.
There is also another reason. I heard a story last year that Prabhakaran and the leadership were engaged in a discussion in mid-May when someone had asked “What happens to our people and cadres”? To this Prabhakaran had apparently replied. “KP is there.He will look after the people and cadres.”
Some months ago I got reliable confirmation that such an incident had really happened and that Prabhakaran had referred to me that way openly. This knowledge that the last task entrusted to me was to look after these people has strengthened my resolve in this respect.
This is why I am motivated and I formed the North-East Rehabilitation and Development Organization(NERDO). It was formally registered on July 6th 2010. We have also been given security clearance to move about the north and east and have access to resettled IDP’s and rehabilitees.
Q: Before we talk about NERDO, it does seem to me that you have got recognition as an NGO in a very short time. The NERDO has also got security clearance and access. This would not have been possible but for support at high levels. Was it with the blessings of the Defence secretary that NERDO got this approval and access?
A: Yes. We went through all the formalities and procedures and applied. But I don’t think we would have got such quick approval without the backing of the Defence secretary.
Q: If I may return to an earlier aspect. It does seem crystal clear that you are able to enjoy some freedom of action despite being a detenue only because of the special relationship you have with Mr. Gotabhaya Rajapakse.As you told me earlier there was no “deal” of any kind and that your meeting point is the mutual desire to achieve certain related pro-people goals. Could you explain the circumstances under which this rapport evolved and continues to evolve?
A: Well I have already told you about how I was caught in Malaysia and brought to Colombo and how I met him for the first time. Thereafter at a subsequent meeting –the third one I believe- Mr. Gotabhaya asked me pointed questions about what I felt about the whole situation and what I wanted to do in the future.
I then told him very clearly that the war was over for me and that I fully realised that reviving an armed struggle for Eelam was out of the question. I told him that I feel very guilty about the plight of our people and that if given a chance I would like to help them in some small way at least as some form of penance.
Then the defence secretary said that he too wanted to ensure the speedy release and resettlement of IDP’s and rehabilitation of ex-tiger cadres. He said he required some reliable people to help expedite matters in this regard. He asked me whether I would like to help him in this process .I said yes.
Some days later the military intelligence chief Gen.Kapila Hendavitharane informed me that my request had been discussed in detail by him and the defence secretary and that a favourable decision was reached. Thereafter I was given some autonomy of action to participate in the process.
Q: You were a Consultant?
A: Nothing formal or official like that but yes I was consulted on some related matters. I was also allowed to interact with the cadres under detention and also people in the north
Q: In person?
A: No not directly only by telephone first. Then I was able to get delegations of parents of detenues from the North down to Colombo and meet them. It was at such a meeting that parents lamented about the situation of Jaffna university undergraduates being held under detention.
At that point I asked one of the officials present whether he could request the defence secretary to look into the matter and take positive action. This was done and I am happy to say the defence secretary immediately agreed in principle to release. Thereafter it was done in batches. Today no undergrad is in detention. Like that the rehabilitees are being released in batches according to specific categories
Q: What I understand from this is that you had no official position but you had a sort of unofficial special role assigned to you. Because of that you were able to associate and play a positive role in these matters?
A: Yes. This was before I formed the NERDO. Now I represent NERDO in matters of this type.
Q: So the government was basically in charge and took policy decisions and implemented them but you were able to play a supplementary role in an advisory capacity?
A: Exactly. It was the government that handled it. Matters concerning the ex-tiger cadre rehabilitees for instance came under the Bureau of the Commissioner –General of Rehabilitation. On that matter I must emphasise that the govt has appointed an appropriate person as commissioner-general. Brigadier Sudantha Ranasinghe is the ideal man for the job. He has lots of commitment and care for the welfare of the inmates at Protective Accommodation and Rehabilitation Centres (PARC).
Q: So what did you do or what do you do in these matters?
A: Whenever I am asked for an idea or suggestion I submit proposals. Some have been accepted. I give my opinion when asked about some scheme being planned. When a problem or reasonable request is brought to my notice I get in touch with officers concerned directly or indirectly and convey it to them. I also take the initiative and submit proposals
I must say that almost all officers and officials involved in these matters are sincere persons with lots of sympathy for the plight of these unfortunate people. So they are most receptive to ideas or suggestions and getting things done is no big problem at all.
WE also help out with some projects implemented by the government. This is done more through NERDO
Q: But why is there such slow progress in releasing and rehabilitating? Why can’t it be done faster?
A: From what I see there is a genuine intention on the part of the government to resolve this issue efficiently and speedily. They have identified two wide categories. One is the hard core consisting of those suspected of being involved in some violence, some with years of experience in the LTTE and those who have taken the black tiger or suicide action oath. There are about 1400 in this category. Most of these people will be charged in courts.
Then there are the others or soft category. They are those with very little LTTE experience or recent conscripts or people involved in LTTE administration functions like the police or banks. These were numbering more than 11,000 but now are reduced to about 7- 8,000 because of regular releases.
The Govt is spending Rs 400 per day in looking after each of these persons. The govt will definitely like to release them soon and save the money being spent on them but for practical problems. As I said earlier the govt’s fear is that the released ex-cadres may be exploited by interested parties and encouraged to engage in violence again.
One way of preventing such a possibility is to ensure that no rehabilitee will be idle or unemployed. That is why there are training and vocational skills programs for them. Those who get such training are being released in batches. The govt thinks such people will get gainful employment in Sri Lanka or abroad. This is why there is slow progress.
Q: Still why cannot a time bound deadline be set for the release ?
A: Because of the problems I mentioned. But I must say that the Defence secretary recently stated that he hopes everybody in the “soft” category would be released within six to nine months. I think every effort will be made to meet this deadline
But I want to tell those in the Diaspora one thing about this issue. Instead of criticising the Tamil Diaspora must help financially and even invest. If they help financially to provide training and jobs for these rehabilitees then they can be released faster. Instead of simply criticising why dont members of the Tamil Diaspora help financially and ensure speedy releases if they are really concerned? From my experience I can strongly say that the Defence secretary wants to release these people as soon as possible. Why not try and help instead of simply blaming him?
Q: On that note let me ask you about the defence secretary and yourself.How often do you interact with him?
A: It’s like this.If I want to inform him of something I convey it through the officer who was assigned to liaise between us both. Likewise he does so too. Apart from this we have also met directly on some occasions to discuss issues relating to the IDP’s and rehabilitees. In recent times after we established NERDO the defence secretary takes a keen interest in that and checks on our progress every week. I am also able to contact officers under him if necessary
Q: Let us talk about the topic close to your heart now. Tell me about NERDO and how it came into being and what you hope to do through NERDO?
A: When we were discussing issues concerning the ex-tiger cadres and IDP’s in the Wanni I felt that a non –governmental, social service organization was necessary to address these issues . It could work independently of the government but associate with the overall efforts of the govt in this respect. I found the govt officials receptive to this idea
So we started making preparations but things did not start to move in a big way. One of the problems was adequate funding. Then came the week long trip by some Tamil expatriates in June this year….
Q: I am sorry to interject but how did that trip take place?
A: Well the idea was for some Tamil expatriates to visit Sri Lanka and see for themselves the actual situation. Originally we wanted the visit to coincide with the Mullivaaikkal battle anniversary in May. But due to some problems and the floods we had to put it off for June
In the first place we hoped to get more than 20 visitors. We arranged for 22 to visit. But later officials in Colombo felt a smaller number would be better due to logistical reasons. So it was whittled down to 12. But due to some last minute problems only 09 could come….
Q: Oh ! so tha’’s how it happened. Please go on about the NERDO?
A: Well the visit of the expatriates was a boost to our plans. The visitors had first hand experience of the situation and except for one person, all understood the realities. They appreciated the need for NERDO. Some donated funds .Though not huge the sum was enough to get things moving. The govt too was happy about the visit and acknowledged the fact that NERDO could be made a success.
So the paperwork was done quickly and thanks to Mr. Gota bhaya’s support we got NERDO registered on July 6th. The chairman is Mr. S.Thavaratnam the president of the Northern Fishermen’s Society Federation. I am the NERDO secretary.
Q: Why dont you give more details about NERDO? Address, telephones, bank accts etc?
A: Well our office is in Vavuniya. Our address is 10, 1st lane, Kathiresu Road, Vairavaputhiyankulam, Vavuniya.
Our telephone numbers are:
Tel.: +94 24 492 5438
Mob. : +94 75899 8034
Mob.: +94 77937 6919
Fax.: +94 24 222 1730.
Our E-mail is: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our website is www.nerdo.lk
We have two bank accounts.
The official name is North–East Rehabilitation & Development organization.
In Colombo we have one acct at HSBC. The acct number is 012-160354-001.The code is HSBCLKLX.
In Vavuniya we have one at the Commercial Bank. The account number is 1610046482. The code is CCEYLKLX.
Q: Could you tell me more about the structure and function of NERDO?
A: Well we have just started and our resources at present are rather limited. We would really love donations from concerned people. Some funds are beginning to trickle in now.
Our office at Vavuniya is a modest one. We cant afford a big building or large staff. We have two officers there. One is from Jaffna and the other from the Up-country.
One handles the office work and the other is a field officer. They are paid salaries.We have also an internally displaced girl from the Wanni volunteering as a typist. She is paid an allowance.
We also have some volunteers helping out on a part –time basis without remuneration. Most of these persons are known to me personally like those from my village Myliddy or old classmates from Nadeswara college in Kanesanthurai and Mahajana College in Thellippalai. Some are fellow undergraduates from the Jaffna university.
Some of these persons are now school principals or government officers or bank employees. What is remarkable about this is that I did not maintain any contact with them after I went abroad in 1981. Since I was active in the LTTE and all these people were in Sri Lanka I avoided contact with them for their own safety.
Now they are all rallying around me and trying to do some service to the affected people. There are about 25 -30 people in this group. It will increase gradually I hope because we need efficient volunteers.
Q: What has NERDO done so far and what are your future plans?
A: Our first month progress is rather modest. NERDO gave Rs. 15,000 each to two schools in Kilinochchi to print question papers for term tests. They are the Vattakachchi Maha Vidyalayam and Ramanathapuram west Govt Tamil mixed school. There was also a disabled youth K.Puvaneswaran who was given 5,000 Rs to help him travel to sit for the GCE (AL) exams.
Apart from this NERDO also arranged for buns and tea to be given daily for a period of 28 days to 358 rehabilitees studying and sitting for the GCE AL exam and 119 rehabilitees studying for the GCE OL exam. The cost of supplying these buns and tea for 477 students and some teachers and officials was 450,000 Rupees. NERDO has paid up in full.
Q: But some media organs run by Diaspora Tamils are criticizing NERDO for this and saying that there was no need for you to do these and that the govt should have done it?
A: That is what these people will say but the reality is different on ground. Unlike these sections of the Diaspora we are not attacking the govt or pinpointing alleged faults. Unlike the Diaspora those of us working at ground level are in a partnership with the govt.
It is not an “us and them” thing with the govt. It is a case of “We” where the govt and we must do the best we can unitedly to help our people. The govt is also short of funds in some matters. Are we we to then blame the govt, sit back and do nothing about helping our people?
The people in the Diaspora who say things like this must understand that the govt could very well have forbidden the rehabilitees from sitting for the AL exam citing security concerns. They did not do so and despite the difficulties arranged for them to sit for exams and supplied food and provided transport and personnel.
An Australia based Tamil NGO helped with study materials and supplementary teacher expenses and stationery etc. We helped to make arrangements on ground for this. Then we at NERDO helped to provide buns and tea.
So it was a joint effort by three parties the govt, the Aussie NGO and NERDO to help our students sitting for the exam. The govt bore the major share of expenses and effort in this. The Diaspora must stop these stupid attacks.
Q: What are the future projects and plans for NERDO?
A: Oh! We have lots of ideas and are working towards implementation. We are planning to open two more offices in Kilinochchi town and Mullaitheevu town to cater to the needs of re-settled people in those districts
Some specific projects being planned is the setting up of an abode or home called “Anbu Illam” (Abode of Love) in Vavuniya on the Mannar road. We intend providing a haven for children orphaned by the war, persons who have lost limbs or eyesight due to war and very old people without anyone to look after them.
Already a Tamil Catholic nun from Colombo is running a shelter of this type for 40 people.Sinhala catholic nuns visit regularly in groups to help her. We are planning to tie up with this sister and expand her efforts with NERDO’s help by establishing “Anbu Illam”.
Another project is to set up a model farm in about 200 acres where we can teach and practice scientific agricultural methods for the ex-LTTE rehabilitees and even some of the IDP’s. Again I must say this proposal was a brainchild of the Defence secretary. We are in the process of selecting an appropriate area to set up this model farm in Vavuniya or Kilinochchi district
We have also identified a village about 25 miles away from Vavuniya town with a very high figure of those without limbs and widows and elderly destitutes. We are planning to transform this into a model village providing employment and care as a community project
Another project is to set up an ambulance service. A benefactor from London has agreed to finance one vehicle and we hope to station it in Kilinochchi
Q: Apart from these specific projects do you have ideas of implementing comprehensive development master plans on a wider basis?
A: Yes we have. A Tamil academic from Australia has prepared an intergrated development plan to revive and resurrect our fisheries sector. I think the fisheries sector has been drastically affected in the north and east due to the war.
On the basis of that plan NERDO has devised a short term project called coastal fisheries rehabilitation program costing 605 million rupees. This comprises refurbishing existing fishing vessels and providing fishing gear like nets .If implemented properly this will provide full employment to around 3300 fisher families.
There are also studies underway to revive the agriculture and dairy and livestock sectors. One academic is already engaged in estimating and devising a master plan for agriculture. Another academic will arrive shortly to formulate a dairy and livestock development plan.
Another project we hope to set up is a Training Institute to provide technical and vocational skill education. Initially we hope to conduct short term courses and certificates for the ex-tiger cadre rehabilitees. These courses would cover a number of fields from motor mechanism to plumbing ,from electronics to landscape designing etc.
We also hope to create facilities for those obtaining these short term certificates to find employment and also pursue higher studies if necessary. Ultimately we hope to develop this into a full fledged Technical college or polytechnic.
Another idea is to stage a series of cultural shows in Various parts of the Country. The performers will be those ex-LTTE cadres being rehabilitated.
The well-known Sinhala film star Anoja Weerasinghe is conducting a drama workshop for sixty rehabilitees. I am very impressed by her dedication. One of our well known singers Shanthan is also a detenue with his two sons. We are planning to pool their efforts to stage concerts in a bid to create a positive image about ex-tiger cadres and also spread the message of peace and goodwill.
Q: Where does the government fit into in these matters?
A: As I told you we will be working independently but in partnership with the government. The situation today is that no one can function in the north and east or any part of Sri Lanka without Government support or approval. In the north and east we also need the full cooperation of the armed forces. This being the reality we must work in harmony with the govt while retaining our independence.
The govt is quite comfortable with the NERDO and will lend assistance and grant access. For example the govt will provide lands for s to set up projects like a model farm. NERDO hopes to link up with Govt plans like the “Vadakkin Vasantham” (northern spring) and “Kizhakin Uthayam” (Eastern awakening) wherever possible and get assistance.
Q: Your plans are impressive but do you have the resources to implement them?
A: No, not yet but we are in an embryonic stage.
In the first place we must also be realistic enough to recognize that our people have gone back decades and decades in development. For instance our Railway line is not there in the north.
Our community was proud of our educational tradition. Today our schools are destroyed and students are squatting under trees for classes. A large number of children are not attending school due to poverty and lack of uniforms, footwear and text books. We are commissioning a survey of this situation.
But as our plans unfold and people get the message we hope to get lots of help and aid from our fellow Tamils from abroad. Already some qualified expatriates have agreed to come over and provide their academic and professional expertise on a voluntary basis. A few have promised financial assistance for special projects. I am confident that NERDO will gradually perform well with the help of our people.
Q: The problem is that a vociferous section of the Tamil Diaspora with great access to the media is conducting a vicious campaign against you and NERDO. They accuse you of being a govt stooge and that NERDO is a ruse to attract Tamil expatriate money from abroad and siphon it off to govt coffers. In such a hostile climate how do you hope to succeed?
A: Yes. You are right about the current climate but this will be a temporary situation I think. For one thing these sections unleashing a negative campaign are a minority but as you said they have a near monopoly on Tamil media abroad and therefore have an impact exceeding their actual strength. But still they are a minority and their campaign is based on lies and falsehood
What I am confident about and relying on is “sathiyam” (Truth).
Firstly we hope to publish all details about our projects and expenses and accounts of money received and spent on our website in addition to providing receipts. We will also answer all genuine queries. As more and more people see that we are open and transparent about these things the false propaganda wont be able to sustain itself.
Secondly we are also optimistic that the recipients of our aid and assistance will inform their friends and relatives abroad of the actual situation. When these people provide factual details about our genuine efforts those spreading false information will be exposed.
Thirdly we will encourage Diaspora members to visit Sri Lanka and see the situation themselves. We are ready to help them see things first-hand and arrive at their own conclusions. We have nothing to hide. NERDO is prepared to even assist people to travel to the north and east if they contact us. We are even thinking of stationing a NERDO representative at the Katunayake airport if necessary.
So gradually the truth will triumph and NERDO will succeed.
Q: I can see that you are an optimist. I saw a video clip of your meeting with some rehabilitees where you say “Nambikkai Thaan Vaalkkai” (Hope is life). I understand your mindset but do you think you can succeed against such formidable odds?
A: When I was given the task of overseas procurement (arms acquisition) by Prabhakaran in 1983 I was an utter novice. I came from a very common background. My father was politically conscious but was an ordinary fisherman.I did not study in elite schools. My English knowledge was weak. I had never travelled outside Sri Lanka and India. The LTTE was a fledgeling organization without any important contacts in the arms trade.
Yet I developed my department slowly and steadily. I expanded the LTTE’s power to a stage where we were acquiring arms from diverse sources on a worldwide basis and shipping them regularly to the north-east. As long as I was in charge of overseas purchasing the LTTE was able to prolong the war successfully because I was able to procure arms continuously
If I could succeed then in a task which caused death and destruction why cant I succeed in this new task where my objective is to help people and re-build lives instead of destroying people and lives as in the past?
Q: I don’t want to sound discouraging. I also do not dispute your ability and talent but the biggest difference here is that you are in custody and not a free man. Unlike earlier times you cannot move about freely to do things. Also you are older now and not in good health. Besides there is a fanatical lobby actively working against you. That is why I am doubtful.
A: You have a point but I do feel I will succeed. Yes it is frustrating to be detained and having to do attend to things by telephone, fax, skype and internet instead of being able to go to the places directly. I know that if I am on the spot I can get things done faster and better but then I have to face reality. I think to myself I may be under detention but at least I have this opportunity to do some thing worthwhile for people.
Let me tell you one thing from the bottom of my heart. This is my third big task and opportunity. The first task was when I was appointed by Prabhakaran to procure arms. I succeeded in that. The second task was when I re-joined the movement to bring about a ceasefire and save the leadership and movement. I failed in that task
Now this is my third big task. In this my mission and vision is to help people. I am neither trying to arm a movement or trying to save it. This time I am engaged in a noble, worthy task of helping people to re-build lives. So I will definitely succeed.
Q: Why not make a request that you be released so that you can engage without any restraints or constraints in your mission to help people?
A: I will not make such a request now due to two reasons. One is that I don’t want to be a free man when thousands of ex-LTTE cadres are not free yet. When the situation improves and the greater part of ex-cadres are released or brought to courts then I too can think of being free.
The other is that it may cause the govt some embarrassment to do so. Already the govt particularly the defence secretary is being criticized severely by the opposition on account of me. I don’t want to make it more complicated. I think the President who is the defence minister will take a policy decision in consultation with the defence secretary about the LTTE on the whole at the appropriate time. I don’t know what my fate will be. Until then I will do what I can under these circumstances
One positive thing is that a team of dedicated persons are slowly gathering around NERDO. So even if my mobility is restricted this team will work actively. But I have asked that I be re-located to Vavuniya if possible
Q: Some people say the govt is simply using you and will discard you later. What do you think?
A: I work in hope and trust and faith. I don’t think that will happen. But for argument’s sake let’s say it happens. Even then I would have succeeded in helping some people at least as I am doing now. That’s enough for me.
Q: On the other hand I know many Tamil politicians are worried about your entering politics. Any such idea?
A: No. I don’t want to enter politics even if possible. Let those elected by the Tamils do politics. All that I want to do is to look after the welfare of ex –tiger cadre rehabilitees and IDP’s. What our people need now are not politicians but humanitarians
Q: Will NERDO work for all the people of the North and East?
A: That is my long term goal but for now we will focus on the ex-LTTE cadres and IDP’s.
Thambiaiya Selvarasa Pathmanathan
Q: We have spoken for a long time. There are so many things to talk about. Maybe we can talk on another occasion. But before we conclude do you have any special message to Sri Lankans in general and the Tamil people in particular?
A: Thank you for conducting this conversation by telephone from far off Canada. We must do this again soon where I would be able to tell you of how much NERDO has achieved.
Yes I have two messages. The first is to my fellow Tamils. This is what I say. The war is over. Prabhakaran and other senior commanders are no more. Tamil Eelam is a lost cause. Please dont be deceived by irresponsible people into thinking that the armed struggle is not over. Please give up the confrontational attitude and help our broken people to re-build their lives. I appeal to members of the Tamil Diaspra and Tamil Nadu politicians to refrain from idle rhetoric and instead help Tamils in Sri Lanka to live in harmony and prosperity with others. We need reconciliation and co-operation not confrontation and friction
The second is to all my fellow Sri Lankans. We of the LTTE and other militant groups commenced an armed struggle to win back our lost rights. We thought Tamil Eelam was the answer and that the end will justify the means. In the course of our armed struggle we have caused much harm and misery to the people of Sri Lanka. We have violated all norms of civilized conduct at times. When I reflect on the past I am appalled by what has happened. As a senior leader or ex –leader of the LTTE I sincerely beg the forgiveness of all Sri Lankans for this. Please pardon us and help us to forge a bright future for all Sri Lankans.
Q: Thank you for this conversation. I wish you well in your well-meaning efforts. I also wish you success in your personal journey of redemption. I hope and pray you will reach your destination
A: Thank you again for this interview and your wishes. “Hope is life”.
DBS JEYARAJ ADDS:
There were two errors in the third part of this interview published last week.
The first error was about the cost of the abortive plan to rescue LTTE leader Prabhakaran’s family by helicopter. The estimated cost was stated erroneously as 1.5 million US dollars. The actual estimated cost was 3.5 million US dollars.
The second mistake was over a reference to a Tamil Nadu politician named Mahendran who was communicating with former LTTE political commissar Nadesan. The Mahendran referred to was C. Mahendran the Tamil Nadu state deputy –secretary of the Communist Party of India (CPI). It was stated wrongly that the Mahendran in question was K. Mahendran the Tamil Nadu Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) from the Communist Party of India (Marxist) or CPI(M)
Both errors are regretted.
DBS Jeyaraj can be reached at email@example.com