The Sri Lankan Government rejected Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) leader Vellupillai Prabakaran's call for an "independent" Tamil Eelam as there is no other option left for the Tamils and has enacted tougher anti-terror laws. Speaking at the "Heroes Day" speech, Prabakaran accused "successive Sinhala regimes" of "unchanging attitude" and for not proposing "a just resolution to the Tamil national question." Therefore, he said that the Tamils "are not prepared to place" their "trust in the impossible" or "walk along the same old futile path."
Specifically thanking the "people and leaders" of "Tamil Nadu for voicing their support" and the 800,000 "displaced" Tamil diaspora for their "for their contribution to our struggle" he beseeched "the unwavering support and assistance of the world Tamil community" for "recommencing" the new "journey on the path of freedom." Prabakaran claims that his organization "postponed" their "plan to advance our freedom struggle twice to give even more chances to the peace efforts, once when the tsunami disaster struck and again when President Rajapakse was elected." He accuses President Mahinda Rajapakse regime of spurning his peace overtures and "intensified the war on the one hand" while "talking about finding a peaceful resolution." Because of this duplicity, he says Norwegian brokered Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) of 2002 and negotiations are dead. He says that "The Rajapakse regime hopes to decide the fate of the Tamil nation using its military power" through occupation of "the Tamil land" and then forcing "an unacceptable solution on the Tamils." He dismisses as "political absurdity" attempts "to find a resolution by marginalizing and destroying the freedom movement" he says has popular support.
The much admired and feared Tamil leader blamed the failure of the two talks in Geneva because Rajapakse is "not giving due importance to the peace talks" as he is confident that "its military approach" will succeed. He said that Rajapakse's representatives accepted responsibility for continued "military-paramilitary cooperation" in violation of the CFA after the LTTE presented it incontrovertible evidence "in the form of documents, statistics and incident reports." However, instead of adhering to its promise and the CFA clauses, the Government increased "state and paramilitary terror" through "escalated" engagement. He said that his organization wanted "priority" for "humanitarian issues" and "requested that the A9 road be opened and the SLMM be given freedom to function" in the second Geneva talks. However, he says that the SLG "rejected both requests" because it places "military advantage ahead of humanitarian concerns." Painting the SLG as an entity that "failed to show mercy to the people affected by a natural disaster" he surmised that the SLG will "never… budge on a humanitarian crisis that it planned and created."
Prabakaran accused Rajapakse of "posturing as a peace dove" and cited the "deceptive All Party Conference" meeting as yet another example of "infamous political tradition of initiating commissions of inquiry, parliamentary select committees, all party conferences, or round tables" to divert attention. He says the SLG frequently uses this technique "to procrastinate whenever it is unable to face up to a situation and wants to drag time."
Prabakaran called on the "the international community and the countries of the world that respect justice to recognize our freedom struggle" and understand that it is "The uncompromising stance of Sinhala chauvinism has left us with no other option but an independent state for the people of Tamil Eelam." Paying tribute to the 18,742 cadres, including 299 deadly suicide cadres and 4065 women since November 27, 1982, who have been killed until November 20 this year, Prabakaran accused the Rajapakse Government of launching "a malicious propaganda campaign to defame" his organization. This propaganda he says has the "unanimous opposition" of the Tamil people "and the objection of the Sri Lankan Monitoring Mission (SLMM)" but has unfortunately resulted in "the European Union and Canada" yielding to "diplomatic pressure from the Sri Lankan Government and listed" the LTTE "as a terrorist organization" and "isolated" the movement "as undesirables." He says that this decision by the EU and Canada was "hasty" and without consideration of "the prevailing context" but has "created serious repercussions" such as disturbing "the parity of status and balance of power" the LTTE "held with the Sinhala regime." He says this has also "encouraged the hard line stance of the Sinhala regime" by weakening the SLMM and "facilitated the war plans of the Government." He bemoaned that even countries "that proclaim to be helping the peace efforts" have "failed to condemn the genocidal attacks" and "also giving military and financial aid to the Sinhala regime to support its war plans." Prabakaran says that these "external factors" are "encouraging the Rajapakse regime to carry on with its brutal military offensives in the Tamil land with absolute impunity." He feels that the Tamils can never build trust, peace, and negotiate with those "will wage war and hold peace talks at the same time."
Independent observers say that the speech was a disappointment who wanted Prabakaran to declare war or a unilateral declaration of independence (meaning the SL Army or the Buddhist clergy). They also fault Prabakaran for trying to reclaim international legitimacy through a negative platform of criticizing the Sinhala polity but without providing a constructive social or economic alternative for the Tamils. But many believe that the fighting will escalate in the next few weeks.
Predictably, the SLG was unfazed by the speech and characterized it as "the same old song." Sri Lankan Minister and Defence spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella charged Prabakaran with making a similar speech last year and promised a year of peace "but on the ground the LTTE resume military attacks within two weeks." He reiterated that the SLG "is committed to finding a political solution to the ethnic problem" and has acted with the "utmost patience" but said that "Duplicity is all over the speech" that would mean "Every word" and "every sentence." He also wanted Norway to clarify whether it will continue to play a role of facilitator of a resolution since Prabakaran has already declared that the LTTE wants an independent state.
Rambukwella drew the SLMM's attention to Prabakaran's reference to the 2002 Cease Fire Agreement as "defunct" and wondered if the LTTE no longer wanted the Norwegians as facilitators. Charging Prabakaran with trying to win international sympathy, he denied that the population is starving claiming that 300 tons of foodstuffs had been transported every month on an average since January but blamed the LTTE for threatening the distribution and sale of these goods through the welfare shops run by the Army. He said that the Tamils are also annoyed with the LTTE and cited an incidence in Vaharai where civilians protested against the Tigers for preventing people fearing their lives from leaving areas. He said the LTTE's intention is to use the people as human shields.
Rambukwella is bordering on truth by this claim. While it may be true that such shipment was sent to Jaffna, it is not clear if they include Army shipments. Further, by selling them through Army welfare shops, they seek to reduce the credibility of the LTTE and elevate themselves as the saviors. Besides, with most Tamils are victims of excessive force of the Sri Lanka Army in one form or the other it is highly insensitive to expect the Tamils to abandon their fear and flock to the Army barracks. Most importantly, the welfare shops are essentially on the outer fringes of Jaffna Peninsula as that area is still within the control of the LTTE. Hence, to say that the goods are there in Army welfare shops for those who want is true but whether it is accessible, affordable, or even obtainable is deeply suspect.
This is precisely why the Indian Government has urged Rajapakse during his visit to New Delhi to achieve "early progress in the peace process so that all ethnic communities in Sri Lanka can live harmoniously and are able to achieve their aspirations." This statement hints at four important points within the Indian establishment. Firstly, India expects the SLG to accelerate and reignite the peace process to save the CFA which it thinks the SLG can do unilaterally. Secondly, India believes in a unified Sri Lanka and therefore a rejection of Prabakaran's call for an independent Eelam. Thirdly, India did not believe in Rambukwella's assertion about humanitarian crisis in Tamil regions. Fourthly, India now believes that the LTTE is not the only or main spokesperson of the Sri Lankan Tamils-which is a position that the SLG has been trying assiduously to propagate and looks like it has hit a home run. In all, it seems like India is trying to be balanced and disengage the LTTE as the primary spokesperson for the Tamils.
Reacting to the Indian pressure on the SLG to resume peace talks and refusal to join the SL Navy in patrolling, Rajapakse threw out an impossible to achieve offer. He said he stood for "a negotiated settlement and for negotiating with the LTTE" even if it means a direct face to face with Prabakaran. Of course, this is not only impractical but also impossible. The first attempt at Oslo on the SLMM failed because the SLG feigned inability to guarantee safe passage for LTTE negotiators so where is the question of it providing safe passage for Prabakaran. Meeting outside the island is also impossible as the LTTE is now banned almost everywhere and Prabakaran is a wanted man in India.
Apart from the LTTE-Tamil identity, there is a question of LTTE-Prabakaran connection. Is it possible for the LTTE to outlive Prabakaran or even exist without him? Is Prabakaran part of the solution or is he part of the problem? Isolated financially, diplomatically, and politically, can the LTTE survive on the present course? If it cannot, then who speaks for the Tamils and what is the deal that may be acceptable for the SL Tamils who have seen 67000 dead and 3000 this year alone? These are questions that need urgent addressing by not just Sri Lanka and the LTTE but also by India and the contact world community.
The first step is to disengage the financial aid from the SLG and funnel them through a reputable agency such as the International Red Cross and make it accessible to the people. The second step is to initiate a scientific survey within the Tamil region asking for answers to these questions. Right now, the SLG claims the LTTE is not the only spokesperson for the Tamils and that people follow the organization because of fear and intimidation. The LTTE claims that it is the true representative of the people and cites response to calls for bandhs or hartals. But the truth is very elusive and that is what needs studying urgently because if the SLG were to discount the LTTE when it is viewed as the primary interlocutor by the Tamils the region risks slipping back to the times of the much maligned but well-meaning Indo-Sri Lanka Accord where the marginalized LTTE became a stumbling block to peace.