LTTE chief’s ‘Heroes Day’ Speech
We do not expect a radical transformation in the social consciousness, in the political ideology, in the Mahavamsa mental structure of the Sinhalese people. The scope and power of Sinhala-Buddhist hegemony has not receded, rather, it has revived and taken new forms, exerting a powerful dominance on the southern political arena. In these objective conditions we do not believe that we can gain a reasonable solution from the Sinhala nation. We have to fight and win our rights. We have never entertained the idea that we could obtain justice from the compassion of the Sinhala politicians. This has always been the view of our liberation organisation.
Even though we are deeply convinced that we cannot obtain justice from the Sinhala political leadership, but rather have to fight and win our rights, we were compelled by unprecedented historical circumstances to participate in peace talks with the Sinhala state. We were compelled to engage in the negotiating process by the intervention of the Indian regional superpower at a particular historical period and by the pressure of the international community at a later period. There were other reasons also that encouraged us to engage in the peace process. Constructive engagement in the peace process is a viable means to secure legitimacy for our liberation organisation as the representative organ of our people. We also wanted to internationalise our struggle and win the support and sympathy of the international community. Furthermore, there is a need to convince the world community that we are not war-mongers addicted to armed violence, but rather, firmly and sincerely committed to non-violent peace process. Finally and most importantly, we wanted to demonstrate beyond doubt that the Sinhala racist ruling elites would not accept the fundamental demands of the Tamils and offer a reasonable political solution. It was with these objectives we participated in the peace process.
Over the last three decades of our national liberation struggle we have observed ceasefires and participated in peace talks at different periods of time in different historical circumstances. We knew that our enemy was dishonest and devious. We knew that these peace talks would not produce any positive results. We knew that there would be peace traps. Yet we participated in the peace talks with sincere commitment and dedication. In the course of our engagement we encountered pressures and complex challenges. There were traps to undermine our liberation struggle. We acted prudently and avoided pitfalls. We vehemently opposed all subversive strategies that were detrimental to the interests of our people. The Tamil people are fully aware of the fact that during the time of Indian intervention, when we encountered a serious threat to our freedom struggle and to the interests of our people, our liberation organisation was bold enough to oppose the Indian superpower and fight its military machine.
From the Thimpu talks, we have participated in several peace negotiations, at different times, at different places. Unprecedented in the history of our struggle, it is only now, we have devoted a lengthy period of four years for the peace effort. However, despite this protracted period of time our sincere and persistent efforts to reach a settlement to the problems of our people have become futile.
The recent peace talks have been significant and essentially different. They have been held with the facilitation of a third country, with the supervision of the international community. There were sessions of negotiations with Mr Ranil Wickremasinghe’s administration and later with Chandrika Kumaratunga’s government. The decisions, resolutions and Agreements reached during these negotiations were never fulfilled. During this process of negotiations we were extremely tolerant and even compromised on several issues. Nevertheless, the Sinhala political leadership refused to offer justice to our people.
On the 24 December 2001 we unilaterally declared cessation of hostilities and opened the doors for peace. At that time, when we extended our hand of friendship to the Sinhala nation, we stood on a strong foundation. Having liberated the Vanni region and over run the Elephant Pass military complex, we had firmly established the balance of military power in our favour. I need not go into the details of the peace negotiations we had with Mr Ranil Wickremasinghe’s government in various world capitals under Norwegian facilitation. It is suffice to say that Mr Wickremasinghe’s administration was unable to resolve even the basic existential hardships and urgent humanitarian needs of our people. Adopting delaying tactics, Ranil’s government was primarily focusing on setting up an international safety net aiming at decommissioning our weapons. An international aid conference was organised in Tokyo in June 2003 as an essential element of this subversive scheme. Having realised the implications of the international safety net we decided to boycott the Tokyo conference and eventually to suspend the peace talks. Having failed to achieve anything, Ranil’s regime came to an end. In the meantime President Kumaratunga formed a new government with the alliance of racist forces opposed to peace. Chandrika refused to initiate the peace talks even though our organisation was willing to negotiate on the basis of our proposal for an interim self-government authority. Time began to elapse in a political vacuum without an interim settlement or a permanent solution. We realised that the aim of the Sinhala chauvinistic political leadership was to misdirect and undermine our liberation struggle by entrapping us in the uncertainty of a political vacuum. Faced with the meaningless absurdity of living in the illusion of peace we decided to resume our national liberation struggle. It was at that conjuncture, during the latter part of last year, when we were charting our action plan, that the horrendous natural disaster struck.
Suddenly, unexpectedly the tsunami waves struck at the villages and settlements along the eastern coastal belt of our homeland causing an unprecedented catastrophe. In this cataclysmic disaster unleashed by nature, twenty thousand Tamil and Muslim people perished and about three hundred thousand people lost their homes, properties and were reduced to conditions of refugees. As nature inflicted further calamity on the Tamil nation, which had already suffered monumental destruction by war, our people were burdened with unbearable suffering. In these circumstances, our liberation movement was geared to confront the crisis. Our fighting formations, as well as our cadres belonging to various social and administrative services, were immediately engaged in the tasks of relief and rehabilitation.
As the tsunami catastrophe shook the conscience of the world, the international governments volunteered to provide huge sums of money in aid for relief and rehabilitation of the affected people. In the meantime President Kumaratunga expressed her willingness to form a joint administrative mechanism in cooperation with the LTTE to implement the tasks of relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction for the affected Tamil speaking people. We decided to talk to the Kumaratunga government since we had to give primacy to the extraordinary humanitarian tragedy faced by our people. Talks were conducted at the level of peace secretariats. Since we wanted to avoid delays in the negotiating process we adopted a flexible attitude, even compromised on crucial matters, and finally an agreement was reached to establish a joint administrative mechanism. The Accord was also signed by both parties.
The international community expressed full support for the joint administrative structure worked out by both the Sri Lanka government and the LTTE. The international governments also expressed hope that a congenial environment for joint effort by warring parties had been created. But the Sinhala-Buddhist racist forces could not tolerate the emergence of a congenial environment of goodwill. Having registered their vehement protest to the joint administrative mechanism, the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) and Jathika Hela Urumaja withdrew their support to the government. These parties also filed a case in the Supreme Court challenging the constitutional validity of the joint administrative mechanism. The determination of the Supreme Court made the joint mechanism inoperative.
With the demise of the tsunami mechanism the Sinhala-Buddhist chauvinism killed the last hope of the Tamil people. Even the all-powerful President Kumaratunga could not provide a simple humanitarian project for the Tamils against the wishes of the Sinhala racist forces. The tsunami mechanism was not devolved with any political power nor was it to have any administrative authority. If there was so much opposition in southern Sri Lanka to a simple provisional arrangement then it is a daydream to expect to secure a regional self-governing authority in the Tamil homeland by negotiating with the Sinhala political leadership. This is the political truth that we have been able to learn from the four year period of the peace process. We hope that the international community, which has been intensively observing this political drama, similarly understands this truth.
I wish to explain here a matter of crucial importance, which betrays the politics of duplicity of the Sinhala ruling elites. You would have heard about a secret shadow war being waged against our organisation behind the screen of peace. This subversive war has been unleashed with the aim of weakening our liberation organisation and to undermine our struggle. A large number of people consisting of our senior cadres, important members, supporters, Tamil politicians, journalists and educationists who were sympathetic to our cause, have been cowardly murdered. We know the real masterminds behind this shadow war. Though these violent acts were committed under the guidance and direction of the Sri Lankan military intelligence, we are aware that mysterious hands of some racist Sinhala politicians are behind these nefarious activities. This subversive war is being conducted in the government controlled territories, with the backing of the armed forces, utilising Tamil para-military elements as instruments. We expressed vehement protest to the Sri Lanka government when our unarmed political cadres were murdered and our political offices were bombed in the government controlled areas. Since the government ignored our protests we were compelled to withdraw our cadres to our controlled areas.
A strange low intensity war has been unleashed against us taking advantage of the conditions of peace effected by the ceasefire. Disarming the Tamil para-military groups is an obligation of the state under terms of the Ceasefire Agreement. Having failed to fulfil this crucial obligation the Sri Lanka state has been utilising the Tamil para-militaries as instruments of this subversive war against our liberation organisation. This is a serious war offence. This is similar to a treacherous act in which one stabs you in the back with one hand while pretending to embrace you with the other. This behaviour clearly demonstrates that the Sinhala ruling elites have no genuine interest in peace and ethnic reconciliation. The Sri Lanka state has not given up the military option but rather transformed the war into a new mode of state terror under conditions of peace. We hope that the international community will discern the real mode of this shadow war and perceive its ugly face and ulterior motives.
As far as the Tamil people are concerned, the concepts of peace, ceasefire and negotiations have become meaningless; concepts that do not correspond to or reflect reality. A shadow war conducted under conditions of peace, military occupation perpetrated in violation of the terms of ceasefire, an international subversive network woven during political negotiations, are the distorted ways the peace process has been abused. Because of these factors our people have lost faith in everything.
Our people have lost faith in a peace process that has failed to secure them a real, peaceful life; they have lost faith in a ceasefire that has failed to remove the occupation army from their homes; they have lost faith in the talks that have failed to resolve their long standing problems.
Our people can no longer tolerate an unstable life and an uncertain future. The waves of popular upsurgence erupting in the Tamil homeland are manifestations of the discontent and despair of our people; they are fierce demonstrations of their political aspirations. The multitude of Tamil masses, who converged at recent Tamil resurgence conventions, have publicly proclaimed their demands. The international community cannot ignore these proclamations of a unified nation calling for the recognition of their right to self-determination, of their right to rule themselves. Our people aspire to determine their own political status. Having been subjected to decades of systematic state repression, they call upon the international community to recognise their political aspirations.
We have now reached a significant historic turning point in our struggle for self-determination. The ruling elites of southern Sri Lanka will never recognise our people’s right to self-determination. The Tamil right to self-determination will never find space in the entrenched majoritarian constitution and in the political system built on that constitutional structure. Our people have, therefore, realised that they have no alternative other than to fight and win their right to self-determination. Self-determination entails the right to freely choose, without external interference, our political life. The Sinhala nation has been refusing to embrace our people, to recognise their national identity and to share political power. This political alienation has continued since the independence of the island 57 years ago. Frustrated by years of alienation, oppression and ill-treatment as an unwanted people, the Tamils have finally decided to exclude and boycott the Sri Lankan polity and its power system. The boycott of the presidential elections by the vast majority of Tamil people was a concrete expression of this perspective. Our people did not participate in the election even though they had the voting power to determine the election of a new president. The non-participation of the Tamils should not be construed as a judgement of the personalities or policies of the presidential candidates. Rather, this political boycott was an expression of deep distrust and disillusionment of the Tamil people with the Sinhala political system. This event symbolises a serious turning point in the political history of the Tamils. It signifies that the Tamil people may choose their own path and freely determine their own political destiny.
The Sinhala nation has chosen a new national leader. A new administration has assumed power under his leadership. This new government has been elected by the Sinhala majority specifically with their voting power. The national minorities are not represented in this government. It is essentially a Sinhala-Buddhist regime. Therefore Mahinda Rajapakse does not represent all the social formations of this country. He has assumed power as a president to protect and promote the interests of the Sinhala-Buddhist community. We are all aware of Mahinda Rajapaske’s thoughts and policies. We are also aware of the incompatible gaps and the irreconcilable contradictions that exist between Mr Rajapakse’s political vision and the Tamils’ struggle for self-determination. I do not wish to engage myself in a comparative analysis of this issue.
The recent presidential elections and the change in governance effected by the Tamil boycott have created a wide rift, politically, between the Tamil and Sinhala nations. While Sinhala-Buddhist hegemony has assumed predominance in the south, Tamil nationalism has emerged as a powerful force and consolidating itself in the Tamil homeland. While a new government under Mahinda Rajapkse has assumed power in the Sinhala nation, LTTE’s administration is expanding and gaining strength as a concrete embodiment of Tamil nationalism.
The international community is fully aware of the fact that we are running an efficient, self-governing administrative structure in the majority areas of the Tamil homeland, which were liberated from Sinhala military occupation by our organisation. Our administrative structure is formidable, consisting of our controlled territories with huge civilian populations, protected by a powerful military force. We have a police force and a judicial system to maintain law and order. We have also developed a complex administrative infra-structure of a shadow government. Though a large number of Tamils are still living in the military occupied Tamil region, their allegiance is with our liberation movement. The Sinhalese ruling class refuses to accept this ground reality, this political truth and attempts to belittle our liberation organisation as a ‘terrorist group’. We are disappointed and sad to note that some international governments, having been influenced by this false propaganda, continue to retain our organisation on their terrorist list. Biased positions taken by powerful nations acting as guardians of the peace process, in excluding and alienating our liberation organisation as a ‘terrorist outfit’ and supporting the interests of the Sri Lankan state, severely affected the balance of power relations between the parties in conflict at the peace negotiations. This pro-state bias constrained our liberty to choose our own political status. This partiality finally became one of the causes for the collapse of the peace talks.
There is no clear, coherent, globally acceptable definition of the concept of terrorism.
As such, just and reasonable political struggles fought for righteous causes are also branded as terrorism. Even authentic liberation movements struggling against racist oppression are denounced as terrorist outfits. In the current global campaign against terror, state terrorism always finds its escape route and those who fight against state terror are condemned as terrorists. Our liberation organisation is also facing a similar plight.
We have now reached the critical time to decide on our approach to achieve the objective of our struggle. At this crucial historical turning point a new government under a new leader has assumed power in the Sinhala nation. This new government is extending its hand of friendship towards us and is calling our organisation for peace talks. It claims that it is going to adopt a new approach towards the peace process. Having carefully examined his policy statement in depth, we have come to a conclusion that President Rajapkse has not grasped the fundamentals, the basic concepts underlying the Tamil national question. In terms of policy, the distance between him and us is vast. However, President Rajapakse is considered a realist committed to pragmatic politics, we wish to find out, first of all, how he is going to handle the peace process and whether he will offer justice to our people. We have, therefore, decided to wait and observe, for sometime, his political manoeuvres and actions.
Our people have lost patience, hope and reached the brink of utter frustration. They are not prepared to be tolerant any longer. The new government should come forward soon with a reasonable political framework that will satisfy the political aspirations of the Tamil people. This is our urgent and final appeal. If the new government rejects our urgent appeal, we will, next year, in solidarity with our people, intensify our struggle for self-determination, our struggle for national liberation to establish self-government in our homeland.’