Varadaraja Perumal, former chief minister of Sri Lanka’s North-Eastern Province and leader of the Eelam People’s Revolutionary Liberation Front (EPRLF), said the death of LTTE supremo Velupillai Prabhakaran, who led a ruthless movement for a Tamil Eelam (homeland) in Sri Lanka, has left the rebel outfit with no political future. In a conversation with K S Manjunath, he said it is now time for democratic Tamil leaders to come to the fore
You interacted with Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) chief Velupillai Prabhakaran in the 1970s and 80s. What is your reading of Prabhakaran as a person?
I’ve known Prabhakaran since 1974 when we were part of the youth movement. In 1985, during the course of the Thimpu talks, we also stayed at the Ashok and Ambassador Hotels in New Delhi. Even then, his dictatorial style of functioning was evident. He did not tolerate counter-opinions or arguments. In fact, the LTTE threatened me with dire consequences when I spoke out against the killing of People’s Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE) leader Sundaram, who was assassinated in Jaffna (in 1982).
Prabhakaran has left behind a fragmented society. He is responsible for the deaths of 10,000 of the cream of Tamil society in Sri Lanka, apart from the 30,000 LTTE cadres and 70,000 people killed in the past many years. Many Tamil political leaders were also assassinated because of Prabhakaran’s orders. Also, many Tamil citizens from Sri Lanka have fled the country due to the violence.
While Prabhakaran made LTTE cadres consume cyanide in the face of imminent capture, he did not do so himself when he was cornered. This exposes Prabhakaran’s hypocrisy.
What next for the LTTE, now that there’s a leadership vacuum following news of Prabhakaran’s death?
The LTTE does not have a political future, nor is it a lethal fighting force anymore, considering its spokesperson recently said the battle had reached its bitter end and called for a ceasefire. The outfit is probably left with 300 cadres and they cannot fight for much longer. They do not have the political leadership or the background to keep the outfit afloat. They will probably resort to extortion or killing for their own survival. Now that the LTTE is a spent force, it is time for democratic Tamil leaders to come to the fore. LTTE’s terrorism created a wrong impression about Sri Lankan Tamils as a whole.
With the LTTE decimated, what role must the international community, especially India, play in Sri Lanka?
First, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa has done well by not letting up the military assault against the LTTE. All these years, the devolution process in Sri Lanka had been postponed or delayed due to the war. Earlier, Rajapaksa had said that development and devolution is top priority. The international community, especially India, must ensure that development and devolution must happen simultaneously.
In Tamil Nadu, the recent election result has shown that Tamilians do not support the LTTE. Those small political parties that openly supported Prabhakaran have been defeated. DMK chief M Karunanidhi and AIADMK chief J Jayalalithaa have spoken out against the plight of the Tamil civilians, who have suffered the most.