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May 26, 2000


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The Rediff Interview/ Vaiko

'Indians must celebrate if Jaffna falls'

Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam chief V Gopalasamy, better known as Vaiko, is the rabble-rouser of Tamil Nadu politics. He makes headlines for his provocative and controversial statements, often in support of close friend and admirer, Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam chief Velupillai Prabhakaran.

Vaiko's support crossed the limits of provocation last month, when he allegedly hailed the Tigers' attempts to assassinate Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga.

As the battle for Jaffna peninsula rages in Sri Lanka, Vaiko tunes in to television and radio news every hour these days. His life-long ambition of a Tamil Eelam in Sri Lanka, on which is based his political campaign, could happen any day now. "The fall of Jaffna will mark the threshold of Tamil Eelam," he muses.

Ever since he left the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam to form the MDMK in 1993, Vaiko has been the most vocal politician espousing the cause and rights of Sri Lankan Tamils.

These days the MDMK general secretary remembers the 24 days he spent in deep jungles and bunkers in the company of Prabhakaran in Jaffna in 1989, when the Indian Peace-Keeping Force and Sri Lankan army fought the LTTE. "We ate and slept together. Those days were the best," says Vaiko, as he sits for an interview with George Iype at the MDMK party headquarters in Chennai.

Last month in Geneva, you hailed the LTTE attempts to assassinate Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga. She says she has four witnesses to your speech and will take action against to you in an international court.

I never supported the LTTE attempt to murder the president. This is a malicious accusation against me in the Lankan press and sadly the Indian press has picked it up. I challenge the president to substantiate the charge against me. If she proves it, I will resign as member of Parliament. Or she should tender an apology. She says she has four witnesses. I challenge her to produce 400 witnesses. I have got audio and video evidence. The president feels so insecure after Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam advances that she is playing dubious and vicious games.

In fact, I have submitted a series of papers against her to the Geneva Human Rights Commission as she recently said that Tamils in Sri Lanka are not the original people of the island nation. The island consists of Tamil and Sinhala nations. They were two kingdoms and two separate people until the arrival of the Europeans. When the island became independent in 1948, power was handed over to Sinhalese and then begun discrimination against Tamils there.

Your submissions before the Geneva Human Rights Commission consist of arguments against the president's statements?

Not just that. Violation of human rights, genocide against Tamils since the entry of Lankan forces into Jaffna in 1995, uprooting of a million Tamils... I am the only Indian politician fighting for the rights of Lankan Tamils internationally.

Do you support the Vajpayee government's willingness to evacuate trapped Lankan troops from Jaffna?

My support to the question of evacuation depends on conditions under which it will be done. If the Lankan government makes a formal request and the LTTE agrees that India can be a facilitator to evacuate the troops, I will support the decision. But an evacuation is possible only if there is a ceasefire. It seems the Lankan government is not ready for a ceasefire. The LTTE agreed to a ceasefire two weeks back. That was a signal from the LTTE that it was not interested in killing Lankan troops. But the arrogant Lankan president rejected the offer.

Now she feels insecure and paranoid. That is why she is frantically seeking India's help.

There is much confusion about the question of evacuation. Will evacuating troops from Jaffna qualify as humanitarian assistance? Or do you think it is some form of a military intervention?

Evacuation can be humanitarian assistance only on one condition. India should get an assurance from Sri Lanka that after evacuation, the Lankan government should not impose an economic blockade against Tamils in Jaffna. My fear is that even after a ceasefire, the Lankan government will regroup its army and use a new offensive against the LTTE and innocent Tamil civilians. In 1995, when the Tamils were suffering from poverty, all political parties in Tamil Nadu extended material support to them in Jaffna through the Red Cross. But what happened? The President of Sri Lanka did not permit the Red Cross to supply medicines and essential food items to the Tamils. No government is as brutal and cruel as the Lankan government.

Some political parties like the Tamil Maanila Congress and Communist Party of India-Marxists in Tamil Nadu say India should sell arms to Sri Lanka.

For many parties like the TMC and CPI-M, the unity and integrity of Lanka is more important than the welfare and rights of Tamils. How can any party in India support Sri Lanka, which is perpetuating a genocide against Tamils? But that is called patriotism in India. When I plead for the cause of Tamils, they say I am committing treason.

Patriotism has become a monopoly of few political parties in India. I love India. I am proud of India.

When 10 soldiers from Tamil Nadu laid down their lives in Kargil last year, I was the first to go to their homes and comfort their families. But for some parties in India, Sri Lanka is more important than our country. If Sri Lanka cannot protect its unity, integrity and sovereignty, it is its problem. If Jaffna falls to the LTTE, it is its problem. If Indians are patriotic they should celebrate when Jaffna falls.

Is the Vajpayee government's approach to the Lankan crisis right?

Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee has taken a right and commendable stand. He has clearly stated that India does not want to interfere in the affairs of Sri Lanka and that we will not extend military support. I support the government's humanitarian assistance if it covers the interests of Tamil people.

What is the right condition for evacuation?

It should be approved and supported by the LTTE.

You are meeting Vajpayee every week on the Lankan crisis. Are you satisfied with the government's explanation?

Yes, I am satisfied. I have brought to the prime minister's notice that the Lankan government will launch an economic blockade against Tamils soon.

But how can the LTTE be a defender of the Tamil cause when it has killed more innocent Tamils in Sri Lanka than the Lankan Army?

It is a vicious campaign by the Lankan government that the LTTE has killed more Tamils. The Lankan Army has killed more than 60,000 Tamils. The LTTE has not killed as many people as the media projected. The Tamil rebels are fighting for a just cause. It is a war-like operation. It is a Tamil revolution. In war, people get killed. If anybody is interested in knowing why people are getting killed in a revolution like that in Sri Lanka, they should study the history of revolution and war across the world.

Will the Tamil Eelam be secular?


In 1990, when the LTTE controlled Jaffna, Prabhakaran ordered Muslims in the area to flee in 72 hours.

That is incorrect. There are so many intricate problems. You cannot ask me a question as if I am in a courtroom. It is very easy to blame the LTTE for anything and everything. The LTTE is a defender and protector of Tamil rights. From 1948 to 1995, the Lankan government never honoured any commitment it made to the Tamils. On every agreement, it has gone back and betrayed the Tamils. Therefore, the father figure of Tamils, Prabhakaran, concluded that coexistence with the Sinhalese is not possible. The Sinhalese are trying to destroy the cultural identity of Tamils. When I speak for the rights of Tamils, I am branded as a chauvinist. When Kumaratunga tells her army "kill the Tamils as the Sinhala kings killed the Tamil kings", she is widely welcomed. Chandrika has been leading state-sponsored terrorism in Sri Lanka.

'I am in contact with Prabhakaran'

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