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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2370

TMVP Leader Castigates US State Department and Opposition Leader for Portraying Them As an Armed Group

By K.T.Rajasingham

Colombo, 14 March, (Asiantribune.com): Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal leader Sivanesathurai Chanthirakanthan alias Pillaiyan, denounced as completely false the reports by the US State Department as well as Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, that they are an armed group, involved in child conscription. He said, “Today we are a recognized political Party”Sivanesathurai Chanthirakanthan alias Pillaiyan: "As I was a child soldier some 16 years ago, I know the pain and agony of being a child soldier."Sivanesathurai Chanthirakanthan alias Pillaiyan: "As I was a child soldier some 16 years ago, I know the pain and agony of being a child soldier."

He added, “Please note that we entered the democratic mainstream of politics because we wanted to work with the people and for the people. We are no lovers of lethal weapons. We are not war mongers. But we are compelled to hold on to some arms to safeguard us.”

He emphasized, “We are afraid that we will not be in a position to give up our arms as long as LTTE hold on to their arms. Do those who berate about us wanted us to be sacrificial lambs? A soft target of the LTTE?”

It is unbecoming of a national leader like Ranil Wickrenesinghe to portray a totally false picture about us. We challenge Ranil Wickremesinghe to contest the forthcoming elections. The UNP will not be able to win a seat in Batticaloa, stated Pillaiyan.

"I was a child recruit of the LTTE at age 14 and no one came to my aid. At that time unfortunately there was no local or international agency to speak on my behalf and take me back to enable me to join my family and lead a normal life. Nor did the U S State Department and Ranil Wickremesinghe. I took over the TMVP leadership by late October 2007. After that, I am confident that there were no known cases of abduction and there was no need for such abductions. I have instructed our members very strictly about it. I will not allow anyone to recruit children as armed soldiers. We are a recognized democratic party,” he added.

Sivanesathurai Chanthirakanthan alias Pillaiyan pointed out, “As I said earlier, as I was a child soldier some 16 years ago, I know the pain and agony of being a child soldier. When I was a child soldier nobody came forward to take me back from the clutches of the LTTE. I know the pain of grief of a child soldier better than any one of my critics. I will endeavor my best to safeguard the children of east from being abducted by any other organizations in the future.”

Excerpts of Asian Tribune Interview with Sivanesathurai Chanthirakanthan alias Pillaiyan, is given below:

Asian Tribune: There are allegations that TMVP is still abducting children and recruiting them for your armed forces?

Pillaiyan: I also read this report today in the papers. It is highly unfortunate a leading political leader of Ranil Wickremasinghe’s caliber coming forward and airing petty political views.

Asian tribune: There are allegations in the US Government’s Country Report -2007 about TMVP and you. What is your comment?

Pillaiyan: I have gone through the allegations made by the US state Departments Country Report on Human Rights practices -2 007, which was released two days ago.

I think whatever said in that report about TMVP is factually incorrect, misleading and erroneous. First of all it must be remembered that there is no ‘Pillaiyan Group’ as such. We are a registered political party and the polling held for the 9 Local Government bodies in the Batticaloa district on 10th March, vindicated our position. The results of the elections also have to be considered as a referendum about us by the people. The people have overwhelmingly endorsed us as a political party and approved our aims and policies. When we have already got the peoples approval there is no need to go further making allegations of this nature. Anyway this was an allegation coming from the only super power in the world, I think I should clarify.

First and fore mostly no one knows that I was a ‘Child Soldier.’ Sixteen years ago, when I was just 14 years of age, I was abducted conscripted in the armed forces of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. At that time unfortunately there was no local or international agency to speak on my behalf and take me back to enable me to join my family and lead a normal life.

Until 2004 March, I was with them. In 2004 I left the LTTE and came out with V. Muralitharan and we formed a separate group. Initially with the help of people like you, we named our group as ‘Tamil Eelam Makkal Viduthalau Pulikal.’

Subsequently, you were one of those who argued to take away the word “Eelam” from our name and subsequently decided to do away with Eelam and we named ourselves as ‘Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal.’

It was a known fact by April 2007, I was sidelined and isolated. I was isolated and was leading a low profile at that point of time. Subsequently, I took over the TMVP by late October 2007. After that, I am confident that there were no known abductions and there was no need for such abductions. I have instructed our members very strictly about it.

By the time I took over the leadership, we were left with about 25 underage children. Presently, we are feeding them, providing cloths and shelter and also education to them. We are ready to hand over them to those who complaint about us if they come forward to take care of them. We are unable to send them back to their homes as many of them are orphans and they have neither parents nor relatives.

As I said earlier, as I was a child soldier some 16 years ago, I know the pain and agony of being a child soldier. When I was a child soldier nobody came forward to take me back from the clutches of the LTTE. I know the pain of grief of a child soldier better than any one of my critics. I will endeavor my best to safeguard the children of east from being abducted by any other organizations in the future.

Asian Tribune: There is an allegation against you and your party as an armed group. Tell us why you are holding on to arms when you say you wanted to enter into the mainstream of politics.

Pillaiyan: Please note that we entered the democratic mainstream of politics because we wanted to work with the people and for the people. We are no lovers of lethal weapons. We are not war mongers. But we are compelled to hold on to some arms to safeguard us.

You may be aware that we left the LTTE in March 2004. You know what subsequently happened to us. On 10th April 2004, on the Good Friday, LTTE leader dispatched the fiercest group from Vanni and nearly 170 of our members were slaughtered in Vakarai on that day alone. Subsequently more than seven of our members were killed in their sleep in Kottawe. Further more several of our members were killed by the LTTE. That is why we decided to hold on to arms for our own protection.

We are afraid that we will not be in a position to give up our arms as long as LTTE hold on to their arms. Do those who berate about us wanted us to be sacrificial lambs? A soft target of the LTTE?

These critics should come forward to tell the LTTE to give up its arms. They should have the courage to tell Prabakaran and LTTE to give up arms, and then we are ready to give up our arms in the next moment.

Prabakaran can’t move out alone anywhere. He needs to have nearly 300 guards around him when he wants to move to another place. Whenever he leaves for another place, all the roads in Vanni are closed 24 hours before he starts moving. Therefore the kettle should never call the pot black.

Asian Tribune: OK we will come to another subject. Can you tell us why TMVP has decided to put forward Sivageetha Prabhakaran, alias Padmini, as the Mayor of the Batticaloa Municipal Council and not Edwin Krishnanandarajah, alias Pradeep Master whose name was initially anounced when the nominations were filed?

Pillaiyan: This was not a decision made by an individual - a collective decision taken in our Politburo meeting. During the time when the nomination was filed, it was decided that our candidate, whoever it may be, who gets more preferential votes than any others would be given to lead our team in that particular local government body and would be made either as Mayor or as Chairman.

Accordingly it was brought to the notice in the last politburo meeting that Sivageetha Prabhakaran, alias Padmini has obtained the highest number of preferential votes within our Party - 4722 votes in the Batticaloa Municipal Council elections held on 10 March. So it was decided that she is to be named as the Mayor of Batticaloa. This was a democratic decision.

Asian Tribune: Your clarification is OK, but as far as the Batticaloa Municipal election is concerned, your candidates contested as United People’s Freedom Alliance candidates. According to the law, the party secretary has the power to pick anyone elected to the council concerned as its chairman or mayor, irrespective of the number of preferential votes he or she has obtained. In the case of the Batticaloa Municipal Council, Premajayantha has to take the final decision, since the TMVP members contested on the ruling UPFA’s ticket. Your comment?

Pillaiyan: We do not foresee any problems. Our Party secretary will recommend the name we have proposed for the position as Mayor and the UPFA general secretary will endorse it. We work very closely with the UPFA leadership in matters regarding the Batticaloa Municipality.

Asian Tribune: On 12 March the front line members of the UNP led by the Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe held a protest rally opposite the Elections Department office prior to handing over the petition. Opposition leader Wickremesinghe who addressed the protest said the UNP would not allow the Government to hold another election in the future, similar to the Batticaloa local government election. “The Batticaloa election has ignored the people’s rights completely,” he said while describing it as an election through which the Government has handed over the East to a terrorist group after taking it over from another terrorist group. This is nothing but State terrorism.” We will like to have your response.

Pillaiyan: I also read this report today in the papers. It is highly unfortunate a leading political leader of Ranil Wickremasinghe’s caliber coming forward and airing petty political views.

Before 2004, we were all in an armed group and after that we came forward to enter the political mainstream of the country.

Accordingly, we on the first available opportunity contested in the 9 local government bodies and expressed our sincere desire to convert ourselves into true practicing democrats. We expect leaders like Ranil Wickrwemasinghe, Somawansa Amerasinghe to encourage us and welcome us as democrats when we enter the main stream politics of the country. It is highly unfortunate a political leader of Ranil Wickremasingghe’s stature to criticize and condemn us for coming forward to enter the democratic process in this country.

By criticizing and having protest rally in front of the Election Commissioners Department is he expecting us to go back as another armed group in this country and promote the arm culture?

It is understandable that Tamil National Alliance did not participate in the elections, because LTTE led by its leader Prabakaran opposed the demerger of the North and East. Therefore they are of the opinion that in case the TNA contest in any elections in the East then that will amount to accepting the demerger of the East from the North. But it is extremely difficult to understand why UNP supported TNA and not contested in the elections held on 10 March.

We know one reason for them not contesting in the elections. UNP is well aware that they are very unpopular in the East and will never get a seat there. That is why they did not contest. To cover up their weakness they are coming up with all these cock and bull stories.

Though I am not a big political personality when compared with Ranil Wickremasinghe but I wish to request – not challenge, to put forward UNP candidates in the forthcoming Provincial Council elections and get one seat in the Provincial Council elections in the East.

Asian Tribune: There are allegations that TMVP was involved in so many election related abuses. The UNP, LTTE and TNA alleged that you all used threat and intimidation and adopted corrupt practices to win the elections.

Pillaiyan: I think those of them who are making those allegations were never seen in the Batticaloa district to survey the election campaigns. When we were campaigning in the districts, they were never seen over there. Therefore, I think they are not qualified to make any such complaints.

I had the opportunity read the interim report put out by the People's Action for Free and Fair Elections (PAFFREL) which said, Local Government elections in the Batticaloa District on March 10, 2008 took place in a peaceful environment.

People's Action for Free and Fair Elections (PAFFREL) monitors and international monitors of the Nonviolent Peace force in the field reported only of minor incidents and relatively quiet environment at the polls.

Do you expect me to add anything more to this report? TMVP was one of the 6 political parties and 22 Independent Groups contested in the 9 local Government body elections. The election was held under the shadow of LTTE’s guns, claymore mines and pistol groups. Two of our party members succumbed to an LTTE suicide bomb attack.

Despite the false, misleading and mischievous propaganda campaign unleashed by these political elements, our members were never provoked though it was the first time we were involved in a true democratic exercise. Though we found at times that the experiment of truth was very painful and agonizing, in the end we are happy with the fruition of the exercise. This election has brought a resolve in all of us that democratic way of politicking has to be our chosen path in the future.

Asian Tribune: Tell us what the people of the East are expecting from the TMVP?

Pillaiyan: What our people in the East expect is a peaceful and harmonious climate. They wanted to have real opportunities for them to lead a peaceful life. They have a desire to mind their day to day activities peacefully without the horror of bombs, killings, destructions and war. They wanted their children to live peacefully without the fear of being abducted and conscripted in an armed group and in the end to end up as cannon fodders.

Parents wants their children to have opportunities to go to school without fear, study peacefully, enter universities for their higher educations and lead happy and contended life.

This is what they want at presence. Unfortunately in the East we were subjected to meaningless war, bloodshed and destruction for the last 25 years and more. Immediately what they wanted is to put their past behind, if they are today Internally Displaced People, they wanted to go back to their houses in their villages and earn their living either by farming or by fishing or else with whatever trade they were earlier familiar with.

We in the TMVP are involved in bringing a better and peaceful lifestyle to our people in the East. We are hopeful that we would be able to satisfy our people’s need, at least prevent the eruption of another military campaign in the East.

Asian Tribune: We learnt that the Sri Lanka Government has come forward to include TMVP in the All Party Representatives Committee which is commissioned to search for a solution to the issues facing the country.

Pillaiyan: Today we are a registered political Party and we think we are eligible to participate in the APRC. Now we came to know that the Government has made a right decision to invite us to participate in the APRC. So far we have not received any invitation to participate in the APRC. Once we get it, we will definitely participate in the APRC meetings and in its deliberations.

Asian Tribune: Tell us do you really like to be a part of the APRC process to search for a reasonable and acceptable solution to your people?

Pilaiyan: Kindly remember that we left the armed struggle and joined the democratic way of life because we felt, as far as I am concerned, after nearly 12 years of involvement in the armed struggle, I was convinced that armed struggle was not the panacea to the problems our people in the East are facing and by 2004, we said goodbye to guns, bombs, bloodletting, destruction and war. We came forward to search for a solution in the democratic way of life. We now believe in it and we are confident we will succeed in solving our people’s problems jointly working with our Muslims and Sinhalese brothers.
We are confident that we would be able arrive at an acceptable solution by participating in the APRC deliberations.

Asian Tribune: We are happy to learn that you have managed to register TMVP as a political party. Tell us some details as to how you managed to get it registered?

Pillaiyan: I know why you are asking this specific question. I have read that in the papers that an organization has filed a case against the Commissioner of Elections for not accepting their registration and they have pointed out our party registration in that case. I think that is why you have decided to ask this particular question. I am unable to comment on that particular news items because the matter is before the courts and it is sub judice.

As far as we were concerned, we applied at the right time when the Election Commission was ready to register new political parties. You may know that along with our party nearly, six political parties were registered just before the nominations were called for 9 local Government bodies in the Batticaloa district. However I must say a special thanks to you for the inputs and counseling given to us regarding our Party registration.

Asian Tribune: Regarding the forthcoming Provincial Council elections to the East. Your comments?

Pillaiyan: In the forthcoming Provincial Council Elections, we will definitely contest. Regarding this elections our politburo has already met and decided that we should contest in this election.

Asian Tribune: Is there any special reasons for TMVP’s decision to participate in the forthcoming provincial election?

Pillaiyan: Of course. The Provincial Councils were introduce under the Indo – Sri Lanka Accord to solve the problems confronting the Tamils and Tamil speaking people of the North East. In 1989 we had the elections for the merged North and East Provincial Councils. For some reasons or other the merged North East Provincial Council was dissolved and since for the last 16 to 17 years the Tamil people did not have any role to take part in the participatory politics of this country.

We all were under the illusion that we are going to have a separate state – a Tamil Eelam, where milk and honey would flow. Nearly 20,000 Tamils youths who joined the LTTE lost their lives. Thousands of Tamils, Muslims and Sinhalese lost their lives because of the meaningless bloodletting and ethnic conflict. What we gained by it? Destructions daily exacerbated, people continued to be killed.

At last we came to the conclusion in a multi-racial country like Sri Lanka, solutions to issue has to be arrived with the consensus with the other ethnic groups – Muslims and Sinhalese. To earn such consensus we should win the trust and confidence of the other ethnic groups and the leaders of the political parties in the country.

To achieve this, we have to participate in the provincial council elections and if the people have faith and confidence in us, definitely we will win the elections to take up the just causes of the people. Once we win the Provincial Council elections, we will represent not only the Tamils of the east but also the Muslims and Sinhalese brethrens in the east.

Then we will be able to take up the issues such the 13th amendment and other issues – and by that time our hands would have been strengthened by the support we would be having through our Muslims and Sinhalese brethrens who also we would be supporting.

One thing I wish to emphasize at this point of time is that the Chief Minister of the East has to be a Tamil and we will have Ministers representing Muslims and Sinhalese.

Asian Tribune: Who will be contesting in the provincial council elections on behalf TMVP, give us an insight of it?

Pillaiyan: It is too early to say anything regarding this. We have Tamils, Muslims and Sinhalese as our party members. Also we will give opportunities for intellects as well as those people in the province who come forward work with us to serve the country. At the moment I cannot elaborate any further. These matters have to be discussed at our politburo and decisions have to be taken. So far we have not decided anything about this.

Asian Tribune: Will you be entering into any sort of a contesting arrangements with the United People’s Freedom Alliance as you have earlier done in the Batticaloa Municipal election?

Pillaiyan: Though we had earlier an agreement with the UPFA and our candidates contested under their betel Leaf symbol, TMVP also contested against UPFA in the elections for more than three other Local bodies..

So far, as I replied to your earlier question, it is very premature to response to this question, as we have not had any responses from the UPFA sources. If they contact us, we are willing work with them and would also come forward to have their candidates in our party list to contest in the Provincial council elections.

In conclusion, I wish to convey my thanks and that of our Party, to the people of the Batticaloa district who voted for us overwhelmingly in the 9 local body elections and ensured us our victory. I also wish to convey our thanks to all our supporters and well wishers not only in Sri Lanka but those Tamil brethren of ours living abroad.

We also wishes to thank all those Government officials and security forces, who have made this election an incident, free one.

Our thanks goes to President Mahinda Rajapakse who was the chief architect behind the liberation of the East and for coming forward to develop the east which lacks behind other provinces in the country.

- Asian Tribune -

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