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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2585

Hunger strikers should have first demanded Prabhakaran to let the people go

Pretoria, 23 February, (Asiantribune.com): The Sri Lankan Anura RajakarunaAnura RajakarunaHigh Commissioner in South Africa Mr. Anura Rajakaruna giving an interview to Lotus FM radio in Durban said that what the LTTE hunger strikers are trying to highlight is not the plight of the trapped civilians but the demands of the LTTE.

He also pointed out that the former TNA MP M.K. Elaventhan launched a hunger strike on 09th April at the "Mariamman Temple" in Durban. He has staged this hunger strike at this temple apparently hoping to attract the attention of the devotees who came to the temple for the annual festival. With the ending of the annual festival and realizing that no more attention could be gained, we now understand, Mr. Elaventhan has quietly given up his much publicized hunger strike.

Given below excerpts of the interview Lotus FM had with Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner in South Africa, Anura Rajakaruna , which was broadcast on 18th April.

Lotus FM: Mr. Anura Rajakaruna, High Commissioner of Sri Lanka talked to us about the situation in his country. Here is what he has to say.

Anura Rajakaruna: The LTTE has forced civilians to move with them and now the LTTE using them as a shield. So, this is a situation created by the LTTE and what the Government of Sri Lanka trying is to get the civilians out of the LTTE grip. The President of Sri Lanka declared a pause to the military operations during last week but we did not see any response from the LTTE to let the people go.

Lotus FM: The Tamils in the North and East of Sri Lanka have been struggling for self Government for more than 40 years. Now, that the Sri Lankan Army has almost defeated the LTTE. What’s the future of Tamils in the North and East of Sri Lanka?

Anura Rajakaruna: To bring about a political solution, there is a need to defeat the LTTE first, and thereby find a space for political dialogue in seeking a political solution. This is what the Government is trying now. Once the LTTE is defeated militarily, the Government is hoping to find an opportunity for political dialogue. So, there is hope to involve everybody in the political process.

Lotus FM: Once the Sri Lankan Government has achieved its military campaign against the LTTE, many believe that Tamils in the North and East of Sri Lanka living as a defeated people in the land of their birth. Is this would be the situation?

Anura Rajakaruna: It would not be the situation. Military operation is not an operation against the Tamil people. It only targeted the LTTE which is an armed group. What the Government forces are trying to do is to liberate the Tamil people from the LTTE clutches. The people who were already liberated in the Eastern province are quite content with the situation and they are now involved in normal way of life. And the development process is on now - the normalization process is on now. In the Eastern province, a pluralistic polity has emerged. So, this is going to be the situation in the North as well. There would not be any feeling of defeating the Tamil people. Tamil people are very much part of the Sri Lankan nation and the Government is working to accommodate the aspirations of the Tamil people within one country.

Lotus FM: The Indian Government now says it is concerned about Tamils in Sri Lanka. The Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee says they would be providing humanitarian aid to the people caught up in the war zone. Is the Sri Lankan Government not providing any humanitarian aid at the moment?

Anura Rajakaruna: Without food and medicine sent by the Sri Lankan Government to the conflict zone, starvation and health issues would have create a huge humanitarian situation by now. But it is not the case. The Sri Lankan Government, in collaboration with the UN agencies and the ICRC, has been supplying humanitarian needs to the people in the conflict zone. Just for example, by now, the Government has supplied 2332 MT to the conflict zone with the assistance of these agencies. Of course, we welcome any assistance by the Government of India in addition to what is being provided.

Lotus FM: Finally, we have a former Sri Lankan Member of Parliament, Mr. Eelaventhan, who is on a hunger strike here in Durban, to highlight the situation of the Tamils in Northern Sri Lanka. Is your Government taking Mr. Eelaventhan and others like him in other parts of the world seriously?

Anura Rajakaruna: What Mr. Eelaventhan and other LTTE campaigners are doing is to highlight not the issue of the Tamil civilians but the demands of the LTTE. They are trying to save the LTTE from the defeat. So, this is how we look at Eelaventhan and others. And if they are really concerned about the Tamil civilians before the sit down for hunger strikes they should call on their supreme leader Prabhakaran, to let the people go from his grip-which unfortunately they have failed to demand. So, instead of making that demand-doing hunger strikes won’t be helpful to settle the situation.

Sri Lanka High Commissioner Rajakaruna giving comments to a talk show programme on Sri Lanka in the same radio channel further said;

Anura Rajakaruna: Quite amazed to hear some of the comments. I feel that those commentators have got a heavy dose of LTTE propaganda. Sri Lankan conflict is totally misunderstood in South Africa. This conflict is not between the Tamils and the Sinhalese.

Lotus FM: How can you refer it as propaganda by our speakers when your own country has media block, when you do not allow the independent journalists into the country to report the facts?

Anura Rajakaruna: Well - otherwise how can so many news papers and TV stations reporting on the situation on hourly basis and there are various ways of reporting. Of course, media people have been taken to the conflict zone as and when the military operations permitted. Diplomats have been taken to the conflict zone and the welfare centers where the Internally Displaced Persons are being looked after. So, this is happening. What we hear is the emotional way that some commentators speaking without any idea about the ground realities and calling for various measures which are quite unrealistic - in a democratic country like South Africa.

Lotus FM: Do you believe that no ethnic Tamils are being killed in the north east of Sri Lanka?

Anura Rajakaruna: Not by the Army. Of course, Sri Lankan Army’s target is the LTTE. The fighters whoever is coming for surrender have been looked after and would be rehabilitated.

Lotus FM: Though International media reports, do you state that some Tamils are not being killed by the Sri Lankan Army?

Anura Rajakaruna: Some of the reports unfortunately based on the NGO reports which are really biased and has an agenda to discredit the Sri Lankan Government. This we have seen quite often and they don’t reflect the ground situation.

In the meantime, former TNA MP Mr. M.K. Elaventhan launched a hunger strike on 09th April at the “Mariamman Temple” in Durban. He has staged this hunger strike at this temple apparently hoping to attract the attention of the devotees who came to the temple for the annual festival. With the ending of the annual festival and realizing that no more attention could be gained, we now understand, Mr. Elaventhan has quietly given up his much publicized hunger strike.

- Asian Tribune

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