Karuna’s revolt is 'temporary aberration' - Balasingham

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 17 March 2004, 08:43 GMT]
The rebellion by the LTTE’s former Batticaloa-Amparai commander is “not a major politico-military crisis in the LTTE,” the movement’s theoretician and chief negotiator, Mr. Anton Balasingham, said this week in his first public comment on the estrangement between Mr. V. Muraleetharan (Karuna) and the LTTE leadership. In a wide-ranging interview with the London based Tamil Guardian newspaper, Mr. Balasingham said “Karuna’s dissent would not seriously undermine the peace process or the Tamil national struggle.”

“We have our strategy to overcome the situation without armed violence and bloodshed. Karuna’s rebellion is a temporary aberration, which will pass away in time,” he said.

anton_balasingham_3.jpgDismissing Karuna’s accusations of discrimination against the Tamils of the east by the LTTE leadership, Mr. Balasingham said the movement’s leader, Mr. Vellupillai Pirapaharan was “beyond trivial regional sectarianism” and was admired by the Tamil people for “having built a unified national liberation movement transcending the divisions of class, caste, creed and regions that permeated the traditional Tamil society for centuries.”

The full text of Tamil Guardian’s interview with Mr. Balasingham follows:

Tamil Guardian: Mr Balasingham you are aware that the Tamil people, both in Eelam and in the Diaspora are deeply unhappy and disillusioned over the split between Karuna’s faction and the LTTE leadership. What is your assessment of the current crisis? Do you think that Karuna’s mutiny will seriously undermine the Tamil national struggle? How far will it affect the peace process?

Mr Balasingham: As a person who has a deeper understanding of the evolutionary history of our liberation movement I can say, with certainty, that Karuna’s estrangement from the leadership is not a major politico-military crisis in the LTTE as depicted by the Colombo media. Our organisation has faced similar problems of betrayals, treachery and disloyalty in the turbulent history of our freedom struggle. Our leadership has confronted these challenges and resolved them successfully as and when they arose. Therefore Karuna’s dissent is not a new phenomenon. Certainly it is a challenge. I am confident that we will be able to resolve the problem soon. Our leadership is not agitated or anxious over the issue. Mr Pirapaharan is maintaining a calm, cool and composed attitude. He has decided to avoid a confrontationist approach. We have our strategy to overcome the situation without armed violence and bloodshed. Karuna’s rebellion is a temporary aberration, which will pass away in time.

I do not think Karuna’s dissent will seriously undermine the peace process or the Tamil national struggle. The peace process will resume after the general elections between the LTTE and the new government elected by the Sinhala people with a mandate for peace and negotiated political settlement. We are confident that the people of Tamil Eelam will vote overwhelmingly for the Tamil National Alliance giving renewed accreditation to the LTTE as their sole representatives and endorsing our organisation’s political objectives.

The Tamil national struggle denotes a collective politico-ideological project of our people, representing the will and aspirations of the Tamil nation. It is a product of an objective evolutionary history of more than five decades of non-violent and violent struggles based on our people’s inalienable right to self-determination. A rebellious individual with a lost cause who has fallen from grace of the mainstream national movement cannot stand as an obstacle to the inexorable historical march of a people’s struggle.

Tamil Guardian: Karuna has invoked the sentiments of regionalism and accused the LTTE leadership of regional disparity arguing that his cadres and the people of the eastern province have been deliberately discriminated against. What is your response to his criticism?

Mr Balasingham: It is unfortunate that Karuna has chosen to incite the sentiments of regional antagonism at a critical conjuncture when the Tamil people are called upon to demonstrate consciousness of national unity and solidarity as a single, united people.

Karuna knows in his deepest soul that Mr Pirapaharan is beyond trivial regional sectarianism. Pirapaharan enjoys great admiration form his people for having built a unified national liberation movement transcending the divisions of class, caste, creed and regions that permeated the traditional Tamil society for centuries. From the very inception the LTTE leadership embraced the concepts of Tamil homeland and nationality as cardinal principles of the freedom struggle. Eighteen thousand freedom fighters and eighty thousand Tamil civilians have sacrificed their lives for the cause of a single, unified Tamil homeland. Having lived and worked with Mr Pirapaharan for more than twenty-five years I have never detected any shades of regionalism in his thought or action. Karuna’s accusation of regionalism in the LTTE leadership is unfounded and malicious. It is aimed to create confusion among his cadres.

I can quote an incident to prove how deeply Mr Pirapaharan is committed to the principle of a single, indivisible Tamil homeland. During the Premadasa talks the former President, at one point, urged me to convey a message to Mr Pirapaharan saying that he was willing to grant even political independence to the north as a separate Tamil state but he never allow the eastern province to be part of the Tamil homeland. When I conveyed this message to the LTTE leader he said, ‘Please tell Mr Premadasa that he is even prepared to give up the north, but he will not, under any circumstances, be prepared to abandon the eastern province and its people.’

In so far as the criticism of discrimination against the people of the eastern province in economic development is concerned I could say that both the north and the east are disaster zones devastated by war. The north bore the brunt of several savage battles and the infra-structural destruction in the region is monumental with a huge displaced population. Both the north and the east are economically deprived and urgently need massive reconstruction and development. Such a huge task of reconstruction and development cannot be undertaken with funds collected in Wanni through taxation. We need massive international assistance. The huge aid package pledged by the international donor community has not reached the war affected people in the northeast due to the political crisis that plagued the south for the last several months. In this situation, it is unfair on the part of Karuna to blame the LTTE leadership for the economic deprivation of the east. It is because of the urgent economic and humanitarian needs, our leadership has proposed the establishment of an Interim Self-Governing Authority to undertake massive programmes of resettlement, rehabilitation and reconstruction for the people of the northeast - including the Muslims and Sinhalese – with international assistance.

There are not thirty-five major units in the LTTE’s organisational structure as claimed by Karuna. The major structures are military and political. The military hierarchy is organised according to district levels with district military commanders functioning under the supreme command of Mr Pirapaharan. The political section has also district level leaders. The other important units are Finance, Law and Order, Intelligence and Education. The heads of these sections have been appointed on the basis of seniority. Mr Pirapaharan promotes leaders on the basis of their seniority, ability and regionalism has no place in his scheme of things.

Tamil Guardian: Karuna claims that he commands a military formation of five thousand fighters and has the backing of the people of the east. He also proclaims that the eastern province does not constitute a contiguous part of the Tamil homeland because it is inhabited by Muslims and Sinhalese. What are your comments?

Mr Balasingham: We are not aware of the exact number of fighters he has under his command. What we know is that the vast number of his fighters are recent recruits and with no combat experience. They were recruited during the ceasefire times, for the cause of liberating the Tamil homeland constituting the northeast. All his fighters have taken an oath of allegiance to the Tamil national leader Mr Pirapaharan. In actual fact, they are Mr Pirapaharan’s freedom fighters who have pledged their lives for the cause of the LTTE. It is a treacherous act of bad faith on the part of Karuna to impose his leadership on these innocent young men and women who joined the LTTE pledging their allegiance to the national leader and to the national cause.

Already almost all his senior commanders, political leaders and a substantial number of cadres have deserted Karuna and joined Mr Pirapaharan’s command. We know that he is holding the rest of his fighters under tight security within the confines of his camp fearing mass scale desertion. Karuna’s future depends on how long he can maintain order and the discipline of his cadres as an organised force under his command.

Karuna’s dissent and his expulsion was shocking news to the Tamil people of Batticoloa and Amparai who had no idea about the background to the conflict at the early stages. Some of them might have felt that his expulsion was unfair and unreasonable. Karuna’s gangs have been blocking the dissemination of news and reports by burning down Tamil newspapers critical of his action. But now the civilians have begun to understand the rationale behind the disciplinary action against Karuna after military commanders and political leaders who worked with him have revealed his treacherous misconduct against the organisation as well as against the Tamil cause.

It is a tragic irony that a person who played major roles in a liberation war to redeem the Tamil homeland from Sinhala military occupation is now denouncing and renouncing the homeland concept, the very foundation of the Tamil freedom struggle. Whatever the sinister motive behind Karuna’s deceptive politics the northeast constituting the historical homeland of the Tamil speaking people is a political reality, a fact even endorsed by the Indian government. By denying the Tamils their inherent right to their homeland Karuna is committing a grave act of injustice to his own people, an act of betrayal that history will never forgive.

Tamil Guardian: Karuna has claimed that Mr Pirapaharan is preparing for a war and that he refused his request to send a contingent of one thousand fighters from his command. Is it true? What do you say about his assertions that he saved the LTTE leadership and Wanni region by sacrificing his cadres from the east?

Mr Balasingham: I learned from the LTTE leader that he never made any request for reinforcements. I can assure you that the LTTE leadership is not making any preparations for war. We are seriously and sincerely committed to peace and peaceful means of resolving the ethnic conflict.

All major battles of Wanni, our military campaigns code named ‘Operation Unceasing Waves’ one to four were fought by the LTTE fighters from all the eight districts of the northeast. It was a liberation war, with the centralised command operating in Wanni, the heart of the Tamil homeland. When operation ‘Jayasukuru’ (Victory Assured) was launched with the massive force of forty thousand troops with the strategic objective of destroying the LTTE’s military command structure in Wanni, our leadership was compelled to mobilise all our combat formations from all the districts. We cannot deny the outstanding contribution made by the Jayanthan Brigade along with other fighting units in the counter offensive operations inflicting humiliating debacles on the enemy. Karuna should appreciate the fact that Mr Pirapaharan gave him the enviable status as the co-ordinating commander of all combat formations in that counter-offensive campaign (Unceasing Waves Three). In a liberation war fought for the emancipation of our nation, the fighters from every part of the Tamil homeland attain martyrdom for a common cause. To argue that one region has fought and sacrificed for the other region is a reactionary form of regionalism, which has to be condemned by all Tamil patriots.

As a battle hardened military man Karuna should know that it is not the number of combatants that determines the outcome of battles and the direction of war. Strategy, tactics, planning, intelligence, logistics, supply, technology, weapons systems and several other factors play crucial roles in modern conventional warfare. The military genius behind such a co-ordinated scheme of the war effort is none other than Mr Pirapaharan.

Tamil Guardian: There are reports to indicate that Karuna has threatened TNA candidates for Amparai and Batticaloa electorates not to campaign in support of a Tamil homeland and nationality to create division within the TNA and also promised some of his confidantes ministerial portfolios in the new government. What is your view on this development?

Mr Balasingham: We are aware of this problem. We are not surprised since Karuna is now acting against the Tamil cause. He has established clandestine contacts with the Sinhala military hierarchy and with chauvinistic political forces to gain recognition and concessions. We should let it be known to his contacts that they will cause irreparable damage to the peace process if they exploit Karuna’s dissent. In this context we call upon the people of Batticaloa and Amparai to support the principles and policies enunciated in the TNA Manifesto and vote for the candidates who uphold them.

Tamil Guardian: As the theoretician of the LTTE, what is your view about Karuna’s claim that Mr Pirapaharan has abandoned his struggle for political independence of the Tamil homeland based on the right to self-determination of the Tamil people. He refers to the LTTE leader’s Heroes’ Day speech of last year to justify his argument.

Mr Balasingham: Karuna is making confused statements about Mr Pirapaharan with the sinister motive of discrediting him. I can assure you that Mr Pirapaharan has not abandoned his cardinal political principles and projects.

In last year’s Heroes’ Day speech Mr Pirapaharan called upon the Government of Sri Lanka to implement LTTE’s draft proposal for an interim administrative council with substantial self-governing authority. The proposal deals with an interim arrangement, not a permanent final solution. But he warned that ‘if the Sinhala chauvinistic ruling elites continue to deny the rights of our people and oppose reconciliation and if the conditions of oppression continue, we have no alternative other than to secede and form an independent state invoking the right to self-determination of our people’. There is no reference in the text to say that Mr Pirapaharan has abandoned his political objective structured within the framework of the right to self-determination, which includes the right to secede and form and independent state. Karuna has failed to grasp the meaning of the whole text and is confused.


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