Feature Article

"Inner well springs" of Tamil struggle can't be destroyed, says South African Minister

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 22 April 2009, 17:36 GMT]
South Africa's deputy minister for Communications, Radhakrishna Padayachie, has reiterated calls for bilateral talks between the Sri Lankan Government and the LTTE to establish a permanent peace. The African National Council (ANC) Member of Parliament, citing a "common conviction in the right to people for self determination" as the basis of continued relationship between his party and the LTTE, rejected suggestions that the LTTE can be defeated, and added that a political solution that addressed the "resolution of the minority question" was the only possible way forward.

Radhakrishna Padayachie
Radhakrishna Padayachie
"A liberation movement that is founded from the inner well springs of the people and grounded on the aspirations of the people can't be destroyed," Padayachie said, a day before from the April 22nd elections.

"The solution to the conflict between the Tamil minority and the Sri Lankan government is a matter that must be resolved by the Sri Lankan people themselves and further, I believe that the conflict cannot be resolved through military means," Mr. Padayachie said. He also added that "it is my understanding that both the South African government and the ANC respect the sovereignty of the Sri Lankan nation and are supportive of encouraging a peaceful resolution of the conflict in the context of a united Sri Lanka".

The Sri Lankan Government should lift its ban on the LTTE and "do what history says you must [...] and address the principle of the self determination of the Tamil minority in Sri Lanka" Padayachie said.

Citing Sri lanka's "obstinate" belief in its own military superiority as the basis for its refusal of a ceasefire, the minister also believed India's complicity in the issue stemmed from its hesitations of a two state solution as a result of the continued issue of Tamil Nadu, a problem that is "predetermining the way certain powers are orientating themselves towards the Sri Lankan conflict."

The Minister urged the International Community to identifiy the LTTE's 2003 Interim Self Government Accord (ISGA) as a basis for future talks, and a mandate which should be used by other nations to force the Sri Lankan Government to come to the negotiating table.

Extracts from the lengthy interview follow:

TamilNet: What is the basis of the relationship between the LTTE and the ANC?

Padayachie: The relationship with LTTE goes back many years, a historic relationship of partnership born out of a common conviction in the right to people for self determination, in belief of peace and justice. We share a common struggle for the creation of a society based on equality, respect for human rights and justice. In the coming period, as developments unfold in Sri Lanka, there is a growing warmth and commitment by both organizations to work towards a common idea of peace and justice in Sri Lanka.

TamilNet: What impact does the ban on the LTTE have on any prospects of peace in Sri Lanka?

Radhakrishna Padayachie
Padayachie: For there to be long lasting peace, all the parties in the negotiations process have got to feel that they have the capacity to freely negotiate. You cannot have one party come into the negotiating table with its hands tied. If the proscription, or the fact that the LTTE is a banned organization in Sri Lanka continues to remain, it will not be productive, it will not create the right kind of atmosphere to generate a proper settlement for all parties. Like in South Africa's history we had to first enter into talk about talks. There has to be conditionalities that have to be met by both sides. But if one side thinks it is strong enough to win militarily then the conditions are not right for talks. It may be that this is the perception of the international community about the Sri Lanka conflict. The Government may defeat the LTTE, but the problem will come back because they have not solved the problem of the Tamils. It also requires the creative part of the LTTE. The LTTE must demonstrate that it is prepared to talk. LTTE must think out how to respond if the other sides asks it to abandon the armed struggle. When the banning of armed struggle was put forward in South Africa, the ANC said we will suspend the armed struggle, but not abandon it. The parties must come together, even if not to begin talk, but to at least put the conditionalities for beginning talks.

TamilNet: Regional superpowers such as India have been complicit in the Sri Lankan Governments offensive on Tamil civilians. What is your reaction to this?

Padayachie: Countries in the immediate region of the conflict somehow have to be part of the solution. Any prospect for a settlement requires involvement of India. India's actions may stem from the problem it faces regarding the concept of a two state solution in Sri Lanka, in light of its own domestic history regarding Tamil Nadu. Certain questions are predetermining the way certain powers are orientating themselves towards the Sri Lankan conflict. There has to be a great amount of discussion around some of these questions so that the modalities of addressing them must be found. I think in the nature of these issues are what is preventing the international community in coming together. These questions cannot be resolved by external parties alone. These can only be resolved in the context of negotiations between the LTTE and the Government of Sri Lanka. This is precisely where the deadlock lies in reaching the ultimate solution.

TamilNet: Do you believe there is a foundation upon which peace talks can take place between the two parties?

Padayachie: The last proposal by the LTTE, the ISGA accord (Interim Self Governing Authority), did not rule out the possibility that there could be considerable devolution of powers in some sort of arrangement. There is a basis for discussing these questions going forward, and I think that these are some of the things that might determine the kind of attitudes. There is obviously the question of the experience of India when it was an occupying army, and the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi are some of the problems that might come up. I think we all believe that India must be brought into the solution.

TamilNet: Do you believe the LTTE can be defeated?

Radhakrishna Padayachie
Padayachie: History tells me that a liberation movement that is founded from the inner well springs of the people and grounded on the aspirations of the people can't be destroyed. They can temporarily wipe out the current leadership. People will then produce a new leadership. The organization will then be reborn. It may not even be called the LTTE. The principles and vision that have driven the LTTE, the aspirations for which they stand for, that will not be defeated. That is why we say to the Sri Lanka Government, if you understand the history, you must enter the peace talks now. To defeat the LTTE, you must eradicate the Tamil people, or do what is necessary, do what history says you must, and settle the fundamental question, the resolution of the minority question of the Tamil people and address the principle of the self determination of the Tamil minority in Sri Lanka. You have to create a just system. A just political and economic system so that Tamil people, Sinhala people and all the others can live harmoniously.

TamilNet: What is the reaction of the South African Government and its people regarding the crisis faced by the Tamil people?

Padayachie: We have started to see movements emerging in South Africa, founded on the principles of peace, justice and solidarity with the Sri Lankan Tamils. This base of support is now drawing more and more liberation organizations who are gravely concerned about the unfolding crisis. The ANC & its branches are willing to participate, the South African communist party, and the trade union and church organizations are also aligning themselves in this light. As the situation intensifies, these voices are likely to become louder, and continue to prevail upon the government authorities. It is clear that the South African Government at its highest level is now seized with the matter."



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