• History has shown that Sanctions Work
  • The Sri Lankan government’s April Fool’s order shows its desperation, racial exclusiveness, and Authoritarianism.
  • There is no Sri Lankan culture and language. There are many similarities between Sinhalese culture and Tamil culture.
( April 9, 2014, New York City, Sri Lanka Guardian) Visuvanathan Rudrakumaran known as Rudra, is a man well known to the public for decades, although his public appearances are limited due to the nature of the work that he is engaged in. Once the international legal representative of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), Rudra was a close friend of the LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran who was killed by the Sri Lankan military as a part of its eradication the Tamil militancy in the country.

A militarily successful government not only declared the battle won but it also has aggrandized all powers into the President Rajapakse’s family and the entire country is speeding towards authoritarianism. People in general are yet to understand what really has happened and how the system has been further deteriorated using the “victory” over the LTTE as a pretext. This very reason has further isolated the country. The government banned under a blacklist a number groups and over four hundred people named from the Tamil Diaspora just after its failure at the United Nation Human Rights Council. The real intention of the government is unclear but possible outcome scenarios will be known only in the future.

In this lengthy interview Rudra as the Prime Minister of the TGTE, elaborated on many areas that many have confusions about on what his newly established TGTE government is planning to achieve. We believe this interview is a large contribution to the general debate on the very crisis that the country has undergone for decades. However, we note, he has quietly avoided to answer some question that he felt are unnecessary to get into.

See below second and final part of the exclusive interview with Rudra;

Nilantha Ilangamuwa (NI) Let me quote your New Year message issued last January: “Let us take necessary steps in 2014 to further isolate the Sri Lankan state in the world arena and to march forward towards the freedom of the Tamil Nation". What are the steps you are going to take for the further isolation of the Sri Lankan state and how far have you been successful?

Visuvanathan Rudrakumaran (VR): The CHOGM events, the HRC resolution and Navi Pillay's report at the HRC illustrate the Sri Lankan State aggressively becoming an isolated state. I must also thank the present government for competing with us in this regard.

NI: Let me turn to what I am concerned about here. Many Tamil politicians are with the Government. TheTamil National Alliance which is the main Tamil opposition party in the country is having ad hoc discussions with the President. It seems to me that things are improving for Tamils - but you would prefer to see further isolation of the state. What do you say?

VR: I dispute your assertion that many Tamil politicians are with the Government. If that is the case, I challenge the Sinhala Government to hold a referendum for Tamils to say whether they want to be with the Government or to have an independent state.

NI: In reality the TGTE have no ground in the island after the brutal elimination of the LTTE, but it has a well-connected network among certain groups of the Tamil Diaspora. I am curious: where would you locate the Tamil nation?

VR: As we state in our emblem, Tamil Eelam will be in the North-Eastern parts of Sri Lanka. As stated in the ISGA Proposal, the Tamil homeland is the combination of the 8 districts of Amparai, Batticaloa, Jaffna, Killinochi, Mannar, Mullaitivu, Trincomalee and Vavuniya.

NI: Isn’t it fantasy Mr. Rudrakumaran? I mean dreaming for a separate state even after you lose the territory?
VR: When the late SJV and the TULF called for an independent state, they didn't have the territory either. In fact, given the emerging geopolitical scene in the Indian Ocean, we believe the establishment of an independent and sovereign Tamil Eelam is essential to India's own security.

NI: I am puzzled about how you plan to capture power in the country and establish a separate nation, even though you don’t have the necessary requirements but only the mere emotional motivations to do so. The biggest concern appears to be India; she has been strongly opposed to a separate state from the beginning of the Tamil struggle. Aren’t these mountainous obstacles to overcome?

VR: We believe the Indian geopolitical interests and Tamil political interests are complementary to each other.
NI: When were you last in Sri Lanka? How regularly do your MPs travel to Sri Lanka? Are they in touch with each other or with the people when we do not even know who they are?

VR: As I said earlier, our members’ names are available in our website.

NI: I would like to have your take on Sri Lankan culture, language, habits and other main concerns. How about the similarities between the Tamil and Sinhalese cultures?

VR: There is no Sri Lankan culture and language. There are many similarities between Sinhalese culture and Tamil culture. I'm confident that Sri Lanka and Tamil Eelam will be friendly states.
NI: As I understand, there are many people like you who hate politicians in this country, but not many hate the people. Yes, I meant ordinary people who are Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims and etc., Mr. Rudrakumaran what is your reading on people in this country in general?

VR: I believe all human beings are inherently morally compassionate. Unfortunately, the Sinhala polity has become a polity that doesn't allow diversity.

NI: You are a lawyer; having a thorough understanding of law and how the justice system of the country should function. Do you think all of us have common problems which stem from the destructive collapse of the criminal justice system in the country?

VR: The failure of the rule of law and lack of judicial independence added by the 18th amendment are common to all. However the most troubling aspect, as documented by the International Bar Association Human Rights Institute, is “particularly those of Tamil ethnicity (who remain) unprotected within the criminal justice system.” [But] the primary human rights problems are ethnicity based. The violations that have been committed and the root cause of the conflict itself are based on ethnicity.

NI: Despite talking of the common problems your campaign is based on the separate state, isn’t it?
VR: Yes, of course. Currently, there are ongoing illegal land acquisitions, government-assisted Sinhala settlements, and demographic changes in Tamil areas. Furthermore, there is highly concentrated Sinhala military occupation and destruction of ancestral properties, schools and temples of the Tamil people, and sexual violence against Tamil women, which includes enforced contraception through deception and coercion. These continue with impunity.
On top of all of this, due to racism, Tamils are not in a position to participate effectively in the political process.

Thus, pursuant to General Assembly Resolution, 2625 which is considered as customary international law and the Canadian Supreme Court Decision with respect to Quebec, we believe that only in an independent state, Tamils can live with security and dignity

NI: There were major insurgencies in Sri Lanka. One was headed by the LTTE and Tamil militant groups, and the other two were headed by the Sinhalese youth, in the form of the JVP. The JVP entered the political mainstream political arena after the killing of their leader by the government. However, we lost hundreds of thousands of well-educated and skillful youth due to the cause. The country grew backward and the same feudal elites reestablished their power. In Sri Lanka, the power of the elites has been expanded by the Constitution. The 18th Amendment is the latest and probably not the last attempt. Mr. Rudrakumaran, what went wrong in this country? Why did all those struggles only further help the elites establish their power instead of making it possible for the ordinary citizen to access government in the country?

VR: I must point out here that during the JVP Campaign, the GOSL didn't indiscriminately bomb or shell Sinhala villages, nor did they impose economic blockades of the Sinhala villages in the way they have dealt with the Tamils. The use of brute force to quell the desire for freedom by one section of the population, or as response to people who carry legitimate grievances, has been the way of belligerent States through history. Injustices could not be swept away just because you have managed to keep the masses in the dark and rule by falsehood. In the end, all civilised societies living in peace today have only reached that position through a process of rigorous self-examination and redressing of injustices in a climate of mutual respect and recognition of each other’s needs among citizens and groups.

NI: There is no doubt that the post- LTTE period is crucial, and a very important time for the Tamil people to think about the cost of their freedom struggle. Do you think that the people in the country will help to achieve a separate state in the island?

VR: You are claiming the present period is the post-LTTE period, however the GOSL and others don't share your view and still keep the LTTE on the terrorist list. The call for an independent state predates the LTTE.

NI: Will you and your family and your MPs return from the comforts of the West to live in Eelam if it is ever established? Do they speak Tamil to be able to return? I do not mean tokenism but being really Tamil.
VR: I do not like to answer personal questions. My Tamilness is in my opinion beyond question.

NI: What I understand is that nobody needs war, that the majority of people are not in the mood to create borders within the island, and that all need peace and a dignified life. Will the TGTE stand for that? How would you address Muslim aspirations in the East? Estate Tamil needs in the hill-country?

VR: We encourage the hill-country Tamils to come to the North Eastern part of Sri Lanka. As stated in the ISGA:
“Representatives of the Muslim community have the right to participate in formulation of their role in the ISGA.
“No law, regulation, rule, order or decision that confers a privilege or imposes a disability on any community , which is not conferred or imposed on any other community, shall be made concerning culture or religion”

NI: If the President of Sri Lanka, requests that you talk with him about a solution, what would be the reaction from you? And if you are going to meet him what would be the major issues that you would plan to discuss?

VR: We are asking the international community to conduct a referendum to allow Tamils to articulate their own political aspirations unencumbered.

NI: Time for us to talk about the third UN resolution on Sri Lanka. Like the last two resolutions, this one was drafted by the United States. In the meantime, Navi Pillay’s report on Sri Lanka calls for international investigations into alleged War Crimes; apparently the government refused and accused the High Commissioner of ‘interference’ in the country’s internal affairs. But the Tamil National Alliance stands behind the report as they did in the past. I would like to have your take.

VR: We welcome the establishment of an international investigative mechanism to establish the facts and circumstances pertaining to “serious violations and abuses of human rights and related crimes” committed in the island of Sri Lanka. The UN Human Rights Council adopted Resolution A/HRC/25/L.1/Rev.1 on March 27, 2014, which paves the way for a comprehensive international investigation. We urge that the investigation should cover the period prior to, during and after the end of the armed conflict in 2009.

We regret India’s opposition to the establishment of an international investigation. India’s history of moral leadership and courage, coupled with its unique cultural and intellectual affinity with Eelam Tamils, makes its abstention and vote against the operative paragraph establishing an investigation deeply disappointing.
We urge the United Nations to institute an international protection mechanism to ensure the physical security and dignity of witnesses, survivors and human rights defenders. We also urge the UN Secretary General to seize the matter under Article 99 of the UN Charter.

[Editor’s Note: Article 99 of the UN Charter: “The Secretary-General may bring to the attention of the Security Council any matter which in his opinion may threaten the maintenance of international peace and security.”]

NI: Navi Pillay also has mentioned LTTE war crimes. Where does that leave you? Who would be answerable, you or Nediyavan? Does the TNA position put you in difficulties with regard to criminal charges?

VR: Let's all support the Human Rights Commissioner's Investigation mandated by the Human Rights Council.
NI: Some Tamil groups have called for sanctions against Sri Lanka. If it happens things will be worse only for the people, not for the country’s leadership, the President, his family members or his associates. Do you think that the international community and other countries should impose sanctions against Sri Lanka if they also hurt the people living there? Would Tamils living there like sanctions?

VR: This is the same old argument pertaining to sanctions from the beginning. However, history has shown that sanctions work.

There are no perfect lessons, but history shows there is a value in sanctions, as an alternative to military initiation, the hardest form of interaction, and to diplomacy, the softest form of interaction. Furthermore, in the cases that a sanction produced a 2.5% decline in GNP, there were results. There were 11 cases where a sanction produced a 5% decline and in 9 of those cases, there was a political result.

NI: Tamil human rights activists who condemn what the government and your LTTE did to the Tamil people say that the worst thing about that dark period is this: Ethnic cleansing of the Muslims was supported by most Tamils, Christian priests justified murder, Tamil society praised the LTTE saying there was no crime in Jaffna because of the LTTE even as the LTTE was murdering anyone who disagreed like Amirthalingam, Neelan Tiruchlevam, Mayors of Jaffna and many others who were not armed. That is, Tamil culture (not just Tiger culture) became as murderous as the Sri Lankan State. What do you say as a one-time legal adviser to the LTTE and now the presumed successor to Prabhakaran?

VR: Ethnic cleansing precedes by demonization of the group concerned. In Serbia, mosques were vandalized and Muslims were demonized before they were evacuated. But this was not the case in Jaffna. Thus, it was not ethnic cleansing. Many LTTE leaders carried Muslim names for their nom de guerre.

NI: TGTE is one among the groups that were banned as a terrorist organization in Sri Lanka a few days ago; I would like to have your take on this.

VR: The Sri Lankan government’s April Fool’s order shows its desperation, racial exclusiveness, and authoritarianism. The TGTE is a democratically elected body based on the principles of nationhood, homeland and self-determination. The TGTE is committed to pursuing its goal through peaceful and lawful means. All Tamil diaspora entities are based on democratic principles, rule of law and transparency. Especially with respect to TGTE its members are elected through an open and transparent democratic process.

The Government of Sri Lanka's (GOSL) order designating foreign Tamil entities as terrorist organizations demonstrates its unwillingness to engage with democratic ideals and ideas and its paranoia.

Inside the island of Sri Lanka the GOSL through the 6th Amendment to the Constitution and military strangulation has deprived the Tamils of the freedom to articulate their political aspirations fully and freely. This order is a pathetic attempt of the GOSL to stifle the Tamil political aspirations outside the island.

This order is an attempt to weaken the Tamil nation by prohibiting the Tamils inside the island from communicating, sharing and working together with Eelam Tamils outside the island.

The Order also demonstrates the GOSL’s attempt to perpetuate the prison conditions of the Tamils inside the island. The Order demonstrates the illusion of the GOSL that its writ runs outside its borders.
It is also an insult and affront to the legal system of democratic countries in which most of the organizations are legally registered and functioning.

The GOSL is trying to repeat the same war against terrorism drama it staged successfully to commit the Tamil genocide in 2009. However this time the audiences are not as gullible. We are expecting the international community to denounce this anti-democratic measure.

The TGTE will release a list of War criminals and perpetrator of genocide. We will issue the list to all governments asking them to enforce a travel ban and freeze their assets. We will take this issue to the Anti-terrorism Committee established under Security Council resolution 1373

NI: It is time for us to conclude our long discussion. Thank you very much for joining us

VR: Thank you Very Much! 

Nilantha Ilangamuwa edits the Sri Lanka Guardian and he also an editor of the Torture: Asian and Global Perspectives, bi-monthly print magazine. He is the author of the just released non-fictions, “Nagna Balaya” (The Naked Power), in Sinhalese and “The Conflation”, in English. He can be reached at ilangamuwa@gmail.com