COLOMBO: Conceding that the LTTE is pitted against the Sri Lankan military in an “intense war as never before,” LTTE chief Velupillai Prabakaran on Thursday said he wanted to “build a constructive relationship” with India.
In his “Hero’s Day” speech, an annual ritual followed since 1989, delivered from an undisclosed location in the jungles of Wanni, Prabakaran expressed gratitude to the people of India, particularly the people of Tamil Nadu, for what he termed a “timely intervention [in the ongoing war] that gratified people of Tamil Eelam.”
In contrast to his 2007 speech wherein he had accused India of abetting the “genocide of Tamils being carried [out] by the Sinhala State,’ this year, Prabakaran described India as a “superpower” and appealed to New Delhi to remove the ban on his outfit.
Hours before Prabakaran delivered his speech, which was presumably pre-recorded, Sri Lanka’s President Mahinda Rajapaksa, in a statement regarding the Mumbai terror attacks, said the attacks bring into focus the urgent need for concerted action by all countries to eradicate the menace of terrorism.
“As a country that has suffered the most brutal terrorism for the past three decades, and is currently engaged in determined action to eradicate it from our midst, Sri Lanka stands with the government and people of India at this time of tragedy and remain firm in our commitment to jointly combat and eradicate terrorism in all its forms from our countries, as well as from the South Asian region,” said Mr. Rajapaksa.
On Thursday, Air Force jets pounded the LTTE’s “key radio communication centre” in Paranthan area. Air Force spokesperson Janaka Nanayakkara said the exact damage caused by the strike is yet to be verified.
In his speech, Prabakaran was at pains to emphasise that the LTTE has never stood in the way of the “national, geopolitical, or economic welfare of any other country and argued that ‘the profound aspirations of the Tamil people, too, are not harmful’ to the welfare of any country or its people.”
He claimed that during the struggle waged by the LTTE, it has never planned to act against any country and appealed to the countries that have banned the LTTE to revoke the ban. He said: “We have never been against adopting peaceful means and we have never hesitated to take part in peace talks.”
Speaking about India, he said: “Great changes are taking place in India. The voices of support for our struggle that were stifled are again being heard loudly.” He expressed his desire for the renewal of “good relationship with India.”
In different parts of Wanni, the war is gathering momentum, he said, adding that as the “Sinhala state is committed to a military solution,” the war is becoming intense and widespread.
In an obvious reference to the war between the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) and the LTTE in the island-nation from 1987 to 1990, Prabakaran said: “We have faced forces much mightier than ours. We have had direct confrontations even against superior powers, stronger than us. We have withstood wave after wave of our enemy attacks. When compared to these happenings of the past, today’s challenges are neither novel nor huge. We will face these challenges with the united strength of our people.
“Even though the armed struggle was thrust on us by inevitable needs, yet we wish to stop the war and seek a peaceful resolution to the national question of our people.”
He accused the government of using peace talks “as a masquerade” to wage a major war. “Making use of the ceasefire and the peace environment, the Sinhala state resuscitated its devastated economy and rebuilt its military might that was in shambles. It concentrated on heavy recruitment, refurbishing its arsenal, strengthening the armed forces and conducting military exercises.”
More than 2,30,000 civilians were driven from their homes in Sri Lanka’s embattled north on Thursday after monsoon floods and a mini-cyclone, said officials. The Disaster Management Centre said the northern peninsula of Jaffna was the worst hit, with 2,032 homes destroyed and another 5,000 partly damaged by an overnight cyclone that swept the region and dumped heavy rain.
Sri Lanka depends on monsoon rains for irrigation and power generation, but the seasonal downpours also cause loss of life and damage to property