A Sri Lankan Tamil minister who accompanied President Mahinda Rajapaksa to India says the Tamil diaspora’s refusal to give up the Tamil Eelam dream is only hurting his community.
Expatriate Tamils in Western countries who continued to be loyal to the goal of forming an independent state were no way serving the mass of Tamils in Sri Lanka, said cabinet minister Douglas Devananda.
“The fact is there is going to be no Tamil Eelam, now or ever,” the minister for traditional industries and small enterprises development told IANS in an exclusive interview. “It remained a dream even when LTTE chief Velupillai Prabhakaran was alive. Today it is like dreaming about a dream.
“Can these Tamils achieve what Prabhakaran failed to?” he asked. “They cannot. But their actions create suspicions in the minds of a section of the government in Sri Lanka. It makes life more difficult for the Tamils.”
Ever since the Sri Lankan military crushed the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and wiped out its leadership in May last year, pro-LTTE Tamils in the West have kept alive hopes of forming an independent Tamil Eelam state.
The need of the hour, Devananda said, was to speed up the process of reconstruction of the island’s war-battered northeast and the rehabilitation of the thousands who suffered during the quarter century of conflict.
President Rajapaksa succeeded in conveying this to the Indian leadership during the June 8-11 visit to India, said Devananda, who took part in the delegation level discussions here.
“True, there are shortcomings in the process of rehabilitation, in what we have achieved since the LTTE’s demise,” he said. “This is because of the existence of a large number of landmines, plus other factors.
“We told the Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh that we needed more aid to help people start lives afresh,” he said, referring mainly to the Tamils who were the worst victims of the LTTE’s separatist war and the military offensive.
He said while a few thousands were still in camps in the north though the war ended over a year ago, many thousands had started life anew, with or without the help of the authorities.
Farming had resumed in the north in some of the areas that saw the brunt of the war, with the government and others providing seeds, tractors, fertilizers and water pumps to irrigate the land.
“We told the Indian leaders, in particular those from Tamil Nadu, to see for themselves what the government was doing (in the northeast),” he said. “Surely we won’t be doing that if we had things to hide.”
“I underlined that if everyone chipped in, things could return to normalcy in about two years.”
Devananda, among the first to take to Tamil militancy in the 1970s, heads the Eelam People’s Democratic Party (EPDP), which has been bitterly opposed to the LTTE for decades.
He survived several LTTE assassination attempts including one which has left him partly blind.
Devananda dismissed as “silly” media reports about his links to a 1986 killing in Chennai.
“It is an old issue. Those who know the facts know that I was nowhere present where the incident took place. I had then taken moral responsibility because the incident was blamed on a party member. That is all.
“Since then, I have visited India so many times. Nobody ever complained. So why rake it up now? I can only speculate.”