I Am Not A Traitor To The Tamils – Karuna
By Jamila Najmuddin
Deputy Minister of Resettlement, Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan alias Karuna, speaks to The Sunday Leader about moves to resettle the remaining war displaced people who are at the Menik Farm camp and about the concerns being raised by some Tamil Diaspora groups.
Q: Minister, what is happening to the resettlement of the IDPs? When are we going to see an end to the entire process?
A: Almost 98 percent of resettlement is now finished. Now we have only 7,000 people left at Menik Farm waiting to be resettled. We also have around 600 families in the Muttur area who have to be relocated elsewhere as some lands in Sampur have been acquired for a project. This project has already started so we have to relocate these people in some other area. The Eastern Province Governor is currently looking into this matter and the government will ensure that free lands are given to these families for relocation as soon as possible.
Q: There are also reports that while the government plans to shut down the Menik Farm, the IDPs from this camp will not be relocated in their original homes and will be resettled elsewhere. The government afterall has been maintaining that everyone will be relocated in their original homes. Is this true?
A: This is not entirely true, but I must admit we are facing some small problems in these areas. Some areas in Mullaitivu have been selected to put up Army camps as these were lands earlier controlled by the terrorists. Our Defence people are now putting up big military camps in certain areas as this was earlier under LTTE control. The same way we have bases in Trincomalee, Colombo, Katunayake, etc. The government is now planning to make a massive military base in the north. Because of this, a small percentage of families may have their original homes located within the area where we are planning to put up this base. However, these people have nothing to worry as the President has ordered us to build proper houses for these families and relocate them close to their original homes.
Q: Why does the government need new camps or military bases now that the war has ended?
A: We need to have military bases according to each district for the country’s security. We cannot say we need these bases only if a war is on because all over the world, every country maintains military bases whether they are facing a war or not. Even in India, we can see that there are major military bases in most of the states.
We are planning to remove all the small military camps and combine these to form big military bases in each district. We will be maintaining an army camp, a navy camp and an air force camp in each district. At the same time we cannot say that the terrorist problem is over in this country. On the ground we are 100 percent sure that there is no threat, but maybe among the Diaspora, as they still continue to demand for a separate state within Sri Lanka.
Q: You say that we face a threat from the Diaspora. How big is this threat?
A: The Tamil Diaspora are our people. They are all Sri Lankans and we cannot throw them away. However, they also have to understand the ground situation which they have never understood. For example, the Mullaitivu District has been badly affected by the war. The Diaspora has a lot of money and technology but they have never come to develop these areas. They have always shouted from their luxury surroundings but they have not even built a single house for the IDPs so far. Some European countries are also backing the Diaspora as these countries do not want to see Sri Lanka develop as we have made many friends in the region.
For example, India is our relation and at the same time China, Japan and Pakistan are all our friends. We have never neglected India and we must admit we need China as well, since they are helping us develop this country. Even Japan has given us many grants and even recently they gave us a grant of Rs.1,600 million for the construction of a bridge in Batticaloa.
While we maintain close ties with all these countries, the US is now worried about a Chinese invasion of Sri Lanka. Even Europe is worried about a Chinese invasion or an Indian invasion. This is a wrong attitude maintained by the West and Europe and because of this, they are very interested in what is happening in Sri Lanka.
Q: What are your views about the Transnational Government?
A: The Transnational Government has been formed illegally and there is no country which is backing it.
Q: How would you respond to allegations by some Diaspora groups that you are a “traitor” to the Tamils?
A: I am not the Traitor. The traitor was Prabhakaran. When I was in the LTTE, the reason we fought the war was because we thought we were neglected by the government. Especially during the 1983 riots many Tamils were killed. Those days we thought we did not have the right to live in this country and so we started the war. However after some time, the war turned into survival. But we realised that we were not saving our people and instead many of our people were dying. What is the point of freedom when everyone is dying? I realised this was wrong and got involved in the peace talks during the UNP government as I wanted to see peace in this country.
I tried to change Prabhakaran and told him this was a good chance and I would try to obtain a political solution for the Tamil people. I told him that if we do not stop the war, we will unnecessarily lose everything. However, he never agreed. Now what has happened? Prabhakaran is dead and with him many innocent Tamils died too as he used civilians as human shields to save his own life.
Q: There are reports that there are attempts to ‘Sinhalanise’ areas which were historically Tamil areas. Are you aware of any such moves by the government?
A: This is totally false. The culture of the Sinhala and Tamil people is the same. We all came from India, that is our history. Only the language between the Sinhala and Tamil people is different. In India and Sri Lanka the Bhuddist people appreciate and worship the Hindu Gods while many Hindu people also worship the Bhudda. If the Tamil people wish they can go to the Bhuddist temples and vice versa. We cannot stop them. In Batticaloa we have have at least three Bhuddist temples which were constructed before the war started and many Tamil people are still going there to worship.
Some people are trying to misuse what is happening and trying to create chaos between the Tamils and the Sinhalese. All these reports are false.
Q: Once the President abolishes the Resettlement Ministry next year what will your role be in the government?
A: Well the President will not need the Resettlement Ministry after all the IDPs are resettled. After that whatever the President gives me and decides for me, I will take it, as I only want to work for the people.