D. b. s. jeyaraj
Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) Chief Negotiator and Political Strategist,
Anton Stanislaus Balasingham has revealed in a recent book that former
Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and Tiger Leader Velupillai
Pirapaharan had entered into a secret "gentlemen's agreement"
in the early hours of July 29, 1987 in New Delhi. Balasingham says that
it was only after entering into a "Rajiv-Prabha accord" around
2 a.m. that the Indian Premier flew to Colombo at 9 a.m. to sign the
Indo-Lanka accord with Junius Richard Jayewardene at 3 p.m. the same
to Balasingham former AIADMK Tamil Nadu State Minister "Panrutti"
S. Ramachandran was present during this historic meeting between Rajiv
and Prabha. He says that the LTTE supremo neveragreed to the terms of
the Indo-Lanka accord when provisions of it were shown. Rajiv apparently
accepted the LTTE position and only wanted the Tigers to refrain from
opposing it in public.
also agreed to let the Tigers make a token surrender of old and useless
arms for exhibitionistic purposes. He also agreed to awarding a dominant
position on the north east Interim Administration (IA) to the LTTE.
Gandhi also agreed to pay Indian Rs. 5 million per mensem to the LTTE to
carry on their administration without taxing the people. He also assured
the LTTE that he would see to it that then President Jayewardene would
never implement the provision regarding the referendum to de-merge the
north and east.
reveals all these and more in his new book Viduthalai or Liberation
released early this month in London. The book is a collection of essays
and articles. One of them is about the Rajiv-Praba meeting and their
secret understanding. The article has been carried in instalments in the
LTTE newspaper Eelanatham published in the north. It is titled "Rajiv-Piraba
Santhippu: Eluthappadaatha Oru Oppantham" (Rajiv-Prabha meeting: An
notes that while everyone knows about the written agreement between
Rajiv and JR signed on July 29, 1987 few people know about the agreement
reached between Rajiv and Prabha. The talks started on July 29th night
and went on till after midnight and concluded around 2 a.m. on July
29th. He says the Rajiv administration kept this a closely guarded
secret. As a person involved in the exercise, Bala says that it is his
important duty to record this historic agreement.
Balasingham, Yogi and Thileepan were "invited" to New Delhi
and placed under house arrest at Hotel Ashok in New Delhi. Attempts were
made to force down the proposed Indo-Lanka accord down the Tiger
throats. The LTTE resisted. The fact that Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.
G. Ramachandran also sided with the LTTE on this made the position
difficult and embarrassing for Rajiv Gandhi.
a change of tactics Rajiv decided to woo Prabha personally and obtain
his approval before embarking to Sri Lanka on July 29. So close upon midnight on July 28th Indian officials woke up
the sleeping Tigers and summoned them to a meeting with the Indian
Premier. So Prabha, Bala and Yogi left under armed "Black Cat
Commando" escort to meet Rajiv, leaving Thileepan behind at Ashok.
himself welcomed the Tigers at the entrance of his residence. Along with
him was M. Narayanan, then
head of the CBI and Panrutti S Ramachandran, a minister in MGR's Tamil
Nadu administration. According to Bala this was the first time Rajiv and
Prabha were meeting face to face. "I have heard a lot about you. I
am happy to meet you now," greeted a smiling Rajiv.
the meeting progressed Rajiv asked Prabha about the dissatisfaction the
Tiger chief had in regard to the proposed accord that had been shown to
the Tigers earlier. He wanted the LTTE to pinpoint the shortcomings in
the draft. Prabha asked Bala to relate them. There upon Balasingham
expressed LTTE criticism of the proposed agreement on an itemised basis.
among these were the proposal to de-merge the north and east by
referendum, the limited scope of devolution envisaged and the 72 hour
deadline to surrender arms. Rajiv listened attentively and took down
according to Balasingham, Rajiv had said "Our government is
sincerely involved in trying to find a just solution to the problems of
your people. Your cooperation is vital to us in this. As you have
pointed out there are certainly flaws in this accord. The provisions
regarding a provincial council are only temporary arrangements. I will
talk to Jayewardene later and try to rectify them. I will also persuade
Jayewardene to postpone the referendum indefinitely. You must trust the
Indian government. We are acting with great concern about the welfare of
the Tamils. So we need your support. This accord will win back the
rights of the Tamil people and ensure their security. Your supporting
the accord will strengthen our hands."
Ramachandran interpreted Rajiv's comments in Tamil for Prabha. According
to Bala the LTTE Leader responded thus "This agreement does not
serve the interests of the Tamil people. On the contrary it affects
their interests adversely. Therefore we cannot accept this accord,"
said Prabha with firm conviction.
understood the position. He realised that Prabha will stand firm in his
beliefs. Rajiv did not want to seriously disagree with the LTTE and
worsen the situation. So he altered his approach suddenly.
said "I understand your position. I am not asking you to change
your decision or policy. You don't have to accept this accord. But if
you don't oppose it openly that would be enough."
Immediately Ramachandran jumped in enthusiastically.
the PM himself has agreed to your stance. You don't have to accept the
accord. That's your position. No need to accept it. But the Prime
Minister is only requesting you to refrain from opposing it
publicly.Don't you think you can oblige the Indian government in this
small matter?" queried Ramachandran on behalf of Rajiv.
observes that the reason for Ramachandran being present became clear
then. Both Prabha and Bala were not satisfied with Rajiv's and
Ramachandran's explanation. "If we don't accept something then does
it not mean that we are opposed to it?" whispered Prabha in Bala's
to Bala, Rajiv realised that he could not satisfy us by differentiating
between "not accepting" and "opposing." He took off
in a new direction.
we know that your movement and the Tamil people at large have no faith
in Jayewardene. We also don't trust him but we have exerted tremendous
pressure on him and formulated this agreement. Even though there are
deficiencies in the provincial council scheme don't you think that we
can hold further talks in the future and enhance autonomous powers for
the Tamils? Also it is not possible to implement this provincial council
scheme immediately. We need some time. Prior to that we can set up an
interim administration for the north and east. Your organisation can be
given the major role in that. I am prepared to enter into a secret
agreement with you regarding that interim government," said Rajiv
then, says Bala now.
Panruti Ramachandran chipped in again. "Don't let slip this
opportunity. This is a fine chance to establish a Tiger administration
in the Tamil homeland. Don't reject the proposal to enter into a secret
pact with the Prime Minister of India. Don't worry too much about the
Indo-Lanka accord. The Rajiv-Prabha accord is going to materialise
before that. There is no need to publicise this. We can keep it as a
secret," he said.
goes on to observe that everything seemed a well-rehearsed drama.
Pirapaharan did not trust anyone or anything. He seemed totally
disinterested. But Ramachandran kept on eagerly trying to structure a
was decided to set up an interim administration for the north and east
and provide majority representation on it to the LTTE. Rajiv wanted all
Tamil militant outfits in Eelam to be represented on it. Prabha
disagreed. Finally it was agreed that the TULF and EROS will get limited
representation on the IA. Rajiv gave assurances about the formation,
powers and functions of the proposed interim administration. Prabha
demanded that Sinhala colonisation of the Tamil homeland must end and
that opening of new police stations in the north and east by the Sinhala
government should cease. Rajiv Gandhi agreed to both says Balasingham.
then asked Prabha as to whether the LTTE could stop its taxation of the
people. He said that the Jayewardene government was complaining thatthe
Tigers were forcibly taxing the Jaffna people. Prabha replied that the
taxes were used to finance the LTTE's administrative costs. If the
Indian government provided that money, the LTTE was prepared to end
taxation said Prabha. Rajiv then asked "How much are you earning
through taxes for a month?" Prabha said it was about a crore or Sri Lankan
Rs. 10 million. "If
so, it will amount to about Indian Rs. 50 lakhs, I will give you that
money," promised Rajiv.
the question of arms surrender arose says Bala. "We are not asking
you to surrender all your weapons. A small amountbeing surrendered as a
gesture of goodwill is enough. The Indian peace keeping force will
protect the people and the militants in the north and east. A ceasefire
with the Sinhala armed forces will continue. In such an environment you
will not be needing all your weapons," said the Indian Prime
Minister. Instead of replying Prabha was immersed in deep thought.
Ramachandran interrupted again. "What is there to think about? It
is enough if you give back some of the old, unusable, rusty weapons from
the arsenal given by India," he suggested. Prabha replied in
mocking tones "All the weapons given by India were like that."
"Then its all right no? Give back some of those weapons. When the
time comes the Indian governmentwill replenish those with new weapons,
no," said Minister Ramachandran. He then translated in English what
he told Prabha for Rajiv's benefit. The PM nodded in agreement says
time was around 2 a. m. Rajiv was scheduled to leave for Colombo at 9
a.m. and sign the accord at 3 p.m. Rajiv seemed happy that he had
arrived at an agreement of some sort with Pirapaharan. Pirapaharan was
not happy. His face clearly indicated it. Ramachandran was smirking as
if he had achieved something great. We were all tired due to
the meeting was about to end, Balasingham asked Panrutti Ramachandran
"We spoke about a lot of matters concerning the Rajiv-Prabha
agreement. The Premier has given a lot of promises. Why don't we write
these up briefly and get the PM to sign and endorse it?"
some thought Ramachandran replied. "There are many controversial
matters in this secret accord. There are money matters. There is the
arms surrender issue. If these things become public there will be a
political cyclone in India and Sri Lanka. Don't you have faith in the
Prime Minister?This is a gentlemen's agreement. Let this be an unwritten
accord between two great people," he said and interpreted what he
said in English to Rajiv Gandhi.
don't have to worry about anything. I will implement my promises. Let
this be as the Minister said an unwritten gentlemen's agreement,"
said Rajiv. Bala says that he did not want to contradict the PM at the
final stage of the meeting. "Finally he agreed to remove our
detention and make arrangements to be sent back to Tamil Eelam."
bade farewell to Rajiv and reached Ashok Hotel around 3 a. m. Prabha
told Bala "Anna wait and see. These secret accords and pledges will
never ever be implemented. The whole thing is a deceptive trick,"
and entered his room in a state of frustration.
Balasingham related to Thileepan what had transpired. After listening
intently Thileepan asked "What does Annai (Prabha) say?" Bala
replied "Prabha is not happy. He is firmly convinced that this will
not work." After deep thought Thileepan said "What Annai (Prabha)
said will only take place."
Balasingham goes on to say "That is what happened. The secret
accord was not implemented. The IA was not set up. Thileepan angered by
Rajiv Gandhi's non-implementation of pledges given to Pirapaharan went
on a death fast to expose India to the world at large. By sacrificing
his life Thileepan did so. The unwritten Rajiv-Prabha agreement exploded
as a political earthquake. It created a tremendous upsurge in Tamil
article by Balasingham makes interesting reading and throws new light on
Indo-Tiger relations before the accord. Details of the Rajiv-Prabha
understanding are revealed for the first time. It also explains several
consequent developments that are well known.