The Tamil Nadu General Secretary of the
Communist Party of India, D. Pandian says
the unity of
will be at stake if the Congress Party
Government does not address the Tamil issue
in Sri Lanka and ensure a ceasefire.
In an interview with The Sunday Leader,
Pandian could not give an assurance the LTTE
Leader Velupillai Pirapaharan will agree to
a negotiated settlement within a united
but said they will use their good offices
with the Tigers to persuade them to enter
into a peaceful settlement.
He also said if
fails to address this issue speedily the
youth in Tamil Nadu may question the
viability of continuing within the union of
Following are excerpts of the interview.
By Lasantha Wickrematunge in Chennai
Q. Mr. Pandian, you have been agitating for
a ceasefire and a negotiated settlement for
the Sri Lankan issue, particularly with
regard to the devolution of power for the
Tamil people. What is the basis for this
push on your part?
A. The whole world knows the basic
reasons for it. For more than five decades,
the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka has not
been resolved. If only the government had
really wanted to settle the problem, it
could have been done a long time ago.
Instead, they thought that the people who
demand certain political rights can be
subjugated through force and that they can
be kept under their thumb.
Such an attitude in any country particularly
in the modern period will not yield results
however mighty the power might be. Even if
the opposite side is less in number, less in
equipment, it can continue the battle using
different methods. Because, the war methods
have changed. The whole world knows it. Even
a handful of individuals can terrorise an
entire society and a nation. Should we
promote it and encourage it? Is not the Sri
Lankan government inviting such terrorist
attacks against them?
The root cause is to settle the ethnic
problem. If they think that the problem
should be settled according to their terms,
they can spell out. So that the other
countries and the other side can express
their opinion. They may demand some
modification or amendments here and there.
The world also can talk to both. They can
appeal to the Sri Lankan government to
concede a little more, and also appeal to
the other side to accept it for the time
being and restore peace.
Q. The Sri Lankan government is arguing that
this is an internal matter and an issue of
national sovereignty and that international
players should not get involved in this
process and that there are terrorist
problems in several countries including in
and therefore, the government will deal with
this situation, as it seems best. How would
you respond to that?
A. We agree that
is an independent country and we don not
want to infringe upon the sovereignty of
that country. We respect it. But, if they
think it is purely an internal matter, why
are they seeking military aid from
China, Pakistan, Israel and using not only
the arms, but their personnel as well? If it
is an internal affair, it is for them to
fight and settle it.
The moment they started receiving military
training in India, on our soil, and inviting
our armed personnel to assist them, because,
we do not know what they are doing on the
ground, how they are operating. Such
details, we do not know.
Q. But is
really helping militarily in that respect,
except giving logistical support?
A. When the Sri Lankan President
recently visited India, he openly said that
1200 Tamils have been inducted into the Sri
Lankan army and they were all trained by
India. What does it mean? It is like using
my finger to pierce my own eye.
Q. So what do you intend to do about this
A. That is why, when you started
saying that I'm agitating. I will substitute
that word. We are not agitating. We are only
pleading, requesting and then demanding
basic human rights and democratic rights,
and we do not want any special power or
special right to any linguistic sections.
What the Sinhalese people are enjoying on
the soil of Sri Lanka, let it be extended to
the sons of
who are speaking Tamil. Nothing more.
Q. The position of President Mahinda
Rajapakse in that respect is that he has
already liberated the east of LTTE
terrorism, and has given provincial council
powers to a council elected, where a former
militant, in fact, a former child soldier
has become the Chief Minister. And he says
that after clearing the north, he will also
establish a provincial council there. Would
you say that it would satisfy the
aspirations of the Tamil people?
A. He is an elected President. And we
respect him, as he has been elected
democratically. When he says that 'I have
liberated an area', what is the country that
had committed aggression and captured the
area? Let him say openly to the world from
where and from whom did he liberate that
territory. If he is the President of Sri
Lanka, and speaks of sovereignty, I would
like to know, wherein comes a liberated area
within Sri Lanka? What happened to his
sovereignty? What happened to his power?
Q. Mr. Pandian, given your experience with
regard to the Sri Lankan situation, are you
convinced that the LTTE, which is banned in
India, will agree to a negotiated settlement
within a democratic framework?
A. We will also plead with them.
Because, in any event, even during the first
world war, a peace treaty was signed. Even
during the most cruel second world war, a
treaty was signed. Even after any bitter,
bloody war, there must be a peace agreement.
Why is it for 50 years no such agreement has
come in Sri Lanka?
Q. The Indo-Lanka Agreement came in 1987,
but the LTTE did not accept it and continued
to fight with the Indian Peace Keeping Force
A. What you say may be true. Let them
resume it now. We will plead with the LTTE
to accept it, come to the table and
negotiate. Tamils all over the world will
compel and persuade them to argue with the
other side to attain all the rights they
want and demand. When we say not to use arms
and that a military solution will not do
good, it applies to both.
Q. Would you say Mr. Pandian that it is your
position and that of your party that there
cannot be a separate state in Sri Lanka,
that the LTTE's struggle or fight for a
separate state is unjustified?
A. On that question, what we want now
is the war to end. The primary duty rests
with the Sri Lankan government to come out
with a package with any programme and agenda
to solve that problem. We will go through it
and see whether it is satisfactory. And we
will persuade the Tamil sections also to
consider it seriously and try to avoid this
Q. You in fact made an inquiry on what the
LTTE's position is with regard to the
ceasefire and the LTTE said in a statement
that they were agreeable to a ceasefire.
Following which you wrote to the Indian
Prime Minister as well. What was the
response that you got from the Indian Prime
Minister to that request?
A. That is the crux of the problem.
That is a very good question. The banned
organisation operating under very serious
constraints replies to our demand made in a
public paper. But, a citizen, writing to our
own Prime Minister is not getting even an
Q. Does that mean that the position of the
Prime Minister and the rest of the Congress
government is that there should be no
A. They are not acting. At least they
can speak out and say whether they want
peace in Sri Lanka or not. Let us forget the
quarrel between the LTTE and the government
for a moment. Do you want peace in Sri Lanka
or not? Does the President think that Sri
Lankan can progress without restoring peace?
For the development and even for the Sri
Lankan Sinhalese to live, there must be
peace in the island. Restore peace in that
island. When peace is restored, it will do
good to the Sinhalese and equally to the
Q. How would you respond to the position of
the Sri Lankan President on that very issue?
He said that it is to restore peace and
ensure economic development that he wants to
militarily defeat the LTTE. Because the LTTE
will never agree to a negotiated settlement
and once the LTTE is destroyed, he will
introduce a political package for the north
A. I think he must be reading all the
papers. Chechnya is a small place in Russia.
And the Russian army is known for its
ability and power. Even such a red army
couldn't subjugate Chechnya. And they had to
enter into an agreement to restore peace.
In today's world, the size and the number of
population does not decide the whole thing.
Rajapakse should understand that. He thinks
that he can achieve. He says that he has
liberated an area. He can also say that they
have liberated the whole area and hoist the
flag and say that his army has overrun the
other side. Let him remember that the next
day there will be some quarrel somewhere.
I'm not an astrologer. But, as a politician,
I can say that it will continue in different
Q. President Mahinda Rajapakse has already
ruled out even a resolution adopted
unanimously in the Tamil Nadu State Assembly
when he met with Prime Minister Manmohan
Singh, where the President had stated that
he is agreeable to a ceasefire provided the
LTTE lays down their weapons. Going by the
statements made by the LTTE, it is not
willing to do so. Therefore, we have an
impasse with regard to that issue. How do
you think that deadlock can be overcome?
A. Now the main dialogue is between
the central government and the Indian
citizens. Because, we cannot directly speak
to Rajapakse. But as a friendly nation, the
Indian government should speak and exercise
its influence. And in the name of humanism
and humanitarian aid, they should call for a
ceasefire. That is the duty of the Indian
government. So, we are going to press the
Indian government to speak out.
Q. But, hasn't the Indian government by
implication rejected that call when you
yourself say that the Indian government is
training Tamil youth to join the Sri Lankan
army, that they are giving military aid and
logistical support? Doesn't that indicate
that the Indian government would also want
the LTTE militarily defeated?
A. I don't want to plunge into the
motive. But, in Tamil Nadu, if the central
government does not take speedy action to
solve that problem, the political
repercussions will be very bad for all the
political parties in Tamil Nadu, not only
for the Congress.
Q. Are you talking on electoral terms?
A. Not only in electoral terms. But
for the unity and integrity of India.
Because, the Tamil people feel, despite the
unanimous resolution passed in parliament,
despite speaking through the Chief Minister
and all the political parties, when the
central government is turning a blind eye to
all these requests, then comes a big
question as to where are we as Indians in
Q. Are you saying that there might be a
demand for a separate state within India?
A. I may not raise it because I
belong to the Communist Party of India
(CPI). I may keep mum. The Congress Party
may keep mum. But, we can't keep the mouths
and the hearts of the people of Tamil Nadu.
Q. There is a perception Mr. Pandian that
this issue is being agitated now because of
the upcoming elections here in India
scheduled, they say, around April?
A. Let me tell you, if they don't
take speedy steps and try to resolve it
quickly, those parties in
who are now sharing power or ruling
will be wiped out of Tamil Nadu.
Q. Mr. Pandian, the question would arise
that a similar situation to what is
happening in the north where it is reported
that over 200,000 people are internally
displaced because of the conflict, a similar
situation prevailed in the Eastern Province
when the government was fighting the LTTE
last year, using the government's
terminology, to liberate the east from the
LTTE. But, there was no outcry from Tamil
Nadu or any other place at that time. Why
now, when the government claims it is on the
verge of defeating the LTTE in the north?
A. True. As responsible all India
political parties, we have been raising it
in the parliament assembly, and thought the
government will respond and take speedy
steps to solve it. When we found that
nothing was happening, and the cries of the
affected people reaching our ears, we cannot
Q. President's brother, the Senior
Presidential Advisor, Mr. Basil Rajapakse
was in New Delhi recently before President Mahinda Rajapakse's visit. Following which,
a joint statement was also issued regarding
certain agreements that were reached
including the issue of the Indian fishermen
who were shot. Are you satisfied with that
A. Not at all. They have shot four or
five fishermen last week. Wounded fishermen
are in the hospitals. They have not stopped
it. They only shoot and deny. Then what is
the mysterious force that is shooting and
killing them? At least that must be
Q. Now some of these issues Mr. Pandian, you
have raised in your letter to the Prime
Minister. The CPI was until recently, till
the dispute over the nuclear agreement, was
part of the alliance government. Are you
taking the position now that the Prime
Minister and the Congress government are not
responding to you because you had withdrawn
from the government?
A. No. That may not be the reason for
that. Because, not only the CPI, the entire
Tamil Nadu is demanding, the central
government's partner, the DMK is demanding.
Q. But, there has been at least some
positive response to the claims made by Mr.
A. The mindset of
Delhi is against the Tamil people. Not only Rajapakse, but
Manmohan Singh also has a closed mindset.
Q. Is that because of the murder of Former
Prime Minister Mr. Rajiv Gandhi?
A. What did they do in Tamil Nadu or
in India after that murder? For your
information, just to refresh your memory, I
was the most seriously injured man in that
blast. Because I was next to him. I should
not respond to any issue subjectively simply
because I was wounded or hurt. That is not
the way. Innocent people are being
slaughtered. Is it not a fact? Why don't you
allow the media to go there?
When we want to send relief materials, we
clearly stated that we do not want to send
any politician or our volunteers to
accompany the goods. We said that religious
leaders will be sent to watch, supervise and
console those affected people. Why is it
that both, the Indian government and the Sri
Lankan government, which prays to Lord
Buddha had not responded to that request?
Q. But, haven't they agreed to allow the
A. No. It goes to them. Through them.
Q. Not to the government. According to the
official statement issued, the relief
supplies will be delivered to the Indian
High Commission in Colombo, which will in
turn distribute it through the UN agencies
and the ICRC. That is the official position.
Are you disputing that position?
A. I'm suspecting that position. I'm
not disputing it. Because, the Indian
government is also not very sympathetic
towards the Tamils. I don't think these
people will help them. They are sending
arms. How will they feed them? Even if they
go and supply very delicious food, do you
think that the Tamil people will accept it?
Q. Is the Indian government in your view
opposed to the Tamil people or to the LTTE?
A. That feeling is increasing in
Tamil Nadu, which we want to prevent. But,
despite all our efforts, it is gaining. That
is the signal we are giving to the central
government to wake up. Indian unity is going
to be at stake.
Q. Because of, according to you, the lack of
response from the Congress government?
A. Yes. Because
has been demanding for peace. Not only here,
but, everywhere in the world. When the Suez
Canal was bombed, it was our prime minister
who issued a statement to stop the bombing.
Wherever it happens in the world.
Q. But, isn't the Indian government in fact
pushing for greater devolution? In fact
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had repeatedly
called for an improvement on the 13th
Amendment saying that there must be an
improvement on the 13th Amendment when
devolving power. Doesn't that indicate that
the Indian government wants the Tamil
people's political aspirations fulfilled?
A. You are helping me to simplify the
answer. They said it is an internal affair.
The Indian government's position is also
that it cannot interfere, as it is an
internal affair. How did Rajiv Gandhi go
there? Why did he go there? Why did he sign
an agreement with his Sri Lankan
counterpart? He was then, the prime minister
Similarly Jawaharlal Nehru and Lal Bahadur
Shastri and so many had gone to Sri Lanka
and had discussed with their Sri Lankan
counterparts and signed agreements. Because,
the problems are interlinked. It is not only
a Sri Lankan problem, but an Indian problem
as well. Inseparable Indian problem.
Q. How is it an Indian problem?
A. Your refugees are in camps here.
We have been feeding them for the last 30
years. They are homeless people. What will
happen to that generation? Where will they
study? How will they go back?
Q. Mr. Pandian you made a very important and
significant statement when you said that the
people of Tamil Nadu are beginning to
realise their status in the union of India
is in question, because of the lack of
response to the resolution by the Tamil Nadu
state Assembly. Where would this situation
lead to in Tamil Nadu?
A. That is what we are really afraid
of. As a disciplined political party due to
our ideology and commitments, I may not
speak for separation or division of India.
But, not my son. I can't prevent my son from
speaking about it or taking up the flag.
Wherever I go and meet the college students,
high school students, industrialists,
workers, despite all these differences, they
are unanimous in one voice that our
government should speak on our behalf.
Are we requesting the Indian government to
send the army to subjugate Sri Lanka? No.
Did we ever request the Indian government to
throw bombs on Sri Lanka? Never. We are only
requesting them to stop the war. What
elementary demand can be there other than
Q. Going by what you are saying, wouldn't
the Indian government have a genuine concern
that if the LTTE continues to operate, given
the developing scenario, the militancy if
you like, in Tamil Nadu strengthening the
LTTE at this time in any form could in fact
fuel the separation of Tamil Nadu from the
union and maybe for that reason alone,
Indian government has an interest in
ensuring that the LTTE is defeated?
A. Exactly. These are the true
perceptions. By solving the problem, you
will be politicalising the LTTE. There is a
possibility. Because, whatever said and
done, they are also human beings. But, by
attacking, you are brutalising them. You are
forcing them and compelling them to take up
arms. Because, they are getting killed. If
the Indian government could not understand
this elementary lesson, then they will not
be able to solve any problems.
Q. If the Government of Sri Lanka puts
forward a set of proposals, which would meet
the aspirations of the Tamil people, let us
say an improvement on the 13th Amendment.
There is an APRC going through a set of
proposals. Some are critical of it. Some
feel there is no credibility. Others believe
it has some credibility. Leaving that aside,
if a political package is put on the table,
and the LTTE nevertheless keeps out of the
democratic mainstream, in that situation,
how would you, your party and Tamil Nadu
respond to the LTTE?
A. If that happens, we will try to
speak to the LTTE's friends and try to argue
with them, persuade them to accept for a
Q. Does that mean that in that situation,
you will stop even taking up their cry in
the event that the government has to pursue
A. You see the cries will come to an
end when the Sri Lankan government stops the
war and the bombing. The political question
begins by rejection or accepting by the LTTE
isn't it? If they reject, then they will
intervene and request the LTTE to consider
Q. And if they refuse even at that stage?
A. That is a contingency at that
time. We will respond accordingly.