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Sunday, 5 August 2012

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Be a Sri Lankan:

Don't be misled by Tamil diaspora - KP

Clad in a white cotton shirt he wears a pair of simple slippers. The soft-spoken man explains the downfall of the 'outfit', that was once thought as being impossible to destroy. After 30-years of a struggle to divide a united country to win their rights, the 'man' says every youth, including him, was misled by politicians of a by-gone era.Calling himself a victim, he says, youth who had different dreams in life got 'trapped' in Eelam and destroyed their future.

"When I passed the Advanced Level examination, I dreamt of becoming a Police Inspector. When I got into the university, my dream was to become a Government Agent. I had all these dreams because I love my motherland and I wanted to serve my people. But the then political environment which poisoned youth like us shattered my dreams and it made us to dream of another country for the Tamils. I joined another youth, Vellupillai Prabhakaran to achieve our dream - Eelam.

We worked hard but we failed. Now it's time to agree with the truth and act accordingly", the man who smuggled arms for over two decades to make the 'outfit' which turned out to be one of the world's most ruthless terrorist organisations, said.

Shanmugam Kumaran Tharmalingam known as KP, tagged as one of the wanted men in the world for his involvement in arms procurement has drawn a new plan to achieve his childhood dream - serving people- while living under protective hands in Colombo, where he was brought from Malaysia in a dramatic 'arrest'.

The terror outfit is proscribed as a terrorist organisation in 32 countries, identified as the new leader of the LTTE after the demise of Prahakaran at the Nanthikadal lagoon in May 2009, KP says he is in fear when he see the people of the Wanni who were virtually dragged into the 'stone age' by the LTTE.

He has travelled to over 50 countries to coordinate the terror outfit's arms procurement network, he sheds copious tears as to what crime children committed to suffer the way they did.

"Most of them have never seen a chocolate in their lives", the fair-skinned man with sharp eyes became so emotional and couldn't control his tears.

"Do you now feel that you are partly responsible for this heinous crime?, I asked.

With tears rolling down he says, 'yes' "Thousands of people died, became disabled and sacrificed their future. Thousands of children became orphans. I am very sad when I see them as I am also responsible for what they suffering today. When I was in Malaysia, I saw how people were running for their lives, I cried a lot", KP, who is into Buddhist meditation, said.

KP, who now calls himself a person who has 'purified' his 'poisoned' mind says: "Be a Sri Lankan rather than calling yourself a Sinhalese, Tamil or Muslim.

We belong to a united country and let's get together to bring a new peaceful era". Time to time he goes through a small note book, in which he had jotted down the important points which he wants to highlight.

Many know who KP is and his involvement in turning the LTTE into a ruthless terrorist outfit. But only a few know what exactly KP aspires now in his mid 50s and what the Tamils, whom he thought need a separate country, want today.

A father of a teenage girl and married to a Thai woman, he was introduced to Buddhism by his wife, who he says is now the happiest person as he is on the correct path. KP says he will sacrifice his life to fulfill his new dream - to see the children of the Wanni live happily and well.

Here is an exclusive discussion with him to feel his pulse at a time when the LTTE has been decimated.

Q: Though you seem to be a changed man, a section of the Tamil diaspora is still propagating separatism. How do you feel about them?

A: The Tamil diaspora can be divided into three segments - first, second and third generation diaspora. In the 1980s, the first generation diaspora brought the proposal of Eelam but Appapillai Amirthalingam (He was assassinated by the Tamil Tigers, later), the former Leader of the Opposition, rejected it saying it was not the right way to win the rights of the Tamils.

He said as the leader of the Tamil people he has to lead them in the correct path. He said he could not dance to the tune of those living abroad as they just demand a separate state.

Again the idea of Eelam was propped up by the Tamil diaspora when the LTTE was there and they were misled.

Now there is no concept called Eelam. Everyone has dreams. ( He laughs) but how many can realise their dreams. They remain as dreams. As human beings we have to accept our failures and with experience we have to adjust to the present. It is a good lesson and now in this united Sri Lanka we have to think anew.

I have adjusted my dream and now I am living in a new dream to give a better future to the younger generation of this country. I dreamt of serving my people as an Inspector in the police.

Now I dream again to serve my motherland and to set an example to the world as a country full of peace and development.

It is true, that we fought against each other at one time, but now it is time to show that we are working together to develop the country. Otherwise what are we going to offer to the future generation. I have visited over 50 countries and our country is way behind.

When I go to the Wanni I cry, questioning myself as to what mistake these people have done to be born in this land to suffer. What is the future for them. Half of the responsibility of giving these children and youth a good education, health and other facilities for them to boom, lies in the hands of politicians. They can't be misled this time around.

The Tamil diaspora belongs to the other half which is responsible to create a peaceful environment for them and they should not neglect them.

Q: You have travelled around the country and seen the situation in the North. Though you said the Tamil diaspora has a greater responsibility in the post-conflict era, their contribution is still not significant maybe due to lapses in conveying the true picture. How do you think you can get involved in this?

A: We have already arranged several trips to the North where the third generation Tamil Diaspora children were taken to see life there.

These children are living in the West but they are unaware of ground realities. They know they belong to Sri Lanka but have been brainwashed by pro-LTTE segments. These children were born and bred in different cultures and never visited Sri Lanka for a long time. The LTTE formed the Tamil Youth Organization (TYO) and brain-washed most of these youth. Now what we try to do is to bring them here to allow them to see the reality.

A daughter of a friend of mine came here and she cried when she saw the children in the North who have suffered immensely. She left the country with the determination that she wanted to help these innocent children.

A few weeks ago we took some diaspora families and they were also in tears when they saw the children yearning for love.

When these children referred to them as amma ( mother) and akka (sister) they cried.

More than 30,000 to 40,000 diaspora members will visit the North. They will then see the reality. Misinformation and the LTTE has poisoned them.

Q: Why didn't you have this same feeling before you were 'brought' to Sri Lanka?

A: People doubt me when I talk negatively about the LTTE now. But I am telling the truth. Some years ago I felt that the LTTE was not genuine. Three years ago when I was in Malaysia, I had spoken against poisoning the youth with separatism ideas. I told them that I was worried about how some Tamil groups were using their children abroad to achieve their own benefits.

Q: If you divide the Tamil diaspora, how many still support the LTTE cause?

A: Yes, the pro-LTTE Tamil Diaspora, are only 10 percent. They hang on to Eelam and paint a different picture for their own benefit. They are aware that the LTTE and Prabakaran are no more. They also know that they can't promote the Tamil Eelam concept as it is dead now, but revive Eelam issue. This is a survival game. They have money, media, political power and help in the West.

This ten percent is active, another 50 percent listen to their propaganda and the rest are groping in the dark as they don't have information about ground realities in the North.

Q: What is your role in this process where we need to enlighten them about reality?

A: As I have explained before we have organised several trips for the Tamil diaspora to witness the reality.

We have websites and newspapers in the West like the UK and Canada to publish success stories. Some are convinced and have conveyed their willingness to support us. About four to five diaspora persons contact me and visit monthly to join in our endeavour. They want to take part in the process. Only with their support we can run the projects well. The logistic support is provided by the Ministry of Defence.

Q: Don't you think the support from the Tamil diaspora is insufficient?

A: Yes. But during this three-year period we have done a lot to convince them. We have a dream and need a mega project for the welfare of the war-affected people. Though support is insufficient we have to commence work at some point. We have over 80,000 war affected widows, unemployed youth, poor education facilities and areas that need to be developed. The support coming to us is slow, but we are trying to tap them.

The organisation - North-East Rehabilitation and Development Organisation (NERDO), set up to look after the welfare of the people in the North and the East is just one-year-old. At the beginning many criticised us, but now they have understood our mission.

We are involved in several projects to help children, widows, displaced people, students, disabled, ex-LTTE cadres and all other people.

Our projects include building orphanages, vocational training centres, model farms, and many other projects. We invite well-wishers to help in these projects.

NERDO also provides counselling to people affected psychologically. The goal is to rehabilitate them to have a productive and harmonious life.

I think education is a paramount factor in rebuilding the North and East. We have given maximum concern to uplift education. My dream is to send every child to school and I want to see them come out as educated people.

Q: What is your comment about the development taking place in the North and East, which was given top priority by the government. According to your assessment what more is there to be done?

A: I appreciate the Government for developing the North and the East within these three-years. We have to encourage the Government to do more. Post conflict development is not easy and it takes time to regain. It also needs hard work and need the support of all segments.

Earlier it took three hours to reach Mullaitivu from Mankulam, but I am happy to say that today it takes only one and a half hours. There was no electricity, water and other infrastructure facilities last year, but today people are happy as they are in the door step to development. It is vital to have people-oriented programs to uplift their living standards.

I suggest to open special economic zones similar to China, where they give priority to industries unique to each area. I personally feel this is one of the best options to reduce unemployment in the North and the East.

The Government needs to have plans to stop Indian fishermen poaching in Sri Lankan waters. In Mullaitivu and Jaffna, fishermen have become unemployed as Indian fishermen intrude the waters. The sophisticated Indian trawlers over-harvest and it is a big problem now.

Unity among all communities is paramount for development.

Q: You said you are a changed man now. How do you define this change?

A: When I say I am a changed man, it comes from my heart. For the first time in my life I got a chance to meet Sinhala friends. I never had a chance to live with them.

When I was a student I came to the South, but at that time I had a negative picture about the Sinhalese.

When I heard that I was to be handed over to Defence Secretary, Gotabaya Rajapaksa I thought he would end my life. But as soon as I met him I felt the warmth, friendliness and felt free and safe now that I am at home. When I was handed overs to a team to 'protect' me I had sleepless nights thinking that they would kill me at any given time.

But within a few days I began to call them 'Thambi' and they called me 'Anna'. It was sincere and came from the bottom of the hearts of both parties. They treated me like their older brother or like father. When I was sick they looked after me well.

This new encounter changed me for life. When I met wounded soldiers, ex-cadres and the Vanni people I felt so sorry and I blamed everyone who made us fight and made these innocent people suffer.

At the beginning I thought I was under house arrest and there was nothing that I could do to heal these souls. But I was determined that I should do some thing as I still love my country, its people and its beauty.

I gave this idea to the Defence Secretary that I wanted to start some humanitarian projects. He simply said 'go ahead'. Then I thought to myself that if the Government was suspicious of me and hated me they would say 'No', and all this caused a huge change in me.

I was ready to die for my motherland and now there is no change in this stance. No one influenced me to change and the process in which I am undergoing now helps me to 'purify' my thinking.

Q: The Indian Government has cautioned that LTTEers were trying to re-group. Can they make a comeback?

A: (Laughing) Eelam and the LTTE is over. It is a difficult task for them to re-group. Nature will not permit anyone to divide this country. Different kings ruled this country, but it remained as one for centuries.

If somebody tries to divide Sri Lanka, nature will punish them and they will be destroyed. Hardcore LTTEers and their sympathisers in the Tamil diaspora still boast of a comeback, they are surviving because of these slogans, issues and incidents. Tamils in this country can't be fooled any more as they know the LTTE is a defunct outfit now. What the Tamils want now is peace, happiness and the money to live in a united country.

Q: According to intelligence findings the recent drama in the Vavuniya prison found links with the West to destabilise peace.

A: These are small incidents created by some interested parties for their own survival. This doesn't mean that the LTTE can ever make a comeback. I am sad as they are still taking the lives of these innocent boys to task. They are not well educated and can be easily misled.

When someone goes through a legal process, they need to have patience. The Government is working on their release and even I tried to get them released but there are some obstacles. It takes time.

When I was under high security, I felt I needed freedom and wanted to go out soon. But again I questioned myself as to why I needed to rush. Later I realised I needed patience to overcome this.

Q: People think that you are one of the richest men as you had access to all the LTTE funds. Are you really?

A: (Laughs) Do you think I am a wealthy man? No. I am a simple man. These are all rumours. From 2002 I didn't have links with the LTTE until 2009 January. Everything was with the others and also with the inner circle who handled LTTE funds and assets. They knew where LTTE funds were. I never did mistakes and the LTTE hierarchy knew it well. I lived according to my principles and I did the tasks entrusted to me honestly. That was why the LTTE called me back, but it was too late!

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