17 May 2009

Exclusive interview: Tamil leaders concede defeat

Chief Correspondent

On the day that the Tamil Tigers conceded defeat after 26 years of war, a senior LTTE leader exclusively tells Channel 4 News its last fighters would lay down their arms, but will not surrender.

Shanmugam Kumaran Tharmalingam, also known as Selvarasa Pathmanathan, or Kumaran Pathmanathan (KP for short) was the leader of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) when the Tamil Tigers laid down their arms in May 2009.

The day after this interview was aired, images were released showing Velupillai Prabhakaran, the founder and leader of the Tamil Tigers, was shot dead in the final Sri Lankan push to defeat the rebels. KP was announced as his successor in July 2009, but was arrested on 5 August 2009 in a South Asian country. He gave his only face to face television interview to Channel 4 News.

Below is the full transcript of Alex Thomson’s exclusive telephone interview with KP on the day the LTTE soldiers conceded defeat.

Alex Thomson (AT): What is the latest situation for LTTE in Sri Lanka?

KP: Our organisation is ready to lay down its arms and participate in the peace process.

AT: How many cadres or soldiers are involved here?

KP: Less than 2000 cadres. They are in the perimeter area. We prepared to stop the war. Our people are dying. Every hour more than a hundred dying. More than 3000 die from yesterday. 25,000 wounded.

AT: These are civilians, yes?

KP: Yes.

Tamil Tigers flag (credit:Reuters)

AT: What are you calling on the Sri Lankan government to do?

KP: From yesterday we are calling on talks to stop the fighting and immediate ceasefire. We are ready to lay down the arms and participate in the peace process.

AT: Is this end of the war after all these wars?

KP: Yes we’d like to end this war.

AT: What do you say that the LTTE will continue fighting by other means, guerrilla war?

KP: I believe that over the 38 years we fight and only the civilian and human life are every day dying. The…in another 30 years will continue we don’t believe that – we believe in peaceful way for solution for Tamil people.

AT: What are the orders from the LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran?

KP: Prabhakaran actually ordered that. For 4 hours I talked to him – he passed this message to Sri Lanka Government and international players…and we are waiting for their answer. Until now no one give their answer or no one stop the war.

AT: Is Mr Prabhakaran still in this area in Sri Lanka?

KP: Yes sir.

AT: And you spoke to him from this surrounded area, and he is ready to surrender?

KP: Not surrender. We are lay down the arms not surrender.

AT: Why not surrender?

KP: Actually its mainly a thing…about security…we take arms for freedom struggle – why surrender to them. We ready to work with them not surrender.

“They don’t want to go to Sri Lanka forces. The government stop medicine and food. People are dying without.” Selvarasa Pathmanathan

AT: Why did LTTE take so many human shields and not allow them to leave?

KP: We never take the civilian with us. The civilian they are relative our family or the related. Or they don’t believe Sri Lankan army will give security to them. They don’t like to go to camp. As you know they torture and harassment. They don’t want to go to Sri Lanka forces. The government stop medicine and food. People are dying without. We asked – we sent 35,000 out ourselves. We don’t take human shield. It’s the wrong information. Wrong propaganda.

AT: So its not true then that LTTE cadres fired on civilians to prevent them leaving?

KP: Actually we never shoot them. Some crossfire happened. Why would we kill our own people?

AT: Can I ask about the two doctors who were giving interviews about the condition of the civilians. They have disappeared?

KP: Last night one doctor injured. We send them to the military side. And for the treatment. Acutally now I heard one doctor in Colombo for treatment other in military camp.

AT: To summarise, the condition of the commander Pr…LTTE are willing to lay down weapons but not surrender?

KP: Yes not surrender – willing to lay down arms not surrender.

AT: So is the war over or changing?

KP: War maybe over or changing to political way. Depending on few hours to see what going on. We are saying…willing to lay down arms…willing to lay down arms and find political solution for our nation.