By Zahrah Imtiaz
Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan alias Karuna Amman has once again switched loyalties and this time it is in favour of the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) and its leader Anandasangaree. In an interview with Ceylon Today he describes this as a practical and necessary move if he is to continue to remain relevant in Sri Lankan politics.
? When you first broke away from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), you declared that all northern Tamil leaders, including the LTTE Leader Prabhakaran did not care for the Tamils in the East. But today you want to join the TULF and follow the leadership of Anandasangaree, another leader from the North?
A: As soon as I left the LTTE, I left the country and when I returned, I joined the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP). I was never involved with an armed group after that and for the last nine years I held the position of vice president in the SLFP. During that time, we did a lot of development and resettlement in the East. I closed the Wanni Camp and did a lot of work but the problem is that you need time to change the Tamil people. For example, they never appreciated the work done by the SLFP in the North and East. At the last election, no SLFPer was elected from the East. If I am to continue in politics in the East, I cannot continue with the SLFP. This is why I decided to join a Tamil political party. Out of the Tamil political parties, I wanted to select a good democratic party, and that was not the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), so I selected the TULF.
? During the last election, however, you asked the people to vote for the TNA and now you are saying the TULF is better. There are many contradictions here?
A: That was the situation at that time. Our SLFP chairman was not in favour of things then and he said things like he did not want Mahinda Rajapaksa to contest. There were big problems among them. So I thought, I would lend my support to the TNA. We need a Tamil leadership especially in the East to keep the balance. Now we have two Muslims and three Tamils representing the Batticaloa District in Parliament. Thus to keep the balance I asked my supporters to vote for the TNA. That is how the TNA got three members from Batticaloa in Parliament.
? Are your supporters not confused? First you ask them to support the SLFP, then TNA and now the TULF? Who do you really stand for?
A: It is not like that. There are no contradictions. I have never contested an election so far. I came to Parliament through the national list. I told the Tamil people, I am not going to come to you to canvass for any party. But at the last election I supported a Tamil party because we need to build up our future in politics. I want to change the mindset of the Tamil people, so that they do not vote based on ethnicity.
? The LTTE wiped out most of the TULF leadership and Anandasangaree was a prime target on their hit list. You were part of that outfit. Do you think the TULF party members will accept you with open arms?
A: There is no problem there. I have already had several negotiations with the TULF leader Anandasangaree. He has welcomed my suggestions. He was the number one target of the LTTE and he escaped death narrowly several times. That is why I like him. He saved the party. My situation is different. I rejected the LTTE and I broke away from them. I didn’t stay with them until the end of the war. There were problems between Anandasangaree and the LTTE. The people of the North and East want to move away from the war. We have to change our mindset towards peace and harmony. During the last election when former LTTE cadres contested, they were completely rejected by the people. This was because the people no longer want armed cadres. We have to go together with strong democratic parties. Hence I decided to go with the TULF.
? Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan alias Pillayan who also broke away from the LTTE around the same time you did has now been arrested for the suspected murder of Joseph Pararajasingham. What do you have to say about it?
A: After we broke away from the LTTE, he came with me but I went abroad and he started the Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal (TMVP) and worked with the government. When I came back, instead of joining them, I joined the SLFP. I had no dealings with them. We cannot criticize the actions of the Courts or law enforcement officers. The Courts will decide whether they are guilty or not. Who am I to say whether he is innocent or not? Only after the inquiry we will know the truth.
? All the old cases are now being dug up. You too were summoned to the Presidential Commission to inquire into the killing of 600 policemen in 1990. Are you worried about it?
A: No. It happened long time ago and the LTTE did it, but I was not involved in it. Most of the people involved are dead now and there are no witnesses left.
The point is that the past is dead. If anyone wants to dig up the past, many things will come up because a lot of Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims were killed. How can we build the future if we keep on digging up the past? We need to build a strong democratic future. The UN inquiry into human rights allegations also only focuses on the last stages of the war. They want answers to that and that is it. If we want to dig into the past, many things will come up like the Vadamarachchi operation where many soldiers were killed, the Kathankudi mosque massacre where many Muslims were killed and the killing of Tamils by the Army. A lot of ‘Masala killings’ happened then. A lot of bad things happened in the past.
? Even you have been accused of making people disappear. What have you got to say?
A: It’s true that my name has been linked with such cases, but I was not involved. They kept saying that the ‘Karuna Group’ was involved, but there is no ‘Karuna Group.’ The LTTE and media in support of the LTTE made such accusations to tarnish my image. Last month, Field Marshall Sarath Fonseka in an interview said, ‘Karuna never supported us and was never involved in the war.’ That is the answer. He openly told the media about it. I was not in the country at that time. Many people use my name to commit crimes. If there is an investigation, I am ready to face it.
? Were you ever pressurized to leave the SLFP? At the last general elections, you were not even given nominations?
A: I have no such issue. They asked me to contest, but I didn’t want to. At that time, if I had contested with the SLFP, I would have lost. I told them that I didn’t want to contest. There was no problem even with President Siresena as the SLFP Chairman. I was in the Central Committee and it was my personal decision.
? Many Tamil people have accused you of enjoying yourself in Colombo and its nightlife instead of working for the people in the East?
A: That is false propaganda. I have worked hard for the Eastern Province and the people know it. That is why they are asking me to contest now. Earlier only 40 p.c. in Batticaloa had electricity, today about 98 p.c. of households have electricity. I have built bridges and made drinking water available to areas which didn’t have such facilities before. If any disaster happens, I work there day and night for the people. This is unnecessary criticism. I have never gone to any night club or disco. I attend certain meetings, but I don’t mix with unnecessary people. I too have ambitions and want to do something for the Tamil people and that is why I am in politics.