Features
Ominous Tamil Pongu:
A sinister Trojan Horse

 

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A cutout at the entrance of the Trincomalee Pongu venue

by K. Godage
Former Ambassador
The ‘Pongu’ in Trincomalee would no doubt have been considered a resounding success by the LTTE. It was indeed impressive. This was the fourth such event. Though it is claimed that these ‘Pongus’ are held to promote peace and harmony in the country and to help promote the peace process, its primary objective appears to be to create the ambience necessary to inspire and encourage young men and women to join the movement. The Pongus appear to be also intended to demonstrate to the international community and the people of this country the support they enjoy among the Tamil people. I shall not be surprised if they take the ‘circus’ to London, Paris and other western capitals in an effort to project of themselves as a movement respecting Human Rights and committed to Democracy!

Trincomalee is a district where the Tamils are only the second largest ethnic group, they number 112 000, the Muslims number 137 000 and the Sinhalese 104 000; the total population of the district being around 353 000. There are 11 AGA or Divisional Secretary Divisions and the Tamils are in a majority in only two of them, in ‘Town and Gavets’ where they number 60,000 and in Eachchellam-paththu where they number 9,200; in Muthur where the Muslims number 31 000 the Tamils number 25 000. The Muslims form the majority in four divisions and the Sinhalese who number 22 000 in ‘Town and Gavets’ form the majority in five Divisions. It would therefore be seen that Trincomalee is ethnically a balanced district. In these circumstances for Trinco to be the capital of a Tamil Provincial Council seems incongruous. The ethnic balance also does not subscribe to it being linked to the Northern Province.

As for the district being a part of the exclusive homeland of the Tamils, not only does the population statistics disprove it, but the wealth of ancient archeological remains, all Buddhist, give the lie to the claim. To name but a few: 1) The Purana Raja Maha Vihare in Gomankadawela (2) The Ridi-kanda Raja Maha Vihare, built by King Agbo V1, (3) The Kanda-malawe Raja Maha Vihare built by King Saddhatissa, (4) Ulapanekulame Raja Maha Vihare (5) The Swarnamali Raja Maha Vihare (6) The Welgam Vihare. There are also many other archeological sites in the district which gives the lie to the ‘Traditional Homeland" theory. Further even during the time of the Kingdom in Jaffna, which had been in existence at the time the Portuguese arrived in this country, the Kingdom did NOT extend to the East. The East had at all times been ruled by the Sinhalese Kings.

To revert to the subject of the ‘Pongu’ held in Trincomalee, its organization, as stated earlier, was most impressive, even the smallest of details was taken care of and the meeting itself was conducted with military precision. They pulled in a crowd of (a guesstimated) 50,000, impressive by itself but it must be set against the Tamil population within the ‘Town and Gavets’ which approximates to 60,000 and the Tamil population in the district which is put at 112 000. How many came voluntarily and how many were compelled to come is another issue. School Principals were ‘required’ to close schools and bring the children to the ‘Pongu’. The ferry service which is owned by the government was compelled to run a free service on this day and brought in thousands from Muthur including hundreds of school children to whom the trip, the first in a ferry for almost all of them was more in the nature of school outing. (I returned from Muthur the day previous to the Pongu on the ferry with hundreds of them). The Grama Sevakas in Tamil dominated areas were ordered to bring people to the Pongu. Whatever may have been the level of coercion, it must be stated that almost all Tamils now support the LTTE, whether it is through fear or through conviction I do not know.

Many Tamils I spoke to feel alienated from the Sinhalese and the rest of the country. One of them even went to the extent of saying that he could never bring himself to refer to himself as a Sri Lankan. "I was born in Ceylon and I am a Ceylonese, I feel more comfortable to be a member of the multi-ethnic Ceylonese nation than to be referred to as a Sri Lankan, which to my mind, is being a part of the Sinhale", he stated. Such is the feeling of alienation felt by Tamils, which has probably driven them into the arms of the LTTE.

To revert to Trinco and the Pongu, no government office functioned, all shops in the town including bars were closed on the orders of the LTTE on the day of the Pongal. The only hotel in town did not serve any form of liquor either. ‘Three wheelers’, other than those reserved for LTTE officials were not permitted to operate. Journalists were required to obtain ‘Press Accreditation’ from the LTTE’s Press office, government Information Department Press Pass was not recognized.

The objectives of the Pongu appeared to be —

1. To demonstrate to the Government, the international community and the people in the south the support they enjoy and their ability to mobilize people; This would help their recruitment effort.

Comment:

I was reliably informed that the LTTE’s recruitment drive has been quite successful. They are also conscripting one from each family so that everyone would be a ‘stake-holder’ in their so called ‘liberation struggle’.

2. To flag their intention to make Trincomalee the capital of Eelam or the autonomous province, the North-East

Comment:

A ‘North-East Province’ was something which we never had, it is an artificial creation of Tamil politicians who know that their separate state can never be viable without the Port of Trincomalee. The Indians and that man

Dixshit, without any understanding of our history, supported the Tamil demand. They virtually held a gun to the head of President Jayewardene after their infamous exercise in intimidation and bullying—the parippu drop, and forced him to accept not only the concept of a ‘North-East", (incidentally the Indians have a North-East) but also the making of Trinco the Capital of the merged province. In keeping with the norms and spirit of Democracy we MUST hold an internationally supervised Referendum to find out from the people who are sovereign, as to whether they wish to merge the Eastern Province with the Northern Province. We cannot sacrifice the minority Muslims (and the Sinhalese in the Province which was never a part of any ‘homeland’ of any particular community) for the sake of political expediency.

3. To appeal to the international community to revise their opinion of them as terrorists "we are not a bunch of trigger happy terrorists" read one poster.

Comment:

The LTTE and their leader Prabhakaran appear to suffer from acute attacks of Amnesia. Prabhakaran in his heroes day message stated that theirs is a liberation struggle and that they do not "indulge in acts of blind terrorism based on hatred and fanaticism". This was indeed a callous statement. And now we have his murderous minions also claiming that they do not commit acts of terror against innocent civilians. They have conveniently forgotten, (to name but a few massacres) the mowing down of 144 Muslims as they prayed at two mosques in Kathankudy, the Eravur massacre also of Muslims, the lining up and shooting down in cold blood of over one hundred Buddhist monks at Aranthalawa, the murder of 640 Policemen who surrendered to them on the orders of Premadasa, everyone of them had been shot at close range in the head, when the bodies were exhumed some had been buried head down and all of them with their hands tied at the back. The Gonagala massacre two years ago when they hacked to death 44 villagers men — women and children including three pregnant women and two babies (they were not ‘trigger happy’ on that occasion, they were machete happy. Do we need to remind these now pious murderers of the massacre at the Anuradhapura where they shot dead pilgrims as they meditated under the sacred Bodhi Tree, or the bombing of the Central Bank or of the Pettah Bomb? In each instance hundreds of civilians were killed, besides those maimed for life.

4. They seek to project a new image of the LTTE as an organisation committed to respecting Human Rights and Democracy! "The international community has a wrong impression about us" stated a participant.

Comment:

This is obviously aimed at having the proscription imposed by western countries lifted. The freezing of their accounts overseas has put them in a most difficult situation. Hence it is that they are raising money through extortion, hostage taking and what they deem to be donations.

The speakers at the Pongu included Cabinet Minister Chandrasekeran. He is a man who must indeed come in for special mention. A Cabinet Minister, Chandrasekeran, has forgotten that he has taken an oath under the 6th Amendment. At the Pongu in Vavuniya he had pledged the support of 1.4 million ‘Hill country Tamils’ for the establishment of Eelam. On that occasion he had stated, and I quote from a letter published in the Sunday Island of 10th March, "We 1.4 million Tamil people of the hill country support the struggle of the Tamil people for a separate state. We too demand the right to self determination, we belong to the Tamil nation and should have our own homeland". At Trinco he was more cautious but his words were ominous for he pledged his loyalty to the so-called "struggle’. Another speaker, Shivagilingam, a TULF MP stated " this is a national liberation movement , we are solidly behind the LTTE. This is the last chance for the government. If the negotiations fail the armed struggle will recommence and this time no force on earth can prevent the establishment of Eelam".

A speaker identified as "our Angpara representative" stated "We have now a Tamil national army. There will not be any de-commissioning of our weapons". Krishnapillai, MP who has been compelled to give a son (one of three) to the LTTE, appealed to Douglas Devananda and Vartharaja Perumal to "come over to our side and swear allegiance to our leader". (Prabhakaran’s name was never mentioned by any speaker-He is now referred to as "our Leader"-. I was told that it is disrespectful to refer to him by name!)

Our old friend Sambandan MP, a one time close friend and associate of the late Amirthalingam, Yogeswaran Sam Thambimuttu, Thangathurai and Neelan Thiruchelvam, (all of whom were assassinated by the LTTE) was the last speaker for the day was most conciliatory. He stated that the Tamil movement led by the LTTE was a national peoples movement. All Tamils he stated "are united in the present phaze, there are no divisions". He further stated that "we will accept any solution which embodies the following: (The Thimpu principles)

1) the recognition of the Tamils as a nation

2) that we have a homeland

3) Our right to self-determination.

He concluded his speech by stating "the Sinhalese are worried about the turn of events, but let me assure them that they will enjoy all the rights they presently enjoy".

In conclusion let me set out the Resolutions that were adopted through all the participants at the Pongu raising their right hands and repeating the words of each resolution (on this occasion they carefully refrained from the Hitlerian Salute and repeating the name of Prabhakaran as they did at the previous Pongus. This was no doubt because the Hitler salute, a Freudian slip no doubt, did not go down well with the international community).

1. "We are committed to Human Rights and Democracy, the international community must accept this "

2. "Peace with dignity is our goal"

3. "The LTTE is our sole representative"

4. We shall always remember our matrys. They are the seeds of our revolution. We must not fail them"

5. "We demand that the proscription be lifted in Sri Lanka and the rest of the world"

6. "We shall have our own Tamil National Army."

7. "Trincomalee shall be our capital city".

If the Pongu was intended to promote peace and harmony in the country and help the peace process this is certainly not the way to set about it. It was only the Pongu held in Nuwara Eliya that was dedicated to the peace process and that too was deliberate for it was closely monitored by the government.


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