‘I know the identity of the LTTE activist who killed my parents 22 years ago’ — Arun Thambimuttu

If I name him my three children could lose their father


By Sujeeva Nivunhella in London

Political activist from Batticaloa, Arun Thambimuttu has been threatened, abused and called as a ‘traitor’ by pro-LTTE lobbyists in the UK after he spoke at the Frontline Club debate on Sri Lanka last week. 

While BBC Hardtalk host Stephen Sackur chaired the debate, journalist, filmmaker and director of both Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields and Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields: War Crimes Unpunished, Callum Macrae, spokesperson for Tamils Aginst Genocide (TAG), Jan Jananayagam, Amnesty International’s Sri Lanka researcher, Yolanda Foster and adviser to the President on Reconciliation Professor, Rajiv Wijesinha MP were amongst the speakers.

Speaking at the debate Thambimuttu said that his father and mother were killed by the LTTE because his father opposed the LTTE ideology. His father, who was a member of parliament and his mother were killed in front of the Canadian High Commission 22 years ago.

He said that he knows the identity of the killer but would opt to refrain from taking any action against him as if the killer is punished, his three young children could lose their father. 

However, he said that 23 years ago he was kidnapped by the LTTE and he was shot at. "My crime was being born to my father. Intervention by many foreign countries especially the British High Commissioner in Colombo at the time David Gladstone played a significant role in my release. Within few months my mother and father were killed and I left Sri Lanka", Thambimuttu said.

He said, after finishing his studies in the UK and the war ended he went back Sri Lanka. "Now, back again people can walk about without fear. Fishermen can also fish at night", he noted.

He said the majority of the Tamils living abroad are economic migrants and not real refugees. "Some have contributed their hard-earned money to the LTTE in the hope of carving out a Tamil homeland, but their dream has been shattered".

"Unfortunately, 40,000 families in the district of Batticaloa have lost at least one member due to the LTTE and groups opposing them fighting each other. The Tamil community in the world and international community have their own agendas. Channel 4 and international media have their vested interests. Channel 4 won two awards. The media has changed. We all know that. That’s the reality."

 "When I was living in Baticaloa as a 10 year old, 119 Muslim worshipers were massacred. Grenades were thrown at the mosque and then the LTTE cadres went in and shot them in cold blood. In the same year, 114 Sinhala families were killed. Interestingly enough, it was a common knowledge after the incidents that the man who led the attacks went around the town of Batticaloa claiming "victory" and he is now living in Germany", Thambimuttu noted.

Likewise, many people who had committed atrocities are living around the world. Jan (of Amnesty International) is of course interested in genocide. She wants people who committed crimes against humanity prosecuted. There are many people who committed crimes against humanity on all sides.  The bottom line is that atrocities have been committed. I don’t think you can have any form of investigations. What has the international community done for 30 years?, he asked.

 "I believe that now in Tamil areas of Sri Lanka there is real prospect of reconciliation. Sinhalese are learning Tamil and Tamils are learning Sinhala. That works."

Callum Macrae quoted former President Chandrika Kumaratunge saying ‘continued denial and being abusive to critics would not resolve the problem’. Get the truth and get justice. That’s the key to any kind of reconciliation or any kind of key to the future. 

Macrae said, "Sri Lanka is one of the world’s dangerous places to be a journalist. Dozens of journalists were killed, disappeared or forced be into exile. When the film came out the reaction was quite astonishing. First of all simply deny the evidence saying the footage was fake. I think it is still the government’s official position. It is not fake because we have analyzed it very, very carefully by video technicians. The government also said that we have been paid five million Sterling Pounds by Tamil Tigers to make the film. It is nonsense. Unfortunately whether you like it or not, the story is true".

LLRC has not dealt with the allegations of war crimes. The international community has not responded as it should or could. The international community still remain to be tested."

 Rajiva Wijesinha said, "Channel 4 film is a fake. The UN asked for the original and C4 did not give it. Some scenes are doctored. There was a man with rubber slippers in the first film and when I pointed this out, in the next film the rubber slippers were edited. I wonder why the doctoring is necessary. The High Commission was asked to get the copy of the video but it was not given."

 "ICRC said the military could have won the war faster with the higher civilian casualties yet chose a slower approach which led to a greater number of Sri Lankan military deaths", he noted.

 Jan Jananayagam said, "My organization’s mandate is try to bring war crime perpetrators to justice. We have a case on going in the US against President Rajapaksa".

 Amnesty’s Yolanda Foster said, "Without doing a credible investigation, the government set up this ad-hoc commission which failed to hold any proper trial which leads to prosecution".

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