A Sri Lankan Tamil militant group turned political party has urged the Tamil diaspora to be “realistic” to achieve a better political deal now that the Tamil Tigers are history.
The Eelam People’s Revolutionary Liberation Front (EPRLF) issued the appeal to the vast Tamil diaspora community spread around the world at a two-day conference that took place in Paris.
The EPRLF call comes amid intense churning in the Tamil community based outside Sri Lanka, many of whom used once backed the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in varying ways.
“The diaspora has to be realistic in defining a Tamil political solution,” an EPRLF leader told IANS on telephone from London. “The time has come when the politics of negativity has to be given up.
“Now that the war has ended, people must take a different approach (towards Tamil political issues),” he said. “Negative politics pursued by the LTTE and its supporters will only worsen the situation.”
The reference was to the still pro-LTTE section of the Tamil diaspora which continues to propagate the idea of an independent Tamil Eelam state to be carved out of Sri Lanka’s northeast.
The EPRLF was once a militant group which later presided over the provincial administration in Sri Lanka’s northeast when the Indian troops were deployed in the region in 1987-90.
The LTTE gunned down the EPRLF leadership in India’s Chennai city in 1990. Since then, the EPRLF has limped on. It has a member in the eastern provincial assembly but is otherwise a pale shadow of its former self.
But the EPRLF has teamed up with several similar Tamil groups and activists now to form what is known as “Tamil Arangam” - a grouping that seeks a better political deal for the Tamils within Sri Lanka.
Forty delegates from Sri Lanka, France, Britain, Switzerland and Germany gathered in Paris for the October 23-24 meeting that debated the situation in Sri Lanka and the vast Tamil diaspora community.
The Paris meet felt that the LTTE’s end was a blessing in disguise for the Tamils.
“If the war had not ended, it would have only caused more deaths and destruction,” said the EPRLF leader, providing a gist of the discussions.
The Tamil separatist campaign spearheaded by the LTTE claimed around 90,000 lives from 1983 till 2009, becoming one of the bloodiest sectarian conflicts in modern history.
A key speaker in Paris was Annamali Varadaraja Perumal, the former chief minister of Sri Lanka’s northeast who has moved back to his country after living in India for nearly two decades.
Perumal is playing a major role in the revival of the EPRLF in the north and east of Sri Lanka, reviving a network that got silenced when the LTTE dominated the region leaving no room for anyone else.
In recent months, the EPRLF has held 70-80 meetings, both in the Tamil-majority Northern Province and the multi-racial east where Tamils, Tamil-speaking Muslims and Sinhalese live in near equal numbers.
“We will try to engage the Sri Lankan government in a positive way,” said the EPRLF leader. “We have to persuade the government to act sensibly.” IANS