Sri Lanka: Tamil Tigers ready to negotiate

The legendary guerrilla leader, who for thirty years had led the Freedom Tigers of Tamil Eelam (homeland), Velupillai Prabhakaran, has for the first time renounced his claim for independence of the provinces in which the Tamil population are in a majority.

These are provinces in the north of the country, the centre and south being populated by Singhalese, the main ethnic group on the island. The declaration was made by the rebel leader 8 days before the general election.

Prabhakaran declared that the Tamil Tigers do not claim independence, but autonomy and placed himself at the disposal of the government for negotiations. He said that his organisation is “not terrorist, nor separatist”, but that “The Tamil population wants to keep its national identity and live in its own homeland, in an environment of peace and dignity”.

He explained that the Tamil population wants to determine its own political and economic affairs, “they want to be autonomous”.

This is the first time that Velupillai Prabhakaran has spoken about “autonomy” and not “independence” as a basis for negotiation with the government.

However, he warned that if the authorities “continue to refuse to solve the conflict, which has lasted for 30 years and has caused 60,000 deaths, by peaceful means”, then the Tamil Tigers will have no other option but to continue their armed struggle for their rights.

“If racism continues to predominate the guidelines of policy in this country, this will certainly create the conditions for an independent state to emerge”, he added.