Photographs: Buddhika Weerasinghe/Reuters
Anthony Thasan was a child soldier with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in the 1980s. Disillusioned with the organisation as it quietly moved away from its core ideologies, he escaped from Sri Lanka and spent some time hiding in Thailand. In 1993, he moved to France. He was soon absorbed into left wing politics and started writing. His books include Gorilla, which he calls auto-fiction, and Mmm
He has also been taking on the LTTE's might on foreign shores, especially in Europe and has constantly exposed the organisation's extortion and violent activities in Europe.
In an interview with rediff.com's Krishnakumar P, Sri Lankan Tamil writer Shobasakthi talks about his one-time leader Prabhakaran, the organisation, and how the Diaspora views the present situation.
How has the Diaspora reacted to the news of Prabhakaran's death came?
However bad he might have been, it is a very sad thing. But what is even sadder is the way over-ground LTTE activists are playing with the facts here. They are spreading rumours that Prabhakaran is very much alive and that he will come back to lead the people. There are those who blindly believe them. What prevails here is confusion. A majority of the people do not know what or whom to believe.
'Struggle for equal rights will go on'
Photographs: Sri Lankan Government/Handout/Reuters
The struggle for equal rights for the Tamil people will go on. The first thing is that the lakhs of people, who have been internally displaced, must be rehabilitated immediately. They must be offered a defining and a lasting solution.
Second, there must be a thorough enquiry into civilian casualties. You can't try and hide the facts regarding the number of innocent civilians killed.
Third, there are a lot of innocent civilians who had escaped from LTTE strongholds and surrendered to the Sri Lankan authorities. They must be released and given a chance to resume their lives. They were never with the LTTE and were held back by the organisation by force. You can't be killing them in batches everyday
An organisation in whose ideology you believed in and were part of once has been crushed. How would you look back at the LTTE now?
It was supposed to have been a political organisation. But Prabhakaran walked away from that path about a decade ago. Whenever I talk of him I call him a warlord, because that was what he was for past many years.
The political organisation that I joined was killed more than a decade ago. It was their decision to become a militia and they have been crushed by the Sri Lankan Army. So, though I feel bad for the kind of loss of life that has been witnessed, I don't feel bad for the LTTE's end, because it is not like this is the end of the politics of the Tamil people.
'LTTE stopped caring for people a long time ago'
Of course! And what we saw in the final stages of the battle -- where they (LTTE) used innocent people as human shields -- was appalling. They were directly responsible for the killing of thousands of people who they claimed to protect! It is not that the Sri Lankan Army was entirely innocent, but the LTTE was at greater fault.
The LTTE had stopped caring for the people a long time ago. Their actions in the last stages only reaffirmed it.
Have you spoken to people back home? How are things in the camps now?
Many of my relatives are there. My elder sister and her entire family are in a camp in Vavuniya. We speak everyday. All that they can talk about is the horrors of the last few days of the battle when they were held as human shields. And it is not that these people chose to go with the Tigers willingly. They were virtually taken hostage.
There are also reports that the Tigers asked families to keep just one child and send the rest to battle. Even at the height of militancy, parents were asked to give one child to the cause
I was a child soldier. In my time, they would take away at the most two children from a family. If what you say is true, it is quite horrifying.
Where does the Diaspora stand?
They have been supporters. But they never bore the direct impact of the war. For many, it has been 25 years since they left all the nightmares behind and went to other countries. They do not know the pain. They blindly believed that the LTTE was the answer for all their ills. They were never interested in any alternative politics. Their mantra was 'Our leader will take care'. They were and are a confused lot.
'Where did the money collected from Diaspora go?'
Photographs: Luke MacGregor/Reuters
This confusion has been there for the past 25 years. Even three months ago, the LTTE's thugs had come and asked for funds. They claimed a ship will carry relief and aid from London to Sri Lanka. Like Britain, or even Sri Lanka would have allowed it!
Some people asked these guys, 'How do you plan to take the ship from London?' The only answer was, 'Our leader has ordered that this be done. He knows how to do it.' That was enough for the people to donate generously. Now when they have realised that there is no leader, they don't have any alternative in mind. They are paralysed.
So, the Diaspora has no plans for what is to be done now
That is a wrong question. You should first ask what happened to all the millions that have been extorted from the people. The big fight these days is who among the benamis will appropriate all the money that the LTTE had collected till now. You should remember LTTE is an extraordinarily rich organisation. There have been no checks and balances for what has been done with the money collected from the Diaspora.
The saddest and most shameful part is that this lobby has ensured that people can't even give a decent tribute to a dead man in whom they greatly believed in. If they confirm that Prabhakaran is dead then they can't earn any more in his name.
'Prabhakaran turned LTTE into a fascist organisation'
Photographs: Charles Platiau/Reuters
There was a massive protest organized in London recently. More than 1,00,000 people attended it. At least 10,000 bought the Eelam flag. Each cost 10 pounds. In your currency, that is like a total of Rs 1 crore. Now, will someone tell us where that money went?
These benamis and operators of the LTTE are worse than termites.
But, will the common Sri Lankan Tamil go back to his homeland if a conducive environment is provided?
They are all leading a comfortable life here. Their children are European citizens and speak French, Dutch etc. They won't give all this up and go back. Most of these people did not flee Sri Lanka because of the war. It is like people from Kerala go to the Gulf nations. They came here for a better life and opportunities. There is nothing for these people back home in Sri Lanka.
Finally, what do you think is Prabhakaran's biggest mistake?
I haven't faced a tougher question in my life. For, he has committed so many mistakes. But the biggest, in my book, would be the fact that he killed the political dream of the Tamil people.
Till the mid 1980s, the Tamil youth were politically very forward-looking. He changed that made them mere foot soldiers for the militia of a fascist organisation.