LTTE use of donor funds for arms will not be tolerated — Chandrahasan

by K. T. Rajasingham
"We will neither tolerate nor allow those very destructive forces, which were responsible for the destruction of the country, to divide the donor-booty between them". This was declared emphatically by S. C. Chandrahasan of the Organisation For Eelam Refugees Rehabilitation (OFERR) and of the Protection of Eelam Tamils against Genocide (ProTeg), the two non-governmental organisations based in Chennai, Tamil Nadu.

He added that the donor countries disbursed large sums of money to rebuild the country and for the rehabilitation of the refugees. And this money, he said, must be utilised for the very purpose it was donated and not for the LTTE to lay their hands on those funds. We will marshal the support of the international community and the rights groups, which support just and genuine causes and show our stiffest opposition to such evil designs by the Tigers and by the Sri Lankan government.

Chandrahasan, a lawyer by profession, is the son of the great national leader late S. J. V. Chelvanayagam of the Federal Party and later Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF).

On 19 May 1982, when Velupillai Prabhakaran, the present leader of the LTTE was involved in a gun duel with Uma Maheswaran, at Pondy bazaar, Chennai, who was then the leader of the LTTE, over a buxom young Tamil widow Urmila. Subsequently, the Police of the Tamil Nadu state arrested both.

Thiruvenkadam Velupillai, the father of Prabhakaran, immediately contacted Chandrahasan to save his son from being deported to Sri Lanka. Chandrahasan, a leading member of the TULF, agreed to help Velupillai. He readily rushed to Chennai to stop the deportation of Prabhakaran into the hands of the Sri Lankan government and the police, who was slapped with various charges including attempt to murder, and the violations of the Indian Explosive Act and Arms Act.

In Chennai Chandrahasan met Muthuvel Karunanithi, who was then an ally of Indira Gandhi, the Prime Minister of India. Subsequently, Karunanithi deputed an emissary to Indira Gandhi with Chanthrahasn’s request and the Indian Prime Minister promised that Uma Maheswaran and Prabhakaran would not be deported to Sri Lanka, as requested by the Government of Sri Lanka. Thus Chandrahasan prevented Prabhakaran from being deported, tortured and from being even killed legally by the Sri Lankan government or from experiencing the cruel fate Thangathurai and Kuttimani underwent.

On 19 December, the Tamil Service of the BBC - Tamil Osai, contacted Chandrahasan for his comments about the Tamil refugees and the proposed United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) — sponsored conference, at Kilinochchi, on 20 December.

The BBC contacted Chandrahasan regarding the proposed meeting of the sub-committee by the UNHCR, for which ambassadors of Japan, Norway, India and representatives of the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE had been invited. The meeting was to discuss the resettlement of refugees presently in India.

But the High Commissioner for India in Colombo informed the UNHCR that India would not take part in any meeting attended by the terrorist LTTE.

At the above backdrop, BBC contacted Chandrahasan and asked for his comments about the 100,000 and more Sri Lankan Tamil refugees, scattered over 80 refugee camps located all over Tamil Nadu, with whom Chandrahasan has been associated since 1982 in working for their welfare.

Chandrahasan said: "Generally the refugees over here (Tamil Nadu, India) are receive news about what is happening in the country (Sri Lanka). Through those disseminated news, they are able to understand what is happening in their own villages.

"They are also able to understand very clearly about the position regarding the high-security zone at Valikamam-North and about more than 100,000 people who are still unable to return to their homes and about their plight of continuing to remain as internally displaced persons.

"They receive feedbacks, on the one side about the harassments people undergo under the Army and on the other side, about the Tigers levying taxes. Therefore, when referring to peace, they expect that kind of peace, where human rights are respected.

"They are not ready to think of returning to an environment where the rule of the jungle prevails according to whims and fancies of individuals.

Question: "At the proposed meeting at Vanni tomorrow (20 December) , organised by the UNHCR, Norway, Japan and India were invited to participate. But the Indian High Commissioner in Colombo has said that, he would not participate in the meeting that would be held in Vanni. Do you think that the Indian diplomat’s refusal might jeopardize the return of the refugees. What do you think of this?

S. C. Chandrahasan: "First of all, we all are unable to understand the very justification behind holding this meeting? Refugees returning to their homeland is their basic right. Their return won’t be based on any reliance on the Tigers or on the Government.

Therefore, they (UNHCR) should try to ascertain the wishes of the people over here, but we are at a loss as to understand why the UNHCR is trying obtain permission from those people over there and why it is trying to talk with them?

Question: "May be because, as the concerned area is under their control, they (UNHCR) might have come forward to talk with them?

S. C. Chandrahasan: "The meaning of the word control may be considered, in case a government elected by the people governs; then it may be reasonable to some extent, to contact and negotiate with that government.

"Here (in Sri lanka) after an ethnic genocide, there was an outburst of armed conflict and based on such high frenzied catastrophe, the Army and the Tigers have apportioned the country and are holding control of those portions coming under their sway. Therefore, in this situation, we feel it is wrong on the part of the UNHCR to function with such motive of accepting them.

Question: "Are you planning to take up this matter separately with the UN?

S. C. Chandrahasan: "Yes. When we met them yesterday, we told them very clearly about this. For the rehabilitation of the refugees, countries in the world have come forward to donate large sums of money. The Sri Lanka Government and the Tigers are trying to get hold of those huge sums of money given by the donor countries and split them in between them.

"The donor countries with the view to rebuild the country through these very affected people, donated large sums of money. Therefore, we will never agree, tolerate or allow those who are responsible for the destruction of the country to divide the donor-booty between themselves. We will show our stiffest opposition for such evil designs of those destructive forces."

Meanwhile, the UNHCR conference scheduled for 20 December in Killinochchi on the repatriation of Sri Lankan refugees in Tamil Nadu was postponed due to flooding in the Wanni, a UNHCR spokesperson said.

"The flooding in the Wanni forced the conference to be put off for the next month," the UNHCR spokeswoman Branda Barrette told a Colombo based newspaper.