Ithayalal: “We have to solve the problems of Tamils within our country.”
The Crusaders for Democracy accept a united Sri Lanka but one with more rights for Tamils.
Former cadres of the now defunct Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) who have formed the Crusaders for Democracy (CFD) have been able to secure some slots in the local government bodies in the North and the East. CFD has urged the Tamil diaspora to leave their comfort zones and return to Sri Lanka to serve Tamils living in poverty and ex-LTTE cadres who lack employment opportunities.
In an interview with The Catamaran, CFDs international coordinator Thanabalasingam Ithayalal said they would fight politically to win the rights of Tamils in a united country, where all communities live together.
The Catamaran: Thanabalasingam Ithayalal can you explain the CFDs vision?
Ithayalal: The ex-LTTE cadres who have been released from prisons and rehabilitation centres formed the party. Out of over 12,500 ex-LTTE cadres who have been reintegrated into society, nearly 3,500 of them have become CFD members. Our main mission is to serve our people in the North and the East and also to create self employment opportunities for ex-LTTEers.
The Catamaran: Previously, when you announced your entry into mainstream politics, some people and the other Tamil political parties didn’t welcome you. What is the present situation?
Ithayalal: Yes, it is true. Initially, our own ex-LTTEers and Tamils in the North and the East looked at us suspiciously. They were a bit reluctant to join the CFD. But we worked hard to make them understand that we had entered into a democratic political path to gain our rights to engage in politics and also to be a voice to solve the problems of Tamils.
The Catamaran: What have you done so far to get their faith in the CFD?
Ithayalal: During our short stint of two-years in politics, we have found that restoring livelihood, education, lack of self employment opportunities, low motivation and also very low self-confidence levels are identified as major issues among Tamils and ex-LTTEers. After they were released from prisons and rehabilitation centres, they didn’t have job opportunities.
Therefore, we have started addressing these issues on a small-scale since we don’t have much financial backing. We have announced our vision on our green planet concept to grow more plants to minimize pollution. The CFD has started distributing plants – mango, coconut, king coconut etc- on every important celebrations and events in the North and the East to increase the green cover in those provinces. We have announced the CFD’s proposal to start some organic farms to increase self –employment opportunities for the ex-LTTEers, who have been mentally affected due to low self-confidence.
The Catamaran: Does the CFD have the support of the Tamil diaspora for your programs?
Ithayalal: We get support from the Tamils living abroad to support these people. We are not handling the money directly but give them the information about those who need support. At the moment, we don’t have any non-governmental organization set up at the CFD to handle finances for these programs. But we have plans to form such an NGO to assist the war widows, which accounted for over 25,000 according to our information. We also need to get government’s help to find jobs or self employment schemes for them. They have children and with no jobs they face lots of difficulties.
The Catamaran: Do you hope to expand your political party to other provinces?
Ithayalal: Yes, we also have plans to expand our political activities in the South. Presently, we are more concerned about increasing our membership in the North and the East. We will soon open an office in Colombo and have plans to work with the Sinhalese community. The CFD wants to connect the North and the East with the South politically, culturally and educationally.
The Catamaran: Why did you want to join with the Tamil National Alliance (TNA)?
Ithayalal: The TNA is one of the main Tamil political parties in Sri Lanka. When the LTTE was there, it wanted all the Tamil political parties to work together to serve Tamils. It is no secret that the TNA got the LTTE’s support to form the TNA as the LTTE wanted the TNA to represent Tamils in the Parliament. Earlier, even the TNA looked at us suspiciously as they were not aware who was backing us. The CFD realized that without a strong political footing we can’t serve people. Therefore, we joined the TNA to implement a plan collectively to address the issues among Tamils.
The Catamaran: The LTTE and the TNA, which is its shadow political party, had the idea of having a separate land for Tamils, which is Eelam. What is the CFD’s stance now?
Ithayalal: We, being the ex-LTTE have clearly announced that we don’t want a second arm’s struggle in this country.
Yes, earlier, the LTTE fought for a separate land for Tamils but now we want Tamils to live in a united country, where the rights of Tamils are guaranteed. What we now want is civil administrative system – police and other administrative bodies- with Tamil speaking officers, getting our land taken by the military and our own language practice in the North and East. We want to increase the number of Tamil speaking policemen in the North and East as our people can’t communicate in Sinhala or English. We also want the government to release the extra military camps in the North and the East.
The Catamaran: Can you comment on the support given by the Tamil disapora?
Ithayalal: Some individuals living abroad have financially helped some ex-LTTE and war-widows. Otherwise most of those who live abroad don’t support us.
While comfortably living in the US, UK, Canada, the European countries and Canada, there are people abroad who collect funds for the LTTE and put that money into their own pockets.
There are lots of NGOs formed to support Tamils and I want to ask those NGOs like the Global Tamil Forum (GTF) to declare what they have done so far for the Tamils. The GTF has formed an Eelam government with its Head of the State as Rudrakumaran and also a Cabinet of Ministers. They have their summer meetings in posh hotels spending millions while innocent Tamil children have no shoes, books, uniforms to study and no shelter. They walk miles and miles to schools under unbearable heat. I challenge them to quit their self-proclaimed posts and come to Sri Lanka to see how our people are suffering.
I lived abroad for 13-years and returned from Hong Kong with my family recently, as I want to help my people while living with them. We have to solve the problems of Tamils within our country – Sri Lanka.