YADAMARACHI, Sri Lanka, Jan 19, Reuter: Tamil Guerrillas Say they will continue their bloody hit and run campaign against Indian Troops until they have an Independent homeland in Sri Lanka.
“We are fighting for separation «nothing more, nothing less,” said Thepan, a local commander of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam In an interview at a rendezvous in the northern Jaffna Peninsula.
Three bodyguards with M16 rifles surrounded the 26 year old high school dropout who is in charge of the Tiger’s political wing in Vadamarachchi.
“We will fight to the last man ..to the last drop of blood,” said Thepan.
Rebel sources in Jaffna said the Tigers had recently purchased new weapons, recruited over 1,000 school boys and could fight on for another 10 years.
The Tigers rejected an India Sri Lanka pact signed in July, 1987, which was aimed at ending a six year old Tamil rebellion and which was accepted by other Rebel groups.
‘Since then the Tigers, the most powerful of the Tamil Guerrilla Groups, have been fighting 50,000 Indian Troops enforcing the agreement.
Ten thousand people have been killed so far in the campaign to set up an independent homeland in the north and east for 2.5 million minority Tamils.
Vadamarachchi, 25 km (15 miles) east of Jaffna, is the heartland of the Tigers their leaders grew up here and the Tiger campaign began here more than 20 years ago.
The Tigers commanded Jaffna town for nearly two years until Indian Troops ousted them in a month-long battle in October, 1987; the group is now on the run.
“We are fighting for our lives. The Indians are pitched everywhere. Our movements. Unlike before, are restricted,” Thepan said.
On this reporter’s last visit to the peninsula in November, 1986, Jaffna and its suburbs were swarming with Tiger Guerrillas. Now Indian soldiers are everywhere.
After making contact with an informant, more than 24 hours were spent at two villages waiting for the rebels. They came close to ‘one meeting place three times but moved off because of the presence of Indian soldiers nearby On one occasion the rebel group ran into a patrol and exchanged gunfire. There were no casualties.
When Thepan and his men arrived the occupants of the “safe house,” fed them drinks and sweetmeats.
The Guerrilla Leader said of the Indian Troops: “We can’t send them away. But we won’t allow them to kill all of us.” The Tigers rely on the support of the Tamil populace for their survival.
Residents keep watch for Indians as the rebels move around villages. “I must go for sentry duty,” said a villager after chatting with the visitors.
The pan says the Tigers will boycott next month’s Sri Lanka parliamentary poll. The group did not participate in provincial council elections last November or December’s Presidential election.
“We have requested the people not to vote. The choice is however theirs … we won’t force them,” he said.
He said the rebels would contest elections only after there was a permanent solution to their demands. “Also there must be peace before elections,” he said.
Thepan said it was still not late to work out a solution through negotiations.
“Though we are fighting for a separate state, we are willing to listen to any new proposals of the Indian and Sri Lankan governments, even from the new president, Ranasinghe Premadasa.”
Thepan said the Tigers would continue to fight Indian troops or Sri Lankan soldiers or “anyone who seeks to deprive us of our rights.”
But the guerrillas had no intention of attacking Indian military camps.
“We don’t have the firepower for that,” he said.
Article extracted from this publication >> January 27, 1989