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FEATURE : I'm no traitor, says Perumal

By Shamindra Ferdinando (Sunday Island 10/09/00)

Ex- North East Chief Minister Varatharaja Perumal rejected the UNP’s claim that he had been a traitor and defended President Chandrika Kumaratunga’s controversial decision to accommodate him on the PA’s National List.

Perumal on March 1, 1990 declared the Free and Sovereign Democratic Republic of Eelam by moving a resolution in the North-East Provincial Council. Soon after the declaration, Perumal, over the telephone, told this reporter that he was prepared to meet any challenge by the State.

However, in an interview with The Sunday Island, on Friday Perumal said that he was forced to act to protect the interests of the people in the temporarily merged North-East province. 

"Remember, the then President Ranasinghe Premadasa was having his 14-month long "honeymoon" with the LTTE, the IPKF was about to leave and the UNP was on the verge on unleashing the LTTE on the EPRLF led administration", Perumal said adding that he was forced to declare an independent state.

But, just days later Perumal flew in an Indian aircraft out of Trincomalee. Hundreds of his supporters, the majority of them armed by the IPKF were killed by the LTTE. On the instructions of the then government, police and security forces turned a blind eye to the bloodbath.

After ten years abroad, Perumal shifted his base of operations from Rajasthan to Colombo in January last year after high level deliberations between Indian and Sri Lankan authorities. 

Perumal said that he returned from his self-imposed exile believing that the PA was determined to solve the ethnic crisis and he was keen to do whatever necessary to strengthen the hands of the president.

Commenting on ex-UNP MP Anura Bandaranaike’s claim that the late Prime Minister S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike would "turn in his grave" if he heard that Perumal is included on the PA National List, Perumal said that if the UNP was ready to talk with Velupillai Prabakaran who ordered the assassination of several top UNP leaders, they must not criticise his relationship with the PA.

Perumal pointed out that Bandaranaike appeared to have nothing against the LTTE despite the fact Velupillai Prabakaran almost succeeded in assassinating his own sister, Chandrika at the PA’s final presidential election campaign rally on December 18 night.

Talking of his links with the Indians, Perumal stressed that his relations with Sri Lankan and Indian leaders, will allow him to play a crucial role in the ongoing efforts to solve the ethnic crisis.

Perumal said that his inclusion on the National List was evidence that the PA was willing to accommodate moderate Tamil leaders as part of the government’s strategy to strengthen the anti-LTTE elements.

He scotched speculation that his Indian connection prompted the PA to accommodate him and also assure him a key role in the PA’s campaign in the North-East districts particularly Jaffna.

"We need India’s support to end the crisis," he said pointing out that he was confident of seeing Indian and Sri Lankan governments co-operating closely in this regard. Asked whether he was in touch with India, he said "Yes" and pointed out that as a politician he is in contact not only with Indians but many others.

Perumal was on record as far back as in August 1994, calling on the Tamils to vote for the PA at the general election. 

Perumal openly backed the PA’s last month’s abortive bid to pass controversial constitutional reforms. Asked to comment, he said that contrary to opposition claims, the Lankans and the international community back the proposed reforms. The international community see the proposed draft constitution as a step in the right direction, he said adding that he has no doubt that the people including those living in areas controlled by the LTTE will vote for candidates who support reforms.

Perumal intends to return to Jaffna next week to step up the PA’s campaign in the peninsula.


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