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‘An alarming development’

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ABC: Mr. Anton Balasingham, welcome.

Balasingham: Thank you.

ABC: Now, you claim peace talks are in jeopardy because of this “shadow war” also being fought by Tamil paramilitaries controlled by the government. What evidence do you have of this?

Balasingham: We have provided quite a lot of evidence documentary evidence, maps and other details to the Sri Lankan government with regard to their existence and functions, with regard to their leadership, their command structure, the location of their camps in the government-controlled areas. And we have submitted ample evidence to substantiate that these groups are actively functioning with the Sri Lankan troops in their offensive military campaigns against the LTTE.

ABC: What makes you think the authorities can control them? Because they sound as if they’ve got a will of their own to fight you.

Balasingham: Most of these armed paramilitaries are operating in the government military establishments, in the military camps. So, if Rajapakse government genuinely wants peace, the escalation in normalcy, they can put an end to this violence by disarming these paramilitaries.

ABC: One of these paramilitary groups is run by Karuna, your former Eastern Commander. Why did Karuna defect?

Balasingham: He has been misbehaving in the sense that there has been a lot of complaints about misappropriation of funds. He has been involved in recruiting underage cadets, and he has been committing serious crimes against the Muslim population in the east.

What is disturbing is that the Sri Lankan armed forces are helping him, harbouring him, sustaining him and helping him in this subversive role against the LTTE. That is a most alarming development.

ABC: These Tamil paramilitary groups were once your people. They’ve turned against you, so doesn’t that mean you no longer can represent the Tamil community, that it’s now Tamil against Tamil?

Balasingham: We are not asking the government to disband the political structure of these organisations. Let them function as political organisations. But their armed wings have to be curtailed, and have to be dismantled, because it’s posing a serious challenge to the peace process.

ABC: You claim that one of these paramilitary groups is a Tamil Muslim Jihad group. What can you tell us about this group? Because the Muslims in the east deny their existence.

Balasingham: We know why the Muslim political organizations are denying, is the fact that because the international community will be seriously concerned if there is a Muslim terrorist organization functioning in Sri Lanka, with connections.

I think we have evidence to prove that this Jihad organization has connections with the Pakistani Military Intelligence. Therefore, they are formally denying it. But we have ample evidence, and we can further submit evidence if the Muslim leaders contact us.

ABC: But it beggars belief that any government would allow the growth of a Muslim Jihad group, and one with links to Pakistan, in this current international climate.

Balasingham: Yes, that is a dangerous thing. But the Sri Lankan government has a very good relationship with Pakistan and China, that is our worry. Because Sri Lanka has been getting military assistance and training from Pakistan. And also they have very close relationship with China.

So, we are seriously worried whether the intervention of Pakistan in this matter, in training and providing assistance to the Jihad movement, will have serious repercussions. It may have serious repercussions in India, if India comes to know more about these Jihad groups.

ABC: Dr Balasingham, is it any wonder that you’re having difficulties with this hard-line president? Because by boycotting the elections, you prevented the sympathetic candidate from gaining power.

Balasingham: We are prepared to deal with the hard-liners, rather than with the soft-liners who promise certain things and never fulfil anything. So, let us take up this challenge and negotiate with the hard-liners and see how far they will tackle the problem.

Our concern is to impress upon the international community that the real problem, the real impediment to the resolution of the Tamil problem are the Sinhalese hard-liners.

ABC: So, how can the international community put pressure on this government?

Balasingham: I think the international community can assert tremendous influence on the Sri Lankan political system, because the Sri Lankan government is totally depending on the foreign aid that is given by the aid-giving countries.

So, these co-chairs of the aid-giving countries of the international community can exert enough pressure on Sri Lankan political leaders to offer something reasonable, something fair to the Tamil people like this, at these last stages.

ABC: Dr Anton Balasingham, thank you.

Balasingham: Thank you very much.

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