Sparks fly in Tamil Nadu over Sri Lanka (Roundup)

April 20th, 2009 - 8:23 pm ICT by IANS  

Sonia Gandhi Chennai, April 20 (IANS) Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi Monday did a dramatic U-turn saying the Tamil Tigers were indeed a terrorist group, inviting the charge of being “the number one traitor to the Tamil race” from friend-turned-foe Vaiko.
A day after he reportedly declared that Velupillai Prabhakaran, founder leader of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), was not a terrorist, Karunanidhi claimed that he had been misquoted in the media.

As Tamil Nadu was hit by a political storm after Karunanidhi’s remarks Sunday, the veteran DMK chief said the LTTE started as a liberation group but turned terrorist later.

“They did not start off as a terrorist group. They began as a liberation group but it has now become a terrorist organisation,” Times Now TV quoted him as saying Monday.

Karunanidhi also insisted that no one had forgotten Sriperumbudur - the small town near Chennai where a Tamil Tigers suicide bomber blew up former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi at an election rally in May 1991.

“We have not forgotten Sriperumbudur,” the chief minister said, speaking in Tamil.

He, however, maintained that he would keep asking for a ceasefire in Sri Lanka, where the military is preparing to overwhelm the last LTTE bastion in Mullaitivu district amid growing fears of bloodbath.

Karunanidhi’s flip-flop drew instant condemnation from Vaiko, once a lieutenant of Karunanidhi and now leader of the MDMK who described the DMK chief as “the number one traitor to the Tamil race”.

Speaking to reporters here, Vaiko compared the deaths caused by the military offensive against the LTTE to the holocaust during World War II.

Vaiko also accused New Delhi of covertly helping Colombo to pave the way for the current offensive that has left the LTTE struggling to survive in a small strip of coastal belt in Mullaitivu district.

Alleging that nearly 2,000 Tamils had been killed in recent times, he said that most of them were innocent civilians.

“(These are) murderous, barbaric attacks … against the Tamils. For this holocaust, the UPA (United Progressive Alliance) government led by the Congress party is fully responsible.

“(UPA chairperson and Congress president) Sonia Gandhi is solely responsible. They have planned this for all these five years; they have given all logistic support, given military information (to Sri Lanka), satellite information…

“They have destroyed the ships which carried material for the LTTE. The Indian Navy helped the Sri Lankan Navy to destroy these ships. Today, much blood of Tamils has been shed. This is due to the assistance of the Indian government.

“It is a pre-planned, pre-meditated military offensive, engineered and planned by the Indian government. Therefore, for the loss of lives of Tamils, for the loss of every Tamil blood, the Congress will never be forgiven, for posterity.”

Vaiko, one of the most vocal supporters of the LTTE in Tamil Nadu, came down heavily on Karunanidhi, who Monday clarified that he still considered Prabhakaran a terrorist. A day earlier, the DMK chief had called the LTTE leader a friend whose death he would regret.

“Karunanidhi has become the number one traitor to the Tamil race… He has been totally silent. (All these years) he played a drama.

“Had he really put pressure on the UPA government, it would have prevailed upon (Sri Lankan President Mahinda) Rajapaksa (to stop the killings).”

Karunanidhi’s latest statement came as the Congress, which props the DMK government in Tamil Nadu and which is his sole major ally in the Lok Sabha elections, insisted that the LTTE was very much a terror outfit.

Congress leader Kapil Sibal expressed his party’s annoyance on the issue.

“What Karunanidhiji said is his personal view. According to the government of India, the LTTE is a banned terrorist organisation,” Sibal said.

Added Congress spokesman Abhishek Singhvi: “Prabhakaran is a terrorist … and LTTE is a proscribed terrorist organisation.”

The conflict in Sri Lanka has become a major campaign theme in Tamil Nadu, a state of nearly 70 million Tamils separated from the island nation by a narrow strip of sea.

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