Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Iyer's interview with D.R. Kaarthikeyan

Tigers stand self-condemned: DR Kaarthikeyan

It took 15 long years for one of the world's most dreaded terrorist groups -- the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam -- to come out with the truth on former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi's assassination in 1991. The LTTE's chief negotiator, Anton Balasingham, told an Indian TV channel that his organisation "deeply regretted" the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi and described it as a "monumental historical tragedy". He also pledged "never to do anything or act anything inimical to the geopolitical interests of India". This is interpreted by many as a confession of guilt for the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi in May 1991, and a plea for pardon from India.

Others say that Balasingham never "aplogised" or "sought pardon". And that his statement was a clever obfuscation meant to mislead Indians. But DR Kaarthikeyan, the man who investigated the assassination which led to the conviction of many of the accused, believes that Balasingham has confessed on behalf of the LTTE and that this is a vindication of his efforts to bring the culprits to book. In an exclusive interview to Meenakshi Iyer of HindustanTimes, the former CBI Director says that the Tigers stand self-condemned for rashly and inadvisably assassinating India's then most charismatic leader.


Q. What was your reaction to the LTTE's latest apology as regards the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case?
A. I am not surprised at the confession of the LTTE. I know from the beginning that was the truth and that was the only truth. After the endorsement of the entire investigation by three eminent judges of the Supreme Court of India, the highest court of the largest democracy in the world, I was not waiting for any further endorsement from anyone, much less from the LTTE. But after all the miserably failed attempts by some self-seeking politicians in our own country to derail and disrupt the investigation and trial, admission of the guilt by the unarguably deadliest terrorist group in the world gives me immense professional satisfaction. What has happened is poetic justice. They stand self-condemned for rashly and inadvisably assassinating the bright and noble leader of the country. It was Rajiv Gandhi who took enormous interest and went out of the way to help solve the Sri Lankan ethnic crisis. To kill such a man brutally and treacherously is the peak of ingratitude and short-sightedness on part of the LTTE. By killing Rajiv Gandhi, they lost the best opportunity of achieving a homeland for Sri Lankan Tamils, with autonomy and with dignity within the united Sri Lankan nation. Even today, more than ever before, implementation of the Indo-Sri Lankan Accord conceived by Rajiv Gandhi is the only possible solution, to prevent further killings in a country which is in a shambles after more than 65 thousand people have been killed in the ethnic violence since the last quarter of a century. It is of course the failure of Sri Lankan government to sincerely implement the Indo-Sri Lanka accord of 1987 that further precipitated the crisis. As I have described in my book, Triumph of Truth - The Rajiv Gandhi Assassination - The Investigation, the sincere and total implementation of the Indo-Sri Lanka accord, by giving effect to it by suitable constitutional amendment to the unitary constitution of Sri Lanka would have enabled the Tamil province with Trincomalee as capital, to function with adequate autonomy within united Sri Lanka. That would have very likely resulted in durable peace in Sri Lanka, as that would have enabled the Tamil minority to live with dignity and necessary autonomy.

Q. Why has the LTTE suddenly come up with an apology - something, which they were unwilling to do since years?

There can be many reasons for the LTTE coming up with such an open confession and apology. • After my investigation convincingly established the hand of LTTE in the assassination, in the most transparent investigation held anywhere in the world, people throughout the World were convinced that it was the LTTE and LTTE alone that was responsible for the dastardly assassination. Some obstacles were attempted to be created only by a few politicians, who were disgruntled due to their failure in bullying me and pressurising me to somehow implicate in the case, their rivals in other political parties or their rivals within their own party. For them their limited, short-sighted, self-seeking, personal political vendetta and agenda were far more important than re-establishing the nation's honour, dignity, integrity and sovereignty by identifying and establishing the guilt of those who are actually responsible for the brutal killing of the tallest leader of the nation at that time. • Even earlier on many occasions, the LTTE had almost conceded their hand in the assassination, though not as explicitly as they have done now.
• As their responsibility in the assassination is an established fact as far as the world is concerned, they must have now thought it better to own it at this stage, hoping that would elicit some appreciation from some quarters.
• The conspiracy to assassinate Rajiv Gandhi was a secret decision taken at the highest level and was not known even to some top leaders like Mathaiah. The LTTE wanted to take revenge for the damage suffered by them due to IPKF operations. They held Rajiv Gandhi squarely responsible for the same, though the facts that emerged later showed that the man of good intentions was led to take certain decisions guided by wrong advice. The decisions he took were right on the facts presented to him by his advisors, but the later events proved those facts to be wrong. On the eve of the elections, Rajiv Gandhi told two emissaries of LTTE that while he was prepared to forget the past, he stood firmly against division of Sri Lanka. It was the assessment of the LTTE, that once Rajiv Gandhi was not on the political scene, India would not have a strong leader for a long time to come. If the hand of LTTE had not been convincingly established and proved by the SIT-CBI headed by me, the LTTE leadership, perhaps, would have achieved its objective.
• Given that India has commuted the death sentence of one of the key accused to life imprisonment, and has done nothing for over eight years to implement the death sentence confirmed by the Supreme Court on three of the other accused, the LTTE perhaps thought there is a softening of the attitude of the Indian government in this matter.
• It is also likely that the LTTE is convinced that unless India is involved actively now, there cannot be a solution satisfactory to the Tamils. They might have calculated that admitting a fact, which is already universally established and expressing regret could soften India's attitude to some extent. It is far better to regret a "monumental historic" blunder than keep on justifying it or claiming innocence, which no one would believe.
(Published in Hindustan Times on June 29, 2006)

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