Interview: 'Colonel Karuna'

Al Jazeera speaks to Sri Lanka's integration minister, once an LTTE commander.

    Muralitharan defected from the LTTE in 2004 and is now minister for integration

    During his time as a Tamil Tiger commander he was accused of organising massacres, conscripting child soldiers and executing local journalists.

    But Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan, now Sri Lanka's national integration minister, renounced violence in 2004 and defected to the government, along with several hundred fighters.

    He now heads a Tamil political party, with wide support among the Tamil population of Sri Lanka's northeast.

    Once known as Colonel Karuna, for years Muralitharan was the right-hand man of Velupillai Prabhakaran, the leader of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

    In an interview with Al Jazeera's David Chater, he criticised Prabhakaran, whose fighters continue to hold out against a government offensive, accusing him of betraying the Tamil cause.

    Al Jazeera: Can you share with us your insights into the man who is making his last stand against the Sri Lankan government?

    Muralitharan: He [Prabhakaran] has a totalitarian policy. He never changes from that policy, he totally believes that policy. He never accepts any other's ideas, he never appreciates intellectuals.

    Prabhakaran will 'never surrender ... because he knows his crimes', Karuna says [File photo]
    [The] people with him all are negative people, then only he can control them - that is one of his tactics.

    I was with him for 22 years, but he never came to the battlefield. He was always behind the line.

    But in those days, the earliest days, he was an ordinary man. He was friendly with each of us.

    After that he earned a lot of money - everywhere they collected money - and all money was controlled by him and only little by little he changed.

    We have heard that he ordered his men to open fire on the Tamil civilian families when they were trying to leave.

    That is a mad idea, because if he was a good leader he would have sent the people [out] and then after that he would fight against the army.

    But he used the civilians as a human shield for his life only, without any reason.

    Those [civilians] were big land owners, farmers. Now they have nothing, they came out wearing the clothes on their back. They are totally fed up.

    You were essentially the right-hand man, the military commander. You know how his mind works. Will he surrender?

    No.

    I think this is [the] LTTE's last moment, because they will never build up again. He will never surrender to the army because he knows his crimes.

    The government gave him a lot of chance to [participate] in democracy but he always refused. The government then took [the] decision to destroy him.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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