Colombo, Sept. 8 (Reuters): The leader of Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tigers made a rare public appearance to deliver a hardline speech at the opening of a police headquarters for the area of the island his guerrillas control, pro-rebel media reported.
The ceremonial opening yesterday of the police headquarters for “Tamil Eelam”, the name the rebels give to their would-be country, could create a backlash in southern Sri Lanka from those opposed to a negotiated end to two decades of ethnic war.
The speech by Velupillai Prabhakaran, the reclusive LTTE leader, was littered with references to a nation for Tamils but made no reference to the currently stalled peace process.
“A nation gets its nobility only when its society attains upliftment,” Prabhakaran was quoted as saying on one of the Tigers’ websites, www.lttepeacesecretariat.com.
The speech comes just before Japanese special envoy Yasushi Akashi arrives for a Friday meeting to follow up on a June donor conference in Tokyo that raised more than $4.5 billion — conditional on the peace process — to rebuild the island.
The Tigers boycotted that meeting, after suspending peace talks in April, and are not expected to take part on Friday.
“There has been no word yet if they will attend,” said one Asian diplomat.
Japan is Sri Lanka’s biggest aid donor but Japanese officials have said that the LTTE would have to return to peace talks for there to be any meaningful flow of aid to the north and east of the country.
Pictures from the ceremony showed Prabhakaran wearing his trademark military uniform with a cyanide capsule tucked into his shirt pocket.
Tiger soldiers still carry the capsules, which they have to bite into to avoid being captured alive.
“This is an important turning point in our liberation struggle, an important milestone in the structuring of our homeland,” Prabhakaran said of the police force, first set up 10 years ago in the northern Wanni region.