COLOMBO: Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has directed the Customs Department to release copies of the Frontline issue dated February 6, which were impounded on January 25, because it had carried an interview with LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran done in 1987.
On Wednesday, the media quoted the Prime Minister’s Office as saying that the interview in question would not pose any threat to national security.
The Customs Department was also advised to take the advice of the Information Department in case such a situation arises in the future.
Informed sources told Express that Customs officials at the Bandaranaike International Airport had wondered if there was any hidden agenda to de-stabilize Lanka in the Chennai-based magazine’s decision to re-publish the interview dated September 4 1987.
What caught their eye was Prabhakaran’s parting shot: “I will fight till the last drop of my blood for the liberation of my motherland.” And the interviewer had signed off saying “Thank you, Mr Prabakaran.”
Sources drew attention to the fact that Lankans in the South of the island nation, do not approve of anyone addressing “terrorist” Prabhakaran as “Mr. Prabhakaran”. They recalled that during the recent Presidential election campaign, Former President Chandrika Kumaratunga, who had campaigned for Sirisena in Jaffna, had come under heavy flak for addressing Prabhakaran as “Mr” Prabhakaran. The rival Mahinda Rajapaksa camp had gone to town branding Kumaratunga and Sirisena as acolytes of the LTTE who would eventually concede Tamil Eelam.
With crucial parliamentary elections due in June, officials of the Sirisena government feared that the Rajapaksa camp might construe the re-printed interview in Frontline as an attempt by some forces to revive the LTTE.
Wary Customs officials decided to circumvent the normal procedure of referring the case to the Department of Information and sought the advice of the Ministry of Defense instead. The Terrorist Investigation Department (TID) was also roped in.
The matter hung fire for three weeks till President Sirisena’s official visit to India this week. The government then decided to see the interview in the light in which it was meant to be seen, that is, as being part of the magazine’s series of landmark interviews done in the last 30 years.