Prabhakaran still has enough grit to continue the fight


By Anita Pratap
LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran is many things to many people-national leader, freedom fighter, revolutionary, guerrilla, killer, saviour, tyrant, visionary and terrorist. Lionised or demonised, depending on their standpoint.
I cannot know what is going on in Prabhakaran’s head, but I am certain he is neither frightened nor desperate. He is not afraid of death. He has been courting it since he was 17. He is an indefatigable warrior, one who is philosophically detached from all things tactical. Yet, paradoxically, in achieving his strategic goal of Tamil Eelam, he displays an unwavering attachment.

I doubt whether these military setbacks will discourage, undermine or erode his confidence or commitment to his goal. He is very clear in his mind-he is fighting to liberate his people. For that principle he lives. For that principle he fights. And for that principle he is willing to die. Victories and defeats come and go. Territories are lost and won. Cadres die, comrades betray. But to his dying breath, he will remain true to Eelam.
In the 30 years that I have written about this conflict, never has the LTTE been so alone and friendless in its struggle. Prabhakaran is a victim of a combination of his actions and international circumstances. By assassinating Rajiv Gandhi, he made an implacable foe of India . And after 9/11, George Bush’s war on terror created zero tolerance for terrorism around the world. It also blurred distinctions between terrorist organisations and national liberation groups.

There is no liberation army in the world that has not faced state terror and in turn used terror as a tactic to pursue its nationalist goals. Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose and Bhagat Singh-Prabhakaran considers them heroes-were designated terrorists by the British rulers of India . Until recently, Nelson Mandela was on the list of terrorists.

The LTTE is banned as a terrorist organisation in some 30 countries. That has given the Sri Lankan government global sanction to destroy the LTTE.  But in doing so, the international community has allowed a disaster of epic proportion to unfold. This is not an LTTE, but a Tamil tragedy. Nowhere in the world has a government been continuously bombing its own civilians for over a year.  This is a crime Israeli, American and NATO forces are not guilty of.

A designated No Fire Zone has turned into a vast death chamber for Tamil civilians, trapped between the LTTE and the attacking army. Nowhere else in the world is a war being waged without outsiders and independent witnesses, not in Iraq , not in Afghanistan , not in Gaza .  But in Sri Lanka , the media and NGOs have been banned from the war zone, and the International Committee of the Red Cross, among the lone relief workers there, has described the civilian situation as catastrophic. A quarter of a million Tamils uprooted. Tens of thousands imprisoned in refugee camps. Thousands killed and maimed.

Those who say the Tamils deserve this fate because they supported Prabhakaran are heartless and blind. There are many who support him and many who don’t. Either way, they don’t have the power to influence him. Is it then justifiable to punish ordinary civilians? Is it fair to kill Americans for the sin that Bush committed in Iraq , even though they not only elected, but re-elected him? The Sri Lankan army cannot be faulted for trying to destroy the LTTE. But the Sri Lankan government cannot condone or justify destroying Tamils and their homeland in the process.

But this only strengthens Prabhakaran. Politicians and bureaucrats don’t realise that the LTTE welcomes war. It swells its ranks, reaffirms its raison d’étre, it produces more emotional support for a separate state. From the previous wars that I have witnessed (journalists could manage to get in then), LTTE cadres love fighting. During peacetime, LTTE guerrillas are disciplined and restrained. In battle, there is a complete makeover. They are highly excitable, almost gleeful.

The LTTE has been written off many times before. Prabhakaran has been ‘killed’ or ‘nearly killed’ many times in the past. If the army ever reaches his bunker, he will swallow his cyanide and the legend of Prabhakaran will probably attain mythical proportions. Lacking independent assessments, journalists repeat Sri Lankan claims that this is the end game, this is Prabhakaran’s last stand.

Judging from the past, I doubt it. Sure, the Sri Lankan army will wrest the last piece of land from Prabhakaran’s grip.  But that doesn’t mean the end of the LTTE. They will revert to what they are best at-guerrilla warfare, striking when least expected. As armies before have realised, conquering territory is one thing, holding onto it opens a Pandora’s box of problems.

Prabhakaran has lost wars before. He had created a de facto Tamil Eelam with its own army, police, courts and taxation system not once, but several times in the past-only to have it all smashed and wiped out. And he had to start all over again. At 54, Prabhakaran still has enough grit to start again and continue for another 20 years.

In the meantime, he will be watching the Indian elections closely to see which dispensation takes charge in New Delhi . He will be watching to see if there is a popular upsurge of support in Tamil Nadu for the plight of Tamils across the Palk Strait . He will be watching the disastrous impact of war on Sri Lanka ‘s economy.  He will be watching Hillary Clinton who said there should be a ‘nuanced’ approach to dealing with terrorism. He will be watching President Barack Obama who rightly analysed that conflicts stem from our perception of ‘the other’.

Today, Prabhakaran’s situation looks dire. But the wheels of fortune are not static. Things change. America has changed. The world is changing. Capitalism is discredited. Socialism sneaks in from the backdoor. Big banks have gone bust. Misery replaces prosperity in headlines.  As new winds blow away many certitudes of the recent past, new opportunities, alignments and paradigms take their place on the world stage. And they will inexorably weave their impact in remote corners of faraway Sri Lanka , this beautiful emerald teardrop island that awaits its tryst with peace.


3 Responses

  1. so.. after just a months time how things have changed ? Entire LTTE leadership killed with VP & his entire family… a total wipe out

    once the most ruthless terrorist org in the world got ruthlessly wiped out by the SL Gov

    finally we can move on…one flag & equal rights to all citizens..

  2. i am a malayalee journalist. want to hear from our beloved anitaji about the death of it true? we all are eager to hear from her. rajesh

  3. Too much of time has been wasted in discussing the origins of the problems and the paths taken by various persons to solve the problems in the ways they believed as the best. The problems have grown and evolved and twisted by many to suit their way of thinking.

    So, it is high-time we start thinking in terms of a solution that would address NEARLY ALL THE PROBLEMS rather than continue to criticize people for their faults.

    Failures are the pillars of success. We have learned a lot of things through experience. With the experiences gained we will have to work for a change of heart not just a change of mind of the people in the country.

    “People who value democracy, equality and equity, needs to pressure the Sri Lankan state to take immediate action towards a meaningful and just power sharing arrangement. That is the only way to ensure security and the dignity of the peoples of Sri Lanka.

    If peaceful coexistence through power sharing is not achievable, the only other solution that would be available will be secession” so said Mr. Lionel Bopage, former Secretary of the JVP.

    There is a vast difference in the policy and thinking of the ORIGINAL JVP to which Mr.Lionel Bopage belongs and the policy of the present JVP.

    A new concept that moves towards a meaningful and just power-sharing arrangement and which is a great deviation from the usual thinking of the word “devolution” is given below for the comments of everyone.

    Many, who call themselves as ‘moderates’, are not willing to consider this concept which gives a certain degree of ‘power’ with ‘responsibility’ to everyone including the poor and voiceless silent majority in the country and not excluding the so-called “minorities”.

    Now, one word, for those who are actually and sincerely interested in fostering a united country by supporting “devolution” as a means to achieve sustainable peace, please avoid thinking in terms of “devolution” and instead please try to think in terms of “sharing” of powers, rights, duties and responsibilities that cannot be taken back at any time by any government or individual by any method.

    The best political solution would be to DILUTE the powers of all elected representatives by separating the various powers of the Parliament and empowering different sets of people’s representatives elected on different area basis to administer the different sets of the separated powers. It has to be devolution HORIZONTALLY where every set of representatives would be in the SAME LEVEL as equals and in par and NOT VERTICALLY where one set of representatives would be above (more powerful than) the other, which is the normal adopted practice when talking of devolution, in this power-hungry world. It is because of “devolution” being evolved “vertically”, we have all the trouble in this power-hungry world. So, for sustainable peace it should not be the present form of “devolution” but “dilution of powers” or “sharing of powers” in such a way that no single or set of peoples representatives – other than the common people, the voters themselves – is superior to another. This system would eradicate injustice, discrimination, bribery and corruption – the four pillars of an evil society – and help to establish the “Rule of Law” and “Rule by ALL” for sustainable peace, tranquility and prosperity and a pleasant harmonious living with dignity and respect for all the inhabitants in the country. Everyone must have “equal” powers, rights, duties and responsibilities and most importantly everyone should be deemed “equal” before the law not only on paper but also practically – be it the Head of State, The Chief Justice or the voiceless poor of the poorest in the country.
    Since all political and other powers flow from the sovereignty of the people, it is proposed herein that these powers be not given to any one set of representatives but distributed among different sets of representatives (groups) of the people elected on different area basis (village and villages grouped) to perform the different, defined and distinct functions of one and the same institution – the Parliament – like the organs of our body – heart, lungs, kidneys, eyes, nose, ear etc. – performing different and distinct functions to enable us to sustain normal life.
    A detailed version of the concept, which is quite long is available for discussion by interested individuals with an aim to change the hearts not just a change of mind of the citizens of this country who aim to preserve a UNITARY form of Government with every section of people from every part of the country PARTICIPATING in the GOVERNANCE OF THE COUNTRY in a practical and meaningful way. In a way it may be termed “participatory democracy”. In this system the country is NOT DIVIDED but the “powers of governance’ of the Parliament is separated and administered COLLECTIVELY by different sets of peoples representatives.

    The system proposed is neither “federalism” for which “Thanthai Chelva” worked hard nor a “Two State Solution” for which the LTTE is fighting. It is a combination of both.

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