Prabhakaran plummets from peak to pit
End of an era
I first met the Army Commander, Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka, in bed!
Don't get me wrong. He was lying on a bed at the Army Hospital
recovering from the bullets and shrapnel that had hit him in the Kilali
operations. His one arm was in a sling and he was still not quite fit to
get up from bed when I visited him with the then Army Commander Cecil
Waidyaratne and Lt. Col Lucky Algama.
Hollowness of the Tigers' hold exposed
The successful operation in which the Security Forces advanced as far
as Kilali and burnt the boats of Kilali exposed the hollowness of the
hold the Tigers had even in Jaffna - the heartland of their political
The confident Army asked for permission from President D. B.
Wijetunga to cut across to Point Pedro from Kilali. Wijetunga refused.
It was a disappointment to the Forces. Once again the weak political
head was sitting on top of the Security Forces who had a chance of
taking on the Tigers in the north.
If my memory serves me right, Sarath Fonseka was quite confident of
overrunning the Tigers in the north. He was an intrepid soldier. He has
that streak of the daredevil in him, ever willing to take calculated
risks. So when the Tigers targeted him and missed in March 2006 they
instilled a new determination and a fire in him to put an end to Tiger
terrorism. In this attempt to get the Army Commander, the highest point
of security, Pottu Amman and Prabhakaran were out to display their
lethal fireworks and to impress the Tamil diaspora and the international
community that they were a military force worth backing because they had
the capacity to strike at will any target of their choice. They were
also keen on impressing the new Mahinda Rajapaksa administration that
they were a superior force that can dictate terms to the nation, perhaps
even better than the way they imposed their will on President Chandrika
Kumaratunga and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.
Diminishing returns for violence
Though Prabhakaran's violence paid him initial dividends he failed to
realise that his brutalising and dehumanising violence was facing the
consequences of diminishing returns. He was, of course, buoyed by the
adulation and the technological toys delivered to him by ardent
loyalists in the Tamil diaspora. But global events and national trends
were running against him. After September 11 every act of terror
committed in any part of the globe was a direct blow to Prabhakaran's
terror tactics. Every act of terror elsewhere confirmed that his brand
of terrorism had to be put down, one way or other.
For instance, on December 1, 2006, Prabhakaran tried to get Gotabhaya
Rajapaksa, the Defence Secretary. He missed again. The backlash was
severe. In a press release issued that morning the United States ,
highlighting that "the attack bears all the hallmarks of an operation by
the LTTE... condemned strongly the terrorist attack on the convoy of
Defense Secretary Rajapaksa."
Tiger rhetoric lost its original force
Tiger rhetoric too had lost its original force. They were labouring
in vain to convince the world that they were "freedom fighters". The key
players that mattered in the international community were refusing to
buy it. And back home, he was running out of cadres. The ideology that
fired the imagination had lost its original impetus. Prabhakaran was
forced to go from house to house in the poor villages demanding Tamil
sons and daughters for a cause that had no future.
Tiger media, which had a reputation for speed and as a guide to Tamil
news, was on the back foot trying to focus on human rights violations of
the GOSL. In the past they were wont to crow about their military
exploits which boosted the morale of the Tamil Diaspora. The Tamil media
were no longer projecting the Tigers as the victorious forces winning
over the Security Forces. They were now projecting themselves as victims
of the oppressive and aggressive GOSL.
Their sporadic attacks, in between, were not yielding the victories
they expected. Their denials of terrorist attacks had lost credibility
because, according to their media, the Tigers had never ever committed
any war crime or crimes against humanity.
Without such victories the TamilNet and other allied media outlets
were busy focusing on human rights violations. This was not due to any
sincere commitment to human rights. They were using human rights as a
political weapon to halt the advance of the Security Forces. It was a
sure sign of the Tigers losing on the battlefield.
The increasing failure of the Tigers to whitewash their crimes was
reflected in the reactions of the international community. From the 90s
the international tide had turned against him, slowly but surely. It
began with Indian ban in 1991 after the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi.
USA banned him 1997. UK followed in 2001. Canada in April 2006. And EU
in May, 2006. But the message still did not get through to him that
terror as a weapon has outlived its usefulness.
Nor was he made with that degree of nuances thinking or flexibility
to acknowledge that his dogged commitment to an elusive Eelam was
dragging him to a dead-end.
Trapped inside his cage
He was trapped inside his own ideological and military cage. Neither
his political goal which was nowhere within sight nor his military
methodology was going to rescue him. Compounded by his intransigence,
which he mistook for courage and vision, he was doomed. He refused to
accept that terror tactics come with its limitations. This is the lesson
that the Tigers, and their financial backers in the Tamil diaspora, have
yet to learn. By the time he targeted Lt. Gen. Fonseka in March 2006
Prabhakaran was about to fulfil the Biblical truism that those who live
by the sword die by the sword.
The Tigers' last international drama
True, in the past both sides have been see-sawing, winning some and
losing some. But Sarath Fonseka's forces that began to move from Mavil
Aru carried with them a decisive air of finality, giving just not the
scent of success but an end to the power, the bases and the hopes of
Prabhakaran. After nearly 30 years of waging war against the Government
of Sri Lanka (i.e., counting from 1975, the year of Prabhakaran's
baptism in human blood) he had nothing to show except ever expanding
graveyards of Tamils.
The Tigers played their last international drama when they went to
Geneva for the last time in June, 2006.
An exasperated Norwegian government bemoaned publicly saying: "After
having accepted the Norwegian invitation, and after having arrived in
Norway, the LTTE raised objections to the previously communicated
intentions and modalities for the meeting. This was the reason for the
meeting not being held.
"By this a critical opportunity has been lost for the peoples of Sri
Lanka who so desperately need their leaders on both sides to renew their
obligation to uphold the CFA and other CFA-related commitments and to
improve security," said Norway .
But there was no CFA to uphold. A desperate Norwegian government was
writing to both parties asking: "Will the parties stand committed to the
Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) of 22 February 2002?" The Norwegians were
trying pathetically to shore up not the peace which they had helped to
destroy but their own standing in the international community as
What madness possessed Ranil Wickremesinghe to even contemplate the
draft outline of the Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) - let alone sign it in
its complete form - and what madness possessed Prabhakaran to tear it up
after he got the nearest thing to his Eelam, is totally
incomprehensible. It was a document of total surrender to international
pressure and Tamil Tiger demands. Wickremesinghe did it on his own
without informing the President, parliament, or people.
The CFA signed on February 22, 2002 had, inter alia, two major
components: 1) tying down the nation to an international commitment and
2) a commitment to Prabhakaran to hand over power and territory.
Wickremesinghe had no mandate for either. An agreement of that
magnitude had to have the signature of the President and parliament. As
stated by H. L. de Silva, the pre-eminent constitutional lawyer, it was
"illegal and unconstitutional."
Predictably, it was hailed by Anton Balasingham and Erik Solheim, his
misguided political ally who thought that the Sri Lankan sun came out of
Balasingham's nostrils. Anyone with common sense would have concluded
that if these two jointly approved then it must be counter-productive to
Sri Lanka for the simple reason that it is not in their politics to
approve anything that benefits the nation which they are bent on
Wickremesinghe creates illusion of peace
Elated by what he thought was his great achievement Wickremesinghe
removed the barriers and lifted the embargoes to create the illusion of
peace. He then proceeded to make endless concessions in the name of
"confidence-building", an NGO fiction actively pursued by
Wickremesinghe's obedient factotum, "Badman" Weerakoon. Wickremesinghe
and Solheim were crowing that the killings had lessened - note not
The CFA was by definition to end the firing and killing. But neither
was evident. True, the war had moved down from high intensity gear into
low intensity gear. That was no consolation to the victims of the war
going on unabated - a war that was adequate for Prabhakaran to pursue
his military and political objectives.
Both Solheim and Wickremesinghe, however, refused to acknowledge that
Prabhakaran, the co-signatory to the CFA, was chipping away at every
vestige of credibility left in the CFA. Solheim was turning a blind eye
to the violations of the CFA and was more concerned about taming the
para-militaries (i.e., anti-Tigers Tamils and Muslims) - a demand made
vociferously by Anton Balasingham.
Oblivious to the new turn of events, Wickremesinghe, who was
completing a two-week fellowship at MIT's Center for International
Studies (CIS) addressed expatriate Tamils at the Boston Tamil Center,
even as late as May 2006, on the subject that he was promoting doggedly:
"Beyond a militarized approach to terrorism: Experience from Sri Lanka."
He told the Boston Tamils that only concerted action by co-chairs or
India will be able to able to arrest the collapse of the peace process.
He said that the issue of para-militaries is one of the major causes
for the deterioration of the ceasefire, and added that paramilitary
should be disarmed. TamilNet, May 14, 2006 03:12 GMT]
As for Solheim, he was flying every week to London to sit with his
pal, Balasingham, and get the political line from him for his next move
against the GOSL. "For a long period of time," Solheim told the Tamils
gathered at Alexandra Palace to say farewell to Balasingham, "I came to
London every week, speaking with Bala, having his point of view about
how the peace process could be moved forward; having his analysis of the
situation in Sri Lanka; also exchanging my view and also what we have
heard from the Government of Sri Lanka about their positions." TamilNet
- December 20, 2006).
The Tigers were relying on Solheim to pull their chestnuts out of the
fire and he was leaning over backwards to give them the advantages only
he could in the diplomatic field, the negotiating table and even with
financial backing, as revealed by Karuna. The Norwegian role was so
pernicious, counter-productive and blatantly partisan. Questions were
asked even in the House of Commons of the behind-the-scene manoeuvres of
the Nordic interventionist to pull and push on behalf of the Tigers.
Labour MP, Chris Mullins (Sunderland, South): "Would I be right in
thinking that the Norwegian general who was based in Sri Lanka advised
the EU against declaring the LTTE a terrorist organisation and said that
would lead to the breakdown of the ceasefire?" (May 2, 2007 House of
Dr. Kim Howells, the Minister of state and for the Middle East, who
opened the adjournment debate, said, in the course of making his
statement that "the ceasefire is in trouble, if not shot to pieces" and
added that he will write to Mullins and inform him of his inquiries on
the issue of Norwegian intervening on behalf of the Tigers.
For his part, Vidar Helgesen, the head of the delegation for peace
talks at Phuket , Thailand , was even insisting that Balasingham should
be addressed as "His Excellency".
The Norwegians were playing their partisan role without any
inhibitions. They overstepped their mark and in their anxiety to appease
the Tigers they were ready to overlook the aspirations of the other
communities. Their assumption was that if they could appease the Tigers
they could win peace. The Tigers, in the meantime, had appointed
themselves as "the sole representatives of the Tamils" - the implication
being that they alone held the monopoly of war and peace in their hands
and to dictate terms.
It was this obsession with power concentrated exclusively in the
hands of Prabhakaran, with no checks and balances, which degraded and
debased the lives of the Tamils kept under the jackboots of the one-man
regime. This was the first time that the Tamils had the power to
exercise considerable amount of power, almost that of a quasi-state. But
they proved to be utterly incapable of ruling themselves with dignity
and respect for their fellow-man. Though the craze among the Tamils was
to wield political power their first experiment in handling power proved
to be a disaster mostly to the Tamils. The Tamils have never been
humiliated nor made to suffer so perversely as under Prabhakaran. The
man who claimed to be the liberator turned into the most ignominious and
ruthless oppressor of the Tamils.
This aside, the Tigers, despite some of their spectacular military
exploits, were never a force that could compare itself with other
movements like those of the Palestinians, Afghans or Kashmiris. The
backbone of the Tigers was not at home. It was invariably located abroad
- in the Tamil diaspora which is primarily responsible for keeping the
Tigers going. The Tigers would collapse almost instantly if the diaspora
withdraws its support. Besides, except for the brief period during which
India backed them the Tigers had no committed international states
backing them like the way the Palestinians are supported.
As for the local base, it is a highly exaggerated force. He does not
have a people's movement behind him to back him up like the intifada,
for instance. From time to time, Tamil media hype announced the "Upsurging
People's Force (UPF) of Jaffna District" which issued thundering notices
of the forthcoming wrath of their force. One notice signed by the UPF
leaders of Jaffna said: "Days are numbered for the traitors who sell our
Mother land," The final sentence in the press release, "We will meet
again on the battle ground," hinting that the suspended offensives
against the SLA forces by the "Upsurgence People's Force of Jaffna
District", may resume soon. (TamilNet, March 30, 2006 19:54 GMT).
The fevered rhetoric was running high though there was no follow up
action to back up the explosive verbiage.
Earlier, S. Elilan, Trincomalee district political head of the
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam commenting on the situation in Muttur
east around April 2006 said: "We are in a state of readiness and are
awaiting for the instruction from our leadership to respond with a force
that will be catastrophically disabling and devastating to the enemy."
From these expressions of hellfire and brimstones the Tamil Tiger
verbal fire came down to a "defensive war", in the words of S.
Thamilselvam. Even the American Ambassador, Robert Blake, was commending
the impressive naval and land victories of the Security Forces.
The writing on the wall is clear, particularly when Ranil
Wickremesinghe announces that (1) federalism is no longer a viable
proposition and (2) that the CFA is dead. To cut along story short, this
mean the end of an era. There was, as stated earlier, an air of finality
about the new turn of events. There seems to no option available for
Prabhakaran now except to come to the negotiating table or to take the
pill he hangs ceremoniously on the neck of his suicide bombers.
The violence unleashed by the Tamil leadership in the Vaddukoddai
Resolution of 1976 is nearing its end. It has misled Tamil people like
the children who followed the Pied Piper of Hamlyn to their premature
deaths. The Tamil leadership wrote the script for the nightmarish end of
the Tamil people who would have been immeasurably better off if they
were guided to co-exist in harmony and peace with the other communities.
But they were led to crave for a disproportionate share of power, over
and above all other considerations of peaceful co-existence. It is
rather difficult to find another intelligent community writing,
directing, financing and acting out their funeral march to obscurity as
the Tamils of Jaffna.
Wobbling on their last legs, the Tamil Tigers are now hastily
backtracking pleading with the international community to save them.
Balasingham began it with an unconditional apology to India. On June 27,
2006 Balasingham told an Indian TV station that the assassination of
Rajiv Gandhi was "a monumental historical blunder" and appealed to India
to put the past behind to reconsider the ethnic question from a
But the past is not forgiving. It was catching up fast with
Prabhakaran. He had killed all his potential allies both abroad and at
home. He is now fighting with his back to the wall. As pointed out by
Lt. Gen Fonseka, when Prabhakaran appeals to the international community
to rescue him it is a clear sign of a fast developing crisis in the LTTE-held
"They have taken a bloody beating and now are seeking an
international lifeline," Fonseka told The Island, (September 27, 2006).
"They are unable to resist the growing military pressure on their
positions on a wide front."
Reports claim that he has passed the baton to his son, Charles
Anthony, which is likely to sow further seeds of dissension within the
If there is a lesson in all the twists and turns of history it is
this: What history and geography had put together from time immemorial
no man can put asunder.
The Tamils and Sinhalese were born to share their lives together.
Their lives are so inextricably intertwined that, despite all the
differences, the commonalities and bonds that weave in a symbiotic
relationship are much stronger than the forces that strive to separate
Their destiny is to co-exist as historical partners, neighbours and
even as mothers and fathers or husbands and wives. It is a destiny that
has been re-written once again with the blood of those who carried this
historical burden on their shoulders. They have sacrificed their lives
to affirm it - and let not the bogus theoreticians, intellectual
hypocrites, political opportunists and even churchmen cooking up
theological fictions come between the people and their common and