Lion’s challenge, more after Tigers’ end

published on May 19, 2009

“The defeat of LTTE is undoubtedly a cause for celebration in Sri Lanka, but it must celebrate in a subdued manner, for any amount of excessiveness would certainly hurt the sentiments of Tamil community, adding as an insult to injury. The Sinhala majority must treat the battered and shattered Tamil minority with love, affection and understanding.”


President Rajapakse, in his historic address this morning in the Sri Lankan Parliament, declared the Armed Forces’ victory against the LTTE and vowed for the emergence of a united Sri Lanka, ensuring freedom, equal rights and opportunities for the Tamils. Even while confirming the decimation of LTTE, he had not said anything about the death of LTTE Chief Prabakaran.

Though a major section of the media worldwide speculated about the death of Prabhakaran with unconfirmed reports, the Sri Lankan government preferred not to contest those reports. But, President Rajapakse had talked with Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee on Monday confirming the death of LTTE Chief. The unearthing of Prabhakaran’s body on Tuesday morning could have coincided with the President’s address, and immediately thereafter, the Sri Lankan government had conducted a DNA test and confirmed that the identified dead person was indeed Prabhakaran.

As I was watching on TV the end of an autocratic militant leader, my mind traveled back to the early eighties (1980 to 1983) remembering my college days. I was doing my graduation then and we used to strike work and close the college intermittently in support of Eelam Tamils’ fight against the Sri Lankan government. Those days, we used to admire the Tamil militant outfits and Prabhakaran was a real hero in Tamil Nadu. The Hero worship for the Tigers suffered a big blow during the middle eighties when they started murdering the other Tamil leaders, both militant and moderate, in their pursuit for autocracy. The image of the LTTE suffered again in the late eighties, when they ignored the Indo-Sri Lanka Peace Accord (1987), disrespected the IPKF and started fighting with them. And when the LTTE assassinated former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991, it lost the sympathy of the people of India in general and Tamil Nadu in particular completely.

Over a period of time, the LTTE became the strongest, well-organised and most dangerous terrorist outfit in the world, thanks to the clandestine support and backup it allegedly got from the white Church and western countries. This unusual growth, the support from the expatriates, India’s dilemmas due to internal politics and interference of Christian nations forced the successive Sri Lankan governments, particularly of Chandrika Kumaratunga and Ranil Wickramasinghe to indulge in peace talks with the LTTE. The LTTE Chief Prabakaran had never watered down his stand of independent Tamil Eelam and he cleverly utilized the ceasefire and peace-talk periods to acquire arms, ammunition and weapons and recruit soldiers and cadres.

Once regrouped with full strength, the LTTE would break the ceasefire and start the war again, continuing with its terror attacks throughout Sri Lanka. The militant outfit managed to kill many political personalities including President Ranasinghe Premadasa and Lakshman Kadirkamar, apart from thousands of innocent Tamils, Sinhalese and Muslims.

The arrival of Mahinda Rajapakse at the helm of affairs in the Sri Lankan establishment turned out to be the nemesis of LTTE. Right from day one, he was determined to vanquish the LTTE, unlike his predecessors Chandrika and Ranil Wickramasinge, who were too soft and yielded to the pressure of western countries.

Rajapakse never restrained the advancing army, even while his government was taking part in the Norwegian peace talks. This two-track approach helped the Sri Lankan government to restrict the LTTE’s offensives and recapture its lost territories, while simultaneously projecting a humane face to the international community. The secluded attacks perpetrated by the Sea Tigers and the Air Tigers forced Sri Lanka to withdraw from the ceasefire agreement in January 2008, stepping up its offensive against the LTTE.

After that, the government conducted elections last year in the Eastern Province, which was de-merged from the Northern Province as per the 2006 Supreme Court verdict, after liberating it from the LTTE’s control. The United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) led by President Rajapakse fought the elections jointly with Colonel Karuna’s Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Puligal (TMVP) and won 20 seats out of the 30, while the opposition United National Party-Srilanka Muslim Congress alliance (UNP-SLMC) won 15 seats. The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) and the Tamil Democratic National Alliance (TDNA) won one seat each. The pro LTTE Tamil National Alliance boycotted the elections. The Tamil National Alliance failed to understand that it cannot help the LTTE any way by boycotting the elections. It ignored the importance of a democratic process and refused to bring the LTTE to the negotiating table for achieving a democratic solution, failing to realize the fact that a separate Tamil Eelam was totally ruled out. The successful completion of elections by the government and its offer of peace-talks served as an indication to the outside world that the Island Nation was interested in the process of democracy and that it wanted to solve the decades old ethnic issue through peace talks and democratic processes.

Even when the Sri Lankan government invited the LTTE for peace talks before the SAARC Summit last year, it refused to come to the negotiating table. In the wake of LTTE’s refusal to lay down arms and sit for peace talks, the Lankan government pursued a military solution. Even after the successful completion of elections in the eastern province, the government’s offer of peace-talks was refused by the LTTE. Though the militant organization was able to strike the Srilankan air bases and naval-bases once in a while, it was not able to withstand the continuous and planned onslaught of the Lankan Army. It went back to its practice of recruiting teenaged boys and girls as child soldiers into the army and sending them as suicide bombers only to serve the self-interests of its chief. It was very unfortunate that the LTTE, despite its weaknesses, did not agree to come to the negotiating table.

During its last days, the militant outfit had gone dearth of leaders as well as cadres and it was reported that it was not able to procure arms and ammunitions as much as before. The militant outfit never understood the fact that secluded attacks and suicide bombings would in no way help the Tamil community, who have been longing for a lasting solution to live in peace. Even while losing grounds, it never realized that time was running out and the imminent end was staring at its face.

At last, the inevitable had happened. The Chief, his son and other commanders were defeated and killed. Though it was sad to see on TV, the body of a highly ambitious person lying alone like an orphan near the lagoon in a remote corner of the island, the mere thought of his evil deeds simply erases that little bit of pity and sympathy from our minds. Prabhakaran lost the biggest opportunity during 1987, when the Indo-Sri Lankan Accord was signed. Had he utilized that opportunity, he could have been a tall political leader now and he could have saved the lives of thousands of innocent people. Since then, he missed a number of opportunities, where in, he could have helped providing a lasting political solution for the peaceful livelihood of Tamils. Uncontrolled ambition leads to arrogant autocracy and following unethical ways to achieve that ambition results in utter failure. Prabhakaran’s saga will remain a classic example for that.

The defeat of LTTE is undoubtedly a cause for celebration in Sri Lanka, but it must celebrate in a subdued manner, for any amount of excessiveness would certainly hurt the sentiments of Tamil community, adding as an insult to injury. The Sinhala majority must treat the battered and shattered Tamil minority with love, affection and understanding. Sri Lanka, as a nation, has lost more than three decades at the cost of development and progress and it cannot afford to lose any more time.

President Rajapakse has rightly said that a united Lanka will emerge as a peaceful developing nation. He has also committed to the Tamil community that he would ensure freedom, equal rights and opportunities. India on its part must ensure that President Rajapakse lives up to his commitment of providing a Constitutional guarantee for the aspirations of the grief stricken Tamil community, which is longing for peace. The pro LTTE parties of Tamil Nadu must refrain from their usual rabble rousing against the central government and instead support its efforts for an everlasting solution in the interests of Sri Lankan Tamil community.

Since ancient days, Tamils have made enormous contribution in various fields for the growth and development of Sri Lanka and the Sri Lankan establishment must realize the importance of future contributions from Tamils and treat them with respect. Sinhala Buddhists and Tamil Hindus have lived together happily and peacefully for ages. The unfortunate development of this ethnic crisis has been the handiwork of outsiders from the west and as the ethnic conflict has come to an end, they must bury the differences and get back to the good old days of peace and harmony. They must be always careful not to allow western forces to enter the country again, for their entry would result in division and destruction.

(The writer is a senior journalist based in Chennai)

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