Prabhakaran plummets from peak to pit - Part I
Velupillai Prabhakaran had reached the peak of his power by Christmas
day of 2004 - a turning point in his political career. He had come a
long way from that fateful day in 1975 when he got his first Tamil scalp
by killing Alfred Duraiyappah, the mild-mannered Mayor of Jaffna. On the
way from 1975 to Christmas Day in 2004 he had climbed over mountains of
Tamil corpses to reach that peak. His career in political crimes was
rewarded by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe who made him the
uncrowned king of the north and the east with his Ceasefire Agreement
(CFA) signed on February 22, 2002.
Though President Chandrika Kumaratunga was peeved that she was not
consulted about this hand over of the nation's territory to Prabhakaran
she did nothing about it later after she dismissed him. Quickly, she
changed her tune and became the best guardian and protector of
She was even prepared to go beyond CFA and legalize the institutional
structure - the P-TOMS - to make him the unchallenged leader empowered
to run the north and the east whichever way he wants.
The international community too had consented to go along with
Wickremesinghe and Kumaratunga and guarantee the territory and the
powers donated by an active Prime Minister and a more aggressive
But hardly anyone noticed that this was also the period that was
sending out early warning signals to Prabhakaran. Bits and pieces of
desperate elements were coming together to undermine Prabhakaran's grip
For instance, it would have been most advantageous to Prabhakaran if
Kumaratunga's moves to extend her period in office got the nod from the
Supreme Court. After she sacked Wickremesinghe she was the last
remaining hope of Prabhakaran to get the infrastructure in place for
power-sharing, with the north and the east handed over to him
exclusively. For Prabhakaran to get that share of power Kumaratunga's
period had to be extended. And to extend her power beyond prescribed
limit Kumaratunga had cooked up a story that she had not completed her
legal term in office. Her story was that she was entitled to an
extension because the first public swearing was not valid as she had a
second swearing privately.
When this story, believed only by Kumaratunga and her coterie of
yes-men, went up to the Supreme Court it came crashing down like lead
balloon. Prabhakaran's chances too were blighted with that decision.
With her or Wickremesinghe in power the chances were bright for
Prabhakaran to be confirmed not only as 'the sole representative' of the
Tamils but also of Wickremesinghe and Kumaratunga.
Prabhakaran had judged the mood of these two leaders correctly. The
submissive role of Wickremesinghe's delegates, cowed down by his
instructions not to upset the Anton Balasingham and Erik Solheim - two
beans in the same anti-Sri Lankan pod - turned Balasingham into the cock
of the walk. Anton Balasingham was dictating where the talks should be
held, when it should be held and what kind of delegates should be in the
government team etc.
And the openly partisan role of Erik Solheim gave Balasingham and
Prabhakaran to be arrogant and intransigent. Prabhakaran was acting as
if he alone possessed the power to dictate terms to the Tamils, to the
south and to the international community. So he had no reason to
Imbued with notion that he was invincible he was determined to go
down his imaginary road to Eelam. His calculation was that he could get
what he wants through the only mechanism that had lifted him from
peninsula obscurity to fame and power: the gun.
He can't be blamed for it because he had the President and the Prime
Minister of Sri Lanka like puttee in his hands. In his calculations he
had only a short distance to go to declare his Eelam. He was preparing
for his final assault to consolidate his position by beating the Sri
Lankan forces that were written off as no-hopers by President
Kumaratunga and Prime Minister Wickremesinghe.
After Prabhakaran pushed Kumaratunga and Wickremesinghe into a
corner, Anton Balasingham, the Chief Negotiator of Tigers, was throwing
his weight around in Geneva crowing that they had the military
upper-hand to dictate terms to Wickremesinghe and Kumaratunga. Earlier
in the only public exposure of his leader at the Kilinochchi press
conference, Balasingham told the media brazenly: "You have your Prime
Minister and we have our own!" That was a direct insult to
It was also the time when Erik Solheim, the so-called peace
facilitator, was eating out of Balasingham's hands. He too misread the
signs of the times and fell for the line sold by Balasingham about the
military balance being in favour of the Tamil Tigers. Of course, this
was true at the time because the Prime Minister and the President of the
nation were paralysed from head downwards. This led Solheim to operate
on the mistaken notion that the Tigers were winning and he had only to
win Prabhakaran, through Balasingham to get all the kudos he wants to be
the exalted Norwegian peace-maker who did the impossible. The naivety of
international interventionists and do-gooders was epitomized in the
follies of Erik Solheim, who, incidentally, was exposed by Karuna, the
chief lieutenant of Prabhakaran, as being in the pocket of the Tigers.
It was a time of despair for the nation. Prime Minister
Wickremesinghe, was kicking the forces in the butt for daring to go
against his wishes and defending the territorial integrity and national
sovereignty. He angrily pulled up the Navy Commander of the day for
intercepting a Tiger boat smuggling arms. His sole factotum, Badman
Weerakoon, was working overtime on the phone, providing all facilities
for the Tigers to get parts of their light aircraft and other military
hardware through the customs, all in the name of 'confidence building'.
In short, Prabhakaran was dictating terms to Wickremesinghe from
Vanni and the Prime Minister was bending over backwards to appease him
in the name of (yes, that phrase again!) 'confidence building'.
Chandrika Kumaratunga, who dismissed Wickremesinghe from his three key
ministries and took over complaining that Wickremesinghe, was all out to
beat Wickremesinghe in the game of appeasing Prabhakaran. So she packed
off her generals on overseas appointments or sidelined them and teamed
up with crafty yes-men to draw up the P-TOMS - the draft of which was
written by leading Tiger lawyers based in Singapore and New York. She
even imported Ram Manickalingam, a Tiger in white verti, and parked him
at the Peace Secretariat headed by Jayantha Dhanapala who jointly
proceeded to draft the P-TOMS.
It was the best of times for Prabhakaran. With everything going for
him, with his man sitting in the Prime Minister's chair, Prabhakaran was
perched on the pinnacle of power. He was poised to launch his final war
to declare Eelam.
It was at this point of time that the most unexpected happened. The
turning point came from the most unpredictable source - about a thousand
odd miles away. On Boxing Day, 2004, at 00:58:53 UTC (07:58:53 time in
Sumatra) an undersea earthquake, with its epicenter off the western
coast of Sumatra, shook so violently that it triggered the worst tsunami
in recent memory. At 9.1 - 9.3 on the Richter scale it was the second
largest ever recorded on a seismograph. The force of that earthquake
released waves that moved imperceptibly below the surface until they
leapt out in mountainous waves and lashed, among the other coastal areas
in the Indian Ocean rim, the naval and military bases of Prabhakaran in
the eastern coast, mainly Mullaitivu. It is a day that Prabhakaran will
Prabhakaran was to lament later publicly, in his Heroes' Day speech
about the devastation that blasted his hopes of launching his final
assault. He said on Sunday, November 27, 2005: 'Faced with the
meaningless absurdity of living in the illusion of peace we decided to
resume our national liberation struggle. It was at that conjuncture,
during the latter part of last year, when we were charting our action
plan that the horrendous natural disaster struck.
"Suddenly, unexpectedly the tsunami waves struck at the villages and
settlements along the eastern coastal belt of our homeland causing an
unprecedented catastrophe. In this cataclysmic disaster unleashed by
nature, twenty thousand Tamil and Muslim people perished and about three
hundred thousand people lost their homes, properties and were reduced to
conditions of refugees. As nature inflicted further calamity on the
Tamil nation, which had already suffered monumental destruction by war,
our people were burdened with unbearable suffering," said Prabhakaran.
Reading between the lines and, of course, the crocodile tears for the
Tamils, it is clear that he was mourning the colossal losses of his
bases, cadres and military hardware. Those who believed in divine
intervention read it as a sign of divine wrath visiting Prabhakaran, at
last. But Prabhakaran, who was made to believe that, as Sun God, he was
next to God, knew that not even his God/s could help him to launch the
massive offensive he was planning. He knew that it had to be postponed
for another day.
But he was putting on a brave front. He said in his Heroes' Day
speech: "In these circumstances, our liberation movement was geared to
confront the crisis. Our fighting formations, as well as our cadres
belonging to various social and administrative services, were
immediately engaged in the tasks of relief and rehabilitation."
Diverting his cadres to do social work when they were battle-ready to
confront the Sri Lankan forces was the last thing in his plans. But that
was his spin to a calamity that had crippled him. He believed that he
could ride over this disaster too. What he didn't realize then was that
coming events were casting their shadows. It was the beginning of a
downward spiral that was going to land him in the place where he is now:
looking down at a precipice while hanging from the branch of a tree that
is cracking slowly but steadily.
To be precise the branch broke in March 2004 when his most trusted
and able commander, Karuna, parted company accusing the Jaffna
(northern) Tamils discriminating against the Batticaloa (Eastern)
Tamils. When the tsunami hit Prabhakaran on top of Karuna's breakaway it
was like the bull butting the man who fell from the tree.
All in all, the year 2004 was not auspicious for Prabhakaran. The
real shock to his system came from the epicenter in the western coast of
Sumatra on Boxing Day, 2004. The furious waves swept 20 miles deep into
Mullaitivu, crashing into the military and naval bases of Prabhakaran.
Rumours began to circulate that Prabhakaran was swept into a watery
grave. But, as they say, only the good die young. He was alive and
kicking, mainly the Tamils into total submission.
Then came the Presidential elections in 2005. The Supreme Court had
kicked out Kumaratunga and the race was on between Wickremesinghe and
Mahinda Rajapaksa. Those who are intrigued by the details of history
taking unpredictable turns and twists will, no doubt, be mystified by
the intricacies of this election.
Though Mahinda Rajapaksa had the south in the palm of his hand
Wickremesinghe, his rival, had the Bandaranaikes on his side.
Kumaratunga was openly undercutting her own nominee. It was against
party policy but that didn't bother her, or her brother, Anura.
They had cut a secret deal with Wickremesinghe to oust Mahinda
Rajapaksa and stage a comeback through the backdoor. In the field,
however, the presidential candidates were fairly balanced though
Rajapaksa had a slight edge in the south. The final outcome depended on
Prabhakaran who could tip the scales either way - and he did.
His decision was more devastating to him than the Boxing Day tsunami.
It changed the political landscape beyond his wildest dreams. His
decision to deny the Tamil people their democratic right to vote
boomeranged on him with a devastating force. He thought he could twist
the election to his advantage by being neutral. But it was Prabhakaran's
biggest blunder next to that of killing Rajiv Gandhi. He not only killed
Wickremesinghe's chances of ever becoming a President but also his own
chances of achieving his Evil-lam.
Master of all
Oblivious of what was coming round the corner to hit him, Prabhakaran
was still performing like the master of all he surveyed on Heroes' Day,
November 27, 2005. He told the new President that he would give him time
to come up with the solution that would satisfy him. But without any
compunction he went for the Army Commander, Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka.
Once again he missed his target. Then he launched a series of attacks in
Colombo. His fireworks were exploding all over.
The backlash came from abroad. Canada, which has the largest
contingent of Tamils settlers, (around 200,000 they claim) banned the
Tigers in March 2006. This was followed by the ban of the EU in May
2006. This added up to 26 countries freezing the assets of the Tigers.
Tiger offices were raided and Tiger agents were arrested. Years of
labour put in by the Tamil diaspora were washed away by the tsunami of
violence unleashed by Prabhakaran.
Killing, ethnic cleansing, abducting children into his futile war,
torturing dissenting Tamils, committing war crimes and crimes against
humanity were his standard fare.
The Tamil Diaspora were forking out their hard earned money to
finance the killing, the torturing and the persecution of their own
people back home. Their hypocrisy was and is unlimited. They pretended
that they were contributing to the welfare of their folks oppressed by
the Sinhala-Buddhist government when they knew that the money was
channelled to oil the killing machine of Prabhakaran. The Tamil doctors,
lawyers, academics, churchmen and other professionals and
non-professionals were the criminals who were passing the ammunition
praising their lord, Prabhakaran.
But the 200 - 300 million dollars sent annually to fill the war chest
of Prabhakaran (Jane's Weekly) were not yielding the results they
expected. Prabhakaran was lurching from one disaster to another. He had
been found guilty by the Scandinavian peace monitors of violating 98% of
the terms and conditions of the CFA - an international agreement which
had virtually enthroned him in the north and the east. Obsessed with his
political delusions, he was misleading the Tamils promising to take them
to the next step: his elusive Eelam. The more pragmatic and
knowledgeable Tamils knew from day one that it was not attainable
because the international community, and India in particular, were not
going to grant the Tamil separatists their dreamland.
When Appapillai Amirthalingam, who went round the world with a
diplomatic passport as the Leader of the Opposition in the Sinhala-dominated
government, he discovered that the world was not going to grant them the
separate state. Earlier N. Shanmuganathan, the Tamil Communist leader
(Maoist wing) and a pioneering communist of the Stalinist mould, had
argued that the Tamils were not a nation, according to Stalin's
Marxist-Leninist definition, he said.
But the myths concocted by the Tamil elite in the fifties prevailed.
They pretended to be Gandhians - Gandhians who had no qualms about
distributing wooden pistols to their satyagrahins, as told by Prof. A.
J. Wilson, the son-in-law of S. J. V. Chelvanayakam, the father of Tamil
separatism. Prabhakaran is the political child that came out of the
mono-ethnic politics spawned by the vellahla elite who were driven by
the insane notion that they were born to rule the Sinhalese, the Muslims
and low-caste Tamils.
No other force has destroyed the Tamils, their institutions, their
way of life as this ideology of vellahlaism. Ironically, the first to
pay for this ideology were the vellahlahs.
When power changed hands the low-caste Tigers got them, one by one.
And even after Tamil society has gone to pieces, under the forces
violence unleashed by the vellahla ideology - the vellahla regime was
always violent, oppressive and consistently persecuting the low caste
Tamils from feudal times - the Tamils and their intellectuals have
refused to look behind their cadjan curtain introspectively. To cover up
their historical sins against their own people, the elitist Tamils of
Jaffna, the most privileged community in Sri Lanka, concocted the theory
of being victims of the Sinhala-Buddhist majority. They reveled in
victimology, playing the role of the underdog, and accusing the majority
Sinhalese of discrimination and oppression. NGO pundits and the Tamil
propagandists blamed the Sinhala-Buddhist even for the brutal violence
This excuse would have had some validity if Prabhakaran's retaliatory
violence was directed only at the Sinhalese. But what had the Sinhalese
done to Prabhakaran for him to kill the Muslims? Or to ethnically
cleanse them from Jaffna, after looting their property and raping their
women? Did the Sinhalese ask him to abduct Tamil children from the
desperate mothers who have no place to hide their children? Is he
running torture camps in the Vanni to punish the Sinhalese? Did he kill
Rajiv Gandhi because he wanted to teach the Sinhala-Buddhists a lesson?
The hard reality is that Prabhakaran has lost the rationale on which
he was acclaimed initially as everybody's 'Thambi' and survived later as
the sole representative of the Tamils. He has lost his sense of
direction, lost the plot and lost the goodwill of the reasonable Tamils
yearning for peace which they know will never dawn as long as they
continue to manufacture excuse to prop him up.