Ilankai Tamil Sangam

28th Year on the Web

Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

Prabhakaran's Spears and Mandela's Spears

Part 9

by Sachi Sri Kantha, April 23, 2012

“The ideals we cherish, our fondest dreams and fervent hopes may not be realized in our lifetime. But that is besides the point. The knowledge that in your day you did your duty, and lived up to the expectations of your fellow men is in itself a rewarding experience and magnificent achievement.”

Part 1

Wikiality Doping Syndrome and Wikiality Anti-Doping Effect

In part 8, I introduced the Wikiality Doping Syndrome (WDS). In this final part, I introduce a corollary to WDS. It is, Wikiality Anti-Doping Effect (WADE). If doping in its original sense (used in science) means addition of impurities at selected amount at selected spots for better performance, its corollary WADE means, subtraction or elimination of impurities at selected amount at selected spots for better performance in analytical studies, books or magazine reports. Both WDS and WADE are like two sides of the same coin. One of the best examples of WADE is the omission of the roles of collaborators or spoilers in the conflict between the dark networks and their adversaries (the power-wielding state system). In their comparative study on dark networks, Rene Bakker and colleagues have omitted the roles of black collaborators such as Zulu chief Mangasothu Buthelezi who worked against the MK; in case of the LTTE, while providing a positive twist to the collaborator role of betrayer Colonel Karuna on behalf of Sinhalese government, they had excluded the spoiler role played by the Muslims on behalf of the Sinhala state.

By such omission and positive twisting of facts, the academics inflate the prestige of the state and thereby simultaneously paint negative profiles of dark networks (MK and LTTE) which were forced to effectively neutralize the contributions of such collaborators or spoilers for their own survival. Any violence which occurs between collaborators or spoilers who support the state and the dark networks were/are presented and counted as negatives for the latter. Academics and analysts, without any understanding of the ground situation, interpret such Black on Black violence (in case of MK) or Tamil on Tamil violence/Tamil on Muslim violence (in case of LTTE) with verve to tarnish the images of dark networks.

During its pre-1994 period, MK had to face violence from collaborators or spoilers supporting the cause of Zulu Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi. Prior to his first trip to USA the Time magazine [June 25, 1990] interviewed him. I reproduce his answers to two questions relating to black on black violence, and provide a scan of this interview nearby.

Mandela interview TIME June 25 1990Q: Why have you not been able to end the fighting in Natal?

Mandela: If it were a question of conflict between Mangosuthu Buthelezi’s Inkatha [movement] and the ANC, we would have solved this matter long ago. But my problem is the government, because what is happening in Natal is no longer a clash between the ANC and Inkatha. The government has taken advantage of the clash between the two organizations to crush the ANC and eliminate its membership in Natal. I have asked De Klerk the simple question, Why has the government failed to suppress that violence for more than 4 1/2 years, and when almost 4,000 people have died? And De Klerk has never been able to give me a satisfactory answer.

Q: Wouldn’t it help if you meet with Buthelezi? It is an important question.

Mandela: It is not important to us. There are six homeland leaders in South Africa. We are working with five. What is the importance of Buthelezi? I don’t see it.”

For its entire duration, the LTTE had to face violence from collaborators or spoilers belonging to other listless Tamil militant groups (an alphabet soup of TELO, PLOTE, EPRLF, TNA, EPDP) aided by the Indian and Sri Lankan operatives, and the Muslim paramilitary factions aided by Sri Lankan operatives. LTTE’s offensive actions were twisted by the Sri Lankan government’s official and unofficial mouthpieces as despicable.

Optimists of an Unusual Type

One positive trait which has been shared by Mandela and Prabhakaran was extreme optimism when the chips are down and loaded against them. In his autobiography, Mandela had written about this trait as follows:

“I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lay defeat and death.”

Newsweek interview Veluppillai Prabakaran Prabhakaran August 11 1986 The Eye of the TigerIn his interview to the Newsweek magazine in 1986, Prabhakaran answered two posed questions as follows:

Question: How many troops do you have under your command and where do they train?

Prabhakaran: That’s a secret. I can tell you we are strong enough to take on the 51,000-strong Sri Lankan military and well enough equipped to carry on protracted guerrilla warfare.

Question:  Why do you think LTTE has taken on the lead among other guerrilla groups?

Prabhakaran: Discipline and order are most important. We emphasize personal morality and a sense of patriotism. Our cadres carry cyanide pills with them to avoid falling into enemy hands. Most of all, the people are behind us.”

Mr. Thiruvengadam Velupillai (1924-2010) father of LTTE leader Prabhakaran Prabakaran

Mr. Thiruvengadam Velupillai (1924-2010);father of LTTE leader Prabhakaran

Then, Prabhakaran was only 31 years. For the next 22 years, despite severe odds (backstabbing by Indian punditry, betrayal by a handful of his juniors, paranoia of Uncle Sam, Sri Lankan military’s dependence on foreign mercenaries and hostile media notices) he did live up to his words and ideals.

Tiger Debate in the Robben Island Prison

One item which distinguished Mandela from other run-of-the mill politicians is that he was a solid thinker. He could even make the best use from a worst situation. About his long years in prison, he had written,

“There is no prospect about prison which pleases – with the possible exception of one. One has time to think. In the vortex of the struggle, when one is constantly reacting to changing circumstances, one rarely has the chance to carefully consider all the ramifications of one’s decisions or policies. Prison provided the time – much more than enough time – to reflect on what one had done and not done.”

He also had noted that “We were constantly engaged in political debates. Some were dispatched in a day, others were disputed for years.” One particular issue, which engaged their minds was about tiger [Note by Sachi: the four-legged mammal]. To quote,

“One subject we hearkened back to again and again was the question of whether there were tigers in Africa. Some argued that although it was popularly assumed that tigers lived in Africa, this was a myth and they were native to Asia and the Indian subcontinent. Africa had leopards in abundance, but no tigers. The other side argued that tigers were native to Africa and some still lived there. Some claimed to have seen with their own eyes this most powerful and beautiful of cats in the jungles of Africa.

I maintained that while there were no tigers to be found in contemporary Africa, there was a Xhosa word for tiger, a word different from the one for leopard, and that if the word existed in our language, the creature must have once existed in Africa. Otherwise, why would there be a name for it? This argument went round and round, and I remember Mac [Maharaj] retorting that hundreds of years ago there was a Hindi word for a craft that flew in the air, long before the airplane was invented, but that did not mean that airplanes existed in ancient India.”

Welikade Jail prison massacre July 1983 Tamil Times Sri Lanka Barbarism Back with Vengeance The July Massacre and After

Prison life in apartheid South Africa and ‘Sinhala-Only’ Sri Lanka

I should note that whatever the demerits of the apartheid policies practiced in South Africa from 1948 to 1994, Mandela and quite a number of his fellow inmates were able to return to regular life with their sharp minds intact, after being held in prison for 27 years. There were a few exceptions though such as anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko (1946-1977) who died while in police custody. But, if recent history holds, one would be hard pressed to agree that the Tamil political prisoners or detainees who were held in racist Sri Lankan prisons would be lucky like Mandela and his fellow inmates to return to regular life. Even now, secrecy is the order of the day relating to the fate of thousands of LTTE cadres who were taken as prisoners in May 2009. Notably, LTTE leader Prabhakaran’s father Thiruvengadam Velupillai died on January 6, 2010 at the age of 86, while being held under special military custody by the Sri Lankan authorities. The case of Selvarasa (Kumaran) Pathmanathan, alias KP, who had a ‘100-day run’ as the self-appointed LTTE leader (between late May and early August 2009) is pathetic too. After being caught in Malaysia and brought to Colombo and held in military detention (prison), he quickly morphed into a collaborator zombie with a noose around his neck. It is simply evident to all, that despite his occasional promotion interviews to carefully screened print and TV journalists brought by the courtesy of presidential sibling Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, KP was no Mandela in spirit or thoughts! One of my cynical colleagues had posed a question, why we are not presented a combined interview of two LTTE collaborators Col. Karuna and KP, sitting side by side?

In July 1983, 58 Tamil detainees held in high security Welikada prison (in Colombo) were bludgeoned to death by fellow Sinhalese inmates, aided and abetted by others who were in charge of the prison. As I checked the Wikipedia (on April 21, 2012), there exists a brief entry (as a stub) about this Welikada prison massacre of Tamil detainees, in which the names of detainees who were killed are missing. So that their deaths will not be erased out from history, I reproduce their names below. Some names are incomplete and a few (such as Arafat) are nick names. Unfortunately, I don’t have information about their ages, with the exception of a few like Dr. Rajasundaram and Kuttimani. As the Tamil Times (London) editorialist had noted, “It is also not an accident that they were young and youthful except for the Gandhiyam leader, Dr. S.Rajasundaram, who was in his forties.”

39 Detainees who were killed in Welikada prison on July 25, 1983

Selvaraja Yogachandran alias Kuttimani

Nadarajah Thangathurai




Sivan Anpalagan


Suresh Kumar




P. Mahendran



K. Uthayakumar

S. Sivakumar

A. Rajan

S. Balachandran

Yogachandran Killi

S. Subramaniam

Mylvaganam Sinniah

G. Mylvaganam

C. Sivanantharajah

T. Kandiah

S. Sathiyaseelan




Gunapalan Ganeshalingam

Anpalagan Sundaran

Ramalingam Balachandran


K. Krishnakumar





Sittampalam Chandrakulam

Navaratnam Sivapatham alias Master

19 Detainees who were killed in Welikada prison on July 27, 1983

Dr. Somasundaram Rajasundaram (1943-1983)

Muthukumar Srikumar

Amirthanayagam Philip

Kulasingam Kumar

Selachami Kumar

Kandasamy Sarveswaran


Sivapathan Neethirajah

Devanayagam Paskaran

Ponnaiya Thurairajah alias Thankathurai

Gnanamuthu Navaratnasingham

Kandiah Rajendran alias Robert

Somasunderan Manoranjan

Arumugam Seyan alias Appu

Thamotharampillai Jagemoganandan

Sinnathambi Sivasubramaniam

Sellay Rajeratnam

Kumarasamy Ganeshalingam

Ponnampalam Devakumar

For record, I should also add that Douglas Devananda (born in 1957, the infamous Tamil collaborator) was also one of the survivors of the July 1983 Welikada prison massacre. At that time he was only 25. One can infer that though he survived with a near-death experience, such a trauma had twisted his mental wiring drastically to such as extent that he changed into a collaborator. He was no Mandela either.

Tamils in Detention Tortured & Killed The Guardian London June 22 1987

On the treatment meted out to Tamil prisoners or detainees in the 1980s, Robert Kilroy-Silk (a former Labour Party member of British parliament) contributed an opinion piece to the Times (London) in mid-1987, nearly 8 days before the first suicide bomb attack initiated by LTTE in Jaffna. It vividly describes the sentiments felt by young Tamils then. While providing an entire scan of this vital document for record, I focus on three paragraphs (marked by me in red box) below for the reason that I have not come across this type of state-sponsored terrorism being cited as one of the foremost reasons for the origin of suicide bombing in the pontifications of WDS-afflicted scholars and analysts. Kilroy-Silk, after visiting one of the prison camp had written,

“This alienation of the Tamil community has been increased by the way the emergency and anti-terrorist powers have been indiscriminately and ruthlessly applied. It was never necessary, for example, to round up all the men aged between 16 and 35 everytime a terrorist incident occurred in their locality. It was totally unjustifiable to carry them off to the army camp hundreds of miles south of Boosa. It was indefensible to beat and torture them. But it was done, and still is.

Robert Kilroy-Silk oped The Times London June 27 1987 Incitement to Terrorism Sri Lanka Tamils alienationWhen I visited the camp the prisoners were cowering and afraid. Though the physical conditions of the camp were acceptable and all the prisoners spoke well of their military jailers, many could, nevertheless, point to the scars on their buttocks and backs where they had been beaten, could show off the places where cigarettes had been stubbed out on their bodies and could tell of being hung by the feet over chilli fires and of having pins pushed down their fingernails.

What made it all so much more tragic was that so many of them were innocent of any terrorist intent, let alone action, as the government’s own advisory board set up to review each case confessed. The round-ups, the beatings and the prolonged detentions probably acted as a greater and more efficient recruiting sergeant for the terrorists and their cause than all the ideological blandishments of the Tigers.”

Kilroy-Silk’s account was corroborated by the Amnesty International as well. I also provide a scan of the news item that appeared in the Guardian (London) around the same period. As one would expect, Lalith Athulathmudali, the then Minister of National Security, had denied the allegations without a fuss stating that the descriptions offered were inaccurate and inadequate evidence!

End Note

In contrast to the conclusion of Bakker et al. (2012) on resilience of dark networks, my conclusion is as follows. By virtue the advantages it had (the principal reason being that blacks are the majority in South Africa), MK was incorporated into the reformed South African military set up in 1994. By virtue of its disadvantages (the principal reason being that the Tamils in Sri Lanka being a minority), LTTE lost its military resilience in 2009. For military viability, an army should possess ‘unified C4ISR’ (in Pentagonese English). The four Cs are command, control, communications and computers; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance stand for ISR. To its credit, LTTE was on par in intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance with its chief adversary, the Sri Lankan military apparatus manned by paid mercenaries from Pakistan, India, and Ukraine. Even among the four Cs, LTTE had a remarkable record in command and control. While LTTE had only Prabhakaran as its chief field commander, Sri Lankan adversary had to rotate 12 chief field commanders and 5 tyrants as commander in chief. But, LTTE was sadly handicapped during Eelam War 4 in other two Cs; namely, communications (GPS technology) and computers.

I’ll let Mandela to have the last word as a tribute to the separate state campaign put up by LTTE. What he wrote, while inside prison, in a letter applies to LTTE’s achievement too. To Sheena Duncan (1932-2010), in a letter dated April 1, 1985, Mandela wrote,

“The ideals we cherish, our fondest dreams and fervent hopes may not be realized in our lifetime. But that is besides the point. The knowledge that in your day you did your duty, and lived up to the expectations of your fellow men is in itself a rewarding experience and magnificent achievement.”

Sheena Duncan, the recipient of Mandela’s letter, was an anti-apartheid activist, and leader of Black Sash, a white woman’s anti-apartheid organization. She had founded her organization in 1955. Though I have focused only on Prabhakaran’s skill as the leader in this series, Mandela’s sentiments do apply to all the brave LTTE cadres (who were killed, tortured, kept in prison/detention and called names as ‘terrorist’) and the sympathizers, who followed Prabhakaran’s dreams and hopes.

Cited Sources

Anon: Massacre of Tamils in Jail. Tamil Times (London), July 1983, vol.2, no.9, p.8.

Anon: China’s military rise (cover story), Economist, April 7, 2012, pp.23-26.

Bakker R.M., Raab, J. and Milward, H.B: A preliminary theory of dark network resilience. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 2012; 31: 33-62.

Kilroy-Silk, R: Incitement to terrorism. The Times (London), June 27, 1987.

MacLeod, S: An Interview with Mandela. Time, June 25, 1990.

Mandela, N.: Long Walk to Freedom –the autobiography of Nelson Mandela. Little Brown and Co, Boston, 1994, pp. 429-431.

Mandela, N: Conversations with Myself. Picador, New York, 2010, pp. 242-243.

Murtagh, P: Tamils in detention ‘tortured and killed’. The Guardian (London), June 22, 1987.

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

Part 8





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