The Pirabhakaran Phenomenon
Part 48

Sachi Sri Kantha
[27 November 2002]

Projecting Tamil Power


‘Learn to ‘play the piano’. In playing the piano all ten fingers are in motion; it won’t do to move some fingers only and no others. But if all ten fingers press down all at once, there is no melody.’

-        Mao Tse Tung on Leadership. In: The Other Side of the River – Red China Today, by Edgar Snow, 1962, p.113. 

The curse of the Eelam Tamils, especially during the post-independence period, was that , all ‘ten fingers’ which Mao admonished should not ‘press down all at once’ were in play in the political field. In the pre-militant period from 1950s to the beginning of 1970s, one could literally count these ten ‘fingers’: Ponnambalam’s band, Chelvanayakam’s band, Trotsky admirers’ band, Stalin apologists’ band, Mao Leftist’s vocal-only band, Suntheralingam’s high caste solo, UNP loyalists’ band, local Independents’ (likes of Duraiappah, P.R.Selvanayakam) band, fence-sitting Muslim band and Thondaman’s separate solo. One could gloat in paper about this situation as democracy at best, but pragmatically it was the coffin nail for Tamil rights in the island. At every election from 1947 to 1970, all these groups produced a cacophony of discordant noise on Tamil rights. Some semblance of political unity was achieved in 1972. But it was of no avail. 

The same history was repeated when the next generation of Tamils came of age and turned towards militancy. Mao’s ‘ten fingers’ maxim was again demonstrated in the mid-1980s and Indian Intelligence operatives exploited the Eelam scene to sow discord among the Tamil militants. What was sadly missing was the melody of freedom struggle. It was to the credit of Pirabhakaran that he decimated the cacophonous screamers (especially the TELO and EPRLF) to fine-tune the military arm of Tamil power. It was a heart-rending operation. Nevertheless, the outcome was the need of the times. ‘The sole representatives’ claim of LTTE is currently discussed in pejorative sense by analysts and editorialists from Colombo and Chennai. But, those who fault Pirabhakaran for his high-handedness (including Mr. Ashley Wills, the current US ambassador in Sri Lanka) seem oblivious to the facts relating to the American Independence War, where the Patriots more or less behaved like the LTTE cadres. If one has to be fair, though there exists a time gap of nearly two centuries, one cannot approve one set of morals for George Washington’s army and demand another set of morals from Pirabhakaran’s liberation army.  

In 1983, Pirabhakaran embarked on a dauntless mission of projecting the Tamil military power. If he could count on an outside alley in his mission, it was only the former Tamil Nadu chief minister M.G.Ramachandran. And MGR also passed from the scene in December 1987. Since then, LTTE has stood all alone. Now, with the passage of 15 years, the performance of LTTE in the Eastern Front can be reviewed in selected yearly frames – 1990, 1993, 1997 and 2002.    

Proof of the Pudding 

The proof of the pudding is in the eating, says the old adage. I provide below few analyses, spanning twelve years, to assess the level of success Pirabhakaran’s LTTE had achieved in eroding the legitimacy of Sri Lanka’s unitary state. 

(1)  Journalist John Colmey and Rohan Gunaratna on the events of June- July 1990 

Following the final departure of India’s army from Eelam in March 1990, President Premadasa’s government, soft-pedalled and even double-crossed on the understood ‘positions’ taken during the  year-long negotiations held between LTTE and the Sri Lankan government. This led to the beginning of Eelam War II in June 1990. LTTE’s views were presented by its chief spokesman Anton Balasingham in his interview with John Colmey, the Asiaweek’s correspondent. To quote, 

“Q: Why did fighting break out again? 

A: We had been talking for one year and two months. During that time, there was a political void in the north and east. The provincial council administration had collapsed. We were preparing ourselves for a provincial election and were preparing ourselves to take over the provincial council. But we suddenly realised there was a stalemate – a delay on the part of the government to take concrete actions even though they were saying they were going to do this and that. Mr.Premadasa would say something positive while Mr.Ranjan Wijeratne would give negative answers. For example, on the question of arms Ranjan insisted that the LTTE not be allowed to participate in an election without laying down arms, which was not agreeable to us. There were contradictions.  

Then there were elements within the armed forces which were opposed to a negotiated settlement. Because of that there was a build-up of the army in the north and east and that worried us. There were quite a lot of incidents between soldiers and LTTE guerillas. The Sinhalese police in the east were creating a lot of problems, coming out of the police stations, beating up Tamil people. There were elements within the armed forces that wanted to create a confrontational situation. 

Q: Are you saying the government was never sincere? 

A: They could say ‘we are negotiating with the LTTE and everything will be rosy’ and thereby get foreign aid. All the while they were building up their forces…We thought they were sincere early on. Later, when the Indians left, the situation changed. They held talks with the EPRLF (a rival Tamil group). That disillusioned us because the EPRLF backed Indian occupation. We were talking with [Justice Minister Shahul] Hameed and the president, while Ranjan Wijeratne was talking with other groups. 

Q: But the Tigers also contributed to the tensions. 

A: That is how the government is trying to portray it, the LTTE was doing this and that and from a small incident started everything. But for a long time the army was not very happy to be confined to barracks – they always wanted free mobility, wanted to come out from their camps. 

Q: Is there a chance for a ceasefire, new talks? 

A: It depends on the government. The government has declared that there cannot be negotiations unless we lay down arms. This was said by Ranjan Wijeratne. This is totally unacceptable to us. If the government insists on that condition, there will be no negotiations. There will be a protracted war. 

Q: The government says the conflict is between the army and the Tigers and not with the Tamil people. 

A: This is an ethnic war. The government is mobilising the Sinhalese population. The aerial bombardment of the north, the calculated economic embargo on the north, where they are not allowing food supplies, medical supplies or fuel to come in – it’s a collective punishment against our people.” [Asiaweek, Hongkong, July 20, 1990, p.26] 

John Colmey also recorded the following: “The army’s strategy is to gain control of the east, where fighting first broke out, by surrounding guerillas in the jungles and cutting off their supply lines, and then push north and repeat the process.” He also quoted the original source of this strategy, the gung-ho spirited Ranjan Wijeratne who was overseeing the operations. To quote,  ‘Once they’re cornered in the jungles and their supply lines are cut off, it’s only a matter of time’, says Wijeratne. ‘We’ll finish them off.’ [ibid] 

Anton Balasingham’s answers to the first two questions had been corroborated by Rohan Gunaratna subsequently in his book, Indian Intervention in Sri Lanka (1993, ch.13, pp.434-438). Minister Wijeratne was in a hurry, even in 1990, to establish his credentials for the Presidential sweepstakes, in competition with other two UNPers – Lalith Athulathmudali and Gamini Dissanayake. And he wanted to do that by claiming Pirabhakaran’s scalp, figuratively if not literally. According to Rohan Gunaratna, “Wijeratne’s intention was to crush the LTTE in the same manner that he had dealt with the JVP. This would have assured him honour and even the subsequent presidency of Sri Lanka.” [ibid] Gunaratna has stated in a foot-note that this was revealed to him by minister Wijeratne two days before his assassination in an interview, the validity of which has to be assumed in good faith. 

Following is a chronological synopsis of ten-day events in June 1990 which opened the Eelam War II, as culled from Gunaratna’s tract. 

June 10, 1990: a Muslim youth found with a Sinhala woman inside a refugee camp in Batticaloa town, assaulted by the husband of the woman.This youth was a tailor in the services of LTTE. They were taken to the police station at Batticaloa.  

June 11, 1990: 250 LTTE cadres surrounded the police station at Batticaloa town, and took control of the station…. LTTE captured 9 police stations in the Eastern province, abducted 650 policemen and initially shot and killed 135 of them. 

June 13, 1990: A ceasefire between LTTE and the Sri Lankan forces was arranged over the phone at mid day. An LTTE press release issued from London claimed that the government did not maintain the ceasefire.  

June 14, 1990: LTTE captured Odduchudan and Mankulam police stations. 

June 15, 1990: Justice Minister Hameed flew to Jaffna and met with LTTE leaders led by Anton Balasingham in Nallur. 

June 16, 1990: Justice Minister Hameed returned to Palaly to confer with LTTE, but was unable to meet them on that day or thereafter. 

June 19, 1990: an LTTE assassination squad on the orders of Pottu Amman, the LTTE Chief of Intelligence, murdered EPRLF leader Padmanabha, parliamentarian Yogasangari, North-East Provincial Council Minister Kirubakaran and 12 others in Madras. 

By design, Gunaratna had failed to suggest the motive behind LTTE’s attack on the EPRLF. It was left to Dayan Jayatilleka,  another anti-LTTE commentator and an insider in the Premadasa administration, to let the cat out of the bag, ten years later, in his eulogy to K.Padmanabha. I have indicated this previously [see, Pirabhakaran Phenomenon, part 39]. But, it is worth a repetition. To quote, 

“EPRLF MP Yogasangari flew from Colombo for that [Central Committee] meeting. He had earlier communicated to Pathmanabha a proposal of the Sri Lankan Government of that time – the Premadasa administration – that the EPRLF should join the Sri Lankan Army and fight against the LTTE. The LTTE had resumed the war ten days before, on the 10th of June 1990. The initial response from the EPRLF was positive in principle, but they had one problem. Ranjan Wijeratne was insisting that EPRLF fighters wear Sri Lankan Army uniform…” [ Daily News, Colombo, June 19, 2000] 

Here was one instance, where LTTE, due to prevailing circumstances, employed the classic ‘fast draw’ of Clint Eastwood’s movie genre to protect its organization.  Many Tamils, no doubt, had qualms about the decimation of EPRLF’s lead members. In hindsight, this ‘fast draw’ can be reconciled as a survival, military strategy which worked at that instance. Few months later, this deed was set in perspective by Anton Balasingham to Deanna Hodgin as follows: 

‘Of course, in Colombo, they will say that these fellows are wiping out all the opposition’ says Tamil Tiger spokesman Balasingam. ‘But this is a life-and-death struggle for us, for our people. We are facing genocide. We can’t tolerate traitors, informants; otherwise we will perish.’ [Insight magazine, Oct.22, 1990, p.13] 

(2) Journalist and commentator Mervyn de Silva in 1990 

Respected political commentator Mervyn de Silva captured superbly the then Eastern Front scene, incorporating the multiple elements who had planted their feet to tangle with the LTTE. Though relatively objective in analysis, I reiterate that even an erudite de Silva has to cater for his Sinhalese readership. Thus, some of his assertions are tinged with subtle anti-LTTE bias. Nevertheless, he is worth quoting: 

“…There is no logical basis for a North-East merger today than the linguistic link between the Tamils and the Muslims – the Muslims being Tamil speakers. (Many Muslims also speak Sinhala but it is NOT their main mode of communication. Sinhala, indisputably is for the Muslim in the seven Sinhala-dominated provinces.” [‘Violence: A Fragmentation Bomb’, Lanka Guardian, Aug.15, 1990, pp.3-4] 

Then, Mervyn de Silva presented accurately the Muslim thinking as follows: 

“Simple arithmetic (a third of the province) has already made the Muslim, the smallest group nationwide, conscious of its strength AND weakness. The strength lay in the numbers game of parliamentary or provincial polls. Or the simplest numbers game of all, after the Indo-Sri Lanka Peace Accord, a referendum in the East after one year to decide the fate of the temporarily merged North-East. Does the Muslim use his unique position as the decisive, balancing factor to extract political concessions (i.e. sharing of power and perks) and, if so, from whom – the Tamils or the Sinhalese? Who will give the better deal? Perhaps the Sinhalese, the smallest of the three communities and thus likely to offer more, with the additional advantage of exercising power at the Centre, Colombo.” [ibid] 

Following this, Mervyn de Silva also semi-cryptically identified the multiple players who sowed discord in the Eastern Front in mid 1990. To quote, 

“The East, the main battlefield, gets redder. The East is militarised, with all the counter-insurgency ‘expertise’ concentrated in the East – new State militia such as the STF assisted by international expertise. In the run-up to the Accord and the IPKF (1983-87) the following trends become increasingly evident and assertive: the re-shaping of the Muslim identity with Islam as the instrument, the advent of new political and politico-military formations, the JIHAD, the Muslim Congress, more East-based than national, the spread of weapons, and intensified militarisation, and a more complex, confusing pattern of alignments, more shadowy than recognisable. 

Enter the IPKF. Its sheer weight begins to tell in the North, and the Tigers flee into the jungles, with the IPKF transforming itself from peace-keeper to army of occupation. In a more complex East however, the IPKF itself has to adjust itself to a different political-military challenge. The Indians quickly spot the relative autonomy of the Muslim factor –a Muslim Brigadier becomes the IPKF’s operational head in the East.” [ibid] 

Pirabhakaran’s LTTE had to adjust to all these continuously changing variables. Some of the ‘massacres’ attributed to LTTE in the Eastern front has to be understood from this perspective. What has been under-stated by LTTE’s critics (Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims) was the nefarious deeds planned and executed by the India’s policy operatives in fomenting friction between the Tamils and the Muslims in the Eastern front. Covert evidence for this is present in a document entitled ‘Afghanistan and Sri Lanka: A Comparison of Operational Styles’, which appeared in the Annual Report of the Indian Defence Review, which Mervyn de Silva republished in his Lanka Guardian magazine [Aug.1, 1990, pp.11-21]. This document was authored by ‘IDR Research Team’, with IDR obviously standing for Indian Defence Review. From the cited pegs to political events, I presume that this Annual Report was for the year 1989, when LTTE was engaged in confrontation with the Indian army. Presented opinion is revealing for its bile (filled with sickening cliches), cocksureness on the Indian military power and what the Indian panjandrums had predicted for Pirabhakaran. Excerpts: 

“The LTTE had become a brutal and fascist organization. Lamp post killings, tyre treatment and cyanide capsules had come to symbolize a killers’ cult of surprising viciousness. The key question was that since the LTTE had emerged (by natural selection) as the strongest Tamil group should India (as the patron of the Tamils) have come to terms with it? Had the LTTE turned completely renegade and unresponsive to Indian interests?…The Indian Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ mission of keeping international public opinion favourable has been achieved but at considerable military and economic cost. Time alone will tell if the domestic cost of placating world opinion were justified…. 

Then, the Indian pundits had pontificated why Pirabhakaran was not eliminated at the early stages of the Indian army’s confrontation with the LTTE by comparing Pirabhakaran with Hafizulla Amin (1929-1979) of Afghanistan during Soviet invasion in 1979. To quote, 

“If we had come to the clear and unambiguous conclusion that Prabhakaran had become a Hafizulla Amin, our response should have been as ruthless and straightforward as the Soviets. They carefully bided their time, completed methodical preparations and then stunned the world with a swift and decisive blow. One air assault and five motor rifle divisions were thrown in. Result: Hafizulla Amin’s presidential palace was attacked, Amin himself was killed and Barbrak Karmal of the rival Parcham faction came riding in on Soviet tanks. All of Afghanistan lay prostrate in five days.” 

Hafizullah Amin was the nominal leader of Afghanistan for two months, between September and December 1979. He was perceived by the Soviets as an American ‘implant’, though he is now labeled as one who displayed independent nationalism who refused to take Soviet advice. Hafizullah Amin lived in USA during the 1950s and received a Masters degree from the Columbia University in 1957 and he returned to Afghanistan in 1965. Thus, comparing Pirabhakaran to Hafizulla Amin is like comparing cheese and chalk, though Pirabhakaran is an Eelam nationalist. Nevertheless the Indian pundits had wished for Pirabhakaran’s elimination by the Indian army and the anointment of Eelam leadership with a Babrak Karmal, who turned out to be Varadarajah Perumal of EPRLF. The Indian pundits also lamented on the lack of quality intelligence on the LTTE as follows: 

“One is not aware of the quality of intelligence input regarding the strength, armament pattern and motivation of the LTTE but surely external intelligence-gathering agencies such as RAW should have been able to give us this information? Indian military leaders freely admitted in the media that there had been a major intelligence assessment failure.” 

Thus, it can be inferred that the Indian panjandrums wished for a scenario of repeating the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the Eelam in 1987. But everything misfired, probably due to the nimble mind of Pirabhakaran and his advisors. How much of Clint Eastwood’s movie cassettes helped Pirabhakaran in developing his nimble mind is difficult to assess. But it is self-evident that Pirabhakaran did absorb the spirit and significance of  ‘fast draw of a gun-fighter’ from the Eastwood manthra and used it for his survival skillfully. Not only that, what distinguished him from his other Tamil militant contemporaries, was the persisting ‘fire in the belly’ to project the Tamil power. 

(3) Analyst Jayanath Rajepakse in 1993 

By late 1993, Premadasa as well as Ranjan Wijeratne had lost their lives. In the following passage, Rajepakse ( a Sinhalese Foreign Ministry official, in charge of the South Asia desk) had correctly deciphered the ground-reality of the situation, as it stood in 1993 under D.B.Wijetunge’s leadership. To quote, 

‘If the LTTE’s challenge is to be withstood successfully, their military capability has to be blunted to the point where they themselves stand denied a military option. But, for such an endeavour to make any sense, let alone be realised, it has to go hand-in-hand with negotiation of a settlement that can command Tamil support across the board. For, it is only to the extent if any that the Tamils in the state’s (that means Government and Opposition) sincerity of purpose about a fair settlement, that they could be persuaded to move out from under the LTTE’s shadow. And, unless and until that happens, any talk of a Government military option is pie in the sky. 

Even at the level of military action per se to blunt the LTTE’s capability, two conditions need to be met, of which there has been no evidence yet; first, our forces have to be provided with the resources in men and requisite types of weaponry which would enable them to wrest and hold the military initiative long enough; and second, they need to have this available simultaneously in the north and east. For the Government’s strategy of first clearing and securing the east is doubly flawed; at the theoretical leel, it is a non sequitur given the LTTE’s aim to establish a contiguous Tamil domain in north and east; so, at the very least, the state’s forces need to be able to wrest and hold the military initiative simultaneously in north and east. But even granted that they are given these resources, one still needs the back-up of para-military forces to defend, and civilian cadres to administer cleared areas, to enable the forces to extend the frontier of clearance…” [ source: ‘The LTTE military challenge’, Lanka Guardian, Dec.15, 1993, p.7] 

(4) American journalist John Cramer in 1997 

Journalist John D. Cramer visited Batticaloa, while Chandrika Kumaratunga, the President, and her kin Anuruddha Ratwatte were waging their ‘War for Peace’ against the LTTE. The nominal prime minister then was the figuratively comatose mother of Mrs.Kumaratunga. Excerpts from Cramer’s on-the spot report to the Washington Post are as follows: [Note: Words within the parentheses are as in the original.] 

“…But the government still does not control vast areas of the country and has been forced twice to extend amnesty to tens of thousands of deserters who fled after being thrust into combat with scant training against a hardened guerrilla force. 

For their part, the Tigers also claim the upper hand, but they have lost their northern stronghold on the Jaffna Peninsula, increasingly are sending adolescent boys and girls to fight and are attacking foreign ships carrying food and other suppliesin Sri Lankan waters…Most Tamils, who make up about 20 percent of the island’s population and are predominantly Hindu, call the Tiges freedom fighters. Some Tamils, however, ‘oppose the LTTE, but do not say so openly,’ a Batticaloa man says, using the separatist group’s initials. ‘The Tigers come and extort money, and if you refuse, you are in trouble.’ The Tamils, he says, ‘are caught in the middle. They are detained, tortured, killed by both sides because each thinks they support the other.’… 

In Batticaloa district, a rural area dominated by Tamils and rice paddies, life revolves around the rice planting and harvest seasons as it has for centuries. The army controls the town itself, a battered, dusty and impoverished place along a lagoon, as well as the crumbling roads connecting it with outside areas, but it is a fragile control. At night, the soldiers hunker down behind sandbags as the Tigers sporadically attack outlying areas with rifle fire, mortars and rocket-propelled grenades before returning to the jungle at dawn. 

In nearby villages, many Tamil civilians – who live in dirt-floor shacks without electricity or running water, wear threadbare clothing and ride dilapidated bicycles and ox carts – say they give money, food and other supplies willingly to support the rebels, who are neatly dressed, disciplined and well-fed, and ride expensive motorcycles up and down the dirt roads. ‘They ask politely, lovingly, for what we can give,’ an old woman says. ‘The rich Tamils do not support the LTTE, but the poor do, and these (Tiger) boys and girls are only trying to get us what is rightfully ours.’ 

One Tamil man says the war has biblical overtones. ‘The Sinhalese are like the Egyptians and the Tamils like the Israelites, and our people believe (Tiger leader Velupillai) Prabhakaran is like Moses leading his people from slavery to a promised land,’ he says. ‘The only difference is we already know where our promised land is – it is right here.’ 

But some Tamils, even in the heart of Tiger territory, privately say they oppose or are neutral to the rebel force, and many able-bodied men in their twenties and thirties are content to leave the fighting to Tamil teenagers…” [Feature: ‘War Without End’, Washington Post National Weekly edition, Aug.11, 1997, p.18] 

This feature appeared few weeks before the American government designated the LTTE as one of the foreign terrorist organizations. 

(5) The Sinhalese editorialist of Sunday Leader (Colombo) in Nov. 2002 

Five years later, still Chandrika Kumaratunga remains as the lame duck President of a rump Sri Lankan state. Ranil Wickremasinghe of the UNP now occupies the Prime Minister’s slot. The Sinhalese editorialist presents a back-handed compliment to Pirabhakaran’s tenacity in the following paragraphs. 

“…The situation in the north and east is far from acceptable, by any yardstick. The LTTE continues to do most things it used to do even before the MoU and ceasefire came into place. It extorts money, levies taxes, operates a police force and has even established courts of law. None of these things are new; they represent a status quo that evolved over two decades. They reflect the fact that there was indeed a de facto Eelam at the time hostilities ceased. It is not entirely intelligent to insist that all this should be dismantled forthwith, and that the writ of the government must run equally everywhere in Sri Lanka. Even as Ranil Wickremesinghe speaks of ‘regaining Sri Lanka’, the challenge before him is not so much to regain the nation but the north and east, and by peaceful means, to boot. 

There is no questioning that the situation today is heaps better than it was a year ago. That this tends to vex the likes of the Venerable Maduluwawe Sobitha Thero of this world is simply tough luck. They had two whole decades in which to put their courage where their mouths are: volunteer for the army, take a gun and go to Jaffna to fight for their cause. They didn’t, and Sri Lanka was left with an un-winnable war. For the warmongers to pontificate today, from the security they enjoy thanks to the peace process, is easy. But it still begs the question, where were they all these years? Certainly not on the front lines! 

The LTTE are not saints; they are in large measure a band of blood-thirsty terrorists. But what other choice do we have than to negotiate a settlement in the hope, the LTTE will eventually embarace democracy in the long run. So deep is the abyss into which our nation had sunk…” [Editorial: ‘The Painful Path to Peace’, Sunday Leader, Colombo, Nov.24, 2002] 

While nearing the end of 2002, even the LTTE un-friendly Sinhalese journalists like the editor of Sunday Leader had come to state the reality that a ‘de facto Eelam’ had been established by the LTTE. That Pirabhakaran’s army achieved this without a vital air-power is an achievement of gigantic proportions. 

Always ‘Cornered’ and Still Standing in the Ring 

Among the more than one hundred profiles, sketches, ‘inside-stories’ which I have read on Pirabhakaran for the past 15 years or so, one stands out for its timeless sheen. It appeared in mid 1987 at the height of the Vadamarachchi Operation by the Sri Lankan army. It was penned by K.P.Sunil, for the Illustrated Weekly of India magazine. Now that, Pirabhakaran had reached 48 years, this profile is worthy of a review. Sunil’s one-page profile had highlighted incidents of Pirabhakaran’s early life, which all Tamils are now well aware of, and carried some worn-out cliches like ‘whose strategic brilliance is matched only by his ruthlessness’. 

I reproduce snippets from Sunil’s description which are relevant to this chapter. First was the caption: ‘In the News: Cornered’, with the single word ‘Cornered’ between two black borders. In sports lingo, the word ‘Cornered’ is a boxing as well as hunting metaphor. It was apt for Pirabhakaran then, during the 1987 Vadamarachchi Operation. Sunil wrote as follows: 

“While the LTTE was consolidating its position [in the early 1980s], several other militant groups like the Eelam People’s Revolutionary Liberation Front (EPRLF), the Eelam Revolutionary Organisation (EROS), the Tamil Eelam Liberation Army (TELA), the Tamil Eelam Army (TEA) and several other minor groups with similar goals and objectives, but with marginal differences in ideology, had sprung up. With the proliferation in the number of militant groups, the Eelam movement started losing its identity and Pirabhakaran probably encouraged by his superior military strength and strike power, decided to assimilate lesser groups through military action rather than through a process of dialogue.” [Illustrated Weekly of India, June 7, 1987, p.61] 

Sunil was indeed correct in mentioning that by 1986, ‘with the proliferation in the number of militant groups the Eelam movement started losing its identity’ and recording the course of action Pirabhakaran took to deal with the TELO and EPRLF. But being an Indian journalist, he tactfully omitted mentioning Indian names and pointing fingers at the RAW operatives who were responsible for this. Also it should be noted that, by 1990, Pirabhakaran was successful in incorporating the EROS group into his fold by non-military means. Subsequently Sunil ended his profile with the following five sentences, consisting of three questions: 

“It remains to be seen what will happen to Pirabhakaran. Will he survive the present crisis? Will he retreat to friendly Tamil Nadu to direct further campaigns in the future? Or will he buckle down under the sustained Sri Lankan assault and take recourse to the cyanide vial? Whatever happens, his fate could well decide the future of Eelam.” [ibid] 

Now, after 15 years all know that Pirabhakaran survived the Vadamarachchi ‘crisis’. He did not retreat to ‘friendly Tamil Nadu’ for his future campaigns. Rather he stayed put in the Eelam territory. Also, he never buckled down under the ‘sustained Sri Lankan assault and took recourse to the cyanide vial.’  

But Pirabhakaran had been continuously ‘cornered’. He was cornered by the Indian army from late 1987 to early 1990. He was cornered by the Indian government in 1992 with the ban on LTTE and a court summons for the Rajiv Gandhi assassination. He was cornered by the Sri Lankan army in 1995 for the ‘Battle of Jaffna’. He was cornered by the Americans with a dubious label of leading a ‘foreign terrorist organization’ in 1997. [The applied definition of such a ‘foreign terrorist organization’ itself was vague, with one criterion being ‘It should be foreign in origin.’ If that is so, what is the status of an American organization like the CIA, which has its headquarters in Langley, Virginia, but perform field operations - not indistinguishable from terrorism - in boundaries beyond America?] Pirabhakaran was cornered by the Sri Lankan army (assisted by the mercenary Western consultants, Israeli operatives, Pakistan operatives and other arms suppliers) from 1997 to 1999. So, Pirabhakaran has been always ‘Cornered’ (with the large case C), but he is still standing in the ring with his conviction of projecting the Tamil power. [To be continued.]