The Pirabhakaran Phenomenon
Part 5

Sachi Sri Kantha
[5 June 2001]

Pirabhakaran - the Morale Booster

Truth is like a ghost

Truth is like a ghost! I owe debt to my student Ms. Sayuka Yamada for this humorous metaphor on truth. Early this year, to my undergraduate class I gave an assignment requesting them to describe in their own words, ‘What is Truth?’. Ms. Yamada’s complete response was as follows:

“I think the truth is like a ghost. Everybody knows this word. But nobody can say clearly what this is. All have their own vague forms of truths. Although the truth often helps people, it also hurts them. And the truth sometimes disappears. After all, the truth is a ghost.”

As I mentioned last week [The Pirabhakaran Phenomenon - part 4], the hiding of unsuccessful 1962 and 1966 coups staged by the Sri Lankan army in its official website illustrates Ms. Yamada’s comparison between the truth and ghost. I enjoy ‘truth search’ in the literature generated by anti-Pirabhakaran propagandists. When Lady Reason visits them infrequently, truth is revealed in small quanta, which in turn bursts the anti-Pirabhakaran balloons they float. Two examples are given below.

A sample of truth in the Island newspaper.

Less than a month ago, the Island (Colombo) newspaper presented a brief news item with the caption, ‘Kins of missing servicemen hold satyagraha tomorrow’. According to this news item, the Association of Relatives of Servicemen Missing in Action is 1,800-member strong. Mr. E.P. Nanayakkara serves as this association’s president. The Island stated,

“Nanayakkara revealed that he met the [Norwegian] ambassador and Erik Solheim, responsible for the peace effort. Nanayakkara said that he pleaded with the Norwegians to go ahead with their efforts despite opposition by a small group of people. Those who talk of war and collect signatures demanding an all out military campaign against the LTTE have not sent their loved ones to the front. ‘Some of them have not gone beyond Anuradhapura in the recent past’, he said adding that he has received several invitations from the LTTE to visit Wanni to discuss the fate of the missing. But, the government has not so far given approval for him to meet with the LTTE, he said.” [Island, May 13, 2001]

Last week [The Pirabhakaran Phenomenon - part 4], I provided examples for the power-holding, power-sharing and power-peddling castes in Sri Lanka. Here, Mr. Nanayakkara and his group represents the fourth and the last, powerless caste. Among the Sinhalese, quite a segment of the powerless caste do not hold any grudge against Pirabhakaran or LTTE. In fact, they even covertly admire the actions of Pirabhakaran who stands up to the power-holding caste among the Sinhalese. It was a fact that when LTTE fought against the Indian army, quite a number of Sinhalese (including those who occupied lower ranks in the Sri Lankan army) vicariously supported Pirabhakaran, since he and LTTE courageously stood up to the bullying of Indian army. This brings me to the thoughts of Dayan Jayatilleka again.

A quanta of truth from Mr.Dayan Jayatilleka

Last week [The Pirabhakaran Phenomenon - part 4] I had critically commented on the anti-Pirabhakaran polemics of Dayan Jayatilleka. I should add that when Lady Reason visits him infrequently, he is also capable of presenting vignettes of truth, which can explain some of Pirabhakaran’s actions. Dayan served as a minister in the North-East Provincial Council between December 1988 and June 1989, under Varadaraja Perumal of EPRLF. Ten years later, in an article entitled, ‘Lessons from North-East Council’, he had presented his impressions on why LTTE went to war with the Indian army. Excerpts are given below.

“...Many writers, Sri Lankan and Indian, have written at length on the resistance to the implementation of the Indo-Sri Lanka Peace Accord of July 1987, and even steps of actual sabotage on the part of the Government of India and the LTTE. This is only a part, perhaps the overwhelmingly larger part of the story, but not the complete one. There were at least three other elements or factors, which contributed to the actual outbreak of war between the LTTE and the IPKF on 10 October 1987...

“The first was the People’s Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE), which upon re-induction to Sri Lanka following the Accord and the IPKF deployment, initialed a campaign of serial assassinations of Tiger cadres - a course of action that could be termed pre-emptive, if one were charitably inclined. This course of sustained assassinations provided the Tigers with the excuse to re-arm on a significant scale, picking up their recently cached automatic weapons and perhaps more importantly, prompting an influential number of Tamil people to sympathise with the LTT’s refusal to disarm.

“The second element was Varadharajah Perumal, the future Chief Minister of the North-East Provincial Council, whose accurate reading of the fascist character of the LTTE led him to the strategic conclusion that a situation must be created in which the IPKF would fight the LTTE. He was to opt for a strikingly similar strategy later, in relation to the Sri Lankan state and the IPKF. Perumal was not the leader of the Eelam People’s Revolutionary Front (EPRLF), but in the aftermath of the Accord, it was he who represented the organization in Colombo which entailed the all important liaison with the Indian High Commission and the Colombo government-cum-security apparatus.

“The next element that contributed, this time unwittingly, to the unraveling of the Accord was the Indian High Commission itself led by the formidable High Commissioner Mani Dixit...”[Lanka Guardian, Jan-Feb.1998, pp.2-4]

If one discards the anti-LTTE barbs which Dayan peppers frequently, his observations - though open secrets to Eelam Tamils - give credence to some vital decisions made by Pirabhakaran to protect LTTE and defend the morale of Eelam Tamils. Also, Dayan’s comments about Pirabhakaran’s Sudumalai speech made in August 1987 is worth noting here.

“...Contrary to the views of the prejudiced, Prabhakaran’s speech at Sudumalai was not a declaration of intent to undermine the Accord. It was a perfectly positioned, tensely poised statement accurately reflecting the diminished space that the man found himself in, a temporary lack of balance but considerable determination and focus to get out of the trap...” [ibid]

Also, Eelam Tamils should read this quantum of truth presented by Dayan in 1998, after the deaths of both Rajiv Gandhi and Gamini Dissanayake.

“Gamini Dissanayake, a senior Cabinet Minister and the strongest supporter of the Accord in Sri Lankan politics, was ironically, one of those who helped undermine it. Dissanayake’s sponsorship or patronage of the Weli Oya settlement, on the border between the North Central Province, and the Trincomalee district, in the very aftermath of the signing of the Accord, clearly went against its spirit - though he told this writer in 1988 that it was done after Rajiv Gandhi was informed and without any objections from him. The Weli Oya settlement effectively cut off any territorial link between the Northern and Eastern Province on Sri Lanka’s Eastern coastline...” [ibid]

I was impressed by Dayan’s candor [he being a Premadasa protege!] in accusing Gamini Dissanayake as one of the culprits who undermined the Rajiv Gandhi-Jayewardene Accord of 1987.

Pirabhakaran - the morale-booster

Morale is one ingredient which Pirabhakaran contributed (and still contributes) to Tamil nationalism in abundant proportions. Before presenting my analysis on how Pirabhakaran became the morale-booster for Eelam and Indian Tamils, I wish to provide some generally understood facts about morale. For this, I depend on the scholarship of Emory Bogardus [see, The Pirabhakaran Phenomenon - part 1]. Morale - or lack of it- has been much talked about in the Sri Lankan media during the past decade. But I haven’t come across anyone referring to the contributions of Bogardus.

Sixty years ago, Bogardus wrote a paper entitled, ‘National Morale’ [Sociology and Social Research, Jan-Feb.1941, vol.25, p.203-212]. In this paper, he stated two specific examples of what happened in France and China, during the second half of 1930s. Excerpts are as follows:

“In war the main aims seems to be to break the morale of the enemy. The crumbling of France in June 1940 is a notorious case in point. France had soldiers, fortifications, munitions; but her morale was shattered, and she surrendered. What was the situation? For years France has had too many opinions, too much partisanship, too many economic and political schisms, and too little national morale. One group of people in power, no matter what group, was always attacked viciously by two or three other groups not in power...

“In China the main immediate aim of the Japanese military has been to break the morale of the Chinese. The repeated heavy bombing of Chunking has had as its main objective the destruction not of people and buildings so much as that of morale. These persistent bombings with their terrible destruction of life and maiming of human bodies are to be continued until ‘the spirit of resistance is broken’. Likewise, a major aim of the heavy bombing of London which began in September 1940 has been to break the morale of the English...”

When the Japanese Imperial Army invaded North China in 1937, Mao showed his mettle as a guerrilla leader. He delivered a most important speech entitled, ‘Policies, Measures and Perspectives for Resisting the Japanese Invasion’ on July 23, 1937. In this speech, he provided a ten-point program, as follows:

1.     Overthrow Japanese imperialism.

2.     Mobilize the military strength of the whole nation.

3.     Mobilize the people of the whole country.

4.     Reform the government apparatus.

5.     Adopt an anti-Japanese foreign policy.

6.     Adopt war-time financial and economic policies.

7.     Improve the people’s livelihood.

8.     Adopt an anti-Japanese educational policy.

9.     Weed out traitor and pro-Japanese elements and consolidate the rear.

10. Achieve national unity against Japan.

[source: Han Suyin, The Morning Deluge: Mao Tse Tung & The Chinese Revolution 1893-1954, Little,Brown & Co, Boston, 1972, p.337]

Pirabhakaran returned to Eelam from Tamil Nadu in January 1987. Without hesitation, I would say that only after his return to Eelam, he metamorphosed into a real leader. Until then, he was a leader-apprentice. If we substitute the word ‘Japanese’ to the phrase ‘Sinhalese and/or Indian’ in the above ten-point program of Mao, we can easily comprehend the decisions made by Pirabhakaran to boost the morale of Eelam Tamils.

I will cite the thoughts of Bogardus again, in relation to the leadership role and morale. Even now, these words have not lost their sheen. The problems of Bill Clinton and Chandrika Kumaratunga as leaders are explained in these words.

“....National morale is related to the confidence of the people in the nation’s leaders. This confidence depends on the ability of the leaders to achieve for the welfare and glory of the nation. If a leader can add to the nation’s place in the sun, many of his shortcomings will be overlooked.

“Confidence in leadership is connected with the leader’s evident honesty and sincerity of purpose. This consideration is especially important in a democratic state. A leader is expected to make some mistakes; but if he tries to cover these up, if he fails repeatedly to admit them, or if he blames them on others, he loses the confidence that the people have placed in him, and national morale is weakened. On the other hand, if he says he will undoubtedly make some mistakes but will try to correct them, he inspires good will and builds morale.” [ibid]

Pirabhakaran’s return to Eelam in January 1987 showed to Tamils his ‘honesty and sincerity of purpose’ towards his goal. To explain, how Pirabhakaran lifted the morale of Eelam Tamils during 1987, I will rely on the information provided by the authors of The Broken Palmyra. Even though they have projected themselves as anti-Pirabhakaran propagandists, their book is also reliable for some truths. In 1987, after Pirabhakaran’s return to Eelam,

“The government resumed aerial bombing of Jaffna on 7th of March.” [p.101]

“The Sri Lankan government commenced random shelling of the civilian population in Jaffna, together with aerial bombing on 22 April. One could hear shells falling in quick succession in widely separated places, usually around 6:30am and 6:30pm. Most would quickly take their families into the house or into a trench if they had one, and say their prayers. The aerial bombing was often off the mark. The Sri Lankan airforce tried four times to bomb an LTTE camp in Point Pedro situated in the crowded market area, and finally finished the job with a bulldozer a month later, after taking over Vadamaratchi at the end of May. About a hundred civilians were killed upto 26 May as a result of the bombing and shelling.” [p.106]

“Worse than the ordinary aerial bombing was the use of so-called barrel bombs which were pushed out of Avro transports. These were crude devices which could not be aimed at specific targets, and consisted of a barrel of fuel padded with a rubber-like inflammable substance. On hitting the ground the fuel would explode. The molten padding would fly in all directions and stick to the skin of a victim and burn itself out. A large number of these were dropped on Valvettithurai (48 according to one count). Barrel bombs were also dropped at random in several other parts of the peninsula. One falling Sivan Kovel on K.K.S.Road, Jaffna town, claimed 17 victims. This seemed a sadistic extra without military purpose.” [p.128]

The Operation Liberation, coordinated by the then Minister of National Security -Lalith Athulathmudali -commenced on May 26, 1987. Rajan Hoole et al. have written, “The army moved out of Thondamanaru on the 26th. This was accompanied by heavy aerial bombing and shelling, particularly in Valvettithurai. There was also military activity, bombing and shelling near the Jaffna Fort.” [p.126]

Pirabhakaran’s response to the Operation Liberation campaign was immediately interpreted by his adversaries as one of defeat. But he basically was following the script, written fifty years previously by Mao. The motto song memorized by Mao’s Red Army extolled the logic of mobile warfare:

“Keep men, lose land; Land can be taken again.
Keep land, lose men; Land and men both lost.”

[Han Suyin, ibid, p.472]

Also, Pirabhakaran had to boost the morale of Eelam Tamils who were suffering from aerial bombing. The answer was delivered on July 5, 1987. [Continued]