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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2554

Getting into Prabhakaran Mind

By Ranjith Gunaratna

The leader of the LTTE, Velupillai Prabhakaran is an illusive figure. No outside person has ever been able to portray an accurate picture of his character and thinking pattern. He has given only a very few media interviews. Much information about his childhood is also not available. There are many mysteries surrounding him. In thinking about the elusive nature of the LTTE and uncertainty of war, it is extremely required to getting into the mind of Prabhakaran to dig for answers to many questions.

It is a widely accepted notion that to win a war, it is important to "get inside the enemy's mind." This means knowing inside out of the organization, motives, strategies and modus operandi.

In the case of the LTTE, it emerged from a confluence of political and historical phenomena and matured in the vat of circumstances and events. With the time it grew up under the shadow of its leader, Prabhakaran.

Therefore, its next move cannot be judged just looking at its recent behaviour or explosive past. Any move of the LTTE is always endorsed by its leader. Unlike other organizations, the LTTE is controlled solely by one ruthless individual with a dynamic and creative mind.

No one has been able to map his thinking pattern and how his mind works. The only way of reading his mind is through his words and not merely through his deeds. His words spelt out accurately his point of view about the ultimate aim of the LTTE, Eelam or a separate state.

Everything about the conflict evolves around this central and single factor, the separate state. Since beginning of the first separatist war, the leader of the LTTE has stated on several occasions, without any reservation, the sole and ultimate aim of the LTTE is to carve a separate state in Sir Lanka. For example, talking to the Front Line Magazine on 30-12-1985, the leader of the LTTE, Velupillai Prabhakaran stated "The Chances of attaining Eelam are bright because the people's determination is firm. We are prepared for a long-drawn struggle to attain Eelam." To date he maintains this position. He has made a number of additions to this statement to make it more colourful and comprehendible. His rhetoric has always been echoing his vision about the final aim of the LTTE. Clausewitz's dictum from his treatise "On War" that "no one starts a war—or rather, no one in his senses ought to do so—without first being clear in his mind what he intends to achieve by that war and how he intends to conduct it' seems appropriate here in the case of Prabhakaran.

Significantly, almost all the political leaders in the south of Sri Lanka altered their position and changed their perception about the conflict according to the needs of the hour. Even responding to the terrorist acts of the LTTE with the gun, they never have rejected or given up the idea of resolving the conflict through dialogue in order to find a lasting political settlement within a unitary state. Yet, Prabhakaran has never displayed readiness to finding a durable political solution to the conflict within one country.

The only agreement he has signed so far was the fragile peace agreement with the Government. He has not shown any enthusiasm to go beyond it. It is important to note that the LTTE itself has never participated in any election held in Sri Lanka. From time to time, some of their supporters have represented the voice of the LTTE in the political forum. This itself reflects that the LTTE has no desire to come into the mainstream politics in Sri Lanka. Observably, they have selected violence to reach their chosen destination often reviving its operational doctrine.

In this context, if the only message engraved in the mind of Prabhakaran is achieving Eelam or a separate state; the next daunting challenge before the Government of Sri Lanka is to predict his next move, which would aim at achieving the stated goals cruising through troubled waters. During the history of the conflict in Sri Lanka the LTTE has been trying to stay in cause through wanton bloodshed and spectacular violence without considering the morality of their acts.

In this context, until the very words "Separate State" are erased from the mind of Prabhakran, there is no guarantee that peace would prevail in Sri Lanka. Obviously, they would continue to employ their usual tactics aiming at a stunning victory. However, there would not be a greater challenge to the security forces if they appropriately orchestrate intelligence and military operations to repulse such attacks. More worryingly, the LTTE would experiment novel tactics by looking at the achievements of other terrorist organizations in the theatres such as Iraq and Afghanistan.

Therefore, Sri Lanka would need to be cautious since the LTTE might experiment in orchestrating coordinated multiple attacks using chemical or biological agents. They used chemical agent, "Chlorine gas," in the north of Sri Lanka against the security forces for the first time in 1980s. They have always had potassium cyanide. Recently, their attempts to smuggle chemical agents into their jungle hide-out were thwarted. At the same time the Sri Lankan air force reported destroying of chemical weapon factory of the LTTE. Thinking of the characteristics of the LTTE, no one can completely rule out possibility of such attacks by the LTTE in a more desperate situation. At the same time, the LTTE might resort to unlash all its powers in a more suicidal-style decisive battle. In such a battle they would unleash terror in an urban terrain using thousands of cadres with a view to inflicting more damages to people and property in 9/11 scale attacks. Aim of such attacks would definitely be to sink with the enemy.

The solution

In this context, there would be only two solutions to end the conflict and remove the words "separate state." They are long-lasting political solution and or make Prabhakaran incapacitated. A long lasting political solution would definitely eliminate the LTTE in two ways. In one way it would negate its ideology and a sound political solution will eliminate the requirement to have a leader like Prabhakaran.

However, the most important quiz would be whether Prabhakran is ready to become a passive player of the new political sphere, after dedicating his whole life for the conflict. Undoubtedly, he would not let anyone in the organization or outside the organization to take his place while he is alive. Like Karuna there would be more moderate leaders in the LTTE who want to think differently. There would also be leaders who would like to resolve the conflict peacefully in order to have a better future for every Tamil. Yet, the question is whether these leaders are allowed to have their own opinion. Therefore, the emphasis of the above-analysis is placed high on Prabhakaran factor in resolving the conundrum. Accordingly, what must be stated conclusively is that appropriate strategy should be fabricated to neutralize or remove Prabhakaran factor from the theatre.

- Asian Tribune -

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