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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2585

Tamilselvan’s death is Ranil’s loss more than Prabhakaran’s

H. L. D. Mahindapala

S. P. Tamilselvan, the political head of the Tamil Tigers, dubbed by the media as “the smiling Tiger”, was killed this morning around 6.a.m. when the Sri Lankan Air Force (SLAF) accurately targeted a Tiger complex in Thiruvaiaru, according to SLAF sources.

This is the first time that the Sri Lankan forces succeeded in targeting a high-ranking political figure of the Tigers. The Tigers had targeted several heads of the southern political hierarchy but the Tiger leadership was inaccessible for targeting by the Security Forces.

With the death of Tamilselvam, Velupillai Prabhakaran, the Tiger chief, loses his second public face of the Tigers. The first was Anton Balasingham. Hitting Thamilselvan in the heartland of the Tigers will be a big blow to the morale of the Tiger cadres.

However, political analysts believe that Prabhakaran will not be grieving too much, if he grieves at all. This death will open the space to push his son, Charles Anthony, into the political seat left vacant by Thamilselvan.. It is also speculated that the death of Tamilselvan will lead to further tensions within the disenchanted ranks of the Tigers.

In military terms, the SLAF has recovered within a short span of time what it has lost in the Anuradhapura base. They were in the dog house after the severe damage caused by the 21 suicide bombers.

The Tigers were crowing that they had paralyzed the air force which was a serious threat to their military capabilities. SLAF claimed that their capacity to strike back remained intact. This successful air strike has established that the Anuradhapura attack by the Tigers has not altered the military balance. In fact, as claimed by the Defence Secretary, Gotabaya Rajapakse, the Security Forces still have the upper hand. Security Forces also claim that they have advanced into Tiger territory in the north.

The planes and other material are replaceable. But Prabhakaran cannot replace Thamilselvan. If as expected he replaces him with his son it is likely to present a whole new scenario which may not, in the long run, strengthen Prabhakaran’s hand.

This air strike has also proved that the Tigers are not so safe as they thought they were, hiding in the Vanni. The psychological impact on the civilians too is bound to be severe. Nevertheless, it should be regarded as having the same impact as the attack on the Anuradhapura base: purely symbolic. Prabhakaran’s fighting capacity has not been altered dramatically with this death.

Analysts also argue that that the biggest loser in this event is Ranil Wickremesinghe. The UNP was hoping to capitalize on the Anuradhapura attack, with the pro-Ranil pack in the media howling and nipping on the heels of the government. The SLAF has not only recovered its lost prestige but also hit the UNP-led opposition which was decrying the government’s failure in protecting the Anuradhapura air base.

SLAF strike has blighted the chances of Wickremesinghe cashing in on the high cost of living. The boost to the ranks of the Mahinda Rajapakse is huge. Wickremesinghe was blasting the media for highlighting the naval successes as it was blunting his attack on the government on the cost of living. This air attack overshadows all those naval victories.

The UNP has also been challenging the Security Forces to go to Vanni. Analysts say that even if the Security Forces cannot go to Vanni on foot yet it can go to Vanni by air with deadly accuracy.

Rajitha Senarathna a leader of the UNP dissident Democratic Group and also Sri Lanka Minister of Construction and Engineering Services told a media conference that more UNPers are waiting till the budget is passed to cross over. There is speculation that another eight UNPers would cross over.

If this happens Wickremesinghe will lose his position as leader of the Opposition.

UNP holds 43 seats in Sri Lanka parliament while Marxist People’s Liberation Front (JVP) has 38 seats.

- Asian Tribune -

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