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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2964

Indian knife disemboweling Prabhakaran

H. L. D. Mahindapala

Amidst all the fireworks and the drama of the unfolding events one factor surfaces with sharp clarity: President Mahinda Rajapakse is on a winning streak both nationally and internationally.

Col. R. Hariharan, former head of the IPKF intelligence in Jaffna, confirmed this when he told me at the Madras Club in Chennai last week: "I back Mahinda Rajapaksa fully. He has a clear cut programme. He must pursue it to the end." In case I didn't get it right or misheard it I went through with it all over again.

The previous day N. Ram, Editor-in-Chief of the prestigious Hindu, told me categorically that Velupillai Prabhakaran must be removed from the political equation for peace to dawn in Sri Lanka. His wish nearly came true when the Sri Lankan Air Force missed a direct hit. However, the debris of the bomb that hit his hideout in Jeyanthy Nagar on November 28 injured Prabhakaran. This is the nearest that the Sri Lankan forces ever got to him. Hopefully, next time it could be near enough for the Catholic priests who went to pray for him after November 28 to sing the hymn "Nearer, my God, to Thee!" – a popular number at Christian funerals.

Getting back to Ram, he did not come to the conclusion that peace can never be achieved through Prabhakaran in the last shower of rain. Ram is well informed and he had moved closely with most of the key players in the Sri Lankan crisis. He foresaw what was coming after he had interacted with Prabhakaran who was plucked out of Jaffna and brought before Rajiv Gandhi, India's Prime Minister. That was the time when Rajiv was playing an interventionist role in Sri Lanka. Prabhakaran contacted Ram and was complaining bitterly about the treatment given to him by Rajiv. He told Ram that he was held as "a prisoner" at Ashok Hotel. He was virtually held incommunicado and he had access only to a selected few like Ram. At the end of his discussions with the caged Tiger Ram wrote a note to Rajiv Gandhi saying that Prabhakaran will not play ball with India.

Ram, who is one of the ten eminent persons of India engaged in international affairs, reflects the disillusionment and frustration of India in dealing with Prabhakaran. If the Indian establishment gives tacit approval for the current military campaign against the Prabhkaran entrenched in the Vanni Ram states it openly, endorsing the military offensive to weaken and/or eliminate Prabhakaran. In a recent editorial he wrote: "…… (T) he Sri Lankan state is perfectly within its rights to respond firmly to the military and terrorist challenge posed by the LTTE." In another telling editorial he concluded by stating: "The Tamil question cannot be resolved in any just and enduring way as long as the LTTE remains a politico-military force to reckon with – or as long as Mr. Prabhakaran remains its supremo."

Branding the Vanni regime as "a Pol Potist" regime, Ram states that "Eelam is a pipe dream and the LTTE supremo has known this for some time." Adducing reasons for this he states: "The key factors behind this realization are the fatal weakening of his organization in the eastern province (following the Karuna revolt); the Indian and western designation of the LTTE as a terrorist organization and the increasing international isolation; the enhanced military resources, including air power, of the Sri Lankan state; and last and potentially the most important factor, ………the improved prospect of their (the two main Sinhala parties) agreeing on a political settlement of the Tamil question."

Despite loud protestations that erupt from Tamil Nadu, Ram is also emphatic that Prabhakaran has lost his grip in this state – the backyard that was once the primary source of his overseas strength. Highlighting this loss, Ram wrote: "(S)ince post-Rajiv assassination, popular and political sympathy for the LTTE and the Eelam cause in Tamil Nadu has evaporated, except at the chauvinist fringes."

Ram's opinion is representative of the current thinking that dominates the Indian establishment. After all the twists and turns, India is now firmly located in the non-interventionist mode with a slight tilt towards getting rid of Prabhakaran. For instance, India's Out Look magazine (December 17, 2007) focused starkly on the sea change in Indian attitude towards Prabhakaran.

Pushpa Iyengar surveying the new mood the Tamil Nadu wrote: "In the innocence of the '80s Tamil Nadu had a penchant for forming human chains to show its solidarity with the Sri Lankan Tamil cause. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), at the forefront of the liberation war in Jaffna, northern Sri Lanka, had the backing of every political party in the state. Fallen and living LTTE leaders were celebrated as revolutionary icons. Not any more. Cut to 2007 and the killing of Thamilchelvam, one of the top three rebel leaders, last fortnight. While die-hard LTTE supporters like Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazahagam (MDMK) chief Vaiko courted arrest there was no groundswell of public sympathy or protest in the state."

Quoting V. Geetha of Tara publications,Out Look states: "In the absence of any other voices, it was assumed that LTTE represented Tamil interests" she says but points out that the Tigers have polarized the debate because "no other voices" percolate down. She adds: "People here are put off by the bomb-culture, the lack of internal democracy in the LTTE and the forced conscription of young boys…."

Out Look also stated: "Social scientist M. S. S. Pandian, visiting Fellow of Delhi's Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), argues that there is no political space now for those who express sympathy with the LTTE. As he puts it: "It's treated as sedition…..."

The hardening of Indian opinion against the Tigers is as deadly as the bunker busters that got Tamilselvan. The Tigers cannot get anywhere without India. And the ill-fated Tigers have no alternative strategy to win India or any other member of the international community. The prevailing thrust of the national and international forces provides only one option for Prabhakaran: expand the acreage of graveyards, leaving some space for him to join sooner or later to push the daisies non-violently.

His plight exposes the inescapable trap into which the Tigers – and, of course, the hapless Tamils who follow him - have fallen. Ever since Velupillai Prabhakaran took the scalp of the first unarmed Tamil leader, Alfred Duraiyappah, in 1975 he has relied exclusively on achieving his "pipe dream" through violence. Duped by his initial successes of acquiring power through brutal violence he went way beyond his capacity to deliver his imagined goals with no concept of maneuvering or strategizing politically at international and national levels through non-violent negotiations. His numerous declarations of unilateral ceasefires and sending emissaries to peace talks have been exposed as futile feints to gain time and space to recoup and consolidate his military strength. Violence is a double-edged weapon: the sword that lifted him up is now cutting him down to size.

Initially the Tamils were buoyed by the force of Prabhakaranist violence. When Alfred Duraiyappah was gunned down by Prabhakaran the Tamil leadership, from S. J. V. Chelvanayakam downwards maintained a calculated silence of approval. The so-called Gandhians did not utter a single word of condemnation.

The "Tamil Gandhians" took the most disastrous political step in 1976 when they passed the Vaddukoddai Resolution endorsing violence against what they called "the Sinhala state." What was seen then as the mighty force of the Tamils peaked to a formidable lelvel with the rise of Prabhakaran only to find that at the end of three decades (since the Vaddukoddai Resolution) they are back to square one. Prabhakaran is at a point where he cannot sustain his violence at the same level as before, or gain the lost ground. The signs are that day by day his arrogant force is petering out.

The other key strategy of the Tamil leadership was to internationalize Jaffna-centric politics. Both factors worked in their favour initially. But today the two major forces mobilized by the Tamil leadership -- (1) violence and (2) the international community -- have taken the Tamil leadership nowhere. In fact, both have boomeranged on them. The failure of Jaffna-centric politics to force their mono-ethnic extremism at the expense of all the other communities was expressed pathetically by Prabhakaran when he complained bitterly against the international community in his last annual speech.

"It is an extraordinary confession of political frustration," wrote Ram, referring to the "2007 'Hero's Day Statement' of its Pol Potist leader Velupillai Prabhakaran. "The 2,700-word speech is a litany of grievances against everyone under the sun – except the talented military leader who had brought such cruelty, suffering and uncertainty to his own people and of course to their compatriots belonging to other ethnic communities in the island," said Ram.

Looking back it is pretty clear that the Tamil leadership misled the Tamil people all the way. Of course, the uncompromising and aggressive peninsular leadership, competing with each other for supremacy on anti-Sinhala racism, has never ceased to blame the Sinhala south. Focusing on the external "other" was their way of surviving in competitive racist politics. Any move to co-exist with the other communities was rejected by the Tamil leadership as surrender to the Sinhalese. Rival Tamil parties accused each other of being "traitors" and "collaborators" when one or the other Jaffna-based party extended a hand of cooperation to the centre.

Whipping up anti-Sinhala racism was their standard tactic to pursue their narrow-minded and arrogant politics derived from a false sense of superiority. Driven by this unwarranted sense of superiority, which was as unsubstantiated and fake as their "Gandhism", they led the Tamils of Jaffna like lambs to slaughter. Velupillai Prabhakaran continues that peninsular tradition with the blind arrogance and intransigence common to suicidal and blood-thirsty Hitlers and Pol Pots. With their charades of "non-violence" and bogus cries of discrimination (example: compare their status with that of the Tamils of Malaysia) they misled their own people who are forced to pay with their lives, not to mention their under-aged children. The Tamils today are paying for the sins of their political fathers.

The way forward is to co-exist under whatever political arrangement that can be worked out for the benefit of all communities and not just for those obsessed with peninsular politics. But the modalities for co-existence cannot be worked out until Prabhakaran is removed from the political equation. The national and international consensus of opinion confirming this negates the NGO-sponsored theory that a new constitutional arrangement must be put in place first to isolate the Tamil people from Prabhakaran. As usual the pseudo theoreticians in the NGO circuit are barking up the wrong tree. They know that Prabhakaran will not accept any constitutional formula that is short of his Eelam. If they know their history as they ought to know it, they will concede that Prabhakaran will not allow any peace formula that is not approved by him to gain ground.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa is on the right track in prioritizing the military campaign to remove the main obstacle to peace: the Pol Potist regime in Terroristan. Despite all the hardships, the people, by and large, are willing to go along with him because they have pinned their hopes to his campaign. They know that the President has to win for them to realize their future. The anti-Rajapaksa politics cranked up by the opposition has not worked because the people, sick of this war, agree with President Rajapaksa that first things must come first.

The carping critics in the NGO circuit and the media (except, perhaps, The Island ) focus not on the priorities of ensuring a future filled with hopes but on the negative issues on the periphery. Whatever the merits and demerits of their criticisms may be they cannot take away from President Rajapaksa his incontrovertible gains which make a Sri Lankan watcher like Col. Hariharan say that he backs the clear cut programme of the President. The gains he has made so far – leave alone those yet to come -- in changing the tide of seemingly insurmountable forces rising against Sri Lanka will no doubt earn him an indelible place in history. While his critics will be cast in the dustbins of a forgotten past (remember those who scoffed at the gains in the east?) he will be remembered as the leader who took up the challenge and showed the way to the future when all others gave up, surrendering the nation to the brutal forces of terrorism.

- Asian Tribune -

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