With the army advancing Tigers have been
on the run (inset) Velupillai Pirapaharan
The conventional war waged against the Liberation
Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) by the armed forces of Sri
Lanka is expected to conclude in a few weeks time. The
Tigers are currently boxed into a littoral swathe
amounting to about 160 square km in area. With the army
closing in from different directions there seems little
doubt that the Tigers would be deprived of formal
territorial control soon. 'When?' remains the unanswered
capture of Tiger controlled territory by the armed
forces does not necessarily mean that the LTTE would be
totally destroyed. It only means that the positional
warfare phase in which the LTTE has been retaining
and defending territory will cease. Once the Tigers lose
all territorial control they are expected to 'melt
away' and resume guerrilla attacks against the armed
forces, police, government installations etc. Terrorist
type attacks of exploding bombs in public places and
assassination of politicians and government officials
is also likely to continue.
important point is that with the loss of territorial
control the "promise of Tamil Eelam" would be
irredeemably lost. It was the LTTE's ability to maintain
control of territory that enabled the organisation to
project an impression to the world at large and the
Tamil Diaspora that a separate Tamil state could be a
setting up of a parallel administration with structures
like police, courts, tax offices, prisons, banks,
immigration offices etc. helped enhance the image of an
LTTE controlled Tamil Eelam being a state-in-formation.
It was made out that gradual expansion of territorial
control would result in a creeping Tamil Eelam.
This myth has now been effectively exposed. It is
becoming crystal clear that the LTTE will no longer be
able to recapture or retain territory.
Status quo remains
must be noted that the Tigers who lost the Jaffna
offshore islands in 1990 never wrested them back. The
bulk of the Jaffna peninsula lost in 1995-'96 remains in
military hands still. The Eastern Province regions lost
in 2006-'07 are under effective government control.
Likewise the northern mainland areas captured by the
army in 2008-'09 are yet in army hands with all Tiger
counter-strikes being denied success.
Tiger strongholds like Adampan, Vidathaltivu, Thunukkai,
Mallavi, Vellankulam, Mulangavil, Valaipadu, Pooneryn,
Paranthan, Elephant Pass, Pallai, Thalaiaddy, Aliyawalai,
Soranpatru, Chundikulam, Killinochchi, Mankulam,
Puliyankulam, Olumadhu, Oddusuddan, Iranaimadhu,
Nedunkerny, Nayaru, Chemmalai, Alambil, Mulliyawalai,
Thaniootru, Mullaitivu town, Challai, Murasumoddai,
Tharmapuram and Visvamadhu have been taken by the army.
Despite speculation about Tiger counter-offensives aimed
at retaking them the ground position remains the same.
Currently the army has begun entering the general area
of Puthukkudiyiruppu. What remains in LTTE hands now
are parts of Puthukkudiyiruppu, a stretch of roadway
and adjacent areas between Puthukudiyiruppu junction
and Nanthikadal lagoon, along the A 35 highway or
Paranthan-Mullaitivu road and a coastal strip of land
extending northwards from Vattavaagal up to the south of
Bloodshed going on
This area is now saturated with civilians and Tiger
cadres. There is much bloodshed going on now. If and
when the civilian presence in this area becomes
non-existent, there is very likely to be a combined
fiery onslaught against LTTE positions by the army, navy
and air force. That would be the grand finale for the
LTTE in positional warfare.
Realising fully well that the writing is on the wall
for the LTTE if this trend continues, various members,
supporters and sympathisers of the Tigers have begun
orchestrating a campaign to "Save the Tiger." Ostensibly
it is being conducted as one being concerned about the
civilian plight. That this seemingly humanitarian
concern is only a hypocritical facade is exposed by four
Firstly there was no such concern evinced when civilians
in the Eastern Province were in distress due to a
ruthless military campaign or even when civilians in the
north-western regions of Wanni were affected. It is
only when the LTTE dominated north-eastern enclave is
under threat that this cacophony for civilian concern
Secondly these voices are stridently loud about the
damage and destruction caused by artillery shelling and
aerial bombardment by the armed forces but are
conspicuously silent on the atrocities committed
against their own people by the LTTE. There is no
condemnation of how the Tigers endanger civilian life,
limb and property by locating their artillery and
mortars in thickly populated places and engaging the
enemy thus bringing about inevitable retaliatory
Thirdly there is no criticism of the LTTE for preventing
sections of the people fleeing Tiger-controlled
territory for safety concerns. The LTTE has killed and
injured several civilians for daring to escape their
clutches and seek army protection. Only the armed
forces are blamed.
Fourthly , these sections want a permanent ceasefire.
The United Nations has called for a temporary ceasefire
to help facilitate the humanitarian evacuation of
entrapped civilians. But the pro-Tiger elements
agitating for civilian protection are not responsive.
They want a permanent ceasefire to safeguard the LTTE.
They are not for a temporary truce to help relocate
these factors demonstrate clearly that the Tiger and
pro-Tiger elements are keen to help preserve the LTTE by
getting a permanent ceasefire declared. Their intention
is to let the LTTE survive further by bringing about an
end to the military campaign. They also want the
entrapped civilians to remain as human shields in Tiger
areas rather than obtain safety and relief in government
While these frantic attempts are on, the government in
Colombo seems firmly resolved that the military
juggernaut should keep on rolling forward till the
Tigers are firmly dislodged from their positions and
LTTE remnants are chased away. The only way government
resolve can weaken is through Indian or international
Despite the endeavours of pro-Tiger elements and the
well meaning, altruistic concern shown by respected
organisations like Amnesty International or Human Rights
Watch there seems very little hope that the military
campaign will be called off. At best there may be a
temporary lull to evacuate civilians but a permanent
ceasefire seems unlikely until military objectives are
LTTE has only itself to blame for this state of affairs.
The Tigers have through a series of acts of omission and
commission created a situation where a 'consensus' of
sorts seems to have evolved among influential members
of the international community that the Tigers have to
go. India too shares this opinion.
This does not mean that India and other international
actors are happy about the Rajapakse regime and are
prepared to give it carte blanche. No! There is great
concern and dissatisfaction about the government's
dismal record in governance, human rights and inertia
in moving towards a political settlement.
Nevertheless there is a feeling that the LTTE is about
to receive the coup de grace by this government and that
nothing should fetter Colombo in this. The belief is
that pressure could be exerted on the government to toe
international diktat after the Tigers are put in their
place. So there is no constructive support for a
permanent ceasefire though appropriate noises are
being made about the civilian plight. Only time will
tell whether the international community has misjudged
the Rajapakse government or not.
such a situation, the ultimate fate of the LTTE in
positional warfare seems a foregone conclusion. There
will be much Tiger resistance but it is only a matter
of time for the LTTE to be deprived of formal
territorial control. How the LTTE would thereafter fare
in guerrilla warfare and terrorism in the future is a
multi-crore rupee question is the future of LTTE supremo
Velupillai Pirapaharan. There was a time when the LTTE's
political adviser Anton Balasingham referred to
Pirapaharan publicly at a press conference as both the
president and prime minister of Tamil Eelam. But the
situation today is a far cry from that. Against this
backdrop, Pirapaharan's future is indeed a matter of
and when the LTTE is deprived of territorial control,
its cadres have very limited options. One is to
surrender to the armed forces and hope for an amnesty
and rehabilitation. Another is to flee abroad. The third
is to re-coup in small groups in the jungles and
jungle-adjacent villages and continue with a low
intensity guerrilla campaign. The fourth is to
infiltrate various parts of Sri Lanka, in incognito mode
and lie low but occasionally engage in terrorist acts
While it may be possible for ordinary cadres to utilise
any of these options, the senior leaders in most
instances would find it difficult to do so. In the first
place the government will not offer an amnesty to the
leaders but mete out retributive justice to them. So
that avenue is blocked.
Then there is age and physical fitness. Most senior
Tiger leaders are in their naughty forties or nifty
fifties. Some suffer from ailments. Continuing with the
guerrilla struggle means experiencing much hardship and
difficulties. Few of these leaders are likely to survive
in that acid test.
Prolonging the guerrilla struggle by relocating to
jungles and jungle adjacent areas will also be
problematic because the armed forces would be unleashing
a comprehensive counter-insurgency campaign after
establishing full territorial control. An intensive
search and destroy campaign will be underway. With plans
of civilian relocation being in the air the LTTE would
find itself denied civilian sustenance.
Similarly the idea of infiltrating other areas in the
island and remaining incognito also is not safe. The
government will keep on conducting search missions to
apprehend Tigers in hiding. While some low level,
unknown cadres may be able to pull it off, the well
known seniors may find the going tough. Besides most
are married with children. What happens to the families?
way of escaping would be to go abroad. Some seniors have
already sent offspring abroad. But again the chances of
well known Tiger leaders escaping detection abroad are
quite slim. Of course the only way out is for some
country to provide them safety and protection
"unofficially." But given the widespread antipathy
towards the LTTE there is very little hope of the
Tigers getting such a "protectorate."
predicament faced by the senior Tiger leaders is one
that is very applicable to Velupillai Pirapaharan also.
The Tiger numero uno will be 55 this November. He is not
in very good health. Given his diminutive height and
excessive weight Pirapaharan's Body Mass Index would
certainly be on the high side.
There was a time during the Indian Army period where
Pirapaharan underwent tremendous hardship leading the
life of a guerrilla on the run. It is reported that he
had to lie prostrate amid shrubs for hours and hours
as Indian soldiers were scouring the area. It is
unimaginable that Pirapaharan would be able to repeat
this experience nowadays given his physical condition.
anticipation perhaps of advancing adversity, Pirapaharan
has reportedly sent his wife Madhivadhani and younger
son Balachandran away to an undisclosed foreign country.
His daughter Duwaraga is already abroad doing higher
studies. News reports state that Pirapaharan and his
elder son Charles Anthony are in the Wanni still.
what of the future? The fighting is going to intensify
in ferocity and brutality as the armed forces move
towards their goal of decimating the LTTE in direct
combat. What does Pirapaharan do in such a situation?
Will he throw his customary caution to the winds and
lead from the front in a devil-may-care attitude or will
he adhere to the concept that discretion is the better
part of valour?
With Tiger territory decreasing day by day
Pirapaharan's vulnerability also increases daily in
corresponding fashion. Apart from getting injured or
killed in direct fighting the probability of a shell,
bomb or stray shrapnel proving fatal also cannot be
dismissed lightly. If that were to happen the LTTE will
suffer an irreversible debacle. Velupillai Pirapaharan
is the life, brain, spirit and soul of the LTTE. If
something harmful happened to him the LTTE will explode
and the Tamil Eelamists implode. VP is LTTE. LTTE is VP.
There is also another danger. The armed forces are
capturing LTTE bunkers and hideouts on a daily basis.
Many of these seem to have been used by the supremo
himself. At this rate the possibility even by a fluke of
the armed forces being able to encircle a Tiger lair
with the first feline occupying it cannot be firmly
This is a prospect much dreaded by the Tigers and
supporters. It would indeed be a day of shame for them
if the LTTE leader is pulled out of a hidey hole like
Saddam Hussein of Iraq or paraded around as a captured
animal in an open cage like Peru's shining path leader
may be recalled that Pirapaharan was surrounded by
about 40 bodyguards during the Indian Army phase and one
of them carried with him at all times a plastic
container with gasoline. His instructions were to burn
the leader's body if Pirapaharan was killed or had to
consume cyanide on the verge of being captured.
Take his life
Under these circumstances Pirapaharan will most
probably take his own life rather than allow himself to
be taken prisoner and exhibited like a prized trophy by
the Rajapakse regime. But will he permit a situation to
develop where he could be killed, injured, captured or
compelled to commit suicide to avoid capture? Not if he
can help it!
Therefore the best bet for Pirapaharan seems to be that
of getting away from the north at an appropriate
juncture. He would be taking a huge risk if he tries to
wage guerrilla warfare by being physically present in
Sri Lanka. Likewise his life will be at high risk if and
when the fighting escalates. When the going gets tough,
the tough get going but in this case - going away from
is also crucially important that Pirapaharan should be
in the realm of the living if the struggle for Tamil
Eelam is to perpetuate itself. Therefore it is most
likely that he would leave Sri Lanka for an undisclosed
destination at some point of time in the near future.
From there he could control and direct the LTTE
There is however a hitch. If news got around that the
Tiger supremo was not in Sri Lanka and had escaped
abroad there would arise two major problems. Cadres and
supporters would be thoroughly demoralised and may even
view this act as one of cowardice and betrayal. The
other is that some countries like India would unleash a
massive, worldwide search operation to apprehend and
bring Pirapaharan to justice.
way out in this scenario is for the LTTE leader to slip
away but keep the matter under wraps. The stage is being
set for an elaborate drama where the Tigers would
create an illusion that their leader is still in the
Wanni overseeing various aspects of the armed struggle.
But in reality Pirapaharan will be in an external
location, maintaining a clandestine presence but
directing as far as possible the affairs of the LTTE.
Meanwhile the security forces could be straining every
sinew in a bid to capture or kill him. But Pirapaharan
would be elusive as the scarlet pimpernel. This facade
of Pirapaharan playing 'catch me if you can' with the
security forces would add to the superman myth
surrounding him. The Diaspora cash cows would be milked
further as they lapped up glorious fairy tales about
the self-styled Tamil National leader's valiant
Pirapaharan to adopt this future course of action he
needs a trustworthy accomplice capable of ensuring the
Tiger supremo's secluded safety while interacting as a
link between the leader and cadres in Sri Lanka as well
as with followers among the global Tamil Diaspora. The
man who fits this bill perfectly is none other than
Selvarasah Pathmanathan alias KP a.k.a. Kumaran.
former LTTE arms procurer was recently appointed as the
accredited head of the LTTE's global network. The coming
days will see KP acting as liaison between the leader
and the organisation. The illusion that Pirapaharan is
in the Wanni will be maintained while KP would relay
information to and from the leader. Pathmanathan will
grow in stature as the virtual leader of the LTTE while
keeping the real leader in the shadows.
Recent media reports state that Tiger cadres who
surrendered to the armed forces have revealed that
Pirapaharan and his first-born are in the Wanni still
and are preparing to lead from the front when the
occasion demands it. To discerning observers this
revelation smacks of an orchestrated propaganda exercise
by the LTTE. An image is being conjured up to depict the
leader and offspring in a heroic light. In actual
practice the duo is likely to make a clandestine
tactical withdrawal at the right time.
a nutshell this is what the future is likely to be.
Pirapaharan, son, senior leaders and family members will
go abroad and lead a clandestine existence. Middle level
leaders and loyal cadres will prolong a guerilla
campaign amidst great difficulty. An illusion would be
created that Pirapaharan is leading the struggle while
living in the Wanni. A myth would be built around his
elusiveness. KP will be the link between Pirapaharan and
scheme at face value seems workable. But then the best
laid plans of men and mice go awry at times. The two
legged Tigers are no exception. The future of the LTTE
in general and that of the supremo in particular remains
Recollections of the east
coast of Sri Lanka
time I read the arrant nonsense and litany of hate that
issues from the "patriotic political parties" of Sri
Lanka on the subject of settlement patterns along the
eastern seaboard, I am filled with a mixture of anger,
sorrow and helplessness.
perhaps been spoiled by living in a liberal democracy
where I worked for many years with people from,
literally, every corner of the earth to be tolerant of
the "frog in the well" attitudes of so many in this
benighted land whose opinions are taken to carry the
weight of expertise in their field.
from the erudition of academics such as Dr. Goonewardena,
Indrapala and the like who have exploded the
Mahayana-myths and fables parading as history with
regard to who the "original" settlers of this country
were, I have clear recollections of the eastern coast of
Sri Lanka from north of Kuchchaveli, down to Kumana.
None of those recollections over very nearly 70 years,
jibe with the hate-filled diatribes of the JHU, in
spent virtually every one of my holidays from the time I
was a child on the eastern seaboard, particularly in
Kuchchaveli where a maternal uncle settled down to raise
his family in the "thirties" of the last century. His
Sinhala wife was, to my recollection, the only resident
Sinhala-speaker for many miles around, save for the
migrant net fishermen from Negombo and its environs and
the deep sea fishermen from Gandara and the south who
came east during the South West Monsoon.
the Negombians spoke a kind of patois, a mixture of
Sinhala and Tamil, which I as a child speaking Sinhala
as my primary language at the time, found difficult to
follow. Despite my best efforts to enter into the
excitement of the large nets being drawn into shore, I
must admit that my parents took a dim view of such
activity because of the nature of the language in common
use at the time the nets were being drawn in!
"Salty" hardly begins to describe the language in
Sinhala and, presumably, in Tamil as well at such
times! I do remember also the violent conflicts between
the Sinhala deep-sea fishermen and the Tamil-speaking
Muslim dynamiters from Kinniya who had their camps north
of Kuchchaveli. The former feeling it necessary to take
the law into their own hands to prevent the wanton
destruction of the fish stocks of the area at a time
when the Fisheries Department did not have the capacity
to fulfill their obligation to prevent this patently
town of Trincomalee, about 20 miles and two ferries
south of Kuchchaveli, had its share of low-country
Sinhala mudalalis and I loved to visit their shops when
we took a "trip into town" to buy provisions etc.,
because this provided a garrulous and gregarious child
with the opportunity to speak Sinhala.
family also owned land south of Batticaloa and here too,
my distinct recollection when we visited, was a
preponderance of Tamil-speaking Muslims and Tamils. In
fact, except for the low-country Sinhala merchants of
the larger towns such as Batticaloa and the migrant
fishermen's wadiyas with the attendant ice mudalalis,
the majority community was conspicuous by its absence.
Farther south of course, once one was beyond Arugam Bay,
there were the small Sinhala communities of
Okanda and, finally, Kumana. Even here, one of the best
known Sinhala trackers hired by many of the hunters from
other parts of the country bore the name of Chelliah!
later, adult, phase of my life, I can claim quite
intimate knowledge of the Eastern coast between Verugal
and Batticaloa, the Panichchankerni area in particular.
Panichchankerni became my primary 'stomping ground'
because I fell in love with this particular part of the
eastern coast and leased and then purchased properties
which I attempted to run as semi-commercial holiday
retreats. First "Coral Cottage" and then "Chenaikudah
Wadi" were among the first of their kind offering
holiday opportunities with sun, sand and the sea on very
economical terms at a time when such were not in
particular vogue. In fact, the latter was the first
A-Frame building in this country.
spent a great deal of time along the
Kalkudah-Panichchankerni strip of coast and I distinctly
recollect my impressions of other parts of the eastern
seaboard being reinforced. Very few Sinhalese, indeed,
and a preponderance of Muslims and Tamils, with the
Sinhala population, again, mostly seasonal, being
comprised of the same elements I have described in other
parts of the eastern coast in earlier parts of this
exception to the east coast norm in the Panichchankerni
area was the significant concentration of Tamil-speaking
people referred to as "Gan (village) Veddahs." They
were distinct from the other Tamil speakers of the area,
not being Muslims either. They maintained a separate
identity from the 'mainstream' Tamil population. I
believe that some of Sri Lanka's anthropologists of the
latter part of the last century make extensive reference
to this group of people.
summary, there was never a significant concentration of
Sinhala-speakers in this part of the country. To
suggest otherwise and to use that fiction to drive a
policy of settling Sinhalese in this part of Sri Lanka
on land occupied by Tamils and Muslims upto the time the
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam establishing their
control gives a new dimension to the policy-driven
'adjustment' of the demographics of Sri Lanka.
is a gross misrepresentation of fact, a re-writing of
history that gives even historical revisionism a bad
name and something that deserves the simple description
of "evil." That this litany has the blessing of the
powers that prevail in this country says something about
that power and those that support it.