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Pirapaharan’s catastrophic miscalculation

The army continues to out-think and out-manoeuvre the LTTE. From the first shot fired in Marvil Aru almost two years ago, the military strategy and the tactical manoeuvring of the army has caught the LTTE flat-footed and confused.

The most effective weapon has been the small team operations inside enemy lines. These operations not only rattled the LTTE, it also restricted movement by Tiger ground commanders and provided the senior officers with real time intelligence, a major constrain for the army in the earlier phases of the war.

With the army’s superior numbers and fire power, the only way the LTTE had a chance was to out-smart the military with superior tactics and strategy as they have done in the earlier phases of the war. In the entirety of Eelam War IV the army has come up with innovative tactics and ground manoeuvres

But the real surprise has been the strategic and tactical failure of the LTTE. Once the LTTE leadership decided to move out of the east and concentrate their military assets in the north, one expected the LTTE to wage an all out war to keep the army at bay. After all, the counter attack launched by the LTTE to push back the army all the way to Vavuniya during the Jayasikurui operation conducted during the time of President Chandrika Kumaratunga was fresh in everyone’s mind. As the army advanced on multiple fronts in the Wanni almost everyone was waiting for an all out counter attack from the LTTE. That never came.

Even in this late stage the LTTE appears to have been taken by surprise by the way the army bisected the ‘No Fire Zone.’ Expecting the army to move ahead on the A 35 Mullaitivu-Paranthan road Pirapaharan had placed most of his hard-core fighters on that front. But the army instead hit the LTTE further north. The end in now inevitable. Whether Pirapaharan survives or not is of academic value. His dream of a separate state  is not going to be achieved in his lifetime.

The total annihilation of the LTTE has come so rapidly that most people especially the Tamil diaspora is finding it difficult to deal with. At the later stage of the ceasefire, the LTTE launched a massive fund raising exercise promising its diaspora that this would be the last time it would ask for money for war. In effect, the LTTE confidently predicted Eelam War IV as the final war in establishing Eelam. Millions of dollars were collected. The massive haul of weapons captured by the army shows where all this money went. This, despite the navy intercepting and destroying almost 10 ships loaded with weapons and ammunition.

LTTE’s catastrophic miscalculation of its military strength has cost the country dearly. The peace talks initiated by then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe had real potential of arriving at a negotiated settlement to the long running ethnic crisis. Wickremesinghe’s commitment to this was absolute. He was willing and did take huge political risks to take the process forward. Today he is paying the price for that commitment. The LTTE, especially Pirapaharan on the other hand could not overcome his deep distrust of Sinhala politicians and give the process a fair chance.

Pirapaharan’s almost pathological hatred of anyone else who wins the hearts of the Tamils, as Wickremesinghe did, was another reason for the failure of the peace process. Ranasinghe Premadasa and Chandrika Kumaratunga were two other Sinhala leaders who were trusted by the Tamils to do the right thing for them. Premadasa was assassinated and Kumaratunga survived by a whisker.

The Maoists in Nepal is a classic example of a militaristic organisation using its military victories to successfully negotiate a political victory. Pirapaharan and the LTTE had the same option in 2002. His inability to understand the post 9/11 world and his lack of foresight have made over 200,000 Tamils in Wanni destitute and millions of others with a sense of defeat. A golden opportunity for Tamils of this country to win their much deserved equality has been lost.

If the end of the war opens new opportunities for all communities in this country to live as equals, people learn to respect each others’ differences and strengthen the many things that bind us together, then the destruction of the 30 year war would not be in vain.









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