Cardboard hero awards himself a gallantry
By Frederica Jansz
is it about each successive government in Sri Lanka, that it is
indebted to promote and send abroad military men who have as
commanders brought disrepute and disaster to the security forces
as a whole.
time around it is Chief of Defence Staff
Rohan De S. Daluwatte.
Not only has Daluwatte failed as a military commander,
has also obtained the esteemed Weera Wickrama Vibushana award by making
a false claim and writing his own recommendation.
tragi-comedy of this situation is that despite Daluwatte’s dismal
performance as a military Commander including him forcefully seeking a
highly esteemed military decoration, he has been nominated by the new
United National Front government to be posted as Sri Lanka’s
Ambassador to Brazil.
bitter irony of it all apart from the ambassadorial posting, is that
Daluwatte was awarded the Weera Wickrema Vibushana medal which is the
highest decoration for a soldier who has led his troops and physically
faced extraordinary risks at the frontline. The Weera Wickrama
Vibushanaya is the second highest gallantry award for individual acts of
bravery in the military.
official citation required to be awarded this medal specifies that
“The decoration is granted to all ranks of the regular and volunteer
forces of the army, navy and air force for individual acts of gallantry
and conspicuous bravery of a non military nature of the most exceptional
order performed voluntarily with no regard to his own life and security
with the objective of saving or safeguarding the life or lives of a
person or persons imperilled by death or for a meritorious act or a
series of acts of a humane nature of an exceptional order displayed in
saving life from drowning, fire and rescue operations in mines, floods
and similar calamities under circumstances of grave bodily injury or
great danger to the life of the rescuer and who are recommended by the
commander of the army, the commander of the navy or the commander of the
air force to receive the award under the terms and conditions defined in
the regulations hereinafter made.”
was awarded the medal after having written his own recommendation. The
medal was awarded to him in 1997 after then Chief of Staff Major General
Srilal Weerasooriya according to Gen. Daluwatte had submitted the
citation. The commander of the army at the time, needless to say, was
Rohan De S. Daluwatte himself.
too was in violation of the specified criteria as Weerasooriya was a
junior officer to Daluwatte and could not write such a citation.
gazette notification with regard to the awarding of this medal
categorically states that not less than three eyewitnesses must attest
the said recommendation. This
too has not been adhered to in the case of Daluwatte.
In fact, his recommendation to the Special Board of senior army
officers does not carry a single signature. Not even that of
Weerasooriya. Neither has any ground commander who was present during
the conduct of Operation Riviresa 1 and 11, named Daluwatte as a
candidate for this highly esteemed decoration.
fact, Lt. Col. W. M. Jayavi Fernando, was the commanding officer of the
1st special forces regiment at the time.
In November 1995, Fernando actually participated in the capture
of Jaffna town with the 53rd division.
stated that at the time, Daluwatte was no where near Jaffna town when it
collapsed to the security forces. Lt.
Col. Fernando says Daluwatte was in fact, at Palaly and he only
participated in hoisting the flag with General Anuruddha Ratwatte after
the capture of Jaffna.
told that special forces commander, Lt. Col. Fernando has said that he
was nowhere near Jaffna when it was captured, Gen. Daluwatte replied
that it is true. “My
decoration for bravery was not for the capture of Jaffna but for the
incident which took place at Neerveli,” he said. He added that the
present Chief of Staff Neil Dias was also in the picture at the time and
is witness to his, (Daluwatte’s) act of heroism.
however has not attested the citation and when contacted said he did not
even know that this medal had been awarded to Daluwatte five years ago.
meantime recalling his act of bravery recounted, “I was right in the
front risking my life. Twice, I almost died when the troops got stuck at
Neerveli. I went right up
and conducted the neutralisation operation.
I even went ahead of the company commander at great risk — I
detected where the troops had got stuck and physically conducted the
operation from there. As a
result we managed to move ahead once more.”
agreed that Daluwatte as Overall Operations Commander during Operation
Riviresa 1 and 11 had indeed been present on the ground lending tactical
advice and support to his troops which consisted of three divisions.
Dias was commander of the 51st division. Dias however said that
Daluwatte never went ahead of the company commander at Neerveli
confirming that his chief was lying when he claimed to The Sunday
Leader to have led the troops by going ahead of the company
would also like to point out at this stage that this medal is not given
for tactical support and advice.
senior forces commander who asked to remain anonymous about who was also
present on the ground at Neerveli during Operation Riviresa said that by
Daluwatte claiming he went ahead of the company commander he is saying
that all the battalion commanders including Dias failed in their duty
and that is why he as Overall Operations Commander had to take the
initiative and lead embattled troops ahead.
senior commander asserted that at no stage did Daluwatte ever physically
conduct a ground battle at the frontline. The only time he visited the
troops at the front was to say ‘Hello’ during meal times or when the
soldiers were cleaning their weapons and boots, or in the company of the
then deputy minister for defence, Ratwatte, he said.
laughed when told that Daluwatte claimed he had nearly got killed twice
at Neerveli. “The only
way he could have died was if he was shot by his own men,” he said.
my knowledge he was giving directions from the Palaly operations rooms.
The Neerveli battle was won by the 51st division.
Daluwatte was in Palaly on that day. There were so many other
soldiers who fought the enemy on the ground.
Daluwatte was not one of them.
He was never at the frontline. I cannot remember any single
moment when he came unless he accompanied the minister,” he charged.
meanwhile when quizzed as to why he was asserting his medal for bravery
which was granted for what took place at Neerveli whereas the citation
by Weerasooriya maintains it was at Navalar Road, Jaffna, said, “I was
all over the place.”
added that Weerasooriya has numbered many incidents in the citation.
Neerveli was where I nearly lost my life. “But I happened to be all
over. Even at Navalar Road
several times they could not get through. I had several discussions with
53rd Commander Janaka Perera. I
told him to broaden the front. He
replied he did not have the troops.
I then told him the troops are on the way.
The following day I heard that they (the additional troops) had
got through so I did not go to Navalar Road.”
then Weerasooriya has specifically mentioned Navalar Road in the
citation is curious. Since
Daluwatte himself now admits he never got to the frontline.
said that, Daluwatte maintains that he at all times led through to the
front in constant consultation with his field commanders.
senior army officer, who sat on this board in 1997, confided to The
Sunday Leader that Daluwatte “was in no way entitled to this
prestigious medal. He used
his position as commander of the army to get the decoration,” he said,
adding that Daluwatte has never been physically present at the frontline
during fighting. “He has never led his troops into battle or stepped into
enemy lines,” he said.
asserted that the board which comprises senior army officers could not
turn down the commander and so were forced to recommend that Daluwatte
be given the award despite the fact they knew he did not deserve it and
that he had submitted a false citation to twist the arm of those sitting
on the board.
denied that the special army board could be irregularly influenced into
handing out this medal. “There are regulations and the Board abides by
those stipulations,” he claimed.
his recommendation for the medal, Daluwatte has claimed that during the
conduct of Operation Riviresa 1 and 11 it was he who personally planned
and executed this operation. He
states that this was one of the largest ever operations in the history
of the Sri Lanka army which resulted in the capture of Jaffna town,
Thenamarachchi and above all caused extensive damage to the
infrastructure of the LTTE. As a result, Daluwatte has stated “the
LTTE were forced to withdraw from the peninsula.”
writes inter alia, “Maj. Gen. Daluwatte displayed outstanding personal
courage and determination by leading from the front throughout the
operations, paying scant respect for his personal safety, he was always
with the leading field commanders guiding and encouraging them. In the
final assault for the capture of Jaffna town there was a situation where
the terrorists had prepared strong defences along the Navalar Road and
were able to halt the advance of troops for several days.
The fighting was bitter and hard.
Undaunted by the odds he (Daluwatte) used his experience and
superior tactical knowledge and with his advice the troops were able to
break through finally.”
claim to heroism is in complete contradiction to that of the special
forces commander (1st regiment) who was on the ground at the time and
other senior army officers who are forced at this juncture to remain
it was on this recommendation that the board considered and recommended
that Daluwatte be decorated with the Weera Wickrema Vibushanaya medal.
senior army officers who sat on this board in 1997, were Maj. Gen. A. G.
Weerasekera, Brigadier Attanayake, Brigadier J. K. N. Jayakody,
Brigadier Tilak Marambe, Brigadier Pathirane and Major Tennakoon.
irony of the situation is that Daluwatte was awarded this medal despite
two courts of inquiry on the battle at Pooneryn and Janakapura in 1993
having found Daluwatte guilty for having compromised the lives of over a
thousand soldiers who died as a result in these very serious debacles.
On the heels of the Pooneryn disaster followed Janakapura.
was the Divisional Commanding Officer for both camps at the time they
December 29, 1993, the then commander of the Sri Lanka Army Lt. Gen.
Cecil Waidyaratne wrote to President D. B. Wijeytunge, stating that the
responsibility and the answerability of the disaster at Jankapura falls
squarely on the shoulders of Daluwatte who was the divisional commander
for both Pooneryn and Janakapura when the camps faced a disaster of the
highest magnitude imaginable.
corrective action Maj. Gen. Daluwatte may have taken after the
Janakapura attack has been inadequate and totally ineffective. Or else
Pooneryn camp would not have suffered a disaster of this magnitude,”
view of this whole situation, Waidyaratne stated that it is necessary to
review the whole situation and take punitive action against two senior
officers, namely, Maj. Gen. Daluwatte and Brigadier Liyanage in this
court of inquiry into the Pooneryn disaster found that Daluwatte only
confirmed his inability to command this vital
division. The court of inquiry specifically found Daluwatte
guilty of negligence of duty, unbelievable lack of supervision of those
under his command and that he had given pathetic leadership as a
reference to the fall of the Pooneryn army camp, Waidyaratne at the time
wrote, “the blame of this debacle falls squarely on Maj. Gen.
Daluwatte’s shoulders. It
is my considered opinion that Maj. Gen. Daluwatte be immediately
relieved of his command in the north and serious disciplinary action be
taken against him as well as other officers who have been indicted by
this court so that the army would have a clean and responsible
leadership so necessary for the conclusion of this war.”
meanwhile asserted that the military court of inquiry which recommended
he be court marshalled for his lack of leadership etc., which led to the
fall of Pooneryn and Janakpura “was only a fact finding mission.”
was not court marshalled in either one of those two cases as it was
later determined that I could not be held responsible. I was in
Anuradhapura at the time Janakapura fell.
It was just a company base. There was a company commander as well
as a battalion commander, brigade and a special forces commander who
were responsible. It was a
defencive operation in an isolated area away from Anuradhapura, so there
was nothing I could do at Anuradhapura when Janakapura fell,” he said.
regard to Pooneryn, Daluwatte said it was Gerry Silva who ordered the
withdrawal of troops and should take responsibility for the final fall
of the camp.
was falsely implicated in both instances,” Daluwatte asserted, adding
that at the time army chief, Waidyaratne needed a scapegoat as the
finger of accusation was pointing at him, (Waidyaratne).
maintained that since the two courts of inquiry, he has been cleared of
all allegations by President Chandrika Kumaratunga in her capacity as
Commander in Chief of the security forces and police.
an enlisted army officer and commando, Major N. G. Chandrasena,
recipient of the country’s highest award for bravery and valour (Weera
Wickrema Vibushana) and the most decorated serviceman alive will
petition courts together with Fernando, to seek a stay order on the
diplomatic posting of Daluwatte as Ambassador to Brazil.
said that Daluwatte should
be held responsible for the military debacles at Janakapura and Pooneryn
in 1993, Mullaitivu in 1996 and the disasters that accompanied Operation
Jayasikuru including the defeats the army suffered at Paranthan,
Kilinochchi and Elephant Pass.
50 soldiers were killed at Janakapura, over 600 at Pooneryn, 1,300 at
Mullaitivu and over 1000 at Elephant Pass, while the LTTE succeeded in
capturing vast quantities of arms and ammunition including tanks as a
result of these camps falling.
in similar vein to his army counterpart Weerasooriya (Sri Lankan
Ambassador to Pakistan) is now to be made a diplomat.
is pertinent to note here that Weerasooriya was sent to Pakistan as Sri
Lanka’s ambassador after having let over a 1000 soldiers including
high ranking army officers perish on the plains of Elephant Pass in
Jaffna on April 22, 2000.
is no small wonder that the odious Vellupillai Prabhakaran smirked when
asked at his press conference recently if there was a single general in
the Sri Lankan security forces he feared.
“None,” he replied with a mixture of contempt and amusement
on his face.
local journalists squirmed in their seats as they listened to
Prabhakaran, Daluwatte was the least concerned. After all, he is soon to
fly to distant shores where the blood of thousands of young men who
sacrificed their lives on the dusty plains of Sri Lanka is already for
him, a distant memory. Given that little red passport that will soon see
him whiz faster than a bullet through immigration channels, Daluwatte
has manoeuvred his final posting.
tragedy of this situation is that the new government, which promised
transparency and accountability, has closed its eyes and ears to the
atrocities committed by men like Daluwatte and Balagalle. Instead,
Daluwatte is to be sent to Brazil and Balagalle for all purposes appears
set to remain as Sri Lanka’s Commander of the Army or perhaps take
over as Chief of Defence Staff.
the dormant new Minister for Defence Tilak Marapone will initiate an
inquiry into this matter is the question that now begs answer.
Naval Chief of Staff, Jeremy M. Boorda in May 1996 shot himself
following an expose in Newsweek which proved that Boorda
had falsely claimed medals for gallantry after serving in the
was also being challenged at the time of his suicide by fellow
naval ratings for his role during battle for which he is alleged
to have falsely claimed the esteemed military decorations.
1Flickering hopes of peace
in the Wanni
in the Wanni
to live separately and we are willing to die for that,” a young LTTE
female cadre observed, watching the first convoy of vehicles crossover
from LTTE controlled areas to Army controlled Jaffna at Muhamalai on
words reverberated in our heads while we were listening to the words of
her ‘great leader,’ just two days later in Kilinochchi. “We will
consider giving up the demand for Eelam,” LTTE leader Velupillai
Prabhakaran said. The first time he has ever come within range of
denouncing his beloved Eelam.
leaders from both sides of the Omanthai defence lines have aired their
commitment to peace. But far below the top layer of command, such
sentiments of reconciliation do not carry the same air of authenticity.
On both sides of the Omanthai barrier dogs of war, unleashed by their
commanders, still cling to their guns. Hopes of peace do not shine
bright in the eyes of these combatants.
the LTTE heroes cemetery at Udayakathu in Mulaithivu, when female LTTE
cadre Thamil Neela recalled bygone battles with the Sri Lankan army, her
memory was testimony that MoU’s do not erase the scars of war.
recalled how one of her senior officers, Sudanthika, was killed in a
battle with the army in Jaffna during operation Agni Keela. She said
that the group of LTTE female cadres she was with had come under attack
from the army. During the intense attack they had dispersed and when
they reunited they located Sudanthika’s body. The incident took place
close to two years back and when it happened Neela had just joined the
LTTE. Sudanthika is her favourite LTTE commander now.
like to live with the Sinhalese, but it is the army that has attacked
us. And we will fight back,” she observed looking into the three
thousand graves that dot the cemetery.
the landscape, filled with blown out buildings and roads with pot holes
the size of mini-reservoirs, the bodies of LTTE cadres are living
testimony of the scars of a quarter century of bloody battles.
area, full fight,” an LTTE politi-bureau member told us, pointing to
the war ravaged landscape that was once the imposing Elephant Pass
military camp. His next action was pointing at his neck, he wanted
travelling journalists to touch and feel the mortar fragments still
embedded in his neck.
fragments are remains of injuries suffered during the LTTE assault on
the Elephant Pass camp. Around the
chest area are the scars from the Pooneryn battle, and other
minor scars from battles and skirmishes
dot his body. He has been with the LTTE since 1985.
in the south, there is a disproportionate preponderance of maimed youth
in areas under LTTE control.
our stay we came across countless number of youths with limbs blown off.
One youth who frequented the Tamil Economic Development Centre in
Kilinochchi had both his hands blown off while trying to disarm a bomb.
rehabilitation centre for the seriously injured was located near the
economic centre that was our sleeping quarters for the nights, we were
told. However, our requests to visit the centre were not fulfilled.
is everywhere despite the silent guns. Not a single house has a roof,
the only properly maintained buildings are those run by the LTTE. Hopes
of peace descend uneasily on the inhabitants of the Wanni.
as well as young LTTE cadres speak of peace and hopes for the future.
“Good now no war, we are happy,” our senior LTTE friend remarked.
But his young comrade standing close by with a RPG launcher was a grim
reminder of a probable future.
is peace such an alien entity to the Wanni? Because an all encompassing
war has subjugated the populace, civilians and militants alike, beyond
the wildest imagination of those who live outside it. A war that has
taken the lives of 60,000 civilians and 17,000 combatants according to
war has made the populace suspect any outsider. “Is that an army
soldier?” an orphaned physically handicapped young child asked,
pointing at photographer Ajith Senevirathana who was taking pictures
using a long range lens. Ajith stood dumb founded as the child stared at
no he is a journalist,”
the child’s caretaker at the centre in Mullaithivu allayed the fears.
His face changed instantly from one of utter fear to a beaming smile,
revitalising the photographer who had been turned to stone.
fear in the eyes of the five-year-old, was symbolic of a generation
growing up in mortal fear of fire from the heavens, of enemies and guns,
of sleepless nights and dead bodies in the morning, of suicide bombers
and cyanide capsules. A childhood without nursery rhymes, without
wonder such generations growing up in despair have fed the war machines,
with conveyor belt precession. The LTTE’s fighting capacity still
remains above 10,000 cadres, despite years of war. Education does not
offer hope in the Wanni. Young LTTE cadres join the LTTE as soon as they
can. Most of the cadres that we were able to speak to were in their late
teens or in the early twenties. They had joined the LTTE soon after
O/L’s or even before. Education is a dead end.
war keeps nudging them at every nook and corner. At the Heroes cemetery
pre-dug graves await occupants despite the MoU. Rows and rows of
unpainted tombstones line the other side of the grave yard, waiting to
be stone memories of Black Tigers or suicide cadres whose bodies are
sometimes not recovered.
LTTE offers special homage to suicide cadres and Black Tigers with
cement block tombstones. For others, a wooden stick with a name board
suffice. The last to be buried at the cemetery
was Captain Ariva,
who died when the navy fired at suspected LTTE arms smugglers off the
Mullaithivu coast on February 21, the day before the MoU was signed.
Beside his resting place, there are
three unoccupied graves, waiting for the new arrivals. The MoU does not
offer enough hope for them to be filled with earth, at least for the
Tamils living in LTTE controlled areas war has but one personification,
the armed forces. Martyrdom is a better option than a day under the
control of the state. The MoU and waxing eloquence on peace have done
nothing to change that mentality.
will die fighting,” young female LTTE fighters said at the northern
most LTTE line at Muhamalai.
the pre-occupation with the war, the LTTE cadres too were savouring
peace. They had no weapons with them and those who
had, left them unattended, sure that they would not be needing
them in an emergency any time soon. “Enough of war, peace is good,”
our senior LTTE friend told us.
the other side of the barrier armed forces’ personnel too were
enjoying the fruits of peace. “This is the first time since I joined
the army that soldiers are going on avurudhu leave without much
problem,” an officer manning the Omanthai checkpoint at Vavuniya
of peace come much easily to the members of the armed forces as their
lives are much more attuned to normalcy than to the five year old at the
Mullaithivu orphanage. The tree right in front of the orphanage still
has parts of a shell that landed in the vicinity during a battle between
the LTTE and the army.
the richest peace sprout for the Wanni populace is the one person who
has done everything in his power to keep the bon-fires burning, till now
— Velupillai Prabhakaran. It is his visibly absolute control over the
LTTE that is holding the organisation together avoiding splits along
will do whatever our leader wants us to do,” the same LTTE cadres
willing to fight till death said when questioned as to why the LTTE was
heading for peace talks. Most of the cadres had seen Prabhakaran only in
pictures and some of their colleagues had perished in the war without
ever seeing or hearing the ‘thalaivar’ (great leader) in real
paradoxes can very easily be over shadowed by the fire works created in
the aftermath of incidents like the famous Kilinochchi press conference.
The nuances of a quarter century of war cannot be done away in one pen
stroke or in one media blitz.
leaders may have taken the first steps towards peace, but the process of
reconciliation has not even begun
for the real combatants of the war for Eelam.
either side of the cadjan curtain at Muhamalai, enemies are still taking
aim at each other.
Bones of war
Just 24 hrs
before the LTTE leader made his pronouncements of peace, the bones
of Sri Lanka’s bloody conflict rose up in Kilinochchi.
the Kilinochchi LTTE police office OIC Ranjith Kumar revealed to The
Sunday Leader, skeletons recovered from homes in the area,
victims he said of extra-judicial
killings carried out by the army during its occupation of
Kilinochchi four years back.
said that so far, the LTTE has recovered 68 such bodies mostly
from unused cess pits. “They were civilians killed by the
army,” he told The Sunday Leader.
LTTE police officer said that the army was in occupation of the
area from 1996 till sometime in 1998 when the LTTE wrested
control. The victims have been killed and dumped in wells. Most of
them have been killed with blows to the head with a blunt weapon.
There was at least one skull with gaping head wounds at the
Kilinochchi police station.
said that the bodies have been recovered within a
u-shaped area encompassing the Kilinochchi town that was
under army control. He argued that the bodies were of civilians
who had visited the area to look after properties. He was however
not able to give a clear reason that had prompted such brutal
of the bodies have been identified by relatives by the garments
recovered with them. There were three such bodies at the
Kilinochchi police station.
said that the LTTE was keeping the recovered bodies till time and
facilities allowed them to be sent for forensic examinations. He
said that the LTTE was planing to seek the help of an
international organisation to carry out the tests that will
determine the cause of death and time.
questioned as to how the LTTE was sure that the army was
responsible for the murders, Kumar recalled an instance where the
LTTE recovered three bodies on information provided by a civilian.
The civilian told the LTTE police that he was assaulted by the
army along with the three deceased but that he had managed to
evidence Kumar said was that most of the bodies had been recovered
near buildings occupied by the army in Kilinochchi, Urukurupuram
of the victims, according to the LTTE had returned to the army
controlled Kilinochchi whence they fled as they had no income.
They had arrived with the hope of selling their crops. “We have
recovered bodies of females as well as people who were 60 years
old,” Kumar said. Nevertheless, he was unable to give hard
evidence that proved that the army was the culprit.
LTTE has not made any representation to international
organisations or to the new government for that fact about the
bodies. Nor has the organisation tried to bring the discovery to
the attention of human rights organisations. The skeletons that
lie at three LTTE controlled police stations and the hospital have
hitherto gone unreported. Their existence came in to light when
journalists visiting the Wanni for the press conference made a
visit to the police station.
said that the LTTE was waiting for an appropriate time to make the
discoveries and the accusations public.
cadres also informed us that such gruesome discoveries have become
a routine affair in the war ravaged Wanni.
The Wanni junket
Prabhakaran’s press conference resulted in hundreds of
journalists descending on the Wanni. The behaviour of some of the
media personalities during their stay gave birth to anecdotes that
have been dubbed ‘Wanni jokes.’
before the press conference got under way, the LTTE office was
inundated with inquiries on accommodation facilities. Hot spot
reporters it seemed were worried about where they would be put up
for the night and how.
LTTE had made arrangements at Kilinochchi and Malavi. At
Kilinochchi, the journalists were provided accommodation at the
head office of the LTTE economic development arm. Offices had been
emptied and made into dorms and journalists were provided with
mats and pillows at night. The bare minimum facilities resulted is
some journalists complaining and others requesting alternate
Malavi location however was much more deluxe and was set aside for
certain foreign correspondents. “We had noodles for dinner,” a
well satisfied journalist said after spending the night at Malavi.
At Kilinochchi dinner was string hoppers.
the Kilinochchi location was to act as dormitory rather than
separate sleeping quarters, a visiting BBC team made mockery of
such arrangements. The team put up a hand written message at the
entrance of the hall it occupied. “BBC office, please remove
shoes before entering,” it read. Others who passed the
room began to refer to it as the ‘BBC pansala’
and chant ‘sadhu, sadhu.’
come to report on the ending of a conflict and these guys set up a
border,” one journalist observed seeing the room that was later
being used as a studio by the BBC.
Kilinochchi location also created huge logistical problems. There
were about six toilets for the 200 or so persons and early in the
morning queues were forming at the doors to the loos.
such headaches, some of the journalists had been thrilled to bits
to visit the Wanni. Like the television crew of a local TV station
which was filming everything and nothing. The cameraman had even
filmed a LTTE female cadre escorting him through a corridor to
meet the OIC.
in front of the OIC, the reporter approached him, “Hi, I am
Susara....”, while his cameraman was filming the introduction.
The LTTE officer had requested journalists not to take photographs
of himself till he got permission. The fancy on-camera
introduction took place while the LTTE OIC was being interviewed
by another journalist. The introduction left the LTTE OIC lost for
words and others around him in fits of controlled laughter.
some had come on a junket, others had come on a pilgrimage to pay
homage to the LTTE leader. Like the reporter from a local radio
station, who stood up at the toe end of the conference to thank
the LTTE leader for giving the press the opportunity to meet him.
He was literally shouted down.
another who got up to deliver a lecture on the safety of his
national leader during the pre-press conference briefing. He made
his entry during a heated debate between LTTE political wing
official Sudha Master and journalists on the timing of the
LTTE assumption that the press had converged in the Wanni to meet
Prabhakaran seemed to hold water when the pugnacious press corps
meekly submitted to strenuous body checks and hours of waiting.
Some of them had argued with the LTTE and one another about who
was wanting whom just hours before.
injured egos however later made a re-appearance in reports. There
were numerous reference to body checks and how utterly unnecessary
they were. Why complain now, if it was such a big fuss, why
didn’t the complainants ask the LTTE to fly kites and return
forthwith. No one did that. Everyone stayed for the press
LTTE also made a very obvious distinction between foreign and
local media. Chief negotiator Anton Balasingham made every effort
to accommodate queries from the foreign media, other than on
occasions when the Indian contingent raised uncomfortable issues
linked to the Rajiv Gandhi murder.
conscious effort to accommodate the foreign press gave away how
much the LTTE valued its standing among the international
community, despite all the talk of September 11 having next to
nothing to do with the peace talks.
in all, it was a once in a life time experience for the LTTE as
well as the journalists who took part.