TIGERS REDUCED TO KITTENS!
Dr. Tilak S. Fernando
Three decades of terrorist war waged against the democratically elected government of Sri Lanka by the LTTE (Liberation of Tamil Tigers of Eelam) came to an end 18 May 2009 when the Sri Lankan security forces managed to crush the terrorist menace by eliminating the LTTE (Tiger) leader, Megalomaniac murderer, Velupillai Prabakaran and all his henchmen. This laudable deed thus created a new world record registering Sri Lanka in the Guinness Book of Records as the only country in the modern history where a democratically elected government eliminated a fast growing fungus of terrorism from its soil, even after thirty years of bloodshed, loss of thousands of innocent lives and destruction to property.
The Sri Lanka security forces' triumph is not a victory for Sinhalese over Tamils but, against a ruthless Tamil terrorist unit who on the pretext of looking after their own people managed to lead luxurious lives by collecting money through coercion from Tamil diaspora abroad and trying to divide country and engage in mass killings and drive the country backwards by many years. Military action was also a marvellous humanitarian exercise during the last stages of the battle to rescue hundreds of thousands of innocent Tamil civilians who were kept forcibly under the Tiger boot as human shields. It was an overall exercise to relieve the entire Nation from the clutches of terrorism and to create a single country and one nation, without any racial bias or division, and to promote brotherhood among all.
Prabakarn in early 1970s had gathered a few Tamils from the North and initiated his struggle calling it a freedom fight. Subsequently he demanded a separate State by dividing Sri Lanka into two and called it a liberation struggle and named the outfit as the Liberation of Tamil Tigers of Eelam (LTTE). Progressively in an ethnic cleansing operation he massacred scores of Muslims in the East
In 1975 Prabakarn personally killed the Tamil Mayor of Jaffna Alfred Duraiappa and boasted about his personal involvement in the killing. Subsequently Prabakaran and his cronies assassinated 13 Sinhala police officers on duty in Jaffna. To provoke civilians the terrorists had even chopped off the police offers' hands and removed wedding rings from their fingers.
His master plan to incite racial hatred in the south worked as planned when on 24 July 1983 during President JR Jayewardene's administration mob violence took to streets (Colombo mainly) where Sinhalese in the South went on an orchestrated campaign to kill innocent Tamils and loot their property. The incident has been described as a holocaust by the Tamil community and this resulted in half a million Tamils seeking refuge in Western countries - some genuine cases and others mostly for economic advantages.
It is also mentioned in certain circles that the architect behind such a ' holocaust' was masterminded by none other than Prabakaran himself because at the time Sinhalese and the Tamils lived in harmony in the South of the country and particularly a good affluent majority Colombo and suburbs. It was alleged that only Prabakaran's agents in the South were aware of all the details of Tamil households in Colombo and the suburbs. Prabakaran was not apparently happy with the elite Tamils who lived in the South for not supporting his struggle in the North. He called them 'Week-End' Tamils as they visited their folk in Jaffna only during week-ends. In this backdrop an accusing finger was pointed at Prabakaran for secretly organising the indecorous incident on 24th July 1983 purely to incite racial hatred and take revenge from those Tamils who did not support his struggle.
Some analysts have even put a theory forward to substantiate such a claim by stating that during the July 24th incident in the South, the Inspector General of Police was a Tamil named Rajasingham with six Deputy Inspector Generals under him, all of whom were all Tamils, who did not take swift action to thwart the outburst but turned a blind eye .
Tigers intensified their atrocities after this tragic incident in July 1983 which had overnight won the hearts and minds of the world. Seemingly the organisation which was seen as only a trickle at the inception was allowed to expand and the Tigers started to breed to an alarming state and become one of the most ruthless terrorist organisations in the world. They managed to give birth to a different kind of offspring such as suicide bombers, black tigers, sea Tigers, women fighters and started to recruit child soldiers.
Finally it reached a stage where the LTTE virtually controlled the North with a rebel army backed by artillery, a self imposed navy, police and a nascent air force and their own banks and started printing their own Eelam currency. LTTE's tactics inspired networks throughout the world including Al Qaeda due to either mismanagement or weaknesses of several Administrators and politicians in the South over the years.
Behind the scenes Prabakaran worked vigorously and effectively to relate to a vast number of Tamil expatriate Diaspora throughout the world who had fled the country in the 1983 debacle and settled down comfortably in the West as refugees. Prabakaran's bait of offering his Tamil community abroad a separate Tamil homeland in the North and East of Sri Lanka appealed to many Tamils who had fled the country. Kith and kin who had settled down in foreign lands as refugees soon started to assist those at home and paved the way for many more Tamils in the North and East to flee the country seeking refuge in western countries. These refugee seekers travelled all the way to Colombo, used the International Airport, went through Customs and Immigration formalities like any other ordinary air passenger without any harassment and took Air Lanka and Sri Lankan flights to the West simultaneously pointing a finger at the Sri Lankan government for racial harassment and even quoting 'ethnic cleansing' operations by the State. Otherwise how could they have qualified for Refugee status in a foreign land?
On another aspect the LTTE became busy in brainwashing the new generation of youth who were born after 1983 by calling Sri Lanka an alien country trying to annex their Tamil homeland. Tamil expatriate diaspora swiftly went into action and backed Prabakaran with all sincerity with funds, technological knowhow and expertise in many a field to make the LTTE one of the most richest and effective organisations with a sophisticated network of communication. Successful lobbying of politicians in the West was done with remarkable success to brainwash the international community and condition their minds with distorted information. On the other hand, once they had entered foreign lands and sought refugee status they had to make sure that their cause was genuine to remain and continue their new found luxurious lives.
Meanwhile, in the South, the self-styled, lethargic, 'we know all' attitude taken by the Sri Lankan Administers and incompetent Sri Lankan foreign high commission and embassy staff were in their slumber. By the time they were whip lashed from Colombo and woken up from their forty winks, Sri Lankan Administration was fifteen years behind their communication machinery. Taking the upper hand in the meanwhile the LTTE manoeuvred and launched false propaganda to concrete their ambitions and actions to win sympathy of the International community, which they did quite effectively.
In such a back drop Norway came forward as a peace negotiator on the premise of bringing a negotiated settlement between the rebels and the government. In 2002 Norwegians managed to twist the arm of the then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe, while blind folding President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunge. Wickremasinghe entered into a so-called ' Cease Fire Agreement '(CFA) with Prabakaran secretly even without the knowledge of his own Cabinet.. This was widely acknowledged and criticised by many as giving an upper hand to the Terrorists to dictate terms to the Sri Lankan government and security forces when demarcation of land was made and given to terrorists on a plate as LTTE territory.
Under the provisions of the 'Peace Process' brokered by Norwegians, LTTE was recognised legally as the sole representatives of the Tamil minority in the North and East. No Sinhalese were allowed in their territory while Tamils were free to travel from the North and East to any part of the South, which made their suicide bombers travel freely and blast at will. However, Prabakaran's monumental and self-centred leadership style did not permit the freedom of speech within the outfit which was thought to be his most foolish mistake in his decision making process.
This was clearly seen during the 2005 Presidential elections of the country when the architect of the Peace Process Ranil Wickremasinghe's plea for his support from Prabakaran was brushed aside by the Terrorist Leader and instead enforced a boycott of the Presidential Polls in his ' territory' marked as LTTE areas under the CFA. It prohibited the Tamil voters in the area from participating in the presidential poll which gave an added advantage to Mahinda Rajapakse, who was Wickremasinghe's rival.
Mahinda Rajapakse in his election manifesto did not mix words but categorically emphasised his desire, willingness and the promise to eliminate terrorism from the Sri Lankan soil despite several failed attempts by four former Sri Lankan Presidents. Several endeavours in 1984, 1987, 1990, 1994 and 2002 had been made by the previous Colombo Administrators extending a willing-hand to the Tigers to come forward towards a peaceful settlement which Prabakaran purposely ignored all the time and made use of every such occasion to mark time , regroup and stock pile more and more sophisticated arms and artillery.
Peace Talks held in Geneva in 2006, under the Presidency of Mahinda Rajapakse too ended up, as before, when the LTTE team walked out of the negotiating table giving lame excuses. However, when the LTTE attempted to assassinate the Army Commander General Sarath Fonseka, who nearly died out of a LTTE suicide bomb attack in Colombo, followed by another suicide attempt on the life of the Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapkse who escaped death narrowly, President Rajapakse became more adamant to deal with the LTTE, but still kept all doors open for a peace settlement. By this time the terrorist organisation had become notorious internationally with their indiscriminate killings, coercion and money laundering exposed, and 32 countries including USA, European Union and Canada had proscribed it calling the LTTE as one of the ruthless terrorist organisations in the world.
In 2006, Tigers waged Eelam War IV with the help of newly acquired modern artillery, armour and high tech communication systems which were believed to have acquired during the CFA mainly with the assistance of Norway. Mavil Aru blockage by the LTTE was the greatest blunder Prabakaran ever made in his self-style, autocratic thinking by blocking the waterway which irrigated thousands of paddy fields, thus affecting thousands of farmers' lives. President Rajapakse had no choice but to act swiftly. He took the whip firmly into his hand and decided to go the full hog against the LTTE.
Prabakaran was suddenly caught up in two different dilemmas. Firstly, he had under- estimated the impact on the LTTE after his Batticaloa Commander Karuna Amman deserted him in preference to a democratic approach having convinced that President Rajapakse was genuine in his methodology to help the sufferings of the Tamil folk in north and East who were suffering under Prabakaran. Secondly, Prabakaran completely undervalued President's resolve to wipe out the LTTE completely.
As the Commander in Chief, President Mahinda Rajapakse, gave a free hand to Army Commander, General Fonseka to go hammer and tongs in eliminating the terrorists. A close coordination between the Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse and the three commanders - Army, Navy and Air Force and the Inspector General of Police, the final offensive was launched with all its might showing no mercy on the enemy. LTTE, at this stage, rather than becoming aggressive adopted a somewhat passive defensive strategy with a series of earth bunds. True that these earth bunds acted as defensive mechanisms and helped to deter the incoming enemy but they provided only a limited delay before security forces approached the foe strategically with heavy fire power. Blowing up of such earth bunds not only paved the way for the security forces to proceed forward towards the enemy but those provided as gateways for hundreds of thousands of Tamil civilians, who were detained by the LTTE as human shields, to flee into No Fire Zones created by the security forces.
Despite heavy criticism, condemnation and pressure exerted by the International media, up to the very final hours before the terrorists perished, some foreign countries and INGO who had a vested interest in the LTTE, and a mysterious affection to save Prabakaran, the mass murderer, President Rajapakse and Defence Secretary stood firm in their steadfastness and encouraged the Sri Lankan forces to demonstrate their skill and show to the whole world how trapped civilians could be rescued safely from the LTTE control, which the gallant soldiers did effectively, an example all the world can emulate in their current individual ongoing predicaments.
Finally on the 19 May 2009 the final nail on the LTTE coffin was driven by the fearless forces despite heavy artillery from the enemy on one side and the government coming under enormous pressure from the international press and bullying tactics from powerful western countries who seemed to think Sri Lanka was still a colony. It is said that Prabakaran tried his utmost best even in the eleventh hour through the Red Cross to persuade the Government to come for a negotiated settlement to save his and his family member's skin which did not receive any positive response from the government. The Sri Lankan historical victory has thus exposed and denuded the double standards adopted by Western pundits who seem to preach: 'Do what we say but don't follow what we do'!
Today Sri Lanka stands proudly on the map of the world as an independent unitary country. To quote President Mahinda Rajapakse's words, it is a new independent country where there are 'only two types of people - Those who love this country and others who have no love for this land of their birth."
Freeing the country from terrorist clutches marks a new era for Sri Lanka where history will be re-written in golden letters highlighting the extraordinary role played by a remarkable leader and a committed politician, President Mahinda Rajapakse, who managed to show his mettle and forge forward with his own agenda with one pointed ambition - to bring peace and harmony to Sri Lanka, by annihilating the LTTE, amidst enormous pressure from some super powers of the West and USA who demanded to halt military operations against Prabakaran up to the final moments, which only exposed their blatant hypocrisy and duplicity while denuding themselves shamelessly.
Sri Lankan are generally warm hearted and sensitive people who sob and cry at funerals. Sri Lankans do not consider a person's death as an occasion for 'jollifying' or engage in 'Thamasas'. The level of their compassion was seen on television when the whole country in unison collected food and water to be sent to the displaced Tamil people in the North despite their gruesome memories of the past of LTTE atrocities in the form of suicide bombing and indiscriminate killings. The festive atmosphere throughout the country by lighting crackers, jumping for joy and waving the national flag upon seeing the perished terrorist leader Prabakaran and his lieutenants' bodies has sent a clear message to the world at large about the true feelings of a nation with no more barriers or demarcations of their mother land.
After thirty long years of suffering, bloodshed and mayhem in the country Mother Lanka today has stood up firmly and strongly. For thirty long years she has been weeping for not being able to feed her children properly. Her breasts had been withered and only blood came out to feed her loving children, but today her mammary glands are full of nourishing milk and she expects her children to suckle them and grow up as healthy children in the future.
The main Tiger has been laid down for good from Sri Lankan soil, but still there are kittens who are scattered around the world who used to follow the big cat. It is up to the Sri Lankan authorities, especially the Foreign Ministry, to ensure that these kittens are not allowed to grow up and metamorphose into the category of Tigers again. In this regard Sri Lankan diplomatic missions must be on alert and take an active role and brief the appropriate governments in the countries they have been posted to, on a tour of duty , to do exactly what they are expected of.