"An organisation headed by a leader, who understands only terrorism, is unlikely to rehabilitate itself in the eyes of the internationalcommunity. Prabakaran is a liability for the LTTE and the Sri Lankan Tamils in the post-9/11 world. The time has come for the LTTE leadersand the Sri Lankan Tamils---including their overseas diaspora--- to do an introspection on their future course of action. If they have topreserve the gains made by thousands of their cadres since 1983, they have to find a new leadership. Prabakaran is no longer the man ofthe future. He is passe. He has become a liability for the Tamil cause. The sooner the Sri Lankan Tamils realise it, the better for them."
---------- Extract from my article of January 22,2007, titled LTTE AVOIDS BATTLE OF ATTRITION IN THE EAST available athttp://www.southasiaanalysis.org/papers22/paper2105.html
The reports regarding the desperate plight of about 1,50,000 Sri Lankan Tamils caught up between an advancing Sri Lankan Army and aretreating Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in the Wanni area of northern Sri Lanka are confusing.
2. Many have reportedly died and many, including many children, have been injured in the exchange of artillery fire between the two sides.In a situation like this, it is impossible to establish whose artillery killed whom. All one can say is that innocent civilians are paying a heavyprice for the heavy exchange of artillery.
3. The Sri Lankan Army is disinclined to agree to a ceasefire to let the civilians be evacuated by the International Committee of the RedCross (ICRC) lest the LTTE take advantage of it to regroup. The LTTE is disinclined to let the civilians move to the safety zones set up by theGovernment lest this facilitate the advance of the Army.
4. The international community, including the Government of India, are unable to effectively bring pressure on both sides to help out thecivilians. The Sri Lankan Army has estimated that it is only a few weeks away from totally eliminating the capability of the LTTE forconventional fighting and it is determined to achieve that objective even at the risk of some collateral damage to the civilians. The LTTE isafraid that if it lets the civilians go, it will have a face-to-face confrontation with the Army in which it is unlikely to do well.
5. Prabakaran, who is believed to be still commanding the retreating LTTE fighters, does not seem to realise that the chances of the LTTEstaging a spectacular come-back as it did in the 1990s and recaptured Kilinochchi and Mulaithivu are remote. The loss of control overterritory in the Northern Province is not so devastaing for him as the loss of control over the Tamil population in the Eastern Province. In thepast, many of the conventional fighters of the LTTE came from the Eastern Province and many of the terrorists from the Northern Province.It is no longer possible for him to get new recruits from the Eastern Province. The recent fighting in the North has indicated that the LTTE'sshortages in arm and ammunition and explosives are much more serious than originally estimated. With the rapidly decreasing possibility offinding replacement of human and material resources, his chances of staging a come-back conventionally are much less than what theywere in the 1990s.
6. The terrorist wing of the LTTE also seems to be facing severe problems due to a shortage of explosive material, a drop in volunteers forsuicide terrorism and the lack of time and space in the midst of a furious conventional war to motivate and train new volunteers and mountoperations.
7. The use of the civilians to avert an impending final defeat on the ground should be condemned by all the political parties in Tamil Nadu,by the Government of India and the international community. Prabakaran has been living in a world of illusions just as Hitler was in the final days of the defeat of the Nazi Army before he and his mistress committed suicide in a Berlin bunker to avoid being captured by theadvancing Soviet Army. Till he decided to kill himself, Hitler was fondly hoping that a reversal of fortunes was still possible.So too,Prabakaran seems to be having a fond hope that he and his men can stage a come-back even at this stage.
8. It is time for the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora to assert itself and call upon the LTTE cadres to overthrow Prabakaran and other leaders,arrest them, hand them over to the Sri Lankan authorities and proclaim a unilateral ceasefire. It is time for the diaspora to come to termswith the reality and act before more civilians are killed.If they fail to do so and continue to encourage Prabakaran in his irrational illusions,history will judge them harshly. ( 29-1-09)
(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For TopicalStudies, Chennai. E-mail: email@example.com )