Endgame for Prabhakaran?

One of the intriguing speculations amongst political pundits analyzing the SL separatist problem is:  What will be the endgame for Prabhakaran? Will he take the suicide pill when the GOSL army finally surrounds his lair at Killinochchi like Hitler in his bunker with the Russian army swarming all around it? Or will he succumb to his many illnesses and die peacefully on his bed like Balasingham? In the article below HLD Mahindapala envisages a totally different scenario. This is that the Tamils of the Vanni will turn on him, and GOSL will have to give him protection! At the same time HLD says that Tamils are leaving the Vanni in droves even without waiting for a Constitution. The question then arises: Will there be enough Tamils in the Vanni to confront Prabhakaran? For wishful thinking there could be few parallels.

Such speculation is futile for serious commentators. What is needed is a realistic assessments of recent developments in the political and military fronts. Most important question is whether the recent military successes from Sampur to Thoppigala really means that the GOSL has finally embarked on the military solution. This is the major question to answer at the present stage. HLD speaks of "pundits and propagandists [who] have changed their tune to moan loudly that the Tigers cannot be defeated with 'a military solution' ". But it is not only pundits and propagandists who have written off the military solution. It is a cardinal feature of the 'Mahinda Chintanaya' as the President's election manifesto has come to be called. The crucial question now is:  Has this promise in the Chintanaya been abandoned? No clear answer has been stated, but what official statements still stay is that it remains part of GOSL policy.

Much of HLD's article is a repetition of old themes which have been criticized but no reply had been received. So they would not need further repetition. Amongst the new developments considered are the views of the American ambassador who was injured in the LTTE attack on their plane at Batticaloa. Many people thought that after suffering personal injury, and/or humiliation of being attacked by the LTTE despite their diplomatic status, the ambassadors would make a strong criticism of the LTTE. Even the Foreign Minister, shortly after his return from the Jumbo delegation to China, rushed to visit the injured diplomats. But he and others may have been surprised by the actual reaction of the diplomats. As HLD says the "American Ambassador, Robert O. Blake, ... joined the pundits and the propagandists to echo their defeatist and pessimistic theme". This is of course that there is no military solution to the separatist problem. But as stated earlier this is exactly what has been declared in the Mahinda Chintanaya right from the start.

Using a medical analogy HLD speaks of "pre-operative" and "post-operative" action, the operation presumably being war on the LTTE. The "pre-operative" action is proposing a new Constitution for the country (called the political solution), while post-operative action is presumably the implementation of the Constitution. But the reality is that, despite the Cabinet growing to Jumbo proportions, the President has still to come up with a Constitution to fulfill the pre-operative part. According to the scenario envisage without the pre-operative part there can be no operation against he Vanni terrorist. All that we will see a little bit of needling in the East, but even here there is an accumulated debt to the other terrorist, Col. Karuna.

The task of finding the Constitution was shunted to the APC which has come up with majority and minority reports. But the President seems to be dithering between the two. Even though the Chintanaya spoke of "maximum devolution within a unitary state" even the author of the Chintanaya seems to be perplexed as to how this is to be written into a Constitution. He thought that to avoid direct responsibility it could be palmed off to the APC. But this does not seem to have worked. Now HLD says that instead of waiting for a Constitution the Tamils of the Vanni are fleeing to India and other places. A boatload tried to come to Australia and has fallen foul of Australian Immigration Authorities and are now in a legal limbo. Perhaps they would have had a better welcome if they had gone to Canada!

HLD then indulges in his useless game of making inappropriate comparisons, e.g. Prabhakaran with Hitler, and the LTTE with the IRA. These European comparisons have no relevance whatsoever. Prabhakaran is a uniquely Tamil phenomenon. His success has come not from any native genius but simply from the incapacity of his opponents who are deluded by their neo-Sinhala ways of thinking. An insurgency that could have been nipped in the bud has been allowed to grow, and now foreign powers have been dragged in making a solution near impossible. The Tamil Congress has asked for UN peace keepers, and absurd as it may seem this could be within the range of possibilities given the dithering of GOSL under its latest President and the growing demands of the "International Community". Comparing Prabhakaran to Hitler is in fact glorifying him; there is no way that P. can do anything comparable to what H. did. Instead of making irrelevant comparisons HLD would be better advised to see the separatist problem in Sri Lanka as the local problem it is, not a global one. Then only can some sense be made of it, and the policy of GOSL seen to be totally inappropriate.

Despite his argument that the Tamils of the Vanni are about to pounce on Prabhakaran for kidnapping their children HLD does make one significant admission:
"Granting of a de facto state, disarming rival Tamil parties, disbanding the most effective anti-Tiger deep penetration unit, and making critical concessions under the bogus phrase of "confidence-building" failed to isolate the Tamils from Prabhakaran. On the contrary, it strengthened their belief in Prabhakaran. Aided and abetted by the Catholic Church in particular, the NGOs, the left-wing and Ranil Wickremesinghe wing (rare meeting of the loony left and the crazy right) Prabhakaran has managed to reinforce his grip on the Tamil people."

So it is now admitted Tamil belief in P. has strengthened and his grip on Tamils reinforced.  Yet earlier HLD was talking of Tamils confronting P. in his very home base. HLD has also often contested the LTTE view that P. is the "sole representative" of the Tamils.  Of course he is not the sole rep but he may be the Tamil leader who command the support of most Tamils, and not only in the Diaspora.

HLD concludes his piece with a number of claims that cannot be either refuted or sustained.  These are that:

  1. Tamils are shifting their allegiance from the LTTE to other Tamil groups.
  2. The Tamils yearn for peace and are tired of war
  3. There is a revolution brewing in the Vanni against the "oppressive one-man regime in Vanni".
  4. Anandasangaree has welded the non-LTTE into a "formidable force" which HLD admits at the same time is "loose"!

There are several other claims which HLD makes, all of which the Patriot Lobby will no doubt agree.  But wishful thinking is no substitute for sound analysis.

Victor Gunasekara



Tamils leaving Vanni without
Waiting for a Constitution

by H. L. D. Mahindapala

Asian Tribune : 2007-03-04

When the Sri Lankan forces were licking their wounds, after previous defeats, the NGO pundits and the pro-Vanni propagandists argued that the Tigers cannot be defeated militarily. In fact, the Tigers were claiming parity of status because of their military gains and when the Mavil Aru offensive began the diplomatic colony was quite positive that the Sri Lankan forces will withdraw into barracks after getting a bloody nose from the Tigers. To add to this, Prabhakaran's rhetoric in his ritual annual speech and Anton Balasingham's grandstanding at peace talks were all based on the superiority of the military capabilities of the Tigers which was tantamount to invincibility. Even some retired general and air force commanders were predicting that the Sri Lankan forces were weak, lacking in leadership and the tenacity and the will power of the highly motivated Tiger cadres.

Now when the Armed forces are advancing with the revised strategies to correct their past mistakes, with coordinated tri-pronged offensives from air, sea and land, with substantial logistical and technological support, a committed politico-military will power, and capturing Sampur, Vaharai and the east in general the pundits and propagandists have changed their tune to moan loudly that the Tigers cannot be defeated with "a military solution".

There is an implicit concession in this theme of "military solution" not working: the pundits have shifted from their original position of claiming that the Tigers cannot be defeated to a new position which states that the Tigers can be defeated militarily but there should be a parallel political solution to cap the defeat of the Tigers to win the hearts and minds of the Tamil people.

The American Ambassador, Robert O. Blake, too has joined the pundits and the propagandists to echo their defeatist and pessimistic theme, perhaps influenced by the failure of American forces in Iraq. He has shrewdly avoided declaring publicly that Sri Lanka should learn from the American experiences in the post-Saddam era and withdraw into barracks.

In the same breath he insists that the Americans are behind the war against terrorism. Unlike the NGOs to whom the national crisis is like the beggar's wound he wants the wound to heal as quickly as possible. But he seems to be having some doubts as to whether a heavy surgical operation could heal the wound without proper pre-operative care. Here he departs from the normal post-operative care to pre-operative care. The prevailing political punditry also subscribes to this popular formula that a new constitution must be in place to isolate Prabhakaran from the Tamil people. Hence the emphasis on the political solution as opposed to the military solution. Though there seems to be a veneer of plausibility in his diagnosis and remedy deep down there is nothing substantial to hold it up. Besides, as to what should come first is a sensitive and controversial issue.

To begin with Blake seems to think that the post-operative care and the surgical operation must go together. The contradiction is obvious because he seems to think that the post-operative care must begin even before the operation is done. They are two different phases of the healing process and to rush into post-operative care without performing the operation is like putting the cart before the horse. Besides, assuming that the new military offensive is successful in effecting a regime change in the Vanni, it is axiomatic that the new dynamics of the post-Prabhakaran politics will open up democratic and rational political alternatives which are not available now because of the intransigent ethnic extremism of the one-man regime.

The logic behind this imported proposition (Teresita Schaffer, the former American Ambassador went to the other extreme of propounding a "confederal solution") is that the Tigers can be isolated if a new and acceptable constitutional formula is presented to the non-Tiger Tamils. For the moment let's accept this proposition to assess how realistic it is as a formula for peace? Can the entrenched Tigers be isolated purely on the basis of a formula which may – repeat may – be acceptable to the non-Tiger Tamils?

To test this formula it must be compared with the formulas that were presented as panaceas earlier. The Tamils were presented the Indo-Sri Lanka Agreement and the Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) as the answer to their problem. The CFA was the peak point of Prabhakaran's power where he claimed that they were recognized as a de facto state. But neither the merger of the north and east under the Indo-Lanka Agreement nor the CFA of the international community (which was supposed to provide "a safety net") was able to either isolate the Tamils from the Tigers or make those agreements work for the Tamils and the other communities. So how can another constitutional draft, or a new constitutional arrangement, even with the consensus of the Sinhala polity, work to isolate the Tamils from Prabhakaran?

This theme of a political solution before a military solution is a dominant item of the current political mythology that circulates among the local and foreign pundits. Of course, Tamil politics has always been sustained by concocted myths. It began with the political myths wrapped round fictitious geography, history and cartography contained in the Vaddukoddai Resolution in 1976 – the official resolution of the Jaffna Tamils that declared war on the Sinhalese. This latest myth of a new constitutional formula eliminating Prabhakaran has failed to recognize (a) the extremist mono-ethnic ideology on which the Tigers run their killing machine (b) the Hitlerian/fascist characteristics of Prabhakaran which has evolved into a personality cult – a cult that has gathered, over the years, a momentum of its own essentially for self-preservation; and (c) the institutionalized power and grip of Prabhakaran and his apparatchiks to serve the ideology and the personality cult of Prabhakaran.

Given these political realities, the waving of another constitutional formula will be reminiscent of Neville Chamberlain waving the piece of paper he brought from Berlin to announce naively: "Peace in our time"! History has written in indelible ink that that there could no peace with the Germans as long as Hitler was in charge. He was the personification of the greatest political evil in the last century. Hitler was born out of the politics of hate. He survived and thrived on the politics of hate.

Prabhakaran was born, without the aid of genetic engineering, as a clone of Hitler. He too has no humane ideology other than the politics of hate. His evil haunts every Tamil home in the Vanni with a teenage child. He brain washes suicide bombers with hate for his own glorification. Ethnic extremism of Jaffna nurtured him and made him what he is. The poisonous hatred drove him to gun down even the Tamil political fathers who produced him. To imagine that a constitutional formula is going to transform him overnight, or that he will loosen his politico-military grip on the imprisoned Tamil people (without even a phone to access the world outside) to accept democratic compromises, is like imagining a dramatic transformation in the psyche of Sadam Hussein to accept the Western agenda.

Besides, considering the financial and propagandistic network established by the Tamil diaspora and the local Tamils to serve his ruthless agenda it is pretty obvious that he has no reason to give up his politics of violence. Neither India nor the international community has been able to change him. Since India and the international community have failed it is useful here to consider the IRA example. It worked basically on four major factors: 1) the willingness of the IRA leadership to compromise and accept the new constitutional arrangements to work within a democratic framework; 2) willingness to renounce violence and seek non-violent means; 3) decommissioning of arms supervised by the proper authorities; and 4) maximum international pressure to ensure that violence will not pay dividends.

Re.1: Unlike the IRA leadership Prabhakaran will not accept even a power-sharing arrangement because it reduces him to another Chief Minister. And as he told RajivGandhi he is already the Chief Minister. The bottom line is that all formulas are out other than the one he dictates. The final contest is going to be between his formula and the one produced the collective agreement of the southern polity. And it is realistic to assume that this contest is not going to be confined to debate, position papers, seminars etc. The winning formula will be decided in the battlefield.

One does not have to be a brain surgeon or an expert in conflict resolution to know that the terms conditions on which the IRA formula worked are basic necessities to make peace. These are also the primary conditions laid down by the West to even open negotiations. But the Ceasefire Agreement worked out by the Norwegians did not insist on decommissioning of arms or accepting democratic norms for a lasting solution. It went the other way about to disarm all the Tamil political parties opposed to the Tigers and even segments of the Sri Lankan security forces. Ranil Wickremesinghe obliged by not only disarming the Tamil parties by branding them as "paramilitaries" but also by dismantling his elite striking forces (LRRP) under clause 2 (a) of the CFA. In order to appease Prabhakaran he even went that extra nautical mile to reprimand his Navy Commander for attacking a Tiger vessel. Never in the history of any nation has any prime minister of a nation ever pulled up his commanders for defending the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the nation.

Despite all these formulas Prabhakaran remained Prabhakaran. Granting of a de facto state, disarming rival Tamil parties, disbanding the most effective anti-Tiger deep penetration unit, and making critical concessions under the bogus phrase of "confidence-building" failed to isolate the Tamils from Prabhakaran. On the contrary, it strengthened their belief in Prabhakaran. Aided and abetted by the Catholic Church in particular, the NGOs, the left-wing and Ranil Wickremesinghe wing (rare meeting of the loony left and the crazy right) Prabhakaran has managed to reinforce his grip on the Tamil people. No other terrorist group has been granted this most favored treatment by the international community collectively or by any single state.

All this comes back to the issue of whether the recommended constitutional rearrangement will work to alienate the Tigers and bring the other Tamils into the non-violent democratic mainstream. he reality is that even without a constitutional arrangement all the other Tamils parties who took up arms have lined up against the Tigers and are willing to negotiate with the Sri Lankan government for a solution acceptable to all communities. Their common opposition to the Tigers is far great than their opposition to the "Sinhala-dominated" (to use their jargon) government. They view the Sri Lankan government as the lesser evil.

Contrary to the expectations of the NGO political pundits and misguided Westerners the Tamils have already begun to move away from Prabhakaran without waiting for inducements coming from the mantras of constitutional formulas. Prabhakaran's oppressive rule has been a better inducement for Tamils to leave him than any formula cooked up by the local and foreign pundits. For instance, Karuna Amman did not break away from Prabhakaran because he discovered some new constitutional advantage. He made th first crack in the Tiger monolith and it has been widening since then. He has undermined Prabhakaran not only militarily but even ideologically. He has stated explicitly that he is not for a separate state and he is ready to negotiate within the democratic stream. He has also stated categorically that he is not for violence against the state but he needs arms to protect himself and his cadres from the violence of Tamil Tigers.

Tamils are already on the move, breaking away from Prabhakaran without any imposing constitutional conditionalities. This new people's movement turning against Prabhakaran is significant. The Tamils are turning against Prabhakaran not because the state is exemplary but because the alternative of one-man regime is becoming increasingly repugnant to them. They are also breaking away because they believe that he is the main road block to peace and for any new constitutional arrangement.

The eastern Tamils breaking away from Prabhakaran has been an ominous sign for "the sole representative of the Tamils". Though the northern socio-political contours are different from that of east there is no guarantee that the north will hang on to Prabhakaran, come hell or high water. According to V. Anandasangaree the north (Vanni in particular) is waiting expectantly for a regime change. If the east has broken away without any constitutional arrangements isn't it reasonable to argue that only the manufactured theoretical fictions of the NGO pundits (including some academics aligned to NGOs) and Western ideologues are prioritizing and perpetuating the myth of a constitutional formula to keep Prabhakaran in business?

Blake believes that the best way to heal the Tail wound is to bandage it with some constitutional band aid. His diagnostic skills come into question because the same prescription recommended and applied by the Indians failed to cure the wound for several reasons: 1) misdiagnosed the case and prescribed a script hoping to heal only the wounds of the Tamils without taking the holistic approach of addressing the wounds of the other communities; 2) the prescription was rejected by the armed group whose sole tactic was to keep the wound open and bleeding for their political gain; 3) the Indian surgeons were carrying out the operation for their gain and not in the interests of all the communities bleeding from the wound; and 4) the surgical strike was not followed up with proper post-operative care to oversee effectively the implementation of the prescribed remedy.

Central to all this is whether the recommended constitutional rearrangement will work to alienate the Tamil Tigers and bring the other Tamils into the non-violent democratic mainstream. The reality is that even without a constitutional arrangement all the other Tamils parties who took up arms have line up against the Tigers and are willing to negotiate with the Sri Lankan government for a solution common to all communities. Their common opposition to the Tigers is far great than their opposition to the "Sinhala-dominated" (to use their jargon) government.

After nearly thirty years of waging a bloody war on the politics of hate the Tamil community is tired of it. Besides, they, more than any other community, have been the battered victims of Prabhakaran's war. They should know this because Prabhakaran has killed more Tamils than all the other forces put together, according to Tamil sources. They have been forced to sacrifice their children more than any other community while Prabhakaran's own children are lodged in peaceful comfort zones in Dublin (under the protection of the Catholic Church, according to informed Tamil sources) getting their higher education.

In short, the Tamils are in search of peace and normalcy for them to bring up their children. According to the emerging thinking in the Tamil democratic stream, their priority is to look for an alternative to Prabhakaran rather than an alternative to the Sinhala-dominated government. Of course, the political search to maintain their identity still remains as an active force. But the redeeming feature is that they are not committed to pursue their goals through fascist violence.

The post-Vaharai trend indicates that the Tamils are ready to join the democratic main stream and work out mutually beneficial solutions if the international community and the Sri Lanka join hands to provide them relief from the Vanni regime. Decapitation may not be a viable proposition at this stage. But de-clawing is a real possibility if the international community and the Sri Lanka join hands. It is at this point that the "military solution" takes precedence over the political solution. This sequence is vital to sustain the political solution as a durable feature in the political landscape.

Blake has come under fire not only from Sinhala groups opposed to the Tigers but also from Tamil groups opposed to the Tigers. Demanding that Blake should retract his statement that the "LTTE cannot be defeated militarily" an anti-Tiger website, The Independent, wrote: "If we the Tamil people are supported along with the Sri Lankan government, the EROS, EPDP, PLOTE, EPRLF (V), TMVP and TDC etc… the LTTE's elimination of power is possible".

Today the Tamil political forces opposed to the Tigers have coalesced, though loosely, into a formidable force. V. Anandasangaree, the award winning peace activist in the democratic stream, has expressed their hopes when he says that the Tamil people are waiting for the Sri Lankan forces to liberate them from the clutches of the Tigers.

There is no doubt the die-hard core and those dependent on the Tiger machinery will continue to be loyal to Prabhakaran. As against this, there is a quiet revolution taking place in the Tamil political scene, unacknowledged by most political analysts. It is the revolution of those disillusioned by the oppressive one-man regime in Vanni. It is gathering momentum and like in the Soviet Union there is a slow but steady build-up of an implosion waiting to happen. And like in the Soviet Union the gulag in the Vanni is fated to come down, sooner or later, like the Berlin Wall, under the mounting pressures of the Tamil people rebelling against the most oppressive system imposed on any community in Sri Lanka.

Karuna paved the way. But he is not alone. When the current trickle turns into a flood Prabhakaran will know. Then the state must intervene to give him the protection that he never gave the Tamil people, or the Tamil children, or his victims in other communities.