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Selected Writings by Sachi Sri Kantha
5 May 2006
The penultimate page of ‘terrorism expert’ and LTTE critic Rohan Gunaratna’s short book ‘War & Peace in Sri Lanka’ (1990) carried the following candid report of the wish of a Sinhalese politician, who made a political career as a Tamil-baiter.
“December 1987: President J.R.Jayewardene [JRJ] vows to destroy the LTTE in the North and the JVP in the South. At a public rally in Hambantota, President Jayewardene stated, ‘I am a military leader. I am like Hitler. There is no doubt that there is a war on. We cannot win a war without killing the enemy. If they destroy me – I do not know whether this is the correct word to use – avenge me.’ ”
The then childish naivete of Gunaratna in reporting this Jayewardene boast (or better, a Freudian slip, by JRJ in candidly comparing himself - 'liking' to be a Hitler) deserves a belated pat in his back. Even H.L.D.Mahindapala, another Sinhalese critic of LTTE, would agree with the self-acknowledged bragging of JRJ as a Hitler pretender. As long as he was in power from 1977 to 1988, JRJ never permitted Mahindapala to return and work in Sri Lanka, since the latter had rubbed JRJ on the wrong side, when JRJ was making his moves to capture the reins of the UNP in early 1970s.
While Jayewardene died 10 years ago, his vow of ‘destroying the LTTE’ had remained as a mere fantasy. There lies the virtuosity of Pirabhakaran’s leadership. Gunaratna began his book with a brief interaction he had with the leader of LTTE on August 5, 1987, the day after Pirabhakaran had addressed the Eelam Tamils at the Suthumalai Amman Kovil yard, after the hastily prepared Jayewardene-Rajiv Gandhi Accord. To quote Gunaratna,
“ ‘Mr.Prabhakaran, the Tamils hail you as a hero, the Sinhalas think of you as a murderer. Once you hand over your arms, will you be safe on the streets?’ I posed this question to the leader, and military commander of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (commonly referred to by its acronym LTTE) less than twelve hours before he ordered his men to lay down their arms….
Praba, affectionately called ‘Thambi’ or younger brother, appeared annoyed but confident. He looked bitter, but showed no aggression…Prabakaran’s unexpected reply was, ‘The Sinhalas can come to Jaffna. The LTTE Constitution has nothing against it. But our battle for Eelam will continue. Today we will give up our arms but tomorrow our effort will take a different direction. We will fight the Gandhian way. The non-violent path; Sathyagraha, protest marches, campaigns etc. We will not stop short of Eelam’. Prabakaran paused for a while, ran his hands around his waist and said, ‘My security is not a problem. Even now, I don’t carry a personal weapon. India has agreed to protect the Tamil people. If the Tamil people are harassed again by the Security forces, and India turns a blind eye, I can gurarantee that the war will start again.’ So, Prabakaran had laid down the rules of the game.” (p.6)
As all know, Pirabhakaran did lay down the rules of the game, and have played the game determinedly with one goal in his mind. The Hitler-pretenders among the Colombo ruling clan as well as the Chanakya-avatars in New Delhi have tried their best to demolish the LTTE in many devious ways. But LTTE has survived for 30 years.
Among the many books which have appeared on the deeds of LTTE, M.R.Narayan Swamy’s ‘Tigers of Lanka; From Boys to Guerrillas’ (2nd edition, 1996) is a required reading for Tamils and non-Tamils. I provide three excerpts from this Narayan Swamy’s book, for years 1976, 1986 and 1996, which succinctly shows the growth phases of LTTE.
“Prabhakaran founded the LTTE on May 5, 1976”. (p.31).
“ Prabhakaran also made it clear that he continued to be in India only because of M.G.Ramachandran (MGR) and not the Central Government. Those who talked to him returned with the impression that Prabhakaran was confident about the LTTE’s ability to take on the Sri Lankan government on its own, India or no India.” (p.201).
“ One should not underestimate the LTTE’s capacity and capability to bounce back. The Tigers have displayed exceptional resilience as a fighting force. If the past is any indication, the Tigers will certainly avenge the defeat in Jaffna, come what may. Just what form this will take is difficult to guess.” (p.346).
A Retrospective Scan on Entities
The path LTTE had faced, during the past 30 years, to reach success was not strewn with bed of roses. Also, LTTE was not born in a vacuum. Its birth and growth was influenced by the political and military environment then prevailing in Sri Lanka and neighboring India. One definition for an entity is, “Something existing objectively or in the mind”. First, LTTE was an entity in the mind of one courageous young Tamil, who thought differently. Then, it came to exist objectively, from May 5, 1976.
Because of LTTE’s existence as an entity, it also generated other entitites. Some of these entities were phantoms created by LTTE’s adversaries (in Colombo and Chennai), such as nearly 25 marginal Tamil militant groups which “existed” in 1980s. But some other entities were real and short-lived such as Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) and Tamil National Army (TNA). Even LTTE’s ill-fated political wing, People’s Front of Liberation Tigers (PFLT), was a short-lived entity.
As a chronicler of Tamil affairs, I have assembled the abbreviations of over 110 entities known by acronyms or abbreviations, which were instrumental in multiple dimensions for the birth, growth and current reach of LTTE. Wherever feasible or when definitive information is available, I have inserted the year of origin/ year of first notice/ year of commencement of operation in Eelam and/or final year of existence for notable entities.
But dates sometimes lose relevance, since political as well as military entities could morph into new formations as per the exigencies and whims of the persons involved. A good example is the history of LTTE’s primary adversary – the Sri Lankan Army (SLA). Its historical evolution follows the time-line of CRR (1796) to CLIV (1881) to CDF (1910) to RCA (1949) and finally SLA. Similarly the leading political party of Tamils have changed the initials from FP (1949) to TUF (1972) to TULF (1976) to TNA (2001). The list is assembled in alphabetical order, and as of now, is not an exhaustive one.
ACTC – All Ceylon Tamil Congress (1944), founded by G.G.Ponnambalam who remained as its leader until his death in 1977; then the leadership was held by his son G.G.(Kumar) Ponnambalam Jr. until his assassination in 2000.
AIADMK – All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (1972), established by M.G.Ramachandran who remained as its leader until his death in 1987; originally a splinter group of DMK. Jayalalitha captured the leadership reins in 1989 and remains as the leader of this party.
AK 47 – Automatic Kalashnikova 47 submachine gun, the ‘talking’ symbol of Tamil rebellion.
APC – All Party Conference, Sri Lanka (1984), the ‘Jayewardene ploy’ for conveniently postponing the decision making process on the Sinhala-Tamil rift.
CDF – Ceylon Defence Force (1910)
CFA – Cease Fire Agreement (2002), signed between the current UNP leader Ranil Wickremasinghe and LTTE leader V.Pirabhakaran.
CID – Criminal Investigation Department, Sri Lanka; One of the initial catalysts for the Tamil militancy.
CLIV – Ceylon Light Infantry Volunteers (1881), which was re-named into CDF.
CMCH – Committee for Monitoring Cessation of Hostilities (1986)
CRNVR – Ceylon Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (1940), which morphed into SLN.
CRR – Ceylon Rifle Regiment (1796); disbanded in 1874.
CVF – Citizens Volunteer Force (1989)
CWC – Ceylon Workers Congress (1947) of Saumiyamoorthi Thondaman, re-named from Ceylon Indian Congress (CIC; 1939). A reluctant partner of TUF, whose only policy principle since 1977 has been on opting for plum Cabinet appointments and patronage paraphernalia from any ruling Sinhalese party.
DDC – District Development Councils (1981), the ‘Jayewardene trap’ for parliament- trusting TULF, led by A.Amirthalingam.
DJV – Deshapremi Janatha Vyaparaya, a JVP armed front, which came into prominence following its botched attempt in August 1987, to assassinate the Cabinet members of J.R.Jayewardene, including the then President and Prime Minister.
DMK – Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (1949), founded by C.N.Annadurai who retained the leadership until his death in 1969; then the leadership mantle has been retained by M.Karunanidhi; originally a splinter group of Dravida Kazhagam.
DPLF – Democratic People’s Liberation Front, the political wing of PLOTE, of D.Siddarthan.
ELDF – Eelam Liberation Defence Front
ELO – Eelam Liberation Organisation (1975)
ELT – Eelam Liberation Tigers
EM – Eagle Movement, of Gnanavel.
ENDLF – Eelam National Democratic Liberation Front (1987), a hotch-potch grouping created by the RAW from the malcontents of PLOTE, EPRLF and TELO.
ENLF – Eelam National Liberation Front (1985-1986), a short-lived union of LTTE, EROS, TELO and EPRLF. Feeling the evil tentacles of the Indian manipulation, LTTE wiggled out of this union promptly.
EPDP – Eelam Peoples Democratic Party (1987) of Douglas Devananda; a splinter group of EPRLF. A one-person band, surviving as an embedded Tamil appendage of SLA.
EPRLF – Eelam People’s Revolutionary Liberation Front (1980) of K.Padmanabha and V.Perumal; a splinter group of EROS. Following the decimation of TELO, India’s underground agencies worked overtime to make EPRLF to dance to their tunes. As Taraki had noted, “The EPRLF was much better armed and had six times more trained cadre than the Tigers when it was decimated in November 1986.” By opting to be an embedded group to the IPKF operations, EPRLF lost whatever remaining credit they had as a military force, by 1990.
ERCP – Eelam Revolutionary Communist Party
EROS – Eelam Revolutionary Organisation of Students (1975) of Eliathamby Ratnasabapathi, V.Balakumar, Shankar Raji and Bala Nadaraja Iyer aka Sinna Bala.
ETOM – Eela Thamilar Ottrumai Munnani (1960), of C.Suntheralingam; a one-person band, which became a minor constituent of TUF.
FP – Federal Party (1949); same as ITAK.
GATE – Guerrilla Army of Tamil Eelam
GUES – General Union of Eelam Students
HSZ – High Security Zones, the exact area of which is constantly in flux. In the Jaffna peninsula, the HSZ nominally covers over 160 sq.kms or approximately 18 percent of Jaffna’s ~880 sq.km land. Nearly 40,000 SLA troops are stationed, for guarding the only available Palali airport and the KKS port.
IB – Intelligence Bureau, India; India’s domestic intelligence agency.
ICRC – International Committee of the Red Cross (1989)
IFTA – Ilankai Freedom Tamil Army (1984) of E.Saravanabavanandan.
IPKF – Indian Peace Keeping Force (1987-1990), also receiving the derisive tag, ‘Indian People Killing Force’, from the Eelam Tamils.
ISGA – Interim Self Governing Authority proposal (2003), a proposal with 23 clauses presented by LTTE on behalf of Tamil people for an agreement to establish a self-governing authority in the North-East region of Sri Lanka and to “bring lasting peace to all persons of the island of Sri Lanka”. This remains as a non-starter due to political chicanery and lack of foresight shown by Colombo politicians.
ISI – Inter Services Intelligence (1950s), of Pakistan, a counterpart of India’s RAW. Since 1982, ISI has functioned as a patron of SLA and its appendages in multiple roles, about which the Muslim ethnic politicians have remained tactically silent.
ITAK – Ilankai Tamil Arasu Katchi (1949), of S.J.V.Chelvanayakam, C.Vanniasingham, V.Navaratnam, E.M.V.Naganathan and A.Amirthalingam; originally a splinter group of ACTC; same as FP.
JHU – Jathika Hela Urumaya (2004) – National Heritage Party, a Sinhala-Buddhist Monks pressure group which gained parliamentary representation with the election of 9 saffron-robed politicians from the Sinhalese electorates.
JOC – Joint Operations Command (1984), a single General heading a special military unit, having total control over all combat troops of SLA, SLAF, SLN and Sri Lankan Police, for executing operations against the LTTE. JOC’s powers were clipped by paranoid President Premadasa in April 1992.
JOSSOP – Joint Services Special Operations Command (1983), established to co-ordinate ‘anti-terrorist’ activities in Vavuniya, Mannar, Mullaitivu and Trincomalee districts.
JSS – Jatika Sevaka Sangamaya (the UNP’s trade union federation) whose goons brutalized Tamils and devastated the Tamil private, public and business properties in 1981 and 1983. The patron of JSS was the then Cabinet minister and Sinhala chauvinist Cyril Mathew.
JVP – Janatha Vimukti Peramuna (1966), of Rohana Wijeweera, which introduced the ‘terrorism’ word into the political lexicon of the island in April 1971.
KKS – Kankesanthurai; see, HSZ.
KMS – Keenie Meenie Services (1977), the British mercenary group contracted by J.R.Jayewardene and Lalith Athulathmudali (1984-87) to sniff the then budding Tamil militant movements. As per unverified web-culled information, the name Keenie Meenie is thought to be Swahili for the movement of a snake through the grass, or Arabic for covert operation. In early 1990s, KMS has been absorbedby Saladin Security.
LRRP – Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol, the secret arm of SLA’s Directorate of Military Intelligence, whose primary operation is to penetrate the LTTE territory and assassinate the top ranking LTTE members. LRRP’s victims include Col.Shankar, Lt.Col.Gangai Amaran and Lt.Col.Nizam. Handlers and informants to LRRP have been tackled vigorously in retaliation.
LTTE - Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (1976)
NEPG – North East Provincial Government (1988-1990), a politial balloon of tom-foolery perpetrated by the India’s Poo Bahs, which burst with a whimper.
NIB – National Intelligence Bureau, Sri Lanka
NLFTE – National Liberation Front of Tamil Eelam, which according to Taraki, was a small but influential Maoist group that was based largely in Jaffna, which “drove down the road to perdition by splitting hairs over the question of whether it should first build an armed wing or a mass political movement.”
NSZ – Naval Surveillance Zone (1984) of SLN.
OFERR – Organisation for Eelam Refugee Rehabilitation (1984), of S.C.Chandrahasan.
PFLT – People’s Front of Liberation Tigers (1989), now defunct political party of LTTE.
PLA – People’s Liberation Army, the military wing of EPRLF, whose fumbling ‘General’ was Douglas Devananda. The only record (ignominious, at that) of PLA was the 1984 kidnapping of American couple Stanley Allen and his wife Mary Allen from Columbus, Ohio, in Jaffna. See also, EPDP.
PLFT – People’s Liberation Front of Tamil Eelam, a splinter group of NLFTE.
PLOTE - People’s Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam (1980) of Uma Maheswaran. As per the evaluation of its one-time member and journalist Taraki, “PLOTE had six thousand fighters trained in India and about twelve thousand trained in its military camps in the Northeast. Yest in September 1986, the organisation’s local commanders were compelled to announce that they were ceasing all their military activities in the Northeast to avoid bloodshed.”
PLP – People’s Liberation Party
PTA – Prevention of Terrorism Act (1979), an utterly inept pet project of President J.R.Jayewardene to de-fang the then budding Tamil militancy.
P-TOMS – Post-Tsunami Operational Management Structure (2005), a memorandum of understanding signed by the Sri Lankan Government and LTTE to deliver relief and expedite rehabilitation and reconstruction for the victims of the Tsunami (Dec.26, 2004) in the six districts of Amparai, Batticaloa, Jaffna, Kilinochchi, Mullaitivu and Trincomalee. Akin to ISGA, this proposal also turned out to be a non-starter due to chicanery of Colombo politicians.
RAW – Research and Analysis Wing, India (1968); the deceptive arm of Indian diplomacy, which has been involved in hanky-panky games with Eelam Tamil nationalism since early 1980s.
RCA – Royal Ceylon Army (1949), which morphed into SLA.
RCG – Red Crescent Guerrillas
RCyAF – Royal Ceylon Air Force (1949), morphed into SLAF.
RELO – Revolutionary Eelam Liberation Organisation
RFTE – Red Front of Tamil Eelamists (1984)
RW – Revolutionary Warriors
SAAG – South Asia Analysis Group. A website in India (with contributors who had past affiliations with RAW, such as B.Raman and Col.R.Hariharan) which frequently posts anti-LTTE analyses, from incomplete material gathered from secondary sources.
SATP – South Asia Terrorism Portal, the website of Institute for Conflict Management (1997), New Delhi. This organ of an Indian law enforcement officer K.P.S.Gill routinely posts malicious and erroneous anti-LTTE propaganda as facts and thus deserves condemnation from Eelam Tamils.
SAS – Special Air Service (1941, disbanded in 1945 and later revived) of British Army’s paratrooper and commando arm operating beyond the boundaries of Britain, for sabotage, infiltration and assassination. SAS was contracted by the UNP Minister of National Defense, Lalith Athulathmudali, in 1984-85 to train the SLA cadres in combat. See also, KMS.
SCG – Security Coordination Group (1989)
SLA – Sri Lanka Army, a corrupt and inept entity always mislead by arm-chair Commander in Chiefs and their glib-talking military generals who have more talents for propaganda blitz than for combat. In 2002, the official cadre strength is 118,000.
SLAF – Sri Lanka Air Force. In 2002, the official cadre strength is 19,300.
SLN – Sri Lanka Navy. In 2003, the official cadre strength is 20,600.
SLFP – Sri Lanka Freedom Party (1951), founded by Solomon West R.D.Bandaranaike, who was its leader until his assassination in 1959; originally a splinter group of UNP. Subsequent leaders who contributed to LTTE’s origin and expansion were Bandaranaike’s widow Sirimavo Bandaranaike and her daughter Chandrika Kumaratunga.
SLMC – Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (1981), founded by M.H.M.Ashraff who remained as its leader until his death in 2000. This Eastern front regional party splintered into two factions, one led by the widow of Ashraff and the other by Rauf Hakeem.
SLMM – Sri Lankan Monitoring Mission (2002), established in accordance to CFA (2002), consisting of 56 personnel –as of March 9, 2006 - from five Nordic countries Norway (18), Sweden (14), Finland (11), Denmark (8) and Iceland (5). Apart from its headquarters in Colombo and a liaison office in Kilinochchi, SLMM has six district offices in Jaffna, Mannar, Vavuniya, Trincomalee, Batticaloa and Amparai.
SRSL – Socialist Revolutionary Social Liberation
STF – Special Task Force, Sri Lanka (1982), the notorious police arm manned by Sinhalese and Muslim ethnics, which received ideological input and training support from Pakistan’s General Zia ul Haq.
SU – Sihala Urumaya (2001), a Buddhist fundamentalist fringe group known for spewing venom on LTTE and Tamils, which transformed into JHU. See, JHU.
TEA – Tamil Eelam Army (1983), of ‘Panagoda’ Maheswaran. Now defunct one-person band which made a few crackles in the 1980s.
TEBM – Tamil Eelam Blood Movement
TEC – Tamil Eelam Commando
TEDF – Tamil Eelam Defence Front
TEEF – Tamil Eelam Eagles Front
TELA – Tamil Eelam Liberation Army (1982) of ‘Oberoi’ Thevan; a splinter group of TELO. Following the assassination of Thevan in 1983, TELA was absorbed by PLOTE.
TELC – Tamil Eelam Liberation Cobras (1983), a short-lived Batticaloa based group. As per Taraki, “It was widely known as the Cobra Army (Naaha Padai). It did little except call for hartals and send out pre-recorded warnings to those whom it considered traitors. The warnings ended with the hiss of a snake.”
TELE – Tamil Eelam Liberation Extremists, which Taraki had identified as “led by a crackpot who loved to call himself ‘TELE Jegan’, He was shot dead when he began to hit the limelight with a few daredevil antics.”
TELF – Tamil Eelam Liberation Front (1982), of S.C.Chandrahasan, M.K.Eelaventhan, journalist Kovai Mahesan and Dr.S.A.Tharmalingam; a splinter group of TULF.
TELG – Tamil Eelam Liberation Guerrillas
TELO – Tamil Eelam Liberation Organisation (1973), of Thangathurai and Kuttimani (until 1983), and Sri Sabaratnam (until 1986). In Taraki’s words, “TELO had the largest stock of weapons of all the armed groups in the Northeast when the LTTE wiped it out in the course of a few days in April 1986. TELO had eight times more fighters than the LTTE. It [also] had India’s full backing.”
TENA – Tamil Eelam National Army (1983), of Amirthalingam Baheerathan
TERO – Tamil Eelam Revolutionary Organisation, of Sudan Ramesh; a splinter group of TELO.
TERPLA – Tamil Eelam Revolutionary People’s Liberation Army, of Thangarasa.
TESO – Tamil Eelam Supporters Organisation, convened by the DMK leader M.Karunanidhi in 1986. A show-case conference was held on May 4, 1986 in Madurai, in which some leading Indian politicians (A.B.Vajpayee, H.N.Bahuguna, N.T.Rama Rao, Upendra, and Subramanian Swamy) participated and hogged the media space.
TESS – Tamil Eelam Security Service
TFAII – Task Force for Anti Illicit Immigration (1952), which propagated the racist taunt in the government mass-media, of VVT as the ‘smuggler’s capital’ of the island; disbanded in 1981.
TIC – Tamil Information Centre (1983), the brain-child of attorney K.Kanthasamy and journalist S.Sivanayagam.
TLO – Tamil Liberation Organisation (1969), the progenitor of TELO.
TNA – Tamil National Alliance (2001), the lead political party of Eelam Tamils comprising of ITAK, ACTC, TELO and EPRLF (Suresh faction), led by R.Sampanthan. See also TULF.
TNA – Tamil National Army (1989-1990), the ill-conceived brain-child of India’s policy mandarins and intelligence hands, which could survive only on artificial respiration.
TNC – Tamil National Council (1989)
TNT – Tamil New Tigers (1972-1976); renamed into LTTE.
TPCU – Tamil People’s Command Unit
TPDF – Tamil People’s Democratic Front
TPSF – Tamil People’s Security Front
TPSO – Tamil People’s Security Organisation
TRRO – Tamil Refugees Rehabilitation Organisation (1977), the livewire of which was trade unionist K.C.Nithyanantha.
TS – Three Stars (interpreted as representing the three ethnic groups in Sri Lanka), an embedded para-military grouping which received news mention during the IPKF operations (1987-89). see ENDLF.
TSK – Tamilar Suya-Aadchi Kazhakam (1969), of V.Navaratnam; a splinter group of ITAK.
TSL – Tamil Students League [Tamil Manavar Peravai] (1970), founded by Ponnuthurai Satyaseelan. See also, TYL.
TUF – Tamil United Front (1972-1976), formed with the elderly triumvirate leadership (S.J.V.Chelvanayakam, G.G.Ponnambalam and S.Thondaman).; re-named into TULF.
TULF – Tamil United Liberation Front (1976). The deaths of indigenous Tamil leaders Ponnambalam (in Feb.1977) and Chelvanayakam (in April 1977) combined with Indian-Tamil leader Thondaman’s aspiration for a Cabinet Minister position, saw the leadership batton passing into the hands of next generation of triumvirate leadership of A.Amirthalingam, M.Sivasithamparam and R.Sampanthan. Sivasithamparam served as the nominal head until his death in 2002. Since early 2004, V.Anandasangaree claims the current leadership of a rump TULF, though discredited by the Tamil voters who had moved their allegiance to TNA (2001).
TYL – Tamil Youth League [Tamil Ilaignar Peravai] (1973), the progenitor of Eelam Tamil militancy.
UDI – Unilateral Declaration of Independence (1990), a farcical act enacted by V.Perumal of EPRLF, who then fled from Trincomalee.
UNP – United National Party (1947), founded by Don Stephen Senanayake and his then coterie (including Solomon West R.D.Bandaranaike) to share the spoils of political power of newly independent Ceylon. UNP leaders who contributed to the expansion of LTTE were J.R.Jayewardene, Lalith Athulathmudali, R.Premadasa, D.B.Wijetunga and Gamini Dissanayake.
UTHR (J) – University Teachers for Human Rights [Jaffna] (1988), set up on the initiatives of Rajani Thiranagama, Rajan Hoole and their handful of coterie.
VVT – Valvettithurai (the native town of Pirabhakaran), which bore the brunt of TFAII activities in 1950s and 1960s, and in turn became a fertile ground for the Eelam militancy in 1970s.
Falsity of Premature Requiem
That Pirabhakaran receives his regular share of bad press is nothing new. But history teaches us that freedom fighters [the paradigm shifters] have always been served with bad press. Among my collections on Gandhiana, one item serves as a cautious anchor since it warns me about the perils faced by myopic chroniclers of contemporary events. This was a partisan entry penned by a contributor on Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (then 63 years old), which appeared in the Encyclopedia Britannica in 1932. This entry in the reputable Encyclopedia Britannica, when it appeared, was more or less a premature political requiem of Gandhi. I reproduce excerpts below, since with the passage of 74 years, the thoughts of the contributor had turned into nonsense:
“By 1921 Gandhi was at the zenith of his power…But he had generated forces which he had no power to recall or control, and plain people were getting alarmed at the consequences. Muslim support was being deflected from him by the encouragement which Lord Reading’s Government was giving to Islamic sentiment over Turkey; and his closest adherents were embarrassed by his frequent changes of policy. Consequently, when he was arrested in March 1922 and put on trial for conspiring to spread disaffection with a view to overthrowing the government of the country, the coup evoked little excitement. Gandhi pleaded guilty, accepted responsibility for all that had happened and invited ‘the highest penalty that can be inflicted upon me for what in law is a deliberate crime and what appears to me to be the highest duty of a citizen.’
Condemned to six years’ simple imprisonment, he was released in January 1924, after an operation in gaol for appendicitis, and the rest of his sentence was unconditionally remitted. He came back to a party which had chosen other leaders, and was soon to reverse his policy of boycotting the administration.
Esteemed and consulted though he continued to be by his old followers, he was no longer a power to sway the masses; at the end of 1925 he announced his intentions of retiring from the world for a year; and his most recent incursions into politics have been ineffective. The nationalist movement was switched on to lines more familiar to western constitutional usage…”
The lesson from this example is that the authentic mouthpieces of bullying empires do not serve as oracles of truth. For the Encyclopedia Britannica, Gandhi (when aged 63) was maliciously misjudged and roasted and by a toady chronicler of the then powerful British empire in 1932. Fifteen years later, Gandhi lived to see a free India, and he was acknowledged by the Indians as the ‘Father of Indian Freedom Struggle’. Thus, Gandhi’s experience with bad press does provide inspiration to Pirabhakaran (now aged 51) and his fans as well.
Similarly let me present two examples of premature requiems, which were paraded for Pirabhakaran.
The un-signed report in the London-based Economist magazine (Oct.17, 1987), had the caption, “Requiem for the Tigers”. To quote the first paragraph,
“The Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanka are facing extinction. Like the great beasts they named themselves after, they were fighting tooth and claw this week against the Indian soldiers sent to disarm them, but it was a losing fight. They were outnumbered, outgunned, running out of supplies and, with the Indians blocking every exit, had no place to retreat to. Guerrillas are no match for orthodox battalions in a pitched battle, the sort that was taking place in the Tigers stronghold in Jaffna. By Thursday it was estimated that may be 300 Tigers had been killed, for the death of 57 Indians. Never before in Sri Lanka’s civil war had the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, to give the guerrillas their formal name, taken such punishment.”
The reporter for the Time magazine (Oct.26, 1987), opined as follows:
“…From a tactical point of view, Prabakaran’s actions were baffling. The peace plan had promised the Tamils local rule in the regions where they predominate. The rebel leader had extracted a further concession that would have allowed his group to control the interim administration. Why had he sacrificed such tangible political gains and provoked a military confrontation that could only lead to his destruction?
A widely held view was that Prabakaran had ‘lost control’ of himself, as one Sri Lankan official put it, following his comrades’ group suicide. Others speculated that, on the contrary, he had told his men to take cyanide in order to make martyrs of them and spark a general revolt among the Tamil population. According to this scenario, he had hoped the resulting unrest would topple the Jayewardene government and perhaps pave the way for full Tamil independence.
In any case, Prabakaran apparently had not expected his former Indian benefactors to move against him. That was a serious miscalculation. ‘He thought he could push us around and get away with anything’, said an Indian diplomat…”
In all probabilities, this un-named Indian diplomat was none other than J.N.Dixit, the then Indian ambassador in Colombo. As sound-bites for the political mandarins of New Delhi and Colombo, these reports from the ground, filed by journalists with zero aptitude for military strategy and tactics, may have served a short-term purpose. But for portraying the historical validity of the outcome in which LTTE emerged as the victor against the Indian army, these make hilarious reading now.
To reiterate, it is to the credit of LTTE’s tenacity that Wizard Time, the ever scrupulous chronicler of history, had demolished the arrant nonsense of the blind-sighted first drafts of history which appeared in the Economist and Time magazines in 1987.
Blodgett, B.: Sri Lanka’s Military – The Search for a Mission, 1949-2004. San Diego, Aventine Press, 2004.
Encyclopedia Britannica, 14th ed., vol.10, 1932, p.15.
Gunaratna, R.: War & Peace in Sri Lanka. 3rd ed., Kandy, Institute of Fundamental Studies, 1990.
Gunaratna, R.: Indian Intervention in Sri Lanka – The role of India’s Intelligence Services. Colombo, South Asian Network on Conflict Research, 1993.
Narayan Swamy, M.R.: Tigers of Lanka – From Boys to Guerrillas. 2nd ed., Colombo, Vijitha Yapa Bookshop, 1996.
Taraki: Tigers dominate decades of Tamil militancy. Colombo Daily Mirror, Aug.18, 2004.