Velupillai Prabhakaran (also spelled Prabhakaran), the leader of the Tamil Tigers, was known for his ruthlessness and fearlessness and was generally seen as Pol-Pot-like leader. The son a local government official, he was brought up near Jaffna. Operating out a secret jungle base in the north-east of Sri Lanka, he molded the Tamil Tigers into a highly-disciplined and highly- motivated guerrilla force.
The Tamil Tigers — the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) — were a pro-Tamil, anti-Sinhalese separatist movement in Sri Lanka that has waged a war in fits and starts from 1983 to 2009 against the Sri Lankan government in an effort to create an independent homeland for the Tamils in the north and east of Sri Lanka. Eelam is the original Tamil name for Sri Lanka. The LTTE’s goal was to set up a homeland to be called Eelam.
Alastair Lawson of the BBC wrote: “Mr Prabhakaran is reputed to wear a cyanide capsule around his neck, to be swallowed in the event of his capture. He expects the same dedication from his troops, many of whom the Sri Lankan government says are either women or children. Despite the conflicting views surrounding Mr Prabhakaran, there is one point that both the Sinhala and Tamil communities agree: he is the domineering force in the rebel movement, and without his consent peace in Sri Lanka will never be attainable. [Source: Alastair Lawson, BBC, May 2, 2000]
Seth Mydans wrote in the New York Times: Prabhakaran is the driving force of the LTTE, known for its resourcefulness, its brutality and its suicide attacks. His determination and refusal to compromise have kept the insurgency alive, rescuing it at various points over the years from what had seemed to be approaching defeat. His remorselessness and ruthlessness have made him the dominant figure in Sri Lanka for a quarter century. His insurgency has held the country hostage to terrorism. It has held back social and economic development, heightened violent ethnic divisions and pushed the government toward a more repressive posture. There have been cease-fires and negotiations over the years; all have failed because Mr. Prabhakaran would not give up the war. Presidents have come and gone, their policies shaded by harder or softer lines toward his insurgency. [Source: Seth Mydans, New York Times, March 31, 2009]
According to The Island: “Prabhakaran has been called many names. They include, megalomaniac, freedom fighter, ruthless terrorist, barbaric murderer and a humane person. Volumes have been written on the LTTE, but strangely not on Prabhakaran. Mao Tse-Tung, the world’s authority on guerrilla warfare quoted Sun Wu Tzu, the great military scientist of ancient China who wrote "know the enemy and know yourself, and you can fight a hundred battles with no danger of defeat." A biographical study of the enigmatic Prabhakaran may therefore be useful since the motivating forces driving Prabhakaran could be discerned. [Source: The Island, February 25, 2001]
Prabhakaran’s Character and Appearance
Prabhakaran was chubby and had a soft voice and soft, delicate and limp handshake. Shyam Tekwani wrote in the Sri Lanka Guardian: “During one of our initial photo sessions (in the early 1980s), Prabakaran was awkward, uncertain of what was expected of him and very receptive to being directed. When it was suggested he change into combat fatigues, he went one further and emerged from the room with his pistol fully loaded. Within seconds, framed by his bodyguards and a huge cut out of a Tiger, with a huge portrait of Lenin in the background, he was in his elements and an hour later eagerly asked for copies of his performance. Several photo sessions later and in Jaffna while fighting for his supremacy against the IPKF, he reveled in playing the role of actor and director with consummate ease. He would tease a twinkle into his eyes with as much ease as a flash of fury. There was bluster in his voice, preparedness in dealing with questions and animation in his conversations but his grip had lost none of its daintiness. [Source: Shyam Tekwani, Sri Lanka Guardian, May 16, 2009]
“He would play to the gallery with sardonic witticisms, refrain from any response in English, ponder a bit to deliver a quotable quote and strike the pose that struck him as just right for the occasion. In one of his hideouts during the IPKF operations, he called for his leopard cub and while bantering with his friend and deputy, Yogaratnam Yogi, posed gleefully for the camera stroking his pet — much like a prosperous zamindar back from a hunt.”
Prabhakaran rarely appeared in public and when he did it was only under heavy guard. "If you talk to many Sinhalese, they are in awe of the man," a psychiatrist told the New York Times. "They see him as almost super human. It’s a feature of the general sense of helplessness." Prabhakaran had a high, squeaky voice, and once studied to be a priest. He is regarded as a Robin-Hood-like figure among many of his supporters. Pictures of Prabhakaran showed him with a bushy mustache, dressed in military fatigues, with a cyanide capsule tucked in his shirt pocket and a Browning pistol strapped to his waist. In the early 2000s he began appearing in a cream-colored safari suit as he attempted to recast himself as a political leader rather revolutionary commander.
According to The Island: “He has claimed in one of his rare interviews, that his heroes are Napolean, Alexandar, Chandra Bose and Bhagat Singh. It is significant that Mahathma Gandhi and Nehru whose pictures hang in practically every Tamil home in Jaffna, are not Prabhakaran’s role models. So are the Sunderalinghams, Chelvanayakams, Ponnambalams and Naganathans, who fought to preserve the privileges enjoyed by their class and caste, under the colonial rule. Prabhakaran’s hatred of that class and caste is due to his conviction that those high caste affluent leaders exploited the people of Jaffna, (particularly low caste poor people) for them to lead a pukka sahib life style in Colombo. This is not very different from Marxists among the Sinhalese who exploited the workers, for them to lead the bourgeois life style.” [Source: The Island, February 25, 2001]
Interpol described Prabhakaran as someone who was "very alert, known to use disguise and capable of handling sophisticated weaponry and explosives." Seth Mydans wrote in the New York Times: “Mr. Prabhakaran, who is fascinated by guns, meticulous in military planning and more ruthless than his rivals, built a fanatical armed movement while reaching out to a wealthy Tamil diaspora to finance his well-armed insurgency.A master of escape and concealment, he has only rarely given interviews, emerging each year in November for an annual address. “No sane voice is being raised,” he said in his address in 2008, year, “either to abandon war or to seek a peaceful solution to the conflict.” [Source: Seth Mydans, New York Times, March 31, 2009]
“His quiet demeanor has puzzled outsiders, who have found him neat, polished and soft-spoken to the point of shyness. “The quietest man I have come across,” said Sadanand Menon, a veteran Indian journalist, who met him in the early 1980s. “He was so soft-spoken that you could not hear him under his breath. It made you wonder, even if momentarily, if he really led the Tamil Tigers.” Anita Pratap, another prominent Indian journalist who met him around the same time, put it this way: “My first impression was that of utter disappointment. He looked stunningly ordinary. Dressed in a light blue shirt and gray trousers, he could have easily been mistaken for a petty Tamil businessman.”
Prabhakaran was born in a Jaffna hospital on November 26, 1954 and grew up in the northern Sri Lankan coastal town of Velvettithurai, on the Jaffna peninsula. Velvettithurai was known as a smugglers capital town. M. R Narayan Swamy wrote: VVT, where Prabhakaran spent much of his early years, was a small and closely-knit coastal town of some 10,000 Tamils with one catholic church and 3 Hindu temples. One of them, dedicated to Lord Shiva, was a virtual family property of the Velupillais, and the young Prabhakaran would land there to lend a helping hand during all major festivals. VVT's menfolk were civil servants, traders, fishermen or simply smugglers, thanks to the winding sea coast and the proximity to India. [Source: “Tigers of Lanka: from Boys to Guerrillas” by M. R Narayan Swamy, 1994]
Boats would sail to Rangoon, Chittagong, Rameshwaram, Nagapattinam and Cochin laden with both legitimate cargo and contraband. VVT was politically conservative and more receptive to the relatively moderate Tamil Congress. It was among the few places in Jaffna where the Federal Party did not organise its "satyagragha" campaign in 1961. Otherwise VVT shared the traits of other Tamil areas. Its residents, like Tamils elsewhere in Sri Lanka's northeast, were greatly influenced by India's independence struggle, and photographs of such Indian leaders as Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Swami Vivekananda and Subash Chandra Bose adorned many homes.
“August 15, India's independence day, was celebrated in the town with pride, and Tamil newspapers and magazines of Jaffna which would come out with a special supplements to mark the occasion, were read with avid interest in VVT.
Velupillai Prabhakaran was the youngest of four children. Nothing is known of his three siblings, which are believed to be two sisters and a brother. His family belonged to lower middle class, in a town of rich businessmen engaged in lucrative smugglin. His father Thiruvenkadam Velupillai was the District land Officer in the Ceylon Government. He came from an influential and wealthy family who owned and managed the major Hindu temples in Valvettithurai. His mother was named Parvathi. [Source: Wikipedia, The Island]
M. R Narayan Swamy wrote: The family of Vallipuram and Thiruvenkatam Velupillai “was a typical middle class family where the youngest was the darling of all. Prabhakaran's mother was deeply religious and very fond of him. His thin-lipped father was strict and upright man who demanded absolute discipline from his two sons and two daughters. He was affectionate and gave them whatever comforts his salary as a district land officer in the Sri Lankan government could allow. Prabhakaran was his favourite child too, and the young boy would often cuddle up to his father at night. The family nicknamed the young one "durai", or master. [Source: “Tigers of Lanka: from Boys to Guerrillas” by M. R Narayan Swamy, 1994]
Velupillai Prabhakaran was married to Mathivathani Erambu in October 1984 at the Murugan temple in Tirupporur near Chennai (Madras) in southern India. He had had two sons and a daughter. in 1984. His first son Charles Antony was born in 1985, followed by a daughter Dwaraka. His second son’s name is Balachandran. He named his elder son Charles Antony because Charles Antony was the first LTTE fighter to lose his life in a confrontation with the Sri Lanka Army.
Prabhakaran’s wife and children are believed to have been killed when he was in May 2009 during fighting with the Sri Lankan army. Prabhakaran's parents, Thiruvenkadam Velupillai and Parvathi, both in their 70s, were found in the Menik Farm camp for displaced people near the town of Vavuniya. The Sri Lankan military and the government gave public assurances that they would not be interrogated, harmed or ill-treated. They were taken into Sri Lankan military custody until Vellupillai's death in January 2010. Prabhakaran has a sister, Vinodini Rajendaran.
His father disapproved of his militant activity but his family helped to aroused his interest in politics and pro-Tamil activism. Explaining to Frontline in November 1985 what impelled him to become a fighter for the Tamil cause, Prabakaran noted that when he was young his parents “used to talk a lot at home against the 1958 racial riots directed against the Tamils in which many people were affected. This affected me.” He also said in the Frontline interview that when he was at school, a former member of the Tamil Federal party, V. Navarathinam, paid some of his tuition. Prabakaran said: “He used to talk to us on various world movements, how nothing can be published by parliamentary means, etc. I was 15 years old then and I got the feeling that we also should hit back and that we should have a separate country of our own.” [Source: The Hindu, May 19, 2009]
Prabhakaran’s Early Life
Prabhakaran was shy and bookish and was influenced by the lives of two Indian leaders, Subhash Chandra Bose and Bhagat Singh, both of whom were involved in the armed struggle for independence from Britain. He was an average student and didn’t get far in school. [Source: The Island, BBC]
M. R Narayan Swamy wrote: Prabhakaran did his first two years at school in the eastern town of Batticaloa (Mattakalappu), where his father was posted, and then joined the Chithambara College in his home town of Valvettithurai, in Sri Lanka's northern tip, after Velupillai got transfer. He was an active, at times mischievous, student and rated average in studies. That caused a lot of worry to his father who, like all Tamils, valued education immensely. At the end of his 7th standard, Velupillai took along his son to Vavuniya, where he was posted, so that the boy would remain under his watchful eyes. He later brought Prabhakaran back to Valvettithurai (VVT for short) for further schooling. The doting father also arranged for a tutor to coach his son after school hours. [Source: “Tigers of Lanka: from Boys to Guerrillas” by M. R Narayan Swamy, 1994]
Prabhakaran's neighbors and schoolmates remember him fondly. "Prabhakaran would actively help out the family during religious functions and happily run errands for neighbours and relatives". Velupillai was a popular man who would hold endless discussions with friends on the worsening ethnic relations in the country, lamenting the fate of Tamils. The exchange of views would be in Tamil and English, and although he did not understand every word, Prabhakaran was often present by his father's side and listened attentively. This was his preliminary introduction to politics and to the world of Tamil-Sinhalese conflict. It was perhaps during these discussions that Prabhakaran picked up the habit of being a patient listener.
Prabhakaran’s Interests as a Young Man
But school did not interest him, other things did. Prabhakaran was fascinated by the life and times of two Indians: Subash Chandra Bose and Bhagat Singh, in that order. Bose's brief forays into spiritualism, his innate militancy, his willingness to take on Mahatma Gandhi, his carefully planned escape from India, his fight against the British with the hastily-formed Indian National Army and almost everything the charismatic Bengali nationalist did made him Prabhakaran's hero. He would return to books on Bose repeatedly, gripped in particular by his one war like slogan: "I shall fight for the freedom of my land until I shed the last drop of blood".
Then there were the military exploits of Napoleon, the teachings of Swami Vivekananda, the story of Mahabharata, and the religious discourses of the saintly Kirupanandha Variyar, who came to VVT once a year from Tamil Nadu. Prabhakaran was himself quietly pious, in line with the family, and his favourite deity was Lord Subramania.
There were also political meetings in VVT which Prabhakaran attended and where speakers detailed Sinhalese atrocities and called for building up Tamil resistance. Someone told Prabhakaran about a Hindu priest at Panadura town who was caught by a Sinhalese mob during the 1958 riots, tied to the cot on which he was sleeping, doused with kerosene and burnt to death. "Ours was a God-fearing society and the people were religious-minded. The widespread feeling was: when a priest like him was burnt alive, why did we not have the capability to hit back?", Prabhakaran would ask one day.
The future guerrilla fighter related such stories to his school-mates. His love for the catapult, while the other boys were more interested in sports, was legendary and took him to the world of marksmanship. His earliest victims were chameleons, squirrels and birds which he felled or killed with pebbles. Some birds which did not die were taken home. When he didn't have a catapult, he would hang any object from a tree and shoot rubber arrows at it - or simply throw a stone in the air and try hitting it with another stone before it came crashing down.
His father did not take kindly to Prabhakaran's many friends dropping in at home. So Prabhakaran remained essentially a loner in his earlier days, shy of girls and always restless. When he was alone, he would recite dialogues from the Tamil movie "Veerapandia Kattabomman", imagining himself to be the legendary warrior..... He also learnt the rudiments of judo and karate, and his family, noticing the boy's interest for anything to do with fighting skills, began teasing him as "veeravan", or the brave one.
Prabhakaran and Caste
According to The Island: “As a teenager,Prabhakaran grew up in the highly stratified Jaffna society, with three major handicaps, his caste, class and very poor education. Prabhakaran belongs to Karaiyar or deep sea fisherman’s caste. This caste is way below the dominant Brahman and Vellala caste....Due to evolving caste system from the late sixties, even a low caste person could rise with affluence and high academic achievement. Prabhakaran was conscious that these two gates were not open to him. As a low caste, poor youth with very little education, Prabhakaran faced the full impact of the social hostility. [Source: The Island, February 25, 2001]
Sharmilee Fernando, wife of Jayantha Gnakone, the self exiled LTTE leader and shadow minister of shipping, said: "In the Tamil community there is a caste system, they go beyond what you cannot even imagine, they don’t want to talk to the fisherman’s son etc. "Sharmilee’s husband Gnakone like all the other terrorist leaders, belong to the fisherman’s caste. Hence, Sharmilee said " that is why he felt he had an obligation to do something for them, there is a power struggle within the Tamils because PLOTE is headed by the high caste Tamils." In response to the question ‘so it is a caste struggle? ‘Sharmilee replied, "Yes, so if you look at the whole picture the Tamil’s enemy is not the Sinhalese. The enemy is themselves because these are the people supporting the EPRLF and TULF and all the Tamil people sitting in Colombo. "LTTE’s main enemy is them’ before the Sinhalese."
To the outside world Prabhakaran is a racist terrorist or a freedom fighter for the Tamils rights against the Sinhalese. But when Prabhakaran attacks and assassinates leading Tamil leaders with equal ferocity as the attacks of Sinhalese leaders, the bewildered political and defence analysts, call him an enigmatic leader.
Sharmilee has correctly identified the highly rigid caste system, particularly the oppression of the low caste by the Vellala, as a principal force which propelled her husband to join Prabhakaran’s struggle. LTTE struggle is much a caste/class struggle, against the socio, politico, economic domination of the Vellala as a rebellion against the Sinhalese governments...The Vellala caste constitute fifty percent and Prabhakaran’s Karaiyar caste only ten percent of the Jaffna population. Prabhakaran’s perception of being oppressed both by the Vellala and the Sinhalese majority is understandable. Yet the prudent Prabhakaran could not disclose to the world that he was fighting against both the high caste Tamils and the Sinhalese, knowing very well that it would unite the high caste Tamils and the Sinhalese, besides denying him international sympathy and support.
As an unemployed teenager, lacking the traditional ambition of Jaffna youth to achieve high academic qualifications, Prabhakaran had the opportunities to witness and feel the pain of injustices caused by the Jaffna society. Vellala jealously guard their right to claim respect, honour and services of a wide variety of subordinate castes such as Potters, Barbers and Carpenters. Although the Vellalas held such domineering belief’s, according to Pfaffenberger they do not fancy themselves to be warriors unlike the Kallars and Maravars of south India who maintain a martial tradition. Early Tamil texts (such as Tolkappiyan’s grammar) as well as a Madras census report in early twentieth century described Vellalas as, a peace loving, frugal and industrious people — a description Pfaffenberger-feels applies to Vellalas in Jaffna today.
Just as Prabhakaran’s war against the caste system has won the support of the low caste including low caste based political perties of south India, his Maxist ideology has won the support of well known leftists of several western countries. Among them are Ms C.Parker of USA Ms Deidre Mc Connel of UK and Prof. John Neilson of Germany.
Clearly, what Prabhakaran is dreaming of is a casteless and classless state of Eelam. As Prabhakaran has realized, the low caste people of Jaffna could overcome the oppression by the Vellalas by seizing control of the land - a symbol of Vellala superiority - destroying the socio-politico economic domination of the Vellalas (whose leaders living in Colombo have been exploiting the Jaffna waters as pawns to gain political power) and establishing a Marxist state, human rights freedom of expression an independent judiciary, individual ownership of property will have no place in the Eelam of Prabhakaran’s dreams.
The moral and physical support Prabhakaran receives from south India can be explained not only by the common aspirations to create an independent Tamil state, but also by the common culture. The religious ritual organisation reveals that Jaffna is culturally very south Indian. Pffenberger observes that Vellala of Jaffna migrated from south India during the heyday of great south Indian kings between the tenth and fourteenth centuries to create a classic zone of Sudra domination.
Prabhakaran’s Preparation and Interest in Militancy
Robert D. Kaplan wrote in The Atlantic: Prabhakaran developed “into one of the world’s most hunted terrorists, as well as one of its most feared and capable guerrilla leaders. The young Prabhakaran had killed animals with a slingshot and air gun, and practiced building homemade bombs. He stuck pins under his nails to build up his tolerance for pain, and killed insects with needles to prepare himself to torture the enemy.” [Source: Robert D. Kaplan, The Atlantic, September 2009]
Angered by the discrimination against Tamil people by successive Sri Lankan governments. Velupillai Prabhakaran joined the student group Tamil Youth Front (TYF) in his youth. Swamy wrote: One of Prabhakaran’s “friends was Sathasivam Krishnakumar (Kittu), who would emerge as the LTTE's feared military commander of Jaffna. Prabhakaran and Kittu would experiment filling empty soda bottles with chemicals pilfered from school and exploding them. Once Prabhakaran and his friends attached a lighted incense stick to a pack of incendiary chemicals and kept it in the school toilet. The "time bomb" exploded just when they expected it to. " We burst out laughing", a Chithambara school product recalled. "The principal suspected us but none of us admitted making it." Simultaneously, as the 70's produced the first pangs of militancy, Prabhakaran began preparing for the battles that he perceived lay ahead. he would tie himself up, get into a sack and lie under the sun the whole day. He would also go and spread himself on chilli bags. He even inserted pins into his nails. [Source: “Tigers of Lanka: from Boys to Guerrillas” by M. R Narayan Swamy, 1994]
“As in other Tamil areas, the introduction of "Standardization" pushed the students and youths in VVT, angry at what they thought was a brazen attempt by the government to legitimise racial discrimination, to reject the traditional parliamentary politics for militancy. Prabhakaran was losing whatever little interest he had in education and increasingly spoke to friends about "Sinhalese oppression". An elderly VVT resident who knew Prabhakaran and his family closely recalled: "We advised the boys not to protest and to keep studying. But I couldn't convince even one person after standardisation". Prabhakaran drifted, like many of his contemporaries, to the Tamil Student League (TSL) and the Tamil Youth League (TYL), which organised street protests against "standardisation" as well as the 1972 Republican constitution.
“TYL acted as the youth wing of the Tamil United Front (TUF). Prabhakaran's earliest contacts outside of his immediate circle were the members of the two leagues, most of whom were elder to him. The included Thangathurai and Kuttimani, both of whom were from VVT, and a cousin who went by the name of "periya" Sothi. By then, Prabhakaran had been absenting himself from home, initially for days and then for weeks. The young man bristled with energy as he tore around Jaffna in shorts, meeting new people discussing Tamil politics, the ancient Tamil kingdoms in India and Sri Lanka, and the possibility of an armed struggle a la Bose. "Once he began speaking, it was very difficult to stop him. He would go on and on", a former Prabhakaran's aide said. In 1972 he was wounded in the leg when a bomb he was making with Thangathurai and others under a palmyrah tree burst prematurely. It earned him the title "Karikalan" ( man with black legs), and when police began looking for Prabhakaran,, they made it a point to scan young men's legs in a bid to identify the elusive rebel.
“In 1973, when the police cracked down on TYL activists following the arrest of Sathiyaseelan, detectives visited Prabhakaran's house looking for him. He was already under suspicion for an assassination attempt on Jaffna Mayor Alfred Duraiyappah at a carnival...But Prabhakaran had bolted by then and sailed to India with at least four others, including Kuttimani and Thangathurai. He eventually made it to Madras with Periya Sothi and hired a small house at Kodambakkam with the help of T.R. Janardhanan, a local politician who had written a book on the Sri Lankan Tamil ethnic crisis earlier.
“Janardhanan remembers Prabhakaran as a shy and quiet young man with big piercing eyes who always appeared to be itching for action. But the latter hardly had any money on him and life in Madras was not easy. Janardhanan was a bachelor willing to pay host to Sri Lankan Tamils who dropped by, and Prabhakaran used the opportunity for free meals and political discussions. But Prabhakaran was restless and was soon tired of being with Periya Sothi, who appeared content staying in Madras. Chetti, a Jaffna youth, had by then escaped from a prison in Sri Lanka, and he too eventually made it to Madras and took up residence in the city's Mylapore area. Chetti was also a man of action, and naturally he and Prabhakaran forged an instant friendship.
Periya Sothi didn't like the new found camaraderie between the two, and complained to any willing listener that Prabhakaran was getting into bad company. Prabhakaran countered that Periya Sothi was just "cooking and eating in Madras" and that he (Prabha) was perfectly aware of Chetti's criminal record. "But Chetti and his people are active", he told friends. "As for me, I will never, never lose my identity". Thangathurai and Kuttimani also tried to dissuade Prabhakaran from joining hands with Chetti. But he turned down the advice, virtually snapping his relationship with the VVT duo, and sailed back to Jaffna to be with his new comrade-in-arms.
Prabhakaran and the Tamil New Tigers (TNT)
Prabhakaran began his career as an insurgent commander at the age of 18 in 1972, when he helped form a group called the Tamil New Tigers (TNT) after getting fed up with watching Sri Lankan police harass Tamil civilians. The tiger was chosen as the emblem because the tiger represented the Chola flag and stood for Tamil patriotism and a Tamil nation. The TNT was involved in bank robberiess, lamp-posting killing of informants and murdering police officers. In 1976, he changed the groups name to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), better known as the Tamil Tigers. See Separate Article on the Tamil Tigers.
M. R Narayan Swamy wrote: Prabhakaran was now completely underground, cut off from his family although he managed to retain contacts with select relatives. The months in India had made him a lot tougher. In Vedaraniyam, a Tamil Nadu coastal town and a known landing point for Sri Lankan Tamils who came by boat, Prabhakaran and Thangathurai and the others had led a hard life. The group was often hungry and would eagerly look forward to the "prasadam" distributed at the local temple. Cheap curd rice was the only food they could afford to buy. There were times when Prabhakaran and others would take sleep-inducting tablets in a desperate bid to beat the hunger. [Source: “Tigers of Lanka: from Boys to Guerrillas”by M. R Narayan Swamy, 1994]
“By the time Prabhakaran landed in Jaffna, the 1974 International Tamil Conference had ended on a bloody note. And Sivakumaran, the darling of Tamil youths, had committed suicide, giving Prabhakaran the first practical example of what cyanide could do. Prabhakaran had been impressed by Sivakumaran's exploits and had wanted to meet him. Now he was also cut off from Thangathurai and had to prepare new hideouts since the earlier ones were known to the police.
In October 1974 Prime Minister Srimavo was to visit Jaffna, and Prabhakaran and Chetti decided to give her a hot reception. The duo went on a violence spree, exploding bombs at half a dozen targets, including the Kankesanthurai police station, Jaffna's main market etc. The explosions did not cause much damage, but as anticipated triggered panic. Chetti was re-arrested a short while later, putting further strain on Prabhakaran. Chetti had earlier robbed a cooperative store in Jaffna and quietly bought a car, and gave conflicting answers when friends asked him about his new lifestyle.
Prabhakaran once again found himself in financial strain after police caught Chetti, and had to go through the process of forging new contacts and securing fresh hideouts for the second time in less than a year. It was a task he did admirably well, although it took him time to realise that he had been cheated by Chetti. Prabhakaran survived those days on wild fruits and food that his close associates shared with him. "I used to secretly give him helpings from our kitchen", said a former LTTE member who was not underground then.
Prabhakaran, however, never strayed from the cause for which he had fled his home. The constant search for shelter and hiding places never stopped him from preaching Tamil politics with passion. Once he suffered an attack on jaundice, but he would not go to a doctor; miraculously, and to his friend's surprise, he recovered. But otherwise Prabhakaran remained his old self. There would be no stopping him if he began a monologue on the Indian independence struggle and Tamil history. And if he was desperate for money, he would request friends to cycle up to VVT and borrow cash from sympathisers. He himself avoided going to his home town. But despite all the hard work, Prabhakaran remained an unknown entity in Jaffna until Duraiyappah was gunned down.
Prabhakaran and the Assassination of Jaffna Mayor in 1975
Prabhakaran carried out his first murder, the assassination of a mayor of Jaffna, when he was 20, in 1975. What was the first major political assassination by a Tamil group, he shot Mayor Alfred Duraiappah at point-blank range when he was about to enter the Hindu temple at Ponnaalai. The assassination was in response to the killings of Tamils in the 1974 Tamil conference incident, for which Duraiappah was to be blamed for because he backed the then-ruling Sri Lanka Freedom Party. [Source: Wikipedia]
M. R Narayan Swamy wrote: “A day before the assassination on July 27, 1975, Prabhakaran walked into a friend's house armed with an unloaded and almost rusted revolver, a bundle of matchboxes and some assorted materials. The friend watched in amazement as Prabhakaran began collecting the tip of the matchsticks and making pellets out of them. "Can you shoot with this?" the friend asked mockingly. Prabhakaran, his mind engrossed in the art of making bullets to kill, replied without any visible display of emotion: "Keep quiet. See what happens tomorrow". [Source: “Tigers of Lanka: from Boys to Guerrillas” by M. R Narayan Swamy, 1994]
“The next day, Prabhakaran set out at dawn. The friend had no idea where he was headed to. But when he heard that Duraiyappah had been shot while visiting a temple, the friend guessed rightly -and easily- who could have been responsible....Although three accomplices who took part in the killing were arrested, Prabhakaran - like the phantom he had adored - remained one step ahead of his pursuers. He would never be caught, never face police torture and never see the insides of a prison in Sri Lanka. He spoke little and gave nothing away even by way of hints either about his movements or future plans....The "boys" although admired, did not enjoy many sympathisers in Jaffna those days. Most Tamils abhorred violence.
“Prabhakaran had warned his friends not to sleep in their houses after the killing, but they had ignored the advice. Prabhakaran himself made no mistake on that score. His constant companion was a revolver which he kept under the pillow when he slept. He also asked his friends to be constantly armed- it did not matter even if the weapon was only a kitchen knife or chilli powder. The Tamil New Tigers's armoury was limited to two revolvers, one of it bought with stolen money.
Prabhakaran's obsession with safety was such that he would not met anyone, including possible recruits to the militant movement, if there was anything even remotely suspicious about them. There were others he met without revealing his real identity. Prabhakaran had torn and destroyed all his photographs in the family album before leaving the house. But there was no guarantee that the police did not have a picture of him.
Prabhakaran’s Militant Career
Jon Lee Anderson wrote in The New Yorker: After the assassination of the mayor of Jaffna, “Prabhakaran, a thin, goggle-eyed twenty-year-old who had left high school and gone into hiding to devote himself to the fight for Tamil independence...is said to have torn up all pictures of himself in the family’s photo album to prevent police from identifying him. (His father, a civil servant, was horrified by his son’s extremism, and remained estranged from him). At the time of the shooting, Prabhakaran was a member of a fledgling group called the Tamil New Tigers. Within a year, he had formed his own breakaway organization, the L.T.T.E. Prabhakaran — known to his followers as Thamby, or Little Brother — had a flamboyant touch: in his early days as the Tiger leader, he posed for pictures with a pet leopard cub.... His contemporary heroes included Sylvester Stallone and Clint Eastwood, and he often showed their movies to his young fighters, whom he called his “cubs.” [Source: Jon Lee Anderson, The New Yorker, January 17, 2011]
Alastair Lawson of the BBC wrote: The Tamil Tigers were formed during an upsurge of nationalism in the 1970s. Angered as a teenager by what he saw as discrimination against Tamils in politics, employment and education, he began attending political meetings and practising martial arts. He soon became heavily involved in the Tamil protest movement. The killing of the mayor of Jaffna is not the only high-profile murder for which Mr Prabhakaran is the prime suspect. He has also been accused by India of playing a key role in the murder of the former prime minister, Rajiv Gandhi, in 1991. Mr Gandhi was killed by a suicide bomber who, the Indians say, was acting on orders from Mr Prabhakaran. It is alleged that Mr Prabhakaran wanted to avenge the Indian Prime Minister's decision in the mid- 1980s to deploy Indian peace-keeping troops in Sri Lanka. [Source: Alastair Lawson, BBC, May 2, 2000]
Prabhakaran’s Wedding and Time in India
On Prabhakaran’s 1984 wedding in India, R. Bhagwan Singh wrote in the Sri Lanka Guardian; “It had taken place at a Murugan temple in Tiruporur, just 30 kilometers south of Chennai. The bride Mathivadani had been forcibly ferried across the Palk Strait along with her campus mates by the LTTE to break their fast-to-death protest in Jaffna against the government. Visiting the girls in hospital, Prabhakaran reportedly look a liking to the tough-talking Mathivadani and decided to marry her. "We are so happy that thambi has decided to marry. That will humanise him," Baalanna (as Balasingham was known among the Tiger cadres and his friends) told me then, referring to the diktat in force till then in the LTTE that prohibited romance and marriage. [Source: R. Bhagwan Singh, Sri Lanka Guardian, May 18, 2009]
“Marriage and family, thought Prabhakaran’s colleagues, would soften him a bit as against his addiction to the militant campaign for Eelam, to guns, and to death. Prabhakaran needed some four gms of gold to make a mangalsutra for his bride. "Thambi borrowed that little gold from me, promising to repay me in due course of time, which he did," Prabhakaran’s maternal uncle, who shared the same name as his father Velupillai, told me later.
“The old man and his wife were Prabhakaran’s "guardians", providing him with food and shelter when he was on the run from the police as a teenager in Jaffna and his God-fearing father Velupillai, a government employee, strongly disapproved of the boy’s militant campaign to secure Tamil rights. The uncle and aunt were killed about a month ago when a shell fell on their tiled house in Puthukudiyiruppu, the last Tiger town to fall in the Wanni before the LTTE was pushed into the small beachside strip along with many civilians to meet its end.
“AIADMK chief minister M.G. Ramachandran had helped Prabhakaran with funds and government support. To recall Balasingham again, a childless MGR considered the young Prabhakaran as a son since he was impressed with his "disciplined" life — no romance, no smoking and no liquor — and during many breakfast meetings he would keenly observe the Tiger chief explaining his latest gun.
“When the then state intelligence chief, K. Mohandas, ordered the seizure of the weapons of all militants in the state, Prabhakaran went on a fast-unto-death demanding they be returned and all the arrested cadres released. MGR got the DGP to return to Prabhakaran not only his own guns but also many that were picked up from the other groups. When I went to interview Prabhakaran at his Indira Nagar place, where he was lying down tired during that protest-fast, he spoke at length about the need for Eelam, arguing there was no alternative since successive Sinhala regimes had failed the Tamils. In a few days he disappeared, quietly taking the boat to Jaffna so that he could function independent of Indian pressure. New Delhi did not like that one bit, uncomfortable that the Tiger chief had begun looking for other friends to expand his network globally. The two ceased trusting each other since then.”
Prabhakaran as the Tamil Tigers Leader
According to the Hindu: Prabakaran transformed the LTTE into a formidable military machine. What was first a guerrilla force became a conventional fighting force offering formidable resistance to the Sri Lankan armed forces. The LTTE acquired a sea wing and an air force. It also had a police force, a border security force and home guards. His control of Jaffna was that of a warlord, as he kept an entire Tamil population in thrall, virtually sealing the area off from any democratic challenge from within the Tamil political field.” [Source: The Hindu, May 19, 2009]
Prabhakaran seemed as merciless and uncompromising as Pol Pot. Describing the Tiger leader Prabhakaran, one diplomat told Newsweek, "He'll make sure the Tigers fight to last man, woman and child...Especially the woman and child." Seth Mydans wrote in the New York Times: “A pioneer in the tactic of suicide bombings, Mr. Prabhakaran created a squad called the Black Tigers — up to 40 percent of its members women — that carried out scores of attacks over the years, both targeted assassinations and mass terrorist killings. Many of his regular fighters have taken their own lives as well rather than surrender, biting into cyanide tablets that they often carry on strings like small memento mori around their necks. [Source: Seth Mydans, New York Times, March 31, 2009]
“Mr. Prabhakaran has mostly remained constant, a man who is ready “to take any method, however repulsive, as long as it furthered his struggle,” according to a biography, “Inside an Elusive Mind: Prabhakaran,” by M. R. Narayan Swamy. Though they rarely claim responsibility for their missions, his suicide bombers are suspected in the deaths of two national leaders — former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi of India in 1991 and President Ranasinghe Premadasa of Sri Lanka in 1993. “Our methods of warfare are unacceptable to various people,” S. Subramaniam, a longtime associate of Mr. Prabhakaran, is quoted as saying in Mr. Swamy’s book. “But Prabhakaran as well as our movement have survived precisely because of them.” [Source: Seth Mydans, New York Times, March 31, 2009]
Lawson wrote: “To his followers, he is a freedom fighter struggling for Tamil emancipation from Sinhala oppression. To his adversaries he is a megalomaniac with a brutal disregard for human life. It is difficult to verify either viewpoint, because the Tamil Tiger leader seldom gives interviews to journalists, who are in any case restricted by the government from going into areas controlled by his forces. His movements between his various jungle hideouts are the subject of great secrecy, and he is reported to have narrowly avoided assassination or capture on numerous occasions. [Source: Alastair Lawson, BBC, May 2, 2000]
Prabhakaran and the Tamil Tiger Terrorist Cult
Prabhakaran was worshiped and was surrounded by a personality cult. Tigers were forbidden from using his name. He brutally eliminated all potential rivals; for the leadership of the Tamils by having them killed. He was convicted in India of the murder of Rajiv Gandhi. Yet, after the cease fire was signed in February 2002 and he held a press conference at one of his jungle hideouts and answered questions from reporters for 2½ hours, Prabhakaran derided accusations that he was a ruthless dictator and described himself as benevolent leader working hard for the welfare of his people.
Robert D. Kaplan wrote in The Atlantic: “Prabhakaran turned the Tamil Tigers into a quasi-cult terrorist group that venerated him as a demigod. To comprehend the Tamil Tigers, wrote the late American scholar Michael Radu, “imagine Jim Jones’ Temple cult of Guyana in possession of a ‘navy’ and ‘air force,’ as well as (at its height) some 20,000 fanatical and armed zombie followers.” Indeed, Prabhakaran’s Tamil Tigers constituted the world’s first guerrilla insurgency with its own air force (Czech-made Zlin Z143s) and navy (explosive-packed fishing trawlers and a small submarine force). [Source: Robert D. Kaplan, The Atlantic, September 2009]
“He imposed a blood tax on the population under his control in the north and east, requiring each family to provide a son to the Tigers. One wing of the organization — the Black Tigers — was dedicated to murder and assassination. Until the early 1990s, the Tigers held a record for suicide bombings, a tactic that they had largely pioneered. The Tigers used many tens of thousands of civilians as human shields and children as porters during combat. The very history of the Hindu Tamil Tigers shows that perverse violence, the embedding of warriors amid large numbers of civilians, and the rampant use of suicide bombing are not crimes specific to Muslims.”
Prabhakaran’s Ideas and Philosophy
Prabhakaran never developed a systematic philosophy, but did declare that his goal was 'revolutionary socialism and the creation of an egalitarian society'. His rare interviews, his annual Tamil Eelam Heroes Day speeches and the LTTE's policies and actions can be taken as indicators of Prabhakaran's philosophy and ideology. Religion was not a major factor in his philosophy or ideology; the Tamil Tigers' ideology emerged from Marxist-Leninist thought and was explicitly secular. Its leadership professed opposition to religion. It focused single-mindedly on attaining an independent Tamil Eelam. [Source: Wikipedia +]
“Socialism and Tamil Eelam form our political ideology, our cause,” he had told The Hindu in an interview in Chennai in September 1986. On another occasion, he told Frontline in November 1985: “We had an ideology from the beginning — that was to form a socialist State. If we did not give shape to that ideology, it was because we got straightway into the struggle.” He made clear that he believed in the primacy of the gun and in the philosophy of “hitting back.” Yogi, a senior LTTE leader, told the Hindu: “Thamby [Prabakaran] would always tell me that he preferred fighters to intellectuals.” [Source: The Hindu, May 19, 2009]
Prabhakaran explicitly stated that an armed struggle is the only way to resist asymmetric warfare, in which one side, that of the Sri Lankan government, is armed and the other comparatively unarmed. He argued that he chose military means only after observing that non–violent means have been ineffectual and obsolete, especially after the Thileepan incident. Thileepan, a colonel rank officer adopted Gandhian means to protest against the IPKF killings by staging a fast unto death from 15 September 1987, and by abstaining from food or water until 26 September, when he died in front of thousands of Tamils who had come there to fast along with him. +
Prabhakaran and the Tiger’s Ultimate Defeat
Jon Lee Anderson wrote in The New Yorker: “The Tigers’ defeat was not preordained. The events that led to their demise had everything to do with the personality of their leader. Prabhakaran had been dictating the terms of the war in Sri Lanka for so long, and built up such extraordinary power, that he appears to have lost his sense of proportion. ...At Mullaittivu, after years of evasion, Prabhakaran was finally trapped. Because all the people around him have been killed, it is difficult to know how he spent his last moments — whether, as the Army says, he was killed in combat, or whether he was caught and executed. The Tiger leaders clearly hoped for a deal that would spare their lives. Weeks before the massacre, Prabhakaran’s aides began calling their intermediary Marie Colvin, and on the evening of May 17th one of them relayed surrender terms: the Tigers would lay down their arms in return for a guarantee of safety for fifty of their leaders and a thousand of their fighters. Colvin said that this surprisingly low number most likely represented all the Tiger fighters left alive on the beach. She heard machine-gun fire behind the aide’s voice, suggesting that the fighting was close by. [Source: Jon Lee Anderson, The New Yorker, January 17, 2011]
“Until the very end, Prabhakaran believed that the international relief community, the U.N., and Western governments would save the Tigers. “The L.T.T.E. continued to read the world as if it was pre-9/11,” Jayampathy Wickramaratne, an adviser to Sri Lanka’s past two Presidents, explained. “What happened was that many countries, such as the U.S., took a different view of the L.T.T.E. than they had before — even if they sympathized with the Tamil people.” In May, 2006, after years of accommodating the L.T.T.E., the European Union branded it a terrorist organization. The U.S. had done so a decade earlier, and George W. Bush’s Administration had supported Sri Lanka’s counterinsurgency campaign directly.
“Prabhakaran also crucially underestimated Mahinda Rajapaksa. “Pre-Rajapaksa governments never went one hundred per cent all out to wipe out the L.T.T.E.,” Wickramaratne explained. “They used military force, but always had a political solution in mind. But then came Rajapaksa, and he was prepared, rightly or wrongly, to go whole hog. If you look at the L.T.T.E., it’s a case of them arrogantly refusing opportunities. They thought they could just keep telling the world that they were willing to talk, but not follow through. They thought they were the exception, until Rajapaksa came along and said, ‘I’m not going to let you do it.’ ”
Prabhakaran’s Last Hideout
Jon Lee Anderson wrote in The New Yorker: “At some point during the Army’s siege of his headquarters at Kilinochchi — before the city fell, in January, 2009 — he is believed to have escaped with his wife and children and their bodyguards to one of his hiding places in the jungle, in an area called Visuamadu. For weeks at a time, they lived literally underground in an elaborate hideout. [Source: Jon Lee Anderson, The New Yorker, January 17, 2011]
“The house was so ingeniously concealed that its existence was discovered only in 2009, when soldiers stumbled across it. They discovered an underground lair of rooms descending fifty feet, with bulletproof doors, air-conditioning, surveillance cameras, and electricity from a soundproof generator. They claimed to have also found oxygen tanks, a bottle of cognac, and a supply of insulin (suggesting that Prabhakaran, who had grown rotund in recent years, may have been diabetic), as well as a Marks and Spencer shirt with a forty-two-and-a-half-inch chest.
“The Army maintained the compound as a private museum for select visitors. At the end of a paved road just wide enough for a single jeep was a modest-looking pink bungalow, its roof camouflaged by dried palm fronds. Another palm-covered structure concealed a drive-down subterranean garage. Next to the fenced entrance of the compound was an open-air funeral bier, where the bodies of slain Tiger officers were brought so that Prabhakaran could pronounce words of homage before they were disposed of.
“Down a narrow stairwell from the bungalow’s front room was a claustrophobic series of small, tile-floored rooms. The last one held an emergency exit, where an iron staircase spiralled up to ground level at the rear of the house. From the top of the stairs, Prabhakaran would have had to run only a few feet to reach the protection of the surrounding jungle.”
Prabhakaran was shot dead by the Sri Lanka Army at Mullivaikkal in Mullaithivu district in northern Sri Lanka. Robert Bosleigh wrote on Times Online: “Prabhakaran was killed this morning along with two of his deputies after a two-hour firefight when they tried to break to freedom through advancing government troops, defence officials said. His body was badly burnt when his armour-plated van was hit by a rocket and burst into flames. State television broke into its regular programming to announce Prabhakaran’s death, and the government information department sent a text message to cell phones across the country confirming that he was dead. The announcement prompted mass celebrations around the country, and people poured into the streets of Colombo dancing and singing.” [Source: Robert Bosleigh, Times Online, May 18, 2009]
Prabhakaran had been boxed into a 100-x-100-meter space by Sri Lankan special forces. Around 300 dead bodies were found at the scene. Prabhakaran and “his top deputies reportedly tried to escape by driving their an armour-plated van, accompanied by a bus filled with rebel fighters, straight at approaching Sri Lankan forces, sparking a two-hour firefight. The battle only ended when troops fired a rocket at the van. Troops pulled Prabhakaran’s body out and identified it. The attack also killed Soosai, the head of the rebels’ naval wing, and Pottu Amman, the group’s feared intelligence commander, the officials said.
The Tamil Tiger initially denied government reports that Prabhakaran was dead. "Our beloved leader is alive and safe. He will continue to lead the quest for dignity and freedom for the Tamil people," the Tigers' chief of international relations, Selvarasa Pathmanathan, said in a statement carried on the pro-rebel Tamilnet website.
Inconsistencies and Reports on Prabhakaran’s Death
Some of the reports of exactly what happened were conflicting. Alastair Lawson of the BBC wrote: State and private stations aired footage of what they said was the body of Prabhakaran, along with what looked like his Tamil Tiger identity card and tag. The army says his body has been positively identified with DNA testing. But there are questions surrounding Prabhakaran's identity tag. Is it really credible that a man reputed to have numerous lookalike doubles to avoid capture by the army would really carry this around with him? [Source: Alastair Lawson, BBC News, May 19, 2009]
The army says Prabhakaran's bullet-ridden body was found on the banks of the Nanthikadal lagoon, his last stronghold in north-east Sri Lanka on Tuesday morning. Earlier it said his body was found on Monday morning. Army spokesman Brig Udaya Nanayakkara said the rebel leader had been shot in scrubland - probably in fierce fighting. That statement contradicted an earlier announcement - made on state television but never verified by the army - that Prabhakaran's badly burnt body was discovered on Monday. It said Prabhakaran had been killed after he was ambushed by commandos as he made a desperate attempt to break through government lines in an ambulance. He had been badly burnt when his vehicle burst into flames, it said.
Gen Sarath Fonseka said: "The good news from the war front is that the body of the leader of the terrorist organisation which destroyed the country for the last 30 years, Prabhakaran, have been found by the army. We have identified the body," he said. Gen Fonseka said the bodies of the rebels would be disposed without any formal funerals as "many of them were in bad shape". The private TV stations Derana and Swarnavahini showed soldiers surrounding what the troops said was Prabhakaran's body, with his distinctive moustache and regulation tiger-stripe camouflage fatigues.”
D.B.S. Jeyaraj, posted on transCurrents: Unconfirmed reports say that the injured LTTE leader and several of his senior deputies had embraced death voluntarily in keeping with the LTTE practice of suicide. There were also conflicting reports that the LTTE had triggered off a huge explosion in which their bodies were destroyed after taking cyanide first. Another report said the armed forces had identified the “structure” in which Prabhakaran was staying and demolished it through powerful explosives. [Source: D.B.S. Jeyaraj, transCurrents, May 16, 2009]
“According to a defence-related source who spoke on condition of anonymity the military had been convinced the LTTE leader was in the Mullivaaikkaal area through intercepts of communication between some tiger cadres. Further confirmation had come when the wife of Thillaiambalam Sivanesan alias Soosai the sea tiger special commander surrendered to the Navy with some others. She had allegedly revealed that the LTTE leader was seriously injured and was staying in a well-guarded location with other senior leaders like her husband Soosai and Pottu Amman. She had also said that a team of 300 bodyguards are positioned around the place where Prabhakaran is staying and that the tiger leader is prepared to take his own life rather than surrender if surrounded.
“The military received further confirmation when a team of doctors from the LTTE’s “Thileepan medical unit” surrendered to the Army at Karaiyamullivaaikkaal. One of the medical personnel who had been attending to Prabhakaran personally had divulged further information including guidelines to the exact spot Prabhakaran was in. The military had then moved further into the area and encircled the swathe of territory Prabhakaran was in.” The Sri Lanka military refused to answer questions about the issues raised above.
Death of Prabhakaran’s Family
Prabhakaran’s elder son Charles Antony and members of the top leadership of the LTTE, including the LTTE’s intelligence chief, Pottu Amman, and the Sea Tigers chief, Soosai, were killed after being encircled by the Sri Lankan armed forces. State TV said Prabhakaran’s body had been found with those of intelligence chief Pottu Amman and Soosai - the Tamil Tiger naval commander.
Charles Anthony was also killed by the army. The bodies of Prabhakaran’s wife and daughter were reportedly found by the Sri Lankan army but the Sri Lankan government later denied the report. His 12-year-old second son is said to have been executed. [Source: Wikipedia]
Sri Lankan military spokesman Udaya Nanayakkara said in May 2009 that there was no information about the whereabouts of the remaining members of Prabhakaran's family. "We have not found their bodies and have no information about them," he said. It is thought that the entire family was wiped out; the bodies of Mathivathani, Duvaraga and Balachandran reportedly were found in a bushy patch about 600 meters away from where Prabhakaran's body was found. It is now alleged that his 12-year-old son was executed.
MOD reported: The killing of Prabhakaran came as officials confirmed that more than 220 frontline rebel cadres, including his elder son Charles Anthony, LTTE political head Balasingham Nadesan and LTTE peace Secretariat chief S Pulidevan had been killed in fierce battles in the last 12 hours. The other top LTTE leaders slain include Black Tigers' chief Ramesh, Tigers' police wing chief Ilango and senior leaders Sundaram and Kapil Amman. The body of 24-year-old Anthony, chief of LTTE's air wing, was found during mopping up operations in the last rebel-held territory in the no-fire zone on Monday morning, the defence ministry said. Nadesan, a former constable of Sri Lankan police, was heading the political wing of the Tamil Tigers. S Pulidevan was the head of "LTTE peace secretariat" while S Ramesh was the chief of Black Tigers.
Prabhakaran's and the Tiger’s Last Stand
A post in Defencewire reported: “Only 3 LTTE leaders, other than Prabhakaran and his wife, knew of his whereabouts. Other than his son Charles Anthony, the only other LTTE leaders who knew where he was was Poddu Ammaan, the Intelligence Chief and the head of the LTTE's Medical Unit, Reagan. The latter was taken in and detained for days until Military Intelligence got hold of him. Until then Regan had pretended he did not know Prabhakaran's whereabouts. Thanks to Reagan's information, miles officers had clearly identified Prabhakaran's lair by 16th evening/17th dawn. They uncovered an elaborate plan by Prabhakaran and gang to breach the 53 FDL. The plan was to cross the lagoon to Mullaitivu-Weli Oya Jungles, from there to reach the Eastern Province (Batticaloa/Ampara) via Trincomalee, where 'Colonel' Ram's team was waiting. [Source: Defencewire, May 18, 2009]
“Within hours of this warning, on 17th May at dawn, Tigers had started their final operation. A daring sea borne operation was launched. All Army Divisions, forewarned, reacted swiftly but the Tigers managed to breach the FDL of the 53 Division at its weakest and take-out several bunkers killing 15 SLA. They also seized an Army Ambulance. Moments later, the 53 Division retaliated. A hail of RPG HEAT/Thermobaric rockets were fired. Around 200 LTTE cadres had died in the attack. 30 bodies were reduced to ashes. Limbs of the LTTE's best were scattered all over the place. The captured ambulance was also hit in the melee and burnt swiftly. It was upon investigating the ambulance that 3 bodies, one of which resembled Prabhakaran's body structure was discovered. The body was blackened and beyond facial/physical recognition. But the Army knew it may very well be Prabhakaran. There was no other way for him to escape.
“Prabhakaran should have been killed either in the box-in by the Special Forces, the retaliation by the 53 or he should have died injured somewhere along the lagoon. The closest to his remains have been found only inside the charred ambulance. One of the hardcore cadres captured alive in the attack claimed Prabhakaran was shot and injured in the fight. But he had heard it from an eyewitness, another hardcore cadre who was killed. The charred bodies, including the one believed to be Prabhakaran were captured by the 53 Division, but were taken away by another Division.
“Some 400 bodies were captured by the Army. 1,2, and 5 Special Forces led the clearing operation. The remains may include, in future, missing leaders from the list publicized by the government such as Lawrence, Karikalan, Papa, Ilanthirayan etc. The remains of top leaders like Poddu, Bhanu and Soosei were identified. Soosei was fighting till 17th evening until the Special Forces rid him of his mysery once and for all. He and Swarnam were the last brave LTTE leaders who held their ground and fought while others were trying to flee the scene.
Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons
Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Sri Lanka Tourism (srilanka.travel), Government of Sri Lanka (www.gov.lk), The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Wikipedia and various books, websites and other publications.
Last updated February 2022