|Climactic end of Eelam War
Last week’s death of Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)
chief Velupillai Prabhakaran, brings the Eelam War, as we have
known it, to a climactic end. Sri Lankans will collectively
breathe easier, hoping that, they have seen the last of
terrorism in the country. Fittingly, President Mahinda Rajapaksa
addressed Parliament on Tuesday, formally declaring the end of
the Eelam War.
These events mark the end of a gruelling, nearly three-year-long
military campaign against the LTTE, spearheaded by President
Rajapaksa. To be fair by the latter, even though he launched his
Presidential campaign in 2005, hinting at a military thrust
against the Tigers, he restrained himself, once in office.
It was only when the Tigers repeatedly violated the ceasefire
agreement that was then operational, and followed it by cutting
off water for irrigation at Mavil Aru, that the President
unleashed the might of the military against the LTTE.
Rajapaksa, never a fan of mollycoddling the LTTE, was bolstered
by his brother, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, and an equally adamant Army
Commander Sarath Fonseka. Probably, realising the dangers the
latter two posed, Prabhakaran attempted to assassinate them
both, with suicide bombers, but failed. The rest, as they say,
is history now.
What Prabhakaran failed to take into account was that the
President’s steely resolve to stay the course, despite the
extreme international pressures he had to contend with,
especially, during the latter stages of the war.
While world leaders were knocking furiously at his door,
demanding ceasefires and a halt to operations in Mullaitivu,
Rajapaksa stood firm. His argument was simple: The Government
had come this far and was on the verge of eliminating the LTTE.
To retract now, would be to commit future generations into
conflict, and that was not reasonable.
For his unwavering commitment to end terrorism, Rajapaksa is
being hailed a hero-and rightly so. He has indeed achieved what
no other leader was able to do over the last three decades, and
there is no doubt, he will reap the political dividends for
However, if he could supplement his achievement with a
meaningful package of devolution of power for all communities,
he will go down in history as the father of a modern and
undivided Sri Lanka.
Prabhakaran’s campaign for Eelam- with its indiscriminate
killing of civilians, through a series of suicide attacks, bomb
blasts and later, claymore mine attacks- not only enveloped the
country in a fear psychosis, it also deprived Sri Lanka of a
generation of leaders: Ranasinghe Premadasa, Gamini Dissanayake,
Lalith Athulathmudali, Ranjan Wijeratne, Lakshman Kadirgamar,
C.V. Gooneratne and Jeyaraj Fernandopulle are but a few names
that come readily to mind.
With Prabhakaran’s demise, the hierarchical organisational
setup of the Tigers is in disarray. The monolithic command
structure of the LTTE, with Prabhakaran at the helm and no chain
of succession, make it all the more difficult for the terrorist
group to stage any kind of comeback. In any event, all potential
successors - Pottu Amman, Soosai and Charles Anthony - are all
dead now, and the outfit is likely to implode in the face of the
relentless military onslaught.
The elusive Selvarasa Pathmanathan, operating from the safety
of an offshore destination, is now making noises on behalf of
the LTTE, and vowing not to end the battle. However, it will be
an uphill struggle for the arms dealer cum wanted man to restore
the fortunes of the Tigers: their cadres are decimated, the
funding is likely to dry up and the diaspora is likely to mind
their own business now.
But it would also be incumbent upon the government to
prosecute the next battle as efficiently as the first: the task
of resettling and rehabilitating the hundreds of thousands of
Internally Displaced Persons and devising a political setup,
that would meet their aspirations.
In this context, it is perhaps pertinent to note that, nearly
five years after the tsunami, resettlement of those victims is
yet to be completed. We cannot afford such tardiness from the
proposed ‘Uthuru Wasanthaya,’ for all eyes and ears are on what
happens next in the North, and any delays will be construed as
discrimination against the Tamil community.
It will also be a task that will test the sincerity of those
nations and donor agencies, which cried foul, when the LTTE was
being overrun: they now have an opportunity to loosen their
purse strings and pour funds into the North, which is
desperately in need of reinvention, after decades of fighting.
For those who grew up with the LTTE insurrection, on both
sides of the North-South divide - Sri Lanka’s lost generation -
this week was an epoch making period. The spontaneous
celebrations it sparked, is testimony to the agony that Sri
Lankans had lived through over the years.
In that sense, they were not celebrating Velupillai
Prabhakaran’s death so much -they were celebrating the dawn of a
new era for the nation, of which, we could all be proud of, not
as Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims, Burghers or Malays, but as Sri
This week, President Mahinda Rajapaksa fulfilled one of his
campaign promises - that of ridding this country of terrorism
and uniting the nation. We earnestly hope, he is able to fulfill
his other pledge as well - that of achieving an ‘honourable
peace,’ where all Sri Lankans are able to live in dignity,
without division or discord.