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 this.
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 Lankans.
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.