Thursday, October 28, 2004

The man who dared to hunt the Tigers by Marwaan Macan-Markar in Batticaloa

To meet him, you had to visit his camp by the side of the Batticaloa lagoon. It was heavily fortified with woodenv railway sleepers and sandbags. There were two armed men at the entrance. And within, where he saw guests in a small photo-lined room, were scenes you would encounter in any military camp: a few bunkers here, exercise bars there, and rolls of barbed wire to prevent infiltrators from sneaking in.

And an appointment was a must. For there were 'operations' he conducted suddenly. On that Thursday morning, for instance, he had been out on such a mission. His targets were three members of the Tiger pistol gang who had slipped into town. And like he always did, he had carried his 9mm Belgian-made Browning pistol. It was concealed under the striped T-shirt he loosely wore. But that day neither he nor his men were lucky. The Tigers had melted away by the time they arrived.

For 35-year-old Muthulingam Ganeshkumar, better known in the east by his nom de guerre, 'Razik,' it was a miss that barely produced a ripple of worry on his broad forehead. He shrugged it off with the ease of a man who felt he would be lucky the next time.

Looking at him, though, there was little that suggested the features of a Tiger hunter in the east. Seen on the street, with his receding hairline, the trimmed beard that framed his oval-shaped face and his paunch, he could have easily been mistaken for a businessmen or an NGO-wallah. Yet, that he was, and with a reputation, too - the Tiger hunter.

But little did Razik know that his life would come to an explosive end barely 48 hours later. For at 1:30 on Saturday afternoon, the Tigers struck back. They used one of the customary weapons in their armour: a suicide bomber. He ran towards Razik, who was standing outside a mechanic's shop along the Trinco-Batti road, and detonated the bomb strapped to his body. Razik died on the spot.

If sympathisers of Razik expected the town to plunge into mourning, the mood on the streets that weekend would have been revealing. Hardly anybody rushed home and stayed within the safety of closed doors. Shops did not shut. In fact, on both Saturday and Sunday evening, given the spirit of Wesak celebrations in the air, hundreds thronged the narrow streets to enjoy the slice of entertainment in the form of a musical show, a few lanterns on display, and a motorcyclist performing in the Well of Death. The dead Tiger hunter was far from their minds.

But Razik's role in Batticaloa will not be forgotten easily, particularly his doings since August 27, 1996, when he formed what many Tamils in this town came to know as the 'Razik group.' It threw up a unique chapter in the course of the current ethnic conflict. What Razik and his group did, hardly any other Tamil militant organisation had emulated. And what was that? To fight the Tamil Tigers along with the Sri Lankan army.

For that, of course, they received state assistance. Before joining, the 150 men, mostly Tamils and a few Muslims, were put through two months army training, including jungle warfare. In the form of military hardware, they were supplied with weapons such as rocket-propelled grenades, multi-purpose machine guns, light machine guns, 40 mm grenade launchers, and sniper rifles. And like enlisted soldiers, the men of the Razik group received a regular salary, too: Rs 9,000 per month.

Yet Razik admitted that his group was not part of the conventional army. And that despite them wearing khaki uniforms and participating in joint military operations to strike at Tiger camps in the east.

"We are the army's special support group," he said, adding, "We want to carry arms legally to fight the Tigers, and the only way we can do so is this way."

Furthermore, he saw their contribution as an advantage to the army. "We speak the Tigers' language, we know the region well, we know who is a Tiger, and once we were also like them, so we know their minds, their behaviour, and how they will act," he declared. He had changed radically from his initial mission as a young militant.

It was as a boy of 13, in 1978, that he was first attracted to the Tamil militancy. At the time, the enemy was the Sri Lankan state. And during his teen years, he was as determined as his other youthful Tamil peers to snipe away at the government. The ideas of the EPRLF nourished him. And neither his mother, a teacher at that time, nor his father, employed in the local bureaucracy, could dissuade young Muthulingam Ganeshkumar.

Until the '83, however, he was still labelled a militant. The anti-Tamil riots that July, however, changed it all. It was the spark that pushed him into a new realm: to be a rebel equipped with military skills. For he became one of the many hundreds of Tamil youths who slipped across to India to receive military training. In Razik's case, the opportunity came in 1984. He joined a band of 121 destined for the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, in the Hindi heartland.

"I don't know where exactly we were," he admitted. "But it was good. We were given two-and-a-half mon- ths basic training, then a month of advance training, and after that three months to do commando work."

On his return, Razik chose to stay in Mannar and visit the Jaffna peninsular, than head for Karativu, his village along the south-eastern coast of the island. For it was in the north that the Tamil militancy were displaying their strength. It was relatively quiet on the eastern front.

But if it was action that Razik wanted, he had to wait till the Indian Peace Keeping Force arrived in 1987. For his organisation, the EPRLF, began to receive favoured treatment. And when the EPRLF were given the licence by the Indians to create a Tamil National Army to handle security in the area, it was natural that the party hierarchy would turn to Razik for his skill. He knew very well that his guns would be pointed at the Tigers. Yet it did not pose a problem for him. Since like the rest of his EPRLF, he, too, had grave misgivings about the prevailing ideology of the Tigers. To him, they had become the new enemies of the Tamils. And such a sentiment was reflected when he spoke with delight in his voice about his attacks on the Tigers. "I have killed 237 of them when fighting alongside the IPKF," he said.

That glory was short lived, though. With the IPKF being forced out of Sri Lanka by President Ranasinghe Premadasa, the Tigers returned to the east. And in Batticaloa, they set their sights on the men of the TNA who had hounded them till then. In December 1989, nearly 300 TNA members were mowed down in an orgy of Tiger fire. Many of the leaders sought shelter in the surrounding forests, and subsequently escaped to areas where the Tigers had no access, like the hill country. Razik was one of them.

But he was not done with the east, his home turf. After a stint in India between '91 and '95, he returned to renew his battle with the Tigers. His suggestion to create an armed wing of the EPRLF, like the PLOTE and the TELO had, went against the prevailing grain of his party. So he pursued another alternative. He created a national auxiliary force peopled by like-minded Tamils and Muslims from the east. As a result, he was made the commander the group.

For the people of Batticaloa, however, the Razik group soon became another nightmare forcing its way into their already fractured lives. Word began to spread about forced conscription and extortion. Human rights groups began to receive complaints about Razik and his men being abusive in town as well as villages like Manmagam, Pooncholai, and Thalavai. There were even instances when young Tamil boys had been taken in by Razik's men and tortured. The latest victim, said one member of the Batticaloa Peace Committee, was a 20-year-old, who had been taken from his home and been severely assaulted. To them, Razik was more than just a Tiger hunter; he had become their latest tormentor. No wonder they sniggered when they had heard him say he wanted to help the Tamils, to protect their interests.

So it was hardly surprising that no tears were shed on the day he was killed.

Razik, then, was not only out of step with the people he wanted to save, but was also not in touch with the Tigers, who, he claimed, he knew well, and whose behaviour, he said, he had mastered.

It may be a while before another Tiger hunter, as passionate, surfaces.

<>(The Sunday Leader - 6th June 1 999)

JVP poster blitzkrieg condemns LTTE killings by Munza Mushtaq

Hitting out at the Wanni LTTE faction yesterday, the Government's main ally the JVP demanded an immediate stop to the LTTE killings and abductions.

The party has launched a protest to the slayings and kidnappings in yet another island-wide poster blitzkrieg in all three languages. The party has also condemned the killings of civilians by the Wanni LTTE faction. This is the second poster blitz by the JVP since it came to power in April this year. The earlier poster splash was to oppose the granting of the LTTE-demanded Interim Self Governing Authority (ISGA).

The latest posters carry slogans, "Lets force and stop brutal killings and abductions by the Wanni Tigers," and "Let's condemn the killings of unarmed civilians carried out by the Wanni Tigers."

LTTE rationale for talks based on ISGA alone By Taraki

Why are the Tigers refusing restart peace talks with the Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL) on any basis other than their Interim Self Governing Authority proposal?

With each passing day, the opposition to the ISGA is gathering such irreversible momentum in the south that nobody in the Sinhala polity wants to touch it now. (I guess the UNP is just teasing the President by urging her to start talks on basis of the ISGA)

So why do the Tigers want the talks to resume only on the basis of the ISGA proposal?

First let me say that the LTTE's insistence on the ISGA is a reaction to criticism that has traditionally been levelled against Tamil leaders who have negotiated with the GOSL for a political settlement to the ethnic conflict.

There is a strong body of political opinion in the northeast that talks on a final solution have always been a ruse employed successfully by every government in Colombo since 1956 to take the wind from the sails of the Tamil struggle.

According to this body of opinion, the GOSL would always come up with proposals calculated to buy enough time until the next election in order to keep its political opponents at bay and to prevent Tamils from agitating for their rights, foreclosing other options for taking forward their struggle.

Let me summarise the gist of this criticism in the words of a man who was once called the 'brains' of the Federal Party, V. Navaratnam.

"So, from time to time in the course of the struggle Tamil leaderships are likely to be subjected to tremendous pressure from friends and foes alike, both domestic and international, to sit down to talks and settle by negotiation. It is hard to imagine what there remains to talk or negotiate about. Have not the Tamils talked enough about every imaginable solution?

Have they not agreed to every possible formula for co-existence which accommodated the Sinhalese concern for the political unity of the island country?" (The Fall and Rise of the Tamil Nation p. 338)

If the Tigers start talks on the basis of a proposal by the GOSL their political bargaining power would be compromised, critics say.

Towards the tail end of the six rounds of talks between the LTTE and the UNF government critics in the northeast began to point out that the Tigers had compromised the political legacy of the Tamil struggle by aimlessly drifting along with the agenda set by the GOSL and foreign third parties.

Tigers could not ignore criticism in the Tamil press that the LTTE's position at the talks should have firmly been based on the Vaddukkoddai Resolution of 1976, the mandate for a separate state at the 1977general elections and the Thimpu Principles of 1985.

The critics argued that the LTTE delegation should have clearly and unequivocally stated at each round of the peace talks that the parameters of their negotiations policy were based on this legacy.

Their argument may be paraphrased thus: "The political landmarks of a people's struggle against a state also constitute their bargaining power; the main objective of states that wage wars to suppress ethnic or class struggles is to make the insurgent movements give up their original political goals; when states fail to do so through war they strive to roll back through negotiations the political gains made by insurgent movements; by unconditionally agreeing to the concept of internal self determination and by not prefacing their discussions with the political landmarks of the Tamil movement the Tigers compromised the hard fought political gains and historical legacy of the struggle".

Attention was drawn to the fact that Israelis had scored a political coup by inveigling Arafat and his advisors into giving up the fundamental tenet of the 'Palestinian Charter' (the equivalent of the Thimpu Principles) - Israel's right to exist as a state on the Palestinian homeland. Similarly the British succeeded in obfuscating the fundamental demand of the Irish Republican Army during the last round of negotiations following the Good Friday Agreement - that British military occupation of Northern Ireland should end.

The critics of the LTTE emphasised how talks between IRA/Sin Fein and UK saw a host of issues such as workers and women's rights, which in the final analysis could be reduced to inequalities promoted by the presence of British military garrisons in Northern Ireland, coming to the fore at the expense of the fundamental problem, the root cause of the conflict.

The critics argued that the LTTE delegation had allowed the Sri Lankan government and its international backers a free hand to similarly obfuscate the core cause of the conflict that had brought the two parties to the negotiating table in the first place. Tamils consider the Vaddukoddai Resolution, the 77 mandate and the Thimpu Principles the political manifestation of the core cause of the ethnic conflict. Therefore the LTTE delegation should have resolutely opposed all attempts by the GOSL and its foreign backers to obfuscate or detract from the core cause of the conflict, according to the critics.

The bargaining power of the Tamils was predicated not only on the LTTE's military power but also on the accumulated political legacy of the struggle defined by Vadukkoddai, 77 and Thimpu, they averred.

Apparently Pirapaharan himself had similar concerns about the manner in which from Sattahip to Oslo, the GOSL and its international supporters were tying to roll back the political legacy of the Tamil cause, debilitating thereby the bargaining power of the Tamils.

Hence he personally intervened to make a radical course correction. The ISGA was the result. The proposal's preamble embodies the gist of the course correction made by Pirapaharan.

The LTTE's position appears to be that any future negotiations could be fruitful only if the GOSL and the Sinhala polity agree on the core cause of the conflict of which the Tamil political legacy as formulated in the ISGA's preamble is considered the fundamental expression.

The Tigers feel that if they were to accept any proposal by the GOSL as a basis for resuming talks it would again trap them in another round of attempts by Colombo and its foreign backers to obfuscate the root cause of the conflict, weakening LTTE's political leverage before it can obtain anything concrete as interim relief through the negotiations.

The Tigers, the Tamil National Alliance and many Tamil opinion makers also say that talks on a final settlement is an old ruse to drag the talks on and on indefinitely until kingdom come.

They argue that if they commit themselves in principle to discuss any proposal (or counter proposal) by the United People's Freedom Front government then they would fall into the same old trap - talking shop for years about constitutional convolutions sans the slightest clue as to how the constitution can be radically restructured to accommodate even the bare minimum of Tamil aspirations. They also say that attempts to make them commit on restarting talks on the basis of a parallel GOSL proposal is an insidious ploy to roll back the Tamil political legacy, ultimately damning it to oblivion in an assimilative niche of the unitary state.

The words of an academic who was involved in the discussions that led to the ISGA sum it up.

"Why should our political legacy, achieved at so great a cost, be compromised before we even know whether a southern consensus to change the constitution is ever going to be possible?"

But no leader in the south has time to ponder this deadlock because the Presidential race is approaching fast.

India and Sri Lanka: The emerging future By N. Ram

It means a great deal to me, intellectually and personally, to be here to deliver the Dissanayake Memorial Lecture on the tenth anniversary of his terrible assassination in the midst of a presidential campaign that turned out to be a watershed. I am deeply honoured by this invitation from Srima Dissanayake and the Gamini Dissanayake Foundation, and by the presence of such a quality and, shall I say, not just bi-partisan but multi-partisan audience.

There is a wide choice of themes, ideas and values that can be taken up when we commemorate this brilliant political leader, intellectual, and statesman, this multifaceted personality, my friend Gamini. This lecture provides me the opportunity to explore a relationship - representing a problematic as well as a historic opportunity - that was close to his heart, to which he gave a great deal of thought, to the shaping of which he made a profound and, at the end, shining difference. Since there is clearly a connection between the India-Sri Lanka relationship and certain key aspects of Sri Lanka's principal national question, the 'ethnic' or Tamil question, I shall attempt to provide some kind of reality check on what is, or is not, unfolding before our eyes as part of my analysis of the emerging future.

If the India-Sri Lanka Agreement of July 1987, highly controversial and divisive in its time, has substantive content, values and lessons to communicate to us today; if that conceptual framework for the resolution of Sri Lanka's principal national question is more or less the working model for those who are seeking to resolve it within the island state's unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity; if the pre-eminent dispute of the present is over the nature and content of interim administration in the North and East that the peace process is struggling to put in place at this critical stage, then the breakthrough but unsuccessful project of the 1980s and, underpinning it and urging it forward against formidable odds, Gamini's vision and new thinking are very much alive.

If this sounds like a rhetorical flourish, please re-read his conceptually inspiring, very concrete "Vision for the 21st Century" presented during the 1994 presidential election campaign. Please re-read carefully his approach to both constitutional reform and "Devolution and the Resolution of the North-East Conflict," his re-considered response to the challenge of settling the content and unit of devolution for the North-East within the framework of a united but clearly not unitary Sri Lanka. And please revisit what he had to say on why he gave his "fullest support to the Indo-Sri Lankan Accord" and also why Sri Lanka's first devolution experiment for the North-East did not take off the ground. The great thing about Gamini was his loyalty to the principles and the basic framework of a just political solution brought on to the agenda by the accord. Through thick and thin, in season and out of season, he spoke up for the essentials of the attempt while being prepared to heed the lessons of its failure - and to move forward.

Gamini's vision and practice are also of much guidance when we seek to second-guess the emerging future of the India-Sri Lanka relationship. Let me offer this simple proposition, which may appear paradoxical on the face of it. The connection between the ethnic or Tamil question and the Indo-Sri Lanka bilateral relationship, which was direct and perfectly obvious between 1983 and 1991, has become less direct and more difficult to assess in the post-1991 period. But with a vital lesson learned, an important course let me add, by way of disclosure, that I was in Sri Lanka as a journalist seeking to interview President Jayewardene but with an interest and, as it turned out, a role going beyond journalism. My interaction and friendship with Gamini had begun with a message I received from him through a common friend, quite appropriately during a cricket Test in Madras (we shared a passion for cricket), asking me to come to Colombo for an important discussion. President Jayewardene asked me frankly to discuss the situation, as I understood it, with both Gamini and Lalith Athulathrnudali. At that time, they had quite different perspectives on how to respond to the crisis in India-Sri Lanka relations.

What impressed me during that first meeting, in February 1987, was the depth and profundity of Gamini' s concern over the deteriorating situation and the fact that he seemed so level-headed about it. He quickly acquainted me with the new thinking at the top in Colombo as well as with the political problems within the establishment. What followed, between February 1987 and March 24, 1990, when the IPKF completed its de-induction from Sri Lanka under unhappy circumstances, was akin to a historical adventure, some would say, misadventure.

This is not the occasion to go into the detail of the experience. Suffice it to say that the project proved costly, in terms of lives lost and resources expended, and failed to achieve its two key objectives - the institution of genuine devolution of power for the Tamil people and the other ethnic groups in a merged North-East, and an end to the armed secessionist struggle waged by the LTTE. But the direction set and the ideas and instrumentalities brought to the national agenda by the audacious project can be said to have had a seminal importance and influence.

A considerable literature, of rather uneven quality and reliability, has developed on Sri Lanka's ethnic conflict and, specifically, on India's post-1983 role. The academic contributions aside, a key actor, J.N. Dixit - India's High Commissioner in Colombo between 1985 and 1989, subsequently Foreign Secretary, and now National Security Adviser to Prime Manmohan Singh - has given us an interesting account as well as a critical analysis in Assignment Colombo (Konarak Publishers, New Delhi, 1998). More recently, he returned to the theme of India's Sri Lanka policy, past and present, in a 50-page essay published in External Affairs: Cross-Border Relations (Roli Books, New Delhi, 2003).

Dixit has some specific criticisms of the activist, interventionist phase of India's Sri Lanka policy. He offers useful insights into the post-1983 as well as the post-199l policy shifts. About Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's approach, he says, I believe, justly: "it was not her intention to support the demand for Eelam. If India were to endorse. . . [ that] would find it difficult to maintain its own unity and integrity, facing as it did the challenges of separatism in Punjab and Kashmir." (p. 60, ibid.) He notes that Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi introduced significant changes in the policy: "India should firmly oppose the Sri Lankan government's military operations against Tamils.. .More direct political pressure had to be generated against Jayewardene to implement the devolution package that had been finalised in negotiations between 1985 and 1986... If India succeeded in the above two objectives, it should persuade Tamils to come back to the negotiating table.. .If these negotiations succeeded. ..India should directly guarantee the implementation of the solution in one form or the other through appropriate agreements.. .[and] India, apart from being a mediator should become the guarantor of compromises..." (p 64 ibid)

But what Dixit offers essentially is a realpolitik analysis: "India's involvement in Sri Lanka, in my assessment, was unavoidable not only due to the ramifications of Colombo's oppressive and discriminatory policies against its Tamil citizens but also in terms of India's national security concerns due to the Sri Lankan government's security connections with the U.S., Pakistan and Israel" (p. 58, ibid.)

My assessment of the whole experience is rather different. It is much more critical of the fundamental tenets of India's post-1983 policy, and of the effects on the ground of the practice. As one who believed in this policy, and advocated it, until it collapsed around 1990- 91, I have no problem in recognising now that it was schizoid and deeply flawed.

On the one hand, the basic political objective of India's activist policy was honourable and moderate. It was to help win security, justice and a decent measure of selfadministering opportunities for the Tamils living in the North-East within the confines of Sri Lanka's unity and territorial integrity. Crucially, it ruled out any truck with the Eelam demand. Imagine what would have happened in Sri Lanka had political India, and not just a chauvinist fringe or a small political section in Tamil Nadu, espoused the secessionist demand. Imagine what might have happened had support for Eelam rather than a substantial measure of devolution within the unity and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka been the basis of official Indian policy in the 1980s.

On the other hand, the policy worked on the constant assumption that in order to put pressure on the Sri Lankan government,' it was necessary to build up the armed militant groups, above all the LTTE, in various ways. This was realpolitik. This was democratic India's way of putting pressure on the political negotiations, Among other things, it involved the old-fashioned dilemma of ends versus means, It was also akratic,

Today the political consensus in India is that this schizoid policy, which was partly of India's making and partly a consequence of the spill-over of the Sri Lankan ethnic conflict into Tamil Nadu and therefore of Sri Lankan manufacture, proved disastrously counter-productive. This despite India's honourable, moderate intentions and its willingness to go the distance through the sacrifice of the lives and limbs of a few thousands of Indian soldiers. It is another matter that the limited but very significant military successes scored by the IPKF against the LTTE were undone- through own goals scored by the Sri Lankan state after the IPKF was brought home.
(To be continued)

Four Karuna loyalists shot in Wellawatte By Kurulu Kariyakarawana

Four Karuna loyalists who survived a recent hand bomb attack allegedly by an LTTE Wanni cadre at Nagaswatta, Welikanda were shot allegedly by an LTTE armed gang on Monday night in Wellawatta, killing one of them on the spot and critically injuring the others.

The four Karuna men who were in a safe house at Roxy Watta, near Roxy Cinema in Wellawatta were surprised by the LTTE gang around 9.15 pm.

The four cadres who had been rushed to the National hospital in a critical condition following the hand bomb attack at Welikanda on October 11, had been discharged hours before they were sprayed with bullets. They were brought to the safe house in Wellawatta prior to their departure to the East.

The victims were rushed to Kalubowila hospital by Wellawatta police and one of them was later transferred to the National hospital in a critical condition.

The four cadres had been identified as Sivarasa, Sinnaeasa, Rasadil and the deceased, Murthi.

DIG Colombo division H.M.S. Herath said the assailants had reportedly fled on a motorcycle after the attack.

A special police motorcycle squad was immediately deployed to apprehend the fleeing suspects.

Wellawatta police are conducting investigations.

Four Karuna loyalists shot in Wellawatte by Kurulu Kariyakarawana

Four Karuna loyalists who survived a recent hand bomb attack allegedly by an LTTE Wanni cadre at Nagaswatta, Welikanda were shot allegedly by an LTTE armed gang on Monday night in Wellawatta, killing one of them on the spot and critically injuring the others.

The four Karuna men who were in a safe house at Roxy Watta, near Roxy Cinema in Wellawatta were surprised by the LTTE gang around 9.15 pm.

The four cadres who had been rushed to the National hospital in a critical condition following the hand bomb attack at Welikanda on October 11, had been discharged hours before they were sprayed with bullets. They were brought to the safe house in Wellawatta prior to their departure to the East.

The victims were rushed to Kalubowila hospital by Wellawatta police and one of them was later transferred to the National hospital in a critical condition.

The four cadres had been identified as Sivarasa, Sinnaeasa, Rasadil and the deceased, Murthi.

DIG Colombo division H.M.S. Herath said the assailants had reportedly fled on a motorcycle after the attack.

A special police motorcycle squad was immediately deployed to apprehend the fleeing suspects.

Wellawatta police are conducting investigations.

Prabhakaran: Bitter end ahead with no successor by Champika Liyanaarachchi

"The top leader of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, Mr. V. Prabhakaran was killed in a shoot-out by the Mr. Mahattaya faction of the LTTE a few days ago".

That was the opening paragraph of a report carried in The Hindu newspaper on July 24, 1989 under the headline 'Prabhakaran reported killed in shoot-out'.

At that time Prabhakaran was only 35. In roughly a month he would turn 50.

The Tiger leader has been among the top world rebel leaders, including Osama bin Laden, to be killed several times over.

When Prabhakaran made the Mahaveerar Day speech from Wanni last year, hours after his controversial meeting with EU External Commissioner Chris Patten, he had his Eastern Commander and blue-eyed-boy Karuna organizing similar celebrations in the East.

Four months later Karuna has fallen out with his boss and even as Prabhakaran gets ready to celebrate his 50th birthday, his tormentor has started a new party and has had the audacity to call Prabhakaran a barbarian and had urged the Tamils to rise against the LTTE leadership.

Despite the regionalism call by the former Eastern Commander, the fact that Prabhakaran is still very much in control of the organization even his detractors would concede. But for how long?

The elusive leader made his way up in the eighties, reigned in the nineties and has been largely calling the shots even four years into the new millennium.

The reason behind this feat - apart from the steady flow of money and military hardware - is to state it in Prabhakaran's own words - confidence.

"Our strength - and our weakness - was our overconfidence", Prabhakaran once observed in an interview with Indian journalist Anita Pratap which appeared in a Time magazine in April, 1990.

"We were sometimes careless. But also because of our overconfidence our boys carried out some amazing tasks," he was quoted as saying.

However none of these would guarantee that things would be the same for him in the years to come.

Velupillai Prabhakaran is no more a 'young leader' in the organization once termed that of the 'boys' and even now is largely made up of youngsters.

On the other hand, as a result of the ceasefire, his 'young leaders and cadres' have got the kind of freedom and opportunities that he himself had never enjoyed as a rebel. Karuna is just one of many.

All this is taking place at a time when several development projects have been initiated especially by the INGOs, providing employment to local youth and also the kinds of facilities that were never available earlier.

There is a steady building up of capacities, especially in the North.

Could Prabhakaran sustain the momentum of the organization against the backdrop of these developments which are not at all complementary to the LTTE thinking? In fact these developments are fast changing the picture of the rebel-held areas shattering the very premises on which the Tiger ideology is based on.

A majority of analysts are of the view that the 'end' of Prabhakaran will also mark the 'end' or at least the decline, of the LTTE.

The only time the Sri Lankan forces managed to get close to him in the recent past was, during an operation in 2001 by the Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol (LRRP) when its personnel managed to plant two Claymore mines along a road frequented by Prabhakaran.

However, the mines were later detected by Prabhakaran's security retinue and were destroyed.

The powerful Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) which has been targeting him since the late 1980s has so far failed to accomplish the task.

The LTTE's aversion to Indian de-mining teams is largely attributed to the organization's perennial fear that RAW members would infiltrate under the guise of mine clearing.

But, the biggest threat to Prabhakaran's life is still Karuna.

It is most likely that Karuna has intensified his resolve to exterminate Prabhakaran - a task which appears near impossible - espicially after the Wanni cadres gunned down his brother Regi.

Then there are several dozens of members and supporters of parties like the EPDP, the EPRLF and the TELO who continue to face the Tiger guillotine along with Karuna's men.

Given a chance, there may be thousands of people, among the Tamils alone, who would volunteer to gun down the LTTE leader for his atrocities.

It was only a few days ago that Karuna said that the LTTE supremo had killed over 20,000 Tamils.

However, getting close to Prabhakaran will always remain one of the most daunting tasks.

The withdrawal of the IPKF in March 1990 gave the LTTE leader an aura of invincibility and the years that passed by had only gone to prove this further.

This coupled with the element of mystery surrounding him with very little information about him reaching the media have made him an elusive character.

Prabhakaran however was demystified to a certain extent at the April 10, 2002 press conference and during meetings with several southern leaders, diplomats and international leaders.

But the million-dollar question is whether the LTTE leader is actually pushing forward the peace process? If not what are the plans Prabhakaran has for the rebel outfit after him?

He has not groomed a successor and the one that many thought would perhaps succeed him, had finally defected.

Leave alone grooming a successor, he has learnt the dangers of allowing other leaders to become popular.

The extra-ordinary fanaticism with which he had fought one of the most ruthless wars for nearly two decades and the killings that he continues to carry out, have left him with nearly fifteen thousand youth who are only trained to kill and destroy. Only a handful of youths are trained for administrative work.

What is he going to do with this army, in the years to come, with war gradually becoming an option of history despite the escalation of violence - which is largely restricted to the LTTE and other Tamil parties?

Narayan Swamy in his book 'Inside an Elusive Mind' has said that if the peace process fails, then "the destiny of Sri Lanka with its 20 million people would still be in the hands of one man: Velupillai Prabhakaran".

However, whatever decisions taken by Prabhakaran are very much influenced by the international trends on terrorism, the pulls and the pushes.

However much the Tigers deny the fact, it was all too obvious that the Tiger decision to come to the negotiation table had a lot to do with the post 9/11 situation, especially the hardened stance of the United States on terrorism.

Despite the outward composure in the face of a series of verbal attacks, the fact that the US reprimands hit raw nerves of the LTTE became evident by the manner the LTTE got the TNA to issue a statement on the controversial comments made by State Department Coordinator on Counter-terrorism J. Cofer Balck.

Just like hundreds of terrorist outfits all over the world the Tigers too must be praying that Senator John Kerry will beat President George Bush at next month's elections - a scenario which some feel would give global terrorism some breathing space.

Some have already predicted that the LTTE, with its South African connections, would get the black senators in the US Congress to allow its voice to be heard. With the LTTE gaining a foothold in mainstream politics in neighbouring Canada and clout in many other European states this is a possibility that one cannot rule out easily.

Twenty eight years after he formed the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam with a couple of dozen youths at the age of 22, Velupillai Prabhakaran has managed to upgrade his organization to an international enterprise as he approaches his 50th birthday - killing tens of thousands of people including national leaders and fostering links with the bulk of the international terrorist groups.

With warrants hanging over his head like the Sword of Damocles, especially one from India, the freedom of movement he would be able to enjoy even after a negotiated settlement is reached, is likely to be very limited.

Prabhakaran most probably will live to celebrate his 50th birthday which is just a month away and for which grand preparations are already underway.

However, with the kind of cold-blooded atrocities he has committed, and judging by the kind of natural, inevitable punishments that awaited such fanatics in history, Velupillai Prabhakaran is very unlikely to see a peaceful end to his life, the day that he falls.

High Security Zone violates FR of the homeless by S.S. Selvanayagam

When two fundamental rights violation petitions against the Army for arbitrarily, illegally, unlawfully and unreasonably preventing petitioners from occupying their own houses situated in the Palaly High Security Zone, were taken up before the Supreme Court yesterday (25), State Counsel U. Egalahewa told court that he had sought instructions from the Army to ascertain whether the petitioners could be permitted to cultivate and put up temporary structures.

The Bench comprised Chief Justice Sarath N. Silva, Justices T.B. Weerasuriya and N.K. Udalagama. These matters were listed to be mentioned on December 12.

The petitions have been filed by TULF Jaffna District Parliamentarian Mavai Senathirajah and V.Rajadurai.

Mavai Senathirajah cited Defence Minister Chandrika Kumaratunga, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, Army Commander Lt. Gen. Lionel Balagalle, Jaffna Security Forces Commander, Major General Parami Kulatunga and the Attorney General as respondents.

Mavai Senathirajah in his petition inter alia stated that he and his family had been living in the house owned by his wife at Maviddapuram. In June 1992, they were compelled to move out of their house in Maviddapuram alongwith several other families due to military operations by the Air Force and the Army. Since then they have been living elsewhere.

He wrote to the Chairman of the Resettlement and Rehabilitation Authority for North (RRAN) requesting that he be permitted to return to his village. Although the RRAN recommended that he be permitted to resettle and forwarded his letter to the Army Commander for necessary action, he was not permitted to return.

After the signing of the Cease-fire Agreement between the Government and the LTTE, the Government permitted resettlement in certain areas in the AGA divisions of Valikamam North, in which Maviddapuram is also situated.

Senathirajah wrote to the Defence Minister complaining that the Army was unlawfully preventing him from resettling and to direct the Army not to deny him the right to live in his village.

Initially, he was informed that the matter had been referred to the Army Commander for necessary action. However, after Senathirajah wrote to the Army Commander, drawing his attention to his earlier letter, he was informed that his request could not be accommodated since his house was located within the "Palaly High Security Zone".

He contends that the decision of the respondents not to permit him and his family to occupy their house, is a violation of his rights to equality, freedom to engage in a lawful occupation, freedom from movement and his right to choose a residence within Sri Lanka and that the said violations are continuing to date.

President's Counsel K. Kanag-Iswaran with M.A.Sumanthiran and V.Ganeshalingam instructed by Mohan Balendra appeared for the petitioners.