Saturday, September 22, 2007

Full-scale war imminent on the northern front

If anyone thought that military operations were intended to pressurise the LTTE into coming to the negotiating table, such illusions were effectively dispelled by the Defence Secretary’s frank disclosure. It is no longer a case of bringing the LTTE to the negotiating table through military means for a political settlement. It is now a case of destroying or diminishing the LTTE as a pre-requisite for a political solution

It’s ‘unofficially’ official now! Three things are certain.
There’s going to be a big war in the Northern Province against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
There will be no let up until the objective of vanquishing the Tigers is achieved. Even if it is not feasible, an ongoing relentless attempt will be made.

There won’t be any political solution until and unless the military goal of eradicating ‘terrorism’ (read LTTE) is fulfilled.
Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa emphasised the above three points unambiguously at Trincomalee last week. The occasion was the felicitation ceremony for the navy for reportedly destroying three ships, allegedly carrying arms for the LTTE.

The Defence Secretary’s elder sibling, President Mahinda Rajapaksa was also present as Gotabhaya stated these views but maintained silence, indicating tacit consent. The fact that the Defence Secretary stated so in the presence of the Head of State, Head of Government and Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces shows that the sentiments expressed were an ‘officially sanctioned unofficial policy declaration.’ So it’s unofficially official.

Calling the shots
It is also crystal clear now who calls the shots literally and metaphorically as far as war and peace is concerned. Mahinda Samarasinghe may say one thing and Rohitha Bogollagama another, but effective decisions are made and articulated elsewhere. The Minister who repeats these more lucidly than any other of his colleagues is Jeyaraj Fernandopulle.

It was only a few weeks ago that Gotabhaya Rajapaksa spoke forthrightly at a passing out parade about a proposed military advance into the LTTE held areas of the north. This was emphatically denied by some Cabinet ministers but within days the Musali region of Mannar District was taken over in a surprise manoeuvre.

If anyone thought that military operations were intended to pressurise the LTTE into coming to the negotiating table, such illusions were effectively dispelled by the Defence Secretary’s frank disclosure.

It is no longer a case of bringing the LTTE to the negotiating table through military means for a political settlement. It is now a case of destroying or diminishing the LTTE as a pre-requisite for a political solution.

There is a saying about an army marching on its stomach. The cost conscious sections of society might be appalled by the economic consequences of prosecuting a prolonged war. But Gotabhaya Rajapaksa thinks otherwise. “We cannot establish permanent peace in the country by winning only half or two-thirds of the war against terrorism,” he said in Trincomalee.

The Defence Secretary also said “President Rajapaksa cannot implement the desired political solution to the north and east conflict unless LTTE terrorism is defeated 100 percent.”

Defence Secretary’s stance
He said that President Rajapaksa, amidst the economic constraints the country is facing, has given all that is required for the security forces and the police to achieve their task of defeating LTTE terrorism.
On another occasion the Defence Secretary’s erstwhile Commanding Officer and present Army Commander Lt. Gen Sarath Fonseka was posed a question by a media person about the impact of the escalating war on the economy. “It is better to have a bankrupt country than half a country,” was the answer.

This then sums up the military mood. The military option against the LTTE will be pursued relentlessly and diligently regardless of economic or any other consequences. The defence establishment has scented blood. It wants to go in for what it perceives to be an easy kill.

The Bard of Avon wrote of a ‘tide in the affairs of men.’ The defence establishment feels that the security forces are riding the crest of a victorious anti-Tiger wave. The wave has to be ridden until the LTTE is engulfed, it is felt.
There is a frenzy of populist euphoria in the air. It is a combination of the natural and artificial, spontaneous and contrived, real and imaginary. But it is there.

It was Talleyrand I think who warned that “war is too serious a matter to be left in the hands of generals.” But currently in Sri Lanka, that is exactly what is happening. The military and defence hierarchy runs the war and makes policy. The political establishment falls in line.

Some might say this is not healthy for a country but there are few takers for this in the upper echelons of the government. A feeble opposition with an unimaginative leadership is hopelessly unable or unwilling to check this militarisation of the government. Arguably, a national security state is in formation.

Puzzling conduct
The behaviour and conduct of the LTTE in recent times has been, at best, puzzling. The seeming helplessness of the LTTE in the face of Colombo’s military juggernaut has contributed to this new found confidence and determination on the part of the security establishment.

The LTTE is primarily a militant movement fighting for the goal of national liberation. The government depicts it as terrorist while the LTTE self-perception is that of being freedom fighters. One man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist.

Fighting for the lofty objective of national liberation does not automatically remove the terrorist tag if terror tactics are adopted. Likewise, the adoption of terrorist tactics does not automatically disqualify a national liberation movement. One can be both a terrorist and freedom fighter. It is not a case of one or the other.

However, realistically, these distinctions do not manner any more in an increasingly uni-polar world where there are no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ terrorists. No matter what the ideal is, the use of terrorist methods makes a group or an individual, terrorist. The end does not justify the means after September 11, 2001. All terrorists are ‘evil.’

There is a lot of hypocrisy and double standards here. A state is allowed to adopt all sorts of underhand methods amounting to state terrorism but it is not labelled terrorist. An air force plane can kill innocent civilians by dropping a bomb from the air and get away with it by calling it ‘collateral damage.’

But woe unto a non-state actor planting a bomb that kills civilians intentionally or unintentionally – it will be automatically labelled terrorism and very often does deserve that label. But dropping bombs from an altitude allows greater latitude in getting away from the terrorist label. All states gang up in refusing to admit state terrorism.

Defining terrorism
How does one define the LTTE? Each violent action has to be scrutinised on its own merits to arrive at a definition. The Tigers have three salient aspects when it comes to engaging in violence.

It has the attributes of a conventional militia when it adopts positional warfare. The LTTE fights like an army when it captures or defends territory. The Tigers function as a guerilla force when launching attacks against security force installations or convoys. It is a terrorist outfit whenever it kills innocent civilians through bombs or massacres and assassinates political leaders and other civilians.

Thus, the LTTE can be loosely termed as a self-styled national liberation movement that engages in terrorism at times. Each LTTE action has to be specifically classified into categories of warfare, guerilla tactics or sheer terrorism.
After the LTTE withdrew from the Eastern Province, analysts predicted that all three dimensions of the Tigers would come into play in due course.

The LTTE would engage in positional warfare and fight like a conventional army to retain northern territory. The Tigers would adopt guerilla tactics against security forces in the east. It would assassinate political leaders and destroy economic targets through terrorist methods in Colombo and elsewhere in the south, it was expected.

However, so far, no target has been attacked in Colombo or elsewhere except for the diversionary thrills of a nascent air wing dropping bombs. The limited air strikes too have stopped for some months now.
In the east some limited landmine ambushes have occurred in the Ampara and Trincomalee District jungle adjacent areas, but few attacks were reported in Batticaloa District.

Defending territory
In the north, the LTTE has been stoutly defending areas on the Vavuniya-Mannar District borders and in the Weli Oya/Manal Aaru region. It is also defending territory in the Jaffna Peninsula along the Forward Defence Lines (FDLs) of the Kilaly-Eluthumattuvaal- Nagar Kovil axis. But in the Musali region of Mannar South, the LTTE did not fire a single shot and allowed a walkover.

Even though a major offensive has not been launched by either side, there have been sporadic exchanges of artillery fire between both sides in the Vavuniya-Mannar District borders and also in the peninsula. There has also been regular aerial bombardment and strafing by the air force at positions in the Wanni. The navy too has shelled the coastal areas and also battled the Sea Tigers off the Mullaitivu coast.

It can be seen, therefore, that war related incidents have been happening since April last year. Many civilians in the Wanni have been killed, injured and displaced over the past 17 months.

Both sides are wary of the other launching an ‘invasion’ into their territory. Therefore, bombing and shelling is done by the armed forces on the one hand and shelling by the LTTE on the other to prevent major offensives. There are widely prevalent minor skirmishes. These activities are done to keep the ‘other’ side on its toes and to keep it guessing from where and when the big attack will come.

The preliminary limited strikes and offensives are no substitutes for the real McCoy. They cannot pre-empt or prevent the major offensive, counter-offensive or raid, if and when they are launched.

The armed forces can commence their ground based drives southwards from the peninsula, south-eastwards from Thallady in Mannar, northwards and north-westwards from any point along the Mannar-Vavuniya Road or from Omanthai or the Iranai Iluppaikulam Road or from Maamaduwa or the Weli-Oya/Manal Aaru region.

Sea-borne invasions across the Jaffna lagoon towards the Mannar-Poonagary coast or via the northern seas on the Mullaitivu-Chundikulam coast are also possible.

Defensive strategy
The LTTE too can commence major attacks on several possible targets. A sea-borne operation across the lagoon into the peninsula, a ground based offensive from Muhamaalai or Nagar Kovil points; attacks on army camps in Mannar, Vavuniya and Weli-Oya sector are also possible. A long shot could be incursions via jungles into Medawachchiya, Kebethigollewe, Padaviya, etc.

By all accounts the Tigers seem to be adopting a defensive strategy for now. LTTE Political Chief S.P. Tamilselvan said recently that the Tigers were maintaining “patience intentionally.” This strategy may have certain politico-military reasons.
In the first place, the LTTE is heavily disadvantaged vis-à-vis the armed forces in terms of manpower, firepower, airpower, naval power and armoured vehicle power. This places the Tigers in a very weak position.

Therefore, it would naturally be reluctant to hold on to extensive territory. The Tigers will yield some territory in order to prevent over stretching and dilution of personnel. To cite a phrase used by defence analysts, they will “trade space for time.”

What will this time be used for? Obviously, strengthening defences and recruiting cadres is one. This is happening now. But the Tigers will prolong the war in the hope that the time gained will work against Colombo. Rising defence costs will drain the Treasury and increase the cost of living and inflation. Economic problems can cause social and political unrest.

The armed forces may over extend themselves in the bid to gain more real estate. If they bite more than they can chew, the LTTE would like to make them choke.

The mounting tally of alleged human rights violations and civilian casualties caused by the armed forces can discredit the regime internationally. There may come a point where international intervention becomes inevitable.
The Tigers also expect stirrings in Tamil Nadu and related impact in New Delhi. There is also the expectation that the Tamil people in Sri Lanka and abroad will rally around the LTTE as the war escalates and civilian suffering increases.

Vital rear base
Even if the LTTE Political Commissar’s claim of exercising patience is true, the security establishment is in no mood to believe it. It will be seen as the LTTE making a virtue out of necessity as the view in defence circles is that the Tigers are weak and vulnerable. Therefore, the resolve to go on the offensive will gain strength.

However, there is a point beyond which the LTTE cannot retreat, lie low or exercise patience. This is because the Wanni heartland is, in guerilla parlance, the rear base of the LTTE. It is very vital to the Tigers that they retain control of a swathe of territory with access to the sea. The LTTE has to offer fierce resistance to preserve some territory at least.

The Tigers have strengthened defences and are ready to adopt positional warfare to defend this territory. Apparently, the Tigers have set up three ‘defence rings’ – A primary outer ring around most territory under their control, a secondary inner ring around key areas in Kilinochchi, Vavuniya and Mullaitivu, and a tertiary line of defence around strategic areas of the north-eastern sector.
The fact that this primary defensive outer line has been able to prevent government incursions on the Vavuniya-Mannar borders and inside the peninsula shows the determination and grit of the LTTE to resist military advances.

Unlike what happened in the east or the peninsula when defeated, the Tigers have no place to go if the Wanni is overrun. So the Tigers, fighting a desperate battle to safeguard their rear base, will fight hard when the time comes.
The Tigers may even adopt their customary tactic of letting the enemy advance and then hit back swiftly and hard. This was well demonstrated during the conflict of the nineties.

Armed forces strategy
But the armed forces strategy devised by the Sarath-Gotabhaya duo is not likely to be a mechanical repetition of the disastrous approach under ‘Gen.’ Anuruddha Ratwatte during ‘Operation Jayasikuru’ in the nineties.
It is more likely that the government will adopt the ruthless double-track strategy adopted successfully in the east: A widespread campaign of bombing and shelling on a broad scale on points throughout the region on the one hand and on the other, a sustained campaign of intensive concentrated attacks on a limited target area.

The civilians are uprooted and their dwellings and infrastructural facilities demolished. After civilians leave a particular area and move to another place, the vacated place is shelled and bombed to saturation point. Then the army advances on ground, consolidates and establishes control of a limited area.

Thereafter, this process is repeated again and again. In a slow, systematic manner, the armed forces advance and hold target areas while the civilian population flees from place to place or to government areas. This is what happened in stages in the east and after 15 months, the armed forces dominate the province now.

Moreover, unofficial embargoes on food, medicine, fuel and essential items will be imposed as was done in the east. Transport and movement of people will be restricted. Payment of salaries of government employees, including teachers, will be suspended. Agriculture, fisheries and cottage industries will be reduced to a standstill.

If the armed forces have their way as they did in the east, this scenario is likely to happen in the north too.
This strategy will certainly cause immense hardship to the civilians. But judging from the apathy and silence of the international community towards the tragic civilian plight in the east, there seems very little chance of any foreign pressure to make Colombo call off the war or abandon its hard-line strategy.

Beginning of the end
Though Sinhala hawks would like the armed forces to go in quickly and finish off the Tigers, the defence establishment is not likely to rush in. Plans and preparations will be made carefully and cautiously.

However, it seems highly improbable that the Tigers will passively wait for the government to enfeeble, encircle and then engulf them. Contrary to optimistic assertions in Colombo, the LTTE is not both down and out. It is only down, but not fully out. Past experience has shown that the Tigers crouch to pounce.

If the armed forces succeed in dislodging the Tigers from their entrenched positions in the Wanni, it can only mean the beginning of the end. So the Tigers will fiercely resist such moves. It is a back-to-the-wall situation
This resistance is not likely to be reactive alone. There could be counter-offensives and counter-strikes that could change the situation drastically. Also, this counter-strategy need not be confined specifically to the battlefields.

Another moot point having a bearing on the war situation is the approaching ‘Maa Veerar Naal’ (Great Heroes’ Day) on November 27. What will Prabhakaran say on that day? Conversely, what will the armed forces allow him to say on that day?
Whatever the situation, full-scale war seems inevitable and imminent. Even the raging monsoon rains may not be able to deter its pace or intensity.

The fluctuating fortunes of war may be fickle and fluid. But one thing is certain. The civilians are going to suffer. The misery of the east will be repeated in the north. The tragic plight of recently displaced Tamils and Muslims from Mannar South is a sad pointer of things to come in this respect.


Air strike on LTTE leadership confab

Site turned into inferno

Air Force fighter jets yesterday bombed a location where a leadership meeting of the LTTE was in progress in Mullaithivu inflicting large scale death and destruction on the outfit.

Security sources said the pilots had observed a massive inferno following the bombings of the building network which also served as an ammunition dump.

"The precise target was destroyed while the LTTE high rankers were gathered," Military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara said. Fighter jets Mig27 and Kafir carried out the air strike targeting the key tiger position in Vishvamadu in the Tiger stronghold of Mullaithivu at around 12.15 p.m.

"The target was accurate and precise according to the ground intelligence and air based surveillance," the Brigadier said.

He said the air strike was carried out while the LTTE leaders were gathered at a meeting. This was a location where key LTTE leaders met regularly to discuss military strategy.

"We are yet unable to confirm the number of casualties as the target was located in the uncleared area", he added.

Air Force fighters also confirmed that the aim was accurate and that a huge fire was observed. The Vishvamadu base was one of the key LTTE bases in the North, Brigadier said.

"The air strike was carried out on the LTTE base complex also consisting of an arms an ammunition dump which exploded in the strike.

"The LTTE Headquarters 'Imran Pandian' regiment also was located in the vicinity. From this base the Tiger cadres were ferrying weapons to other locations," he pointed out. Meanwhile, three civilians were injured in an LTTE claymore blast targeting the STF foot patrol yesterday at around 2.05 p.m. in Chawalakade, Ampara.

According to Brigadier Nanayakkara the LTTE cadres detonated a claymore mine targeting the STF in Chawalakada, Ampara-Kalmunai road.

"Three civilians who were travelling in a cab got caught to the LTTE claymore mine and were severely injured in the blast," he added.

The injured civilians were admitted to the Kalmunai hospital.


Bus driver killed in claymore attack

One civilian was killed and two injured when LTTE cadres exploded a claymore mine targeting a bus carrying civilians along the Trincomalee-Sallisambaltivu area around 11.45 a.m. yesterday, military officials said.

The driver of the bus was killed in the incident which occurred when the bus was proceeding from Trincomalee to Irrakkandi Road. Meanwhile Air Force fighterjets launched another attack in the area around the LTTE Vishvamadu base in Mullaitivu yesterday morning, targeting LTTE cadres who were engaged in attempting to salvage what remained from Friday’s air attack on this site, the Media Centre for National Security said.

It said Friday’s attack had destroyed the LTTE base complex consisting of large arms and ammunitions dumps and which was also reportedly the location for the LTTE's special "regiment" (Imran Pandiyan). The Military said the LTTE facility was a regular visiting place for key terrorist leaders.The LTTE denied the claims and said what was attacked was a TRO office and several civilians were injured in the attacks.


LTTE targets Tamil bus passengers in Samabalthievu killing bus driver and injuring two passengers

Sri Lankan policemen inspect the scene of a roadside bomb explosion in Trincomalee, about 257 km (160 miles) east of Colombo, September 22, 2007. A suspected Tamil Tiger roadside bomb hit a civilian bus in the island's northeast on Saturday killing the driver, police said.

Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, the separatist terrorist organization, continues to harass the Tamil civilians and this time by detonating a claymore mine targeting a private bus plying between Trincomalee and Irakkandi .

The bus driver Suntharam of the private bus was killed and two passengers were injured. The injured passengers are admitted to Trincomalee hospital.

The bus with its full capacity was proceeding along Trincomalee – Nilaveli Road when LTTE terrorists cadres detonated the claymore mine, most probably taking cover behind some buildings. The incident took place around 11.45 AM in Salli, a Tamil village, located in Sambalthievu, seven kilometers off the East of Trincomalee.

Uppuveli police are investigating the incident

LTTE’s strategic locations destroyed

For the second day in a row, the Air Force claimed to have bombed “strategic” locations of the Tamil Tigers in Mullathivu district.

The Defence Ministry said the jets “destroyed a strategically important LTTE facility in precision air strikes”. “The air sorties were carried out at an LTTE base complex consisting of large arms and ammunitions dumps which was also said to be a harbouring location for the LTTE’s special ‘regiment’ (Imran Pandiyan). The air strikes were based on accurate air and ground surveillance information.”

It said strikes were also launched on a place where high-ranking terrorists meet. It said the pilots had reported heavy activity in the camp.

Separately, three civilians were killed when suspected LTTE cadres detonated a claymore mine in Ampara district.


Sri Lanka says jets bomb rebel leaders' meeting

Sri Lankan fighter jets bombed a Tamil Tiger military base in the rebel-held far north on Friday triggering multiple explosions, the air force said, while a suspected rebel roadside bomb killed one civilian in the east.

The air strike near the town of Puthukkudiyiruppu in the northern district of Mullaittivu was targeted at top leaders of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and was the second such raid in the area in as many days.

"We got to know through intelligence there was a high ranking meeting of the LTTE, so we took the target," said Air Force spokesman Group Captain Ajantha De Silva.

"It was an LTTE military complex called Imbran Pandian regiment." He had no details of any casualties.

The LTTE who say they are fighting for an independent state for minority ethnic Tamils in the north and east, said in an email the bombs had damaged homes but caused no casualties.

However they were not immediately available for comment on a roadside bomb attack in the eastern district of Batticaloa, which killed one civilian and wounded two others. The army said the rebels were responsible.

Following another raid in the area on Thursday, in which the military said it destroyed a rebel munitions store, the Tigers said the bombs had damaged houses and wounded six civilians.

There was no independent confirmation of what the jets hit on Thursday or Friday, how many people were killed or what had happened and analysts say both sides exaggerate enemy losses amid a parallel The bombings come on the heels of a new offensive launched by the Sri Lankan military this month to drive the rebels from the northwestern district of Mannar, after pushing them out from jungle terrain they controlled in the east earlier this year.

An estimated 5,000 people have died since early last year alone in renewed fighting after a peace process collapsed. Nearly 70,000 people have been killed and hundreds of thousands displaced since the war erupted in 1983.


Sri Lanka Air Force strikes LTTE leaders' meeting in Northeast, claymore blast kills a civilian

Sri Lanka Air Force fighter jets today struck and destroyed a LTTE meeting place and a strategically important LTTE arms facility triggering multiple explosions in the Mullaitivu area in the northeast while a civilian was killed in a claymore blast in the East, the military said.

Air attacks were carried out at a LTTE base complex that housed large arms and ammunitions following accurate air and ground surveillance information, a defence official said.

Air Force also effectively struck an LTTE meeting place in the area, where high raking LTTE leaders regularly meet inflicting heavy damages, sources said. Simultaneous explosions were observed from the site, following the air raid, pilots confirmed. However, the exact number of LTTE casualties is yet to be known, the sources added.

The air sorties were carried for a third day in the rebel held Mullaitivu area which has been identified as a key LTTE activity area.

Meanwhile a civilian was killed and two others sustained injuries when suspected Tigers detonated a roadside claymore mine targeting a delivery van along the Chavalkade- Mandur road , at general area of Chavalkade in Kalmunai, Ampara district, this afternoon. The driver of the van later succumbed to his injuries.


Nedumaran phobia?

“I have been looking through binoculars but I cannot see any boats”. It was the latter part of 1983 after the notorious July riots that killed many Tamils. An executive, with at least half a dozen degrees to adorn his name in his business card, called me from his 6th floor office of a century old colonial company, bearing an English name, and opposite to the Central Bank of Ceylon. As I did not know how to answer, I controlled my laughter and wondered to myself how such a frog in the well could obtain so much excellence in his educational career. “He came to Dhanuskodi coast with his followers but he was arrested by the Tamilnadu police and the game is over” was my reply.

Seeing the hype created presently by the Sri Lankan politicians, government and the media, I may say Nedumaran has, after 24 years once again emerged as a ‘hero’ in Sri Lanka. Comments made by many alarmists about his venture, clearly exposed their ignorance of Indian politics – particularly Tamilnadu politics. One carried an opposition parliamentarian’s comments as; He also said that Nedumaran had the backing of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Karunanidhi. “The Central Government of India backs Nedumaran as the support of his party is needed for it to survive. Therefore the Sri Lankan government should act with circumspection.”

I did not know what to say except controlling my laughter and wondering to myself about their lack of knowledge of the immediate neighbourhood. To me this parliamentarian does not seem to be anything better than the binocular man of 1983. Karunanithi and Jayalalitha are at logger heads with Nedumaran and imprisoned him a few times during their tenure. I wish to ask the member in what way Central Government of India backs Nedumaran whose face the cabinet [except Tamils] might have not seen at all even in news papers?

In every political party there would be one or two dedicated to follow events of a particular country, and only that particular person would comment on the happenings there. In Lanka it looks such things don’t exist. Don’t worry even the present President of the most powerful country, six months prior to his election did not know where India was, what the Prime Minister’s name was. If you are a regular TV news viewer you would agree that nowadays, it is proved politics does not need intelligence only guns, sorry guts – to do any thing. Nedumaran started his political career with the DMK and later moved over to Congress with a group that collided with Karunanithi. In 1978 when Mrs.Indira Gandhi visited Madurai he was her escort. At one point when a DMK man threw a deadly weapon at Mrs.Gandhi, Nedumaran saved her. This incident gave him prominence in all India political circles, but strengthened the enmity with Karunanithi and the DMK. Even now on the 12th and before, he shouted anti Karunanithi slogans and accused him as, just because of his lack of concern for the Tamils of Eelam only, the people in Eelam suffer - starve to this extent.

Surprisingly Congress and the DMK formed an alliance for the 1980 state legislature election to fight MGR. Nedumaran who was against DMK left the party to form his own as Tamilnadu Kamaraj Congress Party and went along with MGR, winning three seats. In the meantime his friendship with Tamil militants especially the LTTE grew and his legislature hostel room in Madras [like Sirawasthi] became a safe house to LTTErs like Baby, Kittu and another one person who wanted to keep his presence secret. The Pondy Bazaar shooting incident made police arrest Uma Magheswaran who was injured and also the one who injured him, whose head carried Rs.300,000 rewards for killing Jaffna’s Mayor Alfred Duraiappa. As Baby sought help, Nedumaran visited the prison and was shocked to be introduced to a person hitherto was said to be in Jaffna. “Sorry” was the first word Pirabhakaran uttered to Nedumaran who took it easy with a smile. The court ordered Pirabhakaran to be in Madurai and this cemented the relationship between the two. The fugitive finally wanted to leave India on January 4, 1987. “Have you made all arrangements?” “Yes I am informing you only. Nobody else knows about my plans. If we remain here we will not be able to take independent decisions for our people’s welfare” he added. “There is a plan to have me killed in Madras or New Delhi. The danger will remain as long as I remain here. Our struggle will intensify if I return to Eelam”. Pirabhakaran left for Jaffna. As said Nedumaran was the one only Indian who knew about his exit.

Who is Nedumaran? He is a good orator, a lover of Tamil language and its culture, a simple living man who does not yearn for a Mercedes Benz, but a public commuter. Above all, he is a sympathizer of the LTTE leader and his struggle. That made him to give up national politics and become an admirer cum advisor to the Tigers. He helped the movement a lot at crucial times and took care of the Tiger boss too when he stayed in Madurai under court order. Well, no doubt Nedumaran commands the respect as the most trusted person of the LTTE boss. But what is his position today? Is he politically a mass leader or a spent force? Is he in a position to collect 50,000 people on a Monday morning to march towards the SL Deputy High Commissioner’s office in Chennai like the DMK did in March against the alleged shooting of TN fishermen by SL Navy? No he is not. Even last week only 300 volunteers gathered with him at Nagapattinan jetty even though over half a dozen least known associations expressed participation.

What prompted him to go on fast to death? September 27th is the 20th death anniversary of Dhileepan, 25, who went on fast to death. Younger readers may not know about Dhileepan who was the head of political wing of the LTTE in Jaffna. LTTE blamed India that many things that were promised in the Indo – Lanka Pact were not given to them. Talks in this regard with Indian High Commissioner J.N. Dixit were quite turbulent. Therefore to confront India in Gandhian way Dhileepan went on a hunger strike near a Hindu temple in Jaffna and died after few days. Actually Nedumaran was secretly in Jaffna with Pirabhakaran when Dhileepan died.

Now who blocked the food and medicine consignment? Whether it was Tamilnadu government, Delhi, Colombo or all three together I may consider it politically unwise. Delhi would just parrot what TN says. I wonder what instigated M.K. to go against it, may be not to give prominence to Nedumaran and his efforts? “We wanted to send them through Red Cross, which agreed to it. But the world organisation wrote to the Centre seeking permission. It was not given. Only then, we decided to take medicine and food directly to Sri Lanka through boats from Nagapattinam,” was his argument. Now Nedumaran broke his fast on Saturday with an assurance from the Chief Minister that he would take meaningful steps to fulfill his demand.

Lanka need not have any reservation to receive it through any official channel. We accepted Tsunami fund and goods from school children too while India and Thailand said no to foreign aid. Mind you if we are still shy, to save our face and honour, we should pay back to TN government what they spend on the Sri Lankan boat refugees. Minister Douglas Devananda who expressed his willingness to accept it through ICRC on BBC’s Tamil service, should inform Chennai and Delhi his readiness and save Tamilnadu CM’s embarrassment of approaching Delhi. Acceptance of this consignment will create some good will in both sides of the Palk-Strait. At times one will have to give in, to win.

An Indian senior journalist said last week in Colombo that, support to the LTTE in TN is zero. No it is not. That is the wish of his establishment. Brahmins do not like the prominence of low castes. When politicians like Vaiko, Thirumavalavan, and Dr.Ramdoss are openly supporting the Tigers, one can not opine against the reality. But it can be defined to a single digit. On the contrary people of TN are fully sympathetic to the plight of Northeast civilians.

Nedumaran is a politician of yesteryear, not a piper to arouse people to walk over water with him to Lanka or bring an Armada. Any such move will be stopped by law enforcing authorities immediately. Therefore here no one needs to use binoculars. The Opposition member now will understand neither Karunanithi nor Central government backs Nedumaran. Such acts of him will take place in future too, but don’t raise Tsunami signals. On the whole it looks Lanka or Tamilnadu, or both together made a mountain out of a molehill making him a hero.