A flashback of Kilinochchi (1988-2008)

By S.M.M.Bazeer

“…Today we are trapped people We are made to walk this suicidal trip Our great brave defenders and freedom fighters Lure the enemy Right to our doorstep To the inside of the hospital Start a fight Ignite a landmine Fire form each and every refugee camp Escape to safety And then come the shells whizzing, whizzing Bloody hell Tigers have withdrawn, while We the sacrificial lambs Drop dead in lots”….” -Jaffna (a poem from Tamil Times –November 18th 1987)

(April 24, London, Sri Lanka Guardian) Soon after Mahinda Rajapaksa won the Presidential election, the LTTE spokesperson K.V.Balakumar sarcastically remarked on the Political Stage programme on the LTTE Radio “Voice of Tigers”;-. “It is true that Banda (Bandaranayake) was the cause of the emergence of Pirabakaran and conversely Mahinda’s victory will be setting stage for the victory of Pirabakraan; what began by that Banda will be concluded by this Mahinda “Banda” (November 2006) .

K. Balakumaran’s prediction has literally materialized with Mahinda’s victorious capture of Killinochchi. In the end, Mahinda Rajapaksa appears to have concluded the episode that “began” with SWRD Bandaranayake. Mahinda’s presidential campaign and catalytic in setting the foundations for defeating the LTTE and a victory over the LTTE is not only a victory for the soldiers but also a victory for those who have been ruthlessly assassinated, massacred and ethnically cleansed throughout the three decades of civil war. I wish to look back to the history of Killinochchi that has been the focal point of the so-called “Eelam” war for the last three decades.
In or about June 1988 the IPKF (Indian Peace Keeping Forces) engaged in an offensive against the LTTE in Vavuniya and Mullaitheevu. At the time the media reported that Prabakaran and Mahathaya (aka Mahndrarajha) were surrounded by the IPKF and their capture was imminent. However Pirabakaran may have given a slip to the IPKF or vice versa. This report sparked off demonstrations in Tamilnadu and Vaiko warned of bloodbath in the event of Pirabakaran being caught by the IPKF. Vaiko has once again renewed his caution in the current context to the media. History may have repeated itself but this time the decision lies in the hands of the Sri Lankan armed forces and it’s purely a matter of internal affairs. Over the years the Sri Lankan Forces have learned to tame the Tigers unlike the world’s fifth army.

In or about October 1988, when the Killinochchi Sri Lankan Army base was overrun by the LTTE, Ranil Wickramsaingha remarked that the fall of Kilinochchi was “ a turning point in the war, the loss of a strategic town virtually ended the Sri Lankan military’s operation Jayasikuru (Assured Victory) .” The capture of Killinochchi SLA base indoctrinated the LTTE and their Jaffna Commander; Thooyavan remarked “The time for the emancipation of the Tamil People is drawing near. The Paranthan –Killinochchi attack is the biggest in the development of our liberation struggle. It would have made the Sri Lankan security forces realize that their graves would be dug in our soil until they leave Thamil Eelam”

In 1998 , Military analyst Iqbal Athas wrote “ The heightened LTTE activity calls the propaganda bluff of deputy defense minister Ratwatta that 96% of war is over. It is a given reminder that the war is not something to toy about with another political gimmick to gain cheap one-upmanship over political adversaries.”

The Tamils in the North and the East and overseas were convinced that the LTTE was an invincible force that could not be defeated by the Indian Forces, the world’s fifth army nor by the Sri Lankan forces.

Pro- LTTE Tamil Guardian’s editor Vasantha-Rajha (Former Chairman of Rupavahini Corporation) wrote “the bomb blast near Sri Lanka’s Temple of the Tooth was not religiously motivated as many analysts seemed to think. Rather, it fitted into the LTTE’s strategic plan to launch decisive strikes against troops at the epic centre of the government’s military strategy while pinning down Sinhalese elsewhere.” He also justified the attack of Dalad Maligawa by the LTTE as it was to counter “the governments well planned propaganda bonanza aimed at whitewashing the Tamil people’s suffering and their legitimate and democratic right to self-determination.” He went on writing; “General Ratwatte obviously had no idea of the LTTE’s own independence plans in Killinochchi that before February 4th they would successfully overrun Paranthan and Killinochchi camps, hoist their own flag at Killinochchi (at a function headed by an LTTE leader) and make Jaya Sikurai troops in Vanni and others occupying Jaffna even more vulnerable than they had been before” (Tamil Guardian 14th February 1988)
It seems that in the current climate the tables have turned as the LTTE no longer brag their military might as they did in 1980’s
“……It is alleged that London –based LTTE members extort money from Sri Lankan residents in London to utilize for the war. Is this true?

When this question was posed to Anton Raja , the former LTTE London spokesman in February 1998 by the Sunday Leader journalist, Wilson Gnanadas. He replied:

“We do not extort money from the residents of UK or any other place. If you ask me as to how we find our funds to purchase arms to fight the Sri Lankan army, then I would say that we have an arms supplier from our side and that is the government of Sri Lanka. We have a steady arms supplier in our hands I must say. Whenever we raid military bases, the soldiers are such cowards that they just leave behind their cache of arms and run away. And those weapons would obviously be ours thereafter. When we raided Mullaitivu camp we obtained millions worth of arms. …..The Sinhalese forces do not think of even protecting their arms but simply run away making our job very easy.”

In the middle of last year S. Gajendran MP (TNA) was on a pro- LTTE propaganda tour in Europe and he attended the Pongu Tamil event in Switzerland where he addressed the gathering of LTTE Diaspora with an assurance that his leader would soon set up Tamil Eeelam;

“Certainly you will hear a victorious message from Wanni. The time that our leader has given to him, [Sinhalese army], has come nearer. We are not prepared to beg for the solution from the Sinhalese. The closer he (Sri Lankan Army) approaches us, the closer he reaches his last moment. Until our leader is alive our struggle will be destroyed. The independent government of Tamil Eelam will be established and our Tamil Eelam flag will flutter at the UN. Believe in Pirabakaran; until he is alive nobody can do anything to our struggle.” It is also on record in parliament that he bragged that thousands of coffins’ should be despatched to the North to bury the Sri Lankan army, the remark agitated the Sinhalese in the South.

The same Gajendran M.P apparently lost his nerve when Killinochchi fell to the army early this year, just after six months of his false bravado, but he unashamedly challenged in a quintessentially Tamil fashion that “though fallen, no dust stuck to the moustache”. He later commented on the pro- LTTE London based radio; “It is sad news that the Sri Lankan Army occupied Killinochchi. There is a reason to worry about the loss of Kilinochchi but it is not a defeat of the Tamil struggle.”

Once again Iqbal Atahs felt the pulse of Pirabakaran when Killinochci fell to the army in January 2009; “The confidence of defending Kilinochchi was so high in his mind, that LTTE leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran, was prompted to remark that the re-capture of Kilinochchi was a daydream of President Rajapaksa. In his address on Friday, the President declared, in truth it was not his dream alone but the constant dream of all Sri Lankans.”.( Prabha's day-dream turns into Tiger nightmare” -04th January 2008 The Sunday Times) The fall of Killinochchi was pivotal in putting an end to the hope of Tamil Eelam and has encapsulated the pro LTTE Tamil Diaspora into a complete defeatist mindset.

It is unfortunate that unlike the SLMC’s former leader Ashroff, the current leader Hakeem seems to thrive in fear psychosis created by the minority mindset to sustain his political survival in the East by towing a line similar to that of Tamil nationalists. He reacted impetuously to the unpleasant remark of the Sri Lankan Army Commander; Sarath Fonseka; that he “would not let even the Fonseka’s father make such comments about Muslims. His sarcastic comments against the soldiers and the government for his own political mileage were puerile and impudent.
“Even the sacrifices by the valiant soldiers will finally be squandered because of this greedy and self-seeking regime and its Army Commander. No prudent general could ever talk of time frames - as it will certainly affect strategy and planning and even help notify the enemy and put them on alert. In this case, this is exactly what had happened.”

He went on to make disparaging comments about Sarath Fonseka who has been significant in setting a historical subjugation of one of the world’s ruthless terrorist organisations. “ In order to hide their embarrassment and to maintain the hope of imminent victory, they have to talk of capturing meters, give figures of abandoned bunkers and keep bloating the number of battlefield deaths of the enemy( The Sunday leader 04th Jan 09).

Unlike the previous wars, this war was waged by two survivors of the LTTE suicide bombings and they appear to have taken a pledge to crush the LTTE once for all. The editorial of the Island (Sunday April 30, 1995 – “What are the Military and Political Objectives?’); precisely points out the debacle of a war where there was a wider gap; “We are once again in the midst of a crisis and it is essential that the government has a clear perception of its political and military objectives as well as plan of action. Peace is a wonderful pursuit and war an evil brought on by force of circumstances, but there can be no half-hearted pursuit to achieve the objectives of war even though the ultimate goal is to negotiate a peaceful settlement. Thus, in this new phase of conflict, both the administration and the military must be in step on their objectives as well in plans of action. We make this point because it is no secret that President Kumaratunga and the military did not see eye-to eye - to say the least - on the conduct of the war. The nation is once again, in the interest of all Sri Lankans committed to the democratic way of life that if differences still exist, even after the LTTE betrayal, they be reconciled now.” In contrast to political schism some 14 years ago, the “trio” are at a united front in ending the three decade long war of parochial nationalism. In this backdrop, the President of Sri Lanka has been able to visit Killinochchi after three decades.

It is now, that the people of Sri Lanka would like to see whether the President, has held onto his pre presidential root and deliver what he preached as a human right activist in creating national patriotism among all the citizens of Sri Lanka.
-Sri Lanka Guardian