Tuesday, May 19, 2009



( To be read in continuation of my earlier note on the LTTE at http://www.southasiaanalysis.org/papers33/paper3204.html )


(1). No reason to doubt the statement of the Sri Lankan Army about the death of Prabakaran, the leader of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam ( LTTE), and other leaders of the LTTE. Doubts about the circumstances relating to their death will remain. These doubts will have no impact on the ground situation. Pointless wasting time and space analyzing the doubts.

( 2 ). Almost the entire Northern component of the LTTE, including the leadership and a large number of cadres, wiped out. The Northern component specialized in terrorism and in air and naval action. Its capability for conventional military operations on land was low.

(3).The Eastern component of the LTTE, which had the largest number of well-trained conventional fighters, led by Karuna split from the LTTE leadership in March 2004. They accused Prabakaran of looking down upon the Eastern Tamils and discriminating against them. About 5,000 well-trained and competent conventional fighters from the Eastern Province under Karuna deserted from the LTTE and helped the SLA in re-capturing the territory controlled by the LTTE in the Eastern Province.

(4). Differences developed in the Eastern component itself between a group of conventional fighters led by Karuna and another led by Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan alias Pillaiyan. Without taking sides, the Government kept both the groups on its side. It made Pillaiyan the Chief Minister of the Eastern Province and Karuna a member of the Central Cabinet in Colombo. Pillaiyan and Karuna don’t get along well with each other.

(5). There is a fourth group led by Douglas Devananda, which has also been collaborating with the Government. It is alleged that Devananda himself was trained in the past by the Popular Front For the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) of George Habash in the Lebanon. Devananda is also a member of the central Cabinet . He is reportedly hoping that President Mahinda Rajapaksa will make him the Chief Minister of the Northern Province.

(6).It is estimated that there are about 5,500 well-trained Tamil fighters in the Eastern Province--- 5,000 of them from the two groups supporting Karuna and Pillaiyan and about 500, who did not desert with Karuna and remained loyal to Prabakaran. When Prabakaran lost control of the Eastern Province, he asked these 500 Easterners loyal to him to stay behind in the Eastern Province to keep harassing the SLA and the followers of Karuna and Pillaiyan. One does not know how many followers Devananda has and from which province.

( 7). It is likely that some of the Northern cadres of the LTTE have evaded capture by the security forces and have merged with the population. Difficult to quantify them.

( 8). The Tamil diaspora in the West and Australia is predominantly from the Northern Province ---- affluent, intelligent, well-educated, articulate and good in networking. It was fiercely loyal to Prabakaran and hated Karuna, Pillaiyan and Devananda. The SL Tamil refugees in Tamil Nadu are predominantly from the Easteren Province---- poor, form the economically deprived classes, not well-educated, not accepted by the northerners and the diaspora in the West as their social and intellectual equals. More sympathetic to Karuna and Pillaiyan. There are hardly any supporters for Devananda either in the West or in India.

( 9). Post-Prabakaran, President Rajapaksa will implement at least some of his promises to the Tamils. He will try to have elections in the Northern Province and appoint a Tamil as the Chief Minister. He will not merge the Northern and Eastern Provinces and will not change the present unitary status of the country into a genuine federal state. He will keep certain important powers relating to Defence, internal security, the police, communications and taxation in the hands of the central government and devolve other powers to the constituent States. He will seek to make Sri Lanka a union of equally empowered States, but not a federation. The constituent States will be equally empowered among themselves, but not vis-à-vis the centre, which will occupy the commanding heights. These measures should be acceptable to the Tamils even though they will fall short of their expectations.

( 10). In addition, he will be under pressure from the Army to take two more steps. Firstly, re-settle the internally displaced Tamils in the Sinhalese majority areas and not to allow them to re-settle in the Tamil areas. Secondly, re-settle the Sinhalese soldiers, who will be retrenched from the army now that the fight against the LTTE is over, in the Northern and Eastern provinces by giving them land or by recruiting them to the police. The Army calculates that these measures are necessary to prevent a recrudescence of insurgency and terrorism. He will be similarly under pressure from Pakistan, which had helped the Armed Forces in their operations against the LTTE, to divide the Eastern Province in order to create a separate Muslim majority province.

( 11). The Govt. and the Army had given considerable importance to Karuna, Pillaiyan and Devananda and the Eastern deserters. They played an important role in helping the Army against the LTTE. Now that the war is over, there will be a temptation in the Government and the Armed Forces to downgrade their importance. In the event of Rajapaksa taking the steps discussed in sub-paras 10 and 11, the divide between the Sinhalese and Tamils will get aggravated. This could give rise to a fresh spell of insurgency. The insurgency-cum-terrorism under Prabakaran started in the North and spread to the East. If there is a fresh insurgency, it will most probably start in the East.

( 12 ).How successful will be such insurgency? Will it have the support of the diaspora in the West and Australia? Without such support, it cannot gain momentum. For the moment, the diaspora is not inclined to support a fresh insurgency. It feels disappointed by the attitude of India. Many leaders of the diaspora are voicing the view that the Tamil cause can succeed only with the support of the West. The West will not support any resort to a fresh insurgency, but will be prepared to keep pressure on the SL Government to meet the political aspirations of the Tamils. It will use SL’s difficult economic situation as a pressure point. It will also use threats of an international enquiry into the deaths of a large number of civilians during the counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism operations. India has mishandled the Sri Lanka situation so badly that it finds itself without any pressure point or stick. (20-5-09)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: seventyone2@gmail.com )


( From my book titled "Terrorism: Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow" published in June last by the Lancer Publishers of New Delhi(www.lancerpublishers.com )


The termination of the 2002 cease-fire agreement with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) by the Government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa and of the role of the foreign cease-fire monitors and facilitators underlines the determination of the Government of Sri Lanka not to let anything stand in the way of its military operations against the LTTE reaching their logical conclusion.

In its objective, such a logical conclusion would be the disruption, if not the destruction, beyond recovery of the command and control of the LTTE and the re-enforcement of the writ of the Government over the areas in the Northern Province, which are still under the control of the LTTE. Nobody can quarrel with this objective.

This objective is sought to be achieved through a two-pronged action---- intensified air strikes against the LTTE's command and control in the Wanni region and graduated ground operations, which are initially focussed more on a decimation of the LTTE's rank and file than on recovery of territory. If and when the rank and file is weakened substantially, the focus would turn to the recovery of territory presently under the LTTE's control.

The more the command and control is disrupted by the Sri Lankan Air Force (SLAF), the easier will be the ground operations. The longer the command and control remains intact, the slower will be the progress of the ground operations.

Unlike Al Qaeda, which is a decentralised organisation with its operatives capable of autonomous operations for a long time even in the absence of a centralised command and control, the LTTE is a very rigid and centralised organisation. Its operatives do not seem to have the same capability as the operatives of Al Qaeda for autonmous action. The disruption of the command and control could have a debilitating effect on the organisation.

The LTTE has a very narrow pyramid at the top. Its command and control is concentrated in the hands of essentially three persons---Prabakaran, its leader, Pottu Amman, the chief of its Intelligence wing, and Soosai, the chief of the Sea Tigers. If the air strikes can eliminate these three persons, that could mark the beginning of the end of the LTTE as it is constituted today and the ground operations could achieve their objective without large-scale civilian casualties.

The law of diminishing options and assets has set in for the LTTE. The law is already operating inexorably. It has very little option for offensive ground action of the guerilla type not amounting to terrorism. It has been reduced to fighting one defensive action after another against a harassing army in order to retain control of the territory and retard the advance of the Army towards Wanni. A guerilla force without offensive options slowly bleeds to death. It still has the option of the card of terrorism in areas outside the Tamil belt. It has already been using this card, killing innocent civilians without minding about the impact of its acts of terrorism on the international community. It has already lost considerable international support and understanding for the Sri Lankan Tamil cause. The more it resorts to terrorism against soft targets, the more will be the loss of international support and the ultimate casualty will be that of the Tamil cause.

It has still two options left for it to use---- a successful ground strike to destroy the fighter planes of the SLAF and a successful attack on an economic target of considerable strategic significance for the Government. To use these options, it needs assets----human and material. Its human assets are still well-motivated and capable of turning the tide in its favour. But, its material assets are diminishing due to the disruption of its supply channels from abroad and its inability to mount successful offensive operations against the Army, which could replenish its stocks of arms, ammunition and explosives. Human assets alone, however top grade, cannot produce miracles without adequate material assets.

Internationally, the LTTE finds itself more and more isolated. What goodwill it had in the international community till 1991! A series of political blunders by Prabakaran like the brutal assassinations of Rajiv Gandhi, Premadasa and Laxman Kadirgamar, the unsuccessful attempt to kill Mrs. Chandrika Kumaratunge, when she was the President, and its frequent resort to terrorism against Sri Lankan Tamil leaders disliked by Prabakaran and other innocent civilians have severely damaged this goodwill. Prabakaran has shown again and again a tendency to lift huge boulders and drop them on his own feet. He started his career as the well-heard voice of the Sri Lankan Tamil cause. He has squandered away this goodwill.

There is no need to feel concerned over the self-created predicament of the LTTE and its ultimate fate. But one has to feel concerned over the fate of the Sri Lankan Tamil cause. Rajapaksa and his advisers have been saying soothing words about the importance of India for Sri Lanka, their receptivity to India's security concerns, their readiness to right the wrongs done to the Sri Lankan Tamils in the past etc.

But, let there be no doubt about it. If they succeed militarily, the dictated peace, which they will seek to impose on the Tamils, will be the peace of medieval conquerors over the conquered. They will seek to take Sri Lanka back to 1982 and the years before.

India has done well to assist the Sri Lankan Navy in its operations against the LTTE's Navy. It will also be justified in assisting the SLAF in destroying the so-called air force of the LTTE. The LTTE's naval and air capabilities pose a threat to the security of not only Sri Lanka, but also of the region as a whole. But this assistance should have been as a quid pro quo to simultaneous steps by the Rajapaksa Government to address the aspirations and grievances of the Sri Lankan Tamils, with firm commitments on the kind of peace, which would be acceptable to India and the world. India's action in not insisting on a visible and palpable quid pro quo in favour of the Tamil cause can prove to be a strategic blunder.
( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: seventyone2@gmail.com )