Tigers struggle to rise from the ashes
By Munza Mushtaq
COLOMBO - As Colombo celebrated the one month anniversary of its military
routing the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), the former separatist
outfit showed the first signs of rising from the ashes as it announced the
setting up of a democratic movement to "peacefully" struggle for a separate
Tamil homeland in Sri Lanka.
In an e-mailed voice clip, the highest-ranking LTTE member believed to be
alive, fugitive Selvarajah Pathmanathan - more commonly known as KP - announced
the formation of a committee to create a "provisional transnational government
of Tamil Eelam". He said they would continue the struggle for Tamils in Sri
Lanka, who account for some 18% of the 20 million
population in the South Asian nation.
"The struggle of the people of Tamil Eelam for their right to self-rule has
reached a new stage. It is time now for us to move forward with our political
vision towards our freedom, bearing in mind the practical realities in our
homeland," Pathmanathan said in a five-minute long voice clip.
He also announced the formation of a working committee headed under the
organization's legal advisor, Visuvanathan Rudrakumaran, to pursue the fresh
move and appealed for the support of Tamils around the world to ensure the
reality of a Tamil nation in Sri Lanka.
However, the LTTE declaration was met with an outright sneer by the Sri Lankan
government, which viewed the move as a mere hallucination and unattainable in
Sri Lanka's Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama ruled out any discussion with
the remaining LTTE members and also impressed that the rebel outfit's fresh
attempts were yet another illegal move to violate the country's unitary status.
Colombo Media Minister Anura Priyadarshana Yapa was of the opinion that as far
as his government was concerned, the LTTE was not in existence anymore.
Citing reasons for his claim, Yapa said the organization had been defeated by
the country's military and its leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran, and other top
rung leaders had all being killed by government troops, bringing the quarter
century long ethnic war to a close officially on May 18, 2009.
Analysts termed the LTTE's fresh effort as a last-ditch attempt to safeguard
its massive financial outpour, which was likely to dwindle following the death
of the organization's key leaders.
The LTTE was financially boosted over the years by the Sri Lankan Tamil
diaspora to the tune of some US$200 million to $300 million annually, which has
helped the organization in its nearly three-decade fight with the government -
a network Colombo is trying hard to destroy.
But according to analysts, destroying this network appears to be "impossible",
mainly because the links are based in powerful Western nations and Sri Lanka
lacks the power to track the in-depth Tiger network.
Colombo, however, continues to focus on garnering international assistance to
apprehend the 54-year-old Pathmanathan, the main face behind the LTTE's
international operations, including weapons procurement. He is believed to be
in hiding in a Southeast Asian nation.
Sri Lankan officials have been pressing Interpol and countries in Southeast
Asia to help locate Pathmanathan, a move yet to bear fruit.
Foreign Minister Bogollagama told a news conference that Sri Lanka would
institute extradition orders to get him to Sri Lanka and had already prepared
“We have already informed other countries about Pathmanathan so that he could
be arrested by the Interpol or the national police forces of the countries
where he is believed to be absconding,” the foreign minister said.
However, despite the Sri Lankan government continuing its rhetoric on the
victory gained over the Tamil Tiger rebels last month, defense authorities
remain on high alert.
Stringent security measures continue to be enforced in the form of checkpoints
and other ad hoc security checks around the country, with special emphasis
given to Colombo.
The move came amidst reports that suicide cadres were still roaming around
Colombo and had been sent to carry out massive bombing attacks in the
commercial capital just prior to the death of Tiger leader Prabhakaran.
Local newspapers quoting intelligence officials claimed that at least 26 LTTE
cadres had entered Colombo in the weeks before the LTTE was defeated and are
still roaming free in the city.
Authorities have meanwhile taken immediate steps to deploy special military and
police units around the city in a bid to apprehend these suicide bombers.