1 July, 2022


Comments On Heroes Day And Prabhakaran’s Birth Day

By R Hariharan –

Col. (retd) R.Hariharan

[Summary of answers to questions from media analysts on the occasion of V Prabhakaran’s birth day on November 26 and the LTTE’s Heroes Day on November 27 are given in this article.]

November 27 used to be celebrated as the Heroes Day by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). On this occasion what is your take on those who lost their lives in the struggle for Tamil Eelam?

It was instituted in commemoration of the death of the LTTE’s first battle casualty – LTTE Sathiyanathan alias Shankar, who was killed on November 27, 1982. That was only the beginning; over the next 20 years thousands of Tamil youth sacrificed their lives to fulfil the dream of their founder-leader Prabhakaran. The LTTE used to observe the Day as a remembrance day with solemn ceremonies. But three years after the elimination of the LTTE, the families of the thousands who died can mourn them only in their hearts, without public fanfare and ceremony. I share their agony. Death of thousands of Tamil youth changed their lives and also killed their own shared dreams.

But it is also an occasion to ponder whether the Tamil struggle brought to the world stage by the LTTE could have had a different ending? Thousands of Tamil, Muslim and Sinhala families also mourn those who lost their lives at the hands of the LTTE. Here I am not referring to the soldiers who died in war, but to others whose only fault was either they were in the wrong place at the wrong time when the LTTE suicide bomber struck or Thalaivar Prabhakaran did not like them or differed with their views.

On this occasion Sri Lankans everywhere should not only to mourn the dead but also introspect on the living. All communities should take a pledge to do away with violence as a means to settle political scores or struggle for their rights. And the state and polity should facilitate this. For this to become a reality, the government and leaders of all communities have a huge responsibility to make credible efforts. But unfortunately the efforts made so far by all stakeholders are too few and too little. President Rajapaksa who pledged to fulfil his concept of one nation, one people has not shown it in his deeds so far. Confrontation politics appears to be the flavour of the year.

On the other hand sections of the Tamil Diaspora and Tamil Nadu politicians who glibly talk of waging a battle for Tamil Eelam seem to show little concern for the reality of the situation in Tamil areas in Sri Lanka. The callousness with which they talk of war shows their warped priorities. Their number one concern should be to help Tamils, who survived the war and are locked in survival struggle, to resume their lives as early as possible.

On the occasion of Prabhakaran’s birthday on November 26, as one with years of experience in counter insurgency warfare what are your comments on the ultimate failure Prabhakaran and LTTE to achieve his aim, despite waging war for nearly two and a half decades?

The moral of the LTTE’s 30-year quest for Tamil Eelam is violent means are not enough to win wars. It requires political strategy as much as military strategy. Absence of coherent political strategy was Prabhakaran’s biggest weakness.
The second aspect is the need for the leader to keep in touch with the dynamics of the environment in which he operates and adapt his tactics. Field Marshal Tito is a historical example of success in achieving this. Prabhakaran isolated himself and depended upon a small coterie of advisors both at home and abroad. So he failed to gauge changing global mood to terrorism ever since the U.S. launched global war on insurgency after 9/11 Al Qaeda attacks. As a result LTTE was banned in 33 countries and its international support network did not effectively operate during the war.

Secondly, opportunities for achieving the aim by peaceful means come fleetingly in the midst of insurgency wars; these must be spotted and exploited to achieve the overall aim. The peace process 2002 was one such opportunity when the LTTE was physically controlling virtually most of what it called Tamil Eelam. Prabhakaran could have turned this opportunity to achieve a peaceful end to his struggle. But Prabhakaran lacked a world view and failed to recognise the world had changed. Though he agreed to find a federal solution at the behest of his friend and advisor Anton Balasingam, Prabhakaran’s heart was not it. He literally stuck to his guns and frittered away the opportunity.

Lastly, on operational aspects I have few points. One, use of terrorism is counterproductive in the long run. Even suicide bombing can only be a tactic and not a strategy. Used regularly terrorist strikes not only lose the element of surprise so essential for the success, but also squander highly motivated cadres and operators with special skills, who are irreplaceable. Two, insurgency warfare cannot be carried on indefinitely. If prolonged the law of diminishing return applies to it. Thirdly, counter insurgency forces learn from their failures and insurgents need to constantly revalidate their methods which may not be possible so it is better to come to terms with changed environment. Fourthly, insurgency movements have to remember the state has enormous resources and facilities at their disposal. With right leadership and clear goals ultimately they can win. So insurgency forces should not be lulled into complacency on past achievements.

What is the future of Sri Lanka after winning the war?

Sri Lanka achieved military victory in 30 years of warfare. But victory over insurgency will be complete when the state achieves political victory; Sri Lanka does not seem to be serious in achieving it.

*Col R Hariharan, a retired Military Intelligence specialist on South Asia, is associated with the Chennai Centre for China Studies and the South Asia Analysis Group. E-Mail: colhari@yahoo.com Blog: www.colhariharan.org   

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Latest comments

  • 0

    It is a pity that the Colonal missed to mention thousands of innocent children,mums,,dads , grand parents and even Buddhist and Muslim devotees who were gunned down or hacked to death in their places of worship or in their poor villages.

    These poor souls were not in wrong places at wrong times.They were deliberately targeted and killed.

    Otherwise there is no problem with his take on the present situation.

    • 0

      K.A Sumanasekera

      Did you mean the Sinhala/Buddhist armed forces’ activities during the last 30 years? You forgot to mention bodies floating in Kelani river and burnt out tyres in rural areas and road sides.

  • 0

    Sri Lanka is an island. LTTE received supply from the rest of the world via sea-lane. India lies few miles from those. Why after Rajiv Gandhi’s murder, India didn’t cut off these supply lines? Why it happened only after 2006? My point is that New Delhi supported specifically Rajapaksa’s policy and strategy. India pretends to stay in the background, accusing China in the first place. The fact is that the Sri Lankan offensive was almost planned by India.It is clearly a bit difficult to digest it for the public opinion in the country, especially in Tamil Nadu. So it is convenient to blame China, the terrorist side of LTTE (which was undeniably present, by the way), lack of political strategy in Prabhakaran (equally undeniable). I’m waiting the enter of India in the debate.

  • 0

    Dear Colonel
    Pirabaharan strongly believed in few things
    1) No Sinhala governments will give a reasonable political solution to the ethnic issue
    2) International community wont do anything but their own geopolitical interests.
    3) Strength of the tamils only will decide the destiny of tamils

    I am now very much convinced than ever before that he was right.

  • 0

    dear col.hari,
    i am a regular reader of your articles.while i accept what ever you have written i would like to add few things to this debate.unfortunately two or more factors were not there in north and east srilanka or else eelam would have been a reality by now.first factor was oil if it had been there definitely america which is energy hungry would have intervened example south sudan which was carved our of sudan.secondly if it had been predominently christian it would have received the support of american far right eg east timor and south sudan also only difference in this is it would have been christian vs buddhism unlike the two cases where christians were pitted against muslims.here i would like to point out one thing regarding indian foreign policy.indian foreign policy makers are hindu thodai nadungis exhibiting their pussilanimity and obsessed with the theory that tamil eelam will encourage tamils of tamilnadu to ask for secession.india which is desiring to become a world super power has to exhibit extraordinary courage .india reminds me of rajinikants dialogue in chandramukhi film orthanuku nikkave vazhi illayam ana ombothu pondati kekutham like that india is unable to assert itself in its own neighbourhood eg srilanka,maldives how does it expect to intervene in other parts of the world where it neither have physical presence nor cultural ties.srilankan policy is a failure of indian foreign policy.it should have viewed tamilians beyond prabakaran or ltte.as far as prabakaran is concerned he should have seized the opportunity given by cbk unfortunately he did not.secondly greatest blunder was allowing rajapakshe to win in 2005 if ranil wickramasinghe had won atleast some more fighting would have taken place without any gains.i hope that tamils worldwide atleast now wake up to the reality and support tamils in srilanka in rebuilding their lives and get the political rights which they are entitled to.

  • 0

    Is it a real moustache or can it be just plucked out?If it is too good to be true then it can’t be true.

    Col Hariharan is writhing in agony because he can’t mourn the LTTE dead with fanfare and ceremony.He must be also writhing in agony for those the LTTE killed too. How about writhing in agony a bit for the untouchables who are treated so badly by their hindu brethren in india.

    Coming back to that moustache,I’am intrigued by it more than the writers writings.Is it true or false,that is the question.Wish I could meet him and just tweak it a bit to see.If I ever saw a military moustache,this is it.Shame on our war hero and ex army commander,his ‘ithiyappa’ moustache is nowhere near this one.At least Prabha and Mahinda have jungle men moustaches,but Harry’s beats them all.

  • 0

    The beauty and enntanhmect of this beautiful island cannot be put into words. It has to been seen and felt to experience the true magic. The island is truly blessed with golden sunrises and magical sunsets, vast and beautiful beaches, majestic and awe inspiring mountains, intriguing historical facts and legends, colourful and traditional cultural festivals, amazing nature trails, exciting wildlife adventures and warm hearted friendly people. I’m sure that many who visited this isle will bear testimony to these facts. Anyone who wishes to visit SL in the near future will, I’m sure, find this a very positive and promising article. So as a native of this island I invite everyone to come experience the magic!

  • 0

    Prabhakaran is a great leader but some traitors are karuna and pillaiyan joind to the srilankan side and told the all military secrets of ltte. This was the reason prabakaran fails to achieve his goal…

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