21 July, 2024


Velupillai Pirapāharan: Veera Maranam

By Michael Roberts

Dr Michael Roberts

That the LTTE talaivar, Velupillai Pirapāharan, died a heroic death as a vīra maranam on the 18th or 19th May 2009 is now certain.[1] Though Tamil sources claim that he shot himself with his pistol when he and his troops were trapped in the mangrove swamps on the eastern shoreline of Nandhikadal lagoon, the weight of evidence suggests that he was hit by a bullet “traveling diagonally across VP’s skull, probably from left forehead to right rear of skull – [a bullet that was part of] either a rifle round, or a rifle-calibre round” (David Blacker, email to Roberts, 14 February 2012).

Whatever the verdict between these two alternative theories, there is little doubt that Pirapāharan adhered to the Tiger devotion to cause and the LTTE’s credo of being ready to die by gun or kuppi (cyanide pill). This fact should dispel the various strands of criticism levelled at Pirapāharan for not biting a cyanide capsule.[2] A young Tamil friend voiced this complaint in conversation with me in mid-November 2012; and a senior government official named Ganesh (no less than the G. A. Jaffna) is said to have expressed “disappointment that Prabhakaran didn’t die fighting for his people” (Mahindapala 2009). In the expressions of diehard Sinhala extremists such as HLD Mahindapala, such an alleged fact becomes fodder for derisive commentary on the manner in which the Tiger supremo failed to live up to the principles imposed on his fighting personnel.

In an exchange in the vibrant web-journal TRANSCURRENTS, the knowledgeable editor, DBS Jeyaraj, responded on 26 November 2011 to a blogger’s comment with the note: “Prabhakaran fought to the end and then shot himself on 18th. Army recovered body hours later on 19th.” A similar verdict was recently conveyed to me by one of the civilians among the last cluster trapped at Vellamullavaikal in mid-May. He informed told me that Pirapāharan placed his Glock pistol in his mouth and shot himself. Pirapāharan’s body guards thereupon hid his body and mostly proceeded to sacrifice their lives by their own hands in keeping with the ideals of the LTTE (Roberts 1996, 2005a, 2005b and 2006). But one or two bodyguards went back to the Last Redoubt at Mullivaikkal area and mingled with the civilians; when one was identified, he eventually led the SL Army troops to the area where the body was hidden.

Velupillai Pirapāharan

However, the facial photograph of the dead Pirapāharan does not support a right-handed action of this sort. In any event the opinion of a former soldier such as Blacker destroys this thesis. Responding to my direct query on this point on 14th February 2012, David Blacker went into riveting detail:

“Michael, DBSJ has steadfastly stuck to this story for a while now, but I disagree with him on VP’s death. I am attaching a picture of the latter post-mortem (which you have most likely seen before) for reference. That is most certainly not a self-inflicted bullet wound. A self-inflicted shot would have entered below the chin, through the mouth, or to the temple, if delivered to the head. And in pictures of VP in his underwear, there is no sign of a shot to the chest, which would be the most likely spot for a self-inflicted body shot.

Some might argue that the visible wound was inflicted post-mortem to cover a fatal self-inflicted exit wound. But if VP had shot himself under the chin or through the mouth, the hydrostatic damage to his eyes would have been visible. They would have been blown out of their sockets or at the very least very bloodshot. There is no such sign.

Another argument is that the wound is from shrapnel, but there is no sign of his head or face having been hit by fragments other than the one that delivered the wound. While this is not impossible, it is unlikely, and anyway not in line with DBSJ’s theory of suicide.

Yet another story is that the wound is from an axe or mammoty, inflicted by a senior Army officer. This too is unlikely, given that there’s no bruising around the wound.

I have seen many gunshot wounds close up, and I believe this to be inflicted by a high-velocity bullet traveling diagonally across VP’s skull, probably from left forehead to right rear of skull. That would be either a rifle round, or a rifle-calibre round. The angle rules out self-infliction.

I have posted my view on DBSJ’s blog but he has not allowed the comment through. He has previously asked me for my opinion via email, and I have given it; but he has not changed his view. He has also refused to give detailed answers to queries on how VP died; nor has he written an “expose” on it; leading me to believe that he doesn’t know for sure, but has been told his version by a trusted source.”

To those unfamiliar with warfare, let me stress that Pirapāharan would not have been shot as Pirapāharan. In contrast with snipers shooting at long range, in gunfights in jungle terrain good soldiers shoot at enemy bodies across the way in instinctive bursts without identifying officers or individuals. Pausing to identify is deadly for self and is bad soldiery. The information trickling in from friends of military men is that the army platoons simply ‘inundated’ the mangrove areas where the last Tiger units had taken refuge with concentrated volleys of automatic fire and the odd RPG round.

With access to the highest authorities HLD Mahindapala gained entry to the arena of the talaivar’s last stand as well as the troops involved in this final set of gun-battles. His essay on the topic is mandatory reading for those interested in the debate because it provides details on the context (though one has to siphon off his disparagement and his gloating).

Fierce fighting broke out on the evening of May 17th. According to Army sources, Prabhakaran, surrounded by his bodyguards, was moving across the waters, shifting among the mangroves. The fighting went on till 3.30 a.m. on May 18th. Sgt. Banda, who was in one of the islets, encountered fierce attacks. He called for reinforcements. They suspected that Prabhakaran must be among the Tiger cadres moving across. With the arrival of new reinforcements fighting went on till 5.30 am.

Col. G. V. Ravipriya told me that nearly 100 terrorists had surrounded them [Sgt Banda’s unit].” He added: “I sent another team to assist them. The Tigers then escaped to a mangrove in the left of the island.”

Col. Ravipriya then planned to clear the mangrove at dawn. Before that he brought down artillery, armoured tanks, infantry mortars and RPGs. From this base he kept firing till 11 a.m. of May 18th. Col Ravipriya then sent commandos to clear the mangroves. Over 100 bodies were found there. Clearing was over by 6.30 p.m. It was getting dark. Clearing began next morning at 7.30 a.m. Suddenly, they were confronted by a group of Tigers. The Forces asked for help and more troops were sent by Col. Ravipriya.

Clearing began again on the 19th. Firing had stopped. The Forces started collecting bodies again around 9.30 a.m. Sgt. Muthu Banda then cried that he found a body similar to that of Prabhakaran. He was asked to bring the body out of the mangrove bushes. Brig. Commander Col Gamage was the first to identify the body. He found the identity tag: 001.

Nobody knows who fired the fatal bullet. It seems to be a gun shot fired within a range of about 10 metres [emphasis added by Roberts].

This evaluation must be supplemented by a study of photographs of the mangrove swamp terrain. It is with attention to such details and this context that one must review Blacker’s considered verdict and ask medical personnel familiar with war wounds whether the image of Pirapaharan’s visage-in-death supports Blacker’s argument and is consistent with a relatively close range shot of a rifle bullet (itself, presumably, part of a burst).

Answering my query, Dr Susiri Weeraskera cautiously noted that the killer-bullet is very “unlikely to be [from]a pistol. … Far more likely blasted off from a distance.” The image displayed by the GSL Army, he stresses, is “after a stitching-up which hides the damage within.”[3]

Be that as it may, from the Tamil perspective Pirapaharan is surely a māvīrar who died vīra maranam.

As recognised in critical reflections by one Nillanthan in his poem KAARTHIKAI MUNIRAVU

The rain sparrow’s

cool, weightless song

wanders tiredly

In the forest

Where heroes are buried

The November moon

lights up the

funeral urn

Neither prayers

Nor words of respect

Neither a leader

Nor his great speech

Neither is there

the fragrance of

glowing flame

as it melts and dissolves

in the wet wind

The hero-stone wrenched –

A great dream wanders


In the forest

where iron merchants wander

blooms a karthigai flower


Albert Axell and Hideaki Kase 2002 Kamikaze. Japan’s Suicide Gods, London: Pearson Education.

Iyer, Ganeshan 2012 “Military Training in the German Nazi Mould amidst Internal Dissension in the Early LTTE, late 1970s,” trans. by Parames Blacker, 30 January 2012, http://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2012/01/30/military-training-in-the-german-nazi-mould-amidst-internal-dissension-in-the-early-ltte-late-1970s/

Jeyaraj, D. B. S. 2006 “No Public Speech Ceremony for LTTE Chief This Year?” 26 November 2006, http://dbsjeyaraj.com/dbs/archives/650.

Jeyaraj, D. B. S. 2012 “Sea Tiger commander Soosai’s wife Satyadevi speaks out,” 30 January 2012, http://dbsjeyaraj.com/dbsj/archives/3891

Mahindapala, H. L. D. 2009 “How Prabhakaran went down in Nanthi Kadal – the last battleground,” 10 July 2009, http://lrrp.wordpress.com/2009/07/10/how-prabhakaran-went-down-in-nanthi-kadal-%E2%80%93-the-last-battleground-by-h-l-d-mahindapala/

Narayan Swamy, M. R.2003 Inside an Elusive Mind. Prabhakaran, Colombo: Vijitha Yapa Publications.

Natali, Christiana 2008“Building Cemeteries, Constructing Identities: Funerary Practices and Nationalist Discourse among the Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanka,” Contemporary South Asia 16: 287- 301.

Ohnuki-Tierney, Emiko 2002 Kamikaze, Cherry Blossoms, and Nationalisms: the Militarization of Aesthetics in Japanese History, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Roberts, Michael 1996 “Filial Devotion and the Tiger Cult of Suicide,” Contributions to Indian Sociology, 30: 245-72.

Roberts, Michael 2005b “Saivite Symbolism, Sacrifice and Tamil Tiger Rites,” Social Analysis 49: 67-93.

Roberts, Michael 2005a “Tamil Tiger ‘Martyrs’: Regenerating Divine Potency?” Studies in Conflict & Terrorism 28: 493-514.

Roberts, Michael 2006 “Pragmatic Action and Enchanted Worlds: A Black Tiger Rite of Commemoration,” Social Analysis 50: 73-102.

Roberts, Michael 2012 “Inspirations: Hero Figures and Hitler in Young Pirapāharan’s Thinking,” 30 February 2012, http://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2012/02/13/inspirations-hero-figures-and-hitler-in-young-pirapaharans-thinking/

Roberts, Michael 2011 “Death and Eternal Life: Contrasting Sensibilities in the face of Corpses,” 29 June 2011, http://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2011/06/29/death-and-eternal-life-contrasting-sensibilities-in-the-face-of-corpses/

Roberts, M. and Arthur Saniotis 2006 “Empowering the Body and Noble Death,” Social Analysis 50: 7-24.

Sax, William Bo 1992 “Pilgrimage Unto Death,” in James Veitch (ed.) To Strive And Not To Yield. Essays in Honour of Colin Brown, Victoria University of Wellington, pp. 200-12.

Schalk, Peter 1997a “Resistance and Martyrdom in the Process of State Formation of Tamililam,” in Joyce Pettigrew (ed.) Martyrdom and Political Resistance, Amsterdam: VU University Press, pp. 61-84.

Schalk, Peter 1997b “Historicization of the martial ideology of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)”, South Asia 20: 35-72.

Schalk, Peter 2003 “Beyond Hindu Festivals: The Celebration of Great Heroes’ Day by the LiberationTigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in Europe,” in Martin Baumann et al. (eds.) Tempel und Tamilien in Zweiter Heimat, Wurzburg: Ergon Verlag, pp. 391-411.

[1] This essay is deliberately cast for 27th November. From 1989 the LTTE initiated commemoration ceremonies called Māvīrar Nāl to pay homage to their dead and thus to inspire commitment to the cause of Thamilīlam and to mobilize wider support among Tamils across the world (see Jeyaraj 2006). The 27th November 1982 was when Shankar, Pirapāharan’s mate from early days, died from a wound. He was the first Tiger fighter to die. That this took place one day after Pirapāharan’s date of birth is pure coincidence. The figure 26, with a 2 and a 6, adds up to 8 for those guided by the mystical force of numerology. Pirapāharan is said to have been so guided (for e.g. by Anita Pratap) and avoided dates that could be divided by 8 or included an 8, when launching major offensives. If he was hit by a bullet on the 18th May (see below) then his fears could be said to have received confirmation.

[2] In surmise I note that it is likely that the LTTE’s stock of kuppi had run out and could not be easily replenished over 2008/09.

[3] He added: “On the first TV view that we got from home, a soldier inadvertently lifted his head and it came upwards like an empty shell, weightless. I noticed it. The brain is likely to have been blasted off almost fully. There would be tell tale signs from the mouth too [if he inflicted the wound himself]. The army doctor who did the PM would easily know how he died” (email to Roberts, 27 November 2012).

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Latest comments

  • 1

    This picture would seem to indicate that Prabhakaran was captured alive (although he may have been wounded), totally contradicting the “killed in a swamp” theory:


    Do dead men hold their arms in such a position?

      • 0

        Nice try Blacker, but unreferenced pictures from random websites don’t count. Why not show a picture of Donald Duck next time? That seems to match the level of your intelligence.

        • 0

          Really? So what is the reference your pix have, other than your own? I’m surprised you managed to get through a Donald Duck cartoon. Handy dictionary helped?

        • 0

          Anyone can see that the photos I provided are genuine. They can be cross-referenced with a simple Google image search.

        • 0

          Ditto. Have you run out of arguments that you must now question image sources? Pathetic :D

  • 0

    Dough Rasasingham:

    You are not the one who is going to change by talking about history or nation. I dont want to talk to you about nation or national liberation. Your kind only can see rupee notes instead of dignity or liberation. Like i said you are only fit to talk about digestion etc.
    Like the person commented about Vellala’s especially a certain apologetic kind who always thought that if they suck up they will not be killed by the 83 rioters….It looks like they found out too late and I hope you dont find out that your practice might go up in flames despite your apologetic antics…

    • 0

      He is a bent back former government servant so as he says he is
      “Velealah Tamil Kolluppu’ not a Rasa Velealah- the warrior class.

  • 0

    There is a huge campaign by some Tamil diaspora leaders for convinced the world that Their terrorist leader still alive. On early days, even some of the western media embrace this mislead news. Still Tamil terrorists sympathizers is delivering number of mislead news according to their separatist propaganda and western media accept the duty of spreading those rumors among the world community.

    In this article at least the writer acknowledged that Prabhakaran is no more, If I add more, for sure, now he should be in the hell with his other colleagues. In a world where people worship devils, its not a surprise to note that Still some Tamils commemorating their fallen terrorists group who,
    responsible for hundreds of thousand of Sri Lankans killings including Tamils and Muslims.
    who devastated the country for nearly two and half decades by suicide bomb blasts.
    who brutally killed so many innocent Sinhala and Muslim villagers.
    who shed blood baths all over the country.

    who attacked sacred religious places. etc. etc. who even kept their own tamil civilians as a human shield and shoot at them when they tried to escape from tiger terrorists grip to Army control area. These incidents are showing us how coward and brutal they were. It is shame on their mothers who grow up such a group of devils

    • 0

      Stupidity is when you can’t help it. The west thinks different from you and the Tamils. Its 50% true when one sees and a 75% when touched 100% when tasted- plain tea or arrack- No kota yata pandan because they have mouth watering sexy stuff. Rajaporkistan’s and his blind followers continued mistake is keeping the doors closed for an independent international view. What’s your problem pute? Freedom and Sovereignty carry a responsibility and elk like you either don’t want it to blame a whole race and even whites as white or are stupid tigers.

    • 0

      chandana says

      “If I add more, for sure, now he should be in the hell with his other colleagues.”

      VP must have reincarnated by now somewhere in the island. As it is Sri Lanka is another word for hell.

  • 0

    Here is proof that Prabhakaran was not killed in the swamp, but captured alive . If a person is shot in the head,such as the Sri Lankan Army claims, there is obviously a massive amount of bleeding. The impact is such that blood should fly in all directions. Now look at these photos:


    The key is that there is no apparent blood on Prabhakaran’s uniform.

    You can see the uniform in close-up here:


    Again, not a single drop of blood on his uniform . Also look at the picture above. It looks as if Prabhakaran’s pants have been meddled with.

    Finally, I would like to bring to your attention the third picture on the far right in the second row, on the defense.lk website. It looks as if Prabhakaran’s ear (or the back of his head) has been subject to some kind of violent force. My theory is that he was captured alive from the swamp, abused for a prolonged period of time at 53 headquarters by a top General, killed, and then carried on this stretcher.

    • 0


      The photograph with only a improvised loin cloth, seems to precede the one the body is dressed in a hastily put on uniform where VPs penis is visible. In the loin cloth VP has stubble on his face, A beard does not grow after a persons death.

      Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

      • 0

        Doc, could you explain that to old Gamini up there? He seems to think I’m making up the fact that VP was unshaven when shot.

    • 0

      I’m not sure how many times this simple thing must be explained to you, Lester before it sinks in, but I’ll try again:

      1. VP running through the jungle fully clothed, singing, “Shot through the heart, And you’re to blame Darling, you give love A bad name.”

      2. Ka-POWWW! Shot through the head instead.

      3. Lies in the mud for a few hours.

      4. Soldiers come along, roll his fat arse over, cut his clothes off and search him. Then one says “Ammata udu, moo Prabha Aiyya wage, ne? Poddak eliyata adhala balamu.”

      5. Cameras, generals, and the whole jingbang come along and take pix of VP in his jungies.

      6. Then they clean him up, dress him in some nice new stripey uniform, give him a shave, put his brains back in, and take more pix.

      Is it clear now at least????

    • 0

      The photo of VP in clean uniform with a gash on his forehead commencing from the right of centre to the left above the ear – the wound has clean cut edges,about six inches long,the scalp,skull and brain incised cleanly,has been made with a heavy weapon with sharp edge such as a sword or a long knife. An axe would have caused a much deeper penetrating wound upto the ventricles.
      There is hardly any bleeding,proof that it had been inflicted after death.
      He most probably swallowed his cyanide capsule.

      • 0

        This is utter nonsense, typed by someone who has either never seen a picture of the dead VP, or is almost totally blind. The wound is ragged, and the skull shattered. The wound has a circular profile at the leading edge . Portions of the broken skull, retained by the skin have been replaced before the photos were taken.

        How Justice can determine the penetration capability of a weapon such as an axe without knowing the force exerted is an example of the foolishness behind this comment. An axe will penetrate as far as the force with which it is delivered and the sharpness of the blade. Historic writings describe great sword and katana wounds to the head where the blade penetrated the entirety of the skull, bisected the neck and spine vertically and lodged in the upper ribs.

        Just because you can spell ventricle doesn’t mean you know what you are talking about.

  • 0

    I have read all the threads and my verdict is that VP was duped into surrendering and then….

    • 0

      To all who have doubts of VP’s death, why not visit the video of Isipriya’s death as there is a body which is possibly that of VP. Display that body photo for all to see.

      • 0

        Why don’t you display it, Gamini?

      • 0

        @Wuliangguobinjiu,gamini,Lester ect. Why do you people waste your time trying to argue with a bought and paid for government and armed forces sycophant like Mr.Blocker? Just give him the treatment that bought and paid for government journalist Malinda Seneviratne gets when he writes articles to Colombo Telegraph. Since of late only about 5 or 6 people have commented on his articles. Just ignore them and do not comment. Do not feed the trolls.

        • 0

          Yes, when you have no argument, no facts, no intellect, bury your head in the sand and hope the bad trolls will go away :D

  • 0

    David Blacker

    Namalie Rajapaksa says “armed forces sycophant like Mr.Blocker”

    Congratulations, you have been promoted to a sycophantby Namalie Rajapaksa.

    This is a position reserved for VP, GR, SF, SS, AH, SH,……..and only the most dedicated madmen are bestowed highest accolades.

    Sorry you are no way near them, so don’t be proud. Don’t start your celebrations until I bestow it on you.

    • 0

      Really? I thought you had given me that promotion long ago. I guess all that Sinhalese semen in your Veddha bloodline has finally reached the brain :D

      • 0

        David Blacker

        “I thought you had given me that promotion long ago”

        I was only joking.

        You are not even qualify to be a storm trooper leave alone Gestapo.

        Perhaps you are a dedicated secret VP admirer.

        “I guess all that Sinhalese semen in your Veddha bloodline has finally reached the brain”

        Sinhala/buddhist claim to throne was established through incest relationship, parricide, and bestiality, not through Veddha lineage.

        Otherwise how are you?

        Apart from being self appointed unofficial spokesman for the armed forces you don’t seem to comment on other vital matters. Why?

        • 0

          First I’m a MR sycophant, now I’m a VP admirer :D you’re scraping the barrel aren’t you?

          I didn’t say that Veddhas were in the Sinhalese lineage; I said that the Sinhalese had contributed to the Veddha lineage, most evidently in your lineage. Why do you have such great difficulties of comprehension?

          Other than pretending to be a Veddha and fishing for insults, you don’t have anything intelligent to say. Why?

  • 0

    Why does Dr. Michale Roberts have to rely on what DBSJeyaraj writes. Most of the articles DBSJ writes based on his own imaginations and interpretations. IMO, DBSJ is a Tamil chuvanist and use his writings to advance the Tamil chuvanism. If you read his past writings, you can see, that he tried to instigate poor Tamil youth to fight while enjoying the luxuries in Canada. This is the same person who
    • Said that LTTE will take back Killinochi in few months when SLA took control, while all others said the LTTE was on the run.
    • Glorified LTTE attacks, and even losses! Several times Mr. Anandasagaree questioned about DBSJ’s agenda.
    • Said LTTE did a “Tactical withdrawal” (of Denyak(?) style) from EP when actually they were beaten back to the jungles.

    DBSJ claims he is a journalist. But he does not let anyone to question his theories. When Sebastian Rasanayagam replies, he does not let it appear in his blog. Several times, he alerted/deleted some of the opinions which questioned his “theories”.

  • 0

    David Blacker

    “you don’t have anything intelligent to say. Why?”

    Only intelligent people understand all things intelligent. Sinhalese and Tamils have proved in the past and continue to prove that they can not afford the luxury being intelligent.

    You have time and again proved to an irredeemable stupid. Here is another proof:

    “I didn’t say that Veddhas were in the Sinhalese lineage; I said that the Sinhalese had contributed to the Veddha lineage,”

    Why cannot it be other way around.

    All right wing believers of might is right people are secret admirers of VP, ……….killing of innocent people justified.

    Why do you remain stupid?

    • 0

      “Only intelligent people understand all things intelligent.”

      Then why can’t you understand things intelligent?

      “Sinhalese and Tamils have proved in the past and continue to prove that they can not afford the luxury being intelligent.”

      And you have proven and continue to prove that you have no appreciation of intellect.

      “You have time and again proved to an irredeemable stupid”

      The stupid calling me stupid doesn’t cause me insult.

      “Why cannot it be other way around.”

      Where did I say that it couldn’t be? It is your inability to understand what could be and what is is why you continue to be stupid.

      “All right wing believers of might is right people are secret admirers of VP”

      Since you do not have the ability to read minds we must accept that that is simply what you wish, rather than what is.

      “Why do you remain stupid?”

      As long as my words remain beyond your intellect, I will remain stupid in your eyes.

    • 0

      N.V. ask whoever comes to power soon to unarm drop all these jackboot bums below basement until further notice till civil rule takes full control of the nation. May be like former Yugoslavia which is the only western partial success. They really need a rest not knowing even after informing that all adversaries are decidedly stupid.Who needs a Kafir to tell us what to see or think for that matter- i.e.stupid kafir like kenumen the poof.

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