How Prabhakaran will pull it off

By Dayan Jayatilleka
"Is it rolling, Bob?" Johnny Cash is heard to ask Bob Dylan as they move into a track on the ‘Nashville Skyline’ album, 1969, Dylan’s first after giving up smoking, his voice would never sound so rich and mellow again as on ‘Lay Lady Lay’, you’d never recognize it. Prabhakaran must have asked the same question from his Mannar commander sometime last week. And yeah, thalaivar, it’s rolling. JS Tissanagayagam’s report from Mannar in the Sunday Leader tells the most important story of today, far more vital than all the stuff about the MoU, the local polls and the Budget. It’s entitled ‘Manner festival demands self-determination’:

"Over 20, 000 Tamils from the Mannar and Vavuniya districts came together at Mattharipputhurai for the Thamil engal uyir (Tamil Is Our Being) celebrations on Thursday. The festival, which was in support of Tamil self-determination and a traditional homeland also demanded the army and Sinhala settlers leave the homelands of the Tamils they now occupy.... The celebrations that began in the afternoon with a swelling procession from Alliranikkottai to Muttharipputhurai, were organised by the people of the area with voluntary bodies and the multi-purpose co-operative societies playing an important role. TNA parliamentarians and cadre were involved in putting together the event... the demands which were not articulated from the stage but through leaflets, also asked that the LTTE be recognised as the sole representatives of the Tamils, that PTA detainees be released and that obnoxious security laws such as the PTA and those prohibiting fishing and agriculture be withdrawn. "(Sunday Leader Feb. 10th 2002 p2)

That’s a prototype and a microcosm. That’s how Prabhakaran is going to exit the peace agreement with minimum international cost to himself. It’s also how he’s going to make his final military move for Tamil Eelam.

In Year 2000, Prabhakaran strained every military muscle to win the Battle for Jaffna. He had just achieved the biggest single battlefield triumph of his career, the take-over of Elephant pass, so he had the strategic momentum. But he was stopped at Kilai the water’s edge, by the Sri Lankan Army and Navy, around 7000 men, fighting fiercely under Sarath Fonseka. And Parami Kulatunga’s brilliant intelligence coup enabled the MBRLs (the son of the famous Stalin Organ, the Katyushsa rocket launchers with their screaming salvoes with which the Red Army terrified Hitler’s Wehrmacht ) to do their deadly work in Chavakachcheri. The Tigers had never received such a mauling, they were running, man.

With and through the proposed ‘peace deal’, the Tigers will win by deception that which they could not achieve with the fullest force of arms: they will move back in to Jaffna, which they lost to the SLA in ‘Riviresa’, late 1995. The counter-argument that the MoU does not permit armed Tiger cadres to enter Jaffna, only unarmed ones, is a joke and a bad one. There is a world of difference between disarmed and unarmed. The arms will be smuggled in at night and stashed, pre-positioned for the massive surprise attack that will inevitably come. (Trust me on this one: I was indicted under the PTA for - among many other things - smuggling arms and explosives.) In the meanwhile, the Tigers will penetrate, intervene in, subvert and take-over all social space in the Tamil area, often using the TNA as proxy and eliminating the political gains made by the EPDP and PLOT. As early as the 1980s they had perfected the art of manipulating ‘Citizens Committees’, and in the 1990s, they moved to the covert control of Government Agents. These two models will be combined in the upcoming phase. Relief and rehabilitation funds will be siphoned-off into the LTTE war-chest, albeit with a few show-case projects on the ground for credulous foreign visitors.

No cease-fire agreement or MoU covers mass agitation. Tamil nationalism from the days of the Federal Party has a rich tradition of popular agitation, which in turn generates a Southern frenzy. Prabhakaran has honed that tradition into an edged political weapon. With the Thileepan fast he deployed in it brilliantly against - of all people - the Indians, who under Mahatma Gandhi’s inspired leadership, invented the strategy. The difference is that for Prabhakaran the masses are mere clockwork toys, cannon fodder, animate instruments of his will. Gradually the Northeast will be enveloped with protests, satyagrahas calling for national self-determination, the dismantling of Welioya, the withdrawal of the Armed Forces. (All of these slogans were raised during the Thileepan fast in 1987). The LTTE will be hoping for at least one or two things: the Army to open fire, or the Sinhalese in the South to engage in a 1958 or 1983 type race-riot. The Tigers will orchestrate public demonstrations outside Army and Navy camps, to the point, eventually, of surrounding them - what the Indians call ‘gherao jalao’. An old IRA tactic which the LTTE used against the IPKF will then be deployed, namely firing - probably mortars - at the Army from somewhere behind the crowds provoking a lethal response which leaves dead bodies of manifestly unarmed Tamil men, women and children strewn on the ground. That’s when the Scandinavian ‘cease-fire observers’ will be neutralised or won over. They will be worked on, possibly by priests, nuns and even Bishops, to tell the world about the ‘genocidal atrocities’. The BBC and CNN will flash the footage, talking of a Bosnia or a Kosovo in the making.

Then the Tiger will make his final leap. Prabhakaran needs the international propaganda build-up to neutralise the post-September 11th factor, and as cover for his planned offensive. No way is he going to allow the ‘international community’ to deprive him of his prize. He will strike pre-emptively, swiftly, massively, so any international peace-keepers who come in to prevent a ‘ humanitarian catastrophe’ will have only a single task left to perform: patrolling the borders of a de-facto Tamil Eelam. In turn, that arrangement will ensure that no Sri Lankan administration can ever re-unify the island. We shall turn into Cyprus, partitioned in permanence.

How precisely will Prabhakaran play this end-game? By resorting to a synthesis of two methods of warfare: the ‘Tet Offensive’ mode (Vietnam Spring 1968), moving uninterruptedly into an Armed Popular Insurrection mode (Nicaragua 1979), with a screen of mass protests, student demonstrations, seizures of administrative centres etc. This is when the stockpiled arms caches in Jaffna will be used, and when the unarmed LTTE cadres who are to be allowed into Jaffna under the MoU, suddenly become heavily armed LTTE cadres! This is also when LTTE fighters in their thousands, who have been recruited, trained and massed in Mullaitivu and other areas including the Jaffna Peninsula, will move in a Blitzkrieg-type multi-pronged simultaneous offensive (drawing on the experience of the December 1999 Wanni and 2000 Elephant Pass thrusts) on all the Armed Forces camps in the North-east, including Trincomalee. The Sinhalese and Muslims will flee the Eastern province. This is how Prabhakaran will bottle-up, or over-run or evict the Sri Lankan state from the ‘traditional Tamil homelands’. This will be his final strategic offensive. This is how his Eelam map becomes a reality on the ground. This is how Prabhakaran will win.

And when will he do it? Ideally when US attention is focused on Iran or Iraq, when Israel/ Palestine boils over because of Sharon’s fascism. Unlike in the case of the strike on Al Qaeda/Taliban manifestly a matter of justifiable self-defence, any attack on Iraq and/or Iran while Sharon is continuing to massacre Palestinians, and the Muslim world may react more forcefully than it has done so far. The Kashmiri terrorists may consider has a window of opportunity, which will create a crisis which engages our friends India and Pakistan fully, as well as the US itself- which will fear a nuclear exchange in South Asia. But push comes to shove, Prabhakaran will not wait on these externalities, these variables. When he says self-determination, he means it. He will initiate the end-game when two factors intersect: (a) he feels that enough political momentum has been attained through the ‘Manner model’ of orchestrated, programmed mass agitation and (b) when he senses that it is too dangerous to keep his young fighters in a peaceful mode which atrophies their fanatical fighting spirit and the sinews of war. In the meantime his instructions to his cadres will be ‘create two, three, many Mannars!’, or as Dr. Dre and my main man, the late 2 Pac, urge us all in ‘Califonia Love’: "Keep it rocking/Keep on rocking/Keep it rocking."