Reading the 'latest' from the LTTE: It’s either Eelam or it’s Eelam

By Malinda Seneviratne

Media events are called because someone or some organisation wants to sell something. It can be an idea or an image. In any case, it is always about some product or the other, whose unique features have to be given publicity. When politicians do this we can rest assured that it is about hoodwinking the people. When a terrorist does it, there can only be one explanation. His/her methodology has just got a bit more sophisticated.

From all that I know of the LTTE and Prabhakaran, I didn’t go to Kilinochchi expecting anything new to be said. We are living in an age where information technology allows us to access in a second stories unfolding at the other end of the world. It follows that Prabhakaran, even if it were holed somewhere in the Wanni, can tell the world whatever he wants, if he so wishes. Given the LTTE’s known knack for stage-managing any engagement with the world outside the territories of terror, it was clear from the moment the media conference was announced, that this was going to be an exercise in public relations and nothing else. And that is what it turned out to be.

What did the LTTE say, or to be more precise, what did Anton Balasingham say (Prabhakaran, by the way, clearly fell flat on his face in the role of "spokesman for the Tamil people)? The LTTE merely reiterated the Thimpu principles, which amounted to nothing less than asking for Eelam as a precondition for talks. And us journalists were made to believe that we were going to get a news story. Sad to say, there were a lot of people who actually believed they got a scoop!

Prabhakaran and the LTTE were basically resurrected by the UNF government through the MoU. Whereas their cadres had been basically restricted to the districts of Mullaitivu and Kilinochchi, the MoU gave them the license to go far and wide to spread their racist tribalist propaganda. Emboldened the LTTE began to openly flout the conditions of the MoU with impunity. The Monitors, we have found out, can do nothing when complaints are investigated and found to be true. These are, apparently, a bunch of misfits who have no teeth. They mumble incomprehensibles and allows the LTTE to carry on regardless.

Even with all these manifest advantages that have accrued to their corner, the LTTE still needs to rectify its murderous image. They know very well that a future Eelam state needs to be recognised by the United Nations. Even if, for argument’s sake, they are not looking that far, the LTTE knows that the current feeling internationally on "terrorism" makes it hard for them to operate.

This war, we must not forget, is not being fought only in this tiny island. All wars of this century are necessarily global in character and the global wicket is pretty sticky as far as the LTTE is concerned. All contestations in this sphere have to do with image. And Prabhakaran badly needed a face lift and a tummy-tuck. He needed to get in shape. Or convince people that he is as fit as a fiddle and is endowed with an indelible cuteness to boot. This is the logic of holding a media conference to say the same things he has been saying for the last quarter of a century.

We have, over the past four months, seen the LTTE move from announcing that it was ready for unconditional talks to demanding an MoU (as a solid launching pad for the Eelam rocket) to now almost seeking ratification of the Eelam state they believe they have already carved. The government, sad to say, began on the wrong foot, totally misread the delivery and had been comprehensively bowled around the legs. So much so that we have people like Minister G.L. Peiris stuttering out plaintive fairy tales about the dismissal being a positive thing, anticipated and planned for, and eminently qualified for wild applause from the supporters of the batting side.

This man of many certificates took pains on Thursday night to come out and say that the LTTE was in fact agreeable to a solution within the context of a unitary Sri Lanka. He twisted and turned so much to misrepresent Prabhakaran’s statements (and this, according to reports, to a handful of reporters who came for his press conference), that I felt sorry for the man. He ought to have remained in the university, breathing in the rarefied air of academic mumbo-jumbo. For he is clearly at sea here.

The good professor (and his leader, we must add) have clearly not heard what their pal Anton had to say. Ranil Wickremesinghe takes the LTTE’s articulation of position and aspiration as a "positive sign". Only someone who is utterly naive or someone who has decided that treachery is a virtue can see anything "positive" in what the LTTE had to say. G.L. waxes eloquent about the LTTE talking about "internal self-determination". He doesn’t seem to get it that internal self-determination can mean federalism and that federalism and a unitary state don’t go together.

He ought to know that such concepts should be read in the context of history and that other "non-negotiables" touted by those who mouth them cannot be ignored either. The LTTE has said that any "solution" should include "recognition of traditional homelands, nationality and the right of self-determination". You cannot take out "self-determination" out of this equation, give it a new reading and claim that the LTTE is not for Eelam.

Someone might have meddled with the transcripts of the media conference that the Prime Minister got to read, for the LTTE clearly stated that not only does it not recognise Ranil Wickremesinghe as the Prime Minister, but insisted that Prabhakaran is both the Prime Minister and President of "Tamil Eelam". Some "positive sign" I must say! I am a democrat and I accepted the verdict of the people on December 5, 2001. Ranil, even though I am totally opposed to his ideology, I recognised as the Prime Minister of my country. Today, I say with firm conviction, that I am ashamed of the fact.

Anton also said that the LTTE is not, I repeat, "not", ready to give up Eelam. If the LTTE is not ready to give up Eelam, why should the government even consider lifting the ban on that organisation? As The Island has pointed out editorially, in this "give and take," the government has been doing the "giving" and the LTTE doing the "taking". The LTTE considers that the conditions are not suitable to give up Eelam yet. G.L. Peiris and Ranil Wickremesinghe could have responded by saying "The conditions are not suitable for lifting the ban," but no, they clearly don’t want to upset the "President/Premier of Tamil Eelam". They would do well to remember that in Tamil, he is always referred to as Deshiya Thalevar, "leader of the nation". What they want is Ranil to recognise "Tamil Eelam". I am sure nothing short of that would give the man his kicks. All signs point to the government being ready to do just that.

Prabhakaran, as I said, wanted a face lift. One would have thought that Anton Balasingham was going to be the beautician attending on him. Turns out that it is the Sri Lanka government and all of us in the media industry that came out with the lipstick, eye-liner, eye shadow, mascara, blushers, foundation, lip-liners, brushes, and other applicators. Once again, I am ashamed.

I learnt two things during this short visit. One, Prabhakaran is not our Enemy No.1. We, as a collective, are that horrible creature. We are our own enemy. I also learnt a lot about "internal organs".

First, that Anton Balasingham doesn’t have a kidney. I already knew that Prabhakaran does not have a heart. I am wondering if our leaders have brains. I know now for fact what I had suspected for a long time: there are very few people in the media who have a backbone.

And what of the opposition? I can’t help but think that Mahinda Rajapakse is willing to settle for the Chairmanship of the Sri Lanka Pradeshiya Sabha in a future Tamil Eelam that encompassed the entire island. Maybe the government can, by way of silencing the JVP, agree to allow Tissamaharama to secede. He could offer Attanagalla to Chandrika. All the Sinhalese can converge on these independent states and they can vie with Kattankudy for the most densely populated area in the island. I am sure that Chandrika and Mahinda would survive all this. Jokes apart, there is a good likelihood that the rest of all, I am sorry to say, will be slaughtered.

As one soldier told us, deyyange pihiten harigiyoth hondai; neththam deyyangema pihitai (god willing, it will turn out right; if it doesn’t, then god help us!). The war, friends, is over. The LTTE won. More correctly, we decided to lose and decided to call it "victory". How utterly wonderful!

The one thing left to do is to reclaim our traditional homelands. I am convinced that we will not get any support from those who are claiming to represent us in this long, long struggle. And mind you, when I say "traditional homelands" I am not referring to just a mere territorial entity, but to lifestyles, traditions, cultural sensibilities, historical references and philosophical positions. We should remember one thing in this: our "deshiya thalevars" will not come running to swell our ranks.