Suddenly everybody has become so concerned about
Prabhakaran’s health. When killer waves pummelled Sri Lanka’s
littoral in 2004, everyone wanted to know what had happened to
him. Some claimed he had perished in the tsunami but he made a
comeback after weeks. Then the talk was that the person whom we
saw was not Prabhakaran proper but his doppelganger. The
sudden rise of Sea Tiger chief Soosai in the LTTE in the
aftermath of the tsunami catastrophe was construed as an
indication that he had succeeded Prabhakaran. But, Soosai
disappeared from the scene equally fast.
Air Force Commander Air Marshal Roshan
Goonetileke is confident that his boys successfully targeted
Prabhakaran on Nov. 26 last year injuring him critically. He
goes by intelligence reports and the intensity of anti-aircraft
fire that the fighter jets conducting the air raid came under.
That kind of fire, he says, is possible only from Prabhakaran’s
personal anti-aircraft unit, which accompanies him wherever he
goes. When the Air Force pounded the so-called X-ray base last
month rumours took wing that Prabhakaran had been there inside
an underground bunker, which was destroyed.
Now, we are being told that Prabhakaran has lost
a leg due to that raid. The military intelligence is said to
claim he is a diabetic and injury has caused one of his legs to
be amputated. We are simply puzzled! How could they who don’t at
least know the exact location of the LTTE leader’s bunker be
au fait with his blood sugar level or seriousness of
whatever injury he may have received, if at all? However, we are
in no position to either confirm or reject those stories as
Prabhakaran remains as elusive as ever.
Never mind Prabhakaran and Sri Lanka: Even the
mighty US is clueless about the movements of the leader of ‘its
terrorists’. Before President Bush’s second election, the
Washington grapevine had it that Osama had been captured but his
capture would be kept a secret until the eve of that crucial
election to enable President Bush to win the polls. But, we
never saw Osama in Washington, did we? Bush won without him.
Osama’s whereabouts are still not known. President Bush is on
his way out but Osama is going great guns!
Although it is doubtful whether Prabhakaran has
lost a limb, he has surely lost many other things. He obviously
lost his marbles at a tender age. Else, he would not have shot
dead a person like Durraiappa, a much respected fatherly
politician. Thereafter, he lost his senses and became a hit man
for sinister elements in Sri Lankan as well as Indian politics.
Upon realising they were using him, he lost his rag and
eliminated them all. Then, he lost sight of reality and went
hell for leather to achieve his goal militarily. After two
decades of fighting, now he is losing ground fast, if the string
of defeats he has suffered and the severe manpower crisis he is
facing are anything to go by. And his organisation which his
propagandists once claimed to be invincible is on its last legs.
Unless there is some deus ex machina, Prabhakaran will
have to do a Saddam or a Hitler sooner or later.
Why is everybody agog for news about
Prabhakaran’s pancreas and limbs? That is because Prabhakaran is
the LTTE and the LTTE Prabhakaran. It is being claimed in some
circles that the LTTE will go on with or without him and
therefore bagging him won’t solve the problem. But, a close look
at the LTTE will reveal that it is structured in such a way that
it looks a pyramid standing on its apex and not the base. All
guerrilla movements are characterised by highly centralised
command structures. The LTTE’s difference is that it is without
a second level leadership. Over the years, Prabhakaran has
carefully seen to it that the up and coming military leaders
with the potential to pose a challenge to him get physically
eliminated. Karuna is perhaps the only leader who managed to
escape. Thus, he has turned the LTTE into a one man show. The
Air Force chief hit the nail on the head when he refused to
subscribe to the popularly held view that Prabhakaran had fled
to India, as a man like him would never create a leadership
vacuum or leave room for any other leader to prove himself, lest
he should attempt a takeover.
The rise of a leader to the level of a cult
figure has both advantages and disadvantages for a guerrilla
movement. Such outfits emerge strong because that kind of
leadership commands blind following to the point of their
members laying down their lives for their deified leaders, the
way the LTTE’s Children of Fire (read suicide bombers) are
doing. They become ruthlessly efficient and invincible
initially. But, their main disadvantage is that when the
cult-figures are removed, they cave in. Some Colombo-based
foreign diplomats tend to believe that the LTTE will survive the
decimation of its leadership and the loss of Kilinochchi and
resort to widespread acts of violence. They may claim the signs
of what is in store for the country are already visible if the
LTTE ambushes in the southern jungles and villages are any
indication. Yes, that possibility is there but such violence
will fizzle out with the passage of time for want of logistics.
When a stag dies, as they say, ticks fall after a while!
The health of Prabhakaran’s pancreas or any
other organ has a bearing on the LTTE’s future. The government’s
desperation to account for him is, therefore, understandable.
But, the question is how advisable it is for the government to
take a count of its military chickens before they are hatched in
the Wanni. A prerequisite for achieving its military objectives
is the country’s political and economic health—as well as the
safety of the political leaders the LTTE is zeroing in on.
The war is not just a question of Prabhakaran’s
pancreas and limbs. There is much more to it.