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Checkmate only a move away

The LTTE defences in the Jaffna peninsula are collapsing like a pack of cards. The army has captured Elephant Pass as President Mahinda Rajapaksa triumphantly announced last evening. Now, the cornered Tigers will have to defend themselves on another front sans fortified defences. They were banking too much on their strength at Muhamalai, where they had the strongest of all defences, as they expected the army to make a thrust from the peninsula and not from the Vanni. The army first made the mistake of falling into the LTTE's trap by attacking Muhamalai but later decided to take a different route.

After the fall of its bastions in the Vanni including Kilinochchi and Paranthan, the LTTE fortifications in the peninsula became indefensible and its defeat at Elephant Pass was a foregone conclusion.

So much for Prabhakaran's much touted military strategy!

Today, the Vanni Tigers and the Dehiwala Tigers (in the zoo) are in the same predicament. They are without enough room to move about. Soon, the Vanni Tigers will have to stop running and decide whether to resist or give up.

The civilians they have taken with them at gunpoint as a human shield will turn out to be their biggest liability in that controlling them will turn out to be a Herculean task for the debilitated Tigers with thousands of them trying to flee. Use of violence against the captives who far outnumber the remaining LTTE cadres will prove to be counterproductive.

In the aftermath of the fall of Jaffna in 1995,c the LTTE resorted to the same tactics. But, a few months later, the displaced people returned to Jaffna leaving their ‘liberators' in Kilinochchi. This time around, there will be a difference. The LTTE cannot let go of civilians as their departure will enable the army to descend on the last terrorist bastions swiftly without fear of collateral damage.

Therefore, the fall of Mullaitivu is likely to see a popular uprising against the LTTE unless it releases the civilians in its clutches. Prabhakaran has landed himself in an unenviable position. He has no one to blame for his woes but himself. He shouldn't have captured Mavil Aru and plunged the country back into war.

It is being argued in some quarters that after losing the remaining pockets of resistance, the LTTE will revert to a guerrilla war. That would be possible only if the LTTE had any popular support. The LTTE manifestly has lost whatever support it had among the people. Else, Prabhakaran wouldn't have had to resort to coercion to take people to Mullaitivu. If he had been their William Wallace or Nelson Mandela, they would have gladly followed him wherever he went––even to the gallows.

The LTTE has also perpetrated many heinous crimes against civilians, who must be waiting for an opportunity to avenge those atrocities. This is what the University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna)––the UTHR (J)––said about the public mood in the LTTE-held terrain about one year before the commencement of the Vanni offensive: "Several LTTE leaders who deal with the people know the extent of resentment and the curses uttered out of their hearing. Instances of popular jubilation have also been reported when air force bombers hit an LTTE target. At a place 12 miles north of the frontline, a senior LTTE leader told some friends, "Should the Army advance this far, the people would rebel against us!" –– (UTHR (J) Special Report No: 28, Dec. 04, 2007). The LTTE may have managed to delay a rebellion by uprooting people but it is sure to happen before long.

The LTTE won't be able to resort to effective guerrilla war fare for want of a base after the loss of the North to support a protracted low intensity war. A sine qua non for guerrilla warfare is combatants’ morale. Prabhakaran once managed to dupe his followers into believing that he was invincible and their goal attainable within years. But, today, he stands exposed for his lies. His followers are now convinced that he who has failed to take them to the 'promised land' for 25 years in spite of wasting tens of thousands of lives and billions of rupees will never be able to make it. Who will want to lay down his or her life for a lost cause?

Time was when a leading propagandist of the separatist lobby masquerading as a scribe likened the LTTE to Satan in Paradise Lost. But, Satan is immortal––or at least we are told so––while Prabhakaran and his cohorts are very much mortal, as could be seen from the way they are running to avoid bombs and bullets.

Another myth about the LTTE was that it would never allow Kilinochchi to be taken back. Prabhakaran himself boasted that if President Mahinda Rajapaksa was trying to recapture Kilinochchi, he was only daydreaming. Some LTTE hirelings posing as defence analysts predicted that Prabhakaran would turn Kilinochchi into a modern-day Stalingrad for the Sri Lankan army.

Although Kilinochchi has fallen, they have not yet given up! How can they? They are singing for supper in retirement! They are now likening Kilinochchi to Baghdad and predicting that people will turn against the army when they return. Those pundits have forgotten that nothing of the sort has happened in Jaffna since 1995.

Those myths served as a stronger bulwark for the LTTE than the earth bunds it painstakingly put up to keep the army at bay albeit in vain. They had helped break the nation's will to go all out to destroy the LTTE. One of the reasons that the UNF government gave for its decision to enter into a CFA with the LTTE was that the country could not defeat the LTTE militarily.

But, those myths have been exploded and the LTTE cannot dupe people anymore into backing a struggle which has a zero chance of success. How such an outfit will be able to revert to guerrilla warfare and sustain it long enough to be effective is the billion rupee question.

Even the local architects of the CFA, who grovelled before the LTTE in a bid to strike a peace deal with it at any cost, are now praising the military for its spectacular victories! Doesn't this amount to their endorsement of the war effort which they initially condemned as a disaster?

The time has finally come for Prabhakaran to concede defeat and avert disaster––and for his sycophants to stop hoping against hopes.

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