No sooner had LTTE Leader Velupillai Prabhakran made an announcement in his heroes` day speech that there was no alternative to political independence than the United States did shoot it down. US Ambassador in Colombo Robert O. Blake has said Prabhakaran`s views are not acceptable and stressed a negotiated settlement on the basis of a solution within a united Sri Lanka to be proposed by the government. Mr. Blake has obliquely reminded the government of its obligation. Subtle diplomacy, eh?
Prabhakaran has certainly issued a threat which is not so veiled as one of our expert commentators pointed out yesterday on this page. The LTTE supporters, both here and abroad, are ga-ga over his reference to political independence, which they liken to declaration of secession. Mr. Blake has spoilt their party! It was only a few days before his speech that a TNA MP had told Parliament that he would attend the next budget speech in `Eelam capital` (in Trincomalee). Some mistakenly believed that Prabhakaran would declare unilateral independence in his speech. But by not doing so, he has proved that he is somewhat wiser than his acolytes.
In his heroes` day speech last year, Prabhakaran promised final war and stepped up fundraising for that purpose. His loyalists thought he would deliver on the promise in time for this year`s speech, at least to some extent. He went all out to honour his pledge, trying hard as he did to capture Jaffna, but in vain. This year, too, he has said the same thing that he has been saying over the years, in different words. He has obviously sought to buy some more time. He appears to have learnt from the police and military chiefs of the `racist Sinhala state`, who keep securing extensions in service in spite of their failure to deliver.
It is time he reflected on his struggle over the past two decades. What has he achieved? He may have built a formidable guerrilla outfit but of what use has his military power been? His terror empire has been shrinking steadily. He lost Jaffna in 1995 and his vows to take it back have turned out to be empty rhetoric. He may be able to blow targets here and there but he cannot capture and hold even an anicut. This time round, he even had to scrap the grand military parade which usually precedes his annual speech. On the international front, he is getting isolated with more bans staring him in the face. Atop all that, he is said to be faced with the threat of more splits. The Karuna faction is running rings round his organisation in the East.
Politically, he is coming under increasing pressure to settle for devolution?something that he could have secured way back in the late 1980s without spilling so much of blood. How can he justify his violence which has accounted for tens of thousands of political leaders, men, women and children belonging to all three main communities?
Interestingly, Prabhakaran is now talking like a politician. He says the CFA is defunct?which is a fact?but in the same breath he says he will abide by it, according to press reports quoting his spokesmen. What has happened to the man who had the courage to tell mighty India where to get off and give the IPKF a bloody nose? Today, he is genuflecting before India in a bid to invoke its blessings for his cause. He has apparently returned where he began?from India to India. Is it that age is telling on him?of late, he appears to have put on a lot of weight?or he is buckling under pressure?
The time has come for him to realise that there is much more to the world than the Wanni, where he claims to be both the President and Prime Minister. He may still have a little sympathy among some sections of the international community but he has manifestly failed to sell his separatist project to the world. He has no one to blame but himself. As for blunders he has made over the years, there are many, the biggest being the killing of so many thousands of civilians and political leaders. Forcible child conscription has earned him a place in the UN List of Shame beside the Lord`s Resistance Army chief. His former partner in crime, Karuna has followed his footsteps to the exclusive club.
However, all is not lost for Prabhakaran. At least at this late stage, he should depart from the path of violence and bring himself to negotiate and accept a political solution, however hard it may be. Leaders are those who are capable of making tough decisions. He has got an opportunity to prove himself.