Evidence surfacing in the on-going investigations into the recently detected tunnel dug by a group of LTTE cadres at the Kalutara prison points to inside help, according to press reports. We don`t need a high level probe to tell us that the prisoners concerned had inside help for their attempted escape. Given rampant corruption that has turned the prisons into the Augean Stables of Sri Lanka, the moment the news of the tunnel emanated, everybody suspected the involvement of some members of the prison staff in the clandestine project.
One is reminded of an interesting parody of the famous Sherlock Holmes detective series. A section thereof runs like this. Sherlock Holmes while engrossed in deep thought cut off from the world outside has Watson barging in. `Watson, it must be raining!` says the great detective. Astonished, Watson asks admiringly, `How did you know?` `My dear Watson,` Sherlock Holmes smiles sagely, `Your umbrella is wet!`
Inside help for the tunnel diggers was as obvious as Watson`s wet umbrella. What the investigators should look into is not whether the prisoners had support from someone in authority or not. They must investigate and find whether some jailers and their bosses, lured by money, themselves got into the cesspit with crowbars and shovels to do the digging for the LTTE.
An LTTE cadre serving a sentence for the Central Bank blast (1996) is said to have masterminded the escape bid. He may be a big brain specialising in explosions but he is a novice when it comes to handling prisons officers. Little did he realise that he was wasting time and energy by digging a tunnel with improvised tools. Most of all, he shouldn`t have got into a toilet pit like a politician. He would have been able to smuggle in even a backhoe machine, had he offered a bribe which the prisons officers couldn`t refuse.
Or, why did he ever try to escape? He could have turned his cell into a luxury room and lived in clover for the rest of his life amidst tight security, if he had thrown some money around. It was only a few moons ago that a notorious drug dealer confessed he had `gifted` an exercise machine to a jailer for making his life comfortable in prison.
How organised and equipped the LTTE suspects in the Kalutara Prison were, was known to everyone except perhaps the prisons authorities. A few years ago, they made an attempt on Minister Douglas Devananda`s life. When he visited the prison, they assaulted him with sharpened iron rods. How had they managed to smuggle in those improvised weapons? Didn`t they use similar tools to dig the tunnel in question?
The Tigers are adept at beavering away at building tunnels. They once dug and operated a 360-foot-long tunnel about ten feet under the US-Canada border to facilitate the flow of illegal immigrants and narcotics. It was detected in 2005 and US Attorney John McKay was quoted in the press as saying, `They were smart enough to build a sophisticated tunnel. But, they were not smart enough to not get caught!` When the security forces took Jaffna back in 1995, they found a maze of tunnels and a spacious underground hospital designed by a former Vice Chancellor. The Thoppigala base which they lost to the army recently is also a monument to their tunnelling skills.
The prisons authorities may claim we are discriminating against them by singling them out for an attack for dereliction of duty and corruption. There are many others who are collaborating with the LTTE and helping the outfit with its escape bids, they may point out. True, it is not only prisons officers the LTTE has in its pocket. Time was when even battle plans of the armed forces were leaked out to the LTTE! Top politicians, academics, religious leaders, trade unionists, security forces and police personnel, business leaders and media persons have been colluding with them. Some of them are openly on a campaign to enable the LTTE leaders to escape from a trap they have fought themselves into, since the Mavil Aru battle. In comparison to that kind of collaboration, prison officers may argue, inside help the Tigers may have received to build the `cesspit tunnel` pales into insignificance.
The Tigers are also receiving foreign help for their escape attempts. Heavy pressure is mounting on the government to abandon its military campaign at a time the LTTE stands debilitated as never before with a dispute over Prabhakaran`s succession staring it in the face. It looks as if the UN were meeting this year to coerce the Sri Lanka government into giving up its war effort! UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is reported to have blown a gasket over Minister Jeyaraj Fernandopulle`s diatribe against UN envoy John Holmes. He is expected to take it up with President Rajapaksa in New York. Has Mr. Ki-moon forgotten the abduction by the LTTE of UN workers?
Tunnels are of various kinds and the most dangerous of them are, figuratively speaking, the ones that terrorist outfits are digging underneath democratic institutions, just like the gem merchants of Sabaragamuwa who are tunnelling under Ratnapura making that area virtually rest on wooden props.
The French National Assembly, the Capitol Hill, the British Parliament, the German Bundestag, the Storting of Norway, the Parliament of Canada, the Lok Sabha of India and the like are faced with a similar threat as the bandicoot rats of terrorism are rendering their foundations hollow by digging a labyrinthine network of tunnels underneath them. Hence, the empty noises being bellowed in those institutions in support of terrorist outfits bent on destroying smaller nations!