In 2002, giving a press conference in Kilinochchi, the late LTTE spokesman Anton Balasingham with arrogance oozing from every pore pompously declared that Prabhakaran was both the Prime Minister and President of that part of the country, which the Norwegian crafted CFA recognised as being under LTTE control. And Prabhakaran reigned supreme with foreign backing thanks to the shameful servility of the UNF regime and the UPFA government under President Kumaratunga. That was the time when even the World Bank chief in Sri Lanka, Peter Harold, had the cheek to say the LTTE was running a de facto state. Prabhakaran had set up by that time a self-styled police force and administrative and legal mechanisms and went on to unveil a crude air wing a few years later in a bid to bolster his claim that the areas he held had all the trappings of a legitimate state.
After he promised final war in his 2005 heroes` day speech and started the so-called Eelam War IV by closing the Mavil Aru anicut, the question that many began to ask was when he would resort to a UDI (unilateral declaration of independence). The birth of Montenegro (2006) and the emergence of the first new sovereign state in the twenty first Century (in 2002), Timor Leste of the same size (15,007 sq km) as the area the CFA had brought under the LTTE in the North and the East of Sri Lanka, had given a tremendous impetus to the Eelam project, which a cocky Prabhakaran wanted to accelerate by plunging the country back into war.
But, today, the question being asked is: Has Prabhakaran fled the country? Nobody not even a staunch supporter of the Eelam project any longer asks whether he will ever succeed in his endeavour. That is out of the question! The terrorist state he was building block by block painstakingly for nearly thirty years has crumbled and his indoctrinated cadres are trapped with a decapitating blow staring them in the face.
LTTE spokesman Nadesan insists that his leader is very much here leading from the front. Nadesan cannot be expected to tell us the truth. But, if Prabhakaran is still commanding his combatants, he is personally responsible for the ignominious debacle his movement has suffered and his mentor Eric Solheim, who had the temerity to tell none other than President Mahinda Rajapaksa a few years ago that Prabhakaran was a brilliant strategist who could not be defeated in battle, has had egg on his face. It may even be that Prabhakaran has already fled and Nadesan is uttering a barefaced lie so as to make the remaining LTTE cadres go on fighting without surrendering.
The capture by the army of an LTTE plant manufacturing submarines yesterday has led to speculation that Prabhakaran may have fled in a crude submarine.
The Navy says the LTTE did not succeed in launching any of its `submarines`. However, we reported quoting the Thai press a few years ago that the LTTE had been trying to acquire a submersible, which was seized near Phuket. Prabhakaran could not have been so na ve as to wait till the army moved in to the Vanni to begin the manufacture of submarines. The LTTE has a long history of experiments with underwater operations.
The LTTE, it may be recalled, brought in through the KIA dozens of large crates believed to be containing underwater scooters, without checks, while returning from peace talks overseas under the UNF government. For an outfit capable of acquiring air capability, however crude it may be, purchasing a small submarine must have been child`s play. (Or, a small one may even have been donated to him by a friendly country.) A large number of huge containers were taken into the Vanni sans any checks in the aftermath of the tsunami disaster (2004) and anything could have been carried in them.
The Army Commander Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka told the press recently that whether Prabhakaran had left the country or not would be known after the army captured Vishvamadu. Now that the army has reached that township where Prabhakaran was believed to be living in as evident from a large number of well fortified spacious underground bunkers his whereabouts will be known shortly.
In an area with a heavy civilian concentration, Prabhakaran can no longer hide from the public eye, if he is there. People are very likely to rise against the LTTE and break free before long as the remaining LTTE cadres cannot control crowds and fight the army at the same time. When that happens, hitherto unknown information of the LTTE leaders will leak out and tracing them won`t be so difficult.
However, where Prabhakaran may be is of little consequence. What matters now is the fate of his mission. His Eelam project has manifestly come a cropper after thirty odd years of bloodletting.
Whether he perishes like Hitler inside an underground bunker or runs away to live in the jungles abroad like a fugitive, he will be remembered as a failed whimsical megalomaniac responsible for destroying thousands of lives and wasting billions of rupees for an unattainable goal, like Pol Pot, who committed crimes against humanity in a bid to restart civilisation by creating a utopia. He won`t be forgiven for his craven act of taking cover behind innocent men, women and children and exposing them to danger, having masqueraded as their liberator and forced them to make tremendous sacrifices for his macabre cause for so long.
Prabhakaran is already on the wrong side of history. So are the cowards who have been backing him on false pretext.