By D.B.S. Jeyaraj
(CONTINUED FROM LAST WEEK)
Question: What happened finally to your plan of rescuing Prabhakaran and his family by helicopter? Why did the plan not take off?
It’s a very sad story………
After Prabhakaran’s son Charles Anthony asked me to rescue his family members by air I devised a plan and made preliminary arrangements. I arranged for a ship to be kept waiting at a far –off port beyond the reach of the Sri Lanka navy. I also made arrangements to buy a second-hand helicopter from an Ukrainian contact.
The idea was for one or two trained pilots from the LTTE’s airwing “Vaan Puligal” to fly into the Wanni. If Prabhakaran was willing ,the family except for Charles Anthony were to be flown out. If the leader was unwilling then he and a few other of his bodyguards and senior leaders were to be flown by the copter and dropped off in a jungle location in Lanka.
Afterwards the heli would fly out to the ship with Prabhakaran’s wife Madhivadhani, daughter Thuwaraga and younger son Balachandran and perhaps a few others. I would be waiting for them at the ship. Thereafter I planned to keep the family safely in one of three countries.Perhaps in rotation.
Q; Were these countries ready to accept the family?Were they western nations?
A: No they were not countries in the west. Two were in Africa and one in Asia. I had been in touch with senior govt officials of these countries through my representatives. When I had sounded them out on this matter they were willing.
Q: The plan itself was rather risky ? Were you confident of it succeeding?
A: Yes it was risky but I was ready to carry it out.We had no choice. If we didn’t risk it, the alternative was certain death. I also had a secret hope that Prabhakaran may agree at the last minute and opt to fly out. So I devised the plan. The key element was surprise. If the first stage was successful we may have tried further flights too to rescue others.
Q: But then what went wrong?
A: It never worked out. It required about 1.5 million US dollars to implement the plan. I did not have that kind of money. The LTTE overseas structure had to give me the money. Castro had promised Charles Anthony that Nediyavan in Norway will transfer the necessary funds to me. But he never did it.
I made repeated requests that it was urgent and time was running out. I would be told “the money is coming, money is coming”. But sadly it never came.
Also Nediyavan was in touch with Atchuthan the Air wing chief living abroad. Earlier he had agreed to provide the required LTTE pilots for the operation. But then suddenly acting perhaps under Nediyavan’s orders he stopped communicating with me. I was really frantic. I approached mercenary pilots to fly the helicopter but nothing further could be done without necessary funds.
And then in mid-May the Sri Lankan army launched a three –pronged offensive and boxed off the Valainjermadam- Mullivaaikkaal- Vattuvaahal area. After that it was too late to attempt a helicopter rescue. So with great sorrow I abandoned the plan. I was furious with Nediyavan and Castro but helpless to do anything.
Q: And within days all were dead?
A: Yes. They were all dead. The whole family was gone. I was extremely sad at Balachandran’s death. He was only 12 years old. I had never seen the boy in person but when he was a child I used to talk to Prabhakaran frequently. This boy would be on his lap and Prabhakaran would often give the phone to him saying “Intha KP Mamavode kathai” (Here talk to KP uncle) So I would chat with him. Later I lost touch with the boy but I was apparently still existing in his memory.
When the war escalated and shelling increased the boy was very frightened. Later when Charles asked me to arrange for an aerial rescue and I started working on the plan, young Balachandran had been told not to worry and that he would be going to KP uncle soon. The little fellow had then put some of his belongings in a small bag and had been carrying it around with him all the time saying “Naan KP Mamata poren” ( I am going to KP uncle)
Sometimes in my thoughts, I visualise Balachandran with his bag telling people that he was going to KP Mama and waiting for a rescue that never took place. When I think of that I get so sad and angry at Nediyavan for obstructing the plan.
Q: Why did he do that?
A: I really don’t know but it must have been on Castro’s instructions. They did not want KP to get credit I think. But this was really a symptom of what had gone wrong in the LTTE. Individuals were letting their petty jealousies and divisions affect the overall good of the movement and struggle.
Q:You are sure about the entire family being killed? There are stories spread by sections of the Tamil Diaspora and Tamil Nadu politicians that Prabhakaran is alive and Madhivathani is alive and so on? What do you say?
A:These types of tales are spread by some for their selfish motives and others believe them because they don’t want to accept emotionally that it is over.
Q: But you don’t have first –hand knowledge of this?
A: Obviously no! But I was in touch with Soosai till the last stages. I have also heard about these matters from official sources. Most importantly I saw Prabhakaran’s body on TV .
Q: But these people disputing it say it was not his body?
A:Utter nonsense. When I saw the TV image I immediately knew it was Prabhakaran. I was so upset that I cut myself off from people and spent hours alone crying, reflecting and meditating.
Q: One of the reasons for this confusion was due to yourself also. When Prabhakaran’s death reports surfaced you announced to the media that it was not so and that he was alive in a safe location. Subsequently you went back on that denial. This action eroded your credibility greatly and provides ammunition to your critics. Why this flip-flop? Can you explain?
A: Yes, I will be happy to explain. What happened was that Prabhakaran ,Pottu Amman and some others broke out clandestinely in one group and moved through the lagoon and coast. Two other groups also moved out in different directions. The idea was to reach the jungles safely
Reconnaissance missions done earlier showed that the soldiers were in three layers around the encircled area. Soosai with whom I was interacting was informed that Praba and Pottu had broken through all three layers. After that there was no communication. We both assumed that the leader had reached a safe place and predictably cut off communication to avoid being monitored.
It was after this that I issued the statement about silencing our arms. I did this in consultation with Soosai. I was using this statement as a basis to accelerate peace initiatives and come to an arrangement where the remaining people could be saved. Nadesan and Pulidevan from another location were also engaged in negotiations.
It was the earlier information received by me that Prabhakaran had broken through the military layers that gave me the belief that he had reached safety. It was this confidence that made me dismiss reports of Prabhakaran’s death and state that he was safe. Also the first media report about Prabakharan being dead was in relation to the ambulance escape. That report was false. Prabhakaran was not in an ambulance
But shortly before I lost contact with Soosai the sea tiger chief surprised me by saying that Prabhakaran could not break through and had returned. Soosai said that he was only a few hundred yards away from the place he was in. Soosai said that the break out attempt had failed and Prabhakaran had returned without Pottu Amman. He could not give me any more information other than that, except to say the fighting was really fierce. A little later I lost contact with Soosai
Some time later I saw Prabhakaran’s body on TV and immediately realised it was all over.
But I must emphasise that my earlier statement denying Prabhakaran’s death and subsequent statement confirming it were both given with all honesty. I did not intend to mislead anyone. I made them on the basis of the information available at that time. People must remember that fighting was going on and communication was difficult. They say “Porin moodupani” (fog of war) about war situations where people get wrong information about the situation.
Q: Yes. I think the term “fog of war” was first used by Clausewitz and recently made famous by Robert Mcnamara. But tell me how did Prabhakaran die? Do you know?
A: You understand that I was not there and must rely on what I heard or was told. On Prabhakaran’s death the information I got was that he and a group of 60 tigers were trapped in a strip of land adjacent to Nandhikkadal lagoon. They had all fought to the very end and died in battle.
Q: What about the stories about Prabhakaran surrendering and being shot after being humiliated?
A: No that never happened. If I know anything about Prabhakaran he would never ever have surrendered. I know the stories being spread. Some do so deliberately. Some simply repeat what they hear without thinking.
I know reliably that a senior TNA leader went around saying that Prabhakaran had surrendered and was brought to Sarath Fonseka who made the LTTE leader kneel down and then shot him. Nonsense! I can’t understand why a veteran Tamil leader who used to cringe before Prabhakaran should speak about him this way after death.
V.Prabhakaran ~ pic courtesy of: karthi keyan ~ Anikartick ~ Chennai
But the army people who defeated Prabhakaran speak highly of him and the way in which he died. Top persons in the defence establishment –I think you understand who I am referring to – told me that they had been very impressed by the courageous way in which this group had fought to the very end and died without surrendering.But some of our people are insulting Prabhakaran after his death. I want to reiterate that my leader fought to the very end and had a “Veera maranam” (heroic death)
Q: I have heard that during the Indian army period Prabhakaran had a bodyguard who carried a plastic can of petrol. His orders were to burn Prabhakaran’s body if he was killed so that the enemy should not get hold of it. But this time that does not seem to have been done.What happened?
A: I heard he had similar preparations this time too. For Prabhakaran it was very important that his body should be disposed of without others getting hold of it. What I think is that the petrol can may have fallen into the water or maybe the fighter entrusted with the duty was killed before Prabhakaran. I am only guessing I really don’t know.
Q: What about Pottu Amman? What do you think happened to him?
A:Since Prabhakaran and Pottu broke out together and Prabhakaran came back alone I presume that Pottu had died in the escape attempt. Otherwise he would have been at Prabhakaran’s side. Since the army is very sure that Pottu’s body was not recovered I am assuming that Prabhakaran himself would have got Pottu’s body destroyed to ensure it did not get into army hands.
Q: There is also the possibility that Pottu escaped?
A:As an argument yes! But realistically no!
The people who say Prabhakaran and Pottu are alive and would surface some years later are only insulting and disgracing their memory. Those who keep up this ridiculous claim must produce Prabhakaran and Pottu without uttering stupid nonsense.
Q: Another point I want to ask you is about Prabhakaran’s body. I expected Prabhakaran’s family members to demand that Prabhakaran’s body be handed over to them and for the overseas tigers to organize a final farewell to the man who dedicated himself to the cause he espoused for nearly 40 years.
A: I thought as you did at that time and obtained legal and diplomatic advice.
I was told that if Prabhakaran’s siblings would make a request that their brother’s body be handed over to them international pressure could be exerted on Colombo in that respect.
So I got in touch with Prabhakaran’s brother and one of his two sisters to ask them to make such a demand. I was rebuffed. In fact his sister’s husband snatched the phone from his wife while I was talking and rudely hung up on me after telling me not to call again. So there was nothing I could do and in the meantime the govt announced that his body was cremated and ashes scattered in the sea. That was that.
Q: So Prabhakaran died in battle. What about the rest of the family? What happened?
A:According to the information I have the wife Madhivadhani was killed in the shelling. I believe it happened before Prabhakaran made his break –out attempt.
Charles Anthony was injured in the fighting earlier but he continued to lead cadres in a last ditch stand. As I told you earlier he did not want to escape and died fighting.
Another thing in this is that Kuga the widow of Sornalingam alias Shankar(killed on Sep 27th 2001) remained with Charles and died along with him. Kuga was a close friend of Madhivadhani and had promised her that she would always be with Charles and be like a mother to him. She refused to leave with other wives and widows and remained with Charles.
The daughter Thuuvaraga also fought and died on the battlefield. I hear she died on May 14th.
As for the youngest kid Balachandran I am a bit puzzled. He would have remained close to his mother and so would have died in the shelling along with his mother. But the pictures I saw on the internet of a dead Balachandran did not indicate he had been killed in the shelling. So there is some confusion in this.
Q: Prabhakaran and the family being killed in this way must have been a terrible blow to you. I think you were his “Maapillai Tholan” (best Man) at his wedding. Why did you perform this role among all his senior deputies and commanders?
A:Yes. I have been close to him and the family. Their loss is a huge,personal loss. My inability to help them or save them will be a permanent source of grief to me.
You asked me about being the Groom’s friend at the wedding. There was a reason for it. When Prabhakaran fell in love with Madhivadhani and wanted to marry her most of the senior leaders and commanders were not in favour. They were opposed to it on the grounds that it would affect the movement.
At that stage Prabhakaran turned to me. He was very shy to tell me about this due to another happening in the past. You see when I joined the LTTE I was also romancing a girl. But Prabhakaran asked me to end the love affair saying a revolutionary should not be involved in a romance. With great reluctance I obeyed him and ended my love then.
Now the situation had changed and Prabhakaran was in love and asking my help. No wonder he was feeling awkward. But I immediately supported him and encouraged him to go ahead with the marriage. I personally spoke to several senior leaders and made them change their mind. It was I who met Prabhakaran’s father and informed him of his son’s matrimonial plan. It is because of this reason that I played the best man role at the wedding
Q: Even after the wedding you were close to him and the family?
A: Yes. Though I spent most of the time outside I was in constant touch with Prabhakaran those days. I used to talk to the children and wife also. After I got married my wife and Madhivadhani used to converse with each other on the phone
I also used to send personal gifts to each member of the family along with the stuff I used to ship to Lanka
During the Indian army period when Prabhakaran had to go to the Wanni jungles his wife Madhivadhani was finding it difficult to cope with two young children. Prabhakaran wanted to send them to a safe place for a while. He wanted to send them to an old comrade “Singham” living in Sweden.
They were brought by boat to India. Thereafter I arranged for travel documents and got them sent to Scandinavia. Later we found that Prabhakaran’s friend was having some problems and finding it difficult to accommodate Madhi and the children
So I took the risk of traveling to Sweden on false papers and transported the mother and children to Denmark. I arranged for safe accommodation there.
Q: With her family members?
A:No not with them. They were reluctant. This was elsewhere with some others.
Then came the talks with the Premadasa govt in 1989. I used the opportunity to get proper travel documents and went to Scandinavia from where I personally escorted the mother and kids to Colombo. I took them to the Wanni and handed them over to Prabhakaran saying I have brought your family home safely. He was very very happy
When I think of that time where I transported the family safely and of the present time where I could not help them I feel very, very sad. Those days both son and daughter were fond of me and I used to carry them frequently
Q: Yes I recall seeing pictures those days of you carrying Charles.
On the question of Charles Anthony and his sister Thuvaraga, there were media reports that they were studying in Britain and Ireland. What happened? When did they return and why?
A:No, no, no! They were never abroad for studies. That’s all false.
A: You see both children were very clever and could have done very well in higher studies. The mother Madhivadhani was very keen about it. When Bala annai and Adele Aunty came out of the Wanni in 1999, Madhivadhani sent a request to me that I should make arrangements for the children’s higher studies abroad.
So I took some time and made careful preparations. I made foolproof arrangements where both could come abroad and commence higher studies in a very safe environment without their identity being revealed. Madhivadhani was very happy.
But the father Prabhakaran changed his mind after agreeing to it initially. He simply refused to let the children go. Madhivadhani could not make him change his stance. So that was that. They never came abroad for higher studies. Later both joined the movement voluntarily and became trained fighters
Q: Why did Prabakharan adopt this position?
A:I suppose it was due to his principles. He felt it was not correct for him to send his children abroad to safety and higher studies when the children of other people had to remain in the Wanni. It was the same principle that made him encourage the son and daughter to join the movement. Again he felt that he could not keep his children safely at home when the children of other people were fighting.
Q: Thank you for shedding some light on this issue. It appears that we have been misinformed about the actual situation.
However why is it that deliberate attempts are on to spread misinformation and disinformation about Prabhakaran’s demise?Why is there a divergence on this matter between you and Nediyavan?
A:At the start the refusal to accept the truth was emotional. For instance when I issued the statement about Prabhakaran being dead, an activist belonging to the intelligence wing –Kathirgamathamby Arivazhaghan – issued a statement contradicting it. But later he realised the truth and issued another statement accepting that Prabhakaran was no more.
In the case of Nediyavan and those around him they may have had doubts at the start.But now they know fully well that Prabhakaran is dead. However they are deliberately refusing to accept it publicly and are spreading stories that Prabhakaran is alive and that the armed struggle to achieve Tamil Eelam continues.
The pronouncements of Tamil Nadu leaders who say we must fight and get Tamil Eelam and present it to Prabhakaran when he appears helps in this false propaganda.
Q: What is Nediyavan’s motive in projecting this false impression about Prabhakaran being alive?
A:Money! Everything is money now. When I issued a statement about Prabhakaran being dead they started opposing it saying the leader was alive.When I planned to pay homage to Prabhakaran and other senior leaders they blocked it. Earlier I thought they were genuine in this belief about Prabhakaran being alive but later I discovered that they knew the truth but were pretending.
Q: How was that?
A: You see after some time I began negotiating with Nediyavan in a bid to patch up our differences and establish unity. One of the matters I was firm about was that we should acknowledge Prabakharan’s death and conduct a week of mourning. Then Nediyavan said that we should never acknowledge Prabakharan’s death publicly because the movement would not be able to collect money from the Diaspora after that.
I then told him that we cannot run a movement on lies and falsehoods. Besides we would be ungrateful people if we could not pay tribute to the leader who had fought unceasingly for the Tamil cause all these years
I also pointed out that Prabhakaran was the “Aathmaa” (Soul) of our struggle. Without him there was no struggle, no movement or no Tamil Eelam. I said that we needed large amounts of money only to buy arms.With the armed struggle over, we did not need such huge amounts. I said that the businesses we were operating abroad and small donations from our committed supporters were enough to run the movement.
I also said our new task was not to conduct a war but to help our people. The immediate goal was to secure the release of LTTE members in custody and rehabilitate them.The other was to get our displaced Tamils released and resettled
Nediyavan reluctantly agreed and we established unity resulting in myself becoming the leader in a re-structured LTTE. This was in July 2009.I was the chief secretary and Nediyavan the secretary in charge of overseas branch administration. It was agreed to commemorate Prabhakaran’s death during the great heroes week of November.
But then I was seized within weeks on August 5th and brought to Colombo. With that everything collapsed and Nediyavan got the upper hand. So Prabhakaran’s death was not acknowledged and the myth of him being alive is kept alive still.
Q: You said earlier that money plays a big part in this myth being perpetuated. I think I can guess why and how. But could you elaborate please?
A:During the last few months of the war a massive special collection was conducted among the diaspora. Not even a cent went to the war effort. That money is controlled by Nediyavan and his cohorts. There are also numerous money –making concerns either run directly or being financed by the LTTE. All this is big money. There is also an amount collected on behalf of the TRO(Tamil Rehabilitation Organization)
If Nediyavan and his people are to retain control of this cash and businesses and also raise more funds in the future they need to stage the drama that the armed struggle is not over and Tamil Eelam is just there at the junction. For that the big lie about Prabhakaran being alive must be maintained because our people know that without Prabhakaran there can never be a victorious armed struggle in our lifetime.
But this cant go on forever. Gradually the truth will be realised by all and Nediyavan will be exposed.
Q: This explains the puerile politics of Nediyavan and his cabal. But why are Tamil Nadu politicians like Nedumaran and Vaiko (V.Gopalaswamy) also saying that Prabhakaran is alive? Do they really believe it?
A: No. They also know the truth but they too have links to the overseas LTTE now controlled by Nediyavan. Also their politics has been around the image that the LTTE is invincible and Prabhakaran is immortal. So they have to keep on saying Prabhakaran is alive and Tamil Eelam will bloom.
Q: Have you not tried to convince people like Nedumaran and Vaiko?
A: Last year before I was caught I did telephone Nedumaran and spoke for a very long time explaining the position. He then told me to get the LTTE’s central working committee to pass a resolution saying Prabhakaran was dead. How could I do that? All the leaders were dead or missing or in custody.
Then this man Nedumaran did another dirty thing along with Vaiko. They issued a statement saying Prabhakaran was alive and that KP was an agent of the Indian spy agency RAW.
After that I stopped trying to talk to them. I did not speak to Vaiko but I know reliably that he knows Prabhakaran is no more. When told of the death in private Vaiko “kulungi Aluthar” (shaken and cried) But in public he maintains the lie of Prabhakaran being alive. No amount of secret weeping by Vaiko can take away his guilt in the downfall of the LTTE. It was he who spoiled chances of an India sponsored ceasefire
Q: What do you mean? What did Vaiko do or not do in this matter?
A: While I was trying to bring about a ceaefire on one side the political commissar Nadesan (Balasingham Mahendran) was also trying for one. At one stage pro-LTTE sympathisers in the DMK (Dravida Munnetra Kazhagham) like chief minister Karunanidhi’s daughter and Rajya Sabha MP, Kanimozhi along with the Catholic priest Fr. Jegath Gaspar Raj had been negotiating with Central govt minister P.Chidambaram about a possible ceasefire
With Indian Parliamentary elections being held and AIADMK Leader Jayalalitha taking up a pro-LTTE stance the DMK-Congress combine was getting worried about losing. So Chidambaram came up with an idea. He wanted the LTTE to issue a unilateral statement with two main points. One was to agree to silence arms and surrender them in due course. The other was to accept a political settlement as an alternative to Tamil Eelam.
What I heard was that Chidambaram himself had “unofficially” drafted the statement for the LTTE to release under its name. The guarantee given was that New Delhi would exert pressure on Colombo when the statement was released and bring about a ceasefire pending negotiations.
Though Nadesan had been advised not to leak details of the move to people like Nedumaran and Vaiko, he had at one point of time consulted K. Mahendran the Tamil Nadu legislator from CPI(Marxist). The CPM was an election ally with Vaiko’s MDMK in the AIADMK led alliance. Mahendran had leaked details of the plan to Vaiko.
Both were worried that the Congress and DMK would get the credit for a ceasefire and do well in the elections. So they wanted to sabotage it. Vaiko then got angry at the LTTE and warned Nadesan that if the tigers opted for an alternative to Tamil Eelam then the MDMK and other Tamil Nadu parties supportive of the LTTE would permanently withdraw their support to the LTTE.
Nadesan was given the false hope that the AIADMK led alliance will sweep the seats in Tamil Nadu and the BJP will form the govt in New Delhi. Then pressure could be put on Colombo for a ceasefire. Any ceasefire before elections could help the DMK –Congress.
So this man Nadesan abandoned the idea of releasing a statement. Chidambaram could do nothing. All because of Vaiko. They were so selfish that they prevented a possible ceasefire thinking they will do well at the polls.
Q: But even if they had issued such a statement do you think Colombo could have been forced to agree to a ceasefire at that stage when the defeat of the LTTE was imminent? On the other hand even if the BJP won and AIADMK alliance swept the polls in Tamil Nadu things on the ground in Lanka could not have been changed overnight. Given the speedy progress of the Army things would have been over long before India moved even if it wanted to?
A: I agree. But what I am saying is that even the chance of attempting a ceasefire through Indian help was spoiled at the start itself by this man Vaiko. A selfish politician who let the LTTE be sacrificed for his election ambition. Now he is shedding crocodile tears for Prabhakaran in private and publicly talking of another Eelam war. How long will these fellows grind chilly on our heads?
Q: Thank you for relating in detail about these important events of the recent past. Your input provides fresh insight into these matters. But now I want to ask you about the present.
Let me start with your relationship with this government particularly the Defence secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse. You have already told me about your arrest and your first meeting with the defence secretary. Its obvious that both of you have established good rapport. But there are lots of allegations about this. Several opposition leaders and sections of the media have alleged that there is some kind of shady deal between . What do you have to say?
A: My answer is just the truth. It really is a simple story………………………….
(TO BE CONTINUED)
DBS Jeyaraj can be reached at email@example.com