Velupillai Prabhakaran The ever lasting flame of Thamils’ struggle for freedom
‘Perform your duty without regard to the fruits of action’, says the Bhagavad Gita. I grasped this profound truth when I read the Mahabharata. When I read the great didactic works, they impressed on me the need to lead a good, disciplined life and roused in me the desire to be of service to the community. Above all, Subhash Chandra Bose’s life was a beacon to me, lighting up the path I should follow. His disciplined life and his total commitment and dedication to the cause of his country’s freedom deeply impressed me and served as my guiding light. Velupillai Prabhakaran, How I became a freedom fighter – Interview, April 1994
“நாம் இனத்துவேஷிகள் அல்லர். போர் வெறிகொண்ட வன்முறையாளர்களும் அல்லர். நாம் சிங்கள மக்களை எதிரிகளாகவோ விரோதிகளாகவோ கருத வில்லை. சிங்கள பண்பாட்டை கெளரவிக்கின்றோம். சிங்கள மக்களின் தேசிய வாழ்வில், அவர்களது சுதந்திரத்தில் நாம் எவ்விதமும் தலையிட விரும்பவில்லை. நாம் எமது வரலாற்று தாயத்தில் ஒரு தேசிய மக்கள் இனம் என்ற அந்தஸ்துடன், நிம்மதியாக, சுதந்திரமாக, கெளரவத்துடன் வாழ விரும்புகிறோம்.”
We are not chauvinists
“We are not chauvinists. Neither are we lovers of violence enchanted with war. We do not regard the Sinhala people as our opponents or as our enemies. We recognise the Sinhala nation. We accord a place of dignity for the culture and heritage of the Sinhala people. We have no desire to interfere in any way with the national life of the Sinhala people or with their freedom and independence. We, the Tamil people, desire to live in our own historic homeland as an independent nation, in peace, in freedom and with dignity.”
Excerpts from Will to Freedom, The: An Inside View of Tamil Resistance by Adele Balasingham, March 1, 2003
“Mr.Pirabaharan was a frequent visitor to our house; in both an official and personal capacity. He would come alone with his bodyguards and on other occasions with his family. By mid 1998 we had known and lived with the legendary leader of the Tamil liberation struggle Vellupillai Pirabaharan for twenty years. During those years of personal and political relationship we have been deeply involved in experiences with him that led to an understanding and insight into one of the most complex and commanding personalities determining the politics of Sri Lanka.
Those twenty years of relationship embraced an epoch in the struggle during which we walked through many good times together and traversed and triumphed over periods of adversity in both his political and personal life. Over this span of time we had seen the ideals of freedom of a young militant progressively transforming into a concrete reality. Parallel to the march towards the liberation of his people, Mr. Pirabaharan has emerged as a living symbol of national freedom and has grown in adoration to become a venerated figure amongst his oppressed people. Security concerns have compelled Mr. Pirabaharan to adopt what many have mistakenly labelled a ‘reclusive’ life style. His secluded existence under conditions of continued war and his inaccessibility to the media have made him the most misunderstood and feared guerrilla leader of our times. He has, of course, become most successful and popular in his spectacular military campaign. His military ability has often perplexed the many professional military minds in the world. So what is it that has earned this short, stocky, neat man so much love from his people on the one hand, and notoriety from the world on the other?
“Nature is my friend. Life is my teacher of philosophy. History is my guide. Not the existence of man, but the action of man sets the wheel of history of the struggle in motion. History is not a divine force outside man. It is not the meaning of an aphorism that determines the fate of man. History is an expression of the dynamism of man. Man creates history. Man also determines his own fate… Simplicity is born as the highest fruit of wisdom; simplicity appears devoid of selfishness and pride. This simplicity makes one a handsome man; a cultured man. Fear is the image of weakness, the comrade of timidity, the enemy of steadfastness/ determination. Fear of death is the cause of every human fear. Who conquers this fear of death, conquers over himself. This person also reaches liberation from the prison of his mind. Even an ordinary human being can create history if he is determined to die for truth.” Reflections of the Leader: Quotes by Veluppillai Prabhakaran Translation of Tamil Original by Peter Schalk and Alvappillai Velupillai. Published by Uppasala University, Sweden.
“அன்றும் சரி, இன்றும் சரி, தமிழரின் உணர்வுகளை, அவர்களது வாழ்நிலை அவலங்களை, அவர்களது தேசிய அபிலாசைகளைச் சிங்களப் பெரும்பான்மை இனம் புரிந்து கொள்ளவில்லை. புரிந்து கொள்ள எத்தனிக்கவுமில்லை. புரிந்து கொள்ளும் ஆற்றலும் அறிவுத் திறனும் ஆன்ம பக்குவமும் அவர்களிடம் இருப்பதாகவும் தெரியவில்லை… சிங்கள மக்களின் மகாவம்ச மனவமைப்பில், அவர்களது சமூகப் பிரக்ஞையில், அவர்களது அரசியற் கருத்துலகில் அடிப்படையான மாற்றம் நிகழுமென நாம் எதிர்பார்க்கவில்லை. சிங்கள – பௌத்த மேலாண்மைவாதத்தின் வீச்சும் வலுவும் தணிந்து போகவில்லை. மாறாக, அது புதிய, புதிய வடிவங்களை எடுத்துப் புத்துயிர்பெற்று வருகிறது. ” – வேலுப்பிள்ளை பிரபாகரன் மாவீரர் நாள் 2005
Ulakattamilarai Uyaravaittavan Prabhakarane
உலகத்தமிழரை உயரவைத்தவன் பிரபாகரனே
“This is our land, the land in which we were born, grew and live, the land which bears the foot prints of our forefathers, the land in which our culture and history are rooted…The LTTE will not participate in peace negotiations imposed at the point of a gun …This is the message we wish to address to the Chandrika regime” – Maveerar Naal Address – November 1995
“We launched our struggle for self determination and political independence because of the systematic oppression of our people by the Sri Lankan state. It is the Sri Lanka government which has failed to learn the lessons from the emergence of the struggles for self determination in several parts of the globe and the innovative structural changes that have taken place… We are not warmongers who love violence. We want a permanent, stable and honourable peace…. One day, when our enemy knocks at our doors for peace, we will extend the hand of friendship.” – Velupillai Pirabaharan, leader of Tamil Eelam, 1992.
“The waves of sympathy that sweeps across Tamil Nadu whenever Eelam Tamils are repressed has always been a deterrent to our ruthless enemy and a great source of hope and relief to our aggrieved people. It also impresses upon the world that the Eelam Tamils are not alone and without support.” – Message to the people and leaders of Tamil Nadu, December 1995.
“Our struggle shines as a superb paradigm of women’s ability to accomplish anything. So that our race may honor humanness which is beyond masculinity and femininity, womankind is extending its hand of love and friendship. Only when man as a gender grasps this loving hand with deep awareness will equality between men and women be a reality.” Women’s International Day Message – March 1996.
“We are a movement fighting for liberation. We are not an ordinary group which stands abjectly in askance of concessions…Our goal is that we should live with honour peace, safety and freedom in our home soil, our own soil which historically belongs to us. This is our national aspiration. – Maveerar Naal Address – November 1994.
“குடும்பத்தைத் துறந்து கல்வியை துறந்து, சுதந்திரம் என்ற இலட்சியற்காக தமது உயிரையும் துச்சமாக மதித்து போராட்டக் களத்தில் குதித்திருக்கின்றார்கள். இவர்களை ஆயுதப் போராட்டப் பாதைக்குத் தள்ளியது சிங்கள அரச பயங்கரவாதமே யன்றி வேறொன்றும் இல்லை”
“பயம் என்பது பலவீனத்தின் வெளிப்பாடு. கோழைத்தனத்தின் தோழன். உறுதியின் எதிரி. மனித பயங்களுக்கெல்லாம் மூலமானது மரண பயம். இந்த மரணபயத்தைக் கொன்று விடுபவன்தான் தன்னை வென்று விடுகிறான். அவன் தான் தனது மனச்சிறையிலிருந்து விடுதலை பெறுகிறான்.”
“We are fully aware that the world is not rotating on the axis of human justice. Every country in this world advances its own interests. It is the economic and trade interests that determine the order of the present world, not the moral law of justice nor the rights of people. International relations and diplomacy between countries are determined by such interests. Therefore we cannot expect an immediate recognition of the moral legitimacy of our cause by the international community.” Maveerar Naal Address – November 1993.
“The historical storm of the liberation struggle is uprooting age old traditions that took root over a long period of time in our society… The ideology of women liberation is a child born out of the womb of our liberation struggle.The Tamil Eelam revolutionary woman has transformed herself as a Tiger for the liberation of our land and liberation of women.” Women’s International Day Message – March 1993.
“The strength of our struggle arises from the fierce determination of our fighters. Their firm commitment and their courage to act without the fear of death are the force and resource of our struggle. The whole world is providing arms and funds to our enemy. We are not begging from the world. We stand firm on our own legs, on our own soil, on our own people and fight with our own hands. Since we are firmly rooted in our own strength we stand upright without bowing to the pressures of others.” Maveerar Naal Address – November 1992.
“Our women are seeking liberation from the structures of oppression deeply embedded in our society. This oppressive cultural system and practices have emanated from age old ideologies and superstitions. Tamil women are subjected to intolerable suffering as a consequence of male chauvinistic oppression, violence and from the social evils of casteism and dowry.” Women’s International Day Message – March 1992.
“Today, we cherish the memory of a great martyr and salute her supreme sacrifice. Mother Poopathi has earned our highest esteem as one of the noble martyrs who have become legends in the history of our liberation struggle. As a woman, as a mother, as the maternal head of the family, Poopathi amma transcended her ordinary life and the bonds of existential attachment in sacrificing her life for the emancipation of her nation. Our people are our mountains. As long as the power of the people is behind us, we can face any challenges” Annai Poopathy’s Fast for Freedom – Second Anniversary Message – March 1990.
How do we account for the contradiction in his people’s perception of him, and the vilification by the world?
Mr. Pirabaharan, born in the coastal village of Valvettiturai on 26th November 1954 was a sixteen year old teenager when he took up arms and became involved in the political struggle of his people. He was, in other words, a ‘child soldier’ if we use the language of today. From those early days he has never lived a ‘normal’ life. As his commitment deepened, he mobilised and organised a group of radical youth who shared his views into an underground guerrilla organisation and launched an armed resistance campaign.
His daring guerrilla attacks brought him to the attention of the state authorities and he became a ‘wanted’ man living an underground life in Jaffna. His bold armed challenge to the might of the Sinhala state earned Mr. Pirabaharan a noble reputation and he became a heroic figure amongst his people. The shrewdness and intelligence he successfully deployed in challenging the state was viewed by the people as their triumph and an assertion of their pride and identity. Mr. Pirabaharan’s sustained and successful armed resistance against mounting state oppression has earned him the mantle of national leader of the Tamil people’s struggle for freedom and independence. This noble objective fuels his passion and dominates his spirit. The struggle has become his life and he has become the struggle. Although Mr. Pirabaharan would never make any pretensions to being a theorist or an ideologue, his politics place him squarely in the camp of a patriotic nationalist. Mr. Pirabaharan’s nationalism is not a manifestation of Tamil chauvinism or racism, as many Sinhala critics would like to argue. His national sentiment arose from a determination to resist Sinhala racist oppression that aims at the destruction of his people. In other words, the racism of the Sinhala state made him a fierce patriot, a passionate lover of his oppressed nation.
His deep love for his people, their culture and more specifically their language, fuels his dedication and determination to secure their survival. For him, uncluttered by abstract concepts and theories, the problem confronting the Tamil people is clearcut and simple and the struggle for freedom is just. His psyche is deeply rooted in the soil of his motherland, the Northeast, which he always refers to as Tamil Eelam. He has an unshakeable view that his people have a right to live in peace, dignity and harmony in their historic homeland. His perception of Tamil Eelam is neither secessionist nor expansionist.
For him, Tamil Eelam belongs to the Tamils and they have the sovereign right over their territory. Indeed, he has neither demonstrated nor articulated any aspiration to annex traditional Sinhala territory nor does he dream of an expansionist greater Eelam as projected by some Indian critics. Mr. Pirabaharan has always maintained individuality and creativity in fashioning the mode of the armed struggle of the Tamil people. Though he was familiar with the history of the national liberation struggles and freedom moments of the other countries of the world, he did not embrace or capitulate to any established models or theories of liberation warfare.
For him, methods of struggle should evolve from the objective conditions unique to each struggle. He devised his own methodology of warfare suited to the necessities and conditions of the struggle of his people. Some of his methods and tactics of warfare have earned him severe condemnation, particularly among the Sinhala political and military analysts. Yet he has defended his ‘ruthless’ tactics as a necessary means to protect his weak and small nation of people against a strong, powerful and ruthless enemy….”
Meeting Velupillai Prabhakaran
A Consultant Doctor from UK and his wife visit the Vanni , 14 October 2004.
My wife and I visited Vavuniya and Killinochchi an year ago to do some voluntary work, treating people with eye ailments. We ran some eye camps for civilians as well as ex militant cadres. When we were coming to the end of our visit, we were told that an ‘important person’ would like to meet with us. It was only when we arrived at the place of meeting that we realised to our pleasant surprise that the person who greeted us was Velupillai Pirabaharan.
I felt that I should write an account of that meeting with Velupillai Pirabaharan, his wife and son. Such a meeting was not expected nor requested by us when we visited the Vanni but when it came, it turned out to be a unique, pleasant and an unforgettable one.To us Pirabaharan came across primarily as a soft spoken, deep thinking person with considerable depth of knowledge in what ever topic we discussed, with a keen desire to gain a proper understanding of each and every matter that he came across during our conversation. . We kept politics and the future of our freedom struggle totally out of the discussion not by any request but by choice. My wife and I felt (independently) that we should use the opportunity to be free and discuss any topic that was raised by the Pirabaharans. They were our hosts and it seemed entirely appropriate that we should do exactly what we would do when visiting close relatives or friends.
This was not pre planned but I suppose came naturally to us when there was no pre conceived idea as to how one should handle such an unexpected opportunity!Keen to gain knowledge and understandingWhat ever explanations Shanthi or I gave on medical matters, as they were our main topics of discussion, Pirabaharan and his wife as well listened with keenness and asked very pertinent questions. Pirabaharan in particular was keen to understand the basis of various eye disorders that became the main topic both from a personal point of view as well as with regard to many of the patients we saw during our short stay in Vanni.A caring coupleWe were both impressed by his desire to know details of many of the patients we had seen; most of whom he remembered by name and asked what treatment could be offered to improve their conditions. He was visibly moved and was very empathetic when we described the effects of the eye injuries we came across and emphasised the importance of good medical facilities and after care. The deep knowledge he had of the extent of the war injuries on the youngsters in particular and the effects of years of neglect of the health services on the public at large, made it abundantly clear to us the commitment they both had for the welfare of our people.A good fatherDuring the course of our conversation their son who would have been around 7 years played around with his father, climbed all over him, threw flower petals on his head and Pirabaharan accepted all that despite some concern shown by the minders saying that “ let my son have fun” and asked us if we minded!
We shared our experiences as parents and the discussion often went into raising children and the social responsibilities of parents and children. It was nice indeed to share these ideas with a person who seems to have an image outside only as a strong military leader. When Pirabaharan got himself excused to go and feed his son the lunch, we saw the face of a loving father and a dutiful husband who left his wife to discuss matters that interested her with their guests. His wife discussed at length with Shanthi in particular the problems faced by parents, by mothers in particular in bringing up children and they both dwelled on spiritual matters as well as educational issues. We both were made to feel so much at home by our hosts and felt as if we had known them for years.Good hostsAt lunch our two hosts made sure that Shanthi had her vegetarian dishes and both supervised personally the servings and Pirabaharan took a great pride in explaining the various dishes and how many vegetables and fruits were now grown in Vanni. He made sure all others at the lunch table ate well too. It was typical Thamil hospitality at it’s best, showered on us by a person who could have been very aloof and remote to the two unknown visitors but chose to be a ordinary man doing his duties as a host as expected by our traditions and customs, with out any effort but naturally as it would come to a brother feeding his long lost family.
There were many humorous moments as well during this meeting and we had a glimpse of the good sense of humour our national leader has. We both were very moved by the whole experience.Respect and decorumWhen we examined their eyes they both listened with interest and showed immense respect to us. Pirabaharan asked me very politely, if I had the time to examine Mr.Thamilenthy. There was no compulsion or expectation , but a kind request to help a close associate, which I could have refused if I wanted on the basis lack of time .We were happy to oblige. When the time came to leave, bodyguards appeared in the scene for the first time but Pirabaharan got into his vehicle only when it was made sure that our transport was ready to take us to Colombo and we will get to the barrier before the closing time.ImpressionWe left the visit with the feeling of meeting a nice friendly family but did not fail to notice some of the exceptional qualities of the leader of a people.
Behind the strong, clever and able leader there is a loving husband and father, a caring person and above all an intelligent man with an inquiring mind. Not having once raised a military or political topic we were able to involve ourselves totally with Mr. & Mrs.Pirabaharan and family and so can be excused for forming an impression of them even though one feels inadequate to make a judgement on a person who will be judged one day (if not already) by history as an intelligent, trusted and caring leader of the Thamil Nation.
Prabhakaran’s hunger strike in Tamil Nadu in 1980s
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