Playing politics with LTTE dead



British Tamils display the LTTE flag at Maaveerar commemoration in London. (Pix courtesy Tamil Guardian)


The London Maaveear commemoration would have been complete if the organizers invited Adele Balasingham, the Australian wife of LTTE theoretician, the late Anton Balasingham, one-time employee of the British HC in Colombo. Balasingham was laid to rest in Dec 2006 in the UK. Adele became notorious as a white woman guardian tying cyanide capsules around the necks of young Tiger female cadres as a passing out ritual. She is believed to be living scot free in the UK despite consigning so many, possibly underage Tamil girls to a certain horrible death. Such are the hypocritical standards the British continue to set around the world, while mouthing for human rights in countries that the West dislikes and horrors of Palestine precipitated and perpetuated by London is no exception.

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The recently concluded Maaveerar Naal (Great Heroes’ Day)/Maaveerar Vaaram (Great Heroes Week) commemorations underscored the continuing deep divisions within the Tamil community over the conduct of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) during the war.

The organizers of the main commemoration at Nallur, Jaffna, left out the name of the late LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran’s one-time Deputy the late Gopalswamy Mahendraraja aka Mahattaya out of the heroes’ list displayed therein. Prabhakaran was 54 at the time of his death on May 19, 2009 whereas Mahattaya was 38, when he was ordered to be executed by the LTTE leader on Dec 28, 1994.

In fact, Mahattaya, who had been arrested in Aug 1993, interrogated over a period of 16 months and then executed and buried at an undisclosed location in the north never received such tributes bestowed on other members. Mahattaya wasn’t the only one to be dealt with that way. According to Maaveerar Naal organizers, the total number of LTTE dead at the end of the conflict stood at 24,379 (Nov 27, 1982 to May 19, 2009). And Mahattaya hadn’t been among those listed personnel.

Having conducted the first Maaveerar Naal commemoration in the Mullaithivu jungles on Nov 27, 1989, the LTTE expanded the event in 1991 to cover a period of seven days (Nov 20-27). Until Prabhakaran’s elimination on May 19, 2009, his speech delivered at the conclusion of the week remained the highlight of the whole ‘show.’ The Island dealt with the issue and related matters last week (Eelam conflict: In memory of fallen combatants, Nov 29, 2023 edition)

Remains of first LTTEer killed buried in Madurai


A little known fact is that the remains of the first LTTE cadre killed in combat, Sathiyanathan alias Shankar, a native of Kambarmalai near Valvettithurai, had been cremated at the Keeraththurai crematorium in Madurai. Perhaps India should disclose the details as to how many Sri Lankan terrorists (Except for EROS, who were more like the Tigers, none of the other groups resorted to things like suicide bombings) killed in various incidents had been buried there.

It would be pertinent to mention that Shankar, who had received gunshot wounds during a confrontation with the Army in the Jaffna peninsula was moved across the Palk Strait to Tamil Nadu where he succumbed to his injuries. Shankar died on Nov 27, 1982 in the presence of Prabhakaran, who was living there at the time under Indian protection.

Mahattaya’s alleged crime was conspiring with premier Indian intelligence service Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) to eliminate Prabhakaran who ordered former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination. The LTTE assassinated Gandhi on the evening of May 21, 1991, at Sriperumbudur, Tamil Nadu.

Maaveerar organizers also left out suicide bomber Dhanu alias Anbu alias Kalaivani who blasted Gandhi at Sriperumbudur soon after the Congress leader arrived there for a public meeting. Gandhi was campaigning for the general election. Another person who hadn’t been included in the Heroes’ list was Sivarajan alias Packiachandaran alias Raghuvaran aka One-Eyed Jack as referred to by some Indian media because of a glass prosthesis he wore in place of an eye he lost in a battle, who masterminded Sriperumbudur assassination.

Packiachandaran, and another, committed suicide on Aug 19/20, 1991, at Konanakunte, near Bangalore, when Indian security forces surrounded their hideout. However, a section of the Indian media, at that time, reported several other LTTE operatives, who also took their own lives at Konanakunte, near Bangalore. At least a dozen LTTE operatives died in the Indian crackdown. They were buried there.

Perhaps, those who had been relentlessly demanding full disclosure of the circumstances Sri Lanka brought the war to a successful conclusion in May 2009 should also seek to establish whether RAW engaged Mahattaya in a conspiracy to assassinate Prabhakaran. Did Mahattaya cooperate with RAW? Did Mahattaya switch his allegiance to RAW in the wake of Gandhi’s assassination or the treachery as alleged by the LTTE happened years before?

It would be pertinent to mention that RAW had been accused of using members of various Tamil groups to carry out clandestine operations. No less a person than incumbent Member of Parliament Dharmalingham Siddharthan is on record as having said TELO (Tamil Eelam Liberation Organization) assassinated his father V. Dharmalingam and M. Alalasundaram, both Jaffna district MPs, at the behest of RAW.

Dharmalingham told the writer in the 90s that TELO cadres abducted the two lawmakers on the night of Sept 2, 1985 and killed them. According to Dhamalingham, that had been the Indian strategy meant to influence Tamil politicians in line with New Delhi’s overall plan vis-a-vis Sri Lanka.

The Tamil community here and Diaspora seemed to be quite unable and unprepared to come to terms with ground realities. Can Mahattaya be forgotten just because the LTTE called him a traitor? Can those accusations be proved? Some believe Mahattaya got into trouble after India charge-sheeted 41 persons in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case. That group excluded Mahattaya. Of the 41 persons, Prabhakaran, Intelligence Chief Pottu Amman alias Shanmughanathan Sivasankaran and Deputy Chief of the LTTE Women’s Intelligence Wing Akila were not tried as they could not be apprehended. Twelve LTTE operatives died (some committed suicide. Others killed by Indian security forces) and the charges against them abated and the remaining 26 stood trial at Poonamallee court near Chennai.

Judge V. Navaneetham on January 28, 1998 declared all 26 guilty under Section 120-B (conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code read with Section 302 (murder) of the IPC and provisions of the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act. By then Mahattaya was dead.

Another London Maaveerar commemoration


The British flag is raised at the onset of the event.

British Tamils commemorated Maaveerar Naal/Maaveerar Vaaram at ExCel convention centre in London on Nov 27, 2023. They declared the event 36th Maaveerar commemoration. The organizers played Prabhakaran’s 2008 Maaveerar speech to the crowd. Six months after that speech, Prabhakaran was killed on the banks of the Nanthikadal lagoon where the LTTE’s conventional fighting capability was brought to an end.

The British Parliament was represented at the event by several members, including Elliot Colburn, MP for Carshalton and Wellington and Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Tamils (APPGT).

The Tamil Guardian in a report headlined ‘British Tamils commemorate Maaveerar Naal’ posted on Nov 27, 2023, quoted Colburn as having said that he would continue to “push for peace, justice, truth and accountability for war crimes.” The MP added that the APPGT would work to join the USA and Canada in sanctioning those responsible for war crimes and who are still in positions of power today.

Both Colburn and another invitee Bob Blackman, the MP for Harrow East, appreciated the appointment of former Premier David Cameron as UK’s Foreign Secretary. (Cameron was recently in Dubai to promote China’s flagship project Colombo Port City. Controversy surrounds his role in the China project with questions being asked whether he was paid by those promoting Colombo Port City. That issue should be dealt with separately).

Maybe we should ask the world to try Britain for war crimes, beginning with, for example, for what they did here in the aftermath of the Wellassa rebellion, especially for putting to death all males above the age of 12, torching everything the people of that region had. And what about the divide and rule policy of theirs here that clearly led to the present day disharmony. Then what about being the main cause of the calamity in Palestine? Let us also not forget what they did in places like Libya, Iraq, etc., in the recent past. The world also cannot forget how they conquered the west and even Australia, where aborigine numbers dropped from millions, when they arrived there, to less than 200,000 now. Mind you they did all that carrying the Bible and the cross. Someone might say look at the wonderful system of schools they left behind in Sri Lanka, it was certainly not for the love of dark Lankans. Some say it was because they just could not abandon or hide so many children they fathered here to local women. So no wonder they also accommodated many of them later in Australia.

In spite of the LTTE remaining on the British list of proscribed organizations, the Maaveerar organizers displayed the LTTE’s flag and some participants were seen dressed like LTTE women cadres. The commemoration resembled a military-type event with the participants saluting in LTTE style.

The British obviously continue to promote the despicable separatist agenda here though the Sri Lankan military finally eradicated the LTTE completely. Unless, of course, the present government does something utterly foolish on the advice of their friends in the West like the way they blindly signed the Ceasefire Agreement prepared by the Norwegians, with the LTTE secretly, without any whetting. A proper background check on those who had been shedding crocodile tears for the LTTE in the UK and elsewhere would reveal the vast majority of them brazenly exploited the war here to secure political asylum in the UK.

Actually, those who really believed in Eelam never sought refuge in the West. That is the bitter truth the Tamil Diaspora do not want to accept under any circumstances. The situation in other countries is very much similar with organized Tamil groups taking advantage of political party systems to encourage further migration of their brethren to those countries.

At the ExCel convention centre event, a lamp was lit by Prabhananthan, the son of the late LTTE senior commander, ‘Brigadier’ Sornam, in memory of LTTE cadres killed. The senior commander was among those killed during the final phase of the ground operations on the Vanni east front. Sornam, as the LTTE Commander in Trincomalee, ordered the closure of the Mavilaru sluice gates in mid-2006. Sornam believed that he could successfully deploy artillery pieces in the East but the battle for supremacy, in Trincomalee, ended with the LTTE experiencing a debilitating setback.

It would be interesting to establish altogether how many Tamils reached the UK since the conclusion of the war and the number of new British Tamils of Sri Lankan origin.

Among the LTTE dead were hundreds of cadres killed in combat with the Indian Army during its deployment in Northern and Eastern provinces in Sri Lanka (July 1987-March 1990) as well as those perished in fighting with other Tamil groups. It would also be necessary to ascertain how many died in internecine fighting among different separatist groups over the years, particularly during 1982-1990 period when Tamil groups, other than the LTTE, joined the political mainstream.

Asked to comment on the continuing controversy over Maaveerar Naal commemoration, the Executive Director of the National Peace Council Dr. Jehan Perera said: “The government’s refusal to permit the commemoration of the LTTE dead is seen as suppression by the Tamil people. They continue to feel that they are not treated justly by the Sri Lankan state. The tolerance shown by the government for the JVP’s commemoration of their dead has not been shown for the commemoration of the LTTE dead. This is due to the concern that the latter will be a rallying point for a renewed struggle. Sri Lanka needs a political settlement accepted by the Tamil people, so that the commemoration of the LTTE dead will not be seen as posing a danger to the unity of the country.”

Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, the founder Executive Director of the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA), asserted that Maaveerar commemoration could be allowed like the JVP but not to celebrate death.

Thaminili on RAW conspiracy

‘Thiyunu Asipathaka Sevana Yata’ (In the Shadow of a Sharp Sword), Sinhala translation of ‘Oru Koorvaalin Nizhalil’, life story of high ranking LTTE cadre, the late Subramaniam Sivakamy alias ‘Col’ Thamilini dealt with several contentious issues.

The book launch took place at the Sri Lanka Foundation (SLF) on May 13, 2016. ‘Oru Koorvaalin Nizhalil’ was launched on March 19, 2016, in Kilinochchi, a one-time LTTE bastion.

Her husband, Jeyakumaran Mahadevan, British national of Sri Lankan Tamil origin, earned the wrath of an influential section of Tamil politicians, as well as the Tamil Diaspora, for facilitating the releasing of the book. Thamilini passed away at the Maharagama cancer hospital in October 2017.

Thamilini who had served the LTTE for nearly 20 years compared the disappearance of Mahattaya in1993 after being accused of working for the RAW and the rift between Prabhakaran and battlefield commander, Karuna, credited with spearheading successful conventional fighting units in the Vanni region.

According to Thamilini, both occurrences severely disturbed the organization and caused irreparable damage. Prabhakaran accused Mahattaya of conspiring with RAW to assassinate him at the opening of a memorial hall built at Kodikamam, in memory of those who had perished during the 1991 assault on the strategic Elephant Pass Army base.

The LTTE claimed that RAW planned to use a Tiger working for the Indian spy network to kill Mahattaya immediately after he shot Prabhakaran, thereby paving the way for an Indian plant to take over the Tiger leadership. The operative was identified as Kiruban.

Having declared that she had been present at Irupalai political school when charges were read out before those accused of the conspiracy, Thamilini claimed that RAW planned to do away with both Prabhakaran and Mahattaya, simultaneously, thereby facilitating Kiruban taking over the LTTE leadership. Kiruban had been freed by RAW to execute the operation while the agency propagated that he escaped from their custody.

The LTTE Intelligence, according to Thamilini, executed scores of cadres, including those holding senior command positions, for being allegedly involved in the conspiracy. The executed included a Susilan, who had driven away a tank, captured during the LTTE attack on the Pooneryn Army base, in early Nov. 1993, to the LTTE-held area.

Thamilini declared that the way the organization had moved against Karuna reminded her of the Mahattaya episode and the circumstances under which the LTTE wiped out rival Tamil organizations. Thamilini questioned the validity of accusations, including conspiracy against the leader, misappropriation of funds and sexual misconduct directed at various personnel, over the years. One of the major charges directed at Mahattaya had been that he was lenient towards those under him and sought to use them against the leader.

What Thamilini didn’t say was that Prabhakaran in 2003 made an abortive bid to take Karuna into custody by requesting the then government to fly the dissident Tiger to Kilinochchi. Karuna declined to get onboard though the SLAF sent a helicopter to pick him from somewhere in Batticaloa.

Political background

At the time Prabhakaran took Mahattaya into custody in August 1993, D.B. Wijetunga served as the President in the wake of a Tiger assassin blowing up President Ranasinghe Premadasa in Colombo on May Day of the same year. The country was heading towards national elections – parliamentary and presidential polls in Aug and Nov 1994, respectively. (The writer had an opportunity to meet Mahattaya on January 08, 1990 along with several Colombo-based Indian journalists and veteran local journalist, the late Rita Sebastian, at Koliyakulam, a farming village a little distance away from Omanthai. Mahattaya was assisted by Yogi, the then public face of the LTTE. The writer undertook a perilous motorcycle ride with an LTTE cadre through a jungle path as the Indian Army patrolled the main roads.). The Island reported the conversation (‘LTTE pledges to eliminate pro-Indian Tamil groups’, January 10, 1990 and ‘In Tiger country’, January 14, 1990)

The possibility of Prabhakaran suspecting President Premadasa making an attempt to convince Mahattaya to sue for genuine peace, too, cannot be ruled out. Regardless of tough measures and precautions taken by Prabhakaran to avert any such eventuality, the possibility of the President making a bid to end senseless bloodshed cannot be ruled out. Did such suspicions influence Prabhakaran’s decision to eliminate President Premadasa in an attack very much similar to that of Gandhi assassination? The whole scenario should be examined against the backdrop of Mahattaya having an opportunity to meet President Premadasa in Colombo as the leader of the PFLT (People’s Front of Liberation Tigers) political wing of the LTTE during direct talks between the two parties (May 1989-June 1990).

The execution of Mahattaya took place close on the heels of Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga’s victory at the Nov 1994 presidential election. By then, the LTTE had taken control of the Vanni region though there were few isolated military bases in coastal areas. The Kandy-Jaffna A9 road north of Omanthai had been brought under LTTE control right up to Kilinochchi and it remained in their hands till the first week of January, 2009, when the then Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka’s Army routed the LTTE and finally killed him on the banks of Nanthikadal lagoon with his last band of trusted carders accompanying him nearly, five months later on May 19.

The LTTE never raised its ugly head again. Even a thousand Maaveerar commemorations will not make any difference. However, the public will have to be wary of efforts to grant what Eelamists couldn’t win through military means.