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Tigers: Many milestones before the fall

Contributed by Anonymous on Tuesday, May 19 @ 10:07:48 CDT

International: Politics
The Hindu, May 19 2009
There were many important moments in the history of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and its supremo Velupillai Prabakaran. The pictures here provide glimpses from a time when the group enjoyed the comfort of a base in Tamil Nadu, the support of leaders such as M.G. Ramachandran, the historic signing of the India-Sri Lanka Agreement in 1987, and the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi. Some recently discovered pictures also show Prabakaran with family members. - PHOTO: S. KOTHANDARAMAN

SUPPORT & SYMPATHY: Velupillai Prabakaran with Chief Minister M.G. Ramachandran in Chennai.


AT HOME BASE: Prabakaran, at centre, is seen with (from left), his colleagues Swarnam, Mahatiya and Yogi in Jaffna in August 1987. At right is N. Ram. - THE HINDU PHOTO LIBRARY

UNUSUAL PROTEST: The LTTE chief breaks a fast he undertook in Chennai, demanding return of articles seized from his group by the police. Dravidar Kazhagam leader K. Veeramani is at right. - PHOTO: PIB

KEY DISCUSSION: A day before the India-Sri Lanka Agreement of 1987 was signed, Prabakaran (at right) is seen with Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, former Tamil Nadu Minister Panruti Ramachandran and LTTE ideologue Anton Balasingham in New Delhi. - THE HINDU PHOTO LIBRARY

AFTER THE ACCORD: With Kittu, Jaffna leader of the LTTE, as he speaks at Sudumalai after the signing of the peace agreement. - PHOTO: N. RAM

LANDMARK AGREEMENT: Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and Sri Lankan President J.R. Jayewardene sign the India-Sri Lanka Agreement in Colombo on July 29, 1987.

DEADLY PLAN: Sivarasan (at right), the leader of the assassination squad, and suicide bomber Dhanu, who holds a garland, wait for Rajiv Gandhi to arrive for the fateful Sriperumbudur meeting in 1991.

THE ASSASSIN: Moments before being assassinated, Rajiv Gandhi listens to a girl recite a poem. Dhanu, with flowers in her hair, is at left. - PHOTO: AP

Norway's Foreign Minister Jan Petersen, right, greets Prabakaran during a meeting in Kilinochchi in 2004.

Prabakaran at his wedding at a temple near Chennai. - PHOTO: AP

Soosai, a commander of the LTTE, at Elephant Pass in 2003, and Pottu Amman, head of the intelligence unit. Both were reported killed.

FAMILY TIES: In a recently discovered picture, Prabakaran is seen with his parents, wife Mathivathani and son Charles Antony.

End of a warlord & zealot Special Correspondent Velupillai Prabakaran, 1954-2009 CHENNAI: The 37-year-old quest of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam has ended with the death of its founder Velupillai Prabakaran. He was 54 years old. He was shot dead by the Sri Lanka Army at Mullivaikkal in Mullaithivu district in northern Sri Lanka. His elder son Charles Antony, and also the entire top leadership of the LTTE, including the LTTE’s intelligence chief, Pottu Amman, and the Sea Tigers chief, Soosai, were killed after being encircled by the Sri Lankan armed forces. Until the last, Prabakaran, a ruthless and dreaded terrorist yet ironically remaining an inspirational symbol to thousands of Sri Lankan Tamils, remained uncompromising on his goal of armed struggle, a struggle that despite its lofty claims had often manifested in ruthless violence even directed at fellow Tamils. Yet in the early 1980s, Prabakaran had indeed appeared eager to be seen as a revolutionary fighter, in the mould of heroic figures of legendary revolutions. “Socialism and Tamil Eelam form our political ideology, our cause,” he had told The Hindu in an interview in Chennai in September 1986. On another occasion, he told Frontline in November 1985: “We had an ideology from the beginning — that was to form a socialist State. If we did not give shape to that ideology, it was because we got straightway into the struggle.” Prabakaran, who had little patience for the sophistry of political negotiations, made a virtue out of his sole reliance on violence and armed struggle. He made clear that he believed in the primacy of the gun and in the philosophy of “hitting back.” As Yogi, a senior LTTE leader, told this newspaper in August 1987 after the Indian Peace-Keeping Force had arrived in the Tamil areas of Sri Lanka consequent to the signing of the Indo-Sri Lanka Agreement: “Thamby [Prabakaran] would always tell me that he preferred fighters to intellectuals.” A craving Prabakaran had a child-like craving for the LTTE to be recognised “as the sole representative of the Tamil race.” Unfortunately that craving turned into a deadly cannibalistic tendency to devour other Tamil militant groups, thus undermining the struggle for equal rights for Sri Lankan Tamils. The result was that most of his military energies were spent on the destructive task of liquidating other militant leaders and groups. An early chilling indication of Prabakaran’s fascistic side was his personal gunning down of the Mayor of Jaffna, Alfred Duraiappa, in July 1975. The fratricidal conflicts with TELO and PLOTE, the gunning down of the soft-spoken leader of TELO, Sri Sabarathnam and of the EPRLF’s K. Padmanabha revealed that Prabakaran was no revolutionary fighter as he claimed but a murderous terrorist who would stop at nothing to achieve his own supremacy. With the dastardly assassination of Rajiv Gandhi on May 21, 1991 by means of suicide belt-bomber Dhanu at Sriperumbudur, about 35 km from Chennai, Prabakaran was proclaimed an absconding offender. Prabakaran was the No. 1 accused in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case. The assassination led to the LTTE being banned by India and further ostracism internationally with a number of countries including the U.S. and the U.K. following suit. The assassination marked the beginning of the fall of the LTTE because it lost public support in Tamil Nadu. Formidable machine Over the past 37 years, Prabakaran transformed the LTTE into a formidable military machine. What was first a guerrilla force became a conventional fighting force offering formidable resistance to the Sri Lankan armed forces. The LTTE acquired a sea wing and an air force. It also had a police force, a border security force and home guards. His control of Jaffna was that of a warlord, as he kept an entire Tamil population in thrall, virtually sealing the area off from any democratic challenge from within the Tamil political field. Prabakaran was drawn into the Tamil struggle after the Sri Lankan government passed a series of legislations, first aimed at the plantation Tamils and then against the Sri Lankan Tamils themselves. Repeated violence against the Tamils in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s influenced Prabakaran to take to armed struggle. Explaining to Frontline in November 1985 what impelled him to become a fighter for the Tamil cause, Prabakaran noted that when he was young his parents “used to talk a lot at home against the 1958 racial riots directed against the Tamils in which many people were affected. This affected me.” Another influence He further explained in that interview that when he was at school, he had private tuitions from a former member of the Tamil Federal party, V. Navarathinam, In Prabakaran’s words, “He used to talk to us on various world movements, how nothing can be published by parliamentary means, etc. I was 15 years old then and I got the feeling that we also should hit back and that we should have a separate country of our own.” So it was that Prabakaran, still in his teens, first formed the Tamil New Tigers (TNT) in 1972. The tiger was chosen as the emblem because the tiger represented the Chola flag and stood for Tamil patriotism and a Tamil nation. Yet the TNT was a forerunner of the LTTE, just as ruthless and fascist in its tactics. Apart from the assassination of Alfred Duraiappa, the record of the TNT included raids on banks, lamp-posting killing of informants and murdering secret service police officers. Gandhian thoughts But with all his dependence on violence to achieve his ends, Prabakaran recognised the utility of non-violent tactics on occasion, as for instance when he took to the Gandhian mode of protest of going on a fast-unto-death when the LTTE’s communication sets were seized in November 1986. Asked how a man who believed in an armed struggle could resort to a Gandhian non-violent form of protest, he sallied: “The Irish Republican Army leader Bobby Sands too went on a fast-unto-death.” A lot of his political inspiration was, self-confessedly, from India. Early heroes of his school days were ‘Netaji’ Subash Chandra Bose and Tiruppur Kumaran. He was also an admirer of Napoleon Bonaparte. Parents Prabakaran’s father Tiruvengadam Velupillai was a Land Development Officer in the employ of the Sri Lankan government. His mother’s name is Parvathy. Prabakaran, who was born on November 26, 1954, had an elder brother and two elder sisters. He was the last of the four siblings. He married Mathivadhani at the Murugan temple in Tirupporur near Chennai in 1984. His first son Charles Antony was born in 1985, followed by a daughter Dwaraka. His second son’s name is Balachandran. He named his elder son Charles Antony because Charles Antony was the first LTTE fighter to lose his life in a confrontation with the Sri Lanka Army. The younger son is called Balachandran, in memory of Madhivadhani’s brother Balachandran, who was also an LTTE member who died in a clash with the IPKF.



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