Canada based veteran Sri Lankan Tamil journalist , DBS Jeyaraj, has reported that Velupillai Prabhakaran, leader of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, is in all probability dead. For the last few weeks, a few hundred LTTE fighters (Prabhakaran and his deputies among them) had been cornered in a small sliver of land in the Mullaitheevu jungles of North Eastern Sri Lanka. A couple of days ago, their access to sea had been cut off. In all probability, Prabhakaran was already severely wounded in the fighting. According to DBS Jeyaraj, Prabhakaran and many of his associates consumed cyanide and also triggered off a huge explosion that destroyed their bodies. DBS Jeyaraj is in my opinion, one of the finest journalists in the world and the best among those covering Sri Lanka. Though Jeyaraj has in the past said that he empathises with the LTTE’s struggle, he has never shied away from criticising the LTTE, an action which once got him severely beaten up by LTTE supporters in Canada. You can read DBS Jeyaraj’s report here.
I believe that there is a very good chance of bringing peace to Sri Lanka at this stage. There are enough moderate Tamil leaders like Douglas Devananda (real name Kathiravelu Nithyananda Devananda) in Sri Lanka who can negotiate on behalf of the Tamil community and obtain a decent deal for them from the Sri Lankan government. Even the pro-LTTE Tamil National Alliance may be able to play a useful role now that Prabhakaran is no more.
Many of the Sri Lankan Tamil Diaspora are active and vocal supporters of the LTTE. In an attempt to prevent the Sri Lankan government from decimating the LTTE, they had in the past few weeks, blocked roads, highways and squares and waved Tiger flags in London, Toronto and elsewhere. I assume these supporters will soon make their way home, since their hero is no more. Many LTTE fundraisers in the west have collected large amounts of money (using force at times) from the Sri Lankan Tamil Diaspora. It would be wonderful if this money could be either returned to the people from whom it was collected or if it could be sent to Northern Sri Lanka for the benefit of Sri Lankan Tamils displaced from their homes as a result of the current round of fighting.
Tamilnet, the unofficial mouthpiece of the Tigers has put out a statement from Selvarasa Pathmanathan, the head of LTTE’s International Diplomatic Relations to the effect that the LTTE will stop fighting in order to save the lives of civilians living in areas under its control. If only the LTTE could have let those civilians leave much earlier, it could have saved a lot more lives!