Saturday, 22 October 2011

Muammar Gaddafi and Velupillai Prabhakaran – Parallels in Life and Death

Gaddafi recent demise at the hands of TNC fighters reminded me of Prabhakaran’s death at the hands of Sri Lankan forces in May 2009.

Both leaders were very charismatic, essentially secular, with patches of left-wing socialism and aspirations to be modern and high-tech. Both leaders built up a personality cult around themselves. Neither leader hesitated to invoke God or religion or play on the religious sentiments of the people or play one religious group or sect against others. For example, in 1990, Prabhakaran’s LTTE expelled over seventy thousand Tamil speaking Muslims from their homelands in the Northern Province, towns such as Chavakacheri, Kilinochchi, Mannar and Jaffna, since they were suspected to the traitors to the cause of Tamil Eelam. In Jaffna, the entire Muslim population was forced to assemble in the grounds of Osmania college and leave within 2 hours, carrying with them nothing more than the clothes on their backs and fifty rupees each in cash.

Both leaders were happy to build links with other terrorist groups world-wide. If Gaddafi provided semtex to the IRA, Prabhakaran’s LTTE had links with various terrorist and naxalite groups in India to whom they sold weapons. The LTTE also used its shipping and logistics units to transport drugs from Colombian cartels and sold them to raise revenue. The LTTE had ties to the IRA as well and Sinn Fein arranged for Prabhakaran’s son Charles Anthony to study Aeronautical Engineering at the University of Belfast. One of Gaddafi’s sons, Saif al-Islam, went to the London School of Economics, where he completed a Ph.D. It was later alleged that Saif al-Islam’s Ph.D thesis on "The Role of Civil Society in the Democratisation of Global Governance Institutions" was plagiarised.

Both leaders always had a working relationship with the West. Despite sanctions and other restrictions, Libyan officials were always in contact with European countries which were keen to do business with the oil rich state. As for the LTTE, even after sanctions were imposed by many Western states, the Sri Lankan Tamil Diaspora made it easy for them to cultivate mid-level leaders in the West who were keen to remain in the good books of the Diaspora, many of whom could vote in the elections.

Death came to both Prabhakaran and Gaddafi in a violent manner, at the hands of men who were just as violent as they were. Gaddafi was captured alive as he tried to flee the TNC’s stranglehold over Sirte. After being beaten and manhandled, he was most probably executed by fighters who did not have the patience to put him on trial as international law would demand. In his final days, Prabhakaran too had been holed up with a few close aides at Mullaivaikaal near the Nanthikadal lagoon in Mullaitivu, North Eastern Sri Lanka. He tried to break out of the military dragnet around him and almost made it. It is alleged that he was captured alive and later killed by the Sri Lankan army, which like the TNC fighters in Sirte, had run out of patience for the demands of International law and human rights, though the Sri Lankan government claims that he died of a random gunshot wound and that his body was accidentally discovered.

Prabhakaran’s wife Mathivathani Erambu, daughter Duwaraka and second son Balachandran were also found dead within a short distance of Prabhakaran’s body, giving rise to the credible suspicion that all of them were killed by the Sri Lankan army. Prabhakaran’s eldest son Charles Anthony was killed a day earlier. One of Gaddafi’s sons Motassim Gaddafi was killed along with him, most probably in the same manner, after being captured alive. There are conflicting reports that some of Gaddafi’s other many sons, like Khamis Gaddafi, Saif al-Arab and Saif al-Islam have also been killed or captured.

No comments: