Colombo | 12th Aug
Former LTTE cadres with an army officer in Colombo on 11 May. As part of a rehabilitation programme, more than 500 ex-cadres were on a three-day visit to Colombo from Vavuniya. REUTERS
hen Union Minister of Finance P. Chidambaram spent several days in March 2008 seeking to save the LTTE and V. Prabhakaran from impending annihilation at the hands of the Sri Lankan Army. This was revealed by Prabhakaran's effective second-in-command at the time, Selvarasa Pathmanathan, in Colombo on Thursday.
Pathmanathan, who first came into contact with Prabhakaran in 1976, rose steadily through the ranks, leaving for India in 1982, from where he was tasked with the procurement of money and weapons from Bulgaria, Lebanon, Ukraine, North Korea and other countries. He left this country soon after the IPKF landed in Sri Lanka in 1987 as part of the Rajiv Gandhi-J.R. Jayawardene pact.
Although he left active duty in 2002, soon after the new restrictions on money transfers and arms procurement post-9/11 made his job difficult, he was asked by Prabhakaran to rejoin as the supremo's effective deputy in January 2009, months away from the defeat of the LTTE at the hands of the Sri Lankan military.
Aware that the LTTE leadership, including Prabhakaran, was cornered in a small area to the north of Sri Lanka, the Finance Minister undertook a mission to enforce yet another ceasefire, which would prevent the capture or annihilation of the top leadership of the LTTE. Chidambaram told the LTTE supremo via the latter's military second-in-command Natesan that he would "ensure that the Sri Lankan government agree to a peace deal that would involve the implementation of the 13th amendment", which would confer substantial autonomy to the Tamil-majority areas in the north and east of Sri Lanka. Further, the LTTE leader and his top confidants would be "escorted out of their trap in safety", presumably to fight another day.
All that Chidambaram asked for was a declaration that the LTTE would agree for "autonomy within Sri Lanka", rather than an independent Tamil homeland. According to Pathmanathan, "Prabhakaran was totally opposed to giving up Eelam, but he was considering making a declaration to the contrary" so as to save his organisation.
"Prabhakaran would have issued a statement that he had dropped the Eelam demand (while determined to continue the battle once conditions improved) but Natesan confided the Chidambaram plan to Vaiko, who immediately sent a message to Prabhakaran not to give up Eelam" even verbally.
According to Pathmanathan, Vaiko assured Prabhakaran that he and other Eelam supporters in Tamil Nadu would "make the Government of India intervene to rescue the LTTE leaders", just as they had done on previous occasions. "Prabhakaran believed Vaiko and refused Chidambaram's request," the former LTTE deputy leader added.
During the final days in May when the Sri Lankan Army was on the edge of eliminating the LTTE altogether, "several of those present with Prabhakaran in his final redoubt rued the day they had trust in Tamil Nadu leaders", Pathmanathan said.
That the present Finance Minister of India went to such lengths in an attempt to save the lives of those that planned and carried out the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi indicates that forgiveness is very much a part of Chidambaram's character.
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