What will Prabhakaran say as troops besiege key rebel town?

November 26th, 2008 - 12:04 pm ICT by IANS  

Colombo, Nov 26 (IANS) Everyone here is keenly awaiting the annual speech of Velupillai Prabhakaran, the leader of the Tamil Tiger rebels, Thursday as the Sri Lankan Army says it has laid siege to Kilinochchi, the rebels’ political capital in the north despite heavy resistance.The speech, delivered in the third week of November as the rebel group commemorates the memory of its fallen cadre, is considered politically significant as it sets out plans for the next one year, and is closely monitored locally and internationally. This year it assumes added significance as the LTTE faces a critical situation militarily.

Prabhakaran, who will turn 54 on Nov 26, is set to make the speech Thursday from an undisclosed location in the Mullaitivu district, even as the group faces government troops who claim to be making a “multi-pronged” advance towards the rebel-held Kilinochchi town, located 350 km north of here.

Both sides were locked in a fierce battle, braving torrential rains, flooded roads and muddy grounds. The defence ministry said Tuesday that the troops were prepared to “face any challenge that comes in their way in the battlefield” and were determined to capture the rebel town.

Meanwhile, according to local media reports, religious ceremonies had begun last Friday in Mullaitivu district to commemorate the deaths of guerrilla cadres since their separatist campaign began and the next-of-kin were flocking to cemeteries and temples.

What Prabhakaran will say in his address this time is the key topic of discussion in diplomatic circles in Colombo, with both western or Asian envoys trying to guess their best.

A Western diplomat told IANS that Prabhakaran could highlight two key issues in addition to his usual war rhetoric.

“He would say that the war is not over, and the LTTE is not down and finished, as it is made out to be. He might say that his cadres would strike back and regain the lost territories,” he said, noting that despite the ground realities, the LTTE chief has to say this to maintain his importance among the local populace on the one hand and satisfy the powerful Tamil diaspora on the other.

The diplomat also said that the rebel chief is likely to “reiterate his disappointment” with the international community as a whole for not exerting pressure on the Sri Lankan government to stop the military campaign and push for talks.

“I do not know whether there will be takers for this. Anyway, we are waiting to hear what he has to say,” he said.

An Asian diplomat said that instead of making charges against India, Prabhakaran “could focus specifically on the Tamil Nadu people and the leaders, taking moral high ground on the developments there”.

“Now that the LTTE has technically lost the Eastern province and vast stretch of lands, including the strategically important Pooneryn and Mankulam areas in the Wanni, I cannot really imagine what he could really say militarily,” he said.

“The recurring theme of his commitment to regain the lost territories and to achieve a separate state will be said once again, but knowing fully well his strengths and weaknesses, it is unlikely that he will set a deadline for it”.

A top official attached to the President’s office said that whatever the rebel leader might say “it will evoke a positive response from the government only if he comes forward to give up weapons and end violence in deeds”.

“Let him say anything he wants, but President Mahinda Rajapaksa has made his position loud and clear with regard to the LTTE and the political solution to the ethnic conflict. That is - defeating the terrorism militarily is a pre-requisite for any political solution and the LTTE should surrender its weapons and enter the democratic process,” he said.

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