The fall and fallout of Karuna
For the LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran, acclaimed by friend and foe as a great military strategist, the timing of his surgical operation to remove an unhealthy growth within his system needed little thought.

Those who knew, knew that he would move swiftly, and decisively, to eliminate a mutiny. He just bided his time till the General Elections were over, planning his exercises and manoeuvres for his battle-starved cadres.

And what was more, he knew that the new Government in Colombo, elected on April 2 was in premature if not permanent 'nonagathe' (a period not to engage in work according to National New Year custom).

The Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces was in Nuwara-Eliya. The Government and its Armed Forces were caught flat-footed like a rabbit caught to the headlights. They remained passive spectators as Prabhakaran's loyal cadres ran circles round the Ceasefire, the Armed Forces.

They then circled the renegade Karuna and made him run for his life - to the safe heaven of the 'south'. Uptodate, the Government of Sri Lanka has no comment to make on all these happenings in the East of this island-nation ; not even about the internally displaced thousands nor about the hundreds of cadres who now seem to have entered the capital of Colombo seeking refuge.

The full picture has yet to crystallize detailing the authentic reasons for Karuna's sudden challenge. And yet, there need be no tears shed for the ruthless Karuna, though some hailed him as a courageous man to have had the spunk to challenge his equally ruthless leader.

He had blood on his hands and the elimination of 600 policemen who were asked to surrender by the Government of President R. Premadasa when the 1991 peace talks were aborted arguably is the high-water mark of his ruthlessness.

The Government in Colombo was naturally caught in a web. Should it have backed Karuna and ensured the split of the LTTE, but earn the wrath of Prabhakaran and de-rail the peace process. That was the complex issue.

Added to that, there was the lure of a possible five pro-Karuna TNA MPs supporting a hard-pressed minority Government in Colombo. Its all water under the bridge now. Prabhakaran has secured control of his breakaway Batticaloa camps. All Karuna's men and all Karuna's 120 mm artillery guns may have de-camped or been destroyed, but he remains defeated.

What about all Karuna's child-soldiers? UNICEF has opened their eyes as a can of worms has been opened. Not that these are new revelations, but the fact that one in at least six LTTE fighting cadres serving Karuna, Prabhakaran and the pro-Eelam diaspora funding them - is a child. And now it is officially revealed that some of them have been recruited while world players and NGO chiefs have been paying regular obeisance to these same leaders, journeying to their jungle headquarters to be feasted on lobsters, and have their pictures taken with a real rebel leader for their family albums.

While Prabhakaran's military take-over of the Batticaloa LTTE camps in less than three days is an object lesson in warfare for our own Armed Forces - there is a legitimate fear that the new political leadership in the country would be found wanting in dealing with future situations of such a nature.

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