The Defence Column

17th November 1996

Prabha: life begins at forty

By Our Defence Correspondent

Velupillai Prabhakaran isn't getting any younger, but the Tiger Supremo would probably have to believe in the old adage that life begins at 40. In his case, even a little later than that.

He spent his prime leading a bloody struggle that put the whole country into turmoil. The war he started is now a decade and a half old and there seems to be no respite.

By the time he celebrated his 40th birthday, Prabhakaran was beginning to feel that his hard work was paying dividends. He was at the zenith of his illustrious military career.

It was all systems fire for his de-facto government. And he vowed further disaster for his enemy. Now as he celebrates his 42nd birthday, things are a bit different in the Northern Province. He's lost a lot of ground there and worse, civilian support.

The Military believes Prabhakaran may re-surface for his customary speech somewhere between south of Kilinochchi and Vavuniya. He has a tough task in proving that he has not forsaken the people, after all. And yes, he would promise a fresh beginning and vow to recapture lost land.

Prabhakaran cannot expect the comfort of an early retirement now, that he has to start all over. There's also doubt about his health. But he is not yet ready to quit.

As the LTTE celebrates its Heroes week, armed forces and police have been sent on red alert. Colombo or Kandy, according to intelligence reports, may be likely targets for Tiger fireworks. But the military will not be surprised if the LTTE launched a large-scale offensive in the Eastern Province.

Battered and bruised in the North, the LTTE's hope for retaliation is the more vulnerable Eastern Province. Prabhakaran knows this. The LTTE track record clearly shows that Prabhakaran has always used the Eastern Province as a pawn in his war games.

Creating unrest in the East, Prabhakaran believes, would compel the government to shift the military focus back from the Northern theater of war.

All military bases in the East have been instructed to maintain a strict schedule in implementing Forward Operational Bases, a concept proven to be effective in the Eastern Province. Troops on the move from large bases make it difficult for the LTTE to launch surprise large-scale attacks on major military establishments.

Meanwhile, the situation in refugee camps and the Vanni region where over 200,000 people are have worsened. The government food rations have run into further logistical delays with the LTTE not allowing a convoy of 50 lorries to enter Vavuniya.

The military suspects that the LTTE may be using the lorries to ferry cadres between Mannar, Kilinochchi, Welioya and Vavuniya in areas where the LTTE still enjoys free movement.

The coming weeks would show the LTTE's new strategy in fighting the forces while protecting its political stability. Prabhakaran has a tough task in proving to displaced persons that he is still their liberator.

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