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Is LTTE leader Prabhakaran alive? What's behind Pazha Nedumaran's claims?

The Tamil leader says Prabhakaran will soon make a public appearance

[File] Velupillai Prabhakaran | Reuters [File] Velupillai Prabhakaran | Reuters

Tamil nationalist leader Pazha Nedumaran on Monday created a buzz, saying that LTTE chief Velupillai Prabhakaran who was killed by the Sri Lankan Army in 2009 was still alive. Claiming that a “conducive atmosphere” prevails now, he said Prabhakaran will make a public appearance soon and spell out his plans. Nedumaran also claimed that members of Prabhakaran's family, too, are alive. 

“I am happy to tell the Tamil diaspora that Prabhakaran is alive and doing well. We believe that there will be a full stop to all the rumours and questions surrounding him. He would soon announce the next plan to liberate the Tamil Eelam people. We request the Tamils around the world to come out and support him,” Nedumaran said in a press conference at the Mullivaikkal memorial in Thanjavur. The memorial was set up by Nedumaran himself to commemorate the Mullivaikkal massacre during the final phase of the Eelam war in 2009. 

Notably, Nedumaran in his press meet also touched upon the geopolitics revolving around India and Sri Lanka. “When the LTTE was alive and existing, they never let any anti-Indian forces use Sri Lankan land. But now we can see China’s influence in Sri Lanka. China now controls Sri Lanka. They are also getting more power over the Indian Ocean. I ask the Indian government to do what needs to be done to stop this geopolitical situation. I call upon all Tamil people and parties to rally in support of Prabhakaran,” he said. 

Nedumaran’s statement was brushed aside by the Sri Lankan Army. Brigadier Ravi Herath, Director of Media and spokesman of the Sri Lankan Army, in an interview to BBC Tamil on Monday, hours after Nedumaran’s press conference, dismissed his claims saying that the Army had enough evidence including photographs to show that Prabhakaran was killed in the last phase of the war. 

However, Nedumaran’s statements and claims have raised doubts among the Eelam watchers and Tamil nationalists across the globe. They came just weeks after India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar visited the island nation and held talks with President Ranil Wickremesinghe and Finance minister Ali Sabry to finalise plans on debt restructuring. A week after Jaishankar’s return, Union minister of state L. Murugan and Tamil Nadu BJP leader K. Annamalai went all the way to Sri Lanka, particularly to the northern province. Murugan unveiled the Jaffna cultural centre while Annamalai went around the northern province and also came up with stories of the Ramayana which is believed to connect India and Sri Lanka culturally. 

According to sources in Sri Lanka and Tamil nationalists in the diaspora, what Nedumaran made was nothing but “an irresponsible statement” which will only keep the Sri Lankan Tamil issue boiling in Tamil Nadu and also spoil the well-being of the Tamils in Sri Lanka. The Tamils in Sri Lanka also feel that this could lead to Sinhala majoritarianism raising its head once again. 

This is not the first time the 90-year old Tamil nationalist leader has come up with such a statement. In fact, immediately after the end of the war in 2009, then in 2010, in 2013 and on many other occasions, Nedumaran had maintained that Prabhakaran was alive and that he would come out at the right time. This time, however, it assumes significance as it came just months after Sri Lanka faced a major people's revolt and the government started talking about the 13th amendment. 

Sri Lanka has turned towards China even when India has extended financing assurances to the IMF to clear the way for Sri Lanka to move forward. Sri Lankan president Ranil Wickremesinghe’s attempts to meet the top people in the Indian government has never been obliged, according to sources in Sri Lanka. China has already set foot in the island nation. Sri Lanka, too, seems happy with the helping hand extended by China. 

Nedumaran was once the man who shared ideas, ideologies and logistics for the Tamil Eelam cause and was very close to Prabhakaran. In fact, he gave the maximum support for LTTE training in the 1980s. His Courtallam and Tenkasi farm houses were the places for the LTTE to get trained. Former CBI officer Raghothaman in his book on the conspiracy to kill former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi mentions that Ilayathambi Kirubalan, the bomb expert from Germany, who made the bomb to kill Gandhi, lived in Nedumaran’s house at Mylapore for months. 

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