|Sri Lanka can defeat Tigers, top ex-rebel says|
|Friday, 14 November 2008|
By C. Bryson Hull
COLOMBO (Reuters) - Sri Lanka's political will and military planning will defeat the Tamil Tiger rebels, a legislator who fought with the guerrillas for more than two decades said on Thursday.
Ex-Tiger commander Vinayagamoorthi Muralitharan last month metamorphosed from ruthless guerrilla into parliamentarian and de facto spokesman for President Mahinda Rajapaksa's plan to devolve power to the Tamil minority.
Just four months ago, the man best known by his nom de guerre Col. Karuna Amman was released from a British jail on visa fraud charges and narrowly escaped prosecution for war crimes stemming from his years as the Tigers' top battlefield commander.
Now, he appears in local newspapers and magazines, bedecked in sharp suits flashing a wide grin, insisting that he be called Murali, his name during his schoolboy days.
In an interview with Reuters at a safe house in the capital Colombo surrounded by elite army commandos, Muralitharan said his former comrades and erstwhile mentor, LTTE leader Vellupillai Prabhakaran, are close to defeat.
"He has no future," Muralitharan, also known as Colonel Karuna, told Reuters in an interview. "He has a totalitarian policy. He never changed from that policy. He thinks like a duke, like a king. He never accepted any other idea.
"Since 1983, Prabhakaran has led the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in their fight for a separate state for Sri Lanka's minority Tamils, who complain of marginalisation by governments led by the Sinhalese ethnic majority since 1948 independence from Britain.
From 1983 until 2004, Muralitharan was one of Prabhakaran's closest deputies. For most of that time he led 6,000 fighters in the LTTE's eastern command -- among the most battle-hardened and effective in the feared guerrilla outfit.
But he split with Prabhakaran in 2004 and took his fighters to the government side, establishing the Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal (TMVP) party and putting himself at the top of the Tigers' hit list.
A GOOD PLANLTTE
policy demands death for defectors and the government is taking no chances with his safety.
Power went out during the interview, and when Muralitharan ushered a reporter out to the garden to wait for it to return, a dozen soldiers raced to guarding positions around the yard. At least four clustered around him as pulled up chairs to sit.
Muralitharan believes the key to the army's battlefield successes this time has been the power granted to the military.
"All plans were made by political leaders at the time. The army had no influence," he said. "Now our president gave a lot of power to them, at the same time Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa had a very good plan.
"Rajapaksa, the president's brother, is a career military officer and had faced the LTTE in combat, with the present army commander, Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka, fighting on his flank.
"That plan is being implemented very well by Sarath Fonseka," he said. "That's why they are getting better at the battlefront now. They have captured a lot of areas. At any minute they will capture Kilinochchi.
"That is the LTTE's defacto capital and a strategic and symbolic target for Rajapaksa's government, which threw out a 2002 ceasefire in January and declared it would destroy the rebels once and for all.
Muralitharan, most analysts say, has been one of the chief reasons for the military's progress, since his fighters helped the army swiftly seize huge rebel-held areas in the east in 2007. Since then, the army has recaptured much of the rebel-held north.
His reward for that was a parliamentary seat, after his TMVP won eastern provincial elections in May. Rights groups, however, have criticised his appointment.
Rajapaksa has pledged a similar devolution plan for the north, once the LTTE is defeated.
Muralitharan insists he does not advise the military: "Particularly because they don't need my advice.
"But his deep strategic knowledge is amply evident.
From memory, he quickly sketched a map of the war zone and its roads on a reporter's notepad, and explained how the army would sweep the Tigers out of Kilinochchi and corner them at the eastern port of Mullaitivu. He declined to predict a timeframe.
"Nobody can set any deadline for the war," he said.
|Last Updated ( Thursday, 23 July 2009 )|
|< Prev||Next >|