Prabhakaran the Phantom being revived by a Tamil nationalist politician  

By Mayank Chhaya-

Mayank Chayya

When the Tamil separatist leader Velupillai Prabhakaran was killed in May, 2009, Sri Lanka officially published macabre pictures of him as a mud-covered, practically naked and disfigured corpse much to the chagrin of not just his suspicious supporters but many others who thought they were in bad taste.

Despite the inherently cruel voyeurism of the photos, Colombo chose to do so apparently to prevent mythologies from being built around someone whose childhood hero was ‘Phantom: the Ghost who Walks’.

He and his followers saw him as a sort of real-life Phantom who would keep emerging in repeated avatars. That mythology has now been revived nearly 14 years after his death by Pazha Nedumarana, a nationalist politician in Tamil Nadu.

“LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam) chief Prabhakaran is alive and will appear soon. We are happy to announce this to the world. He would announce his plans for Tamil Eelam,” Nedumarana has been quoted as saying by the Indian media.

“The fall of the (Gotabaya) Rajapaksa government after the Sinhala uprising in Sri Lanka has created a conducive situation. This is the right time for his (Prabhakaran’s) appearance,” he said.

Even though Nedumarana’s claim has been dismissed by others who have said he has made a similar claim before, its timing is being viewed in the light of the March 9 elections to the local councils in Sri Lanka.

On May 18, 2009, the photographs of the 54-year-old Prabhakaran’s body were displayed on the website of Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Defense, Public Security, Law and Order. They had offered some telling insights into the final moments of the world’s most ruthless insurgent.

The personal effects recovered from Prabhakaran included a Thuraya satellite phone, a preferred means of communication among terrorists and insurgents, a pistol, a dog tag, and his Tamil Tigers identity card.

It was extraordinary that an official agency of a sovereign government found it appropriate to use the kind of description accompanying the photographs. It was gloating and derisive in its tone.

“Ironically, he was found with no cyanide capsule, but with his identity card and the dog tag, as to prove his identity if he managed to seek refuge with some unknown savior. He was certainly not a man enough to fight a single battle against (the) Army. Instead, he tried to save his life until the last moment. Not for a single second he wanted to commit suicide, he tried to escape betraying his most loyal followers before a soldier shot him down. We are not going to comment on how he died….. Simply, he was the best of the cowards,” the accompanying statement had said.

According to the ministry, Prabhakaran’s body was identified by Vinayagamoorthi Muralidaran, the minister of national integration and reconciliation, who once fought for the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), and Daya Master, its former media spokesman.

Colombo’s entire claim of victory rested on it effectively carrying out a version of the habeas corpus. Without the physical evidence of his death, the Sri Lankan government would have found it impossible to lend its campaign a persuasive closure. It was instructive that even with the pictures of the body being published, the sympathizers of the Tamil Tigers had claimed that Prabhakaran is still “alive and safe.” Nedumarana’s renewed assertion is merely a reiteration of that carefully crafted myth.

The purpose behind not sanitizing the photos seemed to be to convey to his surviving followers that in the final analysis their hero was nothing more than an ordinary mortal who hid behind a cultivated persona. That did not seem to deter the remaining members of the Tamil Tigers outside Sri Lanka from believing that what was on display was an imposter and not the real Prabhakaran.

One description called him a “psycho” and a “con man.” In its attempt to prove Prabhakaran’s “luxurious” lifestyle the ministry published six albums. “(The) Following images may be shocking and even more embarrassing for the ‘do-gooders’ of terror, saviors of the victim industry, defense ‘experts’, and politicians who continued to cuddle the tigers while unleashing abominable lies against their very own country,” it had said.

The ministry had uploaded six albums of Prabhakaran that depicted what it called his “luxurious” lifestyle even while the civilian Tamil population languished in poverty.

In one photograph a “well-fed” Prabhakaran is shown in an inflatable swimming pool of the kind one can buy at Wal-Mart for a couple of hundred dollars. The purpose behind the photos seemed to contrast the “cushy” lifestyle of Prabhakaran, who claims to be fighting for the interests of the Tamil people, with the tough challenges faced by the very Tamil people.

There were reports soon after the fall of Kilinochchi, the LTTE capital, in January, 2009 that Prabhakaran had sent away his wife Madivadani and 10-year-old son Balachandran. It was not known where they might have gone but they can rightfully claim his remains.

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