Velupillai Prabhakaran

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For the 2008 film, see Prabhakaran (film).
Velupillai Prabhakaran
Prabhakaran in November 2006
Native name வேலுப்பிள்ளை பிரபாகரன்
Born (1954-11-26)November 26, 1954
Valvettithurai, Dominion of Ceylon[1][1][2][3]
Died May 19, 2009(2009-05-19) (aged 54)
Nanthikadal lagoon, Mullaitivu, Sri Lanka Lua error in Module:Coordinates at line 668: callParserFunction: function "#coordinates" was not found.
Cause of death Killed in a decisive operation by SASF on 18 May 2009 [4]
Other names Karikalan
Occupation Founder & Leader of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) movement in Sri Lanka.
Spouse(s) Mathivathani Erambu (1984–2009) 
Children Charles Anthony (1989–2009) [5]
Duvaraga (1986–2009) [6]
Balachandran (1997–2009) [7]

Thiruvenkadam Velupillai Prabhakaran (About this sound listen (Tamil: வேலுப்பிள்ளை பிரபாகரன்; November 26, 1954 – May 19, 2009) was the founder and leader of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (the LTTE or the Tamil Tigers), a militant organization that sought to create an independent Tamil state in the north and east of Sri Lanka.

For over 25 years, the LTTE waged a violent secessionist campaign in Sri Lanka to create an independent state for the Tamil people. Founded in 1976, the LTTE rocketed to prominence in 1983 after they ambushed a patrol of the Sri Lanka Army outside Jaffna, resulting in the deaths of 13 soldiers. This ambush, along with the subsequent rioting which resulted in the deaths of hundreds of Tamil civilians, is generally considered the start of the Sri Lankan Civil War. After years of fighting, including the unsuccessful intervention of the Indian Army (IPKF), the conflict was halted after international mediation in 2001. By then, the Tamil Tigers controlled large swathes of land in the north and east of the country, running virtually a mini-state with Prabhakaran serving as its unquestioned leader. Peace talks eventually broke down, and the Sri Lanka Army launched a military campaign to defeat the Tamil Tigers in 2006.

Prabhakaran was reportedly killed in the fighting with the Sri Lankan Army on May 18, 2009.[16] The troops also claimed to have found the body of Charles Anthony, 24, Prabhakaran's son.[17] His wife's and daughter's bodies were reportedly found by the Sri Lankan army but the report was later denied by the Sri Lankan government.[18] It was alleged that his 12-year-old second son was executed a short time later.[19] Prabhakaran's reported death and the announcement "We have decided to silence our guns. Our only regrets are for the lives lost and that we could not hold out for longer," by Selvarasa Pathmanathan, the Tigers' chief of international relations brought an end to the armed conflict.[17]

Early life

Velupillai Prabhakaran was born in the northern coastal town of Valvettithurai on November 26, 1954, as the youngest of four children [20] to Thiruvenkadam Velupillai and his wife Vallipuram Parvathy.[21][22] Thiruvenkadam Velupillai was the District land Officer in the Ceylon Government[23] Angered by what he saw as discrimination against Tamil people by successive Sri Lankan governments, he joined the student group TIP during the standardization debates. In 1972 Prabhakaran founded the Tamil New Tigers (TNT)[24] which was a successor to many earlier organizations that protested against the post-colonial political direction of the country, in which the minority Sri Lankan Tamils were pitted against the majority Sinhalese people.[25][26]

In 1975, after becoming heavily involved in the Tamil movement, he carried out the first major political murder by a Tamil group, assassinating the mayor of Jaffna, Alfred Duraiappah, by shooting him at point-blank range when he was about to enter the Hindu temple at Ponnaalai. The assassination was in response to the 1974 Tamil conference incident, for which the Tamil radicals had blamed Duraiappah,[27] because he backed the then ruling Sri Lanka Freedom Party.[28]

Tamil Tigers

Founding of the LTTE

In the early 1970s, United Front government of Sirimavo Bandaranaike introduced the Policy of standardization to rectify the low numbers of Sinhalese being accepted into university in Sri Lanka. A student named Satiyaseelan formed Tamil Manavar Peravai (Tamil Students League) to counter this biased move. This group comprised Tamil youth who advocated the rights of students to have fair enrollment. Inspired by the failed 1971 insurrection of Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna, it was the first Tamil insurgent group of its kind. It consisted of around 40 Tamil youth, including Ponnuthurai Sivakumaran (later, the leader of the Sivakumaran group), K. Pathmanaba (one of the founder members of EROS) and Velupillai Prabhakaran, an 19 years old youth from single caste oriented Valvettithurai (VVT). In 1972, Prabhakaran teamed up with Chetti Thanabalasingam, Jaffna to form the Tamil New Tigers (TNT), with Thanabalasingham as its leader. After he was killed, Prabhakaran took over. At the same time, Nadarajah Thangathurai and Selvarajah Yogachandran (better known by his nom de guerre Kuttimani) were also involved in discussions about an insurgency. They would later (in 1979) create a separate organization named Tamil Eelam Liberation Organization (TELO) to campaign for the establishment of an independent Tamil Eelam. These groups, along with another prominent figure of the armed struggle, Ponnuthurai Sivakumaran, were involved in several hit-and-run operations against pro-government Tamil politicians, Sri Lanka Police and civil administration during the early 1970s. These attacks included throwing bombs at the residence and the car of SLFP Jaffna Mayor, Alfred Duraiappah, placing a bomb at a carnival held in the stadium of Jaffna city (now "Duraiyappah stadium") and Neervely bank robbery. 1974 Tamil conference incident also sparked the anger of these militant groups. Both Sivakumaran and Prabhakaran attempted to assassinate Duraiyappah in revenge for the incident. Sivakumaran committed suicide on 5 June 1974 to evade capture by Police. But on 27 July 1975, Prabhakaran was able to assassinate Duraiyappah, who was branded as a "traitor" by TULF and the insurgents alike. Prabhakaran himself shot and killed the Mayor when he was visiting the Krishnan temple at Ponnalai

On May 5, 1976, the TNT was renamed the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), commonly known as the Tamil Tigers.[29][not in citation given]

Religion was not a major factor in his philosophy or ideology, indeed the ideology of the Tamil Tigers emerged from Marxist-Leninist thought, and was explicitly secular. Its leadership professed opposition to religion.[30][31][32] Their focus was on a single-minded approach toward the attainment of an independent Tamil Eelam.

Prabhakaran's first and only major press conference was held in Killinochchi on April 10, 2002.[33] It was reported that more than 200 journalists from the local and foreign media attended this event and they had to go through a 10-hour security screening before the event in which Anton Balasingham introduced the LTTE leader as the "President and Prime minister of Tamil Eelam."

A number of questions were asked about LTTE's commitment towards the erstwhile peace process and Prabhakaran and Dr. Anton Balasingham jointly answered the questions.

Repeated questions of his involvement in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination were only answered in a sober note by both Balasingham and Prabhakaran. They called it a "tragic incident" ("Thunbiyal Chambavam", as quoted in Tamil) they requested the press "not to dig into an incident that happened 10 years ago."

During the interview he stated that the right condition has not risen to give up the demand of Tamil Eelam. He further mentioned that "There are three fundamentals. That is Tamil homeland, Tamil nationality and Tamil right to self-determination. These are the fundamental demands of the Tamil people. Once these demands are accepted or a political solution is put forward by recognising these three fundamentals and our people are satisfied with the solutions we will consider giving up the demand for Eelam." He further added that Tamil Eelam was not only the demand of the LTTE but also the demand of the Tamil people.[33]

Prabhakaran also answered a number of questions in which he reaffirmed their commitment towards peace process, quoted "We are sincerely committed to the peace process. It is because we are sincerely committed to peace that we continued a four month cessation of hostilities" was also firm in de-proscription of the LTTE by Sri Lanka and India, "We want the government of India to lift the ban on the LTTE. We will raise the issue at the appropriate time."

Prabhakaran also insisted firmly that only de-proscription would bring forth an amenable solution to the ongoing peace process mediated by Norway: "We have informed the government, we have told the Norwegians that de-proscription is a necessary condition for the commencements of talks."[34][35]

Philosophy and ideology

Prabhakaran was fascinated by Napoleon and Alexander the Great. He was also highly influenced by prominent Indian nationalists Subhas Chandra Bose and Bhagat Singh who fought the British Empire.[36] Prabhakaran never developed a systematic philosophy, but did declare that his goal was 'Revolutionary socialism and the creation of an egalitarian society'. He joined the Tamil nationalist movement in his youth and quickly established himself as a strong-willed militant leader by founding the LTTE. His rare interviews, his annual Tamil Eelam Heroes Day speeches and the policies and actions of the LTTE can be taken as indicators of Prabhakaran’s philosophy and ideology. The following are important areas when considering the philosophy and ideology of Prabhakaran.

Sri Lankan Tamil nationalism

Prabhakaran’s source of inspiration and direction was Sri Lankan Tamil nationalism. His stated and ultimate ideal was to get Tamil Eelam recognised as a nation as per the U.N. Charter that guarantees the right of a people to political independence.[37] The LTTE also proposed the formation of an Interim Self Governing Authority during Peace Negotiations in 2003. Former Tamil guerrilla and politician Dharmalingam Sithadthan has remarked that Prabhakaran's "dedication to the cause of the Tamil Eelam was unquestionable, he was the only man in Sri Lanka who could decide if there should be war or peace."[38] Prabhakaran was also called "Karikalan" for his bravery and his administration (in reference to Karikala Chola, a famous Chola king who ruled in Sangam Age.)

Militarism of the LTTE

Prabhakaran explicitly stated that an armed struggle is the only way to resist asymmetric warfare, in which one side, that of the Sri Lankan government, is armed and the other comparatively unarmed. He argued that he chose military means only after observing that non–violent means have been ineffectual and obsolete, especially after the Thileepan incident. Thileepan, a colonel rank officer adopted Gandhian means to protest against the IPKF killings by staging a fast unto death from September 15, 1987, and by abstaining from food or water till 26 September, when he died in front of thousands of Tamils who had come there to fast along with him. This further strengthened Prabhakaran's resolve that peaceful protests would either be ignored or crushed but never heard.[citation needed]

Tactically, Prabhakaran perfected the recruitment and use of suicide bomber units. His fighters usually took no prisoners and were notorious for assaults that often left every single enemy soldier dead.[38] Interpol described him as someone who was "very alert, known to use disguise and capable of handling sophisticated weaponry and explosives."[38]


When the Sri Lankan military rapidly advanced into the last LTTE held territory in the final days of 2008–2009 SLA Northern offensive, Prabhakaran and his top leadership retreated into Vellamullivaikkal, Mullaitivu. Fierce fighting occurred between LTTE and Sri Lanka Army during these last few days. At around 3:00 a.m. on 18 May 2009, Prabhakaran's son Charles Anthony tried to break the defenses of the Army, but was unsuccessful. He died along with around 100 other LTTE cadres. Troops found 12 million rupees in his possession.[39] By the noon of that day, reports emerged that Prabhakaran was killed by a rocket attack while trying to flee the conflict zone in a captured ambulance and his body was badly burned.[40] But this rumor was proven false in a short while. Skirmishes occurred also in the evening of 18 May around eastern bank of Nandikadal lagoon. A team of LTTE cadres consisting of 30 most loyal bodyguards of Prabhakaran and Prabhakaran himself tried to sneak through the mangrove islands of Nandikadal to its west bank. It has been alleged that one bodyguard had a can of gasoline with him to burn the Tiger leader’s body if he is killed or committed suicide. This was to prevent the enemy seizing his body.[41] Clearing and mopping-up operations were carried out by troops under Colonel G. V. Ravipriya from 3:30 pm to 6:30 pm that evening. But they did not encounter this last group of LTTE fighters that day. At 7:30 am next morning, mopping-up operations started again. This time, they were confronted by the fighters, led by Prabhakaran himself. Fighting went on till 9.30 am May 19, 2009. The firing stopped as all LTTE fighters died in the battle. Troops started collecting bodies again. This time, Sergeant Muthu Banda, attached to Sri Lanka Army Task Force VIII, reported to its commander, Colonel G. V. Ravipriya, that a body similar to Velupillai Prabhakaran had been found. After the body, which was floating among the mangroves, was brought ashore, Colonel Ravipriya positively identified it as that of the leader of the LTTE.[39] A dog tag marked 001, two pistols, a T56 rifle with telescopic sight, a satellite phone, and a canister filled with diabetic medicine were found along with the body.

At 12:15 pm army commander Sarath Fonseka officially announced Prabhakaran's death on TV. At around 1:00 pm his body was shown in Swarnavahini for the first time.[42] Prabakaran's identity was confirmed by Karuna Amman, his former confidant, and through DNA testing against genetic material from his son, who had been killed earlier by the Sri Lankan military.[43] Circumstantial evidence suggested that his death was caused by massive head trauma, several claims on his death have been made and its alleged that his death is due to a shot at close range. There are also allegations that he was executed, a claim vehemently denied by Sri Lankan authorities. Karuna Amman claimed Prabhakaran shot himself but it was denied by Fonseka who claimed the injury was from shrapnel citing the lack of an exit wound.[44][45] A week later, the new Tamil Tiger leader, Selvarasa Pathmanathan, admitted that Prabhakaran was dead.[46][47]

Criminal indictments

Velupillai Prabhakaran has been wanted by Interpol and many other organizations since 1991 for terrorism, murder, organized crime and terrorism conspiracy.[48] He has been issued an arrest warrant[49] by the Madras High Court in India for plotting the assassination of former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in May, 1991 and in 2002 Judge Ambepitiya issued an open warrant to arrest him in connection with the 1996 Central Bank Bombing.[original research?][50] The judge found him guilty on 51 counts and sentenced him to years in prison.

Personal life

The Asian Tribune has reported that Prabhakaran was married to Mathivathani Erambu on October 1, 1984.[29] and she, along with their mother, their daughter (Duvaraga) and two sons, Charles Anthony Balachandran were not in Sri Lanka.[29] However, Sri Lanka military sources stated that they had recovered the corpse of Charles Anthony.[not in citation given][51] A senior Sri Lankan minister later informed that the Sri Lanka Army had also found the bodies of Prabhakaran's younger son Balachandran, wife Mathivathani, and his daughter Duvaraga.[not in citation given][52] However, the military spokesman Udaya Nanayakkara later stated that there was no information about the whereabouts of the remaining members of the Prabhakaran's family. “We have not found their bodies and have no information about them,” he said.[53] However, it is thought that the entire Prabhakaran family has been wiped out; the bodies of Madhivadhany, Duvaraga and Balachandran reportedly were found in a bushy patch about 600 meters away from where Prabhakaran’s body was found.[54] It is now believed that his 12-year-old son was executed.[55]

Velupillai Prabhakaran's parents, Thiruvenkadam Velupillai and Parvathi, both in their 70s, were found in the Menik Farm camp for displaced people near the town of Vavuniya. The Sri Lankan military and the government gave public assurances that they would not be interrogated, harmed or ill treated.[56] Prabhakaran has a sister named Vinodini Rajendaran.[57][58]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Lanka army sources". Times of India. May 18, 2009. Retrieved 2009-05-18. 
  2. Bosleigh, Robert (2009-05-18). "Tamil Tigers supreme commander Prabhakaran 'shot dead'". London: Times Online. Retrieved 2009-05-18. 
  3. Nelson, Dean (2009-05-18). "Tamil Tiger leader Velupillai Prabhakaran 'shot dead'". London: Telegraph. Retrieved 2009-05-19. 
  4. "Tiger leader Prabhakaran killed: Sources-News-Videos-The Times of India". The Times of India. 2009-05-18. Retrieved 2009-05-19. 
  5. "Prabhakaran's son dead". 2009-05-18. Retrieved 2013-02-20. 
  6. "National Leader Prabakaran’s Daughter Dwaraka’s photos released – Most Shocking". 16 December 2009. Retrieved 2013-02-20. 
  7. "BBC News - Balachandran Prabhakaran: Sri Lanka army accused over death". BBC. 2013-02-19. Retrieved 2013-02-20. 
  8. The LTTE in brief.
  9. "No Ceasefire – Only Surrender: Prabhakaran and the LTTE Cadres Must Pay for their Heinous Crimes". Asian Tribune. 2009-02-24. 
  10. Harrison, Frances (2003-01-31). "Analysis: Sri Lanka's child soldiers". BBC News. 
  11. "Rajiv Gandhi assassination: Agency probing killing conspiracy plods on". Times of India. May 20, 2011. 
  12. "Colombo High Court Issue arrest warrant for Prabhakaran and Pottu Amman". Asian Tribune. 2009-05-13. Retrieved 2009-05-17. 
  13. "Obituary: Velupillai Prabhakaran". BBC. 2009-05-18. Retrieved 3 August 2011. 
  14. Mydans, Seth (November 2, 2002). "Rebels Protest Leader's Sentence". New York Times. Retrieved 3 August 2011. 
  15. "Rebel leader sentenced to 200 years' jail as talks start". The Sydney Morning Herald. 2002-11-02. Retrieved 3 August 2011. 
  17. 17.0 17.1
  19. Mcrae, Callum (2013-02-19). "The Killing of a Young Boy". The Hindu. Retrieved 2013-02-20. 
  20. "Obituary: Velupillai Prabhakaran". BBC News. Retrieved 27 December 2014. 
  21. "First Political Assassination Of Prabhakaran". Lankapuwath. 2009-02-25. Retrieved 2009-05-17. 
  22. "Profile of Velupillai Prabhakaran". Lankapuwath. 2009-04-22. Retrieved 2009-05-17. 
  23. Chellamuthu Kuppusamy. பிரபாகரன்: ஒரு வாழ்க்கை / Prabhakaran: Oru Vaazhkai [Prabhakaran: A Life]. New Horizon Media. p. 28. ISBN 978-81-8493-039-9. 
  24. Heilmann-Rajanayagam, Dagmar (1994). The Tamil Tigers: Armed Struggle for Identity. Stuttgart, Germany: Franz Steiner Verlag. pp. 37–38. 
  25. Sunil Bastian (September 1999) The Failure of State Formation, Identity Conflict and Civil Society Responses – The Case of Sri Lanka. Working Paper 2, Centre for Conflict Resolution, Department of Peace Studies, University of Bradford
  26. How it Came to This – Learning from Sri Lanka’s Civil Wars. Retrieved on 2012-06-22.
  27. "Welcome to UTHR, Sri Lanka". Retrieved 2009-05-19. 
  28. "Asia Times: Sri Lanka: The Untold Story". 2002-01-26. Retrieved 2009-05-19. 
  29. 29.0 29.1 29.2 "Health card of Prabakaran is not so rosy as it ought to be". 
  30. Bermana, Eli; David D. Laitin (2008). "Religion, terrorism and public goods: Testing the club model". Journal of Public Economics. 92 (10–11): 1942–1967. doi:10.1016/j.jpubeco.2008.03.007. 
  31. Pape, Robert (2006). Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism. Random House. ISBN 978-0-8129-7338-9. 
  32. Laqueur, Walter (2004). No end to war: terrorism in the twenty-first century. Continuum. ISBN 0-8264-1656-X. 
  33. 33.0 33.1 "The Hindu: Time not ripe to give up Eelam goal: Prabakaran". The Hindu. 2002-04-11. Retrieved 2009-05-17. 
  34. Assignment Colombo at page xv(15), ISBN 81-220-0499-7, published by Konark Publishers Pvt Ltd, delhi
  35. S. L. Gunasekara (2002). The wages of sin. Sinhala Jathika Sangamaya. ISBN 978-955-8552-01-8. 
  36. Lawson, Alastair (2009-05-18). "UThe enigma of Prabhakaran". 
  37. "UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights". 1994-07-07. Retrieved 2009-05-17. 
  38. 38.0 38.1 38.2 'Sun God's' Life of War at the Wayback Machine (archived November 12, 2010). Straits Times, May 18, 2009
  39. 39.0 39.1 "No peace offer from Prabhakaran – only war". Lanka Web. 2011-06-11. Retrieved 2011-06-20. 
  40. "Prabhakaran is dead". The Hindustan Times. 2009-05-18. Retrieved 2011-06-20. 
  41. "The last days of Thiruvenkadam Veluppillai Prabhakaran". Lanka Web. 2009-05-22. Retrieved 2011-06-20. 
  42. "Sri Lanka Army – Defenders of the Nation". Retrieved 2009-05-19. 
  43. Bosleigh, Robert (2008-05-09). "DNA tests on body of Prabhakaran, Sri Lankan rebel leader". The Times. London. Retrieved 2010-05-02. 
  44. "Sri Lankan rebel leader's body cremated, military spokesman says". Archived from the original on 2009-05-29. 
  45. "Fonseka Refutes Karuna's Contention That Prabhakaran Shot Himself". The New Indian Express. Retrieved 2015-11-09. 
  46. "Tamil Tigers confirm leader's death". Al Jazeera English. May 24, 2009. Retrieved 2009-05-24. 
  47. "Tamil Tigers admit leader is dead". BBC News. 2009-05-24. Retrieved 2009-05-24. 
  48. "Wanted: VELUPILLAI, Prabakaran". Interpol. 2006-10-04. Archived from the original on September 3, 2006. Retrieved 2006-10-06. 
  49. "Rajiv murder suspects sentenced to death". Retrieved 2009-05-17. 
  50. "LTTE Tamil Tiger Terrorists Bomb Central Bank in Sri Lanka killing 58 Civilians". 1997-10-17. Retrieved 2009-05-17. [original research?]
  51. "Prabhakaran's son killed: Sri Lanka military". The Times Of India. 2009-05-18. Archived from the original on May 21, 2009. [not in citation given]
  52. "Prabhakaran's family found dead". The Times Of India. May 21, 2009. 
  53. Dianne Silva (May 22, 2009). "Prabhakaran’s body cremated". Daily Mirror. Archived from the original on 2009-06-18. 
  54. "Last days of Thiruvenkadam Veluppillai Prabhakaran". Daily Mirror. May 23, 2009. Archived from the original on 2009-06-21. 
  55. The Independent, 26 February 2013
  56. Lawson, Alastair (2009-05-28). "Tamil Tiger chief's parents found (BBC News)". Retrieved 2010-01-06. 
  57. Cousin wants Prabhakaran mother sent to Tamil Nadu
  58. Prabhakaran, Veluppillai and the father-son relationship

Further reading

External links

Interviews and speeches