MonitorsPublished on May 18, 2009
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) officially admitted that their chief Vellupillai Prabhakaran "attained martyrdom" while trying to escape the last Tiger stronghold of Mullaithivu, where the LTTE top leadership had holed up in a final stand against the advancing Sri Lankan army.
South Asia Weekly Report 72

Sri Lanka
< class="maroontitle">LTTE chief Velupillai Prabhakaran killed; Tigers concede defeat

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) officially admitted that their chief Vellupillai Prabhakaran “attained martyrdom” while trying to escape the last Tiger stronghold of Mullaithivu, where the LTTE top leadership had holed up in a final stand against the advancing Sri Lankan army. Prabhakaran’s violent death – top portion of his head was blown off when the Lankan forces fired a rocket at the armoured van in which he was trying to escape – brought down the curtains on a saga of bloodshed and violence that stretched over 37 years. Prabhakaran established the Tamil New Tigers (TNT) in 1972, which was renamed to LTTE in 1976. The admission by the LTTE also put to rest all rumours of Prabhakaran having escaped the tight Lankan army dragnet to Malaysia or to some other Southeast Asian country. Besides Prabhakaran, LTTE’s intelligence chief Pottu Amman and Prabhakaran’s son, Charles Anthony, considered as the founder of LTTE’s air wing, Air Tigers (Vaan Puligal), were also killed by the security forces. Anthony was a qualified aeronautical engineer, who also studied information technology in London. LTTE political chief B Nadesan, chief of Sea Tigers Colonel Soosai, S Pullidevan, head of the LTTE’s peace secretariat, and several second and third rung leadership of the LTTE were also killed in the encounter. All the deaths were confirmed by the TamilNet, a pro-LTTE website.

Now that the LTTE is completely wiped out, there are several questions confronting the Sri Lankan government. The first question is about the rehabilitation and resettlement of around 300,000 war refugees who are languishing in prison-like camps with no access to basic civic amenities like food, clothing and medicines. The second question is directed at Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse’s intention in devolving powers to the ethnic minorities of Sri Lanka. The third question, which is related to the second, is the openness of the Rajapaksa regime to listen to the international community, including New Delhi, in evolving a democratic solution to the ethnic problem. The Sri Lankan government runs the danger of a backlash if it adopts a lackadaisical approach in dealing with the ethnic crisis. It may give rise to several other splinter Tamil militant groups. The sooner the Sinhalese embrace Tamils by devolving powers and by resettling them with dignity and safety in their original habitations in the North, the better it will be for establishing long-lasting peace in Sri Lanka.

< class="maroontitle">Madhav Nepal elected Prime Minister as House deadlock ends

After two weeks of political hobnobbing and uncertainty, Nepal’s parliament elected senior Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML) leader Madhav Kumar Nepal as the new prime minister of the country on May 23, 2009. With the support of 350 Constituent Assembly (CA) members from 22 different political parties, Madhav Nepal has been elected unopposed, as no other candidates filed nomination for the top post. The UML-led coalition easily obtained the magic numbers required to form a majority government in the 601-member CA. Earlier, the Nepali Congress (NC) proposed Nepal’s candidature for the top post supported by the UML chairman, Jhala Nath Khanal, Madhesi Janadhikar Forum (MJF), Terai Madhesh Democratic Party (TMDP) and Sadbhawana Party (SP). However, the Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (UCPNM) CA members, including the CPN (Unified) and Nepali Janata Dal, boycotted the election process and walked out of the parliament.

It is likely that a small cabinet will be announced soon and the NC, MJF, TMDP and SP are poised to join it, but it is not yet clear whether the other fringe parties, which supported Nepal, will be part of the new formation. As of now, the Maoists have promised to cooperate in drafting the new constitution and take the peace process to its logical end. It is not sure, however, if they will keep their promise. Already the Maoists have been alleging that the new government has been installed at the behest of foreign powers. Besides, they have also announced that they will continue their protest in the parliament and in the streets unless the President's move is “rectified”. Such moves are already creating an environment of suspicion. It is likely that the Maoists would try and create hindrances for the new government. There is also a likelihood that its youth brigade, Young Communist League (YCL), may resort to violent means. 

< class="maroontitle">Jamaat ups anti-India rhetoric, demands cancellation of Tipaimukh

Bangladesh’s most influential religious political party, Jamaat-e-Islami, organised a protest rally in Dhaka on May 20, 2009 against India’s proposal to build the Tipaimukh Dam on Barak river in Manipur.  Jamaat opposes the dam on the grounds that it would adversely impact Bangladesh’s economy and environment. Barak feeds several smaller rivers in the northern region of the country. The party asked the Sheikh Hasina government to convince India to abandon the project. It threatened to launch a mass agitation against the government if it did not convince India from going ahead with the construction. The Indian High Commissioner in Dhaka, however, claimed that the dam poses no danger to Bangladesh’s rivers. In recent times, India’s moves have evoked strong reactions from some groups. An organisation named Sylhet Development Student Action Council began a 15-day protest on May 18 and also formed a human chain in Dhaka. Another organisation called Jalalabad Association in a meeting on May 16, 2009 expressed their opposition against the construction of the dam. Significantly many influential leaders of both the ruling Awami League and the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) were present during the meeting, including Finance Minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith, Social Welfare Minister Enamul Haq Mostafa Shaheed and BNP leader Ebadur Rahman Chowdhury.

< class="maroontitle">President sacks Attorney General

Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed dismissed Attorney General Uza Fathimath Dhiyana Saeed for “slow performance”, but not before thanking for her “honest services”. Nasheed said the Attorney General’s office needs to be “fast paced”. The summary sacking of the Attorney General has dealt another blow to the already fragile coalition government headed by the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP). Soon after her dismissal, Dhiyana told Television Maldives that President doesn’t know how to deal with the independence of the Attorney General. Dhiyana’s relationship with the President has been on shaky grounds after a series of letters appeared on her website in April slamming the high-handed approach of President Nasheed and his party cadres.

< class="maroontitle">Kayani rebuffs criticism

Army Chief Ashfaq Kayani strongly refuted comments from different quarters advising the Pakistan Army to concentrate more on its western borders than on its eastern frontiers, viz, India. Kayani's comments came after reports appeared in the western media, quoting un-named US and other western officials, criticised the Pakistan Army for not doing enough to root out the Taliban groups which, in the recent days, had come dangerously closer to Islamabad. What had really raised the alarm bells in the western capitals was the fear of nuclear weapons falling into the hands of the Taliban and other extremist elements. A large number of people in Pakistan believe that the bogey of Nuclear Jihad was being raised to control the country's nuclear assets. What, however, is undeniable is the ferocity of the military offensive and the hardy defence put up by the ‘rag tag’ army of Maulana Fazlullah. On the one hand, the offensive has rendered over a million people homeless and angry, and on the other, the Taliban fighters have been able to hold up to the heavy military offensive, inevitably forcing the Army to fight a urban guerilla warfare in the days ahead in cities like Mingora. The determined defence put up by Taliban fighters in Swat, and the heavy toll in terms of displacement, are likely to stymie the Army’s plans to expand the war into Waziristan in the near future.

< class="maroontitle">Contributors:

      • Anjali Sharma                  – Sri Lanka, Maldives
      • Joyeeta Bhattacharjee – Bangladesh
      • Paul Soren                       – Nepal, Bhutan
      • Wilson John                    – Pakistan
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