The characterisation of LTTE supremo Velupillai Prabakaran’s 2008 message as ‘Great Heroes Day’ speech is full of irony. The 3,283-word statement was made public on the evening of November 27, twenty hours after the start of the horrific fidayeen terror in Mumbai. In stark contrast to the response of the rest of the world, the ‘Great Heroes Day’ speech makes no reference to the Pakistan-origin terrorist strike at India’s financial capital. The apologists of the LTTE might attribute the omission to the possibility that the speech was recorded well before it was broadcast. But how to explain the LTTE’s subsequent silence on Mumbai? The only credible explanation is that any comment on this subject would invite unwelcome comparisons, in Sri Lanka, in India, and elsewhere, given that the LTTE’s own terrorist track record that goes back to the early 1980s, has involved every conceivable atrocity against civil society and common humanity, and even spilt over into India to claim the life of a former Prime Minister. In essence, Prabakaran’s 2008 speech is a mercy plea to India to bail out Tiger forces on the run from a successful campaign by the Sri Lankan armed forces. It is entirely in character that he betrays no remorse for the propaganda war his organisation has waged against India since 1987, portraying it as a soulless power with hegemonistic ambitions in the region. His flattering 2008 references to India as a benevolent “superpower” are patently insincere. They also sit ill with the boast about LTTE cadres humbling the mighty Indian Peace Keeping Force two decades ago.

Mr. Prabakaran’s discourse must be read against the background of the demoralisation and confusion that have gripped the terrorist outfit since it began to take a battering in ‘Eelam War IV.’ According to every serious assessment, this has weakened the LTTE militarily as never before. With the imminent fall of Killinochchi, the LTTE’s administrative headquarters, and with strategic Ponneryn in the hands of the Sri Lankan army, the organisation that is banned or designated as terrorist in some 30 countries has nowhere to turn. It faces increasing apathy or alienation from the people it claims to represent, hundreds of thousands of whom have tragically become hostage to the fortunes of war. Mr. Prabakaran’s ‘Great Heroes Day’ speech signals his desperation to halt the progress of the Sri Lankan armed forces in the district-and-a-half that is still under the LTTE’s military control. No deus ex machina, certainly not India that has been hit by terrorism more than most other countries, will appear on stage to bail out the Tigers. If they are to have a future, it lies in laying down their arms — as they were required to do by the India-Sri Lanka Agreement of July 29, 1987 — and joining the democratic mainstream to advance the interests of Sri Lankan Tamils.