Who or What Is The REAL Motivator Behind The LTTE?

by Prof: Hudson McLean

Is It Idealism, Nationalism, Patriotism or Simple Old Fashion Moolah In The Bank? Or to tap the honey pot for a long sweet drip?

The war has stripped Sri Lanka to its underwear, whilst the key political decision makers are riding high horse in fine silk and 24 karat gold.


Ceylon ceased to be a British colony in 1948. When granting independence, the United Kingdom did not, at any stage, give any consideration to demarcation or partitioning of the Island, since in their wisdom His Majesty’s government did not deem it necessary.

However, Britain in their practice of governing a colony with the Divide and Rule philosophy, gave preference to the Tamils, whether they held Ceylon citizenship or not, in various positions within and out of the Ceylon Civil Service. This was one of their policies within “The Principles of Divide and Rule”.

It must be admitted and accepted with regret, that the Sinhala majority did discriminate where and whenever possible against the Tamil minority. The lower caste Tamils, such as the toddy tappers and the coolies were expected to be and they did, behave in a humble subservient manner, within the snobbish and the Sinhala dominant establishment.

The educated Tamils in the South, were awarded employment such as accountants, book-keepers, engineers, middle grade Civil Service positions and were expected to keep their heads down to the grinding wheel.

During the immediate post independent period, the ruling class was dominated by the British educated Christian Catholic elite, but the Oxford educated Christian SWRD Bandaranaike (who embraced Buddhism and got shot by a Buddhist monk) with his Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) decided to change the political structure into a Sinhala Buddhist nationalism.

Following the assassination of SWRD and against the ultra nationalist Sinhala Buddhist policy led by the widow Sirimavo Ratwatte Bandaranaike, two Coup-de-Etat were mounted unsuccessfully, the first by late Senator Edmund J. Cooray LLM, Chairman of Brown’s Group, whose son Chrysantha now heads the Hatton National Bank and the second by late Commodore Royce de Mel, Commander of the Royal Ceylon Navy and his brother late Major Maurice de Mel. The entire coup leadership was British educated, Catholic right wingers belonging to the Karawe Fishermen’s Caste. And the clever widow turned the tables on the coup leaders led by the de Mel brothers by appointing their own relative the late Chief Justice HNG Fernando to chair the tribunal.

With that failed attempt to reinvigorate Ceylon in the backdrop, the Christian Sinhala and the Tamil citizen of Ceylon, took the can!

The “Tamil Bashing” in Ceylon started long before the British Skin Heads started the fashionable “Paki Bashing” sprees in the London suburbs and Midlands. Lack of satellite TV and Internet communications, the disturbances halted with the evening breeze, facilitating a “cooling off” period until one received the news in the local media, perhaps a few days later.

A few weeks later, with history relegated to the blocked stinking drains, even the die-hard Sinhala patriot would go back to patronise the Tamil delicacy, “Dosai and the spicy trimmings”.

From the Tamil front, except for a few upper class intelligentsia such as Ponnambalam, Chelvanayagam and the likes, who behaved in their impeccable aristocratic manner, joined the Gin and T brigade in Colombo, whilst the lesser mortals hit the Toddy Tavern.

The riots in 1950’s and 1960’s did start a better organised Tamil front but more of a political nature but not an organised armed resistant movement. It was during the 1960’s the Soviet Union decided to award scholarships to selected Sinhala youth and offered higher University level education at the Patrice Lumumba University (PLU) in Moscow.

At the PLU, during the first academic semester, the under grads were subjected to an intensive total immersion course in the Russian language and special sessions in the Doctrines of Marxism. The PLU courses covered several disciplines, such as medicine, politics, engineering, tactical and leadership training.

The ultimate objective of the Soviet educated Sinhala graduate was, on their reurn, to incite the SLFP doctrine several steps further, into the philosophies of the London School of Economics post graduates led by Dr. NM Perera, Dr. Colvin R de Silva, Peter Keunemen and the Goonewardene’s etc.

The prime target of the USSR was to get themselves eventually a warm water port for the Russian Fleet in the Indian Ocean, and Trincomalee should suit them magnificently!

With this objective, the “Tamil Bashing”, caused by the Sinhala nationalism of SWRD, the industrial unrest led by the Communist Party Trade Union movement and the political unrest created by the British educated Sinhala elite, was a blessing in disguise.

The Soviets, during the 1960’s and early 70’s did not consider the Tamil movement to have much of a backbone to create any disturbing storms within the political climate in Sri Lanka, however supplied small weapons and limited supplies of arms to the budding Tamil fronts and financially supported the Trade Union movement.

(Much of the historical information on Soviet policy towards Sri Lanka was divulged to the writer during several dinners in Moscow and Leningrad, by an ex KGB Colonel, who was then a Second Lieutenant in Moscow, in charge of the South Asian desk, over buckets of Beluga caviar and several litres of Stolichnaya.)

It was also revealed that, the most coveted prize Sri Lanka can give to a world power such as USSR, with the exception of a cuppa, was Trincomalee.

The ideal long term means to achieve this end was to create an ethnic conflict and allow it to brew for the next millennium or so. It may be also referred to as “A Storm in a Teacup” with no end in sight.

Now with the Russians relegated to history, are the Chinese making any gestures to the LTTE to fill a vacuum, to sit on the Indian tail and get strategically closer to the Suez Canal?

Is this why the Americans, in a balancing act, are moving their top brass closer to the centre of gravity at Temple Trees with a view to starting manoeuvres off Trincomalee?


Now if we look at the current theatre, 11th September 2001 was a major turning point in the world history. And a turning point in the Sri Lankan ethnic theatre of conflict.

Suddenly, USA, a giant in every single aspect, militarily, economically, politically and sexually, who with absolute confidence, acted as the most invincible nation on this planet, was attacked not from outside the United States, but from within. A devastating shock with over three thousand innocent lives destroyed during a short span of forty five minutes. Pentagon, the military power house attacked and the White House almost hit.

More than the disaster of destruction of the second tallest building on earth and thousands of lives which went down with it, the American pride suffered a major blow. For a dozen Arabs funded by a crazy beared Saudi exile to take the roof off the Pentagon was going too far. The deed done, the revenge had to be swift and equally devastating.

The speed at which the USA retaliated with the support of almost the entire United Nations behind its move, surprised the world. And indeed, in a small way, the LTTE and its supporters too, were taken aback. The Diaspora who supported the LTTE with millions of dollars in contributions to maintain the bloody conflict in Sri Lanka, suddenly felt the dampness in their underwear.

USA, UK, Canada, India decided collectively to proscribe the LTTE, defacto, its life line, the Diaspora. No Tamil non-citizen of USA, Canada, EU wished to be branded as a “terrorist supporter” and kicked back into Vavuniya, for violation of the law. Hence, the LTTE Tiger supporters decided to cut their losses and get back into line, which firmly put the LTTE leadership into retreat, at least for the time being.

Whilst the PLO continued despite all threats from Israel and the USA, the LTTE buckled under. The questions are, “Was it by own choice or was the decision forced upon them?” And if so, “By whom?”, and, “Is it a permanent or a temporary tactical move?” And most important of all, “Who is the Real Power or the puppet master behind the LTTE?”

With the USA leading the attack on Afghanistan and an international war against any form of terrorism, any “power” behind the LTTE throne needed to retreat from the support structure to avoid detection. Or at least, this is the considered opinion of the international arms industry.


Adolf Hitler did not have any academic credentials. But he led the German armies from the front. Winston Spencer Churchill was no academic either. But he descended from an aristocratic elite background, supported by a leading legitimate political party and with a purpose to battle and win the war, he led the United Kingdom and her allies from the front.

Velupillai Prabhakaran, the “Tarzan of Vanni”, with hardly any academic qualifications, from a low caste Tamil background, without any political history, with a light weight purpose of carving a territory out of a Sovereign State, amassed a powerful elite fighting force with the financial and moral backing of an immense Diaspora, within a relatively short period.

The financial infrastructure, fund raising programmes, weapons procurement programme, freight logistics, the shipping empire, the Naval wing, the military training and command deployment portrays a highly disciplined, professional and a sophisticated machinery. The LTTE, compared with other guerrilla forces, are far ahead in superiority and effectiveness, and outweighs the quality of many a developing country defence establishment, including that of Sri Lanka.

This kind of skill is not available off-the-shelf from even the finest Do-It-Yourself hardware store in Europe or for that matter, from the other side of the Pond. To raise funds, procure facilities, train and to deploy such a machinery takes time and above all, logistical skill and a great deal of expertise.

How can a “Humpty Dumpty” ill educated jungle warlord, drum up such a magnificent financial, logistical and command infrastructure in such a short space of time, is a question well worth delving into.

One must understand that, although the Communist or Revolutionary propaganda was Free-of-Charge, the invoice for the hardware will fall on the door mat sooner or later, since “there is no such thing as a free cuppa in the military language”. Each and every bullet has to be paid for.

Since the LTTE objective is not bound to any major philosophy or ideology such as Communism and the last thing they will achieve is a part of the Sri Lankan cake, what are the support facility after? Certainly, the LTTE can certainly have the North East ethnically cleansed by a controlled ballot, but it does not create big bucks as fast as guns and bullets can. Most of the politicians who cannot or do not aspire the seats at the top of the rung in the political league table, are seeking a quick buck, a form of a pension fund. And one cannot achieve that quicker than involved in the sale of a gun or a bullet, speaking both metaphorically and financially.


Now if we return to the political arena in Sri Lanka and visit the Sirimavo Bandaranaike - JR Jayawardane - R Premadasa - CBK periods.

Sri Lankan President invited the IPKF to cross the Palk Straits to Jaffna to kick the LTTE out of the NE. Then Premadasa, from the same political party, funded and armed the LTTE to kick the Indians out of Sri Lanka.

As the old saying goes, “With friends like these...?”

The answer to that question is, “With the Indians sitting in the North East controlling the LTTE, will not raise the old “moolah” for the decision making politicians in Colombo. The lucrative commissions are too good to miss. And without a powerful terrorist adversary, there is no reason to procure modern weaponry for the armed forces. Without an arms procurement programme, the powers be have to survive on a meagre salary of a MP or a Cabinet Minister. And that, in worthless Sri Lankan rupees.

There is no greater incentive to beef up a political grey cell to churn logically than the ruffelling noises of greenbacks.

Whatever said and done, the Indian government never had any intentions of colonising Sri Lanka. If ever they fancied the idea, they could have taken the entire Island without firing a shot.

With a vacuum left by the Indians, the LTTE filled it with ease and started to arm themselves rapidly and aimed the barrel at the Sinhala in the North East.

Then enters, CBK with a great deal of rattle and noise. As the Executive President, Her Excellency decorated herself with a couple of other Ministries such as Defence and defacto Finance. And she appoints her cousin as her Deputy Minister of Defence, to carry out her orders. Whilst half the Generals build mansions in Colombo, Sydney and London, she sacrificed thousands of her armed forces personnel to the slaughter house.

History has shown and as we all know, a handful of well disciplined, motivated and trained guerrillas can beat a regular army or a police force, anywhere, anytime, even with the fullest support of the government in power. And without tacit support...............?????

Sri Lankan Tamil LTTE operative is no better or worse than his/her Sinhala counterpart. Whilst the LTTE cadres are motivated from the top, the Sinhala counterpart is running around like a headless chicken. When a soldier lacks motivation, do not look at the poor soldier, but look at the top, the leadership. And ultimately the C-in-C. The President.

Several times, there were military options available to destroy the LTTE machinery, but on instructions from high command, such opportunities were aborted. Why?

Then the question is- “ON WHOSE SIDE IS THE GOVERNMENT?”

One might ask this same question from both the PA and the UNF.

Based on a noble promise of PEACE, the UNF is led to victory recently, by Ranil Wickramasinghe. Immediately upon taking office, he ordered the dismantling of the security infrastructure. The LTTE operatives are allowed the freedom to roam the entire country at will, whilst the Sinhala do not enjoy such privileges in their own country. De-proscribing is in the offing. Buckling to the terrorists demand is given a new name. The Navy is ordered to turn a blind eye into a smuggling operation of weaponry, on a scale which no one is allowed to question.

A Memorandum of Understanding is embraced without giving the Executive President an opportunity to give due consideration of the content. So we are informed by the PA side.

With the focus of the major governments from India, EU, UN, USA on this historical or should we call it “hysterical” MoU, the short term chances of backfiring may be considered as less than fifty per cent. Still.


Let us take a page from Jules Verne and go back once again.

First, it was the British who were impressed by the location of a deep natural port in the North East City of Trincomalee and its strategic location as a staging post for their Royal Navy. The British constructed a logistical support facility of fuel tanks farm.

The Soviets were eying Trincomalee as an ideal Naval facility for repair, maintenance as well as an “Eye” in the Indian subcontinent for their future operations in the asset rich South East Asian region and as a complement to Vladivostok, off Japan. But during and after Boris Yeltsin leadership, the Russians had more lucrative things to do such as, looting their own banks. Sri Lanka was small change.

We can discount both UK and USA. If either country wanted Trincomalee, they would not resort to a long term bloody covert operation. Certainly they would never employ a bunch of third class yobs. There are more sophisticated ways of “Skinning a Cat!”

India would have no need for Trincomalee either with all facilities available to the Indian Navy along its vast coast line. But strategically, a third leg would add to the extra stability.

One potential suitor is China, to get itself a point closer to India, a Southern flank, but then, would China wish to get entangled with a bunch of known terrorists with a direct cable to TamilNadu? It might serve a purpose to start to destabilise India from the South, and maintain Kashmir boiling simply to keep India out of Tibet and other Himalayan Kingdoms.

Then there are theories of the Osama bin Laden mob. First, the Wanni region is not large enough to hide a bunch of bearded Afghans and Arab wonders. Second, they are way out of the main stream. And of course, LTTE boys belong to a different religion. But there were stories that were bandied about, that the links between Al Quaeda and the LTTE, was purely financial, and in narcotic smuggling. Possibly there is some truth in it.

North Korean involvement through its network of arms dealers is, purely financial. Then there are the travelling salesmen from the ex USSR peddling in the weapons of destruction, purely to make a buck. Their interest is only limited to achieving a sale without any political ambitions.

Now we are exhausting all political, fundamental and philosophical options and left with only one reason. Economics.

The never ending end game is played with one objective of, “The Money Go Round.”


A very satisfactory way of living too. Prabhakaran is a millionaire, many times over. Not bad for a peasant with no education. Like another Adolf Hitler but in a smaller scale, except for the brutality. He is a happy and a contended man too. He has achieved a high profile, whether it is positive or negative, is just a matter of opinion. He also has a safe haven, in Norway, for his long term retirement.

The PA mob has made a buck or two and built several Gin Palaces in various locations, and now it is the turn of the UNF boys to enjoy the run of the bank, fun and games.

Given the innocent Sri Lankans a chance to breathe first until the Tamil Tigers lay the cables, so that the next circus will create havoc for the masses and moolah for the rulers.

Get the foreign investment rolling in, built upon credibility of the UNF friendly attitude towards investment and business culture, setting the stage for the Parliamentary elections.

With a comfortable majority in the Parliament, the UNF may invite and allow the public and the private sector investment climate to foster before throwing a stone at the LTTE hornets nest.

That will set the stage for another wave of weapons procurement and financial remuneration, a retirement package for the top decision makers before the Ministerial portfolios do the political merry-go-round of musical chairs.

The LTTE may change its leadership and retire Prabhakaran and his family into retirement in Norway, after the demise of the political supremo Dr. Anton Balasingham, either by choice or by force, to make way for a new leader, to give another group a taste of the honeypot in Paradise.

Like in all societies, whether in the developed West and in Japan, the developing Asian or the African continents, there is no such thing as equality amongst all human beings, since it is an accepted fact of life that, “some are more equal than others”!

One arms and weapons dealer whom I met in March 2002, on his way to the Asian subcontinent remarked that “only 50% of the arms destined for the Sri Lankan forces end up in the official audit”. Where goes the rest???

His professional opinion was that, the Sri Lankan government officials wish that the Tamil LTTE armed themselves with modern weaponry, so that the Sri Lankan government may receive more aid and foreign grants to balance the weapons game, thus making between 10-12% commission between the new powers be.

However it may be interesting to see how much of the recently smuggled cache of weaponry “brought” in by the LTTE is handed over to the international observers.

The control, the power, the drive, the direction and the motivation behind the political, ideological LTTE monkey will remain as always, in the hands of the select Sinhala establishment circus operators!


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