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Balasingham's funeral to be held next week

india Updated: Dec 15, 2006 18:48 IST
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The funeral of Anton Balasingham, the chief strategist and negotiator of the Tamil Tigers, will be held here sometime next week.

Sixty-eight-year old Balasingham, the ideologist of the Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanka, died after battling diabetes and cancer at his residence in south London on Thursday.

His body was embalmed and taken to mortuary, sources close to the family said on Friday.

In an obituary column, The Times today stated that Balasingham provided the intellectual framework for the violence of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

"He was the brains behind the brawn, someone the leadership could turn to for ideological guidance, philosophical justification and political explanation while the killing went on," the daily observed.

A forlorn-faced man, ill with a transplanted kidney, he travelled to devastated northern Sri Lanka in 2002 to act as the rebels' negotiator in peace talks brokered by Norway.

The Tigers vainly asked India to host the encounter so that Balasingham could be near a hospital in case of an emergency.

Everybody feared that he would die before the best chance of peace in more than two decades could be seized, the newspaper said.

The Colombo Government had ordered the airspace above northeast Sri Lanka to be kept clear of all aircraft and the sea-plane maintained radio silence throughout its journey lest hostile forces picked up the signal, revealing its whereabouts and mission.

The First Secretary of the Norwegian Embassy in Colombo was aboard. Immediately after it landed a Sea Tiger craft moved in to provide security.

On the shore, the plump figure of Velupillai Prabhakaran, leader of the Tigers, could be made out standing with his wife Mathivathany, and other Tigers leaders.

They were awaiting 'Bala Annai' and 'Auntie', as young Tigers cadres called the Balasinghams. A house had been constructed for their stay.

The newspaper said this elaborate journey was a measure of the importance the Tigers placed in the one man they could trust with their destiny in what looked like being a breakthrough in talks with the Sri Lankan government of Ranil Wickremesinghe.

Unfortunately the mission failed owing to the "tough stand" taken by hardcore Sinhalese organisations like the JVP and hardline Buddhist clergy to scuttle any deal that gave the Tamils "even a hint of autonomy," the report said.

Under Balasingham's guidance the Tigers had entered several rounds of successful talks with the Government, all brokered by Norway, watched suspiciously from sidelines by President Chandrika Kumaratunga.

In the end she used her presidential powers to scupper the deal, the report said.

Her successor, President Mahinda Rajapaksa, also rejected the concepts of a Tamil homeland and Tamil nationhood.

The JVP, in a previous incarnation a fanatically violent organisation but by now the third-biggest political party in the country, had threatened "undiplomatic" consequences if the peace deal went through, it said addding all of this, Balasingham said with uncharacteristic understatement, represented an obstacle.

In taking the Tigers to the brink of peace, Balasingham had steered the rebels away from their earlier demand for a fully-fledged independent state called Eelam.

What the Tamils wanted, he said, was "a homeland and self-determination".

If that demand were rejected and the "oppression" continued, there would be no option but to fight for full statehood. Those words signalled the collapse of peace hopes, the report said.

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