The commanders of the LTTE are now "old and infirm" and that is why it suffered severe setbacks in the recent military operations, says Karuna, who had defected from the LTTE in March 2004 and formed his own group of Liberation Tigers called the Tamileela Makkal Viduthalai Puligal (TMVP).
"The majority of the military commanders are becoming old and infirm. Because of lack of leadership, poor cadres are becoming easy victims," Karuna told the Colombo-based The Sunday Times in an interview.
"With my departure, Prabhakaran is facing serious drawbacks."
"He has lost good calibre recruits and committed leadership which had obtained major victories for the LTTE," Karuna said.
When Karuna was in the mainstream LTTE led by Velupillai Prabhakaran, he had the highest rank of "Colonel" and was one of Prabhakaran's most trusted and successful commanders.
Karuna said that Elephant Pass, the strategic gateway to the Jaffna peninsula, was captured by the LTTE only after Prabhakaran gave the job to him.
Two previous attempts made by another commander Balraj had failed.
It was he who secured Pooneryn for Prabhakaran, Karuna added.
He would have taken in Jaffna too, in 2000, if only Prabhakaran had not asked for some important weaponry from that theatre for the defense of his own hideout, grandiloquently called "Punya Bhoomi" (Sacred Place), Karuna said.
Asked if the LTTE’s latest reverses were due to its committing only its reserves not its regular formations, Karuna said that Prabhakaran had committed regulars as well as the reserves.
"The failure was due to lack of leadership," Karuna maintained.
No room for complacency
The former Tiger commander said that just because there had been some reverses, one could not conclude that Prabhakaran’s group was finished.
"The wounded Tiger is a dangerous Tiger, holding its paws tight to pounce at the right time," Karuna said.
"LTTE is desperate. In desperation, they will do desperate things," he added.
"Pottu's days will be numbered if he does not release his suicide missions appropriately on important targets in the South. Pottu must be having sleepless nights to execute these plans," Karuna said.
"Pottu" is Pottu Amman alias Shivashankaran, who heads the Intelligence Wing of the LTTE, which, apart from intelligence gathering and infiltration, carries out assassinations and bomb blasts outside the war zone.
Stands for united, federal Sri Lanka
Karuna said that the TMVP was a political party which was armed only to defend itself against the LTTE.
"Our military wing will renounce arms once a political settlement is reached," he said.
On the form of settlement he wanted, he said: "We are not for a separate state of Eelam. We are for a united Sri Lanka under a federal constitution."
"We need a clearly defined constitution which recognizes the North and East."
"It should provide extensive devolved powers to the Tamils to run an administration of their own."
On the All-Party Conference (APC) set up by President Mahinda Rajapaksa to help draft a devolution package, the ex-Tamil separatist leader said that he had "serious reservations" about it.
The APC should have been asked to go beyond the existing 13th amendment of the constitution, he said. But the APC had been asked to look at the problem afresh.
"Just imagine if the outcome of the APC is going to be district level devolution. This will throw every thing back to square one," Karuna said.
The Tamils, across the board, have been demanding substantial devolution for a united Tamil speaking North Eastern Province. But successive Sri Lankan governments have been reluctant to devolve power to a united North East.
They have instead proposed district level devolution, a scheme which the Tamils had rejected long ago, in the early 1980s.
Prefers India to Norway as Facilitator
The LTTE dissident said that Norway should be replaced by India as the Facilitator in the peace process.
Norway was like the Emperor without clothes, Karuna said.
"We can see their nakedness, their ugliness and warts, which they refuse to see themselves," he said.
"It is TMVP’s position that India must be brought in as the honest negotiator to resolve this conflict in the best interest of all the communities in Sri Lanka."
"The Irish peace initiative is a good example to follow," Karuna added.