Right in the middle of Mullaitivu town, a cluster of houses by a pretty beach, is a ‘Tamil Eelam temple.’ More of a martyr’s shrine where bodies of LTTE cadres would be brought for the civilians to pay their last homage and sing the final dirge. AK-47 replicas remained hung and painted all over the red-yellow structure.
On Tuesday, two days after capturing the town, soldiers of the Sri Lankan army’s (SLA) 59 Division were clicking each other’s photos on the platform where the rebel bodies would be arranged; against the backdrop of the LTTE symbol, the growling tiger.
In the rest of the town lay more torn and defeated symbols of the Tamil Tigers who controlled it for more than 12 years. Like the huge poster of headphone-wearing chief V Prabhakaran, torn down from its pedestal. On the wall of an empty shop remained the flourish of teenage love. “Lover’s Day, Feb 14/2007.”
Metres away were the remains of the ‘Laiyarasi Jeweller’s shop. All the bangles, rings and necklaces were gone. What remained were cheap and empty red coloured gift boxes. Football fields with goalposts were deserted. Those who enjoyed game were gone.
The symbols of the government were also in shreds. The Bank of Ceylon building was filled with broken glasses and patches of dark water. Two empty artillery shells remained rested against the entrance where till recently an armed guard would have twirled his lazy moustache. The Government Agent’s office had become a dump of paper and pamphlets.
Clearly, the signs of life were everywhere in this fishing town. But not even a single shadow of those who lived there. Like in Kilinochchi, the civilians had disappeared from this town as well.
But SLA soldiers, basking in their new triumph, were going about their jobs briskly. Building bunkers and new fortifications and giving shine to their weapons but also grabbing some fleeting rest before receiving fresh marching orders. Brigadier Nandana Udawatte, the 59 Division commander, said the LTTE had put up three rings of defence lines around the town and fiercely resisted frontal assaults.
“While keeping up pressure from south, we used boats to cross the lagoon and launched a surprise attack that made the rebels retreat with heavy damages,’’ Brigadier Udawatte said. He showed visiting journalists photographs of concrete bunkers with four rooms and tiled bathrooms, adding with a chuckle that LTTE leaders led a life of luxury.
Mullaitivu was a base for the LTTE’s naval wing, Sea Tigers, and scores of their boats could be seen on the road leading to the town.
Then there were the remains of at least six earth bunds build by the LTTE to stall the rapidly advancing SLA troops. The SLA suffered heavy casualties while breaching these bunds, an officer said, because the LTTE invariably left open space in front to monitor enemy movement.
The capture of Mullaitivu has left the LTTE with less than 300 square km territory in the Puthukkudiyiruppu and Vishwamadhu areas. But the final battle is yet to begin.