A week after he became history, his diehard followers still believe that Tamil Tigers chief Velupillai Prabhakaran is very much alive.
Although the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) that Prabhakaran founded has been virtually destroyed, its overseas adherents refuse to believe that the legendary rebel leader was killed in Sri Lanka on May 18.
While reams of obituaries have been written the world over about the man who almost broke up Sri Lanka, LTTE functionaries in the West are dubbing Colombo’s claims of killing the elusive Prabhakaran as fantasy.
And many seem to genuinely believe this - or at least doubt Colombo’s version of his final hours.
Leading the propaganda of the LTTE -- or what remains of it in foreign countries -- is its international wing leader S Pathmanathan who made his first statement on May 19, a day after Prabhakaran’s death was announced.
“I wish to inform the global Tamil community… that our beloved leader is alive and safe. He will continue to lead the quest for dignity and freedom for the Tamil people,” the pro-LTTE website Tamil Net quoted him as saying.
Apparently realising that Pathmanathan’s words are not having the desired effect, a member of the LTTE intelligence wing has now “categorically denied” that Prabhakaran was dead. He accused Colombo and its military establishment of spreading “rumours”.
“Our beloved leader is alive,” Tamil Net quoted the previously unheard of intelligence wing member as saying, adding that the 54-year-old LTTE chief would contact the people “at a suitable time in future”.
Other pro-LTTE Internet media too have taken a similar line vis-à-vis Prabhakaran although many are willing to concede that some of the other top leaders of the Tamil Tigers are dead.
According to Sri Lanka, Prabhakaran, founder leader of the LTTE, was killed following heavy fighting with the military which trapped him close to a lagoon in Mullaitivu district in the island’s north.
He was reportedly with 18 of his bodyguards when he was cut down, with a single bullet in the front of the head that blew off the upper portion of his head.
Thousands of his Tamil supporters, particularly in the West, insist that Prabhakaran had broken the army cordon at the last moment and that photos and television footage showing him dead were doctored.
But diplomats and security agencies around the world firmly believe that Prabhakaran has been slain although speculation persists as to how and when he breathed his last.
A Western diplomat based in Colombo told IANS over telephone: “We are in no doubt about Prabhakaran’s fate. He is dead and gone.”
Tamil sources in London, where the Tigers have enjoyed wide support among the Tamils, say the LTTE is finding it difficult to come to terms with the reality that Prabhakaran is no more.
Said a Tamil activist there who did not want to be named: “It happened so fast that they can’t believe it and don’t want to believe it. Since Prabhakaran has always got out of tight situations, they expected it to happen again. No one expected him to get caught or killed.”
Sri Lanka-based diplomats said that a section of the Tamil diaspora in the West would certainly want to avenge Prabhakaran’s killing if and when they come to believe it.
“They will keep funding LTTE guys abroad hoping there will be some action in Sri Lanka,” said one diplomat. “Personally, I doubt if that will ever happen.”