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Prabhakaran may skip, but Tigers will watch final

LTTE chief Velupillai Prabhakaran is unlikely to sit glued to the TV set watching Sri Lanka play the finals in the Cricket World Cup at Barbados on Saturday. But indications are that his lieutenants and cadres will do so, writes PK Balachandran.

cricket Updated: Apr 28, 2007 00:29 IST
PK Balachandran
PK Balachandran

LTTE chief Velupillai Prabhakaran is unlikely to sit glued to the TV set watching Sri Lanka play the finals in the Cricket World Cup at Barbados on Saturday. But indications are that his lieutenants and cadres will do so.

"He is a busy man, engrossed in planning, advising and giving us directions, though he may watch cricket for a little while just to relax," Rasaiah Ilanthirayan, the LTTE's military spokesman, said of his supremo.

"He is a sports lover, and gives a lot of importance to the development of sports, especially football and swimming," Ilanthirayan told Hindustan Times over from Kilinochchi in North Sri Lanka.

Clearly, cricket is not uppermost in the Tiger chieftain's mind.

"Be that as it may, many of those who are close to the LTTE chief, like his top military commanders, are hooked to cricket," said N Vithiatharan, editor of the Tamil daily Sudar Oli.

Among those around the supremo now are, Political Wing leader SP Tamilselvan; Peace Secretariat Director General Puleedevan; Ideologue K Balakumar; Intelligence chief Pottu Amman; Police Chief Nadesan; Land Forces commanders Bhanu, Sornam and Balraj; and the Sea Tiger chief, Soosai. In addition, there are the young pilots and men of the fledgling Tamileelam Air Force who are yet to be identified.

Bombing may interfere

But the on-going daily aerial bombing may interfere or completely thwart the viewing of the match, observers said.

During the 1996 World Cup finals, which Sri Lanka won, the Tiger leadership had made arrangements for the cadres and the Tamil refugee population to watch the game in the jungle hideouts in the Wanni, and those areas of Jaffna district, which were still under LTTE control.

But many wonder if such elaborate arrangements can be made this time round with aerial bombardment and shelling going on daily.

With the massive use of air power and long distance artillery, the war now is more uncertain and unpredictable than it ever was.

Previously, battles were fought by ground troops moving slowly and indulging in close quarters combat.

LTTE cadres had time to prepare for resistance, and the people had time to pack up and flee.

But now, the aerial bombardments and long-distance shelling give them no time. Air strikes and shelling could take place at any time, morning, noon or night.

Tiger cubs are for lions

Asked which side Tiger cadres and the population in the LTTE controlled areas would support, a spokesman of the outfit, who did not want to be identified, said: "Generally speaking, the youngsters here root for Sri Lanka, while the older generation (45 plus age group) would want Sri Lanka defeated."

Explaining, he said: " The older generations have been through 20 years of the ethnic conflict and they tend to see everything through the ethnic-conflict prism. Though they have no liking for Australia or any other White country, they would not mind these countries beating Sri Lanka."

On the support for Sri Lanka among the Tigers, or pro-LTTE Tamils, Sudar Oli editor Vithiatharan said: " Politics and cricket are separate. This is a small island and Tamils see themselves as Sri Lankans in many contexts. After all blood is thicker than water!"

Cricket runs in Tamil veins too

As in the case of most Sri Lankan youth, cricket runs in the veins of the Tamil youth of the North and East.

"The North-Eastern cricket associations have a strong presence, even a decisive voting strength, in the Sri Lankan Cricket Board. Tamils are playing a leading role as national cricket administrators," Vithiatharan said.

Despite Prabhakaran's inclination towards football and athletics, the LTTE does not totally neglect cricket. Yogaratnam alias Yogi, a top flight political leader and negotiator with the Sri Lankan government in the late 1980s and early 1990s, was reportedly made to coach Tiger cadres in cricket, after he fell from grace.

It is said that Yogi had played cricket at a respectable level while he was a student in Colombo.

Air raid alarm instils uncertainty

Cricket lovers in Southern Sri Lanka hope and pray that the LTTE will desist from staging another air raid on the night of the World Cup finals.

An air raid warning on Thursday night, had resulted in a complete power shut down in Colombo and its suburbs for about an hour. Fans hope that there is no real or false alarm on Saturday night.

"I am anxious because both the raids conducted by the LTTE so far had been at night," said Lester Hettiarachchi, a shop assistant.

As per the new regulations, power was shut immediately, the airport was closed, and anti-aircraft guns began to boom. But all in vain, because there was no sign of the 'intruding planes'.

With the government asking common people to ring up a particular toll free number if they saw any suspicious flying object, many calls had been received, but all proving to be unfounded.

First Published: Apr 28, 2007 00:04 IST