Last Sunday (Feb 17th) was a sad day for the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) as they lost in battle another senior stalwart who had rendered yeoman service to the movement for more than two decades.
Lt. Col Thava or Thavam as he was called was not one widely known to the world like tiger police commissar Suppiah Paramu Thamilselvan. But in his own, quiet way Thava has been responsible for portraying the LTTE in a positive light and projecting the Tiger cause worldwide.
Apart from his combat duties Lt. Col Thava had been functioning since 1990 as the chief cinematographer of the LTTE’s “Nitharsanam” Television station.
In recent times he was also the deputy chief of the tigers film division. In addition Thava also doubled up as LTTE chief Velupillai Prabakharan’s special photographer on important occasions.
Thava’s forte was his fearless videoing on the battlefront. Armed with a camera, Thava waded into the thick of fighting at great risk.. He captured on camera the different dimensions of heated battles. As a result of his labour much of the LTTE’s comparative military history was archived on celluloid.
The battles of Mankulam and Kokkavil in 1990 where the LTTE overran both military camps.; the ill – fated Elephant pass war of 1991. The successful amphibean assault on Pooneryn in 1993 codenamed “operation Thavalai”or frog: several successful phases of “operation unceasing waves” (Oyatha Alaigal) were but some of the historic battles witnessed and recorded by Thava.
The videoing of battles was of great utilitarian value. Apart from being telecast on the “Nitharsanam” TV videos were made and circulated worldwide. This was of much propaganda value and was an incentive for the Tamil Diaspora to contribute lavishly to the cause.
At another level LTTE supremo Prabakharan used to view the raw footage to assess the battlefront situation. It was also used in training camps to motivate new recruits. Also LTTE military strategists used it to do post – mortems on battles fought.
There was a time when the LTTE’s broadcasting service “Voice of Tigers” was attached to “Nitharsanam” as a sub – unit. During this time Thava was involved in broadcasting too in many spheres.
Thava was also involved in making films. He was the cinematographer for the LTTE’s full length feature film “Kaatruveli” ( The windy plains).
Apart from filming Thava also dabbled in acting. He played the role of Major. Kinny in the docu-drama “Innoru Naadu” (Another Country). He also acted in the short features “Muttrugai” (siege) and “Viduthalai Moochu” (breath of liberation).
In recent times Thava was involved in setting up a film archive for the LTTE.
According to LTTE old – timers the tigers were the first among Tamil militant organizations to photograph scenes of battle etc.
However the Tamil Eelam Liberation Organization (TELO) stole a march over the LTTE when it videoed the successful attack on Chavakachcheri police station in 1984.
The video was circulated world – wide and resulted in many diasporic Tamils donating generously to the TELO after being thrilled by the visuals. An annoyed LTTE then plunged into extensive videoing.
Former LTTE Jaffna commander Sathasivampillai Krishnakumar alias Kittu was a man fond of new technology and innovations. He set up a special unit under Bharathan who is now in a Western country.
In those days LTTE chief Prabakharan was in Tamil Nadu and his deputies in North- Eastern Sri Lanka had to report regularly to him.
Kittu hit on the novel idea of sending reports on film to his “thalaiver” (leader). Prabakharan, a film buff, was pleased by this. Soon more and more videos of live action were shot and sent to the tiger supremo.
Jaffna peninsula assumed conditions of a semi – liberated state from mid – 1985 as the security forces were basically confined to barracks.
One interesting development then was the flourishing of a number of small TV stations. These were run by private individuals and telecasts were restricted to specific localities.Subscriptions were solicited from house – holders.
The LTTE began to distribute their action videos and get them on these TV’s. Gradually the LTTE developed its own TV station known as “Nitharsanam”. Bharathan was its head.
In 1987 the Indian army destroyed the Nitharsanam TV tower and made it inoperative.
The LTTE resumed “Nitharsanam” in 1990 after it control of the greater part of the Northern province.
Many of the LTTE battles were shown on “Nitharsanam” TV. Video magazines titled “Nitharsanam” were made and sent abroad. LTTE also made videos for training purposes.
It was during this time that Thava began to shine as a field cinematographer. Thava made his mark , rose to prominence in “Nitharsanam” and caught the eye of Prabakharan.
Prabakharan has also used the capability of Thava and other members of the unit to videograph security installations and troop movements. This data helps the LTTE chief to draw up elaborate battle plans.
Thava hailed from Thiriyai in Trincomalee district. The village was virtually destroyed by the security forces in 1984 and most of the people got dispersed.
Thava in his teens then teamed up with the LTTE. Senior LTTE leader Pulenthiran sent Thava to Jaffna.
Pandithar the tiger chief in Jaffna took Thava under his wing and provided him local training. After Pandithar’s death Kittu became Jaffna commander.
Kittu recognized Thava’s talent for photography and encouraged him. Eventually Thava became chief cinematographer for “Nitharsanam”.
It is said that Thava died in harness at Palamottai in the Vavuniya district.
According to reports he was conducting a field workshop in combat cinematography for new tiger recruits on Feb 17th when an army shell exploded close by.
Lt. Col Thava and Major Pugalmaran were killed.
A joint funeral service was held for both in Kilinochchi. The LTTE’s Kilinochchi zone political wing head Kalaivanan presided. Vavuniya district military commander Velavan lit the ceremonial flame. LTTE political commissar Nadesan delivered the eulogy.
Thava’s mother lit the flame of sacrifice for Thava while his wife garlanded the body. She too is a tiger woman cadre and working in the media division. Pugalmaran’s father lit the flame and garlanded his son’s body.
Lt. Col Thava’s death in action focuses attention towards the continuing strife on the North – Western front. The North – West became the theatre of conflict after the LTTE was ejected from the Eastern province.
In recent times there has been much media attention towards the continuing strife on the North – Western front. The North – West became the theatre of conflict after the LTTE was ejected from the Eastern province.
The Government shifted its focus towards the Mannar district and those parts of Vavuniya district under LTTE control after the fall of the East.
In the first week of September the armed forces took over the Musali AGA division in the South of Mannar district in a swift military manouevre. The tigers retreated without firing a shot. Thousands of civilians both Tamil and Muslim were displaced.
Thereafter the security forces began intensive shelling of some other areas of Mannar district under LTTE control. Frequent aerial bombardment was also conducted.
More than five months have passed since the capture of Musali division but the security forces are yet to show significant gain in acquiring real estate from the LTTE in Mannar district since then.
The hyper – active media center for national security regales us with regular bulletins of significant victories. According to these reports LTTE cadres are being killed in large numbers each day; tiger bases and bunkers are being destroyed frequently.
According to some security – sourced reports more than 2000 tigers have been killed in Mannar since the beginning of this year while the LTTE casualty figures for Vavuniya district for this year exceeds 1000 according to the same reports
Since official Colombo estimates of LTTE strength puts it around 10 – 15, 000 the tiger casualties for this year alone amount to more than 20 % of the total number of tiger cadres. If correct this is a very big achievement. But then there are those two words “If correct”.
We also hear and read many reports about LTTE de – moralisation. We are told of mass desertions; we are told of massive defections; Suddenly young tiger cadres are dying with pathetic letters written to their parents in their pockets.
Another puzzling feature is the regular pattern of official media releases on the ground situation. There are many reports about LTTE positions being overrun and defences destroyed.
There are reports about places being captured and then re- captured and then being re – re – captured.We are not told how this was possible
The official reports about ground positions are also confusing. One day we are told that the security forces are within a few hundred yards of a particular place. On another day we are informed that security forces are a few km away from the same place.
Likewise we are informed officially that the LTTE has been dislodged from a particular place; again we are told in another report that heavy fighting took place in the place taken from the LTTE. In a further report we hear of fighting close to the place where the LTTE was driven away. Only now the tigers are back again
Morale is high among security forces on the war front say official reports. This is certainly true.
Given the overwhelming superiority of the security forces over the tigers in manpower, firepower, airpower etc morale should certainly be high within the security forces . The track record of recent military victories should be a further morale booster.
What is missing in this official narrative is the actual state and condition of the ground situation. If one discards the verbiage and cuts to the chase one factor is clearly visible.
In spite of more than five months of intensive fighting the security forces have not made much headway. Only peripheral gains have been made.The official communiques are more flatulence and less excreta.
It is certainly true that the security forces have not yet launched the long anticipated multi – pronged offensive into tiger territory. That is still on the cards.
But the security forces have been regularly conducting sorties and limited “push ” operations on multiple fronts.
If the unrealistically bloated LTTE casualty figures are taken out of the picture there is very little advantage to show for all this.
The main reason for this situation is the dogged and determined defensive war fought fiercely by the LTTE.
Earlier LTTE defensive preparations saw the tigers erecting three broad defence rings.
One was around all areas controlled by it; the second was around the north – eastern region east of the A – 9 highway; the third was around strategic areas in the Mullaitheevu district.
Against this backdrop the North – Western region to the west of the A – 9 highway or Jaffna – Kandy road was comparatively vulnerable. It was on this premise which the defence authorities based their calculations and launched intensive military activity.
What has happened now seems to be a strategic shift by LTTE chief Velupillai Prabakharan.
Instead of offering limited resistance and then withdrawing as done in the past the tiger supremo seems to be mobilising his resources to fight a full – scale defensive war on the North – Western front itself.
While the Mannar district commander Letchumanan and Vavuniya district commander Velavan are in charge of defences a number of senior tiger commanders are also in the North – Western fray.
Bhanu and Sornam who were both past Mannar district commanders and Jeyam the ex – Vavuniya commander are all involved in the defensive war. They are very familiar with the terrain.
Two other seniors in the field are the commanders of Charles Anthony infantry division , Amithab and Ramesh who is in charge of the Jeyanthan infantry division.
Amithab is from Vavuniya district while Ramesh is the former Eastern regional special commander who succeeded “Col” Karuna.
Two disadvantages suffered by the LTTE was about the motivation and loyalty of some cadres.
The LTTE has conscripted around 12 – 15, 000 cadres in the past 18 months. Since most of them were abducted against their will their loyalty and motivation was suspect. Also they had no battlefront experience.
The protracted warfare on the North – Western front has provided an opportunity for the LTTE to try and test the new cadres. They are being rotated in batches and deployed in the many different battle zones.
Slowly and steadily the new cadres are being “blooded” and by all accounts getting absorbed into regular ranks.
The other problem was the attitude of the Eastern cadres. There are about 4000 eastern cadres in the Wanni right now. Some of them were de – moralised due to the Karuna revolt and its consequences.
A related problem was the question of whether some eastern cadres could be trusted because of regional and personal loyalty to Karuna.
Recent developments have brought about an attitudinal change. The co-option of the Karuna faction as a para – military outfit of the state has dispelled all illusions about Karuna.
The eastern warlord himself languishes in a British jail. Pillaiyan described as a “running dog of (Sinhala) Imperialism is in charge now.
Thus there is no alternative centre of attraction for the eastern cadres. Divided loyalty is becoming a thing of the past. They are being re -integrated into the LTTE and are plunging into battle with clear objectives.
It cannot be forgotten that Eastern cadres under Karuna played a decisive role in the “jayasilkurui” and “oyatha Alaigal” battles in the Wanni.
The presence of Ramesh and deployment of the East – raised Jeyanthan Infantry division demonstrates closing of ranks within the LTTE.
Another development in the situation is the resumption of regular supplies to the LTTE. The success of the navy and air force in destroying some LTTE ships and vessels had caused a serious rupture in procuring military material and supplies.
Arms supply had become a trickle. There was a shortage of fuel too.
This situation according to battlefront reports is now changing.
The LTTE in recent times does not seem to be in short supply.
This is reflected in the way the tigers are now conducting the war. The earlier constraints are diminishing. It os suspected that tiger supply routes are “working “out again.
The LTTE’s defensive war is fundamentally reliant on three things. Firstly its artillery; secondly its landmines; thirdly its sniping.
The Kittu artillery division is actively engaged in firing shells with precision. A plus point for the LTTE is that many of the shells used are home made in the LTTE’s indigenous ordnance factories. One of the lethal artillery shells causing much damage is a new one named “Ragav”.
The Ponnammaan mining unit is also inflicting damage. Ponnamman whose real name is Kugan Yogaratnam is the brother of former LTTE political commissar Naren Yogaratnam alias Yogi.
Ponnamman was killed in the Kaithady explosion of Feb 14th 1987. Yogi who was expelled from the movement is now back as its head of military history division.
The Ponnammaan unit has been layig mines effectively. An innovation in recent times has been a new form of chain mines.
The concealed mines are linked together and form a kind of chain laid out in different formations. When one mine is stepped upon there is a chain reaction causing wide-spread damage.
The third is sniping. It appears that the LTTE has acquired some sophisticated long – range sniper rifles. Well – trained tiger snipers are now putting them to use it seems.
Many casualties among security forces are due to sniping. Recently snipers inflicted heavy damage in the Aatkaattyvely area.
Artillery, mines and sniping are the three main components of the LTTE’s defensive war in the North – Western region.
While the LTTE has been reasonably successful in holding the security forces at bay so far it is indeed a moot point as to whether the tigers can sustan this effort indefinitely.
For one thing the security forces are yet to launch a full – fledged multi – pronged offensive. At one stage the security forces did commence a “push” in ten different places.
These however were essentially “limited offensives”. The decisive moment will be when a concerted operation on a massive scale is launched.
The other point is whether the LTTE can ensure a steady flow of supplies to cadres at the battlefront. Logitics would be a problem if security forces manage to interdict supply routes.
Currently the security forces seem to be having two targets. One is Madhu and the other Adamban. Recent troop movements are conducted with these twin objectives. Madhu is of political significance while Adamban is of military importance.
In trying to take Madhu the security forces are careful to avoid causing any damage to the famous Our Lady of the Rosary catholic shrine.
Thus the forces are trying to encircle the region and make the LTTE vacate the area. This is one reason for the delay in advancing on that front
Adamban is a strategic area where two key roads intersect.If Adamban falls the security forces will be able to progress rapidly in different directions.
Adamban is the gateway and this is its importance. If Adamban falls then the LTTE controlled coastal strip of Vidathaltheevu – Nachikudah will be next
The ultimate objective will be the securing of the littoral along the Mannar – Pooneryn road.
By doing so the artillery bombardment of Jaffna by the LTTE will cease. It can also open up a land – based route to Jaffna via the Sangupiddy – Keratheevu ferry. Oil exploration activity in the Mannar basin will be easy. Also a ground based drive towards Elephant pass is possible.
For all these reasons the coastal stretch of Mannar – Pooneryn road is important. The LTTE knows it too and hence its stiff resistance.
How long can the LTTE hold out in this fierce defensive war on the North – western front is a key question.
Equally important is the question whether the LTTE would be content to continue with this defensive strategy or embark upon some offensive strategy in the near future.
The fledgling state of Kosovo came into being one week ago. It’s 39 year old Prime Minister Hashim Thaci read out the break – away Serbian Province’s declaration of of Independence on February 17th. This was followed by a musilcal rendering of Beethoven’s “ode to joy”. The blue and yellow national flag of the new state was raised .
It was indeed a time of joy for Kosovo’s ethnic Albanians. After decades of non – violent and violent struggle the Kosovars had gained a country of their own.
At a personal level it was a glorious triumph for Prime Minister Thaci. The political commissar of the Kosovo Liberation Army had for long been the driving force behind Kosovo’s quest for independence.
[From Left to Right:
Hashim Thaci, Head of the KLA, Bernard Kouchner, Head of United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) in Kosovo (July 1999- January 2001), General Michael Jackson, Commander of KFOR Troops in Kosovo, General Agim Ceku, Military Commander of the KPC, investigated by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) "for alleged war crimes committed against ethnic Serbs in Croatia between 1993 and 1995." ( AFP 13 Oct 1999), General Wesley Clark, NATO Supreme Commander.]
There was a time when Hashim Thaci was perceived as a terrorist. A Serbian court once tried him in absentia and imposed a ten years jail term on him. The elusive Thaci was never caught.
By learning to “bend” before US – UN might at the appropriate time and through hitching the KLA wagon to the NATO star Thaci had realised his objective of Kosovo independence.
The Kosovo Liberation Army is known in Albanian as the Ushtra Chrimtare e Kosoves or UCK. In a sense it is the most successful guerilla movement in recent times because it has accomplished the first of its twin goals namely the secession of Kosovo province from Serbia.
It remains to be seen how far it would advance with regard to its other goal of establishing a greater Albania..
What is remarkable if not commendable about the KLA’s feat is the fact that it is weak and unsucessful “militarily”when compared to some other liberation movements around the world.
Despite its nomenclature of “army” the KLA was never a powerful militia.. The few times it engaged in positional warfare with the Serbian forces the KLA was routed decisively
Yet the KLA has scored when organizations more powerful than it are yet to succeed or have failed. That geo-strategic considerations favoured the KLA cannot be denied. But other groups have failed miserably to achieve their goals even when the conditions were conducive.
The KLA’s victory is due to its pragmatism. It knew the limits of the armed struggle it was waging and called it quits at the correct time. It played ball with the powers that be and made a show of surrendering weapons.
It adhered to International diktat and plunged into protracted negotiations. The KLA knew when and how to transform itself.
The KLA displayed admirable patience even when the opponent was not acting in good faith. Instead of abandoning negotiations and resorting to armed struggle at the drop of a hat, the KLA stayed the course.
It also chose the right side to support internationally. Thus the USA which spearheads the global war against terror is now the patron of the KLA that reportedly had links with Osama bin Laden.
Kosovo was a province of Serbia within Yugoslavia. Historically Kosovo was seen as the cradle of Serbian culture.The province that had a Serbian majority at one time borders present day Albania. It was pre-dominantly Christian during the middle ages.
D- day was June 28th 1389 when the historic battle of Kosovo was fought. Thus began the 523 year Turkish rule of the Ottoman empire.After five centuries Serbia gained control of Kosovo in 1912 through the Balkan wars. The 1913 treaty of London endorsed this change formally.
When the first world war was over, Kosovo was incorporated legally in 1918 as part of the Serbian kingdom . During the second world war much of Kosovo was under Italian occupation. After the war was over Kosovo was absorbed into the Yugoslavian federation in 1946 as a Serbian province.
In the sixties legendary Yugoslavian head of state Marshall Tito began encouraging greater autonomy for Kosovo as part of his strategic effort to curn Serbian ultra – nationalism. The 1974 Constitution granted autonomus status for the Province and provided a certain amount of self – government.
Kosovo had undergone much demographic change over the years. The Serbian population decreased and Albanian numbers increased. Christianity declined and Islam flourished.
In the 20th century the Serbs were a minority in Kosovo. The dominant entity were the Albanians. Most Albanians were Muslims while Serbians were Christian.
There was simmering tension between the Serbs/Christians and Albanian/Muslims.Ethno – nationalist feelings were on the rise.
The KLA has its origins in the Popular movememt for the Republic of Kosovo that was founded in 1979 by former Albanian dictator Enver Hoxha. Albania’s encouragement led to a rise in Kosovar nationalism.
In 1981 there were wide – spread separatist riots resulting in a crackdown.The army was brought in.
Many Kosovar members of the popular movement fled the country.Some Emigre’s based in Switzerland adopted Marxist – Leniinist ideology as their creed. In 1982 they formed the People’s Movement of Kosovo in Switzerland.
The people’s movement of Kosovo modelled itself on the Irish Republican Army (IRA) striving for Irish re-unification.The primary objective was to form an Albanian national republic within the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia..The secondary goal was the gradual reation of a Greater Albania.
The advent of Serbian ultra – nationalist Slobodan Milosevic was a watershed as far as Kosovo was concerned. Milosevic took away the autonomy for Kosovo enshrined in the 1974 Constitution. This led to much heartburn. In 1989 July Albanian leaders declared independence from Serbia. Belgrade dissolved the Kosovo government.
In September more than 100,000 Albanians were dismissed from work.This resulted in a general strike that was suppressed.
1991 saw Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia breaking away from Yugoslavia and declaring independence.War erupted.
Albanian leaders also made a unilateral declaration of independence in 1991. Only Albania recognized it.In 1992 September the academic – writer Ibrahim Rugova was elected president of the self – proclaimed republic.
Rugova was a “Gandhian” who launched a non – violent movement of passive resistance to secure independence or at least get autonomy restored. This Gandhian strategy did not fare well with Milosevic who unleashed brute force.
An ethnic cleansing campaign against Kosovo Albanians was conducted by Serb armed forces to make the province Serb – majority again.Thousands died . Hundreds of thousands of Kosovo refugees fled to Albania, Macedonia and Montenegro.
Disillusioned with Rugova’s non – violent tactics the younger elements of the Peoples Movement for Kosovo resolved to develop a military wing and pursue armed resistance. In 1993 the KLA came into existence clandestinely in Macedonia.
The KLA structured itself on the lines of the IRA. The strategy was to provoke a major conflict between Serbia and Kosovo. The leading lights among KLA founders were Zahir Pajazti and Adem Jashari.
Interestingly the KLA received aid and support from three different sources. Both the USA and Germany provided arms, funds and training for strategic “realpolitik” reasons of their own.
Ironically the US state depattment proscribed the KLA for a while as a foreign terrorist movement. At another level the US provided covert assistance.
The third source was Bin Laden’s Al Quaeda. Of course it had not made the headlines then.Some KLA cadres reportedly trained in Afghanistan .
The KLA began attacks in 1995 by targeting Police and military personnel . It was in 1996 that the KLA became known as an Armed Albanian outfit.
The KLA set up training camps in North – Eastern Albania. Many Albanian officers of the Yugoslavian armed forces deserted and joined the KLA. They began training the new recruits. Even a military academy was established.
The KLA had a central command structure of 16 – 20 members. Kosovo province was divided into seven military – operation zones. Each zone had semi – autonomous commanders known by their nom de guerres.There was also a political wing known as ” Drejtoria Politike”.This was headed by Hashim Thaci the present Kosovo Premier.
The KLA grew rapidly in 1997 – 99. Initially it attacked security personnel as well as civilian collaborators. Roadblocks were set up and movement of Government forces restricted.
By mid 1998 the KLA controlled around a quarter of Kosovo province.The KLA stronghold was the Drenica region and its headquarters was in the village of Prekaz.
While Belgrade placed KLA strength at a few hundreds , the movement claimed it to be over 20,000. The KLA had AK – 47’s and RPG – 7 weapons. It also had SA – 7 and Stinger missiles.
Initially the Serbian forces suspended patrolling KLA controlled territory.It was mainly through default that the KLA maintained control of some areas. The KLA was no match for Serbian forces in direct confrontation.
The KLA bluff was called when it overreached itself by launching an offensive to capture Orahovac town. It was a fiasco. But Serbian state forces now began a counter – offensive against the KLA.
The guerillas were defeated decisively and chased away from the regions it controlled.Kosovo came under Belgrade’s writ again except for the border area of Junik.
The Serbian offensive though successful in dislodging the KLA resulted in unintended consequences. The Albanian diaspora was electrified. Fund raising for KLA peaked in the west. Thousands of youths left Europe and returned home to join the KLA. The KLA found it difficult to cope with the numbers.
One factor which fuelled large – scale support for the KLA among Albanian ethnics was the massacre of innocents. When four Serb policemen were killed by KLA guerillas the security forces retailated by attacking the villages of Likoshan and Cirez.
There was no armed resistance but in one place 12 members of a single extended family were killed. Another family lost four of five sons, and one family saw their seven-months-pregnant daughter-in-law shot in the head.
In another incident Police wanted to arrest Adem Jashari, the leader of the KLA .. The police assault on Prekaz lasted two days and Jashari died fighting. More than 60 people were killed of whom 45 were civilians.
The KLA adopted refined propaganda methods and publicised the anti – civilian acts of the Serbs. The whole world became aware of Serb attempts at ethnic cleansing. Bosnia situation provided added impetus.
Full-scale war broke out in Kosovo in March 1999. The Serbian and Yugoslav forces launched an offensive against the KLA. The KLA suffered heavy losses and was driven back into Albania, with only a few thousand fighters remaining in Kosovo itself.
The KLA actively collaborated with NATO personnel. When NATO commenced its 78 day aerial bombardment the KLA provided much informaation to identify targets.
KLA commander, Sylejman Selimi was removed in May 1999 and replaced with Agim Ceku an ethnic Albanian who had previously served in the Croatian Army as brigadier-general. After Çeku took over the KLA began to take a much more aggressive stance by attacking security force units frequently.
When the war ended, NATO and Serbian leaders agreed to a peace settlement that would see Kosovo governed by the UN .There was to be de – commissioning of KLA arms. The KLA was not a signatory to the peace accords. Instead of revolting the KLA showed great political acumen by agreeing to to be disarmed.
A much gratified NATO brought the KLA nto the peace process by establishing a 3,000-strong Kosovo Protection Corps (KPC)drawn from KLA ranks and entrusted with duties like disaster response, search and rescue, assistin de – mining, providing humanitarian assistance, and helping to rebuild infrastructure and communities.
The KPC’s operational sectors were very similar to those established by the KLA, illustrating the continuity between the two organizations. The KPC occupied former Yugoslav Army barracks and established battalions in each zone
Hashim Thaci, as head of the Albanian delegation, was invited to Rambouillet pour parleys in Paris. Initially Thaci refused to accept the Western proposal for the autonomy of Kosovo. Then in a volte – face Thaci agreed. and ratified the accord. This was a turning point.
It resulted in international recognition for the KLA’s political party known then as the Democratic party of Kosovo. It envisaged an interim government of Kosovo including the three major parties: the Democratic league of Kosovo (LDK) of Rugova, the United Democratic League (LBD) allied with the KLA and of course the KLA’s party. itself.
The interim Prime Minister was going to be Hashim Thaci.
Now began reverse ethnic cleansing. While dispersed Albanians returned ethnic Serbs began moving out. Systemic violence against them was unleashed. The Roma or Gypsy community was cruelly victimised.
The UN administration gave the ultra-nationalists a free hand. A report published by Amnesty International provides a devastatingly negative balance sheet.
“The UN mission either did not investigate adequately or completely failed to investigate hundreds of crimes such as murders, rapes, kidnappings and expulsions,” wrote Jan Digel, the Kosovo expert for Amnesty.
According to the European Roma Rights Centre in Budapest, over two thirds of the 120,000 Roma and Ashkali living in Kosovo were driven out of the province following the NATO bombardment.
It was the most comprehensive ethnic cleansing of Roma since the Second World War. Many thousands of Serbs were also forced to leave Kosovo, with the remaining 120,000 living in isolated Serbian enclaves.
The Thaci period of interim rule was a human rights disaster.. In four months 348 murders, 116 kidnappings, 1070 lootings and 1106 arson incidents occurred. .On the 15th of December, 1999, The provisional Administrative Council of Kosovo was set up and Thaci’s interim rule ended.Thaci’s DPK suffered defeat in municipal polls
Hashim Thaçi was born in Buroja in the municipality of Srbica northwest of Drenica valley, in Kosovo on April 24th 1968.. During his university years, he was one of the Albanian student leaders, and the first student president of the parallel Albanian University of Prishtina that was set apart from the real University due to Kosovar Albanians’ boycott of Milosevic’s new imposed status of Kosovo and Metohija.
Thaçi emigrated to Switzerland By 1993 , Thaçi had become a member of the inner circle of the KLA His nom de guerre was “Gjarpëri” [the Snake]) .
Hewas responsible fortraining recruits in Albania under the auspices of its Kosovar-sympathetic government. In March 1999, Hashim Thaçi was promoted into a political leader of the KLA .
According to media reports , Although the government in Pristina now professes adherence to the rights of minorities–whose ranks include Turks, Bosnjaks and other smaller groups alongside the Serbs and Roma–there has been no let-up in the attacks on national minorities in the province.
The declaration of independence last Sunday took place in close cooperation with the so-called Contact Group, consisting of the US, France, Germany, Britain and Italy. It was prepared over a long time. it is reported.
One year ago, the former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari submitted a plan for independence, which met with resolute opposition from Serbia and Russia.
Although Ahtisaari’s proposal was rejected at the time, it served as a framework and set a timetable for independence. Every step in the process–including a date for independence–was then coordinated between Kosovan Prime Minister Thaci and the Contact Group.
The alleged refusal of Serbia to agree to comprehensive autonomy for Kosovo is depicted as the rationale for total independence. The right of national self – determination has been given primacy over the concept of state sovereignty.
Elections in Kosovo were held on 17 November 2007. The Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK), political successors to the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), secured 34 percent (about 220,000 votes) as against 22 percent for the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), in power since the NATO intervention in 1998.
There was a record low turnout–43 percent of the province’s 1.5 million voters–down from 80 percent in elections soon after the Kosovo war. Doris Pack, head of the European Parliament team observing the poll, noted that “the worryingly low turn-out reflected the population’s disappointment in the performance of their elected representatives and the uncertainty regarding their future.” In addition, most of the 120,000 members of Kosovo’s Serb minority followed appeals from Serbia to boycott the election.
Nevertheless, Hashim Thaci, , declared his party’s vote of less than 15 percent of the population as a mandate for independence from Serbia. “The citizens of Kosovo sent the world a message…. The strongest message was that Kosovo is ready [for] independence,” he declared.
Hashim Thaci was designated as the next leader of Kosovo’s government on Decemner 11th 2007 by Kosovo President Fatmir Sejdiu and was asked to form a government “as soon as possible”.
On January 9th 2008 Thaçi was elected as Prime Minister by parliament, with 85 votes in favor and 22 against.
On that occasion he stated his intention to achieve independence for Kosovo in the first half of 2008.On February 16th Thaçi announced that the next day, February 17, would be key for “implementing the will of the citizens of Kosovo”, strongly implying the region would declare independence.
On February 17th Kosovo declared independence unilaterally.
“We, the democratically elected leaders of our people, hereby declare Kosovo to be an independent and sovereign state. This declaration reflects the will of our people and it is in full accordance with the recommendations of UN Special Envoy Martti Ahtisaari and his Comprehensive Proposal for the Kosovo Status Settlement. “proclaimed Prime Minister Thaci.
“We declare Kosovo to be a democratic, secular and multiethnic republic, guided by the principles of non-discrimination and equal protection under the law. We shall protect and promote the rights of all communities in Kosovo and create the conditions necessary for their effective participation in political and decision-making processes”.
The USA and the big players of the EU have recognized the new state.
The Kosovo Liberation Army has fulfilled its ambition.
India in general and its Tamil Nadu state in particular have spawned many colourful political personalities. Standing out among these figures is Ms. Jayalalithaa Jayaram the actress-politico of Tamil Nadu.
The Former chief minister and Anna – Dravida Munnetra Kazhagham (ADMK) leader turns 60 today (Feb 24th).
Earlier her name was spelled with one A (Jayalalitha) at the end. Later a second A was added (Jayalalithaa) due to reasons of numerology.
Jayalalithaa has become well – known in recent times for her rigid stance against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam(LTTE). Supporters of the LTTE love to hate her.
Looking at her rotund appearance today few would imagine of a time when she was slim and lissom. That she was and a ravishing beauty too.
As an actress Jayalalithaa was the uncrowned queen of Tamil cinema during the mid – sixties to the mid – seventies of the last century.She was the dream – girl of many a teen – ager and the favourite pin – up star of many fans.
[Jayalalithaa & MGR in Kannan en Kadhalan-'Kannan my love']
Among those infatuated by her was the famous actor – politician M.G.Ramachandran (MGR).with whom she paired in more than 25 films. Though unmarried Jayalalithaa was regarded as the love of MGR’s life.
However she has been linked romantically to other people including actors like Shoban Babu, Ravichandran, Jaishanker and Mutturaman.
Jayalalithaa was born on Feb 24th 1948 in Mysore in Karnataka state. Because of this many think she is a Kannadiga and her political rivals often call her that.
The reality is that she is from a Tamil Aiyengar brahmin family hailing from Sreerangam in Trichy. Her grandfather was a physician in the service of the Mysore Maharajah. Hence the family relocated to that state.
Despite her detractors ridiculing her as a “kannadiga” Jayalalithaa has always been proud to assert her Tamil identity.
In 1970 long before she entered politics Jayalalithaa told a Kannada journal that she was a Tamil and not a Kannadiga. This caused a furore in Karnataka.
When Jayalalithaa was shooting for a Tamil film in Bangalore (now Bengalooru) a Kannadiga mob surrounded her and threatened to kill her if she did not retract.
But the courageous Jayalalithaa refused to be intimidated and stood her ground re-iterating that she was Thamizhian”and not a Kannadiga
Jayalalithaa’s father Jayaram was a an irresponsible wastrel who squandered the family fortune. This led to her mother Vedavalli becoming a film actor to support the family.
She took on the name Sandhya. Soon she relocated to Chennai or Madras as it was known then
Jayalalithaa’s given name was Komalavalli. but her pet name is Ammu. She studied at the elite Bishop Cotton High school in Bangalore and later at the Church Park convent in Madras.
In 1964 She passed out second in the state matriculation exam and was given a merit scholarship.She did not pursue higher studies as her destiny was films.
She learnt Bharatha Natyam and carnatic music and had her dance arangetram in 1960. The veteran actor Sivaji Ganesan who presided called her a “thangachilai” or golden statue on account of her fair, glowing skin.
Veteran film director BR Bhanthulu saw her at a film function and got her to act in a Kannada film. The maestro Sreedhar gave her a break in Tamil films. She played the role of a schizophrenic widow in “Vennira Aadai” (White dress) and got rave reviews.
[Ayirathil Oruvan, a re-release poster in Chennai-June 2007]
Her passport to success was her second Tamil film “Aayirathil Oruvan” (one man in a thousand) where she played leading lady to MGR. Despite the 32 year difference in age the duo was a hot pair. They acted together in 28 films.
Among her successes were “Adimai Penn”, Naan, Maatukkaara Velan”Aathiparasakthi” “pattikaadaa Pattanamaa”, Kavalkaran” Engiruntho vanthaal” etc. Her last filom was “Nathiyai Thedi Vantha kadal” in 1978.
Jayalalithaa has acted in more than a hundred films in Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada , Hindi and even one English movie “The Epistle”. More than 70 of these ran for more than a hundred days in theatres.
[Amma edraal Anbu...written by Vaali]
She has also sung songs in her own voice in some if not all films. She has a creamy, croony voice. Her first film song was “amma Endraal Anbu” written by Vaali and composed by KV Mahadevan.
An accomplished dancer she lit up the screen and stage by her performances. Her dance drama “Kaviri Thantha Kalaichelvi” was a smashing success.
Though she played glamorous roles she was a good actress and made an impression if given challenging roles with scope to display histrionic ability.
“Thirumangalyam” was Jayalalithaa’s 100th film . There was a felicitation cremony where the chief minister of the time Muttuvel Karunanidhi was the guest of honour.He praised her as one who had “devised literature in acting” (nadippukku Ilakkiam vahuthavar)
She exuded chic and elan in her film career and was a favourite among teens of that era. Many of her costumes were designed by her.She was one of the first heroines to don bathing costumes. Jayalalithaa was a bombshell in bikini.
[L to R: Sivaji Ganesan, M. Karunanidhi, MG Ramachandran & Jayalalithaa]
Jayalalitha was versatile. She has been a columnist, short story writer, novelist and film producer.
Her house named “Veda Nilaayam” after her mother is in Poes Garden. There is an indoor skating rink built there.
She also has a grape arbour in Andhra Pradesh which she uses to get away from the madding crowd.
It was MGR who brought her into politics. After his death in 1987 the ADMK founded by MGR split with his wife Janaki and paramour Jayalalithaa leading the two factions.
Jayalalithaa triumphed and the party united under her leadership to sweep the polls in 1991. She was elected chief minister.She remains the imperious yet undisputed leader of the ADMK today.
Jayalalithaa became the ADMK’s propaganda and later administrative secretary. She was Rajya Sabha MP in 1984. In 1989 she entered Tamil Nadu legislature as an elected MLA. Jayalalithaa was chief minister from 1991 – 1996.
She was re-elected as CM in 2001 but had to relinquish office for a few years due to a legal wrangle. Jayalalithaa handed over reins to a caretaker CM but controlled events.She then won a by – election and became CM till 2006.
Few in her party dare to call her by name and so she is either “Amma” Or “Madam” or “Thalaivi” . Since MGR was called Puratchi Thalaiver or revolutionary leader, Jayalalithaa is addressed by its feminine equivalent “Puratchi Thalaivi”. Like MGR she too is called “Ithaya Deivam” (Goddess of the heart).
Many in her party treat her as a living Deity and at least one of her former ministers pats his cheeks reverentially when referring to her.
Some ministers have gone on record saying their ambition in life is to be her servant or a watchdog in her kennel
There was a time when in a movie called “Thanipiravi” MGR played Lord Muruga and Jayalalithaa his consort Valli in a dream sequence. A picture of both together as Murugan and Valli was framed and worshipped by many.
Likewise Jayalalithaa has played divine roles in many other films. Pictures of Jayalalithaa in such roles are hung in many dwellings. Some people light camphor and lay flowers before them.
Sycophancy went to the extent of depicting her as the Madonna in posters. Enraged Catholics protested and the posters were removed.
Falling at her feet or touching them as a mark of respect is almost a ritual for many of her followers. Touching or falling at the feet of elders to seek their blessings is customary in India.
But in the case of Jayalalithaa, ADMK sycophants have taken this practice to ridiculous levels. Even party veterans older than Jayalalithaa prostrate themselves publicly.
One amusing scene in the past was when Jayalalithaa visited a remote area by helicopter.Verty (dhoty) clad party men standing in a line fell down like ninepins as she alighted from the aircraft. When they got up the white verties were all red due to the reddish soil. It was a sight!
Once she was questioned by a north Indian journalist about this “falling at feet” practice and asked why she did not put a stop to it. She replied that her supporters were doing so voluntarily due to their affectionate regard for her and that she was unable to prevent it .
This was not correct because it is well – known that she likes it and encourages it.That’s why the sycophants do so. Jayalalithaa also utilises this act to humiliate people.
In one instance a man who had left her party and criticised her returned to its folds again. The media was called in to witness the return of the prodigal. This man KKSR Ramachandran was a big – made man with a very big moustache.
He was required to prostrate himself four times before a smilingly – seated Jayalalithaa under the pretext that the photographers had not got a good shot. The picture was released to all papers.
According to some observers even her mentor and paramour MGR had some kind of a foot fetish for Jayalalithaa.
In many of the films they acted together in , there were scenes of MGR touching Jayalalithaa’s feet like removing a thorn from her sole or massaging a sprained ankle.
Apparently the man who founded the ADMK had a fixation for her feet. Now members of MGR’s party are at Jayalalithaa’s feet metaphorically and literally.
[After presenting a bouquet to greet his leader, Jayalalithaa, on her victory, the outgoing Chief Minister, O. Paneerselvam, seeks her blessings at her Poes Garden residence, Feb 2002]
Like Imelda Marcos , Jayalalithaa herself had a fascination for footwear. There were media teports and pix of her 800 plus shoes, sandals and slippers.
A funny phenomenon are the sycophantic references to her feet by party men when commencing their speeches. In a disgusting spectacle they begin by paying homage to her “Potpaadangal” (golden feet) or “Thamaraithiruvadigal” (Lotus feet).
One point on which she is often criticised about is her arrogance. She is virtually a dominatrix with party people and treating them like her minions and serfs.
There was a time when Jayalalithaa would be the only person sitting on a stage while others would remain standing or seated on the floor. Later she dispensed with this practice but allows only selected people to sit next to her.
When a senior minister Munu Aathi dared to sit next at a function she flared up and publicly ordered him to move back.
On another occasion a Congress cabinet minister from Tamil Nadu tried to sit next to her on a flight to New Delhi. She shouted at him to get lost and referred derisively to his caste.
The man was a Dalit. There was a big outcry and a public apology was demanded. She did not budge.
At inner meetings of the party she remains seated while the rest sit on the floor or remain standing. There have been press conferences where her ministers stand behind her with folded hands while she sits on a sofa.
During election campaigns Jayalalithaa goes around on whirlwind tours in her luxurious trailer – van. Short roadside meetings are held where candidates have to stand on a stool while she talks. Even central cabinet ministers like Mani Shankar Aiyer had to undergo this.
There is no inner party democracy in the ADMK. Jayalalithaa appoints, removes, transfers, promotes, demotes, expels and recruits at her own discretion. Ministers were appointed, fired or shuffled according to her whims. Her wish was the party’s command. None dared to disobey let alone defy.
She is an autocrat who does not tolerate criticism. She looks down upon the media and brooks no dissent. Once she even took on the powerful “Hindu” ordering the arrest of several journalists including the executive editor Malini Parthasarathy. The influential newspaper group had to tug at strings in New Delhi to make her back down
I once witnessed first – hand the utter contempt she had for the media. It was in early 1985 and I was in Tamil Nadu on an assignment. Jayalalithaa was then a Rajya Sabha (upper house) member and propaganda secretary of the ADMK.
An Indian journalist pal took me along for a press conference held by her. Thank God! we were all given chairs to sit. She started off with a bang by asking the “Herald Review” correspondent to stand up. This was a news magazine of the “Deccan Herald” newspaper.
Once the journalist identified himself Jayalalithaa pitched into him.Apparently in an article the scribe had referred to Jayalalithaa as being “hysterical”. She took offence to that launched a tirade about the meaning of hysterical.
If anyone had doubts about hysterical, Jayalalithaa’s performance that day demonstrated what hysteria was all about.
She then ordered him to leave but to the credit of the fourth estate, they protested at the treatment meted out to their colleague. With Jayalalithaa remaining adamant the journos announced that they were walking out en masse. She then relented and conducted the conference with the correspondent in attendance.
This however was at a time when MGR was alive and Jayalalithaa had not become party leader or chief minister. I do not know how the journalists would have reacted to a similiar incident under present circumstances.
While her haughty demeanor and arrogant attitude deserves to be condemned there is perhaps a rationale for such behaviour. The ascendancy of Jayalalithaa in a Tamil Nady milieu can be viewed as an ironic contradiction.
Despite the breeze of cosmopolitanism blowing in through Globalization , the state of Tamil Nadu is basically conservative. It is a patriarchal , male – dominated society with strict notions of a woman’s role and place. Jayalalithaa is a woman.
Tamil Nadu society at large has contempt for women actors in the cine field who do not behave as “good” women should.Woman film stars in spite of their glamour are not respected and regarded with disdain in private. Jayalalithaa was an actress.
The dominant political ideology in the state is that of Dravidianism. This is based on archaic concepts of the Aryan – Dravidian divide where the Brahmin community is seen as Aryans and other Tamils as Dravidians.Anti – brahminism is a core element of Dravidian discourse. Jayalalithaa is a brahmin.
Thus one can see that the Jayalalithaa phenomenon goes against the grain of three dominant concepts in Tamil Nadu. She is a woman, a film star and a brahmin. The success of this embodiment in the socio – political realm of Tamil Nadu is a contradiction. Jayalalithaa in a way is an exception or aberration.
In that context the situation can be quite dicey for her. If she were to be democratic and easy – going the people surrounding her would exploit it to their advantage. Instead of appreciating her conduct they would very likely regard it as a weakness to take advantage.
An Indian editor once told me of an incident that happened in 1988. The ADMK had split after MGR’s death and both factions were trying to take control of the party headquarters building. When Jayalalithaa joined demonstrators party supporters mobbed her.
Sadly , she had to be rescued by the Police from her own supporters. Jayalalithaa used to wear pure white sarees with a thin border then. The Indian editor told me that her Saree and blouse were full of grubby finger marks. Apparently her supporters had used the opportunity to try and fondle her or squeeze her.
In later life she had her own set of bodyguards to prevent supporters from getting close to her. There was an urge on the part of some males not merely to simply touch her but also do something else if they could.
When she entered politics many party members were dazzled by her beauty and easy accessibility. They were extra – attentive to her and ever ready to make physical contact. A regional leader called “Pazhakkadai” Pandi went ballistic once on stage. He was reprimanded by MGR.
Thereafter the order went out from MGR that Jayalalithaa should be treated with reverence. This changed the situation. Soon party people showed great subservience to her. Slowly she was promoted as a superior, cult figure.
After MGR’s death Jayalalithaa was quite vulnerable. It was then that she realised she had to assert unquestionable superiority over her party people to remain in control. Superiority and not equality was necessary. The followers had to be put in place as inferiors.
This she began to do. Soon she became an authoritative figure. She grew into her role and her inherent traits of arrogance came to the fore.
She humiliated her followers to show who was boss and trampled them underfoot. Incredible as it may seem they seem to like it with even highly educated professionals paying pooja horizontally to the boss lady.
Her detractors and political rivals continue to attack her on what they think are her weak spots. She is called “anthap Pombiley” (that woman) or “Paapaathy” (Brahmin woman) often.
Once when she was in the opposition a DMK minister Duraimurugan tried to strip her in the Assembly.
When she raised a question the present chief minister Karunanidhi replied “Go and ask Sobhan Babu”. This was a Telugu film star with whom Jayalalithaa was involved romantically at one stage.
Even recently the DMK deputy – leader Anbalaghan retorted to a charge by her derisively asking her about her “past”
This state of affairs may help to understand the reasons for her arrogant conduct but it certainly cannot condone it
Moreover there is a vicious, vindictive streak to her that often manifests itself in controversial ways.
There was a woman administrative officer (IAS) Chandralekha with whom she had a diagreement. Soon acid was thrown u goondas on Chandralekha’s face.
As Chief Minister she abused her authority and incarcerated her rival Karunanidhi. The Police carried the howling man away.
When maverick politico Dr. Subramaniam Swamy fell foul of her Jayalalithaa organized a hostile reception for him in Chennai. Members of the ADMK woman league raised their sareees and in a protest demonstration.
“Subramanian Swamy has met his waterloo” gloated Jayalalithaa publicly. “I will send Jayalalithaa to the loo without water” reorted Swamy.
Due to a dispute with the Kachipuram Holy man Sri Jayendra Swamigal, Jayalalitha went to the extent of getting him arrested on what seemed to be false charges.
Jayalalithaa was corrupt to the core. Together with her “Life friend” (uyirtholi) Sasikala Nadarajah the duo engaged in massive corruption. Sasikala was like a woman Friday to her. Their corruption and amassed wealth has often been publicised in the media.
Jayalalithaa was arrested after her downfall in 1996 on corruption charges. Newspapers were full of stories about her assets and properties. Her corpulence was a sign of her ill – gotten opulence.
Jayalalithaa’s relationship with Saikala is a controversial issue for Tamil Nadu. They are seemingly inseparable. Sasikala who is caled “Sinnamma” by party people wields enormous influence.
Whatever her deficiencies Jayalalithaa remains a towering figure in Tamil Nadu politics.
Jayalalithaa’s arch rival Karunanidhi is an octogenarian. After his demise there will be no one to match Jayalalithaa in stature and popularity.
She will then be the solitary moon among lesser stars in the Tamil Nadu political firmament.