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A long but worthwhile wait for Sri Lankans
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08:27, May 19, 2009

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"Today we have been able to end the LTTE's terrorism completely by killing over 200 of them. Prabhakaran's terrorism is over," General Sarath Fonseka, the Sri Lankan Army Commander told state television here Monday.

The death of Velupillai Prabhakaran, Sri Lanka's rebel Tamil Tiger leader, was the news much awaited by Sri Lanka's majority Sinhalese for over 30 years. It did come finally after 100,000 lives were lost and billions worth property destructed.

Sri Lankans took to the streets, lit crackers, danced and sang in the streets when the news of his death broke out at the hands of troops.

None gave this a chance and not very many believed this was possible three years ago, the Tamil Tiger leader was seen as someone with seven lives like the proverbial cat.

He escaped death many times before in battles with Sri Lankan troops and the Indian Army.

Many Sri Lankans would contribute the victory to the political leadership and a determined Army under the leadership of General Sarath Fonseka.

President Mahinda Rajapakse elected to office in 2005 was to be a different kettle of fish for the Tiger rebels' leaders. Three of his predecessors had wilted before Prabhakaran's might of the military machine.

"Prabhakaran met his match in president. He had the backbone to take on this mass murderer," Gunadasa, a lottery seller said. Prabhakaran talked peace with three of Rajapakse's predecessors, J.R. Jayawardena, R. Premadasa and Chandrika Kumaratunga.

Prabhakaran's Tiger outfit launched its first Eelam War in 1983by attacking a series of Sinhala majority settlements in north and east coastal areas. His bomb carriers took so many lives of Sinhalese elsewhere in the island by bus bombs, car bombs, train bombs and every form of destruction during the last three phases of war.

"He had no heart for anyone," Dayananda, an office worker said," He killed his own men, tortured them," Dayananda added referring to Prabhakaran's execution of his one time deputy named Mahattaya.

"How many families (was) he put in trouble by killing parents of young children. But he had led a comfortable life with his family as a good father should," Clarice Perera, a grandmother said.

She was moved by Prabhakaran's family album pictures released to the media by the Army having seized them from Prabhakaran's hideouts. Pictures showed the rebels' leader enjoying birthday parties for his children, playing with them in the pool and giving them toys.

"He recruited underage children for terrorism and ruined their future while he gave the best for his children," a caller on television said.

"We were never sure of our children returning home after school because of bombs going off everywhere. This will never be ever again because this dreaded man is gone," said James, an elderly cycle repair workshop man.

The military called him a megalomaniac. But for the minority Tamil community he was the symbol of Tamil resolve, the brave warrior fighting the Sinhala majority oppression.

"He did fight for Tamils but at the same time he was the cause for the Tamil misery," an elderly internally displaced man from former Prabhakaran's territory said.

"We were fed up of seeing our young children with their broken arms, legs, dead bodies scattered everywhere," a sobbing woman who had managed to cross the Nanthikandal lagoon in the northeastern coast into the government territory from being trapped in fighting zone told the state TV.

Prabhakaran's LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) was responsible for all the hardships the civilians had undergone. They were prevented from leaving by the LTTE, the government claimed.

Sri Lankan political parties of all shades of opinion suffered from Prabhakaran's campaign.

"We wish to congratulate our troops on a job well done," Tissa Attanayake, the general secretary of the main opposition United National Party (UNP) said.

The UNP had suffered more losses than any other party. Its leader, the former President Ranasinghe Premadasa and a whole host of second and middle level leaders were lost in the 1980s and 1990s during the height of Prabhakaran's separatist campaign.

Vijitha Herath from the JVP or the People's Liberation Front said the Sri Lankan people were eagerly awaiting the end to LTTE's separatism. "It has become a reality. We have to salute our troops for their dedication."

The LTTE rebels or the liberation struggle for Tamils in terms of territorial control has seen its end.

The LTTE has seen them being wiped off from every inch of the over 19,000-sq-km they controlled in December 2005.

General Fonseka said his troops had killed 20,000 of LTTE members during the three-year-campaign. "Our troops made a lot of sacrifices," General Fonseka said.

Colombo's tiny stock market finished on a seven-month high at the end of the day's trading. It has paid dividends and it has indeed been a long wait for all its worth.


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