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Home > Tamil National ForumSelected Writings by Sachi Sri Kantha > Some Thoughts on the deaths of Dudayev and Thamilselvan

Selected Writings by Sachi Sri Kantha

Some Thoughts on the deaths of Dudayev and Thamilselvan

9 November  2007


 Bertrand Russell’s Thoughts

First, let me quote two paragraphs from Bertrand Russell (1872-1970), a rationalist sage of our times,. In his book, The Impact of Science on Society (1952), Russell had observed as follows: 

“War has been, throughout history, the chief source of social cohesion; and since science began, it has been the strongest incentive to technical progress. Large groups have a better chance of victory than small ones, and therefore the usual result of war is to make States larger. In any given state of technique there is a limit to size. The Roman Empire was stopped by German forests and African deserts; the British conquests in India were halted by the Himalayas; Napoleon was defeated by the Russian winter. And before the telegraph large empires tended to break up because they could not be effectively controlled from a centre. 

Communications have been hitherto the chief factor limiting the size of empires. In antiquity the Persians and the Romans depended upon roads, but since nothing traveled faster than a horse, empires became unmanageable when the distance from the capital to the frontier was very great. This difficulty was diminished by railways and the telegraph, and is on the point of disappearing with the improvement of the long-range bomber…” [ch.2: General Effects of Scientific Technique, pp.36-37]. 

One need not completely agree with Russell. But overall, the gist of what he stated in 1952 has not been demolished by rival propositions. To paraphrase Russell’s thoughts to the Sri Lankan island in a nutshell, here are my assertions.

First, though Sri Lanka gained a sort of hotchpotch independence from Britain in 1948, social cohesion has been a mirage.

Secondly, war brought social cohesion for Sinhalese and Eelam Tamils, within their ethnic boundaries.

Thirdly, Muslims and Indian Tamils face a strange situation in which they are caught in the middle. Their myopic moneybag politicians hardly help to alleviate the suffering of Muslim and Indian Tamil populace.

Fourthly, the diktat of Colombo stops at Vavuniya, since the distance from the capital to the frontier is still unmanageable. (Historically for more than two millennia, this had been so, in island’s history.) Note that the train from Colombo stops at Vavuniya.

Fifthly, to diminish and erase this distance, the glib-talking Colombo militarists salivate with long-range bombers. 

When Bertrand Russell wrote his above-essay 55 years ago, global positioning systems (GPS) has not been introduced to military and common use. The Sputnik satellite era commenced only in 1957. Within five decades, the battle-field strategy of embedding the satellite based technology into the regular regimen of power display was achieved by Russia. 

Targeted Killing of Dzhokhar Dudayev

Here is the AFP newsreport of 1996 from Moscow, which announced the targeted assassination of Dzhokhar Dudayev (1944-1996), the Chechen rebel leader. “Mobile phone betrayed Dudayev’ was the caption of the news report. To quote, 

“For 16 months, Dzhokhar Dudayev eluded death as he led Chechnya’s war against Russia’s military might. But in the end it was a portable satellite telephone that betrayed him. Russian news media disclosed Wednesday that Dudayev, 52, was killed overnight Sunday by two air-to-ground missiles which homed in on the telephone conversation with a Russian politician in Moscow who was a potential mediator in negotiations to end the war in the breakaway republic.

Minutes into the call, two missiles slammed down on a field 1.5 kilometers from the rebel-controlled village of Gekhi Chu, in the southwest of the small republic. Dudayev died shortly afterwards, with two of his aides. Russian officials in the Chechen capital Grozny, quoted by Interfax news agency, confirmed that the missiles had been guided by transmissions from the satellite phone. It was the fifth attempt on Dudayev’s life by the Russian Air Force in the past three months, they said. In the previous instances, Dudayev hung up his telephone too soon, causing the missiles lose their target.

‘The attack was carried out by the Russian secret services with the participation of the spy satellite services of certain Western countries,’ a source in Dudayev’s rebel government said. He did not reveal which countries, but he might have meant the United States, which has a number of such surveillance satellites in orbit.

A French anti-terrorist specialist said the United States has the ability, with its spy satellites, to pinpoint within a few meters the use of a satellite phone. A U.S. State Department spokesman appeared to confirm that theory, when he said that Washington was ‘certain’ that Dudayev had been killed, after confusion, Tuesday over his fate.” [Mainichi Daily News, Tokyo, April 26, 1996]

Thamilselvan assassination

Thamil Chelven

Dudayev’s killing in 1996 and Thamilselvan’s assassination appear to have many parallels, in the manner of execution. I provide the following three possibilities for Thamilselvan’s fate on November 2nd. 

(1) A chance event (He and his team members were in the wrong place at the wrong time.)

(2) Security penetration (a plus point to GOSL offense guys)

(3) Security lapse (a minus point to LTTE’s vaunted defence)

After an euphoric phase of gloating, the Colombo military establishment appears to concede publicly via its media mouthpieces that Thamilselvan assassination was a chance event. Either this may indeed be true, or that this may be a ‘trap’ to entice similar casualties from LTTE’s side. 

The other two possibilities (security penetration by the GOSL offense, and security lapse by the LTTE defense) are two faces of the same coin. One side’s security lapse serves as the security penetration for its rival side. There is no doubt that the Colombo militarists would have identified the choice meeting joints of LTTE top rankers, by squeezing the tongue of turncoat Karuna. But its beyond imagination that LTTEers would be so dumb as not to scramble their coordinates during the past 3 years. Maybe, there are some active moles of Colombo militarists within LTTE territory, who snoop avidly for pay in kind and/or cash. 

This brings up to the issue of inadvertent security lapse by LTTE defence. One of my correspondents raised this point. As per the information provided by defence analyst Iqbal Athas on the nitty-gritty of Oct.22nd Anuradhapura air-base attack by LTTE commandos,

They had walkie-talkies to talk to each other and satellite telephones to speak with their controllers in the Wanni. They carried mobile phones… [‘Pre-dawn Pounce’, Sunday Times, Colombo, Oct. 28, 2007].

First, I caution that we need not believe Athas’s version, since he was not an eye witness to the Oct.22nd event which occurred in Anuradhapura. One thing has been confirmed from other sources as well: that the 21 LTTE commandos did carry handy communication gadgets and they were in ‘communication’ with the command center in LTTE homeland, for nearly six hours.

In his re-telling, Athas had asserted that the LTTE commando team on that night consisted of more than the martyred 21, and a few had indeed evaded notice.

If this be the case, the question arises whether the few who returned to their home base, did pick up all the “walkie-talkies” and “satellite phones” before they said their final adieu to their martyred colleagues? Weren’t their any chance of one or two of these handy communication gadgets which fell into the GOSL army guys who dug up the rabble?

And couldn’t the information stored in these handy communication gadgets had served the Colombo militarists to check the coordinates of Thamilselvan’s location on November 2nd?  

I reiterate that these are all postulations, based on the following premises,

(1) One or two communication gadgets used by the LTTE commandos on October 22nd may have been retrieved by the search team of GOSL army.

(2) These communication gadgets used by the LTTE commandos on October 22nd could have stored some useful information valuable to the GOSL army.

(3) The LTTE commandos and their planners were careless not to erase or destruct the stored information in their communication gadgets.

Finally, I should add the possibility that these premises may not have had any strong link to the Thamilselvan killing of  November 2nd.

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