A remarkable transformation
The just concluded SAARC summit
had its share of diversions and sideshows, chief among which no
doubt was the presence of one time LTTE fighter and now Chief
Minister of the Eastern Province Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan
pictured among the galaxy of invitees at the opening sessions of
Of course he was an invitee in his capacity as the Chief
Minister of the Eastern Province but what would have been
inescapable to the keen observer was the mind boggling paradox.
Nobody would have been faulted if they had juxtaposed an
image of the one time rebel donned in battle fatigues hiding in
his jungle trenches with the picture that he sported at the
SAARC ceremonies as displayed in press photos of the event.
It certainly is a mindboggling transformation that few would
have imagined possible given the background of his previous
avatar. We are of course referring to the press photos of
Chandrakanthan who was seen hobnobbing and rubbing shoulders
with the high and mighty in a rarefied atmosphere of the SAARC
It was certainly the stuff for the movies especially in this
part of the world where the tales of rags to riches and the
triumph of the underdog over the mighty and powerful are the
Who would have imagined that a member of a terror outfit
dedicated to the ushering a separate state would deign to
symbolise the very sovereign unified state he opposed not very
long ago, by his presence before a gathering of regional leaders
giving the stamp of endorsement to the concept of one Sri Lanka.
Also who would have imagined an ex-LTTE who was fighting the
Army in the jungles of the East would one day discard his
fatigues and be seen in the company of world leaders amidst and
pomp and glitter of an international event. This alone tells a
tale of its own.
That is that opportunity beckons those who give up terrorism
and mend their ways. Chandrakanthan has more than mended his
ways. He has sloughed off all vestiges of his former life and
embraced the path of democracy, contested elections and is now a
One of the first acts he performed after assuming office was
to pay homage at the Sacred Tooth Relic.
There are many parallels with his saga if one cares to look
around. Robert Mugabe was a guerrilla fighter during the bush
war days in the former Rhodesia.
The South African icon Nelson Mandela was a freedom fighter
and served a long prison term before eventually assuming the
leadership of his country.
Closer home we have the example of Prachanda the head of
Maoist guerrilla outfit, who is today calling the shots in
Nepal. All this goes to show that the sky is the limit for those
who shun terrorism and pick up the pieces of civilian life.
This could be an ideal lesson to those in the LTTE who are
still engaged in a futile war against the Lankan state. For as
seen in all the above cases the protagonists eventually relented
and had greatness thrust upon them.
The image of the one time LTTE stalwart decked in his finery
enjoying the glow of fame and honour among world statesmen it is
hoped would carry a lesson to those bent on the path of
It is hoped this benign picture of the former hardcore
militant would leave a lasting impact on the remaining LTTE
cadres to rethink their options. Already the Government has put
in motion numerous projects to ensure the welfare of the all
This includes vocational training programmes to enable them
to obtain overseas employment. Rehabilitated terrorist cadres
are welcome to join the political mainstream and savour the
fruits of democracy.
From there onwards the sky is the limit to work their way to
prominence and assume the role of leadership that would propel
them to greatness.
Not long ago we had a former leader offering a 10 year rule
of the Northern Province to the Tiger leader.
Had he grasped this opportunity he would have been in a
similar or a much elevated position to the one his erstwhile
comrade in the East now enjoys.
Even at this late stage it is hoped that the LTTE leader
would see sense and seize the opportunities afforded by the
Government to enter the democratic way of life because it will
only be a question of time before his outfit is annihilated
given the frenetic pace of the military juggernaut closing on