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LTTE Political Adviser Balasingham knew the world was going to clobber the tigers

10 December 2016 12:29 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


By D.B.S. Jeyaraj

Ten years ago in the third week of November 2006, I received a telephone call from London. It was from Anton Stanislaus Balasingham, the political adviser and strategist of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) Organization. I was surprised as we had not been on speaking terms for nearly three years due to sharp political differences. I was, however, happy to talk to “Bala Annai” (Elder brother Bala) as many of us called him, because I had heard earlier that he was terminally ill and that his days were numbered.   


ala Annai said at the outset that he was telephoning and talking to some of his old colleagues, friends and contacts. I fell under the category of contacts in my journalistic capacity as Balasingham had been a very important source of information for more than two years when I was writing for The Sunday Leader in Colombo. Although he did not explicitly say so, I realised that it was a farewell call from a man who was to “go out gently into that good night” soon.   
 Balasingham or Bala ‘Annai’ as he was generally known among Tamils had been diagnosed with bile duct cancer (cholangiocarcinoma), a rare and aggressive malignancy of the biliary system. The cancer was in an advanced stage and had spread to his liver, lungs, abdomen and bones. Bala Annai was a sick man even before cancer afflicted him. He had suffered from diabetes for 35 years and in the late ‘90s developed renal disease, for which he underwent a kidney transplant in 1999. The doctors had given him about six to eight weeks. 


"I asked Balasingham as to why he was unable to make Prabhakaran see the writing on the wall and act accordingly. Bala Annai replied ruefully that he had tried and failed"

Balasingham was his customary jovial self with his jokes and jibes. As the conversation progressed, I sensed that he was seriously worried. It was certainly not over his impending death but something else. Soon it came blurting out. “Thambikku oru Ilavum vilanguthillai. Nilaimai Padu moasamaahuthu. Muzhu Ulagamum Saernthu Puligalai Mongappoaguthu”(Younger brother does not understand anything. The situation is becoming worse. The whole world will get together and clobber the tigers) ‘younger brother’ referred to LTTE supremo Veluppillai Prabhakaran, who was known as Thamby to those of an earlier vintage.   
Balasingham went on to say that the so-called international community was infuriated at the conduct of the LTTE. Unless the tigers did an urgent course correction and acted in an acceptable manner, the western nations, China, Japan, Pakistan and India were going to back the Rajapaksa regime and ensure that the LTTE was militarily defeated and destroyed. I asked Balasingham as to why he was unable to make Prabhakaran see the writing on the wall and act accordingly. Bala Annai replied ruefully that he had tried and failed.   
Speaking further, Balasingham said that in a direct one-to-one meeting at Kaeppaapulavu in the Northern mainland of Wanni, he had entreated Prabhakaran to see reason and understand the situation. Prabhakaran did not budge, lamented Bala Annai. “You know how “Veeramaarthaandan”(This was how Balasingham referred to Prabhakaran when annoyed) behaved with me?” asked Bala Annai in Tamil. He then continued to elaborate-   
“When I kept on broaching the subject, Prabhakaran abruptly asked me whether I had seen the Tamil movie ‘Autograph’, directed by famous Tamil Nadu filmmaker Cheran. When I said ‘no’ Prabhakaran said we must watch it now. So a DVD of the film was played and we watched it on TV in silence. After it was over, I again tried to talk about the situation. Prabhakaran said ‘let’s watch the film again’. So we watched it again. Once it was over I tried again to re-open the topic. Prabhakaran with an impish grin said ‘Innorukkaa Paarppam’ meaning ‘lets see it again. I took the hint and took Prabhakaran’s leave. When he behaved like that, I know from experience that nothing would make him relent”.   
When I asked Balasingham whether he did not try to make other senior LTTE leaders understand the situation, he replied that people like Thamilselvan, Castro, Pottu Ammaan in the Wanni and Ruthirakumaaran in New York had prejudiced Prabhakaran’s mind against him after the Oslo facilitated peace talks between the Ranil Wickremesinghe Govt. and the LTTE. Moreover, they had also misinformed Prabhakaran into believing that the Sri Lankan armed forces could be defeated and that the world would back the tigers against Rajapaksa. Balasingham also said senior leaders like Soosai, ‘Baby’ Subramaniam, Balakumaran and Para understood the predicament but were powerless to persuade Prabhakaran to see reality.   

Wretched of the Wanni Earth   

We had talked for about 15 to 20 minutes when Balasingham began to cough ceaselessly. He could not continue further and we had to end our conversation. I was extremely saddened by the conversation as I could see that intensification of the war was going to be inevitable. Such escalation could only result in large scale deaths, displacement and destruction. The wretched of the Wanni earth –innocent Tamil civilians- were going to suffer immense hardship and sorrow. Subsequent events demonstrated that my fears were justified. The beleaguered civilian population experienced a humanitarian catastrophe. Furthermore, Balasingham’s ominous foreboding that the International community was going to clobber the tigers was also proven correct. They only let Colombo do the dirty work and now want to probe alleged war crimes.   
That final conversation with Balasingham also cleared up many things for me. Chief among them was the “misunderstanding” (to put it mildly) with him. I had been critical of the LTTE after the tigers broke the ceasefire with the Chandrika Kumaratunga Govt. in April 1995 and declared war. For this, I paid a price as the tigers in Canada started a campaign against the Tamil weekly “Muncharie”, owned and edited by me in Toronto. They “banned” it. When the spate of death threats did not deter me, the tigers began to target the Tamil-owned shops selling the paper and the predominantly Tamil advertisers. The 48-page tabloid priced at a dollar had 22 pages of advertisement and sold nearly 5,000 copies. Thanks to the tiger intimidation and threats, many shops stopped selling the paper. The paper shrunk to 24 pages with 2 pages of adverts. Sales plummeted to three digits. Rather than survive on my knees by toeing the LTTE line, I opted to die on my feet and stopped publishing in April 1996.   


"Balasingham and Prabhakaran grew close. When the LTTE split occurred, Balasingham was requested initially to reconcile the factions. He failed to do so. After the split became permanent, Balasingham threw in his lot with Prabhakaran, though the Prabha loyalists were few when compared to the Uma group. The marxist made the transition into Eelam Tamil nationalism"


My wife and I were full-time employees in the paper. In addition, we had nine others working part-time. The paper being stopped was a huge financial blow at that time. Still, the demise of “Muncharie” was a blessing in disguise for me as I re-entered English journalism again. I had started out as a journalist working for the “Virakesari” in Colombo, writing in Tamil. I entered English journalism by working for “The Island” and later “The Hindu”. After I came to Canada, I went back to Tamil journalism by editing the weeklies “Senthaamarai” and “Muncharie”. Now I went back to English journalism again by writing for “The Island” and later “The Sunday Leader”, “The Nation” and now the “Daily Mirror” and “Daily Financial Times”. Incidently, the Tamil newspapers published in Colombo including my cradle “Virakesari” were unwilling to let me write under my byline in Tamil fearing the LTTE. I turned down offers to write under a nom de plume in Tamil. Hence it has been English journalism for me in the past 20 years!   
Though the LTTE had stopped my paper in a bid to silence me, I continued writing in English and was critical of both the Govts. in power as well as the LTTE. The tigers began slandering me as a Tamil traitor. Despite being labelled anti-LTTE, I continued with my journalism. The new millennium brought a surprise. The Tamil Catholic priest Fr. S.J. Emmanuel came to Toronto in mid 2000 and got in touch with me. He said Balasingham in London wanted to talk to me. This led to my establishing contact with Balasingham again. I had first met him in Chennai in 1985 and interviewed him for “The Island” and for “Frontline” magazine in Tamil Nadu.   

Editor Lasantha Wickrematunge   

Balasingham told me that he agreed with my view that the Tamil people needed to end the war and embrace peace through a negotiated settlement. Bala Annai said he was working out a peace process with the help of Norway and wanted me to support it through my writings. I was then writing for The Sunday Leader. When I informed the editor and close friend Lasantha Wickrematunge, he was very happy and said the newspaper would back all efforts to bring about a successful peace. Thereafter, I was in regular contact with Balasingham. There were many occasions when we would spend hours talking off the record. I learnt a lot about the inner workings of the LTTE and its evolution through those conversations.   
The ceasefire facilitated by Oslo came into force from February 23, 2002. I was very happy initially. Soon I found the LTTE behaving in a manner that was not conducive to a genuine peaceful settlement. When I remonstrated with Balasingham, I found him unresponsive to my complaints. Slowly he began avoiding me. I waited for six months thinking the LTTE must be given time to get accustomed to a peace process. When that did not happen, I began to be critical of the negative acts of omission and commission by the LTTE. Soon I realised the LTTE was not genuine about peace talks. These thoughts were reflected in my columns.   


"Balasingham’s ominous foreboding that the International community was going to clobber the tigers was also proven correct. They only let Colombo do the dirty work and now want to probe alleged war crimes"


Balasingham was angry. He “advised” Lasantha not to carry my columns as they could affect the paper’s standing with Tamil readers. Lasantha told me of this and said “carry on as usual”. I continued. Later, Balasingham went on to attack me by name at press conferences and at public meetings. All communication between us ceased.   
Against that backdrop, it was indeed a surprise to receive a telephone call from him. He made me understand through that conversation that he had indeed been genuine about a negotiated settlement but was overruled by Prabhakaran as events unfolded. I did not ask him why he had attacked me publicly or tried to stop me from writing for the Sunday Leader. I felt it was “not done” to do so as the man was dying. However, I felt that he may have been compelled to turn against me publicly in order to safeguard himself within the LTTE. Thamilselvan and Castro were conducting a vicious campaign within the overseas LTTE against me at that time and it was quite possible that Balasingham was vulnerable on account of the close contact he maintained with me in earlier times.   
A few days after Balasingham’s call, the LTTE ideologue and political adviser issued a public statement about his health condition. In the statement released on November 22, 2006, Balasingham said “It is an unfortunate personal tragedy. However, when compared to the vast ocean of the collective tragedy faced by my people, my illness is merely a pebble. I am deeply sad that I am crippled by this illness, unable to contribute anything substantial towards the alleviation of the immense suffering and oppression of my people.”   
Anton Stanislaus Balasingham passed away peacefully in his South London residence at 1.45 pm (British time) on Thursday, December 14. His loving and devoted Australian born wife Adele Anne was by his side as the 68-year-old Tamil leader breathed his last. Tiger supremo Veluppillai Prabhakaran honoured Balasingham by bestowing the title “Voice Of The Nation” posthumously on him. All these thoughts about the past arise again as the tenth death anniversary of Anton Balasingham draws near on December 14. I intend to re-visit the life and times of Balasingham briefly while relying upon some of my earlier writings.   

“Arasiyal Mathiuraingae” (Political Adviser)   

 Balasingham, called “Arasiyal Mathiuraingar” ({Political adviser) by the LTTE, was an interesting personality. He was a colourful yet controversial figure. He was admired by some and despised by others. This writer’s relationship with Balasingham too has had its ups and downs. I have both criticised and praised him, depending of course on the issue at hand. There is however much to be written about this man and his role in Sri Lankan Tamil affairs.   
Balasingham born on March 4, 1938 was a blend of many strands. His father was from the east and his mother from the north. His mother was a Christian and his father a Hindu. They were also from different castes. Though raised as a Catholic, Balasingham soon became a rationalist and agnostic. Yet, he was deeply moved and inspired by the teachings of Lord Buddha. Balasingham’s first wife was a Jaffna Tamil protestant. His second wife was an Australian woman of Anglo Saxon extraction. He was a British citizen but yearned for his homeland-Tamil Eelam-which he believed was a state in formation.   
Balasingham’s grandfather was a “Saivk kurukkal” (non-Brahmin priest) from Mandur in the Batticaloa District. His father was an electrical foreman at the Batticaloa hospital. Bala Annai’s mother was from Jaffna town and a former resident of Martins Road. She was a midwife by profession and was working at the Batticaloa hospital when she met and married Bala Annai’s father. She was later separated from her husband and then widowed at an early age. Balasingham, along with his mother and elder sister, moved to the North as a child. They settled down at Karaveddy in the Vadamaratchy sector. Bala Annai’s mother worked as a midwife at the “Ambam clinic” in Karaveddy near the Athulu water tank. They rented out a house near the clinic belonging to former Palaly Training College Principal, Kandasamy.   
In his childhood and early youth Balasingham was known as A.B. Stanislaus. He attended Sacred Heart College in Karaveddy and Nelliaddy Central College (later MMV) in Nelliaddy. Karaveddy - Nelliaddy was a leftist bastion those days. The legendary Pon. Kandiah and many other ‘communists’ hailed from there. Young Stanny as he was known then, also subscribed to leftist ideologies. Another of his favourite pastimes was to sip tea and play cards at the tea boutique at Nelliaddy junction run by ‘Sangunni’, a Malayalee from India.   
One man who profoundly influenced Stanislaus those days was the doyen of Tamil cartoonists, Sivagnanasundaram, who later ran the reputed magazine Sirithiran. Cartoonist ‘Sundar’ as he was known was famous for his “Savari Thambar” strip. He too was from Karaveddy. It was due to Sivagnasundaram’s efforts that Stanislaus was appointed sub-editor at the Colombo Tamil newspaper Virakesari in the early ‘60s.   
Stanny stayed in a Grandpass chummery close to the Virakesari during those days. Former colleagues at the Virakesari speak of him as a man engrossed in reading. He was not concerned with his appearance and not very particular about clothes. Meals too were not at regular times. At the Virakesari, Stanislaus was soon put in charge of foreign news. This entailed translation of Reuters copy and other articles on foreign affairs. Balasingham however, was keenly interested in philosophy and psychology. He also dabbled in hypnotism. Ex-colleagues describe him as spiritual but not religious.   

British High Commission Translator   

Things changed soon as Stanislaus got a job as translator at the British High Commission. There was a transformation in his appearance as he now opted for smart clothes. This was not entirely due to the new job. Cupid too had struck. He was enamoured of a beautiful Tamil woman at the British Council adjacent then to the HC. There was a romance and they married. But their happiness was short-lived when his first wife became extremely ill, requiring advanced treatment abroad. British authorities were very sympathetic and generous. Both were allowed to go to England. Balasingham continued his higher education in England but his wife’s condition deteriorated. She had chronic renal failure, ending with her requiring life-sustaining haemodialysis. Balasingham discovered in London that he too had diabetes.   
It was a life of hardship and sacrifice then with Balasingham having to work, study and care for his ailing wife. After six years, she died. By this time, Balasingham had become acquainted with a trained hospital staff nurse who was also a ‘stranger’ in Britain as she was from Australia. A second romance flourished between the young widower Anton and the nurse Adele Anne Wilby. They married very simply at the registrar’s office in Brixton, South London on September 1, 1978.   


"Though raised as a Catholic, Balasingham soon became a rationalist and agnostic. Yet, he was deeply moved and inspired by the teachings of Lord Buddha"


Balasingham’s MA dissertation at the South Bank London Polytechnic was on the psychology of Marxism. Later he began reading for his PhD on alienation under John Taylor. He never completed his PhD. But the media generally referred to him as Dr. Balasingham. Why did he not complete his PhD? Adele Balasingham says in her book The Will to Freedom, “But the demands of the revolutionary politics of the national liberation struggle of his (Balasingham’s) people constantly intervened in his research and teaching. A time came when he was compelled to choose between an academic life and revolutionary politics. He chose the latter for he viewed the cause of his people as just and to serve that cause was meaningful.”   
Balasingham began dabbling in politics in London. He was essentially a marxist then and identified with progressive causes like anti - apartheid activism. The Tamil Eelam cause was becoming fashionable among Tamil youths and students in London then. Balasingham was initially involved with the Eelam Revolutionary Organisation of Students (EROS) founder Eliyathamby Ratnasabapathy. Bala also interacted with Padmanabha, the EPRLF leader, then a student in London.   
It was the then Tiger representative in London, Krishnan, who enticed Balasingham into the LTTE. The Prabhakaran-Uma Maheswaran clash lead to the LTTE split resulting in the formation of the PLOTE. Initially, Balasingham was commissioned to write tracts, leaflets and pamphlets for the LTTE in English and Tamil. Later, he did a lot of translation for the Tigers. The Balasinghams made frequent trips to Tamil Nadu where they met LTTE leaders like Uma and Prabha.   
Balasingham and Prabhakaran grew close. When the LTTE split occurred, Balasingham was requested initially to reconcile the factions. He failed to do so. After the split became permanent, Balasingham threw in his lot with Prabhakaran, though the Prabha loyalists were few when compared to the Uma group. The marxist made the transition into Eelam Tamil nationalism.   

Theoretician and Premier Spokesperson   

The 1983 July anti-Tamil pogrom was a watershed. The Tamil militants backed by New Delhi became a visible presence in Tamil Nadu. The Balasinghams relocated to Chennai. Dr. A.S. Balasingham became the LTTE’s theoretician, chief propagandist and premier spokesperson. The Balasinghams resided in Pattinapakkam, Thiruvanmiyoor and later at Adaiyar.   
The Tamil militant groups were kept in the background by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, who relied on the TULF for negotiations with Colombo. Rajiv Gandhi changed all that by compelling five Tamil groups including the LTTE to participate in the Thimpu talks in Bhutan in 1985. Sections of the media including the LTTE’s own Tamilnet, have erroneously stated that Balasingham was at the Thimpu talks. This was incorrect. The LTTE representatives were Lawrence Thilagar and Anton Sivakumar. Balasingham was in constant communication from Chennai and directed them.


The refusal of the Tamil militants in toeing New Delhi’s new line made Rajiv Gandhi angry. He ordered the removal of Anton Balasingham and S.C. Chandrahasan from India. Balasingham was sent to London. Subsequently, Tamil Nadu pressure made Rajiv relent. Balasingham returned to India triumphantly. There was also an assassination attempt on Balasingham’s life allegedly masterminded by Sri Lankan intelligence. Former policeman and up-country Tamil politician Kandasamy Naidu was arrested on suspicion of planting an explosive device in Balasingham’s house.
Balasingham, described as the Tiger ideologue, accompanied Prabhakaran for important meetings in his dual capacity as translator /interpreter and political adviser. He was present with Prabha at the Bangalore meeting with Rajiv Gandhi in 1986. The year 1987 saw Prabha moving to Jaffna, leaving Bala to oversee political work in Chennai. In July ‘87, Prabha himself was brought to India by helicopter. Together with Balasingham, Yogi and Thilagar, Prabhakaran went to New Delhi. Despite the LTTE’s refusal, India decided to go ahead with the Indo-Lanka accord.   
The Balasinghams now went to Jaffna. Balasingham himself was in the Thirunelvely office organising political work, but war erupted soon. Both husband and wife were targets of the Indian army. Adele being a white woman would have been conspicuous in Jaffna. Yet they eluded capture by being constantly on the move and staying with different people at different times. There was a time when both lay flat on their faces for hours in a paddy field. At one stage, they had to go to the ‘toilet’ in the dark and in the open. Balasingham would stand guard over his wife. Adele writes of these experiences vividly in her book “The Will To Freedom”.   
The Balasinghams made their way back to India and from there to Britain. However Balasingham was back in Colombo again for talks with Ranasinghe Premadasa. The Govt-LTTE talks began and Balasingham led the Tiger delegation. An understanding was arrived at and soon the Indian army was forced to withdraw from Sri Lanka. Once the Indians left, the Colombo-Jaffna relationship collapsed. War broke out again.   

“Brahmagnani” for “Velicham”Journal   

The Balasinghams were now resident in Jaffna with the greater part of the North being under LTTE control. While Adele Anne helped out with the medical unit and the women’s wing, Balasingham attended to political matters. The Jaffna media too came under his indirect control. Old acquaintances and friends were well entertained by Balasingham, who had a nostalgic yearning to re-live the past. He also wrote extensively. Among these were many metaphysical articles under the pseudonym “Brahma Gnani” for the “Velicham” journal.   
It was during this period that Deputy Leader Mahathaya was removed from office by Prabhakaran for alleged treason. LTTE Intelligence Chief Potu Amman “interrogated” him and obtained a ‘confession’. Yogi, the political wing head was also removed. The LTTE chief wanted to appoint trusted confidante Sornalingam alias Shankar as political chief. Balasingham had deep differences with Shankar and discouraged Prabha. Instead of Shankar, Balasingham got Suppiah Paramu Thamilselvan as political commissar. Tamilselvan, known as Dinesh earlier, had been injured in the Pooneryn battle and needed a walking stick.   
The advent of Chandrika Kumaratunga saw peace talks on the horizon again. The team led by Chandrika’s Secretary Balapatabendi met the LTTE delegation led by Thamilselvan for talks at Chundikuli. Balasingham himself was in another room monitoring and advising Thamilselvan. A flurry of notes were exchanged between ‘visible’ Thamilselvan and ‘invisible’ Balasingham. The game was given away when ‘Jimmy’ the Balasingham’s pet dog emerged from the ‘control’ room. But the very same Thamilselvan ‘grew’ with the years and in a later development backstabbed Balasingham. But that’s another story.   
Once again, war broke out in April 1995. Operation Riviresa saw the LTTE withdrawing from the Jaffna peninsula into the northern mainland Wanni. Anton and Adele too relocated. They stayed at Thiruvaiyaaru, near Kilinochchi town initially. Later they moved to a house in Puthukudiyiruppu with a large compound of shady trees. It was like blissful retirement for Balasingham. But soon a fresh problem surfaced.   

An Unorthodox Lifestyle   

Years of diabetes and an unorthodox lifestyle had taken their toll. Balasingham was suffering from acute renal afflictions. Medical doctors in the Wanni felt that he had to go abroad for advanced treatment. Otherwise he was a goner, they said. LTTE leader Prabhakaran thereafter initiated an uncharacteristic move. He enlisted the services of the ICRC, sections of the Catholic clergy and Norway to make a direct appeal to his arch-enemy Chandrika Kumaratunga on humanitarian grounds. She was requested to grant permission for Balasingham to travel abroad through Colombo for medical treatment.   
Kumaratunga’s initial response was positive. The course of events altered drastically after former Foreign Affairs Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar was also consulted by Kumaratunga on the issue. While the LTTE awaited a favourable response from Kumaratunga, Balasingham’s situation got worse. Finally, Norway informed the LTTE that the Kumaratunga-Kadirgamar duo had worked out a list of demands titled “significant reciprocal humanitarian gestures” that were to be fulfilled by the LTTE if Balasingham was to be sent abroad with Sri Lankan governmental assistance. These conditions were of a military nature.   
It was clear that Kumaratunga was seeking to exploit Balasingham’s vulnerability and trying to extract major concessions in return. The Balasinghams told Prabhakaran to reject the demands outright. Balasingham reportedly stated that he was “prepared to die with honour and self-respect rather than accede to these humiliating demands.” Prabhakaran was reportedly furious at the demands stipulated by Kumaratunga and Kadirgamar. Prabhakaran assured Adele Balasingham that he would do everything possible to send Balasingham abroad for medical treatment. A new option was pursued.   
Balasingham and wife were taken on January 23, 1999 by a Sea Tiger boat personally captained by Sea Tiger Commander Soosai to a LTTE ship mid-sea. Thereafter, the ship proceeded to Phukhet in Thailand. After recovering from the strenuous journey which by itself could have been fatal, Balasingham was admitted to a hospital in Bangkok for examination and treatment. This indicated that an enlarged kidney had to be removed soon. They moved to Singapore and proceeded to London. After interacting with Norwegian officials, Balasingham relocated to Oslo for surgery and a kidney transplant.   
A young Sri Lankan Tamil in Norway, ‘Donald’, volunteered to donate one. After recuperation and recovery, Balasingham plunged in with zest into promoting the peace process. His first public appearance in London was on December 2, 1999 at the Arena in London Docklands of the Maaveerar Naal observances. He represented the LTTE in all discussions with Norway, while communicating regularly with Prabhakaran.   

Special Envoy Erik Solheim   

The LTTE political adviser established very good relations with Norwegian special envoy Erik Solheim. Balasingham was primarily responsible on the LTTE side for getting the ceasefire adopted. It came into force from February 23, 2002. The ceasefire was very much to the favour of the LTTE and afforded much scope for resolving the national question.   
Balasingham then made a triumphant re-entry into the Wanni by travelling on a sea plane from the Maldives that landed on the Iranaimadhu tank. He was at Pirapa’s side in meetings with the Muslim Congress, Up Country People’s Front and Ceylon Workers Congress. Balasingham was also at the press conference where he said that he and the LTTE Chief were of the “same mind” and “spoke with the same voice”.   
An unforeseen development was the Karuna revolt. Once again, Balasingham tried hard to patch up the split as he realised the long- term consequences of a north-east divide and a potential alignment of Karuna with the state. A temporary truce was effected and Karuna was prepared to quit the Country. But the mainstream LTTE adopted a hard-line, thereby driving Karuna into the arms of the state. The rest is recent history.   
Due to health conditions, Balasingham could not stay for prolonged periods in the Wanni but made occasional visits for consultations. He also led the LTTE delegation at talks with the Government in Thailand, Norway, Germany and Japan. With the LTTE adopting a change of course in the talks, Balasingham began adopting a low profile. Deteriorating health also contributed to this state of affairs.   
Presidential polls in 2005 saw Mahinda Rajapakse win mainly due to the LTTE-enforced boycott. Yet, Balasingham was back to lead the LTTE again at talks in Geneva early in 2006. Once again, Balasingham obtained a major concession from Colombo when the Government agreed to disarm the paramilitaries. But the assurance was not honoured. The situation got worse and the war escalated.   

Great Heroes’ Day Speech   

Meanwhile, Balasingham’s condition grew worse. He was diagnosed with cancer and given six to eight weeks to live. Despite the terminal illness, he wrote the “Great Heroes Day” speech for Prabhakaran on November 27, 2006. That was his swansong. Still he met people personally and talked to people on the phone. He renewed his friendships and made peace with those old but estranged friends of his. He waited quietly for Yaman, the god of death. On December 14, 2006, he died.   
The most appropriate person to sum up Balasingham is none other than his wife. This is what she wrote earlier, “ Bala was, when I met him, most things I hoped the man I married would be; mature, wise, mentally strong and most importantly, caring. By wise I did not mean an intellectual and by mentally strong I did not mean ‘macho’, overbearing or aggressive. I was hoping to meet that exceptional human being who is humble but not weak; who is simple but yet deep; who is assertive but not egoistic; who is confident but not arrogant; who was generous; who is proud but not vain; a person who is not selfish and thoughtless. That was the man I met all those years ago and I knew Balasingham was for me within a few weeks of our first meeting.”   
And what better epitaph than what Adele Anne wrote about her ‘new’ life in her book “It all began when I married a Tamil man, Anton Balasingham, from the island of Sri Lanka, in 1978. In that union, I married the collective consciousness and history of a people: a man who embodied the Tamil psyche with all its strengths and weaknesses, greatness and failings.”  

D.B.S. Jeyaraj can be reached at   

DBS Jeyaraj.................Dec 9th 2016  

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