Members of a dozen Sri Lankan Tamil families gathered in the evening at the residence of a fellow Tamil in Switzerland in early November 2022.
They had all been ardent sympathisers of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) when the tigers were militarily active in Sri Lanka. They had been invited by the host to listen to a Mukkiya Arivippu (An Important Announcement) concerning the Tamil people that evening.
The people were told by their host that someone would arrive in a while to make the announcement.
After a while, two men who at one time were LTTE activists in Switzerland came in. They had a startling piece of news. The assembled gathering was told that LTTE Supremo Veluppillai Prabhakaran described as the “Thamizh Eezha Thesiyath Thalaiver” (National Leader of Tamil Eelam) was not dead as reported by the Sri Lankan Govt. and was living incognito in a safe country.
Sadly, the leader was now seriously ill and required urgent and expensive medical treatment and care.
It was further revealed that Prabhakaran’s wife Madhivadhany Erambu and only daughter Duvaraka were also alive and had been living with Prabhakaran.
But due to Prabhakaran’s ill health and the urgent need to procure funds for him, the mother and daughter had embarked on a mercy mission. They were now in Switzerland to seek help for the leader of patriotic Tamils with a Tamil nationalist consciousness. Both will now talk to you, the gathering was told.
Thereafter, one of the men took out his mobile and called. The phone was put on speakerphone. A female introducing herself as Madhivadhani said her husband was alive and required urgent medical help.
In a voice choking with emotion, she appealed for financial assistance and then started sobbing. Then another female voice was heard saying “Ammaa, Alatheyungo (Mother don’t cry). This was followed by the second female also requesting financial help for her father after claiming to be Prabhakaran’s daughter Duvaraka.
The people were then told that both Madhivadhany and Duvaraka were in a vehicle outside the house.
“You can have a look if you want, but you can’t speak to them” it was said. Some people went outside. Two women got down from a parked vehicle and clasped their palms together in a traditional greeting style.
Both were wearing Balaclavas covering their faces partially. They got into the vehicle which drove off.
The mood inside the home was emotional. A few ladies were in tears. It was quickly decided that they should donate immediately for the leader’s recovery. A sum of 23,635 Francs was raised through cash, cheques and pledges. It was then suggested the amount be made a round figure of 25,000 Francs. This was done and the total sum of donations went up to 25,000 Francs.
A Swiss Franc currently equals 381 Sri Lankan rupees. The two men then left.
November and December 2022
The above-mentioned incident was one of many happening in Switzerland among Sri Lankan Tamils in November and December last year. Many Tamil families in Swiss cities such as Zurich, Bern and Basel were approached individually and in groups by persons known to be Pro-LTTE activists in the pre-2009 years.
The modus operandi was basically the same with slight differences in the routine adopted. People supportive of the LTTE were contacted by two unidentifiable women claiming to be Prabhakaran’s wife and daughter.
They appealed for financial aid to pay for Prabhakaran’s urgent medical expenses who was supposedly afflicted with a serious illness. Many people donated willingly.
Many readers in Sri Lanka may be baffled as to how and why Tamil families fell for what was obviously a blatant confidence trick.
It is indeed well-known that the LTTE leader Prabhakaran died in May 2009. His spouse Madhivadhany, daughter Duvaraga and sons Charles Anthony and Balachandran .were also dead.
But now it was being claimed that Prabhakaran, wife and daughter were alive and that the sick leader urgently required cash for medical expenses.
How could people be so gullible?
The main reason for some Tamils believing the fake news about Prabhakaran being alive is due to the stance is taken - after the war ended in 2009 - by the overseas branches of the LTTE in the global Tamil Diaspora as well as prominent pro-LTTE elements in Tamil Nadu.
The LTTE structures overseas were financially well-endowed in 2009. The Tigers through front organizations, institutions and trusted individuals controlled a lot of money-making ventures.
They also collected huge sums of money through “contributions” to the LTTE cause. More than a hundred operatives in different countries were full-time tiger activists living comfortably off LTTE funds.
So, when the LTTE was defeated militarily and the war came to an end, the situation transformed suddenly. As Yeats wrote in his Easter 1916 “All changed, changed utterly”.
The rationale for the overseas LTTE to garner and control funds was to finance the LTTE war machine. Furthermore, the LTTE itself was centred around its supremo Prabhakaran.
So, if Prabhakaran was dead and the LTTE was no more, there was no reason for the overseas LTTE activists to generate funds or run commercial enterprises.
Perinbananayagam Sivaparan alias Nediyavan
The overseas LTTE was in a quandary. The man in charge of the overseas tigers then was Perinbananayagam Sivaparan alias Nediyavan (Tall man) based in Norway. He and his cohorts decided to deny the fact that Prabhakaran was dead and the war had ended. Instead, it was claimed that the LTTE had “silenced its weapons” (aayuthangal mounikkappattana) and the Leader was still alive.
Nediyavan also refused to honour Prabhakaran and other tigers who perished at Mullivaaikkaal as Maaveerar (Great Heroes).
He argued that if the LTTE openly acknowledged Prabhakaran’s death, it would demoralise the Diaspora and LTTE activists abroad.
The overseas Tigers would not be able to raise funds thereafter. The struggle for Tamil Eelam would simply wither away.
Most of the overseas Tiger activists supported Nediyavan in this. Prominent LTTE supporters like Pazaniyappan Nedumaran and Vaiyapuri Gopalaswamy (Vaiko) also supported Nediyavan.
No Official Commemoration
Thus Prabhakaran’s death was never acknowledged ‘officially’ by the overseas Tigers.
Hence there has been no official commemoration of Prabhakaran or the other LTTE stalwarts killed in May 2009 like Soosai, Pottu, Bhanu, Jeyam or Sornam.
The annual Great Heroes Day observances in November refer to fallen tigers in general and those killed before April 2009 in particular. There was no specific acknowledgement of Prabhakaran and those killed in Mullivaaikkaal as Maaveerar.
Tamil Nadu was on the boil when news of Prabhakaran’s death was first announced. Passions were aroused. But the volatile situation was soon calmed by the public pronouncements of Nedumaran, Vaiko and several other known Tamil Nadu LTTE sympathisers who stated the Sri Lankan authorities were lying and that Prabhakaran was alive and safe.
“Rivers of blood” did not flow in Tamil Nadu as threatened or feared.
Gradually, many prominent Tamil Nadu politicians who said Prabhakaran was alive got “enlightened” later. They changed their position or became silent with the exception of Nedumaran.
The leader of the Tamil Nationalist Movement (TNM) consistently stated in media interviews and public meetings that Prabhakaran was alive and safe and that the tiger leader would emerge soon to take the Tamil Eelam to struggle forward.
No one contradicted or challenged Nedumaran publicly on this out of deference for the veteran politician who had sacrificed much due to his steadfast support of the LTTE.
His views were treated with tolerance as the utterances of an old, embittered and frustrated politician. But some in Tamil Nadu believed Nedumaran.
If only Prabhakaran was alive now
As the years passed by the Prabhakaran is alive belief began to wane. Life went on but there was an overwhelming feeling of sadness among many Tamils that the Tamil struggle had ended so pathetically without achieving anything tangible.
The loss of thousands of lives in the war and the lack of accountability saddened and troubled many.
There was also a lot of overt and covert sympathy for Prabhakaran who had died along with all the members of his family.
In a private conversation, some would wistfully yearn “If only Prabhakaran was alive now”.
It is this frame of mind that was now being exploited by a set of fraudsters with former Tiger links to hoodwink Tamil civilians into donating money for the supposedly alive and sick LTTE leader to women posing as his wife and daughter.
The victims of this confidence trick were all LTTE sympathisers. The perpetrators orchestrating the “Madhivadhany -Duvaraka” charade were persons identified with the overseas LTTE in the past.
Thus it was easy to make suckers out of people with this mindset.
Drama of Deception
The drama of deception to milk sympathetic Tamil Diaspora cash cows was enacted several times in Switzerland in November and December. The two women would be in vehicles when visits to residences were undertaken. They would also meet people directly when visiting apartment buildings.
The two women - one young and one old- would not talk much and would appear worried and sad.
As the news of Prabha being alive and sick buzzed on the Tamil community grapevine, there was a backlash too.
Several Tamils with and without pro-Tiger leanings began to smell a rat. At the forefront of the doubting Thomases were former LTTE members who had been in Northern and Eastern Sri Lanka during the final stages of the war.
They knew the truth about the demise of Prabhakaran and his family.
These persons started a counter-campaign emphasising that the leader had been martyred and urging people not to be deceived by the women claiming to be Madhivadhany and Duvaraka.
Among those exposing the fraud was Dayamohan, a former LTTE political wing head for Batticaloa and Amparai Districts who is now living in Switzerland.
Impostor Duvaraka Exposed
An interesting encounter further exposed the fraudsters. Prabhakaran’s daughter Duvaraka had been a member of the LTTE women’s brigade.
She had received training to drive vehicles of different varieties. The woman who trained her then was now living overseas with her husband. When the two women went to a house soliciting funds for ‘sick’ Prabhakaran, the wife was not there.
The husband questioned ‘Duvaraka’ about the person who taught her to drive vehicles. The unsatisfactory answer demonstrated that this ‘Duvaraka’ was an impostor.
Details of this incident too began spreading within Tamil society in Europe.
In January this year, a statement was issued in Tamil on behalf of the LTTE on its letterhead. The statement openly condemned the fraudulent exercise and entreated the people not to be deceived by these tricksters. The statement is believed to be the handiwork of some former LTTE members living abroad. There is no ‘official’ LTTE now and this statement too in a sense was counterfeit.
Nevertheless, it seemed to have made an impact and the attempts to garner funds in the name of a ‘sick’ Prabhakaran reportedly ceased in January.
It is against this backdrop that the February 13th announcement by TNM leader Nedumaran about Prabhakaran being alive along with his wife and daughter has to be viewed.
Many suspect that the veteran Tamil Nadu politician has been inveigled by fraudulent elements in Europe into making this pronouncement in order to continue with the fraud.
Though Nedumaran’s announcement has created a stir and revived the “Is Prabhakaran alive or not” controversy, there seems to be no indication so far about fresh efforts to collect cash again in the name of Prabhakaran in Europe.
No Respect for LTTE Leader
The brazen fake news racket using two woman impersonators to collect cash in the name of a supposedly ailing Prabhakaran is despicable. Furthermore, it is being done by persons with past links to the LTTE.
This cheap fraud shows that these elements do not have any respect or regard for the LTTE leader or for the cause he believed in.
It is alleged that the mastermind behind this fraudulent racket is one Jeevaratnam Jeevakumar alias Chiranjeevi Master, a former deputy of ex-LTTE intelligence chief Pottu Ammaan.
The plan devised by Master was allegedly executed on the ground by one Abdullah, a former financial head of the LTTE’s Switzerland network. Abdullah’s real name is Chelliah Jeyapalan. He is from Aanaikottai in Jaffna. Abdullah is the man suspected of coordinating and implementing this sting operation besmirching the name of former LTTE leader Veluppillai Prabhakaran.
D.B.S.Jeyaraj can be reached at [email protected]
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