The rebel with the smile

Editorial note: S P Thamilselvan, the 40-year-old leader of the political wing of the LTTE, was killed on 2 November 2007, adding another figure to the bitter separatist war that has claimed an estimated 70,000 lives. Upon international spokesman Anton Balasingham's death in 2006, Thamilselvan, known for his skill at negotiation and public relations, became the contact point for Tamil Tiger chief Velupillai Prabhakaran, who rarely appears in public. In Prabhakaran's stead, Thamilselvan became the affable face of the Tigers. There are perspectives on how a rebel with a hand in violent politics may be remembered when he is killed. We present here a perspective from Colombo, by an unabashed admirer.

It was one in the afternoon on 2 November 2007 – All Soul's Day, the day of the dead – when the news of the death of Suppaiah Paramu 'S P' Thamilselvan, the leader of the LTTE's political wing, began to filter into Colombo, the rest of Sri Lanka and abroad. Nobody could believe it. Journalists double-checked their sources and conferred with their colleagues. Radio stations aired the breaking news, and offered regular updates. Archives were rummaged through for suitable photographs and video footage.

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Himal Southasian