and forgotten- Prabha's parents
more could really be expected of a couple who struggles to live
a "normal" life after bringing into the world one of
the most wanted men on earth? The sad truth is that the man claiming
to be a freedom fighter for 'his people' has been disowned by
his own parents. And sadly, they appear to be worse off than they
- Velvettithurai, Jaffna. Prabhakaran's childhood home, one that
was most likely considered high-class during the pre-war times,
now stands empty. There is half a roof, rundown walls and an empty
well. Two prominent signs on either side of the small entrance
read, "HONOURED VELUPPILAI PRABAKARAN'S HOUSE-THE PRESIDENT
OF TAMILEELAM." The red-yellow flag on a twig stands directly
in front of the doorway to the house. For the LTTE leader's parents,
should they ever return to the country after their numerous requests,
this is all that is left of their home sweet home.
- Tiruchirappalli, India. The city, also known as Trichy, hardly
lived up to the reputation I, with a certain amount of ignorance,
had granted it. The aircraft pulled right up to the entrance of
the tiny airport, much like a taxi pulling up to a driveway to
drop off its passengers. As I stepped outside, the hot wind gushed
in my. For some strange reason, I had expected the weather to
be different in a place less than an hour's flight away.
consequences of this hasty trip dawned on me as I waited at immigration's
filling out the disembarkation card. Address in India? I had no
clue. While arrangements were being taken care of, this was a
At this instance,
it didn't help to be a Sri Lankan entering a place that had outlawed
the LTTE and suspected anyone associated with the country. I had
underestimated the seriousness of the situation. Just then a billboard
for a hotel in Trichy caught my attention. And there was my answer.
in India slot was filled and I was ready to go. I was relieved
not to have brought my LTTE memorabilia I normally carry on such
ventures to prove of my association just in case of trouble.
If I had,
I would not have gone much further than the police station with
which I did not have a cordial relationship either. Several days
before departing for Trichy, an angry police officer answered
my call to the police station at Musuri, where the old couple
is said to be residing, approximately 30 kilometres away from
the city of Trichy.
"Do you expect me to just give you information without even knowing who you are and where you're from?" he hollered. No I really didn't. But at least his enraged response verified the old couple's presence. A
if they weren't there, he had no reason to get so angry.
was similar to Galle in significance. It was relatively unclean,
disorganized, dusty, and far from glamorous. Locating two people
intentionally keeping a low profile was by no means easy - and
against all odds. Ever since Marumalarchi Dravida Munnettra Kazhagam
(MDMK) party leader Vaiko's infamous remarks publicly supporting
the LTTE, in Tamil Nadu, Sri Lankan means 'LTTE supporter.'
My half-Indian, half-Sri Lankan friend, having grown up in Madras, was acting as my liaison and translator. He casually informed me that Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalitha Jayaram has ordered the arrest anyone found to be associated with the LTTE in any way.
out loud if that included journalists who have covered and associated
with members of the outlawed group. He simply shrugged without
any great attempt to relieve me of my anxiety. To make matters
worst, we were cautioned not to mention our intentions to anyone
and told 'not to be noticeable.' We first opted to locate the
local MDMK office. It was somewhat risky. If anyone was to give
a tip off, we would get ourselves hauled into jail. But, who better
to know the location of Prabhakaran's parents than the party of
his most outspoken supporter? Nonetheless, it was more difficult
than it was risky. First, most casually but cautiously, we inquired
from the receptionist of the hotel about the location of the MDMK
office. Their response: a suspicious "Are you from the MDMK?"
and a hasty "We have nothing to do with them".
It was time
for the contingency plan. After strolling about the town for a
while, we tracked down the three-wheeler that we took from the
airport. The man appeared to be friendly and sincere. The trip
to Musuri was a long one - 30 km in a three-wheeler. Perhaps with
some gratitude for the day's profit, the driver responded fairly
openly to our questions.
But he didn't
know much. Once in Musuri, another three-wheeler driver claiming
not to know the whereabouts of the old couple directed us towards
a small pharmacy he knew to be run by a Sri Lankan. Little did
we know then that the man most probably, intentionally led us
directly to the place where the LTTE leader's parents were residing.
was an inconspicuous store with a stocky man behind the counter.
Mr. Ilango seemed pleasant and friendly. As my friend befriended
Mr. Ilango and popped the question, his first and most natural
response was, "How did you know to come here?" But oddly
enough, his guess was just as good as ours. Perhaps luck. Nevertheless,
the conversation proceeded. Mr. Ilango's character did justice
for his appearance. He was a kind man. He offered us plain tea
and we accepted as we proceeded to tell him of our intentions.
claims to be Indian while his brother claims to be from Jaffna.
Both Prabhakaran's parents live in a second floor flat directly
above the pharmacy. His mother, Vallipuram Parvathy, is extremely
ill and had recently suffered a stroke.
along with his brother, who is a doctor, takes care of the two.
According to him, the old couple would like to return to Jaffna,
but the Sri Lankan government has, thus far, not given them permission
to do so.
a half an hour of conversation, Mr. Ilango went inside. Ten minutes
later, he returned. We were given the opportunity to talk to Mr.
Velupillai (the father) over the phone. While adamantly refusing
a face-to-face interview, he did answer several questions over
here from Sri Lanka.
What do you want?
to meet you and talk to you.
Why do you want to talk to us?
like to talk to you about your son and the issues in Sri Lanka.
We have nothing to say on the issues in Sri Lanka and what my son has to tell he has told it to the press. Who is that you're there with? Is she Sinhalese?
meet her. What does she want to know?
She wants to discuss issues in Sri Lanka, wants to know your ideas about the peace process, and about your life here.
We have nothing
to say now and we are old and feeble, please don't trouble us.
And regarding the Sri Lankan issue, we're happy if peace returns
to the country and if the government allows us we are eager to
go back to the Vanni. About my son, we have nothing to say.
we are here, could we have the chance to at least meet you?
What do you get by meeting me?
Whatever said and done you are the father of a great man. Can we have the pleasure of meeting the parents of that great person?
us alone and we don't want to see anybody, specially journalists.
Although we failed to get the one-on-one interview, this was the first time the farther of the LTTE leader had spoken to any journalist. Mr. Ilango said, "We let you speak to him over the phone since you came from Sri Lanka. But if he refused to meet you there's nothing further I can do."
obviously worked to our disadvantage this time.Following the commencement
of the current peace talks, many high profile local and international
news agencies have approached the couple for interviews.
the parents remain inflexible in their stand. So much so that
they refused a request by their other son (Prabhakaran's older
brother) who runs a pro-LTTE web site in Denmark to publish a
picture of them on the site.
especially, has an aversion to the media and feels their privacy
would be invaded if they agree for interviews.
police too has advised the couple not to risk meeting with journalists
due to the great opposition to the LTTE in Tamil Nadu.
seems to be leading quite a normal life under the circumstances.
Mr. Ilango said, "On a regular day, they take casual walks
in the evening." Several journalists have approached the
couple in the past during their walk. However, they still will
not answer any questions. He went on to say, "But now since
they know you're here, they won't come out for about three days."
Mr. Ilango admits to being faced with quite an awkward situation when it comes to the parents and the media. "Many journalist have come here asking for interviews and we have had to turn them down. They think that it is we who refuse to let them meet the couple.
But the truth
is, [the parents] threaten to leave if we allow journalists to
personally feels it would be advantageous if the couple agreed
for an interview. "Since they don't talk to anyone, there
have been reports that they are living a luxurious life and so
on. If they speak out and tell the truth, people will know about
their true state."
Their true state is less than mediocre and sad at the least.
The greater likelihood is that the old couple, physically weak and financially impoverished, is living a second rate life unable to return to what they call home while their son fights a "freedom struggle."