COLOMBO: The logo of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and the flag of the putative independent state of Tamil Eelam in north-east Sri Lanka were conceived by the movement’s founder-leader Velupillai Prabhakaran. But it was an artist from Madurai in Tamil Nadu who gave concr­ete shape to them for the first time.
“In 1976, Prabhakaran had sket­ched the LTTE emblem in his mind. While in Madurai, Tamil Nadu, he got an Indian artist to draw it. He told him his idea: the head of a roaring tiger, paws outstretched, with two rifles and 33 bullets set against a circle ringing the tiger’s head. When the artist showed him the sketch, Prabhakaran was happy and appro­ved it,” Daily Mirror said on Wednesday.
According to www.tamilnation.org Prabhakaran had chosen the tiger as the symbol of resurgent Sri Lankan Tamil nationalism because it represented the martial history (Veera Varalaaru) of the Tamils of India and Sri Lanka.
In the flag, which had undergone some changes in colour since the Madurai artist drew it, yellow represents the righteousness of the Tamil struggle for independence. Red represents the hard struggle to secure independence and establish a casteless, egalitarian society. Black represents the death and destruction that are inevitable in any movement of this kind. And finally, white represents purity, selflessness and honesty in the people of Tamil Eelam.
Daily Mirror, however, has raised the question as to why Prabhakaran chose to have 33 bullets ringing the circle around the roaring tiger and not more or less. Was it because he hoped to secure Tamil Eelam in 33 years, the paper asked.
It is known that for all his iconoclastic ideas on Tamil society and culture, Prabhakaran believes in numerologay and the occult. He was perhaps told that 33 would be a critical number for his movement.
“Counting from 1976, the 33 bullets end in 2008. Prabhakaran had not allocated a bullet for 2009. Would the LTTE reach its end in 2009?” Daily Mirror asked.
This question is legitimate from the point of view of most Sri Lankans, especially those belonging to the majority Sinhalese community. The end of the LTTE as a military movement seems to be nearing, with the fall of its last major military base of Puthukudiyiruppu last Sunday; the killing of a dozen of its second rung commanders in the last four days of fighting; and the retreat of Prabhakaran himself into the government-designated Safe Zone as a virtual refugee along with an estimated 150,000 Tamil civilians from various parts of the Wanni region of north Sri Lanka.
However, hardcore Tamil nationalists and pro-LTTE elements do not share this view. While they are dismayed by the unexpected turn of events, they do believe that the Tigers will strike back, sooner or later, and quote the Tamil saying. “The tiger crouches to leap.”