As the great Jack Shafer has noted time and again, British-style obituaries are a zillion times more entertaining than ours. And that’s primarily because the Brits aren’t afraid of speaking ill of the dead when such treatment is warranted. Such is the case with The Economist‘s recent farewell to Prabhakaran, the Tamil Tigers’ slain leader. The magazine’s acidic take on his life is nothing short of devastating:
No philosophy or ideology guided him, as far as anyone could tell. He did not like abstractions. Nor could he tolerate debate. Despite a peace agreement in 2002 a separate Tamil homeland, with its enemies eliminated, was all he would accept. In Vanni he more or less constructed one, neat and organised as he always was, with thatched huts and coconut groves along dirt roads. There was no power, but the place had its own banks and law courts. The Sinhalese army fenced it in with barbed wire and bombed it. Among the craters were the remains of lush gardens, and lagoons filled with lilies, that might have made the sort of Tamil paradise Prabhakaran carried in his head.
Both the Sri Lankan and Indian governments had arrest warrants out for him. He stayed mostly underground where, like some large grub, he was oiled twice a day by his bodyguards and fed on curry and Clint Eastwood movies, in which cops and cowboys shot themselves out of trouble. He had an escape plan, or several. His cadres would kill him, and burn the body; he would squeeze himself into a submarine; he would bite on the cyanide capsule that hung on a black string round his neck.
His people, confined in the end to a beach in north-eastern Sri Lanka and shelled by the Sinhalese army, could not get away so easily from the mayhem Prabhakaran had drawn them into.
Microkhan truly pities the bodyguards who were tasked with those daily oilings.