Pirabaharan was both the leader and military commander of the “ New Tamil Tigers”. From the very beginning, Pirabaharan himself personally recruited brave young men committed to self-sacrifice and revolutionary flavour to the movement. He himself provided them the required military training and political indoctrination.
(1) First Military Operation
The first military operation of the “ New Tamil Tigers' was carried out under the command of Pirabaharan on July 17th 1975. Alfred Duraiappah, the then Mayor of Jaffna and S.L.F.P. Jaffna electorate organizer was the first victim. He was shot dead when he came to worship at the Varatharajah Perumal Temple at Ponnalai. After the successful operation the Tamil Tigers escaped in the Mayor's car after snatching the keys from the driver.
The credit for planning, executing and leading the first operation successfully goes to Pirabaharan. This incident became a strong warning signal to those Tamil traitors who wanted to betray the Tamil people’s liberation struggle. Above everything, this incident gave confidence to the freedom-thirsty Tamil youths in their long and difficult march towards Tamil Eelam. Many youths joined the movement in the fight against internal and external enemies under the able and trusted leadership of Pirabaharan.
(2) “New Tamil Tigers”
The clandestine movement needed large amount of funds to operate underground. Therefore, they were forced to rob government owned banks to finance their activities. Although the Sri Lankan government collected revenue in the form of taxes from all the people, it neglected completely the Tamil areas in national development schemes. Pirabaharan, therefore, felt that it is not immoral to rob the government to finance the Tamil liberation struggle. So on 5th March 1976, Pirabaharan with his comrades entered the People's Bank branch at Puthur in broad light and took away 5 lakhs in cash and 2 lakhs worth of jewelry at gunpoint.
After the murder of Alfred Duraiappah and the bank robbery the government set up a special intelligence squad in the North. It was created by the Police Headquarters in Colombo with the sole purpose of completely wiping-out the New Tamil Tigers. This division commenced its work in Tamil areas with the help of informants and traitors.
(3) Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam
Jaffna Public Library The “ New Tamil Tigers'” organization took the new name of Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) on May 5th 1976. Pirabaharan remained the political leader and military commander. Some stringent rules and regulations in force during the time of the New Tamil Tigers were relaxed and new regulations were introduced with the object of facilitating the participation of all people in the Tamil Eelam liberation struggle.
Furthermore, Pirabaharan constituted the organization as an urban guerrilla movement with the objective of carrying out a long drawn-out people’s war for the national liberation of Tamil people.
With prophetic foresight Pirabaharan realized that the guerrilla method of warfare is the only viable option for unarmed and numerically smaller nation to fight against the military might of the Sinhala chauvinistic regime. He also correctly anticipated that a guerrilla warfare will be a fore-runner to a full-blooded armed mass liberation struggle in which everyone will participate.
By way of explanation Pirabaharan said "Guerrilla warfare is really mass struggle. It is not in conflict with mass struggle. Guerrilla warfare is the highest form of mass struggle. When it takes root in the hearts of the entire populace and reflect their aspirations it becomes a mass struggle. My object is to achieve this purpose of making all take active part in this guerilla warfare."
In this liberation struggle, leader Pirabaharan divided the military activities of Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam into three main divisions.
1.Eliminating Sri Lanka’s police spies and Tamil traitors who help them.
2.Crippling the administrative structure of the Sri Lankan police force functioning in Tamil Eelam.
3.Destroying army troops and camps by mounting covert and overt attacks and bring them under LTTE control followed by setting up civil administration appropriate to the Tamil people through which self-rule is established in Tamil Eelam.
On July 02, 1976 Nadarajah, Manager Petrol depot. from Urumpirai was shot dead.
On Feb 14, 1977 police constable Karunanithy was shot dead at Maviddapuram.
On May 18, 1977 two policemen bearing the same name Shanmuganathan were shot dead at Inuvil.
(In August 1977, the UNP. government successfully carried out a genocidal attack on Tamils' throughout the island.)
On January 27, 1978 Kanagaratnam, TULF candidate for Pottuvil was shot at Colombo.
On April 07, 1978 Inspector Bastiampillai, who gained notoriety for torturing Tamil suspects at the CID office on 4th floor, and four other police officers were killed in the jungles adjoining Madhu church in Murungan.
On April 25, 1978 for the first time LTTE issued a statement publicly claiming responsibility for military operations from the days of New Tamil Tigers to LTTE totaling 11 military operations.
On May 19, 1978 a “Law proscribing the LTTE” was passed by the Sri Lanka Parliament. This law gave very wide powers to the army to eliminate LTTE cadres.
On September 07, 1978 a “ New Constitution” was passed by the UNP government of J.R Jayawardene which relegated Tamil language to 2nd place.
On December 05, 1978 Rs.12 lakhs was robbed from the government owned bank at Thirunelveli after killing two policemen.
On July 20, 1979 J.R.’s government passed the Prevention of Terrorism Act to strengthen the previous law which proscribed the LTTE. Under this law a person can be detained incommunicado for 18 months without trial or charges.
On the very same day of the passage of the Prevention of Terrorist Act, a state of Emergency was declared in the Northern province. Immediately, J.R. dispatched his nephew Brigadier (Bull) Weeratunga to the North with instructions to “Destroy terrorism in all its form” in six months, that is on or before December 31, 1979.
When the Sri Lankan government under J.R. intensified military oppression of Tamil people and launched a no-holes barred war to destroy the LTTE completely; Pirabaharan decided to strengthen and expand both military and political activities to confront government’s counter insurgency plans. Towards this end, he decided to suspend all military actions temporarily during 1979 and 1980 and concentrated all his attention in strengthening and expanding the Tiger organization.
It was during this period he drafted a full-fledged ‘revolutionary political doctrine’ through which he intended creating an army of fighters who were politically conscious. During this period establishing LTTE branches for the purpose of forging friendly relations with progressive movements remained one of Pirabaharan’s high priority.
On May 31, 1981 the Sinhala army and police together with UNP thugs set the Jaffna city on fire. They burnt to ashes the Jaffna library considered one of the best in South Asia that contained priceless collections of more than 94,000 books and rare manuscripts.
The Eelanadu newspaper publishing house was also burnt down. The duo who spearheaded the Tamil cultural genocide were two senior cabinet ministers known for their chauvinism, Cyril Matthew and Gamini Dissanayake of the UNP government. Gamini Dissanayake later became the leader of the opposition and UNP presidential candidate in the 1994 elections. He was killed in a suicide attack on October 24, 1994.
At this stage, Pirabaharan wanted to make the Sinhala chauvinistic government to realise the fact that Tamils cannot be cowed down through state terrorism and violence. So he gave orders to his cadres to mount attacks against government troops. The attacks gradually became escalated in frequency and intensity.
The First Attack against the Sri Lankan Army
On October 15, 1981 the Tigers launched their first attack against the Sri Lankan army by attacking an army truck which came along K.K.S road in Jaffna town. Two soldiers were killed and their arms taken away by the LTTE. In the history of the Liberation struggle of Tamil Eelam this was the first attack on the Sri Lankan army.
On July 02, 1982 four soldiers were killed and three wounded in an attack that took place at Nelliady. The dead soldiers’ arms and ammunitons were also taken away by the LTTE.
On September 29, 1982 the Tigers exploded land mines to cause damage to navy trucks coming on the Ponnalai causeway from Karainagar Naval base as a mark of protest to J.R. Jayawardene’s visit to Jaffna for an election campaign.
On October 27, 1982 the Tigers attacked Chavakachcheri police station and killed 3 policemen and wounded three more. During this successful attack Tigers captured a large quantity of arms and ammunition. Following this attack many police stations in the North were closed and police administration became thoroughly disorganized and paralyzed.
On February 18, 1983 two policemen attached to the Point Pedro police station were shot and killed.
On March 4, 1983 the Tigers launched an attack on a convoy of army vehicles at Umayalpuram near Paranthan and fought face to face with the army for an hour. In this encounter one armoured vehicle was damaged and five soldiers were seriously wounded.
When the Government .Agent of Jaffna wanted to convene a ‘security conference’ at the Jaffna Secretariat to discuss ways and means of maintaining peace and security in the Northern region, the LTTE to show their opposition to the Sri Lankan government bombed and blasted the Jaffna secretariat building just one hour before the commencement of the conference.
On May 18, 1983 the government decided to hold local government election in the Northern province. LTTE leader Pirabaharan appealed to the people of Tamil Eelam to boycott this election. He issued a clarion call urging all Tamils to free themselves from the election mirage of the Sri Lankan government and to reject the government administrative machinery. He further appealed to all the people to rally around the armed struggle for freedom.
On April 23, 1983 as a warning to all those Tamil traitors who were supporting the Sinhala chauvinistic government, three UNP supporters were shot dead by the Tigers. As a result of this military operation, many Tamil candidates who stood for elections on the UNP . ticket backed away and many more deserted the UNP.
On May 18, 1983 on local government election day and just an hour before closing of the poll, Tigers attacked army and police personnel who were guarding the election booth at Kantharmadam, Nallur and killed one soldier and wounded two policemen and two soldiers. The Tigers recovered a RPG automatic rifle from the dead soldier.
Rattled by the successful attacks on the armed forces by the LTTE, J.R. Jayawardena’s government gave full powers to the army to shoot down any suspected freedom fighter ( in government parlance terrorist) at any place and to bury the dead without postmortem examination or judicial inquiry.
At midnight on 23rd July 1983, an assault group consisting of 14 Tigers, including Pirabaharan, lay in ambush at Palaly road at Thirunelveli. The assault group’s command was given to Lieut. Sellakkili by Pirabaharan. When the army convoy arrived at the exact spot, Tigers commenced the attack by activating the land mines. Thirteen Sinhalese soldiers were killed in this attack besides capturing some weapons. Pirabaharan alone shot and killed 7 soldiers in this attack.
This attack shook the Sinhala army establishment and they were thoroughly shaken up. Exploiting the incident as an excuse, the Sinhala government, which was waiting eagerly for such an opportunity, unleashed racial riots throughout the island. It was a well-planned pogrom and thousands of Tamils were brutally murdered. Tamil women were raped. The economic base of Tamils in Colombo were totally destroyed. This genocide was carried out by Sinhalese thugs ably aided and abetted by the army, police, cabinet Ministers, Members of Parliament and yellow-robed Buddhist monks.
Only after this holocaust, the Tamils fully realized that they and their progeny can never live in peace and security unless they free Tamil Eelam from the clutches of the Sri Lankan terrorist state and make it an independent political entity. This great awakening galvanized ordinary people to join the freedom struggle. Many young men and women fired by revolutionary fervour queued up to join the LTTE.