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Thursday, 11 April, 2002, 14:26 GMT 15:26 UK
What next for Tamil Tiger leader?
Vellupillai Prabhakaran in the early 1990s and now
Prabhakaran has shed his military image
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Priyath Liyanage
BBC Sri Lanka analyst
When the leader of the Tamil Tigers, Vellupillai Prabhakaran, appeared in front of cameras after 12 years, it was the biggest media event in the recent history of Sri Lanka.

But the rebel leader made few dramatic revelations.

Much of what he said was a repetition of a speech made last November, including his demand that the government lift its ban on the Tamil Tigers.

However, the press conference is being seen as Mr Prabhakaran's first major step towards entering mainstream politics in the island.

He arranged the meeting with the media prior to his meetings with Muslim community leaders and the representatives of the plantation Tamils of Indian origin.

This indicates his wider strategy of building a common front of the Tamil speaking minorities of Sri Lanka.

In a previous statement, he also apologised for the atrocities committed by the Tamil rebels against the Muslims.

Handling the media

In his approach and presentation to the press, Mr Prabhakaran looked more like a political leader than a military man.

Tamil Tiger soldier
The Tigers put on a show of strength for the press conference

He seems to have wanted to be seen as a man who can handle the world's media and a wider public arena in the role of the only leader representing the Tamil speaking minority in the country.

He appears to have accomplished that without compromising his position politically.

Mr Prabhakaran's confirmation of his support for the peace process has offered reassurance to the world about the commitment of the Tamil rebels towards proposed direct talks in May.

It also confirmed that the Tamil Tigers are coming to the table with the same set of demands as always.

Now the world will have to deal with Mr Prabhakaran the political tactician, not the ruthless rebel leader.

He appears ready to face the challenge.

See also:

09 Apr 02 | South Asia
Tamil rebel leader ends isolation
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