LTTE chief makes public appearance

Agence France Presse

Colombo, January 18:

Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tigers said their elusive leader made a rare public appearance yesterday, his first since tsunamis devastated the island, and urged Tamils in areas under his control not to depend on handouts.

Velupillai Prabhakaran made the appearance in the rebel-held town of Kilinochchi, the guerrillas said, ending weeks of speculation he may have died in the December 26 disaster.

The LTTE posted pictures on their website of the 50-year-old rebel leader meeting aides handling relief operations in guerrilla-held areas. “Let this disaster not turn our people into a community dependent on aid and I request you in earnest to formulate plans that would provide them the impetus to build a future of their own,” Prabhakaran was quoted as saying.

Two days ago, senior LTTE official S Puleedevan discounted reports in state-run media Prabhakaran had been killed and said he would be meeting with the visiting Norwegian FM Jan Petersen.