Ganesh Nadar in Vavuniya and Kilinochchi
When I reached the Sri Lankan army check-post in Vavuniya with my colleague, we thought the security check was meticulous.
The Lankan security guards turned their attention to my vehicle, then my driver and finally towards my colleague and me.
After about 15 minutes of grilling and thorough scanning, we were allowed to enter the territory controlled by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.
The Tamil Tigers, as if taking a cue from the Sri Lankan security forces, subjected us to the same procedure before handing us a red chit with 'three people mani saar' written on it.
Our next stop was Kilinochchi, where the LTTE's political office was located.
We were received politely, but the LTTE cadres refused to tell us where and when the press conference (addressed by the outfit's chief Vellupillai Prabhakaran) would be.
All questions were replied with a standard: "Be ready at 9 am tomorrow (Wednesday)."
At 5 am the next morning, we were woken up and asked to be ready by 7 am.
At the appointed time, a group of heavily armed LTTE cadres herded us into a bus that took us to a place, approximately fifteen minutes away, where we were given breakfast.
While we were having breakfast, Sudha Thangam, the political head of the LTTE in Kilinochchi, decided to hold an impromptu briefing session.
The session soon turned into a slanging match between the press corps and Thangam, with eager journalists wanting to know the venue of the press conference and Thangam sticking to his ground by not divulging it.
The 'briefing session' ended with a very firm declaration from Thangam: "When we have a choice between the press and the security of our national leader, his security is paramount."
Within a few minutes, we were issued a series of don'ts.
"No transmitting equipment, no mobile phones, no satellite phones, no TV transmitting equipment, no radio broadcasting equipment," an LTTE cadre announced.
When everyone complained, pat came the reply: "You will be back in 15 minutes. You can file your stories 15 minutes late."
The security check that took place made the Vavuniya security guards look like kindergarten kids.
Cameras, dictaphones and even ballpoint pens were not spared. One Tamil Tiger even went to the extent of combing a journalist's hair to see if anything was hidden.
The body check was even worse, with nothing left to the imagination.
Finally, as we were about to board the bus that was take us to our rendezvous with the LTTE chief, a poker faced cadre asked us empty our bladders and smoke our last cigarettes, saying we would not be allowed to do both at the press conference.
The cigarette packets were duly handed over, and even the lone toothpick that I always carry with me was confiscated.
At the venue, the first thing that came into view were the numerous AK-47 barrels staring at us from every direction.
If only for consolation, the stares of the cadres paled in comparison.
Just before Prabhakaran arrived, more armed men arrived, reinforcing the constant refrain heard throughout the day that 'their national leader was all-important'.
If this was the kind of security the Tamil Tigers had put up for a statement of peace to be made by their leader, it is beyond imagination the security they would have maintained during their war with the Sri Lankan army.
Back to top
Tell us what you think of this report