But when Prabhakaran walked into the hall packed with journalists, your bewilderment at all the fuss could easily be forgiven. He just wasn’t his image. Dressed in that outdated safari suit, with his hair dyed black and face clean-shaven, he seemed harmless, every inch the mainstream politician.
There we were, 200-strong, of different nationalities, gawking at him and his bodyguards, who from behind their sunglasses scanned us nervously. He took the microphone. Flanking him was the irrepressible LTTE spokesman and ideologue, Anton Balasingham, who was to translate the questions in Tamil and, then again, render his boss’s answers in English. In the first hour Prabhakaran was ill at ease, perhaps woefully out of habit in having to give replies. Balasingham stepped in to control unruly journalists, even occasionally fielding queries meant for his supremo. It helped Prabhakaran relax, to gamely subject himself to tough grilling in the next 90 minutes.