Tamil Tiger chief mourns loss of “irreplaceable” aide

COLOMBO, Dec 15, 2006 (AFP) – Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tiger leader conferred Friday the rebels’ highest honour on his chief peace negotiator who died of cancer, saying it was an irreplaceable loss.

Velupillai Prabhakaran, 52, said the death in London on Thursday came at a time when the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) needed Anton Balasingham more than ever.

“A source of unwavering strength in the political and diplomatic efforts of our freedom movement, and the light of our nation is extinguished,” Prabhakaran said in a statement.

“It is an irreplaceable loss for our entire nation and for me,” he said from the rebel-held north of the island.

Prabhakaran said Balasingham, 68, referred to affectionately as “Bala Annai,” or elder brother, was strong and unshakeable even while battling cancer.

“Bala Annai has a permanent historic place in the growth and the spread of our movement. He was its elder member, its ideologue, its philosopher and, above all, my best friend who gave me encouragement and energy,” Prabhakaran said.

“He shared my sorrows, my anxieties and my travails. He was with me from the very beginning of our movement, sharing its challenges and hardships. He w