Many of Sri Lanka's Tamils support Prabhakaran, especially in the Tiger strongholds of the north. "He is a good man - he is not Yasser Arafat, not Fidel Castro," says Rajadurai, 54, who also uses only one name and whose fabric store in the northern town of Chevakacheri was destroyed in fighting between the army and the Tigers two years ago. "The LTTE - those are our brothers, our children. They don't drink, don't smoke cigarettes. They are honest."
Prabhakaran makes no attempt to explain his group's murderous past or to apologize for it. He calls Gandhi's assassination "a tragic incident that happened 10 years ago" and says the government of India, which has outlawed the LTTE, should forget about the killing.
"The time has changed, and we are adopting new strategies," he says. "Please understand."
Nadarajah Raviraj, a lawmaker and member of the moderate Tamil United Liberation Front, says he and other Tamil leaders have little choice but to do as Prabhakaran says.
"What is the way out for us now, you tell me?" Raviraj asks. "The only way out [of the war] is for the Tamil people to find a solution, and the participation of the LTTE is a must for that."
Though Prabhakaran says he isn't ready to abandon the Tigers' fight for a separate state, he seems more likely than ever before to consider other options, so long as they guarantee a Tamil homeland, Tamil nationality and the Tamils' right to self-determination.
"We are not a terrorist organization, but a liberation movement," he says. "You have to distinguish between what constitutes terrorism and what constitutes a liberation struggle."
He says the peace process is different from previous ones because a third party - Norway - is involved in the negotiations. Norwegian peace brokers will mediate peace talks scheduled to take place between the Tigers and the government in Thailand in June. The peace seems to be holding. Wickremesinghe won power in December, promising to end the violence. The Tigers declared a cease-fire nearly two months ago, and the only explosions these days are fireworks lighted by children to celebrate the Sri Lankan New Year.
"The hope for peace in this country has increased," Wickremesinghe said a few days after Prabhakaran's press conference. "It is from this point that we must move forward."
Yet some observers are less optimistic. "Readers who watched Prabhakaran on TV for over two hours should judge for themselves whether the man responsible for mass murder with few parallels in history has indeed transformed himself into the law-abiding democratic politician he claimed he would be," an editorial in The Island, an English-language daily, said. "To us it was a very unconvincing performance."
Indeed, the cold-blooded guerrilla fighter in Prabhakaran is clearly visible during his news conference. In addition to plainclothes bodyguards, fighters in fatigues stand around him, armed with machine guns. He looks uncomfortable under the glaring lights.
When a journalist asks whether he stands by a statement he made long ago - "If I ever give up the fight for Eelam, my people should kill me" - Prabhakaran doesn't hesitate.
"That is still true," he says.