Sunday, January 20, 2008

Sri Lanka - terrorism and cease fire

Recently the FBI had a story on the terrorist group operating in Sri Lanka - LTTE. If you don't know what these guys are like then you should take a look at that story; it'll shock you how much of a global terrorist player they are. And maybe it'll help you avoid supporting them .. unwittingly.

There has been much hullabaloo over the Sri Lankan government deciding to abrogate the "cease fire" that has been in place since 2002. We did have a somewhat real cease fire for a short time- but for the last 3 or so years that's really just been a joke. During this "ceasefire" the LTTE has killed the most well respected Tamil leader in Sri Lanka (former foreign minister Lakshman Kadirgamar) and a bunch of other politicians, killed several military leaders, and killed hundreds of civilians. The worst single attack was this one, which killed 64 innocent people.

So there really hasn't been a cease fire here at all for at least the last 2-3 years. All we had was a piece of paper which was a joke. What the government did is to recognize reality. The crocodile tears shed by the world is such a damned joke its not even funny.

LTTE is currently running a de facto state in a part of Sri Lanka. That is not a viable basis to solve the real underlying problems which are the root cause of terrorism in Sri Lanka. While there is no military solution to those problems, there has to be a military solution to stopping a terrorist group from having bases, having a navy, having an air force, and running a virtual state within a state.

So it looks like 2008 is going to be a tough year for Sri Lanka - the government has decided to deal with the terrorist threat head-on and of course LTTE will do its best to respond. In the last week they've responded by having a small roving group attack and kill civilians in the south (another claymore mine attack against a bus and then an attack on a village) .. all an attempt to reduce focus on the north where the military is clearly gaining an advantage over them. I certainly do believe it is possible to "kick them out" of being a de facto state.

However, that's akin to the US kicking the Taliban out of Afghanistan. The key is what happens next - kicking them out is the relatively easy part.

The hard part is going to be coming up with a political solution to the underlying discriminatory root causes that have been set up and exploited by every political party since independence (nearly 60 years ago .. on Feb 4th). The current government does not have parliamentary strength to do this on its own- it needs to bring the opposition parties along to a reasonable moderate solution (undoubtedly involving devolution of power). If they fail to do that and do it fast, we'll have in Sri Lanka what the US finds in Iraq and Afghanistan - do the easy part and fail at the hard part of solving the underlying issues.

Successive central governments in Sri Lanka have miserably failed at improving the lot of rural folks. Apparently a staggering 60% or so of ALL development funds since independence have been spent on the Western province - one of 9 provinces and the one in which Colombo sits. So not only should Tamil people be revolting against central government but Sinhalese and Muslims and all others outside of the Western provide should too! We absolutely need a decentralized form of government where the local region decides what they want to do it and does it - the central form has failed us miserably. Many Sinhalese are against a federal solution to the demands of Tamil people, but if you look at how badly Sinhalese people in the south, north and everywhere except the Western provide have been treated, they should be demanding a federal system more than Tamil people!

Will our military be able to reduce LTTE to a real terrorist group (and not one that's running a de facto state)? I'm certain it can. Do our Colombo-based politicians have the will and desire to take power away from themselves and enable the 9 provinces to really develop themselves? Unfortunately I'm not convinced ..

If we don't solve the underlying issues then we may be able to live "in peace" for a few years - but the revolt will not go away .. it'll come back once again in time to come.


Kunthavai said...

Hi Sanjiva

Good Article.You are correct.But you left out one thing.Why did the LTTE come into existence? Why did the general peace loving Tamils support violence? Who started the violence? You CAN BE ASSURED - Let there be a Federal Solution.There will be no more LTTE.thx.

12345 said...

Hi sanjeewa,
I think your views on this conflict is quite correct. We cant solve ethinic problem without political solution. Although that is not much easy thing since extreamist political parties against any kind of power devolution.

Rajith Attapattu said...

Nice article. The tamils have some legitimate grievences that successive governments ignored. So a political solution is a must. I don't know if FEDERAL is a solution.But something needs to be done to meet the tamil aspirations. The solution should be acceptable to all parties. However terrorism should be crushed. LTTE has no place in the civilised world.

prasadgc said...


You make two very important points:
1. The need for a long-term political solution (i.e., a decentralised form of government) and
2. the need to correct the misallocation of resources.

This is true not just of Sri Lanka but every developing country where there is widespread social inequity.

You have inspired me to blog about the equivalent situation in India.


Srilankan said...

The actions of Velupillai Pirabaharan, the leader of Tamil Tigers prove he is real tiger. The only business he knows is killing. He killed Kalvian Kaadu Chetty, the person who named the group "Tigers" and the original leader of the Tiger group

Then Pirabaharan tried to kill the next leader of Tigers, Uma Maheswaran in a shoot out in India . He killed the founding members of the Tigers, Michael and Pat Kunam. Pirabaharan himself tipped off the Police about the then leaders of Tigers, Kuttimani and Thangathurai and their whereabouts. This incident led to Kuttimani and Thangathurai’s incarceration until their terrible deaths in the Welikade jail.

Pirabaharan killed all the persons he worked with before he became the leader of the Tigers. He even killed the last surviving Tiger group founding member Sabalingam who was residing in France , because Sabalingam started writing about Pirabaharan's power hungry killings

After Pirabaharan became the leader of the Tigers, he started killing all Tamil political leaders, elected mayors, university professors and many innocent Tamils who had criticized Tigers. Pirabaharan banned all Tamil political organizations for the last twenty years and finally the international community including USA, Canada, European Union, India and Australia has banned the Tigers, mainly due to Tigers' continuous use of child soldiers and their terror activities.

Pirabaharan also killed hundreds of people who were members and supporters of Tamil political organizations. Pirabaharan killed the Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. He even killed the Sri Lankan President Premadasa who had provided helicopter loads of weapons and money to Tigers.

Pirabaharan clearly knows that under any circumstances except at gunpoint, majority of Tamils won't accept his leadership. That's why he killed all other Tamil Political leaders, to become as the so-called "Sole Leader of Tamils".

Ramachandran a.k.a MGR, former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu gave Pirabaharan more than 1.25 billion rupees in 1985. Tamils provided their support to Tigers at gunpoint only and never helped Tigers to grow to this extent. Without MGR massive financial support and Premadasa's supply of weapons and money, Tigers won't exist today.

Tigers are terror loving trigger-happy killers, created by MGR and Premadasa. Tigers' killings are severely affecting the future of Tamils since the killings created a huge political vacuum.
In 1990 Pirabaharan wanted 100,000 Muslims in the North of Sri Lanka to get out within 24 hours, leaving their belongings and treasured valuables - that was a text book example of ‘ethnic cleansing’. Prabhakaran made Idi Amin look like an angel as Idi Amin had a heart to give the Asians in Uganda three months to leave the country and not 24 hours.

Most of the young people who are younger than 35 years, do not know the history of Tigers. They believe that, Tigers became so powerful, because of continuous outpouring support from majority of the Tamils,

If Tamils like Tigers, why is Greater Colombo flooded with Tamils from Tiger controlled areas? If majority of Tamils like Tigers, Tiger controlled areas should be flooded with Tamils from other areas. Why are Tamils trying to escape Tiger controlled areas, rather than migrating to Tiger controlled area?

If Tigers lift the exit pass system and allow free movement in the Tiger controlled areas, except the people on Tigers' payroll, every body else will leave Tiger controlled area. The only supporters of Tigers are that they either do not know anything about Tigers or gain benefits from Tigers.

Why are none of the Tamil business people investing in Tiger controlled areas? Why are even farmers leaving Tiger controlled areas? Why are Tamils living abroad trying to help their relatives to leave Tiger controlled areas? In Tiger controlled areas nobody can express any political opinions or different ideas.

Only things allowed to say are those that support Tigers. No way can anyone criticize Tigers and live the next day in a Tiger controlled area. Tigers that do not care about human lives will never understand even the basics of human rights. Even the hardcore Tiger supporters are not willing to relocate to Tiger controlled areas.

Majority of the Tamil refugees, who claimed asylum in western countries, told the authorities that they were running away from Tigers. If majority of Tamils who live abroad support Tigers, why do they have to be threatened to collect money for Tigers as reported by the Human Rights Watch?

If majority of the Tamils who live abroad support Tigers, those Tamils would line up in front of the Tiger branch offices to drop off money. The major serious problem Tamils are facing right now is there are hundreds of very young terror loving trigger happy Tigers who know only one thing, which is killing another human. Last thirty years, Tigers killed more Tamils than any body else. Also more Tigers were killed by Pirabaharan than any body else.

Majority of Sri Lankan Tamils are patiently hoping, praying and waiting for a new young democratic political visionary as a leader. Until then, gunpoint Tiger culture and never ending killing spree by Tigers will grow and continue.

Prasanga said...

When is the majority going to give some equal rights to the minorities?. I think this war will never end. I think ending this war can cost the corrupt politicians their commission. The war is about the finacial state of the fortunate national leaders. The third world politics is a mess. I think the Sri Lankan poltics are the most under developed politics of Asia. I have experienced the involvement of the Sri Lankan people in politics. Everybody seems to follow their opinion leaders and how come even the whole country is involved and nobody can think of the solution. I think if you can not think of a simple solution for the war. People need to shut up and make the right decision when they vote for the nation's leaders. It seems like people do not want a solution. How retarted are the politicians who can not speak in a respectable tone in the parliment. The manners need to adapted to the human civilisation. I never heard of one politicians who have a degree in political science who is in the parliment. All the doctors, lawyers and thugs who claim to be politicians are not trained in ruling a country. I doubt that they even can run a record store.

Vickie said...

Hi everyone,
It's great you are all talking about a long term solution to this long term problem in Sri Lanka. Knowing what is happening how with the innocent people being trapped in the war zone. Do you think what the Sri Lankan government is doing, is the right thing to do. It is easier for all of us to sit in our comfortable homes, in front of a computer, not worrying about a bomb dropping next to us, to say all we want to say. I have families trapped in the war zone. In case you don't realize, the Sri Lankan government is bombing hospitals and places where it is obvious to see there are civilians, children and families running for their lives. Sinhalees in Colombo and all of us in foreign countries only hear about these things. Please put yourselves in their shoes and imagine the pain and suffering they are going through.
What did they do to deserve this punishment?
Vickie K

Anonymous said...

Vickie K,
why do you think that they have to see the bombs right next to them, or why LTTE keep them to see that,..
just tell me,...

Unknown said...

Thank you for your well balanced post. I do not believe however that the mass killing of Sri Lankan civilians can be justified in order to occupy land. A political solution could have pulled the LTTE's support from under their feet at any time with no need for this mass killing:

Anu said...

Nice article. Sri Lanka is conducting the world’s largest rescue operation. Independent agencies have not been able to verify much of the government’s reports. Once more, one is left wondering what the UN Security council is really upto. With 7 member countries reportedly denying even an ‘informal’ meeting on the matter, including 2 veto-holding members, China and Russia, an intervention seems unlikely. China having said, ‘Its an internal matter’. Where is the UN?
(Follow this debate on )

Anonymous said...

This is all water under the bridge. Right now the Tamil refugees in camps have to be taken care of - and the Sri Lanka is doing a very bad job at this. In fact, its refusal to allow international aid bodies to help these refugees, and keeping these refugees in these squalid camps under the pretext of screening for the tigers gives arise to suspicions that it wants all these people dead.
But there is a God ( even though Singalas, being Buddhists deny the existence of God ), to whom the president of Sri Lanka and his cronies in his cabinet have to answer to.What goes around comes around.

Kunthavai said...

TheTamil Tigers have also bee nasty and cruel to the Tamils.Now that they are eliminated, let us see whether the government provides a reasonable political solution to the Tamils.

But , it appears that the government is not interested, and they believe in the Military Solution.Colonisation and land grabbing seem to be the major objective.

Sanjiva Weerawarana said...

Pat Nathan: Not allowing international aid organizations is a complicated issue. There's a MAJOR track record of many of these NGOs supporting LTTE. Sorry, but we can't allow that again.

You're absolutely right that if we don't take care of those people we're creating a new group of terrorism-candidates for the future. The US/UK press is very negative on what's going on, but the situation is getting better .. maybe not as fast as it should :(. Its very hard to get an accurate perspective from outside.

Oh BTW while Buddhism doesn't have gods, the system is built on "what goes around, comes around" ;-). I don't think this is a religious issue for the president- he knows he has a historic opportunity in his hands and I too hope he and the rest of the government doesn't screw it up.

Sanjiva Weerawarana said...

Kunthavai: If the government does colonize and attempt to change the demographics again then all we've done is kill one enemy but laid the seeds for a new one in 5 maybe 10 years.

It is up to all citizens of Sri Lanka (like us) to do everything we can to have the right thing happen here.

Migration of people is a natural and welcome thing - go to Wellawatte & Bambalapitiya areas in Colombo and you'll see the huge increase in Tamil people living there. Is that bad? Of course not; its great. However, they came out of their own free will. (Well, not entirely true, if the situation in the north & east had not been so terrible many of them would be living at home probably.)

I'm a firm believer in people being able to live wherever they want - if I want to move to Jaffna or Kilinochchi I should be able to buy a home and move. However, the state should have no part in that.

If the Government of Sri Lanka attempts (again) to have a strategy to "fix" the problem by changing demographics then this is not the end of war but the beginning of a new war.