Ethnic Conflict, Civil War & Politics
Sri Lanka : keeping the peace in a sharply divided society
Eelam War IV - Northern Theater - Progress Reports
The current ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka is a much more complex business than a simple straightforward confrontation between a once well-entrenched minority the Tamils and a now powerful but still insecure majority -the Sinhalese. The Sinhalese majority and the Sri Lanka Tamil minority are not the only players in this intricate political drama even though they play the principal roles. There are two conflicting perceptions of these conflicts. Most Sinhalese believe that the Tamil minority has enjoyed a privileged position under British rule and that the balance has of necessity to shift in favour of the Sinhalese majority. The Tamils for their part claim that they are now a harassed minority, the victims of frequent acts of communal violence and calculated acts and policies of discrimination directed at them. Most of the Tamils' fears and their sense of insecurity stem from the belief that they have lost the advantageous position they enjoyed under British rule in many sectors of public life in the country; in brief, a classic case of a sense of relative deprivation. Read Full Story
More Background Information:
Composition of Population (1981Census):
What Sri Lankans Want is Living Together in Peace @ Photo UNDP
Tamil Tigers (LTTE) -
ORGANIZATION AND OPERATIONS
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), arguably the most lethal and well organised terrorist group in the world, began its armed campaign in Sri Lanka for a separate Tamil homeland in 1983. The group threatens not only the domestic stability of Sri Lanka and India but also the security of the international system as a whole. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and related Tamil insurgents are engaged in organized criminal activities. These began in Sri Lanka and have spread to Western Europe, North America and Australia - wherever Tamil refugees have landed. The LTTE is now banned in Sri Lanka, India, the United States of America, United Kingdom, Canada and Malaysia.
LTTE: Ethnic Strife or Tamil Separatist Terrorism?
Human Bombs, Child Soldiers, Assassinations and Massacres - Hallmarks of Tamil Tigers
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), while masquerading as a liberation organisation, has murdered and massacred thousands of innocent civilians from all ethnic communities - Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims in Sri Lanka. Tamil Tigers have assassinated many moderate Tamil leaders of the country in a systematic manner from the beginning of 1980s. Vellupillai Prabhakaran, leader of the LTTE, has established a rule of terror in Jaffna, many of his own lieutenants have been murdered; Tamils who have criticised him, even mildly, have been picked up, tortured and executed; others have been held in dungeons, half starved, hauled out periodically for a battering by the guards.. Prabhakaran has shown a bloodthirstiness in dealing with opponents that has compared with some of the cruelest figures in Asian history, including Pol Pot of Cambodia. The evidence is that LTTE much prefers killing to democracy and has no wish to test the opinion of the people in whose name they commit so much murder.
Participation in armed conflicts, even voluntarily, by children below the age of 15 is an offence, according to the Geneva Convention, 1948, and the two amendments to it, adopted in 1997, as well as Article 38 of the UN Convention on Rights of the Child. In the decade ending 1999, nearly two million child soldiers were killed in the various conflicts, worldwide. According to an April 2000 estimate, there are some 2,000 children in the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam's (LTTE) ranks. Child soldiers were originally recruited into the LTTE’s baby brigade, commandeered by Justin. But, after 1987, they were integrated with adult units. (Read More)
Photo: Sriyantha Walpola /The New York Times
|Fifteen year old Raja went to the Teaching Hospital in Jaffna, Sri Lanka, complaining of insomnia, aggressive outbursts and irrational abnormal behaviour in late 1994. He had joined the LTTE at the age of 11 and underwent extensive training. He told doctors that after one attack where he lost many friends he was shown a videos of dead women and children and told that his enemies had done this. Soon afterwards he was involved in attacks on several Muslim villages near Batticaloa. When recounting one attack, he described how he held a child by the legs and bashed its head against a wall and how he enjoyed hearing the mother’s screaming. He said they deserved to die. (Amnesty International Index 04/01/98; Page 38)|
Human Bombs & Terrorist attacks
The LTTE is notorious for its suicide bombings. Since the late 1980s, the group has conducted more than 200 suicide bombings—far more than any other terrorist group. Tamil Tigers have staged two thirds of all the suicide bombings in the world. LTTE suicide bombers have attacked civilians on mass transit, at Buddhist shrines, and in office buildings. In October 1997, a suicide truck bomb killed 18 people at the 39-story World Trade Centre in Colombo, Sri Lanka’s capital. Beyond suicide bombings, the LTTE have used conventional bombs against political, economical and civilian targets and have gunned down both Sri Lankan officials and civilians. LTTE fighters wear cyanide capsules around their necks, so they can commit suicide if they are captured.
No War, No Peace
Sri Lanka has been fortunate to survive without war for the past 3 years, and a sigh of relief passed across the country as it marked the third anniversary of the ceasefire agreement signed between the Government and the LTTE on February 22, 2002. Even ardent opponents of the truce acknowledge that the ceasefire and the absence of a full-scale conflict over the past three years has saved valuable lives and property. No-peace-no-war situation is expected to continue till the LTTE finds the correct political and military coordinates to take its next step. In Sri Lanka's conflict resolution exercise, it is the LTTE which still calls the shots. Read Full Story
Tackling the Tigers - The Indian Experience
India became involved in Ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka in the 1980's. The involvement was been motivated by a mix of issues. At the beginning India supported both sides in different ways. The unfortunate experience of the Indian Peace-Keeping Force (IPKF) in the island has been analysed in several accounts. During the three-year involvement, some 1,500 Indian troops were killed and more than 4,500 were wounded. Rajiv Gandhi, India's Prime Minister during their involvement, was assassinated on May 21 of 1991, by an LTTE suicide bomber. The assassination of Rajiv swung the pendulum to the other extreme. Indian support for the LTTE dropped to near zero. There is a sense of revulsion against Velupillai Prabakaran and the ideology of the LTTE throughout the country, but much more so in Tamil Nadu.
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Tackling the Tigers
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.G. Ramachandran with LTTE leader V. Prabakaran in February 1985. © Hindu
ISLAND OF DEATH
"Some prefer to call the so called "paradise on earth", this tropical island of Sri Lanka, "The island of death". The 18 years of tragic conflict has claimed more than 60,000 souls and the war has become a way of life in Sri Lanka. Unfortunately, more and more people have a vested interest in ensuring that it continues. Fortunes continue to be built on the war. While fashionably dressed teens of elite Sinhalese and Tamil families learn to drive their new Alfa Romeos in Colombo, and the smartly dressed young women are sitting around, sipping wine, giggling and watching male dance-strippers in swanky bungalows in posh parts of Colombo , the burden of war sacrifice falls on the poor, uneducated and unprivileged villagers of Sri Lanka, who have provided most of the estimated 18,000 troops killed so far. Families of affluent and wealthy Tamils live in luxury in Colombo or in foreign countries while the poor and the neglected Tamil villagers, if lucky enough to survive the cruel war, are displaced several times and waiting in fear in refugee camps. They are harassed by the military and their children are kidnapped by the Tamil Tigers (LTTE). Funds to the Tigers comes partly from the movement's worldwide chain of businesses, including shipping lines, travel agencies, shops and money changers, augmented by clandestine weapons and drugs smuggling. Over 7000,000 Tamil-speaking Sri Lankans are now living abroad and also fund the tigers. Pundits say expatriates give out of a sense of guilt over their affluence and security abroad, a tendency to romanticise a distant conflict, and fear."
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The enigma of Prabhakaran
Freedom fighter or megalomaniac?
He has a reputation as a fearless and ruthless guerrilla leader, and under his leadership, the LTTE, or Tamil Tigers, have become a highly-disciplined and highly- motivated guerrilla force. Prabhakaran is reputed to wear a cyanide capsule around his neck, to be swallowed in the event of his capture. To his followers, he is a freedom fighter struggling for Tamil emancipation. To his adversaries he is a megalomaniac with a brutal disregard for human life. (BBC)
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Wanted by Interpol
Tigers of Lanka
Caste, Class and Prabhakaran’s struggle
South Asian Media Net
Peace in Sri Lanka
LTTE Peace Secretariat
EPDP Web Page
Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA)
Stop Child Soldiers
Sri Lanka Betrayed