Home arrow News arrow The Tamil Tigers and the Battle for Sri Lanka - by Yishai Kabaker
Saturday, 25 October 2014
The Tamil Tigers and the Battle for Sri Lanka - by Yishai Kabaker PDF Print E-mail
The twenty-three year civil war between the government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) continues to escalate. While the majority of Sri Lanka’s population is ethnically Sinhalese, the minority ethnic group, the Tamils, make-up the majority of the north and east of the island. The Sinhalese are mostly Buddhists that speak Sinhala; the Tamils are linked by language, but their ethnic composition is a mix of Hindu, Christian, and Muslim.


In 1983 the infamous “Black July” pogroms against the Tamil minority led various Tamil separatists including the LTTE to start aggressively fighting the government of Sri Lanka, and thus started the Sri Lankan Civil War. The LTTE demanded an autonomous Tamil state in the north. From 1976 to 2001 the LTTE fought against the government and rival Tamil separatist groups to consolidate power. There have been human rights abuses on both sides from government cruelty and large civilian collateral damage to LTTE suicide bombings and child soldiers.

The Tamil Tigers have been known to praise martyrdom through suicide bombings and emphasize taking a cyanide capsule rather than being captured by the Sri Lankan military. The elite group of Tamil Tigers, the Black Tigers, carries out suicide and assassination attacks. The LTTE is also known for their military and naval abilities to fight against the government. They have often beaten government forces in battle and their navy comprised of gunboats has scored victories against the Sri Lankan Navy. The LTTE is the only separatist group that has an active and successful naval wing.

In February 2002, shortly after the beginning of the U.S. War on Terrorism, the LTTE and government came together to sign a ceasefire. The two parties made major concessions towards an autonomous federal solution. The Sri Lankan government conceded to allow Tamil self-rule, and the LTTE agreed to remain part of Sri Lanka. The ceasefire was mediated by Norway and other Nordic nations.

In December of 2004 the Indian Ocean Tsunami struck Sri Lanka killing 30,000 and devastating the eastern and southern parts of the island nation. Up until then, the ceasefire had mostly held despite continual disagreements. As large amounts of reconstruction and relief donations poured into Sri Lanka, disagreements between the LTTE and the Sri Lankan government on allocation exacerbated the situation and violence resumed. Unlike the Indonesians and the Achenese Separatists that brokered peace through the tsunami, the Tigers and government rekindled their conflict.

This past summer fighting broke out between the LTTE and the government over control of a reservoir. Since that incident, it appears that the Tamil Tigers have announced an end to the 2002 ceasefire. The fighting escalated as the Sri Lankan military began artillery and air strikes against the Tigers’ positions. The LTTE responded with suicide bombings of a naval convoy. The two parties, however, returned to Geneva for more talks, that as of now have produced little.

The United States has had little involvement in the Sri Lankan Civil War. Since 1997, the LTTE has been recognized as a terrorist organization by the United States. Most of The Tamil Tigers’ funding comes from diaspora Tamil communities in the West. The main international involvement has been from India, which pulled out in 1990, and the Nordic countries working to broker peace between the government and the Tamil Tigers.

Although the LTTE is considered a terrorist organization by twenty six nations, it is not part of the global anti-Western terrorist movement that includes al-Qaeda, Hamas, and Hizbullah. It is an indigenous civil war between the two ethnic groups: Sinhalese and Tamil. There are few cases of the LTTE exporting terrorism as Al Qaeda does, except against India, when India had been involved in the civil war. Until strong leaders emerge on both sides that passionately pursue peace, it is unlikely that it will be achieved. However, it is also unlikely that the Tamil Tigers will extend their fight beyond Sri Lanka borders.

Source: http://www.stanfordreview.org/Archive/Volume_XXXVII/Issue_9/World/world1.shtml

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