Thursday, May 21, 2009

The End of the Tamil Tigers?

After 26 years of vicious civil war, the Sri Lankan government has declared victory over the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), with the Tigers' leader Velupillai Prabhakaran being confirmed dead over the weekend.

There is a saying that one man's freedom fighter is another man's terrorist, and that is certainly true here. The struggle of Sri Lanka's Tamils is a righteous one; self-determination, and freedom from oppression by the Sinhalese-dominated government. The LTTE however can claim little moral high ground. In response to the discrimination and atrocities perpetrated by the goverment, the LTTE have cultivated a legacy of brutal and abhorrent acts. They have murdered civilians and employed child soldiers. They have been responsible for the death of two heads of state; former Sri Lankan President Ranasinghe Premadasa in 1993, and Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991. And they invented that most heinous form of terrorism, the suicide bomber, and even trained Islamic terrorist organisations in the practice.

I know of many reasonable and intelligent Tamils who have supported the Tigers; indeed, despite being banned as a terrorist organisation in most Western democracies, the LTTE have survived in part due to economic support from Tamils in those very countries. But I believe the world will be better off with the demise of the LTTE. It would be foolish to expect the Sri Lankan government to embark on an approach that will satisfy Tamils, and doubtless we will not have seen the last atrocity committed against Tamil civilians; but the LTTE helped create the political climate in which many of those atrocities occurred. There now exists a vacuum where hopefully a new, peaceful force can emerge as the voice of the Tamil people.

1 comment:

  1. Tamil speaking Sri Lankans had shown almost an inexhaustible capacity to produce engineers, doctors, accountants, clerks and shopkeepers but the Tamil political culture failed to produce an enlightened political leadership that could rise above their Jaffna peninsularity of mind and lead the Tamil speaking Sri Lankans towards realistic and attainable political goals. Not since Sir Pon Arunachalam left the Ceylon National Congress, rupturing hopes of communal harmony, has Tamil speaking Sri Lankans produced a political leadership which has had the vision to accept co-existence in a multi-ethnic society as the most natural, viable and peaceful path for the welfare of all communities in Sri Lanka. Blind to the future, the Tamil speaking Sri Lankans have grown up during the past several decades in a self-made political culture of resistance to reform.
    Tigers were a reflection of Tamil speaking Sri Lankans. Tigers emerged from among the Tamil speaking Sri Lankans, and shared the same Jaffna peninsularity of beliefs.
    Tigers did the most to destroy the Tamil speaking Sri Lankans. In counting on gains through its strength as a conventional military force, and dragging out the war for 25 years Tigers missed opportunities to even entrench their own position. Tigers’ singular focus on military strength, to the detriment of political gains and support from the people on the ground, all while ensuring their emergence as the dominant Tamil armed force was the cause of their demise.
    Tigers wanted more than 100,000 Muslims in Jaffna Peninsula to get out within 3 hours, leaving their belongings and treasured valuables - that was a text book example of 'ethnic cleansing'. Tigers 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 3 hours.
    Tamil speaking Sri Lankans suffered the most in Sri Lanka because of their leaders’ blind refusal to co-exist in a multi-ethnic society sharing the land in common with the other communities. Their suicidal political ambitions, arising from an exaggerated view of their self-importance and superiority, drove them to an end on May 18, 2009 at Mullivaykal, they never thought would come.

    Nalliah Thayabharan