Tuesday, June 9, 2009


The death of Velupillai Prabhakaran signals the end of the civil war between the Sri Lankan government and the militant Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). For nearly three decades since its formation, the LTTE had relentlessly pursued its aim of achieving a separate state (Eelam) to be carved out of the northern and eastern areas of Sri Lanka. In the course of its single-minded drive to achieve “Eelam”, the organization ruthlessly decimated other militant organizations and voices among the Tamils – many of whom were willing to accept autonomy or federal rights for the Tamils. But by accepting no compromises and by continuing to use tactics such as assassination of perceived “enemies of the cause” and violent retribution, the LTTE brought about its own doom.
The LTTE’s inflexibility and rejection of any compromise, say a federal solution to the conflict, its dwindling legitimacy internationally and the internal split, with the defection of erstwhile eastern commander, Vinayagamurthy Muralidharan,alias Colonel Karuna,were ultimately responsible for its defeat.Far from realising the aspirations of the minority Tamils who aimed for self-rule, the LTTE’s actions have only resulted in a traumatized Tamil population disaffected both by the “Eelam cause” and with the government ruling from Colombo.The LTTE lacked many of the essential characteristics of a liberation movement and had several attributes of a terrorist organization. So it sowed the seeds for its own defeat.
Thousands of Tamil civilians now live in “appalling conditions”– as the visiting UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon called them – in internment camps after displacement because of the war. Despite claims by the Lankan government about commitment to “early resettlement”, its actions in restricting access to these camps by humanitarian agencies and its callous treatment of the displaced people in the camps in the name of security do not inspire confidence. These actions in tandem with the triumphalism displayed by the Sri Lankan polity would only make one more sceptical about the Lankan government’s claims of bringing about a democratic solution to the problems of the Tamil minority after the defeat of the “terrorist” LTTE. A lasting peace after the defeat of the outfit would remain a chimera if the Sri Lankan polity refuses to acknowledge the plight of the displaced Vanni residents or indeed of the genuine grievances of the Tamil community.
In the provision of relief to the displaced Tamils and in their resettlement, the international community, through its various humanitarian agencies, must play an important role. Also, the international community must be vigilant and should pressurize the Sri Lankan government to arrive at a political solution to the conflict that takes account of its root causes. In the absence of this, the seeds would be sown for another militant organization – one that would have learnt from the past mistakes of the LTTE – espousing complete separation.
Courtesy: Frontline and Economic & Political Weekly

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