Is the Sri Lankan / Tamil war over?


by Sunny
17th May, 2009 at 11:19 pm    

The Independent reports:

The Tamil Tiger rebels admitted defeat in their 25-year-old war with the Sri Lankan government today, offering to lay down their guns as government forces swept across their last strongholds in the northeast.

The government rejected the last-ditch call for a cease-fire, saying the thousands of civilians trapped in the war zone all have escaped to safety and there was no longer any reason to stop the battle. The military said the remaining guerrillas were still fighting.

With a war that has killed well over 70,000 people nearing its end, Sri Lankans poured into the streets in spontaneous celebration. President Mahinda Rajapaksa scheduled a nationally televised news conference for Tuesday morning at Parliament, where he was expected to tell the nation the war was over.

Two thought occur to me. Will the LTTE Tamils really stop fight now? We’ll have to see.

Secondly, the Sri Lankan government has generated an enormous amount of resentment and anger amongst its ethnic Tamils due to its merciless operations, funded thanks to the Chinese government. Unless it takes strong measures in acknowledging its mistakes and making amends, then the resentment and anger will remain and Sri Lanka will not become united. The battle may be over but the war hasn’t yet finished.


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  1. pickles

    New blog post: Is the Sri Lankan / Tamil war over? http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/4563




  1. Kulvinder — on 18th May, 2009 at 3:48 am  

    LTTE Tamils really stop fight now?

    The LTTE as it stands is quite obviously close to annihilation, its possible that some sort of provo-ltte group will emerge but i think the world is a very different place now.

    I honestly can’t imagine anyone in the international community supporting the cause of an ethno-national homeland.

  2. StrangelyPsychedelic — on 18th May, 2009 at 6:18 am  

    Secondly, the Sri Lankan government has generated an enormous amount of resentment and anger amongst its ethnic Tamils due to its merciless operations

    I disagree with that. Tamils (and Muslims etc) have all been victims of the LTTE terror machine, and I’d hardly call the rescue of nearly 150,000 mostly Tamil civillians ‘merciless’ , if anything it is the opposite.
    There were two options for this (and previous govts.):

    1) Adopt the pascifist approach and do nothing, allowing the LTTE to get away with all their murder and mayhem and continue to run a de-facto state with NO DEMOCRATIC MANDATE within a soverign democratic nation.

    2) Combat the threat and seek to disarm the LTTE, thus enabling every civillian on this island to live within it’s democratic system. Unfortunately the LTTE won’t give up their arms without a fight – this is why civillians have been killed (many by the Tigers themselves as proved in the last month).

    If the Tamils you speak to feel resentment then thats unfortunate because there is no resentment felt towards them by their so called adversaries, the Sinhalese. Recently there has been a huge drive towards donations for the displaced (mostly Tamil) civillians.

    Who’s been donating the most?

    The Average Sinhalese.

    This has , for too long, been wrongly portrayed as a war waged by the Sinhalese Buddhists against the Tamils. Its as dumb as saying ‘Americans hate Muslims’.
    It is and always has been a war against a terrorist outfit by the democractically elected government of a nation.
    Caught in the crossfire are civillians, Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim, Burgher, Chetty, Malay, Buddhist/Hindu/Christian/Muslim etc and thats a situation that people are working to aleviate.

    If the Sri Lankan Govt. wanted to be merciless it would’ve carpet bombed the whole of the North East of Sri Lanka. This war could’ve ended months ago if the Govt had just stormed through…they didn’t , they held off whereever possible at great cost to the soldiers trying to carry out their mission.

    In light of recent events in Afghanistan, with civilians being killed in droves despite the sophisticated collateral damage avoidance systems used by the two of the wealthiest nations on Earth, I fail to see how any citizen of the US or the UK can comment on the deaths of civillians in Sri Lanka. (Thats not aimed specifically at you Sunny – moreso the Clinton/Milliband chohort.

  3. Mango — on 18th May, 2009 at 9:34 am  

    Sunny,

    You’re going to see a plethora of reports from the UK press and BBC all peddling this line about the LTTE retreating to the jungles and re-starting their campaign. Well, I’m sorry to disabuse them and their readers of this notion. The SLA is already in the jungles and that environment will not shield the LTTE bands for long. No future government is SL will leave any part of the country free for a resurgent LTTE to train, mobilise etc.

    That space will have to be found in SE13 and E-post codes areas in London! :)

    The overwhelming majority of Sri Lankans are appalled, saddened and angered by the scenes witnessed of fleeing refugees/hostages. With one huge difference; they know how those people got to that situation. They were dragged there by the LTTE as shrapnel sponges. I’m sorry to harp on about this, but this salient fact keeps being omitted from the Western news media.

    As for Western bloc reaction to this endgame, the UK, UN and many INGOs have played a miserably short-sighted hand. The Sri Lankan public is aware of their machinations in trying to save the LTTE’s leadership. Trying to hold up the IMF loan, assisting the LTTE’s international chief, himself an Interpol-wanted terrorist etc, etc. It’s been an incredible.

    e.g. UN diplomat Vijay Nambiar talking to “KP” (wanted for Rajiv’s murder and Interpol) on the phone, in a toilet at the Colombo airport! As for aid, China sends tents and blankets, whilst that idiot Gordon Brown delivers lectures.

    So to answer your question, the war is over. A new battle of re-construction and bringing people to account (including INGOs who helped the LTTE) has begun. It’s contours can be found here:

    http://tinyurl.com/pk44qp

    “This will include rehabilitating and re-integrating combatants who for various reasons participated in pro-LTTE activities. Forgiveness must be a key word in our approach consistent with the most valued traditions of our culture,”

  4. damon — on 18th May, 2009 at 10:08 am  

    Mango obviously knows more about Sri Lanka than I do, but given the ferocity and tenacity the LTTE has shown over all these years, it’s a big claim to say that ”No future government in SL will leave any part of the country free for a resurgent LTTE to train, mobilise etc”.
    It may be true, but do they have the manpower to control every village? If there is some popular support for a guerilla movement at a local level, it’s really hard to police against – if you are not to alienate the wider population by using repressive measures against them.

    Just been looking at some Sri Lankan newspapers online. Not much good news in them.
    National ones celebrating historic victory, and Tamil ones talking of ‘holocaust’ (see Tamil Guardian).
    http://www.onlinenewspapers.com/srilanka.htm

  5. platinum786 — on 18th May, 2009 at 10:34 am  

    Excellent comments by Mango and StrangelyPsychedelic. Too often people are willing to draw lines regarding conflicts when the reality is much different. The biggest victim of the war on terror has been the pukhtun ethnic group in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Tens of thousands of pukhtuns have died as a result of the NATO military operations, Pakistani military operations and Taliban attacks and Al Queda attacks. The same people have been the victims of the US funded radicalization of the 70′s which bred the monster used to kill the Soviet Union.

    Yet we’d all dismiss this is not America Vs the pukhtuns or Punjabi Vs pukhtun. The overwhelming victim for near enough 30 years has been the pukhtun.

    Similarly, the Tamil populaiton may be the main victim of this, but it is not a war against the Tamils, but elements within the community who have hijacked the causes of the community.

    Damon makes an interesting point;

    It may be true, but do they have the manpower to control every village? If there is some popular support for a guerilla movement at a local level, it’s really hard to police against – if you are not to alienate the wider population by using repressive measures against them.

    It ties in nicely with this from Sunny;

    Two thought occur to me. Will the LTTE Tamils really stop fight now? We’ll have to see.

    Will the Tamils stop fighting. As an organised military unit, yes. The Tamils had submarines, they launched arial bombing raids, they had troops, they have territory, they had artillery, they even had gun boats, all that as an organised militia is finished.

    The option left to them, is low-tech, high impact, small Al Queda style terrorist cells. Don’t expect to see them overnight, but they will emerge and will look to get stronger. What Sri Lanka does next will decide whether they go a round two with the Tamil tigers or not.

    The Sri Lankan army have won the military war, they’ve done something a lot of big nations have failed to do, the reason being they had the support of the population. Now it is the political war.

    The tamil population obviously has concerns, desires, none of which I have a clue about. The Sri Lankan government must work to meet those demands.

    As well as that the area needs rebuilding, people need financial compensation, councilling, restarting schools and businesses, and the Tamil population need some positive discrimination towards them, to help them intergrate into the area and general society better. It will take generations for the wounds of war to heal, but without taking part in a healing process it will never occur.

    If the Tamils are getting what they deserve, if they feel their needs are being met, they won’t support an terrorist network which begins to setup. If 20 years down the line the Tamils are still in the same refugee camps, the same destroyed vehicles and tanks line the roads, the same bullet holes are in the walls of homes, then expect what Afghanistan and Pakistan are facing today and what Sri Lanka has taken 25 years to defeat today.

  6. Mango — on 18th May, 2009 at 11:22 am  

    Damon,

    No-one wants soldiers in every village. That won’t happen. It’ll be an intelligence-led overwatch. A lot of the SLA’s success is due to good intel from within LTTE controlled areas and that was best proof of the Tamil people’s disenchantment with their supposed protectors. The trick is not to alienate the local population through the actions of ill-disciplined soldiers. Again the current SLA has improved immensely from the bad old days.

    Read this about current levels of discipline and professionalism.

    “He has seen a lot of changes in the army — mainly for the better since the debacles of the late 1990s. Most importantly the food and ammo gets through consistently to forward units. Discipline is ruthlessly tighter. Corruption (at least for the lower to mid ranks) is treated as sabotage. Disobeying an order to attack during an operation (meheyuma) earns you a trip to Colombo “in chains” with a charge of aiding the LTTE terrorists.

    http://tinyurl.com/c2h7zp

    Everyone realises that there will be a period of further violence until things settle down. It has to be accompanied by development. Footage of the LTTE-controlled areas show minimal development. The funds they collected/extorted/given were spent on weapons.

    Re., the – or rather LTTE-supporting Tamil newspapers – you won’t see anything other than this rubbish about ‘genocide’ from them. With the LTTE’s demise, we should (hopefully) see the emergence of ‘moderate’ Tamil politicians. The national papers, whilst celebrating a deserved victory over the LTTE have all maintained the pressure on the govt to ensure fair post-war deal for all communities. Almost every editorial says this.

    And to stress this point again, almost all papers, regardless of their stance (pro or anti-govt) have been scathing in their criticism of the UK/US/EU efforts to give the LTTE yet another breathing space through calls for ceasefires etc.

    Finally, I would discount 90% of op-ed pieces in Western bloc newspapers & media about the SL situation for a very simple reason. They were totally wrong about the supposed invincibility of the LTTE and how the SL Armed Forces would never achieve a crushing military victory.

    Instead, try David Blacker’s blog. He’s an ex-SLA veteran and an excellent writer.

    http://tinyurl.com/pzlr49

  7. Sunny — on 18th May, 2009 at 1:04 pm  

    Some good comments on here.

    This has , for too long, been wrongly portrayed as a war waged by the Sinhalese Buddhists against the Tamils.

    I’m not doing that. But I do think the SL govt needs to do a lot to make sure Tamils are also now treated as part of the democratic process and fully integrated.

  8. qidniz — on 18th May, 2009 at 1:42 pm  
  9. Mango — on 18th May, 2009 at 1:50 pm  

    Sunny,

    Agree totally. But the biggest impediment to any sort of democratic engagement by the tamil community was the LTTE! They were the ones who called themselves the ‘sole representatives’ of all tamils and murdered anyone who disagreed.

    E.g. Douglas Devananda, ex-militant, anti-LTTTE, anti-separatist and democratically elected tamil MP has survived at least 12 LTTE assassination attempts. Most famously when a female LTTE suicide bomber exploded her bra in his office.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Douglas_Devananda
    Anyway, VP and his cohorts have achieved Eelam and word is that his body’s been identified through DNA analysis.

    If you want to help SL, go there and spend your tourist GBP. In a few years time, the East coast beaches will be ready to welcome visitors.

  10. cash gifting mentor — on 18th May, 2009 at 2:08 pm  

    I pray for peace. We are afforded blessings here in the U.S. that many people in the world don’t realize. I hope that this situation begins to move toward some type of agreement.

  11. Shamit — on 18th May, 2009 at 2:13 pm  

    LTTE defeated is one of the best things that has happened in recent times.

    The President of Sri Lanka deserves credit for keeping his first promise of defeating the LTTE thugs and now he must deliver on the second which was to end discrimination in Sri Lanka. I think maybe there is a thing or two to learn from the Sri Lankan Government.

    Just like Hamas and Hezbollah, LTTE took glory out of deaths of Tamils and I doubt there would much grief that the bastard has been finally put down.

    the Sri Lankan government has generated an enormous amount of resentment and anger amongst its ethnic Tamils due to its merciless operations,

    Why?

    How else could the Sri Lankan Government beat these thugs?

    The Sri Lankan Government did declare ceasefire and wanted to let the civilians go but the Tamil Tigers fired upon the civilian crowd (TAMIL crowd) so they could not escape.

    The word merciless is harsh — and not fair.

  12. Shamit — on 18th May, 2009 at 2:16 pm  

    Tomorrow, I guess we are going to criticise the Pakistani Government for ruthlessly taking out the Taliban..

    There are times when harsh measures have to be taken and congratulate the leader of the Sri Lankan Government rather than criticise him.

    Criticise him when he fails to keep the next part of his promise.

    And by the way, HAMAS AND HEZBOLLAH ARE THE SAME — NO DIFFERENT TO LTTE. And, LTTE was a Hindu terrorist outfit. So this is not about religion but about terrorism.

    if the Real IRA takes over couple of towns in N. Ireland and does what the LTTE did to the civilians– do you expect the British Government to let it slide or send in the SAS and the Army and clean up.

  13. Shamit — on 18th May, 2009 at 3:23 pm  

    Our Government, since Blair, has no competence in foreign policy — be it the Lisbon treaty, be it the stupid speech by David “little brains” Miliband in Mumbai (about there being no war on terror — how daft do you have to be) and his recent statements about Sri Lanka.

    This is a bloody disgrace — even the Indian Tamil population gave a drubbing to those politicians who were trying to use the Tamil (LTTE) card in recent Indian elections.

    Mango is spot on about the intel SLA got from the communities who were trapped by the LTTE and the media (the left loving to hate elected governments) silence on the terror unleashed by LTTE.

    And the SLA got a decisive military victory but wait for CiF and the so called LEFT cry about the virtues of LTTE in the next few days.

  14. Boyo — on 18th May, 2009 at 6:38 pm  

    “Unless it takes strong measures in acknowledging its mistakes and making amends, then the resentment and anger will remain and Sri Lanka will not become united. The battle may be over but the war hasn’t yet finished.”

    What an interesting contrast with your posts on the Israeli action against Hamas.

  15. ad — on 18th May, 2009 at 7:51 pm  

    “The war is over; the Rebels are our countrymen again.”

    (As was said in quite similar circumstances.)

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