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  • Sri Lanka violence escalates


    by Sunny
    16th May, 2006 at 9:00 am    

    This is a guest post by an anonymous contributor.
    ———————-

    soldierLuke Skywalker has company. A few weeks ago a Tamil Tiger suicide bomber RebelBabe disguised as a pregnant woman, spontaneously combusted in central Colombo, Sri Lanka, killing 8 people.

    Her intended target was Lt General Sarath Fonseka - the Commander of the Sri Lankan Army who is in hospital in serious but stable condition (along with 27 others).

    Begging to differ from the fashionable Osama ‘Cam-Whore’ Bin Laden trend of doing things, the LTTE generally stays away from claims of responsibility. They do however party hard when celebrating the efforts of their ‘Spontaneous-Combustion Martyrs’.

    The Sri Lankan Air Force spent two days afterwards launching strikes against LTTE bases. They called this action ‘genocidal’. Oh the Irony. If the SL Govt wanted to kill its own civilians it could just launch an airstrike on a Tamil suburb of Colombo.

    Having witnessed my fair share of suicide bombings (roasted human flesh chunks are standard) over the last 20 years, I view the situation with dismay and immense interest.

    There is a serious chance the country could now explode into serious conflict in coming weeks. The violence has sharply escalated since the suicide bombing. But I’m also hopeful that it wont; Lanka has weathered such storms before and Sri Lankans have generally grown somewhat apathetic to the actions of the LTTE; that is unless one has a relative amongst the victims or it disturbs Muttiah Muralitharan’s patented bowling action.

    I do yearn to see the day when, like the Lebanese or the Spaniards, Sri Lankans would rally against the common threat of terrorism that has affected us all regardless of race and political or religious affiliation. I yearn to see the day when Tamils will have a democratic voice that is not under threat from the Tigers (almost any Tamil who takes to the democratic process and criticizes the LTTE is hastily disposed of).

    Tamil friends I’ve spoken to are pretty pissed off too, they’re just as likely targets on the way to school, work or running from your friendly Elf-mob - a fact that LTTE sympathizers can’t really get their heads around.

    Some folks love pinning this as a Sinhala Buddhist v. Tamil issue. Few things could be further than the truth. It is a democratically elected Government versus Guerrilla/Insurgent/Terror group thing. That democratically elected government happens to include millions of Sinhalese, Tamils, Burghers (Euromix) and Muslims - all walking talking targets in the eyes of V. Prabarkaran and his merry band of suicidal chipmunks; until they get what they want - a separate state & the power that comes with it.

    Except that Osama Bin Laden is a ‘terrorist’ and the LTTE are ‘rebels’ according to certain prominent media organizations (despite being proscribed as a terror group in the UK, Canada, US and Australia amongst other places). That’s another issue anyway.

    Here’s something important that doesn’t seem to get much coverage: Ceasefire violations 2002 - December 2006: LTTE 3535; Govt. of SL: 169.

    Sri Lanka has its faults, the government has fucked up in the past, The Indians have fucked up and the Norwegians, Americans and Chinese all have vested interests. But at present what we have is a group that does not seem to understand the concept of non-violent negotiation, or more likely, doesn’t want to deal with it.

    [To read more about the latest wranglings behind the violence, see this article.]


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    1. Geezer — on 16th May, 2006 at 10:07 am  

      I’m surprised that full scale conflict has not broken out already…I think the Sri Lankan government is exercising great restraint in view of the attacks by the LTTE.

      Are there any delegations going over to try to broker another peace deal or bring the sides together?

      By the way what sort of support does the LTTE enjoy amongst the Tamil population?

    2. SajiniW — on 16th May, 2006 at 10:17 am  

      The Norwegians/a mixed EU delegation should be present for the next round of mediation.

      I think the lack of an ‘alternative’ Tamil voice has pressured a lot of people into supporting the LTTE. Those that do support it are very passionate in their work; how else could such a numerically-small organisation be so well funded?

    3. raz — on 16th May, 2006 at 10:42 am  

      ” few weeks ago a Tamil Tiger suicide bomber RebelBabe disguised as a pregnant woman, spontaneously combusted in central Colombo, Sri Lanka, killing 8 people”

      This is bad enough as it is, but actually, I do believe it was subsquently found that she WAS really pregnant. Even more sickening and barbaric. The silence from the Harry’s Place/Euston Manifesto crew has been deafening, as usual. For all their protestations against terror, it seems only terrorists from a certain religion get their attention.

      Incidentally, it looks like Pakistan is going to help Sri Lanka in its fight againt terrorism with weapons aid. Excellent news, this should give the Sri Lankan government some teeth in their fight against this barbaric ideology of terrorism:

      http://www.indianexpress.com/printerFriendly/3678.html

      AIR FORCE

      • Two UAVs

      • Cluster and fuel air bombs for Kfirs (50 each)

      • 20 laser/precision guided bomb kits

      • 30 deep penetration bombs

      • 500 80mm rockets with fuel air explosive warhead

      ARMY

      • 10 Bakhtar Shiken anti-tank guided missile launcher

      • 300 Tandem warhead missiles

      • 1000 radio sets

      NAVY

      • 5000 mortar bombs

      • 250 night vision goggles

      That should keep the Tigers busy :) The fuel air explosive bomb is a particularly devestasting weapon.

    4. SajiniW — on 16th May, 2006 at 10:48 am  

      It is pretty dire if you’re using a fetus to fight your struggle.

    5. Prescott_Luva67 — on 16th May, 2006 at 11:00 am  

      By the way what sort of support does the LTTE enjoy amongst the Tamil population?

      That depends entirely on who you speak to I’m afraid. Most Tamils living elsewhere in the country just want to live in peace. They dont want bombs going off in their name and they certainly dont want to get into tension with Sinhalese or Muslims. The same applies for the other races involved. Most of my friends are happy enough to live in a multiethnic community and the sooner the war ends the better it is for all.
      In the North and East the situation will be different due to the harsh realities of war.Tamils in the North & East of SL would prefer it if their children weren’t at risk of being recruited by the LTTE - something Unicef and others have campaigned almost fruitlessly against.

      Tamils, as suspicious of the Government as they will be, would still rather not support the LTTE for the simple reason that the Tigers are in for one thing and one thing only - Power.
      Just as Osama binny Boy getLaid-in is in it for the power and his ‘Caliphate’ or FARC are in for their own territory to lust over and control in Colombia.
      Most Tamils al over Sri Lanka know this and would rather be able to elect their own democratic leaders than live under the rule of a military regime. If you spent 25 years fighting in a hellish jungle would you give up enormous power for the sake of ‘democracy’? I doubt anyone would. Which is why they keep taking offensive action - they will never be able to run any future state the way they want.
      If they do, the LTTE will have to abide by International laws and respect the rights of the Tamils they set out to protect so many years ago. The heirachy are gonna want anything but that!

      Also there are many Tamil groups that began the struggle for a homeland with the LTTE. They did however over the course of time, take to the political mainstream and run candidates for elections only to have many killed off or threatened by the LTTE (who want to be the SOLE representatives of the Tamil people - God appointed it appears!).
      We’ve had plenty of (Tamil) politicians, critics and elected mayors of cities like Jaffna killed quite ruthlessly by the Tigers - tht doesnt make for a very happy tone as far as the general Tamil population is concerned. Prominent Tamils killed by the LTTE include:

      Lakshman Kadiragamar (SL foreign minister largely responsible for getting the LTTE proscribed as terrorists in the US & elsewhere)
      Neelan Thrivulchelvam (Human Rights lawyer who fought for Tamil rights the democratic way but made the mistake of speaking out against LTTE violence)
      Douglas Devananda was never killed but was targeted by a suicide bomber a couple of months ago (during the ceasefire mind you) who killed 5 police instead. Devananda is the head of PLOTE - People’s Lib Organisation - Tamil Eelam; now a mainstream political unit that speaks out for Tamils and yet against the LTTE.

      Heres another issue: Eastern Tamils versus Tamils in the North. One of the LTTE’s top commanders broke away from the organisation and led his Eastern contigent in minor campaigns against them. Guess what he said?
      That the Northern Tamils were discriminating against Eastern ones! A ‘freedom fight’ within a ‘freedom fight’!
      This excommander Karuna does add antoher complex dimension to the whole scenario which I wont go into at this time. I just wanted to focus on Geezer’s question for the time being.

      Amoungst the Tamil diaspora in the rest of the world however, opinions will vary. I’ve met Tamils from Tamil Nadu (South India) who abhor the idea of seperatist violence & are a little concerned about the current and possible influence of the LTTE in India. War in sri lanka brings unpleasantness for all - especially those in Tamil nadu who are merely 20 odd km across the Palk Strait!

      In terms of Tamils living in the UK, Canada etc I think there will be a general but hesitant support of the LTTE. Many of them left due to the events of 1983 where sinhalese thugs went on the rampage against innocent Tamils following the deaths of 12 soliders. The government dragged its heels until finally ordering police to shoot to kill the offending parties but that led to an enormous twisting and turning of events.
      Also many moved out of the war zone, regardless of who was fighting whom.

      However, I’d say a good many tamils are weary of supporting the LTTE at this point despite the propaganda and blatent brainwashing they spew abroad.
      One thing that can be said about the TIgers is that they have an amazing propaganda machine. If they find that they dont have enough contributors in a certain region, they ll get Tamils abroad to sponsor relatives in SL who will then seek asylum (even if they dont want to). Many overseas Tamils are also unable to see the ground situation and will therefore rely on information that is hardly accurate, thereby maintaining their support for an organisation they still think is fighting for their interests.
      Oh and theres the issue that the LTTE representatives coerce folks into donating to the ‘Cause’ even if they dont want to.

      That was lengthy but is still a summary of issues, at the end of the day the Tamil population in Sri Lanka would rather be able to elect their own leaders under the democratic process than give in to a group whos tactics and strategy is becoming a little clearer in the eyes of the rest of the world.

      Oh and dont forget that the next suicide bomb blast that occurs in colombo could kill Tamils. It could kill Muslims. It could kill Sinhalese. I doubt many Tamils want to be blown up as collateral damage.

    6. Prescott_Luva67 — on 16th May, 2006 at 11:17 am  

      You’ll have to forgive me, the article was written just after the bombings but Sunny’s only had the time to look into it now and I was in no hurry to get it in!

      Are there any delegations going over to try to broker another peace deal or bring the sides together?

      Here is where the whole situation gets VERY interesting. The Norwegians have been ‘brokering’ things for a while but theyre hardly impartial - until recently when they’ve realised what the Tigers are upto.
      There is an International group called the ‘Co-Chairs of the Peace Process’ - I think theyre led by Japan.
      The Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission is made up of Scandinavian officials who record and log as many incidents in the country as possible.

      Now there are vested interests for the following nations:

      The USA
      India
      Pakistan
      China
      Norway

      The outcome of events in Sri Lanka will be very important to these countries.

      The USA - Is interested in Trincomalee Harbour - one of the finest ports in the region. Used extensively by the British in WW2. Also had a very large collection of British made oil storage tanks that the US lisences through the Indian Petroleum Corp.
      This harbour and facilities will be of vital strategic and tactical use if the US were ever to engage China or even as a port of call if things were to really go apesh*t in the Middle East/Africa. The Sri Lankan population (esp the Muslim one) will be relatively easier to deal with American troops than say an Indian one. ALthough theoretically against the Iraq war we are slightly indebted to the Americans for their support during the Tsunami.
      I’ve also met US Special Forces who have gained an enormous amount in terms of observing a virulent insurgency at ground level and sharing tactics and resources.
      The LTTE also pose a hazard to American interests. Don’t forget all terrorists see themselves as brothers and sisters locked in a justified struggle against the greater system. Certain links have been made to the bombing of the USS Cole for instance and the tactics employed by the Tigers to attack SL Navy craft. The LTTE are an indirect but very real threat to the US, and their ability to provide miltiary and even manpower expertise to groups like Al Qaeda is something that btohers Western intelligence groups. Heck the LTTE are pretty much THE experts in terms of what they do - think of them as a Terrorist Consulting Agency (and a temp agency too!).
      This naturally scares the hell out of India.

      India - Has a stake in Sri Lanka’s small but useful (consumer) fuel industry. Also manages the oil storage facility in Trincomalee.
      They also have a bitter dislike of the LTTE after they shamed the Indian army when they attempted to rsolve the situation militarily in the late 1980s.
      Also no love is lost when they think of Rajiv Ghandi’s killer (a Tiger suicide bomber).
      Add to the mix, India’s fear of LTTE tactics/materiel being used in one of India’s many low intensity insurgencies.

      I’ll continue this in a new post….theres so much Im missing out too :(

    7. Jay Singh — on 16th May, 2006 at 11:33 am  

      Prescott_Luva67

      Really good to read your perspective. What is the UK angle on this? Is the Tamil community in Britain mostly of Sri Lankan origin and do the LTTE have moral support in the community here?

    8. Prescott_Luva67 — on 16th May, 2006 at 11:34 am  

      Damn ’tis quite difficult to read ‘innit’.

      Oh well….

      China - Intersted in Trinco Harbour for the same reasons as the Americans.
      Also Sri Lanka has some of the finest Titanium deposits in the world. I remember reading a TIme mag article about Titanium’s importance way back in 1990. ‘Tis an integral component in military hardware. (My watch is titanium - such a pwetty metal!).
      Sri Lanka’s relationship with China also goes back a long long way - we’re on excellent terms and the Chinese provide much military hardware.
      Chinese restaurants are also the number one choice for Lankans when they eat out! (that doesnt have much impact on politics…then again it might!)

      Pakistan - A nation that has helped SL quite a bit. For trivia’s sake, Pres Musharaff decided to launch his coup shortly after leaving Sri Lanka having attended the Army’s 50th anniversary celebrations.
      Same interests as China (and the US).
      Trinco harbour would be of huge importance in any conflict with India. It depends on who plays the right cards at the right time.

      Norway - AHhhhh the most interesting of the bunch! I think they ll all have nervous breakdowns after trying to sort this out!
      I would rather the Brits got involved - they have a far better understanding of ethnopolitics than the Norwegians have but hey, ntohings perfect!
      My personal theory as to why the Norwegians really want the peace process to work out is so they can build their credentials as Global Peacemakers and thus suck up to America or any world power that has a problem.
      Got an issue? Who you gonna call?

      NORWAY!

      The Norwegians also have a great stake in the international maritime trade business. One of the key components in terms of globalisation is shipping!
      In return for sucessful conflict negotiation the Norwegians would get rights to the shipping trade.
      They’re an ambitious bunch, the trouble is that noone takes them seriously enough and that is something theyre trying to rectify.
      Their inexperience (in conflict negotiation) however is not something to be taken lightly…

      There is so much more to add, but I have an essay to finish and my red wine is going off :(

      Fooooood……

    9. Jay Singh — on 16th May, 2006 at 11:34 am  

      In terms of Tamils living in the UK, Canada etc I think there will be a general but hesitant support of the LTTE. Many of them left due to the events of 1983 where sinhalese thugs went on the rampage against innocent Tamils following the deaths of 12 soliders. The government dragged its heels until finally ordering police to shoot to kill the offending parties but that led to an enormous twisting and turning of events

      I missed that first time - sorry.

      Prescott_Luva67 you hear about Tamil gangs in London - do they have anything to do with the LTTE or are they just regular gangsters?

    10. SajiniW — on 16th May, 2006 at 11:41 am  

      Some of the London gangsters may have had Tiger connections in the past/been sympathisers who claimed asylum to make a living here.

      Others are just regular ‘economic’ gangsters trading on their ethnicity to keep refugee status.

    11. Jay Singh — on 16th May, 2006 at 11:52 am  

      I learnt alot off this thread.

    12. Prescott_Luva67 — on 16th May, 2006 at 11:58 am  

      What is the UK angle on this? Is the Tamil community in Britain mostly of Sri Lankan origin and do the LTTE have moral support in the community here?

      The LTTE are a listed terrorist organisation in the UK. They did enjoy quite a bit of moral and financial support from Tamils (and others) living in the UK, mostly due to the fact the SL Government never did its job properly.
      As of late, things have changed though, especially after Sept 11.
      The perception by non-Tamil brits is one I find a little odd though. I’ve spoken to quite a few who often ‘looked past’ the suicide bombings and child recruitment activities of the LTTE. Heck I dont know what direction they were looking for but I would expect the same critical approach extended to the Sri Lankan government (and by default the 18 million Lankan people) to be extended to the LTTE.
      That is happening gradually and the most marked change I can see is in the BBC.
      The british political and military establishment has often recognised the reality of the LTTE and tried to balance that with the need to pressure the SL Govt to promote more democratic means for Tamil groups but I fear vested interests cloud the issue somewhat.

      From a Sri Lankan’s point of view, all the hype about ‘War on Terror’ and stringent regulations concerning financial transactions etc are a good thing. As it would be for Colombians, Nepalese, Turks etc.

      The problems facing the authorities in Canada re:certain sections of the LTTE-linked diaspora are a lot worse. I’ll go into that later if I have time.

      As a disclaimer I want to add that every paragraph I have included in the above comments is an integral component in understanding the situation as a whole. I’m not just rambling even though it might seem like it :P I’ve spent the last 7 years discussing this with everyone from ordinary folks to diplomats and military personnel from many sides.
      I am also anything BUT anti-Tamil. My ex girlfriend was tamil, I have several close friends who are and I can safetly say that neither mine, nor any other family I know have ever had problems with each other. just so you know ;)

    13. Prescott_Luva67 — on 16th May, 2006 at 12:06 pm  

      Some of the London gangsters may have had Tiger connections in the past/been sympathisers who claimed asylum to make a living here.

      Others are just regular ‘economic’ gangsters trading on their ethnicity to keep refugee status.

      What Sajini said nails it. The Metropolitan Police onitor them closely because many have had weapons training and have seen violent combat in SL. This edges them a notch above most organised criminals. In Canada some of the worst gun-related crime is pinned on exLtte member gangs (not the majority of Tamils who, like I said, just wanna live peacefully).
      As far as intelligence services are concerned the arms and drugs the LTTE run through various front organisations are also problematic. The fighting may be confined to the north and east of Sri Lanka but the sphere of influence is worldwide , literally.
      I’ve even read US Customs and Drug Enforcement Agency reports on concerns they’ve had relating to smuggling rings operating out of South America that send shipments over to South Asia.
      Once again - theres a hellova lot going on, it is anything BUT a small , localised insurgency issue.

    14. raz — on 16th May, 2006 at 12:13 pm  

      Prescott, what do you think of this protest by UK Sri Lankans against pro-Tamil Tiger bias at the BBC?

      http://www.lankaeverything.com/vinews/education/20060516035147.php

    15. Prescott_Luva67 — on 16th May, 2006 at 12:14 pm  

      That should keep the Tigers busy :) The fuel air explosive bomb is a particularly devestasting weapon.

      The problem in terms of warfare is the collateral damage. Contrary to what might be portrayed the Sl military would rathern ot have civillians die. After all the whole point of them engaging the LTTE is to keep the country together rather than split. Tamil/Sinhalese/Muslim civillians all live (theoretically) under the the responsibility of the SL Armed Forces for whom the killing of civillians is a violation of its rules of engagement.

      Heres where the LTTE are smart. They build their camps adjescent to or even around civillian settlements. Human shields work wonders when an airstrike begins.
      During the ceasefire agreement however, the itnernational community get to looksee around certain camps and having civillians there doesnt look good on the Tigers. Naturally, they just move them back in case the shooting starts…dead civillains do wonders for one’s ’cause’.
      This is why many refugees are simply too scared to return home, theyve had enough of being caught up i nthe crossfire.

    16. Jay Singh — on 16th May, 2006 at 12:20 pm  

      Prescott_Luva67

      All of this analysis you provide is fascinating. But give us your opinion now - what is the endgame. How is this going to play out? Will the LTTE ever drop its weapons or is it now so ideologically commited to violence that it becomes a self-perpetuating machine regardless of conditions on the ground? How will peace come? Would it take an insurrection by Tamils themselves against the LTTE to do this? Or are they even beyond the opinion of their own people, who prefer peace to the kind of authoritarian cult of personality movement that the LTTE offer?

    17. Prescott_Luva67 — on 16th May, 2006 at 12:22 pm  

      Prescott, what do you think of this protest by UK Sri Lankans against pro-Tamil Tiger bias at the BBC?

      http://www.lankaeverything.com/vinews/education/20060516035147.php

      That protest was long overdue! In all fairness to the BBC their tone is changing but it has taken a LONG time.
      The news after the suicide bombing was what triggered the protest though - that got a bit skewy, especially with regards to the ’40 000′ civillains fleeing.

      Again, Ive met some of the BBC journos in SL, one minute they proclaim how lovely and peaceful things are and the next minute they jaw on about some rather surprising things.
      I respect that it is a difficult situation to report on, but personally, and after MUCH contemplation on the issue, I find that the BBC tend to give the LTTE and many other similar organisations a slightly favourable slant. That is unfortunate but such is the world.
      Im yet to see them call a suicide bomber who doesnt attack Western interests, a ‘terrorist’.

      It is a topic for another article though and Im kinda bummed out here!

    18. Geezer — on 16th May, 2006 at 12:25 pm  

      Prescott_Luva67 thank you for your insightful posts.

    19. Prescott_Luva67 — on 16th May, 2006 at 12:34 pm  

      But give us your opinion now - what is the endgame. How is this going to play out?

      I wish I knew exactly although Ive developed an instinctive feel for the way things go. Many ‘experts’ claimed it would be all out war after the attack against the Army Commander. I held my horses and war didnt break out.
      Even after the last blatent attack by the LTTE in which they were roundly condemned by the International Community all out war did not break out. There are daily deaths on all sides but there is still a chance for peace.

      The LTTE want to know whether they should fight it out and die in a ball of glorious flame or sue for peace. They are warriors - warriors want a solid answer. the SL Government for a long long time have had a very wishy washy attitude towards things, only now do they have a government that is willing to put its foot down and say ‘enough is enough, if we talk we talk, if you push we will push you back’. This is unfortunately the way power games play out. There is still much change for dialogue and certainly there are elements within the LTTE who would rather party at 5 star hotels like their Sinhalese, Muslim and Tamil political counterparts rather than fight in mosquito infested jungles for the rest of their days!

      You have the hardcore and the political favouritists within the LTTE and methinks they will ultimately decide on the outcome. We may see antoher breakaway like the REAL IRA but Prabarkaran is a lot more intelligent than the IRA banjo players. He choses his cards very wisely but is ultimately a man who thrives on military power, democracy is not something that favours him.

      I think most Tamils in SL will just stay under the umbrella of the SL government as they have done. It’s uncertainty all around and the next few weeks will be interesting to observe.
      Whatever happens we need firm commitment. Otherwise it looks like a long and protracted ‘Non-War’ in which civillians will continue to pay the price.
      Authority figures on both sides need to make a decision and stick with it sooner rather than later.
      The time for waffling is long gone…

      The LTTE will probably get an autonomous state- some kind of federal solution will ensue and they will be under the scruitiny of the Int community. Like I said, that isnt a happy ending if you’ve spent 25 years in the jungle fighting your ass off. I just hope it doesnt end in an all or nothing scenario and the ‘political’ factions within the Tigers prevail.

    20. raz — on 16th May, 2006 at 12:39 pm  

      “The LTTE will probably get an autonomous state”

      The unfortunate thing is this is the sort of thing they may well have got many years ago if they had bargained, instead of going for all out independence. 25 years of war, 65,000+ dead, just for something that could have been got by negotiations. Sad.

    21. Prescott_Luva67 — on 16th May, 2006 at 12:39 pm  

      HANG ON !!! Some important quotes regarding the suicide bombing all those weeks ago that I may have missed out in the lead article:

      It’s nice to see Kofi Annan thinking aloud:

      “The Secretary-General strongly condemns today’s atrocious suicide bombing…He reiterates that no cause can justify such acts of violence and expresses his condolences to the families of the bereaved and the Government of Sri Lanka.”

      -Statement from Kofi Annan http://www.un.org/News/ossg/sg/

      Here are some other misc. comments that highlight the Int. Community’s annoyance with the LTTE:

      From The Austrian Presidency of the European Union :

      “This appalling act of terrorism must not be allowed to threaten the prospects for peace in Sri Lanka,”

      The US Embassy Spokesman in SL[5] :

      “…it is an unacceptable act of terror, a clear provocation and escalation of violence.”

      Quite frankly I’m surprised at the strength of the condemnation. It is apparent that the somewhat sympathetic-to-the-LTTE-cause groupies are getting fed up. The International community rarely uses such strong language usually shirking from the word ‘terror’.

      Anyway…thats that for now! I’ve been fortunate to see this situation from several different sides…which is why each post is quite lengthy…

    22. Prescott_Luva67 — on 16th May, 2006 at 12:41 pm  

      Cheers JaySingh and Gezzer for your supportive comments!
      I’ll try and explain what I can as time allows!

    23. Sakshi — on 16th May, 2006 at 12:46 pm  

      These people make you puke.

    24. Jay Singh — on 16th May, 2006 at 12:52 pm  

      Prescott

      That language is only to be expected though, post 9/11, 7/7 etc etc.

      Could this current upsurge may be a fit of pique, or maybe it is related to internal dynamics within the LTTE? Prabhakar revving things up to re-assert his authority/relevance? Last dying gasps kind of thing? Someone like Prabhakar only knows about death and violence. What place would there be for him in the world of an autonomous federation? The role of minister for weaving jute sacks? These things move beyond any glimmer of righteousness their cause ever originally had to become about the ego and pride and selfish concerns of the players. That is where the LTTE now are, it seems to me.

    25. SajiniW — on 16th May, 2006 at 1:01 pm  

      I’d like to assume Prabhakaran will take a ‘father’ role, overseeing the proceedings whilst letting someone more polished, like Anton Balasingham take on the head honcho role.

    26. SajiniW — on 16th May, 2006 at 1:11 pm  

      Prescott - I got in touch with the BBC over their reporting over this piece -

      http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/4945176.stm

      ‘Recent reportage on Sri Lanka’s ethnic conflict bears considerable similarity to content reported on TamilNet, the world’s number one LTTE sympathiser website. Copy and paste hatchet jobs containing biased reporting using just the one source is not what the British public pay expensive license fees for.

      With your mention of ‘tamil bases’ - surely you mean all Tamil Tiger/LTTE bases as not all Tamils support the tigers. I believe 3/4 of the tamil population in Sri Lanka live OUTSIDE the area of conflict.’

      Here’s their reply…

      If I may explain, it is not always possible or practical to reflect all the different opinions on a subject within individual reports this, but our editors are charged to ensure that over a reasonable period they reflect the range of significant views, opinions and trends in their subject area.
      The BBC does not seek to denigrate any view, nor to promote any view. It seeks rather to identify all significant views, and to test them rigorously and fairly on behalf of the audience.

      It is also worth pointing out that although the majority of quotes in this particular report are from the Tamil Tigers, President Mahinda Rajapakse is also quoted:

      “I emphasise and caution that one should avoid mistaking our desire for peace and our responsibility to achieve it as a government, as weakness.”

      The report is also careful to use the terms ‘Tamil Tiger bases’ and ‘Tamil Tiger rebel bases’ rather than ‘Tamil bases’ as you state, although I appreciate that there is the possibility that this had been changed since you first read the report.

      You may be interested in the following BBC News Online reports which outline some of the reported attacks carried out by the Tamil Tigers:

      http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/4768329.stm

      http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/4936864.stm

      http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/4548590.stm

      Please be assured that your concerns have been fully registered on our daily audience log. This internal document will be made available to bbc.co.uk, BBC News teams and Senior BBC Management.

      Thank you again for taking the time to contact the BBC.

      I’m going to ask them why they’re afraid of saying ‘terrorist’ - if the government can do it, why can’t they?

    27. raz — on 16th May, 2006 at 1:17 pm  

      Sajini, I’m pretty sure the BBC has a similar approach to BLA terrorists in Pakistan. It seems only blowing up tubes in London gets you the T word.

    28. sonia — on 16th May, 2006 at 1:51 pm  

      “The International community rarely uses such strong language usually shirking from the word ‘terror’”

      oh really? i thought we used that word for everything nowadays - apart from state-imposed terror…

    29. Prescott_Luva67 — on 16th May, 2006 at 2:23 pm  

      oh really? i thought we used that word for everything nowadays - apart from state-imposed terror…

      Yes, but usually when it affects folks from the Developed /’Western’ world.

      Suicide bomber in London = ‘terrorist’
      Suicide bomber in SL = ‘rebel’

    30. sonia — on 16th May, 2006 at 2:55 pm  

      ah yes you’re right about that :-)

    31. Chris Stiles — on 16th May, 2006 at 5:03 pm  


      By the way what sort of support does the LTTE enjoy amongst the Tamil population?

      Much less than previously - a lot are quite embarrassed by them - certainly much less than in the late 80s, when I can recall hearing of an official function in the local town hall which featured a Tiger cavorting on stage holding an assault rifle.

      Of course, it’s more than it would be without various bouts of rioting in the 70s and 80s that went on whilst the Sri Lankan government looked the other way. A few stories along the lines of ‘They thought I looked Sinhalese and so they allowed me to go’, tends to have a radicalising effect. Memories fade with time though.


      Some of the London gangsters may have had Tiger connections in the past/been sympathisers who claimed asylum to make a living here.

      Others are just regular ‘economic’ gangsters trading on their ethnicity to keep refugee status.

      Those with direct Tiger connections tend to be a bit older these days - and so are mostly out of the gang scene. And so the gangs are no longer centred on localities over in SL, but rather ones in East/North/South London, etc.

      There’s a fair amount of ‘lost generation’ stuff going on - imo. Lots of the gangsters seem to come from backgrounds where they weren’t really parented properly for large periods of time in their early teens (usually due to being looked after by relatives other than their parents).

    32. Chris Stiles — on 16th May, 2006 at 5:05 pm  

      Just to make it clear where my comment started:


      Some of the London gangsters may have had Tiger connections in the past/been sympathisers who claimed asylum to make a living here.

      Others are just regular ‘economic’ gangsters trading on their ethnicity to keep refugee status.

      Those with direct Tiger connections tend to be a bit older these days - and so are mostly out of the gang scene. And so the gangs are no longer centred on localities over in SL, but rather ones in East/North/South London, etc.

      There’s a fair amount of ‘lost generation’ stuff going on - imo. Lots of the gangsters seem to come from backgrounds where they weren’t really parented properly for large periods of time in their early teens (usually due to being looked after by relatives other than their parents).

    33. mirax — on 16th May, 2006 at 6:16 pm  

      I have a tamil tiger supporter living right in the bosom of my family- the maid is SL Tamil and a fan of the LTTE. She has a highly idealised and romanticised view of the tigers, partly because, I suspect, her family does not live in Jaffna and hence, does not does live under the heel of the rebels. She is also young and has no memory of the alternative (peaceful)Tamil voices (mostly killed off by the tigers as noted above)- all she knows are the tigers as the ‘saviours’ of her people. She claims her extended family in the NE has suffered terribly at the hands of government forces but her own life in Colombo has been a peaceful and quite prosperous one.

      As a tamil myself (of Indian origin) I must say that the Indian Tamil diaspora could hardly give a damn about the tigers. They are not heroes. There is no support, emotional or material, for them. Our disaffected youngsters do not run off to tiger training camps to take up arms in the cause..:-)

      A few Tamil Nadu politicians grandstanded the tiger cause in the 1980′s/90s but that was it. That too ended pretty abruptly with the R Gandhi assassination. That is not to say that SL tamils do not have a legitimate cause - no, I don’t mean full independence- maybe limited autonomous rule. It is a real pity that the LTTE has wrested control of the tamil ’cause’. I think SL tamils may now be realising that the ruthless LTTE endgame is going to make them the ultimate losers.
      No, a Jaffna uprising against the tigers will not happen for the simple reason it is suicidal to go against the Tigers.

    34. Prescott_Luva67 — on 17th May, 2006 at 10:29 am  

      Yeah….
      http://news.bbc.co.uk/newswatch/ukfs/hi/newsid_4980000/newsid_4987700/4987754.stm

      pfffttt…Im surprised none of the protesters bothered bringing up the ‘terrorist’ terminology issue. I’ve been saying it for 6 longs years and they missed it :P

      Thanks for your comments Mirax and Stiles. I dont think anyone would be foolish enough to go up against the Tigers o ntheir own. Karuna would, if war broke out again he would definitely use their own tactics against them. Heck there are other factions within the LTTE that are likely revving to go, the reason being that Karuna broke the ‘spell’ that the organisation could never be fragmented.
      He represents the fact that no matter how disgruntled you are, theres always someone who’s a lot more cheesed off!

    35. mirax — on 17th May, 2006 at 3:52 pm  

      Maybe the best hope is that the LTTE eats itself up with factional fighting?

    36. Vikrant — on 17th May, 2006 at 4:03 pm  

      Sajini, I’m pretty sure the BBC has a similar approach to BLA terrorists in Pakistan.

      Not to mention your jihadi chums in Kashmir raz….

    37. Jay Singh — on 17th May, 2006 at 4:04 pm  

      That’s because the BBC is infested with Muslim Lovers :-)

    38. Vikrant — on 17th May, 2006 at 4:06 pm  

      did i mention that BBC actually stands for Bismillah Broadcasting Corpo. ;)

    39. Vikrant — on 17th May, 2006 at 4:15 pm  

      c’mon Jay where are u i’m waiting for more snide comments from you. did your boss catch you or what?

    40. Ravi4 — on 17th May, 2006 at 11:24 pm  

      Once again, I’m joining this conversation way too late – long after everyone else has had their say and left. Been too busy with work …

      This has been a really interesting thread. Prescott Luva’s comments have been particularly insightful. (Althoigh the image his moniker conjures up is pretty gruesome.)

      It’s not clear from this thread if any of the contributors are of Sri Lankan Tamil origin. As one myself, a few points are I think worth making:

      - Rajapakse came to power rejecting Tamil autonomy, promising to review the 2002 peace deal, questioning the role of the Norwegian monitoring mission, and making common cause with the repulsive nationalist JVP party (although eventually the JVP didn’t get any cabinet positions).

      - The Sri Lankan Govt is democratically elected. But there is a real problem with control over the security forces, responsible for violence and disappearances amongst the SL population. Violence against Tamils by paramilitaries, probably from Karuna’s LTTE splinter group with Govt support, is still a big problem. My family has heard reports of instances of military and paramilitary violence from people we still know in the North as recent as two weeks ago (attacks on university students, journalists, random people on the streets as well as general harassment, violence and ill-discipline from troops). Even the US State Dept, particularly anti-LTTE, reported concerns about the SL Govt. See:
      http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2005/61711.htm

      - There is still widespread SL Tamil support for at least very extensive autonomy for the North and the East, and a general preference for independence, even if there is also a definite war weariness. Although things in Sri Lanka are a lot better than they were in the 1980s and 1990s when many SL Tamils left the country, there is still a general perception (and I believe reality) of anti-Tamil discrimination, and wide distrust of all the main Sinhala dominated political parties. (Unfair towards Wikramasinghe in my opinion.) As far as I’ve been able to find out, no Tamils were involved in the protests about BBC reporting – though I may be wrong.

      - A number of the contributors to this thread have complained about the BBC’s failure to term the LTTE terrorists. I agree the LTTE should be called terrorists. But, as I’m surprised nobody’s pointed out, for some time the BBC has failed to term ANYBODY a terrorist, including the 7/7 suicide nutters, Islamic Jihad, Zarqarwi’s civilian slaughtering “resistance” etc, unless quoting somebody else. Putting this right was one of the major recommendations of a BBC Governors report of 2 May. See:
      http://www.bbcgovernors.co.uk/docs/reviews/panel_report_final.pdf

      I say all this because I felt the above contributions tended to paint an overly positive picture of the SL Government. But I don’t want my comments in any way to transplant SL’s stupid ethnic factionalism to this rather greyer, more rainswept Island.

      I agree wholeheartedly with the general condemnation of the LTTE in this thread and the general thrust of the analysis.

      A further point. This isn’t just a foreign policy news story. There’s a real UK angle.

      I understand most people of Sri Lankan origin resident in the UK are Tamils. Most of them rightly condemn the SL Government forces’ violence and brutality, and the hardening of the Government’s position on Tamil autonomy. Most see the UK Government’s position as too supportive of the Sri Lankan government and not critical enough of its abuses, and there’s something in that argument.

      But most Tamils here also seem to have a naively uncritical view of the LTTE and Prabakharam, in spite of their oft-demonstrated violent, intolerant and autocratic nature. Hearing some UK Tamils, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the LTTE was a misunderstood Social Democratic movement, instead of a virtually maoist, militaristic grouping with enormous personal power given to Prabakharam.

      Prabakharam’s disastrous decision to enforce (at gunpoint) a Tamil boycott of the November elections to help the extremist Rajapakse gain power and thus justify an LTTE return to war seems to have begun to stir some discontent amongst UK SL Tamils. Virtually everyone else has spotted this tactic for the transparently self-serving piece of cynical dirty politics that it is. Yet there has still hardly been an outcry against the LTTE leadership.

      Given Sri Lankan Tamils’ notorious educational (and class/caste) snobbishness – at least amongst the high profile middle classes here – I’m constantly amazed at how much blind faith they persist in placing in Prabakharam and his clique. A man most of them would not allow in their house, employment or welcome into their family by marriage in better circumstances is entrusted with the future of their “ancestral homeland”. The more stereotypical educated Tamil émigré Balasingham is clearly just a mouthpiece – he obviously doesn’t drive the LTTE’s political strategy. (If he does, then clearly he isn’t half as clever as he seems – sort of a Tamil Ming Campbell.)

      Should the Tamil “community” be doing more to push the LTTE leadership towards more democratic/pluralistic politics, full respect for the rule of law and due process, and particularly to give up suicide bombing, even if they do see the LTTE as a legitimate force for the protection of the Tamils in the North and East of the country? Shouldn’t they be pushing this agenda when contributing money to projects back in Sri Lanka, when going back there, or offering their services for free there? (as many young graduates do, taking financial and security risks that their parents would never dream of)

      Ironically – and here I know I’m exaggerating – might the very success of Tamil emigration which brings so many resources to the North have itself contributed to the weakness of the LTTE leadership? When most potential Tamil Nehrus, Jinnahs, Mandelas are doctors, accountants and lawyers in the UK, Canada and Australia, is it much surprise that a Prabakharam emerges as the dominant personality in the Tamil independence camp? (Not that we can or should turn back the immigration clock now.)

      I’m not asking Tamils to apply their reputed snobbishness to the LTTE. That reputation for snootiness is in any case to a large extent unfair. And caste, class and educational snobbishness is a wholly unacceptable way of addressing this (or any other) situation.

      But I would be happier if Tamils here made a bit more use of their intellect and common sense, attributes they’re rightly praised for, when it comes to thinking about and influencing events in the country that they or their parents originally came from.

      Although that shouldn’t mean we treat the Rajapakse Govt and the SL security forces as whiter than white either.

      There – off my chest. After everybody else has already left the room. And I bet nobody’s reading!

    41. Prescott_Luva67 — on 18th May, 2006 at 2:13 am  

      There – off my chest. After everybody else has already left the room. And I bet nobody’s reading!

      I read em all! Interesting stuff to go on ravi, if I have time to gather my thought I’ll reply!
      All the same thank you for your insights!

    42. Sunny — on 18th May, 2006 at 5:02 am  

      Great post. In fact I think it maybe worthwhile using that for a new post Ravi4, if you don’t mind.

      The only bit I don’t get is this:
      might the very success of Tamil emigration which brings so many resources to the North have itself contributed to the weakness of the LTTE leadership?

    43. mirax — on 18th May, 2006 at 5:39 am  

      Ravi,
      thank you for that very measured and temperate post.
      The key reason the SL tamil cause did not receive even a modicum of support from Indian Tamils in say, SE Asia, is that quite real snobbishness and aloofness of SL tamil immigrants here(and they have been here a long time). Sorry, even when class/caste considerations were equal, many ceylonese (they never called themselves tamils btw) refused to accept indian tamils into their families as marriage partners, breaking up quite a few love matches.
      That snobbishness was also apparent in the 1980′s when the cause of the poorest tamils in SL, that of the then largely stateless estate workers brought in by British, was wholly sidelined by the Tamil leadership.

      >>might the very success of Tamil emigration which brings so many resources to the North have itself contributed to the weakness of the LTTE leadership?

      He means that the LTTE leadership is crude and brutal because the refined, educated people - lawyers, doctors, accountants- have all fled overseas, Sunny, leaving just the dregs behind.

      I think that the SL Tamil diaspora may be quite quiescent with LTTE leadership because they have no intention of going back to SL for good. A gap year visit to Jaffna may be all that the rebel middleclass kids are willing to risk.

    44. Ananthan — on 18th May, 2006 at 7:09 am  

      Thanks for that post Ravi. The original post and the ensuing comments in this thread bothered me for a while because they really didn’t do justice to the perspective of SL tamils. For all the (entirely accurate) condemnation of the LTTE, there was little said about the government of Sri Lanka.

      I don’t intend that in a defensive sense, but to point out the reality. The crux of the issue is that the GoSL is no more trustworthy than the tigers. The GoSL and the armed forces are guilty of equally heinous brutality. HRW recently released a statement criticizing soldiers for standing and doing nothing while tamils were killed in the latest trinco riots. It’s the same old rock/hard place situation, who can SL tamils trust really?

      As Ravi said, the government is democratically elected, but the tamils (because of the tiger enforced boycott) didn’t participate. How can they view it as representative or in their interest to support it, especially considering the hard line Rajapakse took?

      I’m part of the generation that left the country at a very young age so I don’t feel it’s my place to comment at any real depth or with any authority about the situation there, but that’s my impression from what i hear and read. I really appreciate the comments by Prescott/Ravi though.

      “I think that the SL Tamil diaspora may be quite quiescent with LTTE leadership because they have no intention of going back to SL for good. A gap year visit to Jaffna may be all that the rebel middleclass kids are willing to risk.”

      I agree, and it’s pervasive. Also, that generation (the parents of my generation) were the ones who faced some of the harshest discrimination in education/other opportunities and had to leave to really make it. I think there’s a lot of bitterness and resentment that lingers because of that. It’s sometimes infuriating to know that people living comfortably in the west can fuel a conflict on the other side of the world, well out of harms way, and feel smug about it.

    45. Ravi4 — on 18th May, 2006 at 7:47 pm  

      Sunny - sorry for delay getting back on this - work. Go ahead and use my stuff for a new post if you still want.

      Interesting comments from Mirax and Ananthan.

      Mirax got it right about my comments about the impact of Tamil emigration. But that comment does display the kind of snobbishness that I mentioned. I’ll try to come up with a better phrase.

      Ananthan - rock and hard place, you got it right. But at least the SL Govt is subject to elections… You’re right about the harder attitudes of the older generation.

    46. Ravi4 — on 18th May, 2006 at 7:48 pm  

      By the way. look forward to Prescott Luva’s further thoughts.

    47. mirax — on 18th May, 2006 at 8:19 pm  

      This thread is so civilised and polite - imagine if this was Indo-Pak or hell, an Israel-palestine discussion! It is good thing that you guys are not carrying too much emotional baggage and that this is not a ‘fashionable’ cause like with the Palestinians where outside ‘supporters’ also become infected with bilious hatred of the other side. Cif and the guardian talkboards creep me out- the commentors are so partisan.

    48. Sunny — on 19th May, 2006 at 4:47 am  

      Haha Mirax!

    49. Vikrant — on 19th May, 2006 at 7:10 am  

      This thread is so civilised and polite - imagine if this was Indo-Pak or hell,

      I remember one post about Hindus being forcibly converted in Pakistan. 100+ posts in under 10 minutes…. good old day eh?

    50. Roger — on 19th May, 2006 at 11:41 am  

      “This is bad enough as it is, but actually, I do believe it was subsquently found that she WAS really pregnant. ”
      I think that The Tamil Tigers require their members to abstain from sex. Perhaps the suicide bombing was a punishment for being pregnant.

    51. mirax — on 19th May, 2006 at 11:46 am  

      >>I think that The Tamil Tigers require their members to abstain from sex

      This used to be the case, even marriage for the senior cadres was outlawed. Until the Great leader himself lapsed.

      >>Perhaps the suicide bombing was a punishment for being pregnant.

      Nothing the tigers do would surprise me much.

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