21 June, 2024


It Was Wrong To Label The LTTE As A Terrorist Organization

By Pitasanna Shanmugathas

Pitasanna Shanmugathas

Pitasanna Shanmugathas

The historical use of the word “terrorist” clearly indicates that the word is a political tool and is never used in its intended sense. According to political intellectual Noam Chomsky, if we apply the terrorism laws espoused by the United States against their own policies, we will find that the United States is the world’s leading terrorist state.

The United States has overthrown democratically elected governments in Latin America; destroyed Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War; destabilized the Middle East; conducts drone operations killing innocent men, women and children; the United States indefinitely detains individuals in Guantanamo Bay without due process, among several other egregious acts. The United States, despite committing such horrendous actions, is never labeled as a terrorist state.

The United States has used the word “terrorist” against Fidel Castro who sought to liberate his country by overthrowing a U.S.-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista. The United States labeled Nelson Mandela as a terrorist, and only recently did Mandela get removed from the terrorist list. The United States labeled Saddam Hussein as a “terrorist” despite the fact that during the 1980s, the United States was providing weapons technology to Saddam Hussein. Meanwhile, the United States supports one of the most radical nations in the Middle East—Saudi Arabia, which has killed innocent women and children in Yemen, and continues to terrorize its own citizens through brutal forms of punishment and executions.

prabhakaranIf we look at India’s action in Kashmir, India unlawfully occupies Kashmiri land, and stifles citizens’ right to voice their opinion for independence. India kills Kashmiri leaders who oppose the actions of the Indian forces, and injures Kashmiri civilians using pellet guns. However, India is never regarded as a terrorist state even though the superpower commits terrorist actions both domestically and abroad.

Lakshman Kadirgamar, Sri Lankan Minister of Foreign Affairs, made it his mission to travel to several countries and encourage foreign governments to proscribe the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) as a terrorist organization. This was completely the wrong approach. It should be acknowledged, first and foremost, that the LTTE did have legitimate grievances. However, the LTTE’s approach to tackling such grievances was immensely counterproductive and the Tamils are worse off now than they ever were before the civil war. Nevertheless, by labeling the LTTE as a terrorist entity it works to unjustly undermine those grievances.

When I interviewed Erik Solheim, the Norway-led peace negotiator between the LTTE and Sri Lankan government, he voiced disapproval of Kadirgamar’s actions. Erik Solheim cited that proscribing the LTTE as a terrorist organization caused foreign governments to disengage with Prabhakaran and the political leadership of the LTTE. Prabhakaran was the sole decision maker within the LTTE; as a result, direct engagement with Prabhakaran was a crucial factor in bringing a peaceful end to the civil war.

During the Indo-Lanka talks, Prabhakaran voiced frustrations against Rajiv Gandhi for undermining his authority and not directly negotiating with him. Subsequently, Prabhakran felt isolated and coerced by India and he lashed out and conducted an all-out assault against Indian Peacekeeping forces, and consequently innocent Tamils were the victims of the battle.

“If Prabhakaran had been able to speak with [leaders] in other nations from Europe, India, United States and other places it would have been a much better strategy,” Solheim stated. Due to the lack of direct engagement with Prabhakaran, Solheim stated, Prabhakaran’s views during the peace process were very narrow.

Anytime an organization is labeled as a terrorist entity, negotiations between the state and terrorist entity are automatically on an uneven playing field—where the superior power, along with its allies, attempts to undermine legitimate grievances. For example, legitimate grievances were undermined during negotiations between Israel-Palestine, with the Oslo Accords which scholars such as Norman Finkelstein asserted only worked to impose the Israeli status quo.

The breakdown of the peace talks and the designation of the LTTE as a terrorist organization by the European Union, United States, Canada, and much of the Western world caused Prabhakaran to feel isolated and he resorted to conducting an all-out assault. Consequently, the civil war ended in a bloody manner with an estimated 40,000 civilians killed during the final stages of the war. Egregious human rights violations were committed by both the LTTE and the Sri Lankan government during the final stages. The LTTE resorted to using its own civilians as human shields during the final stages of the war, with the LTTE shooting Tamils who fled rebel held territory.

Bob Rae and Erik Solheim, two individuals who played key roles during the peace process, stated that a good portion of the peace process was spent teaching the senior LTTE officials about the basics of federalism. LTTE senior leaders such as Thamilselvan and Col.Karuna were flown abroad to nations like France to learn about federalism. However, as acknowledged by both Bob Rae and Erik Solheim, this was completely useless because it was only Prabhakaran who was the sole decision maker within the LTTE.

A plausible reason why Prabhakaran blatantly rejected constitutional reforms such as the Indo-Lanka accord and the GL-Neelan package, and proceeded to kill those who proposed constitutional reforms was because Prabhakaran did not understand the necessity of federalism and ignorantly viewed separatism as the only answer. Erik Solheim, during my interview, stated that Anton Balasingham was an educated man who understood the value of federalism. This is clearly witnessed when Anton Balasingham, after Neelan Tiruchelvam’s killing, praised the original GL-Neelan package as workable and expressed regret over the missed opportunity for the LTTE to negotiate with the proposal. This is something Prabhakran never did. Solheim, furthermore, stated that arguments between Prabhakran and Balasingham were very common due to Prabhakaran’s narrow vision of the separatist ideology. If Prabhakaran had been directly educated on the principles and benefits of federalism, it could have paved the way for him to being more open to constitutional reforms as solution to the conflict.

Western nations needed to have directly engaged with Prabhakaran and taught him about what federalism was. Prabhakaran should have been flown out of the country, on diplomatic immunity, with Western leaders having directly engaged with Prabhakaran on the benefits of federalism. If Western leaders had directly engaged with Prabhakran in such a direct manner, the international community would have put immense pressure on the LTTE to accept a federalist proposal and LTTE front organizations could no longer state that Western governments were ignoring the grievances of the Tamil people

Nonetheless, this level of direct engagement with Prabhakaran did not occur.

Now that the civil war is over, in order to address the legitimate grievances of the Tamil people, the Sirisena government must further work to engage in negotiations with the Tamil political parties and devise a constitution that gives autonomy and devolutionary powers to the minorities while working to preserve the territorial integrity of Sri Lanka as a whole.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Latest comments

  • 17

    It is really sad to “read such nonsence” after 30 years of Terrorism in
    Sri Lanka, destroyed development, civilian lives and total collapse of economy of one of the poorest country of the world.
    The so called “TAMILS” origin from TAMIL NADU brought by the western colonialists in the past use the weakness of SINHALESE incapability to
    offer a suitable solution to the TAMIL CULPRITS.

    One and only solution to TAMIL PROBLEM is “ELIMINATION”.

    Thanks GREAT RAJPAKSE FAMILY again, was able to give a sign of “Sinhalese” reply to the “WORLD TERROR”.

    • 11

      M. Pathirajage

      “It is really sad to “read such nonsence” after 30 years of Terrorism in Sri Lanka, destroyed development, civilian lives and total collapse of economy of one of the poorest country of the world.”

      Terrorism didn’t stop development on the contrary the Sinhala only policies and Siri Mao’s stupid self sufficiency drive under her socialist policies not only stopped economic growth but reversed all improvement in formation of Human capital, Financial capital, Productivity, Specialization, trade and international trade, Entrepreneurial Culture, Innovation, Creativity, ……. limitless violence unleashed on unarmed civilians, destruction of cultural centres, employment in state sector (private sectors were severely curtailed) was restricted, ……………

      What is your problem?

      “The so called “TAMILS” origin from TAMIL NADU brought by the western colonialists in the past use the weakness of SINHALESE incapability to offer a suitable solution to the TAMIL CULPRITS.”

      Where did others come from? Did Vijaya bring all the Sinhalese from Bangladesh?

      You are spot on when you typed “weakness of SINHALESE”. When they refused to use their brain, it is a huge obstacle to improving their mental health.

      ” Thanks GREAT RAJPAKSE FAMILY again, was able to give a sign of “Sinhalese” reply to the “WORLD TERROR”.”

      When we have MR b***s carriers like you I sometimes wonder why MR clan stopped at 18 billion.

    • 6

      M. Pathirajage
      “One and only solution to TAMIL PROBLEM is “ELIMINATION”.

      the sooner you and people like you are eliminated ….

    • 10


      A good try blaming the Tamils for economic collapse of Ceylon, and you take the cake choosing to qualify the country as “one of the poorest”!

      Ceylon was one of the most prosperous, high-potential, shinning light of a country in this hemisphere, up until Banda chose to stop the progressive development and contribution of the Tamils, severely restricting the Tamil youth education and employment opportunities, hoodwinking the kavun kannos for a block vote inciting racial enmity.

      That is what my friend began the collapse of the once-proud and prosperous nation, from where even vastly developed nations of the west at that time chose to import technical expertise — professionals, doctors, lawyers, engineers, accountants and teachers.

      It was Band’s policy that by design put a stop to that educational capability of the then institutions, and the Governments that followed had to resort to sending their wives, mothers, sisters and daughters to wipe Arab backs to make the scantly Dinars, the only foreign exchange the country’s human resources could earn. What a collapse – not just economically, but more critically, even socially having had to lose all dignity in the World scene. Do you know what happened to Sri Lanka’s image – the country is identified as “maid-supplier” to the World – not just for Arabs any more – many are now even going to Bangalore and Madras!

      MR took it another step – he came to power promising 50,000 (or was it 500,000) “porin” jobs – and all you guys voted him in enthusiastically! How long did it take for you to realize the “porin jobs” were nothing more than more scrubbing of the Arab backs by your dearest women folks?!

      One suggestion – perhaps stay away from kavun for a year or so, – and may be a different yodakama would manifest.

  • 8

    Disagree. When a person or an organization insists that one support its objectives by putting a gun to ones head and threatening one with death if one does not comply….then that my dear boy…whether you like it or not….IS TERRORISM!!!…The 6th amendment is just that TERRORISM and your hero Piraphakaran was just that a TERRORIST…the objective is NOT what determines whether a person or organization is terrorist…it is the METHOD…and if you were a little older you may understand that.

  • 7

    Yeah !!! It is also wrong to label the Al-Qaeda and the Nazis as terrorists too !!!

    • 3

      Americans armed Al-Qaeda with Saudi Oil money. all three are terrorists.

  • 9

    To Pathirajagae

    Its funny that you told Vijaya didn’t bring anyone from Bangladesh. But you forgot to mention how and where Vijaya came from. This is not only belong to Sinhalese. It’s a multicultural nation. Before Tamils go to Tamil nadu, I think Sinhalese go to North India first because Vijaya came from there. Isn’t it? Then Vijaya brought girls from South India. So, even half of them should go to South India like Tamil nadu.
    I hope that’s how mahawamsa told.

    I am not personally having any angry with Sinhalese. I have friends. But your thoughts make me to write this. If any doubt please read the whole srilanka history. Then only you will realise it’s a multicultural country.

  • 5

    Trough out the history of our country what SOLI OR PANDYAN OR CHOLAN OR TAMIL did was to disturbed and destroyed progress of our nation. cholan and pandyan occupied and some of their kings ruled this land for many years but nothing had done for the progress of this country. did they build any single irrigation canal in dry zone or north and east cradle of Sinhalese civilization. they looted and destroyed our heritages and wonders built by Sinhalese kings under their guidance.

    Under colonial era elite class of minorities enjoyed all the facilities. economically their progress was very high. minorities even restricted birth rights of Sinhalese at that. forced conversion of innocent Sinhalese lived in north and east in registering as Tamils and forcing Tamil names were order of the day by privilege Tamil officials. no licenses granted for chena cultivation unless Tamil identity was accepted. education sector entirely controlled by Tamils with the help of Christians

    After independence successive governments.tried to grant equal opportunities for all. in that process Tamil elite class lost privileges they enjoyed. That was interpreted as genocidal discrimination and got Tamil youth to revolt against government spreading traditional historical home land myth .Tamil youth were brain washed by those elite class politicians that all the hardships due to Sinhalese discrimination and only solution is to kill them all. that is where terrorism came up.yes fighting against government may not be a terrorism but fighting against one community for destruction of all of them is terrorism. that was what LTTE did and its apologists like this writer are doing. as such LTTE is a terrorist organization and its members are terrorists.

  • 15

    Most of the fools who are trying to shout down this writer are the supporters of the vile Sinhala regimes since independence who were responsible for the most horrendous acts of barbarity perpetrated against the Tamil civilians . These scoundrels have forgotten the anti- Tamil race riots of 1958,1961, 1977 etc where innocent Tamils including Children,elderly and women were butchered , young Tamil children were burned in boiling tar drums, temple priest i.e. Panadura chopped to death and thrown in the Temple well, not to mention the young Tamil girls and women raped and brutalised by the Sinhala Govt aided thugs. All these things happened in Ceylon/ Srilanka long before there was any LTTE or Pirabakaran. These anti-Tamil pogroms gave birth to Pirabakaran .

    A word of Warning for the Sinhala Racists who have commented in this forum, You sow the wind and you will reap the world wind. Ltte may have been destroyed but Tamils are not defeated, we are waiting and watching every move of you racists, we have patients but it may run out one day, be warned.

    • 1

      Somebody is trying to do a copy-cat job on my pen name. I dis-associate myself with this comment. With respect, I advise this guy/gal to try to be original – for starters.


    • 3

      you are right on my friend, I have same opinion about why civil war happened in Srilanka, Sinhala people have no idea that every action has equal or greater than equal reaction, they can’t get away with murders with impunity forever. VP may be dead but he sow millions of seeds to fight back in the future.

  • 10

    Whether you like it or not or the world likes or not. Velupillai PRABAHARAN is regarded as the National Leader of the Tamils. He is a freedom fighter like Nelson Mandela, fighting for the freedom of his oppressed people. One man’s terrorist can be another man’s Freedom fighter. LTTE would have done some mistakes, as it happen in other Organizations fighting for freedom. As a whole LTTE is not a terrorist organization. The world demonized the LTTE for some reason or other. But you can see what is happening in the North and East after LTTE. Drugs, rape, robbery, under an army of occupation.
    The most disciplined organization in the world is LTTE.

    • 9

      These are the bastards who hid behind Tamil women and children. These are the heroes who sent brainwashed women to blow themselves up. These are the saviours who killed more Tamils than the military. You can brainwash your kids in Toronto and get them to wave the Tiger flag but when they grow up they will learn the truth and hate you for what you have done.

  • 7

    Since this article invited more 200 than responses from readers, he must be telling the truth after all, truth hurts most people.

  • 2

    I have just one piece of advice for this writer. Look after your balls… they are vulnerable! Hold on to them dearly.

Leave A Comment

Comments should not exceed 200 words. Embedding external links and writing in capital letters are discouraged. Commenting is automatically disabled after 5 days and approval may take up to 24 hours. Please read our Comments Policy for further details. Your email address will not be published.