20 October, 2017

Sri Lanka: Democracy And Terror

By Shlomi Yass

Shlomi Yass

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) was a secular, nationalist terrorist organization active in Sri Lanka from 1976 until May 2009. The LTTE demanded the establishment of an independent Tamil country in the north and north-east of Sri Lanka, following the systematic discrimination perpetrated by the Sinhalese majority (Buddhist), against the Tamil minority (Hindu).

Initially, the LTTE acted on a small scale. As the level of violence increased, they formed a military-like command structure, and, at their peak, controlled 5800 square miles and consisted of approximately 30-35,000 members. The LTTE is the only terrorist organization to have successfully assassinated two world leaders (India’s Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991 and the President of Sri Lanka Ranasinghe Premadasa in 1993). Furthermore, the LTTE killed numerous politicians, military officials, academics and intellectuals.

At the onset of the final campaign in January 2009, the military took control of the LTTE’s active capital, Kilinochchi. As the LTTE retreated, they used thousands of trapped civilians as human shields and reportedly shot at civilians trying to flee. Despite heavy international pressure, prompting the government to designate safe zones for civilians, repeated shelling continued to penetrate those zones. The fighting continued until May 16, 2009 at which time the military took full control of LTTE-controlled area.

Decisions

Ending the reign of LTTE terror was the result of a decisive decision taken by Sri Lanka’s President Mahinda Rajapaksa, and members of his government. There were several factors leading to the President’s decision. First, Sri Lanka is a social democracy, thereby allowing it to use means that liberal-democracies would not. Second, every previous attempt at negotiating between the government and the LTTE failed. Third, years of violence severely crippled the Sri Lankan economy and fourth, on-going terror coupled with the fear that the LTTE would acquire sophisticated weapons harmed their legitimacy.

It seems, however, that the most significant factor was the President’s decision to use the same means as the LTTE. In an interview I conducted with Donald Perera, the former Sri Lankan Ambassador to Israel, he stated “when the government finally realized that the terrorists were ruining the country and that every time someone left home they did not know if they would return, the President decided to wipe them out.”

Terrorism

Despite using the word “terrorism”, there is not one universally agreed upon definition. However, a majority of definitions of “terrorism” contain several similarities: aspects of violence and power, political aspects, a component of fear and psychological influences and a civilian aspect. Dr. Boaz Ganor has suggested defining terrorism as “the intentional use or threat to use violence against civilians or against civilian targets, in order to attain political aims”.

As seen in the case of Sri Lanka, the lack of a universal definition of terrorism diminishes the ability to define uniform standards for assigning responsibilities to both state and terror group actors, for more effectively countering terrorism and in defining the legal boundaries in such situations, etc.

Terrorism as a Response to Terrorism

The LTTE posed a challenge to the authority of the government and an actual threat to the military. Besides the LTTE’s political arm, their military arm included sea, air cyber and land units as well as units of children and women. According to the Los Angeles Times, the LTTE carried out more suicide bombings than Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Al Qaeda combined.

Compared to the LTTE’s tactics, some of the government’s means in response included: preventing media coverage, ignoring the United Nations and human rights groups as well as isolating and perpetrating fear upon the Tamil population. Between 1983 and 2009, thousands of civilians died and hundreds of thousands were displaced.

Legitimacy

Why were the LTTE perceived as the “bad guys” whereas the government the “good guys” when both sides used violence against citizens for political aims – meaning terrorism? The answer might lie in the limited notion that sees the existence of terrorism as relying on only two variables – motivation and capability. This presumes that in order to effectively fight terrorism only these two variables need to be addressed.

However, as the LTTE possessed both motivation and capability, they lacked a third component – legitimacy. Contrary to the LTTE, the government presented a single and unified approach on all levels and leveraged the failures of all prior negotiations as a justification to generate an aggressive campaign of legitimacy both domestically and internationally. Until 2007, the LTTE was considered as a terrorist organization by 32 countries. Hence, despite the pressure and criticism from the United Nations and human rights groups, Sri Lanka was not considered a state-sponsor of terrorism.

In conclusion, even though the LTTE, after 30 years of bloodshed, did not achieve their ultimate goal, in order for the Sri Lankan government to maintain stability, they must recognize the basic demands of the Tamil population. Further, they must allow the Tamil population to re-enter political life, and reduce the insecurities felt by the Tamils through integrating them as citizens with full and equal rights.

*The author has a master’s degree in government-counter-terrorism and homeland security, and is an intern at the Military and Strategic Affairs Program, INSS.

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Latest comments

  • 0
    1

    Ok
    when the government finally realized that the terrorists were ruining the country and that every time someone left home they did not know if they would return, the President decided to wipe them out.”
    Now the same thing is happening why people can’t wipe the government by election
    In Sri Lanka there is a family terrorism is going og and no way to get a fair election in this country

  • 0
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    Any organisation/regime that destroys lives of innocent civilians must be condemned irrespective of what their objective is. The freedom fighters must use every peaceful and diplomatic means to liberate their land and use force only to defend against the invaders.

    • 0
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      Be careful in glorifying an Israeli military analyst!

      You know what Muslims are going through thanks to them. We don’t want to invite them AGAIN to SL. Remember 1985 Kathan-kundi riot? Who planned it? Premathasa sent them packing and paid the price. :(

    • 0
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      If scriptures of a religion degrade followers of other religions as vile animals that religion must be condemned publicly.

  • 0
    1

    There is nothing new in this article. Why is Colombo Telegraph wasting space on this type of articles which sheds nothing new on the LTTE phenomenon? It may be good for a foreign journal that has a non-Sri Lankan readership but not for one like Colombo Telegraph that exclusively deals with Sri Lankan political issues and one with a very knowledgeable readership on Sri Lankan affairs.

    • 0
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      I have to agree, kind of waste of space

  • 1
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    Dear Shalomi Yass,

    Thank you for a very good summary of the events.

    President Mahinda Rajapaksa took the right decision as a a true leader to wipe out the terrorist racist Tamil organization LTTE. All Sri Lankan’s should be grateful for that. However. read on…

    “following the systematic discrimination perpetrated by the Sinhalese majority (Buddhist), against the Tamil minority (Hindu).”

    “The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) was a secular, nationalist terrorist organization active in Sri Lanka”

    NEED Correction to was a RACIST TAMIL nationalist organization.

    However, you only barely touched the CORE problem.” Why did the 2004 Asian Tsunami swell the seas and kill people in the coastal areas? Of course it was the sea water that did the killing and the damage. But what was the CORE cause or problem? It was the undersea “Earthquake” at around 9.2 Richter Scale.

    So it was the Sinhala Buddhist Racism and Chauvinism the CORE problem, the cause “Earthquake” that is grilled to Sinhala Buddhists and the writings and Myths of Mahawamsa by Monk Mahanama in the 5th Century AD, in order to preserve Buddhist Monk Hegemony. You see it today as well.

    The problem with the current President, the SAME President, is that he is following double standards, or is a coward now giving into a few yellow robed “Sinhala Buddhist Monks” BBS, Sinhala Ravya, etc. that has nothing to do with the teachings of Buddhism.

    So, we need to call a spade, a spade, and call the President, Mahinda Rajapaksa, a Coward because he is not doing his job of maintaining law and order.

    The sea level rise was the reaction by the Tamils, the LTTE and that resulted in the Tamil Nationalism and and Racism AFTER the Sinhala Buddhist Racism. As a young boy I have seen, Buddhist Monks, attacking Tamils and Tamil Shops in 1958. Just Google Riots in Sri Lanka, especially Black July 1983.

    Now the President is acting like a coward. There was another coward, called Prime Minster SWRD Bandaranaike, a coward, who was shot and killed by a monk in 1959. He was a coward in 1958 and the then Governer General had to step in to do the coward’s Job.

    Read

    Tarzie Vittachi’s “Emergency ’58” Re-Visited

    http://www.thesundayleader.lk/2010/06/27/tarzie-vittachi%E2%80%99s-%E2%80%9Cemergency-%E2%80%9958%E2%80%9D-re-visited/

    Excerpts:

    For the last year, we have had a situation where the armed forces of this country, having doused a conflagration of significant proportions, the government of the day was afforded the opportunity to do those things that could have ensured that there would be no recurrence of that horror at a later time. But, it seems that the politicians of this land didn’t learn anything then and aren’t giving any signs of doing so now.

    After 1958, politicians of every stripe proceeded to re-ignite the fires of racism despite their experience of the terrible destruction that would ensue. They are doing that again, seeking to provide “respectability” to that effort by talking about a homogenised society where the obvious language, religious and other specificities that are the historical reality of this country are to be ignored.

    http://www.worldcat.org/title/emergency-58-the-story-of-the-ceylon-race-riots/oclc/582786531

    Emergency ’58 : the story of the Ceylon race riots

    Author: Tarzie Vittachi

    • 1
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      What do you mean President Rajafucka took the right decision? Does that mean the killing of more that 40,000 innocent civilians by the SL government is right? LTTE wern’t the bad guys, The Sinhala government is the real terrorists here. This burgher Shoami Yass son of a b___ doesn’t seem to know the true facts and knowledge about the LTTE. Srilankan government made LTTE look like terrorist in real life The Srilankan government was the real terrorists. Destroyed thousands of Tamil houses and killed innocent Tamil civilians from the North part of Srilanka. That is the whole reason why the Tamils took arms to defend themselves. What do the Tamil tigers get for defending their people? They been categorised as terrorists? Wdh. This world has gone crazy to believe this bullshit Srilankan government.

      • 0
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        Bull-shit Tamil tigers!

        Just look at the forehead of the tiger in the LTTE/Tamil flag.

        The tiger wears dried bull-shit (or is it cow-shit?). Either way it is made out of bull dung or cow dung dried called Vibhuthi!!

        • 0
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          You blady Mooselimb [Edited out]

        • 0
          1

          Fathima,

          Please refrain from insulting Hindu-worn symbol, Vibhuthi. It is called holy ash, and respected by hundreds of millions of Hindus worldwide.

          CT,

          Please ask Fathima to apologize and withdraw her statement. I don’t think this is a forum to insult religions and their symbols, beliefs, etc.

          By the way I do not belong to any religion.

        • 0
          0

          Fathima Fukushima

          “Either way it is made out of bull dung or cow dung dried called Vibhuthi!!”

          Hindus pray to cows, but your husband married one.

        • 0
          0

          Fathima Fukushima

          Hindus worship cows,

          in your case you are married to one

          or your husband is married to one.

      • 0
        0

        Definitely, MR made the right decision to wipe out the racist, terrorist LTTE thugs. I would have done the same if I were the President. The 40,000 figure is something the supporters of LTTE have to deal with. Those small brainers who chose to go to war, wanted Sinhala blood spilled, have to explain their actions to the relatives of THEIR dead. That is their ACCOUTABILITY, 40K or 40M dead is their business.
        How can the author Yass describe the LTTE as secular, when the LTTE was racist and killed 70,000 Muslims in cold blood, and innocent Sinhala women and children by ripping their intestines?

      • 0
        0

        Tamil Tiger,

        “Does that mean the killing of more that 40,000 innocent civilians by the SL government is right? LTTE wern’t the bad guys,”

        No question that there were innocent civilians, and LTTE terrorists among them, because the LTTE cowards were using civilians as used as human shields.

        Does that mean the killing and expelling of 100,000 innocent Muslims by LTTE is right? “LTTE wern’t the bad guys?Bullshit.

        LTTE were terrorists. Period. They fit the definition, more than the SL Govt.

  • 0
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    Just like how the Israeli government allows Palestinians their homelands and governance!! :)

    Hamas – the elected representatives of the Palestinian minority – is banned as a terrorist organization. But SL is yet to ban the TNA.

  • 0
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    Glad to see people using my invention – Rajafucksha.

  • 0
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    MR saved the country.
    So he owns the country
    and he know what is good for country better than anybody else.

    • 0
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      Sumith

      Mahinda doesn’t need the use of toilet papers anymore, since you are there to clean his fat a-ss

    • 0
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      Sumith and your ilk are brainwashed. MR ^s regime succeeded elemination of the ltter rebells within the country and all these are not secret. This was a collective task – synergies worked on anhilation of tamil reblells with unaccountable numbers of innocent civil folks.

      Be honest, if any other leaders had the same agenda, would not they have done the same ? CBK and others were not radical and crime minded to destroy civil folks together with terrorists.

      In Post War scenarios, incidents like for example protests against water contaminations were also handled by Rajapakshe killing 3 unarmed youth…. do you the ilk thank to Rajapakshe for that too ?

      It was not the magical powers of Rajapskshe that helped eleimintation of tamil rebells but those rebells were already weakeneded to that time. And the US and India took the lead in winning the war. There are enough evidences there – Army commanders that were in the filed in the last phase of the war – are not given high position in UN (positions of which definitions were not known to anyone before). If Americans are wholehearted with long over due war crime investigations, they could long have interviewed Shravinda Silva, SF, Gotabaya and MR again and again. They have deliberately avoided doing so. This is the evidence for all of us – to see clearly that it was not MR but the US and India were the lead in destroying tamil rebells in SL.

      • 0
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        CORRECTIONS:
        appologies… Army commanders that were in the filed in the last phase of the war – are given high position in UN (positions of which definitions were not known to anyone before).

  • 0
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    Yass appears ignorant of the killings of batches of tamils since 1954 culminating in the country-wide pogrom in July 1963 which led to tamil armed militancy,with formation of the LTTE.

    • 0
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      Justice

      Correction: 1958 and 1983.

      “Yass appears ignorant of the killings of batches of tamils since 1958 culminating in the country-wide pogrom in July 1983 which led to tamil armed militancy,with formation of the LTTE.”

      Wellcome to the Land of the Terrorists, the Dhamma Deepaya, the Curse of Lanka, the the promoters of Monk Hegemony, so that the people can attain Nirvana = Nibbana =Extinction.

    • 0
      0

      You got your dates wrong! The violence was started by Tamils in 1958 and 1983. The response was perhaps disproportionate, but cetainly ugly and swift. Lets not make the same mistakes again, brother!

  • 0
    0

    Everyone can simply understand that this is not a balanced article. What we can see here that this is an operation “winning the hearts and minds” of the world nations to save a good image from the genocide against Tamils. These messages try to justify these following facts of government side : the government side massacres, systematically targeted civilians in the “safe zones” and the rapes against Tamil girls and the tortures/killings of surrendered ex LTTE members/ supporters and the land crapping, intense Sinhalization in Tamils’ traditional homeland, changing the traditional Tamil villages’ names into Sinhala names, abductions and more and more … you can read in daily news the abuses and human rights violations against Tamil ethnic people… in shortly a silenced and modern systematic genocide against Tamils. Yes, LTTE killed some SL paramilitary men, traitors and few politicians who made number of crimes against civilians and social with the fullest support of SL government. After every killing of the menace the Voice of Tigers radio of LTTE would announce about their crimes. But what is the fact that the LTTE’s attacks were only towards military targets, not civilian targets. There might be a few accidents but obviously that wouldn’t be a civilian targeted. In fact, it is 4 years passed since LTTE had been militarily defeated, but what is the exact reason that you have to speak about LTTE now. You better to speak about the ongoing silenced and systematic genocidal process against Tamil ethnic and population in their historical homeland in SL if you would like to work for the Truths and humanity … ** It’s unfortunate that Tamils are suppressed in all means … by the media and propaganda works also ….**

  • 0
    0

    I wish powerful voices like M.A. Sumanthiran would have been around in the 1970’s because the LTTE might not have found it necessary to unite around a Marxist like Prabhakaran. I blame Sinhalese nationalism after the British left for giving rise to the war. The wounds from the war can heal and Sri Lanka can unite, but I don’t think the present regime there can achieve it. The present regime has won the war, but has failed miserably to win the peace. Sri Lanka is headed down a very bad slope and is in danger of losing its democracy. I hope people see that and do not allow it to happen. There are serious issues with fundamental freedoms like media freedom. It appears the rule of law is in danger to. I hope that the present regime loses its grip on power. Sri Lanka needs people who will restore it to its former glory. The day is coming…..

    • 0
      0

      You seem to be a strong fan from Sumanthiran. But he is not matured enough to face all the challenges.

      Like the Sajith Premadasa to be chosen as the leader of UNP. I have no doubt, I wish myself as a Sinhalese, that Sumanthiran could be elected to lead tamil community and then even become srilanka^s obama in the future. But it is long way ahead of him.
      No doubt, Sumanthiran is multiple times intelligent than any muslim leaders that represent their community. See, Hakeem is our minister of Justice, he is no seen anywhere even if young boys are gunned down by orders of their regime. Can you imagine what a country we belong to.

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