By Rehan Fernando –
On one hand, terrorism can be defined as the unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims. On the other hand, it is a violent operation that is being well organized consciously, willingly, and voluntarily. Wherefore, terrorism must not be a part of any human behavior for any reason for it harms and injures humanity in every field. However, terrorism as a term cannot be restricted to merely armed struggles. It is being used today in many other forms and formulas. In my opinion, Covid-19 is an act of terrorism widespread by some nations and killing millions of people. Apparently, it seems to be a pandemic, but we know how it emerged and through what hands it was spread.
The usage of terrorism in Sri Lanka, particularly, has many forms. Generally, Sri Lankans refer to Velupillai Prabhakaran if any discussion is held on terrorism. However, some major incidents that happened a couple of years ago have proved Prabhakaran was not the only person who is responsible for terrorism in the state. There are many other factors to be taken into serious discussion. In this article, I wish to bring out some essential points in which I also want to prove what terrorism in Sri Lanka is.
Terrorism in Sri Lanka
This is a crucial area to be discussed. The reason is that many Sri Lankans ignore this discussion willingly and consciously but they misinterpret the same term without proper rereading of history. Who will agree with the fact that the very first approach of terrorism started with SWRD Bandaranaike with his Sinhala superiority formula? That decision has turned the basic spirit of this country upside down. The struggle for independence from British authorities was a collective struggle. Some Muslim and Tamil leaders too tirelessly put their efforts. The Tamil language is a part and parcel of this country. Therefore, both Sinhala and Tamil languages must be in an equal position. How can one language takes an upper hand and be over dominative? The decision taken by Bandaranaike is an act of terrorism forcefully done in history, and its repercussion is on stage even today. That was a classic instance of “cold-terrorism.”
Secondly, 71’ insurrection was the starting point of terrorism geared by an armed struggle. It was a clear military strategy organized by the People’s Liberation Front [Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna – JVP]. It was also a clear theory of revolution of Rohana Wijeweera completely promoting an option with arms. So, terrorism with arm struggles began in Sri Lankan history with 71’ insurrection. How can then Prabhakaran’s name be remembered or referred to as the very first man who is responsible for Terrorism? The burning of the Jaffna Public Library took place on the night of June 1, 1981. It was well organized by Sinhalese and with the direct support of the central government then. Who can deny that act of terrorism? Or who can ignore what happened Jaffna library as an act of terrorism? Who can simply bury the memories of Black-July in Sri Lanka, which was voluntarily brought on to the stage by the same government? These are clear pieces of evidence for terrorism in Sri Lanka. Thus, Prabhakaran comes later with his counter-violence, which is the terrific answer to the Sinhala majority. He uses the same terrorism to answer Sinhala superiority and its formula of the regime.
Amidst all these events, terrorism in Sri Lanka takes a new shape with the April-21 Easter attack. A group of young Muslims came forward to express their fundamentalism and revenge from innocents and killed nearly 300 men, women, and children. Until this brutal event, Tamils were labeled as killers or terrorists. In the Southern area, the majority of Buddhists considered every single Tamil as a “tiger” [since the movement of Prabhakaran titled “Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam”]. However, the April-21 attack revealed another group of terrorism. The central government and opposition parties continued to manipulate within the premises of this attack. It was right after 10 years of the end of the so-called war, this group of Muslims attacked and widespread terrorism in a different gesture.
I do not think that somebody can stop at this junction speaking of terrorism in Sri Lanka because the real act of terrorism has taken place after 2009. Rajapaksa regime plays a game through militarization and colonization in the country, which is for me the most dangerous terrorism that I have ever seen. Thus, the horrible part of this story is that many Sinhalese promote and willingly support this family-terrorism in every single election. The post-war phase, therefore, is dreadful and horrifying terrorism, which exists under the carpet of democracy in this county.
Fire underwater [LLRC as another form of LTTE]
Mahinda Rajapaksa, pretending and manipulating his so-called Sinhala-Buddhism established Lesson Learned Reconciliation Commission [LLRC] just after the end of the 2009 armed struggle. But it was a crystal clear manipulation to satisfy international communities to get rid of war crimes more professionally. It is apt to see through the words of Bishop Rayappu Joseph who prepared a counter-report to LLRC. Those words remind and show us of the wrong turn of the so-called reconciliation commission.
Based on information from the Kacheris of Mullativu and Killinochi about the population in Vanni in early October 2008 and the number of people who came to government-controlled areas after that, 146,679 people seem to be unaccounted for. According to the Kacheri, the population in Vanni was 429,059 in the early part of October 2008 (Refer Annex 4 and 5). According to UN OCHA update as of 10th July 2009, the total number of people who came out of the Vanni to government-controlled areas after this is estimated to be 282,380 (Refer Annex 6)
Who can deny the fact of what happened to the remnant according to the document? There is no proper account of those lives until today. Who can still justify the fact that ‘it is not terrorism’? Bishop’s report further reveals the gravity of extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, physical disability of ordinary people, traumatization, forced colonization, displacement, and so on. What LLRC aimed for is nothing but a mere process to mislead international communities and hypocritically satisfy local groups. Today, the word “reconciliation” cannot be used. The militarization is such that the usage of that word has been forcefully replaced by so-called “development.” The state has hypocritically and professionally proved or rather shown the end of the armed phase of the war, yet all other activities against Tamil civilians take place at different levels. LLRC has promoted the state regime mentality, especially through re-colonization. The usage of this word colonization itself is a clear form of terrorism because that took place on three occasions in history; such as during the period of British in the 1920s and 1930s, under the regime of JR Jayewardene: the border villages were introduced, and post-war is happening even today.
The manipulated armed struggle for so-called freedom in this country was over in 2009. It was an ethnic issue and civil war created for mere political agendas. Different governments and even some leftist parties established an infrastructure for nationalism and gave an impression of a saving of the Sinhala nation from external forces called “terrorism.” However, in reality, terrorism was established in the country and promoted by every central government. The denial of national productions due to neo-colonial policies, low standard of education, promoting nationalism, poverty in the country, instability of government, manipulation of the economy and cultural development, religious fundamentalism, supremacy and superiority, language and cultural domination, and so on are some forms for terrorism in the country today. In history, the LTTE movement emerged from nowhere, but it was well-formed even within the so-called nationalism. Several times Prabhakaran’s activities were supported by certain executive presidents in this country. How can then only Prabhakaran be accused of terrorism and as the man behind all forms of terrorism?
It is apt one more point to be elaborated. Terrorism of the state in Sri Lanka has been well maintained and continued by some educated persons at times while many other useless and meaningless decisions were taken by nationalists. Tamil peoples’ struggle for liberation was not an armed struggle at the beginning. It was also shaped by the non-violent resistance of Mahatma Gandhi. Therefore, the Tamil struggle was peaceful until Prabhakaran opted for an armed struggle and guerilla fights. However, armed struggles are over by now [it does not mean it is entirely finished, there is still a possibility for an ethnic conflict through arms], yet the conflicts that are promoted by the state today through various forms of nationalism provide enough pieces of evidence for terrorism.
Mahatma Gandhi formed satyagraha for the liberational struggle of India. Gandhi was not a monk or a religious priest but he was convinced of a religious path that could lead him toward a new spirituality, especially within the premises of his struggle toward independence for India. He was an ordinary man who did extraordinary work. His satyagraha was well-formed by the teaching of Hinduism, Jainism, Christianity, and Buddhism. Gandhi’s whole work was misinterpreted by some people and today Pakistanis do not like to remember him. It was a superfluous attitude that misleads people. The point here is that if Gandhi could fulfill such a massive responsibility for the whole of humanity through a non-violent act, how about so-called religious people, and what sort of mission could be accomplished? Such religious people preach so many teachings of their religions and practice nothing; instead, often they promote violence. Sri Lanka is one best example of religious violence, which I prefer to name “religious terrorism.”
Primarily, some Buddhist monks have publicly behaved violently. Intentionally such behavior was to promote Buddhism, but the joke is that Buddhism as a philosophy or as a way of life has never promoted violence. Buddha had never been a man who dealt with armed struggles to show his path, instead; he preached and showed a way of kindness. Certain Buddhist monks have even formed various sects to promote Buddhism through their dominated public behavior. This type of mechanism is openly supported by any government in Sri Lanka and ordinary Buddhists too silently bear witness to such violent activities. Burning of Christian churches, public punishments for innocent Muslims, TV programs, activities in Temples, Buddhist supremacy, a Buddhist state, and so on are the major forms of this mechanism.
Apart from the above-mentioned issues, there is also fire underwater that is being brought out by other religions too. During the latter part of the war in 2009, the Catholic Church promoted an end of the war through armed struggle. The prevailing regime was directly given support. Prayer services were held to gain peace through a war-fare. This is clear religious terrorism. How can such religiosity promote war in massacring ordinary civilians? 2009 warfare was not an attempt to eliminate LTTE only, it was willingly created to eliminate Tamils or to block the culture that belongs to Tamils. Now, it takes place as a fire underwater, which is more dangerous than an armed struggle. Immediately after the April-21 Easter attack, security forces found arms and different types of swords from certain Muslim churches. Do they gather on Fridays for prayers or terrorism? How can the religion of love work for the mere promotion of violence among communities?
In this country, there was a time [it still happens] that every Tamil was labeled as kotiya [a tiger]. Through this label, what Sinhalese wanted was to give a local and international outlook about Prabhakaran’s terrorism and guerilla actions. However, a critical study of history reveals that the so-called sinhayo [lions] also did the same act as kotiya. Sri Lankan state has been always in agreement with Prabhakaran for their political gaining. It is like the US forming some figures in the Middle East to protect the US from external forces and when the consents are broken, the same mechanism of the US names their supporters as terrorists and attacks at the end. This is what happened to Prabhakaran too to some extent. The victory of the presidential election in 2005 was a classic instance for my ideology, but Prabhakaran never thought that his mechanism would be demolished by the same government.
Whatever the case is, or the issue is, I also would like to present this final comment. For me, Prabhakaran is not a terrorist because he is dead and gone. The real terrorists are in the parliament and political parties. The whole mechanism of the Rajapaksa family itself is a form of terrorism. The cold democracy which is being promoted in this country through violence is an act of terrorism. A political governing system that still widespread poverty in this country is terrorism. The nationalism that is promoted through the hands of the Buddhist majority and other religiosities is terrorism. The dominated education system itself is an act of terrorism. The existing economic crisis and the causes for that crisis are clear forms of terrorism. The class gap that exists and the case system and its dominated mechanism are the real terrorism. Compared to these operational suppressions, for me Prabhakaran is not a terrorist; if he had been in this country, perhaps he could have done a good job much better than the real terrorists in this country. The political mechanism of the state does not liberate ordinary citizens; instead, it kills people. It does give any relief but puts barriers and paralyzes living conditions in this country. Therefore, what takes place in the state today is none other than terrorism, it is no more a peace-building process. There is no point in speaking of Prabhakaran’s terrorism, but better to take due measures to eliminate the terrorism in the state today.
 Report prepared by Late bishop Rayappu Joseph on 8th January 2011. See file:///C:/Users/Thach%20Nguyen/Downloads/LLRCsubmission_by_MannaarDiocese.pdf.
 Ibid,. 3-6.
 A collection of poem in a book form on this topic is to be published in the future. It will give an account of religious terrorism in this country and how it has affected to create unnecessary conflicts within and outside.