இவற்றிற்கான களஞ்சியம் 'Terrorism' வகை

Jul 18 2007

[National Post] It is not a crime yet in Canada to say you’re in favour of a group that may be terrorist

World Tamil movement; Considers Sri Lankan guerrillas to be ‘freedom fighters’


Graeme Hamilton, National Post

Published: Friday, May 18, 2007

MONTREAL – The head of an organization that is suspected of funding the Tamil Tigers terrorist group has testified that he considers the Tigers “freedom fighters” and he supports their “activities that would benefit the people.” But he denied that his organization, the World Tamil Movement, has sent money to the Sri Lankan guerillas.

In Quebec Court testimony that concluded yesterday, Kathiravelupillai Sithamparanathan, the 84-year-old president of the World Tamil Movement’s Montreal office, acknowledged attending a 2004 workshop in Sri Lanka organized by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, or Tamil Tigers.Mr. Sithamparanathan said he could not refuse the Tigers’ invitation to attend a Seminar for Foreign Activists during a trip to his native Sri Lanka in July 2004. “They wanted to meet me because they were impressed that a person my age was doing many things … to help my community here,” he said through an interpreter.

He acknowledged that on one day of the seminar he was given the honour of hoisting the red Tamil Tiger flag, which features a snarling tiger over two crossed rifles. “Many people forced me to do that, and I couldn’t refuse,” he said.

Steven Slimovtich, the lawyer for the World Tamil Movement, said his clients are not accused of any crime, and the prolonged investigation is causing them prejudice because their regular activities have been interrupted.

“It is not a crime yet in Canada to say you’re in favour of a group that may be terrorist. What is a crime is to finance a terrorist group,” he told the court.

“The government has ostensibly closed down this community, cultural, social, sports organization. They cannot function.”

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Tamil leader denies funding terrorist group

One response so far

Mar 20 2007

[Hindustan Times] Sri Lankan Government is not going to resettle Tamils

A group of anti-war and human rights activists in Sri Lanka has alleged that the government is using the on-going military operations against the LTTE in the East to lessen the number of Tamil-speaking people vis-a vis the Sinhalas there.

Addressing the media under the auspices of the multi-party Anti-War Front (AWF) here on Monday, the veteran leftist leader Vasudeva Nanayakkara warned that the move to bring about demographic changes in the East would be “disastrous” as it would take the ethnic conflict to a “dangerous terrain” and further internationalise it.

He recalled that the Tamil-Sinhala problem began in the early decades of Sri Lanka’s independence because the governments at the time implemented schemes to colonise the predominantly Tamil-speaking East with Sinhalas from outside.

The Tamils saw this as a deliberate move to reduce their strength vis-à-vis the Sinhalas, and weaken them politically.

Eventually, Tamil resentment took the form of an internationally supported armed movement for separation, terrorism and war.

“The demographic changes planned are aimed at destroying the Tamil identity and Tamil nationality. This is genocide,” said the Nava Sama Samaj Party leader Dr Wikramabahu Karunaratne.

Suresh Premachandran of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) said that the main aim of the incessant shelling in Batticalao district was to displace the Tamils and not to fight the LTTE.

“Lakhs of Tamils have been displaced, but the LTTE is still there,” he said.

The complaint about a bid to change the ethnic ratio in the East has arisen following reports that the government is not going to resettle Tamils in the recently captured Sampur, and is forcing refugees from Vaharai to go to other places.

The government says that Sampur is going to be a High Security Zone. Moreover, there are 348 Sinhala claimants to land there, which it says, were appropriated by the LTTE and handed over to the Tamils illegally.


Bid to alter ethnic ratio in Lanka flayed

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Feb 26 2007

[News Weekly] Sri Lanka and Terrorism

The Tamil Tigers are notorious for the long and bloody “war of liberation” they have waged on behalf of Sri Lanka’s Tamil minority. Less well-known, according to News Weekly’s special correspondent, is the relentless oppression of the Tamils by the majority Sinhalese.


It looks as if war is on again in Sri Lanka and, as usual, it is mostly civilian flesh being torn from the bone. Bombs are exploding in schools or under buses, corpses are floating in wells, aid workers are being shot, refugees shelled and children deprived. And, given the filtering of media by the Sri Lanka Government and the current preoccupation with “terrorism”, it is only natural that people should blame the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

But things are not that straightforward in Sri Lanka. Certainly, the Tamil Tigers have earned a reputation for ruthless prosecution of their “war of liberation” beyond the frontiers of their claimed traditional homeland in the north and east of the island, and well in breach of the Geneva Convention. And, if to earn the title of “terrorist” means to have terrorised the enemy, the Tigers have earned that appellation from the United States, Australian and other governments.There are, however, things not well known in Australia that should be considered before lumping the Tigers with Al Qaeda and other threats to Western civilisation and concluding, as the media would suggest, that they are the only source of violence in Sri Lanka.

Tamil oppression in Sri Lanka.

The first is something of the history of racial oppression in Sri Lanka of the Tamil minority by the Sinhalese majority. It is an ugly story, based on different races with their own languages, customs and religions.

The Tamils are mostly Hindu; the Sinhalese, Buddhist. The Tamils derive from a Dravidian race in south India. The Sinhalese claim an “Aryan” origin. The Tamils claim the flat north-east as their historical habitation; the Sinhalese, the mountains and plains of the south west.

The Tamils once comprised about 20 per cent of the population but great numbers have fled. The Sinhalese comprise about 70 per cent of the population, and Muslims about 5 per cent.

The Tamils were more open to colonial influence, especially education and the English language, perhaps because their less fertile region made them more dependent on commerce. As a result, they were disproportionately successful until independence from Britain in 1948.

After independence, governments of the Sinhalese majority began to enact “Sinhala only” legislation: making Sinhala the official language, restricting Tamil access to university education and employment, enforcing Buddhism as the dominant religion, and reducing economic development of many Tamil lands while settling Sinhalese in others.

Opposition to Sinhalese rule was inflamed by a Prevention of Terrorism Act which rendered the police and armed forces unaccountable and a Sixth Amendment which prohibited any public promotion of Tamil autonomy in the north-east. To Tamil resentment was added the fear of violent race riots, culminating in the terror of July 1983 when mobs sought and killed Tamils and destroyed their property, navigating with electoral lists Tamils believed to have been supplied by government sources.

A contemporary report said: “The violence was vicious and bloody. … In Colombo, groups of rioters hit only at shops and factories, as well as homes owned by Tamils. Their careful selectivity is apparent now. In each street, individual business premises were burnt down, while others alongside stood unscathed. Troops and police (almost all Sinhalese) either joined the rioters or stood idly by.” (Financial Times, August 12, 1983).

Perhaps 3,000 Tamils died in that onslaught which continued for almost a week. Tens of thousands sought refuge overseas or in the north of the island. Many concluded the terror was genocidal and the government complicit. Many youths saw no alternative to joining the armed struggle for some kind of Tamil liberation in the north-east.

Tamil resistance to the racial laws had begun with their enactment, but no progress was discerned at the political level and, by the 1970s, young people had became radicalised by lack of opportunity, and inspired for action by “wars of liberation” in other countries and, ironically, by the example of the Marxist-Leninist insurrection by Sinhalese against Sinhalese in the south of the island.

One such young person was Velupillai Prabakharan, from north of Jaffna, whose group in 1976 was renamed the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Under his single-minded leadership, the LTTE gained such strength in the succeeding 15 years that it not only dominated the Tamil resistance and prevailed against the Sinhalese military, but humiliated the regional superpower, India, in a guerrilla war after India’s army had entered the north-east, and the theoretical goal of bringing peace to the Tamils had deteriorated into rape, pillage and war with the LTTE.

After the Indian army withdrew in 1990, India’s Foreign Secretary J.N. Dixit reluctantly praised the leadership of his adversary, Prabakharan:

“I cannot help but acknowledge his deep idealism and his political and military skills …. Events over the years have shown him as an accomplished political strategist and military tactician, qualities strengthened further by his forbearance and his capacity for survival.”

Somewhat wistfully, Dixit concluded, “His surviving [the Indian peace-keeping force’s military operations] and carrying on his struggle [have] made him a folk hero among his people.”

This “folk hero” is still leading the LTTE in a struggle for at least Tamil autonomy in some kind of federal arrangement, if not independence, in north-east Sri Lanka. He leads a military force whose most feared weapon are the ranks of Kamikaze soldiers and sailors, but he also leads a de facto government which administers the territory, provides schools, orphanages, hospitals and courts of law.

Because the LTTE has not renounced violence or terrorism, according to Richard Armitage, former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State, it remains listed as a Foreign Terrorist Organisation.

The role of Buddhism in violence.

Contrary to the common perception of Buddhism as a religion of tolerance, compassion and peaceful withdrawal from the affairs of the world, much of the racist force against the Tamils has derived from a national-socialist form of that religion in Sri Lanka that believes it has a duty to re-establish a Buddhist nation run on socialist lines under the spiritual leadership and political counsel of the “Sangha”, or council of monks.

This strain aims to return to a perceived happier period of communal life around the temple, the tank (irrigation system) and the paddy which was destroyed, according to their chronicle of “history” The Mahawamsa, by Tamil invaders who deserved the physical destruction they received at various times by Sinhala kings under the spiritual leadership of the Sanghas.

Believing they have been entrusted by Buddha with the preservation of Sri Lanka from latter day “Yakkas” (a “terrifying demonic race who occupied the island in vast numbers”, whose members are not fit subjects for conversion, as of old), expulsion remains the only option.

Of course, not all congregations of monks are heeding that call and neither do all Sinhalese; but, on the other hand, the call for “genocide”, publicised on Lankaweb (August 7, 2006), is not all that surprising.

The author, a D. Kannangara, declares it is “time that we learn from our history” and notes with approval how the “Mahawamsa describes in great detail how genocide was used effectively”.

He says: “Although brutal, it [genocide] appears the only viable solution to all our ills, as proved time and time again in [Sri Lanka’s] history and the contemporary history of many stable countries including Turkey, USA, Canada, Australia, China, Germany, Japan.

“A genocide will solve the terrorist problem for good.

“Without advancing this historically tried and tested solution, there can never be an end to our problems. We can split hairs about peace, devolution, war, dhamma, co-existence, etc., without any achievement.

“Unless all cancer cells are exterminated, the sickness will take over the entire living body. This surgery should be done soon and entirely if we want to save the patient – the nation.”

Whether Tamils are justified in fearing genocide or are merely paranoid may be argued. Current Sinhalese politicians seek to reassure Tamils they have nothing to fear in a unitary state. What is undeniable, however, is that many Tamils have concluded they do face physical and cultural genocide and perceive an armed resistance to be their only option.

Marxist-Leninist terror

The Sinhalese Marxist-Leninist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), or People’s Liberation Front, was formed in 1965 and led a widespread uprising against the state in 1971.

Many thousands died, including some 15,000 insurgents, before the uprising was put down by the Government with foreign assistance.

A “capitalist demon” in the JVP march on May Day, 2003

In 1982, the JVP re-emerged as a political force and won some 275,000 votes in the presidential elections of that year. Although the JVP publicly denounced violence, the Government proscribed and forced the movement underground for its alleged role in the 1983 race riots against the Tamils.

It gained more strength and, during 1987-89, launched another revolution that almost succeeded in crippling the Sinhala state. Possibly as many as 40,000 died in the revolutionary terror and reprisals. The economy was maimed by violent strikes, curfews, the destruction of factories, and the disruption of energy and transport.

Once again, the JVP was crushed militarily, only to flourish politically. Pursuing the parliamentary road with the social force of Sinhala nationalism, but without renouncing any of its ideological roots, the JVP has grown in recent years.

In the 2000 general elections it gained 10 seats; in 2001, 16; and in 2004, 39 seats, including four ministries. It has established itself as a major political force in the governing coalition.

The JVP is at the forefront of rejection of any compromise with Tamil initiatives for any kind of self-government in the Sri Lanka’s north-east.

According to its published theory, “We Marxists, we proletarian revolutionaries, oppose the division of the country and decentralisation …

Our teacher Marx was called a great centralist by his greatest disciple himself, Lenin. Yes, this is correct. We Marxists are centralists.”

Quoting Lenin, the JVP declares “federalism” should only be a transitional step towards a rigid centralisation of the dictatorship of the proletariat, and never a step that could weaken that goal.

The JVP campaigns for the proscription of the Tamil Tigers: they should be declared illegal, neither recognised nor consulted, and crushed, if necessary, by the “military option”.

The JVP has campaigned, apparently with success, for the “de-merging” of the northern and eastern regions of Sri Lanka which had been merged into one region of administration by the Indo-Sri Lankan Accords of 1987 in recognition of the historical habitation of Tamils.

Destruction of this principle of Tamil “autonomy” has been a long-standing goal of Sinhala nationalists. Several members of the JVP who petitioned the Supreme Court against the merger were rewarded, in October 2006, by that court finding in their favour on a technicality. It is most unlikely the current government will try to revive the principle, despite India’s insistence.

Collusion between the Marxist-Leninists and Buddhists.

A common interest in Sinhala nationalism has, itself, encouraged a working alliance between the Marxist-Leninists and Buddhists, but for some the union is much deeper.

In a parallel with Liberation Theology, in which some Christians “contextualised” the Bible to Marxist theory, some Buddhists find theoretical concord with those teachings. Both look back to an imagined communal beginning and perceive progress to an egalitarian future under the leadership of an elite both enlightened and guided by history, on the one hand, and justified in the use of violence, including terror, against opposition to that goal.

Monks, therefore, have been in the front ranks of JVP violence and temples have provided haven for cadres and the hiding for weapons. There was once even a “Bikkhu” (Buddhist monk) branch of the JVP!

There is now a political party of monks, the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU), whose eight members of parliament have the same program as the JVP for Tamil autonomy: no form of self-government, and proscription and destruction of the Tigers.

JVP women cadres carrying red flags.

The JVP and the JHU were prominent in the abandonment of an agreement between the Sri Lankan Government and the LTTE regarding foreign aid for reconstruction of the north-east from the effects of the tsunami. Though disproportionately affected by the tsunami, the north-east remains devastated.

Not coincidentally, the JVP and the JHU have promoted bills for “The Prohibition of Forcible Conversions” which, though pending, could severely restrict the role of the Christian church in Sri Lanka, endangering such social actions as the provision of food, shelter, medical care, orphanages, old people’s homes and education. Some Buddhist monks have been in the mobs intimidating congregations and even destroying church buildings.

State terror

Though not reported widely by the Australian media, Sri Lankan Government defence forces in recent months have bombed children in schools, refugees in churches and camps, and civilians at work in the north-east.

Economic blockades remain in force over the entire population of Jaffna in the north, and over thousands of refugees living in the east. A severe shortage of medicines and food has compounded the chronic under-nutrition of mothers and children.

Indiscriminate artillery and mortar fire is wounding civilians, many of whom are forcibly prevented from fleeing. Currently, Sri Lankan armed forces are obstructing convoys of food and medicine to over 15,000 refugees in the east. Notorious “white vans” are abducting Tamils throughout the island and the re-institution of the Prevention of Terrorism Act ensures their vulnerability. People are disappearing and dead bodies are being found.

In January, Sri Lankan forces bombarded a refugee camp, killing 15 children (including seven children under nine), and a pregnant woman, her child and husband. The Bishop of Mannar, the Rt Rev Rayappu Joseph, declared this to be “a crime against humanity” and accused the military of a “barefaced lie” for describing it as an attack against an LTTE installation. He said the only words he could use to describe the attack was “state terror”.

Publicising of Tiger violence is justified, but is best understood in the context of the widespread state force, currently being invoked by the JVP and the JHU, but which has been exerted by the mainstream Sinhalese parties for decades.

A final force for terror

Many millions of dollars are being spent on supplies for the war in Sri Lanka and there is a shadowy network of politicians, military leaders and entrepreneurs for whom the loss of kickbacks would render peace an unprofitable option.

– by a special correspondent.


SRI LANKA: Who are the terrorists in Sri Lanka?

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Feb 04 2007

[TamilNet] Jacques Chirac’s message on Sri Lanka’s Independence Day

Mr. President,

On the occasion of the National Day of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, I convey to you as well as to the Sri Lankan people, my warmest congratulations.

While fighting has resumed between the Army and the LTTE, and numerous civilians are suffering in a very difficult humanitarian situation, allow me to wish that dialogue will start again and that a political solution to the conflict that is tearing Sri Lanka apart will be found.

Sincerely yours,

Signed: Jacques Chirac

President of France Jacques René Chirac

Chirac highlights civilian suffering on Sri Lanka’s Independence Day

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Jan 30 2007

[SandL] The Tamils’ Struggle

By Sérgio Rodrigues

Tamil Tigers assist in tsunami relief, 2004.

Photo: Jason South/The Age

On Nov. 26, the Tamil people of Sri Lanka celebrated Heroes Day. It is the day when the first fighter of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) lost his life in combat in 1982—a day dedicated to the memory of all Tamils who have died fighting for the right to self-determination.

During his annual Heroes Day speech, Velupillai Prabhakaran, LTTE founder and leader, declared the Norway-mediated peace process between the Sri Lanka government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam “defunct.” For all intents and purposes, peace has been defunct ever since Sri Lanka’s president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, chose to intensify military action despite the ongoing peace talks.

The LTTE, commonly known as the Tamil Tigers, has been fighting for an independent state for the Tamils since 1972. Eelam is the Tamil name for Sri Lanka; Tamil Eelam refers to the historic homeland of the Tamils in the northeastern region of the country.

Imperialists around the world, including the United States, Britain and the European Union, have labeled the LTTE a “terrorist organization.” The Sri Lankan government uses the label to justify its own state-sponsored terror against the Tamil people.

The fact is that the oppression of the Tamils long predates the birth of the LTTE and other armed national liberation organizations. A brief history of the country is necessary to understand the roots of the conflict.

The impact of European colonialism

Sri Lanka is a pear-shaped island off the coast of India slightly larger than the state of West Virginia. Its location makes it a strategic naval link between West Asia and Southeast Asia.

The Sinhalese and the Tamil peoples respectively account for about 74 percent and 18 percent of the population of Sri Lanka. Although there is dispute over who were the first to arrive, both Sinhalas and Tamils have inhabited the island for over two millennia. The Tamils are largely concentrated in the northeastern region of the country, especially in the Jaffna Peninsula.

European presence on the island dates back to the arrival of the Portuguese in 1505. Upon arriving, the Portuguese invaders encountered distinct kingdoms on the island. In particular, they encountered Tamil populations in the northeastern region and Sinhalese populations in the south among other smaller groups. They had distinct cultures, languages and religions as well as different socio-economic and political structures.

Over time, the Portuguese established their colonial rule by means of battles and treaties, yet they did not bring the different peoples under a single administrative structure. Likewise, the Dutch colonizers, who followed the Portuguese in the 17th century, set up separate administrative structures that reflected the distinct identities of the Sinhalese and Tamil peoples.

The British occupied the island in a series of bloody invasions beginning in 1795. By 1833, the British had imposed a unified system on the Sinhala and Tamil peoples. The island colony became known as Ceylon, and the forceful amalgamation of the Sinhalas and Tamils under the British colonial system laid the basis for the current conflict.

Masters of the divide-and-conquer game, the British played the Tamils against the Sinhalese in order to protect their colonial interests. The transformation of the once self-sufficient economy into an export-driven plantation economy necessitated a new class of English-educated professionals. The British encouraged the Tamils from the arid and less developed regions of the north and east to turn to English education and the professions for economic advancement. By granting the Tamils a stake in the colonial system, the British could use them as leverage against the Sinhalese majority.

After failing to integrate the Sinhalese into the plantation system, the British brought in Indian Tamils to work as indentured laborers in the fields. These Indian-origin Tamils had a distinct identity from the Ceylonese Tamil and also contributed to the make-up of the country.

The end of British rule

When British rule formally ended in 1948, the balance of power shifted dramatically. The exit of the British and the legacy of a unitary political system—as opposed to a federal arrangement or the formation of independent states—left the Tamils politically vulnerable. The Sinhalese majority quickly used its parliamentary majority to assert its dominance.

The Citizenship Act of 1948 and the Indian and Pakistani Residents Act of 1949 tied citizenship to descent. One had to prove three generations of paternal descent on the island in order to be granted citizenship. There were no provisions for citizenship by birth.

Although the new legislation applied to all on paper, in practice the targets were the Tamils of Indian origin. In the absence of an effective birth registration system in Ceylon, even those Indian Tamils who had been in Ceylon for generations were denied citizenship. Altogether, 90 percent of the total applications from persons of Indian origin were rejected.

Together with the 1949 legislation that denied non-citizens the right to vote, the Citizenship Act meant the complete disenfranchisement of the Indian Tamils. It aimed to undercut Tamil influence in the political life of the country and ensure the hegemony of the Sinhalese elites.

The Ceylonese Tamils were not directly affected by the act, but they correctly understood the implications of the new laws. S.J.V. Chelvanayakam, leader of the Tamil Congress, said, “Today justice is being denied to the Indian Tamils. Some day in the future, when language becomes the issue, the same would befall the Ceylon Tamils.”

His words turned out to be prophetic. S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike and his Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) emerged victorious in the 1956 elections after campaigning on a “Sinhala-only” platform. In that same year, the Official Language Act declared Sinhala the official language of the country. Those seeking government employment had to either know or learn Sinhalese, putting the Tamils at a tremendous disadvantage.

Religion was used as a political tool to further weaken the Tamils. Buddhism is closely associated with Sinhalese identity, while Hinduism prevails amongst Tamils. It was largely thanks to the religious fervor whipped up by the Buddhist clergy—many of them landowners—that Bandaranaike won the 1956 elections.

The rise of Tamil nationalism

The Sri Lankan government and its imperialist supporters are quick to justify the collective punishment of the Tamil people as a response to terrorism. President Rajapaksa recently told the CNN-IBM television channel that he has “always believed in a negotiated solution” while LTTE leader Prabakharan “always wanted to kill people.” (Indo Asian News Service, Nov. 28)

However, a look at history shows otherwise. The Tamil struggle did not begin as an armed struggle. Rather, it developed into an armed struggle in response to the concrete conditions of violent oppression imposed by the Sinhala-dominated state apparatus.

The Federal Party, formed in 1949, was one of the earliest expressions of Tamil nationalism in the post-colonial period. It applied non-violent tactics modeled after Gandhi’s movement in India.

The Federal Party organized campaigns of Satyagraha—peaceful sit-in protests—, which were met with the violence of Sinhalese mobs backed by complicit state forces. In the explosive 1958 riots, Bandaranaike deliberately waited 24 hours to declare a state of emergency in a calculated move to punish the Tamils. As a result, hundreds of thousands of Tamils lost their homes, several hundred were slaughtered and vast amounts of Tamil property were destroyed.

The 1961 Satyagraha campaign for Tamil rights lasted nearly three months and brought together Indian and Ceylonese Tamils across religious and caste divisions. The government responded to the peaceful actions by declaring a state of emergency and letting the military loose on civilians in the Tamil regions.

Amid the violence, a new constitution was approved in 1972. It reaffirmed the status of Sinhala as the sole official language, afforded special protections to Buddhism and denied basic rights such as freedom of speech and promoting one’s culture to non-citizens—another blow at the Tamils of Indian origin. All proposals by Tamil politicians protecting the rights of the Tamil people were scrapped.

Growing militancy

By that time, disillusionment with the possibility of political reform was on the rise. Militancy was growing among Tamil youth and students and the armed struggle was taking root. The Tamil New Tigers, which would later become the LTTE, was formed in 1972.

The 1977 elections exposed the widespread support of the Tamil for an independent state. J.R. Jayewardene and his right-wing United National Party captured 85 percent of the parliamentary seats. However, the Tamil United Liberation Front—renamed TULF, openly calling for secession—became the leading opposition for the first time. Despite the TULF’s inability to secure its political goals, the Tamil vote amounted to a call for secession that sparked renewed violence at the hands of the Sinhalese.

In 1979, the Terrorism Prevention Act made unlawful words or signs that could cause “religious, racial or communal disharmony or feelings of ill-will or hostility” between different communities or groups. Using language similar to apartheid South Africa’s Terrorism Act of 1967, the new law targeted not only armed organizations but also the political freedom of the Tamils, since their “words” and “signs” could be construed by the Sinhalese as creating “communal disharmony.”

In June of 1983, the Sinhala armed forces had gone on a frenzy in the cities of Trincomalee and Vavuniya, shooting civilians and setting shops, churches and houses ablaze. The LTTE responded with a well-orchestrated ambush on July 23, killing 13 soldiers and sending shockwaves through the racist Sinhala establishment.

The media ran inflammatory headlines following the incident, and Sinhalas who had gathered at the cemetery for the soldiers’ funeral went on an anti-Tamil rampage. As many as 3,000 Tamils were killed and 150,000 were made homeless in Colombo. The armed forces did nothing to enforce the government-declared curfew. The August 12 issue of the Financial Times stated that “troops and police either joined the rioters or stood idly by.”

“Black July,” as it became known, was the most significant factor in the growth of the Tamil armed organizations. Years of violent repression proved that the non-violent tactics of the old guard were not a viable method of struggle. The ranks of the LTTE and other guerrilla organizations swelled.

India intervenes

With the escalation of violence that followed the Black July riots, India found itself pressured to intervene. Not only were tens of thousands of Tamil refugees arriving at its shores, but its own Tamil population, mostly concentrated in the state of Tamil Nadu, was outraged at the barbaric acts of the Sri Lankan government.

Soon, India began providing covert assistance in the form of training and weapons to the various Tamil liberation guerrillas. Anton Balasingham, chief negotiator of the LTTE, explained that India carefully limited the quality of weapons systems it provided to the guerrillas because it had a limited goal: it wanted to force Sri Lanka to seek a political solution but it had little desire for Tamil independence. For the LTTE, however, not taking the training and weapons would have left it vulnerable to the growing state violence.

During this period, the LTTE developed a relationship with M.G. Ramachandran, the chief minister of Tamil Nadu. Balasingham credits Ramachandran’s financial patronage as the cornerstone of the growth of the LTTE into a modern guerrilla organization with both land and sea units.

The 1985 Thimphu talks were largely a result of India’s pressure on both the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil guerrillas. The TULF and the five leading guerrilla organizations, including the LTTE, participated in the talks. The Tamil organizations enunciated four principles: recognition of the Tamil national identity, respect for the integrity of the Tamil homeland, the right to self-determination and citizenship for all Tamils. Their unity surprised the government and the talks quickly collapsed.

The LTTE stood out by waging a struggle against the 1987 India-Sri Lanka Agreement when most other Tamil organizations accommodated India’s intervention. The agreement called for Sri Lanka to prevent foreign countries from using its ports and broadcasting facilities in any way that harmed India’s interests and to allow India to participate in the restoration and operation of the Trincomalee Oil Tank. The agreement made some minor concessions to the Tamil people, including some devolution of power and official status for the Tamil language. But the agreement also called for the guerrillas to disarm and for the deployment of Indian troops in Sri Lanka.

The deal was a blatant attempt by India to sell out the Tamils for its own interests. The Indian Peace Keeping Force promptly arrived, but the interim administrative structures did not materialize and Sinhalese colonization projects on Tamil land intensified. The LTTE had reluctantly surrendered a portion of its arms as a gesture of good faith, but quickly reasserted its commitment to the struggle once it was clear that India and Sri Lanka were not holding up their end of the bargain.

India’s inaction led popular LTTE leader Thileepan to declare a fast to the death. India aroused the collective ire of the Tamil nation by refusing to budge. Thileepan died on the hunger strike. Soon Indian troops were engaged in full-scale war against the LTTE.

The Indian forces angered not just the Tamils, who had hoped their interventions would bring peace, but also extreme Sinhalese nationalists who opposed even the mild concessions of the India-Sri Lanka agreement, which they considered to be an Indian encroachment on their sovereignty. One such extremist group—the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna—led a brutal campaign that became a threat to the Sri Lankan state.

The bloody war ended when Indian troops withdrew in 1990. As the only armed group to fight against the Indian forces, the LTTE emerged with unprecedented popularity among the Tamils.

Nationalism and the struggle for socialism

Poverty rates are highest in the Tamil regions of Sri Lanka.

Photo: Tim Johnson/Krt

Many of the political groups in Sri Lanka—both Tamil and Sinhala—profess to be socialists. The issue of national oppression is a critical one for Marxists, and the failure of socialist parties in Sri Lanka to champion the right of the Tamil people is a major obstacle to working-class unity.

The development of nations and nation-states is a phenomenon characteristic of the transition from feudalism to capitalism. Different languages, currencies and tariffs all hamper free trade and commodity production—it is natural that the bourgeoisie should strive to eliminate such obstacles. For the bourgeoisie, a politically unified territory where people share the same language and culture provides a means to control the home market and secure its own class interests.

As such, the bourgeoisie’s position on the self-determination of nations is invariably limited to the defense of its own national rights. The national bourgeoisie does not hesitate in denying the same rights it claims for itself to the nationalities it seeks to oppress and exploit.

The Sinhalese bourgeoisie welcomed the formal end of British colonialism since it alleviated the oppression of its own nationality, and yet did not hesitate to oppress the Tamil nationality—with the blessings of the former colonial powers. Extreme Sinhalese nationalism was crafted by the Sinhalese ruling class following Ceylon’s independence. They played on the disadvantages experienced by the Sinhalese during British colonial rule to co-opt Sinhalese workers and peasants into backing the oppression of the Tamils.

Their racist ideology effectively drove a wedge between the Sinhalese and Tamil masses that stunted the development of a united struggle along class lines. In that context, the rise of Tamil nationalism developed in opposition to Sinhalese chauvinism.

Marxists seek to build international working-class unity as the most effective way to wage a struggle for socialism. That unity can only be obtained by fighting against all forms of privilege and oppression.

As Lenin explained, Marxists must fight for working-class unity while supporting the right of all nations to self-determination. This does not mean advocating for a particular form of self-determination, such as the formation of a separate state, but rather recognizing that every single nation is entitled to the same rights. To deny an oppressed nation the same right to self-determination that is enjoyed by an oppressor nation would amount to siding with the bourgeoisie of the oppressor nation.

The Communist Party of Ceylon passed a resolution in October of 1944 recognizing the multinational character of Ceylon. The resolution stated, “As there are distinct historically-evolved nationalities—for instance, the Sinhalese and Tamil—with their own contiguous territory as their homeland, their own language, economic life, culture and psychological make up … the nationalities should have the unqualified right to self- determination, including the right, if ever they so desire, to form their own independent state.”

The self-described Trotskyist Lanka Sama Samaja Party and the CPC supported parity between the Sinhala and Tamil languages as well as the federalist setup proposed by the Tamil after the British forces left. Their position recognized equal rights for the Sinhala and Tamil nationalities.

In the years that followed, however, both the CPC and the LSSP joined the government of Sirimavo Bandaranaike—the widow of S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike. LSSP leader Colvin R. de Silva spearheaded the drafting of the 1972 constitution that wiped out the few protections the Tamil people still enjoyed.

The shift in the position of the left parties on the national question was an opportunistic development. The Sinhalese bourgeoisie was consolidating its political control, and its racist ideology permeated the Sinhalese masses across class boundaries. Abandoning support for national rights of the Tamil was the path of least resistance for a party seeking to remain politically relevant amid a Sinhalese-majority population.

It was also an unprincipled betrayal of working-class solidarity.

The founding document of the LTTE makes its position with respect to the left clear. “The strategy of the traditional Left parties was to collaborate with the Sinhala capitalist class and therefore their theoretical perspective was subsumed by the hegemonic ideology of that dominant class; which was none other than chauvinism,” a 1983 document by the LTTE Political Committee explained. “This suicidal class collaboration made the Left leaders to turn a blind eye to the stark realities of national oppression; it made them to ignore the revolutionary conditions generated by the Tamil national struggle; it made them incapable of mobilizing the revolutionary aspirations of the Tamil militants.

“Our movement has chartered its political program, integrating the national struggle with class struggle defining our ultimate objective as national liberation and socialist revolution,” the document explained.

But it is first and foremost the duty of communists of an oppressor nationality to show principled and unconditional support for the right of an oppressed nationality to self-determination.

The struggle today

Talks between the LTTE and the Sri Lankan government began in 2000 after a period of intense confrontation. The state forces had dealt serious blows to the LTTE following the withdrawal of the Indian troops. By 2000, however, the LTTE had skillfully recaptured several strategic areas including the vital Elephant Pass, which connects the Tamil stronghold—the Jaffna Peninsula—to the mainland.

Now, the Norway-mediated peace talks are hanging by a thread.

The 2004 tsunami was particularly devastating for the Tamil people of Sri Lanka. The LTTE has provided substantial relief in the north in cooperation with the Tamil Relief Organization. The first relief camp was set up the very same day, and the LTTE organized an international fundraising campaign for the relief efforts. However, government neglect has unnecessarily augmented the suffering of the Tamils and others in the region.

By the LTTE’s own assessment, the Norway talks had allowed the two parties to develop rapport and resolve problems that had jeopardized the peace process. Nevertheless, large numbers of displaced Tamils faced a grim future as the army refused to release its grip on areas it had occupied. Furthermore, the geo-strategic value of Sri Lanka has led donor countries—the United States included—to use their leverage to undermine the Tamil people.

Prabhakaran’s recent denunciation of the Sinhalese government for trying to “decide the fate of the Tamil nation using its military power” reaffirms the LTTE’s commitment to Tamil national liberation.

It is a cause that deserves the support of the worldwide working-class movement.

The Tamil struggle for national liberation

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