.Posted: 2000

Sri Lanka's Crisis

Sri Lanka Name : The Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka

Population : 18.5 Million

National Day : Febraury 4

Sri Lanka is an island off the southern shore of India. It declared its independence from Britain in 1972 and since then the country has struggled with civil unrest and, most recently, civil war. For over twenty years Tamil Tiger have been fighting a liberation struggle to gain a separate state in Sri Lanka.

On Tue, 22 Jul 1997, Garibaldi, Giuseppe wrote: "I will hit the LTTE and its sympathisers with caste, class, religion andeverything else around."

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) is the product of a the revolt of the Jaffna low castes against the upper castes, whose land and properties have been confiscated and the landlords murdered.

Before a succession of western nations (including the Portuguese, Dutch and the British) ruled the island, there were two distinct kingdoms on the island, the Tamil Kingdom in the north and the Sinhala kingdom in the South.

For ease of administration, the British amalgamated the two distinct nations into a single entity with its capital in Colombo. The British gave Ceylon independence in 1948, handing over control of the entire island to a Sinhalese government, based in Colombo, which renamed the island Sri Lanka.

The Sinhala state's oppression of the Tamil people began in various forms almost immediately, attacking everything that defined the Tamils as a nation.

A series of laws that discriminated against Tamils were implemented. These included making Sinhala, instead of English, the only official language of the country, i.e. Tamils could not be employed unless they learnt Sinhala. The educational structures were altered to restrict Tamil admissions to higher education. Investment in Tamil areas was minimised.

Recruitment of Tamils into the security forces was restricted. The Sri Lankan security forces are almost exclusively Sinhalese. The security forces have been responsible for and continue to carry out human rights abuses and atrocities against Tamil civilians on a genocidal scale.

Sinhala colonisation of traditional Tamil areas was started in the fifties, and was intensified in the eighties with the security forces wiping out Tamil villages and replacing them with Sinhala settlements. Colonisation continues unabated.

Anti-Tamil rioting, with the active participation of the Sri Lankan security forces, has claimed thousands of Tamil lives. Thousands more suffered torture and rape.

As the Tamil people sense of helplessness deepened, Tamil politicians advocated a separate Tamil state. In 1977, the Tamil United Liberation Front resolved in its Vaddukoddai Resolution to campaign for political independence on the basis of the Tamil nation's right to self- determination.

I think the above is a reasonable synopsis of the social aspect in Jaffna.

Whether it is good or bad depends on your perspective. I am sure the nobles in France thought the revolution was bad just as the British thought the 1776 was bad.

Again if power resides in only a few and is passed down by circumstances of birth, violent change is to be expected. This is what history teaches. You may not want it, I may not want it, but it is inevitable.

Back in the days of the British Empire. The divide and rule policies of the British rulers created more animosity between the Sinhala majority and the minority Tamils. And it was the British who brought thousands of Indian Tamils to work in the then newly established tea estates.

In the '50s during the rule of SWRD Bandaranayake (father of the current president), a series of laws were passed that drastically reduced the opportunities for education and employment available to Tamils.Though many of these laws were repealed by later governments. It didn't stop the powder keg exploding in 1983 when terrorists killed 13 Sri Lankan soldiers in The northern province.

Sections of the Sinhala community enraged by this incidence took to the streets burning and looting Tamil shops and homes. While the authorities took some time to bring the situation under control. But the damage was done, the economy and the tourism industry in particular suffered heavy blows from which it has not fully recovered to-date. And the support for the Tamil militants grew.

Market economics and the related aspects of self interest and cut-throat competitiveness have brought about a syndrome where people are measured more in terms of what they have rather than what they are. This epidemic now appears to have infected even religion to an extent that maitriya and karunava are under-valued by money and power. Along with the commercialisation of religion we have also seen politicisation.

Since independence excessive or extremist party politics has crept into and corrupted every important aspect of life " education, healthcare, the economy and the ethnic crisis. Religion has not been spared.

While politics or public service and good government are vital areas where spiritual wisdom and direction need to be given, we have often seen the politics of religion compounding the religion of politics. Thus we see religious leaders being linked to party politics where personal or party interests take precedence over the country"s highest good.

Money, power, party politics and what more? The list may be as long as the ailments, inconsistencies and hypocrisies afflicting the country as a whole. As a result are we heading for a situation where the hither-to-unstained way of the Enlightened One is being dragged into the perilous darkness of a holy or unholy war?


The story of India's (seven-year) dual policy of creating, sustaining, and at the same time fighting Tamil militancy and its manifestation, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), who claimed the life of (Ex-Prime minister) Rajiv Gandhiin 1991. India's motivation was quite complicated. It wanted to aid minority Tamils fighting the majority Sinhala repression. It also wished to check Sri Lanka's tilt towards the US. The anti-Tamil program in Sri Lanka in 1983, led to a wave of refugees coming to India.

By 1986, the LTTE, which demanded succession through the creation of a Tamil Eelam, wiped out the pro-Indian groups to emerge as an ultimate power where it mattered, the Jaffna peninsula. Later, in July 1987, President J.R. Jayawardene persuaded Rajiv Gandhi to take on the burden of bringing the LTTE around to an autonomy package, a project that eventually led to the Indians fighting a war against the Tigers. Yogi, a top LTTE commander, even declared that the demand for Eelam was, in fact, negotiable and the LTTE would be willing to settle for an agreement that granted the Lankan Tamils a single administrative unit. India's external intelligence agency, the Research & Analysis Wing (RAW), supplied the LTTE with 40 tonnes of explosives and weapons, most of which were used against the IPKF at a later date.

India's high commissioner in Colombo at the time, J.N. Dixit, believed that by committing India's army to operations in Sri Lanka in haste, India lost the one lever it had with the LTTE and the Colombo government.

A former senior minister in Rajiv Gandhi's government, points to the failure of Indian diplomacy in not properly assessing the fallout of the agreement on the majority Sinhala community. Their resentment led to Sri Lanka dragging its feet over the promised autonomy to Tamils. Worse, the Sri Lankans stabbed the IPKF in the back. Its army provided arms to the besieged LTTE in 1989-90.

As the accord started to fray in October '87, the Indian Army was ordered to fight the LTTE. Tamil Nadu and the nation then turned their backs on the LTTE. A belated crackdown revealed the extent of its reach in the state: safe houses for senior support, warehouses to store fuel and supplies to be shipped across to Jaffna. A country that had sought to manipulate a liberation movement, found that it had instead been used.

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