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Military victories and Sri Lankan Tamils

The community has been split along ideological lines into sects, creating a rift within the structure of society at large.

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Sri Lankan society has long been polarised along political party and ethnic lines, so too has the Tamil community, which has been split along ideological lines into sects. In politics there are elements from extreme pro-government groups to extreme pro-Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) groups, with many in between.

It is not clear whether the majority of Tamils are happy about the repeated military victories of the government troops, especially the capture of the strategic Killinochchi and Elephant Pass by security forces.

Naturally people tend to love their nation, nationality, ethnicity, religion, caste, sect, community or any other group they belong to, and so do the Tamils. Many wish they had a country of their own, even if they do not feel that they are discriminated against by the majority community, or the Sinhalese dominated government.

There are Tamils who seem to hold the Tamil Eelam (a separate Tamil state) cause close to their hearts even while away from the battleground. They include the Tamil diaspora spread through Western countries and Australia, and the large Tamil migrant groups in Wellawatta and Kotahena in Colombo.

LTTE leaders, including its former political commissar Suppu Paramu Thamilchelvan visited expatriate communities after the signing of the ceasefire agreement with the Government in 2002, and sought generous donations for their struggle.

But the 'Dinamurasu' newspaper run by an anti-LTTE group reminded communities that the LTTE leaders had called those who left the country - while they were fighting with the armed forces - "dogs". Nonetheless, expatriate Tamils became a huge revenue source for the outfit, they remitted millions of dollars monthly for the Eelam struggle.

Although the outfit was accused of extorting money from the overseas Tamils, a large number still seem to voluntarily donate to the Tamil Eelam struggle.

The LTTE called non-LTTE Tamil organisations and political parties before 2000 "traitors", and the leaders of those organisations and parties were hunted.

Leaders of Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF), Amirthalingam and Yogesvaran, People's Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE), Uma Maheshwaran, Tamil Eelam Liberation Organisation (TELO), Sri Sabaratnam, and Eelam People's Revolutionary Liberation Front (EPRLF), K Padmanaba and Yogasangaree, were killed by the rebel group.

But in a surprising turn of events all except Eelam People's Democratic Party (EPDP), and PLOTE began to praise the outfit and recognised their former enemy as the sole representative of the Tamil people in early 2000. After this the LTTE gained the support of the majority of Tamil people in the country.

Media in Sri Lanka are badly polarised and invariably attempt to appease their ethnic audience. Even after the fall of the LTTE strongholds in Wanni to the security forces, which culminated in the capture of Killinochchi by the troops, the Thinakkural, a Tamil daily in Colombo, expressed hopes of the rebels bouncing back, last week. This indicates the newspaper was printing the views of the ordinary Tamil man. This is one extreme of Tamil politics.

Extreme groups

On the other hand extreme political groups such as the TULF led by Veerasingham Anandasangaree, PLOTE led by Dharmalingam Siddharthan and EPDP led by Douglas Devananda, seem to be rejoicing over the repeated defeats of the LTTE in the battle front.

These political groups feel they will not have physical or political survival, as long as the LTTE carry arms. Therefore they always stand with the incumbent governments, irrespective of which political party is at the helm, supporting both physically and ideologically their military goals.

Veteran Tamil politician Anadasangaree occasionally writes articles to newspapers in the form of 'letters to LTTE leader Velupillai Pirapaharan' , criticising the outfit for its political and military follies which antagonised the international community including India, the Sri Lankan Muslim community and the ordinary Sinhalese.

There are also Tamil people who may be praying for the annihilation of the Tigers as these rebels have abducted their sons and daughters to be fighters. However, Tamils seem to be in a quandary over the present situation. When the Sinhalese celebrate the victories of Sri Lankan troops, the great psychological divide between the two communities does not allow the Tamils to join them. The hearts of many cry for the 'Tamil' LTTE fighters who die in the battle field, but at the same time crave for the 'troubles' to end. Their future mindset depends wholly on moves by the government to win their hearts and minds.

S. Ganesan specialises in Tamil affairs.

Your comments

Thank You for giving a clear picture about what happens in Sri Lanka.
C. aronson
Posted: January 17, 2009, 14:06