The military victory announced by the President of Sri Lanka over the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam marks the end of 25 years of one of the most brutal and ruthless insurgent movements of the 20th century. Unfortunately many of the western powers such as UK, the EU, even USA before 9/11 identified the LTTE as a genuine liberation movement and extended both political and diplomatic support. The large Tamil diaspora spread out all over the world, in its shortsighted pursuit of identity politics supported the LTTE with money and material. It appears that it was the self serving Tamil diaspora spread out over Canada, England and Sweden that largely supported the organisation with aimed at complete control over the lives and destiny of the Tamil population of Sri Lanka.
The LTTE founded by Vellupillai Prabhakaran in 1972 waged a brutal war of extreme violence against the Sri Lankan state. In its pursuit of ethnic cleansing of Northern Sri Lanka it brutally attacked the Buddhist/Sinhala polulation and terrorised the Muslim population to quit the Northen Jaffna Peninsula. The world condemned the ethnic cleansing in Bosnia ans Serbia but it did not bother to condemn what the Tigers did in the name of Tamil pride. The LTTE ruthlessly and brutally killed several key Tamil intellectuals and politicians so that the slot of Tamil leadership could be occupied by Prabhakaran. Throughout the 1980's and 1990's leaders of the PLOTE and EPRLF were systematically eliminated by LTTE assasins. In fact the LTTE pioneered the dubious tactic of suicide bombing long before it became stock in trade of Islamic militancy. The murder of the former president of Sri Lanka, Premadasa, the killing of Rajiv Gandhi and the attempted assassination of Chandhrika Kumaratunga were all carried out by suicide bombers. In addition politicians of every shade of moderate opinion both Tamil and Sinhala were killed by the LTTE. Laxman Kadirgaman, Gamini Dessanayake, Lalith Athulathmudali were just some of the politicians killed on the orders of Prabhakaran.
The LTTE could not have become such a major terrorist organisation without the overt and covert support of the Indian Government. In 1983, when Mrs Indira Gandhi was the Prime Minister of India, the Government of India permitted the setting up of 16 training camps for the LTTE cardres in the southern state of Tamil Nadu. The Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, M G Ramachandran even referred to the LTTE terrorists as tambis, or younger brothers. No wonder then that the LTTE took full advantage of the situation and openly carried weapons even in the streets of Chennai and there have been several instances of LTTE men clashing with their rivals. The famous shootout with Uma Masesvaran who was later killed by the LTTE is still recalled with horror. In 1985 a bomb placed by the LTTE in Chennai airport exploded killing 65 people. In spite of the repeated acts of violence carried out on Indian soil, the Government of India continued to support the LTTE.
In 1991 the LTTE carried out the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi in full public view using a human bomb, Dhanu. The LTTE justified the assassination of the former Prime Minister on the ground that he had sent the Indian Peace Keeping Force to Jaffna in order to implement the Indo-Sri Lankan accord. If this accord which formed the basis of the 17th amendment to the Sri Lakan Constitution had been implemented the Tamil problem would have been solved as the Sinhalese for the first time agreed to the devolution of powers to the Tamil provinces of the North and the East. The LTTE did not want peace and set about killing Indian soldiers and more than 2,500 Indian soldiers lost their lives in that costly misadventure. Alienating India was a costly mistake as the Sri Lankan government quickly converted the disquiet that India felt into indifference to what was happening in Sri Lanka.
The defeat of the LTTE makes the job of the Sri Linkman government all the more difficult as it must now work very hard to win the hearts and minds of the Tamil population. The President has made a noble beginning by saying that all Sri Lankans will be treated with dignity and equality in an inclusive state. The death of Prabhakaran has opened up a window of opportunity in Sri Lanka and the Government must act.
The last few days the saw widespread suffering in the war dfront as the LTTE held the civillian population as a human shield. Rajapakshe went ahead with his task of crushing the LTTE and in so doing the cost in human terms was huge and so a good beginning has to be made to win over the Tamil population and the distinct lack of triumphalism in Rajapakshe's speech in Parliament today is a sign of statemenship