Tamil Tigers – Freedom Struggle or Myth?

Aug 24, 2010

The Tamil Tigers waged a 33-year battle against the Sri Lankan government for an independent Tamil state. Many in the diaspora backed their fight, but was it a righteous cause, or just a myth?



Sri Lankan journalist Ruwan Weerakoon (RW) spent two weeks with Rajadurai Ganesh (name changed for obvious reasons), a former member of the Tamil Tigers' suicide wing (Black Tigers). He wanted to know what motivated and inspired a person to want to blow himself up. The interview not only gives us a rare glimpse inside the mind of a suicide bomber, but also the Tigers' methods of indoctrination, training and strategy.



I tried my best to gain his confidence, providing him with meals of Masala, ghee thosai, Chinese fried rice and ice cream. I wanted him to feel comfortable enough so that he would share with me the minutest details regarding his life – before, during and after he became a suicide bomber. My intention was to probe the how and why of what he became. Over the course of two weeks, I visited the suicide bomber – whom we shall call Rajadurai Ganesh – on multiple occasions, using a trusted interpreter to communicate.


Ganesh (former Black Tiger):

From the day I began to see this world with some sort of understanding, I never knew who the [Sri Lankan] Sinhalese [majority] were, or what the Sri Lanka Army was. I only saw the LTTE cadres carrying their weapons like real heroes…

There was also enough fear of the Tamil Tiger organisation that no one dared question, or critically examine what they were expected to believe. The Tigers didn't tolerate dissent. They didn't tolerate free thinking either.


Youtube video: Suicide bombers in Sri Lanka - Al Jazeera - 28 Nov 07

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Sri Lankan Tamils who live outside of the island see all this as a freedom struggle. They then fund the Tigers who they see as fighting against an oppressive state. The very same state that paid for and provided for all hospitals, schools, and social services for Tamils in Tamil Tiger held territory for the last 30 years.

The most sobering factor in all this is that Tamil youth who lived under Tiger control had no choice. They were not fighting an oppressive state, or fighting for their freedom when they had no say in the matter. Freedom fighters are not forced conscripts. It didn't matter who they fought or what they fought for because it wasn't their decision to fight. Most were abducted on their way to school, or like Ganesh abducted while running an errand for his mother. This is perhaps a key factor in the Tamil Tigers' demise.

Who do we hold responsible for the destruction of so many Tamil youth? Who is responsible for the mass corruption of minds, and the injection of extremist ideals into Tamil communities worldwide?

The Tamil Diaspora funded the forcible recruitment of children and the destruction of their motherland for over 10 years.

Tamils who lived outside of Sri Lanka had more of a choice than the Tamils in Sri Lanka. Yet they chose to support and fund a movement considered by 32 nations as nothing more than terrorist. The Tamil Diaspora funded the forcible recruitment of children and the destruction of their motherland for over 10 years. They turned up in their hundreds to protest against the Sri Lankan government when the Tiger leadership was threatened. Some even chanted: "Tamil Tigers – Freedom Fighters."

I find the reasoning for the Tamil Diaspora's support for a nihilistic death cult to be based mostly on half truths fed via various propaganda channels by the Tigers. The dislike for all democratically elected governments in the last 30 years could be tied to the fact that the Sri Lankan government consists mostly of Sri Lanka's majority, the Sinhalese. The words "majority" and "minority" became the axis of hatred among sympathisers of the movement.

Very few Tamils acknowledge that the Sinhalese protected them in July of 1983. They seldom speak of how Tamils were sheltered and protected by non-Tamils when a couple of hundred thugs took matters into their own hands. While Tamils were targeted, the looters and thugs stole from all. Thieves don't discriminate.

If there was ethnic hatred among the Sinhalese and the Tamils, the events of 1983 would have overshadowed the genocide of Rwanda. Seventy percent of the island's inhabitants were Sinhalese. If they were out to kill 16%-18% of the population there is no doubt that more blood would have been shed. It never happened. The lives of approximately 600 innocent Tamils were lost. Over a million resided in all parts of the island at the time.



As Sri Lankans we must all be ashamed for what happened in July 1983. We, however, must not let the truth be distorted and twisted so the minds of Tamil youth can be exploited to shed more blood. In 1983 Prabhakaran and an LTTE in its infancy killed 13 Sinhalese soldiers in the northern province. This was the single largest loss of life in the history of the armed forces at the time.

Emotions ran wild during that week in '83. The riots were triggered by the carnage caused by a Tamil rebel movement fighting for Eelam. Similarly, when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbour, the Canadian public and the Canadian government took their anger out on the Japanese living in Canada. They were locked up in camps and their lands and personal belongings sold. Some beaten and killed. New Japanese immigrants were barred from entering Canada until 1967.

I am not trying to justify the events of 1983. I am trying to make it clear that every nation has similar problems. Where humans are involved there will always be conflict. It doesn't always represent widespread race or ethnicity related hate.


Time Magazine (9 February 1998)