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?

In 1975, Prabhakaran's gang assassinated Jaffna's mayor. The youngster became a wanted man and a disgrace to his pacifist father.

The New Tigers, renamed the LTTE in 1976, survived on robbing banks, killing policemen and stealing their weapons, and fighting rival Tamil militant groups. Whenever the police were closing in on him, Prabhakaran and his boys slipped over to India's Tamil Nadu state, smuggled in with help from boyhood friends. In 1983, the gang killed 13 soldiers in an ambush near Jaffna. He and his cohorts fled to Tamil Nadu, but hundreds of Tamils across the island were massacred in retaliation. Says a Sinhalese businessman: "Tamil shops and houses were being selectively burnt. Many people felt the Tamils deserved to be taught a lesson."


Sri Lanka will forever be marred by the events that unfolded in 1983. But Sri Lankan Tamils must know that the thugs and extremists who turned a blind eye to the acts of violence, and those who justified it did not represent all Sinhalese. They must know that more Sri Lankans protected them. Many more than the few that hurt them. Black July must be a month of remembrance and a month of hope. We must pray for the lost, and remain hopeful that Black July will never be repeated.

Today, in Sri Lanka's population of 21 million there is more love for each other than hate. Sri Lanka has progressed since 1983, or even the 1950s. It is now a nation inter-mixed with many diverse ethnic groups. There is no logical reason for a freedom struggle, or a separate state which would segregate Tamils from the other ethnic groups on the island. On hindsight Eelam would never have addressed any Tamil's grievances. It would have divided a nation and caused disharmony.

If you can still somehow justify trying to destroy Sri Lanka and its people over a Tamil homeland. You then become no better than the businessman quoted from Time Magazine above, who said: "Tamils deserved to be taught a lesson."

Extremism and extremist ideas will not bring justice to those who perished before us. Many have died on this island, and not all of them Tamil. Sri Lanka has been marred with violence for years. The dislike for journalists and the lack of tolerance for the media today is as a result of the attitude of past governments, which eventually influenced the masses. Rajapaksa and Co. only share some of the blame. With the end of war maybe things will change.

If 20,000 had indeed perished then India would have intervened. If 20,000 perished then India would most certainly have cut its ties with the island…   It did not.

I can understand the anger when Tamils hear of 260,000 of their own displaced and confined. I can also understand the anger when they hear that 20,000 Tamils died. There is a valid reason for the confinement of the displaced. I've written about it here. 20,000 people did not die during the final days of the conflict. As the conflict drew closer to an end – in May of 2009 – members of the Indian intelligence agency (RAW) and several high ranking Indian officials visited the island. India and its huge Tamil population had a keen interest in the well being of Tamils in Sri Lanka. If 20,000 had indeed perished then India would have intervened. If 20,000 perished then India would most certainly have cut its ties with the island and pushed for a war crimes investigation at the UN. It did not. India's eye in the sky saw everything unfold.

When Navi Pillai, a South African Tamil, and the United Nations' High Commissioner for Human Rights called for an independent investigation after the UN Security Council resolution deemed otherwise, it was India that told her it was not necessary. [See video below]


The above is more significant than the Times of London's claim of 20,000 dead Tamils based on a photograph.

If you go with the Times' version of the story then you must also know that you are insinuating that the UN, India, and Red Cross officials on the ground are involved in a mass cover up to assist the Sinhalese. That's how silly it all becomes.

If you want to go back further than 1983, and to the "Sinhalese only" law to point at injustice. Then you must also accept that just 10 years before the law most state jobs were at the hands of the colonial masters' most favoured ethnic group, which was not the Sinhalese. The British decided who they would hand power to when they left. The decision was made after several commissions of inquiry.

Don't keep going back to the past as reason to fight for a Tamil-only homeland. We shouldn't think that discriminatory laws, which existed back in the ‘50s – at a time when Rosa Parks was still on the back of the bus in the US – is ethnic hatred. It is not.

The Tamil language is now an official language in Sri Lanka. Education and state employment is not exclusive to any one group. The state has also made it mandatory for all state employees to become proficient in the Tamil language.