1. AARMS TERRORISM
Vol. 8, No. 1 (2009) 91–106
Received: April 22, 2009
Address for correspondence:
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE):
Terrorism or insurgency?
JÁNOS BÉRES, ANTAL BERACZKAI
Miklós Zrínyi National Defence University, Budapest, Hungary
There is an insurgency in Sri Lanka and the Tamils, who have great mass base, are
fighting for Tamil Eelam (counter-state) with every possible method, among which there
is the terrorism as a method of action. The Sinhalese majority is fighting against the
phenomena with counter-terrorist methods instead of using counter-insurgency tactics.
Adopting such an approach when dealing with insurgents could be disastrous for Sri
Lanka as a united nation: the Tamil part of Sri Lanka will reach independence in the
Having studied the history of the conflict and the different aspects of the Sinhalese-
Tamil hostilities we become convinced that 1.) the relation of parties have already gone
beyond the red line from where no return to normal coexistence within a united state is
possible 2.) the desire of the Tamils for self-determination, the level of their practical
results and the LTTE’s strong commitment to preserve the well-nigh complete control
over the Tamil population in the area delimited as Eelam will be ended inevitably in an
independent state. In historical perspective this is a rectilinear process, a well
identifiable evolution that could be delayed, but could not be stopped. “Methods may
change, the aim not”, said LTTE leader, Prabhakaran, in the spirit of the original
independence-program of the Tamils.1 It might mean the acceptance of autonomy as a
tactical step, but the final aim of total independence is not forgotten.
Talking about terrorism, a distinction should be drawn between terrorism as a method of
action and terrorism as logic of action. “Insurgency” is distinguished by the former,
“terrorism” incorporates the latter. This is far from an academic matter. When we put all
special warfare under the rubric “terrorism” we loose our crucial distinction. The key
elements of terrorism is the divorce of armed politics from a mass base, the lack of a
viable counter-state and the exclusive usage of terrorism as a logic of action (“pure
PETER SCHALK, Resistance and Martyrdom in the Process of State Formation of Tamil Eelam; available
2. J. BÉRES, A. BERACZKAI: Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam
92 AARMS 8(1) (2009)
terrorism”). In contrast, insurgencies have a great mass base and use terrorist action
principally as one weapon among others with the maim aim to construct a counter-state.
An insurgency is an armed political movement aimed at the overthrow of a constituted
government, or separation from it through use of subversion and armed conflict. It is a
politico-military struggle aimed to weaken government control while increasing
In our paper we are going to examine the terrorism-related problem of Sri Lanka and
we will argue that despite the widely accepted opinion about LTTE as a terrorist group,
in reality there is an insurgency under way in the country.
Our analysis will start with the roots of problem to list the most important causes of
the Tamil militancy, than we will name those elements of the situation that could be
considered as obstacles of a long-viable solution. Under the third point we will give a
summarized picture about the cause and effect process, and finally we will come up
with a set of measures, a kind of road map that is meant to bring (could bring) to end the
Sri Lankan Sinhalese-Tamil hostilities. In our paper we will argue in favour of a
peaceful solution that could be incarnated in a wide Tamil autonomy or in a worse case
a federal Sinhalese-Tamil state.
Roots of terror (nature of the problem)
The three main groups that could be considered as roots of the problem are historical,
religion-ethnical and political but they are supporting each other.
The historical element is based upon the debate, “who came first to the island”. The
Sinhalese believe the legend called Mahavamsa, and think they came first, but
according to the Tamils it is archeologically proven that Hindu Temples in the island
existed long before the Sinhalese Vijaya's arrival. Then, the origin of Sinhalese-Tamil
conflict could be dated back to the ancient wars between Tamil and Sinhalese kings. In
the Sinhalese mindset, the Tamils were invaders, who had the backing of the mass of
Tamils in south India.3 The Tamils consider the Sinhalese majority as oppressor who
discriminates the Tamils against in every sphere of life and force the minority to feel
socially as outcasts and politically as second class citizens.
The religion-ethnical element originates from the different religion as from the
country’s 17,103,000 total population (1991) 74% Buddhist (Sinhalese), 18% Hindu
(Tamils) and 7,5% Muslims (Tamils). Based on the Buddhist clergy’s influence, the
ADAM STRICKLAND, Reinventing the Counterinsurgency Wheel; available from
M.R. NARAYAN SWAMY, Tigers of Lanka, From Boys to Guerrillas; (Konark Publishers PVT LTD, 2002) 8.
3. J. BÉRES, A. BERACZKAI: Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam
AARMS 8(1) (2009) 93
constitution of Sri Lanka in 1972 gave Buddhism a pre-eminent status and stated that
the duty of the state to foster and protect it.
The political element represents the most important, well-defined and documented
part of the roots of the Tamil-terrorism problem, and at the same time represents the
cause of the widely shared grievances of the Tamil society. The blameworthy political
treatment of the Tamil question, the very scale of state abuses and the mistakes of
strategic approach are marking the cause and effect process in which the Tamil
militancy has been born. The first mistake was the 1948 legislation against the Indian
Tamils which took away the Tamil plantation workers’ citizenship making them
stateless and vote less. The next grievous mistake was related to the unequal status of
Sinhalese and Tamils in the constitution. The language-related “Sinhala Only Act” of
1956 or the education-related “standardization policy” of 1973 reinforced the
impression of Tamils, that no equality could be achieved from the Sinhalese-dominated
Sri Lankan polity. Beside this gradual and systematic legislation that affected the sphere
of economic and social life of the Tamils, the state-aided settlement policy in the Tamil
areas also contributed to the minorities’ feeling that they were not only deprived of their
equal rights in the common state, but they were also to lose their historical lands by
altering the ethnic composition of the population in certain traditional Tamil regions.
The next mistake that resulted in deep mistrust in the Tamils towards the highest
political forums of the Sinhalese-dominated state was the dishonest behavior of the
prevailing governments. Sinhalese politicians from government position committed
breach of agreement against Tamils at least three times: Kotelawala, in 1955, despite his
previous promise about the equal status finally supported Sinhalese as the sole official
language of the country; Bandaranaike, in 1957, for the demand of Buddhist clergy tore
up openly the paper of the Bandaranaike-Chelvanayakam Pact that was to set up
autonomous regional councils in Tamil areas; Senayaka, in 1968, abrogated his accord
with the Tamil Federal Party and denied to provide official status to Tamil language in
the northeast, though, he promised it and even passed a legislation in 1966. The above
mentioned cases (“broken promises”) provide opportunity to Tamil terrorist-leaders,
who in later years pointed them out as examples of Sinhalese obduracy vis-à-vis the
Tamils. The three cases are also good examples to give reason for the Tamil complaint
that the Sinhalese parties used the Tamil community as a pawn in their battle for power.
At every important juncture and at every decisive moment, the Sinhalese leaders have
been very lavish in giving promises to the Tamils; but when the crisis has passed, they
4. J. BÉRES, A. BERACZKAI: Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam
94 AARMS 8(1) (2009)
have failed to keep their pledges. Making promises and then reneging on them – this is
one of the techniques of oppression and deceit adopted by the Sinhalese leadership.4
The worst wounds on the ethnical coexistence however, were caused by the
Sinhalese pogroms committed against the Tamil population. The riot in 1956 that
started with thrashing the peaceful sit-in protesters in front of the Parliament and ended
the death of an estimated 150 Tamils; The bloody anti-Tamil violence in 1958 when
hundreds of Tamils had been killed, more than 20,000 had to be sheltered in refugee
camps in the Sri Lankan capital and a massive exodus of Tamils started to the north,5
The pogroms in 1975, 1977, 1979 and the police rampage in 1980 in Jaffna against
carefully selected houses, shops and institutions resulted in hundreds of Tamil’s death
and hundreds of thousands of refugees. In 1980 the Tamil community suffered
irreparable loss when security forces set fire to the splendid Jaffna Public Library,
destroying more than 90,000 books, including many rare Tamil manuscripts.6 These
atrocities and other anti-Tamil pogroms in 1981 and 1983 committed against peaceful
Tamil civilians resulted in an extended Sinhalese-Tamil hostility generally, and in a
Tamil insurgent movement that uses terror as strategy particularly.
Mutual faulty premises, biased preconceptions
There are many reasons on both sides that contributed to the today inimical relation
hence, should be taken into consideration in the future peace negotiations. Most of these
obstacles are rooted deeply in the people’s mind and a new, revolutionary approach is
needed to overcome old perceptions.
Sinhalese concern/approach to the problem
1. Sri Lanka is a democratic, multi-ethnic, pluralist country. It should stay united,
because it is too small country to be divided.
2. The Tamils represent only 18% of the Sri Lankan population, but the Tamil Eelam
wants a control of more than 50% of the island’s sea shores and more than 30% of
the land in the island.
3. The discrimination that the Tamils claim to have suffered was simply taking away
the privileges they had enjoyed under the British.
4. The Tamils are not a nation but a minor ethnic group.
A continuing history of broken promises, Introduction; available from
M.R. NARAYAN SWAMY, Tigers of Lanka, From Boys to Guerrillas (Konark Publishers PVT LTD, 2002), 11
5. J. BÉRES, A. BERACZKAI: Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam
AARMS 8(1) (2009) 95
5. Tamil minority could be divided and if need be manipulated with a bit of persuasion
and tough-talking, one against the other.7
6. The Tamils do not want Tamil Eelam – it is only a few terrorists and fanatics who
7. Historically, there is no Tamil homeland – the Sinhalese people lived in the north
and east as well.
8. The Tamil can go to Tamil Nadu but the Sinhalese have no land other than Sri Lanka.
9. The Tamils are invaders and immigrants and cannot claim a part of the country –
they are not the ‘original’ people.
10. Tamil Eelam will link with the plantation Tamils and invade parts of the South.
11. Tamil Eelam will be a first step towards a pan Tamil state including Tamil Nadu.
12. An independent Tamil Eelam state will threaten the existence of the Sinhalese
13. The Tamils are represented by only LTTE however the whole spectrum of the Tamil
community should be addressed.
14. The LTTE claims to be the sole representative of the Tamil people, however, only
one third of the Tamil population lives under LTTE ruled area.
15. The LTTE is an antidemocratic, centralized terrorist organization with a criminal,
bloodthirsty, dictatorial leadership.
16. Tamil struggle is nothing other than terrorism.
This list of Sinhalese views is not meant to be exhaustive. However, the list may be
sufficient to reflect some of the stated concerns that the Sinhalese people may have in
relation to the demand for Tamil self-determination.
Tamil concern/approach to the problem
1. Tamil plantation workers were disenfranchised to weaken Tamil influence in the
2. The Sinhala Only Act discriminated against Tamils in respect of language, economy
and diminished their employment prospects.
3. The Tamil homeland was subjected to state sponsored Sinhalese colonization.
4. Tamil areas have not received resources for economic development
5. When Tamils protested against discrimination, genocidal attacks were launched on them.
6. Sinhalese Buddhist fundamentalism has led Sinhalese political leaders to break
agreements and pacts (“broken promises”). The strong and influential Buddhist
clergy is against any concession to Hindu Tamils.
M.R. NARAYAN SWAMY, Tigers of Lanka, From Boys to Guerrillas (Konark Publishers PVT LTD, 2002), 7
6. J. BÉRES, A. BERACZKAI: Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam
96 AARMS 8(1) (2009)
7. The Tamil people are ruled by a permanent alien Sinhalese majority. This rule is
evidenced, for instance, by the fact that in Sri Lanka, for five long decades since 1948,
there has always had a Sinhalese Buddhist as the executive head of government.
8. More than 95% of the Sri Lankan Army is from the Sinhalese majority.
9. In text books used in Sinhalese schools Tamil phobia is injected into Sinhalese
students at a very impressionable age developing a pathological hatred in them for
10. Poverty, economical difficulties could trigger widespread protests and the minorities
can easily become scapegoat. In the past the Sinhalese leadership intention was
many times to use the Tamil card and whenever faced internal problems and
mounting pressures from their people, they divert anger of the Sinhalese masses
against the Tamils.
11. During elections Sinhalese nationalism is connected to anti-Tamil rhetoric.
12. The name of the country reflects only the Sinhalese ethnic components’ will.
13. Tamils are a different people, with a different language and trace their origins to
different historical roots, and they have lived in the island for as long as or longer
than the Sinhalese people.
14. The Tamils explain their armed campaign as a form of legitimate political struggle
for self-determination. The Sri Lankan government wants to convince the world
community that the Tamil struggle is nothing other than terrorism. Playing on the
sensibilities and anxieties of Western nations about global terrorism, Sri Lanka has
been propagating a view that she is also a victim of a similar phenomenon.8
15. The LTTE demands political independence and self-government. The goal is to
achieve self-determination. 18.000 martyrs died for the liberation of the Tamil
homeland. Peace-talk’s result should reflect this sacrifice so the proper
interpretation of the final result of negotiations has a symbolic importance.
Consequently, lesser outcome than a kind of self-determination for the Tamil
community would not be acceptable for the LTTE.
16. The LTTE believes unity as undesirable and unattainable. They say that mistaken
effort to secure unity by force of arms produces neither unity nor amity. It produces
only death and destruction, hostility and bitterness and the warping of the psyche
and lives of generations to come in both our nations.9
17. Continuance within the Sri Lanka state will lead to the destruction of the Tamil
Struggle for Justice, Introduction, available from
ADRIAN WIJEMANNE, Review, available from http://www.eelamweb.com/books/lpg-wijemanne.html
7. J. BÉRES, A. BERACZKAI: Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam
AARMS 8(1) (2009) 97
Again, though these Tamil reasons are not intended to be exhaustive, the list may be
sufficient to reflect some of the stated concerns that the Tamil people have in relation to
continuing to live within the confines of the existing Sri Lankan state.
As a conclusion, it seems to be clear that the Sinhalese-Tamil relation is burdened
by misperceptions, mutual suspicions and misunderstandings. These factors are part and
parcel of root-problems and contributed greatly to the today strong reciprocal portrayal
of enemy. The analyst requires a very special and objective care to examine the
situation, to identify the mistakes committed in the past and to prepare an assessment
that helps to find a viable, long-lasting solution in the war-torn small Sri Lankan island.
Cause and effect: Sinhalese mistakes, Tamil reactions
During the last decades the Tamil response to the Sinhalese repressive and assimilation
policy has slowly moved towards militancy and during this period there were many
occasions to reverse the process that finally led to the today virulent form of terrorism.
The tragedy is that both the Sinhalese political class and military sphere handled the
crisis in a way that the situation had actually worsened all the time. Assessing the chain
of events, the defining thread is mistakes of strategic approach and operational
implementation.10 By continuing the subjugation policy, provoking and attacking
moderate Tamils, killing Tamil innocent civilians as revenge for terror-activities
committed by terrorist groups widened and deepened the problem and resulted in Tamil
terror-groups with strengthening military capabilities, and also in wide mass support
from the Tamil society, especially among youth. The Sinhalese side did not know the
root cause of the problems and neither did they care to learn. The repeated communal
terror served only to traumatize the Tamil community and provided terror-groups with
an influx of new manpower. The Sinhalese majority considered the whole Tamil
community as a hostile mob regardless the individuals’ personal attitude to terrorist
groups. For the Sinhalese side the Tamil minority as a whole became enemy and they
acted accordingly. This attitude has driven the great majority of Tamil population to the
same camp that is today much closer to the LTTE than to the Sinhalese government.
The process of cause and effect in the Tamil region has started with the 1949
citizenship-legislation, continued with language and education-related Acts and other
provisions with discriminative nature and ended in a peak of police-supported pogroms,
antiterrorist hunting and military operations, bombings. The passive party of this policy
was not a small separated group but the whole Tamil population. At the outset they
DR. THOMAS A. MARKS, State response to terrorism in Sri Lanka, (Journal of Counterterrorism and
Homeland Security International, 2004, Vol. 10, No. 3)
8. J. BÉRES, A. BERACZKAI: Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam
98 AARMS 8(1) (2009)
reacted peacefully. The Tamil political leader, Chelvanayakam had a Gandian belief
and called for a Gandhian campaign to achieve equal status with the majority. The
Tamils exhausted every peaceful way from symbolic sit-in protests, satyagraha to other
type of civil disobedience but they received nothing but excessive physical violence.
The repeated pogroms and the continuous oppressive policy of the majority resulted in
deep grievances, massive exodus to the north and abroad (origin of the today great
Diaspora), growing animosity between the ethnic groups and finally led to two
important Tamil thesis: 1.) the Tamils must go all out and save themselves and their
posterity from Sinhala colonization and establish in the first instance an independent
Tamil Ilankai (Ceylon)11; 2.) the only way to get rid of the Sinhalese oppression is an
armed struggle. As they believe the Gandhian campaign would not have saved the Jews
from the Nazi’s holocaust, it did definitely not save the Sri Lankan Tamils. They needed
a Prabhaharan to protect them from all the horrible and inhuman atrocities of the cruel
Sinhala army. It is they, the Sinhalese who created Prabhaharan, not anybody else.12
The Tamils did not hit back for a long time. During or after anti-Tamil riots there
were spontaneous and sporadic violent reactions against the Sinhalese majority but it
had a self-defense nature. After the failure of the satyagraha from 1961, and fuelled by
the anti-Tamil pogroms as precipitating events, there has started the mushrooming of
different groups and organizations. The Pulip Padai, the Manavar Manaram, the Tamil
Liberation Organization (TLO), the Tamil Manavar Peravai, the TUF, the TYL, etc.
marked the way of establishing the first organized, politically devoted groups of youths,
the “boys”, who widely shared the opinion that time for action has arrived. Without a
mass base at that time, these small, isolated groups of half dozen or so would-be
liberationist were not able to do more than to launch small scale attacks upon police
positions. This terrorism-type of actions committed by the growing network of
attachments should have been a warning sign to the successive Sinhalese governments
that there is something wrong on the Tamil region. But again, they did not know the
root cause of the problems and neither did they care to learn. Meantime however the
“boys” were maturing into guerrillas and the sporadic attacks transformed into an
insurgency against the occupying Sinhalese forces. The contacts with foreign terrorist
organizations (PLO) and experiences in “hit and run” type of attacks created a new
dynamic which allowed insurgents to challenge the state power. The formation of the
Tamil New Tigers (TNT) of Prabhakaran in 1974 and later the LTTE in1976, at the
beginning was just another segment of the violent tendency. What LTTE and its leader
brought to the insurgency however, was an effective leadership, committed and
M.R. NARAYAN SWAMY, Tigers of Lanka, From Boys to Guerrillas (Konark Publishers PVT LTD, 2002) 11
Rev. Dr. S.J. EMMANUEL, Let my people go; available from http://www.eelamweb.com/books/lpg-wilson.html
9. J. BÉRES, A. BERACZKAI: Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam
AARMS 8(1) (2009) 99
disciplined members and the ability to achieve an effective mobilization of people and
resources. By its abilities it has emerged as the dominant force by fierce application of
terror against its rivals.
Despite the mushrooming terrorist groups and the growing violence there was a
chance in 1980 to stop the process and to find a peaceful way for the reconciliation. In
1980 Brigadier T.I. Weeratunge, chief of staff of the army launched an unprecedented
military attack against the Tamil militant network and seriously disrupted it.13 The
terrorist activity virtually stopped and it was a moment when the government should
have combined the victory with a generous proposal and come up with a comprehensive
political program in the Tamil region in order to eliminate the past grievances and to
isolate the insurgent hardcore from the followers. It did not happen and the
consequences are well known.
Starting from an ambush against police in 1978 as its first armed attack, the LTTE
has gone through a significant development. By today it is a strong, ruthless terrorist
organization that controls a big part of the Tamil region and is able to defy the Sri
Lankan government. It is an insurgency in intent and methodology. Through the years it
has gone from using terror as a tool for mass mobilization to using it as a strategy for
insurgency.14 In order to achieve its goal, the independent Tamil Eelam, the
organization uses every possible means and ways. Adroitly uses a combination of main
force and guerrilla units, and of conventional warfare with guerrilla and suicide tactics.
Beside the capability to commit terrorist actions it has expanded its political activity
abroad. Activists of the group are working with international NGO’s with U.N
consultative status, calling for the recognition of the north-eastern region of Sri Lanka
as the Tamil homeland and the Tamils as a people with the right to self-determination.
The organization also has a significant overseas support structure for fundraising,
weapons procurement, and propaganda activities. It uses its international contacts to
procure weapons, communications, and any other equipment and supplies it needs. The
LTTE exploits large Tamil communities in North America, Europe, and Asia to obtain
funds and supplies for its fighters in Sri Lanka.15 On the internal terrain it controls most
of the northern and eastern coastal areas of Sri Lanka but able to conduct operations
throughout the island. Due to its practical thinking leader the group has a remarkable
capability to adapt to the changing circumstances and to increase its efficiency. For
M.R. NARAYAN SWAMY, Tigers of Lanka, From Boys to Guerrillas (Konark Publishers PVT LTD, 2002) 41
Dr. THOMAS A. MARKS, State response to terrorism in Sri Lanka (Journal of Counterterrorism and
Homeland Security International, 2004 Vol. 10, No. 3)
Terrorist Group Profiles, The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE); (Patterns of Global Terrorism,
2003, US Department of State), available from http://library.nps.navy.mil/home/tgp/ltte.htm
10. J. BÉRES, A. BERACZKAI: Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam
100 AARMS 8(1) (2009)
example, during the years it gradually abandoned the initial socialist rhetoric and
increased the nationalism, intensificated the nationalistic symbolism. Achieved the
mobilization of people and institutions and today the bureaucratization and
institutionalization of Tamil nationalism is evident. Another good example in the
organization is the hero veneration and the celebration of Great Heroes’ Day on
November 27. This institutionalization of the symbols of Tamil nationalism, or the cult
of the self-sacrifice, is an attempt to fortify and enforce resistance on an ideological
level, motivating and rationalizing armed struggle.16
As a conclusion, it has to be understood that the Tamil militancy is a response to
conditions of Sinhalese oppression. The incapability or negligence to reveal the real
roots of the problem, the consistent intention to find military solution to the Tamil
question – these were the most typical reactions of the Sinhalese side in the past. The
mistaken strategic approach began with a persistent failure to assess the insurgency in
terms appropriate to framing a correct response and ended with inadequate means and
ways to mitigate the crises when it finally emerged. As a result of the Sinhalese
majority repeated mistakes the LTTE’s main goal, the independent Tamil Eelam, is not
just a “de facto” reality but the desire to make it “de jure” is also commonly shared by
the Sri Lankan Tamil population. The genie that has been set free from the bottle in the
‘50s can not be send back and with the results have been achieved during the struggle
the LTTE is hardly to accept less than an independent state.
However, the international community is not ready to compensate terrorist methods
by accepting the Tamil idea of separation and it gives the Sinhalese government a good
chance to save what is salvable. But this time the government needs to be wiser than its
predecessors, has to avoid the temptation and not to cherish dreams about a possible
decisive war against LTTE under the aegis of global war on terrorism. The organization
can not be destroyed without touching the roots, eliminating the basic causes.
The government has to accept that LTTE is not an isolated organization that has
appeared out of nowhere but a product of a historical process (marked by Sinhalese
mistakes). It is also the government that could eliminate this problem by an appropriate
set of measures.
However, the Sri Lankan solution on LTTE problem is not military but
comprehensive social, legal, economical and even diplomatic.
The process requires patience, trust, confidence building measures, ability to
compromise and time. For many reasons the Sinhalese party has to give more
concessions. The majority started the hostility, the governments’ fatal mistakes led to
PETER SCHALK, Resistance and Martyrdom in the Process of State Formation of Tamil Eelam, available
11. J. BÉRES, A. BERACZKAI: Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam
AARMS 8(1) (2009) 101
the birth of Sri Lankan terrorism, to the creation of LTTE. Consequently the majority
has to cure the problem; it has to find a peaceful solution, acceptable by every party.
The Sinhalese majority has to understand that democracy cannot flourish if the culture
and identity of the other communities are not respected and valued.17 After so many
bitter decades the Tamils’ trust has to be earned. The Sinhalese majority has to learn
from the lessons of the past. Maybe, they should remember and listen to the words of
the former president J.R. Jayewardene who, though fought harshly against Tamils’
rights during his two terms office time, finally gave a completely different advice to his
follower, Bandaranaike in 1956: “… if you mistreat them (the Tamils) if you ill-treat
them, if you misuse them, if you oppress and harass them, in that process you may
cause to emerge in Ceylon, from that particular racial stock with its own particular
language and tradition a new nationality to which will have to concede more claims
than it puts forward now. It is always wiser statesmanship to give generously early
instead of being niggardly too late.”18
The final question is that what a generous offer should be given to the Tamils to
have them satisfied but at the same time it is still acceptable by the Sinhalese majority?
What is the price of the peace? The negotiated peace-price will let to preserve the de
jure unified Sri Lanka or peace can only be achieved by dividing the state into Tamil
and Sinhalese entity? If previous is the case what political package should be offered to
the Tamils? If latter is the case the Sinhalese government is ready to accept this price or
will go back to war? All in all, what is the solution?
Measures to settle the problem
My conviction on this matter is that whatever the price of the Sri Lankan peace it has to
be paid in order to avoid another ten years of bloody war which finally could still end in
similar result or even worse than today. Consequently, to eliminate Tamil-terrorism
problem the military option is not an option. The Army should serve only to strengthen
the Sinhalese government negotiating position to moderate the possible excessive LTTE
claims. The Army should be brought into the picture only in worst-case scenario if 1.
the LTTE violates the negotiated and signed final peace agreement, or 2. if LTTE
operatives try to continue transnational-crime related activities.
Broken promises, Introduction, available from
Broken promises, An out-of power J.R. backs federalism, available from
12. J. BÉRES, A. BERACZKAI: Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam
102 AARMS 8(1) (2009)
However, a good political solution acceptable by both sides is realizable and in the
forthcoming peace talks with the LTTE the government has to make every effort to
achieve a kind of peace that keeps the Tamils within Sri Lanka. Therefore the
government’s offer has to consist of a rich storehouse of autonomy elements. There are
many autonomy examples in all over the world and the government should study these
ones in order to elaborate the best version applicable for Sri Lanka.
As important and essential elements of any type of autonomy package I suggest the
followings: the devolution package supplies a constitutional and political framework
which may enable the Tamils to realize their right to internal self-determination; the
form of self-determination involves legislative and executive autonomy to the full
extent desired by the people; allows the people to determine their constitution that gives
them an autonomous status within the confines of a larger state; power-sharing at the
Centre, and a meaningful autonomy in the region which allows an authentic self-rule
(power sharing at the centre on the basis of equality and self-determination precludes
the danger of democratic deficit resulting from an arrangement where power is
concentrated in one entity’s hand); the right for secession in certain, well defined cases
(for example state’s failure) is part of the self-determination concept.
However, after so many hostile decades between the parties the autonomy package
itself is not enough to achieve peace for keeps. As a key factor, it is essential to launch a
countrywide campaign with the slogan of “historical reconciliation”. By a very
intensive and extensive campaign the country’s elite and population has to be convinced
that peace needs to be achieved at all costs. Everybody must be aware that something
very important thing is to happen. It is extremely important to gain the overwhelming
majority’s sympathy to the Cause otherwise the interpretation of the autonomy will led
to “zero ended sum” – type of explanations. If it happens wounded national pride,
indignation and dissatisfaction will override any kind of brave agreement and finally it
will be resulted in a new eruption of violence. Not to mention the damage caused by a
new “broken promise” that has already antecedents in the Tamils’ grievance-history.
Consequently, first of all there should be adopted a consensus to the problem from all
quarters of the Sinhalese elite and society: the Armed Forces, the bureaucracy, the Press,
the Buddhist clergy, the intelligence, factions within the Government and the party, the
opposition and last but not least within the population. If the idea of the historical
reconciliation is accepted and supported by them the peace negotiation process could start
and from that point it is just a matter of time to reach a final peace accord.
Due to the mutual suspicions and mistrust the negotiations can not to be done
without a neutral mediator state (USA, GB, France, Germany or any other influential
Western country) or a mediator committee composed by three Western countries
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representatives. The more Western country is at presence the better because through
their involvement there is a great possibility also for their economical contribution to
settle the problem (investments in the region).
Well before the open negotiations start it is necessary to have trilateral secret talks in
order to set up the basic principals of the peace process, to identify the scope for action,
the main points of the deal and the agenda of the negotiations. As a list of principles to
be respected on the negotiations I suggest the following 5 points: 1. Sri Lanka preserves
its territorial integrity. 2. The Tamil population has the right for self-determination that
has to be achieved by a wide political and territorial autonomy. 3. Disagreements should
be resolved by peaceful means. 4. As soon as the autonomy is realized through a new
Constitution and put in practice the LTTE is to disband and all weapons are to hand
over to representatives of mediator country. 5. In case of litigated issues and subsequent
interpretation of the agreement’s points the parties accept the arbitration of the mediator
Once the principles are accepted, the negotiations can be launched with strong
country-wide campaign, international mass media presence and under of a slogan
The Sinhalese side has to demonstrate its goodwill and to suggest several elements
of the reconciliation, like revising the Constitution, creating a Sinhalese-Tamil
education committee to oversee the content of the history books, forming common
committees country-wide (in the Tamil region Tamil-Sinhalese composition, in the
Muslim area two or three party composition) to settle disputed issues, forming common
committees to oversee the Tamil or Muslim complains and reveal the roots of the
people’s dissatisfaction. A Tamil (and Muslim) region-wide (or even a country-wide)
list about the most important and most general problems of the people would be very
useful for the government in order to be able to make adequate countermeasures.
The mass media has to support the government’s campaign and the government has
to take special (legislation) measures to prevent groups counter to reconciliation policy
to commit provocations or to create any kind of problem.
The Muslim population should not be left out of the final settlement. Whatever right
is achieved by the Tamils, the Muslims has to be given the same in their areas. A
Sinhalese-Tamil bilateral agreement without the Muslim side could sow the seeds of a
future Muslim terrorist movement.
The issue of Muslim and Sinhalese minorities in the Tamil area is crucial. The
Tamils must demonstrate that they can coexist with these groups. The newly forming
autonomous authorities should work closely with these communities’ representatives in
order to avoid that the formerly oppressed became new oppressor.
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The government has to grab and keep the initiative on the talks. The autonomy
package and the historical reconciliation campaign are excellent means to prove the
world the government’s goodwill and readiness of concession. The offer of self-
determination in a form of autonomy includes the main part of the LTTE’s claim, it is
also very convincing about the government’s alignment and the terrorist organization
could get into an awkward situation if refuses it or demands more. The government’s
capability of initiative could determine the strategic direction or terminology of the
talks. For example there could be discussion about “autonomous units” or “regions”
instead of the necessity of drawing a contiguous “Inter-Entity Boundary Line” that
might represent a kind of de facto future borderline. The initiative should include
suggestion of confidence building measures and a smart government can contrive a very
good plan for these measures (LTTE withdrawal from strategic positions,
demilitarization of zones, sending home child-soldiers, etc).
As part of the government’s suggestion a census should be organized in order to
have a very clear and very detailed picture about the real figures of the population. In
the last decades both parties were circulating different figures about the number of the
Tamils, their majority or minority in the country’s regions and in the towns, villages. By
an internationally observed fair and open census a commonly accepted result could be
achieved and all the future autonomy measures should be built on that ethnic map. It is
very important that the census is to be organized under massive international observer
presence in order to avoid any kind of dispute on the final result.
On the base of the census autonomous authorities (like the Tamil General Council,
Regional Councils and Provincial Councils) should be created. The degree of autonomy
offered by devolution to these authorities should be sufficient to allow the Tamils to
exercise their legitimate right to internal self-determination. The Tamil General Council
should function as the Tamil Parliament and its legislation policy (that is in accordance
with the new Sri Lankan Constitution) should focus on minorities’ everyday issues in
the region (social, economical, legal, etc.). Well-weighed power sharing and
proportional voting system is essential to be elaborated because the fate of these Tamil
institutions should not be at the mercy of the Sinhalese government and vice versa, the
minority can not block the countries decision making system.
In the autonomy issue it is very important to emphasize a win-win approach
otherwise both sides might feel to lose something: the Sinhalese party is to lose the
territorial integrity of the country, the Tamil side is to lose a chance to achieve full
independence. Consequently the autonomy has to satisfy both sides by its content and a
good autonomy could have many components that demonstrate a fair and true approach.
(For example wherever the minority’s number is above 20% the local administration
15. J. BÉRES, A. BERACZKAI: Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam
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has to speak the minority’s language, a minority person can use his language is official
documents or in front of the court, the name of settlements has to display on both
languages. This kind of approach would not let the Sinhalese or Muslim minority be
oppressed in the Tamil regions). Besides, each party to the conflict needs to understand
the genuine interests that the other party seeks to protect.
At the same time with the reconciliation offer the government has to make very
clear that LTTE must stop not only its terrorist actions but also every form of its
illegal/criminal activities. The international community has to back this government
demand and warn the organization that in case of neglecting this expectation the LTTE
would jeopardize and compromise not only the Tamil Cause but would also face with a
US-led international repression. The LTTE has to work out a legal form of receiving
support from the Diaspora and abandon its illicit methods (smuggling, drug traffic, etc).
The government should also demand confidence- and democracy-building measures
from LTTE in order to gradually dismantle its influence and autocracy in the LTTE-
ruled Tamil region and revive other Tamil political organizations that could rival with
the terrorist group’s representatives in future local elections. It would be a good tactical
step from government side to fully recognize the LTTE as representing the whole Tamil
nation but on the other hand to ask to eliminate the atmosphere of fear and to secure
peace in the Tamil region before a democratic census (by presence of international
observers and Sinhalese government officials). It is an understandable request and the
LTTE from political and moral point of view could not refuse it.
The government has to launch an active international campaign (UN, EU, NGO’s,
development agencies, countries of Tamil Diaspora, etc.) to present its intention of
historical reconciliation for several reasons: from prestige point of view it shows the
image of a wise government that is able to solve an old and painful problem. It also
demonstrates that Sri Lanka is no longer a dangerous place to invest (to economy, to
tourism, etc). Last but not least the government has a good opportunity to attract
international attention and through diplomatic channels ask any kind of contribution
(for example financial aid) from UN economic development funds, from countries that
are pleased to get rid of a terrorist organization (USA, GB), and from any other
countries that are willing to help this great initiative of a poor country. There should be
clear, well defined plans, programs to run for international financial funds or aids
(program for reintegration of military personnel to society, reconstruction programs,
rehabilitating programs, economic restructuring program, educational program, etc.).
The government has to equally and transparently share the incoming funds between the
different regions of the country. It would also be a good initiative to present economic
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plans to the LTTE delegation for improving the living conditions in the Tamil region or
to build better infrastructure there.
For implementing the results of the peace agreement it is necessary to have a road
map with strict timetable and a mechanism for handling the difficulties. The continuous
and massive presence of the mediator countries’ representatives is essential. They are
not only observers but in case of debates they have to prevent the aggravation of
disputes and secure the peace in the most crucial census and post-census period. Their
presence in the blood-soaked Tamil region is not just a requirement and guarantee for
both sides for the principle of “pacta sunt servanda” but has also a symbolical meaning,
that time for peace and reconciliation has arrived.
A continuing history of broken promises, Introduction, available from
EMMANUEL, S. J.: Let my people go, available from http://www.eelamweb.com/books/lpg-wilson.html
MARKS, T. A.: State response to terrorism in Sri Lanka
SCHALK, P.: Resistance and Martyrdom in the Process of State Formation of Tamil Eelam
STRICKLAND, A.: Reinventing the Counterinsurgency Wheel
Struggle for Justice, Introduction, available from
SWAMY, M. R. N.: Tigers of Lanka, From Boys to Guerrillas
Terrorist Group Profiles, The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), (Patterns of Global Terrorism, 2003,
US Department of State), available from http://library.nps.navy.mil/home/tgp/ltte.htm
WIJEMANNE, A.: Review, available from http://www.eelamweb.com/books/lpg-wijemanne.html