Sunday, May 06, 2007

Sri Lanka -- Tigers Escalate Civil War

A Tamil woman rides her bicycle past propaganda billboards urging Tamils to join the rebel force of Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)

There are disturbing developments to report on the deteriorating situation in Sri Lanka. The international community has paid little attention to this festering wound.

The LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) or Tamil Tigers used recently acquired small planes to aeriel bomb three military installations north of Colombo, and thereby escalating the war. Click here to read the story in Khaleej Times
An AP reporter was allowed unusual access into the Tiger stronghold of Kilinochchi. Click here to read the report

The Tamil people's grievances are legitimate and are yet to be addressed. The Tigers who presented themselves as the representative of the Tamil struggle seems to have lost that battle. Most Tamil and Sinhala people who are committed to justice and peace are united in their opposition to the terrorism of the Tigers. Indeed the Tamil people have disproportionately sufferred during this almost 25 year old war. Tamil elites, politicians, academics, opinion leaders and peace activisits have been ruthlessly murdered. (The high profile killing of Sri Lanka's Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar is still very fresh in our minds.) Tamil people in the north and the east of the Island live in extreme hardship because of this war.

The LTTE funds its operations by "taxing" Tamil people, particularly those in the diaspora who run businesses. A recent report by Al Jazeera TV documents how this happens in the UK. The 20 minute video is worth watching. Click here for the video on "Tiger Tax."

The government of Sri Lanka is not blameless by any means. Prodded by chauvinistic Sinhala groups they have opted for military solutions that have been pathetically ineffective. The government's military operations have killed scores of mostly Tamil, innocent people. Many opportunities that have been afforded both parties to negotiate have been wasted because neither the government nor the Tigers has been serious about negotiations.

This has not been known as a religious war. However, chauvinistic Buddhist monks have formed a political party which has agitated against negotiations. A recent report citing the storing of Tiger weapons in Hindu kovils portends an unfortunate possibility that religious communities may get engaged in this war.

The British parliament, following a debate on Sri Lanka, voted to withhold aid from Sri Lanka, citing the government's inability to engage in peace talks with the Tigers. This hypocrisy is from the same parliament that authorized Tony Blair to go to war against innocent people in a third country, Iraq, because they couldn't talk to Al Queda. This is either a total mis-read of the situation on the ground in Sri Lanka, or an arrogant display of its old colonial mentality. The Tamil - Sinhala problem is a legacy of their dastardly imperialism. Rather than engage the parties they cut off aid?

Read an opinion column that appeared in today's Sunday Times of Sri Lanka, here.

It is time for all those who are committed to justice and peace, Tamils, Sinhalese and others to effectively organize. It is time for faith-based and citizen-based diplomacy from all sides.


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