A Sri Lankan Tamil man takes part in a ceremony to commemorate those who died in the war and held at Mullaivaikkal on the outskirts of Jaffna on May 18, 2019 (AFP)
Sri Lanka marked 10 years after defeating the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam (LTTE) on May 19, making the island nation reflect on what a deterrent an armed conflict can be to a country’s progress.
The war took away lives, divided communities and denied us of the opportunity to make progress like other Asian countries. Rehabbed LTTE woman cadre the late Thamilini Jeyekkumaran in her book ‘Under the shade of a sharp sword’ recalls a conversation she had with an old man who came to meet her at a tiger rebel camp. He had told her that the Tamils who migrated abroad would obtain educational qualifications and return to their homeland one day to find that the tiger rebels who fought for autonomy would have lost by then and ended up as beggars. How prophetic these words are if applied to the present situation in the war-torn north and east.
Today when one looks at the north much of the wreckage has been cleared and buildings have come up in the name of development. Many housing schemes have surfaced in Jaffna and other places in the north and east, thanks to funding by India. India’s Tamil Nadu fueled the LTTE rebel movement by allowing tiger cadres to be trained there. Hence it has a responsibility towards Sri Lanka to contribute to the reconciliation process and to heal wounds caused by the civil war.
- These attacks underscore the fact that a rebel movement can survive when a society is divided
- harassed Muslims would automatically support the extremist rebel movement
- Vociferous and aggressive Sri Lankans have walked into a trap again
- Sinhalese are boycotting doing business with Muslim owned shops
At the time of celebrating a decade after the defeating the Tiger terrorists we must focus on a lesson learned. The LTTE received funding for its movement because it was successful in highlighting the woes of the Tamil people and how shabbily this minority was treated by the government authorities.
All this helped the LTTE rise as a rebel movement and be successful in its attempts to make the conflict receive international attention. When turning the pages of time we remember how this conflict made the Indian Peace Keeping Force land here. A foreign force fighting a battle for the government might have been welcomed at that time, but in the long-run their presence became a nuisance to the island’s administrators.
As Sri Lanka celebrated the historic occasion, it is still recovering from a series of bomb blasts, carried out by Muslim extremists on Easter Sunday. These attacks underscore the fact that a rebel movement can survive when a society is divided. We see mischievous elements among the majority Sinhalese orchestrating a backlash. The attacking of Muslims and causing damage to their properties is just what these militants wish for. Then the harassed Muslims would automatically support the extremist rebel movement. This is how the LTTE received the support of the Tamil community. The Back July in 1983 was an event in the form of a riot which beathed oxygen into the LTTE. Homes and establishments looted and people harassed and beaten up forced the Tamil community to look to the Tiger rebels to save them from the atrocities of the Sinhalese.
Vociferous and aggressive Sri Lankans have walked into a trap again. They have caused wounds in the minds of the orthodox Muslims because the actions of these extremist forces spread the virus of hatred.
Extremist Muslim rebels
During the LTTE armed conflict the Tigers often asked educated Tamils why they had to find employment in establishments owned by the Sinhalese? The tigers didn’t want the Tamils to have anything to do with the Sinhalese majority.
Now we see that a good number of Sinhalese are boycotting doing business with Muslim owned shops. This will only add to the tension and also worry the Muslims about their future in the island.
The island’s history has shown that extremist forces have had their way. It’s time for the educated with liberal mindsets to come forward and spread the message of love and tolerance. Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith can’t succeed in this endeavor alone. There are Buddhist priests who are backing extremist patriotic groups and also sowing seeds of hatred against the Muslim community at large.
True, the extremist Muslim rebels have organised themselves following the patterns observed by the LTTE. They had carried out months of training and even established training centres here and used those abroad. The extremist Muslim rebels were brainwashed while the LTTE cadres were mentally trained to accept the commands and wishes of Tiger Supremo Prabakaran without questioning. Both sets of fighters were made to believe that their deaths were ‘honoured’ and was for a good cause.
The LTTE’s work was well orchestrated that it was able to rope in assistance or draw the sympathy from Norway with Eric Solheim being the point man for the country that was playing the role of mediator. Only time will tell what nation would support this extremist Muslim rebel movement operating in Sri Lanka.
The LTTE had its own identity where as the extremist Muslim movement operating under the name National Thawheed Jamaat is said to be the brainchild of ISIS.
Hence the new terrorist movement that has raised its head in Sri Lanka does seem to have it roots well rooted in an international terrorist organisation. If the threat that the LTTE posed was annoying, the threat that this extremist Muslim group poses can be best described as overwhelming.
On Sunday most families lit lamps at homes and temples and paid their respects to Sri Lanka’s fallen heroes. There were also those who got to pay respects to war heroes at a state organised event titled ‘10th Anniversary of dawn of peace’ and held in Colombo. There were also ceremonies held in other parts of the country, the following day, where Tamil families gathered to moan the lives of those who perished in the armed struggle.
For most of us who haven’t had a war related death in the family the occasion made us proud. But for the others it was an occasion to live with tears.
The war that concluded in 2009 reminds us of an old saying ‘next to a battle lost the saddest thing is a battle won’.