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Shifting the Narrative on the War on Terrorism due to Little Sri Lanka: Part 2

June 11, 2011

Shifting the Narrative on the War on Terrorism due to Little Sri Lanka: Part 2

Edited version of a an article first published May 22nd 2009 01:56


Shifting the Narrative on the War on Terrorism due to Little Sri Lanka: Part 2

Marked in Green is the area that the LTTE claimed for their homeland called Eelam.

What are the ramifications to rest of the world?

Using the term Terrorist Correctly

The LTTE (Tamil Tigers) has without question lost the Civil War in Sri Lanka. There is also no question about them being a terrorist organization. From their incept they were willing to murder anyone who stood in their way. The Mayor of Jaffna was personally killed by the LTTE leader Prabhakaran back in the early seventies and from that date on their tactics only became more ruthless.

It was the pogrom of 1983 that sprung the LTTE to prominence and won them widespread sympathy from around the world. The narrative being preached throughout the media was reduced down to ‘All Tamils are oppressed people’. The ignorance of the situation in Sri Lanka and the complete ignorance of Sri Lankan society only led to further misinformation and confusion. Those who believed that oppressed people have the right to take up arms against their oppressors saw the Tamils in Sri Lanka as another poster child for their mental worry wall. Even Australia’s own John Howard when being interviewed in the late eighties about Apartheid in South Africa used the Tamils in Sri Lanka as an example of Apartheid in Asia. At that time he was both ignorant and self serving in his assessment.

History for some is ‘lies made up by the winning side’ and the actual history of Sri Lanka has been rewritten several times to match the narratives of many interested parties. Many of whom have never been to Sri Lanka or know anything about Sri Lanka. For such people the pogrom of 1983 was the start of the history and they are completely unaware that just days before LTTE terrorists broke into a police station in the North East of the Island and executed 8 policemen. They are also unaware of the numbers of Sinhalese who risked their own lives in the pogrom that followed to save their Tamil neighbours. (I will leave the deeper explanation of this history at this point as it requires too much space).


You cannot judge a terrorist by what they oppose but rather by what they do. It was what the LTTE did that made them terrorists. Not their objectives, which was a separate homeland called Eelam.

As a terrorist organization the LTTE did what other terrorist organization do. They eliminated as many moderate voices in the Tamil population as they could. Anyone Tamil who was elected to parliament and refused to justify the use of arms was targeted by the LTTE for assassination. The reason why the LTTE were able to present themselves as the only voice of the Sri Lankan Tamils is because they had silenced all other Tamil voices. As a result the LTTE version of events was being presented to the world as the true version of events.

How Big Was the LTTE influence?

At its peak the LTTE enjoyed favours in India that no other organization could. They had military training camps in the full view of the Indian authorities and many cases were trained by Indian officers. They had weapon factories in Tamil Nadu. (I have personally seen empty LTTE shell casings marked as being manufactured in Tamil Nadu) They were free to recruit anyone they chose from refugee camps and the general population with no one giving the slightest concern that it may be bad for India to be so close to such ruthless people. The Tamil Tigers were free to sell the concept of Eelam as being something that all Tamils should support.

Around the world the Tamil Diaspora were being organized and infiltrated by LTTE operatives and agents. Cultural events and dances in many of the nations where they resided would also feature a fundraising item for the ‘War effort in Sri Lanka’. Millions of dollars started to flow into a small guerrilla war and turn it into a crusade to divide Sri Lanka into two separate nations. Weapons flowed freely on boats from India to Sri Lanka.

Meanwhile the Indian Government sent the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) to help settle the situation and disarm the various Tamil guerrilla organizations that had sprouted up in Sri Lanka. 100,000 Indian soldiers came to Sri Lankan soil and before they left 1100 had been killed by the LTTE with no progress in settling the peace. The invention of the suicide vest and the willingness of the LTTE to commit suicidal attacks had caught the IPKF by surprise. They left Sri Lanka under pressure of President Premadasa and also because there was an escalation in hostility in the Punjab where the troops were suddenly required. Premadasa wanted to pursue a ceasefire with the LTTE.

As a result of this ceasefire Sri Lankan 600 police officers were ordered by Premadasa to surrender to the LTTE. Shortly afterwards all 600 were executed. Within months both the Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and President Premadasa were killed in LTTE suicide bombings. Land was being held by the LTTE and they would capture more and more as time moved on. Usually after a wave of suicide attacks and assassinations they LTTE would take over major fortifications and key positions like Elephant Pass. They even captured the entire Northern city of Jaffna and held it for several years.

What this created was myth that the LTTE were invincible. It was a myth that tapped into so many misconceptions and false assumptions about terrorists. The military gains of the LTTE were reported by the Western Media as being just another freedom fighter in Asia. What they failed to take notice of was that the LTTE were exporting the design of the suicide jacket to the Middle East along with their warped concept of martyrdom justifying mass murder.

Think Tanks are ready to go

We have several schools of thought that were floated about in the effort to end the Civil War in Sri Lanka. Terrorism is often seen as a direct result of an unsettled grievance. Such a school presumes that once the grievance is settled the motivation for war will evaporate. Another school presumes that a strong show of force will wipe the terrorists out in a single blow. A third school tries to negotiate a compromise between the parties for a win / win scenario. None of these worked in Sri Lanka because the LTTE had formed into a fanatical secular cult that worshiped suicide. They enforced an indoctrination that would make even the most fanatical religious nut appear mild and rational by comparison. Child soldiers were recruited, brainwashed and sent to battle to be killed. The Black Tiger suicide cadres always had more volunteers than they could handle. Young women were just as willing to strap on a suicide vest as their male counterparts. The female suicide bomber who tried to assassinate General Fonseka had intentionally become pregnant so that she would not raise suspicion when she regularly visited the same hospital where he was visiting a patient (Fonseka’s personal chef who was also an LTTE spy setting up his assassination). Fonseka survived the attack, the woman and her child did not. How would someone negotiate with such fanaticism?

The collapse of the LTTE has blown away the myth that they were unstoppable. For others that are looking on it has opened up the debate about how to deal with terrorism. Negotiate or wipe them out? The answer is not always as clear as a bedroom based field marshals would have us believe. People want simple answers to situations that took decades to build up. Media sound bites often reduce the issue down to a single narrative to fit all situations.


Perhaps the myth of Terrorism being unstoppable is nothing more than a media sound bite that has run its course.

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