Thoughts on the military defeat of the Tamil Tigers

Two problems with the defeat of the Tamil Tigers.

First, the Sri Lankan government has not addressed the lingering grievances of the Tamil minority and has done little to alleviate the systemic and institutional racism in the country. [The government has] won the war, but are fully capable of losing the peace. They must quickly come to the assistance of the tens of thousands of displaced Tamils.

One should not expect [second in command of the LTTE and world class weapons dealer] Pathmanathan to fade quietly into retirement, and gently accept the Sri Lankan rout of the LTTE. He was Prabhakaran’s closest lieutenant. He will remain committed to the Tamil cause. It will take time to rebuild even a small organization. But, in the mean time, there is a new gun (merchant) for hire.

Tamil Tigers Crushed?

It is important to understand what exactly has recently occurred in Sri Lanka. The hierarchical geospatially-bound LTTE network was crashed. However, it’s reason d’etaire as well as its external sources of funding guarantee that the same fight will be rebooted in another form. If current global trends are any indication, it will be faceless, it will be small and agile, and it’s structure will almost be flat.

The Tamil Tiger is far from dead.

The defeat of the Tamil Tigers and waning insurgencies.

For the LTTE, the lasting legacy is pioneering the use of suicide bombers and suicide belts, which have widely been adopted by radical Islamist groups and others. The specially trained and selected Black Tigers, the mystique surrounding them within the organization and the belief in the validity of the tactic have now been widely transferred to other terrorist organizations.

It is, as some theorists like to say, the “atomic weapon of the poor,” and a weapon that is tremendously difficult to defend against, especially when any constraints on killing the civilian population is lifted, as it was for the LTTE, as well as al Qaeda, Hamas and others who learned the lesson well.


  1. The situation in Sri Lanka remains complex. The Tamil people suffered under the LTTE, but their grievances have not been addressed. And Abuza is correct: no government since 1956 has been successful at promoting peace, not even Chandrika who (I believe) really did have a strong belief and good intentions when she took office in 1995.

    Whether the Rajapakse adminitration will do better depends primarily on one thing: do they have the interests of Sri Lanka at heart, or are they (as their actions have so far indicated) trying to monopolize power for their constituency, the traditional elite leadership, at the expense of the trading class, the rank-and-file Sinhalese, and the minoroties? Will Rajapakse call a much-touted-but-never-implemented All Parties Conference and abide by its results? Will the TNA demonstrate independent thought and represent the interests of its constituency (rather than the interests of the LTTE)? Will Karuna embrace the democratic political arena and bring representation to the east, which has no love for either LTTE or GOSL?

    The seeds of a real solution are out there. Even the politicians know what needs to happen. But few leaders anywhere in the world have the fortitude to give up their own power. The odds are that things will not change, at least not for the better. The last, best hope for peace is an alliance between the various peace-promoting groups, Sarvodaya, National Peace Council, etc., which would exert political pressure on the administration. In the absense of serious political pressure, events are likely to return to business as usual.

  2. I will be the first to admit that I have never visited Sri Lanka myself, however I have serious doubts as to how successful the Sinhalese government will be in bringing the Tamil people back into the nation. There has been over twenty years of fighting between the Tigers and the Sinhal military (and paramilitary) which has resulted in countless innocent lives lost, on occasion as part of a deliberate policy. Even if the Sri Lankan government truly wishes to reform and better serve its Tamil citizens that is still hoping for quite a bit from the Sinhalese people. Combined with the murders of multiple opposition journalists recently, and I have little hope for the nation.

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