Sri Lanka's military victory puts peaceful settlement in question
By Satheesan Kumaaran
Jan 16, 2008
The conquering of the ghost-town of the LTTE's administrative headquarters, Kilinochchi, in the north has raised concerns about the integrity and effectiveness of future peace talks between the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE as equal partners among observers. Sri Lanka's President Rajapaksa celebrated the military victories by his armed forces in the North and East of the island as these victories served his personal political fortune but, in reality, this military victory has put the country in grave danger as government forces push the LTTE into nowhere and provoke them to strike back precipitating the country's continual slide into political, economical and military chaos.

Political observers speculated even before Rajapaksa initiated talks with the Sri Lanka's Sinhala extremist parties, like JVP and Sinhala Urumaya, prior to the elections in 2005 that he held talks with them based on the mandate that he would fight the LTTE if he ever got into power. After he came to power, he began to spread lies about Tamils, but later softened his stance. He pretended to distance himself from these extremist political parties even though their relations remained mutually in good standing. His aim to eliminate the Tamil Tigers is still at the top of his agenda rather than focusing on bringing the conflict to a peaceful end.

Rajapaksa seems to have not done his homework on how to create a just and fair Sri Lanka and allow the peoples live in peace and prosperity. Every world leader on New Year's Day wished for peace and prosperity for their nation, but unlike any other nation, Sri Lanka's leader called upon his people to support him to kill the minority Tamils--adding fuel to the destruction of his state. Many of his predecessors adopted the same challenge, but failed to defeat the Tamil Tigers. Rajapaksa has not learnt this lesson from previous leaders. He has not even learnt the world history lesson as to how other freedom movements fight for the right to self-determination lose their controlled territories at one point or another and then regain them. The concept of losing territories won't silence the voice of people who fight for the right to self-determination. Government military victories will only serve the desires of individuals out to destroy Sri Lanka and not bring lasting peace to this three-decade-long ethnic conflict.

Liberation of the East does not bear fruit
Immediately after he came to power as the executive president, Rajapaksa entered into a fierce war against the LTTE. His armed forces managed to control vast majority of the landmass of East with the support of paramilitaries. The East is now under the administration of Pillaiyan of Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Puligal (TMVP) who was expelled from the LTTE; but, this administration has not protected the people in the East from the escalating violence. We hear daily of casualties to the Sri Lankan armed forces and the paramilitaries allegedly by the LTTE members who remain active in the region in guerrilla warfare.

The people in the region enjoy no freedom whatsoever, and live in fear over what would happen to them if the LTTE fought against the Sri Lankan armed forces to recapture the East. The eastern province remains isolated from other areas and economic progress in the region cannot happen as the government promised before it captured the areas from the LTTE. So, the government's claim that their liberation of East by eliminating the LTTE from the region would bring permanent peace to Easterners is obviously not happening.

Liberation of North will bring nothing but chaos
Sri Lankan leaders wanted Kilinochchi to be captured at any cost as it would allow them to carry forward political propaganda in the south to win the support of Sinhala extremists. The news of the conquering of Kilinochchi reached Colombo on January 2, 2009, after nearly a year of fighting.

Kilinochchi is an important and strategic location for Sri Lanka where the government can show the world and Sinhala people that Rajapaksa is a victor and can defeat the LTTE. Kilinochchi is one of several key areas of territory along the A-9 highway. Symbolically, the 1,200 sq. km extent of the district of Kilinochchi has been under LTTE control for more than a decade, ever since the Sri Lankan Army lost a battle known as Operation Unceasing Waves in September 1998. Soon after capturing vast land of Vanni, the LTTE had set up law courts, banks, hospitals and administrative offices, most of them located in Kilinochchi, including the LTTE's headquarters. The capturing of Kilinochchi was a chance for the Sri Lankan government to demonstrate its so called military "might" to the world.

Soon after hearing of the capture of Kilinochchi, Rajapaksa delivered a triumphant speech praising his armed forces. He claimed that the LTTE were counting the days before his armed forces advanced further into the LTTE-held areas, and that the LTTE leader was hiding somewhere in Mullaiththeevu where government forces were advancing and would soon be dead along with his cadres. Confetti rained down on the streets of Kollupitiya and firecrackers were set off just hours after this announcement. A handful of men danced on the streets, as the drummer pounded out one of the island's raucus baila beats. The pro-government media outlets gave much publicity to the government-sponsored celebrations.

The celebrations didn't last long. Less than an hour after Rajapaksa's late afternoon speech, a suicide bomber struck the air force headquarters in the city, killing three people, including two airmen, and wounding at least 32. Although the LTTE did not claim responsibility it is widely believed that this was the act of guerrilla war tactics by the LTTE to disrupt the normalcy in the South.

Soon after capturing Kilinochchi, the armed forces turned their focus towards capturing other areas controlled by the LTTE in the North, particularly Mullaiththeevu as it is the military headquarters of the LTTE. However, conquering of Mullaiththeevu will not be as easy as the others because the surrounding terrain is dense jungle and government forces will face the most experienced of the Tiger cadres.

The Sri Lankan government's initiatives to capture areas controlled by the LTTE will bring no peace, only chaos and unrest for 2009 unless the government enters into genuine peace talks with the LTTE and withdraws their armed forces from Tamil areas.

Opening the A-9 highway will help LTTE and Sri Lankan military
The Sri Lankan government's aim is to open the A-9 highway by capturing the areas that would allow safe passage between Jaffna peninsula and the rest of the island. The fall of Elephant Pass, Muhamalai and other vital land-route villages and towns will enable the government to use the highway, saving the government billions on air and sea transport costs to send supplies to their troops in Jaffna. With over 40,000 armed forces present in the Jaffna peninsula alone, the government needs to open up the A-9 highway quickly.

The A-9 highway would also help the LTTE in their fight for liberation of Tamil homeland from Sri Lankan government armed forces. The LTTE is unlikely to disturb the opening of the highway because it would greatly help the LTTE in their future battles for a separate Tamil Eelam. When the LTTE fights government forces in the North, they want to minimize civilian casualties. Opening the highway would enable the people and the armed forces to move out of Jaffna when the LTTE carries out military operations in the future. The opening of the highway is also vital for bringing in goods from South.

The LTTE leadership has proven that it is determined to fight for the freedom of the Tamils because whenever they had to flee their controlled areas (Jaffna in 1996 or Kilinochchi in 2008), they also took the civilians with them leaving the enemy ghost towns.

The government's claim that the LTTE has been using the civilians as shields is completely untrue. In fact, the LTTE evacuates the civilians demonstrating the effectiveness of LTTE leadership and that it is the only freedom movement that, without outside support, manages accommodation to hundreds of thousands of people without public disturbance.

The military operations in the North will only pave way for the LTTE to create an independent Tamil Eelam, help the LTTE liberate the entire Tamil homeland, and enable the LTTE to recognize a separate Tamil Eelam with the support of the International Community.

Instead of bringing peace to the island by eliminating the LTTE, the military operations of the Sri Lankan armed forces will only encourage the LTTE to increase their military struggle through conventional and guerrilla methods from within and without de jure Tamil Eelam. The government's daydream of winning political support in the South will only add fuel to the chaos that is already there. And, the LTTE has not yet shown its real military capability since it entered into peace talks in February 2002. Everyone is waiting to see who will be the ultimate winner and the loser, and this will come into light in the months to come.

(The author can be reached at: