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World Affairs - Sri Lanka

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The Newspaper

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The War Between Sri Lanka and the Tamil Tigers by R Anderson

 

 

There has been an off and on civil war in Sri Lanka for over 25 years. It is being fought between the government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, or LTTE although more commonly known throughout the world as the Tamil Tigers. The Tamil Tigers are a separatist paramilitary group that wants a country in the north east of Sri Lanka for the Tamil minority. It is one of the most deadly ongoing conflicts in the world; the tactics that the Tamil Tigers have used has resulted in them being listed as a terrorist organization in 32 countries. The civil war has its origins all the way back when Sri Lanka first gained its independence from Britain in 1948. While writing the first post-independence constitution tempers flared between the Sinhalese majority and the Tamil minority. Things boiled over with the passing of a law establishing the Sinhalese language as the sole official language of the Sri Lankan government. This was the spark that started the lead up to the civil war. The actual beginning of the civil war is a little hard to pin point because beginning in about the mid-70's the Tamil Tigers began carrying out assassinations. They targeted mainly policemen and moderate Tamil politicians who attempted to talk with the government of Sri Lanka. This campaign of assassinations would extend into a full scale armed conflict in July 1983 (known as Black July), following the killings of between 1,000 and 3,000 Tamils in response to an ambush by a Tamil militant group.

 

In 2006, the government of Sri Lanka resumed a major offensive against the strongholds of the Tamil Tigers in the north and east of the country. Over the course of the last 3 years, the government has completely driven the Tigers out of the eastern provinces of Sri Lanka, and is driving them farther and farther north. The Tamil Tigers are left with only 3% of the territory that they at one time possessed. The remaining Tigers are trapped, and there final strongholds will soon fall.

 

However, the Tigers are not the only ones trapped with little hope for escape. As of March 27, there are over 150,000 civilians that are under direct fire from both sides, and in desperate need of food, clothing, water, and medical attention. Out of those, the International Red Cross states that some 150,000 that are trapped, only 2,000 have been able to evacuate by ship, and those 2,000 are only those that are the most severely injured. The remainder, are near the middle of a war, even those that are in what has been declared a "safe zone". There has been intense pressure on the Tigers and the government of Sri Lanka to declare a ceasefire that would allow the civilians to leave the area. However with the victory so close, the government of Sri Lanka has flatly denied any idea of a cease fire. They have promised to open two "safe" lanes which civilians can safely leave through. So, for the time being, a brutal war is being fought in a small patch of land with almost 150,000 civilians packed in along with both sides fighting forces.

 

On May 16 the president of Sri Lanka declared victory over the Tigers, but the war didn't officially end until the following day when the final pockets of resistance were cleared out. On May 18 the government of Sri Lanka confirmed that the leader of the Tigers along with his top aides had been killed by a rocket propelled grenade attack as they were trying to flee the war zone. With the fighting over it remains to be seen how the government will respond, will they allow international aid and attempt to ensure that the displaced civilians are treated well, or will they further alienate the Tamil minority and set the stage for a second civil war.

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