THAMIL NATIONAL LIBERATION STRUGGLE AND NATIONAL LEADER PRABHAKARAN
Indo - Thamil Eelam War
The war between LTTE and IPKF broke out on October 10, 1987. On October 11, Prabhakaran wrote a letter to the Chief Minister of Thamil Nadu, M.G.Ramachandran explaining the circumstances that led to the break-out hostilities. He wrote,
“As a consequence of the unjust and tragic death of our commanders and fighters, violence erupted everywhere in Thamil Eelam. Racial riots broke here and there. India had leveled false accusations against us stating that we were responsible for the violence and we tried to break the agreement. As a result, a conspiracy was hatched in Colombo between Indian Defense Minister Pant, Indian High Commissioner Dixit, and Indian Army Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Sunderji n one side and President Jayawardene and National Security Minister Lalith Athulathmudali on the other side.
J.R. Jayawardene had announced the banning of LTTE and the nullification of the general amnesty given to LTTE cadres. Indian Defence Minister Pant declared that India had decided to take strong military action against the LTTE.
Following such belligerent threats and unilateral action, the IPKF launched a vicious military attack on the LTTE fighters using tanks and artillery. On the morning of October 10, 1987, IPKF entered the offices of two Newspapers in Jaffna (Eelamurasu and Murasoli) and arrested all the workers. They then dynamited and blasted the machinery and equipment in those offices. At noon, the Indian forces tried to break out from Jaffna Fort into Jaffna town. When we tried to check their advance, the Indian army fired back. The LTTE in turn was compelled to return fire in self-defence.
The Indian army started shelling residential areas using heavy artillery and tanks for hours together. Their attacks increased in intensity and frequency. Because of these indiscriminate attacks, not only the Tiger fighters but also the civilians are dying in their hundreds. It was obvious the Indian Army had orders from Delhi to exterminate the Tigers even if that meant killing large number of civilians. Surrounded
on all sides by the Indian Army, we are fighting in self- defence. We bear arms for a cause so that it is nobler to die fighting rather than be captured alive and die in disgrace. “
The war went on with great intensity. It took one long month for the Indian Army to capture Jaffna peninsula. Prabhakaran himself took command and led the fighting.
Prabhakaran finally decided that guerilla warfare is the best method to fight the Indian armed forces. So he withdrew with his fighters into the jungles of Vanni in Thamil Eelam.
From the Vanni jungles the guerilla war continued. There were heavy causalities on the Indian side. Unable to confront the Tigers in battle, they turned their anger against the people and killed innocent civilians. They killed several women after raping them.
While the war was in progress, Prabhakaran wrote to Rajiv Gandhi on 12/10/1987, 14/10/1987 and 13/01/1988. He informed him that if a cease-fire is declared and an interim council for Northeast is set up in accordance with the promise made to him, the LTTE was prepared to hand over arms. But Rajiv
Gandhi wanted to kill Prabhakaran and then completely exterminate the entire LTTE fighters thus putting an end to the goal of an independent Thamil Eelam. So far from halting the war, he inducted more than 150,000 Indian soldiers into Thamil areas to execute his plan. As a result the war continued unabated.
Thamil Eelam National Leader
All the Thamil groups which took up arms to fight for the liberation of Thamil Eelam turned traitors to the Thamils by forsaking the ideal of Thamil Eelam. They slavishly sold their souls to the governments of India and Sri Lanka and played the role of paid mercenaries and Quislings.
But Prabhakaran was the only leader who boldly stood up against Indian military aggression after rallying around the Thamil people of Eelam, cutting across caste, religion and regional barriers. While the whole world stood aghast in wonder, the tiny Thamil Eelam army fought the mighty Indian army like a ferocious Tiger. Even the Sinhalese people admired Prabhakaran as a first rate military commander who stood against foreign invasion. When the war was raging in full fury during the middle part of 1988, Prabhakaran came to be hailed as the’ National Leader of Thamil Eelam’ by the Thamil people in Thamil Eelam and other parts of the world.
Martyrdom of Mother Poopathy
When Thamil women unfolded the flag of revolt against the Indian invading army, Mother Poopathy of Maddakkalappu in South Thamil Eelam started a fast unto death putting forward two demands:
(1) Stop the war; and
(2) Start negotiations with the LTTE .
But Premier Rajiv Gandhi who lauds Gandhian non-violent principles pooh-poohed her fast. Mother Poopathy sacrificed her life and became a Martyr on April 19, 1988. Thamil Eelam National leader Prabhakaran issued a statement eulogizing her noble sacrifice. He said:
"Among the Martyrs who created history by sacrificing their precious lives in the cause of our sacred war of liberation of Thamil Eelam, Mother Poopathy secures an exalted place. She who renounced her life as an ordinary woman, a mother, head of a family and desires sacrificed her very life for the empowerment of her people and the liberation of her race. The war of non-violence she launched against the tyranny of the Indian army had made the land of Gandhiji bow down its head in shame! She did not die as an ordinary human being. Her supreme sacrifice raises her as the symbolic awakening of the motherhood of Thamil Eelam."
National Heroes Day (November 1987)
When Eelam war was raging with fury, every day liberation fighters were laying down their lives at the altar of Thamil Eelam liberation. On November 27, 1989 from his dense jungle hideout, Thamil Eelam National Leader Prabhakaran proclaimed that “November 27” on which day the first liberation fighter attained martyrdom in the cause of Thamil Eelam will be commemorated as “ National Heroes Day.” He said ,
"Today is a very important day in the history of our liberation struggle. We have proclaimed this day as the National Heroes Day to remember the 1307 martyrs who sacrificed their lives for the noble cause of liberating Thamil Eelam. For the first time we are commemorating National Heroes Day. It is customary for Remembrance Day to be commemorated in many countries in the world in memory of soldiers who fought and died for the liberation of their motherland and soldiers who died in battle defending their countries' freedom.
You know that all these days we have been commemorating days when individual fighters attained martyrdom. But from this year onwards we have proclaimed one particular day of the year to remember and commemorate the death of all the heroes who attained martyrdom. Hence we have declared November 27 as the National Heroes Day, the day our first LTTE fighter Shankar sacrificed his life on the battle field. So we have proclaimed this day as our National Heroes Day.
There is a tradition among our people. It is to give prominence to those who hold high positions and those who are wealthy. Likewise in our liberation struggle in order not to separate the leaders and praise their accomplishments only, we have taken a decision to celebrate National Heroes Day with the objective of treating every fighter on an equal footing.
So by commemorating all the fallen heroes on a specified day not only we treat the leaders as well as the ordinary fighters equally, we also commemorate jointly all the fighters who laid down their lives. Otherwise in course of time only the leaders will be remembered and honoured while the rest will fade
into oblivion. So to avoid giving prominence to a selected few and to remember all on the same day we decided to celebrate this National Heroes Day. As far as a Nation is concerned, if it does not honour its heroes, intellectuals and women it will become barbaric and destroy itself. We have in our country great intellectuals. When compared with other countries our Thamil women are highly venerated in our society. At the same time there was a paucity for brave warriors. But today on this National Heroes Day we have accomplished a sea change in our society. Yes we have started to honour our heroes as well.
Talks Between Sri Lankan Government and LTTE
Premadasa who assumed office as the new President in 1988, repeatedly invited the LTTE to come for talks. Since Prabhakaran too was keen on ending Indian aggression in Thamil homeland, he decided to accept the invitation of Premadasa. Due to the clever diplomatic move of our leader National Leader Prabhakaran, relationship between India and Sri Lanka turned sour and became hostile. President Premadasa publicly called the Indian army to quit Sri Lanka.
The situation became a thorough embarrassment for the Indian army which came on the invitation of the Sri Lankan government to enforce so called peace. The Indian army withdrew from Thamil Eelam in disgrace in March, 1990 after tasting defeat and humiliation at the hands of the LTTE.
The military challenge posed by the regional super power was defeated by the LTTE due to Prabhakaran’s superior military strategy and skillful political maneuvering. The areas vacated by the IPKF swiftly fell into the hands of the LTTE. The mercenary force created by the Indian army under the style ‘ Thamil National Army’ (TNA) disintegrated and fled unable to face lightning strikes launched by battle-hardened and committed LTTE fighters. A majority surrendered to the LTTE with their arms. Northeastern Provincial council, the illegitimate child of the equally illegitimate Indo- Ceylon Accord collapsed like nine pins.
Thamil Eelam National Leader Prabhakaran emerged from his hide-out in Vanni. Talks between Sri Lankan Government and LTTE continued. At the end due to the treachery and the deception resorted to by Sinhalese chauvinism, the peace talks broke off abruptly without finding a meaningful solution to the ethnic conflict.
Thamil Eelam War II
LTTE negotiators on several occasions repeatedly brought to the notice of the Sri Lankan government the excesses committed by the Sinhalese police and the army. But the government remained cold to these excesses and this caused relationship between the LTTE and government to become contentious. On June 10,1990 an encounter took place between the Sinhalese police and the LTTE over an incident of violation of human rights committed against a Muslim resident by the Sinhalese police at Kalmunai. This encounter ended in a full-scale war between the police and the LTTE.
Although Thamil Eelam National Leader Prabhakaran took immediate steps to bring the war to an end, the LTTE committed to safeguard the Thamil people and their homeland was left with no alternative but to confront the war unleashed by chauvinistic Sri Lankan government and its Sinhala army. Both were hell-bent on a genocidal war against the Thamils to rob them of their traditional homeland.
On September 1, 1991, National Leader Prabhakaran met newspaper reporters of Thamil Eelam and explained to them about the prevailing political and military situation. He said,
“Many of the army camps which existed when Thamil Eelam war II started, have now ceased to exist. Because army camps at places like Kokkavil and Mankulam were destroyed by our LTTE forces, a greater part of Vanni region had come under our control. With the destruction of Jaffna Fort, Jaffna town too has been liberated.
During the fight at Elephant Pass, for the first time we engaged the Sinhala army face to face in a conventional warfare. We fought with a numerically superior army and checked its advance for a very long period. If we get panicky over heavy casualties suffered at Elephant Pass, we can never hope to continue this war.
We should consider our losses as steps for future growth. During the 43 days battle ( 10/7/1991 to 23/8/199 ) we lost 564 fighters. But on the enemy side large number of Sinhalese soldiers died during the prolonged fighting.
Prabhakaran with his lieutenants
When compared with enemy losses, ours cannot be described as excessive. People who are undergoing untold sufferings will naturally feel alarmed as to what next. However, they must rally around in large numbers. Losses suffered in battle must be replenished then and there. People must fully identify themselves with us and understand our hardships and sufferings.
We are always ready to hold talks with the Sri Lankan government without any preconditions. But the government should create the necessary environment for holding such talks.
In the island of Ceylon, the LTTE is only fighting against the Sri Lankan government forces. As such I feel there is no necessity for the Indian government to get worried about the LTTE. The hill country Thamils should realize that all their woes are caused by the continued betrayal by their leaders. The liberation struggle of Thamil Eelam cannot be destroyed by any kind of weapons or by any bombings.”
On September 4, 1991 BBC London correspondent Chris Morris had an interview with the Thamil National Leader Prabhakaran. During this interview Prabhakaran said,
“First and foremost the Sinhalese people must recognize the basic principles underlying the national problem of the people of Thamil Eelam. They are, recognition of the Thamil Homeland, recognition that Thamil people constitute a Nation and the Thamil people right to self-determination. Only on the basis of this recognition can peace and amity prevail between the two races. We never force our young men to join the fighting force. The truth is because of the oppression of the Thamil people through state terrorism and its impact on our society, our youths are voluntarily joining the LTTE. Many parents bring their children, both boys and girls, to join our fighting forces at our public meetings. We are providing such young children schooling facilities and give them training in various vocations. We never send young children to the battlefront.
LTTE Women Organization
In the beginning of 1984 for the first time those girls who gave indirect support to the LTTE started to contribute their share in the liberation war spearheaded by the LTTE. With the approval of Thamil Eelam National Leader Prabhakaran they were given training in the use of fire-arms. When the Indo-Thamil Eelam war broke-out on October 10, 1987 they directly joined the war front. Up to now they are fighting bravely accomplishing many feats of valour.
In a message given by the National Leader Prabhakaran related to the Women Wing, he said,
''Women constitute a majority among the Thamil population. If they continue to lead a servile life, it will be difficult to transform our freedom struggle into a national liberation movement. Realizing this fact our movement gave top priority for women’s liberation. Women were politicised and made to join our fighting forces. By this we ushered in a gigantic revolution among women in Thamil society. A revolution that never took place in the annals of Thamil history has taken place in Thamil Eelam. Women consigned to the kitchen from time Women Tigers immemorial now bear arms and don army uniform. Today the women folk which remained dormant for a long time. Now it has awakened fully and stands as an important arm of a mighty revolutionary force. Our women fighters by their brave accomplishments have proved to the world that they are in no way inferior to men fighters in bravery, sacrifice, and thirst for freedom.”
LTTE Students Organization
The future of a country always depends on its younger generation. Therefore, it is imperative that this generation must be brought up as intelligent, efficient and responsible citizens. To meet that goal, it is very important that we give them proper education. Towards this end LTTE Students Organization was formed on the orders of our leader.
When we trace the growth of the armed struggle, one can observe very clearly the indispensable part played by the surrounding sea of Thamil Eelam. Knowing this historical importance, our leader Prabhakaran formed the ‘Sea Tigers’ as a division of the LTTE in 1984. Today the
Sea Tigers have grown in strength as to pose a challenge to the Sri Lankan navy. On March 01, 1992 Women Wing of the Sea Tigers was formed. Women Wing’s feats of chivalry are on par with that of their male counter-part.
Thamil Rehabilitation Organization (TRO)
Thamil Rehabilitation Organization (TRO) was formed in 1985. Regarding its necessity Leader Prabhakaran said,
“People of Thamil Eelam are facing two battle fronts. One front is the liberation of our homeland from the invading Sinhalese armed forces. The other front is the production of food to counter the tyrannical economic blockade of the Sinhalese chauvinistic government. Just as the heart regulates the blood circulation and helps the body to conquer diseases, so also the TRO should increase food production which is the life-blood and foundation for the final victory of the liberation of Thamil people. ”
The growth of TRO in Thamil Eelam has helped many families to be self-employed with out depending on relief assistance.
Thamil Eelam Economic Development Organization (TEEDOR)
On May 6, 1994, our leader after honoring and giving awards to the best farmers of Thamil Eelam said,
“Thamil Eelam is a fertile land gifted with many natural resources. It possess water, land and human resource potential enough to achieve economic self-sufficiency and development. Nature’s gift of resources must be identified and put to maximum use. Production must be increased to meet the economic needs of the people by careful planning and research. Agriculture and industry are the pivotal bases for economic development and growth. As such we should concentrate our energies on developing agriculture and industry. To achieve this goal ‘Thamil Eelam Economic Development Organization (TEEDOR) has launched several productive projects. All these activities must be intensified further so that an independent Thamil Eelam will not have to depend on other countries, but stand on its own legs economically.''
Black Tigers – Men of Steel
Black Tigers are men of steel in their determination to achieve their goal of Thamil Eelam. In a statement National Leader Prabhakaran issued to mark the occasion of Black Tigers’ Day on July 5, 1993, he said,
“The era of Black Tigers began with Capt. Miller. A fighting force imbued with the spirit of supreme self-sacrifice unheard and unseen in the annals of history anywhere in the world before came into existence in Thamil Eelam.. These Black Tigers are of miracle birth and a class by themselves. They are of gentle heart but with iron will. Their love of humanity is so great they sacrifice their dear lives so that others may live. In the words ‘Black Tiger’ , black stands for iron will and unshakable resolve. Looked at another angle, it can also signify darkness which symbolizes secretiveness and mystery. Hence, the word Black Tiger can have many meanings and many interpretations. It is this secretiveness which is the prime factor for their decisive operational victories. This is an era of Black Tigers. During this era our liberation struggle will assume new dimensions. These warriors who have conquered death will create new history and light the torch for the dawn of freedom of our future generations.”
March 8 Women's’ Day
On Mach 8, 1992, on the occasion of the World Women’s Day in Prabhakaran issued a statement. In that statement he said,
“When we talk about the freedom of women we refer to their freedom from political oppression and economic exploitation. So our struggle for the liberation of women is advanced on multi-dimensional fronts viz. national liberation, societal liberation, and economic liberation. This is not a struggle against oppression of men over women, but an intellectual fight against ignorance about male chauvinism. As such this ideological struggle must have the aim of changing the hearts of men.''
Thamil Eelam Military Academy
In a message to commemorate the first anniversary of the Thamil Eelam Military Academy sent on September 19, 1991 Prabhakaran said “The Thamil Eelam Military Academy is one of my dreams. A new and younger generation of youths should blossom out as the future architects of my country. This new and revolutionary generation should consist of persons who are able, intelligent, patriotic, brave, sincere and modesty. Only this generation should emerge as the architects, administrators and rulers of our country.”
Chencholai Kids Club
On instructions from leader Prabhakaran, the Chencholai Kids club was inaugurated on October 23 1991 to take care of girls who had lost their parents and/or guardians. On this occasion, he sent a message which read,
“Under the environment of a historic war of liberation we are planting these young seeds at Chencholai campus. It is my desire that these young seeds must take deep roots and grow up one day as an intellectual reservoir of Thamil Eelam I convey my greetings for this revolutionary venture to thrive well and prosper.”
The Thamil Eelam Police Force (TAP)
On November 1991, Prabhakaran officially inaugurated the Thamil Eelam Police Force committed to serve the security interests of the Thamil people. The TEPF came under the direct control and supervision of leader Prabhakaran. Outlining the activities of the TEPF Prabhakaran said,
“Members of the police force will always be men of exemplary conduct, honesty, fairness, and discipline. They will serve as people’s servants with a high sense of commitment to ensure social justice and social progress. They will move with people with a spirit of love and dignity in tune with our culture. They will be completely free of all anti-social crimes and serve the people with
Thamil Eelam Police
patriotic feeling, all the 24 hours of the day. The aim of our police force is not to catch the criminals and bring them to courts to be tried, but mainly to work with all their might to prevent crimes from being committed in the first place. Thereby they will work towards the goal of building up a crime-free social order in Thamil Eelam.'' Inspecting Police Recruits Parade
Note - It is important here to remember that the Thamil Eelam Police force started their training on June 1, the day when the Sinhalese police set fire to Jaffna Public Library and burnt it down to ashes.
LTTE Art and Cultural Organization
Our language, art and culture have taken deep root in our soil of Thamil Eelam for a very long period in the history of the Thamils. Our arts and cultural heritage are the very soul of our motherland.
Keeping this basic truth in mind the first “Muththamizh Celebration” was conducted by the LTTE art and cultural organization on July 15, 1992. In a statement sent to this celebration Thamil national leader Prabhakaran said this, “Today it has become imperative to transform our liberation struggle into an people’s struggle in which the entire people of Thamil Eelam should take an active part and from this very broad base we have to build up our national resistance movement which has become an unavoidable and indispensable historic necessity. To fulfill this enormous objective, the creative activities of our art and literary men should play the most important part.”
Broadcasting Service –Voice of Tigers
On the first anniversary of the Voice Tigers Radio, Thamil National Leader Prabhakaran sent his felicitations in which he stated,
“A vicious and malicious propaganda campaign has been unleashed against us by our enemy, the Sinhalese government, and its mercenary Thamil treacherous groups. Hence, the Voice of Tigers should stand up and act as the voice of truth in countering enemy’s false ideological war. The Voice of Tigers should resound as the war drum of “Sathiya Yuththam” (“War of Truth”).
Education Development Board of Thamil Eelam
On February 13, 1993, Thamil Eelam National Leader Prabhakaran issued a statement congratulating the students who came out successful in the Thamil Eelam General Certificate of Education Examination conducted by the Educational Development Board of Thamil Eelam. In this statement he said,
“Education is very essential for the growth of humanity and social development. In fact it is the root of human development. We never showed any discrimination between those who opted to dedicate themselves for the social emancipation of our community and the right of students to carry on their education. Both are indispensable for the progress and smooth functioning of our society. Today the combination of education and war have become a historic necessity. As much as war is an armour for education, so is education a shield for war. Today in Thamil Eelam, education remains in a state of neglect.
The Sri Lankan government is willfully neglecting the education of the children of Thamil Eelam. Our students have to study against heavy odds, hardships and insurmountable difficulties. In spite of all the hardships and obstruction when our students prepare for their examinations their examination are not conducted as scheduled. When examinations are held, the Sri Lankan armed forces disturb and disrupt the peace. Only after surmounting such difficulties that our students sit for their examinations. Under these circumstances our Thamil Eelam educational development board has successfully conducted the Thamil Eelam General Certificate of Education Examination which is equivalent to the G.C.E O/L examination successfully. I commend this effort with all my heart and also at the same time congratulate all those students who passed this examination.
We are now moving forward to our goal of an independent state of Thamil Eelam. We must lay the foundation for such a state from now itself. Because judiciary is the most important arm of the state administrative machinery we are giving the best training to you, our liberation fighters. In the administration of justice, the role of judiciary is important. Only those who possess integrity, morality, compassion and self-discipline should man the judiciary. In the beginning we created “Reconciliation Boards”, but you are aware that it committed many mistakes. The judgments given by this body came for criticism and adverse comments by the people. Judgments were not rendered in an un-selfish, impartial and fair manner. A justice system consisting of members drawn from the LTTE, which has a reputation for discipline and order, will be the foundation for a strong government and a highly disciplined society. Only when social justice is nurtured properly can society rise to new heights.''
The Law College of Thamil Eelam
In his address at the Law College of Thamil Eelam on January 25, 1993 Thamil Eelam National Leader Prabhakaran said,
Swearing in ceremony of Judges and Lawyers of Thamil Eelam
The following is the address by Thamil Eelam National Leader Prabhakaran at the swearing in ceremony of the judges and lawyers of Thamil Eelam Justice Department on August 19, 1993. He said,
“Our people believe fully that if liberation fighters took responsibility for the administration of justice system, they will dispense justice with fairness. People think so because they know fully well that their precious lives for their noble cause of the liberation of their motherland. Therefore, the people are really happy. At this memorable occasion when you, the liberation fighters are taking oaths to shoulder this sacred responsibility, I am confident that you will discharge your duties with integrity and impartiality to fulfill the great expectation of the people. It is said that what you learn is like a handful of sand and what is not learnt is as large as the universe. As such try to learn much from worldly experience. You will receive sound knowledge of men and matters only through personal experience. Try to understand the aspirations of our people, remove all contradictions and mete out justice to them with partially from a completely neutral stand. Of course you will meet with difficulties when you discharge your duties justly and honestly. But never severed from the path of truth and justice for which have iron determination and strong willpower together with extreme boldness.”
Taking of Oath by Judges and Lawyers of the Justice Department of Thamil Eelam
Thamil Eelam National Leader Prabhakaran spoke at the swearing –in- ceremony of the Judges and lawyers of Thamil Eelam Justice Department which took place on August 19, 1993. He said,
“Our people fully expect that when our liberation fighters assume the responsibilities of judges and lawyers, they will weigh the issues and mete out justice dispassionately and fairly. People know fully well that our fighters are those who are prepared to lay down their lives for a noble cause. Therefore, people feel happy when you assume responsibility for the justice system.
I am therefore confident that you will discharge your duties with integrity and responsibility in fulfilling the great expectation of our people. It is said that what we learn is just a handful of sand and what is not learnt is as large as the universe. On this basis you should strive to learn from your worldly experience. Only through personal experience you can acquire full knowledge. You should consider it your duty to understand the feelings of our people, resolve their contradictions and dispense justice to them. There will be always difficulties when you discharge your duties justly and honestly. But never waver from the path of truth and justice when you perform your duties. For that you should possess an iron will and courage.''
On November 13, 1993, National Leader Prabhakaran inaugurated Kantharuban Arivucholai. In his inaugural address he said, “Mother Thamil, who is the common mother for all of us, has embraced all these children. All our fighters are the brothers of these children. They have become an inseparable part of the LTTE family. Going beyond individual family, beyond its circle of relations these children will grow up as members of a much wider family. They will in future become the architects of our country. The environment in which they are growing up love of their land and affection for the people will take deep root in their minds. Endowed with such noble qualities they will receive good education and become the builders of our nation ready to be of service to our people. On one hand we are fighting to redeem our land of Thamil Eelam and on the other hand we are engaged in social programmes and projects to uplift children. But for all these schemes to succeed, the society must wholeheartedly co-operate with us.” Prabhakaran with children
Note - Kaantharuban was a youngster who voluntarily joined the movement after he lost his parents and had no one to support him. Later he sought permission from the LTTE leader and became a Black Tiger. He attained martyrdom. Kantharuban had one last wish which he confided to our leader thus “I was an orphan, but you took me into the fold of the LTTE family and made me somebody. Same way please take all the orphans of Thamil Eelam and redeem them from their wretched state of being orphans.” It is to fulfill his wishes that the institution was named Kantharuban Arivucholai.
Permanent and Lasting Peace in the Island
On September 13, 1994, Mrs. Ananthi, reporter from B.B.C. Thamil Service interviewed Thamil National Leader Prabhakaran. Responding to a question put to him, he answered thus,
“We like the talks to take place in an environment of peace and friendly atmosphere.
It is the responsibility of the Sri Lankan government to create such a conducive situation.
Ordinary Sinhalese masses are not in favour of this war. We know very well that they are yearning for peace. The results of the recent elections clearly prove this reality. We too want peace. We want permanent peace to prevail so that all people could live a normal life.
Today war is the greatest stimulating block The war must be brought to an end. It is those people who started the war against the Thamils who should come forward to stop the war. The Sinhala Nation should realize that the Thamil problem can never be solved through military means. Only by fulfilling the political aspirations of the Thamil people can a solution be found to end the racial conflict. This can be achieved through peaceful means. This should be made known to the Sinhalese chauvinistic politicians and militarists by the Sinhalese people themselves. We love the Sinhalese people and we are not their enemies. The racial chauvinistic elements are responsible for the contradictions that arose between the Thamils and the Sinhalese people. The Sinhalese people themselves must identify the chauvinist elements among themselves and ostracize them. Only then will permanent peace prevail in the island of Ceylon.''
ON THE LEGAL STATUS OF THE WAR IN SRI LANKA .
AND THE LIBERATION TIGERS OF TAMIL EELAM
Attorney at Law
San Francisco California 94118
voice and telefax
SUMMARY OF ARGUMENT ........................ 3
THERE IS A WAR IN SRI LANKA ................... 5
A. What is War. ....................................... 5
B. Terrorism. ......................................... 6
C. War in Sri Lanka. .................................. 7
LTTE ENTITLED TO COMBATANT STATUS ........................... 12
THE SRI LANKA-TAMIL WAR IS A WAR OF
NATIONAL LIBERATION IN DEFENSE OF THE
PRINCIPLE OF SELF-DETERMINATION ............................. 13
HUMANITARIAN LAW RELATING TO THE CONDUCT OF WAR ............ 20
HUMANITARIAN LAW RELATING TO VICTIMS OF THE WAR ............. 26
BREACHES OF THE LAWS AND CUSTOMS OF WAR
IN THE SRI LANKA -TAMIL WAR ................................. 28
SUPPORT FOR LTTE MAY NOT BE CRIMINALIZED .................... 33
CONCERNS FOR THE UNITED STATES .............................. 33
SUMMARY OF ARGUMENT
This Memorandum addresses why the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam may not be included as a terrorist organization under the terms of P.L. 104-132. Rather, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam are a combat force in a war -- the Sri Lanka - Tamil War. To include the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in a list of terrorist organizations has no basis in law and fact.
This Memorandum is not meant to be an exhaustive account of the Sri Lanka - Tamil War. The facts chosen are meant to be illustrative of the fact that there is a war and that in the course of the war there have been violations of the rules of war by both sides. For each example given many others could be made.
There is armed conflict (war) in Sri Lanka between the armed forces of the government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). The conflict is governed by humanitarian law: the Hague Conventions, the Geneva Conventions (including all provisions of the Protocols Additional considered customary law) and all treaty-based and customary laws of armed conflict. A fundamental rule of humanitarian law is that combatants in a war are entitled to combatant status. The LTTE meet all factual and legal tests for combatant status under humanitarian law rules. Laws relating to terrorism do not apply to combatants in wars or to acts carried out in the course of war. Because the LTTE has combatant status, the LTTE cannot be considered a terrorist organization nor can its acts in the course of war be treated as terrorist. Therefore it is legally incorrect to include the LTTE in a list of terrorist organizations under the terms of P.L. 104- 132.
While the war in Sri Lanka could be characterized as a civil war requiring neutrality from third party states such as the United States, this author is convinced that the Tamil people meet all criteria for the right to self-determination. Accordingly, the war in Sri Lanka is a war of national liberation in defense of the right to self-determination. Under international law rules applicable to wars of national liberation in defense of the right to self-determination the United States is legally required to side with the Tamil people and the LTTE. Regardless of whether the war is characterized a civil war or war of national liberation the LTTE still have combatant status and cannot be considered a terrorist organization under P.L. 104-132.
The laws and customs of war do not exonerate all acts undertaken in wartime. There are numerous violations of the laws and customs of war taking place in the Sri Lanka - Tamil war both by the government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE. The existence of violations of the laws and customs of war on either side do not reduce the parties to the conflict to terrorists and the war itself to terrorism: the armed forces of both the government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE maintain their combatant status. Individual violators, however, could charged with breaches of the laws and customs of war.
THERE IS A WAR IN SRI LANKA
A. What is War.
Humanitarian law -- also referred to as the laws and customs of war, the law of armed conflict or jus in bello -- applies when there is armed conflict or war. One of the threshold questions addressed by the law of armed conflict is whether or not a particular situation is a war. Under the currently applicable laws and customs of war, war is action carried out by military forces utilizing the methods and materiel of war to defeat by military means the military forces of the opponent or enemy. Simply put, if it looks like a war it probably is a war.
Military action can involve conventional warfare or guerrilla or other form of warfare. The laws and customs of war do not prohibit any particular form of military action. All modern wars have been fought with a variety of military tactics.
Because the purpose of war is to defeat the enemy military forces, the weaponry of war may vary from situation to situation. Contemporary wars have seen the use of spears and poison blow guns as well as napalm bombs and bullets containing depleted uranium.
It is not necessary for the parties to a conflict to formally declare war for there to be a war: a war exists and the laws and customs of war are applicable when objectively armed conflict is taking place. For example, the United States carried out lengthy military actions in Vietnam without ever having declared war. Even so, the laws and customs of war were applicable to both sides in that conflict.
Many countries at war either refrain from a formal declaration of war or try to deny a war is even taking place at all to try to avoid application of humanitarian law to their conflicts. One method governments use to attempt to avoid evaluation of their military actions under humanitarian law rules is to characterize the conflict as "terrorism" and "counter- terrorism" rather than war. Governments mis-characterize armed conflict for a variety of reasons, all present in the Sri Lanka - Tamil war: (1) the government's own armed forces have violated the rules of war and the government wants to avoid international censure; (2) the opposition forces have destroyed military targets that are insured and the government wishes the insured to receive insurance indemnification for the damage; (3) the government needs foreign aid (war is expensive) and many foreign donors such as the United States restrict foreign aid during war or only allow funds to combat "terrorism". Regardless of the political or economic motives for evoking "terrorism" when a war is taking place, humanitarian law automatically applies and the "terrorism" label is incorrect.
There is no universally accepted international definition of terrorism. Even so, it is easy to distinguish terrorism from war. For example, a group involved in terrorism generally is quite small, does not have any semblance of military command, and does not use the typical weapons or military tactics of war. The groups often function secretly -- in fact the clandestine nature of these groups makes them so hard to control. Most of these groups engage exclusively in random attacks on civilians or on civilian structures using bombs or small firearms or by kidnapping people for ransom. Members of these groups are not entitled to combatant status because their actions and the response by law enforcement actions of governments are not sufficient to qualify as a war.
While there may be a stated goal, groups involved in activities usually labeled "terrorist" seek to achieve that goal by intimidating the opposition into agreement rather than through military achievement. In part this may be because military victory is impossible given the group's small size and limited military training. On the other hand, lack of military activity may reflect on the typical goals of these groups: while some try to overturn governments or seize political power or governance, many groups seek to protect their "system" of monetary gain (usually illegal): the "drug" business, extortion rings and the like. Military action against such groups makes no sense at all - - these groups have no military bases, zones of territorial control, or the like. While occasionally, some groups do have "camps" and carry out "military training", they are not engaged in combat in any sense of the meaning of combat. Wishful thinking, week-end "war games" or playing at war and future plans are not sufficient to qualify as combat. Armed attacks on civilians rather than concerted military actions against the opponent's armed forces are likewise not combat. If on the other hand large-scale, mutually fought military actions over a wide territory are carried out against a so-called "terrorist" group it is far more than likely that the group is not "terrorist" at all but rather a military force in a war. Under these circumstances the "terrorist" is really a combatant.
C. War in Sri Lanka.
Applying the criteria for armed conflict to Sri Lanka, it is patently obvious that there is a war in Sri Lanka and that it is between the forces of the government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE. The government military forces utilize the methods and materiel of war to carry out military actions to defeat by military means the military forces of its enemy the LTTE. On its part, the LTTE carries out military actions against the military forces and military targets of the government of Sri Lanka. There is nothing random or sporadic about this war, nor is there anything clandestine about the LTTE -- the LTTE is very public. The LTTE does not play week-end war games but fights militarily on military battlefields day in and day out.
The war has existed for at least thirteen years or since the period immediately following the massacre of Tamils in Colombo in 1983. The existence of armed conflict was recognized by Sri Lankan government officials in this early period. For example, in 1986 the Finance Minister questioned how elections urged by Prime Minister Bandaranaike could take place when the country was "engulfed in a civil war." The international community also recognized the obvious: in 1987, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights passed a resolution calling on the parties to the conflict "to respect fully the universally accepted rules of humanitarian law" which, of course, only apply in wartime. The United States State Department has also characterized the situation in Sri Lanka as war.
The early years of the war were characterized by Tamil military control of much of the Tamil areas, the emergence of Vellupillai Prabhakaran as the leader of the LTTE, and the gradual supremacy of the LTTE among other Tamil groups in the armed conflict. A most important event of the early years was the failure of the 1985 Thimpu Negotiations. These talks, arranged by India, were to put in place an agreed cease fire and a program for a political rather than military solution to the Tamil national question. The talks took place in Thimpu, Bhutan from 8 July to 17 August 1985, breaking off abruptly when the Tamil delegation walked out in protest of the continued military actions against Tamil civilians, especially Sri Lankan army attacks on Vavuniya and other villages in the north.
In 1987 India became a party in the Sri Lanka-Tamil War several months after the July 1987 signing of the Indo-Sri Lanka Agreement to Establish Peace and Normalcy in Sri Lanka (Indo-Sri Lanka Accord or the Accord). The Accord was to "resolv[e] the ethnic problem of Sri Lanka", to enable India to protect itself from "foreign military and intelligence personnel" and to prevent Trincomalee harbor or other Sri Lankan ports from being used by foreign powers for military purposes. Shortly after signing the Accord, India sent the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) to Tamil areas. Although under the terms of the Accord the purpose of the Indian military presence was to protect the Tamil people and to carry out a surrender of arms by the Tamil military groups, the Indian forces began fighting the LTTE in October 1987. Between October 1987 and the final withdrawal of Indian forces in 1990 India's military incursion in Sri Lanka produced thousands of refugees of the war and civilian casualties.
At the height of the IPKF - LTTE war, Indian troops were said to number nearly 100,000. Major General Harkirat Singh, the divisional commander of Indian forces, explaining why the Indian Forces were unable to either win or capture the LTTE leadership, reported that the LTTE fought against their tanks at close range with Chinese rocket-propelled grenade launchers. General Singh also reported: "They even attacked tanks with burning jerry cans full of petrol."
Since the withdrawal of Indian forces, both the Sri Lankan Army and Navy have been almost continually engaged in military operations against the LTTE. The government forces use tanks, airplanes, armoured vehicles, military weapons, gun boats and other military materiel. Major military campaigns are given code names. For instance, three recent large-scale military operations against Jaffna in the north were code-named Leap Forward, Riviresa (Sunshine) I and Riviresa II. In the same period of time, the LTTE has been involved with almost continual army and navy operations against the government's forces.
In the past several years, both sides have had some military victories. The Riviresa campaign in the Fall of 1995 by the Sri Lankan army pushed into Jaffna and the LTTE retreated to other areas under their control. Most of the civilian population also fled, and it is only recently that some have begun to return. Even so, at time of this writing, more than 300,000 Tamils from the Jaffna area are still displaced and the war is still raging.
On the LTTE side, in July 1996 the LTTE successfully overran and seized the entire Mullaitivu Army Camp, killing about 1200 Sri Lankan troops. The LTTE are thought to have sustained about 250 casualties, including a large number of women combat troops. The LTTE were able to capture the entire arsenal at the camp. This victory was followed by an ambush of a Sri Lankan army unit at Thenmaratchi (July 28, 1996) in which the LTTE also captured many arms and ammunition.
The LTTE also has naval troops, and has been able to carry out successful operations against the Sri Lankan navy. For example, in April and October 1996, the LTTE "Sea Tigers" sunk five vessels of the Sri Lankan navy in Trincomalee. The "Sea Tigers" have also sunk government vessels in Jaffna, and have been able to carry out periodic blockades.
Since the beginning of the war, the military advantage of each side has ebbed and flowed. What is apparent is that there is a war and that neither side has won. At time of writing (December 1996) there appears to be a another of a series of military standoffs.
LTTE ENTITLED TO COMBATANT STATUS
A fundamental principle of humanitarian law is that combatants in a war are entitled to combatant status. While this principle has been one of customary international law for centuries, it also find expressions in treaty-based humanitarian law. For example, Article One of the Hague Regulations grants the rights of war to members of armies. Members of militia and volunteer corps are also entitled to the rights of war if they meet certain conditions: they must be under responsible command, wear some visible emblem to distinguish them form civilians, carry arms opens and conduct operations in conformity with the rules of war. Even civilians are entitled to engage in combat when they spontaneously take up arms on the approach of the enemy. Because there is a war in Sri Lanka between the government forces and the LTTE, the LTTE have combatant status and the right to engage in combat. This status is inconsistent with a label of "terrorist" -- a terrorist does not have combatant status or the right to engage in combat.
THE SRI LANKA-TAMIL WAR IS A WAR OF NATIONAL LIBERATION IN DEFENSE OF THE PRINCIPLE OF SELF-DETERMINATION
Modern humanitarian law applies to all types of war: international wars, civil wars and wars of national liberation. Each is governed by different provisions in humanitarian law, although there are basic principles applicable to all armed conflicts.
A war is an international war when military action or hostilities take place between two or more separate States. Typically, the military forces of one country engage in military actions against another country by invading another country, but international rules can also apply when a country defends another country from military action from a third state. In all circumstances, the treaty-based and customary international law relating to international war applies to these conflicts. In international wars, the international community must be neutral if the war is equally the fault of the parties. If one party is clearly the aggressor, the international community must condemn the aggression.
A war is a civil war when there is armed conflict taking place in one State between government armed forces and opposition armed forces or groups who have identifiable and responsible military commanders, who control enough territory to carry out a significant level of armed conflict, who distinguish themselves from the civilian population by means of distinct uniforms or other readily identifiable physical features and who have the means to comply with humanitarian law obligations relating to civil wars. Neither police actions against civilian demonstrators nor isolated attacks by armed persons against civilian or government targets qualify as armed conflict. In civil wars, the international community must be neutral, as a civil war is an inherently internal affair. The Sri Lanka - Tamil war could be viewed as a civil war, in which case all humanitarian law relating to civil wars would apply. However, for reasons set out below, this author is convinced that the Sri Lanka - Tamil war is a war of national liberation in defense of the principle of self-determination.
A war is a war of national liberation when a group having a claim to self-determination carries out military actions against the occupying state, which can be a colonial or alien power or a racist regime. Self-determination is the collective right of a people to freely determine their own political status and to pursue economic, social and cultural development. People claiming self-determination must show a history of independence or self-rule in an identifiable territory, a distinct culture, and a will and capability to regain self-governance.
In wars of national liberation in the exercise of the right to self-determination or against racist regimes, the international community is required to side with the people with the right to self-determination or fighting against racist regimes. This is because of the peremptory (jus cogens) nature of the principle of self-determination and the international prohibition against racism. Because the right to self- determination is jus cogens, the duty of the international community to uphold it is an obligation erga omnes. Ian Brownlie reinforces the erga omnes obligation to observe the principle of self-determination in his opinion that armed defenders of self-determination have a special combatant status.
The Tamil claim to self-determination is one of the strongest in the contemporary international scene. The three main elements of a claim to self-determination -- historic self- governance in an identifiable territory, a distinct culture and a national will and capacity to govern -- are all present in the Tamil case.
The Tamil people have a centuries-old tradition of independence on the island of Ceylon, broken only by colonial powers. Early mention of a distinct Tamil kingdom and culture exists in the 6th century B.C. in the great Indian epics Mahabharata and Ramayana. A series of Tamil kings founded the ancient capital Anuradhapura and ruled until 101 B.C. when the Tamil Ellaran was defeated by a Sinhalese prince. This capital was retaken by the Tamils and other Indian invaders in the ninth century. By 1214 A.D. however, the Tamils held power in the kingdom of Jaffna, extending into current Tamil lands in the North and East. A 1789 map of the area by the cartographer Du Peron clearly indicates the territorial divisions of the two kingdoms.
The colonial period began in the early sixteenth century when the Portuguese captured the Sinhalese kingdom in the south of Ceylon. The Tamil kingdom remained free until 1621, more than 100 years later when the Portuguese captured the Tamil king Sankili. The Portuguese were defeated by the Dutch in 1658, and the Dutch soon began to import Tamils from south India as slaves and textile workers. The British replaced the Dutch in 1796, who by 1833 governed both Tamil and Sinhala kingdoms under unitary colonial rule.
The first British colonial secretary, Sir Hugo Cleghorn, recognized not only that the Tamil and Sinhalese kingdoms were politically separate, he also attested to their profound cultural, linguistic and religious differences. In his now-famous Minute he wrote:
Two different nations, from the very ancient period, have divided between them the possession of the island: the Sinhalese inhabiting the interior in its Southern and Western parts from the river Wallouve to that of Chillaw, and the Malabars [Tamils] who posses the Northern and Eastern Districts. These two nations differ entirely in their religions, language and manners.
Cleghorn and other subsequent British administrators were acutely aware that the Tamil people are predominately Hindu and the Sinhala people predominately Buddhist. It is self-evident that Tamil culture, based on Hinduism, would be dramatically different from Sinhala culture, based on Buddhism. The Tamil language is also significantly different from the Sinhala language, although they are both derived from ancient Indian languages.
The third element of self-determination -- national will and capacity to govern -- is also exceptionally strong in the Tamil case. Not only are the LTTE themselves evidence of a willingness to defend the right to self-determination with the use of force but the vast majority of Tamil civilians, whether in Sri Lanka or abroad, also show an exceptionally strong national will that has endured for the many long years of the war and indeed throughout the colonial period and post colonial period. Even those relatively few Tamils who do not strongly support the LTTE do not deny their insistence on some form of self-governance, whether in association with the Sinhalese or as a separate nation.
The immediate post-colonial period saw the rise of the highly-regarded Tamil politicians such as G.G. Ponnambalam, founder of the Ceylon Tamil Congress (1944) and S.J.V. Chelvanayagam, founder of the Tamil Federal Party (1947). Chelvanayagam was able to secure agreements with two prime ministers to address the growing Tamil grievances in the early post-colonial period, but these pacts were completely violated by the Sinhala governments. The Tamil United Front was formed by the three leading Tamil politicians -- Ponnambalam, Chelvanayagam and Thondaman -- and Tamil youth and student organizations. Running on a separatist plank, Chelvanayagam won a huge majority in a 1975 election. As cited above, the historic Pannakam meeting in May 1976 resulted in the Vaddukoddai Resolution calling for a separate Tamil state. In the 1977 general elections, the TULF ran on a platform of Tamil "sovereignty in its homeland on the basis of self- determination" and won 18 out of the available 19 seats. The LTTE was formed from a TULF youth group, and took its symbol from the tiger symbol of the historic Tamil kingdom.
The large number of Tamil organizations in Sri Lanka and abroad speaks to this national Tamil will. Each year of the war has seen more and more organization among the Tamil people in Sri Lanka and in the Diaspora. The Tamil question is debated and urged in countless community forums and in international conferences, many of which are organized by the Tamils themselves. There are Tamil politicians from a variety of political parties, all of whom attest to a goal of at least significant devolution of power in Sri Lanka to afford the Tamil people full expression of their cultural aspirations as a people. The leading Tamil religious leaders also support Tamil sovereignty. For example, in an impassioned speech at a major peace conference in Australia, The Rev. Dr. S.J. Emmanuel, Vicar General of the Diocese of Jaffna stated:
I am standing here as a man of God in service to a suffering mankind. I have hope in the goodness of God and men. From amidst the deafening sounds of thousands of bombs falling on our soil and consuming sacred lives, I cry out with Moses of old, "Let my people go from this slavery to freedom."
Even prominent Sinhalese leaders attest to the strength of the Tamil will for self-governance. For example, Mr. Adrian Wijemanne writes:
In Sri Lanka that stage is set for a long-drawn-out guerrilla war, the total impoverishment of both nations, the demise of civil government among the Sinhala people and the eventual establishment of the State of Eelam. The best efforts of the Sinhala state can only postpone this sequence of events -- they cannot avert the final outcome.
About the capacity to self-govern there can be no doubt. The Tamil people have a long political history, and there are a variety of Tamil political parties with great experience and highly developed platforms and programs. Many leading Tamils have had high offices in former Sinhalese governments, and while they are now mainly in exile, they are able and ready to serve in a Tamil government. The LTTE has maintained a civilian authority in the areas under their control since the beginning of the war
The Tamil people also have a claim to self-determination based on the racism and persistent violations of their human rights carried out by the succession of Sinhala-dominated governments since the end of the colonial period. (End)