WITH THEIR dramatic surge into the predominantly Tamil north and east of the country since the beginning of the year, it appears the Sri Lankan army has inflicted a decisive military defeat on the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). This does not mean, however, an end to the struggle for self-determination of the Tamil minority, nor the poverty and suffering facing the poor masses of the island.
Killinochchi, one of the key administrative centres of the Tamil Tigers’ de facto independent state in the north of Sri Lanka, fell swiftly to the army in late January. This made it clear that a decisive turn was being taken in this decades-long civil war. As we go to press, the Sri Lankan army is now in almost full control of all of the urban centres in former LTTE-territory, although guerrilla conflict is still raging.
The government of President Rajapakse, a dictatorial regime based on Sinhalese chauvinist parties, was clearly determined to break the Tamil Tigers and extend its control across the whole of the country, no matter what the cost. The humanitarian crisis created was easily comparable to the devastation caused by the Israeli state’s recent assault on Gaza.
Hundreds of thousands were driven from their homes by the conflict. The International Red Cross estimated that 250,000 were forced into the so-called “safe zone” designated by the Sri Lankan state near Mullaithivu. This was effectively a prison camp, less than 20 square kilometres in size. Proper shelter was non-existent, and the army allowed only a trickle of food and medicines to reach the area from international aid agencies.
Despite the name, this ‘safe zone’, like the rest of northern Sri Lanka, saw regular shelling of civilian targets by the Sri Lankan military.
The authoritarian nature of the LTTE was also exposed, with violence being perpetrated against those attempting to flee into government-held territory. In late April, the UN estimated nearly 7,000 had been killed and twice that number injured.
The Sri Lankan government was aided in this onslaught, both financially and militarily, by the Chinese regime and the Indian government, who are vying for regional influence. The other major capitalist powers remained silent for as long as possible happy to see the LTTE pummelled as part of the “war on terror”.
The Tamil population will be subjected to even more discrimination and oppression by the communalist government, undoubtedly sowing the seeds of future conflict. Nothing has been solved.
The Committee for a Workers’ International launched the Stop the Slaughter of Tamils campaign, which has organised and participated in protests across the globe, including in Ireland, calling for an immediate end to the conflict and for the right to self-determination for the Tamil population. The United Socialist Party, our sister organisation in Sri Lanka, resolutely defends this right despite brutal, thuggish repression from the Rajapakse government. They argue, however, that the only way the aspirations of the Tamil population can be met is through united mass action of workers and the poor of all ethnic backgrounds, fighting in their common interests against the corrupt, capitalist government, to create a democratic, socialist society free from ethnic chauvinism.