The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Tamil Tigers

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE, pronounced L-T-T), also known as the Tamil Tigers, is the main Tamil anti-government organization operating in Sri Lanka. Founded in 1976, it is one of the many such organisations that seek to establish an independent state for Ceylon Tamils, to be called Tamil Eelam, in the north-east of Sri Lanka.

The leader of the organization is Velupillai Prabakharan. The LTTE has absorbed or assassinated most of the people from the other Tamil organisations over the two decades long war, as claimed by LTTE an independence struggle, and has generally pursued an all-out approach to war, including violent activities and suicide bombings as well as successful conventional engagements. Even though LTTE is described as guerillas, technically LTTE is not a guerilla organization - it is a fully fledged de-facto military power. LTTE is proscribed as a terrorist organization by several countries including USA, Britain, India, Australia and Malaysia. Nevertheless, the organization is widely recognised as the entity the government must make peace with, if it is to have peace with the Tamils, and consequently it is not banned in Sri Lanka. It is currently a party to negotiations with the government aimed at seeking a solution to the long-standing crisis. LTTE-backed Thamizarasuk Katchi has won over 90% of votes in the electoral district of Jaffna, in the Northern Province , in the parliamentary elections, but according to other (rival, but also Tamil) contestants, this win is attributed to the violence by LTTE during elections.


India's involvement

The LTTE's early years of struggle reportedly enjoyed considerable sympathy from the Indian government, especially in the state of Tamil Nadu where there was sympathy for the discrimination against Sri Lankan Tamils by the majority Sinhalese. It is widely believed that India provided the LTTE and other Tamil guerilla groups with monetary and training support.

After the Indo-Sri Lanka Peace Accord was signed on July 29, 1987 by Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and President Jayewardene, the Sri Lankan Government made a number of concessions to Tamil demands, which included devolution of power to the provinces, merger--subject to later referendum--of the northern and eastern provinces, and official status for the Tamil language. India agreed to establish order in the north and east with an Indian Peace-Keeping Force (IPKF) and to cease assisting Tamil insurgents. Militant groups including the LTTE, although initially reluctant, agreed to surrender their arms to the IPKF.

As time went on, the Indian forces began to meet with stiff opposition from all sides. None of the concessions agreed in the Indo-Sri Lankan agreement was implemented by the Government of Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankan government, fearing a large scale rebellion began to grow wary of the presence of IPKF, and allegedly entered into a secret deal with the LTTE, which culminated in a ceasefire. However, the LTTE and IPKF continued to have frequent hostilities, and according to some reports, the government even armed the rebels willing to see the back of the Indian forces. Casualties mounted and eventually India pulled out its troops. Support from India dropped noticeably in 1991, after the assassination of a recently ex-Prime Minister of India, Rajiv Gandhi, by a woman presumed to be an LTTE suicide bomber. India remains an outside observer to the ongoing peace process, with frequent demands to press for an extradition of Prabhakaran, even if a peace deal is struck between the parties in the future.

The LTTE unilaterally declared a ceasefire in 2000 and entered into a ceasefire agreement with the Sri Lankan government brokered by Norway. The LTTE is mainly funded by the Tamil diaspora living in regions like Canada, Europe, Australia.

Current status

The LTTE controls sections in the north and east of the island, especially the regions lying outside the major cities. Since late 2001, there has been a ceasefire, and the LTTE has indicated its willingness to give up its call for a separate state, seeking political and economic autonomy for Tamils within a one-state solution. The peace process has been mediated by Norway, a country that has often found favour with both the government and the insurgents. Together with the other Nordic countries, Norway supports the monitoring of the ceasefire through the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission.

Talks on an interim solution were stalled due to accusations of soft-politics by the President Chandrika Kumaratunga, against the Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, who belongs to the opposition party, and who is in charge of the negotiations. The talks are on hold until political uncertainty between the two main parties leaves it clear with whom the LTTE is to negotiate.

Some accuse the LTTE of using the ceasefire to build up its forces. The LTTE also continues to be accused of abducting school children and killing political rivals. Others worry that the LTTE, government and some others are too focused on the money poised to come in from northern countries as peace unfolds.

LTTE remains proscribed as a terrorist organization by several countries including USA, Britain, India, Australia and Malaysia.

The 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake has increased tensions between the LTTE and the national government. Each group is blaming the other for inadequate preparation and treatment.

See also

Further reading

  • Balasingham, Adele. (2003) The Will to Freedom - An Inside View of Tamil Resistance, Fairmax Publishing Ltd, 2nd ed. ISBN 1-903679-036
  • Narayan Swamy, M. R. (2002) Tigers of Lanka: from Boys to Guerrillas, Konark Publishers; 3rd ed. ISBN 8122006310
  • Pratap, Anita. (2001) Island of Blood: Frontline Reports From Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Other South Asian Flashpoints. Penguin Books, ISBN 0142003662
  • de Votta, Neil. (2004) Blowback: Linguistic Nationalism, Institutional Decay, and Ethnic Conflict in Sri Lanka. Stanford University Press, ISBN 0804749248

External links

Last updated: 08-17-2005 09:02:01