Daya Varma


The secessionist movement in Sri Lanka led by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) came to a bitter end on May 17, 2009 with the death of its leader Prabhakaran. Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa being deified as a god by Sinhalese Sri Lankans to the horror of Tamils must take steps for immediate rehabilitation of hundreds of thousands of Tamil civilians displaced by the conflict and guarantee them equal rights with Sinhalese if he longs for a long-term peace and prosperity in Sri Lanka.



The secessionist movement in Sri Lanka led by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and its ruthless leader Velupillai Prabhakaran came to a bitter end on May 17, 2009.  LTTE surrendered and Prabhakaran was killed. President Mahinda Rajapaksa thanked China, Russia, and Korea for their military aid and condemned the US for suggesting negotiated resolution to the conflict. President Mahinda Rajapaksa led the battle and won.


What is unusual is the reaction of the people within and outside Sri Lanka and of political commentators and activists. The defeat of LTTE and the death of Prabhakaran was greeting with mass celebration on the streets of Colombo mainly by its Sinhalese population. President Mahinda Rajapaksa is being deified as a god; he should be President for life, say the Sinhalese. On the other side Tamils in Sri Lanka are horrified. On the streets of Toronto, London and other metropolises in the Western world, Tamil immigrants and professional political activists staged mass protests. In the meantime, the reaction of over quarter of a million or more Tamil refugees within their own country is mixed but their fate is highly uncertain. Canadian Tamils are demanding that Canada allow liberal access to Tamil refugees from Sri Lanka into Canada. Canada has been very accessible to Tamils in the past and it should allow more Tamil emigrants. However, the problem of internally displaced people can never be solved by emigration. An internal solution must be found.


If President Rajapaksa, whose popularity has jumped many fold as also evidenced by recent election results has any humanity, he must treat the refugees as full fledged Sri Lankan citizens in providing them safety, homes and medical care.  He must also incorporate in the Constitution full rights for Tamil citizens and the Tamil language. It is in the long-term interest of Sri Lankan authorities to come to terms with the reality that Sri Lanka is not for Buddhists alone but also for its Hindu and Muslim population as much. Any country which treats its minority population as second class citizens ultimately lands up in crisis because such a policy is a thriving ground for chauvinism and fundamentalism.


The end of LTTE does not guarantee peace but it does have one implication. Secessionist movements have no future anywhere in the world. The only exceptions are where a united country has a short history like in the former Yugoslavia, Ethiopia and Indonesia; the most important factor which led to the breakup of Yugoslavia, and the independence of Eritrea and East Timor, is that secessionists were backed by major Western countries. In the absence of such factors, secessionist movements, legitimate or not, such as  in Punjab, Nagaland, Kashmir, Assam, Ireland, Sri Lanka, Tibet  and anywhere else are merely an exercise in bloodshed and do greater harm to its people than is their fate within the united country. It would be also wise on the part of the supporters of such movements to recognize this reality.  

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