Human Security, IDPs and Refugees, Jaffna, Peace and Conflict, Politics and Governance

The LTTE – A Spent Force?

A side issue arising from Professor Michael Roberts’s Dilemmas at War’s End: Clarifications & Counter-Offensive

According to Professor Roberts, dissident SL Tamils are of the view that the LTTE has passed its use-by date and a new leadership is needed to fight for their rights. He thinks these dissident Tamils have a far better understanding of the immediate priorities of the Tamil people. Is he referring to the ones now in positions of power because they claim they have accepted the democratic process? If so, has their record to date in upholding these democratic norms stood up to scrutiny? Or, is the hope a thousand flowers will bloom as soon as the LTTE leader Pirapaharan is dead? Or, could there be other reasons?

The argument that the LTTE has reached its use-by date is also debatable. The numbers do not seem to add up. If all the civilians trapped in Vanni are LTTErs, if a significant number of Tamils living in the non-Vanni areas are LTTErs, if the majority of the Tamil diaspora (as evident from recent mobilizations) are LTTE supporters, it will be simplistic to assume that the LTTE is a spent force, much as one would hate to admit it. The LTTE “has had considerable popular support both within and outside its terrain”, even Professor Roberts himself admits.

Apparently, some Tamils who opposed the LTTE during the days of the cease-fire agreement are now grudgingly recognising the role played by the LTTE in bringing attention to the Tamil ‘grievances’. By Professor Roberts’ own admission, “even those who are hostile to the LTTE have responded emotionally to this situation”. I believe that no one would be able to deny that the LTTE, with or without its current leader, will remain as one of the major representatives of the Tamil people in Sri Lanka. However, one factor that led to the LTTE’s disaster was its claim of being the sole representative of all Tamils in Sri Lanka.

Those who support the LTTE today cannot be said to be doing so under compulsion, simply because the LTTE is at its weakest point since its inception. They support the LTTE under trying circumstances when all the international forces from India to the United States, from Russia to China, from Pakistan to Venezuela are supporting the GOSL while opposing any pro-LTTE activities by the Tamil diaspora.

As I have said previously,

“I am no admirer of the LTTE or of its ideological and military tactics, but I do not hesitate to recognise that it does represent a sizeable proportion of Tamil political spectrum and aspiration. So it is politically untruthful to claim that any true rapprochement can be conducted or achieved without their participation. This will be the reality. Those politicians and bureaucrats who claim a settlement can be gained without the LTTE seem to be deluding themselves.”