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Tamilnation > Struggle for Tamil Eelam > Conflict Resolution - Tamil Eelam - Sri Lanka > Norwegian Peace Initiative > Third Session of Peace Talks in Oslo & Aftermath > Majority of Tamils want Complete Independence
Majority of Tamils for Complete Independence
says US Researcher Dr. Mia Bloom
at Seminar in Colombo on 18 December 2002
Report by by Dayan Jayatilleka
in Sinhala Owned Sri Lanka Sunday Island
20 December 2002
The majority of Tamil people in the island’s North, East, Hill Country and Colombo are in favour of ‘complete independence’ from Sri Lanka and may be expecting the current peace process to result in ‘complete independence’, is the controversial conclusion of Dr. Mia Bloom, an American researcher with considerable academic credentials. She bases her conclusion on the findings of public opinion surveys conducted by her in all four zones, which she presented in the form of charts and diagrams at a seminar in Colombo on Wednesday (18th) evening.
Dr. Bloom is a (U.S.) Social Sciences Research Council (SSRC) and MacArthur Foundation Research Fellow, who was with the Centre for International Studies at the prestigious Princeton University in New Jersey and is currently Assistant Professor of Political Science at Hofstra University. She has been engaged in comparative research on the Israeli-Palestinian and Sri Lankan conflicts. At the International Centre for Ethnic Studies, (ICES) Colombo, she presented a paper entitled. ‘A Comparison of Public Opinion about Violence Against Civilians, Suicide Terror in Sri Lanka and the Palestinian- Israeli Conflict’.
Dr. Bloom’s research findings led her to conclude that roughly 70% of Tamil people in the North, 61% in the East, 53% in Colombo and 73% in the Hill Country support or prefer ‘complete independence’ while only a relatively low percentage -in the 20% to 30% range - supported ‘regional autonomy’ and the support for a confederation was a single digit figure. She said that the Northern and Eastern figures were "hardly breaking news", but that the Colombo and Hill Country figures were.
Dr. Mia Bloom’s findings also revealed that a majority of Tamil people expected ‘peace, soon’ while a further significant percentage expected ‘peace’ and only 3% or so didn’t expect peace in their lifetime. Taken together, the figure of those who expect ‘peace soon’ and ‘peace sometime’, the optimism was almost 70%, which she said she expected will grow, in contrast to the extreme pessimism among Palestinians.
When questioned by this writer as to how she reconciled the high percentage of Tamils who expected ‘peace soon’ with the low support for ‘autonomy’ and even for ‘confederation’ and the high support for ‘complete independence’, whereas in all other conflict situations globally high expectation of peace is linked precisely to a shift away from maximal expectations like ‘complete independence’ and towards high support for more moderate goals of autonomy, Dr. Bloom dealt with the paradox replying that "one explanation that comes mind is that the majority of the Tamil people expect this peace process to result in ‘complete independence’.
The American academic met with criticism on her tacit attempt to equate the situations in Palestine and Sri Lanka. It was pointed out that Israel invaded and occupied Palestinian and Arab land and that there are many UN Resolutions condemning this occupation. Dr. Bloom said that the difference between Sri Lanka and Palestine was that Israel was in ‘formal’ occupation and that the "UN Resolutions represent only the UN", while Tamil people in the North would consider that area to be under Sinhala military occupation. She saw many a parallel between Israel-Palestine and the situation here when she "looked at the language policy of 1956, and the military occupation, eviction of Tamils and creation of Sinhala settlements".
Dr. Bloom’s research findings revealed a relatively high degree of Tamil support for suicide bombings against the Sri Lankan military, but a low degree of support for such suicide attacks against Sinhala civilian targets.
This, she said, contrasted with high Palestinian support for suicide attacks on Israeli civilian targets. Dr. Bloom stated while the first suicide terrorist bombings were by the Hezbollah in Lebanon, the LTTE had launched more suicide attacks than all the Middle Eastern groups put together.
However, she claimed that unlike the Palestinians, 90% of LTTE suicide operations were against "military and political targets" and brushed aside criticism from this writer that she lumped together military targets with ‘political’ ones which were those of elected civilians and therefore clearly in the category of terrorism. Dr. Bloom said that the LTTE had told her that unlike the Palestinians they "do not go for the kids at the Pizza Hut."
She was also asked by me whether her figure of 90% were for actual casualties inflicted, or the less revealing one of ‘events’ (attacks) and she replied that they were for attacks, and not a breakdown of casualties inflicted in Tiger suicide bombings. Dr. Bloom rejected my argument that high Palestinian support for suicide attacks against Israeli civilian targets could arise from the clear fact of military occupation, annexation and armed settler-colonisation of Palestinian land, saying that " if you asked the Tamil people they would say that they have been under occupation". Replying a follow-up query from this writer as to "where the equivalent of Jerusalem was in the Sri Lankan case?", Dr. Bloom answered that "the Tamils would probably say Jaffna".
Dr. Bloom’s research showed that around 70% of Tamils believed in the LTTE’s financial incorruptibility, while more than 20% had said that the LTTE "took bribes". She opined that though the LTTE road to the monopolisation of power was a bloody one, as revealed in the renowned counter-insurgency expert Edgar O’ Ballance’s book, the fact that there was almost no competition today among Tamil organisations, unlike in the Palestinian case, helped the peace process because "there were no spoilers". Dr. Bloom’s statistical methodology was questioned by many members of the audience and pointedly criticised from the Chair, by Dr. Darini Rajasingham-Senanayake, but the researcher stood her statistical ground, defending the veracity and validity of her figures and conclusions.
Dr. Mia Bloom’s research on suicide bombings come on the heels of a most significant development, in which a top LTTE commander went on the record that other organisations world-wide should learn from the Tigers’ suicide attack tactics and that the notorious Al Queda already had, using Tiger tactics to attack the USS Cole in a Yemeni harbour.
It should have been a world headline, but it wasn’t. The CNN should have picked it up, and the wire-services too, with someone popping the question at the regular White House press conference. But the story flashed on the screen and dropped out of sight. Now, in something out of Umberto’s Eco’s ‘Foucault’s Pendulum’ or the ‘X-Files’, even the record of the story seems to be no longer accessible on the web-site that listed it. The story broke in the second week of December. Frances Harrison, having captured on camera the hooded LTTE suicide bombers at the Heroes day parade this year, in the midst of peace talks and a ‘paradigm shift’, and interviewed the head of the Sea Tigers (it was a Black Sea Tiger unit). We saw it on BBC’s Asia Today, in places as far afield as Colombo and Toronto.