Tamils - a Trans State Nation..

"To us all towns are one, all men our kin.
Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."
Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 

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Home > Tamil National ForumSelected Writings by Sachi Sri Kantha > Eelam in 2000: A Nation in the Making

Selected Writings by Sachi Sri Kantha

Eelam in 2000: A Nation in the Making

20 December 2000

It is an ancient custom of the Roman Catholic Church to assign an advocatus diaboli (devil's advocate) for assessing the worth of a person in the sanctification procedure. This devil's advocate would present the negative evidence on the candidate in question. The belief is that, the extremist negative position taken by the devil's advocate will somehow aid in proper assessment and elicit the emergence of truth.

The Eelam campaign also has its quota of devil's advocates. I feel that the Eelam activists can learn much about the strengths and deficiencies of their position, by reading the views of these devil's advocates. In this vein, I present excerpts from three American and British sources which sketch the status of Eelam in the year 2000. I grant that objectivity is an elusive commodity in the commentaries of devil's advocates. Still, it is my view that whatever objectivity remaining in the views of devil's advocates from USA and Britain are more reliable than those of Sri Lankan sources of disinformation and jaundiced-eye opinions of neighboring Indian pundits.

Devil's Advocate No.1:

The Office of the U.S. Secretary of State released its 'Patterns of Global Terrorism 1999' [Dept.of State Publication 10687] in April 2000. Among the "Designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations (October 1999)", the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) has been included. Description under the column 'Strength' states -

"Exact strength is unknown, but the LTTE is estimated to have 8,000 to 10,000 armed combatants in Sri Lanka, with a core of trained fighters of approximately 3,000 to 6,000. The LTTE also has a significant overseas support structure for fundraising, weapons procurement and propaganda activities."

Furthermore, description under the column 'Location/Area of Operation' states -

"The Tigers control most of the northern and eastern coastal areas of Sri Lanka but have conducted operations throughout the island. Headquartered in the Jaffna peninsula, LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran has established an extensive network of checkpoints and informants to keep track of any outsiders who enter the group's area of control."

In addition, one sentence under the column 'Activities' should elicit chuckle. 

"The LTTE has refrained from targeting Western tourists out of fear that foreign governments would crack down on Tamil expatriates involved in fundraising abroad".

Who said that U.S. State Department is short of spinmasters? The drafters of this document very well know that Eelam Tamils do not harbor any grudge against Western tourists. Thus there is no necessity for LTTE to "target Western tourists" for any dangerous motive. But, it seems that inserting a biased, unsubstantiated smear statement is a necessity to support the designation of the LTTE as a "Foreign Terrorist Organization".

Overall, the U.S. State Department acknowledges that the LTTE is in control of the Eelam territory and Prabhakaran has established the framework to protect this territory against adversaries. The corollary is that, 'Sri Lanka as a state' has disintegrated.

Devil's Advocate No.2:

The Joint Forces Quarterly (JFQ) is a professional journal of American Armed Forces, published from Washington DC. The Spring 2000 issue of this journal carried an opinion piece entitled, "Peacetime Engagement: A Role for Military Advisors?", authored by one Major Paul Marks. This author was introduced as, "a student at the U.S.Army Command and General Staff College [who had] served as a military advisor to the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces".

Though the tone of this article was anti-LTTE, the assessment of Major Paul Marks on the performance of Sri Lankan Army is informative and projects how LTTE has demoralized its adversary. Excerpts are as follows:

"The response to LTTE is led by the Sri Lankan Armed Forces (SLAF), which are not equal to the task. They are dominated by the army, which has grown from an overall strength of 6,000 and five infantry battalions in 1983 to 120,000 with nine infantry divisions (eighty combat battalions), a navy, and a jet-equipped air force. Rapid expansion without concomitant training has had disastrous consequences.

"Strategic direction from the political authorities has never been adequate, although tentative steps began in 1994-95 to develop a national plan. This absence of strategy is matched by a lack of success. SLAF has often lost the initiative, failed to exploit achievements, spread itself too thin, and made operational blunders. It lacks the ability to formulate and execute joint and combined planning and operations. But it has not as yet developed a theater approach to integrating assets. The mobility to generate combat formations or sustain operations is absent. 

Commanders do not sufficiently coordinate tactical and operational fires. While they have close air support, including Russian Mi-24 Hind helicopters and Israeli Kfir aircraft, they do not have forward air controllers. In addition, stove piped intelligence reporting does not benefit tactical commanders. Both tactical and operational logistics are poor, with transportation assets too centralized to be responsive. Two small special forces brigades have deteriorated from successful unconventional warfare units into Ranger-type light infantry that conducts an inordinate number of conventional operations. One sign of progress is that SLAF is skilled at civil-military operations and integrating civilian authorities into interagency efforts.

"SLAF has weaknesses in doctrine, training and force development. While a staff college was recently established, the majority of officers have one year or less of formal training. Foreign training is primarily done in India with a small number of officers going to Pakistan, Bangladesh, Britain and the United States. There are branch schools, but in-unit training is the norm. Because of the rapid growth of the army, few officers have any expertise in planning and coordinating large operations. There is no intelligence school. Operational demands necessitated by war have made training and education a second priority.

"Overall, SLAF is a professional military - human rights violations, common in the 1980s, are declining - but after 18 years its tactical and operational successes have come to naught because of the lack of an overarching strategic concept to bring the conflict to a close."

In sum, this review of the SLAF-LTTE battlefield performance shows how the LTTE has grown to take on an army with a man-power 10-12 fold higher than its own.

Devil's Advocate No.3:

The British weekly Economist has been Eelam's devil's advocate for a long time. In its Oct. 7th issue, it published a 'lengthy' [by Economist's standard] review of the current status of Sri Lanka. Though uncomfortable to the palates of Eelam-haters, it has presented the ground realities in the Eelam territory.

"Even by the standards of divided countries, Sri Lanka seems to be two different places" states the first sentence of this anonymous report. "The insurrection by the island's Tamil minority, which has claimed 60,000 lives and is dragging on into its 18th year, seems relevant only from time to time. Even bombs in the capital, Colombo, have the far-away quality of motor-way accidents.

"Not so in Trincomalee on the east coast. There, checkpoints are thicker on the ground than traffic lights. Although the army controls the town, there are 'uncleared' areas barely 32km (20 miles) away in the hand of the dreaded separatist army, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. From these areas the Tigers can strike inside 'cleared' Trincomalee....

"A visiting journalist hears a torrent of grievance. There are complaints about cordon-and-search operations by the security forces; there are tales of beatings, murder and reprisal. A woman says that the security forces murdered her brother, then refused to release his body unless she signed a statement saying he had belonged to the Tigers. She refused. The fishermen of Pattanatheru, a village nearby, lament security restrictions on where they can fish and their debts to Sinhalese mudalalis (proprietors), when they repay by turning over their catch at cut-rate prices. Banks will lend money to fishermen from the Sinhalese majority, but not to them, they say.

"Sri Lanka's government claims that there is scant support among ordinary Tamils for the Tigers, who are a vicious terrorist group as well as an astoundingly successful army. But although the Sri Lankan army has become somewhat less brutal, it has not improved enough and the police are less reformed. For that reason, the Tamils of Trincomalee seem to regard the Tigers as their defenders. 'It is because of them that we are surviving', says one young Tamil....

"Mr. Prabhakaran's ambition is to set up Eelam, a sovereign Tamil homeland. With an armed force of 7,000 - 8,000 he has captured, the Tigers claim, 70% of Eelam (though a far smaller share of its population), from an army ten times the size....

"Since 1987, when India unwisely intervened to keep a 'peace', the Tigers have evolved from a band of 1,000 - 2,000 cadres into a force of 7,000 capable of operating 'at all five spectra of conflict', according to a military analyst. They have a field army equivalent to three brigades, armed with artillery, armour, radios with encryption devices and other paraphernalia, which now fights on the Jaffna peninsula. They have a 1,000 - cadre guerrilla force in the Eastern Province, which specialises in ambushes and mortar attacks. They have a terrorist outfit, which sends suicide bombers to Colombo and blows up electricity transformers. They have a global propaganda network of websites, broadcasters and newspapers, and a diplomatic wing. All this is paid for with contributions, mostly from expatriate Tamils, and profits from businesses, such as restaurants and shipping. The government guesses that the Tigers take in $80m a year....

"What the Tigers 'liberate', they rule. The apparatus of the Sri Lankan state remains, but it take orders from and is supplemented by the Tigers. People familiar with the uncleared areas (and well disposed to the Tigers) talk of them almost as Tamil havens. The Tigers, they say, make sure that teachers show up to teach at state schools, and pay them to give extra lessons. Mr Prabhakaran himself is said to set demanding standards for the number of students who must pass state exams. The government sends in food and supplies (too little, complain the Tamils); the Tigers supervise their distribution. Villages have boxes into which Tamils can post petitions and suggestions, which they say go directly to Mr Prabhakaran. To them he is Talaivar, the leader."

This Economist commentary, though oozing with anti-LTTE overtones, is understandably tough for Chandrika Kumaratunga and Lakshman Kadirgamar to swallow. Also the Economist has hidden quite a number of relevant statistics which show how rotten the current Sri Lankan state has become. No one in his or her senses can assert that the situation in Sri Lanka of the year 2000 remains the same as those of Sri Lanka of years 1990 or 1980. Within the currently recognized prevailing borders of the island, mental isolation between the Sinhalese and Tamils as well as logistical realities of movement between the 'Sri Lankan territory' and Eelam has widened beyond repair. Thus, when one reads between the lines of sentiments presented by the devil's advocates, one can sense that Eelam is a nation in the making.


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