Sri Lanka: Fall of Kilinochchi

Tamil Tigers in danger of defeat; Tamil people’s struggle goes on

At the present time, the Sri Lankan government forces are going forward steadily in capturing territory held by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in northern Sri Lanka. They have taken a string of important towns – Vis, Pooneryn, Paranthan, Kilinochchi, Elephant Pass etc. in the last few weeks. The taking of Kilinochchi was the most important for the military as it had been the administrative centre of the de-facto state run by the LTTE for the whole of the north-east of the country up until 2007and since then for the north.

It is difficult to believe that Kilinochchi fell into the hands of the Sri Lankan military so quickly – within a few days of the fall of Pooneryn and Paranthan. The ‘Tigers’ (LTTE) had waged a fierce battle with government forces a week before and was able to inflict heavy casualties. Nevertheless, when the Sri Lankan Army made another push for Kilinochchi with superior fire-power, the LTTE had withdrawn, making it a qhost town. The army entered the town without any resistance.

Soon thereafter, the army captured Elephant Pass, which is the gateway to the Jaffna peninsula, and thus managed to wrest control of the A 9 main highway linking the south to Jaffna. It is clamed that this was the first time after 23 years that the A 9 highway came completely under government control.

The capture of Kilinochchi is a major gain for the government of President Mahinda Rajapakse. Although he had been failing in every other field, this and other military gains have helped to boost his popularity. Rajapakse has since engaged himself in decimating any opposition to his government, even going to the extent of colluding in their physical elimination.

Future of struggle

The Tamil Tigers are facing a historic defeat at the hands of a Sinhalese military force which would have serious repercussions for the entire Tamil community. Their long-standing struggle, for the right to determine their own political destiny, seems to have been put off into the distant future. Although the Tigers will most likely to continue their armed attacks in the Northern jungle area, as they are doing in the east, their room for manoeuvre would be seriously restricted. On the other hand the Sri Lankan government would tighten its grip on the Tigers from every corner. Internationally the base and hold of the Tigers would start to dwindle among the Tamil diaspora.

The Tigers are themselves partly responsible for this debacle. They completely depended on their military power and did not believe in the people’s ability to fight for their rights. The Tigers could have utilised the cease-fire period between 2002 and 2004 to build people’s structures for a broader and democratic political platform which could express the aspirations of the Tamil people and initiated a dialogue with the southern political representatives. Tigers should have initiated their own round table, all- party conference in order to build such structures in any case. The LTTE will have to rethink about their strategies anew if they are to have any viable base among Tamil people.

Nevertheless, the struggle of the Tamil people for their national rights will continue to be there even though its intensity might go down for the time being. The Rajapakse government’s strategy seems to be to impose the existing provincial council system on the people in the North as they have done in the east. However it is very clear that the provincial council is nowhere near a solution for the unfulfilled national aspirations of the Tamils. We in the south have to fight hand in hand with the Tamil people to achieve their objectives. At the same time, we have to stress that Tamil people cannot win their rights within this decadent capitalist society; a socialist transformotion is the only way to achieve this. A united struggle of all the oppressed masses, linking southern working class people and poor peasants with the oppressed sections of the Tamil and Muslim people is the vital need of the hour.

View of a Tamil in exile

Senan, a Tamil socialist in London adds:

The humanitarian crisis in Sri Lanka has worsened since the government forces captured Kilinochchi on 2 January. As the article above explains, Kilinochchi was a key city for the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) who have been fighting for a separate homeland for three decades.

Prior to this capture the LTTE had evacuated more than 100,000 of Kilinochchi’s population to an area they still control and to the dense forest. They now control only a 30 kilometre-wide territory near Mullaitivu which is surrounded by the Sri Lankan military. The situation is an unpublicised humanitarian crisis on a par with Gaza. The Sri Lankan military advance, including aerial bombardment and tank fire, has left hundreds of civilians dead. More than 350,000 are believed to be trapped in this small area. There is not enough shelter, food and water to accommodate this many displaced people. There is no sign of food supplies from the government or any aid agencies. The only independent agency that is allowed into this place is the International Committee of the Red Cross, and that is just for the exchange of dead bodies.

So far the LTTE has not reported any details on the conditions of these people. They have shown no intention of letting the refugees leave the war zone. Instead their website has announced that, “civilians say that they prefer to face death on the spot rather than succumbing to serious injuries or ending up in the hands of the invading Sri Lankan forces”. It has accused the military of attempting genocide of the besieged people and shows photos of dead and dying children on its web-site.

At this crucial stage where thousands of people are trapped facing death and starvation CWI demands an immediate end to the war. Emergency housing and food aid to those who are caught up in the horror.

Desperate measures

The government is restricting access to this area for media and relief agencies. The media in the south of the country is facing an ever-increasing danger of being attacked by government-sponsored thugs, as seen with the recent wrecking of the MTV station and the brutal murder of the country’s leading journalist, Lasantha Wickmeratunge. (See other articles on this site.) The government obviously intends to send a message, that all who seek to speak out about government corruption or to tell the truth about the government’s persecution and military assaults on Tamil-speaking people will face repression or even death.

The critical point that the situation in Sri Lanka has reached is having an enormous impact on the Tamil diaspora. A protest hunger strike has been organised in London’s Parliament Square from 19 to 31 January. This is a courageous act in solidarity with the thousands who face starvation in the north of Sri Lanka and it is understandable that many feel the need to act. However, the Socialist Party and the CWI, while sympathising with this sentiment, propose mass action of working-class and poor people within Sri Lanka and internationally as the only way to stop the bloody war and change society for the benefit of all.

The Socialist Party’s slogans and placards at the protest last Friday demanded media freedom and an end to attacks and killings. They included calls for:

  • A united struggle of Sinhala, Tamil and all of Sri Lanka’s workers and poor against the war and clan rule in Sri Lanka
  • An immediate cease-fire and talks to include representatives of working and poor people – Tamil and Sinhala
  • Emergency housing and massive food aid to those caught up in the horror.
  • Democracy and freedom of speech for all
  • The replacement of the dictatorship of warlords and capitalists with a democratic socialist society, in Sri Lanka and throughout the South-Asian region
  • A socialist alternative to the quagmire of capitalism and communalism in Sri Lanka

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January 2009