Sri Lanka’s bitter civil war comes to a close

I felt a strong sense of emotion when I heard that Vellupillai Prabhakaran, the leader of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, was killed in a gunbattle with Sri Lankan soldiers along with his son, several of his top aides, and scores of his dedicated fighters. Its clear that Sri Lanka’s military conflict has drawn to a close, although I have doubts that the insurgency is over for good. Sri Lanka is full of lush jungles and the rebels are masters at guerrilla warfare. Nevertheless, the Sri Lankan Army deserves praise for being able to defeat such a vicious insurgency after so many years of warfare that have shaken the island.

Anyway, the reason I say I have such strong emotions is because, first off, I think that Prabhakaran is (was) a megalomaniac and a mass murderer. He perfected the use of suicide bombings–including the invention of the explosive-belt that has brought so much carnage to cities all over the world, whether it be Colombo, Sri Lanka’s capital, Middle Eastern cities like Tel Aviv and  Baghdad, or cities as far off as Moscow. This monster, Sri Lanka’s version of Osama Bin Laden, will not be missed by all those who condemn terrorism in all its brutal forms. Prabhakaran’s organization is going to be remembered as one of the most fearsome terrorist groups the world has ever seen and the only one that has succeeded in assassinating a sitting world leader, two in fact: Indian President Rajiv Gandhiin 1991 and Sri Lankan President Ranasinghe Premadassa in ’91.

At the same time, we cannot forget about what the Sri Lankan government did to achieve this…it seems it took a stunning scorched-earth policy to break through Tamil Eelam and get to rebel leader Prabhakaran. I can’t help but feel a sense of horror when I think about the hundreds of civilians who were killed in shelling last week, many of whom were injured and lying in hospital beds before mortar rounds and other artillery slammed into their place of refuge, according to doctors working on site. Some of the claims made by the LTTE about civilian casualties should be met with skepticism, much like the fabrications made by Hamas during the 22-day war in Gaza at the beginning of the year. There is no doubt that the rebels used civilians as human shields, but at the same time, the Sri Lankan government bars all journalists from the war zone.  It is not possible to confirm what actually happened the jungles of northern Sri Lanka in the last months of its bloody and violent civil war. Maybe the Sri Lankan government would prefer to keep it that way.

Aside from these criticisms, I wholeheartedly congragulate Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa in his victory over terrorism…I think that the United States could even learn a thing or two from Sri Lanka’s war. Judging by the jubilation in the streets, its very clear that the island has had enough of war and the Sri Lankan Army knew that a strong push was necessary.  Despite everything that has happened these last few weeks and months, I have no doubt that many more people would have died if Vellupillai Prabhkaran was still plotting acts of violence from the safety of the countryside.

Sri Lankans are celebrating and they deserve it. After so many years of bombings and shoot-outs, many Sri Lankans in Colombo and all across the country must feel a sense of hope that it is over for good. Unfortunately, the only way that this can be guaranteed is if the government can do something to help the Tamil people, many of whom are feeling angry, humiliated, and threatened in the war-ravaged northeast of the country. Tens of thousands are barely getting by in refugee camps. It seems to me that these are the perfect conditions to create another Prabhkaran who can could re-ignite more political and military tension somewhere down the road. After all, the LTTE has always viewed their leader almost as a God…now he has given his own life and will be seen as a martyr throughout the Tamil community.

Before President Rajapaksa declares the war over, his government should assure the Tamil people that it will commit to helping them build new homes and lives where they will be a represented part in a unified country diverse with many ethnicities and religions, but one that puts being a Sri Lankan citizen first.

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