The Sri Lankan Civil War was a war fought from 1983 to 2009 on the island nation of Sri Lanka, between the Sinhalese-controlled Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). The LTTE sought to establish an independent state for the Tamil people, Sri Lanka's largest minority. It was one of the bloodiest, nastiest and longest wars in the post-World War II era. The war itself was just a part of the larger ethnic conflict between the Sinhalese and the Tamils. The Sinhalese are the ethnic majority of Sri Lanka and make up three quarters of the population. The Tamils in turn make up 17% of the population, both groups having immigrated to Sri Lanka from India during ancient times. According to historians, the Sinhalese came to the island four hundred years before the Tamils (something that many Tamils are quick to deny). The origins of the conflict are debated; some historians believe that it started during the British adminstration of the island between 1815 to 1948. Others believe it started as far back as the Tamil Chola Empire invading Sri Lanka and destroying the Sinhalese kingdom of Anuradhapura in 1017. Anuradhapura was founded in 377 BC by the Sinhalese king Pandukabhaya. Over time the kingdom became the dominant power on the island. Trade with the Roman Empire made the kingdom even more powerful, due to the Romans' generous payment for Sri Lankan spices. However, misfortune would come when King Raja Raja Chola I of Chola Empire invaded the kingdom in 993. In 1017, his son, Rajendra Chola I, sacked and destroyed the city of Anuradhapura, forcing the exiled Sinhalese to the south. After the Chola victory, war between the Tamil superpower and the new Sinhalese kingdom of Polonnaruwa continued for hundreds of years. In the 14th century, Polonnaruwa was replaced by the Kingdoms of Kotte and Kandy as the main Sinhalese players, with a host of smaller powers rising and falling over time. The Tamils in turn created the Kingdom of Jaffna in 1215, after the Chola Empire lost their grip on the island. This struggle for dominance continued until the Portugese arrived in 1505; they established partial control over the island only to be supplanted by the Dutch in 1660. In 1815 the Treaty of Amiens ceded the Dutch territory to the British, who renamed it Ceylon. A series of rebellions and uprisings ended with the Kandy kingdom defeated after the Matale Rebellion of 1848, leaving the island solely in British hands. Under their regime political power was centralized in Colombo, the former capital city of Kotte, and Christianity spread into the inland areas with Christian schools modeled on the British system built everywhere on the island. Large tracts of rainforest were cleared in order to give ground to coffee (later tea) and rubber plantations. In order to feed the demand for cheap labor the British recruited Tamils from India as plantation-workers, and transported them to Ceylon. By the turn of the twentieth century, a movement fusing Buddhism and Sinhalese nationalism was gaining ground on the island. Their most important figure was Anagarika Dharmapala, a nationalistic philosopher who advocated Sinhalese-Buddhistic superority. His main ideal was that Buddhistic Sinhalese alone should rule Ceylon, and neither the British nor the Tamils. He wrote several books about his ideals that became very popular among the Sinhalese. They were so inspired that in year 1915 they launched another rebellion which spread through the whole island. It failed but the Britons' rule over the island was no longer safe at that point. In year 1948 Ceylon became independent from British rule, and the Sinhalese majority quickly took over the new nation. The Sinhalese population founded two political parties that since the independence had shared the power between the years. The first party is the United National Party (UNP), a right-wing party that represents mostly businessmen and financial workers. The other party is the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SFLP), a left-wing party with both socialistic and Sinhalese-nationalistic ideologies. On the day of the declaration of independence, the UNP became the ruling party and their first act was to deport thousands of Tamils from the island back to India and deny citizenship to those who remained. During the 1956 elections, Solomin Bandaranaike and the SLFP took power with their motto "Sinhala Only" - meaning that Sinhala and only Sinhala would replace English as the offical language of Ceylon. Tamil would be ignored, if not discouraged, in Ceylonese society. Not unexpectedly, this led to Tamil groups staging protests and even rioting, leading in turn to further suppression by the government. In 1959 Bandaranaike was assassinated by, ironically, a Buddhist monk. His widow, Sirimavo Bandaranaike, took over the SLFP and the government. She became the World's first female prime minister, steering the nation in a more Socialistic direction. In 1972, Ceylon was renamed Sri Lanka and the head of state was no longer the Queen of United Kingdom but the President of Sri Lanka. After the JVP-Rebellion the year before the government became more hardhearted toward those they didn't like, especially the Tamils. In 1974, they introduced an invoked affirmative action on higher education, meant to make it very difficult for Tamils to seek it, as a way of revenge of the educational privileges the Tamils enjoyed during the British rule. This was the "that's it" for the Tamils. Through the independent rule the Tamils have used non-violent ways, inspired by those used by Mathatma Gandhi, to protest against what they though to be Sinhalese discriminations toward them and their culture but when the invoked affirmative action came many Tamil youths started to found militant groups as well as change demands of political influence to those of an independent nation entirely for the Tamils. The demand for an independent Tamil nation, Tamil Eelam, came first time 1976 by one of the Tamil groups, Tamil United Liberation Front, or TULF. Many other Tamil militias demanded the same thing, one of them LTTE. LTTE was founded 1976 by a man named Velupillai Prabhakaran, a former fisherman and student, and it became quickly the strongest militia with 1500 members. They started out with petty strikes and sabotages that didn't make much difference but in year 1983 they would prove how efficient they were when they made an ambush that would be the start of one of the bloodiest wars in post-WWII history. The 23 July 1983, 15 Sinhalese soldiers in the Army were ambushed by the young LTTE in the city Jaffna, in the northern part of Sri Lanka. 13 of them were killed. The ambush was a revenge of the burning of the ancient library of Jaffna in 1981, which was filled with Tamil literature, by a Sinhalese mob. The burning itself was revenge for the murder of two Sinhalese police officers the same year. The bodies of the dead soldiers were transported to Colombo for funeral. After the funeral the anger of the Sinhalese boiled in their blood and the bloodiest riot in Sri Lanka's history was started. Around the nation Sinhalese mobs went out looking for Tamils and attacked them on sight, destroying their property. The police refused to stop these acts of revenge even joining them in some cases. The mobs didn't care if their victims were members of LTTE or not. So long as they were Tamils, that was justification enough for attacking them. This dark happening is known as "The Black July". Around 1000-1300 Tamils were killed during this riot, and over hundred thousands Tamils fled to southern India, to Europe, to Austalia or to North America. The anger of the Tamils grew thanks to the riot. Many got their houses and their properties destroyed, their family members and friends killed or forced to run and most of them weren't even members of LTTE when they were attacked. The riot inspired though many Tamils to join LTTE and pretty soon after the riot LTTE became a strong organization, and the Sri Lankan Civil War became a circumstance. The war went on in many years and bloody battles were fought. LTTE quickly proved itself to be a well-organized and well-disciplined group, and the undertrained Sri Lankan Army was suffering from great casualties. It wasn't better that LTTE got Indian support in this early part of the war. Now, 50 million Tamils live in India, many of them refugees who had fled the violence in Sri Lanka. They live in a large settlement in southern India named Tamil Nedu. There, LTTE got military training and political protection of the Indian government, who was sympathetic toward the Tamils. The Indian support to LTTE caused the international relation between Sri Lanka and India to be icy. The war wasn't all peaceful and calm either; year 1987 the first suicidebombing against the Sri Lankan Army was done. A 21-22 years old Tamil man named Vallipurarn Vasantham drove a truck filled with explosives inside right at an armybase in Jaffna-province and detonated everything. He and dozens of soldiers died in the attack, and so the legend of LTTE's "Black Tigers" was born. Same year some time after the suicide-attack, the prime minister of India, Rajiv Gandhi, forced both parties to a truce of peace, something both parties weren't enthusiastic about, especially the Sri Lankan government under the hardhearted UNP-president/prime minister J R Jayawardena. After the truce, Indian troops came to the island nation to make sure both parties followed the truce. Ironically it became the other way around; when Indian troops were patrolling in LTTE's territories, it was seen as "treason" in LTTE's eyes, that India was occupying their territories for their own profit's sake, and pretty soon open battles between LTTE and IPKF (Indian Peace Keeping Force) were fought. Among the Sri Lankan side it wasn't so peaceful either. Even if the more moderate UNP-candidate Ranasinghe Premadasa was elected president 1988, and the introduction of Tamil as an offical lauguage alongside Sinhala same year, things started to go over hand. Many Sinhalese saw the truce as some kind of a joke, and India's presence as an occupation of what that was actually their land. This was the moment the Marxist/Sinhalese-nationalistic party Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna, or JVP, had waited for. Even if JVP had suffered great casulties during their rebellion 1971, including their leader Rohana Wijeweera, who had been captured by the Sri Lankan state, the organization itself not dead. After the rebellion they've just retreated in the shadows waiting for a new opportunity for a new strike. The affairs 1987-89 gave them a new reason to start their next rebellion 1989. Wijeweera managed to escape his prison and started a new rebellion. Since JVP wasn't just a Marxist party but also a Sinhalese-nationalistic party they attacked anyone they though supported the Indians or the truce. So brutal they were that in many parts of the country, dead bodies could been seen on the open streets, and soon it became an everyday thing to see such things. People were forced to close their stores, as a part of JVP's economical warfare, and schools were closed because the Sri Lankan government was afraid that they would turn into recruitment camps for JVP. Bloody battles and attacks between the government and JVP broke out. In an attempt to defeat JVP the government introduced a new anti-terror law, that the parlament passed, that gave the police and the military the rights to arrest and "interrogate" suspected terrorists, even if they didn't have any evidence that they were actually terrorists. Thousands of people were arrested and "disappeared" around the nation. Though the harshment, the law proved to be efficent against JVP. Slowly JVP died out until their militant strength died out completly. JVP became extremly weakened but they would remain an importent player of the Sri Lankan chessgame, though in the parlamental game instead the militant one. Around the time the second JVP-Rebellion was beaten down, IPKF withdrew out of Sri Lanka. They had suffered great casulties due to LTTE and they had enough of it. They had than been in the nation in two years. The government tried with a new peace truce but it failed and the war was refought. The new part of the war is now known as Eelam War II, and this part of the war lasted between 1990-94, and it was much bloodier than the first period of the war 1983-87 (Eelam War I), though not as bloody as Eelam War III and IV. Eelam War II started when LTTE conquered police stations on the eastern parts of the nation. The Sri Lankan Police Force had surrendered and laid down their weapons in front of LTTE by the orders of the government. This proved to be a great mistake when LTTE moved the unarmed police officers into the jungle and shot them execution-style. 774 police officers were killed by LTTE. This scared the government so much that they retreated right out of the northern and eastern parts of Sri Lanka. This of course gave LTTE the chance to conquer these parts, which they did and founded a kind of a state in the state, with Jaffna as their capital city and Prabhakaran as the head of state. LTTE started for some reasons to pursue the muslims during this period of the war. The reason was, according to LTTE, that the muslims were supporting the Sri Lankan government. The Muslims have been on the island since 8th-9th century. Many of them are descendants of Arabian merchants. They make up 8% of the population. The Tamils have tried to classify them as Tamils but they have refused to allow it. When the war started the muslims have resisted the foundation of Tamil Eelam because they were afraid that they would become "minority of the minority", and thats why their congress supported the Sinhalese during the war. This of course assured that the relationship between the Tamils and the Muslims became everything but warm. So when LTTE conquered the northern parts of Sri Lanka 1990 they gave the Muslims who lived there two choices; get out or die. It shouldn't be so difficult which alternative they chose, so pretty soon large groups of Muslim refugees walked from north and east to south and west. Those who stayed became pretty roughed up by LTTE. Even in territories controlled by the government didn't went safe. In the city Kattankudy in south an brutal attack on the local mosque took place when 147 civilian muslims were killed by LTTE-militants dressed as praying Muslims. Of course this only made the Muslims into important political allies to the Sinhalese through the rest of the war. In the year 1991 one of the most important incidents of the war happened. The 21 May 1991 the former prime minister of India, Rajiv Gandhi was in the city Sriperumbudur in Tamil Nedu to gain election votes to the parliamentary election. Gandhi had lost his prime minister status 1989, and in 1991 he tried to make a comeback in the parliamentary election in hope that he would win a seat in Lok Sabha. During his political campaign in Tamil Nedu he was embraced by a crowd which wised him good fortunes. One of the people of the crowd was a young woman named Thanmuli Rajaratnam. She also wanted to meet Gandhi in person but Gandhi's bodyguards didn't let her come too close to Gandhi. Gandhi though let her come close. Seconds later blew Rajaratnam herself up to death, taking Gandhi and 16 other people with her. The assassination of Gandhi was the incident that made LTTE internationally well-known. Before it, the global world had little knowledge of the war since it was a local conflict that didn't affect the global world itself, but when the former leader of one of the most powerful nations in modern time could be assassinated by a jungle woman, even when he was surrounded by bodyguards, you can see why all the importent global players realized what a dangerous enemy LTTE actually was. This suicide attack also became a source of inspiration for future terrorist organizations, like Al-Qaida, since it proved that not even politicans of superpowers didn't walk safe during a conflict. The assassination was according to LTTE revenge for India's "treason" against them. The result was that India became the first nation to classify LTTE as a terrorist organization, and for the rest of the war India would throw their support behind their former enemy Sri Lanka with political and economical resources. After the assassination the war went on for three more years. LTTE and the government shot each other here and there, none of them able to break the status quo that had taken its hold on the island. LTTE managed though to assassinate president Premadasa during the may day 1993 but it didn't start any internal struggles for the president-title like LTTE probably had hoped for, and election could be made 1994. Year 1994 it became elections in Sri Lanka. First it was the parliamentary election. It would become historical because UNP lost the power after 17 years to the People's Alliance, an alliance of political leftwinged parties founded by SLFP's leader Chandrika Kumaratunga, daughter of SLFP's founders Solomon and Sirimavo Bandaranaike. PA became the parliamentary superforce since their slogan was of new peacetalks with LTTE. The people had at that point become tired of the whole war and just wanted an end of it, so majority of them had voted on PA because they had hoped they could make peace possible. Then it was the presidental election. Against Kumaratunga was UNP's candidate Gamini Dissanayake. Though in the middle of the election he was assassinated by LTTE, and his widow Shrima took over. Kumaratunga won though the election and became the president of Sri Lanka. Her mother became prime minister. As soon she became president she started with her promised peacetalks with LTTE. It went for the start quite calm between the two parties. Letter exchanges and phonecalls between them went on. Government representatives came to Jaffna, there they were embraced by cheering people, to write under the new truce between LTTE and the government. With the truce, the government "relaxed" with their sea blockade of LTTE's territories. In return, LTTE freed some police officer who had been prisoners since the police massacre 1990. But history teaches that no truce ever lasts, and the Sri Lankan Civil War was no exception. After a time after the 1994 truce was written, Prabhakaran suddenly blamed the government for not doing enough to make their part of the truce. Immidiately after his speech, the Sea Tigers attacked the Sri Lankan Navy in their base in the city Trincomalee and killed 12 seamen. The third period of the war, Eelam War III, has started. This period went from 1995 to 2002. Under her first years, the president created Kumaratunga the so called "War-for-peace" strategy. It meant that through military offensives the government would force LTTE to follow the truce, and they started with the hard parts immediately. In 1995 the military was able to win a historic battle; Jaffna, LTTE's capital city, had been re-conquered and was in the government's hands. LTTE was forced to retreat into the jungle. Though even with the great loss of their capital city, LTTE was anything but defeated and weakened. In fact it was the start of their most successful campaign ever of the war. LTTE fought back 31 January 1996 when a truck bomb rammed into the Central Bank of Colombo, killing 91 people. Half a year later LTTE started Operation Unceasing Waves, a siege of the city Mullaitivu. The city was defended by 1500 soldiers and against them were 4000 LTTE-fighters. After a week of siege warfare LTTE finally conquered Mullaitivu, and the Sea Tigers moved their headquarter there. In year 1998 the tigers attacked the city Kilinochchi, which they were able to conquer and declearing it as their new capital city. Of course the military weren't so easily defeatable either, and at 15 May 1997 they started Operation Jayasikurui. The strategy was to build a road and supply lines between north and south and at the same time destroy as much of LTTE as possible. Status Quo was infecting the nation again. The war became even more bitter when LTTE blew up World Trade Center in Colombo and tried to assassinate Kumaratunga during the presidental election 1999. She survived but lost one eye as a result. In year 2000, a battle was fought at the strategical importent territory the Elephant Pass. It's a narrow isthmus that connect the northern Jaffna Peninsula with the rest of the island, and having control of it would allow the controller to allow which transporting supplies to go through if they moved toward or out of the Jaffna province. If LTTE would has control of it, it would make it difficult for the Sri Lankan troops stationed at north to gain quick supplies from the south. If the government controlled it, it would allow them to support their control of north the easy way without using the water ways, which would take much more time to transport the supplies. 5000 tigers and 40000 soldiers fought their very hardest for this control. With the moment of surprise the tigers attacked the military's postions right into their command center. The pass would remain in LTTE's hands until 2009. 24 July 2001 was the day of one of LTTE's most successful attacks ever. In the city Katunayake so were some tigers able get through the barbed wires surrounding the Bandaranaike International Airport when a black out cut the airport's communication and they then quickly placed bombs on the military aircrafts first and detonated them. The bombs blew up several military aircrafts and LTTE continue to destroy the rest with grenade launchers and machine guns. When the military found out that one of their most importent airbases was being attacked so had LTTE already caused much materialistic destruction. When The military sent a commando force to kill the tigers so had they putted their attention toward the civilian planes and started to destroy them as well. Finally the commandos were able to put down the attackers, and lucky there too since turistplanes from Maldives were about to land at the moment. No civilians were killed or harmed but the results were though that, when the news of attack went out to the international media, the turist indrusty of Sri Lanka lost their profits with 80-90%. Those turists that still were on the island became panicked and tried as quickly as possible to get the first plane home, creating choas inturn. The LTTE raid hurted Sri Lanka economically and it wasn't until after the war that the profits of the turist indrustry returned to the levels they were before the raid. All these harden Kumaratunga's heart and from had been a pro-peacetalk idealist she had become a war-ready leader who wanted to annihilate LTTE. It became difficult for her with that part since UNP won the parliamentary election 2001 and their leader Ranil Wickremasinghe became prime minister of Sri Lanka. The guy was, for some reasons, all for a new peacetalk with LTTE, which created tensions between him and Kumaratunga. Stangely enough so was LTTE all for a new peacetalk too, when in 2002 LTTE's main ambassador Anton Balasingham asked Norway for help with new peacetalks, while he was there for a operation. The Norwegians accepted his wish and immidiately started with new peacetalks. Both parties had no problems with Norway as the negotiator since Norway was seen a neutral party. Both LTTE's leader Prabhakaran and Sri Lanka's prime minister Wickremasinghe wrote on the new truce, and a Norweigan force was founded to make sure both parties followed the truce. Three years of peace lasted but in 2004, an internal struggle happened in LTTE. What was happening was that Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan, more known as Colonel Karuna Amman, became disillusioned with LTTE, which he though had ignored the eastern Tamils in favor of the northern Tamils and that Prabhakaran had a become totalitarian ruler and broke out of LTTE along with 5000 men and created his own militia, the Tamil Makkad Viduthalai Pulikal (Tamil People Liberation Tigers), or TMVP. LTTE's intelligence agency claimed that the break-up only happened because they were getting at the colonel's "businesses" behind the scene. Rumors said that the government was behind the break-up but so far no evidence for it have proven it. Armed struggles broke out between LTTE and TMVP and they quickly became bloody. Except for that, everything else in Sri Lanka was calm for the moment. Though Kumaratunga hadn't forgotten LTTE's attacks and assassination attempt on her life, so during a vote of confidence her political alliance allied with JVP, she dissolved the parliament and started a new parliamentary election in 2004. Thanks to the alliance between PA and JVP, Wickremasinghe lost the prime minister post and Mahinda Rajapaska, former minister of labour and aquatic resourses and Kumaratunga's personal friend, took over. PA got JVP on their side thanks to their promises that the government wouldn't have any future peacetalks with LTTE. Though the tsunami of 2004 temporarily stopped their plans for a time, they got their next chance in 2006, when the Minister of Foreign Affairs Lakshman Kadirgamar, an ethnic Tamil, was assassinated in his own home by a LTTE-sniper. Kadirgamar was a respected politican both inside and outside the country. The assassination causes EU to classify LTTE as a terrorist organization, much to LTTE's disapproval. Same year as Kadirgamar was assassinated, presidental election was starting again. That time, Rajapaska was nominated as SLFP's presidential candidate. His strongest slogan was he would put to an end of the war as quickly as possible. LTTE of course didn't like the promise and in their territories people were forbidden to vote in order to boycott the election. This would prove to be the beginning of the end for LTTE. Rajapaska won the election and became the new president of Sri Lanka. As soon as he was sworn in as president he prepared the nation for total war. The first thing he did was to buy as much of Chinese and Israeli weaponary as possible. Then he introduced harsher discipline within the military with help of American military advisors. The result was successful. The Sri Lankan military, which had once been a military of undisciplined and halfheartedly motivated slackers and thieves, quickly became a strong force made up of disciplined, well-trained and motivated troops. After this reformation the new force pulled their first moves in year 2006 against east. The Government allied with the near-defeated TMVP and together they, after a year of hard combat, forced LTTE out of the eastern provinces. Then they just had to win the same victory in north, in LTTE's "backyard", but just to make sure they wouldn't lose their control of the eastern parts to LTTE the government pardoned colonel Amman and his troops of their past deeds and made Amman the temporary governor of those provinces. By that way the government was able to gain TMVP's eternal loyalty. With that end of matter the military pushed to north. Slowly the military fought through LTTE's grounds and won the first battle after the next one. The casulties became extremly high for LTTE. In November 2008-January 2009 the Second Battle of Kilinochchi was fought on the city which was LTTE's capital city since 1998. The military won the battle and LTTE was forced to retreat from the city when military tanks pushed through their defences. LTTE fled to Mullaitivu, with the military right behind their backs. After twenty days of fighting, the city fell to the military as well. The Sea Tigers were annihilated as a militant force and LTTE had control of only 5% of the territories they once owned. The military quickly attacked this territory and at April 2009, LTTE's control of their last city, Puthukkudiyirippu, fell to the superior force. At May, LTTE's leader Velupillai Prabhakaran, the man who had led the most strongest terrorist organization to ever exist, fell when he tried to retreat inside an ambulance. When his body was later identified by Colonel Amman, President Rajapaska officially confirmed the tiger leader's death through live television, and declared that the war had been won. Soon LTTE accepted defeat and their last remnants laid down their weapons and surrendered. The 26 year long war was over.
Tropes Involved with this War
Depictions in fiction