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17 May, 2009

End of civil war in Sri Lanka

“We willingly stand up with courage and silence our guns. We have no other option other than to continue our plea to the international community to save our people”. With these words, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam conceded on Sunday the Sri Lankan government’s claim that the long drawn out civil war is over.

The end of the conflict was announced by Selvarasa Pathmanathan, head of LTTE’s International Diplomatic Relations, in an urgent statement, according to the TamilNet website.

Pathmanathan said, “This battle has reached its bitter end. Against all odds, we have held back the advancing Sinhalese forces without help or support, except for the unending support of our people. It is our people who are dying now from bombs, shells, illness and hunger. We cannot permit any more harm to befall them.”

He said the LTTE had fought the Sri Lankan military for almost three decades and defended its right to carry arms as a means of protecting the Tamil people living in the island.

The website made no mention of the whereabouts of the LTTE chief, Velupillai Prabakaran.

The Sri Lankan army’s current campaign against the LTTE began two years ago. With its successful completion, the civil war is over. But the island’s Tamil community’s legitimate demand for an honourable place remains to be addressed. This is a political task that brooks no delay.

The recent furore in India over the Sri Lankan developments betrays a total lack of understanding of the issue in our media as well as in political circles.

The animosity between the Sinhala and Tamil communities goes back a long way. When the country gained independence in 1948 the Tamils had a favoured position in the government, having been close to the British during the colonial period. The country witnessed a series of agitations under the leadership of Buddhist monks seeking justice for the majority Sinhala people, who are Buddhists. These led to the adoption of Buddhism as the state religion and Sinhala as the official language. It was now the turn of the Tamils to agitate against injustice.

An honourable solution to the island’s ethnic problems lies in the evolution of a constitutional scheme which recognises the rights of the Tamils as a religious and linguistic minority.

Details of S. Pathmanathan’s statement at TamilNet website.

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