Ilankai Tamil Sangam

Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

Tipping in Kilinochchi

Just as much as Perry does not have a guide in Kilinochchi to tell him that tipping is not expected, so the international system has painted the world so black and white between the system of nation-states and the 'terrorists,' that they cannot understand a place that is somewhere in the middle - a territory with nascent state structures, yet not yet recognized.  Perry grapples with the paradox in front of his eyes. -- Editor

How Much to Tip the Terrorist?

Traveling in Tamil Tiger territory, TIME's Alex Perry realizes his waiter may be part of the world's most accomplished insurgency

by Alex Perry, September 26, 2005

Crossing borders has been an arduous business since 9/11, and entering northern Sri Lanka is no different - if anything the delays are longer, the checks more thorough and the wait, outside a row of wooden sheds in a baking tropical sun, more grueling than arriving at Heathrow or JFK. In those places, of course, immigration officials are trying to keep terrorists out. Here, however, the officials are the terrorists.

The Tamil Tigers would dispute that tag, of course. Like other guerrillas and suicide bombers, they prefer the term "freedom fighters." But the Liberation Tamil Tigers of Eelam (L.T.T.E.) are proscribed by the U.S. and the U.N. as terrorists, and even without that official sanction, their record in 22 years of civil war with the Sinhalese of southern Sri Lanka speaks for itself. They've assassinated the heads of several branches of the Sri Lankan armed forces, a president, and a former prime minister of India (Rajiv Gandhi); they've blown up half the national airline and held off two national armies (Sri Lanka and India); They are credited, if that's the correct term, with raising suicide bombing to an art form, with explosives strapped to the body, and cars and boats in ever more sophisticated fashion. And their prowess in guerrilla warfare and and arms smuggling has earned them a reputation as the world's most effective insurgent outfit. And that reputation has allowed them to turn  the export of their expertise, weapons and assassins to other terror groups into a billion-dollar business.

After 9/11 the Tigers feared they would eventually fall foul of the new U.S. war on terror, and, partly to avoid that, quickly agreed a ceasefire with a new, more moderate government in Colombo, under which they opened up their territory (the north and east) to all except government troops. But since there was no question of giving up the dream of an independent homeland for which they had fought so long, they set up formidable new borders around "Eelam" to underscore the impression of sovereignty. Entering Tigerland today means a vehicle search, a bag search and a body search, three separate checkpoints, four immigration checks and interviews or checks with 11 separate officers. Once inside, the traveler finds the Tigers have stretched the idea of a separate nation as far as they can. They run their own courts, police and army, and their own hotels and restaurants. They build roads. They distribute tsunami aid (with far more efficiency than the government to the south). They even have their own traffic cops.

Once you finally clear the border and settle into the Tiger-owned A9 Guesthouse in the Tiger administrative capital Killinochchi, sip a Tiger-served beer and tuck into Tiger-grown rice and Tiger-cooked curry, it becomes impossible to think of your hosts only as rebels. Whether previously you saw them as mad bombers or brave martyrs, it becomes plain that the Tigers also have other identities: bureaucrats, firemen, nurses, farmers, restaurateurs and video store entrepreneurs. There are those who resist this complication. They say it humanizes evil and that if someone is a terrorist or supports terrorism, that's all you need to know. Such certainty may be appealing in a post-9/11 world. Then again, few people would prefer a suicide bomber over an officious border guard. And when a rebel becomes a teacher - when a sword turns into a plough-share - shouldn't we be grateful? These questions weigh heavily on Sri Lanka as it contemplates the November 17 presidential election, where the choice is between opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, who began the original peace process, and prime minister Mahinda Rajapakse, backed by Sinhalese nationalists who, while not openly advocating war, oppose the current ceasefire. Whatever the answers, the residents of Tigerland say there is one unquestionable upside to the detente, as long as it lasts. With battle-hardened guerrillas for traffic cops, no one's yet been known been known to speed in Tamil Tiger territory.

Response from Mr. Thangevelu

Dear Editor,

The news story filed by Alex Perry/Kilinochchi captioned "How Much to Tip the Terrorist?" is fairly accurate except in regard to the following:

(1) "And that reputation has allowed them to turn the export of their expertise, weapons and assassins to other terror groups into a billion-dollar business."  This is a false and total fabrication and betrays the typical mind-set of western journalists!  If you accept the fact that Sri Lanka is an island, how is it possible for LTTE to "export of their expertise, weapons and assassins..."  Who are the middlemen negotiating purchase of arms from the LTTE?  Does the LTTE have weapon manufacturing industries in the NorthEast?  Do they have the expertise to manufacture arms?  If yes, how does it square with the allegation the LTTE is smuggling weapons into their territories?  These are all fanciful stories and your correspondent fell for them hook, line and sinker.

(2) "After 9/11 the Tigers feared they would eventually fall foul of the new U.S. war on terror, and, partly to avoid that, quickly agreed a ceasefire with a new, more moderate government in Colombo" - The LTTE declared several unilateral ceasefires even before the 9/11 attack.  The LTTE declared ceasefire from 24th December 2000 to midnight 24th January 2001.  This ceasefire was ignored by the Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL), which launched the Agni Keela military offensive in April, 2001 that proved a unmitigated disaster for the Sri Lankan army.

The LTTE declared another ceasefire, from 24 December 2001 until midnight on 24 January 2002.  It was this ceasefire that was accepted by the government and an agreement signed on February 22, 2002. (Please see relevant press reports below)

Why should the LTTE be afraid of the USA?  The USA has already declared the LTTE as a foreign-based terrorist organization as far back as 1997, notwithstanding that the LTTE does not fit the definition of a terrorist organization.

The LTTE as a military organization has definite goals with a military commander and a military chain of command.  They fight conventional warfare which no other guerrilla organization anywhere in the world is capable of.  Ms. Karen Parker, human rights lawyer says as follows-

" The LTTE are organized militarily.  The LTTE uses traditional, modern military weaponry in its combat against the military forces of the government of Sri Lanka.  The LTTE uses a variety of military tactics, including open warfare, raids or guerrilla warfare.  The government armed forces use similar military means against the armed forces of the LTTE.  Most armies in the past 200 years have utilized essentially the same tactics.  The war in Sri Lanka may be characterized as a civil war or war of national liberation in the exercise of the right to self-determination.  A civil war exists if there is armed conflict inside one country between government armed forces and at least one other force having an identifiable command and having sufficient control over territory to carry out "sustained" and "concerted" military action and the practical capacity to fulfill humanitarian law obligations.

The LTTE has clearly met this test for more than 10 years.  The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, or LTTE, is not a " terrorist" organization, but rather an armed force in a war against the government of Sri Lanka.  Characterization of the LTTE as a "Terrorist" organization is politically motivated, having no basis in law or fact."


LTTE Press Statement, 21 December 2000
Released by LTTE International Secretariat,
211 Katherine Rd, London E6 1BU, United Kingdom.
phone : 44 20 8503 4294
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The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in an official statement issued today from its headquarters in Vanni, northern Sri Lanka, announced the declaration of a month long unilateral cease-fire as a gesture of goodwill during the festive season to facilitate and promote initiatives towards a peace process.

'Mr. Velupillai Pirapaharan, the leader and military commander of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, has issued orders to all units and combat formations of the Tamil liberation army to cease hostile military actions against the Sri Lanka armed forces from midnight 24th December 2000 to midnight 24th January 2001', the LTTE's statement declared.

'We make this declaration of cessation of armed hostilities unilaterally hoping that the Sri Lanka government will reciprocate positively and instruct its armed forces to observe peace during the festive season of Christmas, New Year and Pongal (Hindu Harvest Festival). Our decision to cease armed hostilities should be viewed as a genuine expression of goodwill indicating our sincere desire for peace and negotiated political settlement. We offer this space of peace to facilitate and promote initiatives to create congenial conditions of normalcy de-escalating the armed confrontation', the statement said.

'If Sri Lanka responds positively by ceasing armed hostilities against our forces and takes steps to implement the Norwegian proposal of mutual confidence building measures, the LTTE will be prepared to extend the period of peace to create cordial conditions for a stable cease-fire and direct negotiations', the statement further stated.

LTTE declares unilateral ceasefire
[TamilNet, December 19, 2001 - 11.45 GMT]
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) have declared a month long unilateral cessation of hostilities as a goodwill measure during the festive season.

The official statement issued by the LTTE on Wednesday and published in the pro-LTTE website Tamilnet, stated that the declaration of a month long "unilateral cessation of hostilities" is a goodwill measure during the festive season "to facilitate and promote initiatives towards a peace process."

The LTTE's observation of the cease-fire is due to begin at midnight on 24 December 2001, and continue until midnight on 24 January 2002.

The full text of the press release is as follows:

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in an official statement issued today from its headquarters in Vanni, northern Sri Lanka, announced the declaration of a month long unilateral cessation of hostilities as a goodwill measure during the festive season to facilitate and promote initiatives towards a peace process. The LTTE's observation of cease-fire begins at midnight on Christmas Eve, 24 December 2001.

"Mr. Velupillai Pirapaharan, the leader and military commander of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, has issued orders to all units and combat formations of the Tamil liberation army to cease all hostile military actions against the Sri Lankan armed forced from midnight 24 December 2001 till midnight 24 January 2002," the LTTE's statement declared.

"Encouraged by the collective mandate for peace and ethnic harmony given by the Sinhala and Tamil masses at the general election, the LTTE leadership has decided to declare, unilaterally, a month long cessation of armed hostilities during the festive season of Christmas, New Year and 'Thai Pongal' (Hindu Harvest Festival) as a gesture of goodwill to facilitate the promotion of peace initiatives. We fervently hope that the new government of Sri Lanka will reciprocate positively to our goodwill gesture and instruct its armed forces to observe peace during this period. Our decision to cease armed hostilities and observe peace during the festive season should be viewed as a genuine expression of goodwill, demonstrating our sincere desire for peace and negotiated political settlement. We are confident that the new government will utilise this space of peace to implement goodwill measures to create congenial conditions of normalcy in the Tamil homeland by withdrawing the economic embargo and other restrictions and prohibitions imposed on our people," the statement said.

"If the Sri Lanka government reciprocates positively to our goodwill gesture and ceases armed hostilities against our forces and takes immediate steps to remove the economic embargo and other restrictions, the LTTE will favourably consider extending the period of cease-fire to create cordial conditions for a stable peace and de-escalation," the statement further said.

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Posted September 28, 2005