Sri Lanka and state terrorism

Main cities in Sri Lanka.

The Sri Lankan state has been accused of state terrorism against the Tamil minority as well as the Sinhalese majority.[1][2][3][4] The Sri Lankan government and the Sri Lankan Armed Forces have been charged with massacres, indiscriminate shelling and bombing, extrajudicial killings, rape, torture, disappearance, arbitrary detention, forced displacement and economic blockade.[1][5][6][7] According to Amnesty International state terror was institutionalized into Sri Lanka's laws, government and society.[5]


20th century

Sri Lanka gained independence from Britain in 1948 as the Dominion of Ceylon, although the British Royal Navy retained a base there until 1956. In 1972, the country became a republic, adopting the name Sri Lanka. Since this time, the country has experienced two major conflicts a civil war and a Marxist uprising.

Marxist insurrection

From 1985 to 1989, Sri Lanka responded to violent insurrection with equal violence against the Sinhalese majority as part of the counter insurgency measures against the uprising by the Marxist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) party.[8] In order to subdue those supporting the JVP uprising, a wide range of acts of cruelty were recorded as having been carried out by the state, including the torture and mass murder of school children.[9][10] This repression peaked among the Sinhala population during 198990.[11]

Civil war

The Sri Lankan Civil War lasted from 1983 to 2009. In 1986 an American Tamil social anthropologist at Harvard University stated that acts of "terrorism" had been committed by all sides during the war,[12] but although all parties in the conflict had resorted to the use of these tactics, in terms of scale, duration, and sheer numbers of victims, the Sri Lankan state was particularly culpable.[13][14][15] This was echoed by the Secretary of the Movement for Development and Democratic Rights, a Non-governmental organisation (NGO), which further claimed that the Sri Lankan state viewed killing as an essential political tool.[16] This had originally prompted the demand for a separate state for minority Tamils called Tamil Eelam in the north of the country,[13][17][18] an idea first articulated by S.J.V. Chelvanayagam in 1976.[19]

Assaults on Tamils for ethnic reasons have been alleged,[9] and the experience of state terrorism by the people of Jaffna has been alleged to have been instrumental in persuading the United National Party to increase their hostilities there.[20]

Chandrika Kumaratunga was the President of Sri Lanka from 1994 to 2005. In an interview with the British television presenter and news critic David Frost, she has stated that at the time that her husband Vijaya Kumaranatunga was assassinated, "Sri Lanka had a killing fields, there was a lot of terror perpetrated by the government itself, state terrorism."[21] This statement has been supported by a report released by the Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC), a Non-governmental organization based in Hong Kong and associated with the United Nations, which has also claimed that there was widespread terrorism by the state during this period.[22]

21st century

Following the collapse of peace talks in 2006, human rights agencies such as the Asian Center of Human Rights (ACHR), the University Teachers for Human Rights (UTHR), and pro-LTTE political parties such as the Tamil National Alliance, claimed that the government of Sri Lanka had unleashed state terrorism as part of its counter insurgency measures against the rebel LTTE movement.[23][24][25] The Sri Lankan government responded by claiming that these allegations by the LTTE were an attempt by the LTTE to justify their own acts of terrorism.[26]

The ACHR has also stated that following the collapse of the Geneva talks of February 2006, the government of Sri Lanka perpetrated a campaign of state terrorism by targeting alleged LTTE sympathizers and Tamil civilians.[27] A spokesman for Human Rights Watch was of the opinion that: "The Sri Lankan government has apparently given its security forces a green light to use dirty war tactics."[28] International intervention in Sri Lanka was requested by Tamil sources to protect civilians from state terror.[29][30]

Specific allegations


When referring to the 2006 Trincomalee massacre, of 20-year-old [31] students, and subsequent intimidation of witnesses and the perceived lack of investigative vigor, the local human rights group UTHR termed it an act of state terror.[32]

Inaction/aid to Tamil Peoples Liberation Tigers' Recruitment of children

According to the Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR), the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court identifies "conscripting or enlisting children under the age of fifteen years into armed forces or groups or using them to participate actively in hostilities" as a war crime. The agency has accused the Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal (TMVP), a LTTE breakaway group and government-backed paramilitary group, of recruiting children, describing it as "state terror" and has appealed to the international community to refer Sri Lanka to the International Criminal Court for investigation into the violations of the Rome Statute.[27]

Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch has said, "The government is fully aware of the abductions but allows them to happen because it's eager for an ally against the Tamil Tigers". The Human Rights Watch further added that it would be impossible to transport abducted children without the complicity of the Sri Lankan Army.[33] TMVP has allegedly been used as a paramilitary force by the Sri Lankan army, from the time the group split from the LTTE in 2004.

Torture and rape

The International Federation of Tamils, a pro-LTTE consortium of Tamil groups,[34] has alleged that the systematic use of torture and rape by Sri Lankan forces has amounted to state terrorism.[23] The torture, rape and murder of a family during the Vankalai massacre has been described as an act of state terrorism.[35] Human Rights groups have condemned this massacre and demanded an independent investigation.[36] In the book Trauma of Terrorism by Yael Danieli, the Sri Lankan state is viewed as having been the most guilty in the use of terror; the author claims that state terrorism became institutionalized into the very structure of society and mechanism of governance.[37] Hillary Clinton has been quoted linking Sri Lanka with the use of rape as a tactic of war, to which some have responded unjust to "rope in" Sri Lanka's name to countries like the Congo and Burma.[38]

Interference with news media

Opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe has charged the government of Sri Lanka with turning the country into a junta: "This junta has control over the economy, business activities and defense. They have unleashed corruption and terror on the country." He has claimed that an attack on the Sunday Leader newspaper, an independent English weekly, could not have occurred without the knowledge of the Sri Lankan Defense Ministry since the offices were located in a High Security Zone, neighboring a military air force base, a defense academy and a military camp .[39][40]

The UTHR, a local human rights organization, has claimed that the media has been repressed by state terrorism.[41] Some activists have drawn attention to the lack of coverage of the displacement of Tamils in late 2008, particularly people being relocated to welfare villages in India, covered by Indian news, as a symptom of anti-democratic controls over the media.[42]

See also


  1. 1 2 Bandarage, Asoka (2009). The Separatist Conflict in Sri Lanka: Terrorism, Ethnicity, Political Economy. Routledge. p. 17. ISBN 0-415-77678-3.
  2. Hughes, Dhana. Violence, Torture and Memory in Sri Lanka: Life After Terror. Routledge. p. 109. ISBN 1135038155.
  3. Mukarji, Apratim (2005). Sri Lanka: A Dangerous Interlude. New Dawn Press. p. 71. ISBN 184557530X.
  4. Grant, Trevor (2014). Sri Lanka's Secrets: How the Rajapaksa Regime Gets Away with Murder. Monash University Publishing. p. 191. ISBN 1922235539.
  5. 1 2 Somasundaram, Daya (2012). "Short and Long Term Effects on the Victims of Terror in Sri Lanka". In Danieli, Yael; Brom, Danny; Sills, Joe. The Trauma of Terrorism: Sharing Knowledge and Shared Care, An International Handbook. Routledge. p. 216. ISBN 1136747044.
  6. Kleinfeld, Margo (2004). "Strategic Trooping in Sri Lanka: September Eleventh and the Consolidation of Political Position". In Brunn, Stanley D. 11 September and Its Aftermath: The Geopolitics of Terror. Routledge. p. 106. ISBN 1135756023.
  7. Dwivedi, Manan (2009). South Asia Security. Kalpaz Publications. p. 170. ISBN 978-81-7835-759-1.
  8. Gananath Obeyesekere, Narratives of the self: Chevalier Peter Dillon's Fijian cannibal adventures, in Barbara Creed, Jeanette Hoorn, Body Taade: captivity, cannibalism and colonialism in the Pacific, Routledge, 2001, p. 100. ISBN 0-415-93884-8. "The 'time of dread' was roughly 1985-89, when ethnic Sinhala youth took over vast areas of the country and practiced enormous atrocities; they were only eliminated by equally dreadful state terrorism." Gananath Obeyesekere
  9. 1 2 Ishtiaq Ahmed, State, Nation, and Ethnicity in Contemporary South Asia, Continuum International Publishing Group, 1996, p. 55. ISBN 1-85567-578-1.
  10. "JVP: Lessons for the Genuine Left". Imayavaramban. Retrieved 2008-01-17.
  11. Handelman, Don (2006). The Manchester School: Practice and Ethnographic Praxis in Anthropology. Berghahn Books. p. 142.
  12. Tambiah, Sri Lanka: Ethnic Fratricide and the Dismantling of Democracy, p 116. Stanley Jeyaraja Tambiah
  13. 1 2 Hattotuwa, From violence to peace: Terrorism and Human Rights in Sri Lanka, pp 1113
  14. Danieli, Yael, Brom, D and Sills, Joe. The trauma of terrorism: sharing knowledge and shared care, p 216
  15. "Child soldiers: Understanding the context" (PDF). Daya Somasundaram. Retrieved 2008-01-17.
  16. ACHR, Sri Lanka: Disappearances and the Collapse of the Police System,ACHR, pp 3442
  17. Kumar Rupesinghe, Ethnic Conflict in South Asia: The Case of Sri Lanka and the Indian Peace-Keeping Force (IPKF), pp.337
  18. "Sri Lanka: testimony to state terror". Race & Class. Institute of Race Relations. 26 (4): 71–84. 1985. doi:10.1177/030639688502600405.
  19. "S.J.V.Chelvanayagam Q.C". Tamil Nation. Tamil Nation. 2006-11-15. Retrieved 2008-01-18.
  20. W. A. Wiswa Warnapala, L. Dias Hewagama, Recent Politics in Sri Lanka: The Presidential Election and the Referendum, Navrang (Original from the University of Michigan), 1983, p. 29. ASIN: B000II886W.
  21. "BBC Breakfast with Frost Interview: President Chandrika Kumaratunga of Sri Lanka". David Frost. 2001-10-28. Retrieved 2008-01-17.
  22. "Tell the truth or you will be killed". Retrieved 2007-08-11.
  23. 1 2 "Sri Lanka: Terror Vs State Terror". Retrieved 2007-08-11.
  24. University Teachers for Human Rights , UTHR, October 28, 2001.
  25. "Claims of state terror and genocide by LTTE attempts at justifying terrorism". Retrieved 2007-08-11.
  26. "Claims of state terror and genocide by LTTE attempts at justifying terrorism". Retrieved 2007-08-11.
  27. 1 2 "Sri Lanka: Terror Vs State Terror". ACHR Weekly Review. Asian Human Rights Commission. 2006-11-15. Retrieved 2007-07-28.
  28. "Sri Lanka: Government Abuses Intensify". Human Rights Watch. Retrieved 2008-01-18. Quotation by Brad Adams, Asia Director.
  29. "Tamils 'entitled to' international help". BBC. Retrieved 2008-01-16.
  30. "Sri Lanka Trauma: International Community Revisits its Response". V S Subramaniam. Retrieved 2008-01-17.
  31. "2.0 State Terror in Trincomalee". UTHR. 2007-07-06. Retrieved 2008-01-17.
  32. [ Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch said, "The government is fully aware of the abductions but allows them to happen because it's eager for an ally against the Tamil Tigers". The Human Rights Watch further added that it would be impossible to transport abducted children without the complicity of the Sri Lankan Army].
  33. "Extending a ban".
  34. David Jeyaraj, a prominent Sri Lankan journalist from Canada
  35. "Another family wiped out in Vankalai".
  36. Danieli, Yael. The Trauma of Terrorism, p 216.
  38. "No one can attack on the Leader Publications press without the knowledge of the Defence Ministry." -Opposition Leader". Lanka News. Retrieved 2008-01-17.
  39. Gota is behind this draconian gazette
  40. "Can the East be won through Human Culling?". UTHR. Retrieved 2008-03-16.
  41. Roy, Suzanna Arundhati (2009-03-30). "The silent horror of Lanka's 'war on terror'". The Times of India. Mumbai. pp. 1, 13. Retrieved 2009-03-30.


Further reading

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