Post-war opportunity

The war in Sri Lanka is officially over. LTTE founder and chief-for-life, Velupillai Prabhakaran, is dead beyond all doubt, killed while trying to escape from the tiny strip of land in northern Sri Lanka where he had been cornered by the Sri Lankan Army. Most of the top LTTE leadership, as well as Charles Anthony, Prabhakaran's son, have also been killed. But putting down the Tigers has been accompanied by a heavy cost. Tens of thousands of civilians faced indiscriminate fire by the security forces and were held hostage by the rebels in the last throes of war, used as human shields and denied access to basic amenities and medical attention. Even though the war has come to what can only be called a catastrophic end, with a huge and unacceptable civilian death toll and an impending humanitarian emergency, there now loom larger questions about the future of the Tamil community and Sri Lanka as a whole. These must be addressed with as much urgency.

The last 25 years of conflict have been irrefutably detrimental to Tamil political culture. The rise of the LTTE, in the early 1980s, was accompanied by the brutal silencing of dissent across a wide political spectrum within the Tamil community. The LTTE embraced a fascist political culture, and proceeded systematically to eliminate politicians, intellectuals and activists struggling for Tamil political rights. Many of these – such as Rajani Thiranagama, Neelan Tiruchelvam and Kethesh Loganathan – could now have been making a contribution in chalking out the future of a post-LTTE Sri Lanka.

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