Wednesday 18 Jul 2018 | 15:22 | SYDNEY
Wednesday 18 Jul 2018 | 15:22 | SYDNEY

No joy for LTTE in Tamil diaspora

19 March 2009 16:09

Sergei DeSilva-Ranasinghe lectures in terrorism and international security at Edith Cowan University.

Until the current phase of conflict (2006-09), the success of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) as a military organization gave it enormous credibility in the eyes of its followers in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu and among the Tamil diaspora, leading to suggestions that it was invincible. This view was once affirmed by a rival Sri Lankan Tamil political leader, Dharmalingam Sidharthan:

Even after Rajiv Gandhi’s killing, the LTTE continued to enjoy significant support in Tamil Nadu. Some people there believe that the Tamils must have a country of their own. And they believe the only place where a Tamil state can be established is in the North-East of Sri Lanka, because of the military power of the LTTE.

Evidently, this scenario has now drastiscally changed as the LTTE faces imminent military defeat and is desperately trying to hold off the final offensive, which will bring to an end to 25 years of civil war in Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankan military has succeeded in dismantling the conventional military infrastructure of the LTTE and discrediting its violent separatist cause.

While there is little doubt that the LTTE will attempt to wage a low intensity guerrilla war in Sri Lanka, the scale and success of this will depend considerably on the survival of its leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran, and its international support base. Hence, surviving LTTE leaders may attempt to covertly regroup and avoid possible interdiction in neighbouring countries where it has some influence. The probable destinations include Tamil Nadu, and possibly even Malaysia, Thailand or Cambodia.

But although there is widespread sympathy for the plight of Sri Lankan Tamils in Tamil Nadu, public sentiment towards the LTTE is widely disapproving. Furthermore, evidence suggests that the impact of Sri Lanka’s conflict has been minimal — in a Tamil Nadu January by-election in January, Sri Lanka’s conflict had no bearing.

By and large, the LTTE has popular support mainly among the fringe left and far left political parties who are aspirants of radical Tamil nationalism and separatism, as exemplified by the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) and Communist Party of India (CPI). They have organized widespread protests, strikes and self-immolations in support of the LTTE.

However, these efforts have been fruitless for the LTTE, which is facing the wrath of the Indian Government in a major crackdown to prevent it from regrouping and using Tamil Nadu as a base. Similarly, India’s general elections in May 2009 will see considerable emphasis on hard power politics in the wake of the Mumbai attacks. This is likely to worsen the predicament for the LTTE, especially if Congress remains in power.