Tamil Tigers employ human shield

June 1, 2009 — by Uttara Sivaram

Muffled pleas for help were once heard from the Northeast sector of Sri Lanka, an island off the coast of India, where 50,000 civilians had been trapped within a four-square mile area, held as human shields by a few hundred of the most deadly terrorists in the world—the Tamil Tigers.

Government plans for the Tigers’ destruction began earlier in the year when it started a major offensive against the rebels. The Sri Lankan government began taking control of the situation, pushing the rebels farther and farther north while flushing out resistance from the South. These rebels wanted the Tamil minority to be independent from the socially and politically privileged Sinhalese, who make up the majority of the Sri Lankan population.

The government was successful in sequestering the rebels in the far northeast region of Sri Lanka. However, the ones that survived the initial onslaught were the most seasoned, lethal and virulent of the pack. Along with them were tens of thousands of innocent Sri Lankan civilians who drew the shortest straw, residing in an unlucky location during an unfortunate time. The Tigers were using these innocent civilians as human shields to protect themselves from the government troops.

Now, however, the Tigers’ surrender on May 17 has liberated Sri Lanka at last, allowing the Sri Lankan people to enjoy and experience the freedom from violence that they have been deprived of for nearly three decades. The Sri Lankan government was by no means the knight in shining armor in this situation. Not only did they carelessly bomb the Northeast, they also shelled a public hospital without any concern for the citizens being held in those areas. The warfare between the rebels and the nation’s army was effective in wiping out the majority of rebels, but it also resulted in horrific deaths and damage to the civilians caught in the surrounding area.

No matter how dire the situation, civilian casualties cannot be justified for the sake of the greater good—the Sri Lankan government would do well to remember that. Government terror cannot be an answer to the rebels’ terrorism.

Sri Lanka, however, will have countless opportunities to redeem itself. For although the rebels and a significant number of their leaders have been killed in the fighting, the Tigers’ spirit is by no means completely extinguished. Reports are circulating that the Tigers’ leader, Vellupillai Prabhakaran, was dragged out of a truck, dead, on the last day of fighting. If this is true, then this is a major step forward in exterminating these terrorists, as Prabhakaran was a major rallying point for the rebels. However, there is no escaping the fact that any of the loyal, remaining rebels can easily take the place of Prabhakaran and fan the flames of civil war in Sri Lanka yet again. The Tigers were the pioneers of suicide bombing and can easily revert to their old ways to do what they do best—inciting terror.

If the government does not change its ways and create a secure and fair environment for both the Sinhalese and the Tamilians, the indignation of the resident Tamilians may flare up yet again and in even deadlier forms. Sri Lanka must be cautious but firm in creating a balance between the Sinhalese majority and Tamilian minority so that there will be no future struggles for a separate Tamilian homeland.
Though the war has been won, it is by no means over. In regards to the equality of all peoples residing in Sri Lanka, the government will have to tread carefully to ensure that its bloody history does not repeat itself.

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