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From Al Jazeera:

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) have confirmed their leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran, has been killed.

“We announce today, with inexpressible sadness and heavy hearts that our incomparable leader and supreme commander … attained martyrdom fighting the military oppression,” Selvarasa Pathmanathan, the LTTE’s head of international relations, said in a statement on Sunday.

The Tigers said Prabhakaran had been killed on Tuesday during fighting between the LTTE and the Sri Lankan military and declared a week of mourning.

Previously, on the 19th of May, the same individual (Selvarasa Pathmanathan) had stated “Our beloved leader is alive and safe. He will continue to lead the quest for dignity and freedom for the Tamil people,” in a statement carried on the pro-terror Tamilnet website.

Selvarasa Pathmanathan (also known as KP) is wanted by interpol for terrorism and weapons smuggling and is the only surviving member of the LTTE “higher level” operatives.

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I spent the first 20 years of my life in Sri Lanka. I have never known a day that the country was truly peaceful. I grew up hearing regular reports of suicide, train and bus bombings, attacks on places of worship, attacks on the airport and even innocent farmers and civilians being hacked to death. Every day I pray asking selfishly for my family to be spared.

Those responsible: The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (commonly known as the Tamil Tigers in the west), fighting for a separate state, once planned to cover more than a quarter of the small island nation below India.

Poor political maneuvers and governance by the Sri Lankan governments from the 1950s to the 1970s led to the Tamil people feeling that they were being discriminated against. Concerns were largely a result of language use (1956 Sinhala becomes only official language) and a standardization system (1970) (kind of an affirmative action scheme) for university entrance (which dictated a number of students from each region who would be admitted). The standardization meant that high achievers in areas like Jaffna in Northern Sri Lanka found it significantly more difficult to get into universities than they had in the past. A similar quota system was introduced for employment in the public sector.

The Tamil Tigers took their first breath in 1976 with the fatal Vaddukodai Resolution which stated that the Tamil people could only have their rights restored through a separate state (known as eelam).

Constitutional changes implemented after 1977 largely restored the previous grievances of the Tamil people. The education policies of 1970 were undone and free textbooks in both Tamil and Sinhalese were introduced. The militant Tamil groups that arose from 1976 however were not satisfied with the changes and saw a separate state as the only alternative.

Another major factor was the perceived lack of action by successive governments to quickly address communal riots. The most significant of these was after a deadly attack by the LTTE in the North which killed 13 soldiers in 1983 which spawned riots and massacres in the South of the country.

Nearly three decades later, the North and East of the country lies in shambles.  Almost 200,000 people are homeless, starving or fighting sickness. The country’s economy once seen as one of the most promising in Asia has been destroyed by defense budgets to fight a war that has refused to die. The people of both the South and the North are tormented by memories of loved ones lost to war, suicide bombings and brutal murder by the rebels. The systematic campaign by the Tamil Tigers to suppress all other Tamil voices other than their own has left the Tamil people with no moderate leadership. Rajiv Gandhi, the popular 9th Prime Minister of India is dead, assassinated by the LTTE. Ranasinghe Premadasa the Sri Lankan president and hundreds of others have lost their lives to a campaign that seemed to quickly forget the reasons that it took up arms in the first place. Former President Chandrika Kumaratunga, is partially blinded by an attempt on her life.  Many great leaders all lie in their graves, bearing witness to the meaninglessness of war.

In the news today, we hear that the leadership of the Tamil Tigers has been destroyed. Tamil Tiger supremo Veluppilai Prabakaran, his son Charles Anthony, feared Tiger Intelligence head Pottu Amman, and head of the Tiger “Navy” Soosai all lie dead after being shot while trying to escape from the Sri Lankan military. Even the head of the political division of the LTTE is no more.

What then has three decades of a reign of terror in Sri Lanka achieved?

In the words of Selvaraja Padmanathan, a spokesman for the Tamil Tigers:

“I believe that over the 38 years we fight and only the civilian and human life are every day dying. The…in another 30 years will continue we don’t believe that – we believe in peaceful way for solution for Tamil people.”

The true result of the long-drawn conflict is a deep rooted communal distrust which will be very difficult to erase. Civilians are used to looking at each person or piece of luggage in a bus suspiciously to make sure they are not suicide attackers or bombs.

It’s unfortunate that it has taken this long for the separatists to realize that armed conflict does not resolve anything.

The government now has a tough job on their hands:

– Maintain peace and stability

– Create equitable economic development in the country in a way that does not leave room for the type of discontent that spawned the LTTE

– Most importantly, find ways to bridge the differences between the Tamil civilians in the north of the country and those in the south and build trust.

It will still be a while before the people in Sri Lanka stop praying for their families: please take care of my family.

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