Lessons from the Struggle of Tamil Tigers

By Oromsis Adula


Tamil Tigers: The End of Guerrilla Warfare?

Not so fast. I am neither a proponent nor anti-war. But if there is a lesson that can be learned from the recent assault of Sri Lankan government against Tamil Tigers, only the powerful wins in this world. As much as I identify myself with human rights activists, it is a fool cry in cases like this. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and others brought to light the enormous human suffering via satellite technologies. Nonetheless, the so called international community inaudibly watched the Tigers perish and a display of tyranny of highest magnitude.

The Tamil Tigers struggle for a separate homeland for the Sri Lankan Tamils. Their struggle, one of the longest running guerrilla warfare in the region, serves as inspiration for many freedom yearning groups around the world. Their history shows that despite longer existence on the territory, the Tamils had been a neglected minority. It is also said that the situation of the Tamils is complicated by colonial legacy. In 19th century, Ceylon fall prey to the British. When Sri Lanka gained independence in 1948, the hierarchy left in place by the British took toll on the Tamils. And soon enough, the Sri Lankan government became repressive and the Tigers took the issue to their hands launching a bid for separate Ceylon – home of the Tamils.

EU foreign ministers, the US and the U.N made significant pleas to Sri Lankan authorities to halt the offensive. And allow civilians to flee war zone. But it seems that most western countries maintained steady hush as the Sri Lankan forces moved ahead massacring everyone that stood in their way primarily because the Tigers are considered a terrorist organization. Ironically, this reportedly comes at a time when the International Monetary Fund is considering a loan request by Sri Lanka.

As it has been said, the struggle for separate Ceylon may have reached a “bitter end” but the quest for equality, human dignity and justice will last for as long as those questions are not answered. It also yet another significant opportunity for the U.N, EU, US and ICC to walk the walk by initiating probes for war crimes, and genocide against the notorious regime in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

I think it is a mistake to call the demise or subsequent frailty of the Tamil Tigers the end of guerrilla war. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice”. Thus, for as long as tyranny and suppression of dissent is prevalent, the struggle against it will undoubtedly continue. These struggles may take various forms; the guerrilla warfare may be replaced by urban warfare. It could also take the shape of a non-violent resistance where it is tolerable. Nonetheless, struggle against tyranny and for the respect of human rights will live on.

As an Oromo, I distantly sympathize with the story of the Tamil Tigers. Oromos are an oppressed majority; whereas the Tamilians are a strong and willful minority. Many of the twists and turns their struggle for independent Tamilian state resembles our own quest for the formation of the Gadaa Republic of Oromia. For instance, a further reading into their history shows a heavy reliance on Tamil Diaspora for financial support, the existence of factions and a recruitment of factional groups into government ranks to quash the remaining insurgency.

Oromos across the globe should take a note that only the powerful is victorious. And power comes from a rallying point or a common ideology that is worthy of the bitter struggle. Only such common principle can bring disfranchised groups together. I do not need to travel to Asia to cite an example in order to explain a unity of principle despite minor differences that may exist. We can look at our Somali cousins down the stream and Amhara neighbors up North. As we (Oromos) love to sing it all the time, only in unity that we can find strength. Only that strength and courage in the faces of all odds can make us masters of our destiny.

In closing just as it is in the case of SPLA, EPLF, PLO, the Irish, Somalis and many others; Oromo people have valuable lessons to learn from the struggle of Tamil Tigers and the unabated support of Tamil Diaspora. Temporary and hollow victory may be the way of today but in the end only justice can prevail.

Freedom to all Oppressed Nations!!



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