Why did the LTTE kill Premadasa

In Sri Lanka, the Tamils ​​begin a new guerrilla offensive against the Sinhalese: To the bitter end


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President Ranasinghe Premadasa has promised his supporters a quick victory. But the bloody fighting in Sri Lanka is not expected to end anytime soon - only with many deaths. Civil war has been raging there again since mid-June. It is a killing that has no winners but many losers: the civilian population. The latest fights are being fought with a brutality and bitterness unlike anything the country, where around 30,000 people have perished since 1983, has never seen. This time it should go to the "bitter end", threatened the government in Colombo; this time, Security Minister Wijeratne promised, the tigers would be "wiped out" for good.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) remain the largest group of Tamil resistance in Sri Lanka; her goal is called Tamil Eelam, the own Tamil state in the north and east of the island. With the kidnapping of 800 Sinhalese police officers, 200 of whom have now been found in mass graves, the LTTE had given the signal for a renewed escalation of violence and counter-violence between the Sinhalese majority and the Tamil minority.

More than 4,000 people have been killed in the past two months, most of them Tamils. There are two million Tamils, one million Muslims and thirteen million Sinhalese nationwide. While almost only Tamils ​​live on the northern Jaffna Peninsula, this is not the case in the east, which is claimed by the LTTE tigers: Up until now, each group made up about a third of the population there; that is why the tigers would like to take over the Tamil-speaking Muslims for their separatist cause.

But the Muslims now feel only fear of the Tamils: To them, the Sri Lankan army seemed like a liberator whom they helped identify LTTE rebels. They paid a high price for this cooperation: in two massacres alone, over 400 Muslims were murdered. "Not from us," assert the tigers - but nobody wanted to believe them. Muslim commandos, which are now popping up all over eastern Sri Lanka - often financed by Libya - took revenge in Tamil villages and refugee camps, killing hundreds with fanatical brutality.

The strategic goal of the Sri Lankan Army was initially to make the Eastern Province "tiger-free" and then to concentrate on the North. However, this did not succeed. The army, although reinforced to 70,000 soldiers, is not really able to bring the east under its control over the whole area. It ruled only the cities - ghost towns, which - like Batticaloa and Trincomalee - were in ruins after the Tamils ​​were driven out. But five kilometers from the outskirts, the tigers have already clung to the bush again.

The generals' hope to force a conventional war on the LTTE has not been fulfilled. Rather, the tigers have returned to their guerrilla tactics, against which the 100,000-strong Indian armed force had been powerless. The tigers withdraw into familiar, confusing terrain or hide in the population: who can say who is a civilian and who is a guerrilla? Of course, the Tamil population has to pay for this tactic. The army loots their houses, burns down their villages, exterminates entire families and abducts suspicious young people. 600,000 people are on the run, more than 40,000 have escaped to India. Many of them would not return home even if their safety was guaranteed: "We will never trust the government again after seeing the atrocities the army committed against the Tamils."

Before the fighting broke out, Tamil support for the tigers began to wane. Now the population stands behind the rebels again. The imposition of a trade blockade, the ruthless bombing of the densely populated city of Jaffna with its almost 200,000 inhabitants, the bombardment of coastal villages by the Sri Lankan Navy, the hunt of armored helicopters on everything that moves on the ground - all of this has the people back in their arms the tiger driven: "If there can still be a future for us at all," they say now, "then only in a state of our own."