Sinhalese and Tamil are two ethnic groups that live in Sri Lanka an island
located off the southern tip of India. (6) The Island of Sri Lanka was
controlled by first the Portuguese, then Dutch, and lastly the British. Previously
called Ceylon, up until their constitution was ratified, during, the British
reign they brought over Tamils from India as a workforce. Sri Lanka late gained
independence shortly after India on February 4, 1948.
The Sinhalese are the majority ethnic group in Sri Lanka with about15 million
people making up 80% of Sri Lanka’s population. (7)They are descended from
North Indians who settles there in the fifth century BC. They are currently
distributed across the island except for the north which it is rumored they
were driven out of there by the Tamils during the war. The Sinhalese are
primarily Buddhist and that is very culturally important to their people.
Tamils are the minority ethnic group in Sri Lanka. With about 20 % of the
population and residing primarily in North Sri Lanka. (4)The Sinhalese have
divided the Tamils into two groups; the Sri Lanka Tamils and the Indian Tamils.
(7)Indian Tamils are spread out in Northern Sri Lanka and parts of southern
India. The Sinhalese Tamils started coming to Sri Lanka in the third century BC
and are more similar to the Sinhalese. (4) The Indian Tamils were brought over
by the British in the 20th as a work force. The main similarities
between Sri Lanka Tamils and Indian Tamils is, linguistically, they both speak
Tamil and they have a shared religion: Hinduism.
origin of the conflict can be traced back to when the British controlled Sri
Lanka. When the British controlled the Indian Tamils were favored by the
British which angered the Sinhalese and Sri Lanka Tamils. So when Sri Lanka
gained independence from the British the Sinhalese took over the government,
and declared all Indian Tamils not citizens by saying they were non Sri-Lankas.
Without representation in government and ignored by all Sinhalese the Indian
Tamils felt oppressed. (5)Many riots against the Tamil were happening at this
time and the Tamil people felt the government was attacking so they wanted to
create their own nation Eelam and so the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, or
the LTTE and many other groups came forward to fight for Indian Tamil rights
and for their nation of Eelam.
(5)At the beginning of this movement there were many
different groups fighting for this but as it progressed the LTTE became the
main organization because they killed all the leaders of the other groups and
absorbed all the members into the LTTE. The LTTE itself was very organized
using a hierarchal system and containing two branches, a military and a
political branch. It also included a civilian government in the hopes that this
would make the transition into its own country as easy and painless as it could
be. This as all overseen by Vellupiali Prabhakaran and the Central Governing
The political branch worked very much like its own
government controlling its own police force, the radio and television
broadcasts, law courts, planning, and its own international relations which ran
a global LTTE network.
The military branch was constructed very similarly to a
Sri Lanka Army. It included commissioned officers and non-commissioned officers
as part of its enlisted ranks. It had 10,000 armed soldiers at its height, but
the numbers have since declined. The different branches of their forces
included: The Charles Anthony Regiment, an elite guerilla force, a suicide
bomber squad known as the Black Tigers Unit, a women’s wing, the a navel wing
known as the Sea Tigers, an arms procurement network, a research and
development wing, a secretive intelligence group, Leopard Brigade, and a
military Defenses brigade. Any candidate for the Charles Anthony the Charles
Anthony Regiment has to be specially chosen by the Vellupiali Prabhakaran and
had to go through a yearlong training process to prepare them for the bombing.
The year they introduced the non- Sinhalese act they also
introduced an act saying that Sinhala was the official language their fore
shutting out the Tamil speaking Tamils from better jobs and higher positions in
(1)The beginning of the
fighting was in 1971 when deep class systems were set by the worsening economic
circumstances. Many young Tamils decided to take up arms against the government
and formed a people’s liberation army. In the end the government retaliated by
killing 2500 of the protestors, and the People’s Liberation Army was crushed.
Then in 1972 an act was passed to make Hinduism the national religion. The LTTE
itself was formed in 1975 in Retaliation the government passed a bill declaring
the Tamil Tigers Terrorists and use that as a reason to arrest thousands of
Tamil youths. The government and the Tamil Tigers continued to be at war with
the Tamil Tigers and the tension between the Tamils and Sinhalese growing.
While the Indian Tamils tried to gain independence from
the Sinhalese and create their new nation of Eelam many of the Sinhalese Tamils
preferred to imagine a nation where Sri Lanka became a multination state, but
many of the Indian Tamils and the LTTE didn’t accept this. In 1983 the Tamils
staged a guerrilla style attack killing 13 Sinhalese officers. This sparked
many Anti- Tamil riots in the south, killing 2,500 Tamils in retaliation and
causing many Tamils to leave Sri Lanka and move to India. At the time the
government and law enforcement did nothing to stop the killing of all the
Tamils. Parts of the LTTE started receiving training from India and in response
the Sri Lanka government and the government saying that they needed to protect
themselves from the Tamils took many of the Tamils and tortured and killed many
This type of warfare
continued with the LTTE continuing in their guerrilla type warfare and the
Sinhalese government or people retaliating until 1994 when president Kumaratunga
was elected for his promise to make peace with the Tamils. He negotiated a
ceasefire with the Tamils. Although the ceasefire was made it did not last very
long as it was broken in three months when the LTTE sunk Sri Lanka boats and
shot down two planes which could be counted as the turning point of the war.
that the violence started escalating until the point that in 2006 both the Sri Lankan
government and the LTTE (7) but the LTTE pulled out and the peace talks broke
down, and later that year they were accused of a suicide bombing in their army headquarters,
but they never confirmed these statements. In retaliation the government launched
a 2 day air strike against the Tigers. Again, in 2009 international forces
called for a ceasefire saying it would be best for the citizens living in the
disaster areas because they would hurting the people living in the crossfire
but this time the Sinhalese government pulled out saying that they were very
close to defeating the Tamil Tigers.
end for the Tamil Tigers finally came in 2009 when the army declared the Tamil
army defeated when they took the last rebel occupied territory was taken over.
Then, they arrested the leader of the army, Vellupiali Prabhakaran, was
captured oversees signaling the end of the violence in Sri Lanka.
After the war it is estimated that as many as 100,000 people died or disappeared
during the war. Spanning over 25 years. (9)After the war many citizens had
accumulated wealth because during the war they had nothing to spend it on while
all the fighting was going on. This made a lot of people, like farmers, take
out loans and make big purchases. These purchases required to loan money from
the bank out and take out more money saying that they would pay back the money
when the harvest came. If they did not have the money to pay back the money
when it was due many committed honor suicides because of it with as many as 6,000
a year and got the title of forth highest suicide rate. Bankruptcy became very
common especial among businessmen and sometimes they would just abandon their business
altogether. Many small entrepreneurs felt targeted by the state, and especially
the Tamil business owners. It is especially problematic for Tamils when working
with Sinhalese retailers, and the government is much more strict and vigilant
on their businesses. While many Sinhalese do fear another rebellion by the
Tamils and on many streets there are Sinhalese soldiers Sri Lanka is moving forward
from the violence and continuing to grow.