The Civil War in Sri Lanka 1983–2009

After violent clashes between Sinhalese and Tamils ​​broke out in 1977, 1978, 1981 and 1982, the conflict between these two ethnic groups came to a head after a pogrom against the Tamils ​​(July 1983); In increasing numbers, the Tamils, politically represented in particular by the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF), advocated an independent Tamil state (under the name “Eelam”) on the island; this was proclaimed on January 14, 1982 by families in exile in London (formation of a government in exile). The most important of the radical Tamil guerrilla organizations were formed under the leadership of Velupillai Prabhakaran (* 1954)the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE; German Liberation Tiger of Tamil Eelam, since 1976 name of the Tamil New Tigers, which emerged in 1972 from a Tamil student association); the Tamil resistance received particular support from the population in Tamil Nadu in southern India, where it partly found its starting point. Under a treaty with Sri Lanka (1987), India sent troops (Indian Peace Keeping Forces) to the island. On November 12, 1987 the government passed a statute of autonomy for the north and east inhabited by Tamils. Premadasa emerged victorious from the December 1988 presidential elections (took office in 1989). The parliamentary elections in February 1989 were won by the UNP; Dingiri Wijetunga (* 1922, † 2008) became prime minister; UNP). The Indian troops (at times up to 100,000 soldiers), which were unable to contain the Tamil conflict even through massive military intervention (October 1987 major offensive against Jaffna), were withdrawn at the request of the Sri Lankan government in 1989-90 (as an act of revenge by the LTTE for the Indian Military engagement 1991 Assassination of Indian Prime Minister R. Gandhi in a bomb attack in Tamil Nadu). The civil war, in which the government was increasingly confronted with Sinhalese guerrilla units (including the JVP) since 1987, continued. After the assassination of President Premadasa in Colombo on May 1, 1993, Parliament elected the previous Prime Minister Wijetungaon May 7, 1993 as the new head of state.

According to usprivateschoolsfinder, Prime Minister was Ranil Wickremesinghe (* 1949, UNP). In 1994, C. Kumaratunga, daughter of Solomon and Sirimawo Bandaranaike, became Prime Minister after her left-wing People’s Alliance (PA) defeated the UNP in the general election on August 16, 1994. During the presidential election campaign on October 24, 1994, the UNP candidate, Gamini Dissanayake (* 1942), and more than 50 people were killed in a bomb attack in Colombo. His widow was then nominated by the UNP as a presidential candidate, but was defeated in the elections on November 9, 1994 (boycotted by many Tamils) to Kumaratunga. The new president reappointed her mother Sirimavo Bandaranaike as head of government. After peace efforts against the Tamil rebels had failed in 1995 (the LTTE broke the ceasefire on January 8th on April 19), Kumaratunga laid downon July 27, 1995 proposed a plan according to which Sri Lanka was to be transformed into a federal state (“Union of Regions”) (formation of eight largely autonomous regions, amalgamation of the Tamil northern and eastern provinces), which the LTTE rejected. The civil war escalated again (1995-97 several bloody bomb attacks in Colombo, repeated massacres by the increasingly terrorist LTTE in Sinhala villages, attacks on bases of the Sri Lankan army, numerous suicide bombings by Tamil underground fighters); on April 8, 1996 a state of emergency was declared. As part of a military offensive launched in October 1995, government troops captured the Tamil stronghold of Jaffna on December 5, 1995 and by May 1996 brought almost the entire Jaffna peninsula under their control (people fleeing the fighting). One of Kumaratunga ‘s modified autonomy plan presented to parliament in 1996 met with rejection. In 1997 the army launched a new major offensive against the Tamil rebels, and in early 1998 the LTTE was formally banned. After an election campaign for the presidency, which was accompanied by bloody incidents, Kumaratunga, who was injured in an assassination attributed to the LTTE, was able to secure another term as president on December 21, 1999 with 51% of the vote. In 1999/2000 the LTTE succeeded in recapturing parts of the area in the north previously controlled by government troops (in April 2000 the Sri Lankan army was defeated at the strategically important elephant pass). After Sirimavo Bandaranaike’s resignation in August 2000 he became Ratnasiri Wickremanayake (* 1933, † 2016) Prime Minister. The parliamentary elections in the same year were won by the PA led by Kumaratunga, but the UNP led opposition alliance won new elections in December 2001; Wickremesinghe was again prime minister.

After a provisional ceasefire agreed at the end of December 2001 and the partial lifting of the economic blockade (imposed during the civil war on the Tamil territories) in January 2002, the LTTE and the new government, through Norwegian mediation, agreed in February 2002 on an indefinite ceasefire as the first prerequisite for a gradual resolution of the Tamil-Sinhala conflict, which by then had killed more than 60,000 people and which increasingly paralyzed the country’s economy. At the beginning of September 2002 the ban on the LTTE was lifted. In 2002 in Thailand began peace negotiations with the Sri Lankan government and (provided that the main settlement areas of the Tamils ​​in the north and north-east of Sri Lanka were granted self-government and autonomy) withdrew from their demand for a separate Tamil state. The negotiations, which soon stalled, have been caused by an open power struggle between the President since November 2003 Kumaratunga and Prime Minister Wickremesinghe accompanied. Kumaratunga accused the government of indulging the separatist demands of the Tamil rebels, then dismissed several ministers and temporarily suspended parliament, which it dissolved early in February 2004. With the victory of her United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) in the early parliamentary elections in April 2004, Kumaratunga was finally able to win the power struggle; the new Prime Minister was M. Rajapaksa. In the presidential elections on November 17, 2005, Rajapaksa sat down with 50.3% of the vote against the UNP candidate Wickremesinghethrough. The new head of government was R. Wickremanayake.

The aftermath of the tsunami disaster of December 26, 2004 (over 35,000 fatalities, 500,000 homeless people due to destruction) weighed heavily on the country. In addition, the assassination of Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar (August 12, 2005), which was attributed to members of the LTTE, which has meanwhile been dominated by factional struggles, put the peace process at risk; this initially received a new impetus with the resumption of the peace talks in Geneva in February 2006, but was broken off after an attack on the army headquarters in Colombo on April 25, 2006 and subsequent fighting between government troops and the LTTE. Like the USA and other states before, the EU classified the LTTE as a “terrorist organization” at the end of May 2006.

The official end of the ceasefire on January 16, 2008 (canceled by the government on January 2, 2008) was accompanied by an acceleration of the military confrontation with the LTTE and new heavy attacks by them. After weeks of loss-making fighting, government troops captured the capital of the Tamil rebels, Kilinochchi, in January 2009. The LTTE had used the city as its headquarters for ten years. The armed forces’ offensive against the LTTE, which lasted more than four months, was declared over by the government on May 18, 2009 after the last rebels in the north of the country and LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran were beatenhad found death. For its part, the LTTE declared that the struggle for a state of its own was over. The civil war, which lasted 26 years with interruptions, claimed between 90,000 and 100,000 lives.

The Civil War in Sri Lanka