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Himal Southasian: After the Tigers

Author: Ahilan Kadirgamar
February 1, 2009

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Post-LTTE Tamil politics will have to move beyond ethnic and territorial concerns to forge solidarity among minorities, in order to reframe the 'national question' in Sri Lanka, says Ahilan Kadirgamar.

Excerpt: The fall of Kilinochchi and Elephant Pass over the past month signals the end of the LTTE as a player whose conventional military capacity had helped it to win some major battlefield victories and dominate large swathes of Sri Lanka since the early 1990s. Because the LTTE decimated Tamil politics in the process of asserting its claim of ‘sole representation', the end of the rebel force, as with the exit of any fascist political force, will inevitably create a political vacuum. Critically, this will also provide an opportunity for a transformation in Tamil politics.

The LTTE's exit will also create a major shift in politics in Sri Lanka more generally. Much of the politics over the last 25 years has been framed around the LTTE, with successive governments oscillating between attempting to wipe out or negotiate with the Tigers. The Muslim community, the Up-country Tamil community (Tamils of Indian origin) and the Sinhalese community were also drawn into engagement with the intransigence of the LTTE. The rebels' eclipse, then, will open up possibilities for a whole range of other issues to be brought into the Sri Lankan political terrain, including issues of economic justice, gender, caste, labour rights and democratisation. It will expose the opportunism of the two major political parties, the United National Party (UNP) and the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), both of which have over the past quarter century engaged in politics focused on the war and the rhetoric of the war. At the same time, the challenges are many, including the manner in which the war is being waged to the accompaniment of Sinhala nationalist propaganda, and attacks on media freedom, constitutional norms and the democratic process itself.

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