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Should the LTTE have declared the ceasefire in 2002?

No, it was arguably their biggest mistake, excluding their alleged assassination of Indian PM Rajiv Gandhi.

The ceasefire completely dismantled the LTTE militarily, and for the first time, saw, virtually, the entire world aid the GOSL in re-building their once failed military to defeat the Tigers. The dismantled ceasefire and opposition of the administration of a state-developed by the LTTE under a political context was not made possible by Sinhala nationalists as the GOSL’s false narrative tends to enforce, rather, it was dismantled due to the global security discourse correlating with geopolitical interests. The sad reality is, states aren’t created through historical or political vacuums, they’re forged through geo-strategic, economic, and ideological benefits for larger powers that encompass the region. The LTTE’s miscalculation on the benefits of the ceasefire was a result of the following factors:

Global Securitization(1) & Liberal Internationalism(2)

The ceasefire came into effect at the interface between liberal internationalism on one hand and, on the other, a realist global securitization discourse.


Securitization is the process in which state actors(Ex. US, India, UK, etc) transform political issues into issues regarding “security”, ensuring that a political solution does not lead to long term drawbacks. [1]


The political idea where liberal states(Ex. US, Japan, UK, India, etc) should intervene in other sovereign states(Ex. Sri Lanka) in order to pursue liberal objectives(Ex. Installing a free market economy or pro-western democracy). Such intervention can include both military invasion(Ex. IPKF intervention(1987–1990)) and humanitarian aid(Ex. Operation Poomalai(1987)). [2]

Although Global Securitization, where the LTTE was deemed an incompatible representative body was put into effect near 2005, prior to the ceasefire, the discourse was somewhat apparent as the LTTE had been proscribed as a banned organization in India(1991), the US(1997), and the UK(2001). This, in part, led to the US’ reluctance in acknowledging the LTTE’s proposed peace deal, however, political and economic benefits, in relation to Liberal Internationalism, compelled the US(Joining the EU, Canada, Japan, and other IC members) to accept the ceasefire to counter China’s economic expansion in South Asia and the Indian Ocean. However, the US’ harsh attitude towards the LTTE, ultimately, hardened the peace process. Contrary to popular belief, it wasn’t 9/11 that significantly hurt the LTTE’s stance, although it played a part. On December 21, 2000, after taking control of Elephant pass, all of the Vanni, and most of the East, the LTTE had declared a unilateral ceasefire. It was at this time the government under President Chandrika Kumaratunga(1995–2005) endured a political crisis, having failed their promise to the Sinhala population that they would defeat the LTTE militarily. Through a devastated southern economy, aggravated by the rise in oil prices, the SLA could not sustain a military campaign against the LTTE. Despite the reality, the SLA continued their operations and refused the LTTE’s call for peace, while simultaneously, suffering heavy casualties at the hands of the LTTE. The army was so demoralized that soldiers began defecting and abandoning their positions and posts, as Defense Secretary, and former 53rd Division commander, Kamal Gunaratne states:

People of this country, the governments and even our own soldiers thought that the LTTE was a superior fighting force[…] The Army was losing continuously in the battlefronts. People didn’t have much faith in the fighting strength of our soldiers and thought the LTTE was more powerful than us[…] If you take the Jayasikuru operation, in which we advanced for more than two-and-a-half years, many soldiers were wounded and killed in action. Though we reached Mankulam, we couldn’t hold the position as the LTTE was heavily attacking us, so we ran up to Thandikulam within two-and-a-half days[…] We were a ‘running army’[3]

However, it was the Black Tiger commando raid on Bandarainke Internation Airport, and its adjacent airbase, that had the most disastrous effect on SL’s southern economy

*An Airbus A-340 plane destroyed by the Black Tiger commandos during the raid with Sri Lankan soldiers arriving after

  • The commando raid cost the Sri Lankan government $358US million in damages and the tourism rate dropped by 15.5% on an island already suffering from an economic relapse

The commando raid had an unprecedented negative impact on the foreign investment-based economic sector that had prospered since 1977. The aftermath gave way to two inevitable realities for the GOSL:

  1. Defeating the LTTE militarily was not possible
  2. A negotiated settlement was the only option as the economy could not be revived through the continuation of the army’s war effort

Thus, under the new UNFP government led by PM Ranil Wickremesinghe, the LTTE declared another ceasefire on December 19, 2001, and under the facilitation of the Royal Norwegian government, the ceasefire was formalized on February 22, 2002. It was at this point that the Sri Lankan government and Sinhala Buddhist nationalist groups were their lowest point in its post-colonial history

*Royal Norwegian diplomat, Erik Solheim, meeting LTTE leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran, Tamil Eelam de-facto capital, Kilinochchi, 2002

*LTTE commanders meeting SLA commander at the Muhamalai FDL

The LTTE’s readiness for peace was encompassed through their desire to achieve international political recognition, alongside, economic assistance to sustain an independent Tamil Eelam, as Anton Balasingham stated:

We already have a massive permanent administrative structure in the areas under our control. What we need is international legitimacy so we can coordinate and work with the Sri Lankan government and the international community[4]

The Sri Lankan government signed the agreement as a means for extensive economic reform and a conscious attempt to mobilize IC support in their favor, as, PM Wickremesinghe, while touring the US during the initial stages of the deal stated:

I would suggest that a reciprocal force is binding our respective interests together: business is good for peace and peace is good for business[5]

Inevitably, the early stages of the ceasefire gave the LTTE political recognition and the Sri Lankan government leverage for an economic boom by attracting capital flow from a variety of countries(Ex. US, India, UK, Pakistan, Israel, EU, and China). Thus, the ceasefire began to compel the Sri Lankan government to accommodate Tamil demands and the political transformation of the LTTE. The EU, both as an inter-governmental organization and at member-state level, adopted an equidistant stance to peacebuilding that would tie together democratization and marketization, principles that guided the EU’s own creation (European Union 2005, Article III194 (1 – 2)).[6] Although the EU’s motive was guided by its economic link with the GOSL, as the Sri Lankan government had been a dominant trading partner with the EU prior to 2001, the LTTE benefited from their involvement by being recognized politically for the first time.

*LTTE diplomats(Left) with Sri Lankan government diplomats(Right)

As the peace process began, peace talks began to dominate. There were six rounds of talks between August 2002 and March 2003 before its downfall:

  1. 16–18 September 2002 at Sattahip Naval Base, Phuket, Thailand
  2. 31 October 2002 – 3 November 2002 at Rose Garden Hotel, Nakhon Pathom, Thailand
  3. 2–5 December 2002 at Radisson SAS Plaza Hotel, Oslo, Norway
  4. 6–9 January 2003 at Rose Garden Hotel, Nakhon Pathom, Thailand
  5. 7–8 February 2003 at Norwegian Embassy, Berlin, Germany
  6. 18–21 March 2003 at Hakon Prince Hotel, Kanagawa, Japan

Attending to the immediate humanitarian needs of Tamils in the North and East was seen as a confidence-building measure between the LTTE and Sri Lankan government:

In the early stages of our talks with the LTTE, we are trying to resolve some of the immediate practical needs of the people that can bring relief and normalcy to our society. Economic reconstruction and development of the affected areas will be a deciding factor in sustaining the momentum of political negotiations – Ranil Wickremesinghe(2002)[7]

Re-enforced by Anton Balasingham:

Over and above the intricate questions of conflict resolution and power-sharing, the people expect a peace dividend; they require immediate relief to resolve their urgent, existential problems. Therefore, the peace process cannot be undertaken in isolation without taking parallel steps towards the economic recovery of the suffering population.[8]

A closer look at the peace process reveals that direct meetings between the GOSL and LTTE were productive within a liberal internationalist lense. Although both sides had different objectives: the LTTE for humanitarian assistance and political recognition; the Sri Lankan government for economic growth through a free market. However, both bodies displayed a willingness in attempting to resolve the conflict in a non-militaristic manner.

With the increased hope of permanent peace through a diplomatic solution, out of 95,000 IDP Tamil families returned to their villages between February 2002 – December 2004. To add, the LTTE and Sri Lankan government made appeals to international donors for immediate economic assistance for humanitarian and reconstruction activities. As such three innovative joint sub-committees were established to deal with various aspects of the initial phase of negotiated peace:

  1. Sub-committee on Immediate Human and Rehabilitation Needs in the North and East (SIHRN)
  2. Sub-committee on De-escalation and Normalisation (SDN)
  3. Sub-committee on Political Matters

With the harsh history of the conflict, the meeting between members of the SDN and SIHRN was a historic achievement that signaled a path to achieve shared sovereignty on the island. The LTTE had also signed an agreement with UNICEF to set up a “credible review mechanism” to stop recruiting soldiers under 18, they also agreed to release 300 underage soldiers from their ranks. However, a huge achievement was made in the Eastern Province by appointing all three committees to each district, representing the concerns of Tamils and Muslims regarding land, religion, governance, and etc. A former head of Amnesty International was to present a road map towards an effective mechanism to monitor human rights, which was to be submitted after the sixth round of talks in Japan.[9]

The plan was to include training for LTTE and SLA officers in human rights and humanitarian law.

*A mother of an LTTE officer placing the badge of honor

High-ranking officials from several EU countries and NGO’s not only promised economic aid to the LTTE and GOSL and help administer their regions but facilitated the peace talks between them in Germany and Norway. In addition to the Peace Talks, a one-day Peace Support Conference was held in Oslo in November 2002 with the participation of 100 diplomats from 19 counties who agreed to donate $70 US million to the Northeast Reconstruction Fund from 19 countries who pledged around 70 million US dollars to Northeast Reconstruction Fund. At the time, this demonstrated the IC’s willingness to accept the LTTE as a representative body of Eelam Tamils, with Anton Balasingham stating:

We are prepared to consider favorably a political framework that offers substantial regional autonomy and self-government in our homeland on the basis of our right to internal self-determination[10]

The LTTE followed by creating a Political Affair Committee, lead by SP ThamilSelvan, compromised of 21 of its prominent members from its political wing and undertook the study of government systems to stabilize the LTTE’s administrative state. The ceasefire, evidently, enabled the LTTE not only to maintain but prosper its de-facto state with civil, financial and security autonomy, achieving more than they were assured from the Indo-Lanka accord proposed by Rajiv Gandhi in 1987


After the final round of the peace talks, the Norwegian facilitators stated that while substantial economic and administrative progress has been made, there was minimal progress regarding the humanitarian and security concerns for the IC. Throughout and before the ceasefire was signed itself, the US’ and India’s “securitization” strategy was evident, but, it didn’t have a negative impact on the negotiations originally. It was the GOSL’s need for an economic boom that fit the liberal intentions of Japan and the EU. China also sent a diplomat to visit the LTTE leadership in Killinochchi, China was the first country to send their government officials to talk with the TIgers.

*The Chinese Ambassador to Sri Lanka, Mr. Jiang Qinzheng, meeting with S. P. Tamilchelvan

However, it was the US’ need for securitization after their Invasion of Iraq in 2003 that ultimately started to turn the peace process against the Tigers. The cold war had weakened the US’ stance on South Asia, as it was outmaneuvered by regional powers like India and China, and with the IPKF intervention(1987–1990) and the deployment of Indian troops in Sri Lanka that ultimately pushed the US out of the region. It was after 9/11 that the US decided to re-enter South Asia and the region bean to be treated, more than ever before, as a regional security structure. Thus, the stability of a unitary Sri Lankan state became a key asset to the US’ strategy in South Asia, as such, the US sought to re-establish a monopoly of violence on the island to defeat the Tigers. Contrary to their original approval of the ceasefire, stating, “assured continuous support for a negotiated settlement”, the US, in 2003, now continued to characterize the peace deal, they began utilizing statement such as “undivided Sri Lanka”, “territorial integrity, and “terrorism”, uttering identical statement to that of Sinhala Nationalists, thus, emphasizing the US’ stance to any state of sovereignty for Tamils on the island, further stating:

It was clearly stated that ‘an independent Tamil Eelam is both unattainable and unwise[…] and the LTTE must unequivocally renounce terrorism in word and deed[11]

US State Department officials and high-ranking members of the US Armed Forces increased their visits to the island, particularly to key military establishments in Jaffna and the East, controlled by the GOSL. Officials from the US Pacific Command conducted a security assessment of both the Sri Lankan armed forces and the area surrounding the Trincomalee harbor in the Eastern Province, which a topic of interest during the negotiations

*Area surrounding the Trincomalee harbor, Green(Sri Lankan government), Orange(LTTE)

The assessment took place during the final stages of the negotiation process, with the US Pacific command emphasizing the importance for the Sri Lankan government to recapture the LTTE-controlled areas around the harbor and re-shape its military structure in order to win a future war, signifying the strategic importance of the harbor’s importance to US interests in South Asia and the Indian Ocean.[12]

  • Brief Historical Background
    • Sri Lanka lies within the heart of South Asia and within close geographical proximity to India, thus, the Trincomalee harbor is one of the world’s biggest natural harbors, and arguably, the biggest in all of South Asia. The harbor itself is considered to be the most important factor that attracted the Portuguese, Dutch and British to invade the island. During the Cold War, primarily in 1977, the Sri Lankan government began implementing a capitalist economy and upgrade its armed forces through its alliances with the US, UK, and Israel. During this time, India was aligned with the USSR and began backing Tamil nationalist groups, most notably the LTTE under Prabhakaran, as a proxy to counter western influence in the country and on the harbor. During the mid-’80s, as the USSR saw a defeat in Afghanistan and its own economic relapse, India began dismantling its alliance with the Soviets and began aligning with western powers.

*Indian Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi(Far-Left) in a meeting with LTTE leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran(Far-Right)

    • The Indo-Lanka Peace accord and subsequent Indian war with the LTTE was aimed to disarm the LTTE, but, at the same time, utilize the LTTE as a proxy in a unitary state implemented through devolution for Tamils in the North East. India, and every country as a matter of fact, never wanted a separate Tamil Eelam to have full control of the Trincomalee harbor, rather, they wanted a Tamil proxy to obtain geographic possession of the harbor with political amnesty of Trincomalee belonging to the Indian military. Prabhakaran’s choice to fight India, and force the Indian army out of Sri Lanka is the sole reason for the LTTE’s success at establishing their own de-facto state, but also their subsequent failure in achieving political recognition internationally. The civil war grew the island’s strategic importance for both trade and warfare and some analysts claiming that over the past decade, during the war, Sri Lanka had become “a central theatre of global conflict and international trade competition of 21st century”

The US Marine Corps Vision and Strategy(2025) gives a high value to Sri Lanka as a component in the prominent power dynamic between the US, India, and China. Sri Lanka is located near at least four major shipping lanes that connect and provide efficient shipping lanes to the resource-rich Persian Gulf, Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean, South China Sea and the Western Pacific Ocean between East and West. The Indian government adopted, virtually, an equivalent approach. They too enforced the securitization of the island to maintain their interests and an Indian military report issued in January 2003 enforced the importance of reorganizing and focusing large divisions of the Sri Lankan Army in the Jaffna peninsula. Prior to the ceasefire, India refused to airlift Sri Lanka soldiers that fled to mainland Jaffna after the LTTE victory at Elephant Pass. However, they forced the LTTE to stop their offensive to retake Jaffna, through George Fernandez’s influence, the BJP government forced the LTTE to halt their offensive or to be met with political isolation to the IC. Indian army officers determined that to win the war, the SLA would have to muster the manpower and capabilities to overrun the LTTE defenses at Muhamalai under Brig. Theepan’s command, which at the time, was deemed to be the most fortified LTTE FDL. Thus, India proposed that the GOSL re-organize its military structure, maintain high-security zones in Jaffna, and not allow the resettlement of IDP’s until the LTTE lays down their arms.[13] As a result of the US’ and India’s stance, the EU, once promoting liberal internationalism on the island, now began layin down conditions concerning human rights, avoiding talks of a political settlement entirely.

It was the western need for securitization in Sri Lanka after the US coalition invasion of Iraq in March 2003 that ultimately ended the talks. While multilateralism(Coalition agreement) led to the ceasefire, it was unilateralism(Support for one party only) that compelled the LTTE to withdraw from the peace talks. The LTTE displayed opposition to the US’ unilateral stance on Iraq and Sri Lanka, with Anton Balasingham stating:

‘It is regrettable that the US attacked Iraq without the proper endorsement of the UN’ [14]

The statement, somewhat, implied that the LTTE was telling the US to follow its method of diplomacy. Within a few days of Anton Balasingham’s statement, US Assistant Secretary of State, Christina Rocca, re-emphasized its position regarding securitization, stating:

Even as we advance our efforts in the Middle East, South Asia remains at the front-line of the war on terror, and regional stability remains critical[…] we are currently providing demining and economic assistance, as well as establishing programs to strengthen Sri Lanka’s peacekeeping capabilities and reformists military institutions[15]

Weeks later, a preparatory meeting for the upcoming peace delegation donor conference was due to be held in Washington DC. The US-made the unilateral decision to invite the Sri Lankan delegation, and exclude the LTTE. India, which had not to attend any previous delegations, had attended this event, directly emphasizing the emerging securitization approach to the conflict. Before this, the LTTE had been made a part of restructuring measures to the North and East, however this sudden balance of power to the GOSL and given rise to a possible military solution to the conflict. The LTTE, after making unsuccessful appeals to the US delegation to re-consider, abruptly decided to pull out of the peace negotiations, not the ceasefire. However, the donor conference in Tokyo, which was attended by 52 countries, including the US, China, India, and Israel, promised $4.5 US billion to the Sri Lankan government and called the LTTE to return to the negotiation table. The conference reduced the conflict to a mere economic issue, projecting the LTTE leadership as “greed-driven” and Tamils civilians in the North and East as “helpless victims in need of economic assistance”. The idea of a federal Tamil state never mentioned at the conference, rather it renewed confidence in a unitary state led by a Sinhala Buddhist government, thus, the Sri Lankan government now proposed a deal that undermined the LTTE’s political representation and virtually withdrew the government’s stance on a political solution. At this point, the joint-sub communities entailed by the LTTE to sustain humanitarian needs for civilians in the North and East had become defunct due to continuous delays from the Sri Lankan government and the IC, however, political negations still remained an option. The LTTE, as a means to contradict the conference results, proposed an Interim Self-Governing Authority(ISGA), a demand of self-governance based on the principle of internal self-determination as pre-condition to signing the ceasefire agreement, as Sinhala academic, Jayadeva Uyangoda, states:

This is the first concrete set of ideas that the LTTE has elaborated as its blueprint for a negotiated solution and would envisage a radical reconstitution of the existing state[16]

The EU supported the LTTE’s proposal, stating that it “represents an important step towards peace”, and hopes that “direct talks between the parties aimed at reaching an agreement on a solution acceptable to all communities” would be continued.[17] However, the US opposed the resolution based on their securitized objective, stating:

The parties to the conflict appear to be ready to reach a resolution, more so than any other time in the past twenty years[…]Logically, down the road, this is going to include disarmament[…] Internal self-determination, within the framework of one Sri Lanka, is not going to be consistent with separate armies and navies for different parts of the country.[18]

Instead of opting for a negotiation, the US demonstrated its stance on a unitary state, by not only renewing the ban on the LTTE in 2004 but reviving the government’s material capabilities.

As mentioned previously, the ceasefire was heavily opposed by President Chandrika Kumaratunga, the Sinhala nationalist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) and the far-right Sinhala NationlistUrumaya (which later became known as theJathika Hela Urumaya(JHU)) and formed an alliance against its inception, but did not have a large following at this stage due to the LTTE’s military prowess and victories, a devastated economy and the international liberal doctrine that supported the peace process. Thus, the LTTE and GOSL couldn’t have changed the dynamic of the ceasefire alone, rather it is in the context of growing international securitization after 9/11 that the IC’ confidence in a military solution in favor of the GOSL, as Ada Derana stated during the time:

A new relationship is being forged on our own sub-continent between the US the hyper-power and the emerging regional super-power India, which appears to be cozying up to the US […] abandoning its old friend Iraq … There is no gainsaying the fact that the US would have a major presence in the region to safeguard her interests […] at the end of the day, it would be better to ensure that our powerful friend’s interests and ours converge [… in safeguarding the unity and territorial integrity of this country.[19]

In this geopolitical environment, Tamil Eelam becomes ‘problematic’ compared to the independence of Kosovo or South Sudan. South Sudan’s geopolitical value lies in its oil. Before its independence, 60% of its oil was owned by China under Khartoum’s government. After its independence, western allies were able to obtain large portions of what once was “China’s oil”, thus, containing their influence in Africa. While Kosovo doesn’t have oil, the Trans-Balkan oil and gas pipeline that runs through its neighbor Albania and, as the US established their largest European military base in Kosovo, an independent state for the majority of ethnic Albanians living in the region was promoted by the US under these economic benefits. The geo-political value in Sri Lanka is not as much as it is economic, it certainly plays the part with the harbor, but it’s more strategic, allows the US to have a foothold in a region was controlled by India and currently exploited by China, however, Sri Lanka’s value can only be maintained through a unitary state, as two separate states, leads to complications for geo-strategic purposes. India, the US, and the UK don’t agree with the Sinhala nationalist narrative, but they do agree with the calls for a unitary state as it aids their interests. It doesn’t matter what the government does to Tamils, as long as they keep it one state, the west, and their allies will support them.

As was the case during British Colonial rule, Sri Lanka being a unitary state provides huge economic benefits for external powers, which is perceived to entail more stable political arrangements for said powers, instead of when two states are forced to negotiate on economic settlements before an external power is considered in the binding deal. The LTTE, evidently, was a huge threat to US interests, as it was the only Tamil body strong enough to oppose a unitary Sri Lankan state and repel advances from the Sri Lankan army. Thus, to defeat the LTTE militarily, the IC sought to divide the LTTE leadership, as such, the Sri Lankan intelligence units, and RAW, began looking at grievances and internal conflicts between LTTE leaders and ultimately bribed Eastern Commander, Karuna Amman

Karuna Defection(2004)

*Karuna(Business shirt) with Sri Lankan army commanders after the war

It’s unknown why Karuna left the LTTE. The GOSL likes to enforce the “Northern vs Eastern” Tamil narrative to further divide the Tamil community, but, evidently, there’s more to it. However, what’s conclusive, is Karuna’s behavior and mentality to the Eelam cause changed during the ceasefire. He began mustering his own personal army in the East, misused LTTE finances, began leaking secrets to RAW, and eventually was bought over to the government’s side. With Karuna’s defection in 2004, the Sri Lankan government and their allies re-took control of the Eastern province without firing a bullet. Karuna not only took 7000 soldiers with him to form his anti-LTTE militia, TMVP, reducing the LTTE fighting force by 3/4 in the East, 1/3 in total. He leaked information regarding the LTTE’s shipping lanes, bunkers, international arms, financial procurements, underground tunnels, secret bases, guerrilla tactics, jungle hideouts, leadership structure, unknown important figures, and many more. Although the ceasefire ended officially in 2006, I’d argue it ended in 2004, when Karuna’s TMVP militia began attacking LTTE camps in the east. The war between the TMVP and LTTE resulted in the LTTE retaking the East, but Karuna managed to escape and the TMVP began serving as GOSL proxy in the East, harassing the LTTE by attacking their camps and assassinating Eastern Tamil leaders, still loyal to the LTTE. I’d argue Karuna was the sole reason for the collapse of the ceasefire, as with him gone, the LTTE fighting force reduced, and the loss of 90% of their military secrets, the GOSL, and their allies had all the intelligence necessary to dismantle them.


After Karuna’s defection, it was at that point, that a military option was finally put forth, and the political solution that the Tigers sought was ignored. Indian(RAW) and US intelligence services(CIA) began working with the Sri Lankan government in monitoring LTTE’s maritime movements and US Navy SEALS began training the Sri Lankan Navy to transform the Sinhala force into a capable fighting force to compete with the Sea Tigers. The US began sending Sri Lankan army officers to Fordbrag and Fortlevenworth to undergo counterinsurgency training courses. Although the prospects of negotiations were revived after the Tsunami, and both parties agreed to form the Post-Tsunami Operational Management Structure (P-TOMS) in 2005 to address issues of reconstruction and resettlement in the affected areas as a result of pressure from the EU and NGO’s. This could have been an opportunity to share humanitarian sovereignty amongst both parties, but the US refused to send funds, as the LTTE was made a party to the pact. Instead, the GOSL met with US officials, demanding that they implement a ‘global war on terror’ against the LTTE. In 2006, while the EU presidency chair was held by the UK government, the LTTE was banned as a “terrorist organization” delivering them their biggest political blow. The EU refused to do so at first, however, after continuous pressure from the US, and UK, the ultimately agreed, as stated by Sri Lanka’s Minister of Finance, Mangala Samaraweera:

Also, we should not forget the support given by the US, and the UK when I was the foreign affairs minister for the proscription of the LTTE in Europe. Then, seven countries in the 25-member EU did not agree with the LTTE ban, and it became a difficulty to adopt the ban as a unanimous decision. Therefore, I met then secretary of state Condoleezza Rice several times and through the offices of deputy secretary of state Nicholas Burns, got the consent of those seven nations to proscribe the LTTE on 29 May 2006. Even the LTTE admitted it as one of its biggest defeats and in his Heroes Day speech, Prabhakaran rebuked the international community for having been deceived by the Sri Lankan government. Furthermore, it was at my request to Mrs. Condoleezza Rice in January 2006 that a special unit was formed with 41 fulltime agents to crack down on LTTE fundraising in the US through various front organizations. Also, […] the US to led a committee at the highest level with support from Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam to halt the procurement of weapons by the LTTE.[20]

The reason given was due to the LTTE’s human rights violations, but, ironically, not only did the GOSL and TMVP commit more violations, the EU went against their stance on a negotiated settlement and reflected their choice solely on human rights, something they refused to do until now. The head of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM), Swedish Major General Ulf Henricsson, prior opposed the ban, as it, evidently, would encourage the GOSL to see a military solution. He would later state:

I would say it’s [the EU decision to ban LTTE] a mistake, it was a wrong decision because… the LTTE and the government have signed the ceasefire agreement as equal partners. If one is suddenly on a terrorist list it’s not very difficult to see we’re going to run into difficulties — which we have done[…]That was a part of the big war against terrorism. It was more a world-wide wish from the big powers. The LTTE also came in it. But, for me, it was a mistake.[…] I said if you should list the LTTE, list the Sri Lankan government too. Because they used the same methods. That was obvious. So, I would say that it was a big mistake because it stopped the possibility to get a peaceful solution and negotiation, which I would say that the government did not want. [21]

Canada followed suit after pressure from the EU, UK, US, and India

The IC ban, 32 countries in total, plunged the LTTE’s financial assets. The LTTE had earned $300 million US annually from the Tamil Diaspora in the West. The ban had prevented them from re-structuring their de-facto state and procuring high-tech weaponry, only being able to afford small arms and ammunition.

The UK government was actively campaigning against the LTTE on the same bases as the US and India, they showed an identical stance on the ceasefire agreement to the US and India, and banned the LTTE a few weeks after they proposed their first ceasefire in 2000. Ultimately, when Karuna defected, the UK increased its military projections, spending, and aid to the GOSL. Their aid includes:[22]

  • 2004
    • (Armored all-wheel-drive vehicles) ,(Components for military communications equipment), (Components for military utility helicopters), (Components for naval light guns), (Ground vehicle military communications equipment), (Air guns),(Components for assault rifles),(Components for combat aircraft) (Components for heavy machine guns),(Components for semi-automatic pistols), (Semi-automatic pistols), (Small arms ammunition),(Technology for the use of semi-automatic pistols) (Components for military aero-engines),(Components for military transport aircraft),(Components for submachine guns) (Heavy machine guns), (Night vision goggles),(Military infra-red thermal imaging equipment), (military utility vehicles), (military transport aircraft), (Components for general-purpose machine guns), (Gun mountings), (Submachine guns), (Weapon sights)
  • 2005
    • (Components for heavy machine guns), (Components for military training aircraft), (Components for military utility helicopters), (Components for naval light guns), (Components for semi-automatic pistols), (Components for heavy machine guns), (Components for combat aircraft), (Components for naval light guns), (Armoured plates), (Ballistic shields), (Flak Jackets), (Components for military transport aircraft)
  • 2006
    • (Air guns), (Aircraft military communications equipment), (Armoured all-wheel-drive vehicles), (Components for general-purpose machine guns), (Components for heavy machine guns), (Components for military aero-engines), (Components for semi-automatic pistols), (Semi-automatic pistols),(Small arms ammunition), (Components for combat aircraft), (Components for combat helicopters), (Components for military transport aircraft), (Equipment for the use of combat helicopters), (Military utility vehicles)

The UK’s policy of arming the GOSL during the ceasefire agreement while criminalizing the LTTE led to a so-called “Security Sector Reforms” which were the UK led military missions to re-structure and aid the development of the Sri Lankan army, alongside the US Pacific Command, with British SAS crack teams working alongside US Green Berets in developing the SLA’s commando regiment.

*SAS soldier training Sri Lankan troops in the ’80s

China’s role in the conflict was primarily, although not solely, economic. China saw Sri Lanka as an asset in its quest to control the maritime silk road, only ever controlled by the British and Cholas. Chinese delegates met with LTTE leaders on numerous occasions, but the ultimately saw securitization of Sri Lanka to be the only option in securing their interests. As of today, China seems to be the only country to have received a huge asset from the LTTE’s defeat as they now control the Hambantota port in the south. By supporting the unitary state and increasing military and financial support to the GOSL, China’s overwhelming financial and military aid began to outweigh India and the US’. China had also encouraged Pakistan to contain “Hindu” influence in Sri Lanka by supplying the Sri Lankan government with weapons, ammunition, and, most notably, fighter jets. Although China’s military and financial donations to the GOSL amount to billion of USD, they didn’t play a role in dismantling the ceasefire, rather, they aided the military solution that was sought the minute Karuna defected, as it was the most economically and geo-strategically beneficial. In coordinance, after Karuna’s defection, Israel, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, several EU nations, and Ukraine increased their sale of weapons to the GOSL

Ultimately, at this point, this ceasefire was dead, and while the LTTE was focusing on developing the administration of their de-facto state on a political level, the GOSL re-invented their military with the entire world behind them. When the ceasefire “officially” collapsed on July 26, 2006, the LTTE were outnumbered 10:1, outgunned, financially unstable, and politically isolated, which led to their demise.


[1] What Is Securitization?

[2] Liberal internationalism

[3] Defeating the LTTE: Major-General Kamal Gunaratne in Riveting Q and A

[4] Tamil Tigers drop independence claim

[5] Sri Lanka calls on private sector to invest in peace – Sri Lanka



[8] Anton Balasingham Speech at Thailand


[10] ‘The Right To Internal Self-Determination’

[11] http://www.…

[12] http://www.…

[13] http://www.…

[14] Learn from us, LTTE tells U.S., Iraq

[15] news04

[16] Ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka : changing dynamics | Semantic Scholar

[17] Page on

[18] Sri Lanka: Prospects for Peace


[20] Rajapaksa: Then And Now

[21] EU made big mistake in banning LTTE: Henricsson, former head of SLMM