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Main cities in Sri Lanka.

Various non-governmental organizations and individuals have accused the Sri Lankan government of committing state terrorism. These allegations characterize much of the Sri Lankan government's handling of insurgent groups dating from 1956, including the civil war against Tamil militant groups and the state response to the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna insurrections, as state terrorism. Specific acts alleged include massacres of civilians, mass graves, torture, unlawful incarceration and forced disappearances. The government has denied the allegations.



In 1986 Stanley Jeyaraja Tambiah, an American Tamil social anthropologist at Harvard University specializing in studies of Thailand, Sri Lanka, and Tamils, as well as the anthropology of religion and politics, stated that the Sinhalese populace, the Tamil rebels and the Sri Lankan government armed forces were all engaged in "terrorism" during the Sri Lankan Civil War; he describes the latter as practicing "deadly terrorism and intimidation".[1] Though all parties in the conflict have resorted to the use of terror tactics, in the scale, duration, and sheer numbers of victims, it is the Sri Lankan state that is most guilty of the massive use of terror.[2][3][4]

This was echoed by the Secretary of Movement for Development and Democratic Rights, a NGO, that terrorism was used in the north as a political tool and the resultant state terrorism restricted their operation in the north. It further claimed that the state viewed killing as an essential tool [for politics].[5] This according to Kumar Rupesinghe led to solidification of demand for separate state for minority Tamils called Tamil Eelam under conditions of state terrorism and genocidal situations.[2][6][7] The idea of an independent state for Tamils was originally articulated by S.J.V. Chelvanayagam in 1976.[8]

The author of State, Nation, and Ethnicity in Contemporary South Asia states that as a result of ethnic assault of Tamils, the Sri Lankan social democracy was tainted by State Terrorism.[9]

Dias Hewagama and Wiswa Warnapala claim that experience of State terrorism could not be erased from the mind of people from Jaffna and this is what prompted the UNP to attack Jaffna.[10]


JVP insurrection

From 1985 to 1989, according to Gananath Obeyesekere, Sri Lanka practiced state terrorism against the Sinhalese majority as part of the counter insurgency measures against the uprising by the Marxist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) party.[11] As part of pacifying the support base of JVP a wide range of acts of cruelty including the torture and mass murder of school children were carried out by the state.[9][12]

Likewise, state terrorism came to peak among the Sinhala population during 1989-1990 [13]

Chandrika Kumaratunga, the President of Sri Lanka from 1994 to 2005, has also stated in an in interview with David Frost that at the time that her husband Vijaya Kumaranatunga was assassinated, "Sri Lanka had a killing fields, there was a lot of terror perpetrated by the government itself, state terrorism.[14] This was supported by a report released by the Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC), a non-governmental organization based in Hong Kong and associated with the United Nations, also claimed that there was widespread terrorism by the state organ during the same period.[15]

Post 2000 events

Since the collapse of peace talks since 2006, human rights agencies such as the Asian Center of Human Rights (ACHR), the University Teachers for Human Rights (UTHR), and pro LTTE political parties such as the Tamil National Alliance, have claimed that government of Sri Lanka has unleashed state terrorism as part of its counter insurgency measures against the rebel LTTE movement.[16][17][18] To which the government has claimed that such claims by the LTTE is an attempt at justifying terrorism of the LTTE.[19] The ACHR has also reported that, "since the collapse of the Geneva talks of February 2006", the government of Sri Lanka has perpetrated a campaign of state terrorism by targeting alleged LTTE sympathizers and Tamil civilians.[20] As noted by Brad Adams, Asia Director, Human Rights Watch,

"The Sri Lankan government has apparently given its security forces a green light to use ‘dirty war’ tactics".[21]

Two Tamil commentators have requested international intervention in Sri Lanka to protect the civilians from State terror.[22][23]

Civilian deaths

When referring to the massacre of five school kids in Trincomalee, and the subsequent incidents of intimidation of the witnesses and the perceived lack of investigative vigor, the local human rights group UTHR termed it an act of state terror.[24]

Recruitment of children

According to the Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR), the Rome Statute of International Criminal Court identifies "conscripting or enlisting children under the age of fifteen years into armed forces or groups or using them to participate actively in hostilities" as a war crime. The agency has accused that Sri Lankan government backed paramilitary forces of recruiting children, describing is a "state terror" and has appealed to the international community to refer Sri Lanka to the International Criminal Court for investigation into the violations of the Rome Statute.[20]

Torture and Rape

The International Federation of Tamils, a pro-LTTE consortium of Tamil groups,[25] alleged that the systematic use of torture and rape is instruments of state terrorism.[16] David Jeyaraj a prominent Sri Lankan journalist from Canada has termed the act of torture, rape and murder of a family in the Vankalai massacre as an act of State terrorism. Human Rights groups have condemned this massacre and demanded an independent investigation.[26] In Trauma of Terrorism author Yael Danieli states that the Sri Lankan state is the most guilty in the use of terror. It further claimed that state terrorism became institutionalized into very law of structure of society and mechanism of governance.[27] , in the recent event's Hillary Clinton has been quoted to have mentioned Sri Lanka of using rape used as a tactic of war , this accusation adds to the report's of such incidents happening in Sri Lanka .[28]

Media Freedom

Opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe has charged that the government of Sri Lanka has turned into a junta, "This junta has control over the economy, business activities and defense. They have unleashed corruption and terror on the country." He claimed that the attack on the Sunday Leader press facility, an independent English weekly could not have occurred without the knowledge of Sri Lankan Defense Ministry, since its located in a High Security Zone, neighboring military air force base, defense academy and a military camp .[29][30]

Furthermore, UTHR, a local human rights organization claimed that the media has been repressed by State Terrorism.[31] Some activists have linked the lack of coverage of the displacement of Tamils in late 2008 (specifically, people being relocated to welfare villages) in India to evidence of new anti-democratic controls over the media.[32]

See also


  1. ^ Tambiah, Sri Lanka: Ethnic Fratricide and the Dismantling of Democracy, p. 116
  2. ^ a b Hattotuwa, From violence to peace: Terrorism and Human Rights in Sri Lanka, pp.11-13
  3. ^ Danieli, Yael, D. Brom, and Joe Sills,The trauma of terrorism: sharing knowledge and shared care, pp.216
  4. ^ "Child soldiers: Understanding the context". Daya Somasundaram. Retrieved 2008-01-17. 
  5. ^ ACHR, Sri Lanka: Disappearances and the Collapse of the Police System,ACHR, pp.34-42
  6. ^ Rupesinghe, Ethnic Conflict in South Asia: The Case of Sri Lanka and the Indian Peace-Keeping Force (IPKF), pp.337
  7. ^ "Sri Lanka: testimony to state terror". Race & Class (Institute of Race Relations) 26 (4): 71–84. 1985. doi:10.1177/030639688502600405. 
  8. ^ "S.J.V.Chelvanayagam Q.C". Tamil Nation (Tamil Nation). 2006-11-15. Retrieved 2008-01-18. 
  9. ^ a b Ishtiaq Ahmed, State, Nation, and Ethnicity in Contemporary South Asia, Continuum International Publishing Group, 1996, p. 55. ISBN 1855675781.
  10. ^ W. A. Wiswa Warnapala, L. Dias Hewagama, Recent Politics in Sri Lanka: The Presidential Election and the Referendum, Navrang (Original from the University of Michigan), 1983, p. 29. ASIN: B000II886W.
  11. ^ Gananath Obeyesekere, Narratives of the self: Chevalier Peter Dillon's Fijian cannibal adventures, in Barbara Creed, Jeanette Hoorn, Body Taade: captivity, cannibalism and colonialism in the Pacific, Routledge, 2001, p. 100. ISBN 0415938848. "The 'time of dread' was roughly 1985-89, when ethnic Sinhala youth took over vast areas of the country and practiced enormous atrocities; they were only eliminated by equally dreadful state terrorism."
  12. ^ "JVP: Lessons for the Genuine Left". Imayavaramban.,2003.DOC. Retrieved 2008-01-17. 
  13. ^ Handelman, Don (2006). The Manchester School: Practice and Ethnographic Praxis in Anthropology. Berghahn Books. p. 142. 
  14. ^ "BBC Breakfast with Frost Interview: President Chandrika Kumaratunga of Sri Lanka". David Frost. 2001-10-28. Retrieved 2008-01-17. 
  15. ^ "Tell the truth or you will be killed". Retrieved 2007-08-11. 
  16. ^ a b "Sri Lanka: Terror Vs State Terror". Retrieved 2007-08-11. 
  17. ^ University Teachers for Human Rights , UTHR, October 28, 2001.
  18. ^ "Claims of state terror and genocide by LTTE attempts at justifying terrorism". Retrieved 2007-08-11. 
  19. ^ "Claims of state terror and genocide by LTTE attempts at justifying terrorism". Retrieved 2007-08-11. 
  20. ^ a b "Sri Lanka: Terror Vs State Terror". ACHR Weekly Review (Asian Human Rights Commission). 2006-11-15. Retrieved 2007-07-28. 
  21. ^ "Sri Lanka: Government Abuses Intensify". Human Rights Watch. Retrieved 2008-01-18. 
  22. ^ "Tamils 'entitled to' international help". BBC. Retrieved 2008-01-16. 
  23. ^ "Sri Lanka Trauma: International Community Revisits its Response". V S Subramaniam. Retrieved 2008-01-17. 
  24. ^ "2.0 State Terror in Trincomalee". UTHR. 2007-07-06. Retrieved 2008-01-17. 
  25. ^ "Extending a ban". 
  26. ^ "Another family wiped out in Vankalai". 
  27. ^ Danieli, The Trauma of Terrorism, p. 216
  28. ^
  29. ^ "No one can attack on the Leader Publications press without the knowledge of the Defence Ministry." -Opposition Leader". Lanka News. Retrieved 2008-01-17. 
  30. ^ Gota is behind this draconian gazette
  31. ^ "Can the East be won through Human Culling?". UTHR. Retrieved 2008-03-16. 
  32. ^ Roy, Suzanna Arundhati (2009-03-30). "The silent horror of Lanka's 'war on terror'". The Times of India (Mumbai): pp. 1, 13. Retrieved 2009-03-30. 


  • Alagappa, Muthiah (2003). Asian Security Order: Instrumental and Normative Features. Stanford University Press. p. 238. ISBN 080474629X. 
  • Lutz, James M; Brenda J Lutz (2004). Global Terrorism. Routledge. ISBN 0415700507. 
  • Ponnambalam, Satchi (1983). The National Question and the Tamil Liberation Struggle. Zed Books Ltd. ISBN 0862321980. 
  • World Marxist Review. Central Books. 2007. ISBN 05123305. 
  • Tambiah, Stanley James (1991). Sri Lanka: Ethnic Fratricide and the Dismantling of Democracy. Chicago University Press. p. 205. ISBN 0226789527. 
  • Danieli, Yael; D. Brom, and Joe Sills (1989). The Trauma Of Terrorism: Sharing Knowledge and Shared Care. University of Hawaii Press. ISBN 0-8248-1211-5. 
  • Asian Center for Human Rights (1991). Sri Lanka: Disappearances and the Collapse of the Police System. ACHR. p. 205. ISBN 0226789527. 
  • Rupesinghe, Kumar (1988). "Ethnic Conflict in South Asia: The Case of Sri Lanka and the Indian Peace-Keeping Force (IPKF)". Journal of Peace Research 25 (4): 337. doi:10.1177/002234338802500402. 
  • Hattotuwa, Sanjana (2003). "From violence to peace: Terrorism and Human Rights in Sri Lanka". The online Journal of Peace and Conflict Resolution 5 (1): 14. 1522-211X. 
  • Hayner, Priscill (2009). The Unspeakable Truths : Confronting State Terror and Atrocity. Routledge. ISBN 0415924774. 

Further reading

  • Myrdal, Gunnar (1968). Asian Drama: an Inquiry into the Poverty of Nations. Pantheon. ASIN B000E80DGO. 
  • Wilson, A. Jeyaratnam (1989). The Break up of Sri Lanka: the Sinhalese-Tamil conflict. University of Hawaii Press. ISBN 0-8248-1211-5. 
  • Gunasingam, Murugar (1999). Sri Lankan Tamil nationalism. Sydney: MV. p. 238. ISBN 0-646-38106-7. 


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