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Asian Tribune is published by E-LANKA MEDIA(PVT)Ltd. Vol. 20 No. 102

Let Lying Tigers Sleep

[b]Let Lying Tigers Sleep[/b]

By John Thompson - Mackenzie Institute

On the edges of large Indian nature preserves, farmers and fishermen often protect themselves from wild tigers by wearing a false face mask on the rear of their heads. Tigers like to attack from behind and this two-faced look evidently confuses them.

When it comes to dealing with terrorism, Ottawa has a two-faced approach of its own that confuses our friends and allies. We are full and active partners with other nations in dealing with Al Qaeda and the Jihadists, yet have a different face when it comes to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (the LTTE). We tolerate their political fronts, when we should be shutting them down.

Despite the shaky February 2002 ceasefire between the LTTE and the Sri Lankan government, the Tigers are a group to fear. While they almost never attack Westerners, they are one of the most innovative terrorist groups in the world in terms of technique, and in the size and sophistication of their global political and fundraising apparatus. If other groups ever aped this template, they would be dangerous indeed.

The LTTE is the only terrorist group to kill two national leaders (Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and Sri Lanka’s President Premadasa); they pioneered the use of suicide belt-bombs; and during the 1990s, used more suicide attackers than all other terrorist groups combined. Their cadres are known for brutality and ruthlessness, but also for the innovative nature of their techniques and weaponry.

Matched to this is a global structure combining heroin trafficking, skilled passport forging and people smuggling, and layers of numbered companies to move money around. The acme of their commercial skills is best reflected in the 1997 hijacking of a shipment of 32,400 mortar bombs for the Sri Lankan Army from a Tanzanian ammunition plant. The vessel charted to carry the shipment disguised its LTTE ownership, and the Sri Lankan Army got their mortar bombs — one Tiger-fired salvo at a time.

However, what really makes the LTTE unique is their use of overseas communities of Sri Lankan Tamils. The use of ‘Diaspora’ populations by insurgents and mobsters is an old story — Canada experienced the Fenians among the Irish displaced after the Potato Famine, and the Anti-Tito Croats among the Post-War refugees in the 1960s. What makes the Tigers different is that they deliberately created a Diaspora first, rather than capitalizing on an existing situation.

Many terrorist groups go through an evolutionary process where they first turn to organized crime to raise money, and then eventually morph into a crime syndicate. The Chinese Triads, for example, began as secret societies against the Manchu Dynasty. The LTTE skipped this process and embraced organized crime from its inception. Their leader, Vellupillai Prabhakaran, was a ‘Kappan’ — an extortion collector — in the Sri Lankan underworld and came from a smuggling background. In the early 1970s, the LTTE was little more than a street gang, yet by the late 1970s, their heroin traffickers were already popping up in Western Europe and the first trickle of Tamil refugees from Sri Lanka were followed by Tiger organizers.

Terrorism often feeds off a cycle of action-reaction, using atrocity to goad authorities into behaving without restraints either. In 1983, the Tiger’s killing of 15 Sri Lankan soldiers in an ambush triggered an anti-Tamil rampage by troops, and a vicious bout of Sinhalese mob violence inside Colombo. Despite their previous decade of activity, the LTTE always claimed that they were only reacting to these events; but the criminal enterprises and political cadres to fund and sustain their war were already in place.

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