The Pirabhakaran Phenomenon
Part 14

Sachi Sri Kantha
[8 September 2001]

Casualty Breakdown in Eelam Civil War

The significance of ‘Jaffna 1980’ book 

I wish to reiterate the significance of ‘Jaffna 1980’ book authored by Robert Holmes, which I have cited in Part-13 of this series, to support my proposition that Alfred Duraiappah’s contributions to Jaffna society was a meager one. In my opinion, if the Broken Palmyra which was published 10 years later than Jaffna 1980 was an over-rated book by Sri Lankan academics and polemicists, Jaffna 1980 has been highly under-rated by all. One contributing factor for this over-rating was that the lead author of Broken Palmyra was a young Tamil woman doctor, who had married a Sinhalese and who had lost her life tragically in 1989.

Both the Jaffna 1980 and Broken Palmyra have two components in common. One is that, both books describe the Jaffna society. The other is that two of the authors of Broken Palmyra as well as the author of Jaffna 1980 shared the Christian values of upbringing. Since Robert Holmes, an American missionary, had lived in Jaffna for a long time, with wisdom and experience, he also could observe the positive aspects of the Eelam Tamil society impartially, than the tinted-eyes of inexperienced, youthful authors of Broken Palmyra, who present a ‘We are the sinners’ message. The practice of casteism in Jaffna has been critically commented by Holmes, but he more or less, has moderated the tone of criticism, based on his own upbringing in the USA, where the racism against the Blacks in the first half of 20th century was no less demeaning than the casteism practiced in Jaffna.

Dr.Holmes had left out several Tamil personalities who contributed much to Jaffna culture. Why I chose that book is that, it provides a ‘birds-eye-view’ of how Jaffna was like in 1980, to an American - who was not a tourist or a journalist. He had lived in post-independent Jaffna for 12 years. That is a sort of record for an outsider, and his work on how Jaffna was in 1980 was commendable. We will never see the Jaffna of his descriptions. He did not write the history of Jaffna.

My reasoning for chosing that book as my reference source on Duraiappah was that if Duraiappah, as presented by Rajan Hoole, was such a civic-minded politician, he would at least have been mentioned once in that book. Holmes has not included other mayors of Jaffna and he had not even discussed about any politician, other than S.J.V.Chelvanayakam and Amirthalingam (in passing). No mention was made about G.G.Ponnambalam. That was the prevailing situation in 1978-80. The point I wished to stress was, for an average Jaffna man, only Chelvanayakam counted among the politicians at that time. And Pirabhakaran was yet to emerge. In the absence of another non-Tamil, non-partisan, educated observer of the Jaffna scene, who had lived in Jaffna for more than 10 years, I can cite only his work.

LTTE’s view of its Tamil rivals in 1987 

The seeds for the disinformation campaign that the LTTE is an ‘anti-Tamil’ organization were first sown by the India’s Intelligence-wallahs and their Eelam acolytes, once the officers manning the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) found to their chagrin that Pirabhakaran had left Tamil Nadu. How LTTE viewed the situation in early 1987, when Pirabhakaran returned to Eelam is revealed by the interview given by Kiddu to Asiaweek’s correspondent Aruna Kulatunga in December 1986.

Since Kiddu has left the scene now, I reproduce in entirety his answers to Kulatunga’s questions on the Tamil cause. He was only 26 then, and held the position of Jaffna military commander of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. In his interview, Kiddu had stated the obvious fact of the meddling by India’s Intelligence-wallahs, without naming the organization openly.

Asiaweek: Why did you join the militant movement?

Kiddu: Ours was never an ideological struggle against a majority because of race or religion. It had to do with economic factors – education, employment, our right to decide what we want to do.

Asiaweek: Tamil politicians are negotiating with the government right now. Why have you refused to do so?

Kiddu: The politicians have no say in Jaffna now. We are in complete control. They don’t even come to Jaffna. We haven’t negotiated with the government because there is nothing to negotiate. We want a separate state and we have already achieved our objective here in Jaffna. But if they want to talk to us, they are welcome.

Asiaweek: What action have you planned for the present and future?

Kiddu: For now, it’s a case of containment. We have time on our hands. Our cadres are very young, mostly in their late teens. All are completely committed, all have been personally affected by the violence. The LTTE has more than 10,000 regulars all over the country. The whole population of Jaffna supports us.

Asiaweek: What about the other Tamil militant groups?

Kiddu: PLOT [People’s Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam] has ceased to exist and its Jaffna leader, Vijayapalan, is in our custody. We are now in the process of disbanding EPRLF [Eelam People’s Revolutionary Liberation Front], just like we did to TELO [Tamil Eelam Liberation Organisation]. The latter was acting against the common interests of the Tamil people to establish a state of their own and govern it themselves. TELO was being influenced and virtually controlled by outsiders. Secondly, it was carrying out anti-social acts such as robbing people of money and levying taxes that were too high. EPRLF came under the influence of the same people who controlled TELO.

We have asked EPRLF to disband itself and turn over its weapons to us. If it disobeys, we will have to take strong action. That’s the only way to prevent a third party from interfering in what is purely a problem between us and the Sinhalese. After all, we are still Sri Lankans.

Asiaweek: Why insist on a separate state?

Kiddu: [That] is our ultimate goal. We will not lay down arms until we achieve it. But, in the interim, we want the authorities to recognize that we have the right to a separate state of our own and to occupy areas where Tamils have been living for ages.

Asiaweek: Do you think the new peace proposals are sincere?

Kiddu: We think they are a farce. The government says there is devolution of central power. But each department is ultimately controlled by an appointee of the president. Even the chief minister will be a presidential appointee. So what is the control we are going to have? 

The issue of Asiaweek magazine [February 8, 1987], which carried Kiddu’s interview also informed the readers that he had a $35,000 price on his head. About Pirabhakaran’s return, it regurgitated the Indian Intelligence-wallah’s story line [see, Pirabhakaran Phenomenon-Part 13] as follows:

      “Early last month, Prabhakaran returned to the peninsula from his base in Madras, the capital of Tamil Nadu State in south India. His visit – the first in three years – came amid rumors of a power struggle between the LTTE’s India-based leadership and field commanders in Jaffna. Reports circulated recently that Prabhakaran had ‘arrested’ Kiddu, who had begun asserting himself in his absence. However, LTTE sources contacted by Asiaweek in Jaffna before direct telephone links were suspended said the commander was not under detention. Earlier, Kiddu himself had denied a rupture with his leader and dismissed reports of one as ‘propaganda by the government’...”

The disinformation campaign on LTTE gained momentum when the Colombo-based hacks who were torch-carriers to the brutal Premadasa regime, such as H.L.D.Mahindapala and Dayan Jayatilleka, picked up the Indian chant to deflect the criticism on human rights abuse during the first two years of Premadasa period.

A Critique on the statistics of LTTE’s “massacres”

As a student (and simultaneously a teacher) of science, I like to study the numbers presented in any debate to evaluate the validity of a proposition. The dictionary defines a proposition as, ‘a scheme or proposal offered for consideration or acceptance.’ Since its emergence in mid-1970s, one of the oft-repeated proposition on LTTE, by the tub-thumbing politicians in Sri Lanka as well as India and regurgitated in the partisan press of Colombo as well as Chennai is that, LTTE led by Pirabhakaran is not a liberation movement, but a ‘brutal, fascist and terrorist’ movement. This proposition, by extension, argues that LTTE is thus not a true representative of Eelam Tamils.

I was helped in developing a critique to this proposition by an editorial, which appeared in the Island (Colombo) newspaper of March 19, 2001 under the heading, ‘Unmasking the Tiger’. It provided the numbers I had wanted on the LTTE’s ‘massacres’ during the past 18 years, from an anti-LTTE source. First, I reproduce verbatim, the numbers the Island editorialist had served to his readership.

“The following are proof of what LTTE terrorism is like behind the façade of ‘liberation’. The LTTE has so far committed over 200 massacres obviously to rid the north and east of Sinhalese and Muslims. The following incidents selected at random are glaring examples of LTTE terrorism.

Year 1984
The LTTE kills 127 civilians, mostly Sinhalese, in the north.

Year 1985
The LTTE kills 150 Sinhala civilians at prayer in Anuradhapura.

Year 1986
May 3: The LTTE bombs an Air Lanka plane in Colombo, killing 16 people
May 7: bombs the Central Telegraph Office, Colombo, killing 14 people.

Year 1987
The LTTE kills 113 people in Colombo by exploding a car bomb.
June: kills 29 Buddhist monks at Arantalawa.

Year 1988
March 3: The LTTE kills 15 Sinhalese civilians in Morawewa.
March 5: blows up a truck in Trincomalee killing 24 civilians.
May 1: blows up a bus in Trincomalee killing 22 passengers.
Nov.14: kills 27 Sinhalese civilians in a bus.

Year 1989
Feb.11: the LTTE kills by hacking and shooting 34 Sinhalese civilians in Duluwewa.
Feb.28: kills 37 Sinhalese civilians at Borawewa.
April 23: kills 51 people in Trincomalee.

Year 1990
The LTTE massacres 600-700 policemen who surrender on government orders during the LTTE-UNP talks.
Aug.3: the LTTE uses machetes, guns and grenades to kill 40 Muslims praying in a mosque in the eastern village of Kattankudy.
Aug.12: the LTTE massacres 122 Muslims in Eravur.

Year 1991
April 21: the LTTE kills 21 Sinhalese villagers in Moneragala.
Kills 27 civilians in Batticaloa.

Year 1992
April 29: the LTTE kills 56 Muslims at Alinchipathana.
Oct.15: explodes a bicycle bomb in Batticaloa killing 22 Muslims.
Oct.15: the LTTE massacres 166 Muslims in Palliyagodella.

Year 1993
May 1: the LTTE assassinates Sri Lankan President Ranasingha Premadasa, together with 22 others.

Year 1994
Jan.19: the LTTE kills 15 bus passengers at Anuradhapura.
March 21; the LTTE kills 22 fishermen in Puttalam.
Nov.24: the LTTE kills Sri Lankan Opposition Leader Gamini Dissanayake and 51 others in Colombo during the LTTE-government talks.

Year 1995
The LTTE kills 42 Sinhalese civilians at Kallarawa.
June 4: the LTTE kills 24 Sinhalese civilians in Colombo.

Year 1996
The LTTE bombs the Central Bank killing 82 civilians.
October: the LTTE bombs Hotel Galadari killing 18 civilians.

Year 1998
The LTTE bombs Dalada Maligawa killing 16 persons.
May: the LTTE explodes a vehicle bomb in Maradana killing over 10 civilians.

Year 1999
The LTTE explodes a bomb at the Kandy private bus station killing 2 civilians.
July: the LTTE assassinates TULF MP Dr.Neelan Tiruchelvam.
December: the LTTE makes an attempt on President Chandrika Kumaratunga, and kills 22 civilians. The LTTE bombs a UNP election rally, killing 10 civilians.

Year 2000
June: the LTTE kills Minister C.V.Gooneratne and 22 others.
October: the LTTE kills 6 persons opposite the Eye Hospital.

Thus could be seen the crimes the LTTE has perpetrated against humanity – and against ‘the Tamil-speaking people’, like Muslims.”

In this list, the assassinations of Ranjan Wijeratne and Lalith Athulathmudali have been omitted, thus the Island’s wags now have learnt belatedly that the LTTE was not involved in these high-profile killings.

Now, let me tabulate the number of people who had died, since 1984, due to LTTE’s ‘terrorism’ or ‘crimes against humanity’ as the editorialist of the Island has grandiosely implied. I leave out the “600-700 policemen” who were “massacred following surrender on government orders” in 1990, since this category doesn’t fall under the civilians. This issue need to be discussed in a separate section.

The LTTE’s civilian victims since 1984, as recorded in the Island editorial are: 127 + 150 + 16 + 14 + 113 + 29 + 15 + 24 + 22 + 27 + 34 + 37 + 51 + 40 + 122 + 21 + 27 + 56 + 22 + 166 + 23 + 15 + 22 + 52 + 42 + 24 + 82 + 18 + 16 + 10 + 2 + 1 + 22 + 10 + 23 + 6.

The total is 1,481.

Among these, those specifically identified as Muslim civilians (40 + 122+ 56 + 22) amount to 240.

Though the anti-LTTE editorial stated that LTTE had committed “over 200 massacres”, the supplied information provides figures for only 36 incidents for a period of almost 17 years. Even some of the ‘massacres’ (especially those which occurred in the Eastern zone), which have been designated by the Island editorialist as ‘LTTE-induced’, according to some observers, could have been perpetrated by the other militant factions, which were tagging either the Indian army or the Sri Lankan army.

It is also obvious that, if there had been any other incidents where non-Tamil civilians had been killed anywhere in Sri Lanka, with a casualty list exceeding a dozen, the editorialist would certainly have added these numbers with glee and attributed them to LTTE. In the absence of such incidents, the above list is all what the anti-LTTE propagandists can provide for the purported LTTE ‘massacres’. If the number of Muslims (240) who had been reported ‘killed by the LTTE’ are subtracted from the grand total of 1,481 then, it can be inferred that LTTE had been responsible for the death of 1,241 Sinhalese civilians. Technically, in Sri Lanka, political power-holders such as the President of the state, the ministers and even MPs cannot be included in the conventional ‘civilian’ classification, since once they elevate their status from private citizens, they become ‘non-civil’ and do not behave like civilians. Regular civilians do not have gun-totting personal bodyguards and bulletproof vehicles.

The above-cited statistics and the purported inference that “LTTE has perpetrated crimes against humanity” may bring commendation, if presented at the Cabinet meeting of Chandrika Kumaratunga. But, a speaker who presents the same statistics, at an international scientific meeting, would be laughed off from the podium. The obvious derision will be, ‘LTTE’s numbers compared against what’?

This brings me to the issue of non-use of controls by the journalists and analysts who lead a science and logic-challenged existence in Colombo and Chennai. Merely parrot-mouthing that LTTE is responsible for the death of nearly 1,500 Sinhalese and Muslim civilians during the past 17 years doesn’t mean much, if the query ‘compared to whom’ is not answered. I would infer that compared to Mother Teresa’s army of Christian missionaries, LTTE is guilty. But compared to the Sri Lankan army and the Indian army, LTTE is not guilty.

The concept of controls: sadly lacking in anti-LTTE features 

At this juncture, I will briefly introduce the concept of controls in evaluating a submitted fact. This is one of the cardinal principles in scientific experimentation. I can do no better than cite excerpts from a review authored by Edwin Boring (1886-1968) of Harvard University in 1954. For nearly four decades, Boring was an influential American experimental psychologist. In his paper entitled, ‘The nature and history of experimental control’, he had stated, 

“the concept of control is basic to all experimental design and is, indeed, inherent in the essential relational nature of a fact. The word control has three meanings: (1) a check, in the sense of a verification but thus also in the sense of a restraint, since verification restrains; (2) a restraint, in the sense of a checking and thus also in the sense of maintaining constancy; and (3) a guide or directing, in the sense of producing a precisely predetermined change, a constant and thus a restrained change. The word check itself has the first two meanings, though not the last, and the original meaning of control was check, for the word was counter-roll (contre-rolle), a duplicate register or account made to verify an official or first-made account and thus a check by a later roll upon the earlier. So the thought of correctness or conformity achieved by restraint runs all the way through the history of the word…” [American Journal of Psychology, Dec.1954, vol.67, pp.573-589]

Boring continued further, as follows:

“The term control in the sense of a check or test observation or experiment came into scientific parlance in the latter half of the nineteenth century. By 1893 we find the New English Dictionary defining control as ‘a standard of comparison used to check the inferences deduced from an experiment by application of the Method of Difference’, which is the name of John Stuart Mill’s second method of experimental inquiry.”

The concept of controls is a vital component in any scientific analysis, whether it be the weather pattern in Sri Lanka or Einstein’s expertise or Mozart’s mood swings. I insert here briefly, an element of my personal struggle to explain the importance of controls in any analysis. Six years ago, I was engaged in a study on Einstein’s scientific productivity, and if I had presented my analysis on Einstein’s productivity, like how the Island editorialist has done for LTTE’s ‘massacres’, my study wouldn’t have passed the scientific peer review. I spent nearly six months in finding two appropriate controls (who was of equal stature) to Einstein and collecting the relevant data of those controls and only then I sat down to compare the scientific productivity of Einstein with those two controls, namely Landsteiner and Freud. By including the two appropriate controls in my analysis, I brought rigor and eventual acceptance of my hypothesis. My study on Einstein was published in the Medical Hypotheses journal in 1996. Selecting the appropriate controls demanded much of my time and effort, but that step was the vital component for the acceptance of my hypothesis.

Therefore, if one equates the civil unrest which led to civil strife and ultimately civil war in Sri Lanka as a long-running, unfortunate experiment, and the civilian deaths which have occurred since 1983 have been due to multiple parties, of which LTTE is one, for a proper evaluation of LTTE’s role in such civilian deaths, the roles of other parties also need to be considered in the calculation. Sadly, the concept of control is an unknown entity in the brains of Colombo’s partisan journalists as well as anti-LTTE analysts like the University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna).

To evaluate the LTTE ‘atrocities’ in the island, an objective analyst should take into account two types of control; (1) internal control (2) external control. An internal control will provide the statistics for deaths occurring in the island, for which LTTE is not an immediate cause. An external control will provide the statistics for deaths occurring beyond the borders of Sri Lanka, where a similar situation (a civil war) prevails in which a liberation movement is fighting an entrenched government.

Casualty Break-down in the Eelam Civil War (July 1983-July 2001)

For the past 15 years or so, international journalists covering the Eelam civil war, routinely provide a sentence to the effect that this war had claimed the lives of 50,000 or 60,000 or 70,000 Sri Lankans. But, due to reasons of ignorance or difficulties in clearly identifying the military participants and civilians, or for convenience of not offending the Sri Lankan government which allow them partial access to battlefront, they do not divulge the breakdown of casualties.

John Colmey’s lengthy report, which appeared in the Asiaweek magazine in 1992 [just before the deaths of Gen. Denzil Kobbekaduwa and Brigadier Wijaya Wimalaratne] was an exception. He, while traveling through Jaffna, then noted,

“Death toll [is] estimated at upto 25,000 so far in the civil war. Killed since 1983: about 3,000 security forces men; 5,000-5,500 Tigers; 2,000-2,500 other militants, and 10,000-15,000 civilians. In addition, as many as 150,000 have been tortured. Since 1983, the army has grown from a ceremonial force of some 14,000 soldiers to a professional, highly motivated one of 100,000. In the same period the military budget has risen five fold to [US]$ 433 million.” [Asiaweek, August 14, 1992, pp.66-79]

This was, when Premadasa was the President of Sri Lanka. Lately, after what the Sri Lankans have faced under Chandrika Kumaratunga’s seven years of mis-rule, the Ceylon Daily News of April 21, 2001, carried a feature entitled, ‘The human cost of the war’ which provided statistical information on the deaths, as tabulated by the National Peace Council Publication. Notable numbers appeared as follows.

The estimates of the total number of deaths in the war until 1998, ranged between 50,000 and 60,000.

Casualties among the combatants would be in the range between 25,000 and 35,000.

Until 1998, the official estimate of deaths in the Sri Lankan armed forces and other security personnel is approximately 12,000. Until 1999, the official estimate for members of the armed forces missing in action is 3,800.

The government estimate for deaths of LTTE cadres is approximately 18,000. But according to the estimates provided by the LTTE, it had lost 13,603 cadres until December 1998.

Casualties among all the other organizations (not identified by name) could be estimated at another 2,000.

The total number of claims received by the Ministry of Rehabilitation and Reconstruction for compensation in cases of death and disappearance in the North and East, until 1992 amounted to 17,529; however, this estimate may have to be adjusted downwards. The total number of civilian deaths in the North and the East for which the government has paid compensation during the period 1994-98 is 4,663.

Civilian deaths due to Tamil militant groups, mainly the LTTE, during 1985-90 period could be estimated at about 2,000. During the period 1990-1998 alone, there were about 78 major terrorist acts in the border areas and in Colombo city and its suburbs; the number of civilian deaths caused by them was approximately 1,800.

Readers should note that though the numbers stated are reasonable estimates, for obvious reasons, these are skewed against the LTTE, to project the view that the Sri Lankan army has an exemplary human rights record. The reality speaks otherwise.

Since the North and East of the island have remained the major theater of the war, casualties among Tamil civilians outweighs the casualties among Sinhalese civilians. Thus, my estimates, which can be cross-checked with other published sources in the international press, somehow varies a little from that of the numbers presented by the National Peace Council publication. Two additional points need to be noticed. First, the above numbers do not clearly demarcate the lives lost in the Eelam zone during the Indian army’s war against the LTTE between October 1987 and March 1990. Secondly, the civilian casualties due to the actions of other Tamil militant factions which played the roles as ‘spotters’ and ‘bucket carriers’ to both the Indian army and the Sri Lankan army have been underestimated by nearly 1,000.

My estimate of casualties in the Sri Lankan civil war since 1983

The ever-increasing death toll in the Eelam civil unrest, which began in 1983, has to be attributed to the actions of four parties, namely

1.     Sri Lankan armed forces

2.     Indian army (from August 1987 to March 1990)

3.     LTTE

4.     Other Tamil militant groups (PLOTE, EPRLF, TELO and EPDP)

For sake of convenience, I have not considered the role of JVP, which can be considered as the fifth party. I omitted the JVP because its role was mostly limited to the non-Eelam zones of the island. Also, the number of civilian deaths due to JVP aggression (1987-1990), and counter-offensives made by the UNP government have to be scaled altogether in a expanded scale. For instance, the Economist magazine, in its report following the assassination of Gamini Dissanayake in 1994 observed that,

      “Only five years ago its [Sri Lanka’s] rivers and beaches were filled with mutilated corpses, victims of government-sponsored death squads unleashed to annihilate a Maoist-style insurrection in the Sinhalese south. Up to 60,000 people died in that conflict – twice the number of casualties in the ethnic war. Ranasinghe Premadasa, who presided over the death squads and was himself killed, was believed to have employed Tamil militants to get rid of his Sinhalese political opponents.” [Economist, Oct.29, 1994, pp.29-30]

In my calculation, the casualty numbers in the Eelam civil war, due to the actions of each of the four parties stand as follows, as of July 1, 2001:

Sri Lankan armed forces have caused 37,040 deaths; the Indian army (between October 1987 and March 1990) caused 6,800 deaths; LTTE has caused 19,800 deaths; Other Tamil militant groups have caused 2,900 deaths. Grand total of casualties, thus amount to 66,540.

LTTE’s loss of fighters, since 1982, amount to 17,240 (AFP news report, Island, Colombo, June 24, 2001). This number of 17,240 has to be sub-divided into three categories: LTTE cadres killed by Sri Lankan armed forces (16,040), LTTE cadres killed by the Indian army, during its IPKF operation (800), and LTTE cadres killed by other Tamil militant factions (400). The casualty figures noted here, were taken from Lisa Beyer’s commentary ‘No tears here’, in the Time magazine (Asia edition) of April 2, 1990 which summed up the failure of India’s ‘Vietnam war’.

The breakdown of deaths, caused by the four parties can be tabulated as follows:

(1) Number of deaths due to the actions of Sri Lankan armed forces 

LTTE cadres killed = 16,040

Tamil and Muslim civilians killed = 21,000

Total = 37,040 

(2) Number of deaths due to the actions of Indian army
       (August 1987- March 1990) 

LTTE cadres killed = 800

Tamil and Muslim civilians killed = 6,000

Total = 6,800 

(3) Number of deaths due to the actions of LTTE

Sri Lankan armed forces killed = 15,500

Indian armed forces killed = 1,200

Sinhalese civilians killed = 1,300

Tamil and Muslim civilians killed = 1,000 [Tamils 760 and Muslims 240]

Other Tamil militant cadres killed (including the Tamil National Army, trained by the Indian army) = 1,200

Total = 19,800

(4) Number of deaths due to the actions of other Tamil militant groups (PLOTE, EPRLF, TELO, EPDP)

Sri Lankan armed forces killed (during 1983-86) = 100

LTTE cadres killed = 400

Sinhalese civilians killed = 400

Tamil and Muslim civilians killed = 2,000

Total = 2,900

I wish to note that these figures stand revision, and I will be glad to accept correction, if anyone can provide me numbers with some authentifying, published documentation. There exists a difference between my analysis and that of self-nominated ‘LTTE expert’ Rohan Gunaratna. Whereas being a scientist, I rely on published sources of information, Gunaratna mostly cites ‘Intelligence information’ from secretive, unpublished sources which need further verification from other sources.

Sri Lankan Suicide statistics as an internal control

Now, I wish to provide an internal control statistic, to debunk the claim of LTTE ‘atrocities’ against civilians. This statistic is none other than the number of successful suicides in Sri Lanka. Nalini Ellawala had provided a table with her feature, ‘Some community responses for suicide prevention’, which appeared in the Island (Colombo) of May 10, 2001. The suicide statistics are quoted from police records, which obviously is an underestimate, and due to the prevailing civil war, one can assume that these statistics were mainly collected from the provinces, excluding the North and the East of the island. The number of successful suicides for years from 1995 to 2000 recorded were as follows:

1995 had 8,519 suicides. 1996 had 7,367 suicides. 1997 had 6,228 suicides. 1998 had 5,869 suicides. 1999 had 5,907 suicides. Year 2000 had 5,412 suicides. A grand total of 39,302 suicides committed in the last six years. Among this 39,302 suicides, 29,759 were men and 9,543 were women. Thus, the suicide casualties, between the years 1995 and 2000 in the predominantly Sinhalese regions of the island exceed the deaths caused by LTTE actions (between 1983 and mid-2001) by 20,000. It is somewhat hilarious, that while Pirabhakaran’s motivated Black Tigers, who function as ‘Uyir-aayutham’ (Life weapon) is much discussed by the LTTE ‘specialists’ like Rohan Gunaratna and the partisan editorialists in the media, the civilian suicides occurring in pandemic proportions among the Sinhalese are only whispered about and hidden out of shame.

Another pathetic news feature in my files, authored by Feizal Samath in early 1998 quotes Dr.Karunatissa Athukorale, a sociologist affiliated to the University of Peradeniya.

“Athukorala estimates that more than one person commits suicide every hour in Sri Lanka, greater than the number that dies on the country’s battle fields. The civil war is estimated to have killed at least 50,000 in the last 15 years.” [InterPress Service, March 1998]

Thus, according to Dr.Atukorale, 24 x 365 = 8,760 suicides occur in an year in Sri Lanka. The number of civilian deaths between 1983 and mid-2001which can be attributed to LTTE ‘atrocities’, in my estimate, amounts to 2,500 (highest range). But the total number of recorded suicides in Sri Lanka, between 1995 and 2000, adds to a grand 39,302. Comparison of these two numbers strongly disproves the dubious proposition that LTTE has perpetrated ‘crimes against humanity’.

Fallacious Propaganda on LTTE’s Suicide Bombers

I read two opinions last year (one by C.A.Chandraprema, Island, June 7, 2000; and the other by Dr.Nalin Swaris, Island, June 21, 2000) related to an anti-LTTE play ‘Forbidden Area’ scripted by one Visakesa Chandrasekeren, who has been identified as a Tamil woman. This play has introduced a naïve preposition that the prime motive of LTTE women suicide bombers is sexual frustration. I had wished to comment on this fallacious propaganda immediately, but I was waiting for adequate supporting data on suicide statistics in Sri Lanka to present my rebuttal. Now that this data has been presented by Nalini Ellawala in the Island newspaper (May 10, 2001), I comment on the naivete of Ms.Chandrasekeren.

Ms.Chandrasekeren’s ‘sexual frustration’ proposition reminded me of an old Angoda Mental Hospital joke.

Patient 1: Which is far from Colombo? – Madras or Moon?

Patient 2: Moon, don’t you know this?

Patient 1: Idiot. It’s Madras you fool. We can see the moon from here, but we cannot see Madras.

In my opinion, Ms.Chandrasekeren deserves a peer-ranking with these patients. Sexuality is a theme which has been exploited by pulp novelists, pseudo-scholars, movie makers, and pimps in the hotel industry to make profit. And if Ms.Chandrasekeren’s prime motive for linking sexuality theme to her anti-LTTE play was profit-oriented, I would say she is entitled to her ‘15-minutes of fame’. But I can vouch that she is an ignoramus on sexuality or suicide or Emile Durkheim or the history of warfare.

The fact that Sri Lanka now has one of the highest suicide rates in the world for men and women has been highlighted in academic circles for the past decade, and the Economist magazine also picked up this point in 1994 to raise doubt on the theory that LTTE was involved in the assassination of Gamini Dissanayake. It commented that,

“It should be noted that the island’s predominantly Sinhalese population has one of the highest suicide rates in the world. In the murky world of Sri Lankan politics, it is not impossible that Mr Dissanayake was murdered by someone else. Possible suspects include Sinhalese Buddhist chauvinists (who assassinated Mrs Kumaratunga’s father in 1959), senior army officers (who tried to stage a military coup just before August’s parliamentary elections), and anti-Tiger paramilitary groups. After three decades of frequently controversial political activity, Mr Dissanayake also had many enemies, some of them within the UNP itself.” [Economist, Oct.29, 1994, pp.29-30]

According to Nalini Ellawala’s commentary the number of women who committed suicide in 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999 and 2000 were 2263, 1626, 1554, 1351, 1371 and 1378 respectively. These figures add to a cumulative total of 9,543 women who have committed suicide. By population ratio, 75 percent of 9,543 would have to be Sinhalese, which turns out to be a little over 7,150. One should also note that the cited figures, being police record statistics, should definitely be a gross underestimation. For sake of argument if one assumes that the young LTTE women residing in the island commit suicide because of sexual frustration, the same logic should apply to other Sri Lankan women who have committed suicide as well. So, does the 7,150-odd Sinhala women who committed suicide between 1995 and 2000 also suffered from sexual frustration?

Furthermore, is sexual frustration gender-specific? Is any medical data available on this issue for Sri Lankans including Tamils? If not, one should add the number of men who had committed suicide, which turns out to be, again according to the police records, a whopping total of 29,759 between 1995 and 2000. [Island, May 10, 2001]. Assuming that 75 percent of this number should be Sinhalese, nearly 22,300 Sinhalese men committed suicide between 1995 and 2000, since Chandrika Kumaratunga became the President of Sri Lanka. If one extrapolates Visakesa Chandrasekeren’s logic, these individuals would also have been sexually frustrated. It is a shame that some Colombo Tamil elites who label themselves ‘dramatists’ cast aspersions on the monkish discipline of LTTE women who stands above mere mortals in courage and conviction. (Continued)