In just four hours, the village of Palliyathidal was the scene where some 285 men, women and children were killed by a 1,000 strong LTTE force.
Sri Lanka, the island that looks like a teardrop just off the southern Indian coast, has had many reasons to weep over the past few decades. From July 1983 to May 2009 the nation was immersed in a civil war in which a group claiming to represent the minority Tamils (most Sri Lankans are Sinhalese), the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), fought to create an independent Tamil state called Tamil Eelam in the north and the east of the island.
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam
The war led to more than 100,000 deaths and only ended when the LTTE was reduced to a territorial toehold and essentially surrendered. A reconciliation commission was struck and Sri Lanka entered an era of shaky peace that has held to this day.
The LTTE were renowned for a few things. Like many others, it engaged in fundraising among Tamil diasporas, including a very large one in Canada. On the other hand, it also made early use of female commandos, one of which assassinated former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991.
The organisation also tried to develop “human torpedoes”, one-man semi-submersible craft designed to ram and destroy the enemy which were part of their ‘Sea Tigers’ wing. It is unclear whether it ever successfully deployed such a device. The LTTE targeted the Sri Lankan military, state, leadership and Sinhalese civilians in its campaign.
One of its largest attacks took place on this day in 1992
In just four hours, the village of Palliyathidal was the scene where some 285 men, women and children, around a third of the population, were killed by a 1,000 strong LTTE force. A local shopkeeper described what he saw: “We saw the Tamil Tigers armed with guns and knives (machetes). I heard them say ‘we will kill everyone and then celebrate in your mosque.” All but 40 of the victims of the Palliyathidal massacre were Muslim; the rest were Sinhalese.
We saw the Tamil Tigers armed with guns and knives (machetes). I heard them say ‘we will kill everyone and then celebrate in your mosque
As cruel as this massacre was, it needs to be pointed out that Sri Lanka’s Muslim minority is now subject to violence today at the hands of another enemy: the country’s Buddhist extremists.
An organisation called the Bodu Bala Sena has accused the country’s Muslims of “breeding like pigs.” Attacks by Buddhist mobs are common: if you are interested in learning more see my newest book When Religion Kills.
The saddest part to all this is that Sri Lanka has seen far more than its share of violence and the maelstrom of killing may not be over. The country is aptly shaped indeed.
- October 30, 2002: Bombings in Soweto, South Africa - October 30, 2020
- Islamic leaders need to look in the mirror - October 29, 2020
- Denmark shows the world how to deport terrorists: Canada should listen - October 29, 2020