World Press Review Update

Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka has the world’s most wanted man, Osama bin Laden, to thank for the recent U.S., British, and Canadian ban on the Liberation Tamil Tigers of Eelam (LTTE), the terrorist outfit that has been waging a separatist war on the island for more than 18 years. Before Sept. 11, the LTTE was often seen as a national liberation movement engaged in a battle for a separate Tamil state. It is only now, after the brutal attacks in the United States, that the LTTE joins the ranks of terrorist organizations whose assets are targeted for freezes.

With parliamentary elections slated for Dec. 5, fears of another LTTE attack are high. The rebel Tigers are said to be unloading equipment and arms on the northern and eastern beaches, preparing for a major assault against the Sinhalese majority in Sri Lanka. Meanwhile, according to Colombo's Sunday Times, police have reported approximately 500 cases of election violence in the lead-up to polling day, including the Oct. 29 bomb blast outside of Colombo that was apparently targeting Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake. Three people were killed in the attack.

The paper chastised the mainstream political players “who seem to be convinced [of] invincibility” despite the LTTE’s repeated assaults (Nov. 4). It went on to say, “[They’re] like the cat that had nine lives.”

“Is the Dec. 5 election to be decided by the ballot or by bullets? From reports of violence received from most parts of the country, it appears that this frenzy of violence is escalating,” a Nov. 12 editorial in Colombo's The Island opined. In December 1999, the LTTE attempted to assassinate President Chandrika Kumarantunga on the final day of the presidential campaign. She escaped—but lost an eye.

The besieged state has at least been making some headway recently in its bloody struggle against the Tamil rebels. Continuing investigations into this summer’s bombing of Colombo’s Katunayake air base and Bandaranaike International Airport (July 24)—considered the worst terrorist tactic unleashed by the LTTE yet—have unraveled the inner workings of the Tiger guerrilla network in the Negombo area, the center from which many recent attacks have been carried out. According to reports, while the findings of the Criminal Investigation Department have been kept strictly confidential, Deputy Inspector General Punya de Silva revealed at a recent conference that a major breakthrough was expected in the coming days and weeks.