It may be the last thing Sri Lanka needs — the start of another bombing campaign by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). But sadly it looks likely that the brace of suicide bomb attacks in Colombo signals just that. On Tuesday, a female suicide bomber reportedly blew herself up in the office of Social Services Minister Douglas Devananda, minutes before he was scheduled to meet patients. Although the minister survived, his public relations officer was killed and several people injured. And on Wednesday, 18 people were killed and several more injured when a parcel bomb left on the counter at a private company exploded.
The attack on Mr Devananda, who heads one of the major parties representing Tamil-speaking people in Sri Lanka, is not surprising, considering he has been an LTTE target for his vocal criticism of its terrorist activities. In his annual Hero’s Day speech last Tuesday, the LTTE leader V Prabakaran announced that the rebels were determined “to carve out a separate homeland for Tamils in Sri Lanka through intensified warfare”. These outrages were probably part of that violent retaliation. If the past is any guide, whenever the rebels have suffered a series of military setbacks on the ground, they would resort to indiscriminate suicide attacks. And there is no reason to believe it is going to be any different this time. The rebels are literally fighting with their backs to the sea after Sri Lanka’s army won control of the island’s eastern region last July after nearly 15 years of fighting.
The current leadership crisis in the LTTE only worsens the situation. For the death of Thamilselvan, chief of the LTTE’s political wing, in a Sri Lankan Air Force bombing raid earlier this month has evidently dealt a body blow to the organisation. As the only leader untainted by the terror tag, he brought political credibility to the LTTE. Now that he’s gone, there is little elbow room for countries like India to take a more active interest in peace talks. This is unfortunate since it lessens the chances of arriving at a political solution to the strife — rather than a military one.