The law established Sinhalese as the sole official language (a status previously reserved for English).Sri Lanka’s Sinhalese and Tamils both trace their origins to migrations from India, and, despite their different languages and religions, their coexistence had previously been untroubled by ethnic violence. Bandaranaike, the scion of a Sinhalese noble family, who was raised an Anglican and educated at Oxford.Some Sri Lankans cancelled vacations in order to be at home if the war resumed; others made plans to leave the country.“We were running at the rate of about a murder a day until the tsunami came along,” Father Harry Miller, an American Jesuit missionary in the devastated east-coast city of Batticaloa, told me.


Until the early nineteen-eighties, most Tamils favored the establishment of a federal system that would grant them substantial local autonomy within a unified state; and, even as hope for a political solution gave way to Tamil militancy, armed struggle was widely seen as a means to force such an outcome.

Prabhakaran, however, has always been hostile to the idea of power-sharing.

The Tigers, whose extremist ethnic nationalism is essentially secular, are often credited with inventing suicide bombing, and although that claim is surely exaggerated, they did develop the sort of explosive suicide vests favored by Palestinian terrorists, and they refined the technique of using speedboats as bombs to ram large ships, which was employed in 2000 by Al Qaeda agents in Yemen against the U. “Of course we use suicide bombers,” a Tiger official who was overseeing humanitarian relief for displaced tsunami survivors near Mullaittivu told me.

“Because, as a revolutionary organization, we have limited resources.”Prabhakaran depicts his struggle as a quest to reclaim his people’s historic homeland, but the idea of secession is actually a relatively recent phenomenon, a response to the government’s discriminatory policies and its complicity in communal violence against Tamils during the decades following Sri Lanka’s independence, in 1948, from British colonial rule.

Prabhakaran, who turned fifty last year, is one of the most bloody-minded and effective warlords in today’s crowded field. In 1991, long before female suicide bombers became a fixture of Middle Eastern terrorism, the Tigers deployed the woman who blew up India’s Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi.