Liberation Struggle or Terrorism? The Politics of Naming the LTTE
Nadarajah, Suthaharan and Sriskandarajah, Dhananjayan (2005) 'Liberation struggle or terrorism? The politics of naming the LTTE'. Third World Quarterly, (26) 1, pp 87-100.
18 Pages Posted: 26 Jun 2019
Date Written: August 4, 2004
This article examines the politics of naming in one of the longest running and most intractable conflicts in the world: that between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and the Sri Lankan state. While the narratives presented by the LTTE and the state in support of their respective positions are complex and range across a number of issues, this paper is primarily concerned with the politics of the ‘terrorist’ label as applied to the LTTE. In particular, it examines how the characterisation of the conflict as a form of terrorism has affected its evolutionary course. While the Sri Lankan state has deployed the language of terrorism to further its strategic aims in both the domestic and international spheres, the label has not necessarily impeded the growth of the LTTE’s military capability but has, by denying the LTTE international legitimacy, undermined the organisation’s stated political project — Tamil self-determination. The article also outlines the contradictions between prevailing international attitudes to terrorism and the conduct of key international actors with regard to the protagonists in Sri Lanka and demonstrates how the sustained rhetoric of terrorism has become a serious impediment to reaching a permanent resolution of the conflict.
Keywords: politics of naming, terrorism, proscription, Sri Lanka, LTTE, conflict resolution, legitimacy, nationalism, self-determination
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