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EDITIONS
 Thursday, 5 December, 2002, 15:55 GMT
Separatists: Is violence the only solution?
Tamil Tigers
With a third round of peace talks taking place in Oslo, hopes are high for a peaceful settlement to the 19-year conflict in Sri Lanka.

The leader of the Tamil Tiger rebels, Velupillai Prabakaran, has announced he is ready to settle for substantial provincial autonomy and self-rule short of outright secession.

However, he has warned that the struggle for a separate state will be renewed if there is no positive outcome to the current peace process.

So are the Tamil Tigers really ready to renounce violence? Is taking up arms the only way a separatist group can hope to achieve attention for its aims?

Thankyou for your e-mails. This debate is now closed. A selection of your comments is published below.

The international community must keep up pressure on the Tigers

Jatin, India
It seems that the Tigers have changed their stripes under intense international pressure. In the post September 11 world, the use of violence in any struggle is no longer pardoned. The international community must keep up pressure on the Tigers and force them to resolve all outstanding issues peacefully without compromising sovereignty of the country.
Jatin, India

This land has been in turmoil as far as I can remember. In a Utopian world, diplomacy and discussion would win the day. But facing reality, ceasefire and terror attacks seem to be the only way preferred by most separatist rebels. Peace will come to Sri Lanka if and when Prabakaran's people lay down their guns and give peace talks a real chance.
Karen, Malaysia

Unfortunately, separatists often see violence as the only tool. After all, what country in the world would willingly give up a part of its territory? None. So the question is, what options are available for groups of people (whatever brings them together) who want to have an independent state? Look at the Palestinians, for example. What about the situation in the Balkans some years ago and the Kurds in Turkey and Iraq? Also the separatists in Spain? To put it simply, all groups wanting a separate state will have to fight for it. And diplomatic battles are not likely to win the war. But the future seems clear. The world will continue to be fragmented into little islands of people with warfare an ongoing part of everyday life.
Neil, USA - Expat in Europe

In the post-September 11 world use of violence in any struggle is no longer condoned

Jatin, India
It seems that Tamil Tigers have decided to change their stripes under intense international pressure. In the post-September 11 world use of violence in any struggle is no longer condoned. The international community must keep up its pressure on Tigers and force them to resolve all outstanding issues peacefully and without compromising the sovereignty of the country.
Jatin, India

Sad as it is to acknowledge this, violence does seem to have achieved some desirable victories so far. Take the struggles for independence in Africa and Indonesia, and the "liberation movements" in Cuba, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Nicaragua during the last sixty years. In all cases, it was the colonized, the oppressed, or the dispossessed underdogs fighting colonial or puppet regimes for a better and freer life. Although they often came at great cost to those who were ultimately victorious, it is doubtful whether anything other than their sacrifice would have achieved their aims.

Non-violent civil disobedience doesn't seem to have worked everywhere, particularly where the character of the oppressor verged on the seriously criminal. That it worked in India is due mainly to Gandhi's conviction about the pragmatic self-interest and the innate sense of decency on the part of the British. It also helped that those struggles had a clear-cut moral dimension: one side of the conflict always had justice on its side, the other patently did not.
Pradip Nath, Hong Kong SAR

Only armed struggle will provide a separate state to a determined people. The chance of success is a function of the people's willingness to die for it. Plain and simple. Check the history books if you have any doubts.
Carl Castle, USA

Ideally, no. Separatist groups should never have to take up arms. However, we don't live in an ideal world, and often, the only way to get one's point across to those in power is to use coercive measures. Any time a country sees a separatist movement inside its borders, it ought to take a good hard look at why the separatist want to separate in the first place.
Dan, Minneapolis, USA

Enlightened world opinion is a weapon, stronger than any war tool

Pete, Canada
Resorting to violence in the world's current political climate cannot be condoned regardless of any justification put forward. We're all too stressed by recent events and our responses would further divide opinions, adding fuel to an already raging fire. That said, existing peaceful processes should be bolstered so that any community of like-minded people can present their arguments to the United Nations, to be judged by the world as a body. And we, the people, need to pay more attention, educate ourselves, and not wait until terrible atrocities greet us on the late night news. Enlightened world opinion is a weapon, stronger than any war tool yet devised.
Pete, Canada

Too many humans find profit from the barrel of a gun easier, and more lucrative, than making an honest living. Besides, how many even have the education to do anything besides, let alone a clue of what comes next? Or even how to live a normal life?
S.G., Canada

There are always alternatives to violence. To name a few: civil disobedience, protest, writing (to newspapers, to government representatives, books, TV interviews, articles, poems) art, and voting. There are many ways to gain credibility for a socially just cause and change peoples hearts and minds in a free democratic state.
Tara, USA

Peace talks? High hopes? No peace until LTTE give up arms and violence totally.
Shanthi, Sri Lanka

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