Sri Lanka: On the Brink

On the eighteenth anniversary of the start of Sri Lanka’s civil war, a daring attack by the Tamil Tigers destroyed a quarter of the country’s air force and a third of the civilian aircraft. At a stroke the conflict took a serious new turn, forcing the government into alliance with a Marxist party which had itself earlier come close to tearing the nation apart. Peace is on hold, Sri Lankans are holding their breath.

The World Today Updated 26 October 2020 Published 1 October 2001 4 minute READ

Alan Bullion

Editor, AgraFood Asia

A Tamil Tiger suicide squad managed to destroy or badly damage fourteen aircraft in a devastating assault on Sri Lanka’s only international airport on July 24. The Colombo government conservatively estimates the economic cost of the attack at over $1 billion. This is roughly equivalent to seven years spending on education.

However, the repercussions of this latest blow against the fragile coalition of President Chandrika Kumaratunga and her demoralised armed forces could be even more severe. The ten-hour blitz on Katunayaka airport and the adjoining airbase marked the anniversary of the anti-Tamil riots in Colombo in July 1983.

They sparked off the ethnic conflict between separatist Tamil Tiger guerrillas and successive governments which has cost the lives of over 64 000 soldiers and civilians. It was also a decisive blow against the Sri Lankan Air Force, in revenge for bombing the northern Jaffna peninsula in June.

Subscribe to read all issues

Articles from the current issue are free to read by all, the archive is exclusive to magazine subscribers and our members. Subscribe or become a member to view articles from the archive.