Sri Lanka Table of Contents
As the Tamil insurgents accelerated their campaign for a separate state in the early 1980s, they turned increasingly against those Sinhalese settlers who, through governmentsponsored resettlement programs, had "infringed" on traditional Tamil areas in the north and east. In response, the government authorized the formation and arming of small militias for local self-defense. These armed groups, known as Home Guards, were generally composed of poorly educated Sinhalese villagers with little or no military training. Armed with shotguns that had been provided by the government, they frequently exceeded their original mandate of self-defense, avenging terrorist attacks with indiscriminate killings of Tamil civilians. This violence was an important factor in the increasing radicalization of the Tamil population. By April 1987, there were reportedly 12,000 Home Guards throughout the country, and the National Security Council, a consultative body that meets on defense matters, had announced its intention of increasing the number to 20,000. With the successful negotiation of the Indo-Sri Lankan Accord in July, however, the government moved to dismantle this poorly disciplined paramilitary force. The Home Guards in Northern and Eastern provinces were ordered to surrender their weapons to the authorities, and by August the police claimed to have collected 8,000 of the more than 10,000 shotguns that had been issued 3 years earlier. When the Tamil terrorist attacks resumed in late 1987, however, the government reportedly reversed its decision and allowed a partial rearming of the force. At the same time that it was acting to limit the Home Guards in the north, the government authorized an expansion of local and private militias in the south. The signing of the accord had unleashed a wave of violence among militant Sinhalese groups who opposed both the accommodation with the Tamil separatists and the presence of Indian troops on Sri Lankan soil. As Jayewardene moved to force passage of the provisions of the accord in Parliament, the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna launched a campaign against members of the ruling United National Party who supported the pact. In the second half of 1987, the party chairman and more than seventy United National Party legislators were killed by Sinhalese extremists. The government responded by allocating 150 Home Guards to each Member of Parliament, leaving the legislators themselves responsible for the arming and training of these personal militias. At the same time, the press reported that progovernment gangs of thugs known as Green Tigers (named for the colors of the ruling party) had begun to attack opponents of the accord.
Data as of October 1988