Informative Essay on Independence Day in Sri Lanka

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Northeastern Sri Lanka was the base for the Tamil terrorist group known as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. Origins aim and Ideology of the LTTE

In Sri Lanka, 70% of the population is Sinhalese. Tamils constitute the ethnic minority, approximately 20% of the population.

Snhalese-Tamil ethnic tensions arose after the British withdrew from the island in 1948, and independence was awarded to the country, known then as Ceylon. The Sinhalese majority assumed they had the right to govern Sri Lanka, and Tamils were disenfranchised in political representation. The passing of the Sinhala-only Act in 1946, making Sinhalese the official language of the country, further exacerbated the relationship between the Sinhalese and Tamil communities. This provided the ideal conditions for the founding of many Tamil Nationalistic terrorist organizations, one of which was the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

The LTTE was established in 1976 with the belief that diplomatic and non-violent efforts in the struggle for greater Tamil freedom and rights had failed. The organization resorted to terrorism with the aim of creating an independent Tamil state in the North and East of Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankan Government vehemently opposed carving the island into two separate states, and thus conflict ensued.

Facts about the event: how what and Why


The Tamil Tigers had begun their insurgency in 1983, but towards the end of the 1990s, the Sri Lankan military captured much of the territory in the North and East, which the terrorist organization had controlled. The Northern Jaffna Peninsula, an LTTE stronghold and administrative base,

During the war, the LTTE undertook 378 known suicide attacks, constituting one of the largest suicide campaigns in the world. One of these attacks occurred in 1998 in the Sri Dalada Maligawa or the Temple of the Tooth, one of the most venerated sites in the Buddhist world.

The temple and palace complex are located in Kandy, the capital of the last kingdom of Sri Lanka and a cultural center for the Sinhalese. Inside, the Buddha’s tooth relic is held, which attracts Buddhist pilgrims from around the world.

On 25 January 1998, the LTTE exploded a massive truck bomb inside the Temple of the Tooth premises, which was to be the center of the 50th Sri Lankan Independence Day celebrations on February 4th.

The truck containing 300–400 kg of explosives, was detonated by three LTTE attackers. 16 people, including the 3 attackers and a 2-year-old infant were killed in the incident.

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Short- and long-term consequences

The LTTE claimed to represent the Tamil minority of Sri Lanka, who practiced the Hindu faith. One short-term consequence was the harsh backlash from the public in response to these attacks. Mostly Sinhalese Buddhist crowds gathered around the temple to pay their respects to those who had been killed, and to assess the damage to the temple. However, some sought to retaliate to the bombing, setting fire to 3 vehicles and burning down a Hindu cultural center in Kandy. Police officers fired tear gas to disperse the crowds and the military was deployed to protect Hindu shrines from Sinhalese backlash.

The then Sri Lankan president Chandrika Kumaratunga urged the Sinhalese community not to retaliate against the Tamil minority.

The following day, the LTTE was designated a terrorist organization by the Sri Lankan government, changing the course of the civil war. For some time, the government had believed that guiding the LTTE towards a democratic path through diplomacy would lead to peace. After the bombing, advocacy for negotiations by the Kumaratunga government officially ended.

The Independence Day events were shifted to the capital, Colombo. Prince Charles who arrived in Colombo for Independence Day stated the attack was “a brutal and malign act and one which we all join in condemning.”

In the long term, the damage to the temple was restored. The government pledged 1 million U.S. dollars, and fundraising efforts saw donations exceed the 2 million USD mark. The restoration procedures were concluded a year later.

What was the reaction that the LTTE aimed to achieve?

By attacking the cultural center of the Sinhalese Buddhist majority on the island, the LTTE aimed to spark violence between the Sinhalese majority and the Tamil minority. They believed that nationalistic tendencies would come to the fore, and Tamils would suffer at the hands of the Sinhalese, who were viewed as historical suppressors by the LTTE. However, widespread violence was not the reaction that came about. While several Hindu temples were burned by mobs, the violence was curbed by police forces and armed personnel.

Religious and community leaders quickly issued joint condemnation for the acts. The President of the Hindu Council of Sri Lanka, Yogendra Duraiswamy labeled the attack “cowardly” and said the council is “deeply concerned.”

The intended reaction from the target groups, both Sinhalese and Tamil, did not come about most likely due to the fact that Buddha’s tooth relic itself was not destroyed. Furthermore, the narrative of the LTTE espoused Tamil nationalism and was not based on religious supremacy. The Tamil population was not all Hindu, many were Muslims and Catholics, so this attack did not spark hatred between the Sinhalese and Tamils to the degree to which the LTTE hoped.

Joint condemnation, including from the United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, adhered to the belief that religious differences are not justification for conflict. Places of worship and those who attend them should be protected. Therefore, the aim of the LTTE to divide populations based on ethnic and religious grounds was deplored.


  1. It's Been 20 years since the LTTE Suicide Bomb Attack on the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic | Sri Dalada Maligawa. 2019. It's Been 20 years since the LTTE Suicide Bomb Attack on the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic | Sri Dalada Maligawa. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 31 October 2019].
  2. 11 Killed in Truck Bombing At Sri Lanka Buddhist Site - The New York Times. 2019. 11 Killed in Truck Bombing At Sri Lanka Buddhist Site - The New York Times. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 31 October 2019].
  3. Los Angeles Times. 2019. 11 Killed in Assault on Buddhist Shrine - Los Angeles Times. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 31 October 2019].
  4. 8 Killed in Truck Bombing at Kandy, Sri Lanka Buddhist Site. 2019. 8 Killed in Truck Bombing at Kandy, Sri Lanka Buddhist Site. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 31 October 2019].
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Informative Essay on Independence Day in Sri Lanka. (2023, August 28). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 15, 2024, from
“Informative Essay on Independence Day in Sri Lanka.” Edubirdie, 28 Aug. 2023,
Informative Essay on Independence Day in Sri Lanka. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 15 Apr. 2024].
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