Sri Lanka: Endless War?

Sri Lanka is a byword for beauty and tragedy. Even the wholesale devastation of the Asian tsunami was not enough to halt a 25-year civil war between an ethnic Sinhalese-dominated government and a notorious separatist group, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, also known as the Tamil Tigers. But lately momentum appears to have swung decisively in favor of the government. An international crackdown on LTTE fundraising and smuggling networks, a series of high-level defections and some key strategic gains have made the group vulnerable. Recognizing this, the government scrapped a tattered cease-fire agreement in January and launched an all-out offensive to "finish off" the LTTE by the end of the year.

So far, the military is on track to keep its promise. An unprecedented advance continues deep into the rebels' last northern stronghold. But a humanitarian crisis is also unfolding, as tens of thousands are displaced -- and trapped -- by a conflict with several fronts. Worse, draconian restrictions on media freedom prevent journalists from covering the war's toll on the ground. There is little doubt among observers that should the government break the LTTE as a conventional fighting force, its remnants may regroup in the northern jungles to wage a guerrilla war that relies on trademark suicide and hit-and-run attacks. A lasting peace will prove elusive until the disadvantaged Tamil community enjoys the political rights and equal economic opportunities it has been denied by a regime steeped in ethnic nationalism.

The eastern province, a long-time base of Tiger operations that fell to government forces last July, may serve as a test case. Development, jobs and more local political powers were promised by the center. A year on, not much has been delivered. Masses of people displaced by fighting in recent years have moved back to the countryside. But many cannot return to their native villages, which are now military-occupied high security zones. Today the hand of the military is as heavy as ever, and communal tensions persist beneath the surface. Jason Motlagh reports from an island on the brink.

Sri Lankan Rebels Admit Defeat

Sri Lanka's Tamil Tigers, the once formidable insurgency that pioneered guerrilla suicide attacks, claimed Sunday they had given up their 25-year battle for an ethnic homeland on the tropical island nation.

Surrounded in a small coconut grove with Sri Lankan forces closing in, several leaders reportedly committed suicide instead of surrendering.

U.S. prepares Sri Lanka relief effort

Jason Motlagh received a grant from the Pulitzer Center in 2008 to report from Sri Lanka. The following is an excerpt from Jason and Nicholas Kralev that was featured in the Washington Times on the US administration's efforts to faciliate a peaceful end to a seemingly endless conflict.

Tamil Tiger Trap

Not even the United Nations can stand in the way of the Sri Lankan army now. Looking to finish off the Tamil Tigers, the government has ordered the few aid agencies still in the northern war zone to leave, saying it can't guarantee their safety.

Asia's longest-running civil war has left many claims of imminent victory in its wake, along with an estimated 70,000 dead. The difference today is that Tiger losses on the battlefield are compounded by high-level defections, and a stranglehold on the fundraising and smuggling operations that have sustained them.

Sri Lanka: Clear the Way

Journalists have been barred from covering the war in Sri Lanka's battered northern region, and now aid workers are out of the picture. As government forces aggressively advance toward the Tamil Tiger capital, Kilinochchi, tens of thousands of displaced Tamils have lost the only bulwark between them and two sides with grim human rights records.

Meet Jason Motlagh

Jason Motlagh is a roving freelance multimedia journalist. He has reported from over 30 countries throughout West Africa, the Mideast, Central and South Asia for leading US and international media outlets.

Jason Motlagh at SIU Carbondale 2/16

Jason will share his experiences in reporting international conflicts. He will give lectures to students interested in international journalism/affairs with fresh information on global issues such as conflicts and the current social and political situations in countries he has covered.

Round five: Winning essays

In November 2008, The Pulitzer Center partnered with Helium to produce its fifth round of the Global Issues/Citizen Voices Writing contest, challenging contestents to write on the most pressing international issues of the day. Contestents chose from multiple writing prompts related to international issues and Pulitzer Center reporting projects to sculp their winning essays. Read the winning essays below.