State of Ethnocracy

Villages in Sri Lanka were once again in flames this week as the government declared a state of emergency. More than 100 years after the first anti-Muslim riots in 1915, Sinhala mobs led by Buddhist monks have again gone on a rampage, destroying mosques, businesses and homes. A curfew has been put in place and Sri Lankan security presence beefed up. Yet, with reports that security officials have stood idly by, the violence has continued and only after several days shows signs of simmering down. Amidst the calls for calm and restraint, Sri Lanka’s leaders have glaringly failed to call out the...

Fault Line

Sri Lanka’s unity government suffered an electoral blow at local government polls this weekend, just three years after its surprise victory. The Sinhala people renewed their support for the former war-time president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, who asked voters to use the polls as a de-facto referendum on the unity government’s constitutional reform process, which he warned was the gateway to federalism. The Tamil people reaffirmed their support for the Tamil struggle, with Tamil nationalist parties winning the vast majority of seats in the North. Notably however, the Tamil National People’s Front (...

False Promises

Three years after the election victory of Maithripala Sirisena and Ranil Wickremesinghe’s ‘unity government’, the failure of meaningful progress on key issues must be confronted head on if visions for accountability, justice and lasting peace are ever to be achieved. While the government has succeeded in opening up sufficient space to garner international praise, with political space in the South having certainly fared well under the present regime, it has abjectly failed to deliver on commitments made to the Tamil people. As the wave of protests which defined the ‘good-governance’ regime’s...

Resistance and resilience

Today on Maaveerar Naal Tamils around the world gather in memory of those who died fighting Sri Lankan state oppression. Emboldened by the thousands that gathered at destroyed LTTE resting homes (Thuyilum Illams) last year, preparations this year have been on the largest scale since the end of the armed conflict. Tamils across the North-East have braved intimidation from the military and intelligence personnel to clear and decorate Thuyilum Illams. This November has like those past seen a deliberate campaign of fear-mongering by the police, justifying the deployment of extra officers through citing an alleged rise in gang violence, which conveniently seems to rear its head this time each year.

Will impunity reign supreme?

Sri Lanka’s former military commander General Jagath Jayasuriya stands accused of overseeing a litany of crimes during the island’s armed conflict. The charges are grave. The lawyer who filed the case, renowned prosecutor Carlos Castresana Fernandez, said the evidence is more abundant than against Argentine General Jorge Rafael Videla and Chilean General Augusto Pinochet. However, Jayasuriya’s hasty retreat to Sri Lanka, where the government has offered him staunch protection from prosecution, serves as a stark reminder that the island remains a haven of impunity.

A simmering crisis

On Sunday afternoon, Sri Lankan police shot dead a Tamil man in Jaffna. Though the facts around the killing are still not clear, with reports he may have been involved in illegal sand mining, what is known for certain is that Yogarasa Thines was completely unarmed. The police decision to gun him down, not only seems wholly disproportionate, but follows a sadly well-established pattern of Sri Lankan state violence against Tamil civilians, amidst a culture of impunity.

Remembering and rebuilding

Today, Tamils across the globe will collectively light candles, lay flowers and bow heads in memory of those who gave their lives resisting state oppression. Marking the legacy of these heroes has become an integral moment of solidarity for the entire nation. In the Tamil homeland, commemorations have already begun this week, in a defiant series of events that have continued to grow since the armed conflict ended. Sri Lanka’s response to these moves at remembering the lives lost, alongside its continued targeting of Tamils, reveals a failure to tackle the deep-rooted issues of Sinhala nationalism on the island - a stark contrast from the promise of reconciliation when it came into power almost two years ago.

Enduring resistance

Seven years after the armed conflict ended in May 2009 and the height of Tamil genocide by the Sri Lankan state, Tamils this year mark May 18th with the weight of a UN report behind them. Detailing the extent and sheer horror of the atrocities committed, including the indiscriminate shelling of civilian areas, targeting of hospitals, sexual violence, torture and the extrajudicial killing of LTTE cadres, the OHCHR Investigation on Sri Lanka report validates the visceral outcry of the Tamil nation which blockaded diasporic capitals, deploring the ensuing massacre and demanding international intervention, as well as validating the call for justice that has emanated from the diaspora and the North-East ever since. Seven years on however, meaningful change in the circumstances that led to the armed conflict, and the tangible prospect of true justice continues to elude the Tamil people.

Accountability is imperative for peace

Sri Lanka’s new government has managed to make progress in regaining what it believes to be its rightful place in the international community, since taking power in January last year. By engaging foreign governments on issues that have been high on the international community’s agenda, such as accountability and democratic reforms, the Sirisena-government appears to have returned to the international fold to an extent not seen since before the end of the armed conflict. However this renewed positive engagement on trade, reform and, albeit limited, military relations, has not resulted in significant progress on a credible accountability mechanism for mass atrocities.

No turning back

The past months have seen Tamil victims of Sri Lanka’s decades-long conflict meet with ambassadors from across the world. The recent visit to the North-East by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Al Hussein held particular significance. It symbolised the continued international focus on the future of the North-East and renewed hopes that justice and reform is beginning to take shape, to those who continue to suffer from the consequences of repression and military occupation. Mr Hussein’s visit came as victims in the North-East saw both the Sri Lankan president and prime minister...