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‘Tamils condemned to choose between two security regimes’

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As both Mahinda Rajapaksa and Ranil Wickremesinghe battle for the seat of Sri Lanka’s prime minister, Tamils on the island are “condemned to choose between two security regimes,” writes Kumaravadivel Guruparan in Scroll.in earlier today.

“Every time we can make a difference, we are asked to support the actor that can guarantee, albeit marginally, our existence,” said Guruparan. “The reductionist reading of the Tamil struggle for self-determination, justice and accountability to a mere existentialist struggle will solidify Sinhala Buddhist ethnocracy in Sri Lanka, slowly but surely.”

Speaking on the failure of the Sri Lankan government, led by Maithripalal Sirisena and Ranil WIckremesinghe, to fulfil promises to Tamils over the last three years, Guruparan says the regime “did nothing to reform the security establishment”.

“Surveillance continues and attacks on activists working with the families of the disappeared are on the rise.”

Pledges of transitional justice were “just smart foreign policy for the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe duo,” he added. “Wickremesinghe knew he would not be implementing the 2015 UN resolution co-sponsored by his government but that he needed it to win over the West and show allegiance to the liberal international order.”

“We were advised by the diplomatic corps, colleagues in Colombo civil society and the Tamil National Alliance, the largest Tamil political party in Parliament, which is cosy with Wickremesinghe, not to “rock the boat” by asking for “too much” reform.”

“But some within the community warned that a close look at Sirisena’s policies showed that these were only cosmetic changes.”

Speaking on the return of Rajapaksa, he adds,

“Just days into the new regime, threats from the Sri Lankan Army intelligence, Criminal Investigation Department and Terrorism Investigation Department towards activists have escalated at an alarming speed.”

“But the Tamil community knows that without structural reforms, some of the changes – including the small space for protest and dissent that emerged with the change of regime in 2015 – will be immediately reversed by a successive regime that comes to power on the strength of a Sinhala Buddhist nationalist backlash. This is exactly what we fear is going to happen if or when Rajapaksa succeeds in proving his majority in Parliament and is confirmed as prime minister, or if and when he wins the next general elections.”

See the full piece here.