As 2020 draws to a close, Tamil Guardian takes a look at some significant moments of the year in photos.
Tamils in the homeland and around the world kicked off the year by celebrating the annual harvest festival of Thai Pongal despite intimidation from Sri Lanka's security forces.
Pongalo Pongal! Tamil festival celebrated in Eelam
Tamils protested and raised black flags across the North-East demanding justice for the disappeared and for perpetrators of abuses to be held accountable as Sri Lanka marked its 72nd Independence Day.
The US State Department announced that the head of Sri Lanka’s army Shavendra Silva was barred from entering the USA due to credible allegations of gross human rights violations. Whilst the travel ban was widely welcomed by Tamils in the North-East and around the world, Sri Lanka continue to hail the accused war criminal as a “hero”. Unsurprisingly, Sri Lanka's president Gotabaya Rajapaksa ignored the criticism and appointed Silva to head a military task force to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.
While the world grappled with the impact of coronavirus, Sri Lanka pardoned Staff Sergeant Sunil Rathnayake, who was sentenced to death over the massacre of eight Tamil civilians, including children. The move was met with international condemnation as military perpetrators of abuse are rarely held to account in Sri Lanka.
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Sri Lanka’s president Gotabaya Rajapaksa said a “sense of pride and joy overwhelms me” marking 11 years since May 2009 whilst Tamils around the world mourned the tens of thousands killed in the genocidal offensive by Sri Lanka’s security forces.
Sri Lanka stepped up the Sinhalisation and colonisation of traditionally Tamil areas with the introduction of new all Sinhala task forces to “preserve the historical heritage of Sri Lanka” under the guise of ‘archaeology’.
Tamil families of the disappeared rallied across the homeland to mark International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances defying court ordered bans and heavy police presence. This was one of many protests this year as the families seek justice and answers to the whereabouts of their loved ones who are missing or were forcibly disappeared.
A hartal was carried out across the homeland, the most widespread protest to take place since Gotabaya came into power, to demonstrate against Colombo's ongoing campaign to ban commemorations of those who gave their lives for Tamil rights. Traders braved intimidation from Sri Lanka's security forces who threatened businesses to stay open.
Tamil Guardian’s Mullaitivu district correspondents were assaulted by four persons in Murippu while they were working on a story on illegal deforestation, highlighting that press freedom continues to be left unprotected on the island.
Jaffna-based photographer Tharmapala Tilaxan captured a series of photographs of a wild herd rummaging through a garbage mound in Amparai, which has posed a serious threat to the well being of the elephant population in the North-East.
As Tamils across the diaspora marked Maaveerar Naal, British Tamils paid tribute to those who gave their lives in the Tamil struggle for liberation by projecting a Karthigaipoo, the national flower of Tamil Eelam, on to Britain’s Houses of Parliament.
Meanwhile in the homeland, Tamils were forced to pay tributes privately in their homes as Sri Lanka ramped up its military intimidation and filed a series of court orders banning public commemoration events. Thwarting any attempts by Tamil to mark the day, Sri Lanka’s security forces increased their deployment, blocked access to thuyilum illams, carried out raids and made some arrests.
Cyclone Burevi hit the North-East causing disruption across the region and displacing thousands.
Tamils and Muslims demonstrated across the North-East against Sri Lanka’s policy of forcibly cremating Muslim bodies who it states to have contracted coronavirus. Ignoring World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines, Sri Lanka has continued to enforce the policy which violates traditional Islamic burial rights.
Christmas was celebrated across the North-East amidst coronavirus restrictions and heighted security presence.
The following day, remembrance events were held across the homeland to commemorate the victims of the catastrophic Boxing Day Tsunami where over 35,000 people lost their lives on December 26, 2004.