Facebook icon
Twitter icon
e-mail icon

Occupied Jaffna prepares for ‘historic’ visit as Princess Anne lands in Colombo

Princess Anne in Colombo this morning.

The heavily occupied Jaffna peninsula is preparing to receive Princess Anne this week, after the British royal family member landed in Colombo and met with Sri Lankan government officials earlier today.

The princess is visiting the country at the request of the UK Foreign Office and is set to tour Colombo, Kandy, and Jaffna, as well as meet with Sri Lanka’s president Ranil Wickremesinghe.

Andrew Patrick, British High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, said the visit “is the best possible way to mark 75 years of diplomatic relations with Sri Lanka”.

In particular, Patrick highlighted the royal visit to the Tamil homeland. “We think it’s the first visit by a member of the royal family to Jaffna, certainly in many, many years,” he said. “So that will be historic.”

“This is a proud moment for the people of Jaffna,” said Aru Sivananthan of the British Tamil Conservatives. “We hope that Princess Anne will be able to experience first-hand the richness of our Tamil heritage and culture, as well as the resilience of the Tamil people”.

“Coming directly to the Tamil homeland will give the royal family a deeper understanding of the Tamil community’s struggle and hopes for the future,” Sivananthan added.

Sri Lankan soldiers in Jaffna last week, as they prepare for yet another training exercise.

Jaffna remains under the occupation of the Sri Lankan military, with tens of thousands of troops stationed in the region and the North-East one of the most militarised regions in the world. Recent months have seen several Tamils detained under the much-criticised Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), with human rights activists and journalists still subjected to threats and intimidation.

Though the royal visit to Jaffna is being hailed, there is also a degree of caution from many Tamils.

“Whilst closer engagement with Eelam Tamils is always welcome, it cannot be at the expense of legitimising a government that continues to deny Tamil rights,” said Kuyil*, a British Tamil activist who has worked extensively on Sri Lanka, including with British parliamentarians.

“Flying with Sri Lankan Airlines and shaking hands with Ali Sabry on the tarmac – a man who is continuously working to deny accountability for war crimes and genocide – does not send a message of support to the Tamil people,” continued Kuyil*.

Ali Sabry greets Princess Anne in Colombo this morning.

“What we need is a clear message of solidarity from the British establishment,” Kuyil* added. “We need support for justice, truth and accountability.”

“I hope her trip to Jaffna will bring that.”


*Name changed on request due to fears over the safety of Tamil rights activists on the island.

We need your support

Sri Lanka is one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a journalist. Tamil journalists are particularly at threat, with at least 41 media workers known to have been killed by the Sri Lankan state or its paramilitaries during and after the armed conflict.

Despite the risks, our team on the ground remain committed to providing detailed and accurate reporting of developments in the Tamil homeland, across the island and around the world, as well as providing expert analysis and insight from the Tamil point of view

We need your support in keeping our journalism going. Support our work today.

For more ways to donate visit https://donate.tamilguardian.com.