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Tamils mark the passing of Sunila Abeysekara, aged 61

Sunila Abeysekara, an internationally respected Sri Lankan human rights activist died on Monday aged 61 from cancer.

An outspoken figure amongst her colleagues in Sri Lanka, she was deeply respected by a number of international figures and Tamils for fearlessly raising the issue of human rights abuses committed against Tamils at the end of the armed conflict.

She eventually fled to live in exile in the Netherlands, after the Sri Lankan state owned media site called her a traitor for her endorsement of the 2012 UN Human Rights Council resolution calling for reconciliation and accountability in Sri Lanka.

She was also an ardent advocate for women's rights in South Asia as well as that of sex workers and homosexuals and transgender people.

In the days following her death on September 9th, a number of Tamil activists and organisations paid tribute to her work.

Father S.J. Emmanuel of the Global Tamil Forum said,

“Tamils lost a rare voice of reason within Sri Lanka today.  Sunila Abeyasekara fought for equality of all of the residents of Sri Lanka. She stood in solidarity with Tamils in our most trying times, and she stood for accountability and justice since the end of the war in 2009.  I have lost a personal friend of 15 years.  She has made this world a better place for all of us. May god bless her soul”.

See here for GTF's tribute.

American Tamil group, USTPAC tweeted:

Writing in Tamil, the poet, R.Cheran paid tribute to her in a poem call "Sundari", recalling his memory of their first meeting. See here for translation in English on JDSLanka.

The Jaffna based Tamil civil society activist, Guruparan Kumaravadivel tweeted:

In a statement, Canadian Tamil Congress (CTC) said it was "deeply saddened by the loss of a passionate, tireless and courageous human rights activist".

"With Sunila Abeysekara’s untimely death, one of the greatest voices for peace on the island of Sri Lanka and beyond, has been lost."

Speaking on behalf of Lawyers Rights Watch Canada, Tamil Canadian human rights activist Gary Anandasangaree made a statement during the UN Human Rights Council's 24th session, commemorating Sunila Abeseykara's work there. See here.

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