Sri Lanka’s hypocrisy on Gaza needs calling out

The violence in Israel and Palestine over the last month has been horrific. Thousands have already been killed and it shows no signs of abating in the days and weeks to come. For many around the world, Eelam Tamils included, it has been difficult to observe. But what has added to the dismay for Tamils in particular, is the hypocritical response by Sri Lankans across the political spectrum to the violence in Gaza.

Dangerous and deadly - Sri Lanka's proposed bills threaten to worsen authoritarianism

Though Sri Lanka’s sweeping aragalaya protest moment that forced its then-president out of office is now over, long-awaited reforms on the island have not taken place. Instead, Colombo’s latest president, the purportedly Western-friendly president Ranil Wickremesinghe, has proceeded to slide the island further down the path of authoritarianism.

Pongal protests show why Sri Lanka’s president can’t be trusted

On the day Sri Lanka’s president attempts to visit the Tamil city of Jaffna, a familiar scene unfolds. Peaceful Tamil demonstrators are swarmed by armed Sri Lankan officers; the military erects roads blocks to cordon off demonstrators; and, the police resort to firing water cannons in an attempt to disperse the Tamil public. None of this comes as a surprise to Eelam Tamils who for years have withstood the brunt of a brutal military occupation. Indeed, despite the tactics of intimidation and violence, Tamils did not shrink from their protests but fought back. In Nallur some chose to meet...

The shattered illusion

Last Tuesday, the Canadian government broke historic ground with the sanctioning of two former Sri Lankan presidents, Gotabaya and Mahinda Rajapaksa. In this act, they shattered any lingering illusion that the crimes of the Sri Lankan military were simply the acts of rank-and-file soldiers. Instead, they were calculated, meticulously planned and executed by the head of Sri Lanka’s wartime administration and his right hand, the acting defense secretary. These were not the actions of rogue soldiers but “gross and systematic violations of human rights”. Thus, strengthening the case that the Rajapaksa must be brought before the Hague. Sri Lanka’s Foreign Ministry has responded, predictably, by lashing out against the Canadian government for its “unilateral action” and of “polarising communities” on the island. The statement of the ministry is a pitiful attempt to prop up a mirage of communal harmony against a background of military occupation and continued human rights violations. For generations, Tamils have had to suffer under the thumb of the Sinhala Buddhist state. Their lives are punctuated by the threat of military violence; the prohibition on memorials; the memories of their loved ones abducted by the state; and the genocide they suffered.

OPINION - A ‘new foundation’ for Sri Lanka’s economy?

Speaking before parliament, Sri Lanka’s President Ranil Wickremesinghe set out a new budget that will see the selling off of state assets, slashes to the public sector, and a reorientation towards an export-driven economy. Whilst Wickremesinghe has described the budget as the “new basis of the economy”; the refusal to discuss Sri Lanka’s growing military expenditure shows greater continuity than rupture from the past. Instead, we see the perpetuation of crony capitalism that will impoverish the poor whilst the island's military grows even further. Key to Wickremesinghe’s speech was his...

COP 27 – A Western sham for autocratic allies

Earlier today, Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe left to attend the 27 th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 27), where he will meet with his Egyptian counterpart, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, alongside a coterie of world leaders. The two rulers are eager to start the convention, viewing the arrangement as a means of distracting from their dire human rights record. Eager to be seen as acting on climate change, Western leaders are bankrolling ‘eco-friendly’ projects run by abusive militaries and are greenwashing autocratic regimes. The conference takes place...

Reviewing the books – Britain’s new chancellor must reconsider bankrolling Sri Lanka’s military

As Britain’s fourth Chancellor in as many months takes up office this week, there will be plenty on his plate. A falling sterling, rising interest rates and a spiralling cost of living crisis will leave Jeremy Hunt facing a difficult task. On his first day on the job, he told reporters of how wide spending cuts will be vital in reeling back government spending and repairing Britain’s economy. One area that will need urgent review is the UK multimillion-pound funding of Sri Lanka.

The British monarch and the colonial legacy of Sri Lanka

Today Britain’s longest-ruling monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, passed away peacefully at her Scottish estate. Across the globe, messages of condolence have poured in to mourn the passage of the British head of state whose reign spanned over 15 Prime Ministers. Elizabeth came to the throne in 1952 amidst a period of rapid decolonisation and bore witness to the demise of the British empire. Yet the process of decolonisation was not seamless. Instead, Britain’s colonial elite refashioned entire countries with the stroke of a pen. For the English liberal imperialists, this project of nation-building...

The growing demand to arrest Gotabaya Rajapksa

In Jaffna, walls are papered with posters calling for the arrest of exiled Sri Lankan president, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, for the crime of genocide. Men and women line up to sign petitions calling on Singapore to deliver justice for the atrocities they suffered and in remembrance of those they lost. Across the globe, they are joined in unison by a diaspora who refuse to forget the thousands of Tamils slaughtered under the command of the former president. Outside Singapore’s embassies Tamils cry out to Singapore to deliver them justice. For as long as Rajapaksa remains on the island without...

‘To Solve Its Economic Crisis, Sri Lanka Must Demilitarize’

Sri Lanka’s violence will not end until “the country ends its war on Tamils and Muslims and drastically scales back its military budget,” writes Tamil Guardian staff writer Ben Andak in Jacobin Magazine this week, as the economic and political crisis on the island continues. “Many are increasingly alarmed by the authoritarian nature of their government and blame President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, taking to the streets and demanding that “Gota Go Home”,” writes Andak. “But the crisis in Sri Lanka cannot be placed solely on one family. Nor will the IMF rescue the island from the root cause of the crisis: the country’s militarized and ethnocratic state.”