Sri Lanka: Discrimination against Muslims and Tamils is getting worse

Writing in Middle East Eye, Strategic Advisor to People for Equality and Relief in Sri Lanka (PEARL), Mario Arulthas highlights the deterioration of Tamil and Muslim rights in Sri Lanka as President Rajapaksa appears “committed to seizing any opportunity to hurt non-Sinhalese communities”. In his piece, he draws particular attention to Islamophobic legislation proposed to ban Islamic face coverings and close over 1,000 Islamic schools, under “national security” concerns. These moves he notes follow a long history in which the Sri Lankan state has “used laws to marginalise vulnerable...

Echoes of the past in a new phase for the Tamil Struggle: #P2P and beyond

Writing in the Daily FT, Mario Arulthas, strategic advisor for People for Equality and Relief in Lanka (PEARL) and PhD student at SOAS University, reflects on the legacy of the P2P marches and notes that “the fundamental spirit […] echoes that of the first significant post-independence mass-mobilisation in 1956”. The P2P protests which began on 3 February 2021, mobilised thousands of Tamils and Muslims in the North-East as they peacefully marched from Pottuvil in Amparai to Polikandy in Jaffna, two points delineating the furthest ends of the traditional Tamil homeland, in defiance of numerous...

What’s wrong with the TNA?

A few weeks ago, Tamil news cycles were dominated by coverage of an interview given by the Tamil National Alliance Spokesperson M.A. Sumanthiran to a Sinhala media site. During the course of the interview, he made several comments which created controversy and outrage amongst Tamils. The resulting conversation in Sri Lanka’s English-language spaces however failed to discern the actual issues. Instead, commentators opposed to the idea of Tamil nationalism, both Tamil and Sinhala, focused on the “traitorisation” phenomenon in Tamil politics, which predates the war and resulted in the killing of Tamil “moderates” by the LTTE and others. One writer, a relative of Sumanthiran, even spuriously claimed “traitorisation is running amok again,” comparing the current verbal attacks to a time when so-called “traitors” were hung from lamp-posts and assassinated. The trivialisation of this “traitorisation” issue by many throws doubt on whether they were made due to a genuine desire for Tamil introspection about these issues. Rather the intention appeared to be to use it to attack Tamil nationalism and to paint Sumanthiran as a victim of these “Tamil extremists”.

‘Trouble brews in post-election Sri Lanka’

The election of Gotabaya Rajapaksa as President of Sri Lanka “sent shockwaves across the Tamil-dominated northeast - where memories of his brother Mahinda Rajapaksa's brutal presidency, marked by mass atrocities and enforced disappearances, remain fresh,” writes Mario Arulthas, Advocacy Director at People for Equality and Relief in Lanka (PEARL), in a piece for Al Jazeera this week. “Tamils and Tamil-speaking Muslims went to the polls in large numbers, with the vast majority of the northeastern vote going to Premadasa. But it was not enough for his victory. His opponent, Gota, swept the...

Sri Lanka's Tamils are at imminent risk after Rajapaksa's return - PEARL advocacy director

Writing in Al Jazeera , the Advocacy Director for the Washington DC-based People for Equality and Relief in Lanka (PEARL), and a Human Rights Fellow at the Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership, Mario Arulthas, urged the international community to take urgent action to protect Tamils in Sri Lanka following the former president's return to power last week. "The Rajapaksa brothers have been plotting for a political comeback since their downfall in 2015. Tamil activists, who say they always knew Rajapaksas would one day return, are now revisiting their safety protocols, switching to secure messaging apps and sharing emergency contact details," Arulthas writes. Read full article here .

The Failed Promise of Reconciliation in Sri Lanka

As Sri Lanka continues to go back on its promises to investigate and prosecute atrocity crimes, alternative avenues for justice must be found, writes People for Equality and Relief in Lanka (PEARL) Advocacy Director, Mario Arulthas. “Nearly 10 years after the end of the conflict, reconciliation and a sustainable peace are far off – contrary to what President Sirisena claimed in his speech at the UNGA,” wrote Arulthas in The Diplomat this week. “Sri Lanka has repeatedly gone back on its promises to investigate and prosecute atrocity crimes,” he said, adding “the international community cannot...

Suspects in ex-LTTE policeman murder freed

Four suspects in the killing of a former member of the Tamil Eelam Police Department were found innocent and freed by a judge in Mannar, reported the Uthayan . A total of seven suspects were arrested after the murder of 34 year old Naguleshwaran Krishnasuwamy, who was killed in his own backyard by unidentified gunmen in November. His wife, Kavitha, said her husband had received threats in the days prior to the assassination.

Thousands at funeral of killed Kachin teachers

The funeral of two female Kachin teachers, suspected to have been raped and killed by Burmese soldiers, was held today in Myitkyina, the capital of Kachin state in northern Myanmar. Maran Lu Ra and Tangbau Khawn Nan Tsin, aged 20 and 21, were in a remote village in Shan state, to teach children on behalf of the Kachin Baptist Convention (KCB), the group's spokesperson Lama Yaw told AFP news agency. “The victims are dead and can’t point out who did it to them. But everyone in Myanmar -- not only the Kachin people -- knows the truth,” Lama Yawsaid, referring to KBC claims that soldiers were responsible. Villagers say they were raped and beaten, and that boot prints were found outside their shared home. Activists and local media say Burmese troops were stationed near the village.

UN calls for Myanmar condemnation of 969 leader's sexist rant

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al Hussain called on Myanmar’s government to condemn Buddhist monk Ashin Wirathu for the sexist insults directed at South Korea’s envoy to the country, Yanghee Lee, who had highlighted anti-Muslim sentiment. Mr Wirathu of the notorious Buddhist nationalist 969 movement was slammed by Mr Zeid, who called the language employed by the monk as “sexist” and “incitement to hatred”. "I call on religious and political leaders in Myanmar to unequivocally condemn all forms of incitement to hatred including this abhorrent public personal attack," Mr Zeid said in a statement. Ms Lee had said the country’s Rohingya Muslims faced discrimination and criticised draft legislation, proposed by a coalition of nationalist Buddhist monks, which includes restrictions on interfaith marriage and religious conversions. Last week the UN passed a resolution, calling on Myanmar to grant the Rohingya citizenship. The monk criticised UN “interference” and attacked Ms Lee at a rally last Friday.

Tamils demand back land seized by Sri Lankan military in Jaffna

Tamils protest outside the army camp in Aanaikkoddai (Photo: Tamil Guardian) Tamil land owners protested outside a Sri Lankan army camp in Jaffna, demanding that the land on which the camp was built be returned to them immediately. Residents said the army camp, situated in Aanaikkoddai within the Jaffna peninsula, was built on land seized by the military. Earlier this month, the government issued a gazette notification, declaring that the camp of the army regiment’s 11th Battalion will be made permanent on this day, denying the Tamil families any possibility of return to the land and houses they own. Due to objections by the land owners the government had temporarily halted the permanent transfer of the land to the military, however refused to return it to its rightful owners, said protest organisers, the Tamil National People’s Front (TNPF).