Powell in Colombo, 2005. This week, former US Secretary of State Colin Powell passed away from COVID-19 related complications, aged 84 years old. Powell will be remembered as being the first African-American US Secretary of State and also for his role in garnering international support for the US invasion of Iraq. We look back on his interactions and remarks on Sri Lanka, the faltering peace process between the Sri Lankan government and Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and Washington’s support for Colombo that empowered the Rajapaksa regime and its military offensive.
As India grapples with a wave of coronavirus infections, Sri Lanka’s cases continue to hit daily highs, sparking fears of deadly infections being met with an intensified authoritarian response from the state.
Photograph: US and Chinese delegations in Alaska this month. Earlier this month the United States and China publicly clashed, capturing global attention as the first face-to-face talks between the two superpowers since the Biden administration came into power, descended into a chaotic opening day. The meeting in Alaska saw US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken exchange sharp words with Yang Jiechi, director of the Central Foreign Affairs Commission Office of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). “As US and Chinese officials landed in Anchorage this week, the temperature was well below freezing...
Writing in The Wire this week, Tamil Guardian features editor Thusiyan Nandakumar said the Indian government must “do more than pay lip service to Tamil concerns”. Describing escalating tensions between India and Sri Lanka, Nandakumar said it “follows a long history of Sri Lankan ‘Indo-phobia’, driven by a protectionist, Sinhala-Buddhist nationalism that has been central to the island’s politics since independence”. In India, as elections loom in Tamil Nadu, “outrage over Sri Lanka’s actions has been growing,” he added. “These are sentiments that Modi will be acutely aware of, having raised them himself during a trip to Tamil Nadu’s capital earlier this month. In an address where he lauded the southern state, he took care to mention the plight of Indian fishermen arrested by Sri Lankan security forces and reaffirmed his commitment to “the welfare and aspirations of our Tamil brothers and sisters in Sri Lanka”. “We are always committed to ensuring that they live with equality, justice, peace and dignity,” he said.”
Writing in The Diplomat this week, Tamil Guardian features editor Thusiyan Nandakumar said the February coup in Myanmar “should serve as a wake-up call when it comes to Sri Lanka”. “As armored vehicles rolled through Myanmar’s capital early February, thousands of miles away, in another Asian state led by fervent Buddhist nationalists and under increasing militarization, a different army accused of genocide also marched troops through the streets,” writes Nandakumar. “Sri Lanka’s former defense secretary turned president, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, was overseeing an oversized military parade on the...
Last week, photographs of Muthiah Theivendran, a Tamil father searching for his forcibly disappeared son, went viral across social media. Muthiah was part of the tens of thousands of Tamil protestors who rallied across the North-East earlier this month, during the Pottuvil to Polikandy demonstration. But it wasn’t the image of him marching alongside the masses that caught the attention of social media users. Instead, it was a photograph of the elderly, bearded gentleman, cutting a desolate figure, as he walked barefoot and alone after the protest had ended. He was still wearing his mask, his red and yellow headband from the protest and still clutching a photograph of his disappeared son.
Sri Lanka’s famed cricketer Muttiah Muralitharan has always been a controversial figure. With tens of thousands around the globe airing their discontent over a Kollywood biopic to be made on the athlete, he has once more been pushed into the spotlight and sparked larger conversations over his legacy, Sri Lankan identity, and how sports and politics on the island are intrinsically entwined. As an athlete, Muralitharan broke several records. His unusual bowling action, which brought him fans as well as detractors, made him an international sensation. He toured the world, shrugging off the ‘chucker’ chants and abuse, to become the most successful bowler in test history. Despite his impressive record, he was never appointed captain of the national team - a fact simply accepted by many as simply part of the immovable everyday racism that all Tamils in Sri Lanka have to endure. Regardless, the fact that he was a Malayaga Tamil on a Sri Lankan team dominated by Sinhalese, won him fans. And though there was a small sense of pride that Muralitharan was the Sri Lankan cricket team’s lead wicket-taker, for many Eelam Tamils his rise to fame was coupled with a deep discomfort.
On Monday the 12th of October, two Tamil Guardian correspondents were assaulted and hospitalised in a brutal attack in Mullaitivu. Our two colleagues, Kanapathipillai Kumanan and Shanmugan Thavaseelan, were working on an important story on illegal deforestation when they were set upon and attacked with iron rods. The vicious attack left them both with injuries that required hospital treatment. Both journalists had the evidence they had gathered deleted and money stolen. This assault of our colleagues is yet another blatant attack on the freedom of the Tamil press. It remains completely unacceptable and must be urgently addressed.
Following months of state-led harassment, Dr Kumaravadivel Guruparan handed in his resignation to the University of Jaffna last week. Not only is this a massive loss to academia on the island, but it is a stark and dangerous marker of the road that Sri Lanka is hurtling down, writes Thusiyan Nandakumar .
By calling on a military accused of egregious rights abuses to lead a public health operation, the Sri Lankan government risks “exacerbating existing ethnic divides, endangering human rights and civil liberties even further, and furthering the violent militarization of the island,” wrote Tamil Guardian's editor-in-chief Thusiyan Nandakumar in the Polis Project this week.