EDITORIAL - A strengthening resolve

Today marks 15 years since the peak of the Tamil genocide. Those final weeks were the bloodiest period ever seen in the island’s history and remain one of the greatest atrocities of the 21 st century. The losses suffered are irreplaceable. But amidst the grief, there is a growing determination. As Tamils around the world light lamps and bow their heads to remember their loved ones, they do so knowing the Tamil nation's strength and determination is stronger than almost ever before.

Lessons from Mullivaikkal

As Eelam Tamils prepare to mark 15 years since the Mullivaikkal genocide next week, the international community seems to be grappling with a rise in violence and instability across the globe. From Sudan to Myanmar, and particularly in Gaza, conflicts are raging, and civilians are dying in massive numbers. International humanitarian law continues to be routinely, and in many cases blatantly, violated. As policymakers look at ways to tackle this wave of turmoil, they should reflect and act on the failures from Mullivaikkal.

International justice for all

This month marked the anniversary of the deadly 2019 Easter Sunday attacks, which killed hundreds in hotels and churches across the island. Five years have passed, and there are now more questions than answers - particularly around the role of the Sri Lankan state. What has become increasingly clear, however, is that Sri Lanka remains incapable of transparency, and of delivering justice to the victims and their families. As even the most hardcore proponents of domestic mechanisms have come to realise, just like for the atrocities before them, the Easter Sunday attacks deserve international accountability.

The BJP’s southern gambit

As India, the world’s largest democracy, heads to the polls, much focus has been on the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its campaign in Tamil Nadu – a powerhouse state of more than 70 million Tamils. The North Indian party has been intensely campaigning as it looks to expand southwards into an area where it currently holds no seats. Though projections suggest an increase in vote share, it is unlikely to translate into more than a handful of seats - if any. Few in the region see the party as being able to commit to or foster the Tamil people and their interests. New Delhi’s policy on Sri Lanka and its lack of support for Eelam Tamils just a stone’s throw away, demonstrates exactly why.

Not-so-hidden agenda

Last week, the leader of Sri Lanka’s Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) and National People’s Power (NPP) coalition undertook a tour of the Tamil homeland. Though the party trumped up the visit, Anura Kumara Dissanayake’s speeches lacked substance. His explicit ruling out of political solutions to the decades-old ethnic conflict will have done little to enthuse Tamils to vote for him. Instead, his remarks have done the opposite, reaffirming to many that there is little to differentiate him from the other Sinhala candidates. Dissanayake’s electioneering has fallen flat.

Searching for security

Sri Lanka’s military and police forces launched yet another investigation into what they saw as a dangerous threat last week – a flower decoration created for a school sports competition. The reaction from the security forces to the decorative display was because it was of a particular flower; the red and yellow karthigaipoo that is a symbol of Tamil Eelam. Soldiers visited the school and the management was instructed to attend the police station for questioning, with statements even recorded from the principal. Despite what Sri Lanka claims, this is neither peaceful nor normal.

Sri Lanka’s militarisation stretches to Moscow

Sri Lankan soldiers are currently fighting a fully-fledged war. However, this time it is thousands of miles from the Tamil homeland. Reports emerged this week that ‘hundreds’ of troops are currently serving with the Russian military, as Moscow continues its deadly offensive into Ukraine. Though some are fighting alongside the Ukrainians, it seems the vast majority are travelling to fight with Russia, lured with promises of earning a stable salary and even foreign citizenship. As Sri Lanka’s economic woes continue, its troops have effectively become a mercenary force. A military accused of war crimes is exporting soldiers to fight alongside another military accused of war crimes.

The logic behind Sri Lanka’s arrests

After more than a week of detention, a group of eight Tamils who had been assaulted, arrested and detained without bail finally had a trumped-up case against them dismissed. The Sri Lankan police never did have any basis to hold them, a fact that even the biased court system could not dispute. But this will not deter Sri Lanka’s security forces from doing the same again. Aside from the blatant racism, there is little legal basis behind the continued detainment or interrogation of Tamils. The logic driving it, however, is not to enforce the law. Instead, it is to threaten, intimidate, and quash any flicker of Tamil resistance.

Sinhala Buddhism unleashed

The Sri Lankan state is on a concerted mission. Following a long history of killings and massacres, it is fervently pursuing a more insidious endeavour across the North-East, attempting to erase Eelam Tamil existence. Buddhist monuments are being purposefully constructed, whilst attempts to seize Tamil-owned land have persevered through the military and government’s archaeology and forestry departments. Whilst members of the international community seem to place more interest in embellishing ties with Colombo, the Tamil homeland remains under threat.

Eyes wide shut

As Volker Türk addressed the UN Human Rights Council last week, his message could not have been clearer. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights delivered only an “update on progress” concerning reconciliation and accountability in Sri Lanka. He concluded that little such progress had taken place. Instead, the human rights chief said Sri Lanka had implemented “regressive laws and authoritarian approaches”, whilst the security forces continued to engage in rights abuses. Almost 15 years after the mass atrocities at Mullivaikkal and after decades of continued ethnic conflict, the UN human rights chief echoed what Tamils have repeatedly demanded. Accountability must be delivered and the root causes of the island’s turmoil must be addressed.