Crisis at Sri Lanka’s Core

Almost four years into the ‘good governance’ government, Sri Lanka’s image of stability and progress unravelled last month in a day. President Sirisena’s sacking of Ranil Wickremesinghe and appointment of Mahinda Rajapaksa followed by the dissolving of parliament and call for fresh elections, ended any semblance of stability. Revealed instead was disregard for the country’s constitution and rule of law, bribery, violence and an entrenched racism which habitually blames Tamils for the state’s woes. Sri Lanka’s latest descent into turmoil highlights once again the simmering crisis of unresolved ethnic conflict that remains at the island’s core. It is amid the island’s political uncertainty that Eelam Tamils look to commemorate Maaveerar Naal (Tamil Remembrance Day) tomorrow.

Veering backwards

At the end of the UN Human Rights Council’s (UNHRC) 39th session, there can be no more illusions as to whether Sri Lanka will deliver for the Tamils. Although the government queued up its customary showpiece to coincide with this session - this time a revamped counter terrorism bill - all evidence points to the reality that accountability, justice and a return to normalcy in the Tamil homeland, including demilitarisation, are not forthcoming. Instead in the South, both governing parties, burned by recent electoral blows, have scrambled to regain their Sinhala nationalist credentials and...

Island of impunity

A stinging new report from the International Truth and Justice Project (ITJP) has underscored the urgent need to clamp down on impunity in Sri Lanka. There is now abundant evidence that troops from the Special Task Force (STF), a foreign trained paramilitary unit, have committed atrocities, complete with testimonies from individuals involved in the crimes. Yet Sri Lanka has taken no action to ensure the perpetrators are brought to justice – a failure that has appallingly led to an officer involved in these crimes to currently be deployed with the United Nations. The report adds to an...

State of Ethnocracy

Villages in Sri Lanka were once again in flames this week as the government declared a state of emergency. More than 100 years after the first anti-Muslim riots in 1915, Sinhala mobs led by Buddhist monks have again gone on a rampage, destroying mosques, businesses and homes. A curfew has been put in place and Sri Lankan security presence beefed up. Yet, with reports that security officials have stood idly by, the violence has continued and only after several days shows signs of simmering down. Amidst the calls for calm and restraint, Sri Lanka’s leaders have glaringly failed to call out the...

Fault Line

Sri Lanka’s unity government suffered an electoral blow at local government polls this weekend, just three years after its surprise victory. The Sinhala people renewed their support for the former war-time president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, who asked voters to use the polls as a de-facto referendum on the unity government’s constitutional reform process, which he warned was the gateway to federalism. The Tamil people reaffirmed their support for the Tamil struggle, with Tamil nationalist parties winning the vast majority of seats in the North. Notably however, the Tamil National People’s Front (...

False Promises

Three years after the election victory of Maithripala Sirisena and Ranil Wickremesinghe’s ‘unity government’, the failure of meaningful progress on key issues must be confronted head on if visions for accountability, justice and lasting peace are ever to be achieved. While the government has succeeded in opening up sufficient space to garner international praise, with political space in the South having certainly fared well under the present regime, it has abjectly failed to deliver on commitments made to the Tamil people. As the wave of protests which defined the ‘good-governance’ regime’s...

Resistance and resilience

Today on Maaveerar Naal Tamils around the world gather in memory of those who died fighting Sri Lankan state oppression. Emboldened by the thousands that gathered at destroyed LTTE resting homes (Thuyilum Illams) last year, preparations this year have been on the largest scale since the end of the armed conflict. Tamils across the North-East have braved intimidation from the military and intelligence personnel to clear and decorate Thuyilum Illams. This November has like those past seen a deliberate campaign of fear-mongering by the police, justifying the deployment of extra officers through citing an alleged rise in gang violence, which conveniently seems to rear its head this time each year.

Will impunity reign supreme?

Sri Lanka’s former military commander General Jagath Jayasuriya stands accused of overseeing a litany of crimes during the island’s armed conflict. The charges are grave. The lawyer who filed the case, renowned prosecutor Carlos Castresana Fernandez, said the evidence is more abundant than against Argentine General Jorge Rafael Videla and Chilean General Augusto Pinochet. However, Jayasuriya’s hasty retreat to Sri Lanka, where the government has offered him staunch protection from prosecution, serves as a stark reminder that the island remains a haven of impunity.

A simmering crisis

On Sunday afternoon, Sri Lankan police shot dead a Tamil man in Jaffna. Though the facts around the killing are still not clear, with reports he may have been involved in illegal sand mining, what is known for certain is that Yogarasa Thines was completely unarmed. The police decision to gun him down, not only seems wholly disproportionate, but follows a sadly well-established pattern of Sri Lankan state violence against Tamil civilians, amidst a culture of impunity.

Remembering and rebuilding

Today, Tamils across the globe will collectively light candles, lay flowers and bow heads in memory of those who gave their lives resisting state oppression. Marking the legacy of these heroes has become an integral moment of solidarity for the entire nation. In the Tamil homeland, commemorations have already begun this week, in a defiant series of events that have continued to grow since the armed conflict ended. Sri Lanka’s response to these moves at remembering the lives lost, alongside its continued targeting of Tamils, reveals a failure to tackle the deep-rooted issues of Sinhala nationalism on the island - a stark contrast from the promise of reconciliation when it came into power almost two years ago.

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