The writing on the wall

The Sri Lankan president's public rejection of Tamil autonomy or devolution of powers during his Independence Day address this week, should come as no surprise. Despite the international community's periodic calls on Sri Lanka not to squander its military victory, but use it to negotiate a lasting political settlement, the Sri Lankan state has stubbornly continued to do quite the reverse. Although some international observers remain bewildered by Sri Lanka's stance, in truth key political figures of successive Sri Lankan governments have never shied away from making their fundamental...

Avenues for action: the UNHRC and beyond

As the March session of the United Nations Human Rights Council approaches, and nearly a year after the resolution at the 19th session called on Sri Lanka to take credible action to ‘ensure justice, equity, accountability and reconciliation’, it is clear that the island’s ethnic crisis has only deepened. The 2012 resolution relied on Sri Lanka acting responsibly and was therefore, arguably, bound to fail. Sri Lanka’s hostile reaction to the resolution and subsequent insincerity in addressing the issues it raised are not surprising. It is time for the international community to take decisive...

Asylum policies are extensions of Sri Lanka’s repression

During a recent high profile visit to Colombo, Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr announced that his country would be pumping millions of dollars into Sri Lanka, as part of a concerted effort to stem the ever rising flow of asylum seekers, comprising almost entirely of Tamils, from the island. Measures included providing surveillance training and equipment for the Sri Lankan Navy and intelligence services. By reducing the ‘problem’ to one of insufficient surveillance and security, these measures ignore the pervasive and deepening conditions of repression that compel increasingly desperate...

Ruling the Law

Recent weeks have seen much comment and criticism of the impeachment of Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake by a Parliamentary Select Committee appointed by the President's brother Chamal Rajapaksa. The vocal criticism was followed by celebration on Monday when it was quashed by an Appeals Court. Whilst the incident appears to have inspired many Sri Lankans to rally against it, to the Tamils in the North-East the entire saga pales into irrelevancy. The heightened drama surrounding it, only serves to highlight the long-standing absence of meaningful judicial process and rule of law available...

Tamil activism and the international community’s responsibility to protect

As Sri Lanka’s violent repression of Tamil civil society intensifies, the international community must clearly and unequivocally extend concern, protection and legitimacy to all Tamil activists – including those who demand self determination.

Oppression and resistance; Sri Lanka's unchanging reality

Last month in the dormitories of Jaffna University, a group of students humbly lit candles in a modest yet daring act of remembrance. The brutal crackdown that followed and the ongoing state of heightened terror across the Tamil homeland, is yet another indication of the enduring ethnic conflict that has driven the island’s politics and will also shape the politics to come. The events surrounding the Jaffna University students’ remembrance present a microcosm of the ground realities; a paranoid ethnocracy attempting to forcibly establish Sinhala-Buddhist order upon an unyielding Tamil nation...

Militarisation: a state of terror

The Sri Lankan state has relentlessly continued to consolidate its militarisation of the North-East since the armed conflict drew to a close in 2009. Regardless of international efforts at closed door diplomacy and the occasional public wrist slapping, the Sri Lankan state has shown no signs of relenting. The burgeoning military budget, the grabbing of civilian lands for military housing and establishments, and the military’s saturating presence within everyday civilian life has continued; not only contrary to well-trodden paths of post-conflict reconciliation, but in brazen defiance of international criticism. The significance of militarisation of the North-East however, goes beyond these measurable markers and tangible concerns. The end of the armed conflict has not proved to be a window of opportunity, to ensure equal rights for all citizens or create a ‘terrorism’-free liberal democracy. Instead it has been exploited by the Sri Lankan state as an opportunity to orchestrate the unhindered expansion of Sinhala Buddhist hegemony. Delirious with victory, the state, armed with its military, has embarked on an uncompromising goal of asserting a Sinhala Buddhist identity throughout the island and ruthlessly erasing any expression of an Eelam Tamil one.

Remembering sacrifice

Today, the 27th November, in every corner of the world, Eelam Tamils join together in an act of remembrance. From a Gloriosa lily proudly affixed onto a coat lapel, to the collective events of remembrance held in capitals worldwide, to the daring posters reported in the North-East, today the nation remembers. For the Eelam nation, there are of course many days of national remembrance and reflection across the year. After all, it should come as no surprise that a nation ravaged by persecution, genocide and armed conflict, is in a state of frequent grief and mourning. Yet today - Maaveerar Naal - is set apart from all other occasions. It remembers not the finality of death, but the solemnity of sacrifice.

No more excuses, it is time to act

Now that Sri Lanka's farcical attempt at accountability - the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) report - has finally been published, there can be no more excuses. The LLRC has for too long been the international community's fig leaf, used by governments across the world, including the US and the UK, to stall calls for accountability and a credible investigation into allegations of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. The commission's inquiry, its findings and its recommendations serve only to further vindicate the overwhelming justification for an independent,...

Just Desserts

The resignation of British Defence Secretary Liam Fox following revelations about his unauthorised and dubious foreign policy-related activities will be welcomed by all those committed to a just and lasting peace in Sri Lanka. However the serious questions raised – once again – by last week’s media reports about Dr. Fox’s activities must also be answered. Dr. Fox resigned because, in his own words, “I mistakenly allowed the distinction between my personal interest and my government activities to become blurred.” Nowhere is this more true than in the case of Sri Lanka.