Road To Reckoning

The release of the long awaited OHCHR investigation into Sri Lanka (OISL) report last week is a monumental moment for the victims of mass atrocities on the island and all those who continue to work towards seeing justice served. The crucial document, which was mandated by a UN resolution, meticulously outlines the gravity of the crimes perpetrated, and lays down the path towards accountability for them. Clear decisive action must now be taken to follow it.

Promise of Justice

The visit by senior US officials, Nisha Biswal and Tom Malinowski this week, and the US’ endorsement of a domestic process of accountability into mass atrocities committed against the Tamil people during the end of the armed conflict in 2009 has been met with a sense of relief by the Sri Lankan government and was reported triumphantly across the southern English-language Sri Lankan press. However, whilst the government’s pledge to establish a domestic inquiry has been cautiously welcomed by the West, Tamils, who have been waiting for over 6 years to see justice, responded with disappointment...

Litmus Test

With the conclusion of Sri Lanka's parliamentary elections last week, the island has reached an important juncture. In the North-East, the Tamil National Alliance swept the polls on a clear platform of self-determination through federalism and an international mechanism of accountability for the massacres of Tamils. In the Sinhala south, the UNP promise of a future without the corruption of the Mahinda Rajapaksa era, secured enough seats to confine the former president to the opposition benches. The southern electorate has endorsed the UNP’s offer of a commitment to ending nepotism, tackling...

A failure of justice

Reports that the United Nations has begun drawing up plans for the Sri Lankan government to lead a purely domestic mechanism into the mass slaughter of Tamils have widely, and rightly, been met with dismay by the victims. Sri Lanka has shown it cannot effectively deliver justice to those who have suffered – a fact that becomes ever more apparent 6 years since the end of the armed conflict. With elections looming and the release of a much awaited OISL report just weeks away, the international community and UN cannot waver on their obligations to the victims. A comprehensive internationalised...

Struggle for remembrance

Illustration by Keera Ratnam May 18 is etched deep into the conscience of the Tamil nation. On this day Eelam Tamils across the world remember the tens of thousands of Tamil civilians and combatants that were killed in Sri Lanka’s armed conflict. On this day the nation stands together, mourning the lives lost and marking the end of the armed movement - the most significant chapter of the Tamil resistance struggle till then. Yet on this day, while Tamils mourn, the Sinhala south celebrates. The defeat of 'terrorism' by its armed forces who committed mass atrocities against the Tamil people, and the seeming victory of Sinhala nationalism over Tamil nationalism, is marked by jubilation. It is a day in which the divisions on the island are laid bare, even more than usual. Six years on, the evidence of mass atrocities committed by the Sri Lankan state is conclusive, with reports, including by the UN, finding these crimes occurred. This is expected to be reconfirmed by the OISL in September, when it is due to present the findings of its investigation.

The British Tamil ballot

With the United Kingdom approaching the 2015 general election this week, voters throughout the country will once again be carefully considering their choices at the polls. As politicians across the political spectrum begin to bring their campaigning to a close, all be keenly watching how the growing and influential British Tamil community will vote. As recognised by almost all of the competing candidates, the role played by ethnic minority groups in this election will be key, with many constituencies across the country, particularly in London, being heavily contested and currently hanging in...

Demanding demilitarisation

The streets of Jaffna saw historic scenes on Tuesday. The largest demonstration since the massacre on the beaches of Mullivaikal 6 years ago took place, with unanimous backing from Tamil political parties in the North-East, Tamil civil society groups and diaspora organisations. The protest, preceded by a series of demonstrations by Tamils in recent weeks, was a defiant marker of the Tamil people’s unwavering call for justice and the ongoing agony of not knowing where their missing loved ones are. Amid the moving scenes of Tamil mothers gripping photographs of their missing children and...

Awaiting Justice

The UN Human Rights Council’s decision to give the new government 6 months to cooperate with the OHCHR Investigation on Sri Lanka (OISL), in view of gathering more information, and defer the publishing of the UN inquiry into mass atrocities till September, has been met with mixed reactions. Whilst Colombo celebrates what it sees as a diplomatic coup, human rights groups have cautiously welcomed the prospect that more evidence can be found. However, Tamil victims, witnesses and campaigners for justice have expressed deep disappointment that justice, denied to them for so long, is delayed once again. Describing it as a “difficult decision”, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein’s acknowledged the inevitable disappointment of witnesses, but said the decision was based on the promise of “broad cooperation” by the new government and the prospect of “a stronger and more comprehensive report”. Mr Zeid’s unequivocal statement that the deferment was “for one time only” and his personal commitment to ensure its release at the Council’s 30th session is welcome. However, despite the new government’s very basic promises (outlined in the foreign minister’s letter to Mr Zeid), the Tamil people’s deep scepticism that it will deliver on them remains palpable - nowhere more so than in the North-East.

New Crossroad?

The shock defeat of incumbent Mahinda Rajapaksa in Sri Lanka’s presidential elections has given rise, both internationally and in the island, to cautious optimism of a new era of governance that would break from the violent authoritarianism and cronyism of the past decade. Building his campaign around a pledge to end corruption, uphold the rule of law, ensure press freedom and abolish the executive presidency, the unlikely victor, Maithiripala Sirisena, successfully drew the support of a disparate array of opposition parties, including the United National Party (UNP), General Sarath Fonseka's party, the JVP and the JHU, as well as the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and the Sri Lankan Muslim Congress (SLMC). Ongoing cross-overs from the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) have now given him the necessary parliamentary majority to make good on his pledges.

No choice

In less than a month’s time, Sri Lanka will choose a president. In the south of the island the poll is one of the most anticipated in the country’s recent history, with the common opposition candidate Maithripala Sirisena, and his extensive coalition, encompassing the right to the left of Sinhala politicos, widely seen to be a serious challenger to incumbent President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Maithripala’s defection from the SLFP led government, and pledge to abolish the executive presidency and tackle corruption, is being seen by many in the South as an opportunity to effect change on the island and to end Rajapaksa’s reign, which has been characterised by corruption, repression of freedom of expression, nepotism, and an autocratic, despotic leadership style.