Leaping tiger or cowering mouse

In the almost four years that have passed since the end of the armed conflict in Sri Lanka, the Colombo government has worked relentlessly to consolidate Sinhala dominance over the Tamil speaking regions. During this time, India’s tentative policy of appeasement and meek diplomacy in the hopes of crafting a political solution on the island has, in no uncertain terms, failed dismally. This timid approach has only seen Sri Lanka’s brazen defiance swell, with the state continuing to act audaciously in the face of creeping international pressure, safe in the knowledge that India’s placation will...

Why Balachandran had to die

The recent publication of pictures of Balachandran Prabhakaran, hours before his execution, reiterates once again the brutality of Sri Lanka’s armed forces. The youngest son of the LTTE leader Vellupillai Prabhakaran was only one of thousands killed by the Sri Lankan army, but this execution was different from most other killings. The twelve year old was singled out and executed because he was seen as a representation of the Tamil national struggle. In killing him, the Sri Lankan army, was fulfilling its intention of materially destroying the Tamil struggle. Due to Balachandran’s significance...

More time and space is more of the same

The report by the United Nations High Commissioner’s Office, released last week on Sri Lanka, is another welcome voice to the chorus of heavy-weights slamming the state's crimes against the Tamil people in 2009 and its on-going failure to account for them – but it must be more. The atrocities of 2009 are now well-established, unavoidable truths, however, still there has been no hard action. Instead, acquiescing to Sri Lanka's hollow rhetoric, the state is granted time and space to sort itself out. A year after the UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution on Sri Lanka calling for the most...

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.

Pages