Beyond “Funny Boy” Towards Solidarity

Funny Boy is a courageous, groundbreaking novel by Shyam Selvadurai centering a young, Gay Tamil boy in Colombo, [Sri] Lanka/Ilankai during the 1983 massacre of Tamils. As the novel — which had unearthed oft-silenced truths about the lived experiences of Intersex, Trans, and Queer Tamil-speaking communities — makes its way to the big screen, we find ourselves once again working to break through the false narratives around our communities’ experiences.

A Letter to my Eelam Tamils, or, Why you shouldn't watch Funny Boy

Funny Boy was my only hope at being seen as at least two out of the three, an explicitly queer Eelam Tamil whose only mistake was loving. Arjie was me, I am Arjie. Both of us, struggling to come to terms with who we are but also wanting to honour the struggles our families face. Both my parents fled Sri Lanka at the time this film was set in - the Black July pogroms of 1983 - leaving behind the ghosts of family members both murdered and disappeared. But all that is left in me is rage and a thirst for blood that I never knew I had. I have not come out to my parents - my queer existence remains solely online and in the hearts of my friends - but I thought Funny Boy would be the film I would show them when I eventually did. Instead, what I have been left with is an unholy alliance of historical inaccuracy and brutalisation of the Tamil language.

Tamil Resistance Lives on Despite Sri Lanka’s Ban on Maaveerar Naal - J.S. Tissainayagam

Writing in International Policy Digest, J.S. Tissainayagam, highlights the continued defiance of Eelam Tamils, despite attempts by the Sri Lankan government to crackdown on Maaveerar Naal, a day to commemorate fallen Tamil cadres.

'When they try to destroy us, we must rebuild'

On the 27th of November we remember the thousands of Tamil heroes who died fighting for our country. Fighting for our freedom. Fighting for our future. Every year we come together to honour and pay our respects to our fallen soldiers and give our love and support to the families who have lost their loved ones. We remind each other of who we are and why we should be proud to be Tamil through our speeches and cultural performances. We think about the bravery showcased by our heroes who had to say their farewells to their families knowing full well they may never see them again. These courageous heroes put their lives on the line to combat the discrimination, torture and killings inflicted upon the Tamil people by the racist Sri Lankan state. They will go down in history as martyrs inspiring us to carry on the fight for our freedom.

Reaffirming Génocidaires – Myanmar’s elections

The victory of Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) at Myanmar’s elections has been heralded as evidence of support for the country’s “nascent democracy” in defiance of the half-century military dictatorship. However, Suu Kyi’s tainted status as an apologist for the military dictatorship and on-going denial of genocidal violence highlights the illusory choice present in Myanmar. The international community’s continued fawning over the former Nobel Peace Prize winner illustrates a collective and self-serving amnesia over the Rohingya genocide. Though Suu Kyi’s backing of the...

The Politics of Free Speech: Muralitharan and the Sri Lankan State

Sri Lanka’s Tamils are rarely given a fair hearing on the world stage. But on the occasions when their voices do gain some momentum, there will always be some among them who use their privilege and status to dismiss and deride their concerns. From denying the racism and oppression rife within Sri Lanka, to undermining the decades-long struggle of the families of the disappeared, no one has been more willing to do that than Muttiah Muralitharan. Writing on the Muralitharan biopic controversy in online Indian magazine The Wire, Tamil Guardian co-editor Abinaya Nathan outlines how appeals for...

Hope and Trepidation: A Biden administration - Newsletter, 16 November 2020

"Hope and trepidation" is how our editorial this week characterised responses to the prospect of the new Biden-Harris administration in the USA. Indeed whilst Biden has vowed to renew American leadership and champion the spirit of liberty in the face of "the rapid advance of authoritarianism, nationalism, and illiberalism"; past failures of the Obama-Biden administration has tempered Tamil optimism. Sri Lanka's leadership, for its part, has been lukewarm in its response to Biden's electoral victory. As the statement by both Sri Lanka's Prime Minister and President, highlights, they would...

What does a Biden-Harris victory mean for Sri Lanka?

The election of Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States, as well as Kamala Harris as the first Black and Tamil female Vice President, has been touted as a victory for international multilateralism and the “restoration of America’s moral leadership” in the world. In Biden’s manifesto , he announces that within his first year in office he will host a “Global Summit for Democracy” a key aim of which will be “advancing human rights” and “defending against authoritarianism”. In an era in which the international community is backsliding on its commitments to Eelam Tamils and to human rights in Sri Lanka more generally, “moral leadership” is in dire need. However, the question remains will a Biden-Harris administration follow through?

Praise without pressure - Newsletter, 2 November 2020

Sri Lanka’s prime minister and accused war criminal, Mahinda Rajapaksa featured as the ‘Chief Guest’ at a UN virtual event celebrating the 75th anniversary of the global body. Human Rights Watch called the move a “slap in the face for victims of human rights abuses and war crimes.” “Instead of focusing on them, the UN chose to honour one of the people implicated in their suffering, the country’s prime minister, Mahinda Rajapaksa…To add insult to injury, the government has opposed victims’ demands for justice- something the UN strongly supports,” the rights group said. Honouring Rajapaksa at...

'Sri Lanka’s president is amassing personal power'

Sri Lanka’s president Gotabaya Rajapaksa “has made explicit the link he sees between an all-powerful state and the centrality of Buddhism, whose more chauvinist priests he courts,” writes the Economist this week, as it warned that Rajapaksa is “amassing personal power”. “Gotabaya’s message of security and competence, along with jabs at the Muslim and Tamil minorities designed to please the Sinhalese Buddhist majority, propelled him to the presidency,” wrote the Banyan columnist. “A Gotabaya presidency makes a return to the earlier hounding of critics possible,” the column added. “Out of...