Where do we carry our dead when our soil is stolen and our oceans were turned into impenetrable walls and borders? Where do we take our grief when our kovil bells are forced into silence and our mourners made illegal? Where do we sing our songs of sorrow and resilience when our lips have been sealed? We carry them afar. We carry them in our suitcases across the sea. Five years after the end of war, a new monument for the thousands of dead Tamil civilians and combatants will be inaugurated. The sculpture will consist of a black granite pedestal, a yellow and red-coloured karththigai-poo, as...
The following address was delivered by Tasha Manoranjan, a graduate from Yale Law School, and founder and director of People for Equality and Relief in Lanka (PEARL), at the ' Feminisms, Structural Violence and Transitional Justice Conference ' held at York University, Toronto last month. "Tamil women have suffered disproportionately throughout Sri Lanka’s decades-long ethnic conflict. They have faced both the structural collapse of communities as well as the erosion of societal norms. In response, an increasing number of women joined the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) starting in the 1980s and throughout the years prior to 2009, and became an integral part of the armed resistance against the government.
' Sri Lanka's Secrets: How the Rajapaksa Regime Gets Away with Murder ' by Trevor Grant, is a powerful book, containing many details that will inform, energise and enrage even those who are familiar with Sri Lanka, let alone those who are new to understanding the issues that continue to fester on this island. Trevor Grant’s contribution to the literature on Sri Lanka should be compulsory reading for everyone interested in Sri Lanka. His extensive research, access to individuals willing to talk, and ability to tie individual stories back to a bigger argument make this a very powerful book.
Documentary maker Callum Macrae says Sri Lanka has continued with its “particularly sinister” arrest and intimidation of possible witnesses to a United Nations investigation into mass atrocities in Sri Lanka – including of Tamil disappearances activist Balendran Jayakumari - in a piece in the Huffington Post. Macrae, director of the documenatary 'No Fire Zone', added that whilst the intimidation of witnesses continued, Sri Lanka was “carrying out an ongoing campaign whose aim is nothing less than to permanently change the ethnic make-up of the Tamil areas in the north and east.” He added that “through the use of major strategic land-grabs, systematic sexual violence, political repression, enforced disappearances and wholesale plantation by non-Tamil families and businesses they are assaulting Tamil identity and ethnically re-engineering the entire region.”
Ryan Goodman, Professor of Law and Co-Chair of the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice at New York University School of Law has called on the United States to prosecute Gotabhaya Rajapaksa for war crimes, highlighting various laws that the administration may be able to pursue charges against the Sri Lankan Defence Secretary. Writing in Just Security this week, Goodman stated that Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, a US citizen, could face charges under the War Crimes Act of 1996, as well as coming under investigation from other agencies for immigration fraud and possible tax evasion. Goodman added that the Justice Department could also consider pursuing civil liability, for charges such as “torture committed by a US citizen abroad of foreign nationals” and witness tampering. His piece is the second in a series arising out of a presentation he made to a US Congressional briefing earlier this year. See his full opinion piece here .
'This Land Belongs to the Army’ is a strong documentary about the manner in which the lands in the traditional Tamil homelands of the North-East of the island of Sri Lanka have been appropriated by the government and the military. Made by Indian journalist and filmmaker Maga Tamizh Prabhagaran, the documentary features first-hand testimony from victims and an exclusive discussion with a Sri Lankan Army soldier about the use of chemical and other bombs to support the logic that the land belongs to the Army and that the Tamils can “live in [the] country” only provided they do not “demand undue things”, to use the words of former military commander Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka,. Launched in January this year at the UK Houses of Parliament, the documentary has gone on to be broadcast around the world, as well as being selected for the 7th International Documentaries and Short Film Festival of Kerala taking place next month and the Mediteran Film Festival in Bosnia in August. It was also entered into the International Festival of Local Televisions in Slovakia earlier this month.
Sri Lanka is using the mask of ‘counterterrorism’ to hide its own terror, whilst increasingly becoming a hub for international crime, said award-winning exiled Tamil journalist J.S. Tissainayagam in a piece for Foreign Policy . Tissainayagam, a former a Nieman Fellow at Harvard Univeristy, said that by continuing to paint itself as a victim of terrorism, Sri Lanka “absolves itself of its own inaction if not outright compliance with exporting terrorism”. Whilst Sri Lanka may continue to claim the alleged revival of the LTTE as a reason for receiving international assistance, Tissainayagam argues that meanwhile, with government and military involvement, the island has become a hub for international crime.
The Australian government’s “dangerously close relationship with Sri Lanka” has put it at odds with its allies and leaves it at risk of violating international human rights obligations, said Emily Howie, the director of advocacy and research at the Human Rights Law Centre in a piece published on Tuesday. Stating that Australia has “failed to live up to its own human rights standards” , Howie said the government has become “increasingly unwilling to criticise Sri Lanka on any account” , even though it is “well aware of the serious human rights situation in Sri Lankan and the brutal track record of its partners” . Howie went on to call the increased collaboration between the Sri Lanka and Australia, including Australian opposition to a UN Human Rights Council resolution on Sri Lanka earlier this year, “counterproductive, short-sighted and extremely disappointing”.
International actors who are pushing for reconciliation must respond proactively to the Sri Lankan government's denial of the Tamil people's right to mourn their dead, said exiled Tamil journalist Nirmanusan Balasundaram in a piece published on Monday. Writing for Journalists for Democracy Sri Lanka, Balasundaram states that the Sri Lankan government continues to wage war on the Tamil populace, through acts such as the banning of any memorial events and the isolation of the Tamil diaspora. Despite this, the diaspora continues to build non-violent strategies to counter government moves, noted Balasundaram, adding that international actors who push for reconciliation must respond proactively to the government's actions.
Writing in Just Security this week, Ryan Goodman, a Professor of Law and Co-Chair of the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice at New York university School of Law, member of the Department of State’s Advisory Committee on International Law and member of Council on Foreign Relations argued that the US should prosecute Sri Lankan Defence Secretary, Gotabaya Rajapaksa for war crimes and crimes against humanity. See full opinion below.