TG View: A step in the right direction for Peel

On Wednesday evening, the Peel District School Board in Canada made a welcome reversal. It retracted a tweet that was sent out ‘clarifying’ their position on the Tamil genocide, following pressure from Sri Lanka’s foreign office. Peel has now acknowledged that it was wrong to do so and accepted that its actions “resulted in pain to Tamil students, their families and the Tamil staff,” whilst pledging to recognise and support efforts around Tamil genocide education going forward. The move is a promising gesture and marks a victory for activists in Canada, in the Tamil homeland and around the world in their fight for accountability and justice.

Sri Lanka, statues and solidarity

Once upon a time, a common man made history. Nelson Mandela, alongside the thousands of Black South Africans that fought against Apartheid by his side, changed the course of history. In fact, he built the foundation upon which many liberation struggles around the world stand on today. Without this man’s perseverance and determination, South Africa and the world could be very different as we know it. However, he did not make history for his name to be tarnished as an accompaniment to modern-day politics and oppression. This is in the context of reports emerging last month that a statue of Nelson Mandela will be hoisted in Sri Lanka. The statue of a freedom fighter in a land where Tamils still have no freedom.

What’s wrong with the TNA?

A few weeks ago, Tamil news cycles were dominated by coverage of an interview given by the Tamil National Alliance Spokesperson M.A. Sumanthiran to a Sinhala media site. During the course of the interview, he made several comments which created controversy and outrage amongst Tamils. The resulting conversation in Sri Lanka’s English-language spaces however failed to discern the actual issues. Instead, commentators opposed to the idea of Tamil nationalism, both Tamil and Sinhala, focused on the “traitorisation” phenomenon in Tamil politics, which predates the war and resulted in the killing of Tamil “moderates” by the LTTE and others. One writer, a relative of Sumanthiran, even spuriously claimed “traitorisation is running amok again,” comparing the current verbal attacks to a time when so-called “traitors” were hung from lamp-posts and assassinated. The trivialisation of this “traitorisation” issue by many throws doubt on whether they were made due to a genuine desire for Tamil introspection about these issues. Rather the intention appeared to be to use it to attack Tamil nationalism and to paint Sumanthiran as a victim of these “Tamil extremists”.

Sri Lanka’s COVID-19 response is proof that demonisation of minorities has been normalised

Writing in The Wire India, Harini Amarasuriya, highlights how Sri Lanka’s response to the coronavirus demonises minority communities and imposes a demand to submit to “the benevolent control of the majority community”. Rising Islamophobia Amarasuriya writes that since 2009, there has been rising Islamophobia in Sri Lanka which has resulted in pogroms against Muslims. These acts of ethnic and religious violence could not have “taken place without the complicity of the political party in power – at the very least, by turning a blind eye or delaying taking action”. Sri Lankan officials have...

50 years of Rajapaksa – A collective failure

This week has seen a series of political leaders congratulate Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister, alleged war criminal Mahinda Rajapaksa, for his 50 years in parliament. His political career is marked by the entrenchment of a corrupt military establishment; virulent Sinhala Buddhist nationalism; and a genocidal campaign against the Tamil people. Yet, these feats are not solely due to one man’s political aspiration but rather the results of an entire system which has consistently failed the Tamil people. The international community turned a blind eye to the genocide at Mullivaikkal; Sri Lankan parties...

‘Sri Lanka’s Other COVID-19 Crisis: Is Parliamentary Democracy at Risk?’

“President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s government appears headed for a constitutional crisis that could lastingly damage Sri Lanka’s political institutions and aggravate conflict risks,” writes Alan Keenan, a senior consultant on Sri Lanka at the International Crisis Group. “The Sri Lankan government has declared its intention to rule without parliamentary oversight for the first time in the country’s modern history, potentially sparking a serious constitutional crisis. Elected in November and without a majority in parliament, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa seized his earliest opportunity to dissolve the legislature on 2 March and schedule a general election for 25 April. As the COVID-19 emergency grew serious in late March, the National Elections Commission (NEC) delayed the vote indefinitely.” “With the constitution stating that parliament can remain dissolved for only three months pending fresh elections, Sri Lanka will head into dangerously uncharted territory unless the president or courts take decisive action before the deadline expires on 2 June.”

When memory outlives

Mirusha Yogarajah writes on Toronto’s Tamil community for Briarpatch Magazine. _____ Tamil people created, own, and manage the businesses woven tightly into the fabric of Toronto – Babu Take-Out & Catering, the famous Spiceland franchise – but we are also the workers stocking shelves, sweeping the aisles, weighing and cutting fish, and packing up hundreds of iddiyappams. The restaurant industry was one of the few industries in which Tamil migrants were initially able to find work – albeit often underpaid and exploitative work. Today, we are the working class as well as, increasingly, Toronto’s elite – but behind the wealth of the Tamil elite lies the fact that most of us arrived in Toronto fleeing genocide. Where once we sought shelter in the Nallur Kandaswamy temple in Jaffna, we fled to seek safety at the crosswalks of McCowan and Finch.

"Sri Lanka’s Tamils trapped between war and waste"

2015: Protest in Chunnakam, Jaffna against the Uthuru Janani thermal power plant for dumping waste oil and grease deposits in the local well. Sri Lanka’s ecology and biodiversity are threatened by the continued repression of Eelam Tamils. To protect the land, international mechanisms are needed “to ensure accountability and help pave the way for egalitarianism and self-determination”. The legacy of the war Commenting on the still-lasting impacts of the brutal Sri Lankan war, Visvajit Sriramrajan, notes that many Tamil refugees who had sough asylum abroad have returned to see their land seized...

Mullivaikkal survivor, 5 years old at the time, reflects on painful childhood memories

A 16 year old Mullivaikkal survivor, who was just 5 years old at the time of the massacres, shared their experiences of the genocide on the eleventh anniversary of the atrocities. Pakaloan Vamanan now lives in France.

'May 17 2009, I saw my dad for the last time' - Teenage Mullivaikkal survivor

Kalaiyarasi Kanagalingam, a now 15-year-old survivor of Mullivaikkal, spoke about the last memory of her father and the importance of Tamil genocide recognition at a conference hosted at the Houses of Parliament in October 2019. May 17th, 2009 was the last time she saw her father. We have reproduced her full speech to the conference below. "Hello, my name is Kalaiyarasi Kanagalingam, I am 14 years old and I go to Burntwood High School in Wandsworth. I'm here today to speak about how my life has been affected by what happened in 2009. 2009 was the most memorable and painful year of my life...