Dire times to come - Newsletter, 27 July 2020

As parliamentary elections draw closer, campaigning has heated up across the island. In the North-East, Tamils, including families of the disappeared, have signaled their discontent at the current state of military occupation, repression and impunity. More than eleven years on from the massacres of Mullivaikkal, dozens of men and women have died searching for their abducted loved ones. They, and the Tamil people, remain no closer to justice for the atrocities they endured. Across the homeland, their protests have defiantly continued and their frustration is palpable.

'We could not be silenced' - Tamil protests in London, 1984

“It had been a year since the Black July riots in Sri Lanka. We had protested in front of the Sri Lankan Embassy in London but wanted to try something different. Something bigger. The Sri Lankan cricket team was coming to play their first test match at Lord’s, the home of cricket. It was a big deal. Why don't we put on a protest there? It would be disruptive, yes, but was there a bigger stage for our message?

In solidarity with Guruparan

Following months of state-led harassment, Dr Kumaravadivel Guruparan handed in his resignation to the University of Jaffna last week. Not only is this a massive loss to academia on the island, but it is a stark and dangerous marker of the road that Sri Lanka is hurtling down, writes Thusiyan Nandakumar .

How the 1981 riots shaped my future

This was my father’s lorry that he used for his business, he actually owned two of them and would deliver goods across Sabaragamuwa Province in Sri Lanka. He also owned two shops in Ratnapura. He was doing well in life. In 1981, the anti Tamil violence by Sinhala mobs reached Ratnapura and my father’s lorries and shops were looted and burnt to the ground. People were killed, businesses destroyed and women raped.

Karuppar Koottam controversy: Fodder for Hindu nationalists

For a people whose brethren fought an armed war of liberation against a nation-state for 25 years, the sense of nationalism among the Tamils in India have been remarkably flaccid. The political culture of the state of Tamil Nadu has always been one where nationalism was never far below the surface, but was undermined sedulously by political parties that pretended to accentuate it. A recent incident in the state shines light on how this charade has given way to the rise of malign forces that are hell-bent on eroding the ‘Tamilness’ of the Tamils.

Remembering the Thimpu principles

On the 13 July 1985, the initial draft of the Thimpu principles was read aloud during “peace” negotiations mediated by the Indian government. Whilst the supposed peace negotiations have themselves come under criticism as merely being a ploy by the Sri Lankan government to stall the armed conflict and rearm themselves, this was a defining moment in the Tamil liberation struggle. It was the first time that a coalition of Tamil political organisations had unanimously agreed on a set of basic principles which centred on the right to self-determination.

Black flags in the country of the lion: Unfulfilled self-determination

In November 2019 Sri Lanka again produced headlines in the international media. Gotabhaya Rajapakse won the presidential elections by a landslide. Shortly afterwards, he appointed his brother and former president Mahinda Rajapakse as prime minister. Thus, the Rajapakse brothers are back in power after five years. In May 2009 they had conquered the last territories of the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam). The author outlines what this return means from a Tamil perspective.

Tamil LGBTQ voices face even greater risk in Sri Lanka

As the Sri Lankan state continues to ramp up its militarisation of the North-East, an already marginalised community has now found itself under greater threat. The Tamil LGBTQ community, which has long faced its own intra-community discrimination and struggles for recognition has in recent months come under mounting pressure. A military enforced lockdown in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and looming parliamentary elections has exacerbated existing inequalities.

'Is Sri Lanka Becoming a De Facto Junta?'

Since Gotabaya Rajapaksa took office as President, he “has bent the democracy to its breaking point” as Sri Lanka slides further into military totalitarianism, writes Laxmanan Sanjeev for Foreign Policy .

Repression ramps up - Newsletter, 13 July 2020

As we draw closer to next month’s parliamentary elections, Sri Lanka’s security forces have stepped up their activities in the Tamil North-East. There have been dozens of arrests, including that of a child for allegedly attempting to ‘regroup the LTTE’ , alongside several incidents of state violence. A growing number of checkpoints have been set up with armed soldiers patrolling in greater numbers than before. And as violence continues, the harassment of Tamil journalists has also ramped up. Our Mullaitivu correspondent Shanmugam Thavaseelan was summoned for questioning by the Sri Lankan...