Not All Detainees Are Equal: Class, Ethnicity and the Prevention of Terrorism Act

The Sri Lankan state portrays those arrested for allegedly committing terror offences, to date mainly Tamils, and after the Easter attacks also Muslims, as guilty from the point of arrest, writes Ambika Satkunananthan in GroundViews. In an article dissecting the impact of ethnicity and class on Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) detainees, the former commissioner at the Human Rights Commission (HRCSL) describes how “historically, Tamils, dissenters, those critical of the government of the time, and anyone calling for accountability for human rights violations have been labelled LTTE or...

Against the Memory Police: War and Remembrance in Sri Lanka

The destruction of the Mullivaikkal monument at the University of Jaffna on January 8 is an erasure of collective memory, writes Thamil Venthan Ananthavinayagan in The Diplomat. Ananthavinayagan, a lecturer in public international law writes: The Sri Lankan government is forcing upon the international community an erasure of memory while asserting and maintaining its own narrative of majoritarian victory. The existence of memory for the minority poses, in the view of the government, the possibility of a revival of terrorism. It is also about dominating public discourse which should cater...

Coronavirus took my Appa from my life

Dr Suthan Ulakanathan tells the story of how his family has dealt with grief in a time of chaos. It’s Easter Sunday, 12 April 2020, and my mobile phone rings at 11:55 PM. It is the hospital's intensive care doctor who tells me my father has deteriorated in the last few hours. He asks if I want to come and see him should he get worse. I immediately say yes as I hadn’t seen him in person for several weeks and I missed him a lot. I get my clothes ready and sit in bed with my wife, tears running down my cheeks, as I am expecting the worst news I would ever receive in my life. At 1:30 AM I get the phone call I’ve been dreading. Appa had passed away.

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...