Autocrats Ascend - Newsletter, 24 August 2020

In his first address to Parliament since the parliamentary elections, Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa laid out his vision of the island which emphasised the need to “protect and nurture the Buddha Sasana” but failed to make mention of the plight of Tamils and Muslims. In the past, Sri Lankan leaders have made token remarks towards other peoples on the island, however, the Rajapaksa administration, having won on a staunchly Sinhala Buddhist nationalist ticket, no longer sees the need for such trivialities. Instead, he emphasised the need to repeal the 19th Amendment, which restrained...

Tamils have not abandoned human rights for economic development – JS. Tissainayagam

Writing for the diplomat Tamil journalist, J.S Tissainayagam, rebukes the claim that Tamil’s are “moving away from regional Tamil-nationalist parties – focused on ethnic rights, wartime accountability, and power-sharing” and towards groups focused on “economic development”. Instead, he argues that contrary to this narrative, Tamil demands for rights and justice remains just as widespread and resolute as ever. Tamil politics since the end of the armed conflict In contextualising the post-war political landscape, Tissainayagam, notes that despite more than a decade passing since the end of the...

'Chauvinist alliance wins election'

In the recent Sri Lankan Parliamentary election “Rajapaksa appealed to Sinhalese chauvinism, boasting of his role in crushing the Tamil Independence movement” Chris Slee wrote for the Green Left. “The majority of Sri Lankans are Sinhalese Buddhists. The Rajapaksa brothers have appealed to Sinhalese-Buddhist chauvinism, directing hostility against ethnic and religious minorities. In recent years Muslims have been a target. Last year a number of terrorist attacks by a small Muslim group linked to ISIS provided a pretext for increased hostility toward Muslims.” Lee writes. “Several Tamil parties...

'Consolidating control' - The Hindu

The unprecedented "Opposition disarray" helped the Rajapaksas consolidate their hold on power in the recent parliamentary elections, The Hindu wrote in it's editorial earlier this month. "The SLPP, founded four years ago by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, has won 145 seats, and with the help of minorty allies, will reach the coveted 150 mark in a House of 225. The party may now have the numbers to amend the Constitution and undo the two-term limit and other curbs on presidential powers imposed by the 19th Amendment passed by a predecessor regime," it noted. "The reasons behind this...

'Rajapaksa, in a Landslide'

Writing in Foreign Policy magazine, Professor Neil DeVotta warns of “Rajapaksa rule well into the future” and possible anti-Muslim pogroms “in the days ahead unless the international community bands together to protect them”. Calling Sri Lanka’s recently elected prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and president Gotabaya Rajapaksa “Sinhalese Buddhist supremacists”, DeVotta states that under their previous tenure “radical Sinhalese Buddhist nationalists enjoyed free rein to inveigh against minorities, with Muslims especially targeted following the end of the civil war”. Militarisation Referring to...

Sri Lanka's election results show troubling times ahead - Newsletter, 10 August 2020

Sri Lanka’s parliamentary elections last week delivered a bleak, but unsurprising, result with the Rajapaksas gaining a majority that consolidates their hold on the state. With their allies, they now have a two-thirds majority in parliament, granting them the power to make constitutional changes that they have long campaigned on. The 19th Amendment, which placed limits on the executive presidency, looks set to be abolished and the modicum of devolution that was pledged through the 13th Amendment now appears under threat. In the North-East, Tamil votes went in a different direction than they...

‘Sri Lanka’s Southern Political Parties Need the LTTE at Election Time’ - J.S. Tissainayagam

Writing on the repeated fear-mongering over a revival of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), J.S Tissainayagam notes how the spectre of the LTTE has been used as a “foil to win elections and justify lapses in good governance”; as well as, a means of justifying the “justify continued coercion of the Tamils”; and, to attract “foreign military assistance for counterterrorism”. Regrouping the LTTE Commenting on the current elections, Tissainayagam highlights four separate moves the Sri Lankan President has made to raise concerns over the LTTE regrouping. He notes that these stories are...

Sri Lanka’s State Responsibility for Historical and Recent Tamil Genocides

Reports of genocide committed by the Sri Lankan state against Eelam Tamils need to be “addressed and recognized” wrote Tasha Manoranjan and Meruba Sivaselvachandran in Opinio Juris last week, 37 years after the Black July pogroms that killed thousands of Tamils. “Eelam Tamils have suffered at least two genocides: Black July of 1983 and the Mullivaikkal Massacre of 2009," said the piece. “It is important that these allegations of genocide are addressed and recognized. And the Tamil people, like the Rohingya people, require justice for the mass atrocities against them, over time, by the state...

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?

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