I don’t call myself Buddhist any more. There was a long time when I still automatically used it as an identifier in forms and affidavits, but even that has passed many years ago. But because Buddhism is racialized in Sri Lanka, it’s also impossible to entirely escape it: regardless of what you believe or don’t believe, practice or don’t, Buddhist privilege is inescapable if you have a Sinhala name or had a Buddhist childhood. For example, I know the ඉතිපිසෝ, which is a short prayer of praise for the Buddha, now most notable for its use as a shibboleth to distinguish Tamil speakers from Sinhala speakers during the 1983 pogrom. Once you know things like that, I feel, this prayer—and all the other Pali prayers—become unspeakable. They stop meaning what they say; they stop meaning what they might have once meant. Now they mean something else.

A rush to farm organically has plunged Sri Lanka’s economy into crisis

Photo of army-seized agricultural land in Jaffna Reporting on Sri Lanka's ban on chemical fertilisers, the Economist highlights the dire economic straits the country finds itself in with inflation near 6% and food prices rise more than 11%. Whilst the Rajapaksa regime had initially planned to implement the transition to organic fertilisers over a ten year period, the announcement of a sudden total ban caught many farmers off guard. Sri Lanka's Planter's Association predicts a massive fall in tea production and export revenue of around 25% across the next six months and thereafter nearly a...

Alive from the abyss: continuing abductions and torture in Sri Lanka

A new generation of young Tamil men are being picked up and tortured by the security forces in the north and east for exercising their legitimate peaceful political rights. As Frances Harrison writes, parents, teachers, politicians and community organisers need to be more aware of the risks.

Obituary - Mangala Samaraweera

Mangala Samaraweera, a formidable figure in Sri Lankan politics who previously held several ministerial posts, passed away from COVID-19 at a private hospital in Colombo this week. News of his death was met with international tributes from senior political figures worldwide , including the United States, UK, Europe and India. Many of those messages mourned the loss of a man that came to espouse the type of liberal Sri Lankan politics that reverberated with those powers. His passing will therefore be a particular blow to longstanding Western efforts that seek active partners amongst the Sinhala Buddhist polity for the liberal order project.

India looks to turn Kashmir into Hindu-majority

Writing in Foreign Policy magazine, Kaisar Andrabi and Zubair Amin warn against India’s attempts to manipulate the demographics and electoral strength of Kashmir, the only Muslim majority region in India.

Rajapaksa dynasty is not as secure as it appears – The Economist

Following the appointment of Basil Rajapaksa to the cabinet, the Economist highlights growing unrest throughout Sri Lanka including farmers, teachers, war victims, and civil society actors. In light of this growing unrest, the Economist writes that “the Rajapaksas’ suffocating hold on power look like a weakness”.

Perspective: The Family Man 2 Controversy

‘The Family Man 2’, an Indian web series, attracted a great deal of criticism from Tamils across the world. Its semi-fictional portrayal of a rebel group based in Sri Lanka, undoubtedly modelled on the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), angered many Tamils because it was seen as demonising the Tamil liberation struggle. This outpouring of collective indignation speaks to a resurgence Tamil nationalist politics, not just in Tamil Eelam and the diaspora, but also across Tamil Nadu. Social media platforms served as an effective ground for expressions of resentment with the web series and...

Mounting Pressure - Newsletter, 14 June 2021

Last week, European Parliament passed a ground-breaking resolution on Sri Lanka decrying the deterioration of human rights and calling on the European Council to consider repeal of the GSP+ trading agreement and for targeted sanctions on Sri Lankan officials accused of war crimes. This follows a court ruling in Britain which maintained that peaceful Tamil activists faced the threat of ill-treatment in Sri Lanka, which the court described as an “authoritarian regime”. That same month, marking 12 years since the Mullaivaikkal massacre, US Congresswoman Deborah Ross introduced a bipartisan...

Fascism, Australian style

Writing in the Red Flag, Ben Hillier, highlights the plight of the Biloela Tamil refugee family who have been detained for over three years in Australia as well thousand of Tamil refugees who face the threat of deportation and torture in Sri Lanka. Government complicity Australian government gifting Sri Lanka aerial drones Hiller’s piece notes the draconian immigration policies adopted by successive Australian governments in response the arrival of Tamil refugees. Between 2009 and 2013, over 4,000 Tamil refugees sought asylum in Australia but in 2012 the Labour government instituted “enhanced...

A Surveillance State - Newsletter, 1 June 2020

Today marks 40 years since Sri Lankan security forces and state-sponsored Sinhala mobs set ablaze the Jaffna Public Library , the crucible of Tamil literature and heritage, which housed over 95,000 irreplaceable Tamil palm leaves, books and manuscripts. The burning has been etched in the hearts of Eelam Tamils as an act of genocide. Although 40 years have passed, no one has been held accountable for this painful unbearable loss of the Tamil nation. Meanwhile, Sri Lanka’s security forces continue to escalate their militarisation of the North-East. Last week, the Sri Lankan Air Force was seen...