The bloodbath of my family

The following article is based on a speech given to a May 23 rally in Melbourne.

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In a village in the Vanni region of north-east Sri Lanka, the Sri Lankan Army (SLA) demanded the Tamil civilians move into the "safety zone". It demanded they leave all their belongings and walk towards the soldiers with their hands raised high.

Afraid of getting shot, they screamed: "Please don't shoot us!", and walked slowly towards the SLA with the hope of surviving this ordeal. What awaited them was a blood bath.

Among them were my relatives: around 25 members — across three generations, including children — of my immediate family.

Once they became aware of the army's intent, they wept and pleaded for mercy and watched as, one by one, the SLA cold-bloodedly slaughtered every one of them. The last thing each person witnessed before they died was the massacring of their friends and family.

After the massacre, to ensure they had done a thorough job, SLA soldiers used machetes to slice the heads off any civilians who still had a bit of life left.

On the way to uni, my dad — a man who keeps his feeling to himself and never shows any emotion — broke down, tears pouring down his cheeks. At first I thought the tragedy of the 30,000 civilians killed in the last 48 hours had hit him, but the issue was closer to home.

He had received a call from his elder brother in Canada, who said he had received a call from my 17-year-old cousin in Sri Lanka. My cousin was hysterical and told of his struggle as he watched every one of his family members being shot.

Unlike the villagers slaughtered that day, my cousin escaped only because he fainted upon being shot — the SLA machetes missed his head and left cuts on his body.

These civilians were unarmed. They had no food and had been starving for months, spending most of their time running and hiding in bunkers because of the SLA's constant shelling. Village by village, they were forced into "safety zones".

The Tamil civilians were provided with two options: move to the "safety zones" and get shot, or stay in their homes and get shot and bombed.

Tamil civilians, fearing for their safety, chose to stay within the barbed-wire "safety zones". They experienced firsthand the killing, abduction, torture and rape of family and friends by the SLA under Sri Lankan government orders.

The government controls all forms of media, using it for propaganda. It reports lies such as how the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) are using the Tamil civilians against their will as "human shields". If Sinhalese reporters publish the truth about the government, they are made to permanently "disappear".

It's been more than a week since the government proclaimed that the war was "over", so why the continuous massacring of Tamil civilians? Under the pretence of destroying the LTTE, the government has destroyed hundreds of square kilometres and killed thousands upon thousands of Tamil civilians. But now, what is their excuse for the continued slaughtering?

The government's "peace and harmony" includes actions considered war crimes under UN law. In the concentration camps also known as "safety zones", civilians are being raped, tortured and abused in ways too graphic to describe.

Sixty years of oppressing the Tamils, racial discrimination and feeding rest of the world propaganda. And now they proclaim this war is simply over and there will finally be peace in the country?

Then why are they still killing our people?

This war is fuelled by racial discrimination. There will be no peace until the Tamil people of Ceylon have a separate homeland.

The Sri Lankan government wants to wipe out our entire race.

Behind the barbed wires and military security, our brothers, uncles, fathers and grandfathers are being tortured and abused. Our mothers, sisters, aunties and grandmothers are being raped and abused.

The SLA massacred our people, they killed our freedom fighters who fought for the rights and land of Tamils. These fighters lost their lives fighting the Sri Lankan government's oppression.

The world has finally opened its eyes to what is going on in our homeland. The Sri Lankan government's numerous lies and false accusations will no longer hold with the rest of the world.

What is happening to Tamils in Sri Lanka is genocide. The world can no longer ignore it.

United in grief, hurt, pain and sorrow, we have been protesting the genocide of our people.

We must stand strong to save the 400,000 Tamil civilians still in the concentration camps, being tortured and starved to death.

What the government can no longer hide is genocide.