Sri Lanka

Was I a Stranger in My Homeland?
By Malavi Sivakanesan
Xlibris, 2013

Malavi Sivakanesan was eight years old in 2003 when her father, a Tamil dentist living in exile in Norway, went back to his homeland in Sri Lanka to set up a mobile dental clinic.

He not only carried out dental work himself, but also trained local people to continue after he left.

At the time, there was a ceasefire between the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

During a recent visit to China, Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa signed an agreement to give China 1200 acres of land in the Trincomalee area on a long term lease for “defence-related development”.

Part of this land is occupied by temples, mosques, schools and houses. The Tamilnet website said about 450 families will lose their homes. Those affected are mainly Tamil-speaking Muslims.

China’s plans for the area are unknown. However, Trincomalee’s renowned natural harbour, situated on the north-east coast of the island of Sri Lanka, was used as a naval base by the British.

Dr Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, executive director of the Centre for Policy Alternatives in Sri Lanka, gave a talk on “The challenge of moving from post-war to post-conflict in Sri Lanka” at a June 21 meeting held in the Darebin Intercultural Centre in Melbourne. The following is a summary of his talk compiled by Michael Cooke.

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The end of the war [between the Sri Lankan state and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in 2009] does not mean the end of conflict. The guns are silent, but the sources of conflict remain, and are being reproduced.

Sri Lanka has confirmed plans for asylum seekers from its persecuted Tamil ethnic minority to be directly handed over by Australia at sea. Although the Australian government has refused to confirm or deny such plans, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said on July 3 that Sri Lanka was “a society at peace” that had made “much progress” on human rights.

That day, the Tamil Refugee Council released a statement explaining the true situation in Sri Lanka that included the ive points below.

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Three Muslims were killed and about 10,000 made homeless after attacks by Sinhalese Buddhist mobs during the week starting June 15.

Violence began in the town of Aluthgama after a rally by the Sinhalese-Buddhist chauvinist group Buddhist Power Force (BBS). It then spread to several other towns.

Muslim-owned shops, houses and vehicles were burnt by the mobs. Police were sometimes present, but did nothing to stop the violence.

The BBS has been engaging in a campaign of anti-Muslim propaganda and violent attacks for several years.

Students and staff at Jaffna University lit candles on May 21 to remember the Tamils who died in May 2009 when the Sri Lankan army carried out a genocidal onslaught in the final days of the island's decades-long civil war.

Tens of thousands of men, women and children were killed as Sri Lankan government forces bombarded them from land, sea and air.

The fifth anniversary of the end Sri Lanka's civil war will be marked on May 18. In 2009, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), who fought for nearly 30 years for an independent Tamil homeland in the north and east of the island, were defeated.

In the final days of the conflict, tens of thousands of Tamil civilians were killed in a horrific aerial, naval and land artillery bombardment carried out by the Sri Lankan armed forces.

The United Nations Human Rights Council adopted a US-sponsored resolution on “Promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka” on March 27.

But the resolution makes no mention of the plight of the Tamil people. The word “Tamil” does not appear once.

The resolution expresses “serious concern at the continuing reports of violations of human rights in Sri Lanka, including sexual and gender-based violence, enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, torture and violations of the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly”.

Addressing the United Nations Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva on March 14, Ananthi Sasitharan said: “We request this assembly calls for an international investigation on genocide, and as an immediate step, to come out with a mechanism to stop the ongoing genocide of Eelam Tamils.”

The Tamil ethnic minority in Sri Lanka is largely based on the island's north and east. With Tamils facing discrimination and violent pogroms, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam waged a decades-long armed struggle for an independent state.

Throughout March, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) will be reviewing the human rights situation in Sri Lanka, among other countries, at it meeting in Geneva.

At last year’s session, the UNHRC passed a resolution calling on the Sri Lankan government to “conduct an independent and credible investigation into allegations of violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law”.

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