Sri Lanka: Tamil resistance continues despite repression

November 15, 2021
Tamil protests halt Sri Lankan land grab attempt in Jaffna. Image:

A recent report by the International Truth and Justice Project (ITJP), highlights cases of abduction, torture and rape of Tamils, for participating in protests and election campaigns against the Sri Lankan government.

The report contains testimonies from 15 Tamils who had been abducted, detained and tortured by Sri Lankan security forces, since Gotabaya Rajapaksa took office as Sri Lanka's president in 2019. They were "brutally beaten in detention, burned with hot metal rods, asphyxiated with petrol-soaked polythene bags, half drowned and then gang raped by the security forces".

The witnesses have now fled the island and live in Britain. 

The ITJP noted that a “new generation of Tamils” are being victimised for exercising their constitutional rights. Most of the victims are young.

None of the victims were formally charged or informed of the reasons for their detention, but the ITJP believes that their participation in peaceful protests and in electioneering against the Rajapaksa regime are amongst the reasons for their detention. 

Earlier this year, thousands of Tamils and Muslims participated in the “Pottuvil to Polikandy” march, calling on the international community to heed Tamil calls for justice and accountability. Sri Lankan security forces were heavily deployed across the North-East in attempt to disrupt the march. A series of court orders were also issued, calling for the protest to be stopped. However, the protestors defiantly continued their march. 

Following the five-day march, several Tamil politicians and campaigners were visited by Sri Lanka's Criminal Investigation Department and questioned over their participation. Other less well known activists were detained and tortured. 

Tamils have also been arrested for social media posts. Events planned to commemorate those who died in the armed struggle for an independent Tamil homeland have been suppressed. 

Despite the repression, Tamils continue to fight for their rights through non-violent protest actions.

For example, Tamils have been protesting over the seizure of Tamil land for military bases. 

Tamil politicians joined local people in Mandaithivu and Pungudutivu on November 8, as they halted attempts by government officials from the survey department to acquire land for use by the navy.

According to the Tamil Guardian, there are increased attempts by the Sri Lankan state to expand its reach and occupy even more land across the Tamil homeland.

“Despite more than 12 years since the end of the armed conflict, in which tens of thousands of Tamils were killed, the Sri Lankan military continues to occupy vast swathes of land across the North-East.”

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