Dumping Salt Over Sri Lanka’s War Wounds

Sri Lanka’s brutal civil war ended on May 18, 2009 – eight years ago – and yet many Tamil people are not even allowed to grieve. A recent court order in Mullaitivu district asserted that Tamils residing in a particular part of the district – for two weeks – aren’t allowed to mourn those who perished during the war. More generally, there have been ongoing reports of surveillance and intimidation related to other commemorative events.

This order is a preposterous and reprehensible initiative. Unsurprisingly, an array of respected organizations have condemned the move.

“The ban on the basis of national security is based on spurious grounds and is a sign of the ongoing repression and militarization that continues to affect the Tamil community in the north and east of the island. It is also a call to action to human rights activists in the whole country to oppose this outrageous action,” says Yasmin Sooka, Executive Director of the International Truth and Justice Project.

In a broad statement, Adayaalam Centre for Policy Research, a Jaffna district-based research organization was critical too. Here’s part of those remarks:

This repression of May 18 commemorations of the tens of thousands of Tamils killed is a massive infringement of the Tamil community’s right to collectively mourn and is contrary to the path of good governance and reconciliation the Sri Lankan government continues to state it is on to the international community. The government’s opposition to memorialization underscores the lack of political will they have for accountability and reconciliation efforts and once again points out the government’s double-speak.

With each passing day, the international community’s latest approach to Sri Lanka (a government dominated by ethnic Sinhalese) looks more and more ridiculous. In recent times, America’s public posture – exemplified by the U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka – has been absurd and, sadly, even dishonest on various occasions. The European Union has been disappointing as well. Granting trade concessions to a government that hasn’t come close to meeting the purported human rights requirements is a horrible idea.

Some analyses may overemphasize Sri Lanka’s geopolitical significance while ignoring an inconvenient truth: A lot of (and perhaps most) Western observers fundamentally misunderstood what Maithripala Sirisena’s presidential win meant for the island nation.

Sri Lanka’s “new” government is pouring salt on old wounds. Watch this space: Things may get worse before they get better.


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