10 years ago, we stood in the pouring rain and snow, protesting and demanding for the world to put an end to the indiscriminate killing of our sisters and brother back home. May 18 marks a dark day for the Tamil community, a reminder of the lives lost and those that continue to suffer for the struggle for freedom and justice in Tamil Eelam. 10 years after a barrage of shells scorched the sands of Mullivaikal, the Tamil community is still recovering from the devastating losses. It is estimated that over 150,000 Tamils were murdered in the final onslaught of what the Sri Lankan state calls a humanitarian operation. Despite countless war crimes and acts of genocide committed by the Sri Lankan state, those responsible have not been brought to justice. In actuality, the final stages of the war served as a launching pad for the Sri Lankan government to continue its ethnic cleansing of the Tamil community.
At the end of the war, Tamil civilians and what was left of the liberation movement were forced into concentration camps. The Manik farm concentration camp, holding nearly 300,000 Tamil civilians, is just one example of the horrid conditions that the Tamil community was forced into. The concentration camp was rampant with sexual violence against Tamil women and men, torture and a lack of food, water and the spread of diseases due to poor sanitary conditions. There were reports of Tamil women performing “sexual favours” for Sri Lankan soldiers in exchange for safety and food for their families. These camps were staged as rehabilitation camps but in reality, its only purpose was to further demoralize and destroy the community.
May 18th also reminds us that it was not the Sri Lankan state alone, but many of the
world powers that committed these atrocities against the Tamil people. Today these are the same world powers that we flock towards for help.
May 18th also reminds us that it was not the Sri Lankan state alone, but many of the world powers that committed these atrocities against the Tamil people. Today these are the same world powers that we flock towards for help. For the rest of the world, the De-Facto state was a geopolitical crisis and the genocide in Sri Lanka was just a byproduct of their need to take down the De-facto state because of what the state represented. However, the world powers did not want this precedent set, that in the face of oppression you can create your own governing body and become a self-sustaining state. Neighbouring countries, like India, were afraid that this would ignite similar movements in their own country among the people of Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Kashmir. China was just beginning its takeover of countries around the Indian Ocean for military and political gain. Although the US, Britain and Russia have held competing interests in the past, they still took on a common goal of investing money and weapons into Sri Lanka to eliminate the De-Facto State and kill hundreds of thousands of Tamil people in the process.
With the loss of the Liberation Tamil Tigers of Tamil Eelam, a political vacuum was created in the occupied North and East, allowing the government to continue its ambitions to not only eradicate the Tamil culture without resistance but also move forward with their agenda of economic expansion into the North and East. The military occupation of ancestral Tamil land serves as a constant reminder of the brutality of the Sri Lankan state. The government has used its military surveillance to its advantage, taking hundreds of young Tamil men and women, the majority of which have disappeared without a trace. Families of those missing have been protesting for a number of years seeking answers from the government about their whereabouts. As the number of disappeared continues to grow, it is obvious that this is a strategy by the Sri Lankan government to continue to silence the Tamil community.
What we know for sure is that the systemic protracted genocide continues today. Not only do we see it through the increase in militarization and Sinhala settlements but also through the hundreds of Tamil political prisoners rotting away in Sri Lankan cells, the integration of former cadres into state apparatuses and forcing them to work for the state, the way the military has its grasps on education curriculums, the lack of employment for Tamil people and the intentional strategy of economic exploitation in the guise of development. These tactics are a means to erase revolutionary politics and pacify any sort of resistance.
With the recent horrific Easter bombings in Sri Lanka, the police and military have been given emergency regulation powers to deal with the crisis. As expected, the military/police have used this opportunity to abuse their powers and once again monitor and oppress the Tamil and Muslim communities. An example of this is the unjustified arrests of two executives of the University of Jaffna Student Union. These recent arrests have renewed fear in the Tamil community and have halted any idea of remembrance day commemorations. On the other hand, the government will take this opportunity to recognize May 18 as their national “victory day” and celebrate their triumph over the Tamil people.
There is no telling what the plight of Tamils in the North and East will be 10 years from now, but on May 18 it is important to remember that the fight for freedom continues. In remembering the lives lost, let us also remember our duty to support those fighting back in the occupied state of Tamil Eelam. Whether this is through former cadres organizing, to the mothers of the disappeared protesting or to the students who continue to mobilize despite getting arrested and detained, the fight for freedom and justice moves forward.