Sri Lanka: War is Over but Tensions Run High
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Sri Lanka: War is Over but Tensions Run High

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Jaffna, the capital of Sri Lanka’s Northern Province and once the bastion of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), is once again experiencing unrest.

Violent clashes broke out on November 27, Martyrs’ Day for Tamil, between students of Jaffna University and Sri Lankan security forces. Each year Tamils use Martyrs’ Day to honor friends and family members who were killed in the Sri Lanka Civil War (1983-2009).

The civil war pitted the Tamil militant group, the LTTE (often called the Tamil Tigers), against the Sri Lankan government forces. The conflict was essentially an ethno-political struggle that had its roots in the early years of Sri Lanka’s independence when Sinhalese leaders effectively transformed the country into a Sinhala-Buddhist state through a series of laws such as the controversial Official Language Act No. 33 of 1956, which made Sinhala the official language. The excluded Tamil population protested and demanded a government based on federalism where the Tamils in the east and north of the country would enjoy greater autonomy. When these calls went unheeded for decades, some Tamils formed the Tamil Tigers and began taking up arms against the government in 1983.

The 26-year civil war that ensued, which ended with the LTTE’s military defeat in 2009, would come to claim the lives of between 80,000 and 100,000 people, according to the UN. Some non-governmental organizations like the International Crisis Group say the number of deaths was actually much higher.

Since the LTTE’s defeat, Tamils have observed Martyrs’ Day by quietly “lighting lamps inside their homes.” This year, however, “some Jaffna University students decided to perform the rituals on campus,” E Saravanapavan, Tamil National Alliance (TNA) Member of Parliament (MP) representing Jaffna district told The Diplomat in a phone interview. According to Saravanapavan, this prompted Sri Lankan security forces to forcibly enter the student’s dormitories to prevent them from lighting lamps for Martyrs’ Day.

Tensions have always run high in Jaffna peninsula on Martyrs’ Day. Security forces are put on heightened alert in anticipation of a LTTE attack. These forces equate citizens observing Martyrs’ Day as them showing solidarity with the LTTE militant group. For Tamils, however, it is “a day of mourning, not just for dead LTTE combatants but also for the thousands of civilians, including their kin, who were killed in the war,” Saravanapavan says.

With Tamils determined to properly mourn their dead, and security forces equally determined to stamp out any show of support for the LTTE, it is nearly inevitable that Martyrs’ Day will be marked with some degree of confrontation and tension. What made this year’s Martyrs’ Day more complicated was that it coincided with Karthigai Theepam, a festival when Hindus decorate their homes with lamps.

Comments
35
t.e.smith
April 23, 2013 at 11:50

Rikishi you are 100%right, all over the world large groups like to abuse and rob smaller groups and then say they are being violent.unreasonable,etc.
This happens in america too, look what happened to the american indians , and the africans that were stolen from african!

Jayadevan
March 27, 2013 at 22:31

If LTTE had not killed Rajiv Gandhi, they would have got an Tamil autonmous region. India can never support another country within SriLanka as India itself is a victim of such tendencies within in India. 

Wim
February 10, 2013 at 00:11

Well said Mr.cooray

David
December 20, 2012 at 06:26

First of all tamils have to understand that they lost the war that they started. And western countries bet on the wrong horse and lost. So at the end of the day all is fair in love and war.

David
December 16, 2012 at 07:57

As a recent visitor to Sri Lanka (and Jaffna), I have to concur with the article's sentiments. Although whilst in Colombo, I kept hearing about the government's post war efforts (positive of course, by mostly the vocal Singhalese), what I saw and experienced in Jaffna was something different entirely.
In my opinion, Sri Lanka is slowly becoming the "Zimbabwe of Asia" with Rajapakse and his cronies running the country to ruin, slowly but surely. Sri Lanka now need to 'pay back' its economic and military supporters in China. As China has done in Africa, they are slowly but surely, draining Sri Lanka of its limited resources and will exploit it's powerful position in this one sided relationship. It will take a few years for the Sri Lankan people to understand that they been duped.
Jaffna has had very limited 'effective aid", the roads being built and sponsored by Chinese moneys are mostly used to build highways to the cement factories, hotels and soon to be oil fields,  the Chinese have taken over. The Tamil people are being further alientated and it is a matter of time before the Tamils of India become more involved in this conflict, as they see their bretheren suffer under this brutal Sri Lankan regime. They must look back now on the Tamil Tiger era and think how much better off they were, even if they did not realize it at that time.

Srivanamoth
December 14, 2012 at 22:47

What  laughable claim contrary to post independent history to date. Lying and deceit are all part of the so-called Sinhala norms. Obviously you hide the fact that tamils lived amongst the Sinhalas and paid a heavy price so often. That is why full accountability under international law is very vital to leave all this 'rotten baggage' behind. The Sinhala politicians and governments never learn. They only repeat past mistakes. LTTE were a rebel group and never part of the state. Therein lies the vital difference.    

Rikishi
December 14, 2012 at 14:28

"We need to take a lesson from aboriginal Australia." By this do you mean the alienation of Aboriginal Australians from their own land? Or the utter depravation of social justice? The forced removal of Aboriginal children from their own families? The engineered degeneration of the Aboriginal Family structure? The Aboriginal existence as Third Class citizens in a First class world?
Cooray – Take your bullshit elsewhere.
 
 

cooray
December 14, 2012 at 11:17

SHARE???
ONE THIRD OF THE LAND FOR A MERE 8% OF THE POPULATION -STOP DREAMING.

Tharma
December 14, 2012 at 08:06

In 1948 Sri Lanka got its freedom from UK and it was said "Ceylon born with silver spoon". While other countries like Singapore and Malaysia with less communal conflict flourished in many ways. The "Apey aanduvey" i.e our kingdom attitude by people like Cooray contributed the ruin of Sri Lanka. More conflict and more ruins on the way. When I are you going to learn to share?

cooray
December 14, 2012 at 07:54

The main war cry for the Sri Lankan Tamils
1) Introduction of the Sinhala Language as the official language with reasonable use of tamil in the North and East,
Tamil has been made a national language in 1978 and then an official language on par with sinhala in 1987.
2) Chelanayagam who was born in Malaysia to christian tamil parents, (was the father of seperatism ) came to sri lanka when he was 6 years old-the federal party concentrated purely on communal grounds soon after independence ( a constitution given by the British)
Chelvanayagam joining the throne speech debate of the first independent govt of Ceylon came out with the idea that "if the sinhalese could become independent from Britain why not we Tamils form our own state by seceding from the rest of the country. It is also noted that his policy was, little now and more later in attaining this promised land for the ceylon tamils. Quote Hansard and "Sri Lanka The war fuelled by Peace"
IT IS FUNNY THE JAFFNA BOYS DO NOT TALK ABOUT THE INDIAN TAMILS IMPORTED FOR HARD LABOUR BY THE BRITTISH – SRI LANKA GRANTED CITIZENSHIP TO THEM ALL NOW NUMBERING TO MORE THAN A MILLION- SOON THEY TOO WILL CLAIM THIS LAND IN THE UPCOUNTRY AS THEIR TRADITIONAL HOMELAND LAND.
THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH THE CONSTITUTION BUT A CHANGE IN YOUR THINKING.

Sam
December 14, 2012 at 07:42

Andy, please don't publicly display your ignorance. With regards to the 4%; Christopher was only quoting the CIA World Fact Book . Tamils liveed and still live amongst us and were protected in times of trouble by Sinhala people….however all the Sinhala people who lived in Jaffna & the north were eliminated by your terrorists! Remember the Kent & Dollar Farms??

Tharma
December 14, 2012 at 07:37

Sinhalese burnt innocent people alive and put babies in boiling tar in 1956 and started the genocide.
A gang of government ministers burnt the largest library in Asia that belongs to Tamils just for fun.

Sam
December 14, 2012 at 07:32

Ras, although you may not agree with one's openion please learn to show respect…..or is this too much to ask you? 

Andy
December 14, 2012 at 04:57

Hi Christiper,
You sinhalese dreaming to eliminate tamils population to 4 % level.We are not that percentage yet.But if your GENOCIDE process continue with the help of China,Irahn and Syeriya and the international community do not awake up yet then your calculation would go right. 

Andy
December 14, 2012 at 04:47

Do not forget coveniently the then called the Ceylon(presently Sri-Lanka) was merged together by England for their administrative purpose only, when they colonized the island.Before that there were two official languages in two differant  regimes which were Tamil regime and Sinhala regime.When Ceylon was liberated in 1948 the England was given the tamils fate to the majority sinhalese people.Which gave a chance to the sinhalese people and the sinhalese governments to do whatever they want to do against Tamils.These things leaded them to do GENOCIDE against tamils which was happening accelarate basis now after the so called end war in 2009 May.

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