“The May 18 Disconnect” by Ruki Fernando

“Returning after an emotional day in Mullivaikkal, nine years after the end of the war, I struggle to keep faith that the few exceptional voices and initiatives will prevail and Sri Lanka will overcome the May 18 disconnect. Reconciliation will remain elusive till then.”

via: http://www.sundayobserver.lk/2018/05/20/opinion/may-18-disconnect

“Burnt history, forgotten memories” by Sinthujan Varatharajah


©Sinthujan Varatharajah 2013

(You must request permission from the author before using this photography : sinthujan.varatharajah@gmail.com)


32 years ago we lost part of our memory. Between May 31 -June 1, the history of an entire people came under fire. In organized attempts to wipe out their collective memory as a people, an ethnicity, a linguistic group, a cultural group and nation, their traces of the past were turned by Sri Lankan Sinhalese Police men and Sinhalese MPs from material culture to material ashes. More than 95.000 books, palm leaf manuscripts, pamphlets and other irreplaceable documents, which recorded more than thousand years of Tamil history, turned from highly valued literary material to litter. Within few hours Tamils did not only lose their public library, one of South Asia’s largest libraries, and with it great parts of their recorded history, but also violently learnt to understand their place and condition in the Sinhala majority-led state. Its mission of forcefully rewriting past and present became most evident.

Having lost great parts of our historical records we are today unable to tell our centuries old stories. Not being able to trace much of our past, we struggle to find greater meaning in our histories. As we today struggle to narrate our past, we lack the ability to fully understand our present. By having destabilized our archives of history, the Sri Lankan Sinhala state has successfully unsettled our collective memory as a people with a historic right to land and life. It undermined our physical presence by shaking the pillars of our cultural presence. While Tamil history has been burnt to the grounds 32 years ago, Sinhalese history today continues to be excavated and written in the backyards of Tamil massgraves and cemetries. History-making and archeology function as so often as a tool and weapon to destroy another group’s conciousness as a people.

32 years ago we lost history and parts of our ancestral biographies. Today we mourn for the puzzle pieces of history that have been violently taken away from us.

About the Author

Sinthujan Varatharajah is a recent graduate of the London School of Economics and Political Science, and a researcher on Islam and Muslim communities in France, Belgium and Switzerland for Euro-Islam. Follow him ontwitter.com/varathas