On the 29th of July 2015, the Batticaloa Peace Committee and friends gathered together to remember all those who died in the senseless violence of 1990 and also those who still live with its consequences. We did this with a deep sense of sadness for the past, but also hope for the future.
The families seemed to have come to terms with the fact that they were probably massacred on the beach, even though their bodies have not been found or even been excavated yet from where they are suspected to be. 24 long years have passed, and loved ones still come before a Commission, like they have in the past, to provide testimony. They want their stories recorded, for history, for posterity.
The point of this article is not to assert that foreign countries should interfere. The point is, for the foreign countries not to interfere, the state of Sri Lanka should give them a legitimate reason. You cannot hide behind that concepts that doesn’t make any sense.
The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) is due to start tomorrow. The last few weeks has seen series of violations of Human Rights and Commonwealth principles in Sri Lanka, which is the host country and expected to lead the Commonwealth in the next two years. Victims of human rights violations, their families, activists, local and international journalists, UN experts and opposition politicians from Sri Lanka and Commonwealth countries who are critical of the government have been amongst those targeted. Pro-government protests have been allowed to go ahead, even as Police obtained a court order preventing protests in the Colombo city today and tomorrow. Below are some incidents reported, based on testimonies of victims, eye witnesses and media.
The two clashes have shown us that the religious groups of Sri Lanka are growing in extremism, able to muster the masses on to the streets and threaten the law and order of society. The government’s see-sawing reaction to these outcries of the populace leaves many questioning their commitment to upholding any semblance of democracy.
With the country having just marked its 30th anniversary of the Black July riots, the communal clashes in Grandpass was a hideous reminder of what we are capable of.
A recent short-form video (in Sinhala) produced by Vikalpacaptured, for the first time, the voices of these laundrymen speaking about their lives, families, work, memories and experiences. Vikalpa‘s video and accompanying photos highlight the extreme hardship of lives so easily erased, trammelled and forgotten – now being moved en masse because, post-war, there are too many SUV’s coming to see Sri Lanka’s President.
In the last twelve months, across Sri Lanka, students have been protesting, academics have been protesting, religious clergy have been protesting, women have been protesting, journalists have been protesting, lawyers have been protesting, health workers have been protesting, workers have been protesting. Even political prisoners have been protesting from inside the prisons. In the highly militarized war zones of the Northern Province, victims of land occupation, families of political prisoners, those disappeared and killed have been daring threats, intimidations and obstructions to engage in peaceful protests. In a few days, it is likely that at least a few people will once again commemorate the end of the war in a manner that will be different from the victory parades promoted by the government, resisting threats, intimidations and sabotage as experienced in the past. Even when their demands fall on deaf ears, their struggles will keep alive hopes for democracy and rights.
Clearly then, in Sri Lanka today, Buddhist “monks” destroying private property are kosher, but citizens attempting to light a candle, and walk peacefully in solidarity, are fit to be physically assaulted, hurled abuse at, arrested, intimidated and brutishly dispersed.
Our tweets and retweets are reproduced below, and include links to several Facebook status updates as well that clearly highlight fear, concern and opposition to what is now mainstream ethno-religious extremism, condoned by Police and with complete impunity, openly supported by Gotabaya Rajapaksa and the government of Sri Lanka.