The erasure of Tamil Eelam and the silence that follows
Despite the civil war ending in May 2009, the genocide of Tamils’ identity on the island of Sri Lanka continues to this very day
CW: genocide, blood and gore, PTSD
It has been exactly 4218 days since May 18, 2009: the end of the Sri Lankan civil war. More notably, it has been 4218 days and counting since family members still yearn to discover the truth about their loved ones’ disappearances.
The Sri Lankan government recently announced this past January that more than 20,000 people (the majority being Eelam Tamils) who went missing are dead, further solidifying the notion that the government committed war crimes.
This follows the investigation headed by the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2014 to look at the Sri Lankan government’s war crimes against humanity. A year later, the investigation report found that war crimes were committed by the government from 2002 to 2011, such as unlawful killings, enforced disappearances, gender-based violence and denial of humanitarian assistance.
[media-credit name="C/O Ben Sutherland" align="alignnone" width="2560"][/media-credit]
Fast forward three years later to where Sri Lankan Lieutenant-General Shavendra Silva was appointed as commander of the Sri Lankan army. Silva was notably known for leading the military campaign during the final stages of the civil war in 2009. He also has been accused of many war crimes, in which the 58th division he led allegedly shelled the Putumattalan hospital, where wounded Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam were residing.
It is against international humanitarian law to target someone who is defenceless and sick or injured. With Silva’s appointment as commander, the United Nations supposedly banned his army from partaking in “non-essential” peacekeeping missions due to his alleged war crimes; however, in just a few months after this ban, this very same army was deployed on a UN peacekeeping mission to Mali.
This revelation is quite disturbing with the division’s accusations of torture, execution, and sexual violence against Eelam Tamils. It brings me and many other Tamils to question the responsibility of the UN, especially with the recent destruction of the Mullivaikkal memorial at Jaffna University.
BREAKING – Authorities destroying Mullivaikkal memorial at Jaffna University
A monument paying tribute to the tens of thousands of Tamils massacred by the Sri Lankan state at the University of Jaffna is currently being bulldozed by authorities. pic.twitter.com/n0uOwgRbU5
— Tamil Guardian (@TamilGuardian) January 8, 2021
The Mullivaikkal memorial was a monument built to honour the thousands of Eelam Tamils killed during the Mullivaikkal massacre on May 18, 2009, the final day of the war. On Jan. 8, 2021, Sri Lankan authorities destroyed the monument located on the university’s campus grounds. Several university students and the Mayor of Jaffna protested, yet were berated by Sri Lankan police in Sinhala, a language not as familiar to many of the students.
There have been international pleas for years from Eelam Tamils living in Canada, the United Kingdom and elsewhere to ask their respective governments and the UN to hold the Sri Lankan regime accountable for their actions.
On Jan. 8, 2021, Sri Lankan authorities destroyed the monument located on the university’s campus grounds.
While there has been some outcry by government officials — including Gurratan Singh, Ontario member of provincial parliament representing Brampton East and Siobhain McDonagh, a member of parliament for the United Kingdom — the United Nations has yet to release a statement condemning the Sri Lankan government for their actions. In short, while the UN produces hefty reports, they have yet to formalize tangible action against the regime.
Very worrying and a clear attempt to erase the brutal violence of the Tamil genocide. This destruction must be condemned by all leaders and we all must stand in defence of justice and human rights for the Tamil people. https://t.co/hZWmLOLMZB
— Gurratan Singh (@GurratanSingh) January 9, 2021
Despite the civil war ending over 11 years ago, the presence of cultural genocide is existent. This brings me to raise attention to the film Funny Boy, a film by Deepa Mehta (known for her Elements trilogy) and distributed by renowned filmmaker, Ava Duvernay (known for the film 13th and the series When They See Us). This film is adapted from the book of the same name by Tamil author Shyam Selvadurai.
As this film was originally nominated as Canada’s entry for best feature international film for the Academy Awards — now redacted due to not meeting the minimum criteria — it still came with quite some controversy.
The main issue with the film was the lack of Tamil casting in the film. For a film to discuss the plight of Eelam Tamils during the 1983 riots, it seems quite baffling to not cast a single Tamil as part of the main cast. In addition, casting Sinhalese individuals as Tamils is quite the slap in the face to Eelam Tamils around the world, where Sinhalese individuals comprised the majority of the army.
Despite claims by Mehta saying that casting and dubbing were appropriately done, many Tamils have found that the spoken language is difficult to understand and claimed it is not reflective of the Tamil spoken in Tamil Eelam.
— சும்மா சிரி (@chummasiri) December 5, 2020
As Tamils around the world continue to protest to this very day against the war crimes committed by the Sri Lankan government, it is also of significance to myself and others to show our gratitude to the fallen soldiers who stood up to the regime.
While the Sri Lankan government continues to restrict Eelam Tamils commemorating Maaveerar Naal on November 27, the UK government stood with Eelam Tamils when projecting the Karthigaipoo — the national flower of Tamil Eelam — on their parliament walls. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Eelam Tamils around the world show their thanks to the fallen through online events, as McMaster Tamil Student Association hosted this year’s Maaveerar Naal over Zoom in November 2020.
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The McMaster TSA holds this event annually to give students and faculty the chance to pay their respects and commemorate the fallen soldiers, or our Maveerars. The event consists of performances by students in both the McMaster and Tamil student communities.
Although the commemoration was held virtually, there were still dances, songs, speeches and dramatic performances by students. This commemoration is not new; it has been going on for several years on campus.
With a significant Tamil student population at McMaster, it is important that a space is provided to them to grieve. With that being said, such events are significant for the greater good, in raising awareness among the McMaster and Hamilton communities regarding the Tamil genocide.