05/21/2020, 17.02
SRI LANKA
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Government uses lockdown to prevent Tamils from remembering their civil war dead

by Melani Manel Perera

The civil war ended on 18 May 11 years ago with the Sri Lankan Military defeating the Tamil Tigers. Politicians and journalists have been blocked from attending memorial ceremonies. Tamils ​​feel discriminated by the central government. Christian activists want Tamils to be integrated ​into Sri Lankan society.

Colombo (AsiaNews) – Sri Lanka’s Defence Ministry has prevented the Tamils in the north of the country from commemorating fellow Tamils who died during the country’s brutal civil war (1983-2009).

Memorial ceremonies were scheduled for Monday, the 11th anniversary of the end of the conflict. The authorities justified their decision as part of the lockdown measures they imposed to contain the coronavirus pandemic.

For the government, 18 May is Victory Day and marks the defeat of the Tamil Tigers by the Armed Forces. Led by Velupillai Prabhakaran, who was later killed, Tamil rebels fought for the creation of an independent Tamil state in north-eastern Sri Lanka.

In the mainly Tamil northern and eastern regions of the island nation, tensions remain high. Unlike the predominantly Buddhist Sinhalese, the trauma of the civil still lingers among the mostly Hindu Tamils.

C.V. Wigneswaran, a former head of the Northern Provincial Council, was stopped at a military checkpoint as he made his way to Mullivaikkal for the commemoration. He was detained for 30 minutes and questioned. Some journalists were given the same treatment.

Christian and secular activists want the government to free the Tamils ​​from the chains of oppression by encouraging reconciliation and Tamil integration into Sri Lankan society; for them this is the only way to achieve real peace.

Critics accuse the government of ignoring the legitimate demands of this part of the population. In their view, it is necessary to solve the problem of Tamil political prisoners, who have been detained for years without formal indictment.

Land restitution is another sore point. Catholic activists expect agricultural land in the north to be cultivated by local Tamils, not by soldiers.

They want the authorities to end the military occupation of the region, block the resettlement of ethnic Sinhalese families and allow Tamils to commemorate their war dead.

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