The Weekend Leader - Can’t get worse

A Sinhalese details the plight of Tamils in Sri Lanka, slamming the government

Brian Senewiratne


Vol 2 | Issue 46

The humanitarian situation in the Tamil-speaking areas in the North and East of Sri Lanka, more than two years after the so called ‘end’ of the war between the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) and the Tamil people, is the most serious the Tamils have faced in their 2,500 years of recorded history.

In the six decades that I have campaigned for the rights of the Tamils to live with equality, dignity, safety, and now to live at all, I cannot think of any period in which they have been in such a dreadful situation.

Sri Lankan army killed an estimated 40,000 Tamil civilians during the final days of the war in 2009 (Photos courtesy:

The Tamil areas are under the heel of one of the most ruthless and irresponsible Armed Forces anywhere in the world, and one the most brutal, racist, and oppressive regimes ever to run Sri Lanka.

It is a regime which has no accountability, in Sri Lanka or abroad, and can do whatever it wants, to whoever it wants, anywhere in the country, not just in the Tamil areas.

Dr Winston Panchacharam (Nanuet, New York) in his incomparable book ‘Genocide in Sri Lanka’ which has just been published sets out some of this.

In his opening letter of appeal to “Global Leaders for the Protection of the Vulnerable and those Oppressed by Genocidal Acts”, he refers to the “Dying Race of Tamils in Sri Lanka.”

This is not alarmist language. Every recent publication strongly indicates that the Tamils are indeed a dying race facing serious violations of human rights which, unless checked, will result in their demise.

An internationally credible group appointed by the UN Secretary General (which I will refer to), uses the term “extermination” (of the Tamils) and goes on to justify the use of this term which, as far as I am aware, has never been used before.

‘Extermination’ or ‘Genocide’ is an emergency and calls for urgent action which is not forthcoming. What is alarming is that a regime guilty of some of the most serious war-crimes and crimes against humanity, is getting away with it.

The mass slaughter of some 40,000 (perhaps many more) unarmed Tamil civilians, with another 160,000 unaccounted for, was carried out in just five months (January-May 2009), in a mass murder with no witnesses. This has no parallel in recent times.

This is now being followed by a ‘slow extermination’ of the Tamils by the denial of food and medical care, loss of their property, the blocking of their survival activities (agriculture and fishing), and the denial of unrestricted access to international humanitarian organisations and groups.

The Tamil areas are a vast ‘slow killing field’, not as dramatic as the mass murder documented in Channel 4’s documentary, ”Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields”, but a slow ‘extermination camp’ which covers the entire North and East.

Tamils in LTTE controlled areas pleaded with international agencies to come to their rescue, but none responded  

This has been kept out of sight by the denial of free and unrestricted access to international observers to these areas. The ‘Sri Lankan’ Armed Forces (99% Sinhalese) who run the area, do what they want with the ‘victims of war’ - Tamil people, citizens of the country.

It astounds me, a Sinhalese, that at this most critical period faced by the Tamil people in the North and East, the only people who can save them, the million-strong expatriate Sri Lankan Tamils, living and working in some of the most powerful nations on earth, have ‘gone quiet’, and have ‘given up’.

To say that they have abandoned their fellow Tamils in the North and East is a gross understatement. I find this deeply disturbing and totally unacceptable.

The very least I can do is to stand with my Tamil people, yes, they are my Tamil people, just as the Sinhalese are my Sinhalese people, in their greatest hour of need. Whether one succeeds or fails is not the question. The question is where one stands and why.

I stand with my Tamil people because what has been done to them from the dawn of Independence (1948), and even before, is deeply wrong. This long and traumatic history of the Tamil struggle to survive, has been well set out in Dr Panchacharam’s book which I have referred to. (to be contd..)

(The next part of the article will be posted on 25 November 2011)

Dr. Brian Senewiratne (MBBS Hons (Lond) MD (Lond), FRCP (Lond), FRACP) is a Sinhalese doctor currently based in Australia

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