“To stay quiet is as political an act as speaking out.”
Arundhati Roy, Author and Activist
The plight of the silenced can only be alleviated when enough are listening. Those suffering in Sri Lanka are stifled from speaking. Please lend them your voice.
This section contains addresses of key policy makers and news agencies along with sample letters and useful guides.
This section contains a timeline depicting the historical background of the Sri Lankan conflict. Spanning from the pre-colonial era to present day events, the timeline allows the user to gain valuable insight into the causes of this conflict. (Launch Flash Timeline...)
Short documentary on Black July and links to other related videos. (view feature video...)
|Tamil Abductions: An SBS Dateline production on the recent abductions of Tamils in Sri Lanka.|
|Sivaram: Violence against Journalists (Part 2, Part 3): Film about the silencing of free speech through death and intimidation.|
|Shadow War: The emergence of 'paramilitaries' and their impact on the cease fire.|
Articles on the recent acts of persecution against the Tamil minority. (complete list of articles...)
|Touched by Tragedy: An Australian medical doctor teaching in the North East puts forth his first-hand view of the situation. pdf|
|I am not a Terrorist: The high price Tamils are forced to pay for basic human rights.|
|No Middle Way for Militant Monks: The role played by the Buddhist clergy in this conflict.|
A flash animation containing a series of observations depicting the events of July 1983 and its implications. Many of the quotes in this section are sourced from independent journalists and international witnesses.
There are several accounts of Tamils attributing their escape from death to their Sinhalese and Muslim neighbours. We are grateful to those who risked their own lives to allow Tamils to hide in their homes.
The 1983 anti-Tamil pogrom produced an exodus of Tamils who fled to all parts of the world. Our appreciation extends to countries, such as Australia, for welcoming them, and providing a safe home to live in.
We appreciate your thoughts, suggestions and queries. Please send us your feedback.
In essence, the Tamil issue in Sri Lanka is not an ethnic issue or a political issue. It is a human rights issue.
The situation in Sri Lanka is one of those many hidden conflicts that rarely rate much coverage. The little that we do know is generally tainted by misconceptions. This is unfortunate as most of the hope in finding a just and peaceful solution rests with international mediation. The political will for such involvement is currently non-existent and the only way we can redress this is by increasing the depth of awareness on the subject
A chronology of key events:
Pre-colonisation - The Tamils of Sri Lanka inhabit the NorthEast of the island (the Tamil Homeland) and the Sinhalese occupy the remainder.
1505 - Portuguese arrive in Colombo, marking the beginning of European interest. They hold the island from 1505 to 1658, but rule the Tamil and Sinhalese kingdoms as separate entities.
1602 – The Dutch arrive in Ceylon and oust the Portuguese, ruling Dutch Ceylon from 1658 to 1796, with the Tamil and Sinhalese kingdoms ruled separately.
1815 – The British become the first European power to win control over the entire island, known as Ceylon. While the Portuguese and the Dutch ruled the Kingdoms separately, the British amalgamated them to create a homogenised nation state for a convenient system of administration.
They also bring Tamil labourers from southern India to work in tea, coffee and coconut plantations.
1833 - English is made as the official language.
1915 - The first reported organised riots in Sri Lanka were against the minority Sri Lankan Muslims. Available records state 146 Muslims were killed and 405 Muslims were injured and 62 Muslims women were raped by Sinhalese rioters. Nearly 85 mosques were damaged and more than 4,075 Muslin-owned shops were looted.
Read more: Note 1
1931 - British grant the right to vote and introduce power sharing.
1948 – On February 4, 1948, after pressure from Ceylonese nationalist leaders (which briefly unified the Tamil and Sinhalese), Ceylon gains independence and becomes a member of the Commonwealth of Nations.
The Citizenship Act of 1948 disenfranchises Tamils of Indian Decent.
1956 - S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike was elected prime minister in 1956 and championed rising Sinhalese, Buddhist nationalism, by making Sinhala the country's sole official language (the Sinhala Only Bill) dropping both English and Tamil.
1958 - Anti-Tamil riots occur on a wider scale and leave more than 200 people dead.
1959 - Bandaranaike is assassinated by a Bhuddist monk. He is succeeded by his widow, Srimavo, who continues the nationalisation programme by introducing a new constitution.
All British tea companies are nationalized without compensation.
1965 - Opposition United National Party wins elections and attempts to reverse nationalisation measures.
1970 - Srimavo Bandaranaike returns to power and extends the nationalisation programme.
1971 - Rebellion by JVP, a militant Sinhalese Guevarist organisation, was suppressed by the government, with almost 15 000 killed.
1972 – The island becomes a Republic, Ceylon changes its name to Sri Lanka and Buddhism is given primary place as country's religion, further antagonising the Tamil minority.
1974 - Police go on rampage during a Tamil cultural event killing 9 people. Popular unrest and youth violence immediately followed. A wave of arrests and crackdowns only helped add to the tensions.
An official report is presented to Parliament by the Government on a standardisation process for university admissions. This new district quota system favoured Sinhalese students and discriminated against the Tamils. The intake of Tamils into universities decreased dramatically, further alienating Tamils.
Tamil students in the East of the island protest against university standardisation rules.
In 1975, (before the birth of the armed resistance movement) the Minority Rights Group warned -
"If Sri Lanka is not to experience communal violence or terrorism and counter terror on a scale which would invite comparison to Northern Ireland or Cyprus, there will have to be more readiness for compromise and moderation than has yet been seen... It would be a pity if Sri Lanka's leadership waited for bombs to explode, and for the prisons to fill up again before conceding that the Tamils need reassurance that have a place in the future of the island."
- Walter Schwarz; Minority Rights Group Report on Tamils of Sri Lanka (1975)
1976 – The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) is formed to fight for an independent homeland, as tensions increase in Tamil-dominated areas of the North and East. The country starts its slide towards civil war.
1976 - Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) party passes the Vaddukkodai Resolution - a resolution calling for a separate state. They use this resolution as a platform for the elections the following year.
1977 - Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) wins all seats in Tamil areas (north and the east of Sri Lanka). Effectively this meant that the Tamils of Sri Lanka had voted for separation.
Anti-Tamil riots leave more than 300 Tamils dead. Tamil owned properties were destroyed and over 40 000 people were rendered homeless.
1981 Sinhala policemen accused of burning the Jaffna Public Library, causing further resentment in Tamil community. Over 95 000 volumes of the public library was destroyed including many irreplaceable and culturally important manuscripts.Further anti-Tamil riots take place on the island.
1983 July - (Black July) major anti-Tamil pogrom takes place all over the country. Estimates of up to 4,000 Tamils dead are made, and over 150,000 become refugees, many fleeing the country to India and the West.
Many casual observers of the conflict may conceive ‘83 to be some sort of aberration that may not occur again. However as the Report by the International Commission of Jurists observed back in 1984:
“communal riots in which Tamils are killed, maimed, robbed and rendered homeless are no longer isolated episodes; they are beginning to become a pernicious habit”.
Tamil inmates are also murdered.
"It is not clear how it was possible for the killings to take place without the connivance of prison officials, and how the assassinations could have been repeated after an interval of two days, since Welikade prison is a high security prison and the Tamil prisoners were kept in separate cells..."
Ethnic Violence in Sri Lanka, 1981-83:Staff Report of the international Commission of Jurists.
Affected by the anti-Tamil pogrom, masses of Tamils join the LTTE.
Civil war intensifies
1985 - First attempt at peace talks between government and LTTE, known as the Thimpu talks, is mediated by India and fails.
Tamils continue to be murdered, raped and harassed by the Sri Lankan Armed Forces.
'There is considerable body of evidence that the army kills innocent (Tamil) civilians.'
- Robert Kilroy-Silk M.P. & Roger Sims J.P., M.P; Report of Visit to Sri Lanka on Behalf of the (UK) Parliamentary Human Rights Group;
1987 - Government forces push LTTE back into northern city of Jaffna. India and Sri Lanka sign the Indo-Lanka Peace Accord and Sri Lanka accepts India's offer to send peace-keeping force into the north of the country to disarm the rebels and pave the way for political reforms. Eventually Indian forces are found to have committed rape and murder of Tamil inhabitants, and the LTTE put up a vigorous resistance against the Indian forces, killing an estimated 1,200 Indian soldiers.
1988 - Left-wing and nationalist Sinhalese JVP begins campaign against Indo-Sri Lankan agreement.
Buddhist Monk inspects Sri Lanka artillery at the war front in 1998
1990 - Indian peace-keeping force leaves after getting bogged down in fighting in north. Violence between Sri Lankan army and separatists escalates. The Second Eelam War begins.
1991 - LTTE are implicated in assassination of the Indian premier Rajiv Gandhi in southern India.
War and diplomacy
1993 - President Premadasa killed in an LTTE bomb attack.
1994 - The People’s Alliance led by Chandrika Kumaratunge wins Sri Lankan Parliamentary elections. LTTE unilaterally announces a temporary ceasefire. Kumaratunge wins Presidential election with a landslide on a platform of "ending the war and bringing peace."
1995 – The Sri Lankan government and LTTE sign cessation hostilities agreement. The government announces lifting of economic embargo on most items, but armed forces at the border checkpoints continue to enforce the embargo. The government ignores the ultimatum and LTTE calls off the peace talks and the Third Eelam War begins.
9 July - After dropping leaflets asking civilians to move to places of worship to minimise the chance of being injured, the Sri Lankan Air Force bombs a church and school killing 120 Tamils.
1996 - Mass graves found in Chemmani.
In a report published in 1997, Amnesty International said it had found reliable evidence suggesting that bodies of as many as 600 people "disappeared" in the area may have been disposed of in lavatory pits, disused wells and shallow graves.
1997-2001 - War rages across north and east. President Kumaratunga is wounded in a bomb attack. A attack on the international airport destroys half the Sri Lankan Airlines fleet. However, no civilians are killed.
The international airport is attacked.
2002 February – The Sri Lankan government and Tamil Tigers sign a Norwegian-mediated ceasefire.
De-commissioning of weapons begins, the road linking the Jaffna peninsula with the rest of Sri Lanka reopens after 12 years, passenger flights to Jaffna resume and the government lifts ban on Tamil Tigers.
JVP campaigning against the lifting of the ban on the LTTE.
2002-2003 - Six rounds of direct talks take place between Sri Lanka and LTTE.
2003 – The LTTE temporarily pull out of talks. Nevertheless, ceasefire holds. Later the LTTE urges the government to recommence talks.
2004 - Renegade Tamil Tiger commander, known as Karuna, leads split in rebel movement and goes underground with his supporters. Tiger offensive regains control of the east. In July 2004 a bomb blasts in Colombo, the first such incident since 2001.
December - More than 35,000 people were killed, over 20, 000 injured and over 500,000 displaced, when the massive waves, generated by a powerful undersea earthquake off the coast of Indonesia, devastate coastal communities. Worldwide it is estimated that well over a 186,000 were killed and around 42, 000 people are missing due to the Boxing Day Tsunami.
2005 June – The president and the LTTE reach an International Community supported deal (P-TOMS) to share ~$4.5 billion in international aid to rebuilding post tsunami. Extreme nationalist parties (JVP and JHU) oppose and block its implementation through court order.
Buddhist monks protest against tsunami aid sharing deal in the capital Colombo.
August - The foreign minister is killed by a suspected Tiger assassin. Later that year Mahinda Rajapakse, prime minister at the time, wins presidential elections. Most Tamils in areas controlled by the LTTE boycott the elections.
25 December - Joseph Pararajasingham, a Tamil member of parliament and committed political activist, is assassinated at 1.20AM as he attends Christmas Eve Mass at St Mary's Cathedral. Despite heavy State army presence, perpetrators are able to shoot him and escape. To date no one has been charged.
2006 – Despite the mounting violence both the Government and LTTE declare their respect for the 2002 ceasefire at talks in Geneva.
Sri Lankan government is found to be responsible for a myriad of murders of Tamil families and Tamil aid workers, deliberate bombings of Tamil orphanages and Tamil refugee camps, and guilty of forced child recruitment as soldiers.
In late 2006, peace talks in Geneva resume, however, again with no result.
2007 – Fighting between military and LTTE continues, further displacing tens of thousands of civilians. Abductions and murders of Tamils continue with impunity.
First confirmed air raids launched by the LTTE, hit a military base next to the international airport.
Human Rights organisations confirm Sri Lankan Army collusion with paramilitary organisations in abductions and forced recruitment of Tamil child soldiers.
Hundreds of Tamils are forcibly evicted out of the capital, Colombo, by armed State personell.
watch a video:
watch a video:
15 October - SRI LANKA rejects calls for a United Nations human rights monitoring mission to the island, as the UN's rights chief voices concern over alleged widespread abuses.
"The weakness of the rule of law and prevalence of impunity is alarming," the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, said on Saturday at the end of a five-day visit. "There is a large number of reported killings, abductions and disappearances which remain unresolved."
"The Government's position is very clear: we are not willing to discuss in any way the UN presence in Sri Lanka for monitoring purposes," Mr Samarasinghe said. "Neither are we ready to discuss the opening of an office of the high commissioner in Sri Lanka."
A Sydney Morning Herald Report
2 November - Brigadier Thamilchelvan, the Political Head and Chief Negotiator representing the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam), dies alongside five others, in a Sri Lanka Air Force bomb raid specifically targeting the Political Division in Kilinochchi.
28 December - Human rights violations by the Sri Lankan government against the Tamils continue to be reported by neutral bodies. http://www.chicagopublicradio.org/content.aspx?audioID=16663
"Over the last one and a half over 1000 people have disappeared... 4 people every day are killed or disappeared in Sri Lanka...the government has done shamefully little [to investigate]...the most targetted population is Tamil men..."
Read more: Note 14
2008 - The Sri Lankan government formally withdraws from the ceasefire agreement with the LTTE, ending a six year truce. As Nordic monitors leave the island, abductions and extra-judicial killings against Tamils increase.
12 June - Sri Lanka's government refuses requests by Norwegian peace mediators to visit LTTE controlled territory. Nordic ceasefire monitors quit the country this year after the six-year Norway brokered truce disintegrated.
17 June - Action Contre la Faim (aka Action against Hunger), a French aid agency that lost 17, of whom 16 were Tamil, local tsunami aid workers in a massacre in August 2006 quits Sri Lanka in protest saying it had no confidence in the government investigation. Nordic truce monitors blamed security forces for the killings, one of the worst attacks on humanitarian staff since the 2003 bombing of the United Nations compound in Baghdad. "It has been almost two years and we have seen nothing," ACF executive director Francois Danel told Reuters as he launched a global campaign. "We no longer have any confidence the Sri Lankan investigations will deliver justice."
7 October - The Sri Lankan government swears into parliament breakaway Tamil Tiger Rebel Commander, Mr Vinayagamoorthi Muralitheran aka Col. Karuna Amman. Mr Muralitharan was arrested last year in Britain and pleaded guilty to carrying a false passport which he says was provided for him by the Sri Lankan government. He has been accused of human rights abuses, and served six months in a U.K jail before returning to Sri Lanka in July.
29 November - The Sri Lanka Air Force attacked a Tamil refugee camp located in a 'secure zone' unilaterally announced by it, dispatching a cluster bomb, which killed 3 civilians, including a 5 year old boy. The attack came 5 days before a treaty was signed by 92 countries in Norway banning the use, production, transfer and stockpiling of cluster munitions internationally.
9 December - The Genocide Prevention Project includes Sri Lanka on it "red alert" watch list of the countries of most concern for genocide.
12 December - The Sri Lankan government censors international and local news media. The BBC World Service has been jammed by the state-owned Sri Lanka Broadcasting Cooperation (SLBC) and one of the country's most outspoken newspapers, the Sunday Leader, has been forbidden to refer to the president's brother.
2 January - Footage on the internet surfaces, showing Sri Lankan soldiers desecrating the bodies of fallen female Tamil Tiger fighters.
6 January - Gunmen set fire to a private television station in Colombo which has openly criticised the government.
22 January - The Sri Lankan military shells a hospital and a village inside a government-declared "safe zone" for displaced families, killing at least 30 civilians.
The Sri Lankan government continues its military onslaught despite international criticism.
Human rights groups continue to call on both parties to respect international law.
However both sides deny targeting civilians.
1 February - Sri Lanka warns Western diplomats, foreign journalists and aid groups that they would be "chased" out of the country if they appear to favor the Tamil Tiger rebels.
Sri Lanka's Defense Secretary, Gotabaya Rajapakse ridicules Lasantha Wickremanayake (recently murdered newspaper Editor) as an editor of a "tabloid," and queries reporter Chris Morris as to why the media is interested in "one man" when there are thousands of killings and murders."