Exactly 11 years ago, this month (May), the Sri Lankan civil war came to an end, with official victory in the hands of the Sri Lankan government. However, the 26 year-long conflict was nothing short of bloody and genocidal. UN reports have found evidence of war-crimes from both sides of the civil war and, every year, masses gather all around the world to commemorate the massacre of innocent civilian lives.
May 2009 symbolised the end of the war, but to many, also the marked the particular genocide against the Eelam Tamil population. The war, which had been fought between the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), witnessed severe atrocities and war crimes in the final months of conflict. In January 2009, the government unilaterally declared a list of Safe Zones for civilians to find refuge in. However, within hours, these zones were indiscriminately bombed and raided by government forces. More than 300,000 Tamil civilians, who migrated to these safe zones, were subjected to relentless shelling. Hospitals were attacked, and food and medical supplies were cut-off by the government.
As tens of thousands died over the months, the world watched in silence. Tamil diaspora all over the world protested in absolute disgust at the violent campaign perpetrated by the Sri Lankan government. But to no avail. In the months between January and May 2009 not only had civilians, including many young children, been massacred, but extrajudicial killings and mass rape was carried out by government forces. Many who had their sons and loved ones taken away from them by government abductions under the Prevention of Terrorism Act have, to this day, never seen them return home. In fact, in January 2020, almost 11 years after the conflict’s end, the Sri Lankan government who maintained that there were no civilian casualties, finally admitted that the over 20,000 Tamils who had disappeared were dead.
The ‘Sri Lanka solution’ of 2009, not only marked the end of the island’s civil war, but also the destruction of the entire Tamil entity in Sri Lanka. Yet, in May 2009, the UN passed a resolution congratulating Sri Lanka on their victory; an action seen by thousands of Tamil worldwide as the failure of justice.
Referred to as Mulivaikkal Remembrance Month, masses gather worldwide, every year, to remember and pay tribute to all those who lost their lives in the genocide. However, due to Covid-19 these plans have quite understandably been cancelled. People have instead taken to social media platforms to spread awareness about the largely hidden and forgotten massacres. Yet, uproar unleashes as platforms such as Instagram and Facebook begin to take down any posts referring to a ‘Tamil genocide,’ stating that it is against community guidelines. Questions have been raised as to whether this is a rejection of the freedom of remembrance for those who lost their lives in the brutal end to Sri-Lanka’s civil war.