Tuesday, August 30, 2011

In Sri Lanka, a 'negative peace' prevails: Many men suspected of being Tamil Tiger fighters continue to be detained

Seriously injured in a shell attack, his Tamil Tiger comrades dead, Mano (pseudonym) tried to end his own life by biting on the cyanide pill that, like all hardened fighters, he wore around his neck. But an elderly woman nearby rushed to give him water and he survived. Alone, he languished on the sand for six days, surrounded by the bodies of his friends and the ruins of war.

"There wasn't anybody there, not a drop of water. I was just lying there in the sun," he said as he recalled the final days of the fighting between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and the Sri Lankan military. "Then I heard voices and, 200m away, saw soldiers advancing. They took me away."

More than 11,000 people were detained by the Sri Lankan authorities at the end of the war on suspicion of being members of the Tamil Tigers, who fought a 26-year battle for an independent Tamil homeland. Some gave themselves up, but no detainees have access to lawyers and few are charged, their families left to find out for themselves the location of their loved ones. More than two-thirds have now been released, but amid a pervasive military presence many struggle to resume a normal life.

"A sense of impunity and that the worst can happen is still prevalent," said Jehan Perera, Executive Director of the National Peace Council in the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo. "There's been no break with the past." more