Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Wednesday 21 April |
Saint of the Day: St. Anselm of Canterbury
home iconNews
line break icon

The Fighting is Over but Animosity Lingers On

Iouri Goussev

UCAnews - published on 08/07/13

Ethnic Tamils have continued to face discrimination by the Sri Lankan government since the end of fighting in 2009, leaving many Tamils unemployed and worsening their economic situation.

Karishini Puliyamurthi has applied for six government jobs in her hometown of Mannar in northwestern Sri Lanka, but she has never received a response, she says.

Having graduated during the country’s civil war, she claims to be well qualified but says that she is being overlooked because of her ethnicity: Puliyamurthi, 29, is a minority Tamil.

“There are hundreds of women and men who are qualified for jobs like me in our area but we Tamils are being ignored,” she says.

Resident in an area which was previously occupied and administered by the rebel Tamil Tigers, ethnic Tamils have continued to face discrimination by the government since the end of fighting in 2009, she says, worsening their economic situation.

“Government officials know whether we are Tamils or Sinhalese through our resume,” says Puliyamurthi.

According to Sri Lanka’s student union body, about 6,500 graduates are unemployed in Tamil areas out of a total population of just over one million people in the north. The total university intake in Sri Lanka is 22,000 every year and about 19 percent of young people are out of work.

Father Emmanuel Sebemalai, president of the citizens’ committee in Mannar, said that when there are vacancies, Tamil graduates are typically shunned and end up working as laborers.

“Some graduates are married with children [to support], and they’re still unemployed,” he said.

Sebemalai was among a group of Catholic clergy from Mannar diocese who met with President Mahinda Rajapaksa in Colombo last month to express Tamil concerns, regarding particularly economic discrimination.

“It’s a good opportunity for our clergy to meet the president and tell him our grievances. We look forward to justice,” said Sebemalai.

In response, Rajapaksa thanked him for updating the situation on the ground and agreed to look into problems Tamils are facing, according to Sebemalai.

Following the final bloody stages of the war in which 300,000 people were driven from their homes in the north, land has remained another key economic problem for the country’s Tamil population.

Although 5,000 families have returned home to claim their land after the war ended and demining operations have been completed, the army has held onto more than 6,000 hectares for military camps.

The army has pushed for legislation which will allow it to engage in economic activity, and the odds look good in its favor. The president’s brother, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, is the defense secretary, while a third brother, Basil Rajapaksa, is the economics minister and a fourth, Chamal Rajapaksa, serves as the speaker in parliament.

For the Tamils, this creeping militarization spells disaster, says Paikiasothy Sarawanamuttu, executive director of the Center for Monitoring Election Violence.

“There is growing evidence of this all over the country and especially in the north, where there are the largest land grabs and military camps,” he says. “Political meetings are violently disrupted [still] and printing presses burned.”

The Jaffna-based Udayan newspaper suffered the latest in a series of attacks on its premises in the former Tamil Tiger stronghold of Kilinochchi in April when a journalist was attacked.

Army spokesman Brigadier Ruwam Wanigasuriya said that most of the land occupied during the war had been handed back to the original owners. There are plans to eliminate 13 army camps, he added.

But Bishop Thomas Saundranayagam of Jaffna said that during this month alone more than 2,100 Tamils have filed land petitions with the Court of Appeal.

Originally published by UCA News on 2 August 2013.

Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...

Top 10
Cerith Gardiner
New study shows that these 2 childhood habits make you a happier ...
Philip Kosloski
5 Fascinating facts about Jesus in the Eucharist
Bret Thoman, OFS
What Padre Pio saw in the Spanish Flu of 1918
Philip Kosloski
5 Essential things used at Mass and their symbolism
Philip Kosloski
Padre Pio’s favorite prayer of petition
Cerith Gardiner
The lasting lesson from the late Prince Philip
Eric Clapton, Luciano Pavarotti, East London Gospel Choir
J-P Mauro
Hear Clapton and Pavarotti sing a prayer to the “Holy Mothe...
See More
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.