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Sowing the seeds of future rebellion – Comment

September 17, 2009

The Guardian – Tamils rail under Sri Lanka’s heel

The Sri Lankan government’s ruthless repression of the Tamil people is sowing the seeds of future rebellion

When the Sri Lankan government routed the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam on the sandy beaches of the country’s north east, few would have predicted that the government offensive would continue. Yet in the months that have followed there has been little magnanimity, let alone reconciliation. Tens of thousands of Tamil civilians are still being kept in camps surrounded by barbed wire. The victorious army is being expanded – a bizarre peace dividend in a country that had to be thrown an IMF lifeline earlier this year.

This is really zero-sum identity politics: the Sinhalese government’s victory viewed as the Tamils’ catastrophic defeat. Colombo’s streets are littered with so many pictures of president Mahinda Rajapaksa and his brothers that the incipient personality cult would shame a Chinese communist. The triumphalism in Colombo means those who dare to question the government are deemed Tiger collaborators, terrorist sympathisers or Tamil secessionists.

These charges can discredit virtually any position in Sri Lanka. The result is a surreal and deadly political climate where even though the entire leadership of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam was wiped out in May, the government is on a war footing to kill off a comeback.

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