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Sri Lanka Accused of a 'Silent War' Against the Tamil Minority

May 28, 2015

The report said the newly elected government had showed no signs of concrete actions to end the sufferings of the Tamil people.

A “silent war” is being waged against Sri Lanka's minority Tamil by the country's military, almost 6 years after the end of a decades-long civil war between the majority Sinhalese government and the separatists Tamil Tigers, stated a report published Thursday by U.S.-based think tank the Oakland Institute.

“Six years later, a silent war continues under a different guise,” says the report, “The Long Shadow of War: the Struggle for Justice in Postwar Sri Lanka.” “One major issue is the continued displacement of people from their lands and homes as a result of persistent military occupation of the northern and eastern provinces.”

The report added that little hope for reconciliation was on the horizon as the Tamils' lands continue to be occupied by tens of thousands of soldiers, while the inquiries into allegations of war crimes committed by both the state and the Tamil tigers continue to be delayed by the government.

The report comes few months after President Mathripala Sirisena's government was elected with promises of reconciliation. It secured the delay of a United Nations report due in March after the U.N. human rights chief praised its willingness to embrace investigations into the 26-year long ethnic civil war.

However, the Oakland Institute’s report said that the newly elected government had showed no signs of concrete actions to end the sufferings of the Tamil people. An "aggressive" process of "Sinhalization" over the past six years had seen Tamil culture systematically replaced by victory monuments dedicated to Sinhalese hegemony and the majority Buddhist religion, the report said.

“Today my home is still occupied by the army, which pays LKR 300 ($2.25) per month for the land. I went to the Human Rights Commission in Batticaloa and to the district officer to protest the continued occupation of my home. The army says, ‘if the government asks us to move, we will vacate the lands.’ But there is no legal procedure to obtain my land back,” Tamil Kulanthaivel Thavamany said in a direct testimony to the Oakland Institute in December 14, 2014.

Thavamany's Husndad is also one of the thousands who were taken during the civil war and remains missing to this day. “One day, my husband, along with 15 other males, was arrested by the army and taken away. I was told by the soldiers to come along with them if I wanted my husband. I refused. Another woman went, but she never returned.”

A 2012 report by the U.N estimates that 70,00 people remain missing since the end of the war.

Moreover, the recent report claims that in 2014 more than 160,000 soldiers, almost entirely Sinhalese, were based in the north and east regions of the country where the populations stands at 1 million Tamils. That means one soldier for every six residents. The report also added that the military there has been engaged in large-scale infrastructure development projects that included luxury hotels and resorts for which bookings are done through phone numbers at the defense ministry.

“The army has expanded non-military activities and is engaged in large-scale property development, construction projects, and business ventures such as travel agencies, farming, holiday resorts, restaurants, and innumerable cafes that dot the highways in the northern and eastern provinces,” the report claims. “The army officially runs luxury resorts and golf courses that have been erected on land seized from now – internally displaced peoples.”

Meanwhile, the Guardian reported that the Sri Lanka High Commission in London rejected several of the report’s claims, saying that the Oakland think tank had overestimated the number of troops in the northern province and exaggerated the extent of the military’s property development program.​