Sri Lankan, Tamils


Sri Lanka was victim to a bloody civil war between the ethnic minority of Tamils and the ethnic majority of Sinhalese, a war that has lasted for over 26 years. The Tamils were consequently defeated in the civil war, by 2009 – 300, 000 Tamils were held in concentration camps controlled by the Sri Lankan army. Conditions within the camps included shortages of food, water and medical supplies. The squalid conditions resulting in a death rate of several hundred per month.¹

The conflict began long before the civil. More and more government legislation was being introduced to discriminate against Tamils by removing their citizenship rights and declaring Sinhalese the national language, making it a pre-requisite for jobs in the public service.² The Tamils responded to this with Gandhi-like civil resistance methods but these were met with violence and arrests by the Sri Lankan army acting on orders from the government. After 35 years of peaceful resistance and struggle using methods like demonstrations, sit-ins and parliamentary participation, Tamil youths formed an armed resistance.

The government employed such methods as massacres of Tamil civilians to incite terror and deter the armed forces. Tamil civilians were among the largest victims of the civil war and were left with no where to flee or escape to.

Towards the end of the civil war, the UN estimated that up to 20,000-40,000 Tamil civilians were killed during an all out offensive by the Sri Lankan army where camps, hospitals and schools were bombed in an attempt to completely eradicate all remaining LTTE (Tamil Tigers) members.

Tom Allard from the Sydney Morning Herald conducted an interview by telephone from a boat of Tamil asylum seekers. The man he was interviewing – ‘Alex’ “said most [on the boat] were from the city of Jaffna where, he said, the Sinhalese-backed Government was abducting Tamils, putting them in camps, then torturing and killing them.

”There’s not a person on this boat who has not seen someone they know killed or tortured…There are kids here who have seen the legs of their fathers cut off in front of them.

They are taking people out at night, stripping them and shooting them. Five people every day, sometimes 10. Women are being tortured and raped.”

“He said the 253 people on board, including 27 women and 31 children, had hidden in the jungles of Malaysia for a month while waiting for their boat to take them to Christmas Island.”³


¹ Bruce Haigh. The Age 2009. (

² Chris Slee. Green Left Weekly 2007. (

³ Tom Allard. Sydney Morning Herald 2009. (


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