Ilankai Tamil Sangam

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A New (Cultural) Campaign against Tamils in Vanni

by Melani Manel Perera, Asia News, Rome Italy, June 14, 2010

As Tamil signs disappear in northern Sri Lanka, those in Sinhalese go up. Soldiers are rebuilding Buddhist temples whilst allowing Christian churches and Hindu temples to lay in ruin even though most locals belong to these two religions. Meanwhile, monuments celebrating the Sinhalese victory are starting to dot the region, but for Tamil victims there is but oblivion.

Detention camp for Tamils in Sri Lanka Asia News June 2010 Colombo (AsiaNews) – The provinces of northern Sri Lanka “are undergoing a different kind of attack, not military, but cultural and religious this time. They are faced with the ‘Sinhalisation’ of the area,” Rukshan Fernando told AsiaNews. The human rights activist and director of the Law and Society Trust just completed a tour of the provinces of Vanni and Killinochi.

“A first example and one that might appear trivial but isn’t so is road signs. Tamil language signs have disappeared; everything now is in Sinhalese. The military claim that Tamil terms are too long and complicated and that’s that. Place names are in both languages, but the one in Sinhalese comes first. What is more, beside the usual and accepted Sinhalese names, signs also mention older Sinhalese names in an attempt to show that these lands are Sinhalese lands,” a Tamil priest told me.

The attempt to change local history and society “also involves religion. In the city of Killinochi, for example, a large arch was put up, saying ‘May Buddhism shine’.” Yet, most people in the area are either Hindus or Christians.”

“Buddhist temples have been rebuilt and are spotless, whereas the places of worship of other religions are not allowed to do the same. And the difference is clearly visible since soldiers are involved in the work at Buddhist sites.”

Lastly, this campaign includes monument building. “Soldiers are building all sorts of monument hailing the victory of the government and the army over the Tamil Tigers. For locals, they are a symbol of their domination, also because no one is allowed to build anything to commemorate Tamil war dead.”