It is still impossible to heal the wounds of Sri Lanka’s civil war

In Sri Lanka, 13 years after the quarter-century civil war with the Tamil Tigers ended, reconciliation seems a long way off. Elected in 2019, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who is considered a hero by the Sinhalese majority and accused by the Tamil minority of committing war crimes during the conflict, exemplifies this division. Thomas Dennis reports from France 24 with Navudita Kumari.

The roots of the conflict in Sri Lanka go back to the British colonial period. When the island of Ceylon gained independence in 1948, the Sinhalese majority, who are Buddhists, seized power, and the minority Tamils, made up of Hindus and Christians, were accused of being close to the colonizers and quickly found themselves marginalized.

In 1972, Ceylon became Sri Lanka, with Buddhism installed as the state religion.

But in the northeast of the country, Tamil separatists began to organize themselves, turning into the Tamil Tigers, and their demands were the creation of an independent state called Tamil Eelam.

In 1977, clashes broke out between Tamil youth and the police, and anti-Tamil riots also broke out across the country, causing hundreds of Tamils ​​to be killed, and young people were slowly becoming radicalised.

They later began targeting the Sri Lankan army, and in 1983 13 soldiers were killed in an ambush, and organized massacres against the Tamil population killed several thousand people, beginning what would become a civil war.

The conflict lasted until 2009, in fact until all the Tamil Tiger fighters were killed. At least 100,000 people died, tens of thousands went missing and hundreds of thousands were displaced, and most of the civilian casualties were Tamils.

Nearly 13 years later, reconciliation seems a long way off, with Sinhalese hailing Sri Lanka’s current president as a hero, but Tamils ​​accused of war crimes since he was defense minister. Of the women outlive their husbands in the conflict – many have been confirmed dead, and many are still missing. For them, mourning is impossible as they fight for the truth about what happened.

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