The article below is an example of the Sri Lankan government's discrimination against Tamils. Over the years, the government has moved from its thinly-veiled claim that it represents all Sri Lankan citizens and fights only the Tamil Tiger rebels to openly acknowledging that the war it is waging is against all Tamils. The article below is one example that illustrates this, and, I am afraid, one of many more to come.
The government's actions against Tamils in Colombo in this article (who really owe no one any explanation as to why they choose to live in any part of their own country) is equivalent to, say, the U.S. government telling people from Houston that they cannot live in Washington D.C. and sending them back to their hometown.
And sadly, the climate in the world today is such that many will buy the government's actions as legitimate because it is "fighting terrorism" and acting in the interest of "national security." Meanwhile, innocent civilians, rightful citizens, are being treated as outsiders in their own homeland.
I've lived away from "home" for almost 23 years, and the place I feel most unwelcome in is the country whose passport I have the misfortune of carrying.
By Paul Tighe and Anusha Ondaatjie
June 8 (Bloomberg) -- Sri Lanka's government expelled more than 370 people from the capital, Colombo, saying the order is part of security controls after bomb attacks by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.
About 500 Tamils were forced to leave the city yesterday,TamilNet reported on its Web site, adding that Tamil lawmakers demanded a debate in Parliament. New York-based Human RightsWatch said the evictions are ``blatantly discriminatory'' and will fuel the country's civil conflict.
``Humiliation of this magnitude ultimately points at apolicy of gradual eviction of Tamils from Colombo,'' TamilNet cited Mano Ganesan, a lawmaker of the Western Province People'sFront, as telling Parliament.
Sri Lanka's army and LTTE escalated fighting in the past year, including Tamil Tiger raids by a new air wing near Colombo.The government blamed the LTTE for two separate bomb attacks ona military truck and a bus near the capital last month that killed seven people.
Police acted against people ``unable to provide valid reasons for their stay,'' the government said, adding that the evictions were undertaken ``without any communal consideration.'' LTTE attacks have been planned by people livingin the capital, it said.
Many stayed for more than six months ``on the pretext that someone has to obtain his/her identity cards or passport" without any progress being made on obtaining such documents,according to the statement.
Colombo district's population was about 2.25 million people,according to the latest census in 2001. There were 247,739 SriLankan Tamils and 24,821 Tamils of Indian origin in the area, the census showed.
A total of 376 people were sent back to their homes in Jaffna and Vavuniya in the north and Batticaloa and Trincomalee in the east, the government said on its Web site. The LTTE is fighting for a separate homeland in areas of northern and eastern Sri Lanka it controls.
The Tamils were sent home by buses, TamilNet reported, without saying where it obtained the information. As many as 300 people are being held by police because of a lack of transport to take them away, it said.
``Nothing could be more inflammatory in Sri Lanka's polarized climate than identifying people by ethnicity and kicking them out of the capital,'' Brad Adams, Human RightsWatch's Asia director, said in an e-mailed statement today.
The government has every right to undertake security measures when there are threats to the public, he said.
``Tamil Tiger crimes don't give the government the right to engage in collective punishment,'' Adams said. ``The Sri Lankan government is sending the dangerous message that it views most of its Tamil citizens as a threat to security.''
Rights groups in Sri Lanka sent a letter to President Mahinda Rajapaksa calling on him to stop the operation,according to an e-mailed statement issued late yesterday byorganizations such as the Center for Human Rights and Development and the Institute of Human Rights.
Sri Lanka's army in April took control of the eastern region around Batticaloa for the first time in 14 years. Fighting in the region drove an estimated 90,000 people from villages to join about 60,000 people already living in refugee camps, the United Nations said at the time.
The LTTE, which is designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S., the European Union and India, has an estimated 12,000 fighters, including 4,000 members of its Sea Tigers force.
The group said last month the latest proposals by SriLanka's Sinhalese leaders for a political settlement leaveTamils subservient and are the same as those rejected 30 yearsago. The LTTE says Tamils, who make up less than a fifth of thepopulation of 20 million people, are discriminated against bythe Sinhalese majority.
A 2002 cease-fire between the government and the LTTE is vital in the search for a political settlement, the Tamil Tigers said in February. The accord recognizes the balance of powerbetween the army and LTTE forces and the de facto existence of aTamil homeland with its own civil administration, defense forceand judiciary, the group said.