For more than two decades, the government of Sri Lanka has been fighting a civil war with a rebel group known as the Tamil Tigers. Now, the war may be reaching a climax as the government launches a final assault in the last rebel-held area, after the Tamil Tigers ignored an ultimatum to surrender.
Violence is heating up in Sri Lanka’s north, in what’s left of a government no-fire zone near the town of Mullativu. Tens of thousands of civilians are caught in the middle of what the Red Cross calls a catastrophe, although some 50,000 others escaped to government-controlled areas.
Both sides have been accused of humanitarian abuses.
For more on the conflict, listen to our online radio show on Sri Lanka’s civil war.
Below, watch a video of a protest at New York’s United Nations building in the U.S. Many of the Tamils present at the April 17 rally have family members in Sri Lanka, and often expressed varying opinions of the Tamil Tigers.
Bloggers in Sri Lanka have also reacted to the developments in the north.
On Monday, a blogger at the “Serving Sri Lanka” blog reacted as civilians escaped the conflict zone:
Today, as I watched thousands of helpless civilians flock to leave the no fire zone and enter the government controlled areas, the tragic scenes of the aftermath of the boxing day Tsunami flashed across my mind. Yes I believe that the situation is as grave or even worse now. I was trying to imagine what might be going through the minds of these frightened and weary looking human beings. They have suffered untold miseries during the past several months, their lives are uncertain even at this very moment, may be they have lost a loved one. What do they want? What could they want?
The answer may be as simple as a better tomorrow. The question is can we provide them that. If we are to win anything we must gradually improve their battered lives. Their condition should improve day by day. These are people who have suffered a life time. They have grievances, they have their doubts. We must allay them. We must provide them with a much better alternative and give them hope. We can not afford to wait. We should not think that it is the sole responsibility of the Government, the NGOs, the INGOs and the like.
I feel that it is my responsibility and duty as well. I can not for a second think that I am not responsible for their sad plight. I should take my fare share of blame as a Sri Lankan citizen for all the senseless deaths that have taken place in this bloody war of over thirty years. The military offensive may be nearing an end. The challenges of tomorrow I feel are colossal. At the very same time we are also presented with a tremendous opportunity for making Sri Lanka a better place for every one, irrespective of race, religion, cast or creed. Let us begin by going out of our way to make the lives of these suffering humans a better one. How soon we succeed in doing this will ensure how soon the healing and mending can begin.
Sri Lankan blogger Indrajit Samarajiva describes visiting the Vavuniya hospital in northern Sri Lanka to deliver medical supplies and other basic necessities:
Vavuniya town itself is a fully functional town. Big petrol shed, Cargill’s Food City, roads, buses, road construction. The hospital is a big greenish grey building near the center of town. It is one of the better equipped hospitals in the region and not directly in the warzone. However, it’s built for like 500 and there’s currently more than double that, plus their families. Looks like they could use more roll-out mattresses, water mattresses, pillows, sheets, clothes, etc.
A lot of women and children, lot of nursing mothers. Lot of limb wounds, bandaged feet, arms, etc. This is not meant to be political, but I would like to note that these people are Sri Lankan, they’re being treated in government hospitals and protected by our security forces. I’m Sinhalese and I’m not genocidal. I’m trying to live here and I do respect and look out for the Tamil people as my family and neighbors. There are literally millions of Sri Lankans like me. I just wish the LTTE would let its human shields go and accept amnesty. And let our people go.
“Bobby,” a Sri Lankan living in Australia, comments about his own experience with the war:
I am Jaffna (sri lanka) born tamil. Been living in Australia for the last 15 years. I was in the civil war over there for the first 15 years of my life. War is not a nice thing to be in. I know the feeling. When the fighter jets bombing, ships from the ocean bombing and the army on the land bombing, what do you do? I have lost 2 of my cousins, 2 uncles killed by the Sri Lankan army. I can tell you right now they were innocent as you and me. One of my cousin who came from SL to Aust a year ago, brought a grade 3 school photo of me and him in the same class at a school in Jaffna (sri lanka). We looked through the picture and i asked my cousin ‘i remember this guy, i remember this guy’ cousin’s answers were ‘he is dead, he is dead. Finally, i found out that out of 30 boys on the picture 20 of them are dead.