Sri Lanka – minorities decry discrimination as country turns exclusive
Location: Colombo- Sri Lanka
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Security forces in Sri Lanka are “oppressing” minorities, especially the Tamil ethnic minority and Muslims, against whom hate crimes have seen a surge, said activist Swasthika Arulingam. She explained that minorities still suffer from discrimination at public places, schools, government agencies and police stations, as minority languages are rarely used or spoken there. She highlighted that consecutive governments’ acquiescence to populists and racists is the reason why the country is faced with human rights abuses. Former minister-turned activist Mano Ganesan described the country as “unstable” due to the social and political situation it is mired in, noting the country is left with this situation because the authorities have not addressed national issues. Ganesan said political parties and activists representing Muslims and Tamils are drafting a document that can pave the way for the creation of an environment where people are treated equally.
– (Soundbite) Attorney-at-Law (AAL) Swasthika Arulingam and member of the Liberation Movement. Liberation Movement is a collective of women fighting against all forms of oppression.
“Even after this 30-year long civil war, minorities face language issues. If you go to police stations, if you go to court houses, if you go to government institutions; we do not get services in Tamil language. We have services in Tamil language, but it is not obtained so easily. I am a Tamil minority, if I go to a Police station, I still have to wait extra hours if I want that statement in Tamil. Land is an issue for minorities. Continuous racism and the experience of continuous racism being called names, being considered or not considered for a job, these things become an issue for minority communities. The handling of businesses becomes an issue for minority communities.”
– (Soundbite) Tamil Progressive Alliance (TPA) Leader Mano Ganesan – He is a former Minister of National Dialogue. Ganesan is the founder of the Civil Monitoring Commission on Extra-Judicial Killings and Disappearance.
“It is currently an unstable country. I am ashamed to say that, but it is the reality. But this unstable condition has arisen due to the unresolved national issues in this country. I am worried about it, and as a responsible Sri Lankan, Political Party Leader must say, but the command of this we need to address the national question in an amicable way, where Tamil speaking people can live with dignity and equality in this country, and that is what we do. Right now, today, we have assembled in Colombo. At least Twelve political party leaders and representative, who represent Tamils in the North and East, Tamils in the South also Muslim community in Sri Lanka. So, therefore we are trying to compile a document which can pave way for establishing or creating a right conducive political environment that will pave way for us to live as sisters and brothers, members of one family with the Sinhalese brothers.”
– (Soundbite) Attorney-at-Law (AAL) Swasthika Arulingam – Swasthika Arulingam:
“And the use of security laws, the use of security as a tool to oppress minorities is a huge issue for the minority communities. It was used against Tamils during the Civil War, and now it’s used against the Muslims after the Easter Sunday Attack. So, minorities continue to face regular and daily oppression. And my opinion and experience is that consecutive governments have always bowed down to populist narratives of racism rather than countering this issue in Sri Lanka to take our country forward.”