Continuing abuse of former combatants in Sri Lanka misunderstood by Home Office

In March the Home Office released a new ‘country profile’ for Sri Lanka. It contains claims that the treatment of former LTTE members, who have suffered imprisonment, disappearances and torture, is much improved. However, the evidence of this improvement has been drawn from a very small number of reports from largely pro-establishment media sources.

There is no indication that extensive research has been done on the ground. It is impossible to conduct such research without running into significant difficulties with the Sri Lankan government. In fact the notes on the Home Office document point out the lack of research, but nonetheless draw bold conclusions in terms of the situation.

Eight years after the end of the war, LTTE members are still kept in camps of sorts. Those who are released are closely monitored. Some decided to work closely with the military and intelligence services. Apart from them, many are still living in very difficult conditions. Even those who decided not to do any political activity cannot carry on with their life. They are not able to mix with the Tamil community or return back to normal life. ( )

This is not just a problem of “poverty” or “economic difficulties. It is true that the government has not allocated enough resources to provide medical, health and other facilities to these war victims. But there is another important truth that must be noted here. Due to the pressure and constant monitoring of the state and military involvement, the Tamil community is in general avoiding any connection with these former combatants ( ). No one will give them a job or take the risk of any association with them. This cultural alienation is, in effect, a systemic discrimination arising from the treatment of them by the military and the state. This further contributes to the alienation and depression former combatants suffer.

Anyone who helps them or aids them in any way also comes under surveillance by the state. Research published by the Canadian immigration and refugees board clearly outlined this systematic discrimination ( The same statement is published in February 2015 after the election of the new government. The claim that the situation got better under the current government is disputed by many reports (take a look for example at the Nation report published in March this year

Without doubt there can be biases in the Tamil media at times, but the reports produced by the Sri Lankan government are always biased. The former Sri Lankan government claimed that there are no casualties in the 2009 war! Departing from that false view and accepting some wrong-doing is not in itself a sign of a transformed approach. The current prime minister claimed that all the missing people are dead. He later claimed that they had all left the country. This and numerous reports can be sited here that would shed light on the unwillingness of the current government to deliver justice or improve democratic conditions. They play “good” to the western governments mainly to maintain better relationships with western governments to maintain the trade relationships.

If the west stands for human rights and justice they must see through the bogus claims and abstract deceptions. Tamil journalists and researchers that point out situation on the ground are respected in their fields. If they take the strong view, it is due to the fact that the reality is still horrific and unacceptable for the majority of the Tamil population – political activists in particular.

Tamils living in Britain who are trying to donate to various charities to help the victims of war are also portrayed as terrorists. It will be ridiculous to assume that the diaspora organisations can function freely in Sri Lanka even to help out the war victims. Not a single diaspora organisation that is active politically is functioning openly inside Sri Lanka. It is not due to some assumed “fear” – but based on concrete evidence of persecution and intimidation.

The Home Office’s understanding of the political developments inside Sri Lanka is questionable. Even the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), the main Tamil party which is collaborating with the current government and increasingly unpopular among Tamils, says that the veneer of social peace cannot hold. Numerous protests are being organised, including mass rallies such as “eluka Tamil” (Tamils, Rise). At this stage it is the older population who are behind these who openly say that they have nothing to lose – even demanding at the gates of military camp to shoot them.

The boiling anger among younger generation has not fully exploded – but that event cannot be avoided with the direction of travel of current government. It is no surprise then that the military spending is higher than ever – higher even than the war time. Neither the repeal of the PTA nor the so-called constitutional reform promised by the new government has materialised. In effect all the signs indicate that the current government will eventually lean towards hard-core Sinhala chauvinism in order to get elected again. This is the short summary of the developing political situation in Sri Lanka.

This outrageously mistaken and shallow view of the situation by the Home Office does not however arise purely from ignorance but from a heartless hope of expediency in the removal of asylum seekers. This brutality will cost lives if it goes unchecked.