UTM Tamil Student Association protest conflict in Sri Lanka

Last Tuesday, in response to a worsening conflict in Sri Lanka where government forces captured the de facto capital of the breakaway Tamil government, the Tamil Students Association (TSA) at UTM held a twenty-four hour fast at the Student Centre. The focus was on the humanitarian disaster in the town of Kilinochchi, where thousands have been killed in fights between Tamil fighters and Sri Lankan government soldiers.

This is not about taking sides, its about the civilians and the shelling, explained Srivany Kanagalingam from the TSA, who was among those sitting on a rug in the middle of the Student Centre. We are doing this to try to raise awareness of the humanitarian disaster.

Literature provided by the TSA pointed out how the only highway into the Tamil-dominated peninsula of Jaffna was permanently closed recently, thereby trapping nearly half a million Tamil civilians in a virtually open prison camp.

Although no reliable death toll numbers are available for the recent round of fighting in Sri Lanka, approximately 70,000 people have been killed since the Tamil Tigers launched an attack in the northern part of the island nation in July of 1983. In response, minority ethnic Tamils living in Colombo were massacred in the following years, killing between 400 and 3,000 people. Fighting between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and the Sri Lankan military has raged for years, with both sides inflicting heavy civilian casualties.

When asked what they will do in order to pass the time sitting in the foyer of the Student Centre, Partheepan Raveendran mused that they might talk it up, sleep, spend time on their laptops, or play cards throughout the night. There was no food in sight of course.

The TSA explained that our aim is to educate the non-Tamil community and ask them for their support in putting an end to the civil war and the humanitarian crisis…the Sri Lankan government has silenced the voices of its own citizens. Vice President of the TSA Neluja Kulanthavadivel asked, If the government ignores the pleas of its own people, who then can speak for them? The fasting protest was part of a coordinated global movement.