Self-rule eludes Tamils in Sri Lanka

Feb. 9, 2010 at 7:15 AM
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COLOMBO, Sri Lanka, Feb. 9 (UPI) -- The Tamils of Sri Lanka express frustration the long civil war didn't bring them the self-rule the Tamil Tigers fought for until their defeat last May.

"All of this armed struggle, so many dead and wounded, for what?" said P. Balasundarampillai, a citizen committee leader in the Tamil area of Jaffna in northern Sri Lanka, told The New York Times.

The 26-year long rebellion was ended by the military last May. The island nation's 21 million people are predominantly Sinhalese, with the Tamils accounting for about 12 percent of the population.

"In many spheres of public life our role is very much reduced," Balasundarampillai said.

The Times reported one measure of what the Tamils must endure was seen in the presidential election last month in which claims of discrimination against the Tamils by the majority was hardly an issue.

The contest was between incumbent President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his main rival, retired Gen. Sarath Fonseka, both hailed as heroes for putting down the Tiger rebellion.

The Times reported after his election victory, Rajapaksa has only given vague assurances about unifying the country, while not willing to merge the north and east provinces which would make the Tamil region larger. But the president is willing to grant some powers to existing provinces to meet a constitutional requirement.

The Tamil community in the Jaffna Peninsula has been hit hard.

The report said about 100,000 of its residents are dead, while many more have fled to other countries, leaving the Tamils without effective leadership.

The answer to the so-called "Tamil question" remains elusive, it said.

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