Tsunami Disaster & Tamil Eelam
Sampavi Parimalanathan, an
writes on her return from North-East Sri Lanka
Death, Destruction & Discrimination
30 January 2005
The writer is a Student Volunteer from one of the
Universities in Sydney,
who originally went to Sri Lanka to help in the hospitals
"..I have just returned from
my stay in tsunami affected Northeast Sri Lanka, having been
there from the day the tsunami hit.The images of the people
and their suffering are still clear in my mind. Their cries
for help, their wails, their mourning still ring loudly in
my ear. Words cannot describe the extent of the damage the
people I have seen have experienced. I have lost count of
the number of orphans I have come across, the number of
mothers who have watched as their infants were snatched from
their fingers by the waters, and the number of husbands –
the bread winners – with no family to feed...I write this
from experience. I was there amidst the atrocity. I saw the
discrimination. I witnessed the injustice..."
Sampavi Parimalanathan, an Australian Tamil writes from
North-East Sri Lanka, 31 December 2004]
I have just returned from my stay in tsunami
affected Northeast Sri Lanka, having been there from the day the
The images of the people and their suffering are still clear in my
mind. Their cries for help, their wails, their mourning still ring
loudly in my ear. Words cannot describe the extent of the damage the
people I have seen have experienced. I have lost count of the number
of orphans I have come across, the number of mothers who have
watched as their infants were snatched from their fingers by the
waters, and the number of husbands – the bread winners – with no
family to feed.
Yet, amongst all this atrocity, I am amazed at the unity that I see
in these people. On one occasion, my friend had accidentally
distributed an extra mat to a classroom filled with refugees. Each
room housed about 14 families, and only one mat was rationed per
room. Yet, even amongst all the discomfort, the families in that
particular classroom were selfless enough to return the extra mat,
saying, “Brother, we’ve already received our share”.
Everywhere I go, I continue to see the tremendous work done by
(Tamil Rehabilitation Organisation). I am amazed at their
efficiency, and their ability to handle such a large scale crisis.
Every refugee I have spoken to only has praise for the work done by
them. Running on a few hours sleep each day, I see them manage
family after family, as they arrive by the bus load to the refugee
(Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) too amaze me with their
dedication to the Tamil people. Although many of them have sustained
losses of their own family members, they have had the courage and
determination to put their feelings aside in order to serve “their
people”. Three days after the tsunami, gloves were scarce. Yet there
was still a need for the removal of the hundreds of bodies being
found amongst the wreckage. The LTTE’s commitment to the people, the
land, and the cause was confirmed, in my eyes, when I witnessed them
removing decayed bodies with their bare hands.
It would be an understatement to say they were selfless.
Yet, amongst all this, I continue to see discrimination from the Sri
Media is still discouraged from entering the Northeast, and
hence the international community is yet not informed enough of the
extent of the situation there. Day by day, barriers are put up,
hindering aid from reaching Tamil areas.
Anti-Tamil acts have been prevalent since Sri Lanka received
independence in 1948, yet, the most brutal of all forms of
discrimination would have to be the ones imposed on the innocent
Tamils affected by the tsunami.
The latest of these was the detainment of a shipment of medical
supplies bound for Northeast Sri Lanka. While in Sri Lanka, I was
informed of the Sri Lankan Army terrorising Tamil refugee camps,
ordering for all food and medical supplies to be handed over. I am
yet unsure of how much foreign aid is actually reaching the
Northeast province. However, the most disturbing of all, would have
had to be the raping of orphaned displaced girls by members of the
Sri Lankan Army.
It is ironic, that considered 'terrorists' by many nations, the
LTTE, are the
ones serving the people, and the Sri Lankan Army are the ones
terrorising its citizens.
If Kofi Annan, a man who represents neutrality and basic human
rights, is himself not allowed to visit the victims of the tsunami,
solely because they are Tamil and inhabit the Northeast province,
one needs to reassess the reasons why the LTTE were forced to pick
up arms for independence.
the Sri Lankan government has victimised Tamils. They have been
discriminated against in educational and employment, they have been
targets of government backed up racial violence, such as the
1983 riots which killed thousands of Tamils, and they are now
being deprived of humanitarian relief.
The Sri Lankan government’s response to the Tamil victims is a
perfect example of why the Tamil people need their own country.
Their welfare is clearly not of any concern to the Sri Lankan
government, and even in such a state of absolute loss, the Sri
Lankan government is merciless enough to discriminate against one,
simply because he or she is Tamil.
I write this from experience. I was there amidst the atrocity. I saw
the discrimination. I witnessed the injustice.
A 13 year old boy, who had lost every member of his family, put the
situation in Northeast Sri Lanka, in a nut shell: “If, even at such
a time of massive human loss, the Sri Lankan government can
discriminate against Tamils, then, we Tamils are justified in
fighting for a separate land”.