Looking back, looking forward: A brief chat with HRW Human Rights Defender Award winner Sunila Abeysekera on war and peace in Sri Lanka

Sunila Abeysekera, a recipient of the prestigious Human Rights Defender Awards by Human Rights Watch, speaks on the year that was and what lies ahead in 2008 .


In her interview, Sunila strikes a sombre note and says:

“I think [2007] is the worst year I’ve seen in Sri Lanka in terms of human rights… It’s very hard to have any sense of hope for 2008.”

“The old international community – Norway, Netherlands, Germany – is really seriously irrelevant.”

“No space for civil society.”

“Even if Prabhakaran is killed tomorrow and the LTTE is devastated the issues of discrimination against Tamil people in this country will continue to exist.”

“I don’t think equality is going to come about because we have a military victory against the LTTE – certainly not.”

For a related article on Sunila, please read A Romance with Rights.

  • brownsuger

    “Even if Prabhakaran is killed tomorrow and the LTTE is devastated the issues of discrimination against Tamil people in this country will continue to exist.”

    Any country, however democratic they called them selves where there is a majority ethnic community / race there would be varying degrees of discriminations against minorities. The only way that this could be moderated is through the legislature with the involvement of civil society.

    If civil society is powerless, that is mainly due to IT not having a common vision. Each component of the civil society has its own agendas, when there is no common vision or mission for IT; how can the whole, ever be greater than the sum of its parts!!

  • shami

    That’s absolutely right, Sunila….wiping out Prabhakaran and the Tigers will not solve the issues faced by the Tamil people. Infact, the way things are right now in the country, no one from any minority is welcome…its the land of the JHU, JVP and Rajapakses

  • N. Ethirveerasingam

    Discrimination existed before Pirapakaran started his resistance to it. LTTE is a reaction to racism. Unless a majority of the Sinhala Buddhist Sri Lankans consider the Tamil community as equals, the struggle will go on for years to come in one form or other until Tamils govern themselves. Sooner the Sinhala Leaders realise this the sooner we can commence reconciliation. Civil society can bring the reality to those in power but it has no coerceive power to make any changes. The services civil society provide from a neutral and moral point of view are nevertheless important to begin the journey towards resolution of the conflict.

  • ealem boy

    Tamls should be thankful to Mahinda &company, unlike chandria, he is taking down the whole country not just tamils.

  • SinhalaLondoner

    Brownsuger is correct about lack of common vision. We need to unite – Tamils, Sinhalese and Muslims to fight the oppressive Rajapakse regime. The first step is to oppose this war and try and end it before more lives are lost.

  • http://---------N/A----------- michael wicremesinghe

    Brown Sugar is or maybe not looking at this situation in it,s total perspective. Who really caused this Ethnic Strife in Sri Lanka?
    In any case there’s no point in pointing fingers at all and Sundry and winning HR awards for explicit pieces of literature unless you come back to your land and live a life with those thousands who are afflicted on both sides.

    Its easy for you guys to present facts to win accolades but the issue remains the same whatever you do.

    Also remember that GOD is in control n each of these situations.

    May GOd bless you too.