Written by Cheong Hui Shi

The newly elected president of Sri Lanka, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, officially pronounced the deaths of 20,000 Tamils who went missing after the Civil War ended in 2009. 

A Brief History of the Sri Lankan Civil War

The Civil War began in 1983, where The Tamil Tigers, a troop of insurgents fought against the Buddhist Sinhalese-controlled government with the intention to secede from Sri Lanka and seize power for the minority Hindu Tamil population. They are widely recognised by Sri Lankans as a terrorist organization for their suicide bombings. 

After years of battles, the Sri Lankan troops declared victory against the Hindu Tamils in 2009. The Civil War accumulated a death count of at least 10,000 Sri Lankans but left 20,000 Tamils unaccounted for.

Why is this significant?

Throughout the years of the Civil War, the United Nations (UN) Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights launched human right abuse reports against the Sri Lankan military for carrying out illicit war crimes, abduction and killings towards Tamil civilians, journalists and activists. 

Despite the injustices done against the Tamil community in Sri Lanka, President Rajapaksa in a meeting with a UN envoy in Sri Lanka’s capital, Colombo, announced that a new law will be passed where members of parliament who are indicted of human right abuses will be given impunity. 

The intention behind his acknowledgement of the deaths was to give closure to families of Tamil victims, and death certificates will be issued. 

Under the Sri Lankan law, the lack of death certificates means that families cannot access property rights, bank statements or inheritances left by those missing relatives.

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