Tamils Commemorate 15 Years Since Mullivaikkal Genocide

Tamils in Sri Lanka's North-East mark Tamil Genocide Remembrance week, commemorating the 2009 Mullivaikkal massacre that killed tens of thousands of Tamils. The Sri Lankan military's artillery shells hit a makeshift hospital, killing dozens, and allegations of chemical weapons use have been made.

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Aqsa Younas Rana
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Tamils Commemorate 15 Years Since Mullivaikkal Genocide

Tamils Commemorate 15 Years Since Mullivaikkal Genocide

Today, Tamils in Sri Lanka's North-East are marking the start of Tamil Genocide Remembrance week, one week before May 18, when the Tamil nation will commemorate 15 years since the Mullivaikkal genocide. In 2009, the Sri Lankan military launched a devastating onslaught that resulted in the massacre of tens of thousands of Tamils.

Why this matters: The commemoration of the Mullivaikkal genocide highlights the ongoing struggle for accountability and justice for the Tamil community, and serves as a reminder of the devastating consequences of unchecked state violence. It also underscores the need for international pressure to ensure that governments are held accountable for human rights abuses and war crimes.

The United Nations initially reported a death toll of 40,000, but later evidence suggested that up to 70,000 people were killed. Local census records indicate that at least 146,679 people are unaccounted for and presumed to have been killed. The International Truth and Justice Project (ITJP) estimates that the highest number of those killed during the final phase of the conflict could be as large as 169,796.

On May 12, 2009, artillery shells were fired at a makeshift hospital in Mullivaikkal, killing dozens of people, including medical volunteers, a nurse, and many patients. The hospital was shelled at a busy time of day, with many injured civilians waiting for treatment. Medical supplies were almost exhausted, and many died instantly or succumbed to their injuries due to a lack of medical care.

The US State Department reported that one shell landed in front of the admission ward, killing 26 people instantly. The shelling continued for hours, with shells hitting the area, including one that landed about 150 yards from the hospital.

The OISL reports that a shell landed near a tent accommodating hospital staff and volunteers, killing a nursing assistant and causing serious burns to six others. Witnesses described patients being brought in with unusual burns, with skin blackened like charcoal. Allegations of chemical weapons, including white phosphorus, being deployed by the Sri Lankan military have been made.

Dr. Navaratnarajah Uyatchi, who headed the last hospital in Mullivaikkal, told the British House of Commons in 2016 that he witnessed the Sri Lankan airforce drop chemical weapons within the vicinity of the hospital.

Then-US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and then-UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband issued a joint statement on May 12, 2009, expressing their profound concern about the humanitarian crisis in northern Sri Lanka. They called on all sides to end hostilities immediately and allow for the safe evacuation of tens of thousands of civilians trapped within the safe zone.

As part of the commemorations, Tamils are boiling and serving Mullivaikkal Kanji, a porridge of rice and water, to honor the thousands of Tamils killed by Sri Lanka's armed forces in the massacre at Mullivaikkal. This simple meal was the only food available to Tamils trapped in the Sri Lankan government-declared 'No Fire Zones' during the final phase of the armed conflict.

Commemorations are taking place across the Tamil homeland. In Jaffna, Tamils served kanji at a monument dedicated to the 11 Tamils killed by Sri Lankan police officers at the 1974 World Tamil Research Conference. In Vavuniya, Tamil families of the disappeared, former LTTE cadres, civil society activists, and residents paid tribute to the victims. Kanji was also served to residents in Mulliyawalai, Mullaitivu and Chenkalady, Batticaloa.

The Sri Lankan government denied the delivery of food into the conflict zones, using starvation as a weapon of war. Even as Tamils stood in long queues to get a bowl of kanji, the Sri Lankan military continued their daily bombardment, slaughtering many. The commemoration serves as a reminder of the devastating impact of the conflict on the Tamil community and the need for accountability and justice.

Key Takeaways

  • Tamil Genocide Remembrance Week marks 15 years since the Mullivaikkal genocide, where tens of thousands of Tamils were killed.
  • Estimates suggest 40,000 to 169,796 people were killed, with 146,679 unaccounted for and presumed dead.
  • A makeshift hospital in Mullivaikkal was shelled, killing dozens, including medical volunteers and patients.
  • Allegations of chemical weapons, including white phosphorus, being used by the Sri Lankan military have been made.
  • Tamils are commemorating the event by serving Mullivaikkal Kanji, a porridge of rice and water, to honor the victims.