Why It Is Genocide

Written by: Priyanth Nallaratnam

The Permanent People’s Tribunal last year concluded that what’s happening in Tamil Eelam is an ongoing genocide of Eelam Tamils. This is a historical landmark in the Tamil Eelam liberation struggle for couple of reasons: The independent panel of Jurists recognized the identity of Eelam Tamils in the island, recognized the ongoing genocide of the Eelam Tamils and also identified the perpetrators of the Genocide which exposed the direct and indirect involvement of several nations. Before we explore the first and last point in this article, we will explore why it is called genocide and what makes it an ongoing genocide.

Genocide is relatively a new term coined by Raphael Lemkin in his work titled, “Axis rule in occupied Europe” in 1944. Later, he worked tirelessly and lobbied nations around the world to ratify the convention of Genocide, which did happen on 1948. Unfortunately, even though Lemkin was able to lobby the international community to recognize “The Convention On The Prevention And Punishment of the Crime of Genocide” (CPPCG), his broader scope on Genocide was not accepted. The CPPCG is used today in the International Criminal Court (ICC) through the Rome Statute to convict a state or non-state actor accordingly to ICC’s jurisdiction.

The history and current day events in the occupied state of Tamil Eelam provide ample evidences to support that the state of Sri Lanka is committing an ongoing genocide against the Eelam Tamils. First and foremost, to prove that its a genocide the intent of the crime of Genocide needs to be identified and this is defined as the “intent to destroy a (racial, religious or ethnic) group as a whole or in part”. The Eelam Tamils in this case are a “ethnic group” who have a unique culture, history and identity. The Chauvinist Sinhala majority has historically exhibited its intent to destroy the Eelam Tamils even before the establishment of the Sri Lankan state. The Sri Lankan state was founded on the principles of Mahavamsa, which is a Sinhala version of Theravada Buddhism. It was written by Buddhist clergies centuries back (based on fictions more than facts) that demonizes the Tamil from the North and the East.  According to Sinhala Buddhism, Eelam Tamils are a threat to the existence of the Sinhala people in the south therefore this identity needs to erased from the island. This ideology has dominated Sinhala leadership starting from Bandaranaike in 1948 to Rajapaksa today continue to believe Eelam Tamils as a threat to the existence of the Sinhala nation.

President Jayawardene
Image Source : http://www.lankastandard.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/JR-jayawardene-e1316559703580.jpg



Since 1948, the successive chauvinist Sinhala regimes showed their intent of destroying the Eelam Tamils as a whole or in part through a protracted Genocide. An example where the intent to destroy the Eelam Tamil nation could be observed during the tragic events of the 1983 pogrom. Then President Jayawardene said, “ I am not worried about the opinion of the Jaffna people… now we cannot think of them, not about their lives or their opinion… the more you put pressure in the north, the happier the Sinhala people will be here… Really if I starve the Tamils out, the Sinhala people will be happy ”, which clearly expresses the intent to destroy the Eelam Tamils by the Sinhala nation. Now that the intent of the crime of Genocide has been established, the acts of genocide could be laid out to support the intent of the crime.




The ongoing genocide of Eelam Tamils is a protracted Genocide: The Chauvinist Sinhala regimes have used active and passive methods to commit their ongoing acts of genocide throughout history and in current occupied state of Tamil Eelam. Active methods are instant destruction that includes acts of violence, pogroms and physical destruction that counts towards the annihilation of the people. Passive methods causes long term impacts that would include legislations, land grabs, colonization and any actions that would destroy the group.

Numerous pogroms and massacres planned, aided or sponsored by the Chauvinist Sinhala regimes are irrefutable evidences that prove the intent of the crime of Genocide by the Sri Lankan state. Not only were thousands physically killed through these massacres and pogroms, almost all of them were calculated destruction done by the Chauvinist Sinhala regimes. Many of the events in 2009 also falls under the Crime of Genocide but is not restricted to just Genocide because there were acts of War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity committed by the state. The Sri Lankan government throughout history committed war crimes and crimes against humanity but the crime of genocide is the important aspect to focus on because, it was the intent of genocide that led to war crimes and crimes against humanity. What happened in 2009 alone is a vast topic because it marks a start of a different period of time in the struggle and we will explore it another article dedicated just to serve this purpose. In the post 2009 era there were evidences were the Sri Lankan state sterilized Tamil woman and conducted forced abortions that strongly mounts more evidence to the ongoing genocide. There are also reported cases of kidnapping, rape, militarization and other forms of active strategies that are put in place to slowly physically eliminate the Tamil population.

The Chauvinist Sinhala regime also employed legislations, land grabs and other form of passive methods to eliminate the Eelam Tamils. The passive methods used by the Sri Lankan state are calculated long-term plan of the Chauvinist Sinhala state to eliminate the Tamils. Between the period of 1930s and 1980s, The Chauvinist Sinhala regimes passed legislations that marginalized the Eelam population: they made hundreds of thousands of Tamils or at least 11% of the population stateless (Citizenship act of 1947), delegitimizing the Tamil language (Sinhala only act of 1956), declined them right to education (Standardization act of 1973) and when the constitution of Sri Lanka was enacted in 1972 replacing the Soulbury constitution, it effectively also removed article 29 from the Soulbury constitution that prevented legislations which would affect different segments of society. The Sri Lankan government replaced this with the Fundamental rights in the constitution. Since the constitution itself was drafted under the context of the Sinhala version of Theravada Buddhism (where Buddhism is the only official religion of the state), the fundamental rights were exclusive for Sinhala people and the Eelam Tamils fell outside the constitution. The notorious land grabs and land evictions were done by the Sri Lankan state in Eelam Tamil homelands to delegitimize Tamil landowners and the claim that these were natural homelands of the Eelam Tamils. Colonization remains a huge issue even today (as much as it did before 2009) were Tamil homelands are systematically changed to “Sinhala lands”: Increasing presence of Sinhalese businesses, Buddhist Viharas and other infrastructures were put in place to destroy the Tamil identity in the region to secure a Sinhalese identity. These passive actions take a long time but never the less, the amount of damage done to the populations accounts to the elimination of Eelam Tamil population and their unique in culture, history and identity.

According to the CPPCG and the Rome Statute, (any) of the following acts committed to destroy a group as a whole or in part constitute a genocide: Killing members of the group, causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group, deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part, imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group and forcibly transferring children of the group to another group. The following acts described previously, precisely aligns with what’s said in the CPPCG and Rome Statute. Therefore it’s a fact that the Sri Lankan state is committing an ongoing genocide against the Eelam Tamils and Permanent Peoples Tribunal was the first independent body to recognize the crime of genocide against the Eelam Tamil Nation.

Image Source: http://www.tamilsagainstgenocide.org/Images/LostToGenocide2.jpg

Image Source: http://www.tamilsagainstgenocide.org


As Tamils, it’s very important that we recognize this and not give it up for pursuing smaller goals of war crimes or crimes against humanity, which has to potential to make the investigation into genocide a refutable goal. We are persecuted because we are Eelam Tamils, the intent of the Sri Lankan state is to destroy Eelam Tamils as a whole or in part. If the identities of the people are destroyed, they cannot claim uniqueness to who they are, if the people are destroyed then there will be no claim to the identity. Both play hand in hand in committing genocide and it is important we are aware of this to prove their existence. Even the acceptance/force conversion towards the Sri Lankan identity by increasing number of Eelam Tamils over a longer period of time is a genocide because the people’s identities are destroyed and the people will be destroyed if they do not embrace the only given option. Therefore proving war-crimes and crimes against humanity does prove that heinous and grave acts were committed by one party to another but what is important is that if this is proved, it will eliminate the possibility that what is happening to the Eelam Tamils is a genocide and fall under the category of communal/religious tensions or a civil war. This is an act of Genocide committed by the Chauvinist Sinhala regime against the Eelam Tamil population.




Claus, P., Diamond, S., & Taylor, M. (2003). South Asian Folklore: An Encyclopedia : Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka.

Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide – A/RES/3/260 A Annex – UN Documents: Gathering a body of global agreements. (n.d.). retrieved from http://www.un-documents.net/cppcg.htm

Genocide Timeline. (2014, June 20). retrieved from http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10007095

Permanent People’s Tribunal Verdict on Sri Lanka. (2014, January 1). Retrieved from http://www.ptsrilanka.org

Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. (2002, July 1). Retrieved from http://www.icc-cpi.int/nr/rdonlyres/ea9aeff7-5752-4f84-be94-0a655eb30e16/0/rome_statute_english.pdf

Wijeyeratne, R. (n.d.). Nation, constitutionalism and Buddhism in Sri Lanka.

Disclaimer: All views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect www.tamilyouth.ca’s views and opinions.




      Priyanth Nallaratnam is an Eelam Tamizh youth currently studying Public administration and Governance in the                       pursuit of finishing law school and attaining a J.D.

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