After the Sri Lankan issue being at the center of Tamil elections and after the dramatic death of Tamil Tigers leader Prabhakaran, it seems to have completely dropped out of the news cycle. The last time it made headlines here was when the Times in England reported that UN sources internally estimated the number of civilian deaths in the country at an astounding 20,000. The Times showed aerial photographs of mass civilian graves and devasatation in civilian settlements from bombs. This figure was later disputed by the Sri Lankan government, but officials commented that the numbers were still certainly “unacceptably high.”
Now it seems like things are really falling to pieces in the refugee camps, and nobody seems to be saying anything at all. Even as it voted to authorize an investigation into human rights abuses in Gaza, the UN Human Rights Council passed a resolution at the end of May saying that the issue in Sri Lanka was a “domestic” matter, putting much of the blame for civilian casualties on the LTTE, and commending the Sri Lankan government for its current policies. But an estimated 290,000 displaced civilians are being held in government run refugee camps that Ban Ki Moon, the Secretary-General of the UN, called “the most appalling” he has seen. This, from a man who has seen refugee camps in the most remote parts of the world! Apparently, refugees are not being allowed to leave the overcrowded camps because the government wants to ensure that they first screen for any remaining Tigers. The government is also limiting access to humanitarian groups and to journalists, so nobody really has any idea what is happening.
I expect complete hypocrisy from the government here, so the Tamil Nadu’s political leaders’ silence on the issue of Sri Lankan Tamil refugees is unsurprising to me. What *is* strange is the lack of agitation from the people here, who were so involved in this while the Tigers were still alive. In the weeks leading up to the elections, the city was electrified by the “Sri Lankan issue,” with protests, hunger fasts, and fiery speeches by political leaders demanding that the Indian government take immediate military action to protect Tamils. Where is that outrage now? Even Australians are outraged, but where are we?