The eve of the much anticipated Sinhala and Tamil New Year, celebrated across the island of Sri Lanka in mid-April to mark the end of the harvest season, was marred by a series of attacks, reminding everyone that “peace” does not mean a lack of violence.
On Apr. 13, the printing presses of the Jaffna-based Tamil language ‘Uthayan’ newspaper came under attack, reportedly the 37th time the paper or those attached to it have been targeted.
In 2006, unidentified gunmen killed two of the publication’s employees, and during the last stages of the civil war that unfolded here in early 2009, some of the staff members lived and worked from its premises, too scared to step out of doors.
About two weeks before this latest incident, an Uthayan distribution centre in the northern town of Kilinochchi was attacked. Critics say the newspaper, owned by an opposition Tamil parliamentarian, has been partial to Tamil separatists. The government has described the damage on the distribution centre as an “inside hatchet job”, claims rejected by the publisher.
Further south, a group of Buddhist extremists calling themselves the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) have been spearheading a campaign of hatred towards Muslims, inciting mobs to attack Muslim-owned shops and business establishments.