Letters from Sri Lanka tells the story of Tamil families involved in kidnapping, violence and killings during the civil conflict. Exploring their lives which continue to be suspended between hope and powerlessness. It investigates the emotional fragility of a population without peace in a country still divided by the wounds of war.
Nine years after the end of the civil war, that created one million refugees and hundreds of thousands of deaths, Sri Lanka has reopened its borders to tourism in the north- eastern areas of the country: the scene of the last and bloody clashes between LTTE (Liberation Tigers Tamil Eelam) and the Sinhalese Army. But among the folds of an apparent peace lies the spectre of the systematic disappearance, detention and killing of thousands of Tamils, at the hands of the Sri Lankan government, first, during and after the armed conflict.
According to unofficial estimates, the people kidnapped or arrested from military and paramilitary groups, from 1983 to 2009, are about 100,000. On the other hand, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs claimed, in a note of 2014, that people who have been report missing are 65,000 people. The matrix of this phenomenon is the collusion or affiliation to the Tamil Tigers during the conflict but thousands of people have denounced the disappearance or arrest of their relative ones for the only ethnic belonging, accusing the Government of using abductions, arrests and torture to contain the minorities.
Following the pressure exerted by the United Nations and human rights organisations, in 2015 the Sri Lankan Government issued the “Certificate of Absence” that formalise the disappearance of 65,000 people while, in 2017, established the OMP (Office for Missing People) in order to support the families of the victims in the process of finding their loved ones.
2019 will be a crucial year for Sri Lanka, now on its tenth anniversary since the end of the war, a conflict that, for the Tamil population, has never ended but simply passed to a more subtle and less evident phase made of fear and loneliness. In fact the abuses of the ethnic minorities continue, the lands confiscated from the Tamils during the war remain occupied by the military forces while the Government subsidises the transfer of Sinhalese citizens to the northern areas. The requests by the United Nations to clarify the dozens of secret military camps, in which missing persons would be detained and tortured, remain unheard while the illegal disappearances and detentions continue.