Maaveerar Naal, ‘Great heroes day,’ is on 27th November. This remembrance day brings an opportunity to discover more about the struggle of Tamils in Sri Lanka. Decades of oppression and persecution have left harrowing scars and deep wounds, both physical and emotional, on the Tamil population.


Rajeswary Sornam spoke about her life back in Jaffna, Sri Lanka - where she was born and raised - during the time seen as Tamil genocide. Having left Sri Lanka in the early 2000s before the final conflict, she now resides in Canada with some of her family, the fear-filled days far behind her. Through these questions, Rajeswary opened up about some of the major struggles she and her family faced.


Q: What were some of the major struggles for you?

A: Safety and security (for food, medicine, other necessities) were the main struggles as well as the constant fear we were all under. We faced problems from every corner - from the government, the Sri Lankan navy and those in planes above who bombed areas where civilians lived.  Sufficient food supplies weren’t always provided: we would only be able to get a certain amount of flour, rice and sugar, and we had to make do with what we had.


Q: Can you tell me about the bombing?

A: Shells were dropped in civilian areas - the planes would go around in a circle and then after that shells would be dropped. Many dropped on people’s homes - one even landed on our house. We were all scared. Whenever the army surveyed the areas from above and decided to bomb areas, we’d move to a place further away to seek shelter. One time, the children and I, my parents and the rest of the family, all spent over 12 hours without food or water beneath trees as the army went around our area, shelling it. What increased everyone’s worries was the fact that sometimes the army members would shoot people on the street.


Q: Regarding the Mullivaikal massacre and what you heard of it, what would you describe it as?

A: The army members shot people from the ground, whilst shells were dropped over civilians and their homes. It was a ‘River of blood.’ We lost many relatives sadly, and we couldn’t go to Sri Lanka during those times. 


Q:What saddens you the most about this period and how it affected your life and the lives of your family?

A: The loss of innocent lives is one of the most tragic effects. As well as this, many families struggled including mine, and we had to move to different countries and start anew. It was sad to leave the life we knew behind. As well as this, there was little international help for Tamils, and there’s still a lack of recognition which is disheartening.


Q: What do you think of the current situation for Tamils?

A: Though the main struggle for Tamils seems to be over, the military still have much control over the country and Tamils are still oppressed, trying to get justice for all those who sacrificed their lives for freedom and for all the innocent lives lost.