Photography: Silenced Voices speak out on Sri Lanka

Originally published in Imprint (September 1, 2006, Volume 29, Issue 8)

Honourable Mention in Student News Category at the Ontario Community Newspapers Association Better Newspaper Awards 2007

Their voices were anything but silenced as the eight speakers took to the podium at “Silenced Voices,” a forum held August 29 at the University of Toronto to speak out against the human rights violations faced by the Tamil population in Sri Lanka.

The forum was held in the in wake of recent arrests of alleged LTTE supporters in Canada and the U.S. and the ceasefire break in Sri Lanka. It was a joint partnership between the Student Administrative Council (SAC) at the University of Toronto and the Tamil Youth Organization (TYO) held to get a better understanding of the human rights issues currently taking place in Sri Lanka, said Jennifer Hassum, SAC president and moderator of the forum.

The panel of speakers had representation from various groups, including three individuals who had seen or suffered through the violations firsthand.

Dr. Joseph Chandrakanthan, professor of bioethics at the University of Toronto, recounted memories of his time as a priest in Jaffna in Sri Lanka and the atrocities he witnessed before fleeing to Canada with thousands of other refugees during the ‘90s as the civil war between the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil rebels raged on.

“I do not stand before you as an expert on human rights but someone who has seen the human rights violations,” he said. His last act as priest in Jaffna, he shared with the audience, had been blessing the only remaining body parts of a friend’s brother who had been killed during the fighting.

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Tools used: pen, paper, laptop, coffee