Why do people hate Tamils

Even as a girl she was good at arithmetic, even if it didn't help her much at the time. When she was a child there were grenades. She had to be able to run and find cover sooner when battles between rebels and the army approached. The dangers of war cannot be measured with numbers, and certainly not averted. Some hit it, others got away. Premachandran Shagana was lucky to survive the civil war on the tropical island of Sri Lanka.

The skirmishes between Tamil separatists and the Sinhalese-dominated military are a thing of the past, and there has been no shooting since 2009. And Shagana, who has braided her black hair into a long braid, wants to use the time to rest. She is fully focused on her seminars and exercises, even if the burden of the past is still pulling her down. As a child she saw many things that she could have been better spared. The 21-year-old suppressed tears when she spoke about it that morning. She saw her aunt and cousins ​​die, a long chain of traumatic experiences determined her childhood in the north of Sri Lanka. They are not so easy to shake off.

After the war, however, there are now opportunities, young people on both sides can get to know each other in peace. In a training center in Kilinochchi, Tamil students sit next to Sinhala students. "That works pretty well," says Shagana, who would rather look ahead than back. This is where members of two ethnic groups come together, whose lives used to be determined by enemy images, by the pain of lost relatives. When a group of Tamil students from Kilinochchi went to Colombo in the south for the first time after the war, they did not dare to get off the bus at first. So they sent you out as the vanguard to see what happened. When everything remained calm, the others followed. It is a feeling of feeling, fear and distrust only slowly give way.

The Tamil Tigers once ruled the village of Kilinochchi, a rebel movement that wanted to fight for a state of their own for the Tamils. Many members of the minority feel discriminated against and persecuted by the Sinhalese majority. Tensions billowed for decades, violence broke out on both sides and finally Sri Lanka sank into a tough war that lasted 26 years. The separatists, notorious for their suicide bombings, were defeated by the army in 2009. The process of coming to terms with the past has barely begun, and the United Nations is calling on a tribunal to investigate alleged war crimes. The state is postponing investigations, but at least the reconstruction offers young people the opportunity to learn a trade. Shagana wants to become a building supervisor. And then continue studying up to an engineering degree. "My family has lost everything. I have to earn something to support them," she says. "My parents got me through the war, now I want to give something back to them."

The German "Society for International Cooperation" (GIZ) helped set up the training facility in Kilinochchi. It wants to help build bridges in a divided society, and it also promotes small and medium-sized companies. In far-off Colombo, Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe receives him, he heads the department for vocational training and says: "Switzerland and Germany are our role models in this area." Sri Lanka would like to have even more of these centers, one hears that the Germans enjoy respect on both sides - with Sinhalese as well as Tamils. So these are not bad prerequisites for getting involved in strengthening peace in the region.

GIZ organizes workshops to bring entrepreneurs from North and South together. This succeeds in individual cases, but it is still not possible to speak of a broad upswing in the north, above all there is a lack of jobs. GIZ also helps farmers bring more milk to the market and thus improve their incomes. This benefits, for example, Kailayapilai Kajendran, a wiry man with a mustache who you don't have to watch for long to notice: He loves his job and he has made something out of the support. He crosses local cows with other breeds in order to increase the milk yield, he grows better fodder, he lets a veterinarian see to it that everything is in order. And he feeds the generated biogas into the kitchen of his small house, where the family can cook with it. And he's proud of it.

The children and the 75,000 war widows in particular suffer from the legacy of the war

Farmers from Sri Lanka, international mixtures of cow breeds and the GIZ from Germany? A success-story? On the one hand, the benefits for the families involved appear obvious. On the other hand, the question can be raised as to whether German tax money has to flow in for this: After all, the buyers of the milk are local companies that make profits and should themselves have an interest in filling good milk for the supermarkets. Couldn't everyone involved do this alone? Do you even need the helpers? When confronted with such questions, GIZ employees argue that the destroyed economy after the war needed a little boost and specialist knowledge to get going. The training and the crossbreeding helped farmer Kajendran to produce twice as much milk with his cows as his father once did.

But also in a broader sense the question arises: Does a country like Sri Lanka still need help? There are no easy answers to this, as a conversation with the Tamil politician Kandaiah Sivagnanam, who speaks in Jaffna about the difficult phase after the war, shows. On the one hand, the Tamils ​​are very enterprising and very educated people. And they are waiting for the state to grant them more independence. A constitutional reform should pave the way for this. It would be important to reduce distrust among the Tamils. Many fear that the Sinhalese will now also dominate the economy in the north. They are afraid of "colonization," as Sivagnanam says. He is the elected chairman of the provincial council, but he complains that the central government is still making the important decisions for the north, where the majority of Tamils ​​live.

Women and children in particular suffer from the legacy of the war. According to Sivagnanam, 75,000 war widows have to support their families on their own, the government is not particularly interested in their fate. "You urgently need help," he says. "We welcome international organizations for this". Others believe that it would be better to urge the government itself to fulfill its caring duties to show everyone that they have a place in this peace.

The Tamile Sivagnanam especially wants an international presence in the field of justice, which is what the United Nations also demand. But that is an extremely sensitive subject. International legal experts or even judges on the side of the local judiciary? That would enrage nationalist-minded circles among the Sinhalese, who celebrate their ex-president Mahinda Rajapaksa and the victorious army as heroes. It was they who defeated the rebellious Tiger troop in 2009. The United Nations consider it very likely that the offensive resulted in war crimes with thousands of deaths. The reform government of Maithripala Sirisena has not yet made it clear whether a tribunal will ever investigate the horror. Although it promises steps towards reconciliation, it still seems to be more tactical and to wait.

The Tamil farmer Kajendran, who has meanwhile fed his ten cows and six calves, does not hold back his opinion: "Anyone who has committed a crime must atone," he says. Everyone is ultimately responsible for what they do. So he expects the judges to do their job soon so that justice in Sri Lanka does not fall by the wayside. For the Tamil rebel leaders, however, a tribunal will definitely come too late. They can no longer be brought before a judge, because none of them survived the war.