Posts filed under 'MinorMatters'
The overwhelming success of the Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal (TMVP), a breakaway faction of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), in the 10 March local government elections in the eastern Batticaloa District has prompted the group, backed by the Sri Lankan government, to seek additional victories at provincial level.
Sivasuntharai Chandrakanthan, alias Pillayan, the TMVP leader
The TMVP won majorities in all nine areas up for election and secured 76 of the 101 seats on offer with its coalition partner, the United People’s Freedom Alliance, which holds power in parliament.
“These are very small councils, the power is very small,” Azad Moulana, the party spokesperson said. “This is the first step; we can do more in the provincial councils.”
Two days after the election, the government announced that elections for the Eastern Provincial Council, which includes the districts of Batticaloa, Trincomalee and Amapara in eastern Sri Lanka, would be held on 10 May.
“It [the 10 March election] demonstrated the shape of events to come … the success of the election has paved the way for provincial council elections in May,” Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama said.
The poll was held 10 months after the Sri Lankan government gained control of all areas formerly held by the LTTE in Batticaloa District, including Ichchanthivu, an interior village west of the town.
The legitimacy of the election, however, has been disputed, with two of the largest opposition parties, the United National Party (UNP) and the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) boycotting it.
Their absence paved the way for the TMVP landslide. The TMVP has been accused by the UN and other agencies of child recruitment, abductions and other violations.
Election monitors, the People’s Action for Free and Fair Election (PAFFREL), stated that despite no violence nor incidents of rigging being reported on polling day, there was a lot of pressure on candidates opposed to the TMVP to not stand.
[Women wade through pools of water to reach the polling station in Ichchanthivu recently-Photo: Amantha Perera/IRIN]
“The entire course of the election, from the time of its announcement, was free of overt violence,” it said in its interim report on the poll. “However, during this period PAFFREL received several reports of intimidation of candidates, which is not acceptable in a democratic process.”
The TMVP, a formerly outright militant group, remains heavily armed, although it has ostensibly entered mainstream politics. On the eve of the election, IRIN witnessed at least a dozen young men bearing T56 machine guns inside the TMVP compound on Lake Drive in Batticaloa town.
“We will disarm once we enter democratic politics,” Sivasuntharai Chandrakanthan, alias Pillayan, the head of the TMVP, said soon after casting his vote.
The presence of armed TMVP cadres proved unnerving to most civilians, despite the peaceful ballot. “We want reassurances that we will not be harmed, that we can live in peace,” said Vellappaddi Sellamma, 56, from Ichchanthivu village in Batticaloa district, 300km from Colombo, the capital. “We want our children to live without fear.”
Sellamma could not remember the last time she cast a vote to elect a public official and like many others was excited to exercise her newly gained franchise. It was the first time in 14 years that she or neighbours had the opportunity to cast their votes.
But even given their enthusiasm for the voting process, few held high hopes that the elected officials would bring much change. “They will not do much …all this will be quickly forgotten,” Irasamani Thangaraja from the same village said. “We don’t want to hope and be disappointed.”
But the government thinks otherwise. Soon after the election, it hailed the vote as an endorsement of its policies in the east.
“They [Batticaloa voters] have shown the world that they want to defeat separatism,” government media minister Anura Priyadarshana Yapa told the media in Colombo on 11 March. “The government has commenced a giant development drive in the east. Under the Eastern Resurgence Programme, schools, roads, bridges, hospitals and all other facilities will be provided.”
After more than two decades of fighting between government forces and the Tigers, the district has suffered immensely, especially areas such as Ichchanthivu that were under LTTE rule for about 12 years until the Tamil Tigers were swept out by government security forces.
Between 2007 and 2008, some 100,000 people who were displaced have been resettled in the district, according to the Ministry of Resettlement and Disaster Relief Services, Rishad Badiudeen, while another 18,000 will be resettled shortly.
Related: Sri Lanka’s Wild East Plans First Vote in Over 10 Years [NY Times]
March 21st, 2008
by D.B.S. Jeyaraj
Sixty is a magic number in the Hindu astrological calendar. Each year has a distinctive name.The names for these years number sixty . All years come and go in a cycle of sixty. So people born in a particular year will find themselves celebrating their sixtieth birthday in the year with the same name.The sixtieth birthday itself is regarded as a milestone and observed ceremoneously by many.
[Tourists watch sunset in Waikkal, North Western Province, January 2008-Pic: by Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapathipillai]
The pearl of the Indian ocean gained independence from British rule as Ceylon in 1948. It was renamed Sri Lanka or the resplendent Isle in 1972. We also became a Republic. Even as the Country is poised to complete 60 years of independence on February 4th it would be worthwhile to reflect on where we are today on the eve of Independence day.
There would be no doubt many people examining and analysing the progress made by Sri Lanka after sixty years of independence. Everything seemed rosy then and we were tipped to be second only to Japan in economic progress.
Lee Kuan Yew saw us as a model nation then and wanted his Singapore to emulate us. Today he points to Sri Lanka as the model that should be discarded.
Sri Lanka has achieved many things .In terms of the quality of life index we have indeed done very well. Literacy, healthcare, infant mortality, nutrition, democracy etc are areas where we have done remarkably well.
Economically, Sri Lanka is not a basket case at least not yet.. Yet one cannot but be sad when aware of the fact that we have not realised our full potential. We had everything going for us and should have been in a different league. But then?
The secret of Singaporean success does not lie in the decisive fiscal policies adopted by a pragmatic leadership alone. Its success is rooted in the conscious decision made by its leaders at the dawn of independence to forge a common Singaporean identity.
Such an identity was not that of the numerical majority imposing itself upon the others and expecting them to fall in line.The Chinese community was 75 % of the nation but thanks to the enlightened vision of Lee Kuan Yew there was no majoritarian hegemony.
There was a crackdown – undemocratic perhaps – on those advocating Chinese supremacist policies. The founding fathers of modern Singapore concentrated on evolving a common inclusive identity based on equality. Malay, Chinese, Tamil and English have been the official languages of Singapore for decades.
In Sri Lanka things went awry on the ethnic front. It is to the credit of Sri Lanka that democracy flourishes despite some strains and bad patches. But this very democracy has contributed to our decline too.
Populist pandering to the Sinhala majority has distorted the very basic concepts of an ideal democracy. It is no accident that the growth of the two party system in Sri Lanka co-incided with the deterioration of ethnic relations in this Country.
“War is an extension of politics by other means” observed Clausewitz. Today this land is in the grip of a vicious civil war that has ruined the country.Militarism rides high!
Yet the national question remains unsolved. It would remain so unless and until true wisdom prevails on all sides of the ethnic divide.
Meanwhile relations between the Sinhala and Tamil people have deteriorated rapidly in the post – Independence period. There are some who say that the Country is in a state of de – facto partition. Others say it is at the crossroads.
Sixty years of independence is a time for reflection for the Country and her people. Many persons would be doing that I am sure.
As a Tamil of Sri Lankan origin I would like to focus briefly on the plight of the Sri Lankan Tamil people after sixty years of independence.
I was born in 1954 six years after Independence. Another Tamil born in the same year is Velupillai Prabakharan the leader of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Prabakharan and the LTTE have been the determining force in Sri lanka since 1983.
There is no Sri Lankan history without Sinhala history but Sinhala history alone is not Sri Lankan history. It has been Prabakharan’s role to remind us sharply of this. Sadly , in the process the Tamils have been undermined and weakened to an extent never seen before
However much we rail against British colonialism we cannot forget that the “idea” of one Ceylon was a British construct.It was the British who unified this Island under a single administration.
This is true of India too. But enlightened policies by Indian rulers have made the “idea of India” valid and strong. Secular India has withstood several challenges to its unity and territorial integrity but neighbouring Pakistan glued together by a theocratic ideal failed and Bangla Desh was born.
The tragic reality today is that the Sri Lankan Tamils are alienated from the state. It is a process that was underway for many, many years.
In spite of the sixth amendment to the Constitution disavowing separatism the idea of a separate state for Tamils has not gone way. It will not go away either through military repression.
Tamils have been living in this Island from time immemorial. Eminent historian Sir Paul E Peries has written of the five “Eeshwarams” – Muneeswaram., Ketheeswaram, Koneswaram, Naguleswaram and Thondeeswaram – ded icated to Lord Shiva at the time when Vijaya had supposedly arrived here.
Though there was a long – standing Tamil presence here , large scale Tamil settlements began after the 10th century. By the 13th century a Tamil kingdom was set up. There were also feudal Wanni chiefs. The Jaffna kingdom after phases of resistance fell finally to the Portugese in 1621.
Thereafter the Dutch and then the British took over in 1658 and 1796 respectively. The Jaffna Kingdom comprised the present Jaffna and Kilinochchi districts and substantial parts of the Mannar and Mullaitheevu districts. They were administered separately by the Portugese and Dutch.
After the fall of the Kandyan kingdom the entire Island came under British rule. It was the British who unified the Country in 1833 in terms of the Colebrooke – Cameron reform proposals. The idea of one Ceylon was a colonial construct.
Junius Richard Jayewardena was the most history conscious of our heads of state since independence. He once said that the history of this Country could have been vastly different if the western colonialists had not come. JR said that Sri Lanka could have been dominated by the “Mussalmans” ( Muslims) or “Dravidians ” (South Indians) if not for this.
A substantial part of the Indian sub – continent (India, Pakistan and Bangla Desh) was under Moslem rule when the British, French, Portugese, Dutch and Danes came. In Sri Lanka the Arya Chakravarthy Tamil kindom of the North received sustenance from South India.
The Sinhala Kingdoms in the South too derived support from South India. The Telugu Nayakkar rulers of Madurai and Thanjavoor sent troops frequently to help out warring Sinhala rulers. The Kandyan kings married their “Maheshi”Queens from South India. The last four Kandyan Kings were all Nayakkars.
So who knows? As JR observed the Muslims or South Indians may have dominated Sri Lanka if the westerners did not come. But then this is only a point to ponder at this point of time.
The reality was that the British who unified the Country also sowed seeds of dissension in classical “divide and rule” mode. It has been famously said that what the “British unified administratively to exploit they divided politically to govern”.
The British introduced the principle of communal representation and ever since then this Island nation became an archipelago of communities.
Limited franchise came to the Island in 1910 when an “educated Ceylonese ” constituency was created. The franchise was restricted to educational and property qualifications. Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan won in both 1912 and 1916.
One reason for his victory was that the Govigama elite in rivalry with the Karawe elite supported the Vellala Tamil. Ramanathan’s opponents were Dr.Marcus Fernando and Thomas de Sampayo.
This period is seen as the golden age of Sinhala – Tamil unity. A demonstration of the goodwill that existed then was the welcome afforded to Ramanathan as he arrived in Colombo from London.
Sinhala stalwarts of the day seated Ramanathan in a chariot and pulled it along the streets of Colombo. This was in appreciation of his espousal of the Sinhala cause in the aftermath of the anti – Muslim violence of 1915.
Tamils in those years did not perceive themselves as a minority. They saw themselves as being on par with the Sinhalese as the two founding peoples of modern Ceylon. Tamil influence was so great then that few Tamils thought of themselves as a numerical minority.
It was in this “equal partner” mindset that Ramanathan’s brother Sir Ponnambalam Arunachalam played a prominent role in the affairs of the Ceylon National Congress. Arunachalam’s lecture on “our Political needs” became the bible of all patriotic (to be differentiated from the pseudo – patriots of today) Ceylonese then.
The same Arunachalam was to be bitterly disappointed within years over the issue of allocating a seat for Tamils in Colombo. He formed the Ceylon Tamil league and began emphasising the Tamil identity. It was Arunachalam who spoke of Tamil Eelam first.
Sir James Peiris had promised to support the proposal but his successor in the Congress EJ Samarawickrema had gone back on it saying his predecessor’s pledge did not bind him. This was the first in the long trail of broken promises that has marred Sinhala – Tamil relations in this Country.
Another attempt at Sinhala – Tamil understanding was made when several Sinhala leaders met with Tamil counterparts at “Mahendra – Giri ” in Velanai. This was the home of Sir Vaithilingam Duraiswamy who was later State Council speaker in 1936. A “Sinhala – Tamil” pact was signed to apportion seats in the legislature on a 2: 1 ratio.
There was opposition to this arrangement in the South spearheaded by Sir Francis de Zoysa. The pact was repudiated.
The Donoughmore reforms brought in universal franchise and territorial representation. Tamil self – perception of being on par with the Sinhalese was crudely shattered.
At the same time there was another vibrant school of thought among Tamils that spurned narrow nationalism and embraced a broad Ceylonese identity.
The Jaffna Youth Congress rejected the Donoughmore Commission proposals and demanded “Poorana Swaraj” or complete self – rule. It urged a boycott of the State Council elections.
Ceylon’s “Father of Marxism” , Philip Gunewardena hailed this decision. “Jaffna has given the lead” he wrote to the “searchlight” and called upon the Sinhalese to follow.
There were no takers in the South. The dominant Sinhala elite preferred co-operation over confrontation. They wanted to work within the system and seek gradual political reform.
Besides Donoughmore reforms brought about a sea change in the Sinhala psyche. The notion of Sinhala – Buddhist supremacy was taking root.
A whole lot of politically ambitious “Christians” saw which way the wind was blowing and changed religion overnight becoming what was derisively referred to as “Donoughmore Buddhists”.
Ramanathan in the twilight of his life saw what was coming. “Donoughmore means Tamils no more” he said. This was the same Ramanathan who had in 1904 called upon the Sinhalese to nurture and nourish their language while addressing a prize giving at Ananda College.”If Sinhala lips will not speak the Sinhala language who else is there to speak it” he queried.
Elections to the State Council in 1931 saw Jaffna boycotting it as a result of the Youth Congress call. Four seats from Jaffna remained vacant. There were no Sri Lankan Tamils in the first board of ministers. However there were a Muslim Sir Mohammed Macan Marcar and an Indian Tamil Sir Jaya Perisundaram in the seven member board of ministers.
The 1931 boycott was the high watermark of the Jaffna Youth Congress. Sinhala patriots did not reciprocate. Without Sinhala participation in the politics of protest the confrontational mode of the Youth Congress lost lustre.
The boycott call itself was inflenced greatly by Mahatma Gandhi’s call in India. Analysing the Youth Congress boycott failure the scholar Jane Russel was to call it the “dance of the Turkey Cock”. The Tamil poet Auvaiyar in a popular stanza had derisively compared the dance of the Turkey cock to that of the Peacock.
Another development at that time was the differences between the Low – Country and Up – Country Sinhalese. A delegation of Kandyan notables argued for federalism before the Donoughmore Commission. They wanted three units. One for the Kandyan provinces, one for the North – East and one for the rest.
The Sri Lankan Tamils did not support the federal demand. In fact when SWRD Bandaranaike proposed a federal solution in 1926 the Jaffna elite had rejected it
Tamil leadership then was in the hands of the Colombo based elite. This elite had its own self – interests. Their interests were not those of the agriculturists and fisherfolk and toddy – tappers of the North and East. Thus the Tamil leaders during colonial rule did not espouse federalism. Had they done so the history of Tamils in this Country could have been different.
The Donoughmore reforms of territorial representation and universal franchise were laudable but brought about unintended consequences.
The Commissioners dismissed pleas for the retention of communal representation and called communalism as a cancer eating into the body politic of the Country. Ironically the Donoughmore reforms resulted in the rise of communal politics.
The Jaffna Youth Congress began declining with the rise of communalism. It was a pity because it stood for a healthy all Island nationalism. The Youth Congress in its own way raised the standard of revolt against the British empire.
It was in Jaffna that the union Jack flag was brought down by the Youth Congress and the Nandhi or crouched bull flag hoisted.The Nandhi was the flag of the Jaffna kingdom. At the behest of the Youth Congress ,it was Jaffna that boycotted the visit of the then Prince of Wales.
The accomplishments of the Youth Congress are well documented by Santhaseelan Kadirgamar in his book on the Congress. Prof. Wiswa Warnapala writing a review of it in the “Lanka Guardian” paid tribute to the Youth Congress in glowing terms.
As the State Council began functioning there was a growing feeling in Jaffna that the Tamils had blundered by boycotting elections. There began gathering momentum that Tamils should enter the State Council. Riding the crest of this wave was Ganapathy Gangesu (GG) Ponnamnabam.
By – elections were held in 1934 and the seats were all filled. Realisation was dawning on Tamils that they were no longer a majority race on par with the Sinhalese. The harsh reality was that they were a minority albeit a privileged and powerful minority.
GG Ponnambalam who had opposed the boycott evolved slowly into becoming leader of Ceylon Tamils. In striving to be the leader of his people GG also promoted a Community consciousness.
GG began promoting a sense of solidarity and pride among Tamils.Invoking the Tamil poet Subramania Bharati’s lines , GG Ponnambalam came up with the motto “Thamilan Endru Solladaa, Thalai Nimirnthu Nilladaa” (Say you are a Tamil and hold your head high).
TO BE CONTINUED IN NEXT WEEK
February 2nd, 2008
By A.K. Verma
The cyclical politics of Sri Lanka are again at cross roads. The choice before the Sri Lankan Central Government is between expediency and statesmanship. The majoritarian complexes, as in the past, stand like an immovable rock limiting the options before the Government.
Like President Premdasa earlier, the Central leadership is again seeking the company of a strange bed fellow, the JVP this time. A union of the two might strengthen Sinhala public opinion against the Tamils, but it will cause no dent on the traditional posture of the Sri Lankan Tamils of the North and East. How does one then move forward?
An obvious option is that India should be approached to provide its good offices once again to become an interlocutor between the Sri Lankan Tamils and the Central Government. The thoughts of some might even run to seeking a more decisive form of an intervention from India.
The history of ethnic strife in Sri Lanka establishes two facts very clearly, the uncompromising quest for Ealam on the Tamil side and an equal determination on the Sinhala side not to succumb to the Tamil pressure.
The Indian policy in the past was based on the fantasy that it could work out an acceptable middle path between the two extreme positions. From arms training to Sri Lankan Tamils to Thimpu talks, to the 1987 Sri Lanka accord and to the activisation of IPKF in Sri Lanka, the Indian authorities had failed to comprehend that its leverage with the two adversaries had not been of a magnitude as to give it a decisive role in the troubles between the two.
Believing in the principles of Panchashila, the thoughts of any kind of intervention in Sri Lankan affairs should have been taboo for the Indian Government. How did errors of policy, now widely acknowledged, actually occur?
More than any individual, the mechanism of policy making has to be blamed. In point of fact, no structured mechanism for making high level policy decisions existed then, as it perhaps exists not even today. Decisions were often made on a cue from the top, but usually that cue was not the distilled product of an informed debate, arising from options formally presented in the shape of approach papers from persons who could be identified as experts in their fields. Some time adhoc core committees would be constituted whose membership would necessarily be all bureaucrats with individuals qualifying for the membership on the basis of jobs held in the government.
Apart from the fact that such adhoc dispensations did not bring about the required level of scholarship, expertise or experience into the consideration of issues, the proceedings would often be marked by fruitless pursuits of one-man upmanship, opposition for the sake of opposition and wrangling for being identified as the most productive participant.
Most members might contribute by being mere mute spectators. They would be none the worse for their substandard work culture, because setting of standards, commitment, accountability and supervision were virtues which the system rarely demanded.
For example when the July 87 India SriLanka accord was signed, there was no study to check whether Prabhakaran was genuinely ready to give up Ealam and surrender all the arms held by the Tigers.
Again, when it was claimed that the IPKF would be able to clear the field of the Tigers within a week, the claim was not tested by independent scrutiny, before being accepted.
The irony was that the decision to air drop troops at certain locations was also taken in complete isolation, even without an intelligence briefing. The locations were manned by the Tigers. The paratroopers descending to the earth were decimated in large numbers.
Even the assumption that Dravidian nationalism and Sri Lankan Tamil nationalism reinforced each other, on the basis of which many decisions were taken , was a subjective formulation but no body in the policy making apparatus was willing to test it empirically or otherwise.
In the core group there were occasions when a member would only be interested in wrecking the progress being achieved by the rest. As no minutes of the meetings were officially kept or circulated, irresponsibility would never become an issue to haunt anyone ever.
Such adhoc committees or core groups as they were sometimes called, often functioned without being given objectives to be sought, by the political leadership.
At the end of the day the most articulate or the best informed would be able to carry the group with him but it did not necessarily mean that his recommendations would be in the best interests of the country if only because the discussions in the group would have taken place without laid down policy objectives, options and consideration of short, mid or long-term impact.
The resulting failure was not only in making an accurate reading of the Tamil Tiger mind: there was a similar inability to assess the limits of Sri Lankan concessions on offer to the Tamils.
At no time except in the 1987 Indo Sri Lanka accord, the Sri Lankan authorities agreed to let Tamils rule in the Eastern Province. The concession made in the Accord was withdrawn as soon as it came unstuck. Sri Lankans cannot bear the thought that the port of Trincomalee should come under Tamil governance and they would try to frustrate such a possibility till the end.
No new security management exercise seems necessary in India in order to conclude that Indian involvement, if any, in the ethnic crises on Sri Lanka must abide by the following parameters:
* The invitation to India has to be from both the sides.
* India must know in advance the ultimate fall back position of each side and its exit policy.
* Prabhakaran will not settle for less than defacto Ealam in a designated Tamils territory.
* Is the Sri Lanka Government in a position to get a Sinhala majority to live with a fully autonomous Tamil territory within an integrated but federal Sri Lanka structure? The Sinhalas must be transparent about it.
* The plantation Tamils should have the freedom to stay in their existing abodes.India must first be convinced that the two adversaries genuinely feel the urgency of a political solution. Only then it should offer its good offices. There is also an absolute need to tighten its national security management apparatus so that progress or lack of it could be monitored at every stage in terms of goals set.
[The writer is a former chief of the Indian intelligence agency RAW)]
January 31st, 2008
Mano Ganesan, founder of Civil Monitoring Commission (CMC) and a Rights award winner from the U.S. Government, in a press release issued Wednesday said that Sri Lanka Government has withdrawn eight of the ten Security personnel, and that he fears Sri Lanka Government is creating a climate for getting him assassinated. Pointing out that the official organ of the ruling Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), has described him “as an arms supplier to the LTTE, drug trafficker and collaborator with the under world criminals,” Ganesan said, Colombo is orchestrating attacks against him from communal elements.
Full text of the media release follows:
Government is setting stage for my elimination by first publishing lies and then withdrawing security-CMC convener Mano Ganesan MP
Government has withdrawn since 8 PM of 18th December the additional security provided to me aftermath of the killing of my co-founder of Civil Monitoring Commission Nadaraja Raviraj almost a year ago in Colombo’s high security zone. Government’s latest move is amidst my request for enhancement of my security due to the increased threats to my life. Eight out of the team of ten MSD security personnel have been called back with their weapons and security back-up vehicle. This is contrary to the view of MSD intelligence division which has repeatedly told me on increased level of threats to my life. I believe by this vindictive act government is setting the stage and paving way for my physical elimination says Western Peoples Front leader and Civil Monitoring Commission convener Mano Ganesan MP. Ganesan said further to the media,
Government’s anger over me has increased manifolds since I was nominated to the Freedom Defender runner-up award the by US secretary of state Condeliza Rice on behalf of her government. This award is an acknowledgment to our human rights campaign and confirmation to the existing deplorable human rights condition in this country. Ruling Sri Lanka Freedom Party’s official organ “Dinakara” in a front page story in its latest edition published on December 16th, 2007 has come very hard on me. It has described me as an arms supplier to the LTTE, drug trafficker and collaborator with the under world criminals.
I have today written to the IGP to initiate immediate investigations on the criminal accusations attributed by the official organ of SLFP. The police can take action against me if the SLFP provides evidences, if any. I have also handed over this subject to my lawyers for initiating legal action.
The very serious criminal nature of the accusation evidently indicates the fury of the political leadership of the government. This fabricated utter falsehood story is made deliberately with malicious intent to destroy my reputation as well of the government of United States of America . The hint in the story published by SLFP official paper is obvious. It is faulting United States of America for choosing me for the award, thereby gives an impression that US government supports all the criminality pinned on me. I cannot speak for USA . It is for the US government to make its responses.
Government’s game plan is very clear. First, it publishes utter falsehood on 16th December, 2007 in its official party paper. This fabricated story orchestrates direct threat to my life as my personal security is being endangered by ‘LTTE arms supplier label’ attributed to me. It could bring hatred from unsuspecting innocent people and could be used by communal elements against me. Next, two days later on December 18th, 2007 it withdraws my security and puts me into a vulnerable situation. This is against the known fact that I have been living under severe threats to my life due to my human rights campaign as the convener of Civil Monitoring Commission involved in monitoring involuntary Disappearances, Abductions, Extra Judicial Killings, Extortions and Arbitrary arrests and detentions in Sri Lanka.
Statement Released by Dr. Vickramabahu Karunaratne
“This brutal terror against a defender of human rights and a member of Parliament, by the state which supposed to protect people should bring horror to all democratic people. We condemn this intimidation and demand that the state take all responsibility of protecting Mano Ganesan.” – Dr Vickramabhu
December 19th, 2007
By M.S.Shah Jahan
“Don’t tell us – look at Ceylon, look at Burma”, thundered the ferocious orator, the youth leader of the Malaysian Indian Congress, in the Municipal Hall opposite Padang playground of the Kuala Lumpur Cricket Club and by the side of the Mosque type scenic General Post Office building, in the early 1970s.
‘If there is any tree on which money could be said to grow then this is it-rubber.’ This was the sentiment in Malacca way back in 1897. Mr. Ridley, the curator of the Singapore Botanical gardens had been trying for years to interest British planters in giving rubber a try. The imperial authorities in London had spent a fortune in arranging to have seed stocks stolen from Brazil. As Mr. Ridley himself first admitted that it might take as many as ten years for rubber plantation to become productive, Malaya’s European planters backed away.
But Tan Chay Yan, the son of a well known Chinese family of Malacca was undeterred and converted his pepper garden into a rubber plantation and succeeded in milking rubber in three short years. Now everybody started following his lead and the B.F. Goodrich Company of Ohio, USA, sent representatives all the way to encourage planters of Malaya to plant this new crop. This was the material of the coming age; the next generation of machines could not be made to work without this absorber of friction. The newest motor cars had dozens of rubber parts, the markets were potentially bottomless, the profits beyond imagination. In simple words, money was milked from the rubber tree.
No body ever knew that the assassination of the Grand Duke Ferdinand in Sarajevo would spark World War I in 1914, that rubber would be a vital strategic material in this conflict; that in Germany the discarding of articles made of rubber would become an offence punishable by law; that submarines would be sent overseas to smuggle rubber; that the commodity would come to be valued more than ever before, increasing their wealth beyond their most extravagant dreams.
Labourers were brought from Madras Presidency with so many false promises and persuasions to work in coffee and rubber plantations and also to lay railway lines. Many perished from diseases while clearing jungles for this. That is why it was said, every rubber tree in Malaya was paid for by an Indian life, and every railway track was a cemetery. Though India’s ties with Malaya go back to the pre-Christian days, major migration of Indians to that country started in the early 19th century. The planters were not in the least bothered about the welfare of their labourers. The workers’ shacks-tiny hovels, were made of roofs with branches and leaves and the floors were covered with dirt, the squalor was unimaginable.
‘You dog of a coolie, keep your black face up and look at me when I am talking to you’, verbal abuse in Tamil and English from the white manager was a daily event. Their life revolved around the manager, master, contractors, and tappers in the rubber estates. It was nothing better than ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’ before the American civil war, a virtual slavery. Lankan readers need no explanation as it was much similar to the line houses in our tea estates today where neither the scene nor the life of those have improved to our knowledge, except the bellies of union or political leaders.
The sacrifice of Indian Tamils was well recognized, not only when Tun V.T.Sambanthan, as the leader of the Malaysian Indian Congress became a signatory to Merdeka [Independence] Agreement on Aug 31, 1957, but also when the Father of Malaysia and the first Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman, went to Madras as his first official visit out of Malaysia and said “My wish is to land in Madras first as the Prime Minister of Malaysia for all the good things people of this state did to us”.
Over a century, though descendants of the tappers, who constitute 90% of the Malaysia’s 2 million persons of Indian origin that comprises 8% of the total population of 24 million, have under gone a vast change, they feel they have experienced only abysmal economic growth on several parameters compared to other communities. Trade was previously dominated by the Chinese acquiring wealth while the Malays were confined to their Kampong [Village] doing traditional professions like breeding poultry farm, fishing etc. with less inclination for that which have economic value. After independence, especially following the 1969 Malay Chinese riots, the picture changed as the government were hell bent to promote the Bumiputhra’s in commerce offering extraordinary concessions which pushed some Malays to dizzy heights and created cronies like Ananda Krishnan at the expense of the Chinese while the Indian Tamils were left far behind.
Malaysian Indian Congress, the ethnic-based party that represents the Indian minority in the ruling coalition, with a membership of 650,000 out of 850,000 eligible voters and having 4,000 branches are today widely looked upon as ineffective if not corrupt. Due to their colonial legacy, Indians are generally seen as providers of cheap labour in plantations and construction sites; their political and social mobility has been thwarted. The conversion of rubber plantations to housing estates and golf courses also has displaced plantation workers who have drifted to urban centres. As a result, urban Indian ghettos have emerged and crime has escalated.
Besides, Bumiputhra politics disadvantage Indians in education and work opportunities. Local university seats and scholarships are awarded under a racial quota system, and even after getting a degree, many say that discrimination is commonplace. Indian doctors, for instance, complain that they are often excluded from lists of approved doctors whom civil servants or company employees can patronize. Demolition of roadside temples and enforcing strict Islamic code on Hindus like where a Hindu dead body was buried under Muslim rights saying the person had secretly embraced Islam saddened them.
“Our community is backward, our schools are dilapidated. We are the last in the line for jobs, scholarships, health benefits,” says opposition lawmaker Kulasegaran Murugesan. “For over a decade we have been appealing to the government for help to alleviate our poverty but all our appeals had fallen on deaf ears,” says Uthayakumar Ponnusamy, Hindraf’s legal adviser. “The British brought us here, exploited us for 150 years and left us to the mercy of a Malay Muslim government. They should compensate us now.” Yes, the British brought tea pluckers to Ceylon, rubber tappers to Malaya and paddy farmers to Burma, almost from the same caste and same district. Interestingly, a steamer that was transporting these labourers from Calcutta to Rangoon and Penang was named Nuwara Eliya.
Though their living is identical, their lifestyle is different according to political situation in those respective countries. The smiling ones are from Burma though they still live a primitive life of the 19th century, chewing betel and travelling in bullock carts in the rural under a military dictatorial rule, sans starvation being farmers. The mother tongue is lost and even in religious festivals announcements are made in Burmese but devotional songs played are in Tamil. No much racism experienced living with natives while their Sri Lankan brethren are timid and feel unwanted by the natives, and in Malaysia they feel like poor relatives in a wedding.
That was why former youth leader, present president of MIC, and Works Minister Yang Berhormat Menteri Datuk Seri Samy Velu said “Don’t tell us-look at Ceylon, look at Burma”. Samy Velu born to rubber tappers Sangalimuthu and Anggamah in an estate in Johor, had an extremely tough life from his childhood to boyhood, described in his own words “Those were years when I ate only one meal a day. I felt things could not get any worse.” His fluency in Tamil gave him a job as a newscaster at Radio Television Malaysia from 1963 to 1974; as a result he became a household name and gained popularity to become a member of parliament in 1974.
In quick succession, he grabbed the presidency of MIC in 1979 at the age of 43 and he is the longest president of MIC and the second longest cabinet minister. Unfortunately his tenure has been lacklustre compared to Sampanthan and Manickawasagam’s who were wealthy and highly educated. Further Sami Velu is accused of amassing ill-gotten wealth and his critics call him “Semi Value” and “Mr.Tollgate” [like Mr.10%] because many projects handled by his ministries were found to be faulty and he was alleged to have a cut on tollgates introduced on highways. His second wife Indrani bought over the oldest newspaper ‘Thamilnesan’. Even mighty Dr. Mahathir in an interview last May stated that he could not remove tainted leaders like Samy Velu as he was powerless. The Barisan National [National Alliance] would have suffered a serious internal backlash if he had sacked Samy Velu, he said. “You ask MIC what they would do if I removed Samy Velu.”
Is there is no racial discrimination in Malaysia? I was waiting at my turn to get a taxi in the portico of Penninsula Hotel of KL. But Malay and Chinese drivers preferred to pick customers of their own colour or white men expecting big tips. Then came an Indian his name was the masculine of Chandrika whom I contracted till I departed and my conversation with him made him to think I was familiar with Malaysia. “Did Mr. Sami Velu come to see you, Sir?” “No”. “Did you call him, Sir?” “No”. “Good”. And he poured out his woes.
Sarala Sukumaran, 40, a Malaysian Indian entrepreneur who runs an IT firm, says” I know many Indian families who want to get out of Malaysia. There are two main reasons behind the backwardness of Indians. One is that we are a minority here, and two the politicians who represent us do not promote our cause.” Sukumaran is a third generation Malaysian Indian. Her grandparents came to Malaysia in the 1930s to work in the plantations in Penang. “I feel that we are not aggressive enough as a community in terms of unleashing our entrepreneurial potential. That’s why our evolution has been very slow. Comparatively, look at the Tamils from Sri Lanka,” she said. “They have a more close-knit community feeling, they help uplift each other and they are certainly doing much better than the Indians.” But for people like Ramakrishnan, who worried that rising food and fuel prices are eating into his meagre income, the choice will be easy. “We will vote for the Opposition this time to send a clear message to the Malay government to treat us with respect, to share with us,” he said. “We fight for the future of our children; we don’t want them to suffer like us.” This is the sentiment in SL too simmering of any community can’t be contained unless attended to, and this is an era to boot corrupt politicians and arrogant regimes out. [dailymirror.lk]
December 15th, 2007
1st-3rd Nov. 2007-Preliminary report-14th November 2007:
Ruki Fernando, Law & Society Trust ( LST )
This visit was undertaken in order to gain a better understanding of the human rights and humanitarian situation in and around Trincomalee district, on the invitation of a local human rights defender.
It aims to highlight key issues of concern faced by residents of Trincomalee, people still living in IDP camps and people who have returned after being displaced. It is not and does not attempt to be a comprehensive report of the human rights and humanitarian situation in the Trincomalee district.
Discussions were held with several local government officials (Grama Sewakas) in Mutur, officials of the Trincomalee district Human Rights Commission, staff of UN agencies, international and local humanitarian NGOs, human rights defenders and displaced people. There were also informal conversations with soldiers and policemen.
Areas visited include the Trincomalee town and surrounding areas in Mutur such as Ralkuly, Ichalampattu, Ilangaturai, Kallady, Karikamunai, Munchenai, Jinna Nagar.
LST gratefully acknowledges the time given by people met and views shared and in particular, the accompaniment and hospitality of human rights defenders working in the areas visited, whose names are withheld at their request, for security reasons.
2. General situation in and around Trincomalee:
Trincomalee remains heavily militarized and tense. In the short stretch of around 85km between Habarana and Trincomalee, the bus I traveled on was stopped at five checkpoints, forcing people to alight with all their belongings and walk a few hundred meters in the hot sun. Consideration was extended though to older people and women with children. At every checkpoint, Tamil passengers were singled out for intense checking and questioning.
After 7pm, Trinco town is almost deserted. At midnight on Saturday, when I was returning after a meeting, not a single vehicle was encountered on the road.
While I was in Mutur, a man had been shot dead in Karikamunai, in the Eechchilampathu division, where several displaced people had come back to resettle. Local people told me he was member of the Karuna group.
Another man had been killed due to shelling in, Ralkuly while the Grama Seweka in charge of the Manalchchenai transit camp had also been shot dead. (See below for further details)
According to the Human Rights Commission’s (HRC) Trincomalee office, abductions and disappearances continue to be reported almost on a daily basis -24 had been reported in August and 39 in September. “We are also told of other cases, but these are not included as no formal complaint is made-many people don’t complain to us or the Police due to fear of reprisals,” said one official.
The Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) had reported killings, abductions and arrests from the Trincomalee district, in their recent weekly reports. Abuses by the Tamileela Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal (TMVP / Karuna faction) also continue to be reported, but I heard that their strength seems to be dwindling. They now have two offices in Trincomalee, while they had about 10 offices before.
One issue that was highlighted by several people was the inability to obtain death certificates for several people killed in shelling in Kadiravelly, near Vakarai, in 2006. This has also made it impossible for family members to obtain relief and compensation. Although agencies such as the Human Rights Commission and UNHCR seem aware of this, there has been no satisfactory response to the family members after more than a year.
The HRC seems to monitor the situation and intervene on some violations, including abuses by non state actors, but it doesn’t seem to have a significant impact. In the case of three high profile cases (Killing of 5 students in Jan. 2006, killing of 17 aid workers of ACF in Aug. 2006 and killing of Buddhist Monk, Ven. Nandarathna Thero) in Trincomalee district, the HRC had made its own investigations and submitted a report to its headquarters in Colombo. Progress had apparently come to a standstill at that point. The IDP Unit in the HRC seemed up-to-date with information on the IDP situation and issues affecting IDPs. They had also been visiting IDP camps. But again, the level of strong interventions to protect and ensure IDP’s rights was not clear.
3. Situation and key issues relating to IDPs-in camps and those returned:
Thousands of IDPs still stay in camps and with friends and relatives. With regard to camps, there are several around Trincomalee town, while there are three identified as transit camps on the outskirts of Mutur, as mentioned below.
i. High Security Zone (HSZ) in Sampoor
* Government created a HSZ by gazette dated 30th May 2007
* There was no official figure of the number that would permanently lose their traditional lands and homes due the establishment of the High Security Zone in Sampoor by the government. According to statistics I got from the Human Rights Commission, 15,425 people from 11 Grama Niladhari Divisions, who are presently in camps and with relatives will be affected, while most of the displaced still in Batticaloa (11,672 as of September) will also be losing their lands. NGOs working with displaced people in camps put a higher figure
* Most people had been sent back from IDP camps in Batticaloa with the promise of returning to Sampoor-they only realized when they arrived in camps that they will not be allowed to go home. At that point, they were told that they would be allowed to go home in a few days. But later on, they had heard from various sources that they will never be allowed to go back
* None of the affected people I met had been officially informed or consulted about this by any government officia
* Displaced people I spoke to, who now live in camps (Cultural hall, Inner Harbour Road , Trincomalee, Killiveddy and Paddiththidal), were clear they don’t want to go anywhere else except their homes in Sampoor. Several mentioned that the proposed place for relocation, Ralkuly, is not a suitable place for them to live. Many mentioned that they have means of livelihood such as paddy fields and cattle in their homes, and that they could even survive without assistance as long as they could go back home. One went as far as saying that he would commit suicide if forcibly relocated
* UN Agencies and HRC officials mentioned that government has plans to reduce the size of the high security zone, but no official announcement has been made to date
Map of Trincomalee, indicating area around Sampoor as an area without humanitarian access (C/o OCHA, 5th Oct. 2007)
ii. Proposed relocation site-Ralkuly
* Several affected people and officials I met mentioned that Ralkuly has been identified as the place where affected people will be relocated to, and hence, I also visited Ralkuly
* I learnt from a local government official and residents in Ralkuly that a jungle in Ralkuly is being cleared to build a housing scheme-that two houses had already been built and that the plan is to build 138 houses
* Ralkuly residents, who themselves had come back after being displaced mentioned they would welcome others to resettle if they like to come, but express doubt whether they want to come
* Ralkuly residents mentioned despite claims of “liberation”, they still live in fear that they would be affected if fighting broke out again
* A man had been killed by shelling, which according to local villages was by the government forces, on 24th September. A 63 year old woman told me how she had been injured in that incident, and took me to her kitchen to show a gaping hole made by the shelling. Villages told that the three children and wife of the man killed are finding it difficult to survive without any income. There has been no compensation of any sort, neither has there been any inquiry into this incident
* I also heard that people in Navallady, near Ralkuly, have not been allowed to resettle as that area too had been marked as a High Security Zone, but was not able to verify this
iii. Assistance and facilities in camps
* I visited two major transit camps in Killiveddy and Paddiththidal and also the camp in Cultural Hall in Inner Harbour road
* In both Killiveddy and Paddiththidal, I was told that the toilets are full and that they cannot be used anymore
* In the Cultural Hall, several people mentioned that they don’t receive any assistance from the government, and that the only assistance they get is half a loaf of bread (around 225 grams) per person per day for dinner, provided by a NGO
* They also mentioned difficulties in finding means of livelihood, such as daily jobs, and I also heard from several men who fear to go out of the camp due to apprehensions about being arrested on suspicion of having links to the LTTE
iv. Security in camps
* There was an alarming level of fear in the Paddiththidal camp due to harassment by the government forces
* Several displaced persons told me that whenever there is firing in the jungles behind the camp, the army would come to the camp, conduct search operations, round up young men for questioning and threaten people
* The military had threatened that if one soldier is killed in any incident, they will take revenge on the people in the camp, repeatedly referring to the massacre of more than 20 Tamil civilians in 1996 in nearby Kumarapuram
* In September, 26 people were beaten up by the military, including a pregnant woman. Another woman who had tried to intervene had also been beaten
* A petition signed by around 150 people in the camp had been handed over to the ICRC and the Human Rights Commission, but the intimidation continues
* I was also told that young men are scared to go out and do any casual job, as they might be arrested in round ups by the military
* In September, the Grama Sewaka in charge of the nearby Manalchchenai transit camp had been shot dead in the night. One person told me that it was likely because of his involvement in supporting the attempt to petition the Supreme Court on the loss of homes due to the Sampoor High Security Zone
* I camp leader reported that everyday, 2-3 families are moving out due to fear and already, about 15 families have left
v. Concerns about a separate “IDP” identity card
* Police had started to issue “IDP identity cards” to people living in camps-when I was in the Killiveddy transit camps, this was going on
* This ID is valid only for the Trincomalee district and includes the picture of the person, address, occupation, date of birth and also the race
* This had been issued to people who already have National Identity Cards (NIC) issued by the Central government, as well as people who didn’t have their NIC
* The general feeling was this IDP identity card was an attempt to mark them out as “IDPs” and “Tamils”
* Several people expressed fear that the identity card could be used for round up of people by Police and Security forces, and in particular to single out people who had lived in areas controlled by the LTTE. “The military always try to harass us, thinking we are LTTE supporters because we lived in areas that were controlled by the LTTE. This ID card will help them to single us out” said one man, whose 19 year old son had been taken in on suspicion.
* Many I spoke to questioned why the Police had to issue a separate ID card when the NIC issued by the central government was valid throughout the country. They also suggested that the effort and resources they are putting to make this ID cards could be directed towards issuing NICs for those who don’t have one at present
* Of particular concern was the fact that the ID particularly mentions “race”, and in most of the IDs I saw, “Tamil” was displayed prominently. This is something that is not disclosed in the NIC
vi. Fishing restrictions in and around Mutur
* Severe restrictions on fishing have been imposed by the military. One affected area that I visited was Thaqwa Nagar, a predominant Muslim fishing community, close to the jetty in Mutur. The restrictions imposed are causing untold hardships to the people there
* The day before I went there, Friday 2nd Nov., fishing had totally banned by the military, without any reason
* On days that fishing is allowed, its subject to a series of restrictions
+ Fishing is not allowed beyond 2kilometers from the shore
+ Engine boats are not allowed
+ Fishing can only be done with a permit issued by the Navy, valid for 3 months
+ The cost of photos has to be borne by Fishemen, and this is around Rs. 300, more than what most fishermen earn for a day under the existing restrictions
+ This permit has to be surrendered to a military checkpoint each time they go fishing, and has to be collected on return on the same day. The registering point opens only at 4am, so in effect, only very few fishermen can actually go out to sea by 4am
+ The form for obtaining the permit is only in Sinhalese and almost no one understands Sinhalese in this community
* One fisherman told me that he had not caught any fish that day. On other days, the income would be Rs. 200-300 (less than USD 2-3), much less than what they used to get before
* Most of the fish collecting centres had also been closed down
* Several fishermen also told me that fishing had been allowed when the area was under the control of the LTTE and that fishing is also allowed in and around Trincomalee
* Fishing has been the traditional means of livelihood for the Thaqwa Nagar community and fishermen mentioned that they are not able to engage in other forms of livelihood
* A soldier manning the registration point for fishermen admitted that fishermen are facing many difficulties due to these restriction and said that he didn’t know when the restrictions would be relaxed, such an order would have to come from higher authorities in Colombo
Fishing permit in Sinhalese (Names and other details have been blurred to protect identity of the holder)
vii. Paddy fields affected by a new road
* I saw a new road being built across the A15 road (Mutur-Eravur) bisecting the paddy fields. I learnt later that this new road was to link Kantalai to Sampoor, the high security zone area
* A farmer, who had been displaced and returned back, mentioned that he had lost large parts of his paddy field, and might lose as much as Rs. 75,000 (around USD 700) per harvest because of this
* He had not been informed or consulted on this by the military or any government official
* I heard from another farmer that about 50 farmers (Sinhalese, Tamil and Muslim) will lose their paddy fields due to this project, and that to his knowledge, no one had been informed or consulted
* There has been no compensation offered or even discussed
* One of the farmers I spoke to expressed fear to complain about this matter and said it might be best to bear the loss silently. “We are Tamils, so we can’t complain. We live in fear, and if we try to complain, we might even be killed” he told me
viii. Restrictions on breaking stones
* Another group of displaced people, in Jinna Nagar, whose traditional means of livelihood had been breaking stones, are badly affected by recent restrictions on this
* According to affected people, a group of Buddhist monks had visited the area and asked them to stop breaking stones as there had been a Buddhist statue in the area before
* The monks had promised food rations and other support to the affected communities, but nothing had been received
* Subsequently, Mutur Police had threatened them with arrest if they continued breaking stones
* Authorities had ordered them to stop breaking stones for a month, but afterwards, they were allowed to resume this, but in only in a small area
* As these people do not have alternative means of livelihood, this had put them under a severe economic difficulties
* About 60 affected families had handed over an appeal to the Divisional Secretary and the Military Commander, but they had not received any response
Petition submitted to authorities by the affected people in the Jinna Nagar Community
ix. Suppression of Hindu places of worship
* There has been a Hindu Kovil in Ilangeturai, but after the area had been taken over by the government forces, Hindus have been prevented from going there
* Several villagers in nearby Kallady and Muthichenai told me their fears that Hindu statues had been put aside and Buddhist statues put in its place by the military
* They also mentioned that although Tamil villagers are being prevented from visiting what had been a place of worship for them, visiting Sinhalese people are allowed to visit the site, apparently because they are Buddhists and they are also allowed to bathe in the nearby beach
x. Assistance to resettled IDPs
* Most people who had been displaced and come back to resettle, live in makeshift huts, near their homes
* The people I spoke to mentioned that there had been assistance provided to build temporary shelters
* Although many had returned to their places of origin, they have not received assistance to build permanent houses
* All the returnees I spoke to also mentioned problems about livelihood. For fisherfolk, the restrictions imposed on fishing by the military are having a crippling effect on their economy. Farmers expressed a need for seeds and equipment to restart farming, while several others said they would need assistance to develop the small income generating projects they had restarted, such as cycle repair shops and grocery stores
The humble dwelling and kitchen of a resettled family
xi. Property lost during displacement
* Many of the displaced had come back and found that their property was missing, even when ruins of their houses were still there
* Amongst the property that many had lost were motor bikes, tractors and electrical appliances such as TVs
* One family mentioned that they had lost their car, which they had seen in a nearby army camp. They claimed that despite repeated requests and production of relevant documents, the military refuses to hand back the car
Despite claims of “liberation” and “reawakening” of the East, civilians in Trincomalee live in a highly militarized environment. Despite the heavy presence of security forces, disappearances and killings continue regularly.
Displaced people who still live in camps experience a number of problems. They live in fear of harassment and threats by the military, do not have enough assistance and facilities and people whose homes and lands had been taken over by the military for high security zones have serious concerns about forcible relocation. Government officials have not informed or consulted affected people on these matters.
People who were displaced and had returned to their places of origin also face problems of security as shown by the killings in Ralkuly and Karikamunai in the last two months. There are serious problems regarding livelihoods, such as the restrictions placed on fishing, the arbitrary taking over of paddy fields for a new highway and restrictions on breaking stones. Most people are also in need of assistance to build permanent shelters and begin livelihoods.
Key agencies, such as the Human Rights Commission and UN agencies are monitoring the situation and seemed aware of many of the problems and are making interventions with local government officials. ICRC and SLMM also continue to have a presence and accept complaints from civilians. But people I spoke to are yet to benefit from their interventions, particularly relating to protection and security. Humanitarian agencies assistance to thousands of people over an extended period and their task is made more difficult due to lack of information about government plans on resettlement.
LST calls on the government and all other concerned agencies to take immediate steps to address the concerns of displaced people in the Trincomalee district, including the eleven specific concerns highlighted in this report.
November 22nd, 2007
By D.B.S. Jeyaraj
The presidential elections of 2005 saw two candidates before the Tamil people of Sri Lanka. On the one hand there was Mahendra Percival Rajapakse aligned with the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna(JVP) and Jathika Hela Urumaya (JVP) contesting on a Sinhala hard – line platform .
On the other hand , there was Ranil Wickremasinghe supported by the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) Ceylon Workers Congress (CWC), Up Country Peoples Front (UCPF) and Western Peoples Front (WPF) contesting on a moderate platform.
Rajapakse winning meant a victory for the chauvinist forces among the majority community. It also meant farewell to the fragile peace process and a return to war , this time in search of an “honourable peace”.
A victory for Wickremasinghe too did not guarantee definite peace but it certainly held out the prospects of a negotiated settlement.
Besides a defeat for Wickremasinghe guaranteed one sure thing. The Sinhala hawks would be on the ascendant which in turn would make the Country descend into strife and chaos. [Read full article in Federalidea.com]
Related: Did LTTE have secret deal with Mahinda to enforce boycott?
July 10th, 2007
By D.B.S. Jeyaraj
The Sri Lankan Tamils have been saying “YES ” since the times of SJV Chelvanayagam. The Northern and eastern provinces are the traditional Tamil homeland emphasised Chelvanayagam. This concept was faithfully endorsed by his deputies like Vanniyasingham, Naganathan, Amirthalingam and Navaratnam. In recent times the homeland concept has been one issue on which there is general agreement among Tamils.
The notion of a Tamil Homeland was not accepted by most Sinhala, politicians , acdemics, lawyers and opinion makers. Sri Lanka belongs to all her citizens regardless of race or ethnicity they would say. No part of the Country can be the exclusive preserve of any community was the rejoinder. Historical, geographical and demographic arguments would also be adduced to dispute the homeland claim.
One reason for hostility towards the Tamil homeland theory is the fear that the concept could be used to justify secession. While exercising the right of external self – determination could lead to secession it is also possible to accommodate the homeland concept within the limits of internal self – determination. This is not contrary to the federal idea and if applied judiciously can act as an effective deterrrent against divisive tendencies.
Another reason for hostility towards the Tamil homeland theory is Sinhala supremacism itself. These proponents state that the Island belongs to Sinhala Buddhists alone and that others are interlopers. Tamils are depicted as aliens who have no claim on the Island. So arguing for a homeland is anathema to these elements.
Ironically when Tamils are attacked in the Southern provinces the state is unable to protect them and helps transport the threatened victims to the traditional Tamil homelands of North and East. Also the mobs also justify their violence by taunting their Tamil victims to “go home where you belong”. In effect the North – East is where the Tamils belong and not Colombo or elsewhere in the Island.
But implicit recognition of this homeland concept also leads to another problem. The Tamil homeland may be the North – East but they have no rights there too. So the armed forces are sent to the North – East where they act often like armies of occupation. The North – East is laid waste by state sponsored violence. So Tamils are denied rights inside and outside the North – East. Still Tamils cling on to the North – East where they have lived for generations and in a reactive response call it their traditional homeland or area of historic habitation.
This too is depicted as something wrong.Given the asymmetrical power and influence enjoyed by the numerically largest ethnicity in Sri Lanka it has been easy to overwhelm the Tamil demand for a homeland as being a racist, exclusivist concept bordering on the discredited “apartheid” system. Sinhala supremacists on the other hand are portrayed as enlightened citizens of the world who have risen above race and religion.
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) organization’s fascist act of expelling Muslims from the north has added credence to the charge that Tamils want an exclusive homeland where others will not be tolerated. The despicable conduct of the LTTE in this instance and many other instances, have undermined the justice of the Tamil cause in more ways than one.
Many people fail to realise that the homeland theory has its roots in Tamil insecurity and vulnerability and not in ethnic superiority or exclusivity.
Some years ago then US ambassador to Sri Lanka, Ashley Wills, delivered a controversial speech in Jaffna that hurt Tamil sentiments considerably: [Continued - Read the full article "Rajapakse Regime Reinforces Concept of Tamil Homeland" in Federalidea.com]
June 12th, 2007
By D.B.S. Jeyaraj
Interenecine clashes among and within Tamil armed groups is not a new development. The latest group to be afflicted in this respect is the Tamil Makkal Viduthalaip Puligal (TMVP). Bitter rivalry has ensued between the TMVP’s “national leader” Karuna Amman and its ” supreme military commander” Pillaiyaan. TMVP factions aligned to the leader and commander have clashed in the East.
[Pic: After breaking away in 2004]
In a typical example of the proverbial Tamil saying about pinching the baby and rocking the cradle the Sri Lankan military establishment is now trying to pacify Karuna and Pillaiyaan and evolve a working relationship between both factions. Military intelligence operatives “handling” the TMVP initially practised “divide and rule” tactics and covertly engineered a feud. Now they are overtly engaged in promoting peace. There is however a lurking fear that the split may have gone too far to a stage where patching up may not be possible.
Pillaiyaan was at one time a trusted, loyal disciple of Karuna. When the TMVP leader went abroad to escape assassination squads of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) it was Pillaiyaan and other deputies who held the fort locally. Even when Karuna was holed up at Panagoda camp for security reasons it was Pillaiyaan and others who remained active in the East and Polonnaruwa district.
Ever since Karuna came under complete control of Sri Lankan intelligence the TMVP is being directed by intelligence operatives. Karuna was more like a brand name and had very little control over his group in actual terms. The group had called itself TEMVP (Tamil Eelam Makkal Viduthalaip Puligal ) earlier. But Karuna’s handlers got him to remove the “Eelam” out as it smacked of separatism.
The Karuna faction known as TMVP was not allowed to function as one whole entity. Different commanders like Sinnathamby, Riyaseelan, Mangalan master, Iniyabharathy, Markan etc were given different spheres of influence and were responsible to different handlers. Pillaiyaan was like a “first among equals” among them. Most of the instructions from military intelligence hierarchy to the TMVP was relayed through Pillaiyaan. He was also the “communication channel” between Karuna and the other commanders. In the process Pillaiyaan self – styled himself as supreme commander.
It was Pillaiyaan who helped out with regular supply of cash to Karuna and his family while abroad. Apparently when the LTTE killed eight of Karuna’s men at Kottawa, Karuna lost his ‘treasurer Kuganesan too. Kugan had invested Karuna’s money in different place known only to himself.. All that was lost after Kuganesan was killed.
It was then that Pillaiyaan stepped in and started his taxation cum abduction for ransom racket. Pillaiyaan supplied Karuna with money regularly. He also encouraged a personality cult around Karuna within the TMVP.
The Sri Lankan intelligence operatives were not very happy at the Karuna – Pillaiyaan relationship. They preferred to engineer rivalry and factionalism within TMVP ranks and keep the running dogs of (Sinhala) imperialism on separate leashes. It was also felt that both leader and commander had to be given “knocks” and brought down a peg or two.
In the case of Pillaiyaan his handlers resented the fact that he was running a flourishing extortion racket where full details were not being divulged. While some of the abductions and extortion schemes were run with full knowledge of the handlers there were many other acts being done without their knowledge. Pillaiyaan was masterminding a racket where crores of rupees were filling his coffers. So Pillaiyaan was to be taught a lesson.
As far as Karuna was concerned the military establishment was very pleased with his performance. The sore point however was Karuna’s opposition to the East being fragmented. He also wanted some political power and insisting that an interim administrative council be set up for the entire province and be handed over to him. This was not to the liking of Karuna’s masters who wanted to reduce his clout too.
The best way to teach both leader and commander a lesson was to foster enmity between both.. An intra – TMVP feud would weaken both and enable handlers to exert greater authority over both factions.
A “gentleman” by the name of Krishnan was brought down to Sri Lanka for the purpose.”London” Krishnan whose full name is Krishnapillai is a native of Pungudutheevu in Jaffna. He was a federal party youth activist who went abroad to London in the early seventies. He played a prominent role in organizing and participating at the demonstration at a world cup match in 1975 when Tamil youths protesting Sri Lankan “oppression” invaded the grounds and fell flat on the pitch.
Krishnan later became an overseas activist of the original undivided LTTE. He was largely instrumental in wooing Anton Ballasingham into LTTE folds. When the LTTE split in 1980 Krishnan teamed up with Umamaheswaran and helped form the Peoples Liberation Organization of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE). He was expelled from the PLOTE in 1986 for allegedly embezzling funds collected abroad. When Paranthan Rajan broke away from PLOTE and formed Eelam National Democratic Liberation Front (ENDLF) in 1987 Krishnan joined it.
Krishnan later dropped out of ENDLF and became a loner. He was approached by Sri Lankan intelligence in the nineties and has been of great service to them since then.Krishnan had established close rapport with Karuna on instructions from Sri Lankan intelligence.
Colombo was quite unhappy during Karunas short – lived honeymoon with the ENDLF. It was Krishnan who succeeded in breaking up that alliance on the request of Sri Lankan intelligence. Now he was asked to promote enmity between Karuna and Pillaiyaan. Krishnan came down to Colombo and worked on Karuna’s ego, insecurity and lurking jealousy.He also fired Karuna up over Pillaiyaan’s ill – gotten cash. This succeeded to a great extent and soon Karuna and Pillaiyaan were arguing on the telephone about. finances.
Karuna ordered Pillaiyaan to turn over all the money in his possession and submit accounts.Pillaiyaan decided to jump the gun and sent a killer squad to assassinate Iniyabharathy in Batticaloa.Bharaty a Karuna loyalist had been asked by his leader to collect the money and accounts from Pillaiyaan. Iniyabharathy who is implicated in the abduction and murder of “Taraki” Sivaram went up the roof and escaped death.Pillaiyaan also sent killers to bump off Krishnan. But Krishnan had already checked out from the Colombo hotel where he was staying.
With these acts the split came out in the open. Factions began forming around both Karuna and Pillaiyaan. People like Sinnathamby, Iniyabharathi, Riyaseelan, Jeyathaan, Santhiveli Maamaa,Thileepan, Mahilan etc were with Karuna. People like Sinthujan, Sitha master,Markan, Thooyavan, Seelan , Sasi etc were with Pillaiyaan. People like TMVP spokesman Azad Moulana and Mangalan master are neutral.Clashes between both factions began occurring.
Soon cadres loyal to Pillaiyaan began fleeing Batticaloa – Amparai districts to Polonnaruwa and Trincomalee districts. Karuna loyalists began entrenching themselves in Battiicaloa. With areas like Karadiyanaaru and Kokkatticholai coming under army control TMVP cadres loyal to Karuna began moving there in large numbers. Most TMVP offices in the littoral became depleted in personnel.
It appears that the rank and file in the security forces stationed in the East are sympathetic towards Pillaiyaan. This is because it was Pillaiyaan who interacted with them at grass roots level. Also many of the “hela jathika’ Types in Trinco and Polonnaruwa are also partial towards Pillaiyaan. These elements have played a crucial role in sustaining the TMVP.
The military and defence ministry hierarchies favour Karuna at this juncture. They are pleased with the input he provided in the Vaaharai and Paduvaankarai military offensives. They need his expetise in the battles to come in the Wanni too. Karuna was successful in enticing Jeyathaan and some others from the LTTE into TMVP.Also Karuna is now a brand name to mobilise anti – tiger elements. Karuna is necessary till the East is fragmented and Sinhalaised. He may literally and metaphorically outlive his usefulness then.
In a show of mediation the military authorities summoned a peace parley at Vaakarai. TMVP stalwarts from both factions met to thrash out differences. Both Karuna and Pillaiyaan kept away. A compromise in the form of demarcated territorial control was proposed by the handlers.
Areas south of Batticaloa town from Aaraiyampathy to Pottuvil were to be under Karuna’s suzerainty; areas north of B’caloa from Aarumugathaankudiyiruppu to Verugal river were to be Pillaiyaan’s fiefdom. B’caloa town was to be common for both under supervision. The hinterland areas were to be decided upon later.
This demarcation was not to the liking of both factions clamouring to be “sole” representatives of Eastern Tamils. Arguments heated up and led to fisticuffs. At one point Iniyabharathy and Santhively Maama whipped out concealed pistols and fired away. Seelan and six others from Pillaiyaan faction were injured and are hospitalised.
The peace parley ended in pandemonium. Both factions grabbed people from the other faction and took them away as “human shields”. Thus Pillaiyaan factioni took Mahilan and some others as hostages. Karuna faction took Sinthujan and some others as hostages. Ironically the security forces “allowed” both factions to take captives and depart, providing safe escort to both groups returning to B’caloa, Karadiyanaaru and Trincomalee.
Sinthujan and some others were kept at the TMVP office – camp on Bar road in B’caloa town. Sinthujan is the man responsible for abducting and killing seven Tamil rehabilitation Organization (TRO) employees in 2006 January. He also led the gang rape of the TRO’s woman accountant.
Sinthujan and Vijitharan broke out of custody and tried to run away. Karuna loyalists gave chase and gunned them down near the toddy tavern junction. Vijitharan was killed instantaneously but a wounded Sinthujan was dragged away and brutally hacked to death. A Muslim auto rickshaw driver from Kattankudi who was passing by was also injured in the shooting.
Karuna loyalists have also abducted the wife of Seelan who was injured by Santhiveli Maamaa in the Vaakarai shooting. They have also broken into a number of houses belonging to TMVP leaders of the Pillaiyaan faction. Valuables have been looted and furniture destroyed. The houses of Seelan, Sitha master and Sasi were some residences affected.
One happy consequence of the Karuna – Pillaiyaan split is the remarkable drop in abductions for ransom in Colombo and forced conscription in Batticaloa. These activities however are likely to increase once the internal squabbling comes to an end.
Meanwhile military authorities are engaging with Karuna and Pillaiyaan separately to bring about a compromise. It is said that Karuna had to cut his European tour as a result. After promoting a split the handlers now hope to “unite” the weakened factions and manipulate them easily in the future. Such attempts could turn counterproductive because factional friction has can gather momentum to a point of no return.
If the Karuna – Pillaiyaan split becomes permanent the TMVP will be considerably weakened. Internecine warfare will debilitate both factions. It remains to be seen as to how this will affect the Rajapakse regime’s “chinthana” of fragmenting and Sinhalaising the East.With Karuna and Pillaiyaan clashing the ultimate victor could be Velupillai Pirapakaran.
Related: The tragic fate of TRO employees abducted by Karuna cadres
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May 8th, 2007
By D.B.S. Jeyaraj
The early hours of Monday April 23rd saw the Sri Lankan security forces conduct a well – coordinated cordon and search operation in various parts of Jaffna peninsula. In a simultaneous pre – dawn swoop security forces encircled four target zones and conducted house to house searches of residences in the vicinity. Some people were detained for further interrogation.
The cordon and search operations were conducted in different parts of the Jaffna municipality ranging from Ariyalai to Naavaanthurai: Chavakachcheri town and areas like Nunavil, Sangathanai and Meesalai in the Thenmaratchy sector: Udupiddy, Valvettithurai and Thondamanaaru areas in the Vadamaratchy sector: Chulipuram and adjacent areas in Valigamam West.
Around eight to ten thousand personnel were deployed in the massive operation which according to Jaffna residents was the biggest of its kind in recent times. It began shortly after 4 am and went on till about 2 pm. Troops who positioned themselves at interior lanes and by – lanes prevented young people from travelling about. Hundreds of soldiers fanned out and conducted an intensive house to house search.
Many elderly people were herded into schools in some places and given food and refreshment. Soldiers entreated the senior citizens to supply them with details about Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)members living undercover in the areas. The elders were also showered with gifts like food items and clothing. They were promised more benefits if they cooperated. They were also threatened with dire consequences if found harbouring “Terrorists”.
Though some persons all of them youths were taken in for further questioning Jaffna residents were of the opinion that they were merely tiger suspects and not actual LTTE members. It was crystal clear from the elaborate scale of the cordon and search operation that the security forces were aiming to flush out hard – core LTTE members who had allegedly infiltrated various parts of Jaffna in recent times. Despite the element of surprise the Monday operation apparently failed to yield successful results as expected.
The massive cordon and search operation came in the wake of recent military intelligence reports of large scale infiltration by the LTTE into Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL) controlled areas in Jaffna peninsula. Trained LTTE cadres were moving into Jaffna by boat across the lagoon and landing in various points along the Thenmaratchy coast and also Ariyalai east. Tigers were also suspected of moving by foot in Vadamaratchy east along lagoon shores and penerating the Varani – Mulli areas of Thenmaratchy.
The influx apparently began in the last week of March but escalated dramatically after the dawn of “Sarvasith” new year on April 14th. It is estimated that around 175 to 200 “new” tiger cadres are in Jaffna now. Since the influx is on going the figures are said to be increasing regularly. It is also said that some of the LTTE operatives already stationed clandestinely in Jaffna are being recalled to the Northern mainland of Wanni.
The tigers brought in via the recent influx have not engaged in any spectacular operations so far. A few landmine explosions and pistol group assassinations have occurred. But these are seen as routine events now. The fresh crop of tiger infiltrators seem to be engaged in laying the groundwork for major developments in the future rather than confront security personnel immediately.
LTTE cadres are allegedly setting up safe houses and clandestine camps in the peninsula; the existing LTTE intelligence network in the peninsula is being revamped and enhanced; undercover supply routes between mainland and peninsula are being revised and refined. Arms are being smuggled in and concealed at various points; the dormant “fifth columnists” are being re- activated. It appears that the LTTE is getting ready for a full – fledged assault on the peninsula and the infiltrators are fore – runners of that objective.
What is disturbing from the Govt point of view is that the proclaimed raison d’etre for closure of A – 8 highway at Muhamalai checkpoint is now invalid. The closure resulting in great hardship for Jaffna civilians was justified on the grounds that it was to prevent LTTE incursions into the peninsula.
The closure of A – 9 along with the ruthless abduction and assassination campaign conducted against people suspected of supporting the LTTE was declared successful as the Peninsula was now virtually cleared of a tiger presence it was claimed. With recent infiltration in large numbers the situation is changing drastically and the boast rings hollow.
Rattling the security forces further is recent knowledge about the qualitative difference in LTTE cadres infiltrating Jaffna now. The tigers coming in are drawn from many different units ranging from the intelligence division to the elite leopard commandoes. despite different duties and tasks being assigned to them a common factor binds them together. It is the fact that most of them – if not all – are mobile “human bombs”.
In a noteworthy departure from earlier norms the LTTE cadres being sent to Jaffna are all human bombs wearing explosive – laden belt – vests as deadly undergarments. They form a loose ensemble called “That Kaappu Vedigundangip Porani” (Defensive explosive garment corps ). These cadres wear a belt – vest strapped around between their chests and waists. The explosive is triggered if and when two concealed levers are joined together and yanked.
There have been two related incidents in the past weeks. In Aanaikottai , close to Jaffna town , soldiers on motor cycles stumbled on two tigers trying to affix a clatmore mine on a tree. One ran away but the other was trapped. The LTTE cadre ran towards the soldiers while his fingers fumbled with the concealed levers. He was shot dead by the soldiers .
It was discovered later that Capt. Priyadharshan of the LTTE was trying to trigger off the explosive belt.If successful a few soldiers would have been killed or seriously injured.
Another incident took place along Naavalar road i the heart of Jaffna town. Tipped off by an informant a group of soldiers was lying in wait for a tiger operative near the railway gate on Naavalar road. The LTTE cadre Lt. Arivumagan was taken by surprise. But instead of trying to run away he ran towards the soldiers and managed to trigger off the strapped explosive. An army corporal of military intelligence was killed. Another member of military intelligence, a soldier and the informant were injured.
Both incidents have brought home to the security forces the “transformation” in the new LTTE infiltrators of Jaffna. Earlier LTTE members if cornered would consume cynaide to avoid capture. But the new approach seems to be that of blowing themselves up by triggering off body – strapped explosives. The idea is not merely to avoid capture but like the biblical Samson taking as many of the enemy as possible along with you.
The black tigers phenomenon of the LTTE is well – known. The black tigers have a specific target. They blow themselves up at the correct time to take down the target. In some instances black tigers apprehended by authorities have either by design or accident blown themselves up.
The new breed of explosive laden tigers are slightly different from the black tigers. They do not blow themselves up to target a particular person or place. They are engaged in other tasks but blow themselves up if capture is imminent instead of taking cynaide. For this they are in a constant state of prepardedness wearing the explosive belt – vest all the time. Even the black rigers wore their explosives only when embarking on a mission. But these cadres are almost always strapped with explosives.
They are in practice mobile human bombs ready to explode if about to be captured. Apart from avoiding capture the idea is to wreak as much destruction as possible on the enemy. There is “no going gently into the good night” for these devotees of Velupillai Pirapakaran.
A ceremony was held on April 21st at the Kilinochchi cultural centre to honour the memory of Capt. Priyadharshan and Lt. Arivumagan. LTTE mass communications unit head Thamilanban delivered the eulogy. In that Thamilanban “officially” revealed for the first time that LTTE cadres wearing explosive laden garments (Vedigundu angi) had infiltrated Jaffna in large numbers.
Thamilanban rationalised the self – destruction of LTTE cadres as being necessary to avoid capture. He said that anyone captured alive could be made to reveal details about the LTTE presence and plans in Jaffna. At the same time instead of simply taking one’s own life the tigers would take the enemy with them too. Such steely determination was essential to survive in hostile territory. Besides the enemy would be intimidated severely.
Thamilanban also chided Jaffna residents for not joining the LTTE in large numbers and fight for liberation. Now they were being exterminated ruthlessly by a terrible enemy. He called upon people to join the LTTE and fight with self – respect as tigers instead of being shor dead like street dogs.
The LTTE was incapable of stopping this carnage until Jaffna was retaken. The tigers will definitely reclaim their cultural heritage of Jaffna regarded as the Apex of knowledge among Tamils. The presence of large numbers of tiger cadres like Pritadharshan and Arivumagan wearing explosive – laden garments was only a harbinger of the future he warned.
Against this backdrop the reasons for Monday’s cordon and search operation are not hard to fathom. The security forces long complacent that the tiger threat in Jaffna has been eliminated are being brutally reminded of the threat within. The LTTE build – up within Jaffna has ominous forebodings for the future. The question however is whether the state and its Tamil minions can effectively curtail a tiger presence determined to die, kill and kill even while taking one’s own life.
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April 24th, 2007