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Home Articles Sri Lanka The Challenges before the Civil Society

The Challenges before the Civil Society

If Sarath Fonseka can be treated this way then what could be the plight of ordinary Tamil or Sinhala persons?

This was the statement made by M.A.Sumanthiran Member of Parliament of Sri Lanka during motion on increase of salaries for Judges. This statement aptly captures the flight of the Tamils of Sri Lanka.

1. The Post War Sri Lanka

A meeting with a group of professionals about the present state of the Tamils of Sri Lanka was an eye opening about the present situation of Sri Lanka and in a special way the state of affairs of the Tamils of Sri Lanka. “The Tamils of Sri Lanka subjected to discrimination, subjugation and exploitation. They can eat only if they get a meal. They can live only they are allowed to live. They have no life, rights, dignity of their own. They have to be tolerance and suffer all the discrimination and subjugation they are subjected to without any complain. At present, just being alive, living as objects and not subjects is the only option the Tamils. There is no other issue at present than living a life they know is worse than that of the animals. Some would even say that it would have been better to have died in the war than living this life. But there is no option before them.”

Thus, the sense of being discriminated, subjugated and exploited is very strong among the Tamils of Sri Lanka. The agenda of the majoritarian Sinhala Buddhist polity, society, economy, religion, culture, language and way of live appears to be the only reality and all the others are be brought under this scheme. One nation, one country, one culture, one people is the slogan that the rulers of Sri Lanka are propagating and promoting by systematically planned programmes.

Militarization, colonization and alienation are going on in full swing. From the early 1940s, the Tamils felt discriminated. They were denied educational and job opportunities. Slowly their language was under attack. This further aggravated the sense of alienation of the Tamils. The Tamils responded to this discrimination and alienation through non-violent methods. Upholding the democratic principles of Sri Lanka, they represented matter to the rulers at different times. But these democratic methods of representation were not accepted and progressively the Sri Lankan ruling elite adopted a policy of only Sinhala Buddhist principles and practices. When nothing seems to ensure the representation of the Tamils, some of the youth experimented with militant response. The Sri Lanka government ruthlessly dealt with this militant response. The last 30 years are witness to this conflict and war between the Government of Sri Lanka and the militant groups.

In the post war scenario from May 2009, over and above with discrimination and alienation, the Tamils are subjected to militarization and colonization. Anyone who can afford to travel to the north and the east of Sri Lanka see, perceive, observe, understand and experience the discrimination, subjugation and exploitation the Tamil ethnic community undergoes.

The war against the LTTE was over in May 2009. Since then Sri Lanka has held three elections - elections to the Provincial assemblies, the election of the Executive President and the election of the National Parliament. In all these elections, the party of the President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his allies secured a majority position. New governments have been installed at the provincial and national levels. The situation continues to remain at high risk and violent. It seems that the culture of non- accountability, which had become the norm during the three and half decade long civil war in Sri Lanka, has taken deep roots in the political and administrative systems of the island republic.

2. Brief Status Report

2.1 Brief Overview

· As at 8 October 2010, just about 26,000 individuals remained in IDP camps in the Northern Province, including approximately 25,000 in five zones at Menik Farm, Vavuniya District, and 1,200 in Ramavil camp, Jaffna District.

· A total of 2,746 IDPs (848 families) from Menik Farm and 4,453 persons (1,597 families) returned to their areas of origin in the Jaffna, Kilinochchi, Mannar and Mullaitivu districts in September, bringing the total population resettled in the Northern Province since August 2009 to approximately 230,000 individuals. In September, for the first time since the resettlement exercise started, returns occurred to Puthukudiyuruppu Divisional Secretariat (DS) Division in Mullaitivu District. An additional 71,200 IDPs continued to live with host families, while about 1,800 IDPs were in transit sites and 1,300 IDPs have been released to social institutions. This brings the total released and/or resettled population to over 303,200 as of 8 October.

· In Jaffna District, over 1,000 IDPs from Ramavil camp, 500 individuals from the Manatkadu transit site and 260 persons from host communities returned to six newly released GNs in Vadamarachchi East DS Division. As a result of this return movement, the Manatkadu transit site now hosts approximately 367 individuals (100 families), the lowest number of persons since its opening in December 2009. Furthermore, over the past six months 4,700 individuals (1,200 families) returned to released areas in the High Security Zone (HSZ) in Tellipalai DS Division. This reduced the total number of persons displaced prior to April 2006 in Jaffna District from 65,500 IDPs to 60,800. Consequently, four ‘old’ welfare centres – three in Chankanai DS Division and one in Tellipalai DS Division – have been officially closed. This leaves 60 welfare centres still operational in the Jaffna peninsula, down from a total of 67 centres a year ago.

· Approximately 900 separated IDPs were released on 30 September (400 individuals) and on 15 October (500 individuals) following rehabilitation, according to Government sources. Many had received vocational training to support their socioeconomic reintegration. Media reports indicated that as at the end of September, the total number of released ‘separatees’ reached 4,500 individuals, while some 5,000 are still in held in ‘separatees’ sites.

2.2. Resettlement

As at 15 September, 2010 there are about 279, 650 persons in the North, 10811 persons in the East and 12 persons outside North and East, a total of 290, 473 have been released and resettled; about 3,288 persons among those who had been brought for resettlement in the North are not yet permitted to go home; they are in transit sites. 71,200 IDPs continue to live with host families and 1,300 IDPs have been released to social institutions. In September, 2010, for the first time since the resettlement exercise started, resettlement was undertaken in Puthukkudiyiruppu Divisional Secretariat (DS) Division in Mullaitivu District; 3047 persons had been resettled as at 13 September, 2010. This brings the total released and/or resettled population to over 303,200 as at 8 October, 2010.

2.3 District wise Resettlement

Kilinochchi District

As at 26 August, 2010, 104, 115 persons have been resettled in Kilinochchi district; Karachchi Divisional Secretariat (DS) division- 31, 924; Kandawalai DS division – 15, 858; Poonakary DS division – 17, 473; Pachchilaipalli DS division – 4, 931

Jaffna district

As at 09 September, 2010, 67, 712 persons have been resettled in all the DS divisions of Jaffna district; Delft – 645; Velanai – 4420; Kayts – 2, 201; Karainagar – 2, 55; Jaffna – 4, 588; Nallur – 5, 271; Sandilippay – 5, 745; Chankanai – 4, 287; Uduvil – 3, 704; Thellippalai – 2, 890; Kopay – 6, 839; Chavakachcheri – 8, 557; Karaveddy – 4, 406; Point Pedro – 9, 778; Maruthankerni – 5, 458.

As at13 September, 2010, 1, 158 persons are in Ramavil IDP camp. 500 individuals from the Manatkadu transit site and 260 persons from host communities returned to six newly released GNs in Vadamarachchi East DS Division. As a result of this return movement, the Manatkadu transit site now hosts 35 – 40 families with about 150 individuals.

Furthermore, over the past six months 4,700 individuals (1,200 families) returned to released areas in the High Security Zone (HSZ) in Tellipalai DS Division. This reduced the total number of persons displaced prior to April 2006 in Jaffna District from 65,500 IDPs to 60,800. Consequently, four ‘old’ welfare centres – three in Chankanai DS Division and one in Tellipalai DS Division – have been officially closed. This leaves 60 welfare centres still operational in the Jaffna peninsula, down from a total of 67 centres a year ago.

Mullaitivu district

As at 26 August, 2010, 48, 104 persons have been resettled in all the DS divisions of Mullaitivu district; Thunukkai – 9, 646; Manthai East – 7, 398; Oddusuddan – 12, 669; Maritime Pattu – 15, 344; Puthukkudiyiruppu – 3, 047.

Mannar district

As at 26 August, 2010, 26, 208 persons have been resettled in two DS divisions of Mannar district; Manthai West – 15, 104; Madhu – 11, 104.

Vavuniya district

As at 26 August, 2010, 33, 511 persons have been resettled in one DS division of Vavuniya district; Vavuniya North – 33, 511; in Vavuniya DS division IDPs awaiting resettlement, particularly in Puthukkudiyiruppu DS division, continue to live with friends and relatives. The data keep on changing as resettlement progresses.

Trincomalee district

As at 11 March, 2010, 9, 097 Vanni IDPs have been resettled in Trincomalee district; Town and Gravets – 2, 510; Thampalakamam – 1, 312; Kuchchaveli – 2, 222; Eachchilampaththai – 155; Kinniya – 206; Morawewa – 128. As at 26 August, 2010, 1, 597 persons have been resettled in Vanni. Therefore, as at 26 August, 2010, there are 7500 Vanni IDPs in


There are 4, 009 IDPs of Trincomalee district due to war in 2006 still live in 04 welfare centres in Muthur DS division: Kilivetti – 1, 693; Kattaiparichchan – 1, 310; Pattiththidal – 747; Manal chenai – 259

Further, the highest numbers of returnees in Trincomalee district due to 2006 war are resettled in Muthur DS division, 19, 833 persons from 2, 772 families, and in Verugal (Eachchilampaththai), 10, 935 persons from 3, 065 families.


Batticaloa district


As at 15 September, 2010, 2, 278 Vanni IDPs have been resettled in Batticaloa district; Eravur Pattu ( Pullumalai area) – 623; Manmunai South and Eruvil Pattu – 205; Porativu Pattu- 273; Koralai Pattu – 220; Koralai Pattu South (Kiran) – 253; Manmunai Pattu – 112; Manmunai West (Vavunativu area) – 234; Manmunai South West – 186; Koralai Pattu North (Vaharai) – 172.

Due to war in 2006, the worst affected was Pullumalai area. Most of the war-widows live in this area; all the villages (75, 886 persons) were displaced; Kiran – all the villages (19, 659 persons) were displaced; Vaharai – it was worst hit during the last phase of war in East (21, 263 persons were displaced) and was badly affected (4342 persons were displaced) in the Tsunami disaster; Manmunai West (Vavunativu area) – total population was 25, 025 and the whole area was displaced during the 2006 war and people have been resettled.

IDPs still in the camps

‘Welfare Centre’

No. of Families

No. of Persons

Kathirgamar Zone-0

1780

5724

Ananthakumarasamy Zone-01

2723

8805

Ramanathan Zone-02

2015

7039

Arunachalam Zone-03

2016

7209

- Zone-04

1208

3930

Total

9,742

32,707

2.4 People in Detention

Ex-Combatants

About 12, 000 actual and suspected LTTE cadres and associates were confined to detention centres. The ICRC which had initial access to the detention centres were deprived of this right later by the GoSL. The IHLs pertaining to the detainees are not adhered to from the beginning. As at 21st of October, 2010 about 4985 detainees have been released.

Hard Core Members [As claimed by the army]

1285 Hard core LTTE members are detained in three places. They are suspected of major offences under the Law. They are kept under tight security. Access is very limited. Men are detained in two camps and women in one. The proportion of men to women is about 2:1.

“Soft Cadres”

11,696 “soft cadres” were detained in 18 places called Protective Accommodation and Rehabilitation Centres (PARCs). These include those who were conscripted and those who were involved in non-military sectors of the LTTE. Among them are 594 children (363 boys and 231 girls) and 11,102 adults (9078 men and 2024 women). 373 children were brought to Ratmalana Hindu College in Colombo for studies and were later transferred to detention centres in Jaffna and Vavuniya.

At present, there are about 6,796 persons in detention in 12 locations; 8 in Vavuniya (Tamil Maha Vidyalayam, Poonthoddam, Ulukkulam, Neriyakulam, Pampaimadu, Nelukkulam, Omanthai and Maruthamadhu) and one in Thellipalai, Jaffna in the North; 3 in the East (Welikantha at the border of Polonnaruwa and Batticaloa districts, Thirukkonamadu and Kanthakkaadu located in a reserved forest in Polonnaruwa district, bordering Trincomalee and Batticaloa districts). Those in the East are like slave camps. The detainees there are forced to do hard labour without adequate sustenance.

2.5 Released

· 1,170 persons who lost limbs were handed over to their families.

· Those who were over 50 years of age were also released.

· 148 undergraduates (51 females and 97 males) were released to pursue their studies.

· About 600 girls are being trained in Garment factories in the South.

· 346 children in detention are being prepared to sit for the GCE (A/L) examination to be held in August, 2010. Seventeen of these students are in the Bio-science, 13 in the Maths, 70 in the commerce and the rest 246 in the Arts streams. They were released after the examination.

· 500 persons were released on Sunday, 10 Oct. 2010 at Omanthai, Vavuniya.

· 306 persons were released on Saturday, 23 October, 2010 at Tamil Maha Vidyalayam, Vavuniya.

2.6 The Remaining Ones

53 couples were married at a mass wedding ceremony. Among them were 41 Hindus, 11 Catholics and one Protestant. They are settled in Pampaimadu in Vavuniya district and continue in detention.

174 children in detention are being prepared to sit for the GCE (O/L) examination to be held in December, 2010.

Co-opted Cadres

Some of the LTTE members who surrendered or captured have been co-opted into the military machinery and are used to gather vital information about the LTTE and for related purposes. These include high ranking former LTTE leaders too.

Disappeared

Those LTTE members who were under the custody of the SL armed forces and who have disappeared are not accounted for.

Whereabouts Unknown

There seems to be undisclosed locations where some of the LTTE cadres are detained.

No one knows the exact number of the LTTE cadres and associates who were/are in the custody of the security forces. No comprehensive list of names of them has ever been made public. The ICRC is denied access to these prisoners of war.

2.7 Political Prisoners

About 765 Tamils are held in prisons under the Emergency regulations and the Prevention of Terrorism Act: 115 in New Magazine, 18 in Welikade men’s division and 55 in Welikade women’s division, 340 in Colombo Remand prison, 26 in Negombo, 48 in Anuradhapura, 27 in Vavuniya, 30 in Jaffna, 40 in Trincomalee, 35 in Batticaloa, 15 in Badulla and 16 in Bogambara, Kandy.

Among the 55 in Welikade women’s division are five children, two females (both 3 years old and three males (one and a half, two and five years old). They have been languishing in the jails for years.

3. The Emerging Scenario

3.1 Militarisation

From the post war phase that is from May 2009, the Srilankan army has taken over the running of the entire north and east of Sri Lanka where the Tamils predominantly live. The role and responsibilities of local administration is totally relegated to the background. Not any new initiatives but even to carry out their day to day responsibilities, the local administration has to get the permission of the army. In the north a military officer has been appointed as governor and it is the dictate of the governor which is followed. This form of administrative system is resented by the Tamil population. But they cannot voice their concerns and if they attempt to do so they would be severely dealt with.

It is pertinent to note that the Government Agent (GA) of Killinochchi, Nagalinkam Vethanayagan is being interrogated by a special unit of the Police. Police spokesman Ranjith Gunasekara confirmed that the top civil servant is in custody but refused to give details of any charges. He was arrested with the allegations that he was involved with the rebels and arrested in 2009 and there is no news about his whereabouts. If this is the fate of a Government Agent, what is the fate of the common people of Tamil community is any ones guess.

In the month of September there was a bomb explosion in a placed called Karadinar in Batticloa district in eastern province. It is reported that over 150 people were killed in this explosion. It is also reported that among the dead are Chinese, detainees who were used by the police to do hazardous jobs and police. This incident has made people panic and they are getting convinced that their children who surrendered and were kept as detainees are used by army for hazardous occupations.

What is much more depressing is that after this explosion, in the name of maintaining security, the army has increased its presence in the north and east. Military points, check posts and cantonments have become a reality now then in the past. Even in the remote forests, military points and check posts have been newly introduced. Anyone who can travel from Adamban to Madhu would witness this reality. This has further added to the woes and worries of the people. Feel are totally denied free movement and this has added to their misery and sufferings.

In the name of thwarting any attempt by the rebels to regroup themselves, the Srilankan army leaves no stone unturned to restrict freedom of movement of the people. The very presence of the army everywhere, even in the most remote forests has totally broken the spirit of the people who after thirty years of war hoped to rebuild their lives. The construction of Buddhist temples in remote areas has further accentuated the fear and trauma of the Tamil people. Further, the construction of victory monuments in Kilinochchi and the Elephant pass has furthered aggravated the total helplessness of the people.

3.2 Colonisation

Colonization of Tamil dominated north and east is going on in a systematically planned manner. Those who have been following the history of war torn Sri Lanka would remember that this process was already in place in the past. But with the defeat of the rebels, the Srilankan through its army is engaged in massive colonization. It is reported that prefabricated houses bought with international funds donated for resettlement in Vanni are being transported to Kilinochchi in heavy vehicles and are assembled on cement foundation and flooring on selected places. Sri Lanka government, with its scheme to construct 12,000 prefabricated houses in the above area intends to settle the Sri Lankan Army (SLA) personnel with their families permanently.

It is further reported that in the first stage of this scheme of Sinhalization, 5,000 houses were settled with SLA personnel and their families by the first weeks of August. No one except SLA personnel and labourers is allowed into this housing scheme that is being constructed in haste. Sinhalese building masons are working along with SLA personnel in constructing the houses. This is irrespective of the fact that the Tamils had represented this matter to the government of Sri Lanka. When the Cabinet met in Kilinochchi, in October 2010, over 2,000 odd families petitioned the President requesting that they be allowed to return to their original land, where the military has now built a camp. The people who returned from the IDP camps are forced to live either with the relatives, in transit camps with no basic facilities or to live in temporary shelters.

Four thousand acres of land have been taken over in Murukandi and Kilinochchi to build a new military cantonment. The inhabitants of three villages have been displaced. When the petition by displaced Tamils was handed over to the president, he promised that Tamils would be resettled in their original lands. As usual the President promised to settle this matter but in reality nothing has happened. But, still, they languish as displaced persons. Thus, they have no option for livelihood, children are denied education, the land and other sources of livelihood are forcefully taken over.

The government has formulated a new security strategy of ‘force concentration’ in Jaffna. According to the blue print of the new security strategy in the Jaffna peninsula, the Security Forces Headquarters of Palali, the Naval harbour and the Palali airstrip, which is part of the Jaffna Security Forces Headquarters would be brought under one complex called the Security Complex Jaffna. The plan also includes the development of the Palali airstrip to enable increased civilian air travel, funded by India. As one military official put it, “the new runway would enable anyone to take a ticket from anywhere and fly to Jaffna.” There will be a separate exit for civilian passengers at Telippalai, circumventing circuitous travel routes that civilians now have to take through the High Security Zones.

As stated by an expert on Srilankan politics, “There are 100,000 soldiers in the North-East. If everyone comes with their wives and two kids, there will be 400,000 new people in the Wanni. That would change the demography of the North overnight,” he says.
Tamils would lose their representation, he adds. When the Srilankan government tried to change the demographic composition in the North-East, the Tamils opposed it. The LTTE massacred Sinhala settlers in those farming villages in the past. But now with the defeat of LTTE, the entire northeast is open for a song.

Meanwhile the renovation of ruins of ancient Buddhist places of worship is viewed with suspicion and mistrust. For a person who has been traveling in this area in the past and now, the attempt to Sinhalise through Buddhist temples is over bearing.

This is not the end of the story. In the name of demining not done, the government of Sri Lanka is settling the Sinhalese in the Tamil area, especially in the north. When one travels from Madhu to Adamban one is stuck by a vast area of land being demarked as mined areas. These are also called high security zones and people are not allowed to go near to the fenced locality. If really demining has to be done, then the people will not be impatient and worried. But in the pretext of demining to be done, the Srilankan government is constructing roads, schools, hospitals, Buddhist temple etc and settling the Sinhalese and denying the rights of the Tamils for their land.

3.3 Slow pace of demining

One of the reasons given by the government of Sri Lanka for not permitting people to move out of the camps was the need for demining so that the people’s safety can be ensured. Nearly 30,000 IDPs are languishing still behind the barbed wires in Vavuniya alone. This is due to the slow pace of demining. According to military figures, the number of internally displaced, who live in camps in Jaffna are 2,115 persons (640 families). The delay in their resettlement is attributed to the slow pace of demining in the Wadamarachchi Eastern sector. Demining does not appear to be the priority of the government.

One question that haunts everyone is where are those thousands of families who were uprooted from the land now considered as High Security Zones? The only answer is that the population data of the district suggests that the majority of them had left the peninsula or comprehensively migrated. According to the population census of 1983, it was predicted that the population in the Jaffna district would hit the one million mark by the year 2000. However, according to current figures, Jaffna population stands at 627,000.

“Majority of those who left Jaffna were the former residents of High Security Zones (HSZ), who were from well -to- do families, and could afford to migrate,” he said. But it is the most vulnerable and the marginalized who are forced to fend for themselves in camps, transit camps and forced to live with relatives.

Recently a family came from Canada after 30 years and wanted to visit their old house in the HSZ. When they were asked why they came back after long time, the answer was they had buried some gold in the land when they left the house. The military officials took them around but they could not locate where there land was. The entire area was a thick jungle. If this is the state of affairs of those who can afford to trace their property, what would happen to those who do not have any means to search for their land and property. Where demining is not done, this becomes all the more impossible.

3.4 Disappearance, Killings and Mass Graves

The UN Sub Committee of Enforced Disappearances and the Sri Lankan President appointed Commissions of Inquiry into Disappearances of Persons have alleged that the Sri Lankan security forces have “disappeared” and killed thousands of Sri Lankan citizens during the last two decades.

Recently several mass graves were discovered in Ganeshapuram in  Kilinochchi and at Nachchikuda in the  Mannar Districts. Many more such mass graves may be discovered if the governments allow free access to the war ravaged areas in the north. These graves are supposedly that of civilians and LTTE fighters. Unfortunately the Government of Rajapaksa refuses to allow any independent investigation into these graves.

According to the report of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into Disappearances of Persons appointed in 1994, a large number of mass graves were identified in several parts of the country.  These were graves of suspected Sinhala militant youth, who had  rebelled against the government of that time. It was estimated that nearly 60,000 Sinhala youth had disappeared during that period.  Hardly any of them were found. If this was the treatment meted out to the Sinhalese, what would be the fate of the Tamils is any ones guess.

The outcry of the international human rights organisations and the harsh disapproval expressed by  influential sections of the international community of the military measures adopted by the Sri Lankan military during its war against the LTTE, have made the Rajapaksa government come down more heavily on its domestic critics. It is apparent that the situation in Sri Lanka will remain highly volatile, with little expectation of restoration of civil and democratic rights for quite some time.

The primary responsibility of any state, especially one that claims to be democratic government, is to maintain law and order in the country. But the government in Sri Lanka is a dumb witness to widespread abductions, torture, extra-judicial killings and disappearances of persons taking place systematically. The judiciary is unable to play its role in checking the occurrence of these incidents. The Emergency Regulations provide legitimacy to some of the incidents through allowing the disposal of bodies without inquiry and so on. The National Human Rights Commission is not in a position to check these incidents due to inherent flaws in the Law that created it and the political nature of the appointment of its members. The government has not taken any meaningful steps to deal with the perpetrators of disappearances in the past identified by previous Presidential Commissions of Inquiry into Disappearances. These led to Sri Lanka being ousted from membership of the UN Human Rights Council last year. Yet these incidents continue. The wide call for an international monitoring mission to curb such incidents has been staunchly resisted by the Government, confirming its lack of commitment to stop this scourge. In fact the International Independent Group of Eminent Persons invited by the Government in 2007 to observe the proceedings of a Presidential Commission of Inquiry into Serious Human Rights Violations, aborted their activities in 2008 stating, inter alia, because the government lacks the will and the desire to follow human rights norms during the inquiries.

As stated above, the recent discovery of mass graves  at Ganeshapuram in  Kilinochchi and at Nachchikuda in the  Mannar Districts  has  once again brought this issue for international attention. Such finds need not  surprise anyone.  Following an analysis of satellite images taken during the height  of the war, the American Association for the Advancement of Science  has already  reported  that on  19HYPERLINK "http://shr.aaas.org/geotech/srilanka/srilanka.shtml"thHYPERLINK "http://shr.aaas.org/geotech/srilanka/srilanka.shtml" April , 2009 the images showed the roads in the ‘Civilian Safe Zone’  to be  mostly deserted. The images taken on the 24th April, 2009 showed a large grave yard in the same area.  The report adds that the analysis identified three different graveyards, counting a total of 1,346 likely graves. The satellite images can neither reveal if these graves contain civilians or Tamil Tiger fighters.

In the circumstances, it is likely that more and more graves would be discovered, if free access to the area is available to the people and the security forces do not  take any steps to obliterate the graves. That is however only with regard to the graves alleged to be those of  the victims of the last  war in the Vanni.  There could be many more such mass graves in other parts where the war was fought.

Disappearance continues to go on unabated in north and east of Sri Lanka. The infamous ‘white van’ continues to operate even today. People are terrorized whenever they hear the disappearance of people from their area. The security forces, the CIDs, the police, the splinter rebel groups who operate like para-military forces engage in wide spread disappearance of people. It is the youth who are victims of these discriminatory and oppressive practices. It is a common phenomenon that many people who were wounded during the war and there are shells in their bodies do not go for treatment, since they are afraid of being identified as ex-rebels and arrested or kidnapped. This in the long run would have massive impact on them physically, psychologically and economically.

3.5 Persecution of Journalists continues

Media is considered to be the fourth pillar of any democratic government. But the attacks against journalists disprove this in Sri Lanka. Irrespective of international outcry the attacks on the media persons continue without any respite. In June 2009, Ms. Krishni Ifham, a journalist working for a website was waylaid outside her home near Colombo, bundled into a van and questioned by an unknown group of people about her work. The abductors released her later on the same day, several kilometers away from her home. Mr. Upali Tennakoon, editor of Sinhala-language weekly Rivira was driving to his office when four men on motorcycles smashed his car windows, beating him and his wife with metal bars. Though his paper was pro-government, Tennakoon was attacked for his criticism of a high-ranking army official. Mr. Tennakoon and his wife have taken refuge in the USA.

The government has accused several journalists of collaborating with the LTTE in the past. Journalists, who criticise the government for non-implementation of the “13th amendment” to provide autonomy to the Tamil minority, have been smeared as anti-national. After the Presidential elections the services of 56 journalists working in the state controlled print and electronic media – the Lake House Publications and Rupavahini TV were terminated on charges of publishing anti-government news during the election.

After the parliamentary election, the president appointed Mr. Mervyn Silva as Deputy Minister in charge of Mass Media and Information. In 2007, Mr. Silva and his supporters beat up the staff of Rupavahini for “showing him in bad light”. Subsequently he threatened to physically assault several members of Sri Lanka Working Journalists’ Association. Thus the appointment of Mr. Silva is a clear warning to Sri Lanka’s media professionals. Despite some restrictions on media freedom having been repealed in May 2010, under the Anti-terrorist law any journalist may be jailed for any report or article, which might be interpreted as anti government or anti-national by the government. In the past 12 months, more than 31 journalists have left Sri Lanka for fear of their lives. International Federation of Journalists has classified Sri Lanka as the “most dangerous place for journalists”.

If this continues or allowed to go on, not only war crimes would not see the light of the day but even the crimes that are committed during this reconciliation phase would go unreported. Above all, the slow and steady shift from a democratic to autocratic government would ultimately destroy Sri Lanka.

3.6 Defence Tops Sri Lankan Budget

In post war Sri Lanka, the government’s commitment to relief and rehabilitation of the war displaced Tamil people is demonstrated by the fact that the national budget for 2010, the allocation for the Ministry of Rehabilitation has been halved from Rupees 4 Billion to Rupees 2 Billion. This is about one percent of the defence budget for 2010 which stands at Rupees 201 Billion. As a result, hundreds of thousands of war refugees will continue to lack homes and essential services. More than 250,000 million civilians were detained by the military following the end of fighting and are now being “resettled”. Many have nothing but makeshift shelters. Even if one leaves out the war affected Tamil population, even the war affected Sinhala population would not be rehabilitated. Or, even this meager allotment for rehabilitation would be spent in settling the better of Sinhala population.

Allocations for health and education for 2010 are 52 and 46 billion rupees respectively—a total of 10 billion rupees less than the allotment made for 2009. The budget for 2009 was itself 12 billion rupees lower than the amount for 2008. The combined allocation for health and education this year is less than half of defence expenditure. These steps clearly show the discriminatory principles and practices of the present regime. In this background one gathers an idea that the present government has decided to systematically wipe out the Tamil population from the island.

3.7 War Crimes

The issue of war crimes in Sri Lanka both by the government cum army and by the rebels is almost a forgotten issue. Since the rebels are decimated, there is no one to speak for them or to hide the crimes committed by them. But now it is the government of Sri Lanka which is aggressively pursuing a path to put an end to any attempt to trace war crimes. But there are signs of hope. It is significant to note that Ms. Siobhain McDonagh Member of Labour Party of Great Britain raise this issue in their parliament. She asked: does the Prime Minister agree that no matter how much Bell Pottinger tries to spin the Sri Lankan Government, the demands for an international independent war crimes tribunal intensify as more evidence of alleged assassination and civil rights abuses comes out? The Prime Minister acknowledged that Ms. Siobhani has made a fair point. He assured that an independent investigation of what happened should be pursued. He also reiterated the fact that everyone has read the papers and seen the TV footage, but Great Britain need to set up an independent investigation to work out whether what was suggests was right.

Louise Arbour of the International Crisis Group is reported to have  said during an interview in the BBC that the government violated the laws of war by blurring the line between combatants and civilians, and that its killings of civilians were not accidents.   Perhaps in response to this, speaking to the BBC Tamil Service recently,  the Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Dr. Palitha Kohona is reported to have said that  the commission on Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation  set up  recently by the government is sufficient to investigate the allegations of humanitarian standards and human rights violations  during the war.

But even a cursory glance at the fate of commissions in Sri Lanka informs us that these commissions are more an escape route than seriously pursue the matter. In 1994 three such commissions  known as Zonal Commissions on Disappearances of Persons,  were appointed to inquire into and report on disappearances of persons after 1st January, 1988. Another was appointed in 1998, known as the All Island Commission on Disappearances,  to inquire only into the complaints received by the Zonal Commissions and remain  un-inquired.  These Commissions handed over their Reports in September 1997 and May, 2000, respectively.

These Commissions, inter alia, reported that they came across evidence that several torture chambers managed by the police and the military existed in different parts of Sri Lanka during the relevant period. Many persons who had been taken to be caused to be disappeared had  been tortured in these chambers to elicit information from them.  A few of them had escaped. They appeared  before the Commission and  gave evidence  on the  gruesome manner in which they and others who are no more, had been tortured. They even gave the names of the persons who had been managing these torture chambers.

It was the same in the case of more than ten mass graves in various parts of the country.  Information about them had been  made available to these Commissions by persons  who knew about them. These graves have still not been disturbed. All that the Commissions could do in respect of these torture chambers and the mass graves  was to list the locations of the torture chambers and the mass graves in their Reports  and make  a recommendation that the President should take further action  to investigate into them.  They could not investigate into these because their  mandate did not authorize them to do so.  Till date no action whatsoever had been taken on these recommendations about the torture chambers and mass graves. Instead,  some of those  who were alleged to have been responsible for these,  are still in service having  received promotions in their respective services. Others have retired  without having to face any consequence on their dastardly  criminal actions.

The same is true with regard to the recommendations made to take disciplinary action against several police and military personnel whose misconduct during the performance of their duties came to light during the investigations. There was evidence of their violation of   departmental rules and regulations  in  dealing with complaints of disappearances, detention of persons taken into custody,   destruction of Police  information books relating to  the relevant period,  in spite of a directive by the Inspector General of Police to preserve these books and make them available for investigation by the Commissions.

Once again, a commission was appointed in year 2007  to inquire into serious human rights violations such as the killing of five university students in Trincomalee, the killing of seventeen employees of and NGO  in Muttur,   bombing of  a children’s home in Sencholai in the Mullaitivu District,  etc.  The series of such high profile incidents that  took place during that period resulted in a public outcry to end such incidents.  President Rajapakse  decided to appoint a commission to inquire into such incidents to contain the surging pressure on him from various quarters.  Given the past experience on what happened to the disappearances commissions and many others, both the local and international human rights organizations expressed  their  reservations on the outcome and efficacy of the Commission proposed by the government.   Consequently, the President himself came out with a suggestion that he was prepared to invite a  few  International Independent  Group of Eminent Persons  (IIGEP)  who could be tasked to ensure that the proposed Commission conducts its investigations and inquiries in keeping with international norms and standards  and does not end up  the way the other commissions in the past had ended.

The Commission of 2007 was  created  with seven members.  A few days after the commencement of the proceedings of this Commission,  the IIGEP  found that the services of a representative of the  Attorney General (AG)  was being availed of  by  this Commission  to lead the evidence in respect of the cases  the Commission was mandated to deal with.  Former Chief Justice of India – the late Justice Bhagawathy  who headed the IIGEP  had  to point out to  Justice Udalagama who was the President of the Commission, and later to the President himself of the impropriety  of the AG leading the evidence of witnesses  during the proceedings of the Commission which was inquiring into the propriety of the investigations already carried out by the police.  Both the President and the head of the Commission persisted on insisting that  the AG should be there  and that he is an independent official.  Haggling over this issue went on for some time. IIGEP was  told that they being foreigners, did not understand the nuances of the laws in Sri Lanka and the independence of the AG.  Subsequently IIGEP had to obtain the opinion of two eminent retired judges of renown,  on the question of the independence of the AG  and the justification for the involvement of the AG in the proceedings of the Commission.  They gave a well-considered written opinion to the IIGEP,  confirming that  the Attorney-General is not an independent official  and that the role played by the AG  in the proceedings of the Commission was a conflict of interest as the AG’s representative had advised the original investigations in the cases which had been mandated for inquiry by the Commission. Even though this was pointed out, the AG’s representative continued his role in the Commission  and eroded the  Commission’s  real and perceived independence. Incidentally, this particular AG who has now retired has been appointed as the Chairman of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission.

In view of the  high profile nature of the cases the Commission was inquiring into, witnesses  to the incidents were hesitant to come  before the Commission and give evidence for fear of reprisals.  Though the IIGEP insisted on the need for a law to protect witnesses coming before the Commission,  the government failed to  take meaningful and effective steps to  provide protection for the witnesses.

Eventually the IIGEP had to abort its mission stating  that  they found a lack of  political and institutional will on the part of the Government to pursue with vigour  the cases under review by the Commission, with the intention of identifying the perpetrators or at least uncovering the systemic failures and obstructions to justice that rendered  the original investigations in to these cases ineffective.

Ultimately the term of the Commission which was mandated to  inquire into 15 high profiles cases was not extended even though inquires in the cases concerned had not been completed.  That Commission then ceased to exist, confirming the suspicion that the government was not even at the outset,  keen on investigating into the serious human rights violations concerned.  A report this Commission is said to have handed over to the President, has never been made public.

The recently appointed  ‘Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission’  in connection with the incidents relating to the conflict,  is bound to be another attempt at deception by the government which has now become well known for adopting such dubious tactics. As stated earlier this Commission is headed by the former Attorney General who crossed swords with IIGEP when he was in service and was well known for his  pro-government views.  His  personal links to the President  since their youthful days are also known.  Another key member of this Commission is the former representative of Sri Lanka at the UN where he had been vehemently defending the government’s  blood bath in the beaches of Mullaitivu during the war.  It is widely  alleged that  the President’s brother, the Defence Secretary who claims to have managed the war, had committed  violations of the rules of war and is responsible for the death of large number of civilians.  In the circumstances how can one expect  this commission to conduct its proceedings  without any bias ?

To cap it all, the President was heard to say at an interview  Al Jazeera has  had with him recently,  that he was not going to punish any of his soldiers who fought the war valiantly to defeat the LTTE ! This statement is a pointer to the Commission not to find any military personnel guilty of any violation of the  rules of war or even the human rights of the victims of war.

3.8 Denial of Permission to Humanitarian Agencies to work in Vanni

Some International and Local Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) serving in Vanni consider leaving Vanni as Sri Lanka government’s restrictions to stay and serve in Vanni are tightened. Permission from President’s Task Force (PTF), headed by SL President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s brother and Sri Lanka Minister, Basil Rajapaksa for NGOs has been a prerequisite to assist the war affected people in Vanni. In addition to this now Sri Lanka government requires the NGOs serving in Vanni to obtain permission from Sri Lanka Ministry of Defence (MoD) and renew the same monthly if they wish to be in Vanni and serve its people. Most of the NGOs and INGOs who wanted to provide humanitarian assistance to the war affected people in Vanni are planning to move out of the area or the county. This would sound death bell to the most affected people.

Meanwhile, NGO circles allege that the above additional restriction on International and Local NGOs has been imposed by Sri Lanka government in the wake of SL Minister Wimal Weerawansa’s protest fast in front of the Sri Lanka UN office in Colombo. Even the international outcry against the protest has not altered the autocratic behavior of the ruling elite.

The overall coordination of the relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction is under the tight control of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) in collaboration with the Government Agents and the Sri Lankan armed forces. The process of obtaining approval is as follows:

1. Heads of all the I/NGOs should register all the officials of such organizations in the PTF with immediate effect.

2. PTF will forward with its recommendation all such lists of names to the Director General (DG) of the National Secretariat for NGOs (NGO Secretariat). DG of the NGO Secretariat will forward with his recommendation all such lists as received from the PTF to Military Liaison Office (MLO) for further clearances and final approval.

3. Further, all human and material movements of I/NGOs to Northern and Eastern Provinces need to be channelled through PTF with a copy to DG of the NGO Secretariat and to the MLO for further approval.

Obtaining permission from PTF itself is a difficult process due to undue delays caused by PTF, sometimes for months, as their applications have to be forwarded through Government Agents where the NGOs want to work. Some organizations have applied a year ago but have not got any reply. But there are other organizations who toe the line of the government and have been given permission. Their presence in this area is viewed with suspicion by the people.

3.9 Alienation of Tamils from their Resources

As stated above, discrimination of the Tamils by the Sinhala Buddhist ideology and actions set in motion alienation of the people and this resulted in the long drawn out conflict and crisis, which finally ended up in war. Even during the last many decades the resources of the Tamils were taken and handed over to the Sinhala population. Now with the rebels gone, the government is free to deprive the Tamils of their resources. This is once again perceived as a thorn in the relationship between the two communities.

One issue of great concern is the Sampur IDP's who's land has been given to the Indian government for a coal power plant. Over 1,400 acres of very fertile land has been taken over and handed over to the Indian government for this coal power plant. The people were taken by force and dumped in a rocky area without any water source. People represented the matter to the local administration, army and the government but only promises were given. Seeing that the government is bent upon eliminating them, the people moved to another area and have tried to live their while they continue to represent the matter to the government. But the government does not even consider them as IDPs and provide humanitarian assistance since it considers them as people living with relatives. Due to this stand of the government, the humanitarian agencies also do not provide any assistance to them.

The people who were cultivating more than 5 acres of very fertile land are now at the verge of starvation. Fishing was an additional occupation which provided them additional income. They are imploring with the government that even if the 1,400 acres of land is taken away, they want to return to their place and settle outside the demarcated area. But there is no one who listens to them. The Indian state and the Indian people need to know that India is taking land that belonged to Tamil IDP's who have title deeds for this land.

The state has also demarcated certain sections of the newly liberated area as high security zones and resettled people in areas different from those from which they fled. The government currently has plans for economic development zones for those areas. The government is also engaged in massive infra structure development projects in the region. The region remains unstable with ethnic tensions mounting and killings taking place on a daily basis.

3.10 Tamil Muslim Communities are Forced to Fight

It is a fact that the Tamils and the Muslims share many common elements in Sri Lanka. With the imposition of Sinhala Buddhist ideology and practice, these two communities have suffered a lot. But due to many errors by both the communities, there has been conflict which has further estranged these minority communities. The Eastern province has traditionally been the home of Muslim and Tamil villages often situated next to one another or of Muslim villages surrounded by Tamils. Historically, according to local residents, Tamil Muslim coexistence in the Eastern province included incidents of sporadic localized altercations between the two communities. These were mainly specific to the neighbouring villages among whom they took place and would generally end within the course of the day due to the need for amicable interaction for daily business. However in the mid to late 1980s the polarization between communities became more marked with the involvement of outside elements, that is, .the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF), the Sri Lankan Armed Forces, and Tamil militants and later, Muslim “home guards” armed by the state. All these were instrumental in manipulating ethnic differences and exacerbating enmity between the two communities.

The Tamil Muslim Riots in Batticaloa in 1985 were allegedly orchestrated by the state in a manner similar to the events of July 1983. Along with this, the 8 day siege of Kattankudi by the LTTE in 1987, the IPKF bombing of Ottamavadi, the massacres of Muslims at prayer by the LTTE in Kattankudi and Eravur (1990), the disappearance of the Haj pilgrims from Kurukkal Madam the same year are all pivotal moments for Muslims in recounting their victimization due to the conflict. Additionally inhabitants of 33 Muslim villages in the Batticaloa district were displaced during the conflict.

In the recent elections, the Muslim parties too won a considerable amount of seats in the provincial council elections. The government had struck parallel deals with the TMVP (the rebel faction led by Karuna) and the Muslim parties with the promise of the chief minister position for the winner. Although the Muslim parties claim to have won the largest number of seats, the government gave the position to Pillayan of TMVP and placated the Muslim Hisbullah with the position of provincial health minister. As stated above, the state has also demarcated certain sections of the newly liberated area as high security zones and resettled people in areas different from those from which they fled. Due to this, the region remains unstable with ethnic tensions mounting and killings taking place on a daily basis.

In many places, there is already conflict between the Tamil and Muslim communities for land. When the people were brought from the camps, they were brought and dumped in different places. With no option to go anywhere many of these families cleared forest and tried to settle down. But now the Muslims are demanding for these land saying that this land originally belonged to them. With no documents with both the parties, it is becoming difficult to settle the claims and counter claims. For instance, in Adamban area over 100 families were brought and settled without any amenities. Now when they have cleared the jungle and are trying to settle there, the Muslims are demanding for the land. With some powerful Muslim leaders in the government, the Muslims seem to force the Tamils to leave the area. This could escalate and can lead to conflict.

There is also another area of concern for the Muslim community living in Colombo. They claimed that there is a JHU driven campaign to undermine Muslims’ economic activity in Colombo. Riots were masterminded by the Sinhala businessmen to dislodge the Tamils from business during 1980s. It is also reported that the government has openly set in motion the Sinhalisation process of the East. Under such a dispensation basing one’s arguments on human rights norms and calling for preservation of minority rights have no hopes of success. The need of the hour is to collaborate with each other so as to avoid conflict.

3.11 Deplorable Condition of the Wounded and Amputees

One of the worst victims of war is the wounded and amputees. Due to lack of medical facilities during the war many of them suffered serious physical damage and as reported by relatives most of them died. Those who survived these ordeal were brought to the hospitals in Vavuniya and Mannar and were treated. But once they were sent out of the hospital they had to return to the IDP camps and fend for themselves.

Like the others, these people too were brought by buses and dumped in forests and uncleared areas along with their relatives. Most of the men were bread winners. But being wounded and limbs amputed, they are not in a position to move about freely leave alone earning a living. Many are women who are widows but have to take care of their children. But they themselves have become a ‘burden’ for their families and feel miserable since they cannot take care of their children. Even if they have to go for medical checkup freely provided by Handicap International along with other humanitarian agencies, they cannot avail this opportunity since they do not have the necessary resources and facilities to travel.

3.12 The Widows and the Orphans

In a shocking revelation, the Ministry of Child Development and Women’s Affairs conceded to the fact that over 89,000 females in North and East are now widows, due to war. According to the report, about 49,000 widows are in the East and 40,000 in the North. Among the 49,000 widows in the East, about 25,000 are from Batticaloa, of which 12,000 are below age 40. Among these about 8,000 have minimum 03 children, but none have any form of income. This was stated by the Deputy Minister of Child Development and Women’s Affairs, M.L.A.M Hizbullah.

This is according to official sources. According to some independent sources, there are over 26,000 widows in Jaffna itself. Thus the number could be higher. This in all probability seems to be real since the last phase of the war is reported to have been very brutal.

But what is not yet known:

  1. How many children with no parents?
  2. How many with single widowed parents?
  3. What has happened to them after the war?
  4. What has happened to them once they moved out of the camps?

It is heartening to see that Sri Lanka follows strict rules with regard to orphans and child adoption. While this is appreciable, there is no plan for the rehabilitation of the orphans. Some of the religious agencies have done well in terms of providing shelter, education and food for them. But how long they would be able to provide this assistance is an open question.

4. The Indian Phenomenon

One can go on to describe the deplorable role of Indian government in the war in Sri Lanka. Since the omission and commission of the Indian government has been spoken about in the past, it is important to examine the role of India in the post war Sri Lanka.

Let us examine the housing assistance to be provided by Indian government. A pilot scheme to build 1,000 houses will start in the coming weeks as part of Indian assistance to construct 50,000 houses. The programme will cover the Northern, Eastern and Central Provinces. The majority of houses will be ownerdriven with Indian companies to explore lowcost housing. Vulnerable groups, including widows, womenheaded households, families with a large number of dependents, families reliant on a single working individual etc., will be prioritized for assistance. While this sounds very humanitarian, there is no mechanism to monitor this move. The Indian government has given the money and has made big promise. But how this is implemented, who works on this construction, who gets the house etc are not monitored. In the given context it is reported that the Sinhala labourers work on these sites and the houses are build primarily for relocating the Sinhala army and police families. Thus, unwittingly, the Indian government is contributing in the colonization and demographic change of north and the east.

The plan also includes the development of the Palali airstrip to enable increased civilian air travel, funded by India. It is no wonder that some of the politicians of Tamilnadu are entering into airline sector to enhance their business options. But no one speaks about the grabbing of thousands of acres of land for the Palali airport.

The Indian mobile companies are vying with each other to capture the telecom market. The Indian companies like the Airtel, Hutch and Tata Telecom are already moving into the remote areas and are doing business. What is more interesting is that they are part of the conspiracy to change the name of places in Sri Lanka. For example, in a commercial SMS sent by Hutch informing the inauguration of a new tower in Vanni, the name Kilinochchi has been converted into Kilinochchiya, making it appear to be a Sinhala area.

5. Advocacy Issues

  1. Relief and Rehabilitation Package: It is imperative that at the national, regional and international levels there has to be strong lobbying and advocacy to pressurize the government of Sri Lanka to come out with a relief and rehabilitation package for the north and the east. In the absence of this, the lives of the war affected people are in precarious situation. This demand has been there right after the war when the IDPs were in the camps. Once the IDPs are settled only, the Srilankan refuges who are in India would be willing to return to Sri Lanka. Many of them want to return to Sri Lanka. But seeing the horrible living condition of the returnees, they are hesitant. They do not want to remain in India where they have lived for the last 20 years or more.
  2. Demand that UNHCR, IOM and WFP continue to respond to the various needs of the people. It is important to recognize the commendable humanitarian assistance provided by these agencies. They have also been speaking about the detainees, amputees, widows, orphans etc. The people in these areas are slowly trying to rebuild their lives after a devastating war. They have lost everything and are in need of humanitarian assistance in terms of food, water, sanitation, health and education. It was reported by the people that WFP has decided to wind up its operations in this area in two months time. If this is done, the people will die of starvation. It is important that WFP continue to provide assistance till the next crop so that the people survive. People who have returned to their place of origin and have begun to rebuild their lives keep reminding that in one year’s time they would be able to manage most of their basic needs. Hence, it is imperative that all the humanitarian aid agencies need to concentrate in these areas.
  3. It is sad to see that some of the humanitarian aid agencies have moved out of eastern Sri Lanka thinking that it is Vanni which needs assistance now. This is true in some sense. But what one misses in this thinking is that eastern Sri Lanka is equally devastated by war. Among the 89,000 widows reported by the government of Sri Lanka, more than 40,000 widows come from the east. There are many who from east were settled in the north but now have returned back to east who are either wounded, widows, orphans, lost everything etc. These people also need assistance for a stipulated period of time so as to enable them to rebuild their lives.
  4. At the international arena, a strong and systematic attempt needs to be made for access to NGOs and INGOs to work in the war affected areas, especially in Vanni. As stated above, the Presidential Task Force (PTF) is the only authority which can grant permission to aid agencies to work in these areas. But the PTF functions more as a deterrent agency than an enabling agency in this situation. People are just trying to rebuild their lives with extremely limited resources. At this juncture, any assistance would go a long way in enabling the people to come back to life from a devastating war. Especially, the orphans, the widows, the amputees, the wounded, the released detainees, mentally challenged children and elders etc are the most vulnerable in this situation who need targeted assistance. The humanitarian aid agencies are willing to provide these support but are denied access to the area.
  5. Access to ICRC to detainees whose state of affairs is terrible. While the people were in the IDP camps in Vauniya, they were able to visit the detainees at least once in a while. But from the time, they returned back to their places they find it extremely difficult to do so since they do not have the money and there is total lack of transport facilities for them to travel. Some of the detainees are kept in southern Sri Lanka and it takes almost 3 days for the parents to visit them. But due to lack of money to travel to Colombo and stay in Colombo that day and go to the detention centre in the south next day and return to Colombo and travel to their place next day most of the parents have not been able to visit their sons or daughters. If this is the case of men, one can imagine the problems to be encountered by a young widow who has to go to visit her husband who is a detainee. Not knowing Sinhala is an added disadvantage. Hence, the demand for speedy and transparent screening of the detainees needs to be advocated on a priority basis. Based on this, those who should not be in detention should be freed at the earliest and those who are prisoners of war should be treated and protected as such.
  6. With the proclamation of the government of Sri Lanka that normalcy has returned to Sri Lanka, the issue of the war crimes is slowly being forgotten. This would sound a moratorium to all attempts to pursue war crime. Many institutions and tribunals have come out with well documented war crimes committed in Sri Lanka and this should be pursued with commitment so as to ensure that justice is done and guilty punished.
  7. Alienation of the Tamils in terms of basic needs, education, language and resources resulted in one of the devastating war in Sri Lanka. But in the post war scenario, alienation of resources of the Tamils by the ruling class or ruling family is going on unabated. Hence, the demand for basic rights to land and resettlement, freedom of expression and movement, democratic principles and practices become important.
  8. Stop the militarization and colonization, that is, Sinhalaisation and building Buddhist temples in the north-east to appropriate the land and other resources of the Tamils.
  9. Demand for specific and targeted humanitarian assistance to the widows, orphans, amputees, released detainees and prisoners of war. Those among these who live in remote villages need special care.
  10. All that is left now is for the international community to do is to take cognizance of all these factors and treat Sri Lanka as a failing state as many allege it to be; unable or unwilling to stop disappearances, militaraisation, colonization etc. That may perhaps make the government take steps to improve the human rights situation not only of the north and east but of the entire country.

6. Bleak Future for Sri Lanka

Those who have been following the post war Srilankan scenario are of the view that the President Rajapakse’s sweeping victories had been on the support he had received from the marginalized groups based on their expectations that there will be post war opportunities which would lead to prosperity to the country and benefit to them. Given the state of the finance of the government that is not going to be an easy task.  It would not take long for the disappointed supporters to eventually become disillusioned. They  may even turn against the President. There appears to be no letup in the lavish expenses incurred in providing without delay,  privileges and positions to the newly elected  Members of Parliament.  They have wasted no time in ordering duty free limousines for them to get about!   It is time the President took stringent austerity measures and got the parliamentarians to set an example in prudent living before advising the people to do so.  Then he needs to crack down on government expenditure on unproductive ventures. There had been many of that kind in the recent past.

Along with these measures, the President has to seriously work towards dignified relief, rehabilitation, reconstruction and reconciliation. These would be incomplete unless he works towards durable political solution. But these appear to be ideal at the present context when the Tamils feel totally discriminated, colonized and alienated. It will not be too far if the ruling elite of Sri Lanka do not take note of the failing state and address the pressing demands of the Tamil, Muslim and Sinhala population. The powerful nations in this region are fighting for pound of flesh from Sri Lanka. It is not just the Tamils but the future of Sri Lanka itself is under threat. It is in this background that the place and role of civil society in India, South Asia becomes very crucial and critical.

References:

Articles by M.C.M. Iqbal. He was secretary to two of Sri Lanka’s “truth commissions”, presidential inquiry panels into the 30,000 or more forced disappearances that took place in the late 1980s and early ’90s in the south, during a dirty war that many believe has yet to run its course. As the South China Morning Post noted in late-2009, Mr. Iqbal knows more than most about the skeletons that are locked away in the government’s closet – enough, he says, for him to no longer be safe in his home country.

www.jointhumanitarianupdate.com

www.unhcr/srilanka.com

www.transcurrents.com

http://www.crisisgroup.org

http://southasiaspeaks

www.tamilnet.com

www.thesundayleader.lk

www.navodayam.com

www.vasantham.com

www.connectsrilanka.net

http://www.irinnews.org/

www.safhr.org/srilanka

www.dailymirror.com

Source: Based on the visit made to the north and the informations collected from various sources.

 

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