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Report 13




1.1 The UNP's Troubles

1.2 The war     

1.3 The Airforce: Hitting Prabakaran from the Air         

1.4 Strands of Southern thought           

1.5 The Uma Prakash Affair    

1.6 The late Rohana Wijeweera’s family.          

1.7 Developments in Trincomalee         

1.8 Some statistics on Refugees in the North-East.

1.1 The UNPs’ Troubles

The late Dr. Rajani Thiranagama wrote during the early months of 1988 when the Prime Minister Premadasa was vying to become the UNP’s presidental candidate: “The Prime Minister represents, and depends on, the chauvinists for support and thus could only turn to the electorate and populist forces to resolve the internal power struggle. Therefore he is directly appealing to the ordinary masses with his grand grass roots programmes tainted with anti-Indian populist politics. Ultimately this may lead him to alliances with other chauvinistic forces outside the broad front. Such alliances will have far - reaching consequences for the UNP as a parliamentary party.” [The Broken Palmyrah, 1st edition.]

That should give us much to reflect on the turbulent six years which have flown since the passage was penned. Although running a crisis - prone presidency, Premadasa when he did not allow his feelings to get the better of him, showed himself to be an able manager of men and a good tight - rope walker. But there was almost nothing that he could do decisively, particularly with regard to political measures to end the war. Though not instinctively a chauvinist, he perhaps felt that he would ultimately have to bank on them. With India he more than made up for the public humiliation inflicted on her through his rhetoric and the treatment of the IPKF by providing ample space for Indian economic interests. It was left to his successor D.B. Wijetunge to more or less make an overt appeal to the chauvinist forces. His personalised campaign during the Southern Provincial Council elections in March calling for a strengthening of his hands to pursue the war,in addition to a superfluous promise never to grant Eelam - a separate state for the Tamils- made no impact. The result was a humiliating defeat for the UNP.

Perhaps Premadasa and Wijetunge were misled into overestimating the strength of the chauvinist forces. The Sinhalese have also been going through a period of disillusionment and reappraisal, like the Tamils in the North-East, and were looking for a new direction and leadership.

More decisive perhaps is what many writers have termed the criminalisation of the UNP as exemplified in the transfer of a respected Bribery Commissioner and a presidential pardon for two persons summoned to face charges of attempted murder. The question regarding most UNPers was how many removes away were they from under world elements? There was also the public school type of UNPer like the late General Ranjan Wijeratne who believed in the use of unlawful violence, but also that it should be within the auspices of the state. He was killed in February 1991 while cracking down on underworld elements some of which had close links within the UNP hierarchy. But the actual blasting of the car bomb is believed to have been done by the LTTE. Even with the killings of Athulathmudali and Premadasa himself, although an LTTE involvement seemed plausible or certain, the police investigations were seen to cover up or gloss over many uncomfortable facts which do not fit in with a straightforward LTTE operation. Even the links of President Premadasa’s killer are said to be traceable within a couple of removes to very awkward places.

When criminal elements are used, the user very likely indicates or drops a hint to an agent and does not wish to know what happens down the chain. But may at the same time have an uncomfortable feeling about the possible repercussions. The chain leads to a murky world of operators where groups like the LTTE would have their links and gather useful information. The tell-tale signs after an event, or strange signs before it, would of course activate many to take steps to conceal their compromised position even if they had no direct link in initiating it. Such was possibly the case after Ranjan Wijeratne’s killing when many preferred not to have known their buddy Joe Sim, the Singaporean gambling magnate deported by the deceased.

Such an unfortunate history led to public cynicism towards the UNP. The demoralising influence on the armed forces was also enormous. They did not know who was fighting whom and for what they were giving their life. The end result was a paralysis of government. The cleansing of these Augean stables will undoubtedly prove a Herculean task. [Top]

1.2 The war

Just prior to the traditional New Year of 13th April, long lines of people were waiting at the Tandikulam check-point to be allowed to proceed north. They were carrying gifts for their families and aluminium vessels in which to prepare the festive meal. The army confiscated these vessels and much more. The place was littered with ordinary plastic carrier bags which too the travellers were forced to discard. People of Indian origin who cross the lines daily for some small scale trade were brusquely ordered by the soldiers to pick up the bags and dispose of them. No doubt causing such unhappiness to others who ought to have partaken of the felicity of the shared occasion with them was a very sensitive matter for the ordinary Sinhalese soldier. Why were they doing it? Did they really believe that these cooking vessels and plastic bags taken for individual use would make such a difference to the Tigers? Or were the Tigers waiting at the other end of no-man’s land to confiscate these vessels themselves and turn them into mortars?

A piece by Ravana in the Island of 3Oth January titled ‘Is it corruption or ignorance, or both?’ gives us some idea of the complexity of the problem. On the one hand he addresses the well-known corruption involved in transporting banned items to the North. But then he goes on to describe other items supposedly useful to the LTTE. The list includes polythene wraps, nails, glue etc. Even coconut oil commonly used for cooking is said to be useful for the LTTE to run its vehicles. The writer argues ingenuously that the Jaffna citizen is known for the use of gingelly oil (a relatively expensive item now) and sees something irregular in large quantities of coconut oil going North.

The resulting trend of thought is one which could with good reason ban almost anything. An officer trying not to harass the people unduly runs the risk of being branded as corrupt. To play safe orders are sent down the line to confiscate anything of possible military value. The entire tragic business of the conflict becomes trivialised into arguments such as whether ‘Kotex’ sanitary tissues used by women have military uses or not.

The paralysis of the military is in the final analysis traceable to the absence of political leadership and confusion about goals. More thoughtful Southerners have become disturbed by the administration having no qualms about depriving a part of the country of essentials almost on a permanent basis, without any serious thoughts of ending the war. Those concerned have also pointed out that the present state of affairs is creating the very institutions and mind-set of separation that the government claims to be fighting against. They point out that such deprivations, like emergency rule or curfew, when imposed should be of short duration to meet a clearly defined contingency. Their casual sustained use lacks intellectual clarity and sets off processes leading to an erosion of the state itself.

As for the army itself right down the line they lose confidence in the political leadership and see no meaning in their tasks. The higher ranks also live in close proximity to a national culture where unscrupulous money-making is the norm. Every other person holding high office is building houses in Colombo on a salary that is absurdly low in comparison. What is to be expected then happens. Money changes hands and banned items cross the frontier. It is far from clear if the Tigers are ever in want. The ordinary people suffer much more. They are harassed at check points as if they carry small quantities of medicines, batteries and aluminium vessels to give the Tigers. The Tigers are also helped to earn an additional income through a lucrative black market. There is an absurd situation where torch batteries are available in LTTE controlled areas, but not in a ‘cleared’ area like Mannar Island. Stocks of medicine in Jaffna are also such that even if they are adequate for routine uses, they are insufficient to meet sudden outbreaks of epidemics which are to be expected given the low resistance of the people.

Hundreds of troops with their minds disengaged are employed to seek out polythene bags and the occasional smuggled battery. In a war that requires a strong political thrust a soldier at a sentry point should be able to tell a civilian why he is not allowed to carry a certain item giving reasons beyond its mere possible use for the Tigers. But when he shrugs his shoulders instead and says with a smile, ‘rakiawa’ (my job), it shows his total alienation from the job. Along FDLs there is a regular toll on troops. About 2OO are said to have been killed in Palaly over the last year guarding the defence lines. After an incident where one or two soldiers are killed, their embittered comrades fire a few volleys of cannon into civilian villages and go to bed. Often some old lady or children get killed.

After what happened during the JVP troubles the army also knows that its popularity rating in the South is very low and it is in no position to offer leadership to the country. The Peoples’ Alliance which fielded a very enlightened retired brigadier at the Southern Provincial Council elections discovered early from grass-roots reactions that he was not going to receive many votes. The white-clad political establishment had successfully rubbed off much of its own dirt onto the armed forces.

The rank and file of the army, at least, are looking for a new political leadership. This would make another election result that is seen to be rigged far more hazardous for the country than in the past.

Where the war itself is concerned, things have not gone well for the LTTE either as we try to show in the inner pages. This is not due to anything the government has done - in fact almost anything the government did enhanced the credibility of the LTTE’s pretensions. It is but due to the ongoing inner collapse that is integral to the LTTE’s brand of politics. Appearances are also often deceptive. In one sector where the SL Army actually made a withdrawal last year, the LTTE’s credibility among the people of the area noticeably plummeted. Given that both sides have cornered themselves and are essentially weak, the war may yet end in ways more surprising and more sudden than any of us could predict. [Top]

1.3 The Airforce: Hitting Prabakaran from the Air

During the 3 months ending 6th January 1994 more than 9O civilians in Jaffna were killed by exploding missiles mostly delivered by aircraft, in what is known in Pentagon newspeak as collateral damage. The article by  ‘Gadfly’ in the ‘Counterpoint’ of January 1994 gives a good account of the capabilities of the Airforce. Attacking targets in Jaffna turns out to be mainly a game of nomenclature - name a blunderbuss a ‘smart weapon’ and the operation becomes precise by definition.

There was of course a good deal of public indignation, both local and international, about the work of the Airforce. Evidently the Airforce Chief was himself uncomfortable about what was going on and asked for early retirement. Air Marshal Terrence Gunawardene told the Sunday Times (16/1/94) that he was ‘tired of bloodshed and will seek a spiritual way of life.’ According to circles close to him, he had not wanted to carry out bombing operations where civilians would be the likely targets, but the government had insisted contrary to his wishes.

Further confirmation of this came from the irrepressible ‘Special Correspondent’ writing in ‘the Sunday Island’ of 6/2/94: “Meanwhile senior and middle level officers have expressed displeasure at the outgoing Air Force Commander’s decision not to engage enemy targets from the air during the past two weeks. The reason behind this is not known. But some speculate that as the Air Force Commander is scheduled to leave the Air Force and does not want earn the wrath of the Tamil civilians over the last few weeks of his service....”

Among the last few operations during Commander Gunawardene’s service was the bombing of Chavakacheri market on 3Oth December 1993 when the nearby church was also hit. 11 civilians were killed, 9 immediately. The Defence ministry claimed that the 9 killed were LTTE although missiles fell in a wide area around the town centre.

What happened was a statue of Kittu was erected in the Chavakacheri market. In due course it was made known that the monument would be unveiled by Prabakaran himself at 5.OO p.m. on 3Oth December. It was a familiar gauntlet thrown by the LTTE, “Bomb if you dare and face the foul publicity from the bloody mess.” This information that was public knowledge very likely reached Military Intelligence in Vavuniya on the 3Oth late morning through travellers from Jaffna as was intended. The information was transmitted to the Ministry of Defence, which as reported went into top level conference.

The official MoD version given in Waruna Karunatilleke’s piece in the ‘Counterpoint’ of January 1994 says: “After debating the timing of the strike, knowing the LTTE supremo would come either a little early or a little late, the Intelligence officials decided on five minutes past five.” The reasoning is based on some Mickey Mouse version of the LTTE leader’s supposed conduct and is worse than amateurish if not patently silly. The writer should have known better. It was as if the LTTE leader would slink in at 5.O5, unveil the statue by quickly pulling the chord and then run away.

That the MoD should put out such facile reasons shows how uncritical the press has become. If the MoD themselves believe it, it puts in question their intelligence, professionalism and sense of responsibility. Anyone with a passing acquaintance of the LTTE’s methods would know that the information received was useless. From May Day of 1987, whenever it was announced that the LTTE leader would attend a public meeting, he did not turn up when expected. The exceptions were during bouts of peace. During late 1991 it was announced that the Leader would address a meeting in Chavakacheri and the area was shelled from Elephant Pass. The leader arrived instead late in the night when people were woken up and directed to the meeting place. To reason that the Leader would arrive 5 minutes early or 5 minutes late would be equally valid or invalid if the 5 minutes were changed to 5 hours.

One consideration that may have weighed on the MOD, which does not make the matter more excusable, is that if they ignored the information it was bound to be leaked to chauvinistic sections of the mainline press. These would not acknowledge the information to have been useless (if they could think that far) or even give credit for sparing Tamil lives. There would very likely have been headlines to the effect, “MoD Suppresses Vital Information - Prabakaran Escapes.” That killing Prabakaran even at the cost of killing hundreds of civilians should be seen as facilitating a solution to a problem older than Prabakaran himself, is a reflection of the aridity of national politics.

The new Airforce Chief Oliver Ranasinghe told the Sunday Island (2Oth February) that they bomb pre-determined targets supplied by Military Intelligence. As an example of a mistake he cited the bombing of St. James’ church in Jaffna, “Our pilots spotted a vehicle speeding away from an operational area during curfew and attacked it. Unfortunately they missed and hit the church” - nothing surprising in that. He added that such mistakes would continue to happen as it was war. The LTTE, he said, must take its share of the blame because they take cover under civilians to prevent us from attacking the terrorists. He also claimed that the Air  Force ‘was trying to fight a clean war.’ [Top]

1.4 Strands of Southern thought

We have always argued that those at the helm of this country’s affairs should be pressed upon to think big and occupy the moral high ground instead of insistently hugging the low. The latter state of mind fears to be generous, thinks in a defeatist vein, acts brutally, alienates the people and reinforces its own fears. This state of mind is very much in evidence. It is there in the restrictions placed even on people carrying small quantities of things to the North for personal use. It appears in the speech made in parliament last November after the Puneryn disaster by S.L. Gunasekera. He called upon the country to be placed ‘on a war footing’ and ‘to galvanise the nation behind the armed forces’. Those calling for a political solution to the minority problem were represented as talking about the ‘grievances of the LTTE.’

It also appears in the piece by the ‘Special Correspondent’ in the Sunday Island of 6th February where he is critical of the retiring Air Force chief’s sensibilities about bombing Tamil civilians. The ‘Special Correspondent’ argues: “However to compromise national security for personal reasons by allowing a heavy build up (of the LTTE) in any  area will be too costly to bear at this juncture. Interestingly, the LTTE never claims that any of their cadre have died as a result of an air strike as this would give credit to the flyers as well as confirm the accuracy of their intelligence.”

A point we would like to make is that the coming elections do offer possibilities for an Opposition that would eschew communalism and squarely face up to the issues underlying minority alienation. The people wait, nay, long for it. Are the politicians ready? Sadly the public debate is still being conducted among politicians and intellectuals nurtured in communal assumptions and who are way behind the ordinary people. Thus a statesman wishing to make an impact will need to leap out of the gravitational pull of this milieu. In other words a leader will have to lead- the “intellectuals” if not the people.

If not the initiative will remain with a handful of intellectuals generously backed by a section of the mainline press, who are identifiable by certain stock positions and expressions . One of these is : “What problems do the Tamils have? Tell us!”. Another symptom of their mental set up was the appearance of a number of editorials and articles indicating no little alarm at the widespread claim about what the recent Southern polls had signalled. A wide range of commentators observed  that the supposedly nationalist voter of the South had rejected communalism to the chagrin of the intellectuals in question.

As for the problems of the Tamils, a number of visitors to the North, the latest being the BBC correspondent, have observed that the LTTE’s work is cut short by the government’s bombing and shelling of the civilian population. The psychology  behind these actions is indicative of the  deep gulf that exists between the Govenment and the Tamil people, as well as the dangerous alienation of the latter. Even this has failed to make the slightest impression on this group of intellectuals. Often the columns of these intellectuals appear in the same journal where other columnists admit that Tamils have a serious problem, argue that the military approach alone is counter productive and advocate a political approach. Thus it appears that in ‘the Island’ one or more of the editorial writers and ‘Sena’ are not on talking terms with either ‘Ravana’,‘Agni’ or Jehan Perera among others. The state of mind of this group of intellectuals as among their adversarial counterparts is also a symptom of a deep crisis in ideologies of ethnic chauvinism.

We next present an excerpt from a closely reasoned article by Brigadier Ranjan de Silva  which appeared in the Island Tuesday Magazine of 21st December 1993. Concerning 1OOO or so armed forces personnel killed or missing after the Pooneryn diaster the previous month, he says that the people have learnt to take such stoically and that it is time for the armed forces to act with restraint. Regarding the reprisal bombing raids over Jaffna following the disaster when a church was hit and a number of worshippers killed, he observes that after ten years of fighting we still seem to be at square one while the people have learnt restraint from their experience. Officers who tried to think politically and win over the people, he says, have been regarded second rate and have been discriminated against:

“Certain misconceptions regarding fundamental issues entered our thinking on the north-east problem from the very  beginning. Our approach to the problem was never clearly chartered, complicating its solution. However this is not to say that it is the only reason why a solution has eluded us.

“For example, we routinely use the word “war” when discussing the northern problem and instinctively interpret it in terms of conventional warfare, frequently drawing parallels from World War II. Thus in the early years of the conflict, a former president sent to Jaffna an officer who later became the army commander with a mandate described in terms similar to the one Churchill gave General Montgomery in World War II when he sent him to the Middle East to clear the area of Nazi forces. Even recently, during the recent budget debate a parliamentarian sought to draw a parallel between Hitler and Chamberlain, Baldwin and Halifax on the one hand and Prabhakaran and those intellectuals who support a political solution on the other. He conveniently forgot that was between Germany and England- two different countries, while in the case of Sri Lanka it is very much a domestic problem between two peoples who have lived together within a common border for over two thousand years and must live together for another two  thousand years or more in the future too within the same border. There is a big difference between an international problem and a domestic one.

“War implies belligerency between two states - two different countries. (The only exception is civil war; and civil was has not been declared in this case.) Can you then wage war against your own people? When you use the word “war” you imply a division straightaway. The presumption is the existence of two states; you are tacitly conceding what you are vociferously denying. The psychological damage which such careless use of words can cause is tremendous....”  [Top]

1.5 The Uma Prakash Affair

October 1993 saw the beginning of a sinister operation in Colombo where a large number of Tamil youth were picked up, taken to secret locations and tortured. Most of them were later released. The local police though surprised at the beginning, did not interfere. It was clear that the operation had top level sanction. An ‘expose’ in the ‘Counterpoint’ of November 1993 stated:

“The current operation in Colombo is being conducted either under the aegis of the Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI) or the Police DIG, Greater Colombo, Merril Guneratne..... Some of those brought in (for the operation) are Dias Richard (better known as Captain Munas), Captain Nilam, ex-PLOTE Mohan (of Batticaloa fame) and Uma Prakash .... Uma Prakash had left the PLOTE and had taken along with him to India 15 to 2O of its cadre. A Tamil officer of Superintendent rank in the NIB was sent to India, and persuaded Prakash and his followers to work for the Government, after guaranteeing substantial benefits. Once in Colombo in the face of objections from other Tamil groups working with the Government, Uma Prakash held a meeting with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe and Defence Secretary Wanasinghe, and reportedly promised to bring down 1OOO trained cadre to help the armed forces. He is yet to honour this promise. Uma Praksh is now seen wearing army camouflage uniform and announcing to all and sundry that he is working for the DMI in what may be an attempt to hide his real pay masters.” It went on to say that the lack of control over this operation led to a row with the Maldivian government when two Maldivians were reportedly abducted and tortured. Praksh was also accused of extortion and of possible abduction torture and killings.

Uma Prakash was gunned down by 3 killers on 26th January 1994 near his head quarters in Vanavasala, Kelaniya.

A report by a ‘Special Correspondent’ in the Sunday Island of 13th February purports to clarify matters. It comes out with known facts such as Prakash was close to the deceased PLOTE leader Uma Maheswaran and the PLOTE from which he broke away to form the PLOT-PLO was wary of his activities. It then makes the extra-ordinary claim that the UNP hierarchy which was having discussions with him was unaware of his clandestinely assisting a police team from Greater Colombo to identify and crack down on LTTE cadre ..... and “After a while when senior officials of the government became aware of it the police team dropped Prakash.” The report adds:

“About this time there was reliable information that two EPRLF cadre had been abducted by the PLOT-PLO. A few days later the bodies of two badly tortured EPRLF cadre were found in a lagoon north of Colombo [See 3.3.6 of Report 12]. The inside story was that Uma Prakash who did not have any firearms to operate thought that these two EPRLF cadre will, under interrogation, reveal where their caches were.

“....Had the government intelligently evaluated the pros and cons of assisting the PLOT-PLO, brought about a settlement between the PLOTE and PLOT-PLO, and extended limited support to fight the common enemy - the LTTE - then Prakash may have survived.

“The cost of allowing Uma Prakash to operate in Sri Lanka was not only high for the country but also for the PLOTE. There is reliable information that it was a team led by Alavangudasan, a military cadre of the PLOTE which killed Uma Prakash. Can PLOTE be blamed totally for killing a man who had vowed to kill its leader? .......”

Four corpses had appeared around Negombo during the first two weeks of October 1993 when the operation in which Uma Prakash was involved was a going concern. Any large scale EPRLF arms caches not discovered by the LTTE are almost certainly in places inaccessible to Uma Prakash. The operation was suspended after it became exposed. DIG Merril Gunaratne was transferred and the ‘Special Correspondent’s friend ‘Ravana’ wrote that Munas was killed in Pooneryn during mid-Novemeber 1993. Although many names have cropped up and much that was incongruous surfaced no investigation was launched. The government was also evidently concerned about the Amnesty International report on the operation itself.

We allow the reader to form his opinion about the Special Correspondent’s piece. The whole affair is a reflection on the manner in which affairs of state are conducted. It stinks. Did the killers of Uma Prakash act without the knowledge of the state? Was he costing more than he was deemed worth? Like with late President Premadasa, the coffins of the dead are also a useful resting place for the sins of their erstwhile associates.

Uma Prakash’s wife and child later committed suicide by swallowing poison. The NIB for its part has far more useful matters to investigate rather than how the Amnesty gets its information. [Top]

1.6 The late Rohana Wijeweera’s family.

The late JVP leader and some of his close associates died in November 1989 while in the custody of the Special Forces under circumstances that led to much speculation. Their bodies were also disposed of secretly without the standard coroner’s report citing security reasons. Since that time Wijeweera’s wife and six children have lived in military premises ostensibly for their own protection. Recently the press reported that a daughter of Wijeweera’s had tried to commit suicide in Trincomalee by swallowing poison and had later made a recovery in hospital. Like with the family of Uma Prakash, the strain on Wijeweera’s family is evident, and is hardly improved by the circumstances of their ‘protective custody’.

Much has been written about the JVP’s usefulness to the UNP. Its leaders were released from prison by the new UNP government after 1977 and its becoming a political party was claimed to be an exercise in democracy rather than, as was widely believed, a move to divide the opposition. The same democratic UNP, after getting through the 1982 presidential elections and the referendum, banned the JVP in 1983 accusing it of complicity in the anti-Tamil violence. The JVP in the same cynical fashion hit back in 1987 using the UNP’s compromised position over the Indo-Lanka Accord and the general discontent to mobilise support. The unsettled situation created by the JVP also proved an asset to the UNP to get rid of opposition activists (vide Udugampola allegations, Report No.10)and also to win the 1988/89 presidential and parliamentary elections. The new president, Premadasa, in early 1989 invited both the JVP and LTTE for talks, which the JVP spurned. The rest is history. There is a strong suspicion in the country that Mrs. Wijeweera knows too much that the UNP does not want others to know and that she owes her life to the difficulty in staging more accidents.

The government could have placed Mrs. Wijeweera on trial under the PTA clause which makes not having provided information about her husband’s whereabouts an offence. Apparently the government wanted neither Wijeweera nor his wife testifying in open court. Protective custody seemed a convenient way out.

Mrs. Wijeweera and her children have suffered enough and deserve a fresh start. It is best that they be offered asylum in a country where they would be in least danger from hired assassins. Then the government’s bluff could be called. [Top]

1.7 Developments in Trincomalee

With elections around the corner, the Tamils in Trincomalee District are in for an unpleasant surprise. The government’s colonisation policies followed by violence and destruction directed against Tamils’ coupled with the response particularly of the LTTE, are about to usher in a drastic turn in the fortunes of the Tamils. The 1992 voters’ list had approximately: Tamils: 61 OOO, Sinhalese:68 OOO & Muslims: 52 OOO. In 1989 it was Tamils: 48 OOO, Sinhalese: 47OOO & Muslims: 43OOO. The fargoing character of the demographic change can also been seen by comparing the breakdown of the recent voting population with the 1981 population figures: Tamils : 93 51O (36.4 %), Sinhalese: 86 341 (33.4%) and Muslims: 74 4O3 (29.2%), Total:256 79O.    

In a political system where numbers rather than a sense of natural rights of the local community are what matter crucially, the effect on the Tamils is going to be severe, as would be the effect on the Muslims in consequence. Of the 4 parliamentary seats in the district, the Tamils have usually commanded 2, Muslims 1 & Sinhalese 1. It is now likely to be Sinhalese 2, Tamil 1 & Muslim 1. State patronage which is normally used in favour of the Sinhalese and also to bring about division between Tamils & Muslims is bound to have a very destabilising influence.

The reduction in the relative Tamil voting strength was brought about partly by the expulsion of entire villages by the SL Army. Among the villages that remain empty or are almost empty are: Tennamaravady & Amarivayal 9OO voters, expelled on 1st December 1984 on account of the Army’s and Mahaveli Authority’s Weli Oya project, now refugees in the Mullativu District;Thiriyai: 3OOO voters, now only about 18 left, expelled in June 199O; Kumburupiddy: 9OO voters, and Kuchchaveli, refugees largely in India and Jaffna. A large number of refugees from Thampalakamam and Pankulam are also outside the district. The number of Tamils killed and disappeared from June 199O is about 9OO. The number before July 1987 is considerably larger. Two army massacres in the Mutur area in 1985/86 themselves accounted for 1OO dead [See 1.8].

Militant casualties and killings in internecine clashes also contributed significantly. Of the cadre from Trincomalee District who fought for the LTTE during the current phase of the war (post 1Oth June 199O), local sources say that the majority of them have been killed in action. These sources confirmed that recruitment in the district has virtually dried up. However Trincomalee refugees in the North are still a source of recruitment [see 1.8]. Of those who had fought for the LTTE during the current phase, some estimates are: Cottiar (Muthur) Division: 6OO, Thampalakamam: 125, Kumburupitty: 6O. A large number are said to have joined from Thampalakamam, Kuburupitty and Kuchchaveli through caste based sympathy with the Leader.

During mid-1986 about 2OO TELO cadre from Trincomalee District are said to have been murdered by the LTTE in and around Jaffna. A  considerable number of survivors are also refugees abroad. Two thousand Tamil men from all districts, according to a Tamil spokesman, are said to be married in Kerala alone, many having forsaken their wives living here.

The padding of the lists of Sinhalese voters has been achieved through deliberate state policy - armed forces personnel, migrant fishermen, corporation employees and encroachers brought into Trincomalee for  all of whom strenuous efforts are instituted to find land and housing with a view to making their presence permanent [see Reports 11 &  12]. The armed forces alone contribute about 1O OOO- nearly all Sinhalese - to the voters list.

The effect of the demographic and administrative changes is compounded by the desertion of the two EROS MPs elected in 1989 leaving only a Sinhalese MP and a Muslim MP. For example out of the Rs. 3.4 million USAID allocated to the district for irrigation maintenance in major schemes under the ERRP, effectively almost nothing was destined for Tamil farmers.

Recently Rs 65OOOO/- was allocated by the Ministry of Agricultural Research and Development for repair of minor tanks. All of it went to users who were Sinhalese (Talgaswewa, Kudaethabandiwewa & Eramadu) or Muslim (Thoppur, Pommandakulam, Mahamarkulam). Thampalakamam having recently been made a Sinhalese DS (AGA) division (which was earlier Tamil) is also having its effects. Through the GA money was given to the division for the same purpose. Except for the Muslim area of Ichchankulam, the rest (Indiwewa, Kudagalmitiyawa and Ulpothwewa) are Sinhalese. Ulpothwewa, a long abandoned tank, is occupied by encroachers. They are people who had suffered much and needed relief. But the government chooses to use their desperation for a cause that means little to them.

The position of Tamils is not improved by corruption and indifference even from Tamil officials. In the case of channel maintenance in the Cottiar Division for instance money is often allocated and contracts given, but the work is not done. It often requires an active MP to take a personal interest and see the work is done. The current situation is one where those who have actively looked after the interests of the Tamils in the past need to face dangers from the LTTE in visiting these areas. The Tamils cannot afford to go on like this for long.

We give below a routine incident in the district which reflects the accountability that prevails after the ‘restoration of democracy’ claimed by the government following the local elections. The ‘independent press’ continues to blissfully report fantasies of  military spokesmen. ‘The Island’ of 1Oth May published the following report of the incident of 8th May under the title ‘Troops recover gold jewellery of poor Tamils robbed by LTTE:

Troops lying in ambush routed a band of LTTE brigands who were returning to their jungle hideout after robbing            a poor Tamil family of their gold jewellery, Sunday at Kattaparichan in the eastern Trincomale district. Military spokesman Brigadier Gemunu Kultunga said that the LTTE area leader for Kattaparichan, ‘Tennyson’, was shot dead in the ambush by government troops around 11.3O a.m. on Sunday.

He said that three gold bangles, a gold chain, two earrings robbed from the poor Tamil family were recovered by the troops (from the brigands,) many of whom had fled when confronted by the army.

He said that 2OO rounds of 7.62 ammunition, hand grenades and ammunition pouches has also been captured.

It is a Tamil tradition that even the poorest families should wear gold jewellery.

The truth is that the LTTE had made extortion demands from some people in Peruveli and Manalchenai in Cottiar which had suffered from being scenes of SL Army massacres in the mid 8Os. The payment was to be made in Kattaiparichchan. The army having received information waited in ambush. When the parties arrived the army opened fire killing 4 civilians, 2 LTTE members and two helpers. After all these years no allowance was given to the fact that civilians refusing LTTE demands would be dealt with harshly and neither could they contact the armed forces. The Army is undoubtedly well informed about Tamil culture, particularly women wearing jewellery. Some officers had the title ‘Ran’ (Gold) prefixed to their names by colleagues in honour of their battle field preoccupations. [Top]

1.8   Some statistics on Refugees in the North-East.

The following gives a breakdown of refugee populations connected with the ongoing conflict:

Total in January 1994



Staying with friends & relatives

Staying in camps


No. of families

No. of Persons


No. of families

  No. of Persons

No. of families

No.of Persons


8O 271

265 894

Jaffna [i] [i]


  147 753

3O 1O5

118 141


11 445









29 136

Mullaitivu [ii] [ii]








Mannar [iii] [iii]


2O O24






Vavunia [iv] [iv]






15 O53


Trincomalee [v] [v]






13 591


Batticaloa [vi] [1] [vi]








Amparai [vii] [vii]                          







12 498

Anuradhapura [1] [1]

            [i] [i] .Includes 230 families returned from India. No. of camps 233.

            [ii] [ii] .The number displaced within the district presumabley includes at least 5000 familiies dispalced by the Army & Mahaveli authority to introduce the Weli Oya colonisation scheme. A further 13 675 familes were temporarily displaced by floods during December/January.

            [iii] [iii] .The majority in camps are at Madhu and Palampitty. About 2000 families are in Pesalai. The fishing families affected are 2500 in cleared areas and 2000 in uncleared areas.

            [iv] [iv] .This figure consistes of India returness at Chettikulam. there must be a large number living with friends.

            [v] [v] .These are figures from `Trincomalee Today' published during the January 1993. presidential Mobile Secretariat. no figures for january 1994 were available. the figures for displaced persons within the district would have changed markedly since some resettlement took place in during 1993. Originally 50 902 families were displaced in the wake of the June 1990 troubles. However the 6711 figure for refugee families outside the district must also account for about 1000 Muslim families from Kattankuam Pattu who fled the district. About 600 families returned from India last year. We may take it that 5000 plus refugee families still outside the district are Tamils. It is this figure that is relevant to the current electoral lists.

                        Of the 6343 families who arrived from India up to the end of 1992, about 2500 were from Trincomalee. We may also take it that the 2802 families in the Mullaitivu District who are recorded as being from outside the district, are in fact from the Trincomalee District. This suggest that a further 2000 plus families who fled the district in June 1990 are distributed manly between Jaffna, and India in roughly equal numbers. The fact that very few from Trincomalee returned during 1993, probably means that those now in India are generally not in camps and would wait for peace to return.  

            [vi] [vi] [vi] .The handbook issued for the Batticaloa PMS of July 1993 placed the affected/ displaced families as at 31/12/92 as           Pre June 1990: 90 884 & Post June 1990: 103 778. Out of the first 4846 are from the Kattankudy and 18 894 from Eravur Pattu. Out of the second 6299 are from Kattankudy and 21 123 from Eravur Pattu. The entire figure from Kattankudy and a significant portion from the Eravur Pattu figures would account for Muslims. a number of affected Muslims from Plonnaruwa District and from Paduwankarai are also refugees in Eravur.

            [vii] [vii] .Those not resettled are manly from the Kanjikudichcharu - Thangavelay

9'm area. 6334 families, nearly all Tamils were resettled during 1992/ 93 as follows in mostly areas coming under the Gal OYa scheme: 1992: 1144, First half of 1993: 209, July- september 1993: 650,October - December 1993:  4331.

                        The first to be resettled was Veramunai (556) on 11/3/92 and next Sorikalmunai & 6th colony (588) on 3/10/92.

[viii] [viii] .Mainly Sinhalese


            [ix] [ix] .Approximate figure. Nearly all Muslims from the North.

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