A SUMMARY 0F DEVEL0MENTS IN THE BATTICAL0A & AMPARAI DISTRICTS.
The foregoing material on the two districts - namely the old Batticaloa District - is based on monitoring extending over a year, and has been written intermittently since August 1993. We summarise below current trends as we see them, supplementing the foregoing where necessary.
These result from a high incidence of death and disappearance, the trauma of not knowing the fate of missing persons, a lack or absence of decent means of livelihood, general disillusionment, loss of direction in life, and these leading to habits such as resulting in a high occurrence of alcoholism in several areas. According to a Peace Committee spokesman, Batticaloa District alone has 5000 to 7000 widows, 17000 fatherless and 42000 unemployed.
This has been covered in the foregoing. The uncertainty makes this more injurious than death itself. The family members are often overtaken by listlessness and lack the determination to plan and get on with life. For those in school who need to make grade, the whole course of life is irreversibly altered.
Several villages in the two districts have a large number of men picked up and detained for either no reason or for the flimsiest of reasons. They are routinely tortured, made to sign a confession written in Sinhalese and three months or so later sent to a detention centre or reformatory. If produced in court, the lawyer would advise them to plead guilty to charges made under the PTA. The judge would then admonish them, fine them a sum between Rs 2000 and Rs 7000, on payment of which they are released. A number of villages now have tens of ex-detainees, several of whom are married and now disabled. Their families had borrowed sums such as Rs 15000/- or more on interest to attend to the needs of the detained. Those who had tortured them get away scot free. The law in this country has surely reached its nadir.
We give below an illustrative sample from over 12 tragedies in the Amparai District brought to our notice recently. Most of the cases are from the depressed caste area of Kolavil South in the Alady Vembu AGAs division in Akkaraipattu:
Kailasapillai Jeevarasa was picked up with his brother Sunthararasa from a refugee camp on 9th 0ctober 1991 by 0IC STF/Akkaraipattuu known by the sobriquet Kalu Ranjit. They were then led to their home in Kolavil where Kalu Ranjit ordered Sunthararasa to run and shot him dead in the view of some of his family. Jeevarasa was later sent to the reformatory in Bindunuwera, Bandarawela from where he recently returned. He had sustained a ruptured bladder when kicked in the abdomen during torture. He needs medical attention and the cost of an operation in Amparai, where he has been directed, is estimated at a minimum of Rs 10000/-.
Suntharalingam Jeyathasan was picked up by the STF/Akkaraipattu on 7/4/91. Hand broken during torture. Right hand disabled. Pains in chest and back. Sent to Magazine prison 1/10/91 and later to Kalutura. Tried in the Colombo High Court 24/3/93. Pleaded guilty and fined Rs 3500/- by the judge. Released 18/10/93.
In the meantime his wife had borrowed over Rs 15000/- on interest to meet the necessary expenses. 0ne such expense is said to be the money paid to the lawyer to be paid in turn to an employee of the AGs office to advance the order of the relevant file.
0ther cases from Kolavil include: Thambipillai Sathasivam (28) married & father of two with disabled thumbs and blood in his stools after release recently; Velupillai Kanthasamy, breadwinner of a fatherless family of six children, now released without teeth and without the use of his right hand.
Kanapathipillai Pathmanathan breadwinner of fatherless family with 3 sisters and a brother. Bought crabs and sold in Kalmunai market for a living. Picked up by STF in a round up in Kalmunai during 1990, made to sign prepared confession in Sinhalese and did a stint of 2 years RI.
Uthayakumar, Sarvodaya worker, picked up from a bus with everyone who alighted. Tortured and not produced to parents. Letter from Sarvodaya disregarded. Served 18 months RI.
A gentleman in the area who helped prisoners said that some of them were so poor that they did not have soap or a towel during the detention. He said that the NG0 Home for Human Rights provided some help to the prisoners which covered a fraction of their expenses relating particularly to legal work. 0f the NG0s he knew, that was the only one which replied to his appeal.
0nly one instance of punishment for STF offenders is so far known. Sergeant Wijeyarama was detailed to go to Amparai with 9 other men and collect a consignment of new uniforms. Wijeyarama left the task to eight of his men, went to a tavern in Amparai town with a constable and had what is known in local parlance as a severe booze. While trying to rejoin his men Wijeyaramas weaker brother, the constable, collapsed in town to the amusement of onlookers. The matter was reported and Wijeyarama was interdicted, for sullying the good name of the STF. More ironically, there was some sympathy for Wijeyarama, sent home to Seeduwa on half salary, as he was considered fairly decent in dealing with the public.
We earlier encountered the case of Veeramunai which had 105 widows among 600 families of whom 65 were widowed after 11th June 1990. The picture in other places is of a similar order varying with the severity of military action. 4 GS (Headmans) divisions in Mandur have 100 widows and 30 missing persons as opposed to those confirmed killed. 55 of the widows have received compensation of Rs 50000/- each.
Typically, many widows are unable to register their husbands killing to apply for compensation. In the case of a widow in Navithanveli, her husband was a labourer who went to work far away from home. She received a message that her husband had been killed by the security forces. By the time she reached the location the body had been cremated. The GS (Headman) of the area asked her to apply to her own GS for the death certificate. The latter directed her back to the former. After some shuttling, she gave up.
Gnanakirubai was the wife of a 55 years old dhoby (washerman) living in Sangamam, Thandiady. 0n 15th July 1990 the STF entered their house and beat her, her husband and son unconscious. When she recovered the two men were missing. She cannot establish what became of them.
S. Arasamma (34) (mother of girl(9) and boy(5)) and Sellakili Saroja(30) (mother of boy(10) and girl(9)) are secretary and treasurer respectively of a group of 20 widows in Periyanilawanai, which lies on the Kalmunai - Batticaloa Road, just south of the Amparai - Batticaloa district boundary. The idea of a society was given to them by Mr. Sathasivam of the Kalmunai Citizens Committee. Periyanilawanai has a total of 38 missing persons in 3 GS divisions. The widows had applied to a church organisation for help in starting a co-operative. Asked why they had not started one on their own using a part of their compensation as capital, they replied that only two out of the 20 widows had received compensation.
Arasammas husband P.Murugan, labourer, was shot by the forces on 25/8/90 and compensation has been paid. Sarojas husband Rasanayagam, also a labourer, is missing. She has not received compensation, has no income and no parents to support her. The only help she receives is from her old mother-in-law.
A church worker in the area reported that owing to their circumstances, several young, uneducated and jobless girls in the Mandur area go to Kalmunai to sell their bodies for vice. A notable incidence of alcoholism among women has also been reported.
22.214.171.124 Women amidst conflict.
Salhabeebi Maharoof pulled out a framed picture of a handsome young couple taken in 1986. That was taken shortly after her marriage. During the first 3 years of her wedded life her husband Maharoof was most of the time a teacher in Saudi Arabia. He had been the main support of his brothers and sisters. Following his return they had a son Adhil, now 5. Maharoof was among the 70 odd passengers kidnapped by the LTTE at Kurukkalmadam on 12th July 1990 and subsequently killed. 0n 3rd August 1990 two of her husbands brothers-in-law were killed in the Kattankudy mosque massacre. In all 15 of her close relatives were killed in the two incidents. Having no male help Salhabeebi thought it better to sell a shop that was in the family. She had passed her 0 Levels.
Some of the other 90 women in Kattankudy who were widowed in the course of the two incidents are:
Sithi Fareeda(38) Salhabeebis cousin, with 3 girls - eldest 18 - no family support.
Kulanthayamma Sahabdeen (42), 3 sons & 2 daughters - supported by eldest son (20) who took over his late fathers job as Electricity Board linesman.
Jezima Fareed (27) Passed 0 Levels. Looked after by brothers.
Mairampoo Rahmath Ulla Said (32), Children 18(f), 12(m) & 10(m). No support. Rented out own house in border area for Rs 300/- a month and moved to a Market street house - no electricity or sanitation.
Sakkinamma Sahabdeen (40), children Aziz (21) and two girls (19 & 16). Aziz is working in Colombo and is trying to go to a European country.
These wwidows received Rs 25 000 /- from the Rehabilitation Ministry as cash and a further 25 000 deposited in savings.
They diid not display any awkwardness in relating to Tamils despite what they had been through. Salhabeebi said that she could no longer look for happiness in life, but at the same time felt no desire for revenge against Tamils. She added, Tamil workmen now come to work in the neighbourhood. I see them eating plain bread for their lunch. I often feel an urge to ask them why are you eating bread? and offer them rice. Sithi added, I feel no hatred against Tamils. I only hope we could solve this problem without guns so that others need not suffer what we suffered.
A spokeesman for the Mosque Federation added, Kattankudys loss of over 300 men in recent years has had an indirect social benefit. 0ur women are now far more independent and feel an urge for better education. We have in fact 25 women in universities including 3 in medicine- related courses. Men have a much harder time trying to control women. Another effect is that we have had to look at the dowry question seriously. Many women are affected because of our economic decline. The Mosque Federation has campaigned against the demanding of dowries. Previously the marriage register at the mosque kept a record of dowry transactions. This has now been stopped. Yet transactions take place privately. 0ur present success rate is about 25%. But we are optimistic. The return of Tamil labourers and masons is most welcome. For 3 years they were without jobs and we were without skills. There were few skilled Muslim workmen since our main pursuits were trade and agriculture. So we had ended up paying exorbitant charges for shoddy work.
The possition of women in Kattankudy appears similar to that of women in neighbouring Tamil areas. There is no notable difference in dress or culture. The veil is hardly seen. It has been suggested that in times of crisis the differences are stressed. But at other times both communities proudly relate what they have in common- a good deal of which is not sanctioned by Islamic orthodoxy.
When itt comes to internal developments within the Tamil community and their feelings about them, Tamil men though uncomfortable and harbouring great reservations, are generally afraid to talk about them. It is far easier to find Tamil women who are frank.
A youngg Tamil woman who often crossed the lagoon at Manmunai to travel to her home in the interior, welcomed the impending return of Muslims to 0llikulam from whence they were driven away by Tamil hoodlums backed by militants. The first to return had been the Muslim tea boutique man at the ferry point, providing much needed refreshment to travellers who often need to walk two miles or more. The woman said, They had never done us any harm. They were in fact good to us. My family was well known to them. If I was seen walking on the road in the hot sun, they would invite me into their house and offer me refreshment. They would then arrange for a man to take me on a bicycle and drop me at the ferry point.
A womann living in the interior used to frequently encounter the LTTE during the early weeks following the outbreak of the June 1990 war. She disapproved of violence and used to express it to them. Some of the militants became quite open with her.
Shortlyy after the LTTE massacre at Kattankudy on 3rd August 1990, she encountered Arafat, a Muslim member of the LTTE. She asked Arafat how he could come to terms with being a member of a group that murdered his own people. Arafat was greatly disturbed. He confided that on the night of the attack two parties were to cross the lagoon by boat and meet at Kattankudy. The first had left from Kannankuda. He had been in the second party which left from Kokkadichcholai. The first party had got there earlier and by the time the second party landed the action was over. Arafat had joined the LTTE because he once received a beating from the IPKF. He added, If we had got there on time I would probably have been posted as a sentry. I dont like what is going on, but I have to obey orders.
The womman did not hear of Arafat for nearly two years, when she received a surprise visit from him in Batticaloa. He said that he had come to observe a sporting event and upon making inquiries, had found that she was in town. He told her what had later become of him.
A few ddays after he had earlier met her, on 12th August, he received news of the massacre at Eravur and heard that many of his close relatives, including members of his immediate family had been murdered. The LTTE leaders told him that the massacre had been done by the Sri Lankan army. After Kattankudy Arafat had strong reasons to doubt. He secretly went to Eravur to find out for himself. When he found out, he surrendered to the Sri Lankan army. [See 4.1 of Report No 8]
A 26 yeears old trainee teacher had been the victim of rape by the Sri Lankan army during mid - 1991. Her younger sister too had suffered the same fate. Her father was shot dead by the army 6 months later. Her brother was arrested by the army in July 1991 and released in January 1993. As a result of torture he suffers from an eye ailment and a lack of concentration. During the incident where she had suffered along with several others, some Muslim soldiers told the Tamil refugees, If you can shoot people in a mosque, why can we not shoot you?
The womman said that she felt no particular anger against Sinhalese or Muslims. Her face was marked by convulsions every time she thought about the past. She felt that Tamils too were much to blame for the state of affairs and referred to the mosque massacre. Her own fate, she said, arose not from the men being Sinhalese, but because they were men conditioned by the brutalised environment in which their institution was reared. 0n the Tamil militant groups, she said, They would have been a gain had they stuck to principles on the basis of which people supported them. But they have now gone astray.
The mannufacture of illicit liquor is reportedly rife particularly in areas where poverty and unemployment have attained to unprecedented levels. Examples are Vinayagapuram, Akkaraipattu 40th mile post, and several parts of Mandur, where this has become a cottage industry. The ingredients are sugar, dates and yeast fermented and distilled through locally improvised apparatus. A barrel which is said to be manufactured at a cost of Rs 1000/- fetches Rs 2000/- upon sale. The police who are accused of having been negligent because they were collecting commissions were goaded into action in Thirukkovil after repeated complaints to the STF. The police collected 165 barrels from Vinayagapuram. Several times the number are said to be buried in and around Thirukkovil river.
Accessibility combined with misery has led to significant alcoholism also among women. In the village of Palamunai, near Mandur, about 85% of the men, and a majority of the women are said to be taking this brew which goes under the name Kasippu. Local sources also report a high incidence of marriages becoming strained. Couples regularly call at Thirukkovil Police Station to have their quarrels settled. [Top]
4.2 The LTTE
What iss passed off as successes for the armed forces comes less from hard work done by them, as we have pointed out, than from the LTTEs self-destructive outlook. The legitimacy conferred on it by the government has also been to a great extent counterbalanced by its own cynicism and its reliance on terror and murder. The divisions it created left the people directionless and doubtful about its cause. The number of informers became too numerous and too diffuse for the LTTE to track down and eliminate. Given the destruction of values in the Tamil struggle which made it synonymous with treachery and deceit, it is pointless to try to divide Tamils into traitors and patriots. This politics has made the average Tamil a schizophrenic person. 0n one plane the governments record may drive him to admire the LTTE and look upon it as the last straw a sinking people could clutch at.
Then aggain the LTTE is so distant from his practical need to keep himself and his family going from day to day. Nor is it seen as holding out future promise. More and more Easterners see the LTTE as merely having used them.
Thus wiithout a positive political programme by the state, the LTTE in some shape will be around for a long time. Its presence though more precarious in the East, is real, and so is its network of extortion and ability to strike fear. Its image and legitimacy continues to be helped by the dread in which Tamil militants confronting it are held. [Top]
In the absence of a political vision by the state the position of the armed forces is not as secure as they would like to believe. Appearances however suggest otherwise. In distant places in Paduwankarai (Sunset shore - West of the lagoon) soldiers could be seen in twos and threes. Tamil groups opposed to the LTTE (TEL0 & ex-PL0TE Mohans group) are seen to move freely. The LTTE presence is marked by missions other than military operations. It thus maintains a small but costly presence. 0n the other hand a large scale combative infiltration by the LTTE would be something else, where it would dominate a particular area.
It now seems that the STF would extend its area of control further north and take over Batticaloa town, while units of the army would be shifted across the lagoon to Paduwankarai to extend its network of camps. It may thus hope to receive early warning of any large scale infiltration.
The ballance is however precarious. Further South in the Amparai District the STF is hardly going into the jungles for the LTTE as the IPKF did. It seems instead to keep the population from moving out of populated areas to their fields in pursuit of their livelihood and is using the Air Force to bomb the LTTE out of the jungles. It is the elephants that are being driven out instead to civilian areas causing much hardship to cultivators. This may have no foreseeable end.
The armmed forces are thus in a real sense getting bogged down. Without political leadership from the government, the military commanders need to cultivate a huge ego to persuade themselves that they could finish the war. They are in turn becoming local fiefs preparing their own agendas like sponsoring groups at elections. Two Brigadiers have gone public complaining about the governments lack of support in their efforts at rehabilitation. They think they know what it takes to assuage discontent among the people. The vision of armed forces commanders could hardly go much further, particularly when they have inordinate faith in themselves.
But thee people also look for dignity, justice and accountability for the killed and disappeared. A father said on the subject of compensation for his murdered son, How can I eat over the body of my dead son? This is a natural and widespread sentiment. Acceptance of compensation from the government is usually with a strong sense of distaste and an act performed in extremis.
The armmed forces are thus trapped in an uncertain environment. Their presence seemed more acceptable while things were seen to be improving and disappearances were coming down. Now the bottom line seems to have been reached. There will be no accountability for disappearances. Disappearances will continue (12 in December for instance ) as would unlawful reprisals against civilians (e.g. recently in Mankerny & Palugamam). The forces would continue to use impunity to ward off accountability for their actions. In short they would continue an oppressive presence.
There iis thus among the people a visible rise of resentment against the armed forces. Their economic life is hindered. The hardships and indignity are being more keenly felt. This is not a healthy sign. [Top]
Based oon census reports one estimates that over 20% of the population fall within the categories of paddy land owners, cultivators, labourers and their dependents. This activity which is also inseparable from milk production forms the backbone of the regions economy. The service sector and trade are dependent on it. Services which widows propose to offer such as dress making, home gardening and pounding rice, roasting and packeting the flour could hardly be viable if the first is not revived.
Cultivaation is now done mainly in fields close to inhabited areas. The conduct of the armed forces forms one of the main obstructions to the extension of cultivation. 0ur reports above show that a number of persons involved in legitimate activity such as cultivation or looking for cattle had been killed or had disappeared without a trace. In the opinion of farmers in general extortion by the LTTE was more bearable, at least among poorer farmers, as there were some rules in the game (see Chapter 4 of Report 11). Interference and activities of officially sanctioned Tamil militants which seem to be more erratic and ruinous are spoken of with far greater resentment [Report 11 & this report].
Among tthe worst off are farmers in the Amparai District who have gone through a long history of displacement, and also refugees of Indian origin displaced from Tissamaharama in the Hambantota District during the 1977 violence and later settled in Malayankaddu (Manmunai Pattu South West) and Koralaipattu West.
Some off them were among the 300 families in Kanjikudichchcharu, Vilkamam and Rufus Kulam in the south of Amparai District. Here they cleared lands for chena cultivation and also planted groves of mango and coconut in addition to other cereals. By the 70s they were exporting cholam (Indian corn) and manioc to the Hill Country. Thus they attained to a remarkable level of prosperity.
In Junee 1990 following the murder of policemen by the LTTE in Rufus Kulam, these people too became subject to reprisals and went as refugees to Vinayagapuram where they remain in a state of utter despondency to this day. Their abandoned groves and fields have become the home of elephants driven out of their jungle home as the result of aerial bombing. [Top]
For reaasons best known to them the mainline press had joined the government in celebrating a return of democracy to the East. The impunity which the forces continue to exercise in the face of significant human rights violations( e.g at least 12 disappearances in the Batticaloa District during December 1993) & the vulnerability of a large section of the population who had recently been refugees, have been ignored as mostly irrelevant. Set against blatant vote rigging by the police admitted in the Election Commissioners report, the situation surely becomes bizarre. During past decades election irregularities had often come up for legal scrutiny. These had been violations by individual candidates which is a far cry from massive violations by officers of the law responsible for the proper conduct of elections.
Riggingg by policemen who entered polling booths at Eravur and Kattankudy are well documented. Some of these votes were easily detected owing to the incompetence of the policemen. The incidents were at that time being denied by DIG/Police, Batticaloa.
The almmost routine abuse of state power was reported in many places:
Policemen in civil are said to have gone around parts of Batticaloa collecting polling cards, including in Dutch Bar.
0n polling day policemen without identification numbers (as they used to appear in dirty operations) were seen in some areas, including Navatkudah, trying to influence voters by threat.
Actual connivance of the police in rigging operations such as at the Convent polling centre in Batticaloa. The leading UNP candidates car was seen within 20 yards of the entrance. From time to time police sentries at the gate were signalling to a group of impersonators standing in a group who came in twos. A policeman who could not read Tamil came with the card of one Annammah, a Tamil lady of matronly years. A number of impersonators were challenged and sent back.
In many instances the forces interfered in the campaign to the advantage of the UNP. The Army in Vaharai and the STF in Mandur rounded up civilians and took them to their camps to be addressed by senior UNP figures who came by helicopter.( Gamini Atulorale in Vahari and Joseph Michael Perara in Mandur.) 0n other hand when no pressure was used only about 60 turned up for the Prime Ministers meeting in Batticaloa. 0n seeing this Minister Joseph Michael Perera went away without speaking. 0n the last day of the campaign (27th February ) the police refused permission for an independent group to hold a meeting in Batticaloa, whereas the UNP candidate was permitted. 0ne day in Valaichchenai the Independent Group led by Ramachandran was to hold a meeting at 3.30 p.m and the army did a round up at 3.00 pm.
In Kallady and Valaichenai the people taken in a round up by the army were released by the UNP candidates.Kallar and Kaluwanchkudy were other areas where considerable police interference was reported.
The total effect of such abuses may not be as serious as would appear on the surface, although much rigging in favour of the UNP would have gone undetected. It is for instance reported that 4 of the boxes which came from particular centre in Batticaloa had a sizeable layer of UNP votes on the top. At Central College the police prevented opposition agents from inspecting empty ballot boxes before they were sealed.
0ther observers said that once rigging became the name of the game, others who could mobilise sections of the population to collect polling cards and organise impersonations may have been at an advantage. They could moreover have done it without the kind of exhibition caused by policemen. It is alleged that there was rigging by Tamil militant groups in favour of candidates sponsored by them in areas where Tamils were dominant. Leading citizens in Kathankudy alleged that the SLMC too was involved in significant vote rigging.
With all kinds of forces at play the voting pattern may defy analysis. The elections in Paddiruppu electorate for example had long been regarded as caste elections with Rasamanikkam (a Vellala) representing the FP and Ethirmanasingam (a Mukkuwa) representing the UNP in former times. More surprising was the large vote for the UNP from Tamils in and around Kalmunai which has left the SLMC deeply hurt. It is here that fear, patronage and marginalisation or beleagueredness all played a role. In Kattankudy 2 out of 9 seats were won by an heretical Moulavi who evidently wanted to make a theological point.
In Batticaloa at least people seem satisfied that the army kept its neutrality on the day of polling once the matter was raised with the Brigadier. The army was however not a disinterested party. In many rural parts of the Batticaloa District, elections were won by independent groups sponsored by the army. In Vaharai it is said, although the army roped in people to meet UNP big-wigs, the people mostly did not vote. In Vellavelly the winning group is said to be led by a cow-hand. The army it is believed, thought that UNP- led local councils would mean interference in local affairs from Colombo. The armed forces in the East have largely got used to running their own fiefdoms.
4.5.2 Abuses of a more serious nature.
As we hinted earlier, the visible abuses which have been widely reported and most talked about are very likely not as insidious as ones that are hidden. The latter involve the employment of implicit terror by the state using the vulnerability of communities with a recent experience of state terror as reported by responsible persons.
Many abuses of this kind used threats to security:
Pottuvil is an area where the Tamils who fled had been recently resettled. The UNP group was led by the brother of Co-ordinating 0fficer for the East, Mr. Majid, Senior Superintendent of Police.It has been reported by Tamil community leaders that Mr. Majid met them and told them in effect that if the Tamils do not vote UNP, they would have to go back. This gentleman has been known for cavalier remarks in the past. He left the police, contested the 1989 general elections on a UNP ticket, lost, was reinstated in the police, and later promoted.
We said earlier that two UNP figures, including Gamini Atukorale, addressed a captive audience at the Vaharai Army Camp. The message the people received was that it would do their security much good if they voted UNP.
13th Colony, near Mandur: The STF reportedly told the people that if they do not vote, they would be harassed by round ups three times a week. This was understood and acted upon as a message to vote UNP.
Central Camp ( Amparai District) : This area has about 8000 voters. 9 out of 19 Grama Sevakas (Village Headmen) were said to be working actively for the UNP. The GS of 4th colony for instance was seen going about in the vehicle of a UNP MP for the area. Some Co-operative inspectors were also mobilised by the UNP. Among the messages given was that if the people do not vote UNP their Janasaviya payments and widows charity payments would be stopped.
Another serious issue was the political role of the forces in using their power to canvass candidates through means of pressure available to them.
Nearly 70 persons who were ex-LTTE or suspects of some sort, either held by them or regularly monitored by them, were forced to sign up as candidates for independent groups sponsored by the army. The forms for their nomination were obtained from the Batticaloa Kacheri, filled by the army and given for their signature.
Chandra Fernando, DIG/ Police and Lionel Karunasena, DIG/STF, we reliably understand were personally involved in canvassing candidates, carrying messages allegedly from Sirisena Cooray, then Secretary, UNP. The STF is soon expected to assume control of Batticaloa town and much of the populated areas of Batticaloa. Given the role of these two institutions in widespread human rights violations over the last 10 years which lie uninvestigated and their enormous power, their role in elections where stakes would be far higher, remains a cause for deep concern.
4.5.3 Voting in areas with large Sinhalese populations.
Looking at the official local council results in Amparai and Trincomalee Districts where Sinhalese form the majority, the ratio of votes polled by the UNP to those polled by the SLFP is most of the time of the order of 3:2. But talking to people one gets the impression of widespread resentment against the UNP, not least because of what many of their young men had suffered from the state during the recent JVP troubles. South based democratic groups who probed the conduct of elections give the main reason as being the UNPs powerful grip over the government machinery to an extent unprecedented in this countrys history. Being the party that has ruled for 17 years through a system of corruption, patronage and punishments for those who do not fall in line, it has had almost a whole generation of new appointments and transfers to strengthen its control. In dealing with the Tamil areas we pointed out that in Central Camp about 40% of the GSs (Headmen) were actively working for the UNP. In Sinhalese areas the proportion is said to be higher. The GS being the chief village level government officer, his power is considerable. To start with, in preparing voters lists he could omit persons not likely to vote UNP. It would take an active grass - roots opposition to contact households and ask them to go and make sure that they had been registered. The 0pposition has also been notoriously inactive. The GS has also considerable authority in determining Janasaviya aid recipients and in the matter of rations for displaced persons. A UNP affiliation has also widely served as a license for unmolested corruption. The end result is that among the people there is resentment co-existing with pressure to vote UNP.
Documentary evidence of a novel use of the government machinery came for Thampalakamam where the UNP obtained 51.6% against the SLFPs 38.8%, where the total valid votes polled was 8312. Here two individuals, one supposedly a Tamil lady, had signed at the post office and had taken over from the post master something like 100 polling cards ostensibly for distribution. This is totally irregular. Each card is meant to be delivered to the householder by the post man. Given the recent experience of Tamils in Thamplakamam it would be hard to imagine a Tamil lady with so much confidence in the democratic process as to want to ensure that a couple of hundred Tamils exercised their franchise. It seems far more likely a case of the GS registering names of Tamils who had fled Thampalakamam and the post master doing the rest. A total of about 600 cards were removed in this manner. A man who had allegedly signed for two hundred cards when contacted was shocked by the event and said that he had never done anything of that kind. This one instance had sufficient votes to tilt the decision in favour of the UNP. [Top]
For a time in the 1950s and 60s in particular Tamil nationalist politics became the common currency of the Tamils and Muslims in the East. Differences of caste and religion were for a time swept under the carpet. In fact the Muslim Congress leader Mr. Ashraff is quoted as having once said that even if others give up the goal of Tamil Eelam, he would fight on. But the major parties which controlled state power played on the underlying differences by dangling the benefits of state patronage. The current crisis of division in the East is a failure to articulate a principled politics that would look at diversity positively and protect the common interests of the people of the East. We have pointed out before that no group or faction is innocent of trying to use state patronage in an attempt to advance its own position. Most damaging was perhaps the LTTEs use of the UNP regime under Premadasa to eliminate or marginalise other Tamil groups and the Muslim Congress. We have in this and previous reports described several crude uses of state power to buy off sections of the minorities while moving ahead with Sinhalisation of the East. The recent local elections were a reflection of this crisis.
UNP politics is not just communal at national level, but also at local level in a more sinister fashion. It would deploy Tamil candidates to effectively tell Tamils that unless they vote UNP, the next Muslim town or village would get libraries, stadia, schools and hospitals while they remain backward. Many Tamils would then argue that they must vote UNP, for if not the Muslims would move ahead and swallow them up. The reverse is no doubt employed in areas where Muslims feel more threatened. Such politics owes a good deal to the communal hatred that has taken root in the East.
The resulting sectarian politics of Tamil and Muslim exclusivism has led to opportunism that is the reverse of the group rhetoric employed. Tamil factions have courted the state at different times in an attempt to eliminate each other. Everyone seems to be able to give good reasons for their position.
An independent group led by Moulana won the local elections in Eravur. The voting reveals, as the people proudly assert, that they are dead against the UNP and have little faith in the Muslim Congress. But Moulanas joining the UNP has been pardoned on the plea that it is the only way they could get government money-echoes of Kanagaratnam, the former TULF MP for Pottuvil who crossed over to the UNP.
The Mayor of Batticaloa had been a dedicated activist on the Peace Committee. He was elected to office as head of an Independent Group sponsored by the TEL0 and PL0TE. A question posed by his critics is how a man who had regularly listened to parents of victims complaining about the activities of those groups could accept their sponsorship. The Mayors defence is that had he not accepted this position, the UNP would have gained control of the municipality, whereas he is now better placed to serve the people. Similar things would be said by thousands of Tamils holding office in Colombo as well as in LTTE ruled Jaffna.
A former close associate of Mr. Ashraff in the Muslim Congress comes out as quick witted, very rational and very articulate in Tamil as well as English. He says frankly, The Muslims learnt everything from the Tamils, including militancy in politics as well as the associated rhetoric. Leading Muslim politicians were schooled in the TULF. The Tamils wanted a region for themselves and then so did the Muslims. He admits that a politics that unites the Tamils and Muslims is most desirable and goes on to candidly acknowledge that it is now not the stuff for a practical Muslim or Tamil politician. He says that Ashraff betrayed the cause for which the Muslim Congress was founded by backing President Premadasa (of the UNP) during the Impeachment Crisis. Recently this politicians group which fielded candidates against the Muslim Congress lost in its home base of Akkaraipattu. The politician himself is widely reported as being on course to join the UNP. Here his admirable rationality fails him and he comes out far less convincingly. The two reasons he gives are first: The UNP is less communal than the Peoples Alliance, and second: He needs to protect his followers from persecution by the Muslim Congress.
All this is a legacy of history for which individuals cannot be entirely blamed. It shows that any political force which merely uses present cleavages and appeals to group sentiments they had given rise to, will make no impact and will only contribute to the continuing marginalisation of the Tamils and Muslims in the East. Any party that wants to make a benign impact will have to go in with a non-sectarian vision that people could be convinced of and practical goals which people could work towards. In the given reality such an approach would require alliances of principle without the horse-dealing of securing power as its principal objective.
Tamil nationalist ideology once articulated from platforms by the TULF, is now sought to be monopolised by the LTTE. TULF sources in Batticaloa admitted that they were preparing to field candidates for the local elections. But that because of indications of a threat from the LTTE, the leadership in Colombo had decided against their contesting. Another prominent TULF associate said, The LTTE is strongly against having us in the field and have killed our party members who have done considerable service to the people. In fact they killed Sambanthamoorthy during the IPKF period when he visited his paddy fields. They had earlier assured this senior member of the TULF that no harm would befall him. 0n the other hand leading persons in Batticaloa with others closely associated with the UNP are paying considerable sums of money to the LTTE and are operating freely. Earlier instances of collusion between the LTTE and the UNP are also widely talked about. [Top]
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