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Report 6


 The War in the North-East

 The war which is going on in the North and the East has left a large number of people amid death and destruction. People do not feel that the government is treating them as their citizens. The bitterness against the Sri Lankan army and fear is still lingering on. The happenings in the Eastern Province and other areas rightly or wrongly reinforced their view that the Sinhala army and political establishment  is bent on destroying the Community. On the other hand they detest LTTE's destructive politics and feel angry about everything happening around them. If the government and the politicians in the South do not understand the complexity of the problem and the trauma faced by the Tamil and the Muslim people in the North and the East, then they will do more damage to national unity of this Country than anybody else!

 The people are cynical about the guarantees on the part of the government in solving the crisis in a proper and human way. Instead of openly and clearly putting forward a concrete frame work in which the government seeks to find a solution to the ethnic problem and to canvass the opinion among the Sinhala masses and other political parties for consensus, it is dragging on with vague promises. After all these tragedies have not taken place for the very first time. These have happened in this country; it was are not going to have a leadership which has the courage and the wisdom to put forward an acceptable solution to the ethnic problem based on regional autonomy or Federal set-up (which are the standard frameworks in which the ethnic problems are being managed in most of the countries), then the future of our country seems to be very bleak indeed. On the other hand the way in which the government responds to the demands of every quarter seems to imply that only the might of the gun is being respected by them!!

 The responses meted out to the democratic forces led to despair and frustration of the Youth and lead to a form of destructive politics which resulted in meaningless destruction in our land. Therefore after seeing and meeting the people of Jaffna, I wish to put forward the following requests to show sensitiveness to the people's need there and to make them feel that they are a part of our Nation. The following measures have to be taken immediately to save the situation from ruin and to avoid large scale death and destruction at least, at this last moment.

 (1) It is fact that the people there do not have confidence in the government; and they are also against the destructive politics of the LTTE group. They feel that they are between the Devil and the deep sea. Large number of youths are cynical about the whole thing but they are powerless and fearful that if the army comes then their lives will not be spared. At present people cannot move out of Jaffna that easily. More than that, large scale effort is taken by the LTTE to force directly or indirectly all the people mainly the youths to get involved in some activities in the hope the army treat them as LTTE. Under these circumstances youths do not have any option but to join them with the feeling that we fight and die instead of drying in vain. Therefore unless the government and the armed forces understand this and take measures to give confidence to those youths, that there are alternatives for them, they will force a large number of people into the destructive political path. For this, mere assurances are not enough o convince the youths. We need concrete proposals to deal with this situation. If the government announces that certain organisations such as churches, temples, etc., as well as ICRC  and some international Organisations to oversee the process of arrest, it will give them some confidence. They can be asked to gather in Refugee camps supervised by the ICRC (and other NGO's help can also be obtained in this regard). And the army when they want to arrest, they should be registered with the ICRC to make sure no ill-treatment is meted out to them in army's custody. In this way the people will have confidence that their lives will be saved. People are also sacred to go to Refugee Camps as they also fear that the LTTE might provoke the army. Therefore it is essential that these camps should have some international representation. It is unreasonable and unworkable to transfer the whole Jaffna population to Vavuniya. The destruction of properties seems to be a pattern as far as the Sri Lankan army is concerned. Its going to alienate the people more and more and the bitterness will last long.

 (2) The minors who are carrying arms are also in fear of their life. It is necessary for a responsible government to handle this situation with care. All of them should be given amnesty and allowed to go back to schools.

 (3) There are incidents where the army have killed those youths who are desperate and are trying to flee the country with their families. Apart from few incidents the captured persons are being badly treated. Those who are fleeing from Jaffna to India at this moment are invariably cynical about LTTE politics. If the army would not understand them and if they treat them like this, naturally they are bound to feel sympathetic to Tigers' cause.

 (4) The State patronage given to the Sinhala colonisation is well-known. The heavy destruction in villages around Trincomalee has created fear amongst the Tamils that the earlier programme of colonisation is going to continue. It is to be noted that it is a sad fact that certain national papers argue this course of action to counter the LTTE's action against Sinhala civilians : which shows how ignorant and irresponsible they are. It is this approach that inherently breeds destructive politics. If the State uses its power to demonstrate its ability to create insecurity to the minority and by which they can subjugate them, then they are sowing seeds for future destruction. Therefore its time for the government to assure the Tamil people that they will not continue with this type of politics. It is also morally wrong for the government to colonise a large number of poor people in these area's for their short-sighted politics.

 Hope that the government will fulfil the above demands to win the people's confidence and provide a concrete solution to this ethnic issue. The two major communities are speaking two different languages and majority in both communities also practices two different religions. This shows the nature and the depth of the problem! Therefore it should be taken very seriously and the solution be found to enhance national unity on the basis of the multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, multi-religious nature of our society for a lasting peace!! Hope we have learnt our lessons from our short-sighted politics which ruined the whole nation!!! (These are some reflections made after I have seen, heard and touched Jaffna and its people. My visit to Jaffna was from the 17th September, 1990).
(Sgd) Fr.Dudley Attanayake.



 In this report we have brought out certain features of the present political phenomenon in the North and East to raise awareness of the situation. We cannot effectively tackle the human rights issues in isolation unless we understand the political environment in which the violations are taking place. How the media is being manipulated, emotions have been raised, surveillance is being carried out, dissent has been suppressed are matters of concern for anyone who cares about the fate of people. The reality in which character degeneration is so widespread and terror has crept into the minds of people make any semblance of normality very deceptive. The legitimate fear and the insecure feelings of the Tamil community against the Sri Lankan state is being harnessed to the full by the LTTE to legitimise their hold on the people. In a sense the destructive politics is being institutionalised to such an extent that no Tamil political groups are in a position to represent the interests of the people. Unless this politics is replaced, talking about human rights violations is a meaningless exercise. We hope that our reports will play a role in that direction [Top]

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