We will be meeting today at my home to inquire on how things are. This is my honest opinion on how things are: that things are terrible and that we live in a police/military state with no laws to protect us.
I should add that the US facilitated our anarchic environment and also is engaged in a game where the case could be made that they have allowed a person to be elected
President who is not qualified. That matter is before the Supreme Court in a case filed by Mr. Nagananda Kodituwakku. It is a case where the justices need to be strong to be independent, and he has asked for a bench of 5 to have strength in numbers. I hope the Chief Justice will allow this.
Before the presidential election, Mr. and now HE Gotabaya Rajapaksa as a candidate came to the Election Commission (where I was one of three members) and presented a document purportedly by the US Embassy in Colombo that declared that he had renounced his US citizenship. Under the constitution a dual citizen cannot be a candidate for president. I asked my contacts at the embassy and in answer the words used were “Unless it is true we would never issue such a letter.” I reported what I had been told and, I believe as a result, we decided that we would respond only to formal complaints by other candidates or political parties for which the venue was the Supreme Court. There were no complaints. Mr. Rajapaksa was elected President on 9 Nov. 2020. Now Mr. Kodituwakku has sent me a statement from Chief-Policy, Office of Law and Policy of the US Government’s National Security Division. It is reproduced here.
Assuming the document is honest, Mr. Rajapaksa’s renunciation of US citizenship had begun “but was not completed” on 9 Nov. 2019. His election was therefore not valid. The American letter of 11 Nov. 2019 asks those it is directed at in the US government services involved “to take all possible steps to prevent any further dissemination of relevant documents or information.”
That election, whether justified or not, has opened up our people to a renewed climate of fear. Although this American letter of 11 Nov. is in the hands of the press, few or none of the mainstream media have written of it. Journalists live in fear.
Climate of Fear
That climate of fear engulfs us Tamils who are a powerless minority under a Sinhalese government that is hostile to the Tamil people and to the concept of Tamil Homelands. Public lands are taken over by the state. Hindu Temples are taken over to be Buddhist temples. The police fail to serve stay orders by courts to save such endangered temples in border areas like Chemmalai. The Inspector General of Police does nothing when warned by the Election Commission of riotous behaviour by Buddhists. Police ignore complaints by the Commission and then suddenly act just before elections when they want something from the person complained against (e.g., Karuna Amman, Sri Ranga).
The Election Commission like the proverbial drop of urine that falls into the bucket of wholesome milk while the cow is milked, has communalists who work for nationalist interests. When government parties face complaints based on photographs, commission staff cover-up, even untruthfully putting up a Commission paper claiming that the police investigated and found no evidence for the comlaint. The Police break the law rather than uphold it. Archaeological remains are cleansed of any evidence of old Tamil-Buddhist presence. Sinhalese are infiltrated into traditional Tamil lands. The fear is such that in areas like Trincomalee where I work, when I speak to Tamil strangers, they reply to me in Sinhalese. Mr. R. Sampanthan, our leader, barely scraped through into parliament at the last elections. It is unlikely that the TNA will get any seat as the demographics are changed further in Trincomalee. We are being wiped off.
Jaffna, I think is the last and final Tamil bastion where the Sinhalasisation project is being worked on. With the scourge of COVID most of us are worried about jobs and putting food on the table. So a seeming normality is sensed as more and more authority is taken over by the military and police. Personally, I manage by taking my wife who speaks some Sinhalese along with me. When she wears western dress and speaks in Sinhalese whenever we are questioned, we get through. I have written about how we live under the armed forces – when the Jaffna Police OIC comes for petrol, we who are already in line must backout for him to be served, military vehicles are allowed to inconvenience customers by parking in front of Jaffna’s Cargills Food City on the orders of the Manager to the security Guards while we have to go to the Parking lot and walk from there. At the General Hospital pharmacy soldiers break the line while we stand in long queues.
Fleeing Sri Lanka – Torrential Outflow
I will focus on some of the more egregious incidents that show how much we are under military rule, making youth flee the country. Although the years 2106-2020 saw many who had sought refuge abroad returning, and there was serious talk of refuges in India coming back, today there are many who are prepared to pay Rs. 3 million as fees for a terrible and dangerous journey to the West in comparison to the old fee of Rs. 1.4 to 1.5 million. Clearly, they see the dangers and the cost worth risking, given the life that Sri Lanka offers. Curious, I enquired how a fictitious relation might get smuggled. I was told two government-leaning MPs, both youthful and one a Tamil, were working with the branch of the armed forces involved in the Trincomalee killings. They work through third parties. A deposit of Rs. 6 lakhs needs to be paid first. The balance is due on reaching the West. I was urged not to write about this if I valued my life. Fleeing Sri Lanka is reaching torrential proportions:
1. In a typical year there are under 100,000 new applications for Sri Lankan passports. However, in the first 9 months of this year, there have been 160,158 applications for new passports. Today’s news says 15,000 passports were issued by 1-day service over the last 10 days.
2. Last August 69 persons fleeing Sri Lanka were arrested by the Indians and are being tried in Bangalore. A further number have gone to India but are hiding given the arrest of the others. An impetus to the exodus is the callousness of our government. After fighting for and getting Palaly as an International airport with Indian help, it is now closed on the pretext of Covid while dud Mattala and even Ratmalana are international airports. Such is the care the government has for Tamil citizens who briefly found foreign flights easy while Palaly was open. India seems to lack understanding over the beastly nature of the Sri Lankan government.
3. During the last government when petrol price was raised by Rs. 5, Mahinda Rajapaksa went on a bicycle to Parliament to make fuss. Now they have raised overnight the price of gas cylinders by Rs. 1258!
4. On 5 October or so, 83 persons sailing westward were rescued by US forces (believed to be from Diego Garcia) when they had engine trouble in or close to Maldivian territory and handed over to the Maldivians.
The ready route is from where they are to the Tamil Nadu Coast and thence to Bangalore and to the West. Reporters I trust tell me that people from Batticaloa and Amparai take the same route to Bangalore from where they are taken to Pakistan by high-speed multiday boats rather than the slow boats used for refugees, from where they return to Sri Lanka, and that the Sri Lankan and Indian governments know about it but are mum. The same sources claim that criminals from places like Africa come to New Delhi and Bangalore and then take multi-day boats westward. The reporters say they fear to even touch the subject.
5. On 13 October 2021, Trincomalee police arrested 63 persons who were in a rest house preparatory to being smuggled out by sea to the West. Note the nexus Trinco-Navy. The numbers keep growing.
6. The new oppression is sustained by instilling fear in media persons as already noted. Media persons are being watched. When there was an incident or disturbance, reporters photographing or filing stories were let alone. A husband-wife couple running what is called Youtube Thamil Channel (as reported in Uthayan in November) were arrested in Suthumalai in February and are yet to be produced in court. On 23 Sept 2021. behind the Nallur Temple when Member of Parliament Gajendran lit a light for LTTE’s Thileepan who starved himself to death on 26 Sept. 1987, the two reporters who reported on it in the Uthayan newspaper were arrested. A media studies girl at University of Jaffna and occasional writer who photographed it was arrested because she had no press pass and taken away but released without her camera.
Now my media friends tell me that they too are being detained when reporting and they think twice before reporting. They exercise self-censorship especially because they are watched. A usually loquacious reporter friend whom I spoke to, this time clammed up and came home on his motorbike to avoid talking over the phone. My children’s friends working for Dialog report to them that there are intelligence officers in their offices who read mail passing through. No wonder my reporter friends did not wish to speak on the phone.
7. Usually newspersons have a nose for anything suspicious. This year alone 5 so-called rehabilitated LTTE Cadres reportedly committed suicide. Some were university graduates and had high government appointments. One of them, Manikkam Jeyakumar (LTTE nickname Aathavan) was a Development Officer from Sandilipay. Suspicions are evoked by his going away 3 miles from home to commit suicide in a stranger’s well in Araly. Death by drowning said the post mortem report when the well had only 3 feet of water. This must be interpreted in light of Rajkumar, the Secretary of the “Association of those Disappeared in the Tamil Motherland,” announcing recently that many of the disappeared persons from the LTTE and other Tamil organizations are now converted to be Sinhalese and Buddhists. What fear is being exerted, if any, on former LTTE-ers? Five suicides in 10 months? Why are the suicides confined to a few areas like Sandilipay and Vadamaratchi East where the deaths were ruled suicides? Few reporters are showing an interest given the climate of fear.
Veluppillai Prabhakaran’s Image
Veluppilai Prabhakaran’s image is completely banned. At the end of September three people were arrested at the checkpoint in Manipay. Of two of them travelling together, one had a photo of Prabhakaran that he claimed someone had WhatsApped him and when he opened it to see what it was, it got downloaded on his phone. He was arrested. His companion, an ambulance driver in Manipay, was arrested for accompanying a man with Prabhakaran’s photo!
Methagu (meaning His Excellency) is a 2021 movie. It is described in Wikipedia as “an Indian Tamil-language political thriller film based on the life of the LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran with a budget of Indian Rs. 60 lakhs and released on 25 June.” Although commercially available, copies are in circulation in Jaffna. In Aug. 3 persons were arrested for being in possession of the movie; that is material from a banned organization.
I just returned on 18 Oct. from the US visiting my children and took the opportunity to watch the film. It is a cheap historically inaccurate film. There is no valid reason for banning the film – usually national security, controlling obscenity, protecting the vulnerable etc. in the film. Instead, these arrests are to suppress a vulnerable minority. And no democracy can survive without a free press.
Assistant Director Fisheries Suthahar
These are days when there are disputes between Indian and Sri Lankan fishermen over fishing rights. As these disputes arise, reporters working on stories have the different Assistant Directors of Fisheries as their point of contact and they used to get answers. Now all of them decline comment. What happened?
The Jaffna Assistant Director of Fisheries, Mr. Suthahar, is explicit. He says they have been ordered by their minister to open their mouths only to eat rice, and that if they disobey, they will not have their positions.
Such is a dimension of the fear that has no place in a democracy.
Please help us. Turn every screw you can to make our government look after all citizens equally, abiding by our laws that are so good and yet so ignored. We badly need our provincial councils as a means of vocalizing our needs, fears, and aspirations. It is not wrong to encourage our government to honour its own treaties, laws and commitments solemnly enacted through our Supreme Parliament and declared to the world with accolades.
*S. Ratnajeevan H. Hoole, D.Sc. (Eng.) Lond., Ph.D. Elect. Eng. Carnegie Mellon, IEEE Life Fellow. A Professor Dismissed from Sri Lankan University Service, living in fear in Jaffna in retirement 88 Chemmany Road, Nallur, Jaffna.