By Brian Senewiratne –
Sri Lankan (Sinhalese) governments – unable to govern
A feature of every government since Independence in 1948 is that they have had no idea of proper governance. This is a serious problem especially where there are two separate nations in one country – in Sri Lanka a Sinhalese Nation and a Tamil Nation.
There has been a mass relocation of Sinhalese from the South to the Tamil areas by the Government. What is not widely known is that the Sinhalese military and police who have quit their jobs are being relocated in the North with their families.
The result is a massive increase in the number of Sinhalese in the North and East. If this continues, the North and East will be dominated by Sinhalese. The electoral consequences are obvious. This will not be reversible as has happened in Amparai in the East, which was a Tamil area that has been ‘Sinhalised’.
The long-term objective of accelerated Sinhalisation of the Tamil area is to destroy the Tamil homeland and establish a monoethnic identity throughout the island – a Sinhala-Buddhist nation.
Buddhist temples and structures are proliferating in an area where there are no Buddhist civilians. The only Buddhists are members of the Armed Forces and Police.
What often happens is that a ‘Bo-tree” (Ficus Religiosa) is planted in an area which is then declared a Buddhist sacred site. A Buddhist temple is then erected.
The British Tamils Forum (BTF) has published an excellent book, “Proliferating Buddhist Structures in Tamil homeland – Sowing the seeds of Disharmony”.
Poverty and unemployment in the North
Poverty and unemployment are higher in the Northern Province than anywhere else in Sri Lanka. At the Northern Provincial Council’s 2nd budget reading on 12/12/17, the then Chief Minister of the Northern Council, Justice Wigneswaran, said that out of all 25 districts in Sri Lanka, Kilinochchi was the poorest. Mullaitivu which was previously the poorest is now number 2 on the list of poverty by district. Jaffna is the 5th poorest district.
The level of unemployment is also highest in the Northern Province than in any other province.
Sexual violence in the North and East
Sexual violence has increased across the Northern Province. Women widows in their 20s are sexually assaulted at work. Women teachers are sexually assaulted in schools. Gangs commit sexual violence for money.
Unwanted pregnancies and teenage pregnancies are an issue. Many men come to Jaffna from other places, have relationships with women, marry them and then leave them. Society shuns these women seeing them as indecent.
Sex is a taboo subject in Tamil culture. As such, sex education is not taught or taught poorly. In what is still a male dominated society, such issues are difficult to deal with.
My book Sri Lanka: Sexual violence of Tamils by the Armed Forces has nearly doubled in size in two years since it was first published in 2015. It is now (March 2019) 264 pages.
Violation of human rights
There continues to be involuntary ‘disappearances’, abduction, arrest without warrant, illegal detention at unknown sites and a failure to release those who are being held without charge or trial. Nothing has changed in the North and East with the replacement of the dreadful Rajapaksa regime by Sirisena. All of this has been well documented in several publications, including publications by Amnesty International, a Nobel Prize winner.
The 2017/18 Amnesty International Annual report spells it out. Concerns have been raised about arbitrary arrests and detention, torture and other ill-treatment, enforced ‘disappearances’, impunity that has persisted for crimes under international law, harassment and surveillance of Tamils in the North and East by security forces, the finding by UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination that the PTA (Prevention of Terrorism Act) was disproportionately used against Tamils and was discriminatory in effect and that violence, including sexual violence, persisted against women and girls.
The Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA)
The PTA has been condemned by every human rights group in the world. It has been used for extensive violation of human rights. It has been used for numerous illegal arrests, detention without charge or trial, ‘disappearances’, sexual violence, torture and much more.
The current Sri Lankan government committed in the several UN Human Rights Council Resolutions to repeal the PTA and replace it with anti-terrorism legislation in line with “contemporary international best practice”.
A ‘Counter-Terrorism Act’ (CTA) was drafted by the government. Rather than reining in the PTA’s definition of ‘terror’, the CTA expanded upon it, criminalising any activity that threatens the ‘unity’ of Sri Lanka. This includes gathering information to supply to a third party deemed (by the Sri Lankan government) as a threat to Sri Lanka’s unity. The potential for local activists collecting information about human rights abuses being accused and charged with ‘terrorism’ is very real.
In early January 2018, the Sri Lankan cabinet approved the CTA. This was slammed by civil society groups stating that it fails to meet international standards and “leaves the door open for future abuse”.
Torture by the Sri Lankan Military and Police is widespread, especially in the Tamil North and East. This has been well documented by the International Truth and Justice Project (ITJP) administered by the Foundation for Human Rights South Africa under its director, transitional justice expert, Yasmin Sooka.
The ITJP has a detailed account of ‘Joseph Camp’ (Joint Operational Security Forces Headquarters – JOSFH) in the middle of Vavuniya town in the North. It is the main torture centre in the Tamil area. Torture rooms and equipment used for torture are clearly seen.
There are more than 40 other torture sites in Sri Lanka run by the Police and Armed Forces and include the notorious CID (Criminal Investigation Department) torture site in Colombo, the dreaded “4th Floor” where torture has been well documented. This has not changed after President Sirisena took over the country.
The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) put this well: “Torture is part of the day-to-day operation of the Sri Lankan State………Therefore it is no exaggeration to say that Sri Lanka is a ‘Torture Republic’. The only inaccuracy may be about the word ‘Republic’, given the constitutional changes which have virtually created an authoritarian system”.
National reconciliation is nonsense
I have published a detailed paper which is on the net “Why National Reconciliation in Sri Lanka is not possible”. The Government, past or present, has no interest in national reconciliation – a term used to bluff the international community.
Genocide of the Tamil people
I have dealt with this in detail in an article on the net. It is not only physical genocide but cultural, linguistic, religious, economic and structural genocide. All these terms have been defined and justified in my article.
The need to establish a vaid legal and justice system in the North and East
Court cases, especially when the accused is a member of the Armed Forces or Police in the North and East, are being transferred to the Sinhalese South. This makes it difficult, if not impossible, for the victim and witnesses (Tamils) to go to the new location which is miles away and where the proceedings could be in Sinhala – a language they do not understand. As a result, the case is usually dropped and the culprit gets away with no conviction.
This is unacceptable. Court cases that come up for hearing in the Tamil North and East must be heard in Courts in that area.
Chaos in Jaffna
It is not widely appreciated by the outside world that the social situation in Jaffna is chaotic.
Drugs and alcohol
Drugs are being brought by the Navy from Kerala in South India and sold in Jaffna. Illicit drugs are freely available and sold even to school-going teenagers, some as young as 11 years. The increased use of drugs has increased the crime rate massively. Drug users commit murder, rape and all sorts of crimes. Drug dealers are openly selling them. They are also being sold in villages, creating huge issues for the community.
There has been a marked increase in domestic violence after the end of the armed conflict. Drugs, alcohol, the husband being unemployed and not earning any money, the husband believing that his wife is having an affair (largely untrue), are some of the causes. There are even more serious issues which I will not deal with until I am able to verify them.
Women tolerate this violence for the sake of the children and they do not want to lose the respect of the community.
Women rarely report these cases to the Police for fear that there will be no action. When the situation becomes critical and they cannot bear the physical violence, they seek help from NGOs (Non-government Organisations) but there are too few and are poorly resourced.
The Police are 95% Sinhalese and do not know Tamil. This language problem means that many cases go unreported or if a case is reported, the process is long and drawn out and often ineffective.
Often the Police just tell people to come back because they do not have a translator. The message finally gets through that it is an exercise in futility.
Corrupt Police and Armed Forces
The Police and Armed Forces are corrupt. The Sri Lankan Police are reported to be the most corrupt in the world.
The Police, Army and Navy are involved with in the drug problem plaguing Jaffna. As such they are not trustworthy particularly if the criminal act is drug related and involves the Armed Forces and Police.
Some of this is dealt with in my book on Sexual Violence of Tamils which I have referred to earlier.
Women-headed families (WHF)
There are 69,000 women-headed families in the Northern Province of whom 34,000 are in Jaffna.
A great deal of money is wasted by the government building houses that are of little use. If this money is given to families, they could build larger and far more useful homes for far less money.
Many of these women do hard labour to support their families. Some of their children also work from an early age to support the family. Children having to work have an adverse effect on school work.
The definition of women-headed families (those who have lost their husbands during the war) is too restricted. There are many who are unmarried women with children, divorced women with children, and women with alcoholic or unemployed husbands who do not work. However, they are not officially recognised as needing help.