By Michael Roberts –
Continuing with my presentation of “Motifs” from within Benjamin Bavinck’s diaries, this collection depicts the sentiments of moderate Tamils who were caught in between the main protagonists. Since Bavinck’s political leanings were firmly within this mould, the entries are extensive. This post, therefore, gives readers a sense of the difficulties faced by the Tamil civilians within the Jaffna Peninsula (a map is tacked on to aid the readers). It also reminds every one of the unfolding political scenario from the lead-up to the 1994 Presidential Election, the killing of Gamini Dissanayake, the peace talks of early 1994 and the LTTE’s demolition of that process to the SL Army’s invasion of the Peninsula in mid-1995 and the exodus of most Jaffna peoples to the western section and/or the Vanni …..and a whole series of fluctuating events thereafter.
Note that Bavinck did not pen his entries day in, day out. An entry sometimes summarizes events in the days preceding. Again, he was out of the island on business or home-visits on several occasions — so there are temporal gaps in the historical data.
Several of the entries reproduced here are pertinent to the two items from the diaries presented earlier – listed as [a] and [b] below — and will also be relevant to the other topics I will be inserting. Needless to say, and as the title indicates, this particular collection is a continuation of the theme “Sandwiched Inbetween” extracted from Volume One of his diaries (item [c] in list below). It is also in several ways a testament to the thinking and work of the UTHR circle.
Bavinck’s diary entries are written intermittently, Note that he was residing at Puttur from mid-1994- September 1995; Atchuvely from then till July 1996; Puttur again from June 1996 till August 1999; Maruthanarmadam from thence till he left the island in September 2004. Note, however, that there were spells when he left the island on pastoral business or on furlough.
I have also embellished the entries by assigning weight through highlighting: RED marks particularly significant entries documenting the Motif highlighted in this title, people s ensnared between two forces; while PURPLE indicates personal evaluations that are especially significant and/or profound.
[a] Bavinck’s Testimony
[b] Personal Stance
[c] Sandwiched In-Between
[d] Bavinck Diaries – III : The Tamil Intelligentsia for the LTTE
13th June 1994
…. Yesterday I happened to meet my friend Daya again. He stressed the point that the people in Jaffna have internalised the restrictions on freedom of expression, which obviates practically all external show of force by the Tigers and their police. [p. 14]
19th June 1994, Jaffna
Recently I met two Roman Catholic priests whom I know very well. In our conversation I asked them whether the church didn’t have the responsibility to address those in power and if necessary, criticise their actions. They didn’t react defensively but admitted that this was indeed the duty of the church. Still I could sense in the course of the discussion that this was a difficult topic. One of them, Fr. Emmanuel, had written a brochure in which he states that the church should practise a prophetic theology which implies that it will act in solidarity with the oppressed. In his brochure he doesn’t go so far as to conclude that the church should support the Tigers and he leaves the possibility open for a solution in which Tamils will be able to live in unity with the Sinhalese while maintaining their self-respect. [p. 15]
The other priest told me that they do not approve of everything the Tigers do, but then he asked: “What is the alternative which we have?” and in that way expressed the Tamil dilemma.
Still I cannot but think that influenced by Tamil nationalism they tend to make the mistake of too easily glossing over the mistakes and failings of ‘the boys’ by judging these as separate events. They do not carry out a deeper analysis of the basic character of this movement, of its goals, the means used to achieve these goals and what this means for the freedom or oppression of the Tamil people in the future.
13th August 1994, Puttur
Rev. Karunairaj asked me to lead a Bible study in our staff meeting related to the impending elections. For this I selected a passage where the prophet Jeremiah admonishes the Jewish exiles in Babel: “Seek the peace of the city where I have brought you as exiles. For in its peace your peace is contained.” I argued that peace for the Sinhala people meant the absence of fear and a growing self-confidence. But this is only possible if real leaders will emerge among them. Tamils should support the growth of superior leadership among the Sinhalese. Peace for the Tamils is contained in this peace for the Sinhalese.
I was happy that my colleagues seemed to agree with this and later I saw an article by Rajan Hoole in Counterpoint magazine where he also supports positive interaction between the Sinhalese and Tamils. 
16th August 1994, Jaffna
Election Day. I was in Jaffna with my friend Rajasingam. I was very depressed because in our Tamil papers it was reported that all English Sunday papers in Colombo predicted a UNP victory. It shocked me because I had come to believe that a victory for Chandrika was more or less certain.
It made me realise how much I hate this bunch of people who form the present government and who seem only interested in their own well-being. The president does nothing but play on the fears and weaknesses of the Sinhalese in an irresponsible way: “If you give me a big majority I will finish off the Tigers in 14 days.”
I realised that if the UNP really wins, attacks in the north may start within a few weeks. Speaking with my friend Rajasingam, one realises how tired the people here are after four years of misery. “Whoever wins letthem give us electricity for a change. This cannot go on endlessly,” he said. [p. 28]
10th November 1994, Jaffna
Chandrika won! And she won in such an overwhelming way as nobody, not even she herself, could have expected. She gained nearly two million more votes than Sirima. The percentages were 62.3 for her and 37 for her opponent. She won in all provinces and electoral districts except Mahiyangana, Sirima’s birthplace. Her percentages in the army-controlled parts of the north and east lie between 80 and 95%. The Uthayan paper had a headline with letters 10cms high. For us in Jaffna it is of course of tremendous importance that Chandrika got the votes of the majority of the Sinhala voters, even though she was continually telling people that she would start talking to the Tigers; and that while Gamini was blown up and one ship after the other sunk by the Tigers. It shows a great amount of maturity on the part of the Sinhala voters and also indicates their sincere thirst for peace. Even for the UNP this result may actually be a blessing in disguise, because it will mean the end of the Gamini faction, so that Ranil now can start building up the party from the bottom up. [p. 47]
13th November 1994, Puttur
It is amazing but now, suddenly, the Sunday Times and the Sunday Island papers from Colombo can be bought all over Jaffna, even in Puttur. In Sunday Times of one week ago, Rajan Hoole wrote an excellent article in which he concludes that there has been a radical shift in the thinking of the ordinary Sinhala people regarding the ethnic question. According to him the time has come for the Tamils to no longer remain silent, while putting all the blame on the Sinhala people, but instead to come forward and openly evaluate the Tamil role in this conflict critically. In another article, Jehan Perera also says that after the terrible events of 1983, the Sinhala people seem to have done their homework, but the Tamils have been silent right throughout. These elections are clearly seen as a watershed moment in the relations between the two communities. [pp. 47-48]
…… When I had the discussion with Rev. Karunairaj about my staying on, he also said that he expected that in a few months we would face very difficult times in Jaffna. This kind of pessimism is widespread in Jaffna, despite the hopeful recent developments like Chandrika’s election as president. It is rooted in the deep conviction that ultimately the Tigers will upset the peace process and show themselves as being utterly uncontrollable and irresponsible. [pp. 48-49]
17th November 1994, Jaffna – Colombo
It was very nice to see Ranji, the warden of the YWCA Guesthouse, and the servants again. I was also able to meet a number of friends. Among them were Rajan and Sri. When I told Rajan to be careful after his frank articles in the press, he said that the concern to stay alive could not have the last word. Nevertheless I heard that he and Sri are more careful. I also met another Tamil friend, who speaks fluent Sinhala and is busy with many speaking assignments in the villages in the south. He said he meets great openness there and a desire to know what the experiences have been of the Tamils. A readiness to look critically at the Sinhala role in the past is very much present. [p. 49]
21st January 1995, Colombo – Jaffna Town
The rest of the time in Colombo was spent on visiting a number of friends. I also visited Rajan Hoole and Sritharan, and their families. I have great admiration for them because they, and particularly Rajan, continue to criticise the Tigers publicly in articles in the papers and in magazines. Both of them are convinced that this time of relaxation is extremely dangerous for them as well as for other opponents and critics of the Tigers. They are therefore very careful and will shift their place of residence if the slightest doubt about its security arises. I often worry about them.
3rd March, 1995
I met my friend Daya a few days ago and he confirmed that the delegates from the south had not forgotten democracy and human rights. He also told me that torture by the Tigers was less widespread now. He still thought that the Tigers really wanted peace and that they had reached a psychological stage of wanting to settle. With regard to the question of Pooneryn army camp he thought that the Tigers were asking too much, but wondered whether the camp had any use for the government, and whether the government should not have already given up the camp unilaterally. By doing that a free stream of persons and goods would have been stimulated to break through, which bring about a liberalisation of Jaffna. Ultimately, the question is whether a renewed outbreak of hostilities has actually become impossible because of this period of ceasefire combined with Chandrika’s election and the popular peace movement in the south. But then, how is the beast going to be tamed? [p. 65]
2nd April, 1995, Puttur
This week I was also present at the commemoration of S.J.V. Chelvanayagam, the old Tamil leader of the Federal party. It was striking that some of the speakers said that Chelva had supported the ideal of Eelam before his death. Did he really identify himself with this? Besides people did not mention his insistence on the moral dimension of the struggle for more autonomy. I think that he would have been deeply shocked by some of the things which ‘the boys’ have done. I really doubt whether he would not have been so critical that he would have been murdered too.
5th April, 1995, Puttur
Fr. Jeyaseelan had some other disturbing reports. One was about the Tigers trying to recruit clergy to be their advocates on the international scene. Fr. Jeyaseelan was of the opinion that there is a hardening of the Tiger attitude with regard to the freedom of expression. All this just makes it clear that the talks of the government and the Tigers are just one side of the matter. The second side is democratisation and humanization of the Tamil society. The question is whether the peace process will result in opening up the north and lead automatically to more democratization and humanisation, or will it lead to a frenzied defence by the Tigers of their autocratic rule. [p. 70]
20th April, 1995, Puttur
The Tigers attacked on 19th April. I was wrong. I had always thought that the Tigers would give more weight to the opinion of their own Tamil people and take into consideration international opinion; apparently that is not so. Last night, one hour after the ultimatum expired, they sank two navy vessels in the harbour of Trincomalee by using suicide divers. The attack resulted in 12 navy people killed and 15 wounded, then of course also the four Tigers, two boys and two girls. The same morning here in the papers the text of a letter was published written by Prabhakaran to President Chandrika, in which the Tigers announced that they are terminating the ceasefire and also withdrawing from all peace talks. The reason for this was that the government had not satisfied their demands and apparently had not taken the ultimatum seriously. I must confess, now that I have been witnessing this whole process at close quarters, I am amazed at the flimsiness of their arguments and their total indifference to all the suffering that this unilateral break can have for the Tamil citizens. All this happens while day after day they are harping on about the daily needs of the Tamil people. Appalling! Why not practice a little patience?
Reactions from Tamil people which I heard were extremely negative about the breaking down of the ceasefire. Some people also found fault with the fact that a period of 72 hours which had to be observed in terminating the ceasefire, had not been observed. The letter to Chandrika was handed over to ICRC only on the 18th night, six hours before the attacks started. Apparently, the Tigers are speculating that the government will be provoked by their actions to such an extent that it will react militarily, which would mean the beginning of a new round of army atrocities, which again would drive the Tamils behind the Tigers. [pp. 73-74]
3rd May, 1995, Colombo
The YWCA has decided not to accept any Tamils anymore as guests in their guesthouse because of intensified checking of Tamils by police in Colombo. ….
Yesterday, I met my old friend, Fr. James. He has always supported the Tigers, but now, the moment we met he started to fulminate against them. “Why did they immediately attack? If they didn’t like the way the peace talks went, they could have withdrawn and left it like that. Those donkeys!” [p. 78]
11th May 1995, Colombo
I met a number of peace activists and they want to go on and press the government to come with proposals for a political solution and also stress the point that there is a difference between the Tigers and the Tamils, so that innocent Tamil civilians should not suffer for Tiger atrocities.
The TULF declared that they would be prepared to accept the LTTE as the government of the North-East Province. This again raises the question of an interim period of five years, in which all power in the northeast will be handed over to the LTTE without raising any questions about democracy and human rights. But that is really frightening. How could democracy and human rights suddenly start functioning again after a period of five years? [p. 79]
8th June 1995, Puttur
Yesterday I visited Uduvil and Maruthanamadam. In conversations with my friends there I discovered that it was difficult to talk with them about politics. They were very critical of Chandrika and some even thought that she had been deceptive. According to them, the peace talks hadn’t produced any benefits for the Tamils. But they agreed that the declaration of war by the Tigers, was a mistake. I also had a long discussion with my friend Daya. He is a lecturer at the university. In a Sinhala magazine, there is an account of a lecture which he gave at a conference in London, in which he reports about the psychological damage experienced by some Tiger boys because of their violent past. It was refreshing to talk with him because of his totally impartial attitude. He thought that the peace movement in the south had not died and that it also had influenced the restrained reaction of the army and the population in the south up till now. He also mentioned some good things the Tigers had done, like for instance, inspiring young people to engage themselves in rehabilitation and development and the speedy way in which the Tiger courts had administered justice. [p. 90]
12th July, 1995, Puttur
Many people seem to have left Jaffna by way of Kilali to go to the Vanni. The Tigers too are very busy in transporting food stocks and other supplies to the Vanni. They up till now have not offered much resistance and seem to be shocked by this offensive which has the name ‘Leap Forward.’ Many people here would welcome the army if only their coming would not be accompanied by this terrible shelling. I was surprised to hear people say this openly here and there. I also heard that the army is taking great care in their interaction with the people who have stayed back in the areas captured by them. This is of course favourable. Still the fear of the army is so deep seated that a mere rumour that soldiers had been seen in Atchuvely caused thousands of people to flee in the night. They streamed passed our compound in the light of the full moon. On our verandah too, a number of people are sleeping. [p. 97]
13th July 1995
Tonight there was news about Jaffna on all radio stations. Colombo confirmed that they had captured Vaddukoddai and Chankanai in this offensive called ‘Leap Forward’. Radio Netherlands and the BBC spoke about the ICRC reporting 150,000 to 200,000 displaced persons. That is certainly true, but one has to add a ‘but.’ The attack by the army would never have led to such panicked reactions if the Tigers had not inflamed the fear of the army systematically. It is really terrible to see how a small rumour about the presence of some soldiers in Atchuvely can cause thousands to flee. So much so that a woman with a baby who had found a quiet place on our back verandah still felt that she was not secure and that she would rather go south in the night.
Of course the army can also be blamed for its own horrible reputation, because of all the cruel actions that they have committed in the east and on the islands. The air force with its shamefully inaccurate bombings has also aggravated this fear considerably. And of course we must also take into account that in the recent offensive the indiscriminate firing of guns and mortars has certainly contributed to the flight of so many people.
Still that is not the main cause. The panic has a deeper origin. This deep fear of the Sinhala armed forces sees them as the incarnation of the devil. The Tigers of course also urge or sometimes even compel the people to flee. It is in their interest that the people runaway because of the value of their propaganda. One can notice it already in the international media. [p. 98]
13th July, 1995
It is very striking that in conversations with people here more than once I heard people say that they would be exterminated as Tamils. My friend Rajan told me that he was reading the memoirs about the life of Rev. Visser’t Hooft 1 and that he had been struck by parallels with our situation when it speaks about the Second World War, “There too, the outside world simply didn’t want to know what was happening. It is the same with us now. We are perishing without anybody intervening.” That idea of “We have been abandoned by everybody,” one encounters more often among Tamils. [p. 100]
5th August 1995, Puttur
Yesterday, the 4th of August, again there was some army activity. The army ventured out of Alaveddy in the direction of Chunnakam and a bit more to the south towards Uduvil. I happened to be in that neighbourhood. In Manipay, I found the Bishop Ambalavanar and his wife in a two-storey building of the hospital, where they had gone for shelter, because three shells had exploded at the junction a few moments earlier. I spoke to him about Fr. Jeyaseelan’s intention to talk to the Tigers on their deification of their leader Prabhakaran, whereby recruits are now forced to swear an oath of allegiance to him with mind, body and soul. Fr. Jeyaseelan is also worried about the increasing glorification of death. In regards to themselves they praise suicide and when encountering the enemy they kill rather than take prisoners. I am happy to say that Bishop Ambalavanar was quite willing to discuss this matter further with Fr. Jeyaseelan. [p. 109]
In Uduvil I went for a birthday party to the house of my friend Daya and his wife, Malar. While I was sitting there the racket of gunfire north of the road was coming closer and even the rattle of machine guns and AK- 47s could be heard. We continued talking for a little, sitting on the front verandah, but the sounds of war were coming closer and refugees began to appear on the road, streaming from a lane opposite their house. Daya’s wife was becoming very restless, and I myself was afraid that I would not be able to get away if I waited any longer. I had to go back to Puttur, therefore I left them at 2.30 p.m., but returned a few minutes later to pick up something I had forgotten. In the meantime, Daya and Malar had decided to flee and were packing frantically. With sad feelings, I left them a second time. It was all out war north of the road. But 300m further down the road the situation was already better.
I met a student of the seminary which was also close by, who told me that all the students had left, but the principal had stayed. [p. 109]
10th August, 1995, Puttur
I also saw Daya who told me that they had not fled that day after all, but simply had continued the birthday party. He also pointed out to me a letter to the editor of The Sunday Times in which somebody in Jaffna took Rajan Hoole to task because of his criticising the Tigers. According to this correspondent, in Jaffna everything was being done so democratically and orderly. Daya reminded me of a remark by Sartre that in an absurd situation a normal person is a madman. I also had to think in the same way when I heard that the Tigers had written a letter to President Clinton in the USA offering their condolences for the Oklahoma bombing. Some things are simply too absurd for words! [p. 111]
On the 31st day after the death of Mrs. Ratnavel, we had the usual ceremony, where I could meet a number of people, including Daya. He told me that he had met a leading pastor who had called Chandrika an incarnation of the devil, because she drank and misbehaved in other ways. Wonderful to maintain such moral judgment with regard to the president by someone who refuses to apply any moral judgement regarding his own liberation movement. I sat by the side of my friend Manibban who immediately began by saying that the government had made up its mind to eradicate the Tamils. He did not have one hopeful thought left and he felt that the Tigers were justified in their actions. I don’t want to disregard this deep fear in the Tamil soul. It is the consequence of 40 years of misrule by Sinhala governments and the propaganda of the Tigers. There is some justification for it, but if it makes people blind to any hopeful development, and drives them to go behind the Tigers, with no criticism, it can make one feel extremely sad. In a depressed state of mind I returned from this trip. [p. 112]
28th August, 1995, Puttur
Today I went for a visit to Vaddukoddai. I first visited Bishop Jebanesan. He was really disturbed about the turn of events. More and more, leading figures in the churches were convinced that for them and their children, there is no longer a future here. They therefore are doing everything possible to leave this place for Colombo or even abroad. The young people, who remain, often lack experience. He mentioned the example of a young pastor, who out of sheer ignorance, had buried somebody in thewrong cemetery. By exhuming the corpse and a second burial, the situation was remedied. There had been nobody left in that church who knew the rules for burial. The bishop was very much depressed. He agreed that the cause of all this misery lay in the ill-advised decision to start the war again in April. Because of that, in the south, the Sinhala peace movement had also been severely affected. Sinhala chauvinism had got a new lease of life. [p. 115-16]
9th September, 1995, Puttur
The discussion about the devolution proposals is continuing in the south. From the Sunday papers, one gets the impression that a democratic exchange of ideas is taking place, in a fashion we didn’t have earlier in Sri Lanka. On the one hand there is strong opposition to the proposals, also from the Buddhist clergy. But there are very positive voices too. It is a pity that we do not share in that debate here at all. For most of the Tamils this discussion is too far away. And then the Tamil papers only reproduce the negative voices in the south in order to show that it will all come to nothing. One barely hears any discussion about the contents of the devolution proposals. This is really very sad. Here is the last and best chance for a peaceful solution. The people who are affected the most are not able or permitted to join the dialogue. Maybe if the government would get the air force to drop a million leaflets or so containing these constitutional proposals, some involvement by the people here would result. But that will not happen. [pp. 117-18]
29th October, 1995, Atchuvely
On the radio, a real propaganda battle is underway in which Colombo is repeating all the time that Prabhakaran with many Tiger leaders has left Jaffna, while taking all the money and gold. The radio appeals to all Jaffna citizens to cooperate with the army. But that is easier said than done, because most of the citizens have been forced to flee because of all the shelling. What is the vision of the government regarding the end game? How can these hundred thousands of displaced persons come back into the army-controlled areas? Do they think that at a certain moment, Tiger control over the Tamil population will just breakdown so that the people can come back? [p. 144]
1st November, 1995, Atchuvely
It is evening and heavy fighting is taking place, most probably near Neerveli and Kopay. The guns and mortars boom, so that here the glass windows are tinkling and the sky is lit up by a series of flares to the southwest. Because the wind has suddenly turned to the south-west we hear everything again as if it is close by. Reports from Jaffna by the ICRC speak about 100,000 displaced people fleeing towards Chavakachcheri. The Tigers are asking the people to flee. Are they planning to wage a big battle for the city, which will convert it into a heap of rubble? But still there are thousands of people who remain in town in the ICRC safety zone around the hospital.
Anyhow, these are traumatic days for the Jaffna Tamils. It has never been as bad as this, not even in the days of the Indian Peacekeeping Forces (IPKF). But they have to thank the Tigers for this because they broke off the peace negotiations and opted for starting the war again on the 19th of April. The people here hope that the army will take Jaffna quickly and that then all this misery will be past. One cannot notice any trace of nationalistic feelings or of sympathy for the Tigers. [p. 146]
2nd November, 1995, Atchuvely
Tonight the radio reported that the World Council of Churches had asked for mediation by third countries like Norway. My first reaction is to be against this. Such an initiative again leads to negotiations between the government on the one hand and the LTTE on the other. Why should the LTTE again be legitimised in this way as the only representative of the Tamil people after everything that has happened after the 19th of April? There must be other ways in which the suffering of the Tamil people can be reduced as much as possible. At least if the LTTE makes that possible and doesn’t aggravate the situation by inciting everybody to flee. No, this time the LTTE should not be able to escape as easily as they did during the time of President Premadasa. They deserve to feel the pinch as an organisation, otherwise, after a few months, a year or a few years, everything will start all over again.
The army has captured a three-storey complex which was underground in Neerveli in which there was a hospital and below it a command centre and a factory of Pasilan mortars. [p. 147]
8th November, 1995, Atchuvely
In a military sense, nothing much is happening. …..
But in Colombo there seems to be feverish activity, debating the situation of the displaced persons in Jaffna. The United Nations calls for relief aid to be provided but the government is annoyed by this suggestion. They have also removed GA Ponnambalam because they claim he has given wrong and exaggerated information about the refugees. In addition, government representatives are making tetchy statements about ICRC. But who can actually judge what is happening? The government certainly cannot. Isn’t it better, under these circumstances, to believe neutral agencies such as ICRC?
There are understandable appeals by Tamil parties for a ceasefire and new peace negotiations. I personally don’t believe in this because we are dealing with the untrustworthy Tigers who in a few months or years will start all over again and use the defenceless population of Jaffna as their hostages. I keep believing that it is better to push on now, but a little quickly please, before it becomes an emotional issue, for example in Tamil Nadu too. All the blame is again being put on the army. But about the culpability of the Tigers, the Tamil interest groups don’t speak one word. That really stinks. [p. 149]
10th November, 1995, Atchuvely
Tonight there was an interview on the radio with Neelan Thiruchelvam, the well-known Tamil lawyer and politician, who urged the government to accept a ceasefire, start new negotiations and accept international aid. All other Tamil parties make similar statements. I can understand where they are coming from, they have to do something. Even now they apparently cannot disavow the LTTE. They must advocate the cause of the Tamil civilians. But can they guarantee that the Tigers will not again double-cross everybody? No, they can’t. That is why I am still in favour of pushing on, but at the same time, making a real effort to spare the civilians. But of course for the government it is worrying that all Tamil parties (except EPDP) oppose continuation of the offensive. [p. 150]
20th November, 1995, Atchuvely
According to the BBC, this morning the Tigers appealed to all the citizens of the Jaffna peninsula to leave for the Vanni. It shows that they are continuing their policy of not allowing the Tamils to stay in areas occupied by the army. The whole of Jaffna therefore is being depopulated and in that way becomes a wasteland. Tamil Eelam therefore becomes a desolation, the logical end of a “liberation struggle” which recognises suicide as the highest ideal. But what a tragedy! [p. 154]
23rd November, 1995, Atchuvely
This afternoon Chandrika said on the radio that they don’t wage war against the Tamils, only against the Tigers. One would like to bring her here so that she could see these things. If looting every house and every institution in Jaffna, if all the shelling and the air force attacks on Vadamarachchi, which is jam-packed with refugees, doesn’t constitute war against Tamil civilians then what does? One becomes very much discouraged about the possibility of a real solution. [p. 155]
27th November, 1995, Atchuvely
It is Heroes’ Commemoration Day for the Tigers and Prabhakaran gave a radio message in which he says that he will not engage in peace talks as long as Jaffna is occupied by the army. According to him that occupation is only a temporary setback, which will be overcome. How long will the fate of the Tamil people have (sic) to remain in the hands of this maniac! [p. 158]
30th November, 1995, Atchuvely
According to the Tiger radio everyday 4,000 people cross the lagoon at Kilali and that there are now 250,000 people from Jaffna in the Vanni. The misery the Tigers are causing to their own people is tremendous; all in order to prevent these people from going back to the army-occupied areas. The Tigers insist that the people must remain under their control, and believe that with the government and with the army they will fall into complete ruin. What this means is that they should not be allowed to break free from this dogma of hatred and try to live with the government, because otherwise there is no future. No, the mad plan to bring 250,000 people to the Vanni, must be carried out. The Tamils are completely lost, their houses and possessions have been destroyed or looted and they themselves have become destitute refugees in the Vanni, which is totally inadequate to offer shelter to them. [p. 159]
The female doctor who is now staying with us saw this eviction of the Tamil people as a punishment for the fact that in 1990 they had allowed the Tigers to drive out the Muslims at a few hours notice, leaving their houses and most of their possessions. This is actually the first time that I heard a Tamil person voicing this concept of divine retribution so clearly. [pp. 159-60]
5th December, 1995, Atchuvely
This morning I went to the refugee camp and met a gentleman who formerly was a high official in the immigration department. He told me that in his house, everything had been stolen, and that his precious collection of books had been torn and thrown on the ground. Nevertheless, he said, there would be no salvation for the Tamils unless the Tigers were destroyed and, “wiped from the face of the earth.” I hope that more people like him can overlook all the looting by the army and not be totally alienated. In any case, in our surroundings, houses and buildings are generally not destroyed, only the possessions and the furniture are gone. I got a copy of The Sunday Times of 3rd December, in which there was a report that some inhabitants of Jaffna had reached Colombo. They had said that one of the ways in which the Tigers had forced them to leave Jaffna was by firing some mortar rounds at densely populated areas. [p. 162]
21st December, 1995, Atchuvely
I also heard that Fr. Jeyaseelan was staying at Bishop’s House, but we had no more time to go there and visit him. The whole day we had been in a hurry. On the return journey, we passed St. John’s College and the Kachcheri. It was very badly damaged by the Tiger bomb. I was very happy to have had this chance to see so much of Jaffna and the town. But what a terrible situation the Tamils have got into. They now are the hostages of the Tigers. How will things go in the coming months? With the disappearance of the population there is also no administration left, no infrastructure, no shops, no hospitals. Everything has to be built up again from scratch. [p. 165]
4th January, 1996
A few days ago there was a confrontation in Puttur East. The Tigers were surprised in an ambush and seven of them were killed. Today I heard about another incident which happened in Ilavalai and which in fact is much more disturbing. There, 7 a.m. the Tigers at carried out a raid and killed three soldiers and wounded an officer. Our colonel, who had just returned from Colombo was angry when he told me this. The Tigers, according to him, had been hiding close to the refugee camp and they had received food from the people in the camp. “This had happened after those people had received many benefits from the army,” he said, “but now that is finished, from now on they will get only basic rations.” This incident in my opinion anticipates what is going to happen in the future in Jaffna. The most frightening thing is that Tamil citizens again are helping the Tigers despite everything that has happened. Will it never stop? Can’t they see there will only be a future for the Tamils if they accept that ‘horrible army’ as an inevitability and no longer go on supporting the Tigers. On the other hand, but of course, fear may also have been the reason why they gave this assistance. [p. 167]
31st January, 1996, Atchuvely
Today there was news about a terrible suicide attack on the Central Bank in Colombo, in which at least 55 innocent people died and about 1,400 were wounded, and in which the Central Bank itself and other important buildings nearby, like the offices of Ceylinco and Air Lanka were badly damaged. Nobody has any doubt that it was the Tigers who did this. They are now descending more and more to the level of pure terrorism, in which the lives of innocent civilians do not matter at all. It would be good if the Tamils in Colombo and abroad would stop saying that it is only because of the Tigers that they hold their heads up high. By saying this, they disregard the moral dimension of the struggle completely. [pp. 173-74]
16th February, 1996, Atchuvely
South of Muthur in the Trinco District apparently another atrocity was committed by the army. After the Tigers had killed two soldiers, in the night, armed men had gone into a village and fired at random at people in their houses. The result was that 24 people were killed and 30 wounded. I was very glad to read in the paper today that a number of soldiers had been arrested and a commission of inquiry had been appointed. The general sense of the article is that indiscipline of the forces will not be tolerated. I do hope that this government with a good international reputation in the field of human rights will take strong action so that this kind of outrage by the army will soon be a thing of the past. In The Daily News this week I read two excellent articles written by Tamils, who were raising doubts about the role of the Tigers in building the future for the Tamil people because of the terrible mistakes they had made. It must be hoped that there will be more of these kinds of voices adding to Rajan Hoole’s efforts. But then it should be in the Tamil language. It is a pity that the Tamil resistance against the Tigers remains too much a movement of the intellectual elite. It is very commendable, but it is not enough. It should become a popular movement and Tamil should be the language being used. [pp.177-78]
25th March, 1996, Atchuvely
At the moment we are just caught in an intermediate phase in which the few Tamils in the army-controlled areas are finding themselves in an impasse. We are waiting and waiting for a change in the situation. Expansion of the area, but above all, contact with people, a population, so that life can become normal again. [p. 182]
27th April, 1996, Atchuvely
Yesterday afternoon Kilali fell into the hands of the army. Now the flight route to the Vanni for the ordinary people has definitely been closed and that is good.
Today I read an article in a Tamil newspaper in Colombo, in which the new operation into Thenmarachchy is deplored. “Will there never be an end to the violence of the army?” But what they don’t see and what has been revealed is that only by countering the violence of the Tigers with restrained violence, the ordinary Tamil man and woman get a chance to finally choose for themselves what they want. This newspaper has not been able to gauge the reality of the oppression in the north. Army offensive Riveresa 2 has made it possible for people to vote with their feet. Tonight the Dutch international radio said that the Tigers had asked for a ceasefire, monitored by a neutral country. When I told this to our group here, their reactions were: “Never! They will deceive everybody again. The attack must be carried on until the whole of Jaffna is under army rule.” Even after the meeting with the group, my warden came up to me again to tell me the same thing. Never accept a ceasefire now. There was also an article tonight in The Daily News where a Tamil expresses his feelings of shame because of the things which have been done during the last 12 years by the Tamil militant groups against the Sinhalese and even otherwise, as for example, taking part in smuggling drugs. [pp. 188-89]
28th April, 1996, Atchuvely
Today a university lecturer and his wife came visiting. They had arrived from Chavakachcheri and he confirmed that the people there lost every trace of confidence in the Tigers because of their experiences in the last few months. People are even hostile in their attitude towards Tigers they still see walking about. He thought that this movement really should be exterminated, which is a rather remarkable change of attitude for a Jaffna intellectual. They had been planning to make the lagoon crossing at Kilali, but that is no longer possible. They were fortunate in this because apparently many civilians had been killed by attacks of the air force on the boats. The government had declared a curfew and it was irresponsible of the Tigers to keep the boat service going in the daytime despite this curfew.
Apparently now, doctors, bank managers and all kinds of government servants are returning. The GA too, has come back to Jaffna. In the coming weeks, life will become much more normal again. Wonderful! There is hope again. The visitors were very appreciative of the attitude of the army. The soldiers were extremely friendly and helpful. Along the main routes which the displaced persons had to take to return, they kept buckets of drinking water at intervals of half a kilometre. Also when a Tiger suddenly threw a hand grenade, wounding a soldier, the other soldiers did not immediately open fire so as to not hurt the crowds of civilians standing nearby. [p. 189]
6th May 1996, Atchuvely
Two army officers told me yesterday that at Sarasalai, in the newly captured area, two soldiers had been shot dead by the Tigers. They were very upset by this and had to stop their daily exercise of jogging. Because of this attack and others like it they expected that the attitude of the army would change. Now soldiers were friendly towards Tamil civilians, but that would change into an attitude of distrust. These officers thought that most soldiers had understood that taking revenge indiscriminately on Tamil civilians was not right and actually only benefited the Tigers. On the other hand they felt that now the time had come for the Tamils to come out and declare their position by reporting Tigers or at least by giving information about them. I cannot help but agree with this. Some members of our group came to the same conclusion. The Tigers are no longer freedom fighters but terrorists who inspire deep fear in their own people.
I hear that the newcomers have already started discussing the fact that we stayed on in Puttur even though everybody else left. According to these critics the Tigers most surely will present us the bill for this disorderly behaviour. The situation in Vaddukoddai was different, they feel, because there several hundreds of people stayed back. From this kind of gossip one can again notice how the fear of the Tigers is keeping the Tamil people in its tight grip. It is horrible! Only after the power of these “freedom fighters” has been broken, the Tamil people will be free to really speak their own mind. The army should capture and occupy Vadamarachchi soon. [p. 191]
11th May 1996, Atchuvely
During the past week the army has allowed 40 journalists to visit Jaffna. I think that their encounter with the realities in Jaffna must have been an eye opener. I am curious to read the reports.
15th May 1996, Atchuvely
….. Everywhere one can see large-sized posters which declare that terrorism and peace don’t go together. If one chooses peace one has to report the terrorists. This will indeed be the important decision the Tamils will have to face in the coming months. Will they really turn their backs on “the boys”? Will the government and the army inspire sufficient confidence for this, so that they no longer will allow themselves to be governed by fear of Tiger retaliation? Will the treatment by the army and the rehabilitation effort of the government be such that the Tamils realise that cooperation is indeed the only way? In general people are angry about the looting by the army but this anger is overcome by the joy of having survived and being back again in one’s own house and compound. A fair system of compensation should be set up soon.
Fr. Jeyaseelan passed on to me a copy of the latest UTHR (J) report, called “The Exodus” about the mass departure of the Jaffna people in October 1995. The report argues that the community left in Jaffna no longer shows cohesion nor leadership. It has lost what it always valued most highly namely its infrastructure and its excellent educational institutions. It is also a community which is lacking in readiness to make moral choices. Overall, the report delivers a devastating indictment against the Tigers and their supporters among the Tamil intellectuals and clergy. It is a very painful but true story. Reading it I longed to see Rajan Hoole and Sritharan again and to share with them my experiences. [p. 193]
19th May 1996, Atchuvely
Everything is not yet completely quiet. Two days ago we could continuously see flares hanging in the sky to the east of us. Yesterday morning we heard loud explosions north-east of us. Today however it was quiet. Newspapers speak about a rousing welcome for the troops in Point Pedro and about the destruction of Tiger monuments and huge cut-outs of Tiger heroes by the public. Only one soldier was killed in this operation. [p. 197]
23rd May 1996, Atchuvely
Fr. Jeyaseelan told me that he had tried to gather trade union leaders and other leading citizens for a discussion, but that they had excused themselves, saying that the situation had not fully crystallised. In other words, the Tigers had not yet been fully marginalised.
The same opinion I heard when three CSI pastors came for a visit. They told me that in Valigamam West there are now already more than 100 Tigers, who had come in with the large crowds returning from Thenmarachchy. “In certain places like Chankanai we are now experiencing conditions comparable to those in the Eastern Province. We have to serve two masters. Why did the army allow all these people to pass without carefully checking them? Do they really think that the Tigers have already been defeated?” When I asked them whether the Tamil people to exert some influence on these boys they denied that this was possible. [p. 198]
12th June 1996, Puttur
Last week I met a few educated people who were extremely critical of the army. One of them even voiced the opinion that the severe drought which is now experienced in the south is a punishment by God for the Sinhalese, because of everything they have done to the Tamils. After everything which has happened I thought his sentiments were incredible. [p. 202]
24th June 1996, Puttur
Take also the attitude of the common Jaffna man towards the army. At the moment one cannot discern any fear. Often people are friendly. If an incident takes place like an army tractor hitting a landmine, one doesn’t hear now of retaliation by the army against Tamil civilians. Girls and women also do not give the impression of being scared of the soldiers. Today I saw a girl on a bicycle passing the checkpoint all alone, laughing at some remarks by the soldier. If this could only continue in this fashion this cohabitation of thousands of Sinhala boys with the Tamil population in Jaffna could have a beneficial effect on the attitudes of both ethnic groups. [ p. 203]
2nd July 1996, Puttur
Today I met my old student, Bala, who had returned with many thousands of people from Thenmarachchi where they had been forced to go by the Tigers in October 1995. When I met him he was taking care of a house in Jaffna town, owned by a mutual friend, Rajasingam, who is still in Colombo. Sitting on the front verandah, while drinking tea, he recounted his experiences in Chavakachcheri. The deprivation and hardships had been many. Sleeping in a small cadjan hut, drinking dirty water, suffering from a lack of latrines and a shortage of food, etcetera. Above all the feeling that this miserable condition would never end; and then suddenly the army offensive Riviresa 2, invading this dismal zone and causing a completely unexpected, yes, miraculous reversal. Liberation out of this misery and the return home. The pious Hindu he is, he thanked God from the bottom of his heart. But in one breath he went on to praise Chandrika Amma, who had brought all this about and who had also assured that now there was a Sri Lankan army which was disciplined and friendly, toward which one need not be afraid any more. Maybe his praise for our president was somewhat excessive but I nevertheless agree with him to a large extent. This completely changed attitude of the people here in the light of their experiences with the Tigers and now with an apparently changed army, offers hope. [pp. 204-05]
6th July 1996, Puttur
The situation has suddenly changed fundamentally. It began on Thursday, July 4th, when a suicide bomber blew herself up at the festive opening of the new shop of the Building Materials Corporation on Stanley Road in Jaffna. This ceremony was attended by the minister for rehabilitation, the town commander and many other authorities. The suicide bomber looking like a highly pregnant young woman, had stood in the front row of the audience. When the minister stepped out of the building she went up to him but was stopped by some policeman, at which she blew herself up. Fortunately the minister was only slightly wounded, but the town commander, a high police official and several others were killed. Immediately after the explosion the army troops providing security began firing wildly which killed and wounded a number of bystanders. All together it was a scene of slaughter, which changed the hospital in Jaffna into a place of blood and tears. Deaconess Jane went there to visit Prasanna’s father, who was among the wounded victims, and she came back with terrible stories off all the injuries she had seen. The bodies of those who had been killed came back from the army hospital in Palaly swathed in cotton bandages from top to toe. After a few months of peace and slowly blossoming hope the Tigers have once again plunged us into the old realm of violence, fear and death…. [p. 205]
…. These attacksagain caused several deaths amongst the civilian population. Fear has again raised its head. Can we still go on to the streets or travel in safety? Of course the consequence of these attacks is increased severity of army and police checking. Both army and police make it clear to the people that this is the result of the actions by their own “liberation movement”. Everybody accepts this and condemns this terror by the Tigers, which affects above all their own people. [p. 206]
11th July 1996, Puttur
Despite the suicide bomb attack life is going on, but security has been tightened. At “our” checkpoint everybody once again has to get down from the vehicles and walk a good distance before getting in again. Recently this had been no longer necessary. There is no tension however. The soldiers remain friendly. Generally people show understanding for these tightened controls. Widespread too is the feelings of disgust for the Tigers, who by their continuing acts of violence upset the chances for a return to normal conditions. Everybody is totally fed up with this. Because of the attack, the opening of the Building Materials Corporation shop has been postponed. The consequence is that materials like cement which are essential for reconstruction can now only be bought against black market prices. [p. 206]
14th July 1996, Puttur
After the unceasing sequence of incidents the mood among the people has turned completely against the Tigers. It is a pity though, that these basic feelings are not reflected in the least in the Tamil paper Uthayan, which does not voice any criticism about the Tigers but is continually blaming the government for all the deficiencies in Jaffna. [p. 208]
28th July 1996, Puttur
Yesterday I returned from Jaffna in a depressed mood. From Fr. Jeyaseelan I heard that a white van is now operating abducting people during the nights. At the hospital people are being admitted with internal injuries. From others I heard that the army at the checkpoints is now acting in a rude and impudent manner. Near the temple in Nallur I saw how a man was forced to empty big sacks of woodchips on the street so that the contents could be checked. All this is the consequence of the suicide bomb, the various incidents and above all the disaster at Mullaittivu.
Something else which depressed me was a remark by someone while we were waiting outside for a prayer meeting to begin. With a tinge of triumphalism in his voice this person told us that the number of soldiers killed at Mullaittivu is now estimated at 1,400 and that the army had now abandoned the camp. It seems to be true that the Tigers did not take any prisoners but killed all captives. Except for a handful of soldiers who managed to escape, everybody else is dead. The thought of this camp filled with corpses didn’t leave my mind. At the same time there was the sadness that Tamil people can be boastful about this, “Our boys have done it again!” No humane, moral judgement. And after everything which has happened, again this affinity with the Tigers. Sad and frightening! Fr. Jeyaseelan confirmed that here and there these feelings can be found, but according to him, this is not the general case. But if the army changes its friendly attitude and adopts a practice of systematic harassment at the checkpoints and the abduction of people at night this feeling of sympathy for the Tigers will again grow. Fr. Jeyaseelan wants to spread the idea of peace. I asked him whether one could still hope for peace with the Tigers. Is that realistic? I also told him that I was afraid that ultimately after a number of Mullaittivus and Dehiwalas the Sinhalese might reach a stage where they would say to the Tamils: “OK, folks. Here is the Northern Province. Kindly settle things with your own “liberation movement”. We refuse to sacrifice more human lives and money for this.”
Fr. Jeyaseelan’s reaction was: “Then the Jaffna people would finally have to accept responsibility for their future. The people here remain victims. It is always the others, the government, the army, the Tigers, who are responsible.” This is his persistent complaint. One hears again and again of people who leave for Colombo or who at least send their children there. Understandable and yet… [pp. 212-13]
15th October 1996, Puttur
The story of the murdered girl in Urumpirai today is covered extensively in the local papers. The body has been exhumed and sent to Colombo for forensic examination. This fact and the wide publicity given to the case are positive. It would be better still if the perpetrators would be punished inexorably and severely. Apparently Chandrika has notified all army contingents that those responsible for misbehaviour against civilians will be court-martialled.
The situation in Jaffna seems to be a bit quieter the last ten days. In this period however facts about executions by the LTTE have become known. Rajasingam saw a group Tigers in uniform at the exit of the passage into Valigamam, who had just then tied a man to a lamppost and had shot him dead. [p. 220]
26th October 1996, Vaddukoddai
In a conversation with one of my friends in Vaddukoddai he confirmed that there was general dissatisfaction among the people with the Tigers. He didn’t stop there however but went on raising the question why the Tamils had not chosen the solution the Chinese in Malaysia had chosen. Had it really been necessary to start the armed struggle taking into account the total upheaval of the Tamils which had been the consequence. Speaking in this fashion we came to the conclusion that the Vaddukoddai resolution of the TULF in 1976, opting for separation, if necessary by an armed struggle, had been a fatal mistake. [p. 220]
The Uthayan paper brings all the details of the horrible murder of Krishanti Kumarasamy, a girl from Chundikuli, who was raped and killed at a checkpoint at Navatkuli. Her mother, brother and a neighbour who had gone in search of her subsequently were also killed at the same checkpoint. The bodies have been found and seven soldiers and two policemen have been arrested to be arraigned before a civilian court. The same had happened earlier in the case of the girl from Urumpirai.
Horrible as these crimes are, it is still good to see how there is apparently complete freedom for the press to report these things even to the smallest details. This gives me some hope that the army is really serious when it says it will deal very sternly with the guilty army personnel. The fact that they are bringing the guilty soldiers before a civilian judge and not before a court-martial is interesting. Still we will have to wait and see what will happen in the end. [pp. 220-21]
10th November 1996, Puttur
These days there was a report in the papers that after a visit by the British High Commissioner to Jaffna and at the express request of the vice chancellor of the Jaffna University the British government had approached a number of Tamil doctors, living in the United Kingdom with the suggestion that they should go out and work here for periods of six to 12 months against very favourable financial conditions. Not one was prepared to come here!
Most probably most of these doctors will make their contributions to the LTTE and in this way help to keep this war to go on, a war of which the common Jaffna people are more and more becoming the victims…. [p. 222]
14th January 1997, Puttur
More news has come in about the Elephant Pass attack. Apparently the Tigers started their attack on Paranthan at the moment that the army was about to start their attack to the south out of Kilinochchi. This attackwas quickly halted and all troops redirected to face the Tiger attack on Paranthan and Elephant Pass. The losses of the army are much higher than earlier acknowledged, about 300 dead, while the losses of the Tigers must be about the same. The army also has lost a great amount of materials, which were blown up.
In the reactions by the people here one can sense a feeling of pride that “our boys” have done it again. On the other hand there is also the fear that the weakness of the army may allow these same “boys” to come back here. This possibility makes the people very uncertain and very cautious. [p. 228]
13th February 1997, Puttur
Fortunately the incident in Puttur East has drawn a lot of attention. In today’s papers also many reports were printed, particularly about the reactions of the Tamil parties, which now have representatives in Jaffna and about their meeting with the commander of the 51st division. Now it has become clear also that no hand grenade was thrown, but that a claymore mine had been fastened to the fence quite near to the little bridge, which had been detonated electrically. That’s why the soldier who had been walking on that side had been killed on the spot. People say that two more bodies of Tamils had been found in some wells.
I also heard that the common people in that area had sought contact with the Tigers asking them to stop their activities in densely populated areas. They had replied that they could in the prevailing circumstances do nothing else but continue. This reminded me of a story I had heard about a Western aid worker in the Eastern Province who had asked a Tiger leader why they were blowing up electric transformers, while this would hurt only the Tamil population since both the army and the government were having generators. The answer was that Tamils who chose to live under the authority of the government better be ready to accept the consequences. My staff members’ response when they heard this was: “Do the Tigers want us all to live in the jungle?” [p. 232]
29th April 1997, Puttur
On the 25th April a delegation of the Netherlands Embassy came to Jaffna. The GA asked me to be present at this occasion. We made a few visits and also called on the Roman Catholic Bishop Rt. Rev. Soundaranayagam, who was very frank in his observations. He ended by saying that the question of the 600 disappeared should be investigated. They should not be forgotten. Speaking with an official of the kachcheri in the car, which took me to Jaffna, I heard that most of these persons have disappeared in Thenmarachchy. If it is true it shows how important the calibre of the local commander is. With the good commanding officers in our area and in Point Pedro such crimes are not possible, at least not on this scale. [p. 238]
24th May 1997, Puttur
Today I heard from ICRC sources that everyday between 50 and 100 people from the Vanni come to Jaffna, wading through the lagoon. Fishing boats bring them past the deep parts, after which the people get down into the water and start walking toward Jaffna, which takes a few hours. The fishing boats in the meantime return to Pooneryn. According to those people neither the Tigers nor the boatmen ask for money. The people only rarely suffer from malaria, but many have respiratory diseases. [ p. 240]
6th June 1997, Puttur
An empty bus on its way to the depot in Kondavil was stopped by soldiers on a tractor and the driver was beaten up to such an extent that he had to be taken to hospital in an unconscious condition. The next morning all busdrivers of the Jaffna depot went on strike and this lasted till a discussion had taken place with the town commander, who promised that this kind of thing would not happen again. For me it is striking to notice the difference in the reaction of the bus drivers and conductors in this case compared to their reaction when in Ilavalai a driver was decapitated and killed by a bomb, placed by the Tigers. Then nothing but silence. Against the army one can voice protest, but when it is the Tigers, silence is the only way as always. [pp. 240-41]
20th June 1997, Puttur
An English lecturer at the university told me that he had asked the many girls, who really are doing their best, why they are so keen to learn English. Their answer had been that they wanted to go abroad to find marriage partners. Here in Jaffna the number of boys has decreased considerably after all these years of armed conflict. The boys have either been killed or they have escaped to foreign countries. Hearing this, one realizes how necessary it is to find a compromise solution to the conflict before this community is irreparably affected. The frightening fact is that the Tigers have never shown a real concern for this community and a willingness to search for a compromise solution. This same concern appears to be lacking with many of their supporters in Canada, Australia and other countries, who have nothing to lose by being radical and insisting on Eelam. On the contrary! For some of them a compromise solution would jeopardise their refugee status and in that way result in their being sent back here. [p. 242]
7th July Putttur, 1997
Near Mannar the Tigers this week attacked one of the three boats used for passenger traffic, set it on fire and abducted the crew. In the east they continually destroy telephone exchanges or transmission towers and electric transformers. Everything must be destroyed and life brought to a standstill. Fortunately the army in Jaffna is more dominant so that these things happen here only very rarely. Now and then we do hear some firing of mortars, guns or artillery. But we don’t know what it is all about. [p. 243]
10th August 1997, Puttur
The power of the Tigers is succinctly captured in a comment, ascribed to an editor of the Uthayan paper. When asked why he appeared to follow such a pro-Tiger policy he replied: “If I am irritating the army, I can talk with them. If however I irritate the Tigers then that is the end of me”. [p. 246]
11th September 1997, Puttur
I was very happy to read in Uthayan that Mr. Sivasithamparam, the TULF leader, had stated that he supported the devolution proposals of the government for the full 100%. It was particularly important that Uthayan brought this news, because that will influence the people here positively. [p. 248]
26th September 1997, Puttur
My friend Rajasingam told me that there are still people who think that the Tigers will come back. He had stopped some men who had been cutting trees in the next compound, which earlier had been occupied by the Tigers. He had told them that he wanted to buy that land. The men had replied: “But won’t you get in to trouble when the Tigers come back?”
Rajan Hoole wrote a personal article in The Observer, commemorating the death of Rajani Thiranagama. It is now the 8th anniversary of her death. It was a very good article. Tomorrow we will have a prayer meeting at the home of her parents to commemorate Rajani. [p. 249]
19th October 1997, Puttur
A few days ago I had a conversation with someone who has a connection with the editors of Uthayan. I asked him why Uthayan up till now had never published the text of the government proposals. He replied that they could not do that because the Tigers did not want it. “Anyhow, he said, “if the Tigers are against these proposals nothing will come out of it.” Here a feeling of complete helplessness was clear. Hopeless! [p. 250]
25th January 1998, Puttur
Today a suicide bomb attack was carried out on the holiest shrine of the Buddhist faith in Sri Lanka, the Dalada Maligawa (Temple of the tooth) in Kandy. Three suicide bombers drove a lorry laden with explosives to the entrance of the temple and there set off the explosion. Eight passers by as well as the three attackers were killed. The temple was badly damaged but the holy relic was unharmed. It looks pretty much like an attack by the Tigers. Their aim could be to inflame the Sinhalese to such an extent by this act of sacrilege that they would erupt in uncontrollable anger and attack Tamil civilians around them. A group of Sinhalese did indeed immediately carry out an attack on a Hindu cultural centre in Kandy, but they were driven away by the police using teargas. Chandrika, the president, immediately went to Kandy and on TV appealed to the Sinhala population to remain calm and not to indulge in senseless revenge actions. If that really has effect and a repeat of the shameful pogrom against the Tamils of July 1983 can be prevented, it would be a real achievement.
I believe this attack shows that the Tigers are desperate. It also means, fundamentally, that there is no use in talking to them. If they purposely commit an affront, which must hurt the Sinhalese to the depth of their being, it can only mean that they are not interested in any talks or negotiations with them. [p. 255]
1st February 1998, Puttur
In Uthayan a message was published by the Peace Committee here, addressed to the leading Buddhist monks at the temple in Kandy. In this message the committee which includes the Roman Catholic bishop, states that it regrets the bomb attack on the Dalada Maligawa. It also mentions the churches in Jaffna which have been destroyed like St. Peter’s or damaged like St. James’ Gurunagar by bombing. It therefore makes an appeal for earnest self-examination on all sides to discover how this violent society has come into being. I think that this is the first time that an official Tamil group in Jaffna has publicly expressed regret about an action by the Tigers. [p. 257]
13th March 1998, Puttur
Everyday at 5.30 p.m. an army lorry passes our compound to the south where it picks up the soldiers at the checkpoint there, both men and women, and then turns around and after about 10 minutes passes us again but now in a northerly direction towards Atchuvely. Today, a few minutes after the lorry had gone south we were shocked by a heavy explosion very nearby. We saw some smoke rising above the trees about 100 metres away. Later it became clear that the lorry had been hit by a claymore mine which had killed five soldiers, three boys and two girls. After some time we saw an ambulance going to the spot. It returned later with the wounded, followed by an open pick-up vehicle which carried the dead bodies of the victims. The road was closed for all traffic and the soldiers at the junction, without showing any anger, in a helpful manner showed the passers-by in which direction they should now proceed. [p. 259]
14th March 1998, Puttur
In the morning I cycled to the spot of the explosion. The lorry was still standing there. It had not caught fire. The mine had been hidden in some bushes about a metre distant from the road. Sand, stones and pieces of wood had been scattered across the road by the explosion. According to the paper the number of victims in the army is four soldiers killed and four wounded and there was also one lady who happened to pass at the moment of the explosion on her bicycle who was also killed. Talking about this incident with my staff I remarked that the Tigers had been lucky that at that time the road had not been full with school children returning from their tuition classes, because then they would not have been able to detonate the mine. That caused a lot of laughter. According to them the Tigers wouldn’t have cared one bit. They wanted to blow up an army lorry and children or not, they would have gone ahead and done it. Their comment creates a disturbing impression of how the common people see the Tigers. It is true that the presence of the lady on her bicycle, who was overtaken by the lorry and therefore found herself between the mine and the lorry, did not restrain the Tigers from detonating the mine. [p. 259]
5th May 1998, Colombo / Holland
It was wonderful also to meet my friends Daya Somasundaram and his wife Malar and the children, who have come back from a sabbatical in Cambodia and are now on their way to Jaffna. This is really great!
Apart from meeting a number of other friends, I must mention here only Neelan Thiruchelvam, the TULF MP and a very influential lawyer, who was actively involved in drawing up the devolution proposals of the Chandrika government. He is a very busy man, but I managed to get 15 minutes with him. In our conversation he criticised the UNP and particularly its leader Ranil Wickremasinghe for bringing about the failure of the devolution proposals, which according to him had been among the best in the world. I asked him for an opinion about the statement of MP Sivasithamparam, indicating his willingness to abdicate in favour of the LTTE. He agreed with me that this would not be possible, because as he said, “they strive after ideals which are totally different from ours.” I also met Radhika Coomarasamy [sic] at the same place and she added her own comment by saying that if she had to choose between a Sinhala democrat and a Tamil fascist she would choose the democrat. [p. 261]
13th September 1998, Colombo
On 11th September, we were shocked to get the news about an explosion in a building of the Jaffna Municipal Council in Nallur, at the time that an important meeting was taking place. The new mayor, Mr. Sivapalan, the town commander Brig. Mendis, some senior police officers and civilians like Mrs. Mallika Rajaratnam, the architect, were killed. In all, 13 people lost their lives while another 20 people were injured. The bomb apparently had been hidden above the ceiling. I phoned Rev. Karunairaj in the evening and he told me that there had fortunately been no revenge actions by the army against Jaffna civilians.
I think that after this new atrocity, only four months after the murder on Mrs. Yogeswaran, surely there is no sense in talking to the Tigers. This conclusion was drawn by some of the papers in Colombo. But the UNP leader Tyronne Fernando and the TULF MP Joseph Pararajasingam have an opposite viewpoint, namely that the bomb forms “a clear signal” that talks with the LTTE are very necessary [ p. 269]
27th December 1998, Puttur
Yesterday, during a memorial meeting for the Indian filmstar/politician MGR, a TULF member of the Municipal Council, Mathimugarajah, was killed by four shots to the back of his head. This morning in the Uthayan paper a spokesperson for the TULF declared that they did not know who had done this. “There are so many firearms around!” Sad to see the total impotence of the TULF when faced with the brutal violence of the LTTE.I am glad to see however, that it is not only the UTHR (J) which opposes the Tigers. Now D.B.S Jeyaraj and Mr. P. Rajanayagam, the editor of the Tamil Times, also more and more clearly criticise the Tigers. Recently the Tamil Times called upon the Tigers to allow the Muslims who they had evicted in 1990 to return to Jaffna once again, so that this shameful pagein the Tamil struggle could be turned. [p. 274]
31st December 1998, Puttur
The funeral of TULF muncipal councillor Mathimugarajah took place yesterday. I went there briefly to show my support. The number of people attending was disappointing, maybe only 100. Amazing was however that the vice chairman of the TULF, Mr. Anandasangaree, didn’t leave any doubt about the identity of the murderers. In his moving address he started a direct conversation with the Tigers, without however mentioning their name: “What was wrong in commemorating MGR? With the murders of Amirthalingam, Yogeswaran and so many others has your anger still not been satisfied?” and so on. At the end he said that if the Tigers wanted to take over and told the TULF that they’d better go, they were prepared to step down. About that part I was not too happy, but on the other hand to hear a responsible Tamil politician making the LTTE responsible for a murder is really progress. [ pp. 274-75]
6th January 1999, Puttur
Anandasangaree received two threatening phone calls after his speech at the funeral. He later gave a press conference in which he stated that the LTTE actually should protect the TULF.
I was happy that Bishop Soundaranayagam in his New Year message had appealed to the Tigers to practise moderation: “The people cannot bear any more. Don’t think only in military terms and be prepared for compromise.” It is very good to finally hear a leading figure say some of these things. [pp. 275-76]
17th April 1999, Puttur
The provincial elections have been conducted without too much commotion.
Bishop Jebanesan made a remark which provides food for thought about the situation of the Tamil population in Jaffna. He said that at the moment the number of girls is much higher than that of boys. More boys than girls have died in the fighting or have been arrested and most importantly many more boys than girls have left the island to go abroad. The chances for girls to find marriage partners in this place therefore are restricted. Many of them hope for a marriage with a Tamil young man in the West. [p. 279]
4th August 1999, Colombo
Today I returned to the island after a pleasant stay with my children and a visit to several friends in London.
A few days before my departure from Amsterdam we heard the awful news about the murder of Neelan Thiruchelvam on 28th July by a suicide bomber on Kinsey Road, close to his office. It is a terrible blow because he was one of the few capable Tamil politicians aiming at reconciliation and a peaceful, political solution to the ethnic conflict. He had given his all for such a solution by developing together with Prof. G. L. Peiris the plan for devolution of power and an amendment of the constitution.
The reactions from the Tamil side including the TULF, evaded the question who had committed the murder, even though it was so unmistakeably clear. On the Sinhala chauvinist side there was only indifference, while the peace movement again saw this atrocity as a clear signal that there should be talks with the LTTE. There were however a few good responses which showed that some people at last were beginning to recognize the impossible situation the Tamils are in and to see a similarity with the situation of the Sinhala community during the dark days of the JVP terror. Even worse were the reactions from certain Tamils in Canada, who applauded the murder because it had removed another traitor.
Today I went to the place of the murder and maintained a few moments of silence standing at that fateful spot, which was covered with flowers. [p. 281]
29th August, 1999, Maruthanarmadam
While in Colombo I also spent one evening with Rajan Hoole, Sritharan and their families. Rajan said that he found it very depressing that there were only so few Tamils who were willing to speak openly and honestly and give their opinion. “How can we influence Tamil opinion if there are so few voices taking part in the debate?” he asked. Both he and Sri are busy preparing a publication in memory of Rajani Thiranagama for the 10th anniversary of her violent death. They said that after bringing out that publication they would stop. I doubt very much that they really will be able to do that. It is true of course that the murder of Neelan has been a stark reminder to them of the precarious and dangerous situation they also find themselves in. Especially for their wives this is hard to bear. Nevertheless I think they will carry on because they simply can’t give up. [pp. 281-82]
20th September i999, Maruthanarmadam
Much worse was the second incident which took place on Saturday early morning when a group of Tigers carried out a surprise attack on a Sinhala village near Uhana in the Amparai District. They killed 52 men, women and children and injured 19 more by firing guns and cutting and stabbing with knives. This was a murderous orgy…. [p. 284]
24th September 1999, Maruthanarmadam
Today I had a good conversation with Fr. Jeyaseelan. We were speaking about the Uhana murders. Fr. Jeyaseelan, moved by these events, remarked: “All the time the good sides of the Tamil and his culture, language, music etcetera are being highlighted and praised by the lecturers in the university and by the churches, but we also must have the courage to face the dark side of the Tamils. Unless we face the dark side too, there will be no redemption.” I felt this was a very profound statement. He went on to say that in his sermons and speeches he was trying to spread this thought and in doing so he was always mentioning the names of Rajani, Rajan Hoole and Sritharan as shining examples of people, who do indeed have this courage to face the dark side. I was moved by this conversation and I decided that I would also try to follow this line at the seminary.
On 21st September, the day of the murder of Rajani, I was installed as the Deputy Principal of the seminary.….. [ p. 284]
22nd November 1999, Colombo
I saw a photograph in the paper of a smiling president shaking the hands of a former UNP MP who had been accused by the investigation commission of being guilty of flagrant corruption. Chandrika herself had installed this commission. Again politics! Where are the principles and the moral standards? It seems as if for her too power has become the one and all. I am deeply disappointed. But what alternative do we have? Ranil has said that he wants to hand over the north and east to the Tigers for a period of two years and seems to think that he can get those areas back afterwards. He apparently doesn’t know what he is talking about. But Chandrika is losing her lustre and that is very disturbing. [p. 286]
11th December 1999, Maruthanarmadam
I sincerely hope that the Tigers will not succeed in coming back here. That would be a disaster. I think this attack at this time also has a political connotation. The Tigers apparently want to contribute to a defeat of Chandrika in the elections. They clearly prefer Ranil above Chandrika, who they hate unreservedly. What actually is happening we don’t know. We always experience this frustrating uncertainty at decisive moments. [p. 288]
13th December 1999, Maruthanarmadam
After a night full of the sound of guns booming and shells blasting and of badly disturbed sleep I woke up in a deeply depressed mood because I felt that the Tigers might indeed come back and capture Jaffna. The fact that it is raining all the time adds to this atmosphere of gloom. [p. 288]
One can see more election posters now. Whether they can induce people to go and vote we will see next Tuesday. I think there will be many, like my colleague, who will not vote because he has lost every last ounce of confidence in the Sinhala political parties and their leaders. [p. 289]
22nd December 1999, Maruthanarmadam
Yesterday I cycled to Vaddukoddai to see the bishop. In the distance one could hear the rumbling sounds of the fighting at Elephant Pass, but here it was very quiet. It was very encouraging to see in places like Uduvil and Vaddukoddai many people going to vote without any disturbance. It was striking to see so many women. According to rumours in both these places a majority of people voted for Chandrika. Apparently in Jaffna town more people voted for Ranil. This was also the case in the Eastern Province, where it is said that Tigers even helped to take people to the voting booths in order to vote for UNP. The Tiger preference for Ranil this time was very pronounced. This differed from earlier elections when their attitude was negative with regard to both parties: “A plague on both your houses!” Then they also told Tamils not to vote. After seeing the peaceful scenes at Vaddukoddai and Uduvil I came home in a buoyant mood.
This morning the radio reported that Chandrika had won the elections by collecting 52% of the votes. Ranil obtained 41%. I hope that this will be enough of a majority for Chandrika to work more vigorously towards a solution to the ethnic conflict. [p. 290]
23rd December 1999, Maruthanarmadam
From the results it becomes clear that except in Jaffna, Tamils have voted for Ranil. This is true in Colombo, in the Eastern Province and also in the hill country. Even in Jaffna districts like Point Pedro people have voted for Ranil. I’m sure this largely must be due to the support of the Tigers for UNP and their abhorrence of Chandrika. [pp. 290-91]
24th December 1999, Maruthanarmadam
Today the situation has turned bad again. The whole day guns have continuously been rumbling in the east. Even now, at 9 p.m. this is continuing. But now we can also hear the rattle of machine guns. The Tigers claim to have captured Iyakachchi, which would cut off the road from Jaffna to Elephant Pass. But is it true?
Tonight I read in the Daily News a verbatim text of the speech with which Chandrika has accepted the presidency. It is a very emotional and special speech in which she states that by escaping death she has a special calling to eradicate hatred and terrorism and to bring peace. She also appealed to Ranil, who also received considerable support, to cooperate with her in this quest. I think it is truly remarkable that after the life-threatening experience of a few days ago, she is already able to come forward in such a passionate and visionary way.
She has now left for England for medical treatment to her eye. [p. 291]
31st December 1999, Maruthanarmadam
Yesterday it started again! On all sides the sounds of gunfire, while battle helicopters were flying overhead. We don’t know what is happening. The Tigers yesterday issued a statement in which they said that from the beginning of the armed struggle they had lost more than 14,000 cadres of whom about 9,000 during Chandrika’s reign. This year alone up to 20th November they had lost 1046 Tigers. Why did they publish these figures? Is it to make the point that after such heavy losses they cannot possibly compromise?
Chandrika has returned from the United Kingdom. It now seems that she has suffered lasting damage to one of her eyes. While in England, during an interview with the BBC, she said she was willing to talk to Prabkaharan but only if he was willing to give up Eelam and also his “devilish ways” and took part in the democratic process. I think that these are reasonable conditions but they also demonstrate how difficult it will be to get Prabakharan on board. [p. 292]
27th January 2000, Maruthanarmadam
Bishop Soundaranayagam came back from a visit to the Vanni. He gave a gloomy description of a completely militarised society where everybody, even school children, are forced to have training in the use of arms and where discussions about peace simply do not occur. He also said that a major Tiger attack was at hand. The bishop repeated his appeal to the Tigers to stop the shelling of the coastal areas in Jaffna. [p. 294]
6th March 2000, Maruthanarmadam
At the seminary my turn came to conduct morning prayers. In it I spoke about the need for a moral dimension to the struggle and I deplored the absence of moral values as exemplified by suicide bomb attacks. I felt that I had to do this if I wanted to continue at the seminary with integrity. [p. 296]
2nd April 2000, Maruthanarmadam
On early Monday morning of 27th March the Tigers launched a three pronged attack. ….. All these attacks took place before Friday. After that it has become much quieter. Is this an interlude before a new attack starts? We don’t know. But everyone is clearly confronted by the thought that the Tigers may come back here. Somepeople are already busy hoarding supplies of kerosene.
What do the people think? I feel that most of them would rather not have them come back. But the reasons for this dislike are rather mundane: the lack of electricity, telephone, bus transport, etcetera because on the other hand one can hear people comment that it would be good if they could once again live with self-respect without being subjected to the Sinhala army. Personally I think that under the Tigers too, people would not enjoy much self-respect, but most of the people don’t see it that way. And so we have reached a point which we one year ago couldn’t have imagined. The Tigers may be coming back!
Because of these unexpected attacks and sudden battles, many civilians have died.
3rd April 2000, Maruthanarmadam
Today a man I met expressed very clearly the feelings of despair and hopelessness among Tamils, caught as they are between two untrustworthy forces. He said: “The only solution is that a western nation takes over Sri Lanka again and governs it!” Such a statement proves the complete disillusionment people are suffering from. [p. 298]
13th April 2000, Maruthanarmadam
Yesterday a hitherto completely unknown group which calls itself the Association of Humanitarian Agencies has declared a total hartal as a protest against the fact that the army still doesn’t permit free movement of the people in Pallai. The day before that they surrounded the kachcheri and prevented the government servants working there, including the GA, to leave the place till 7.30 p.m. University students and certain Roman Catholic priests play an important role in these activities. One gets the impression that behind the scene the Tigers are pulling the strings. The army denies that they are keeping the people and Gen. Balagala has issued a statement to this effect. UNHCR people went to Kilali and after talking to the people there confirmed that they were not being prevented from leaving. [pp. 298-99]
22nd April 2000, Maruthanarmadam
News which reaches us all speaks of advances by the Tigers in the areas of Iyakachchi and Elephant Pass, but we don’t know specifics…
Generally one can notice that the people are hoping that the army will hold out and that the Tigers will not come back. But there are Tiger supporters too including some Roman Catholic and CSI priests.
It looks as if the coming weeks will be eventful! [p. 299]
23rd April 2000, Maruthanarmadam
Elephant Pass has fallen! At dawn on my way to the Easter service in the Ashram one of the boys told me the news. I did not immediately give credence to this, but it still spoiled the Easter service for me. Every time when I looked at the boys and girls around me in the Ashram chapel I had to think how the Tigers may try to win some of them over, recruit them and ultimately even turn them into canon fodder or suicide bombers.
……And what is going to happen now? Will the Tigers continue their advance? Does the army possess another line of defence? In the coming week we will learn these things. In the meantime we can only wait anxiously. [p 300]
27th April 2000, Maruthanarmadam
Everything is going on as usual and yet after the fall of Elephant Pass everything has changed. It looks a little as if the people are stunned. The confidence which still existed to some extent that the army would be able to keep the Tigers out, is now gone. I haven’t met anybody who was glad about the Tiger victory. The people now begin to reckon with the reality of a new period under the Tigers. But they are afraid that before the Tigers come the army will vent their frustration and anger on the Tamil civilians. We can indeed notice now already that at the checkpoints the checking is much stricter and that there is more frisking. Nevertheless I also see many soldiers who are talking with Tamil young men along the road. The most bizarre happenings were the cycle races for boys and later also for girls, which the army had organised in the context of Avurudhu, Sinhala New Year. These took place in Ramanathan College on Saturday 22nd April, while the Elephant Pass camp had fallen in the afternoon of the 20th and the survivors, parched with thirst, were still straggling back to the army lines. [p. 300]
Brig. Percy Fernando, the commanding officer, lost his life in the defeat of the Elephant Pass camp. He was an excellent officer, who had been of great help to us when disaster struck our elders’ home in Puttur in 1995.
Except for the university where I saw some victory graffiti on the walls, I have not seen any signs of celebration. Uthayan showed some enthusiasm, but it also printed the army bulletins. [pp. 300-01]
12th May 2000, Maruthanarmadam
Today there was an endless stream of refugees on the road from Urumpirai to Uduvil and Manipay. I see many tractors with mountains of household goods on the trailers. The Tigers have advised the people to go to Vaddukoddai, Manipay and Pandateruppu. The roads beyond Manipay seemed to be chock-a-block so that all traffic has come to a standstill.
In town the hospital is deserted. There are no patients, no nurses and no attendants. Only nine doctors have stayed at their posts, amongst whom also my friend Daya. The doctors want to stay and they also want to try with the help of ICRC to establish a safety zone round the hospital the way it was done in 1995.
When the curfew was lifted for a few hours to enable people to take care of their daily needs, chaotic scenes could be seen in the heart of town round the hospital. Traders tried to remove their stocks from the shops to take to a safer location, but soldiers tried to prevent this. All kind of people were cycling, walking, running this way and that way. “Bedlam”, Daya said. There was no leadership anywhere. Only Bishop Soundaranaygam took the initiative to ask the brigadier to extend the suspension of the curfew tomorrow from two to four hours. He also gave an interview to Uthayan in which he called on both parties to declare a ceasefire. [pp. 303-04]
13th May 2000, Maruthanarmadam
This afternoon I phoned the Anglican priest Rev. Nesakumar in Chundikuli, east of the town. …. Altogether there seem to be some grounds for a little optimism. But still I am asking myself; will the Tigers in their desire to plant the Tiger flag on the kachcheri start their final and decisive attack tonight? In four days it will be full moon and therefore unfavourable for a Tiger attack. [p. 305]
19th May 2000, Maruthanarmadam
Today again a curfew was in place so that I couldn’t go to town. There are reports about Tiger mortar shells having hit Palaly airport and the KKS harbour. At KKS one shell seems to have hit an electric generator, so that the supply of electricity to the peninsula will be affected. I am really amazed that the Tigers have been able to do this.
20th May 2000, Maruthanarmadam
Basing themselves on this achievement the Tigers have again called upon the army to lay down their arms, because allegedly their supply lines now have been cut off. The government has immediately rejected this appeal and Gen. Janaka Perera, speaking on TV, has said that he will throw the Tigers out of Jaffna again.
Today again was a dull day, because the curfew in town still has not been lifted.
The Uthayan paper today has been banned and their presses have been sealed. I think the paper went too far in their support of the Tigers, especially now that the state of emergency has been declared. Still it is a pity because closing down a newspaper is a very sensitive matter. Was there really no other way to make them tone down their writing?
Displaced people from various places in the east keeping moving along the roads toward the west.
Bishop Thomas has made an appeal to Chandrika to accept the offer of a ceasefire by the Tigers for purely humanitarian reasons. [p. 307]
31st May 2000, Maruthanarmadam
The Tigers have been pushed back. One piece of news is that the army has taken the bridge at Navatkuli. [p. 309]
1st June 2000, Maruthanarmadam
Refugees coming from Chavakacheri have brought news about the terrible destruction there and about the many deaths among civilians because of the heavy shelling. Rev. Suriyakumar, with his wounded leg, is still in Nunavil, a few kilometres from Chavakachcheri.
Daya told me that the Tigers had been shocked by the cool welcome they received from the people. After hearing all the stories about army atrocities they had expected that the Tamil civilians would be overjoyed to see them. They are therefore angry. The heavy artillery of the army too had been an unexpected upset.
There are already reports that in the areas which the Tigers have captured and where civilians are still found, they have started to recruit boys and girls. Their invitations to older people to move to the Vanni are being rejected. [p. 310]
7th June 2000, Maruthanarmadam
In Colombo another suicide bomb attack took place which killed Cabinet Minister Gooneratne and 20 others. I am feeling utterly disgusted with these obnoxious suicide bomb attacks. They are morally indefensible in every way! [p. 310]
10th June 2000, Maruthanarmadam
Yesterday the tumult of heavy fighting and the gunfire from Palaly were incessant. We thought it might be in the area of Chavakachcheri. Today this was confirmed by the sudden arrival of Rev. Suriyakumar and 40 others from Nunavil and Chavakachcheri. They had been holding out there with great difficulty but yesterday the gunfire and the shells had been so terrible that they could not stand it any longer. We were overjoyed at seeing them safe. Rev. Suriyakumar also told us that in that area many people have killed by the shells. [p. 310]
Talking a bit more with Rev. Suriyakumar I heard from him that from that part of Thenmarachchy many people had been transported by the Tigers to the Vanni. They went voluntarily and all facilities were accorded to them. The Tigers seem to tell the people that as long as the army remained in Jaffna it had no future, it would be destroyed. No, the Vanni; that is where Eelam is happening. That is the place to be! [pp. 310-11]
Our escapees however did not want to go to the Vanni, they wanted to remain on the peninsula. Most of the time they remained in bunkers they had dug or in other safe places in their homes. They left these only to prepare some food or to go to the lavatory. Those were the risky moments and some people had indeed been hit during these expeditions. Because there was no medical help at all, an injury very often became fatal. A man whose foot had been severed by a piece of a shrapnel bled to death. It had been a very anxious time!
The Tigers didn’t try to stop them when they wanted to leave, but only warned them of landmines…… [p. 311]
25th June 2000, Maruthanarmadam
In Colombo talks about a devolution plan between the government and opposition seem to have made considerable progress. This is good news, but I must admit that it hasn’t made much of an impression here. On the one hand we in Jaffna are so much concerned only about ourselves that what happens in Colombo seems far away. On the other hand there is also such a deep scepticism about the Sinhala political parties that people have more or less written them off. [p. 312]
3rd July 2000, Maruthanarmadam
Last week the Tigers attacked the cargo ship “Uhana” about 80 kms away from Point Pedro. A fierce sea battle followed in which a number of Tiger boats, among which two suicide boats, were sunk, but the “Uhana” also went under. According to the Tigers it was transporting weapons, but the government maintains that the ship was carrying materials for the population in Jaffna. This is confirmed by a story in Valampuri in which Jaffna traders complain about the loss of their cargo. Interesting was that my students, who often show some support for the Tigers, now told me that the Tigers because of actions like these would internationally get a more negative reputation. “Something like the Taliban,” they said. [p. 312]
17th July 2000, To Colombo
According to unconfirmed reports the army has reached the far side of the bridge near Navatkuli. This would mean that the Tigers have now been pushed back beyond the lagoon.
I hear that the Tigers are indignant about the attitude of the Jaffna people. After they took Chavakachcheri for example no less than 13,000 people fled to government-controlled areas.
Now I am on my way to Colombo on the ICRC ship. I am going to France to attend the wedding of my daughter. [p. 314]
12th August 2000, Jaffna
I arrived again in Colombo on 2nd August.
Now, in Jaffna at the seminary, I am picking up the thread of this diary. During my stay in Colombo, from the 2nd– 8th very important developments took place. In an effort to solve the ethnic conflict Chandrika had submitted the proposals for changes to the constitution to parliament, after having discussed these with the UNP leadership.
She herself went to parliament and gave an excellent address even though the UNP members did everything possible to interrupt her. They even went so far as to tear copies of the proposals to pieces and some even burnt the proposals on the floor of the parliament. Even the Island paper, which opposes this government, had to admit that Chandrika’s presentation had been “an Oscar-winning performance” as they called it. [p. 314]
Ranil now insists that before being presented to parliament the proposals should have been submitted to the Maha Sangha, the highest Council of Buddhist clergy, and to the LTTE. Amazing democracy! As far as the Buddhist clergy is concerned, they have declared themselves to be totally opposed to the proposals, because they feared that it would mean the end of the Sinhala nation. We therefore again are confronted by the spectacle of protest demonstrations by yellow robed monks, the way we have been experiencing this ever since 1957.
When we left Colombo on Tuesday, 8th August, the expectation was that the vote in parliament would be taken the next day. But when we reached Jaffna after a stormy night on the ocean we were told that the government had withdrawn the proposals because they had realised that they would be defeated. The TULF in particular was not prepared for any concessions and insisted on a federal constitution and a permanent merger of the Northern and Eastern Provinces. I am afraid that they were demanding too much and that it would have been much wiser to adopt a gradual approach. The TULF should have taken the present situation of suffering and destruction in the Tamil areas into consideration. The Tamil people need peace desperately.
And so again a good proposal for a peaceful solution has been shot down by the extremist forces in the Sinhala community, amongst whom we sadly must include the Buddhist clergy, by the unprincipled attitude of the UNP and by the inflexibility of the Tamil parties. Is there really any hope for a solution, ever? [p. 315]
The UTHR (J) have written a scathing report about the recruitment of children by the Tigers in the Vanni. It has been distributed widely. Now they are working on a report on the fighting in Thenmarachchy, in which it is made clear that most of the people there did leave the Tigers and moved over to the army-controlled areas. Where I am living now this is the attitude of the people too. They are not waiting for the Tigers “who will turn Jaffna into a crematorium”, as someone told me. It would be good if peace groups in the south, international agencies and Tamils in Canada, Great Britain and Australia would stop believing the myth that the Tigers represent the Tamil people. [pp. 315-16]
28th August 2000, Maruthanarmadam
Yesterday I had a conversation with my friend Daya about the Tiger suicide bombers. He said that they made the impression of having been turned into robots. They never showed any hesitation in carrying out their orders, unlike suicide bomb attackers in the Middle East. On the other hand if these Tiger suicide bombers are arrested they easily turn talkative. For me these suicide bombers are one of the most repugnant weapons of the Tigers because they often cause many innocent victims, and also because of what they have made of these Tamil boys and girls. [p. 316]
7th September 2000, Maruthanarmadam
Politically there is a tremendous amount of movement with an eye to the coming parliamentary elections. The number of parties and independent groups is breathtaking. Twenty-nine parties and 99 independent groups are entering the fray in the country as a whole. In Jaffna it is a comparatively modest 14 parties and six independent groups. Especially strange is the arrival of extremist Sinhala groups like the JVP and Sinhala Urumaya in Jaffna. What they are doing here is unclear as the soldiers are not allowed to vote in Jaffna. It is interesting that a Muslim group is also taking part in Jaffna. In the meantime Tamil politics presents a scene of terrible fragmentation. How can the common man make sense of this mess? [p. 317]
11th September 2000, Maruthanarmadam
Yesterday 10th September, again a Sunday, we saw the continuation of the previous army attack of 3rd September. This time it was concentrated on Colombothurai and it lasted only from 6 a.m. till 12 p.m. The noise was again excessive. Artillery, rocket launchers, mortars, jet planes with bombs and helicopters with rockets, all played their part. During it all one is overcome by a feeling of impotence. At the same time feeling a revulsion because this gigantic, noisy machine is being fed with the lives of young people, no, children, the way coal is shovelled into a steam locomotive. At the same time there is the inner conflict between on the one hand compassion with the Tiger children and on the other the passionate desire that they will be defeated, which inevitably means that many will die or be grievously wounded. [p. 318]
7th November 2000, Amsterdam
I am in Amsterdam at the moment and will try to summarise the news from Sri Lanka as I was able to receive it during my travels.
On 25th October a terrible and utterly shameful atrocity took place in a rehabilitation camp for young Tigers at Bindunuwewa near Bandarawela. After some quarrel in the camp a mob of more than 1000 people fromthe neighbourhood, armed with sticks, knives and axes, had assaulted the inmates while the 60 policemen, who were on guard, did not interfere but just looked on. Twenty-seven of the detainees were murdered and 16 seriously wounded. This disgusting event, which is reminiscent of the horrible killings in the Welikade jail in Colombo in 1983, has inspired feelings of great shame amongst right-minded Sinhalese. For instance, Lakshman Gunasekera in The Observer asked whether the Sinhala lion had become a jackal. The attitude of the police raises doubts whether this massacre was an act of spontaneous mob frenzy or whether it had been actually organised. Chandrika has expressed her horror at this event and ordered the arrest of a number of policemen. [pp. 319-20]
22nd November 2000, Maruthanarmadam
In a magazine called “Disciple” I saw a definition of the word “vocation” which appeals to me and describes the way I feel about my staying here at this time: “Vocation at the deepest level is ‘This is something I can’t not do, for reasons I’m unable to explain to anyone else and don’t fully understand myself but that are nonetheless compelling.” [p. 324]
Altogether a sombre picture. Still one thing for me remains clear: everything is still better than a victory for the Tigers, because then a pitch dark night would descend on us, where deadly silence reigns and no prospect is visible. Even in today’s totally corrupt and politicised Sri Lanka, beacons of light and courageous and moral sounds like those of the civil rights movement, Christian Worker, UTHR, Lakshman Gunasekera, etcetera are noticeable, giving the true facts and calling for reformation and at its deepest level for repentance. [p. 325]
29th November 2000, Maruthanarmadam
The Great Heroes Day has past. Prabhakaran has made his annual address… In the Pelican Reader’s Guide to Fascism I read an article by Prof. Walter Lacqueur about “The new terrorism”, in which he points to the Tamil Tigers as the movement which in the world of today approaches European fascism closest. [p. 325]
It is good to keep this in mind when one sees the tremendous fuss the Uthayan paper is making about Prabhakaran’s speech. It is as if the whole of creation has been breathlessly waiting for the pronouncements of the great man. Indeed, one can hardly believe that the Great Heroes Day issue, in which the leader’s speech is printed verbatim and photographs of him are shown, articles about demonstrations and celebrations here and there are written, is a paper which is published in the army controlled area of Jaffna. It proves the great amount of latitude the army gives to Tamil freedom of expression in print. [p. 326]
The Tigers used Great Heroes Day to publish the figures of their losses in the struggle beginning from 1982. According to them no less than 16,599 Tigers have fallen in this period. Specification is given of the losses of respective operations. If one adds to these figures the numbers of the soldiers killed by the Tigers, the numbers of civilians killed either by the forces or by the Tigers one will reach a number of about 40,000. That leaves aside the tremendous number of people, young and old, who have been severely injured and whose lives have totally changed. Was the goal worth all this suffering? I cannot believe it and I am glad I don’t have to bear the responsibility for this.
What have been the fruits of the armed struggle apart from death and suffering? Dayan Jayatilleke in an article maintains that because of it the respect for the Tamils has been greatly enhanced in the world. I think that is so up to a point, but that respect often tends to degrade and become notoriety. Besides I think that the armed struggle and the way in which the Tigers are waging this war has a totally contradictory effect on the Sinhalese. It confirms all their deep seated fears as being a group perennially under threat by the Tamils in the north including those in India. It therefore evokes pathological reactions from groups like the extreme Sinhala chauvinist party Sihala Urumaya, and the ramifications of this are visible in events like Bindunuwewa. [pp. 325-26]
12th January 2001, Maruthanarmadam
….. Today the Norwegian mediator Solheim has returned to Norway empty-handed, after having met Chandrika and having got no positive reaction from her, as Uthayan reports.
Chandrika has addressed the Tamil people on satellite TV. She said many good things but I don’t think that she has fully gauged the deep frustration here and honestly acknowledged the deficiencies in what her government has done for the Tamils. The negative aspects of the situation were too easily palmed off on the Tigers. [p. 330]
21st January 2001, 2nd February Maruthanarmadam
In several Tamil towns a new campaign has started with the name “Pongu Tamil” which means Tamil upsurge. The campaign is going on in places like Vavuniya, Batticaloa and Trinco but it has not started in earnest in Jaffna. Still I can notice that it already influences the students of the seminary and stimulates their Tamil nationalist feelings. I, not being a Tamil and maybe more importantly with my critical attitude about the Tigers, cannot help but feel somewhat alienated. Staff and students stay very friendly however and I am glad that this gives me the opportunity to have further discussions in which I can share my concerns with them. [p. 332]
2nd February 2001, Maruthanarmadam
…. From Kopay I cycled to Neerveli and left the road to go to the lagoon. There were very few birds but I saw several groups of two or three men who came from the lagoon with bags on their back and while avoiding the beaten tracks made their way hurriedly to the built up areas along the road. They must have been thieves, who had crossed the lagoon and then gone to the deserted houses in Kaithadi or even farther away to rob what they could. If one sees these groups carrying out these criminal activities in broad daylight, one is shocked by the moral decay of puritan Jaffna. I was really dismayed by this experience. [p. 333]
18th February 2001, Maruthanarmadam
About a week after this experience I told my students about this in a class, in which I also mentioned other acts of fraud or dishonesty committed by Tamils in their efforts to enter western countries. I also pointed out how misdeeds by the Tigers like the killings of politician Amirthalingam and school principal Anantharajan were always justified or explained away. I urged them not to lose their moral attitude and to condemn everything wrong, regardless of who had committed it. [p. 333]
24th March 2001, Maruthanarmadam
Recently in a discussion with a foreign diplomat I heard my friend Daya say that despite all the misdeeds of the Tigers there still are people who would prefer to live under Tiger rule rather than under the army, because the army is an alien force while the Tigers are their own. I’m sure this is true.
Tonight I asked one of my students what he thought of the chances for a peace deal. He answered that it would fail because the Tigers, as usual, would derail the process at the last moment. I think that many people share this suspicion. Still they cannot but keep hoping that peace will come. I heard that people had been disappointed when they heard that the Tigers had attacked two navy boats and sunk one. One can see how strongly the people yearn for peace and keep hoping that it will come despite everything. [p. 334]
11th June 2001, Maruthanarmadam
The peace process has hit another snag. The Norwegian mediator Solheim apparently didn’t succeed in convincing the government of his impartiality. Chandrika and Foreign Minister Kadirgamar had a fivehour talk with the Norwegian foreign minister after which he said that he himself would take responsibility for the Sri Lankan peace process. The Tigers are angry, but that only confirms the suspicions of the government about Solheim. I’m afraid that he, like several foreigners I have seen, has fallen for the Tigers. The Tigers seem to be much more flexible, much clearer and much more polite than the government and its representatives. [pp. 336-37]
19th August 2001, Maruthanarmadam
On 15th August the Uthayan paper published an open letter by the Tigers to the inhabitants of Jaffna in which a speedy capture of Jaffna is announced and in which the people are warned against cooperation with the government, the army or “the traitors”, meaning the EPDP most likely. Uthayan published this letter prudently not on the front page but on page two. Reading this one begins to doubt one’s senses. Here is a paper in the army-controlled territory of Jaffna, which publishes a communication from “the enemy”, the Tigers, asking people not to cooperate with the government and the army. Unbelievable! If this isn’t freedom of the press, then what is?
The Tamil parties have joined hands with extremist Sinhala parties like Sihala Uramaya in order to topple the government. It betrays a total lack of principles and also raises the suspicion of them being controlled by the hidden hand from the Vanni. [p. 340]
30th August 2001, Maruthanarmadam
I received a revealing letter from a former seminary student who is now serving a church in the Vanni. He wrote about life in the Vanni, which he saw as hopeless so that everyone tries to get out and escape because of the heavy demands by the Tigers. “Now I understand what you were talking about. Then I didn’t,” he ends his letter. [p. 340]
24th September 2001, To Amsterdam
I left Colombo and I am now flying over the Middle East on my way to Amsterdam.
Thinking about the 11th September, I realise that this attack has changed the world. Terrorism has become a global threat and even the one remaining super-power can be attacked on its own soil….. [p. 341]
In Colombo I met Rajan Hoole and I was happy to congratulate him on the achievement of completing and publishing his major work, Sri Lanka, the arrogance of power. Myths, decadence and murder. One afternoon we had a discussion of this book at the International Council of Ethnic
In its latest report UTHR (J) has reported about the terrible drive by the Tigers to gather new recruits in the Vanni and in the east. Children are being abducted in a white van, families flee to the army-controlled areas and parents out of despair or remorse commit suicide. When reading about these things one is struck by the amazing fact that Tamil people in the diaspora and in Colombo continue to support the Tigers without any criticism. But I still think that these people would not think one moment of moving to the Vanni to live there under the Tigers.
26th November 2001, Maruthanarmadam
On 8th November I returned to Colombo from Amsterdam. I then travelled to Jaffna.
Most probably out of despair that anything can ever be expected from Sinhala politicians, now four Tamil parties have joined behind the demand that the government should talk with the LTTE as the only representative of the Tamils. When the leader of the TULF, R. Sambanthan, was asked how he could justify this support for the LTTE with the history of TULF leaders having been murdered by the same LTTE, he answered that one should not sow confusion by raking up history. An amazing denial of the lessons of history. Is there any indication that the LTTE has changed? [p. 342]
4th December 2001, Maruthanarmadam
Today the owner of the shop where I buy my tasty Jaffna bananas told me, “The Sinhalese think that they are the most important and that we just have to accept that.” The elections of tomorrow according to him should be a way in which this superiority can be challenged. His words are a synopsis of the dissatisfaction of the Tamil people. Chandrika too has not succeeded in convincing them that they really belong and are really accepted as citizens of Sri Lanka. [p. 344]
28th December 2001, Maruthanarmadam
The government has reciprocated the ceasefire declared earlier by the Tigers by announcing a ceasefire of one month. This has of course stimulated optimistic thoughts about peace. …
In my opinion the expectations of a solution after talks between the UNP government and the Tigers should not be set too high. Both parties suffer from a considerably blemished past. Keeping this in mind Fr. Jeyaseelan, who I met yesterday, was speaking of a “false dawn” after which only pitch black darkness could descend. [p. 347]
23rd February 2002, Maruthanarmadam
The peace process is continuing. Today came the great news that a “memorandum of understanding” had been signed by Prabhakaran first and after that by Ranil. The ceasefire has now been extended indefinitely. It is not clear at the moment what the contents of this memorandum are. It is said though that it allows unarmed Tigers to enter all government-controlled Tamil areas to do “political” work there. If this is true it is very alarming. It may lead to political murders of opponents, recruitment of children and to continuous demonstrations against the government. The awful aspect of this peace process is that peace only becomes possible by accepting that the Tamils have to pass under the yoke of their fascist “liberation movement”. That this scenario has become inevitable is also due to the attitude of all moderate Tamil political parties united in the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), which have in a self-deprecating manner refused to pose as an alternative but instead always pointed to the LTTE as the only representative of the Tamil people. [p.348]
The demonstrations have already started in Mannar and in Batticaloa. The slogans used are “Tamil our life” and “Prabhakaran our life” accompanied with large pictures of Prabhakaran which are being carried along on a float preceded by four TNA members of parliament. Considering all this I notice that I am not really affected by this swelling peace chorus. I don’t feel happy and joyful the way I felt in 1994 when Chandrika became president on a peace plank. I notice that there are also Tamil people who share these doubts. “You cannot trust the buggers!” as someone told me yesterday, while we were waiting outside a funeral house. [p. 348]
….. Because the agreement is partial to the Tigers, the first protests in the south are already being
heard. Chandrika also has protested against this pact with the Tigers. Do the Norwegians understand what they are doing? [p. 349]
14th March 2002, Maruthanarmadam
Thinking about the political situation these days, I more and more reach the conclusion that the memorandum of understanding simply was inevitable. The army has not been able to crush the Tigers. The country is financially and economically in a desperate situation. Continuing the war is not possible. Because of the international situation and in particular the war on terrorism, there can be some hope that the Tigers even if they get more recognition will not be able to go beyond certain limits. Moreover there are also the Norwegian monitors. So why not? Particularly if the Tamil parties all abdicate in favour of the Tigers. But still…it remains frightening. When I asked some friends why, compared to 1994, there was so little enthusiasm about the peace process, the unanimous reply was that now the Tigers will enter and we don’t know what they are going to do. Then we were under the Tigers and it looked as if we would again be under the government.”
26th March 2002, Maruthanarmadam
The university students have started a shramadana campaign to clean the Tiger cemetery near Kopay and to erect a simple monument there. I think this is quite right. It was scandalous that the army bulldozed this graveyard in 1996. [p. 350]
4th April 2002, Maruthanarmadam
The expectations are that the A9 main road to the south will be opened on 8th April and that it will be also on that day that the first official representatives of the LTTE will be joyfully welcomed at Muhamalai. Preparations are being made as I could hear, when a van with loudspeakers was calling upon the people at the Maruthanarmadam junction to come and participate in the welcoming of the Tigers. Moreover on 17th April we will be able to witness a mass Pongu Tamil manifestation. We will be flooded with Tiger propaganda in the coming weeks. [p. 350]
It is not that the Tigers are murderers. The army or the government can also be blamed for that. But here we are dealing with a totalitarian group, which has shown that it will not tolerate any opinion different from theirs and therefore is prepared to exterminate any other Tamil group
and kill or suppress any independent Tamil leader. [pp. 350-51]
It is against this background that I was so happy to hear of three instances where leading people here tried to create some space for differences of opinion and for freedom of expression. The Methodist pastor Karunasekera wrote a small article in Uthayan in which he pleaded for unity among the different Tamil groups and for the need to forego revenge. A meaningful plea in the light of the strained relations between the LTTE and groups like EPDP and PLOTE.
Secondly came the powerful call by the Roman Catholic bishop on Easter morning to both President Chandrika as well as to the LTTE. He said that the eviction of the Muslims in 1990 had been a great mistake and that now justice should be given to them so that they could return to their houses and possessions. We welcome the Tigers, he said, but it is also true that there is a certain doubt and anxiety in the hearts of the people regarding the prospects of life under their rule. “I therefore appeal to you to treat the common people with sympathy and to give them freedom. I call upon you not to reject the other Tamil groups but to get them involved.”
Thirdly Prof. Daya Somasundaram pleaded for space at the occasion of his being awarded the golden medal of the Jaffna Science Association. In the course of a lecture on war trauma he spoke at length about the trauma of the Jaffna community and the need for space for different opinions and for pluralism, which should include the return of the Muslims. [p. 350]
11th May 2002, Colombo
Very disturbing are the reports, especially from the east, about the way the Tigers are terrorising the population. Children continue to be recruited. Taxes are levied and extortion is common both in the north and in the east. Even in Colombo Tamil business men are forced to pay amounts of millions of rupees.
It is really deplorable that despite the peace process and the presence of international monitors the Tigers are continuing these disturbing practises as before. The UTHR has published a report in which these flagrant violations of human rights are described in detail. There has been no effective action by the Norwegian peace monitors up till now. They seem to think that these matters should be left to the police, but we all know that then we can forget about it. Serious doubts therefore are risingwhether human rights are not being neglected in this peace process. As someone told me, the south now has peace but we Tamils are left in the lurch.
But the south is not very peaceful either because the criticism of the Memorandum of Understanding is growing. The violations of this MoU by the Tigers only exacerbate these negative feelings. As someone told me: “The Tigers don’t do anything to help Ranil to keep Sinhala opinion behind him.” But that is only typical of their behaviour right through. They never have shown any empathy for Sinhala sensitivities.
The SLFP has declared itself against the lifting of the ban on the Tigers till they have distanced themselves from terrorism by word and deed. They also said they were against an interim government for the northeast run by the Tigers. Ranil too has distanced himself from the idea of an interim government by saying that this would have to be approved by parliament. [p. 355]
31st May 2002, Maruthanarmadam
The Tigers also did arrive [in the Jaffna Peninsula] but their numbers are not yet large enough for them to become noticeable. Nevertheless they are beginning to exert their influence. The good side of this consists in their frowning on drunk behaviour and on the showing of porn films. Some of these films they have burnt in public. On the other side their levying of taxes is being resented because it has caused prices to remain high, in some cases even higher than before the road was opened.
They have also used school children in demonstrations against the army. This included teaching the children very aggressive slogans, people say. The first reports have started to come in about the Tigers starting to recruit children.
It is to be hoped that the Tigers will more and more be influenced by the wishes and opinions of the people. The most important of these wishes is of course that under no conditions a war again should be started.
Ranil too has to take account of the pressure by the common Sinhala people. One can notice that he is speaking cautiously about lifting the ban on the Tigers and about the installation of an interim government for the north-east. One can also hear more and more voices being raised which stress the need for democracy and human rights in the Tamil areas. This is very positive!
10th June 2002, Maruthanarmadam
The optimism of last week regarding the willingness of the Tigers to listento the people and change their ways has already evaporated. The taxehave not been lowered or cancelled. Reports about the recruitment of children are coming in. A number of 40 children so far has been mentioned. And then there are the revival meetings. Last Saturday principals and student leaders of all schools had to report at different centres, where they were addressed by Tiger officials and at the end asked to pass a resolution against the government because of certain shortcomings in education. I happened to be in town and passing the clock tower when I saw hundreds of students sitting on the ground on the playing field of Central College in the burning mid-day sun, while from the loudspeakers Tiger propaganda was poured over their heads. Amazing was the spectacle of the police who in the nearby police station just carried on with their duties, despite the fact that the loudspeakers were blasting their propaganda against the government far and wide. That is the strange aspect of this new dispensation, the Tigers busy doing their thing while army and police just stand by, looking on.
A complete hartal has been announced for Wednesday 12th June which means that schools, offices and shops will all be closed in protest to the fact that the government did not fulfil all details of the Memorandum of Understanding. The hartal has been called by a nebulous organisation called the Forum of NGOs, but everybody knows who is in the background. Therefore everybody will comply.
Generally one can now hear people making the comment that the Tigers have not changed and that therefore sooner or later a renewed conflict will erupt. [p. 357]
22nd June 2002, Maruthanarmadam
In Jaffna we continue to have demonstrations … [p. 357]
There is a lot of talk about a new Tiger offensive, but I think this is unrealistic for the time being. The Tigers are enjoying a very favourable time. They make a lot of money because of the A9 by levying taxes and by having a monopoly on the bus services in their region. Their cadres are operating freely all over Jaffna. Demonstrations against the government and the army are a daily occurrence. If there are going to be talks they have already drawn up the agenda. It contains only one item, namely the interim administration for the north-east. If that interim administration is not granted outright and the government is not willing to hand over the Tamil people to the LTTE, they might consider fighting again.
Even though things go well for the Tigers at this time, it is also clear that they do not possess fullcontrol over Jaffna. The army is also there and this means that there is some restricted space for the other Tamil groups. This could be seen very clearly this week when everywhere posters were pasted with the picture of Padmanaba, the leader of the EPRLF who together with a number of his comrades was murdered by the Tigers in Madras. Even Uthayan carried a full page advertisement mourning his death. I was happy to see this.
More Muslims are now returning to Jaffna and that is very welcome. It is not yet a mass return but still it is hopeful. [p. 358]
16th August 2002, Maruthanarmadam
When talking to my seminary students this evening I was surprised by their very critical attitude towards the Tigers. They stressed the point that much of the support for the Tigers had always been generated by the fear of the people for the army. Now that that fear has subsided and moreover the Tigers by measures like taxation and strict controls at checkpoints, etcetera have started to irritate the people, that support has dwindled.
It has now been decided that on September 16th and 17th the first peace talks will be held in Thailand. Ten days before that date the ban on the Tigers will be lifted. For these talks in Thailand stability in Sinhala politics is essential. The government delegation will include the ministers G. L. Peiris, Moragoda and Hakeem, the leader of the SLMC. Now that nearly all the Tamil parties have made themselves irrelevant by supporting the LTTE slavishly, important matters like democracy, human rights and freedom of expression in the north and east will have to be raised by the Muslims. [p. 362]
8th September 2002, Maruthanarmadam
The talks in Thailand started two days ago. The opening statements by both parties stress their genuine desire for peace. It will be difficult to negate this later. I really hope that the Tigers will indeed be caught in the web of peace so that they will change. There is considerable international interest in these talks and that can only increase the pressure to seek peace. [p. 363]
In Jaffna the atmosphere is not exuberant but the extreme pessimism of a few months ago has disappeared. It has been replaced y the typical Jaffna attitude of “paarppoom”, we will see. This somewhat detached standpoint is of course caused by the distrust in the Tigers and their attitude towards democracy and human rights. But it is also caused by the chaotic spectacle of southern politics. Chandrika seems to be bent on obstructing the government. How can the president of a country go to this extent in acting as the leader of the opposition party? The reaction in the south to the lifting of the ban on the Tigers has been muted. Apparently the desire for peace is dominating everything. Besides it is a fait accompli and there is not much sense in debating this anymore. [pp. 362-63]
21st September 2002, To Holland
The talks in Thailand have ended with a significant statement by the Tiger spokesman Balasingam that the Tigers are no longer striving after an independent Eelam. Of course this was accepted with applause. Yet doubts practically immediately were sown by his speaking about the desirability of international recognition. Prof. Peiris boasting about his fine relationship with Balasingam, which would facilitate an easy solution, also makes one feel doubtful. The frightening naivety of Sinhala intellectuals when faced with the Tigers time and again is remarkable. [p. 364]
14th February 2003, Maruthanarmadam
A serious incident was connected with the re-opening of the Jaffna public library. The Mayor of Jaffna and the Municipal Council had decided on a ceremonial opening, but the Tigers were against it and demonstrations by the university students as well as by the mysterious association of general organisations had resulted in such pressure that this opening ceremony had to be cancelled. The mayor and his council then resigned in protest, declaring their condemnation of this kind of pressure being brought to bear on a democratically elected body. Interesting was that TULF leader Anandasangaree also publicly condemned this campaign against the opening of the library, which he called a “historic mistake”.
Because of these kinds of developments the confidence in the peace process is being undermined. Taking notice of the persistently tolerant attitude of the government and the increasingly aggressive stance of the Tigers I am afraid that one day this process must end in a breakdown.
23rd July 2003, Maruthanarmadam
A member of the Colombo based International Centre for Ethnic Studies gave a lecture at the university in which he delivered a scathing analysis of the effects of Tiger taxation on the economy and the development of the Tamil areas. It was very upsetting to get confirmation of the fact that the LTTE simply leaves the care of the Tamil population to the government while they are only bent on collecting money from this same population. It was amazing to hear such a critical lecture at the Jaffna University. [p. 372]
12th August 2003, Maruthanarmadam
It is remarkable that Balasingam seems to have completely stopped playing any role in the Tiger decision making regarding the peace process. Thamilchelvan now seems to be the leading person and he is supposed to be much more inflexible despite his perpetual smile. [pp. 372-73]
16th November 2003, Maruthanarmadam
The situation has changed completely since my last entry.
On the 31st October the Tigers published their proposals for an interim administration. These go very far in sketching a structure in which they possess complete power, not limited in any way by subservience to the government of Sri Lanka. Still I think that this is an advance compared to the primitive slogan “The Tigers thirst is for Tamil Eelam,” which was all they had to say about their dreams for the future. It is good that they gave more explicit content to their striving. Of course this has created a great upset in the south.
On 4th November President Chandrika all of a sudden carried out a tremendous manoeuvre to grab power…… [p. 374]
28th November 2003, Maruthanarmadam
For me this Great Heroes Week is a difficult time. The loudspeakers which blast Tiger songs the whole day, the banners everywhere, the papers with the pictures of a well-nourished Prabhakaran and all the propaganda. On the one hand I feel repelled by this whole spectacle in which a man, who has the blood of thousands of children and young people on his hands is being promoted and built up as a divine leader if not a half god. On the other hand there is the sadness about all these young people, often still children, who have been sacrificed by the delusion of this man and the irresponsible fight for power of Sinhala politicians. More than 17,000 Tigers have been killed up till now and the number of Sinhala soldiers will not be much less. Sadness also about the blindness of people who will not accept the guilt of this movement and its leader for the death of these children, who now are being called heroes instead of what they really are namely victims. [p. 375]
15th January 2004, Maruthanarmadam
I heard from somebody living in the north-eastern part of Jaffna about the good business the Tigers are running by hauling away the sand in the dunes along the eastern sea board in tractors, which causes great damage to the environment. As usual their only concern is making money. My spokesperson who saw this happening day after day said that he had earlier been a supporter of the LTTE but that now he was completely disillusioned with the Tigers. Protests by the population had no effect and stopped when two students disappeared. [pp. 376-77]
31st January 2004, Maruthanarmadam
Thamilchelvan as a true VIP was flown to Colombo in an air force helicopter from where he boarded a plane for Oslo. There he met the Norwegian minister for foreign affairs, who declared that in view of the chaos in southern politics, donors should not be too strict in maintaining the conditions they had earlier set for making grants. The same had already been said by a delegation of ambassadors when they met Thamilchelvan in Kilinochchi. So here we see how Chandrika’s wild actions have benefited the Tigers. Questions by the international community about human rights, democracy and recruitment of children will no longer be asked, it looks. This was the only way in which the Tigers could have been forced to change. [p. 377]
20th March 2004, Maruthanarmadam
After a hurried trip to Holland I am back in Jaffna. The most important thing is the coming parliamentary elections on 4th April.………..
An interesting feature of these elections is that in fact the LTTE is taking part under the guise of the Tamil National Alliance, a grouping of TULF and Tamil Congress, which is not much more than a puppet of the Tigers. The Tigers are so keen about these elections that they would like to see voting booths erected in their area. I don’t think that will happen, but maybe those booths can be placed in the no-man’s-land between the two front lines. [pp. 378-79]
Despite their recently ascendant status the Tigers have suffered a very bad blow, because their eastern commander Karuna has …. [p. 379]
6th April 2004, Maruthanarmadam
The elections are over. The participation was very high. More than 80% of the registered voters took part. Briefly the results: ….
There is a lot of denunciation of the way in which the Tigers intimidated voters and also used boys who went to vote in several booths. Friends of mine in Jaffna reported that Tiger girls had been going from house to house in order to tell people how they should vote. Ten thousands of people from the Vanni were transported by the Tigers to the voting booths in no-mans-land and there cast their vote in accordance with the instructions they had received. In this way the TNA captured 95% of the Tamil votes. Mr. Anandasangaree went out to cast his vote but he said that within 25 metres from his house he was surrounded by Tigers in vans and on motorcycles, making it clear that he had to choose between a vote and his life. He chose for his life. [p. 380]
Interesting is of course that EPDP was able to acquire one seat. Douglas Devananda will occupy this seat and he has immediately been appointed minister of rehabilitation by Chandrika. The TNA protested but to no avail. [p. 380]
5th September 2004, Maruthanarmadam
I have been so busy this last month that I have not been able to find time to write in this diary. After today, however, the pressure will ease. This is of course desirable because I am only going to be here for another eight days, leaving 14th September, in the early morning. Apart from the normal duties there are of course some things which I must finish before I go. And then there are the farewell ceremonies in different places like the seminary, schools and churches. I must say that I appreciated the kind words with which people bade me farewell. It’s funny that in the past weeks I have been asked to preach a number of times on Sunday. I have done so three times already in the past month.
Some news on the political front. Because of the support of the Ceylon Workers’ Congress, the party of the Indian Tamils who are working on the tea estates in the mountains, the UPFA now has a slight majority. But the peace process has been severely impaired. On the one hand there is the LTTE with its immovable insistence on the acceptance and implementation of their ISGA proposals, while they are continuing with their murderous attacks on informants of the army as well as on members of the EPDP and the Karuna group, along with violations of the ceasefire and the recruitment of children. [pp. 384-85]
On the other side we find endless wrangling between Sinhala political parties, murder of LTTE cadres by the Karuna group, maybe with the help or permission of the army, as the LTTE is charging. It really looks hopeless! The JVP has entered the Eastern Province in order to stimulate the Sinhalese as well as Tamils and Muslims to oppose a merger of the east with the north. The Muslims are becoming restless. Where is all this going to end? [p. 385]
27th September 2004, Leaving Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is behind me now. I really can’t believe this is happening. … But still it is a fundamental change in my life. Sri Lanka and especially Jaffna and the Tamils have become an integral part of me. During the last weeks and all those farewell parties I’ve noticed this and also had people tell me this.
And thus I am leaving Sri Lanka behind. There is no solution and everything looks very dark. Luckily there is no fighting now but also no peace – only stagnation, squabbling and murder. We have been praying for 16 years for improvement, change, conversion. But it doesn’t help. Is there a God who listens? [p. 385]