Day And Night ‘Bana’ And Militarized North-East Sri Lanka

Filed under: Colombo Telegraph,Opinion,Popular |
 

By Women’s Action Network -

Militarized North-East Sri Lanka: Muslim and Tamil Women Systematically Crushed by Lawlessness and Expropriation

The Women’s Action Network, a network consisting of 11 women’s organizations based in the North and East of Sri Lanka, submitted a report for the Universal Periodic Review in 2012. The report covered the socio economic and cultural rights of the displaced, returning and resettled communities of the North and East.

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Women’s rights and security continues to deteriorate in Sri Lanka, especially in the North and East and a culture of impunity has been entrenched within the State structure.  Since the submission of the UPR there has been a breakdown of the rule of law through not only the impeachment of the Chief Justice but also with the appointment of new chief justice who has denied all human rights violation taking place in Sri Lanka at several UN and international forums.  In this context we wish to put forward certain issues concerning women in the North and East.

The report will cover issues of access to justice, cultural rights and militarization.

Militarization

Militarization of civilian and public spheres continues in the North and the East. Even though the Sri Lankan government has removed several check points, women in these areas state that several military camps have been built in the interiors of villages. The Military continues to engage purportedly in civil administration, agricultural activities and developmental activities. In several cases regarding community disputes the Military has played an active role encouraging communities to seek military patronage rather than settle local disputes by negotiation.[1] This hinders the development of healthy relations in the long term. The military has threatened and harassed several people, including women when there has been an attempt to raise issues, file cases or negotiate disputes.

Universities have been militarized with the security to the university provided by the Defence Ministry. Debate or dissent within the university structure is curtailed and we see this reflected in the arrests of the Jaffna university students in December 2012.[2] Public places such as community halls schools also have been occupied by the military.[3]

In Ashraff Nagar (Amparai) where the military has occupied civilian land women filed a Fundamental Rights action in the Supreme Court for the restoration of the land or to provide adequate alternative land. While the case is pending the Army has begun harassing the petitioners living in that area. “They blocked access to water , denied access to family members’ visits to the petitioners, electrified the fence around the areas in their effort to block any outside interaction with families living in the military camp. Recently they fixed two loud speakers just few yards away from the 1st petitioner’s hut and played loud music and Bana (Buddhist prayers) day and night. Military men have crushed empty glass bottles and spread splintered glass pieces around the huts and their pathways. Women who have filed cases against military take over at the District court have been given verdicts in their favour, but they are unable to negotiate or even enter their land and the village which is now a high security zone. They feel their legal fight to get their land through the justice system has been fruitless.

There is Buddhist cultural promotion through military men. In major towns and public places in Pottuvil (Ampara district) where Muslims are a majority, military men in uniform are put in charge of erecting Buddhist statues, fixing loudspeakers and playing Buddhists prayers morning and evening.  In Pottuvil 03 (Mathuranchenai village) the military has been supporting a Buddhist monk who has claimed that about 35 acres (05 acres are private owned land of the women living in this village) of land surrounding a Buddhist temple. With the help of the military, the followers of the monk  have been attacking the natives who have lived there for generations to force their evacuation from the (Buddhist) ‘holy land’. It is disturbing to note that people from outside are not allowed to enter the area without the permission of the military. There is strong surveillance to prevent people from raising this issue outside. In fact our team was also stopped and investigated by military men. This curtailing of access to communities specially affected women is of great concern. Four women who possess title deeds to these private land that has so been encroached have come forward to institute legal action against this monk but there is acute fear.

In Periya Ullai (in Ampara) women complained that even to enter their own fields they are required to sign in and out with the military and certain areas that belong to the community have been barred under the claim of finding archaeological “treasures”.  Women used to guard their fields at night however now due to military presence this is no longer viable. Many women’s livelihoods in this area have been agriculture and collecting and selling firewood. All these activities have been banned by military men.

In Vattakachchi land has been taken by the military for farming and people have been employed in the same. In several areas the military has been engaging in farming and selling of vegetables and fruits which has curbed women’s access to economic ventures such as running small shops, growing vegetables and farming.

In Navalady 35 acres of agricultural land of the farmers’ have been occupied by the military and the villagers have been informed that the land cannot be returned. The military has also in this case forged documents in an attempt to discredit the 39 title deeds people hold in that area.

Due to mounting pressure by the community and the human rights organizations on the military occupation of land, the military has begun forcing people to accept alternate land or to accept rent for the land. Many people have expressed their lack of real negotiating power in these cases. Alternate land provided in most cases remains inadequate and do not take care of livelihood needs of affected.

In most areas women use the forest to gather wood for their household needs however the military has denied this access and the state has collaborated in this effort using the forest Act and wild life ordinance. In many areas land belonging either through permit or title deeds to women continue to be taken away by the forest and the archeological departments. Military has influenced the civil administration and in some cases gone against the district court verdicts in their effort to continue their occupation of people’s land. In the East women mostly own land including agricultural land. The curtailing of their access to land and resources has led to impoverishment  and there is a growing sense among the Tamil and Muslim communities in the region that this is done with intention to create structural poverty of the minorities and deny them access to any economic growth.

The much talked about recruitment of Tamil women to the military has raised grave concerns. While we hold that women have the choice to decide in this instance women were not informed that they were entering the military and the military rules of conduct and procedure will apply. When the 12 women fell ill their parents were denied access to them in the hospitals while two women who opted to leave after initial training were called back and threatened that they will be treated as army deserters if they do not return to their job. Recent recruitment for some of the government jobs like Montessori teaching and working in the government run farms and facilities in the Vanni have been conducted by the military men and the appointment letters for these jobs are given by the civil defence unit of the military. These new recruits are reporting to military men thus there is much fear among these women and their family members to talk about the working conditions and women’s security.

A land circular has been issued in January in the North that takes away the land power from the Divisional Secretaries (DSs) and apparently concentrates these powers with the governor who is a former military commander. This is against the 13th Amendment and the principles of devolution. Even though this circular does not specifically say that the governor will be in charge of land distribution in the north, it has reference to an ‘appropriate person’ from whom the DSs have to seek approval. The DSs have confirmed that they were all called for a meeting after the issue of this circular by the governor and he has claimed to be that appropriate authority.

Justice

Accesses to justice mechanisms such as the Court or various commissions set up by the government have been continually denied to communities that challenge the majoritarian paradigm.  The LLRC while it made several recommendations in regard to disappearances was limiting and did not inquire into accountability issues. The government has only begun implementing the LLRC recommendations that deal with infrastructural development and training of state actors.  A women whose husband disappeared in 2009 talking about the LLRC states  “We went to the LLRC hoping that they will give us an answer, all we got was a report, what do I do with a report? Show it to my child and say here is you father?”  There has been no communication with those who appeared before the LLRC and no steps have been taken to account for the disappeared.

Recently the Military held an inquiry and declared that it did not bomb civilians in the last stages of the war.[4]  The inquiry lacked transparency and the decision of the military casts doubts about the implementation of the LLRC itself if the same is going to be used by the State to clear itself of all accountability.

There are several cases against the military who have promised marriage to women and post sexual intercourse and pregnancy have abandoned the women. In some cases when women have complained the soldier in question has been immediately transferred out of the area denying the women any ability to follow up the case.  In several cases women have been threatened against advancing cases and in a few cases where the Military head has taken a case against the soldier the process has been through a military court procedure. Women have not been able to access these procedures and evidence gathering is conducted by the military where several women have complained of intimidation.

There have also been cases of sexual abuse[5] by the military which continues unabated. Several women’s organizations complained that the women are afraid to take any action and do not even get access to support.[6]  Cases constantly are transferred to Anuradhapura where the language of the court is Sinhala. Women find it difficult to travel to Anuradhapura, do not understand the court proceedings and complain of feeling unsafe in taking their case forward in such a hostile setting.  Women’s groups took up one case of rape of an internally displaced woman by four military men. The rape happened on 6th June 2010 in Killinochchi. After a long drawn out hearing the men were sent on bail. On July 16th 2011 the case was committed to Jaffna High Court by the Killinochchi district court judge and the full file on this case was given to the Attorney General’s Department. The AG’s Dept is dragging its feet and refusing to expedite the indictment. This has also been the case with many women who have filled Habeas Corpus applications in relation to their missing and detained family members.

Cultural Rights

Cultural rights of minority communities have come under serious threat in the last few months. The brunt of this has been borne by women. The recent demand that permanent contraceptive methods be denied to women by the fascist monk outfit the Bodu Bala Sena is a huge drawback for women from all communities. Areas surrounding the large military camps have seen the building of stupas and areas around it are being claimed as land belonging to the Sinhalese.[7] While we hold that people of any ethnicity have the right to live anywhere in the country the use of the military and militant Buddhist monks to occupy and colonize lands creates great concern.

There have been 27 Buddhist places of worship built in the Vanni alone (former LTTE controlled areas) and Buddhist monks and Sinhalese have been moved in slowly with such construction. Military has been organizing Buddhist religious events in these temples and Tamils living in the areas have been forced to take part in it (Example last Vesak festival). At the same time Tamils were prevented from celebrating Karthigai Theepam, a Hindu festival that coincided this time with LTTE martyrs day. People in the north continue to be denied their right to mourn their loved ones who died during the last stages of the war. A group of women from families of surrendees gathered for prayer at Killinochchi Murugan Kovil and CID and military surrounded them and the organizer and a few other women were interrogated later. To date these women have been carefully watched by the CID and a month ago the military walked into their meeting and tried to obstruct it.

In the aftermath of minister Mahinda Samarasinghe’s speech on the 27.02.2013 at the UNHRC session in Geneva, the family members of surrendees and disappeared, mostly women, organized themselves to come to Colombo on 06th March 2013 to hand over an appeal to UN Country Representative on their continuous search for their missing family members. However all of them who travelled from North were stopped in Vavunia and barred from proceeding to Colombo. About 700 members mostly women had been surrounded by the military, police and CID men just before they tried to board into buses in Vavunia to travel to Colombo on 05th March late evening. Thus they were compelled to have their protest in Vavunia on 06th March morning. Later a group of these women travelled to Colombo and submitted an appeal to UN head office in Colombo demanding that the OHCHR should get directly involved in finding their missing family members.

Recommendations

We wish to recommend immediate steps in the following areas:

  • An international mechanism must be put in place immediately since the women are unable to have recourse to local mechanisms because of military intervention particularly in relation to women’s access to justice and realization of their economic, social and cultural rights.
  • Immediate removal of the military from all civilian administrative structures and development activities, Sinhala colonization and cultural (Buddhists) undertakings.
  • Prohibition of the military from mediating, intervening in land and resource disputes and conducting civil affairs.
  • Cases of sexual abuse and cases relating to maintenance, cheating of women by the military be brought under civilian court structures and immediate investigation of the same.
  • Action to be taken against military personnel who threaten, coerce and harass civilians who wish to exercise their rights as citizens of this country.
  • Proper procedure and the return of all military occupied land that belonged to people.
  • Ensure returning communities are able to practice their religion and enjoy their cultural rights by protecting their cultural identity and language.


[1] In Sannar, Mannar the military intervened and threated the Tamil community to leave the area.

[2] http://www.colombopage.com/archive_12B/Dec02_1354426002CH.php

[3] Akkarapattu

[5] Women’s organizations narrated cases of sexual abuse in the following areas- Kathiraweli, vepangkulam and Pallamottai and Mannar

[6] Interviews with several women’s organizations inJaffna and Batticaloa

[7] Periya Ullai

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29 Responses to Day And Night ‘Bana’ And Militarized North-East Sri Lanka

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    This is the development that Rajasingham Narendran talks about??? Wonderful, looking forward to future developments !

    Dev
    March 12, 2013 at 4:33 pm
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      Dev, Narendran earlier said that many of those who ‘disappeared’ are employed by the Ministry of Defence. He is an ‘undercover’ supporter of militarisation in the north.

      justice
      March 12, 2013 at 10:12 pm
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        Rajasingham Narendran repeats what he has been told to repeat by Gota, this has been the case since his (in)famous trip as part of the diaspora group to the North !

        Dev
        March 13, 2013 at 3:40 pm
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          Dev, Have you read anything I have written before landmark meeting you frequently refer? You have to parrot what you do repeatedly, because that is what you are programmed to do. Any way I welcome this, because they make me question myself. I conclude that I been true to myself, to the extent that I know the truth. It is my narrative, as Native Veddah has referred to below. What makes me wonder is why you get upset when I question Mahinda and Gota? Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

          Dr.Rajasingham Narendran
          March 14, 2013 at 6:03 am
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      Some who enjoy reading Ghost stories, see and hear Ghosts when they fall asleep. Many also enjoy pretending to sleep, because Ghosts are their only reality in life. There was a learned Swami, who renounced the world. While travelling across the land with his disciple, he had to cross a river in high flood. There was also a pretty damsel standing on the same side of the river bank, distressed because night was approaching and she had no way to cross. The Swami offered to carry her across. The disciple of course was very upset that the Swami who had renounced all worldly pleasures, including contact with females, was about to commit a sin. The Swami carried the girl across the river and having left her on the other bank, proceeded on his way. When they stopped for the night, the disciple, could not restrain himself any longer, severely reprimanded the guru. Guru replied , ” I left the girl a long time back on the river bank, but you are yet carrying her with you”. There is lesson in this story. Dr. Rajasingham Narendran

      Dr.Rajasingham Narendran
      March 14, 2013 at 5:55 am
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    The contrast between different narratives espousing divergent causes is mind-boggling. A good thing that CT allows many perspectives to be aired, so that readers can make conclusions with some balance and moderation…

    Lasantha Pethiyagoda
    March 12, 2013 at 5:15 pm
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      Lasantha Pethiyagoda “The contrast between different narratives espousing divergent causes is mind-boggling.” Many narratives but one truth.

      Native Vedda
      March 12, 2013 at 8:29 pm
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      The women’s organizations in the North and East themselves have adopted two sharply different discourses/narratives to deal with their issues pre and post Mullivaikkal. Before May 2009 when the North and East was under the brutal LTTE fascist rule these organaizations didn’t complain against the horrendous violations of women’s rights by the LTTE nor the erosion of democracy in general in the country. Though they didn’t have recourse to local mechanisms due to their suspension by the de facto Tiger administration they didn’t see a need for an “international mechanism” to access justice for Tamil women. The women’s organizations and the associated NGOs in the North and East by and large accepted the Tiger dispensation. Otherwise they couldn’t have carried on their business as usual. They confined their work to women’s liberation from patriarchy, dowry system, and other forms of social injustices to women prevailing in Tamil society. That is, their discourse was gazing inward. But now after Mullivaikal they have adopted the exclusively outward looking discourse implanted among them by NGO/civil society type career feminists who have an axe to grind against the Sri Lankan state. For them the root cause of all problems faced by women in North and East is intrusion by “outsiders” (military) and the solution must come from international level because they argue “a culture of impunity has been entrenched within the state structure.” According to these “feminists” the problem is not men in uniform, but Sinhalese men in uniform. I’m sorry, this is not feminism. This is racist politics. They talk about Tamil women’s cultural rights infringed by the alleged promotion of Buddhism by the Sinhala military. Universally religion and tradition have always been oppressive of women, and therefore one’s own culture has been the main battleground for true feminists. But the Women’s Action Network doesn’t want to talk about women’s enslavement and exploitation entrenched in Tamil tradition and culture itself. The struggle against women’s domination by internal and external forces must go hand in hand. Otherwise, in my view, there is no difference between women’s struggle for their rights and the debased patriarchal politics of the men who enslave them. A classic example of this is young Tamil girls claiming to be fighting for their rights giving the Hitler salute to the Sun God Prabakaran and then going to the battlefront and sacrificing their lives for his glory. This new discourse/narrative is the handiwork of social activists mostly from the outside; privileged and well-funded civil society/NGO women working hand in glove with local and international agents seeking to bring discredit to the country and its government. Just look at their laundry list of recommendations. All except the last one are explicitly concerned with the military, designed to give credence to the current international brouhaha that the Sri Lankan military is acting like an occupying force in the North and East. And the last recommendation is not worthy of the name “Women’s Action.” It sounds chauvinistic, ethnocentric and fundamentalist just like the ideologies of the LTTE, the Taliban and the Bodu Bala Sena all of which enslave women: “Ensure returning communities are able to practice their religion and enjoy their cultural rights by protecting their cultural identity and language.” Are you kidding? Whose rights are you trying to protect and uphold? Is it the rights of the women you claim to work for, or the rights of their oppressors to oppress them? Without a critique or at least a qualification you are endorsing the whole cultural baggage that the women in the North and East have been forced to carry for ages. And this oppression and social injustice against women is always perpetuated in the name of “protecting their cultural identity and language.” What more evidence is needed that this report is all about damaging the image of the country at this crucial hour when the UNHCR is in session and has nothing to do with the real needs of the women in the North and East such as rehabilitation, development, equality, social justice and security.

      Ajay
      March 12, 2013 at 9:38 pm
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      When the truth is exposed, it is really mind- boggling . CANT HELP, BUT WHOLE TRUTH nothing BUT THE TRUTH TO BE TOLD. that is the responsibility.

      JULAAMPITYE AMARAYA
      March 13, 2013 at 2:56 am
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    Anyone with a Brain knows the figures are form socalled NGO’s.. That claim in it self is a fraudulent one as MOST NGOS are hugely government funded and Large donations come from special Interest Groups.. and when you give large amounts of money these groups naturally represent these groups interest.. not just here but in many countries and especially those ones mentioned above.Hence many NGOs dont give out who actually fund them.. For instance this so called LTTE western diaspora funded women nwtwork use MUSLIM WOMEN.. anyone who has been to the East know the Fact.. The Most Muslim women there cannot go without been accompanied by a mail companion. Not due to security buy cultural.. And therefore how can this bogus funded network say that they are in danger??? and many of the muslim men would have reported such instances and the SLMC nodoubt would have taken this up.. And trust me there is no love loss between the LTTE and their supporters when it comes to Muslims. I dont see when a Muslim wanted to open a Restaurant in PTK town they were forced out by threat by the Tamils living there.. there was a huge protest again this Muslim businessmen. How the Tamilean is now portrayed to be a innocent Palmyra leaf in this nation and the rst as evil beast.. That what these NGOS are there for

    Ponnudurai Satyaseelan
    March 12, 2013 at 9:51 pm
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      PONS ; When YOU AND YOUR BOSSES GET CONSTIPATION S, NGOS, INGOS, DIASPORA, LTTE RUMP, WESTED, SPECIAL INTERESTED GROUPS, ARE RESPONSIBLE??????????????????. you are not doing a good job for your bosses, at least do something better for the pay.

      JULAAMPITYE AMARAYA
      March 13, 2013 at 3:18 am
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      Ponnudurai Satyaseelan Ponna “Anyone with a Brain knows the figures are form socalled NGO’s..” Could we have some validated figures from sources other than interested parties. You say: “How the Tamilean is now portrayed to be a innocent Palmyra leaf in this nation and the rst as evil beast..” Aren’t they? As far as I am concerned all Sri Lankies are descendants of Kallathonies who are evil and irredeemably stupid. Therefore I see no contradiction among them.

      Native Vedda
      March 13, 2013 at 6:53 am
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    Will Prof.Rajeeva Wijesinghe urgently bring this report by the Womens Action Network to the attention of the President? It is shameful that Buddhist Monks assist the military in harassing the citizens of the north in this manner. This is not what The Buddha preached. The failure of the justice system to afford releif to the citizens is tragic. Postponement of court cases to Anuradhapura is a ploy which has been resorted to,for a long time to thwart justice to tamils in the north. Will people like Sharmini Serasinghe who have access to state officials take up this matter too.

    justice
    March 12, 2013 at 10:25 pm
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    Frightening narrative of enormous suffering imposed on the poorest of the poor folks – trying to eke out a living. All this happening in the enlightened 21st century in a land where the name of the Most Compassionate One is invoked almost every hour??? “Blocking access to water” is inhuman by any standards. “electrifying fences” is right out of what happened in Jewish Concentration Camps in WW2. “denial of action to gather firewood” for cooking purposes is, in other words, driving a people into starvation and death. I don’t mind some engaging with me in debates on if the regime is right or wrong in different issues. It matters little to me if they get rewarded one way or the other for their “services” But these are clear instances of calculated action to cultural genocide aimed against both Tamils and Muslims. Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims and all others with an iota of humanism in them must raise their voices against these horrible crimes – clearly committed by SLA personnel. Merely stating simply because we are not at the spot all what is written about events on the ground is false is the greatest crime against the Tamil-speaking Nation of the NEP. A regime, dependent for its own survival from a hostile nation, on the armed forces is not going to take a side against the military. It has to be a concerned civil society that must raise issues. Senguttuvan

    Senguttuvan
    March 13, 2013 at 1:58 am
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      “Blocking access to water” is inhuman by any standards. “electrifying fences” is right out of what happened in Jewish Concentration Camps in WW2. “denial of action to gather firewood” for cooking purposes is, in other words, driving a people into starvation and death. I absolutely agree with Senguttuvan re these three crimes. And isn’t it tragic that the ‘spiritual’ offspring of the greater part (because it was not only Jews in those camps) of those who were encarcerated in those WW2 camps went on to ‘block access to water’, bulldoze the olives groves, their economic sustenance, & thus wipe out the firewood source, of yet another people. Makes one wonder if Israeli advice and expertise is not only shovelling arms and ammo and 10 % of the cost water creation at us, but also how and what to do when you have a population that is getting in your way. I only brought this up cos Sengu (dare i abbreviate yr name?) touched upon ‘Jews’ in WW2 camps. How is it possible for a generation that suffered begats another that is so ready to inflict similar and worst sufferings on yet another people. How can we call a halt to all this? Some of us are very very tired after so many years of conflict and turbulence and find ourselves unable to contribute usefully to combatting the awful developments such as are described above. There are though, amazingly, people of all living generations here, still trying to confront and find answers to our situation. I only hope a younger generation is developing to take over from them However, not optimistic, given the most visible role models in the country – politicians and their ‘linkages’ – I nearly said ‘leakages’ . I had thought of attending the forum on 22nd where career & non career diplomats are to speak, but as it is once again really about ‘how to project our image’ / ‘let’s try to evolve a single image’ – well isnt that what it boils down to?, I shall pass. It reminds me too much of one of the refrains after July 1983 – oh my god! see how this has affected our image abroad! Our IMAGE! Why are we so concerned with the superficiality! It was the REALITY here that we should have been most worried about — and, of course, many were. But maybe too much effort since then went into attending to the Image abroad and not enough to the reality on the ground. The installation of loudspeakers blaring out Buddhist ‘prayers’ (mockingly – FIVE times a day) to a mainly Muslim community reminds me of an equally insensitive (to put it mildly) parallel taking place in an up country tea estate in the late 1970s or early 1980s. We were staying with the manager (former private planter) whose work force was 90% at least Tamil – probably 100%. The latter was forced to endure regular pirith chanting over loudspeakers — a recent innovation which shocked us holidaymakers there. And we included Hindu, Christian, Muslim and Buddhists – not to speak of agnosticts. We were not allowed to go and speak to the workers, so could only imagine their feelings. But CT! be a bit more responsible! You insert a shocking photo in this article but without any info re time, place etc. PLEASE give us its context! I insist!

      manel fonseka
      March 13, 2013 at 5:03 am
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    Is this “blocking access” in the same league as MaravilAru?. Wouldn’t it be better to curtail the sabotage activities of a TNA activists, in the interests of the great majority who are now living in peace and harmony?. Are there any plans for a name change in Jaffna too?. Over to you Mr Sengutuan.

    K.A Sumanasekera
    March 13, 2013 at 4:09 am
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      I expect your question re the comparison of blocking access to water sources relates only to the article here, but certainly the way the Israeli state has destroyed Palestinian wells and forbidden them to drill new ones, etc., and for the foreseeable future too, compares with what happened at Mavil aru.

      manel fonseka
      March 13, 2013 at 10:40 am
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    The person who holds a gun must show some leniency when it comes to unarmed defenceless civilians. Torturing and harrassing people in this way is unacceptable. Such acts would only lend credence to the inhuman streak alleged by the IC regarding the armed forces. Can the army commander inquire into this and report without waiting for the IC and UN to appoint a inependent commission?

    Safa
    March 13, 2013 at 6:14 am
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    Dear Manel, You bring so much of balance and context here. I agree two wrongs does not make one right. We sympathised with the entire world (save some) on the plight of the Jews. Some Jews committed terrible injustices post-WW2 in the former Palestine. Netanyahu’s obstinacy in building hundreds of houses in disputed territory cannot be condoned. Obama and the Western World are against this. But Netanyahu insists on guarantees attacks will not originate from the area. It encourages hope to read your rational arguments and comments – rising across the prejudice barrier. We need more voices of learning and moderation here in a blog our friends at CT, clearly, provide a platform to build a united and reconciled Sri Lanka. It appears to me neither is in the immediate Agenda of the Rajapakse Oligarchy. The country will slide down further economically and, even possibly, be pushed into wider national turmoil to provide covere and smoke-screen to the venal regime from mass dis-satisfaction. The coming weeks will be crucial – both internationally and otherwise. More voices from the responsible and the initiated from civil society, ideally, should adorn these pages often. Senguttuvan

    Senguttuvan
    March 14, 2013 at 12:14 am
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      Well, thank you kindly, Sir, she said. BTW since the ‘Jewish’ question pops up in some of the blogs & ever since I read something by you re the Jews desiring to return to their ancient home, whence they were kicked out by who & who…, I have wanted to suggest a book for your reading list: THE INVENTION OF THE JEWISH PEOPLE, by Shlomo Sand, a prof of contemporary history at Tel Aviv University. He published it in Hebrew; his mother tongue is Yiddish. His mother’s sister died in a Nazi crematorium; his paternal grandmother was incinerated in a Nazi gas truck, a less efficient predecessor of the crematoria. Yet his book challenges the very basis upon which the state of Israel was founded. Two chapters are: ‘Mythistory: In the Beginning God Created the People’ & ‘The Invention of the Exile: Proselytism & Conversion” (where he argues that, as with many faiths, Judaism acquired many converts through the centuries, people who can have absolutely no claim whatsoever to be returning to the land of their forefathers). No need to come back to me on this (I am just drawing yr atten to a very interesting book) & I should apologise to readers of CT for digressing from the main issues for which this platform is provided, but I do feel that the question of Israel has certain lessons for us. I fear the invocation of ancient history (true or false) to justify present assaults on demographic realities. And I shudder when people argue about how many centuries their particular community lived here.

      manel fonseka
      March 14, 2013 at 8:50 pm
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    Dear Sumane, Welcome back. No. At Mavilaru there were two opposing armed factions. Now it is only the poor and emaciated mostly women trying to eke out a living under extremely difficult conditions. TNA, as I see, are conducting their political work openly, transparently and within the law – confronted by a menacing and hostile bunch of often indisciplined armed soldiers to whom the Damila is the historical enemy. But Gandhism will win eventually. In the emerging Tamil Nation, whose birth cannot be stopped, a name change to Jaffna is not in the works. This, at any rate, is not in the priority list – which is to bring peace, security and normalcy to the Tamil Nation with the help of the international community and, of course, with our brethren in Sri Lanka and its Govt by our side. We are at that stage where LKY found himself in 1965. The eventual result will be similar, which, by the way is the fear of the Sinhala extreme too. As someone noted, in so far as the puss from the wounds of war keep oozing there can be no meaningful peace. Will The Family understand this? Senguttuvan

    Senguttuvan
    March 14, 2013 at 12:26 am
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    I conveyed some of the criticisms here (specifically Ajay’s & JULAAMPITYE AMARAYA’s) to someone working round the clock in this field – a Muslim woman who was banished from Mannar with her family from their ‘traditional homeland’ of many generations, by the LTTE. This was her weary response: ‘Manel it took two weeks in the field to put together this report. As you see we have highlighted the peasant women’s struggle in the north and the east with men in Uniform and power. If people are calling us LTTE supporters and anti govt., I don’t know what more we have to do to bring these issues out. We did not go to Geneva but opted to shake the local mechanism and structures and issued as part of our IWD’s day’s statement. ‘I had the urge to write back how we struggle with Tigers too for long in the north but what is the point..’ Please note: they did NOT take the easy option of going to Geneva. This woman has been working for years now in very difficult conditions, when she could easily say ‘enough is enough’ & go abroad. In fact I don’t know how she goes on when the situation is so heart-breaking. I have no idea how she is supported here – & I’m utterly fed up with this continual (blanket) bad-mouthing of NGOs who may or may not be receiving foreign funding! The whole damn COUNTRY is receiving foreign funding…most of it in loans for which every single citizen of this country, including the unborn (even the unconceived!), is going to pay heavily. At least the local NGOs (correct me if I am wrong) are not heaping huge financial burdens on us. True, like every other undertaking in this country – private or govt — some corruption may be involved, or inadequate commitment to the tasks they undertaken. Yes, & such things, if identified SHOULD be criticized, corrected. But also look around & take note of the many ngos (local or international) that even you may have had reason to be grateful for, or even go to in desperation at some future date. WHO is willing to support the direly-needed work of men & women without unearned incomes in the total absence of foreign-funding? Any philanthropists want to come forward?

    manel fonseka
    March 14, 2013 at 2:30 pm
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      manel; what I want to tell is that There are people, mostly women and children are in vulnerable situation. that is the truth. as Many say or predict, the north and east areas are not beds of roses. but I heard from people, in some area’s ,the commanders of certain camps are good in keeping the discipline in line and punished who threaten, and harass civilians. without there family members { most of them are arrested, in prisons, dead or missing [not missing in action] } and children are suffering and Nobody is going to Help them. few weeks ago , I saw Some men and women are digging the old civilian bunkers at mullaaivaikaal area, to get some belongings where dead were buried, when army fired shell exploded. collecting Steel , Aluminum, and some time gold jewelries of the dead. because there, they do not have any income or place to do farming and coast line is limited and could not do their daily fishing jobs. they do not care about the loudspeakers blaring out Buddhist ‘prayers’ from near by army detachments. What they want is, allow them to take care of their own lives.they do not want any help from any body, they do not want Freedom fighters or saviors to come anfd fork fingers into their lives.

      JULAAMPITYE AMARAYA
      March 14, 2013 at 7:48 pm
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      I agree with all what you have said, and I appreciate your transmitting my views to someone working in the field and back. My heart goes out to that Muslim woman. When the entire Muslim population that had lived in the north for several centuries was kicked out overnight by the Fascist Tigers, I told a close friend of mine who was a Muslim that until the Tamils right this historic wrong the Tamils will never find justice. Anyway coming back to our topic, all what I am saying is we have to find a way to work together: people of all communities, the government (a part of which is the military), genuine NGOs and civil society organizations to find practical solutions to women’s pressing problems. Women’s issues should be given priority over seeking international intervention to oust the military from the north and east. That is, constructive work instead of confrontational politics. Women’s struggle for social justice and political rights should go hand in hand. If the women’s struggle is reduced to a mere political campaign against the government then there is no difference between the Women’s Action Network and the TNA – both are mired in patriarchal politics. I know very well this sounds good on paper but the ground reality is much more nebulous and grim. I sincerely wish all the very best to the Muslim woman and her colleagues doing a great job under the most harrowing of conditions helping vulnerable women and families in the north and east.

      Ajay
      March 15, 2013 at 1:15 am
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    Dear Manel, You are far too intellectually endowed for me to remind you War should be the very last option in any issue in today’s world. Better diplomacy and understanding would have prevented us going in this path in the late 1970s But our “leaders” failed us. All of us paid the shared price for our folly and are increasingly doing so till today. My family and I paid very dearly at a time when we had virtually everything one could wish, in the Lankan sense, in 7/83 – although we had no connection or proximity to the conflict. Those who robbed us, humiliated us and de-housed were Sinhalese. Those who protected us, cried for us (and still do) and visited us in the UK and thereafter in Chennai in those years were/are Sinhalese. I know I am not alone here. I am pained to learn of your lady Muslim friend. I know of another friend, a regular contributor in these pages, coming from comfortable positions and circumstances – who saw more than one of his immediate relatives shot, killed and in many ways otherwise harmed. I know of a senior academic friend for long, who had brothers and cousins killed in 1958, 1977 and 1983. He just escaped in 83 when he came for a visit here with his European wife. We are all prisoners of our own past, making and folly. The march of political adventurism and venal governance is destroying all major societies – including the Sinhalese. The safe and splendid system of governance, law and order, process of justice that we knew until the 1970s are all destroyed. There is little room for hope by way of early unity and reconciliation is the sad conclusion of expert analysts. Thank you for suggesting Sand’s book. Senguttuvan

    Senguttuvan
    March 14, 2013 at 10:43 pm
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    In Manel Fonseka’s and Senguttuvan’s’ contributions amongst some others, we see an attempt and a desire to shift right from wrong and to stand for what is Right, Just, Truthful and Fair, irrespective of the source or origin of such actions. Thus – whether it is the LTTE blocking access to water for the farmers of Mavil Aru or the Zionists building settlements in occupied lands against repeated UN rulings, or Bush and Blair with their arrogant and shameful actions in Iraq, the injustice of the action is recognized and condemned. Unfortunately not so with many others who imbue their (current ?) hero with properties that even God Almighty could be proud of. These heros are infallible in their sayings or doings, superhumans who are invariably correct in whatever action they take and thus beyond even the mildest criticism. These men and women with feet of clay are exalted and deified till their brief walk on the small stage that is Sri Lanka is done. Take for example Madame CBK. Not so very long ago she was strutting about – followed by a faithful retinue. She was Queen, Empress, the source of all wisdom and truth. The ‘Daily Noise’ considered her every word as headline stuff. Rupavahini carried hour long monologue-interviews with her.Those around her genuflected, awed by her presence and infinite genius repeating “Yes Madam, no Madam. three bags full Madame”. They were willing to grant her largesse as a grateful nation’s inadequate gift for her mighty and unsurpassable contribution to the building a new nation. ……… and today, these very same people who were genuflecting and circling around her are prostrating themselves before the new emperor, the Rajathuma, the new Messiah who can do no wrong, a new Deity a mighty Duthugemunu reborn ! The old empress has been discarded, derided, ignored, ridiculed by the same DN and Rupavahini who once hailed her. How fickle, how pathetic and one is tempted to add how ‘oriental’. This kowtowing to authority! and have no fear, the present emperor too will meet the same fate, and those now waltzing around him will rush to kneel before the new source of all truth ! Ah la condition humaine !

    Niran W
    March 15, 2013 at 3:03 am
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    Every morning and the evening whether we like it or not every nook and corner of the country can hear Islamic mosque prayer blasting into our ears thru loud speakers. If a foreighner comes to SL first time he might wonder is this a buddhist country or a muslim country? Though it is a big noise blaring in arabic no buddhist or hindus complain about it. But suddenly the Women Action Nework[never heard it before] woke up and screaming about “Pirith Sermon” in Wanni. How many sinhala villagers exist in the Wanni. If you guys feel uncomfortable listening to “Pirith” insert two cotton buds into your ears or listen to the tamil musi thru earphones.

    Rana
    March 15, 2013 at 1:36 pm
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      It is not the noise that will define Sri Lanka to visitors, but the sounds of the Bana chanting, temple and church bells and the call for prayer from mosques, sometimes heard simultaneously. However, what should define this country for the visitors most is the calmness, kindness, fairness, tolerance,decency, hospitality and the charitableness of the Sinhala- Buddhists, the overwhelmingly majority community. Dr. Rajasingham Narendram

      Dr.Rajasingham Narendran
      March 16, 2013 at 12:13 pm
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    Dr.Rajasingham Narendran Calmness, kindness, fairness, tolerance,decency, hospitality and the charitableness and the Sinhala/Buddhists are mutually exclusive,

    Native Vedda
    March 16, 2013 at 3:30 pm
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