This is the second part of the op-ed entitled “D.B.S.Jeyaraj and the bogey of the reincarnation of the Tiger: Battle of the Fourth Estate in Post Civil War Sri Lanka”. I have undertaken my own investigation about the information (or misinformation) repeatedly churned out by DBSJ in the Daily Mirror (daily newspaper of Sri Lanka) in the past six weeks.
In the case of the alleged gunshot fired at police officers in or around the house of Jeyakumari in Tharmapuram, Kilinochchi, to date the authorities have not revealed the name/s of the police personnel who were shot at or injured in the shooting and the hospital in which they had undergone treatment. There is no record of anyone receiving treatment for gunshot injury in any of the hospitals in the region during March 2014 according to my information. Only information we have is that Jeyakumari is a person who jumped in front of the motorcade carrying British Prime Minister David Cameroon in Jaffna in November 2013 to draw his attention to the plight of parents and spouses whose child/ren or spouse had gone missing during the last phase of the civil war or earlier. It is also reported that Jeyakumari had appeared in the latest Channel 4 programme on Sri Lanka telecasted in November 2013. The arrest and continued detention of Jeyakumari is suspected to be retaliation for democratic protest by an aggrieved mother. Is it a crime to engage in peaceful demonstration or talk to the international media?
There are also allegations about some persons (including some elderly) receiving unusually large amount of remittances from abroad through official banking channels to revive the LTTE. The information we have is that many individuals from abroad (including former combatants living abroad) on behalf of themselves or on behalf of certain Diaspora organisations (suspected by the Government of Sri Lanka) have been helping destitute people in the East and North, mostly ex-combatants, by way of periodic remittances for their livelihood through their contacts in the North. To allege that these remittances were meant to revive the LTTE is a concoction.
Firstly, if at all the former combatants now residing abroad or any others from abroad wish to send money to local people to revive the LTTE or political violence they would certainly use informal channels (undiyal or hawala), which they have been so accustomed to over the past three decades, rather than the official banking channels. Secondly, as I highlighted in my previous op-ed, there appears to be no need or incentive for the Tamil Diaspora to revive the LTTE or political violence in any part of Sri Lanka because their pursuit of vengeance against the GoSL appear to be bearing fruit with the latest resolution at the UNHRC in March 2014.
I am also informed that Kumaran Pathmanathan (KP for short – former primary arms procurer for the LTTE) has been attempting to persuade few individuals, including former combatants, who have been sending money from abroad to the needy to channel that money through his NGO, North East Rehabilitation and Development Organisation (NERDO). However, his attempts seem to have thus far failed. It is suspected that the arrests of one or two elderly persons for having received large amounts of money from abroad is a retaliation to the failure of NERDO to capture that flow of foreign funds. DBSJ by his own admission has met Kumaran Pathmanathan during his visit to Sri Lanka in late 2013, which indicates one of the sources of information to DBSJ about suspected foreign remittances to few people in the North.
NERDO appears to be in a desperate situation so much so that it has entered into the business of selling sand to the construction industry excavated along the coast of Vadamarachchi East in the Jaffna peninsula under the business name Neithal (knitting). Until recently Maheshwari Foundation (a front business of the EPDP – Eelam People’s Democratic Party) held the monopoly of this lucrative sand business in the peninsula which is now shared by NERDO as well; with the patronage of the national government of course. In an ironic twist of history, a kingpin of an organisation that projected its armed struggle as mun meetpu porattam (struggle to recover the earth/land) has begun selling the very same earth for his physical survival.
DBSJ also alludes to few incidences in the North whereby some youths are alleged to have attempted to put-up posters extolling the LTTE or advocating revival of the separatist armed struggle. This could be possibly true, but is it a crime or subversive to put-up posters of this nature? There are hundreds of thousands of destitute and desperate persons in the North even five years after the end of the civil war. Few of them could be easily tempted with foreign money to put-up provocative (but not necessarily illegal) posters. These survival attempts could and should not be criminalised. Where is the equal application of law?; while publicly pistol brandishing Mayor and politicians go scot free and finger wagging, tongue lashing religious bigots run amock in the city of Colombo without any hindrance or reprimand, few destitute youths in the North are arrested on suspicion of revival of terrorism when putting-up posters. What on earth is this partisan justice?
The spectacular claims of the reincarnation of the Tiger five years after the end of the civil war in Sri Lanka is not only an overtly politico-military retaliation to the resolution passed against Sri Lanka at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva and aimed at warding-off potential witnesses to the impending international inquiry into allegations of war crimes and human rights violations committed by both sides of the civil war, it is also a strategically orchestrated commencement of the campaign to re-elect the incumbent President and the Government at the upcoming elections due within the next twenty-months.
It appears that the magic-wand of the Rajapaksa cannot continue to perform without the reinvention of the Tigers. Publicly funded mega infrastructure projects in the East, North, and South (particularly in the home district of the President, viz. Hambantota) have not reaped political dividends to the self-proclaimed “people’s dynasty” as reflected in the provincial council elections held in the East in May 2012, North in September 2013 and in the South in March 2014. While in the North the ruling dynasty was routed, in the East it had to depend on the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) to form the government, and in the South its support was considerably dented; ten percent drop in the share of votes received by the ruling party in the Hambantota district in March 2014 compared to the previous provincial council elections in late 2009. Whilst the purported economic dividends have not trickled-down to political dividends, the bogey of the reincarnation of the Tiger becomes handy to potentially win the upcoming elections by hook or crook.
Already a new wave of fear psychosis has been unleashed by way of registration of youth population in the North (a gift to northern youths to mark the World Conference on Youth being held in Sri Lanka between 6th and 10th May 2014), re-introduction of the registration of fisherpersons when going-out for fishing and returning after fishing in the Northern sea, re-commencement of foot and bicycle patrolling in the interior parts of the Jaffna peninsula by uniformed army personnel, re-enactment of the sentry points along the Vadamarachchi coast, etc. Rajapaksas appear to have realised that only under a militarised and securitised electoral environment could they manipulate and win the upcoming national elections as and when it is called, especially in the East and North.
Under the fast changing electoral mood of the people in the East and North and gradually changing electoral mood of the people in the South, lapdog journalists such as David Buell Sabapathy Jeyaraj from the Diaspora, a group of former combatants who write fairytale columns in Thinappuyal (daily hurricane) for their supper [a weekly Tamil newspaper published in Vavuniya and marketed in the North, suspected to be at the behest of the state intelligence services and the government but reported to be owned by Kumaran Pathmanathan and run by Sivanathan Kishore – a former arms trafficker for the LTTE from the Vanni to the South via Vavuniya and former TNA member of parliament], et al, have been entrusted to revive the ghost of the Tiger.
All in all this government seems to be shooting at its own foot. In the post-civil war period the government has been touting the economic success as its primary achievement and setting ambitious targets to achieve 2.5 million tourist arrivals per annum and $4,000 per capita income by 2016. The bogey of the reincarnation of the Tiger and the religious bigotry championed by proxy ultra nationalist groups of the ruling dynasty, inter alia, could undermine the achievement of set targets and are antithesis to the government’s avowed goal to make Sri Lanka the wonder of Asia.
To the best of my knowledge, the Tamil population does not have the appetite, capacity, or necessity to revive the LTTE or political violence in any part of the country in the foreseeable future.
*Muttukrishna Sarvananthan (Ph.D. Wales, M.Sc. Bristol, M.Sc. Salford, B.A. Hons. Delhi) is the Principal Researcher of the Point Pedro Institute of Development, Point Pedro, Northern Province, Sri Lanka, and the author of “In Pursuit of a Mythical State of Tamil Eelam……”