The census of human and property damages undertaken by the Government of Sri Lanka has been a downright sham from its birth. The government is determinedly trying to downplay a fair assessment and stubbornly endeavouring to falsify the full extent of the three decades old war through a facade of official process.
The government census is undertaken to cover from 1983 to 2009 (26 years). The time space of engaging in the count is 28 November 2013 to 20 December 2013 (just 23 days). The announcement of the count was only made on the 28 November 2013 when the process had already started. The government is planning to publish the report in March 2014. There was no representative participation of the Tamils to establish a fair process. Clearly, the unmitigating and outright Sinhala extremism is trivialising and ridiculing an important engagement of national importance to deal its ever weakening Geneva compulsions in March 2014.
Ruling autocracy that comprises the hypocrites of politics, military and the overjoyed wider proponents who oxygenate the misdemeanors of this pathetic regime is making Sri Lanka a mockery and projecting it worse than a banana republic.
The violence between the government forces started well before the July 1983 nationwide anti-Tamil violence. It was rooted in the government forces going on the spree against the Tamil civilian population in the north on several occasions. Democratic agitations of the Tamils were violently suppressed and even the well attended public meeting after the International Association of Tamil Research (IATR) conference in Jaffna on 9 January 1974 resulted in the loss of nine lives, the loss of civilian property and more than 50 civilians sustaining severe injuries.
Jaffna town was the looting centre for the army and police in the late 1970’s and thereafter. They went on the spree without check and balance and looted the shops. The saddest of the experience was some of the looted goods were held in government vehicles and parked in the compound of Nagavihara (Buddhist temple) at Stanley Road.
When Tamil militancy started in the mid 1970’s, many police officers and Tamil politicians backing the government were killed. The killings of Inspector Bastianpillai, Inspector Pathmanathan, Inspector Gurusamy and several other police officers like Perambalam are well known assassinations by the Tamil militants in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. Political figures like Jaffna Mayor Duraippa and UNP’s Thilagar are noteworthy murders by the Tamil militants.
There was major daring bank, cooperative society and post office robberies to fund the Tamil militant struggle in the 1970’s and early 1980’s. Then the issue of the violence inflicted by the army and police against those arrested and the innocent bystanders cannot be forgotten. Army and police rampages became life threatening experience for the Tamil civilian population.
The July 1977 island-wide anti-Tamil violence strengthened the need for Tamil resistance. The government appointed Sansoni Commission, presided by the Judge Sansoni, went through unprecedented witness accounts and published his report. His report only received pathetic publicity and Sri Lanka faced the worst anti-Tamil violence in 1983 since then. Sansoni’s report did not facilitate any meaningful process to avoid violence against the minority even today.
There were several extra-judicial killings of Tamils. President J R Jayewardene gave a blank cheque to the Jaffna military commander in 1978 with the endorsement to wipe out terrorism by any means. The military was engaged in extra-judicial conduct of unprecedented scale. The mutilated bodies of the 27 year old V Erattinam k/a Inbam and Selvaratnam k/a Selvam were found in the Jaffna lagoon with their finger nails forcefully removed confirming the extent of the torture experienced. They bore gunshot wounds and broken skulls. There were many such extra-judicial killings to espouse a fear psychosis in the Tamil minds but the militancy progressed further.
Beyond 1983, the escalation of the war saw brutality of the government forces extending in an unprecedented scales against the Tamil civilians. Massacres, indiscriminate bombings, extra-judicial killings became a culture and several interviews of Defence Minister Lalith Athulathmudali to the international media admittedly confirmed the excesses of the government forces.
Over a million Tamils sought sanctuary outside Sri Lanka. Almost each and every Tamil family experienced some form of traumatic experience. Some families were completely wiped out in the random actions of the government forces.
The government’s effort to undertake a census within 23 days (leave aside the weekends) is a laughable mission. Both Sinhalese and Tamils have suffered as a result of the war and the Tamils faced the brunt of it. To undertake an undercover count of the damages within such a short space of time is a farce that Sri Lanka can only specialist in.
Such a useless methodology is aimed to prevent a honest and sincere way forward to deal with an issue of a gigantic scale. One wonders whether the heavily constrained census will enable anyone to report the deaths of President Premadasa, Ministers Lalith Athulathmudali, Gamilni Dissanayake and many others on the Sinhala side to be counted in the census.
It is clear, the aim of the conditioned census is to muddy and down play the real facts. The Diaspora Tamils who also have a major say in the outcome of the census have been deliberately left out. Many families who have left the country lock stock and barrel and have no say when they are indeed part of any meaningful census.
As war victims, our family too lost our mother and brother to the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) and there is no exitement within the family members to even discuss about the census. This disinterest is what the government wants to rely on to manipulate the facts to its advantage. The government is desperate indeed.
It is best if President Rajapakse shred the final report outright without even holding it in the archives like the Prof Tissa Vitharane’s APRC report.