22 November, 2019

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The Rehabilitation Of Jaffna

By Rajan Hoole

Dr. Rajan Hoole

Dr. Rajan Hoole

Present Realities and Precarious Options – IX

The Sri Lankan Army completed its control of the Jaffna Peninsula in April 1996. The biggest priority was demining. All the forces had used mines in Jaffna. Of particular concern were the LTTE’s Jony mines buried in various places frequented by civilians. In North Valikamam for example, the Army left behind mines in arable areas when shifting camp, forcing civilians to do their own clearing with rakes (our Bulletin No.14). Initial casualties were high in 1996 and then settled down to about 10 injuries per month. The victims were mostly farmers, cowhands and housewives. Early expectations had been raised that the UNDP would start demining. Came March 1999 and the matter was still in dispute.

The UNDP wanted clearance to take essential communications equipment to Jaffna. This reportedly took 6 months. Then in Jaffna the Army withdrew the detailed maps issued to the UNDP by the Government. Subsequently the Defence Ministry objected to the UNDP recruiting 40 civilians locally for survey teams. It wanted the UNDP to use retired military personnel to which the UNDP objected (Sunday Times 7&14 Mar.99). This was not resolved more than 70 later (Ranga Kalansooriya in CDN 24.5.99). Could not the Government that was in control of Jaffna for over 3 years have thought about these in time as a priority? It was after all to do with people and cattle being constantly maimed. One aspect of it was the callousness of the LTTE in laying mines. But the Government did not fare better. Would this delay and prevarication have been acceptable if the problem were in the South?

The demining programme did then get started. But what is the message going to the Tamil people when they see foreigners eager to help them in an urgent problem and their own government obstructing all the way? Military men deal in narrow concerns, but the Government should have been more alert. Equally damaging was the insensitivity displayed in the Defence Ministry wanting to acquire about 5% of Jaffna’s land, which included arable villages and vistas treasured by the people, to expand or secure military installations. This was however not carried out following public protest.

The successful conclusion in January 1998 of local council elections in Jaffna gave much hope. Instead of using this opportunity for confidence- building, the Government quibbled and delayed over allocating resources. Southern activist groups who went to Jaffna as election monitors too shared in the initial hope. The LTTE killed over 20 elected councillors, including two mayors. But on considerations of realpolitik, the activists were largely silent.

A Lionair passenger flight from Jaffna was downed on 29th September 1998 (see Sect.21.5). Based on local information from the Mannar coast and a number of circumstantial factors, we said in our Bulletin No.19 issued two weeks later that the flight was shot down by the LTTE. We also blamed Lionair for regularly taking the shorter, vulnerable route for several of its passenger flights (as distinct from military flights) despite several warnings from the LTTE to stop flying. We also faulted the Defence Ministry which supervised these flights and was in charge of air-traffic control, for permitting passenger flights over the vulnerable route.

Our contention was obliquely confirmed in the editorial of the LTTE journal Hot Spring of October 1998 signed by the editor S. Sivanayagam. It said, “Lionair ferries government troops as well, sometimes sending an Antonov [aircraft] with civilians ahead of two other similar planes carrying troops, so as to make sure that only Tamil civilians got targetted by possible LTTE fire. The plane that went down that day carried civilians, practically all of them Tamils.

The Government has remained deafeningly silent. The world is very sensitive to a crime of this nature. However, the Government was prepared to let the LTTE off the hook to cover up the failings of some of its favourites. To this day (July 2000) the families of victims have been allowed to go from pillar to post attempting to find out what actually happened and obtain their compensation of USD 5000 per passenger, braving the evasiveness of Lionair and the unhelpfulness of officialdom in the issue of death certificates. Only the private media have kept the issue alive. This signifies remarkable apathy in the face of a singular national disaster.

To rehabilitate the economy, the very basic requirements of Jaffna folk are simple – fairly priced transport, goods at reasonable prices and markets for their produce. Today, small traders and small enterprises have gone to the wall because of the cost of shipping, which is controlled by a few big-timers. A large number of construction workers are out of work because of high cement prices. Cement from Indonesia is reloaded in Colombo and shipped to Jaffna. Then supposedly because of additional transport, the price in Jaffna at Rs.600 a bag, is double that in Colombo. Could not a ship from Indonesia have been directed to Jaffna at no extra cost? But then Jaffna is good business for a few who enjoy influence with the Defence Ministry. Economic life is further stifled by a harassing system of permits that has made routine items in Colombo, like electronic spares, luxuries in Jaffna.

All letters to Jaffna are opened and resealed. It is a novel practice not resorted to when the LTTE ran Jaffna, but only since Jaffna was declared a cleared area. Anything that appears controversial is confiscated. Among the embargoed items is The Tamil Times, which several people in Jaffna are sent. It is a very moderate, responsible journal from London which many in Sri Lanka receive without hindrance and is treated with respect by the media in Colombo. It is pointless to ask who authorised this measure. Though some officers, among whom was the late Maj. General Larry Wijeratne, had a vision for making the management of Jaffna a model of success, the Government failed. Jaffna has instead been something of a prison, the good intentions getting lost in short-sightedness and corruption.

*To be continued..

*From Rajan Hoole‘s “Sri Lanka: Arrogance of Power – Myth, Decadence and Murder”. Thanks to Rajan for giving us permission to republish. To read earlier parts click here

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Latest comments

  • 8
    6

    The entire Ethnic conflict was based on the feeling by the Sinhala-Buddhist community that Jaffna people had more education and employment opportunities compared to southerners.It was true because Jaffna (mainly Hindu) folks did not resist the Christian Missionaries. As a result better schooling was provided by the Missionaries.
    Sinhala Only Act and Standardization was brought in to neutralise the educational success of Jaffna .Frustrated Tamil youngsterts started the LTTE movement.Now the Sinhala-Buddhists are happy that Jaffna is devastated by war.This was not only accomplished by war but also by destruction of the Jaffna culture by introducing alcohol and drugs to the students, by the occupying army. Devastation still continues.

    • 2
      4

      Incidents or facts you mentioned here would not help reconciliation, or rather reconciliation sounds like just a theory in books. But unfortunately, I too have a feeling that most of things you said could be true… About drug issues you mentioned with young ones; you can’t just blame Sinhalese army and be silent, this has to be dealt with “yesterday” to minimize it, they are the future of all of us..

    • 4
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      This is not to issue a recast alarm. One of my best university friendsays that they used to get unqualified Tamil ethnic students because the schools in those areas pass them just to get into the univercity. Is that true?!

      • 4
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        @Sanjaya, NOT True!!! The papers are set by the Board of Education of SL and the completed papers are examined by board of education staff. This is complete nonsense.

    • 0
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      Ray

      You put it nicely and that summarizes the problem the Tamils faced. I agree with you 100%

  • 2
    1

    //As a result better schooling was provided by the Missionaries.//

    One hand, yes, there were a number of Christian schools. Then, the other hand, there was a Hindu revival. Navalar (irrespective of his casting etc.) and his associates built a number of Hindu Mahavidyalams (and Colleges). There were so many other local schools founded by simple people to provide education to children outside the Christian schools.

  • 3
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    tamil terrorists should not be rehabilitated but should be shown the way to have supper with fat velu praba

    • 3
      3

      //tamil terrorists should not be rehabilitated but should be shown the way to have supper with fat velu praba //

      how about ‘sinhala terrorists’ then? anyone who instils terror is normal people’s minds ARE well and truly terrorists. tamil people were bombed, shelled and shot at from the air. they were randomly picked from the streets and made to disappear. they were driven out of, not only from colombo, but also from their natural habitat. if you want to see a sinhala terrorist, look at the pictures of gotabhaya, mahinda, shavindra, jagath, sarath, and a host of others.

      • 4
        4

        terrorists were bombed, shelled and shot at from the air. terrorists were randomly picked from the streets and made to disappear. terrorists were driven out of, not only from colombo, but also from their natural habitat.

        And these terrorists turned out to be tamils…there were/are sinhalese terrorists such as ekneligoda…etc.

        gotabhaya, mahinda, shavindra, jagath, sarath(army commander not the rubbish politician), and a host of others are war heros.

        • 0
          3

          Currently all sinhala terrorists are receiving Karma effects. E.g. Rajapaksa and Yoshi

    • 1
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      @ballah, yes the Tamil terrorist do not have to sit with VP. They can comfortably sit with your village idiot and gamay Sinhala hero MR. Example: Daya Master, Karuna amman, Pillayan, KP…………..Inniyabarathy…..do you want me to go on

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        [Edited out]

  • 3
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    Ray: You say: ” The entire Ethnic conflict was based on the feeling by the Sinhala-Buddhist community that Jaffna people had more education and employment opportunities compared to southerners..”

    What an absolutely cynical view of the causes of the conflict you present!. At the brink of Independence in 1948, 93% of the then 80% Sinhala population (v. 12% Ceylon Tamil at the time) were deprived of an English education and that situation was dealt with when the Sinhala Only Act was passed, and within an year converted to the Swabasha Act making Tamil also a national language. (Soulbury’s concerns about this neglect are in the records).

    At that point of history, the fact that 40% of professional and higher education access was going to the Tamils (despite their 12% demographic) was NOT an issue to create envy, and it DID NOT!. It was the ABUSE of Sinhala tolerance by the Tamil community that led to a ~76% grab of Univ. Entrance places in Sci/Eng/Med in the late 1970s that led to the re-evaluation of what was going on and the point at which Standardization was introduced.
    The rest is history.
    Continued fear by Tamils that their dominance in Govt Service and Education was being replaced by Sinhalas led to the “ETHNIC CONFLICT”…and Tamil insecurity was backed SUPPORT from American missionaries in Jaffna who were unhappy at their having to return to the US; a support that persists to this day. The World Council of Churches played a huge role at the start of the Tamil leaders’ call for “Federal status”, leading to the Vaddukoddai Resolution and the call to Tamil Youth by Chelvanayakam, to join the ITAK fight.
    The Church’s influence in US politics is covert but IS IMMENSE and may explain much of what takes place in US- Sri Lanka relations.
    That in a nutshell is the history.
    Let this history not continue to be misrepresented without correction…
    which is what has happened through the years of the “conflict” to bring the situation to the Eelam Wars and via the UNHRC and into what it is TODAY.
    LET THIS HISTORY be presented AS PREAMBLE to any ACCOUNTABILITY PROCESS.

    • 0
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      Sorry…
      Para 3 should read:
      “It was the ABUSE of Sinhala tolerance by the Tamil community that led to a ~76% grab of Univ. Entrance places in Sci/Eng/Med in the 1970s that led to the re-evaluation of what was going on and the point at which Standardization was introduced.”
      Thanks!

  • 0
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    ballah, Parliamentarians Joseph Pararjsingam,Raviran ,Maheswaran are terrorists and KP and Karuna are war heroes to you?

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      [Edited out]

  • 0
    1

    So all except Rajan should be rehabilitated.

  • 2
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    CT thank you for timely republishing this hot topic. I would venture to seriously suggest that each elected M.P. from the North be assigned
    with one subject each, by the TNA, to be followed up by a Quarterly
    Meeting. These new Ministerial appointees must truly work to uplift the
    State downtrodden community for once. Over to you Mavai, Sir.

  • 0
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    ARROGANCE of POWER,” the 50 / 50 DEMAND “
    =========================================

    When the British government was considering to grant independence to Ceylon and considering the various features to be included in the nascent
    state, the tamil politicians led by G.G. Ponnambalam demanded that FIFTY
    PERCENT of the seats of the proposed Parliament shall be reserved for tamils!
    History chokes some folks. Facts are facts.
    Imagine an analogous scenario today in Sri Lanka or any where else in the planet today !!

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