'Thuglak' in Sri Lanka – Part 3
"Tamils will live independently"
"Jaffna, the northern corner of Sri Lanka, has attained such a great development to the extent of raising a question as to whether it had actually faced a war. We saw farming going on in greenish paddy fields there. The roads looked new and government buildings have been renovated. The work of renovating Hindu temples was going on. New 3-wheelers were roaming around the city. People lead a normal and casual life. A new Tamil film [Kadal] was running in a theater. However, many dilapidated houses could be seen here and there, in an agonizing way, as the monuments of war [See the box pictures].
Brand new shops were seen all along the roads. A senior citizen told "all the youth, who sought refuge in foreign countries, have returned to Sri Lanka after the war. They get more opportunities for fishing related livelihood only. Since many houses are being constructed now, they work as masons. The well-to-do people and those who get assistance from the relatives abroad open new shops and hence you see all the news shops here. Putting up 50,000 shops in such a small area is too much. If all set up their shops, where can we go for buyers then?" the senior citizen asked.
Though army cadres were seen here and there they did not stop and check any vehicles. It seems that they were not intercepting anyone for checking as well. A youth said casually "they do their duty as usual and we will move around as usual".
A complaint, that the Sri Lankan Government had settled Sinhalese in Jaffna is being made against the GoSL. When we enquired about this complaint with some of the Tamils, only few of them made such a complaint in general but none have said in a way that "so many Sinhalese have been settled in such and such areas".
An official of Jaffna Municipality has said, "A law called "Thesavalamai Law" exists here. Except the Tamils of Northern Province, no one either from Colombo or from the Southern Sri Lanka cannot come to the North to buy properties here". A Tamil has been appointed as the Government Agent (Collector) here. He has all the data regarding the land. No one can amend the documents of several years all of a sudden. Sinhala settlement is an impossible issue. Only the land of few Tamil Muslims families, who were chased away by the LTTE in 1983, have been returned to them", the official said. The Jaffna's Army Major General Hathurusinghe had agreed to meet us. When we met him, he said, "barbed-wire fenced camps do not exist not only in Jaffna but also in any other parts of Sri Lanka. Four years have gone since the end of the war. How can we still keep the civilians in the camps? They have been sent back to their own land. Roads, government hospitals, government offices etc., have been refurbished at the cost of several crores of rupees. Development projects are going on in the North to the extent that the people in the South envy that North is prospering and the South is going down. Sinhala settlement is a blatant lie".
Several thousands of Sinhala families were chased away by the LTTE from Jaffna in 1983. The government is prepared to re-settle these families in Jaffna if they are prepared to come back. However none of the Sinhalese are prepared to settle here. However, a false complaint on Sinhala settlement here is being spread. I am ready to leave this place immediately if anyone can prove that the Government has forcefully settled any Sinhala family in Jaffna", he challenged.
He continued, "only the army cadres and the officials are here. Those who had served as soldiers during the war time were different and the soldiers of the present National Security Force are different. People maintain a good friendship with us. A woman come to us and complains that her drunken husband beats her. She did not go to Police. Women have so much confidence on the army to the extent that they telephone our camp and say that their children are unwell instead of informing the ambulance. We had built houses for many poor people and widows" he said.
We visited the places where the army had built houses and schools. The Tamils in those areas have said "the army helps us in fact". However, their need is always more. Their economic situation is very weak.
An army official said, "there are no Tigers here as of now. But their supporters are here. Army is not ruling here. The TNA does politics here without weapons on par with LTTE. Many anti-GoSL political parties function here. The law implementing courts function here. Foreign Organizations keep visiting here. Nobody can deceive any one here by telling blatant lies", he said.
Yogeswari, the Tamil Major of Jaffna, has said, "development projects are on going on a fast track after the war. Jaffna, which looked like a dark continent during LTTE's time, is getting back its past glory now. Earlier it took 14 hours to go to Colombo from here. Now we can reach Colombo in 7 hours time. Changing the population of Tamils in the North, which stood at 18.6%, to 12.7% was the achievement of the LTTE. They had rejected the opportunities given by India on a gold platter, ruined themselves and also ruined scores of Tamils. This is the only benefit they had gained.
"The LTTE organization was the one which had assassinated three Tamil Mayors who were elected by the people of Jaffna. Meet people in Kilinochchi and Mulaivaikal and ask them and you will come to know as to who had committed war crimes and human rights violations then", she said emotionally. She further said "Cho, the editor of Tuglak, was the only one who had been approaching Sri Lanka issue from the very beginning in Tamil Nadu in the correct perspective. He was the one who had said that an independent Eelam was impossible and that the LTTE would cause only destruction", she said.
When we met Siribavananda Raja, Director of Jaffna Hospital - which is one of the biggest hospitals in Sri Lanka – he said, "large numbers of patients come to this hospital. All the war–affected patients physically had been sent back home after the treatment. Treatment continues only for those who are affected mentally. We received a huge quantum of medicine and medial equipments from India" he said.
While China is putting up a four-lane roadway from Central Sri Lanka to the North, India is putting up the railway track. India is putting up railway tracks at a cost of USD 800 Mn from Madhavachchi to KKS. Apart from this, India is also setting up – at its own cost - a mega industry which could give employment opportunities to 40000 people.
When we met Sri Lanka Cabinet Minister and leader of EPDP Douglas Devananda at his office in Jaffna, he said "At one stage, I too had taken up arms and fought. However, I had returned to the political path when I decided that an independent state was impossible and only a political solution was appropriate. India had paved way for a political solution but LTTE did not accept it. IPKF arrived here. LTTE did not accept it. Premadasa and Chandrika, former Presidents, too were ready for a political solution but the LTTE did not accept it as well. Even Mahinda Rajapaksa came forward for talks. But the LTTE did not make use of that opportunity as well. The LTTE had branded all the Tamil leaders, who had favoured a political solution, as "Tamils Traitors" and assassinated them. They had attempted to kill me on 12 occasions and many of my associates including my brother were killed in those attempts. Prabakaran, who had strongly followed "adamancy" as his policy, had ruined the Tamil community which had faith on him and ruined himself too in the end. They had not only massacred scores of Tamil leaders and innocent Tamil civilians but also ruined the Tamils culture, education, economy, peace of mind and the determination of the Tamils as well. Today we hold office after been elected by the same Tamils.
Doing good things for Tamils by joining hands with the government is the wise move. Since we are an ally in the ruling party, we had stressed the government and made sure that several high security zones, which were under army's control, were removed gradually. In the passage of time army will be withdrawn completely and the Tamils will live very independently. There should be no doubt about this. However, TNA, which claims that it works for Tamils, doesn't assist any of the efforts taken by the government. Then, how the Tamils will get good things? Taking anti-government approach cannot do any good for Tamils, is it not?
The government-appointed LLRC had submitted a report after the war. The Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) too was formed to consider the recommendations of LLRC. However, TNA is not prepared to participate in the PSC. We should make use of such opportunities, if we really want good things to happen to the people, is it not? The elections for the Northern Province are going to be held at the end of this year. Hence the dark era of Tamils has passed and the good time is going to dawn for them in the future. Our party will support for this", Douglas Devananda said.
We met Ganga, a bus operator at the Jaffna bus stand, and he was happy to speak to us when he came to know that we were from Thuglak. He said "Your editor, Cho remains as a forecaster, not only in the Indian and Tamil Nadu politics but on the Sri Lanka politics too. Even when the entire Tamil Nadu had approached the Eelam issue emotionally, he had conveyed a very clear view on the issue. What he said then has come true now. The LTTE had prevented Thuglak magazine from reaching us here. Please take action to ensure that we get Thuglak magazine again," he requested.
Subsequently, we continued our journey from Jaffna to Kilinochchi in A9 highway. On the way we sighted a thing which remained as a witness to the peak of the concluded war and the remains of it"……
(To be continued) S. J. Idhaya and A. A. Samy.
ENEMIES OF EELAM TAMILS
A Jaffna-based person has said that all the confusions surrounding the Sri Lanka Tamils issue would be cleared if only we search answer for a question as to who is supposed to take decision on the stands of the Sri Lanka Tamils issue. Following are the arguments put forth by him:
"Who has to take a decision on the Sri Lanka Tamils issue? Are the members of the Tamil Diaspora who ran away to foreign destinations to save their lives due to war and leading posh lives there now with the mercy of those countries? Are the politicians in Tamils Nadu who do politics by enjoying the benefits extended by these members of Tamil Diaspora? Are students who protested in Tamil Nadu because of the sentiment of fighting for fellow Tamils, without even knowing the history of Sri Lanka, the people who were responsible for the losses suffered by the Tamils in the war and the fact that the number of Tamils, who were decimated by fellow Tamils, was more than the Tamils massacred by the Sri Lankan Government? or we the people who live in our own land, Sri Lanka? Who among the above has to take the decision?
Without doubt, we should be the ones, is it not? All should accept only our decision, is it not? Because we are the ones living here, is it not? All others should accept our decision only, since we are in a mental frame that the life already lost was enough and the remaining should live peacefully in the rest of their lives and therefore we should go behind only those who can do good for us, is it not? What are the decisions given by the Tamils here?
The Jaffna Tamils had given majority to EPDP, an ally of the ruling party, in the Mayor at elections in 2009. EPDP had captured the Jaffna Mayor post in 2009. In the 2010 Parliament elections, the Tamil parties in the ruling front had captured three constituencies in Jaffna. All those voted were Tamils only and not Sinhalese.
The Pro-LTTE TNA won 23 seats in 2009 elections but got only 14 seats in 2010 elections which were held in 2010, after the final phase of the war. The TNA could not win the Eastern Provincial Council as well. This is the situation in all the places where Tamils had voted in large numbers. If all the parties, which had forged alliance with a ruling party are Tamil traitors, then what about the Eelam Tamils who had voted for them?
In fact, those who attempted to force their wish on us, without knowing the mindset of the people here, are the real enemies of the Eelam Tamils," he said furiously.
WITNESSES OF THE WAR
There is no doubt that peace has returned to Sri Lanka and development projects are going on in full swing. Roads, government buildings and power stations have been refurbished and they look fresh. However, amidst this peace, some dilapidated houses were seen – like a melodious sad tune - in all the places. These houses, which belong to the IDPs, become dilapidated since their owners are yet to return.
The Bullet marks, which occupy all the outer walls of these dilapidated houses in Kilinochchi and Mulaitivu areas, bear witnesses to the final phase of the war. It is learnt some of these house owners, though returned after the war, live in huts as they were unable to refurbish their houses due to financial constrains. These houses have no windows, doors and ceilings.
When we enquired about these missing building materials, local people told us "some families, which returned here after the war, could not repair their houses due to financial constraints and hence they had taken these building materials from the unoccupied houses. Some had taken materials with the permission of the owners and some had looted them," they said. It is a big dream to each and every middle class family to build their own house. It is pathetic that these people get caught in a bad time which made them to run away from their hard-earned houses.
TAMILS WHO ARE REFUSED BY TIGERS
Though many politicians in Sri Lanka were asked as to why the Tigers did not accept the Tamil-speaking Muslims - though they had accepted the Christian Tamils - we did not get the proper reply from them. An elderly Muslim in India replied for the question by saying, "the Tigers had considered only Tamils in the North and Eastern Provinces as Tamils. They consider only these Tamils as Eelam Tamils and that Eelam belong to them only. Hence they were not willing to accept any of the other Indian-origin Tamils [irrespective of their religions]" he said.
© THUGLAK, 2013