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Tuesday, January 10, 2006

People Power

People Power
By Rajesh Suntharamoorthy

The nature of Sri Lanka’s ethnic conflict is changing and the armed forces stationed in the north of the country are the first to recognise it. Gone are the days when militant groups were battling out against the Sri Lanka armed forces for control of the nine districts that make up the Tamil Homeland. The conflict is increasingly turning into a clash between the oppressed and the occupiers. Tamil civilians from school children to senior citizens are falling victims to the atrocities of the armed forces. In return soldiers are being hit with sticks; stones; knives; swords; mines and grenades by various people’s forces.

For the past 50 years, successive governments have been unsuccessfully trying to portray the ethnic conflict on the island of Sri Lanka as a ‘terrorist problem’. Differences between the island’s majority Sinhala and minority Tamil communities emerged in the early 50s when SWRD Bandaranaika heading the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) exploited the Sinhala-Buddhists position as a permanent majority, by using discriminatory policies against the Tamils as vote winners. Victory for the SLFP in the 1956 elections and the following implementation of ‘Sinhala Only’ law, set in motion a prolonged at times violent campaign by the Tamil speaking people, for the establishment of a separate state comprising of the North-East region, which was known as the Tamil Kingdom, prior to British colonisation in the 19th century.

The Tamil struggle has taken many forms throughout its history. What began as peaceful agitations against blatant discriminatory policies such as ‘Sinhala Only’ and prominence to Buddhism quickly turned to armed militancy against an oppressive state when Tamil youth were denied the right to higher education with the introduction of the controversial ‘Standardisation’ policy in the early 70s. Although several groups of students sprung up to protect the Tamil people, many were later bought out by successive Sri Lankan governments as well as the Indians during the 80s. Meanwhile the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) emerged on the scene as the sole representatives of the Tamil people with their high discipline, motivation and strong minded leadership.

During the 80s and 90s the LTTE were involved in three prolonged campaigns [Eelam Wars I, II and III] against the Sri Lankan and Indian armed forces. During all three of the conflicts a range of tactics including guerrilla attacks, bomb blasts and sophisticated military manoeuvres were employed by the LTTE to liberate the Tamil areas from the Sri Lankan armed forces. Although the LTTE comprised of Tamil civilians and was operating with the whole hearted support and funding from the wider Tamil community, there has always been a distinction that could be drawn between the trained LTTE carders who were carrying out attacks and the civilian Tamil population.

The dawn of a new millennium witnessed the LTTE declaring unilateral cease fire, which was followed by the signing of a Cease Fire Agreement (CFA) between the LTTE and the then Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) in 2001. Over the following two and a half years, several rounds of peace talks were held across the capitals of the world. Frustrated with the lack of progress in the lack of measures taken to improve the day to day livelihoods of the Tamil people, particularly the right to return for the over 300 000 Tamil civilians living as Internally Displaced People (IDPs) in the Tamil homeland, while the Sri Lanka armed forces continued to occupy their homes under the pretext of High Security Zones (HSZ), the LTTE decided to pause further talks until the outcomes of previous talks were fully implemented. At the wake of 2006, a whole four years after the signing of the CFA over 300 000 Tamils continue to live in cattle sheds as IDPs, while the military continues to occupy their homes contrary to the CFA and agreements forged during six rounds of peace talks.

Boxing Day 2005, witnessed one of the greatest natural tragedies to have hit the modern world, when the South Asian Tsunami struck the costal areas of Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand and India. The northern, eastern and southern coasts of Sri Lanka were devastated as over 30 000 people were killed; several thousand were injured and left homeless. Along with the tragedy, came a challenge and a test for both the Sinhala and Tamils on the island. While both the Sinhala soldiers and Tamil Freedom Fighters worked hand in hand during the initial search and rescue operations, old divisions and bitterness emerged in the later days as international aid and diplomats began to pore into the devastated area. Firstly the United Nations Secretary General was prevented by the GoSL from visiting LTTE administrated areas hit hard by the Tsunami. Later a Joint Mechanism proposed by the Royal Norwegian Government for the equitable distribution of international aid across the Tamil Homeland, was left in limbo as the extremist in the South filed court cases and Buddhist extremists went on fast till death campaigns. As a result, more than a year after the tragedy, almost all the Tamil victims are living in temporary shelters constructed by Non Governmental Organisations such as the Tamils Rehabilitation Organisation. The fiasco that followed the tragedy has left many Tamils questioning the wisdom of expecting any peaceful devolution of political power from those who are not even willing to share international aid money in the aftermath of an unprecedented tragedy.

November 2006 was a month of critical decisions for both the Sinhala and Tamil people. For the Sinhala it was a choice between two different Sinhala-Buddhist men for the position of the sixth President of Sri Lanka. Mahinda Rajapaksa representing the SLFP was backed by the Marxist Sinhala nationalist JVP, Buddhist extremist JHU and paramilitary groups such as the EPDP and the Karuna Group. His main challenger Ranil Wickramasinhga representing the UNP was backed by the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) and a number of Upcountry Tamil parties. For the Tamils on the other hand, the choice was simply between voting and not voting. Having overwhelmingly voted for self determination in 1977, they had spent the past 23 years waiting in vein. Again in 1994 the Tamil people voted overwhelmingly for the ‘queen of peace’ Chandrika Bandaranaika Kumaratunga and fled in dismay as her forces invaded Jaffna, murdered over 15 000 civilians and 1000s more went missing and later ended up in mass graves. ‘It is normal for one of the two candidates to appear to be pro-peace. However, at the end of the day, neither one will pull back the occupying forces, neither will put an end to the killing of civilians and neither will allow us to exercise our right to self determination,’ summed up a teacher from Jaffna Town on the run up to the elections.

On November 17 both the communities made their choices visible. Over 4.5 million Sinhala-Buddhists voted for the hardliner Mahinda Rajapaksa. Meanwhile the Tamils decided to boycott the election in their masses. The Jaffna district had a voter turnout of less than 1% despite the presence of over 40 000 Sinhala occupation soldiers in the district. It was a similar story across the Tamil Homeland. Both the Muslims and the Upcountry Tamils voted for the UNP candidate. However, with the backing of an overwhelming majority of the Sinhala-Buddhists, around 75% of the total, Mahinda Rajapaksa was elected President.

Revitalised by the election victory of their man, the Sinhala army embarked on a systematic campaign to terrorise and subjugate the Tamil people under their occupation. Since November 17 over 50 innocent Tamil civilians have been murdered. Several more have been abducted by the armed forces. Men and women, young and old have been targeted equally. The killing spree which began with the targeted assassination of Tamil nationalists, quickly spread to cover the entire Tamil community. Miss Tharsini, 20 years old from Pungudutheevu, Jaffna was gang raped and murdered. A family of three including a four years old child were burnt to death in Meesalai, Mannar. Two sisters were murdered in their sleep in Batticaloa while the Member of Parliament for the same was shot to death in a church during Midnight Mass. Five students were shot to death, ‘execution style’ in Trincomalee. Apart from the above mentioned high profile incidents, the Tamil community began to re-experience death and destruction on a daily basis.

Hideous crimes against Tamil civilians by the Sinhala occupation forces are nothing new. Since 1956 when hostilities began, over 60 000 Tamils have been systematically murdered. What is new is the response of the Tamil people to these atrocities. The people [realising that the hands of the LTTE are tied back by the CFA and the international community] are taking matters into their own hands. They had issued leaflets and pasted posters across the Tamil Homeland, calling on the occupation forces to ‘go home immediately’ and warning of ‘serious consequences’ in the face of continuing atrocities committed by the Sinhala soldiers. Furthermore they have backed up words with actions. The gang rape and murder of Miss Tharsini was responded to with a mine attack on the Sri Lanka Navy, who had been implicated with the horrendous crime. Mine attack was also the response to the burning to death of Tamils in Mannar. Meanwhile, the people have continued to hurdle sticks, stones and grenades at the occupying forces in response to atrocities.

Many international diplomats have found it hard to accept the hands on approach the Tamil people are taking with regards to their own security. The diplomats who would rather watch genocide pass by in silence, seem far too shocked and distressed by the death of Sinhala occupation soldiers. Time and time again the government of Sri Lanka has blamed the LTTE for attacks carried out against the occupation forces. Meanwhile the Tamil civilians are insistent that the attacks that are being carried out in response to specific atrocities would stop, as soon as the atrocities are brought to an end. The ball is clearly in the Sinhala soldiers' court. Stop raping Tamil girls. Stop Killing Tamil civilians. Stop abducting Tamil youths. Automatically there will be an end to attack on armed forces.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Progress of Genocide: Figures for December 2005

Progress of Genocide: Figures for December 2005

December was the deadliest month for Tamil civilians during the four year old cease fire in Sri Lanka, and the death toll for the first time has risen to war time levels.

At least 35 Tamil civilians were killed this month, reflecting a steady increase in civilian deaths since the election victory of the extremist coalition headed by President Mahinda Rajapaksa on November 17.

Revitalised Sri Lanka Army (SLA), Sri Lanka Navy (SLN) and Sri Lanka Intelligence (SLI) have embarked on a systematic campaign to terrorise and subjugate the Tamil community.

Ages of the victims vary from one year to 65 years. Men and women were targeted equally. People were brutally murdered while working, travelling, eating, sleeping and even praying.

Below is a comprehensive list of all recorded violent incidents committed against the Tamil community by the Sri Lanka defence apparatus during the month of December.

Day

Incident

Loca

tion

Kil

led

Inju

red

Miss

ing

01

Two farmers Mr. Kunaratnam Krishnakumar (34) and Mr. Sinnaiah Sivakaran (24) involved in decorating the streets during the Martyrs remembrance week were attacked at a tea shop by SLMI.

Mr. K. Rooban (24) was wounded.

Jaffna

2

1

0

02

EPDP armed gang (a wing of the SLMI) hit an auto-rickshaw using a four wheel drive vehicle, at Pannai bridge.

Protesters shouting anti EPDP slogans were seriously assaulted by the gunmen.

Jaffna

0

5

0

03

Mr. Mohaideen, a Tamil speaking Muslim was shot to death. Mr. Ilanko (38) from Pallikudiyiruppu, was knifed to death. Mr. Ramlingam (48) was also knifed to death.

Local residents claimed that all three attacks were carried out by SLMI.

Trinco

3

0

0

03

Mr. L. Gopiraj (29) from Alvaddey was seriously wounded when SLA soldiers opened fire.

Jaffna

0

1

0

03

Sri Lankan soldiers attacked the civilian travellers along the A9 highway in Chavakacheri.

Jaffna

0

3

0

05

SLA soldiers opened fire on protesting students from Heartly College and Methodist Girls School.

Jaffna

0

4

0

06

Mr. Nizwan (22) and Mr. Rizwan (32) were shot dead by SLMI.

Batticaloa

2

0

0

09

Mr. S. Samsudeen (53) a Muslim civilian employed as watcher at a timber shop in Punnaikudah was shot dead.

Mr. Mohammed Asanar (55) who was sleeping inside his restaurant, was wounded.

Local residents said that the SLMI was responsible.

Batticaloa

1

1

0

10

Jeeva Chandrasegaran (25) and Sasikumar Krishnapillai (31) were abducted from their homes before being murdered by the SLMI.

Batticaloa

2

0

0

13

Mr. Thambirasa Thambymuthu (29) a father of two children, from Eravur and Mr. Chandran Kandasamy (22) were abducted from their homes before being murdered by the SLMI.

Batticaloa

2

0

2

13

SLA arrested a youth who was involved in brokering motor bike sales. Youth is still in custody, according to reports.

Jaffna

0

0

1

14

Three youth missing, following search operation by SLA.

Mannar

0

0

3

14

Seven youths were detained for further questioning by the SLA in Mandan area. However, the SLA has not officially released any information on the detention

Jaffna

0

0

7

16

A decomposed body of a woman, in her twenties, was found at Nasivanthivu. Residents noted of increased SLA activities in the area prior to the discovery.

Batticaloa

1

0

0

17

The body of Miss. Tharsini Ilayathambi (20), the young woman from Punguduthivu 7th district, who disappeared on Friday, was found in an abandoned well near the SLN Camp.

She had been gang raped and tortured before being strangled to death.

The body was discovered by civilians who set out on search inside the no-go HSZ area Saturday and reported troopers shoeprints around the well.

Jaffna

1

0

0

18

Mr. P. Varatharajah (55) from 7th division of Punguduthivu was seriously injured when SLN opened fire on civilians protesting the rape and murder of Miss. Tharsini by the SLN.

Jaffna

0

1

0

18

Drivers of auto-rickshaws at Irupalai junction were attacked again by the SLA, in retaliation for complaining to the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) when SLA soldiers had attacked them and forced them away from the junction threatening them not to return.

Jaffna

0

3

0

18

Rasaratnam Puhalasri (33) an employee at an ice cream parlor at the Parameswara junction was severely injured when SLA attacked civilians around the Jaffna campus.

Jaffna

0

1

0

19

SLA opened fire at a peaceful demonstration march by Jaffna University students and staff, wounding at least seven demonstrators including Prof. N. Perinpanathan, a Senior Lecturer, and a student leader of the medical faculty T. Kandeepan. Professor C. Mohanadas, the Vice Chancellor of the Jaffna University, Prof. R. Sivchandran, Dean of Arts, and S. Kajendran, Jaffna MP were severely beaten by the soldiers.

Jaffna

0

7

0

20

SLA troopers who entered the premises of the University of Jaffna Tuesday noon opened fire, charged tear gas and attacked the students. The soldiers arrested Mr. Manickavasagar Ilampirayan, the lecturer of physical education and a student, Mr. Gowri Senthooran, university staff said.

Jaffna

0

0

1

20

SLA soldiers attacked a group of more than one hundred auto-rickshaw drivers and their vehicles. They had assembled in Jaffna town in a protest by the Auto-Owners Union in support of a colleague injured by the SLA

Jaffna

0

4

0

22

Mr K. Navaratnam (47), Jaffna district organizer for Tamil Resurgence Task force, was shot dead by SLA.

Jaffna

1

0

0

22

Thevaratnam Maheswaran (31), Francis Xavier Anustan (28), I. Nishanthan (28) and K. Theivendram (39) were severely beaten by SLA soldiers on KKS Road

Jaffna

0

4

0

22

SLN arrested seven Tamil fishermen Thursday morning when they were returning to the shore after night-fishing.

Mannar

0

0

7

23

Vallinayagi Thambirajah (18) was killed at the spot and her father Kandasamy Thambirajah (51) wounded in his legs when attempted abduction by SLMI was foiled.

Batticaloa

1

1

0

23

Ms K Malar (31) and K Rajathurai (64) were seriously injured when SLA opened indiscriminate fire.

Ms Malar succumbed to her injuries at the Jaffna Teaching Hospital.

Jaffna

1

1

0

23

SLN soldiers entered the settlement of Internally Displaced People (IDP), the Victoria Hundred Houses scheme, and attacked the civilians with batons, bike-chains and shoes after tying their hands and legs.

Mannar

0

28

>10

24

Ms Vigneswary (29) of Vankalai complained to the Mannar Citizen Committee that her husband, Nadarajah Yogeswaran (33), was abducted by the SLN.

Mannar

0

0

1

24

The young woman, who was shot and killed by the SLA soldiers and dressed up with denim trousers, was identified as a heart patient, Ms Parameswari Somasundaram (26) who had come to Jaffna Hospital for treatment from Konavil in Kilinochchi. Two other remaining bodies were also identified as belonging to civilians from Kanakarayankulam and Pallai. Two bodies were earlier identified as belonging to a night watcher and a garage worker in Kottady. The Sri Lanka Military spokesman in Colombo had claimed that the five persons were gunmen who were shot by the SLA and that troopers had recovered weapons from the victims.

Jaffna

5

0

0

25

Mr. Joseph Pararajasingham, a senior Tamil politician and the Batticaloa district Member of Parliament (MP) of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) was shot and killed by two SLMI gunmen at St. Mary's co-cathedral church in Batticaloa town while attending Christmas prayers early morning at 1.20 a.m.

The MP's wife, Mrs. Sugunam Pararajasingham, seriously wounded in the gunfire, was rushed to Batticaloa Hospital in critical condition. Seven more persons were injured in the gunfire.

Batticaloa

1

8

0

25

Four persons of two neighbouring families, a 43 years-old couple, Mr Emmanuel Cruz and Mrs. Anthonicam Cruz, and Theresa Cruz, a mother and her four-year-old boy Dilakshan Cruz were burnt to death by the SLN.

Mannar

4

0

0

25

Two civilians from, who went to hunt wild boars –a Christmas day tradition- in shrub jungles close to the Palaly High Security Zone (HSZ) armed with shotguns, were shot dead by Sri Lanka Army.

In another incident, Ariyaratnam Kanagarasa (65) from Siththankerny in Jaffna a retired bakery worker was shot dead by SLA gunmen.

Jaffna

3

0

0

26

SLA shot and killed two Tamil youths at Santhiveli.

Batticaloa

2

0

0

26

SLMI shot dead Mr.Ramanan and knifed Mr.Wijeseelan to death in two separate incidents.

Trinco

2

0

0

26

Mr. Satheeskumar, was shot and seriously wounded by SLMI

Ampaarai

0

1

0

26

Following an unprovoked attack on two traders at the Irupalai junction by the SLA soldier, Irupalai traders union called for a boycott and closed their shops in protest.

Jaffna

0

2

0

27

Mr. Nallathamby Thangarajah (40), from Polikandy, Ms. Sivagowri Subramaniam (24), from Puloly and Mr. Kandiah Subramaniam (53) from Thumpalai, were wounded and transferred to Jaffna Hospital after the SLA opened indiscriminate fire.

Jaffna

0

3

0

27

Joseph Christurajah (48), Saverian Sreesilvester (48), Kajanbert Kongland (28), Murugathas Theeparooban (19), from Kaithady East, Nunaval, Jeyapalaratnam Prasanth (19), from Katpakapillayar Road, Uduvil and Joseph Sutharan (48) from Sandilippay have not returned home after being arrested by the SLA soldiers.

SLA denied arresting them in the first place. Relatives have reported to Jaffna Human Rights organisation.

Jaffna

0

0

0

28

Yogarajah Gajendran (21) from Kolumbuthurai, Ariyalai, and Paranchothy Theepan (27) from Kanduvil Veethy, Ariyalai were shot dead by SLA.

Jaffna

2

0

0

29

Thambirajah Arul Ajanthan (16) was shot dead in his home by SLMI.

The youth’s brother was involved in decorating the streets during Heroes’ day ceremonies.

Jaffna

1

0

0

31

Jeyaseelan Yogalingam (28) a father of a four month old child was shot dead by SLMI.

Jaffna

1

0

0

Total

38

79

>34