Wednesday, December 31, 2008


Office to monitor release of child soldiers

An office to monitor the process of releasing children who were among the TMVP cadres in the East will be established in the Batticaloa Government Agent's Office in the second week of January.

This move has been taken as a result of the Memorandum of Understanding signed between the Government of Sri Lanka, Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Puligal (TMVP) and UNICEF early in December to work closely with each other to complete the process of releasing children from the fighting carders of the TMVP within the next three months.

Eastern Province Chief Minister Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan, TMVP leader Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan, Commissioner General of Rehabilitation and Secretary to the Justice and Law Reforms Ministry Suhada Gamlath on behalf of the GOSL and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) entered into the MoU. The Commissioner General of Rehabilitation Suhada Gamlath said that schools and rehabilitation centres will be established in the Eastern Province on the instruction of President Mahinda Rajapaksa to accommodate children who had been misled into joining any form of armed conflict.

According to the UNICEF database, by the end of October 2008, it had received reports of 545 children being recruited by the TMVP of which 133 still remain within its fold, including 62 who are still under 18.

Following the provincial elections in the Eastern Province in May, the TMVP clearly stated its continued commitment to stop the recruitment of children and release all children in their ranks.

During the three month process the CGR and the UNICEF will ensure that information on children recruited by the TMVP, provided the families concerned consent, is shared with the TMVP to facilitate children's release.

They would also ensure that the families of children to be released are contacted and supported in the preparations for children's return home and ensure that the children who cannot return home for whatever reason are provided with alternative care arrangements in keeping with their best interests.

The CGR and the UNICEF would ensure that the children released are provided with reintegration assistance and develop modalities with the TMVP for planning and coordinating actions for the prevention of recruitment and facilitating children's release, care, protection and reintegration.


Drug Menace and the Police

Despite repeated expression of acute concerns by all concerned, the drug trade continues to flourish. While regional and international efforts are crucial in the drive against trafficking and abuse of illicit drugs, local authorities at government level have the primary coordinating and enforcement obligation in executing control measures.

The most prominent and significant cause for the drug trade to thrive in Sri Lanka is the nexus between the police officers and the drug traders. It was not long ago the personal mobile phone number of a high ranking senior police officer was found in the diary of a drug king pin who is in custody. The explanation given by the police top brass was that the senior officer had given his private mobile number to the drug dealer, in view of the safety of the latter. Also the enquiry ended up by shelving the particular diary into a safe place.

Taking bribes, desisting from investigations and recording statements, profit sharing are a few to mention in the list of unwarranted events that take place as a result of this affinity. If not for this, many drug related crimes either could not be committed or if done so would soon be exposed; with this kind of connections, most of these offences are readily committed and become almost impossible to expose.

Hence, any determined and down to earth efforts to prevent this menace must address this nexus as its primary cause. A concerted effort across the nation is imperative to obliterate this scourge in order to eradicate our portion of this global problem. It is still not too late for the authorities to mobilize and effective police force fo fight this menace for us to have a country with a narcotics free young generation.


Authorities driven mad ?

The saying goes that those whom God wants to destroy are first driven mad. Is this what the authorities appear to be going through now?

Without comment, I give below two extracts of news items, which appeared within the space of a week with regard to the controversial Maths paper of the recent GCE O/level examination. The allegation was that it was badly set, placing the candidates in a position of disadvantage giving rise to a demand that the paper be held again.

“No controversy in Maths paper, says committee

The committee has concluded that there has not been any controversy in the question paper as it was prepared according to the new syllabus, according to Commissioner General of Examinations Anura Edirisinghe. However, Mr. Edirisinghe had said that if there is any controversy regarding the time frame for the paper the Examinations Department was ready to do the grading in favor of the students. This committee that probed the issue comprised the Education Ministry Secretary, the Commissioner General of Examinations and his deputy, Directors of the National Institute of Education and several mathematics teachers.

The Education Ministry has informed the Commissioner General of Examination to conduct the G.C.E. Ordinary Level new syllabus Mathematics II examination again. A date will be notified later. Students, teachers and parents recently protested against some controversies that had arisen over the question paper.”

How come, it became necessary to go back on a decision taken on the recommendation of a high powered committee - mind you, appointed on the intervention of none other than the President within a couple of days?

Failure to take a well-considered decision after the fiasco occurred shows absolute idiocy and ineptitude. But that is only the issue of post operative care. The muddling at the stage of setting and printing of the paper itself highlights several very pertinent questions.

Are not the well-established practices of moderating a question paper by a person other than the setting examiner, and the final clearance of a question paper by the Chief Examiner of the subject existent now? This is not the first instance of bungling with question papers. Instances of grammatical howlers, MCQ questions not providing the right answer among the multiple answers, lack of basic proof reading have come to light in the recent past. The miscreants are not suitably dealt with; possibly shielded by politicians. If the Government does not take notice of the deterioration and take drastic corrective action, it is on a dangerous slide to self-destruction.

Cyril Ruberu

Law Enforcement, Corruption And Political Interference

Among the many rights enjoyed by the people in any country, one of the most significant is the language Right - the right of a particular community to communicate with the state in the language they speak and understand. When you take the Tamil people in this country, they face many problems and arc placed at a district disadvantage. They are subjected to hardships and face embarrassing situations every day. Most of them are unable to have dealings with the authorities of the state in their own language. It is a fact that language rights of the Tamils are guaranteed in the constitution. The Sinhala and Tamil languages have been made the official languages in the constitution. What is the use of this “official” status when an ordinary Tamil cannot make a complaint at a police station in his language? When he goes and gives a statement in his own language, he is confident about his version of the story. When his complaint is translated, there could be errors and possibly misinterpretations most of the times.

The other difficulty they have is getting their necessary documents for various purposes. A Tamil cannot register instances like birth, marriage and death in his language. Copies of all these vital documents are written in Sinhala which he is unable to read and understand. So, too, with destination boards of buses.

Consider the plight of a Tamil in a hurry unable to read it because it is in Sinhala. All buses, both state and private owned that ply in the length and breadth of the country, do not have Tamil destination boards, although the use of this language is enshrined in the constitution.

As far as the writer sees it, the government has not made satisfactory arrangements to implement the language policy. What is the use of official status for the language when they cannot transact their daily business in their mother tongue?

The matters pinpointed above greatly affect our Tamil brethren since the Tamil language policy of the government has not been effectively implemented so far to their detriment. On the other hand, there are other laws in the statute which have not been enforced for one reason or another.

It is disheartening to observe that laws, passed with good intentions, are relegated to the dustbin in a country that has become notorious for passing laws which are never implemented. The best example one can point out is the law on death penalty which has gathered cobwebs in the Mother Hubbard’s cupboard for a long period of time. Every government has fought shy to implement it. Even the 13th Amendment to the constitution has not been fully implemented for the last twenty years.

M.Azhar Dawood



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Tuesday, December 30, 2008


Violence in Gaza Strip
Sri Lanka expresses concern

The Government of Sri Lanka is deeply concerned over the escalating violence in the Gaza Strip, which has led to much bloodshed. This has resulted in increased tension in the region.

Sri Lanka calls upon all parties concerned to end the violence, to ensure a climate condition for the re-commencement of negotiations to find a lasting solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict. Sri Lanka has been a consistent advocate for the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people to establish an independent Palestinian State within secure borders to co-exist in peace with its neighbours.

Sri Lanka calls upon parties concerned to exercise utmost restraint and work towards immediate de-escalation of violence in the Gaza Strip.



Construction of A32 to begin in January
by Lakshmi de Silva

Construction of the A32 highway, connecting Vavuniya with Jaffna, through Sangamantuduwa, will begin in January 2009.

The first phase of the construction would include a distance of 32 km, as the mine clearing process had to be completed, Minister of Highways T. B. Ekanayake said yesterday (30).

Landmines had been cleared over a distance of 4 km, but it was expected that the process could be expedited with more security forces personnel brought in, he said.

The project was to be launched with funds made available in the budget and it was likely that some foreign aid would also be utilised as the construction progressed, he said.

The tender for the construction of Puttalam-Silvathura road, costing 250 million rupees, had already been awarded and that work would begin in January 2009.

It will help pilgrims from the South to reach the Holy Madhu Shrine.



CaFFE says free, fair polls not possible
The absence of Independent Elections and Police Commissions and the precedents set in the North Central and Eastern Provincial Council elections indicated that the forthcoming North Western and Central Provincial Council elections would not be free from abuse, the Campaign for Free and Fair Elections said yesterday (30).

CaFFE said during the NWP and NCP provincial polls it had brought to the notice of the public and the relevant authorities that there had been incidents of pre-election violence, the failure of the police to demonstrate that they were dedicated to maintaining law and order, large scale misuse of public property and that the selection of election duty staff had not been done properly, it said.

Since the independent Elections Commission and the Police Commission were not established and the Public Service Commission was not strengthened, much room was left for these irregularities or corrupt practices to take place. Therefore, in the forthcoming provincial elections of the NWP and CP free and fair elections could not be expected, CaFFE said.



Bandaranaike and dogs

Was SWRD a Prophet? This came to my mind after reading a letter by Mr. Edward Gunewardena, a highly respected police officer of yesteryear on a politician’s threat to remove the trousers of a policeman.

He quotes SWRD as having said, "I say Abeykoon, just ignore the fellows; they are worse than dogs".

Now was SWRD predicting in the 1950s what was to become a reality from the 80s onwards?

It is said that a dog is man’s best friend. The most striking feature of dog behaviour is that it is loyal to its master. It does not switch its allegiance for anything. He sticks to his original master and sometimes may even sacrifice his life defending him.

In the 1950s, in a way it should have been considered a great honour for a policeman to be called a dog. In those days, policemen were loyal to one master; the State. They even sacrificed their lives to save the people from criminals. They rarely succumbed to pressure from the underworld figures and Kassippu mudalalis.

By and large the policemen of that era were highly principled and never became putty in the hands of politicians. Their loyalty and integrity under IGPS like Richard Aluvihare, M. W. F. Abeykoon, Osmund de Silva, and others was beyond question.

To us who were teenagers, the father figure of the ‘Ralahami’ of that era looked dignified just like a well trained Alsatian. They were the watchdogs of the nation. Therefore, they should actually have been proud to be called a dog in that bygone era.

What made SWRD say that the politicians were worse than dogs? I trust it was a question of loyalty and serving one master. Even in the 1950s there were politicians of all hues who changed their loyalties.

Again with apologies to the very rare breed of honest politicians in our country, the chameleon like politicians crossover and change their loyalties and colour for massive financial gains.

Loyalty of the politician is more to the shady figures who finance their elections than to voters.

But if you consider some of the present day police personnel it is a sad story. With all due respect and apologies to the very few principled policemen ranging from the lowest ranking constable to the IGP, a good number of them do not seem to understand that they are there to act impartially and serve the public.

Mr. Gunawardena’s tone in his letter reflects his concern over the threat a policeman has come under near Parliament.

My advice to him is not to worry about such behaviour of politicians. What else could be expected of them?

L. B. Herath,



Let there be Kath Noble

It isn’t clear why the first and often sole response of organisations whose mission statements and every other utterance stress the importance of governance to any criticism or even scandal in their midst always seems to be the equivalent of circling the wagons. Rather than checking to see whether there is something amiss, we are usually just treated to a litany of denials and obfuscation. Principles like transparency and accountability that don’t appear in the slightest bit flexible when they are being shouted at full volume outside the main railway station abruptly and unashamedly become pointless.

I was prompted to reflect on this on reading an article on the interim report of the Parliamentary Select Committee on NGOs that was presented the other day. It was authored by Basil Fernando of the Asian Human Rights Commission, an outfit based in Hong Kong that is awfully keen on laying into the Government for its every misdemeanour. I don’t know whether it is one of the NGOs attacked by the Parliamentary Select Committee, but I certainly hope it is doing a good job.

Basil Fernando argued that it was ridiculous to look into the abuse of funds by NGOs when there were so many problems of a similar nature in Government institutions. Thereafter followed a lengthy exposition of depressing charges against the Police, the Ministry of Defence, the Inland Revenue Department and others. Public money is embezzled to a much greater degree in such places, he asserted. They have access to more funds. Therefore the only necessary action, said Basil Fernando, was to strengthen and better implement the existing laws on corruption. He argued that going after a few sprats in NGOs while there were all those sharks loose in Government institutions was simply distracting attention from the real issue.

One point Basil Fernando cheerfully disregarded is that the reason we know such a lot about the abuse of funds in Government institutions is that the Auditor General produces reports on the subject on a regular basis. These are often left to rot in cupboards, but that’s another matter. At least there is a system in place, and hundreds of organisations exist to press for improvements. People officially have the right to influence the work of Government institutions, even if they don’t always manage to exercise it. Meanwhile, there are absolutely no democratic controls over public money that is handled by NGOs. There are only a few elements of a process. NGOs who opt to register are supposed to provide information on what they get up to, but it isn’t followed up or properly reviewed, and many avoid it. There are no standards. Government institutions working in the same field often haven’t a clue about their existence, never mind the rest of the population. The Asian Human Rights Commission may have some kind of a file on record in Hong Kong, but that isn’t going to help Sri Lankans concerned about its work.

Corruption is as prevalent in NGOs as it is elsewhere. We were reminded of this recently when it emerged that Sunanda Deshapriya had resigned from his position with the Centre for Policy Alternatives having returned some Rs. 180,000 found to have gone astray from a project for which he was responsible. Several newspapers rather gleefully published the details of a false invoice that had been submitted for publicity materials that never arrived.

Sunanda Deshapriya claims not to have pocketed the funds but to have spent them on some other activity he considered useful in the pursuit of media freedom. It seems there was money left in his budget at the end of the year and he didn’t want to give it back to the donors. I almost believe him. Earning Rs. 70,000 at the Centre for Policy Alternatives, it seems a bit foolish to take such an obvious risk for so little gain. Anyway, I’ve known NGOs that spent far more than Rs. 180,000 printing glossy books that they subsequently found they couldn’t even give away, never mind sell as they eagerly suggested would demonstrate the sustainability of their work in the project report, and the majority were casually burnt in the garden.

It could have been an unfortunate mistake, and legislation on corruption obviously wouldn’t have been able to help in that case. Waste isn’t like stealing, even if the result is similar. Rs. 180,000 doesn’t sound like much either, but Sunanda Deshapriyaexploits might be just the tip of the iceberg. Who knows, and Sri Lankans undoubtedly never will find out the truth unless a proper monitoring system is established.

NGOs can’t and shouldn’t be allowed to self-regulate. They want to believe that the money they receive belongs to those who have given it, so pleasing their donors is enough. But it isn’t. Funds raised in the name of the people of this country, playing on their sufferings and undertaking to solve their problems, are rightfully theirs. Likewise, taxpayers have no more claims on public money than those who earn under the payment threshold. Donors may not have an obligation to give, but they forfeit all rights to the money once they do. It is morally obvious, and that’s what such organisations are supposed to be about. They also like to think that they are the best people for the job, being do-gooders. There may never have been an era in which these organisations were full of good samaritans, but it is definitely over now. We shouldn’t imagine the Centre for Policy Alternatives is any different just because it has actually done something about the Rs. 180,000. Sunanda Deshapriya may be one of the few people to have resigned over such an issue, but he did so in the context of an internal squabble that made it inevitable that embarrassing details would find their way to the donors.

I don’t think this is the main point,however. The Parliamentary Select Committee ought to have more important things to do in its review of the work of NGOs. Corruption and waste are hardly the only problems.

Sunanda Deshapriya provides a useful example here too. While the Rs. 180,000 was clearly misappropriated, I am equally if not actually more concerned about how the Rs. 180 million or however much the Centre for Policy Alternatives overall budget amounts to was spent. Take note, Sri Lankans currently have no right to influence its choice of focus or its implementation strategy. Given the number of times I have seen fit to criticise their work, I’m not sure it makes a difference if its employees run off with the small change from time to time. Spending public money on misleading advocacy and false propaganda simply isn’t any better.

The Parliamentary Select Committee doesn’t appear to be taking this aspect seriously. We haven’t been given their interim report to consider for ourselves, but we can get a sense of what they have been up to from a press release issued by the National Peace Council last week. It quotes from the relevant sections: ‘It too is an NGO operating to propagate federalism. An organiser of the National Peace Council had once attended a protest in Geneva and also had made a speech in a rally held later which ended with the singing of the song of emancipation of the LTTE together. This organisation, which questions the need for sovereignty, has mentioned about a sovereignty divided into two and of two very close countries. The National Peace Council had engaged in a movement to brainwash the people of Sri Lanka which is very similar to the activities of the Berghof Foundation. They had acted very enthusiastically about federalism.’

It sounds a bit dumb. If this is all the information the Parliamentary Select Committee has managed to collect in the last two and a half years since its establishment, it may as well give up the job now. They could have written exactly that within about fifteen seconds of starting work. More serious analysis is needed. As the National Peace Council was quick to point out, there is nothing wrong in promoting federalism. At least there isn’t if they use peaceful means. In fact, the National Peace Council tried to pretend that it was actually campaigning for various things that might possibly - if the wind happened to blow in a particular direction - include federalism, which is a bit cowardly. They had better just admit it. Falling over themselves to avoid the idea gave the impression that they agreed with the authors of the interim report that federalism was somehow akin to terrorism. There isn’t even anything much wrong in questioning the concept of sovereignty. Some people do. Government institutions obviously won’t agree, but they have certainly promoted federalism at times.

I couldn’t help thinking back to the furore at the International Centre for Ethnic Studies. There is probably a similar paragraph in the interim report on their enthusiasm for R2P, but there is equally nothing as such the matter with it. I’m quite keen on sovereignty, and I’m not a fan of either federalism or R2P, but I don’t want to stop other people having a different opinion if they insist.

NGOs are different. Employees may believe what they want, but they don’t have any particular right to use public money to ram their beliefs down the throats of people who might rather spend it on doctors and teachers, for example. And they especially donhave any particular right to get funds from people overseas who may have their own agendas for this country. This is what needs attention from the Parliamentary Select Committee on NGOs, and things will end badly if it isn’t done with sufficient thought and care.

Organisations truly concerned about governance would have already launched their own process to consider the issue. We know they are perfectly well aware of the criticism and many scandals that have undermined trust in them amongst the public. They instead offer weak explanations as to why they are the only people who don’t need any oversight. It is shameful!



Over 175,000 visit as future minds ends:

President assures a ‘new spring’ to the North
Dhaneshi Yatawara in Jaffna

President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Monday assured the people of the Northern Province that he would restore all that was lost due to LTTE terrorism in the province and added that the kith and kin of the Tamil people trapped within the jaws of the LTTE in Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu would soon be liberated to usher happiness to the peace loving citizens of the North.

Addressing the Northern population in Tamil, the first ever address by a Head of State and Government, President Rajapaksa said he was deeply moved by the sufferings of the Tamil people.

“Like that ‘New Dawn’ in the East, I assure you that there will be a ‘New Spring’ in the North soon,” an emotion filled President guaranteed. The President recalled the manner and role of Tamil leaders of the calibre of Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan in the battle against imperialists who attempted to divide our communities during freedom struggle against colonial rule.

These sentiments were expressed by President Rajapaksa in a message to the people of Jaffna in connection with the ‘Future Minds of Jaffna’ exhibition held over three consecutive days.

The exhibition attended by a record breaking crowd wound up on Monday. It was an exhibition of excellence with a mammoth participation in the peninsula ever witnessed after a period of two and half decades as the Jaffna peninsula was torn by violence till it was liberated by the Security Forces.

President Rajapaksa urged the people of the North to erase the painful history of the past from their minds and to be confident of the future.

“We shall take action to restore to the people of Jaffna and the North at large, all what they have lost in the past,” the President expressed confidence.

“Future Minds of Jaffna” exhibition was also recognised as the Jaffna Educational and Industrial Exhibition 2008, organised by the Sri Lanka Army in Jaffna. It drew over 200,000 people over the three days it was conducted.

Approximately 175,000 people have visited the exhibition on the final day.

The exhibition was held under the theme, ‘Education and Technology’, where educational stalls of schools, government institutes and the private sector were set up with over 100 trade stalls of business communities, local and Colombo based.

The finals of the ‘North Star’ singing competition was held on a grand scale with Social Services and Social Welfare Minister Douglas Devananda participating as the chief guest.

Jaffna Security Forces Commander Major General G.A. Chandrasiri, High Court Judge R.T. Viknarajah, Jaffna District Secretary K. Ganesh, Northern Range Deputy Inspector General of Police Franklyn Fernando, Jaffna Town Sector Commandant Brigadier Ruwan Kulathunga and several other Government senior officials and high ranking Army and police officers were among the guests.

Ranjan Dhaarani, 27, became the ‘North Star’ wining the Rs. 1.5 million worth Maruti 800 car, courtesy of Associated Motor ways (Pvt) Ltd. Dhaarani, is a final year student of the University of Jaffna in the Faculty of Fine Arts. The first runner-up was Kulendran Jagadeesan, 24, a visually handicapped man. He won a Landmaster tractor, courtesy of Haleys Agro.

The second runner-up was Mahalingam Thayaparan, 22, from Chavakachcheri. Thayaparan won a motorbike, courtesy of Ceylon Biscuits (Pvt) Limited. He is a second year student of the Sociology Department, University of Jaffna. The other 10 finalists received Rs. 20,000 each.

People from remote areas like Vadamarachchi, Thennamarachchi and adjacent villages travelled the distance to view the exhibition.


President's address
The full text of the President's message:

"I am pleased to address you today, because this exhibition shows the future vision for Jaffna.

I am pleased to extend greetings to the people of Jaffna, as we set about bringing the dawn of a New Spring to the North of our country.

Some decades ago we travelled together in the Yal Devi Express. Just as the people from Jaffna carry on trade in Colombo, in the past the people from Matara in the South were successfully engaged in the restaurant and bakery trade in Jaffna.

The people in the South of our country always admire the industrious nature of those of the North. Similarly, it was the wish of the people of Jaffna that everyone be as friendly as those from the South.

It was a student leader from Jaffna who made the first demand for freedom from colonial rule for our country. Tamil leaders such as Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan understood well how the imperialists were trying to divide us.

In the past, the leaders of Jaffna and the North who were fluent in Tamil, Sinhala and English wished that we all live together and in unity. We cannot live in this country that is divided as the North and South. We must live in unity.

It is time for us to forget the unfortunate developments of the past. We shall take action to restore to the people of Jaffna and the North, all they have lost in the past. All that was lost to you due to terrorism will be restored. It will not be long before your brothers and sisters who are trapped in areas such as Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu can be happy. That is when, just like the New Dawn in the East there will be the New Spring in the North.

I believe that this exhibition will pave the way for persons with good skills and expertise to emerge in our country. I know that the youth of Jaffna has the strength, courage and determination to achieve this. Therefore, I extend my greetings to all the skilled and capable persons who will be the driving strength of the New Spring of Jaffna and the North.

I wish you all a very bright future

Thank you, Vanakkam.


‘Nine million petrol users cannot be 4% of the population’
Know your maths, Ranil tells Mahinda

by Zacki Jabbar

Those who claim that nine million petrol users, works out to four per cent of the population, obviously do not know basic mathematics, Opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe said yesterday.

Around nine million people including motor cyclists, three wheel taxi drivers and middle class people commute using petrol vehicles, but irresponsible statements by various spokesman for the government indicates their poor knowledge of mathematics. The only conclusion one can draw is that they do not know how much 2 plus 2 adds upto, he said.

Motorcycles and three wheel taxis alone exceed more than two million, but the government is foolishly claiming that only the rich use petrol, Wickremesinghe said. "For the fabulously rich in government petrol prices are of little consequence because they have the luxury of filling up their pajeros and intercoolers with 96 litres of petrol at a time. But, the vast majority of people are not provided with such perks. A standard motorcycle has a maximum capacity of six litres while a three wheel taxi can hold only upto only eight litres."

He said that the government by stubbornly refusing to implement the Supreme Court directive to reduce the price of petrol from Rs.122 to Rs.100 was depriving the suffering masses, relief that they badly need to make ends meet.

Even after the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation had saved Rs.5 billion by not paying the oil hedging contract instalments to the banks this month, the price of petrol is not being reduced to Rs.100, Wickremesinghe observed. "The Supreme Court directive on the CPC is very fair because even at Rs.100, it would be able to impose more than 100% in taxes on the sale of petrol."

The Constitution prohibits unreasonable taxation and therefore government claims that the judiciary cannot decide on prices of consumer goods is not tenable, he added.



Another opportunity for peace is lost
by Shanie


One of the critical elements in military operations is the management of information, or as is more the case, disinformation management. In the early years of our current war, disinformation was almost the monopoly of the LTTE. They were able to convince the Tamil diaspora and indeed many of the local Tamil population that they were truly liberation fighters saving the Tamils from a racist Sinhala army. Today, security forces, the defence establishment and their spokespersons and apologists are equally engaged in the disinformation war. We are told the military operations are going according to plan, that almost every day some "key strategic" town has been taken from LTTE control, scores of LTTE cadres have been killed with hardly any loss of civilian lives and army losses only minimal. Tamil websites quote LTTE spokespersons as saying that hundreds of soldiers have been killed, several hundreds more injured and list arms and equipment taken from the army.

This is why the international media reporting both military claims and LTTE reports always add a rider that there are no independent sources to verify the accuracy of rival claims. This is a pity. The result of the disinformation war is to polarize the community – the ethno-nationalists on both sides will readily accept, if not believe, the version put out by the spokespersons of their side of the ethnic divide. The more discerning will take both claims with a large pinch of salt; they may have their own sources of independent information and know the truth lies somewhere in between. But the vast majority will remain confused. With no alternate untainted sources of information, they will be confused as to why the claims of the spokespersons are not reflected in the actual ground situation.

We now know that military operations have, for both sides, not been going as they would have wished. Over the last couple of weeks, the casualties (killed and injured) have been significantly high. This will also mean increased trauma and a drop in morale. This is why we believe that the Government lost an opportunity by rejecting out of hand the call by the Bishops for a temporary truce. We do not know if the Bishops’ call reached the LTTE but, irrespective of its response, the Government would have done well to respond positively and call upon the Bishops to follow on their offer to act as facilitators. This would have thrown the ball squarely into the court of the LTTE and placed the Bishops as arbiters of a truce. But more importantly, a temporary truce would have given a respite to the war weary and also enabled the security forces to pause to re-strategise. No doubt, this would equally have given the LTTE cadres also a respite. But with falling numbers and fighting on so many fronts, the LTTE would not have been able to re-group as they did in earlier cease-fires. Given the reality of the ground situation, it would have been to the advantage of the security forces to accept a pause in military operations. Besides, it would have raised the standing of the Government among the local civil society and the international community, whose support, despite all the rhetoric, the Government sorely needs today.

Confrontation with the Judiciary

The norms of good governance and our own Constitution provide for the separation of legislative, executive and judicial powers. The traditional view that this separation is strictly to be exclusive of each other is no longer valid and does not provide for good governance. Some overlapping is necessary and that is why our Constitution provides for public interest litigation and allows the judiciary to determine both on legislative proposals as also on executive action. It is in this light that we must view the recent interventions by the Supreme Court on a variety of issues. These interventions have always been as a result of litigation initiated by interested parties, where the Supreme Court was called upon to determine executive action that infringed upon fundamental rights. However, the latest Supreme Court order in respect of the price of petrol has provoked a strong reaction by the President. This reaction must also be understood in the light of the pending determination by the Supreme Court in respect of the non appointment by the President of the Constitutional Council in terms of the Constitution.

Even if anyone believes that some of the specific interventions have tended to violate the strict separation of the powers of the Legislature, the Executive and Judiciary, it has to be acknowledged that all the recent interventions by the Supreme Court on public interest litigation has received general popular approval. By defying the Supreme Court order, the entire cabinet of ministers not only run the risk of contempt of court but court electoral unpopularity. ‘Corruption Watch’ and ‘Defence Watch’ are visible signs that people are now prepared to come out into the open to express dissatisfaction with the way they are being governed. The action by the Supreme Court on the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation’s hedging deal only confirms the mismanagement and lack of professionalism in many areas of governance that was first exposed by the Committee on Public Enterprises that was then headed by Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe.

Many had the impression that President Rajapaksa had a sense of the pulse of the people. But his recent actions and statements, particularly in respect fellow parliamentarians challenging him and the most recent Supreme Court order, suggest that he is losing that sense. It requires only one or two mistakes to turn from being an idol to becoming a villain. Hitherto suppressed views on corruption, increasing authoritarianism, non-compliance with the provisions of the 17th Amendment, the waste that goes with a bloated set of ministers and advisors, increasing lawlessness and violence in the country, etc could come into the open. The excuse that all other matters should be subservient to the war against the LTTE cannot be sustained for long. President Rajapaksa must therefore tread cautiously in trying to take on the Supreme Court whose actions are by all accounts universally popular.

Gore Vidal on the US Presidency

Gore Vidal, the well-known writer, is a strong critic of the present US President George W Bush. He visited Cuba recently and was interviewed by a senior journalist. To a question as to what was necessary to re-establish (order and good governance) in the US, he had some very caustic comments which our own leaders could profitably take note of:

‘Listen to the great words of our greatest president, Mr. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, at his first inauguration. The country was collapsing, economically the banks were coming down, money was short, and he struck a great political note which other presidents have generally imitated, until we get down to this junta, he said "We have nothing to fear but fear itself." That is the basis of the Republic. Don’t be taken in by fear. There are people who make money out of fear. That’s their job, just to frighten.

‘I am not for real revolutions, because they always bring you the opposite of what you want. The French Revolution brought the world Napoleon Bonaparte, Louis XVI after all, was not as bad as that. So you very seldom get what you want if you have a violent revolution. I think we’re going to have one due to economic collapse

‘There was a headline in one of the big American papers the other day that the army was begging the administration for money. They don’t have the money to make fools of themselves in Baghdad. They’ve got to raise it somewhere; we have no tax revenues because all the rich people have been exempted from tax as well as corporations. It used to be that 50% of the revenues of the Federal government came from the taxes on corporate profits. Its about 8% now, they’ve just eliminated it. Corporations don’t pay tax and rich people don’t either. So they’ve not only helped all their rich friends who now have enough money to finance the Republican Party with billions of dollars so they can tell lies about anybody in the country and pretend that the patriots of the country are traitors. It’s a very good trick both economically for them and it’s a bad trick on us real Americans, we don’t like it. We’ve lost the Bill of Rights; we lost the Magna Carta, on which all of our liberties are based for 700 years. No, it’s not been an amusing time.’


Monday, December 29, 2008




At the close of the old year President Mahinda Rajapaksa has proclaimed that 2009 will be the Year of Triumph. He has also signed an electoral pact with the National Freedom Front, the breakaway ultra nationalist faction of the JVP that opposes devolution of power as a solution to the ethnic conflict. A supportive cast of the media continues to report military progress by the government forces into the remaining LTTE strongholds in the North. The names of hitherto unknown villages in the North are given as an indication of triumph. Television footage of destroyed shells of what had until recently been inhabited villages are shown to confirm the triumph.
Government spokespersons speak of a sequence in which the defeat of the LTTE is to be followed by democracy, development and devolution of power in that order. However, the visitor from Jaffna in Colombo for the New Year spoke of a worsening situation, compared to the previous year. Jaffna has been under government control from 1995. It is the cultural capital of the Sri Lankan Tamil people and should be a living testament to the economic development that accompanies normalcy. But to this day there is no sign of economic development in Jaffna. The destroyed shells of building remain as mute testaments to prior battles that ravaged the city.

One of the unique features of life in Jaffna is the Convoy. There was a time when the LTTE used to regularly ambush troops moving on the roads. The solution to this problem has been for troop movements to take place all in one go. In order to prevent the LTTE from infiltrating to the vicinity of the airport road on which the troops will be moving, the road is shut in advance and until the troop movement takes place. Sometimes this can mean that people are stuck on either side of the road for a couple of hours unable to get about on their business. As the military convoy has to outwit the LTTE, it travels at various times, without prior notice. But this means that people can never make plans in advance if this means using those roads.

Stringent security

The LTTE’s ability to penetrate even strict security measures to launch guerilla attacks is not limited to Jaffna, or the recently recaptured east. The suicide bombing in the Wattala market area that killed and injured over 25 security personnel and civilians shows the vulnerability of even Colombo to terror strikes. The need to avert such attacks has led to stringent security checking which focuses on Tamils. As virtually all LTTE cadre are Tamils, there is a special checking of Tamils as being possible LTTE agents. This has had the unfortunate consequence of making the Tamil people feel insecure and discriminated against, and makes them more alienated from the rest of society.

The threat posed by the LTTE also leads fair minded and kind people to suspect those of Tamil ethnicity. On Saturday evening I witnessed two soldiers checking a young Tamil girl near my residence as darkness was falling. There were several other people around involved in whatever was happening. It turned out that the girl’s bus had broken down. One of her fellow passengers, a mother with two teenage boys, had volunteered to help her find her way as the girl was from out of Colombo and did not know how to get to Wellawatte which was her destination. However, the lady was mindful of security issues. So she had asked two passing soldiers to check the girl’s identity documents before assisting her. This Good Samaritan then told her two boys that regardless of ethnicity, the girl was a child who needed to be helped.

Whether in Jaffna, the east or Colombo, the LTTE’s capacity to launch guerilla attacks has led to stringent security measures. These security measures impact upon the everyday life of the community. Indeed, the Supreme Court has ruled that some of these security measures should be relaxed, but little seems to have changed in practice. Just as most people seem to be acquiescing in the rising costs of war they also give deference to security measures that cause much inconvenience. Their hope is that these costs of war will be temporary and finally give rise to permanent peace.

More tenacious

The war being fought with the greatest intensity in the North at this time is aimed at capturing territory and destroying the LTTE’s capacity for conventional warfare. On the other hand, conventional military capacity and the ability to hold territory are not the only attributes of the LTTE. Non-state military groups throughout the world specialize in unconventional warfare. The LTTE also has a capacity for guerilla warfare and terrorist strikes, which is what is being guarded against in Jaffna, the east and in Colombo.

The question is whether victory in conventional warfare by the government, and the retaking of northern territory, will also eliminate the LTTE’s guerilla and terrorist capacity. If the answer is yes, then the conditions of uncertainty, instability and the need for a military presence that accompanies life in many parts of the country will come to an end with the end of the northern battles. The military defeat of the JVP and the elimination of its militant leadership nearly two decades ago ended the JVP’s armed challenge to the state, which was by guerilla and terrorist warfare. If the defeat of the conventional military capacity of the LTTE leads to a crumbling of its guerilla and terrorist capacities, a life free of assassinations and bombings can begin anew in the New Year.

The memory of the defeat of the JVP may give hopes of a similar end to the LTTE’s challenge to the state. But international experience indicates that identity-based rebellions are more tenacious in their grip over societies than class-based ones, to which category the JVP insurrection belonged. In identity-based conflicts, on the other hand, the struggle polarizes communities from top to bottom. In the case of the Tamil rebellion a large and powerful Tamil diaspora that supports the LTTE cannot be neutralized by military methods as they live abroad. Like the past years, this New Year too is unlikely to bring peace through war.

Sunday, December 28, 2008


Neo-Fascism and SL Muslims

By Izeth Hussain

Our Muslims have been perplexed by the antagonism shown towards them by the JHU, and more particularly by Minister Champika Ranawaka, which led to some demonstrations recently. The reason for the perplexity is that according to their perceptions - and certainly by international standards - their behaviour towards the Sinhalese majority has been exemplary. It has to be acknowledged that some aspects of Muslim behaviour have been irritants to the Sinhalese, but all that is on a minor scale and cannot possibly explain the depth of the antagonism. I believe that the explanation is to be found in the fact that the JHU is a neo-fascist party.
I will set out very briefly some of the reasons why Muslim behaviour towards the Sinhalese can be regarded as exemplary, before dealing with the neo-fascist aspect of this problem. The Muslims went along with the drive for Independence while totally rejecting the Tamil 50/50 demand, and later they supported the Sinhala only policy and standardization for University entry. They totally rejected the Eelam demand, and asked for a devolved Muslim unit in the Eastern Province only as a consequence of the Tamil demand for devolution. The collaboration of Muslim Homeguards with the STF led to the eviction of Muslims from the North and the mosque massacres in the EP. Pakistan, a Muslim country, has been more helpful militarily in the struggle against the LTTE than any other country, and at least once saved our armed forces from major disaster. In tertiary education our Muslims are still comparatively backward, which means that they are far from being over-competitive in the State sector and the professions, and they are far indeed from having a dominant position in the economy.
That sets out broadly the reasons for Muslim perplexity over JHU antagonism. What is now required is obviously dialogue - the need for which seems to be clearly recognized by the JHU itself - and the obvious major forum for it is the Parliament. But here we come up against a major problem, which is the refusal of the Muslim Parliamentary representatives to represent the Muslims. That refusal was dramatically illustrated by the fact that while Minister Ranawaka was reportedly fulminating against our Muslims for months, nothing was said about it by the Muslim representatives in Parliament. I suggest that Mujibur Rahman hold another Friday demonstration - a peaceful one of course, this time asking for a JHU-Muslim dialogue in Parliament.

Undue demands

However, a dialogue should be possible through the media and other means as well. The JHU can then make specific charges about the ways in which the Muslims have been making “undue demands”, in the language used by Army Commander Sarath Fonseka, and have shown “ingratitude” - in the language reportedly used by Ranawaka - for all the compassionate generosity shown towards their ancestors by the Sinhalese kings of yore. The JHU can come out with details about the Jehadi groups that are said to be dangerously pullulating in the EP, and so on and so forth. I am sure that most of the JHU gripes about the Muslims can be cleared up through rational dialogue.
However, I do not believe that all the misunderstandings and problems between the JHU and our Muslims can ever be cleared up through rational dialogue. Here I come to the major problem posed by the fact that the JHU is a neo-fascist party. The problem is that irrationality is at the core of fascism, which is understood in the West as arising out of a reaction against the Enlightenment ideology which has rationalism as one of its core values.
What I have in mind can be clearly illustrated by the fact that the JHU lumps together the minorities - that is both the Tamils and the Muslims - as making “undue demands” and showing “ingratitude”. But the LTTE has been fighting a separatist war, with evident strong Tamil support, while the Muslims have opposed it, and paid for it by being evicted from the North and suffering massacres in the East. Furthermore, if the war eventually goes badly for the Government, the Tamils could come to assert de facto dominance in the EP, which could mean the mass eviction of the Muslims from there. The equation therefore of the Tamils and the Muslims as making undue demands and so on is surely irrational in the extreme. It seems quite mad to me.
Apart from irrationality, there are also other reasons why the JHU can appropriately be classified as a neo-fascist party. In my article in the Lakbima News of November 30 I pointed out that there are two kinds of nationalism. In the first, based on the cardinal values of liberty, equality, and fraternity - the political expression of the Enlightenment ideology - you become the equal of everyone else by assuming the citizenship of a nation-state. It is a form of nationalism that leads to the unity of the peoples of a territory and their emancipation. In the other the majority ethnic group, conceived of as a race, is supposed to have a very special, exclusive, “organic” relationship with the soil, and consequently the ethnic minorities are forever “visitors” however long-established they may be in a country - to use Ranawakan terminology. It is the worst political manifestation of the West, and it is a kind of nationalism that is one of the defining characteristics of fascism. It is the nationalism of the JHU. The Brown Sahib imitates the worst of the West and therefore it is legitimate to regard the JHU as pre-eminently our Brown Sahib nationalist party.

Hatred of equality

I will now point to two other characteristics of fascism. One is a xenophobic over-valuation of one’s own group, and the other is hatred of equality, both of which can be identified in Ranawaka’s reported claim that the entry into Sri Lanka of the non-Sinhalese was never challenged because of Buddhist compassion. But how about the compassion shown towards the Rodiyas? If that was how the Sinhalese treated some of their fellow Sinhalese, are we to believe that compassion was really shown to non-Sinhalese immigrants? It looks like the numerically preponderant Goyigama caste got hold of most of the land and its resources, and thereafter assigned lower positions in a caste hierarchy to new waves of immigrants who got assimilated as Sinhalese. The low-country castes - namely the Karawa, Salagama, and Durawe - escaped integration into the system as service castes only because for the most part they inhabited areas that were under the control of the Western powers. Even so, the Goyigama did their utmost to treat them as inferiors. To speak of “compassion” amounts to an over-valuation of traditional Sinhalese society, and betrays anti-egalitarian attitudes in the JHU. And certainly, it is too much to expect us to believe that the non-Sinhalese were allowed into the country because of Buddhist compassion.
I come finally to the most notorious characteristic of fascism, namely racism. It is there blatantly in the JHU notion that the Tamils and the Muslims are no more than “visitors” to this country. According to the criteria for judging which parties belong to the extreme right in Europe today their position on the rights of recent immigrants is crucial. Le Pen of France’s National Front wants immigrants who came from the North Africa in recent decades to be repatriated, and on that ground his party would be classified as belonging to the extreme right. But there is no question of repatriating immigrants who came in earlier decades or centuries.
To regard such immigrants as alien because they lack an “organic” connection with the soil, as no more than “visitors”, was a feat of the Nazis who proceeded on that ground to subject Jews and Gypsies to mass extermination during the Second World War. The JHU has not spoken of exterminating our Tamils and Muslims, but it has wistfully hoped that they will go back to Tamil Nadu and Saudi Arabia.
It is above all the JHU position that our Tamils and Muslims are only “visitors” to this island despite their centuries or more of residence here that declares the JHU to be - in my view indisputably - a neo-fascist party. It means that for the JHU what is objectionable about our Muslims is not what they say or do, but that they are. On that ground a dialogue would seem to be pointless. But it could help change the minds of JHU members who are not hard-core fascists. It could also make other Sinhalese realize that the JHU needs to be watched and kept in check. The historical record - a frightening one - shows that fascism can be very dangerous.


People are moving to safer areas... to protect themselves....

- Velupillai Prabhakaran


Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) leader Velupillai Prabhakaran in an interview given exclusively to LAKBIMANEWS via e mail, says "our strength is our people'' when asked about recent setbacks. When asked about human shields and the Amnesty International allegation about the LTTE using human shields, he says "we totally reject the allegation'' without elaborating. This newspaper posed some tough questions to him, given the limitations of e-mail -- as tough as they could be under the circumstances --- when no counter questions could be asked, arising from his answers. He seems to be saying below, that the LTTE will recover and spring back from the recent defeats…..

Q: Many people say that the LTTE has reached the end of the road. Despite what you have told an Indian magazine, it is clear that the army is on the verge of capturing Kilinochchi. What are your views?

A: In the history of our struggle, we have faced much bigger military operations and one-sided Sri Lankan Government propaganda. When we displaced from Jaffna and came to the Vanni mainland, the Sri Lankan Government carried out intensive propaganda claiming that we will not be able to function as a conventional army ever again. But it was only after this, that we captured Mullaithivu through Unceasing Waves—1,2 and 3, Elephant Pass, and large sections of Vanni. Even now, Sri Lankan Government is carrying out propaganda that we will soon lose Kilinochchi. Recent heavy losses faced by the Sri Lankan military in Kilinochchi battles, however, foretell the future LTTE victories.

You have said capturing Kilinochchi is Mahinda Rajapaksa’s daydream. But yet you acknowledge that there is a humanitarian crisis in Kilinochchi and there is displacement of civilians there. So what is the truth?

We are a people-based liberation movement. We have been waging the struggle for the last thirty years with the blessing and the strength of support of the people. It is because of this we were able to face and overcome many hurdles and challenges. The entire Tamil people are with us. They are the force behind this struggle. It is the desire of the people that Kilinochchi should be defended and they are also working hard in the background to achieve this. Enraged by the support people have given for our struggle and fuelled by the ensuing hatred of the Sri Lankan Government towards the Tamil people, it is carrying out aerial bombing and shelling on the people. The economic blockade has also been imposed on the same people. Our people know this truth. That is why the people are moving to safer areas to protect themselves.

India will not come to the rescue of the Tamil people in Kilinochchi because India is happy to have the LTTE eliminated because of the killing of the Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi also finally abandoned his campaign launched in support of you due to the pressure exerted by the central government. This proves that you have lost the Indian support. Isn’t that the true position?

I reject this fully. The people of Tamil Nadu and its politicians support our struggle irrespective of any political differences among them. None of the leaders there have given up their struggle in support of us. On the contrary, they are continuing to stage protests in support of us. Also, we are working to rebuild our contacts and relationship with the Indian Central Government through political and diplomatic channels. The environment, in which the Indian Central Government too will support our struggle, is in the making. Most people may not know this but I believe some people are aware of this.

Chief Minister Karunanidhi took up the plight of Sri Lanka’s internally displaced people (IDPs) in Kilinochchi, all of a sudden. Karunanidhi and all other South Indian political leaders kept mum when Sri Lanka security forces carried out operations to liberate the East. Many say that they tried to capitalize on the issue in order to get reelected because they are in bad wicket. Don’t you think this is the real reason or are they so concerned about the plight of the Sri Lankan Tamils?

All the political leaders of Tamil Nadu are supporters of our freedom struggle. They have immense love for our people and us. I would say that they raise their voice in support of our freedom struggle without any ulterior political motives.

Karuna and Pillayan have joined the government and with the development in the East they are making the LTTE look small. They have drawn a great many Tamil people to their “cause” which is the government’s cause. What is your view?

All the Tamil people in the East support only our liberation movement. Members of our political wing are doing political work there even now. They are protected by the people. The Sri Lankan Government is maintaining people like Karuna with the help of its military and it is conducting excessive propaganda using them through its state media. This is the ground reality.

You have said recently that the LTTE military power remains the same. But it is obvious that the LTTE is fighting back to the wall. The LTTE has not scored any military successes in the recent past. You say this is government propaganda, but even the international media acknowledges the LTTE is weak because they know the LTTE is back to the wall. Your views?

We have not been weakened. Our strength is our people. Recent battles in Kilinochchi have demonstrated the answer to this question. Future battles will further demonstrate that we have not lost our strength.

There are rumours that you are planning to seek asylum in various countries. Eritrea and South Africa were mentioned. Will you desert your cadres?

This is a blatantly false propaganda manufactured by the Sri Lankan State media. We will never leave our land. We will fight to the last for the rights of our people.

In your estimation how many LTTE cadres are remaining?

There are many thousands of them.

You are getting older. There is no sign of Eelam becoming reality. Any thoughts?

Ours is a freedom struggle. Our movement is a national movement. It has no time limits or age limits that determine the future of our freedom struggle.

All that this war is doing is heaping more suffering upon ordinary Tamil people. Why are you not thinking of laying down arms and coming to settlement, purely in the interests of the Tamil people have suffered for far too long?

Our struggle will continue until the political aspirations of our people are achieved and the security of our people is ensured. No one can suppress this freedom struggle through bargaining or by threats. Our people are making all types of sacrifices to win their rights. If everyone concerned understands this truth, finding a solution to the ethnic problem will become easy.

Do you regret helping to elect the Mahinda Rajapaksa Government by forcing the people to boycott the last presidential election? A UNP government would not have attacked the LTTE in this way.

People boycotted the elections on their own. We respect the feelings of the people. There is a false propaganda going on regarding the people’s boycott of this election.

The international community has abandoned you. It is because the international community is not attracted to your tactics of terror. You cannot lose on all fronts internationally and locally. Isn’t that correct?

The international community has started to realize that our struggle is a just struggle. We do not carry out terrorist actions. International community must realize whether actions of the Sri Lankan Government that carries out aerial bombardments and imposes economic blockade on a people are terrorist acts or whether a struggle waged to protect a people and win their rights is a terrorist act. I appeal to the entire international community, including the Sinhala people, to understand this.

The LTTE killed retired Major General Janaka Perera recently. Was it as an act of revenge or a desperate attempt to confuse the people who might think the government had a hand in it?

There is no connection between this and us. In recent times there were serious conflicts between the Sri Lankan Government and Janaka Perera. The Sinhala people also know this very well. The time when the Sinhala people will start to wage protests against such murders by their government is not very far away.

There are allegations that you engineered the boycott of the last presidential election because top persons who are in the government now, paid you off handsomely. Any comment?

Our freedom movement is a righteous movement. We cannot be bought with money, bribes or perks.

The LTTE “air force” has not achieved anything except inflict minor damage here and there. Aren’t your tactics backfiring, because India doesn’t like this “air force” in its backyard, however irritating and insignificant it may be?

It is the Sri Lankan Government that has launched the military offensive on the Tamil homeland using its armed forces. The Sinhala state is the aggressor in this war. Engagement of our military forces in our defensive and counter-offensive measures, only target them. All our armed forces, including the naval and air forces, are aimed at safeguarding our people and the defence of our homeland. There is no threat posed to anyone else. It is only the Sri Lankan state and its head Mahinda Rajapaksa, who are outraged by the efficiency of our forces.

Who is your second in command? Do you have any succession plan at all - if so what is it?

Our people have accepted me as their national leader and the leader of our movement.

You have said that the government’s propaganda machine is making it look as if the Sri Lankan forces are winning the war. Even assuming that’s correct you are in effect saying that the government has superior propaganda. Why is the LTTE failing in every front?

This is your wrong judgment. We are functioning successfully in several political, diplomatic and military fronts.

It appears that the Sinhala people are sure of two things one of which is that you will not settle for anything less than Eelam and the second of which is that you have repeatedly attacked innocent Sinhala civilians. If not the LTTE who carried out the bombings in buses of civilians in the South?

We are a people’s freedom movement that is struggling for the freedom of the people. We are not against the Sinhala people and we do not kill Sinhala people. We are not racist either. We expect their support for our struggle. Most of the Sinhala people have started to realize the justice behind our struggle. However, they fear openly demonstrating this, due to fear of the Sri Lankan Government’s oppressive tactics. However, in the future, many of the Sinhala people will raise their voice in support of our right to self-determination.

Even organizations such as Amnesty International have accused the LTTE of using human shields in the face of army attacks. Why are you inflicting such suffering on helpless Tamil civilians?

We totally reject this allegation. We have never used our people as human shields. Concerned people must understand the truth that we are struggling for the rights of our people.

Sri Lanka’s development has severely hampered due to the war. Every democratically elected government since 1978 tried its best to find a solution but failed due to the time limit on such governments. But terrorism has no time limit but it buys time always, for its survival. That is why the war is still going on. Isn’t that the true position?

If the successive Sri Lankan governments have fully understood the reality of the Tamil national question and tried to find a solution with a broad and progressive outlook, the economy of this island would not be in such a bad state.
If the political parties that came to power had given up their old and discredited tendencies and followed the solutions to ethnic problems adopted in the modern world to find a solution to the Tamil national question the economy of the island would not have reached such a sorry state.



An Appalling Fray.......Tisaranee Gunasekara

"Patriotism means to stand by the country. It does not mean to stand by the president or any other public official save exactly to the degree in which he himself stands by the country. It is patriotic to support him insofar as he efficiently serves the country. It is unpatriotic not to oppose him to the exact extent that by inefficiency or otherwise he fails in his duty to stand by the country".

Theodore Roosevelt (Works – Vol 21)

Extremism is a mindset, an existential choice, a way of seeing the world and being in it. In its three year tenure the Rajapakse administration has displayed a decided partiality for unreason and immoderation. Still, a clash with the judiciary over the issue of fuel prices seems too irrational and excessive an enterprise even for the Rajapakses. To regard or depict the Supreme Court decision on fuel prices as a Tiger conspiracy to bankrupt the state is preposterous. Whether the government is cynically exploiting the war to stamp out dissent or whether it really believes in its outrageous rhetoric is uncertain. Perhaps it is a bit of both. In any case, this path will undermine democracy and endanger civil peace in the South; systemic instability will be its ultimate destination.

If the administration can imply that the Supreme Court is pro-Tiger because it intervened to fix fuel prices, then no individual or entity, word or deed would be safe from the charge of treachery. Whenever the government needs to defeat an opponent or discredit a non-supporter, the label of traitor will be used. This will cause a politically implosive polarisation in society preventing the very anti-Tiger unity the regime says it is desirous of creating. Eventually this polarisation will permeate even the armed forces; officers who do not identify with the government’s political agenda will be looked upon with askance and treated with injustice.

Since the government is reiterating its absolute and inalienable right to impose super-inflated taxes on the populace and the Supreme Court is advocating fairness in taxation, a majority of the public is bound to back the judiciary. The regime’s obduracy has backfired economically as well with consumers abandoning CPC stations for IOC stations which offer petrol at court mandated low prices. If the regime resisted the Supreme Court on some other issue (for example its controversial verdict on checkpoints), the charge of a Tiger conspiracy may not have seemed totally outrageous. But when it comes to prices, the dividing line is not between pro-Tiger and anti-Tiger but pro-people and anti-people. And by opting to deny the overburdened consumers some benefit from record low oil prices in the international market, the regime has placed itself unequivocally on the anti-people side. This is a battle which should not be waged and cannot be won, even if Mahinda Rajapakse tries a Pervez Musharraf.

If there is indeed a conspiracy to bankrupt the Lankan state, a good part of the Rajapakse government, from the President downwards, are aiding and abetting it to the hilt. The cabinet has approved the wet leasing of a plane for Mihin Lanka at the cost of Rs. 1,100 million. Minister Rohitha Bogollagama has busted Rs. 76 million in just one year on air travel alone. The country is burdened with a gargantuan cabinet. Ministers not only get direct tax waivers; they also avoid paying most of the indirect taxes by using public funds to pay house rent, electricity, fuel and water bills. These are the leaders who preach to the masses about the virtues of taxation!

If there is indeed a conspiracy to bankrupt the state, the rulers are the prime movers in it since they, with their inefficiency, waste and corruption, brought the country’s finances to its current precarious level. It is no secret that the regime’s reluctance to reduce fuel prices stem from the disastrous effects of the CPC’s unprincipled and unintelligent hedging deal. The public is being forced to pay for the errors of the government and that is unjust by any standard. And when oppressed by unjust taxes, a populace has two choices – it can either seek a systemic remedy or it can rebel. Any government that blocks the first, democratic, avenue would be paving the way for the second option.

The Plight of the Civilians

Total intolerance of any sort of criticism is a hallmark of the LTTE, a characteristic which made the Tiger Way. Vellupillai Pirapaharan regarded any criticism of his words and deeds as an impediment to the realisation of the goal of Eelam, even when such criticism emanated from those who were committed to the same goal and were fighting for it. In the end, the Tiger, through its excesses became an impediment not just to the wellbeing of Tamils but even to the realisation of the Eelam objective itself. Criticising one’s own side for its mistakes early in the day is the best way to make sure that those stray incidents do not grow into a pattern, a tendency, a habit. When you do not draw the line, you not only end up by debasing yourself but also by antagonising friends and giving the enemy ammunition to be used against you.

Two reports by the Human Rights Watch highlight the plight of civilian Tamils in the conflict zone, caught between a brutal LTTE and a ruthless administration. In the first report, the HRW has exposed (yet again) the barbaric practices of the Tigers, particularly the exacerbation in child conscription in the recent months. In the second report the HRW has detailed the human suffering caused by government policies such as the internment of civilians fleeing into cleared areas and the expulsion of humanitarian organisations. Logically the HRW’s unsparing (and continuous) criticism of the LTTE should suffice to save it from the charge of pro-Tigerism but logic, sadly, has no place in the regime’s mental universe. Therefore the government is likely to respond to the second report ‘Besieged, Displaced and Detained: The Plight of Civilians in Sri Lanka’s Vanni Region’ not by rethinking its extremist policies but by getting its propagandists to accuse the HRW of being Tiger-friendly.

The LTTE will not give in, even if Killinochchi falls, and it is the civilian Tamils who are bearing the brunt of the burden of its extremist resistance. While the Tigers are intent on fighting to the last Tamil man, woman and child, literally, the government seems to accord no importance of the safety of its Tamil citizens. Even the weather has turned against these hapless people. For them life has become an unleavened misery, a relentless and unequal struggle to eke a tenuous and a meagre existence in a nightmarish terrain. Had the Rajapakse administration been a little less indifferent to the plight of these people, had it responded with a little more sympathy and generosity to their suffering, winning them over would have been an easy task indeed. Unfortunately the administration is trying to match the Tigers in ‘toughness’, baldly refusing to make any concession for the sake of the civilians in the conflict zone.

In any situation there are impossible concessions as well as possible ones. Refusing possible concessions is as damaging as granting impossible concessions. For instance, instead of an edict of general expulsion, the regime could have acted on the merits and demerits of the conduct of each NGO in the conflict zone. The rejection of such a nuanced approach in favour of an extremist one not only increased the jeopardy of the civilians but also prevented news about Tiger depredations leaking out. As the HRW points out, it was the information provided by some of the NGO workers in the conflict zone which made its damningly anti-Tiger report, ‘Trapped and Mistreated: LTTE Abuses against Civilians in the Vanni’ possible. With those workers expelled by Gotabhaya Rajapakse’s diktat, that important and credible source of information has dried up. Now the Tigers can engage in their abuses to their hearts’ content, without having to bother about exposure.

Another case in point is the boorish manner in which the regime responded to the Bishops’ plea for a ceasefire. A more conciliatory response (perhaps a 24 hour ceasefire limited to the Christmas Day) may have resulted in some military disadvantages but these would have been outweighed by the politico-propaganda pluses. Now the world will remember that it was the Lankan government and not the LTTE which rejected the Bishops’ very humane plea for a Christmas ceasefire and this would help attempts by Tiger sympathisers to depict the Lankan side as ‘aggressors’ (especially to the new Obama administration). When guns boom and bombs fall on Christmas Day, civilian Tamils living in fear of their lives would remember that their own government (and not the LTTE) refused to concede them even a 24 hour respite from the horror that is war.

The Indian Dimension

Will the horrendous carnage in Bombay cause a political realignment in the India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka triangle? Though Pakistan did make some moves against Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jamaat-ud-Dawa Delhi, understandably, sees these as grossly inadequate. Consequently Indo-Pakistan tensions remain as does the possibility of Indian aerial attacks on ‘terrorist targets’ in Pakistan controlled Kashmir. If Delhi, in imitation of George W Bush, takes such an erroneous step, it will cause an anti-Indian, anti-Hindu backlash in Pakistan which in turn may enable the BJP to polarise India along Hindu-Muslim lines in time for the upcoming general election.

Such an outcome would be bad for Sri Lanka in more ways than one. The obvious fallout is the possibility of Delhi policy makers regarding Colombo as ‘the friend of the enemy’; this, in turn, can make them regard Colombo’s enemies in a more lenient light. There is another danger which can become a reality if the BJP forms the next government - an anti-Islamic, pro-Hindu understanding between the LTTE and Hindu fundamentalists in India. The BJP is on record expressing its determination to impose a ceasefire on Colombo if it wins the next election. Early this month TNA parliamentarian MK Shivajilingam met leaders of the Hindu extremist VHP and RSS. Both organisations expressed their support for the ‘Hindu Tamils’ in Sri Lanka, with VHP President Ashok Singhal declaring, ‘You can tell your people that we will be with them. We are here to help Hindus. Since most Sri Lankan Tamils are Hindus, we won’t let them down,’ (Sindh Today – 16.12.2008). Mr. Singhal has defended the anti-Muslim riots in Gujrat and talks regularly about Christian conspiracies (he is violently opposed to Dalits converting to Christianity). Predictably some JHU leaders used to quote his fundamentalist rhetoric not so long ago to justify their own anti-conversion campaign. Extremists do have something in common, a temperament, a way of looking at the world, a mental landscape in Black and White, which permits no intermediate colours or spaces.

Since the TNA would not make a single important move without Tiger blessings, Mr. Sivajilingam’s meetings with the RSS and the VHP and his depiction of the Lankan war in religious terms would have happened with Mr. Pirapaharan’s knowledge and approval. It is hard to believe that the LTTE leader would want to Hinduise his struggle thereby alienating Christian and Catholic Tamils. But he may not mind depicting the war as an attempt by the Buddhist South to subjugate the Hindu North thereby gaining the support of the Hindu rightwingers in India. After all, a Tiger suicide bomber tried to assassinate the Pakistan High Commissioner in Colombo in August 2006. The Hindu right may regard an organisation willing and able act in such a manner as a ‘proxy’ worth having. And if tensions between India and Pakistan escalate further, this point of view may find favour with secular-minded decision makers in Delhi who see Pakistan as India’s existential enemy.

2009 is certainly not the time for the Rajapakse administration to pick fights with the judiciary or antagonise Lankan and Tamilnadu Tamils still further.



The dawn of a new century for Sarvodaya

In 1958, a few teachers and students of the Nalanda College, Colombo, under the leadership of Mr. A. T. Ariyaratne, then a teacher of that College, conducted a "Sharmadana" (voluntary service) camp at Kanatholuwa, which was then an impoverished and marginalized hamlet in the Kurunegala District. This was the origin of the massive people-oriented development movement now known as the "Sarvodaya" Movement by the local as well as the internationally community.

Dr. Ariyaratne’s relentless efforts in the field of development have invariably been focused on elimination of poverty amongst the rural masses through awakening of their latent capacities. His concept envisions making the lives of the marginalized poor rural communities more meaningful and sustainable by providing easy access to their basic needs. Various programmes and activities have been implemented in the past to achieve this objective. Under his able leadership and guidance, many programmes have been conducted throughout the country for providing the people with basic amenities and essential infrastructural facilities such as lavatories, roads, schools and drinking water wells etc. These programmes had to be conducted within the limited resources available. Steps had been taken in the past to provide educational facilities and a nutritious meal to school children. Throughout this long period, the focal objective of the operations based on his Vision has been the advancement of the human kind.

He is a highly talented speaker who possesses ingenuinity for addressing any gathering with eloquence and clarity so that everybody could easily comprehend the vital elements of his speech. He cleverly designs his lectures to suit the perceptibility of the audience. Though highly occupied, he is an ardent reader who is keenly interested on widening his perception and knowledge on ever changing trends of the local and international arenas.

Dr. Ariyaratne has proved to be a source of inspiration. The views of grassroots communities reach him directly without intervention by any intermediary channel. He is familiar with the village and the villagers and is very quick in identifying village problems. This is the reason why village communities have accepted and welcome the development schemes conceived by Dr. Ariyaratne and implemented by the Sarvodaya Movement.

The Sarvodaya Movement has reached 50 years since its inception in 1958.

Sarvodaya is not something which can be or should be assessed through what is seen at the Moratuwa Headquarters. The innumerable benefits enjoyed today by the previously neglected rural communities are considered by many as the fruits of Sarvodaya efforts to empower the people to improve their capacities. They applaud Dr. Ariyaratne as an angel who had come to rescue them from misery.

Ghandian policies and Buddhist doctrine have inspired the Sarvodaya Movement, to a greater extent, to emerge as a people oriented Development Organization committed with the responsibility of stabilizing peace and spiritual awakening, and improvement of the living standards and livelihoods of poor rural masses that form the majority of the population of Sri Lanka.

Sarvodaya is geared to empower and inspire the people to take the responsibility of planning their own lives and uphold self reliance instead of depending on others to fulfil their needs.

Dr. Ariyaratne had very good reasons being influence by tenets envisaged in the Buddhist doctrine in the implementation of the social development programmes. The majority of the rural populace in Sri Lanka is Buddhist. Therefore, Dr. Ariyaratne visualized that the best and the easiest approach to the development of the rural areas is through the gateway of the village temple and mobilizing the Buddhist monks and local leaders, both young and old. This approach has been successful.

Dr. Ariyaratne’s keen interest in fostering the traditional cultural values and utilizing them in the creation of a new society is vividly demonstrated in almost all the development programmes executed by the Sarvodaya Movement. He believed that transformation of the attitudes of the people is vital in effecting any reforms in society and that it is not easy task.

Many multi-faceted social development programmes are being conducted covering over 15,000 rural villages and urban areas. These programmes, based on Gandhian principles and Buddhist doctrine, have been designed to achieve a comprehensive improvement of society encompassing the spiritual and material advancement the individual, the family, the village, city, country and finally the entire world.

The successful achievements of the Movement could be directly attributed to the superior insight of Dr. Ariyaratne, and the commitment, diligence and the resolve of the employees and also on the extensive operational network.

Today, Sarvodaya has focused its special attention on furthering the concept of Grama Swarajjaya, a process which envisions empowering and inspiring the village communities to make their own liberal decisions for developing their respective villages and prevent exploitation of villages resources by external forces.

Sarvodaya anticipates establishing a network of thousands of similar village Swarajjyas which will ultimately serve as the basis structure for the creation of a comprehensive system of participatory self-governance.

Chitra Weerawardane
Sarvodaya Central Library



Plantation community:

One third registered voters without NICs

by P.Krishnaswamy

Several trade unions and political parties representing the plantation community, have expressed concern that a large percentage of their people would not be able to exercise their franchise in the February 7 Provincial Council polls for want of identity cards.

Leaders of political parties in the UPFA alliance told the Sunday Observer that in spite of efforts initiated by them to facilitate the issue of identity cards to those not in possession of them, there was still a large shortfall which is likely to impair their turn out at the polls.

According to leaders of the Ceylon Workers’ Congress (CWC), Upcountry People’s Front (UPF), Up-country National Workers’ Union (UNWU) and Ceylon Plantation Red Flag Union (CPRFU) that are contesting the polls on UPFA ticket, over 30 percent of the registered voters among the Indian origin community of the plantation estates were without identity cards.

CWC President and Deputy Minister of Nation Building and Estate Infrastructure Development, Muthu Sivalingam, told the Sunday Observer that they had requested all authorities, including the Commissioner for Registration of Persons, the relevant District Secretaries and Divisional Secretaries to facilitate the issue of temporary ICs to those without ICs so that they could exercise their franchise at the upcoming polls.

Since the last date for obtaining the temporary ICs is December 31, it is very unlikely that everyone without the national identity cards will be able to get the temporary ICs. As a long-term solution the CWC has insisted on the appointment of more Grama Niladharis from the plantation community to address problems faced by the community in relation to non-registration of births and non-issue of identity cards. About 200 Indian origin Grama Niladharis were already appointed in Badulla and Nuwara-Eliya districts under measures initiated by them, he said.

UPF Deputy President A.Lawrence said that citizenship status was bestowed on the plantation community at various stages and the process of merging them into the mainstream with the creation of an adequate number of administrative divisions commensurate with their population concentration, is the basic reason for problems now being encountered by them in relation to issue of identity cards, BCs and other documents. According to the norm, there should be one GS division for every 350 families or 1,750 persons, he said.

According to a survey conducted by them, of the total 452,395 registered plantation voters in the Nuwara-Eliya district 71,000 persons were without ICs.Only a very small number of them will be able to obtain the temporary ICs now being issued by the Divisional Secretaries before December 31 deadline, he said.

Leader of the UNWU and Deputy Minister of Justice and Law Reform V.Puththirasigamoney said that although the GSs and Divisional Secretaries had agreed to issue the temporary ICs there was a marked lethargy on the part of the persons concerned to approach the authorities, may be because they are not literate.

Their union in coordination with the Department for Registration of Persons had organised mobile services to the plantation areas for issuing ICs. Reaching them individually is a difficult exercise but they hoped to reach them through the electronic and print media in the future for helping them to get ICs, he said.

O.A.Ramiah, General Secretary of the CPRFU said that the want of ICs among a considerable percentage of the plantation community will impair their full representation in the PCs.

They also encounter problems in getting jobs outside the plantations due to this reason, he said.

P.P.Devaraj, former Ceylon Workers’ Congress (CWC) parliamentarian and incumbent Chairman of the Foundation for Community Transformation, an NGO working for the welfare of the Indian origin community, told the Sunday Observer that according to surveys conducted by them in Nuwara Eliya and other districts in the Central Province, over 35 percent of registered voters from the plantation estates were not in possession of national identity cards.

Saturday, December 27, 2008


Eelam war as seen by ‘Lieutenant’ Subramaniam Priya

By Cheranka Mendis

“A decision was made. My life was altered.

All because I am a Tamil; a Tamil living in Mulankanvil, Kilinochchi”

For 18-year-old Subramaniam Priya, life was a flowing stream of hopes and dreams until one fateful day in February early this year. Life was a challenge for this bright eyed teenager with war spreading its claws towards Mulankanvil in the Kilinochchi area. Before the war extended to her hometown, life continued in a sometimes slow, sometimes fast pace. The village was filled with laughter and good cheer. Uninterrupted transportation led them to the hustle and bustle of street markets with the air filled with the screeches of street vendors.

The air is freakishly quiet now. No more children running around, no more constant honking of the buses. The air is stale…and life is an episode of a war-horror movie.“Everyone is afraid now. No one knows when the LTTE will come and take their children or parents away. No one knows when an air raid will assail our village. Everyone lives in fear,” says Priya. “We lived very happily before war tore into our village,” she continues, “people in the village hate the LTTE, they hate them because they come and tear apart families; forcibly recruiting them to the movement and taking away their children.” “They sometimes take away children who are small, some are not even 16.”

She is full of remorse about the harm caused by this never ending war and blames the LTTE for the lies woven about the Sinhalese and the Sri Lankan Army. She sees the futility of it, the stark ineffectuality of the Sinhala-Tamil clash.

“There were five members in our family. Now, with me here, in Colombo there’s only two left of our Subramaniam family,” narrates Priya. Her father was a Poosary (a Hindu priest) and her mother was a typical housewife, they were proud parents of three children - two girls and a boy with Priya as the eldest. They gave them education hoping that someday they will be able to leave the LTTE territory. She studied up to Grade 11. “I was all prepared to sit for the G.C.E. O/L examination in 2006 but was brought down with high fever. I was admitted to the Mulankanvil Hospital and therefore could not write for the exam.” She then got prepared to face the exam in 2007 but fate again double crossed her and on her way to the examination she got devastating news. “I was on my way to the exam when I got the news that my parents had been killed in an Army Kfir attack. I had to rush back,” she wails, and thus her education was hindered. “I did not get another chance as I had to join the LTTE in 2008. I had no other way.” With two small siblings aged 12 and 9, Subramanium Priya was the only one left to adhere to the laws of the LTTE.

With tears in her eyes she bid her old happy, carefree life goodbye and entered the world of the LTTE on February 23, 2008. Waking up at 4.30 a.m, her life unfolded before her under harsh and tiresome training. “The training was really hard; there was a lot of running and jumping about to do, but it wasn’t very hard for me,” said Priya proudly as she claims that she was quite a sports person in school. “I participated in a lot of track events; 800m and 1500m were my best.” she said. She had won numerous awards and certificates to prove this. Unfortunately they are all at Mulankanvil today. Her joy and pride is a certificate she has received for winning first place in the 800 or 1500m at a sports meet held at Trincomalee in 2001 with the signature of the president. “President Mahinda had signed my certificate,” she smiles.

Therefore, the training wasn’t unbearable for her; “Some others used to always cry. They couldn’t keep up with the atrocious training.” All LTTE fighters undergo a programme of rigorous training. A typical training schedule is spread over a period of months, which, according to Priya is merely two months; during which they receive training in handling weapons, battle and field craft, communications, explosives and intelligence gathering, as well as an exhausting physical regimen and rigorous indoctrination. Priya says that one month of vigorous training and another month of all round education in military and political field of study wrap up the training and education period. “They had to prepare us soon for battle.” The women allegedly endure the same tough training as men and are broken up into combating, intelligence gathering, political and administrative entities. She had also received Sea Tiger training.

All cadres are carefully indoctrinated on the authorised position; they are fighting against an unresponsive and discriminatory Sinhala majority for a separate State – Eelam; the cadres must banish all fear of death from their minds and be prepared to lay down their lives fighting the Government forces, or consume the cyanide pill fastened around their necks when capture is imminent. The LTTE places immense emphasis on the cult of martyrdom. Thus every morning at 6.30 am they are sworn in, when they pledge their lives for the safety of the movement and protection of ‘their earth and land’, said Priya with an impish grin with eyes cast down.

She is full of remorse for joining in the movement and says that if she had any other choice she would even have thought about it. While she was a cadre, the LTTE had showed uncanny video tapes of how the Lankan Army treats the LTTE cadres who are taken into their custody. “It was torture. They showed us clips where the army was persecuting our members who were caught in a village close to Jaffna. They made us hate the Sinhalese race; and our hatred made us unafraid to battle. They taught us to fight for revenge,” says Priya adding that however she knows now that they were explicit lies. “I wish they know that the Sinhalese are not like that. They have treated me very kindly, given me new clothes and they look after me well. I don’t ever want to go back,” said Priya.

LTTE leaders have established a new method of encouraging the recruits by illustrating the fact that all are important. And every one is a huge asset to its community. They have no rank called ‘soldiers’, their ranks start from ‘lieutenant’ to show that they are all holding important positions. Eighteen year old Subramanium Priya was also a lieutenant. She was forced to the Pooneryn defence line on October 31. She says that there were both males and female Tigers in the Pooneryn line but most were females. “There were about 150 of us in a few bunkers spread close to each other; out of which about 100 were female cadres. But we were not treated specially by anyone. We were all regarded as the same. We were all there to fight.”

She was injured and caught in her first battle itself and she praises the Lord for taking her away so soon. Priya explains the capture illustratively by marking their bunkers and the army bunkers on the back of her new book given to the army; “there were 3 LTTE bunkers within a short distance of each other. Each had 4 women cadres. We were in the middle bunker, and the thick forest was around us,” explains Priya. Around 4.30 in the morning, a woman from the bunker situated at her right hand side was bitten by a snake and all 4 of those occupants came to her bunker. “There were eight of us in our bunker that night,” recalls Priya. “Around 5.30am we heard some noises from the jungle; we called out ‘Anna, anna’ (brother, brother) but got no response,” it was then that they knew they were not brothers from their LTTE family. “We panicked but soon got the message across to the others in the left bunker.” But, says Priya, they were too late. The Army had ambushed them by then. “I saw our leader fall. And then I was injured. I fell and did not want to get up and fight again.” Instead she ate her Cyanide as ordered and remained where she fell until all the chaos decreased around her. “I heard gun fire, heard some screams of pain but I did not open my eyes. I was surprised I did not die.” Subramaniam Priya, a Hindu girl who worshiped and believed in Lord Hanuman praises the Lord for her escape. “I know He is the one who ate the Cyanide, not me,” says Priya pointing at the pendant around her neck. “He protected me. Didn’t let me die and gave me a second chance and left me in the safe hands of the army.” Later she was carefully carried by an Army personnel, even then she pretended that she was dead. “I didn’t want to get tortured like what we saw on the tapes,” she said.

However, the Sri Lankan Army not only gave her the necessary medication she needed, looked after her and carefully nursed her back to life. When we met Priya, she was all bright-eyed and easy going. Her enthusiasm for having someone to converse with was evident. Her shyness seemed to wither away in a few minutes and she was happily chatting away. She is not so different from any of us. The only difference is that she is a Tamil who turned out to be an LTTE cadre, without her voluntary consent. Her hope is to become a good sportswoman and be fluent in both Sinhala and English languages and she asks shyly if I would be kind enough to drop in some books in all three languages. She wants to turn back her life, to relive every moment from now on. And for her, the Army has given her another chance. “I got my new clothes from them,” she says silently but proudly, “We were not allowed to wear pretty clothes in the LTTE.”

She then reached under her pillow and withdrew a small exercise book which contained poems she had written. She read them to me while our translator decoded it for us. She has written about the futility of war. How no one will be able to attain victory as this is a worthless cause. “There can only be one ruler. One government,” she says, “either a Sinhalese President or Prabhakaran; but not both.” Her intelligence overwhelms us. She continues, “All men and women have the same blood. It’s red blood that flows in our veins. Killing another is killing yourself. So how can one win over another’s death?” she questions. “We will all die if this war continues.”

“I don’t want to go back. Even if I do they will kill me for staying with the LTTE. And my family will lose all benefits,” she declares. Benefits as in the privilege of having a fence around the compound, the ability for cultivation and being given ration cards. “We are poor and these little things means a lot. Anyway if they know I am alive they will harm my family.”

“I only saw them thrice since I joined the LTTE but I hope they are doing well. I wish they were here with me, because I am being looked after well here,” says Priya, “I wish they all know that the big brothers and sisters in the LTTE are spreading only lies about the Sri Lankan Army. They are good people, fighting for what is theirs just like us; they are not brutal or harsh. In fact I am happier here,” she says.

“I want to say something to my brothers and sisters in the LTTE, but I know they won’t believe me. I want to say, not to be afraid of the Lanka Army. They are only human like us, and they treat you better than the LTTE,” concludes Priya.

After fully recovering from her scars at battle she will be enrolled at a rehabilitation centre, where she could pursue her interest in sports and bilingualism. She will then be put out to society with employment. “We will help her rebuild her life and give her the proper guidance and help needed to give her a promising future,” stated Captain Hemantha Dayarathne of the Sri Lankan Army Media Centre.