Wednesday, September 29, 2010



I have experienced the taste of success; I cannot stop working for more successes.

Between an intelligent man and an ignorant man, both are difficult to convince but an ignorant man cannot be convinced at all.

- Subramaniam Masilamany

I have been at this Tamil issue since 1961, when the Sathyagraha movement started. It is not the Tamil issue anymore it is the injustice, and ignorance issue. One of the causes of injustice is ignorance, which is the mother of all troubles in the world. Mahinda Rajapaksa, of Sri Lanka, going around telling the world that he is the only leader in the world. Sure he will when China, India, Russia, Iran etc are dancing to his tune. He told Ban Ki Moon that you are just an employee of the United Nations, to call The SG of the UN an employee is wrong but Ban Ki Moon behaves like one. To my fellow Tamils you have seen it all, from Sri Lanka to the world of nations and United Nations. Don’t expect any help, leave aside sympathy. We can do it on our own. We have already proved it. Managing a free country is no easy task; it needs tremendous courage and magnanimity to listen to people and folks. We have to prepare our people; this generation, the next and the future for this task. “NEXT YEAR AFRICA COULD GET ITS FIRST NEW COUNTRY CALLED SOUTH SUDAN” Economist 25th September 2010. Whether Mahinda Rajapaksa likes it or not, by any means the Tamils are going get their freedom. Separate state may be but freedom an emphatic yes. Therefore we have to prepare our people for it. We need to keep our elders in good physical and intellectual state to manage our own affairs. We had never been allowed free to manage our own affairs, we have to keep our current active generation fully engaged in politics, business and community service. We have to educate the next generation and put away resources for the generations unseen yet. What Tamil people must understand is that what Mahinda Rajapaksa is trying will never work, it never worked, he is a thug became a President, it is possible only in Sri Lanka because when Mahavamsa teaches violence, who will rise to the top? Philosophers, Intellectuals and community leaders, you must be kidding! He is bound to fail for he needs a huge military expense to keep people quite. Free people do not need military, only criminals need guns and weapons. His brother is another with violent temper. Can it work in nation of people? It cannot. A nation exists and prospers when people are free to be creative. Until such time tyranny and anarchy will prevail. Mahinda Rajapaksa is trying a new social experiment when history tells such institutions never worked, in fact they failed.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

27,400 TAMIL IDPs remain to be resettled & out of which 19,000 are from Pudukudiiruppu/Pudumathalan areas! They are NOT resettled EVEN AFTER 16 MTHS!

New beginning for resettled - Part I:

Accelerated rebuilding process in North
Ariya Rubasinghe

Only 27, 400 IDPs remain to be resettled and out of which 19,000 are from the Pudukudiiruppu and Pudumathalan areas. They are unable to be resettled yet since the area is heavily congested with landmines and demining operations in the area are underway.

The Security Forces rescued around 295,000 people from the terrorist hold and of which over 265,000 people have been resettled in their original habitats and have been provided with financial assistance, home appliances and dry rations required for six months. Originally, the people who were rescued were housed in 47 camps including the Lakshman Kadirgamar, Ananda Coomaraswamy and Arunachalam Transititional resettlement villages and with successful resettlement of people in their original habitats, which included resettlement of 7,185 families amounting to 19,604 persons in Kilinochchi, 7,775 families consisting of 19,257 persons in Mullaitivu, 18,948 families consisting 59,830 persons in Jaffna, 3,425 families consisting 11,000 persons and the rest in Mannar district and other places, the remaining number of 27,400 people have now been moved to the five main welfare centres while closing down all other camps. In these camps too most of the blocks now remain empty.

One of the newly constructed buildings

Educating of IDP children
Children in the welfare centres who were without education for several years when they were under the jurisdiction of terrorists are now being given with proper education. When a media team jointly organized by the Information Department, the Media Centre for National Development and Mass Media and Information Ministry visited the Arunachalam Transitional Resettlement Village, they were told by the Principal of the School in the Welfare Centre K A Gnaneswaran, himself an IDP from Udayakattu, in Pudukudiiruppu, that there were eight schools in the welfare centre with 2,462 children at the beginning and following most of the people and children leaving the welfare centre for resettlement in their original habitats, the remaining children are now brought under one school and the school in the welfare centre has classes from Grade One to Advanced level.

He said the school now has 362 students with 13 teachers of which three teachers including him were IDPs. The rest are outside teachers. He said the furniture and other facilities for the school are provided by the Government and the Government also pays their salaries. He further said that the schools were established by the Government within one month of establishing the welfare centres last year and NGOs like UNICEF also provide material and things required for the school.

Another teacher, also an IDP, named Sumithra said that she was from Kilinochchi and left her village in 2008 when the LTTE was carrying out forcible recruitment. She said she and her family stayed with some of their relations in Mannar and after the welfare centre was established in Mankulam, they came and settled down in it. She is happy now and devotes her time to educate the children. She said that she hopes to return to her village when conditions return to normal and when demining is completed in her habitat area.

Freedom of movement
Camp Management Army Units have appointed several youth as GS personnel to assist IDPs in the maximum possible manner. They are similar to Grama Niladharis and will help look after the welfare of the IDPs and advise the Camp Managements about shortcomings and problems.

The Army Engineering Unit is building a 1 km dam for storage of rainwater. This tank named as Vairavi Sinnakulam would provide irrigation facilities for 80 acres of paddy fields and 35 acres of land for cultivation of other crops.

Vanni Region Commander Major General Kamal Gunaratne said at the Vanni Region Army Headquarters that he is indeed happy to mention that since May 19, 2009 until now, no terrorist act has taken place in Sri Lanka and no one has died due to terrorism. He said the honour for this situation should not only be accorded to the Security Forces but also to the people of this country and the Government including President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Explaining further, the Major General said that not only the people of the Vanni suffered and were oppressed by the LTTE terrorists and were living in fear and anxiety but people in the other parts of the country faced the same fate.

Family members refrained from travelling together and father used to go to work in a bus, mother by a train and children by school vans to avoid the menace of becoming victimized by bus bombs, sudden bomb blasts, train bombs and other forms of terrorism. The peaceful environment has not only brought peace of mind and confidence to the people of the Vanni but for the country as a whole. The world’s ruthless terrorist organization has been completely wiped out.

LTTE cadres
The Major General pointed out that about 12,000 LTTE cadres have been rehabilitated and about 4,000 of them have gone back to their normal civilian life.

Commenting on the rescue operations carried out Major General Kamal Gunaratne said over 295,000 came into the Government controlled areas within a limited period. The Army accepted them and separated them from the dangerous people, provided them food and shelter, helped them with kindness and compassion and created a peaceful environment for them to live safely. They were brought to Omanthai, registered and kept in Transitional Villages providing all essential and immediate facilities they required, not treating them as a people who had taken up arms against the Security Forces, but as innocent people who were affected by circumstantial cruelties. Identified cadres were separated and rehabilitated.

Clarifying about the demining operations, he said that demining operations are being carried out in a humanitarian manner to ensure that no danger could be caused to anyone through mines.

Over 1,000 Engineering Unit soldiers, over 100 machines bought by the Government, sniffer dogs and help from some foreign organizations too are engaged in the demining operation and IDPs are settled in the demined areas only after a certificate of safety for the area is obtained from the UN organization issuing certificates. He said the dark days are over now and we should look as to how we could help each and everyone commit themselves to build this country for a bright and prosperous future for everyone. Our aspiration is to give back everyone the life they lost during the last three decades.

The Major General said that tanks are being built, electricity is being supplied everywhere, roads, schools, houses constructed and families provided to children to pursue their studies.

Media team
Personnel are paid a monthly salary by the government and each camp has several GS personnel. One such GS interviewed by the media team informed that he was from Aruchchilan, a village in the Pudukudiiruppu area and he came to the government controlled side following forcible abduction of his elder brother by the LTTE.

He said he was very happy about the facilities being provided for IDPs by the government compared to the hardship and anxiety they endured under the LTTE.

IDPs in welfare centres are given passes to go out at any time and return even after three months. Many IDPs leave welfare centres daily for work in other places despite being provided with all requirements including dry rations.

Some of the IDPs even sell part of their rations in Vavuniya Town.

To be continued

Lake House Copyright © 2010 The Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Ltd.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

SO: Less than 25000 remain in camps? LNW:There were many more displaced Tamils in the North & East than those recorded & announced by Sinhala govt.!!!

Less than 25,000 remain in camps:

Bulk of displaced persons return home

By Dhaneshi YATAWARA

Young boys and girls engaged in their studies

As at September 19, 2010 official records state that 24,355 people are remaining at the Cheddikulam and Jaffna welfare camps. Yet almost one year and four months ago the figure was staggering. As recorded by the Ministry of Resettlement on May 30, 2009 in Vavuniya, 262,629 Internally Displaced Persons were sheltered in 25 welfare centres while 11,164 were living in six welfare centres in Jaffna. Two welfare centres in Mannar shelter 1,362 IDPs. The government had anticipated this exodus and was prepared to deal with it.

During the last few days of the Eelam War IV, thousands of people reached the safety of the Sri Lanka Army, fleeing away from the LTTE. By May 18-19, 2009 nearly 85,000 IDPs reached the Cheddikulam Menik Farm Welfare camp. The LTTE herded the people of Vanni into a rapidly shrinking enclave in Mullaitivu as part of their military strategy and then used them as human shield. History repeated itself. During the battle of Vakarai in the East the LTTE held 34,000 easterners as a human shield. Despite adverse international comments and misinformation Sri Lanka methodically weakened the terrorist group, One time described by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) as being “the most dangerous and deadly extremists in the world”, and set about eliminating it. Thousands streamed out of the LTTE’s final stronghold when the security forces broke through.

Winning the war was an unparalleled achievement which Sri Lanka was able to do convincingly on its own under President Mahinda Rajapaksa. The grand finale was overwhelmingly convincing compared with the efforts by larger and better equipped forces thousands of miles from their own borders, to counter terrorist threats. The victory generated great confidence in the hearts and minds of the people. Following the silencing of guns the stock market records started moving upward and investment flow over the months increased while inflation dipped to an all time low. Rupee maintained its value and foreign currency reserves showed a sharp increase. Positive indications multiplied.

Slowly but steadily, the blanket of fear that engulfed the country for nearly three decades was, being removed. The success of the security forces and Sri Lanka’s diplomacy, has also aroused significant admiration around the world.

UN figures indicate that 26 million are currently displaced the world over, including in Asia, some directly caused by external interventions. 250,000 were displaced in Pakistan in the latter part of 2009. Many of the displaced around the world have remained in squalid camps for many years. Terrorist groups remain a threat elsewhere in the world despite the deployment of more sophisticated forces, advanced equipment. Deaths and injury and the large scale displacement of civilians in other places still continue.

A group of IDPs
Pic : Rukmal Gamage
With all the remarkable achievements, Sri Lankans responded with an outpouring of support to the Government during the series of Provincial Council Elections in 2008, 2009 and the Presidential Elections in 2010. No Government in the history has ever enjoyed so much of popular support in their tenures. Today the Government’s effort is to convert this political confidence to sustainable peace and economic activities. Sri Lanka has undergone a string of catastrophic experiences resulting in thousands of persons being displaced in recent years with significant consequence on the economy. And this will be a daunting task. Dealing with the aftermath of the tsunami and winning the war required a range of complex tactical approaches. Much of Sri Lanka’s success in dealing with the tsunami was due to its well developed health services sector and the caring nature and generosity of Sri Lankans. Tempted to compare ourselves with the rest of the world, we see displaced people from Hurricane Katrina were not yet resettled. Few weeks back, commemorating the devastation US President Barack Obama blamed the Government administration of the state for this failure. Much poorer, less sophisticated, yet we are more fortunate.

Today, almost everyone who was displaced by the tsunami has returned home. Some returned to better homes in specially constructed housing schemes almost within three years. Much of the business activity has resumed and tourism in the affected areas has been revived.

The anticipated epidemics as feared during natural disasters, did not happen in Sri Lanka. People did not languish in camps longer than necessary. Hardly a sign remains to remind the world of the devastation. Similarly, most of the persons displaced in the Eastern Province have now been returned to their homes. They have successfully re-established themselves in their villages and towns. It was mainly through Government’s own effort. Abandoned villages are getting reconstructed; the roads and irrigation works are rehabilitated. Village schools and clinics are getting restored. The economic progress of the province has been impressive. Last but not least the democratic processes were re-established in the Eastern Province following the 2007 elections.

The welfare villages which provided shelter, food, healthcare, education and security to the IDPs will soon be history. They were the focus of international concern for months but security concerns were far more important. Sri Lanka suffered brutal terrorism nearly three decades and was too fragile to take too many risks though there was mammoth sized anticipation from the international arena on alleged human right violations. All these encounters were in the process of caring to a group of our own citizens facing devastation who were once a bargaining chip for the LTTE in their deadly hostage game.

Every effort has been made to ensure that the temporary stay of the displaced was as comfortable as possible. The IDP camps also provided banking and postal facilities. In a welcome development, the banks received close to Rs 400 million in deposits in the space of two days in June 2009. Since then the major banks have reopened branches in Jaffna and other Northern towns and are doing a brisk business.

This clearly demonstrated that many in the camps had significant financial resources. Some obviously carried their money and gold carefully with them and managed to keep it away from the LTTE. This is in stark contrast to the IDPs who have poured in to camps elsewhere in the world. It also indicates that the displaced had confidence in Sri Lanka’s banking system.

The government has been working on enhancing this feeling of confidence. Today the return of all the IDPs to their own homes and the restoring economic activities is priority.

To cater to a mammoth number of IDPs it costs millions of dollars per day. For a country seeking a growth in the economy this expenditure is a massive burden.

Therefore, their return to their own homes was always central to the thinking of Government plan.

The displaced returned to their homes at the rate of 1500 - 2000 every day. The roads, destroyed during 30 years of fighting need to be repaired in the resettling villages. The irrigation works need to be restored. All of which will require massive investments.

As the IDPs return to their homes, a serious challenge continues to be posed by unmapped LTTE mine fields in the North. The Government estimates that there are over 402 Sq. km. of mine fields to be cleared. Over 1.5 million mines had been laid. Many villages have been demined, largely by the Army. 29 demining machines were obtained, mainly from the Czech Republic with assistance from UNHCR and Australia. Assistance was also provided by the UN, India, Japan, Norway, the UK, the US, etc. 70% of the demining has been achieved by the Sri Lankan Army.

For over twenty seven years, due to a conflict which was not of its own making, Sri Lanka’s resources remained under-utilized. With more lands coming under cultivation the rural economy’s contribution to the national economy accelerated. The progress was evident in the marked increase in the GDP percentage. Today Sri Lanka enjoys a growth of 8.5%. President Rajapaksa Government plans to increase the per capita income up to US$ 4000.

It is the intention of the government to ensure that what is taken for granted elsewhere in Sri Lanka by way of democratic governance is available in the North also and that the grievances of all our people are addressed through democratic mechanism.

As President Mahinda Rajapaksa said on 19th May 2009 “Ending terrorism in Sri Lanka means a victory for democracy in the world. Sri Lanka has now given a beginning to the ending of terrorism in the world.”

President Mahinda Rajapaksa has repeatedly invited Sri Lankan Tamils around the world to return to their homeland and become parties to the nation building effort.

As reconstruction and reconciliation became a priority, the Government has clearly stated that it is determined to reach out to all its friends and even to its former critics as it sets about with the task of nation building.

Sri Lanka is at a critical juncture in its history. Sri Lanka has a unique opportunity to bring its people together and make the blessed island a better place for all in a world where power structures and economic strength have undergone dramatic changes.

There are more displaced persons than those recorded
– Resettlement Minister Milroy Fernando


Resettlement Minister Milroy Fernando said there were many more displaced persons in the North and East than those recorded and announced by the government.
He said that 200 such families were found in the Vaharai area recently and that 25 houses will be built for these families as the first step.

He said that the security camps set up for national security cannot be removed and therefore, the displaced will be allocated land and houses in alternate locations. He further noted that while there about 20,000 persons

remaining in IDP camps, their resettlement has been delayed until the completion of the demining programme.

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Friday, September 24, 2010

Instead of concentrating on the building of army camps, the government should speed up the rehabilitation process in the Vanni.!!!

The Govt. is helping the TNA survive politically - Varatharajah

The Govt. is helping the TNA survive politically - Varatharajah

September 23, 2010, 8:00 pm

Varatharajah Perumal the former chief minister of the merged Northern and Eastern provinces who now describes himself more as a political activist than a politician, has been doing the rounds in the north and east after the war ended. In this interview, C.A.Chandraprema speaks to the former CM about the political trends in the post-war north.

Q. How would you read the mood of the people in the north now one and a half years after the war ended?

A. In the beginning, immediately after the war, the people were reticent and fearful. But over the past one year, the feeling of peace and freedom has improved a lot. Then the prices of goods has come down to the level where there is little difference between Colombo prices and Jaffna prices. People have resumed their occupations, agriculture and fishing. In the Vanni area, things have not got normalized fully, but gradually they too are coming around. Instead of concentrating on the building of army camps, the government should speed up the rehabilitation process in the Vanni. The government is doing a lot of things but it is not at the speed that the people need. The situation in the north east, after the war has improved much. The people feel free, there are no flying bullets, there is no killing.

Q. How do the people now look back at the LTTE?

A. The attitudes differ depending on the place. In the Vanni area, the people are very angry with the LTTE due to the manner in which they behaved during the last days of the war. That however does not mean that the people are happy with the government. We have to realize that. However the people in Jaffna are more concerned about what the government is doing than what the LTTE did because those who were in Jaffna did not really feel the brunt of the LTTE’s rule. But even the people in Jaffna are now becoming aware of what happened during the last days of the war because the people who were in the Vanni and have come back to Jaffna have been telling people of the experiences they underwent. So basically, there is no positive thinking with regard to the LTTE in the north. But there is much that the government has to do to restore self reliance as well as self respect to the people of the north. Today it is almost as if there is army rule in the north and east, not civilian rule.

Q. How do you account for the fact that despite the demise of the LTTE, the TNA is still the biggest political force in the north and east?

A. You can’t really say that now. The parliamentary elections were held less than one year after the war ended and the people were still frightened, and undergoing various hardships, so many did not even turn up even to vote. At that time, everybody thought their suffering was because of Rajapakse, particularly in Jaffna (rather than the Vanni). But now, many more months have elapsed and things are changing because the people feel that the TNA is useless to them. They know that the TNA will not deliver anything to them. But that does not mean that they are satisfied that the government will do everything, because they are very suspicious of the government. It is this anti-government feeling that is helping the TNA and not their own merit. It is the government that is indirectly helping the TNA to survive politically.

Q. According to your assessment, what are the basic elements of this anti-government feeling in the north?

A. One reason is the publicity blitz in the media both locally and overseas about the civilian casualties during the last stages of the war. Nobody has been speaking of the atrocities that the LTTE committed against the Tamil people. The army is a Sinhala army, the police is also a Sinhala police. The public service and the government is also Sinhala dominated.

Q. So would inducting more Tamils into the army and police and public service do the trick?

A. On the ground, I don’t think the army is behaving badly. Their behaviour with the people is good. The people don’t have anything personal against the army. However the presence of the army raises the general anti-state feeling of the people. So the government has to reduce army presence among civilians. And the government should allow the Tamil leaders to rule the Tamil areas. Even though the government made various noises, there was no sincere effort to recruit Tamils into the army or police. Some efforts were made soon after the war ended, but this has to be taken much further. The last time, the government wanted to recruit about 400 police officers from Jaffna. About 6000 young people offered to join. Tamil youth may not come forward in their thousands to join the army initially, but if the government makes an effort, they might be able to have a sufficient number of people in the army as well.

Q. In the past, Tamil politics has always been dominated by one party, first the Tamil Congress, then the ITAK, then the TULF and now the TNA. Do you think there will be a more plural political culture in the north and east in the future?

A. When the government acts in a way that would create suspicions in the minds of the Tamil people, that will benefit forces like the TNA. The Sinhala leaders (not just the government) have to help those who accept the plurality of this country. The 800,000 strong Tamil Diaspora has also got to be won over by the government, and they have to be convinced that they can live in Sri Lanka with dignity and self reliance. Tamil forces other than the TNA should be assisted to work among the Tamil people. The government should not choose one or two people to represent them among the Tamil people.

Q. Do you think KP has a role to play in this?

A. That is a matter for the people to determine.

Q. How about you, are you going to contest elections in the north in the future?

A. Whether I will contest personally is a different matter. But my party has been contesting every election from 1988 onwards regardless of whether we won or not. We have worked consistently to restore democracy in these areas. I still don’t feel that a democratic environment has been created in these areas.

Q. Why do you say that a democratic environment does still does not exist in the north?

A. People still fear some groups that are supported by the government. I don’t wish to mention any names. The government has to cooperate with all other forces that want democracy restored fully. What is lacking is the trust and confidence of the Tamil people towards the government.

Q. What would you have to say about the mainline political parties, the UNP and the UPFA contesting in the north and east under their own names?

A. I think some people in the government have this misunderstanding that there should be only two parties in the country. Because of that attitude, the TNA was strengthened here. In India, when regional parties came to the fore, there were debates about regional separatism. But when cooperation was established between the main political parties and the regional parties, cooperative federalism developed. That experience has to be applied here. There is a feeling among Sinhala leaders that if there is devolution of power, there will be a division of the country. That is wrong. I am sorry to say that the 18th amendment has reduced some of the powers devolved to the provinces through the 13th amendment. The powers of the provincial public service and police commissions have been taken away and along with it, the little power that the provincial councils had to give some employment.

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All Rights Reserved.


Thursday, September 23, 2010

PM/ NORWAY:Engage in both Rebuilding & Reconciliation Among communities! The Norwegian leader said that Norway was eager to play a supportive role!!!

Norway seeks new role in SL Solheim expected here soon
September 22, 2010, 8:47 pm

Former Chief Norwegian peace facilitator Environment and International Development Minister Erik Solheim is expected to visit Colombo to explore ways and means of promoting cooperation between the two countries.

Government sources told The Island that President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Norwegian Premier Jens Stoltenburg had an opportunity to discuss bilateral relations on the sidelines of the 65th UNGA I New York on Tuesday (Sept 21). Sri Lanka’s Chief negotiator during the then Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe’s UNFgovernment, External Affairs Minister G. L. Peiris and Minister Solheim participated at the discussion.

Presidential Secretariat quoted the Norwegian Prime Minister as saying that it was very important for President Rajapaksa to engage in both rebuilding the country and reconciliation among communities. The Norwegian leader said that Norway was eager to play a supportive role in Sri Lanka.

When asked what role Norway could play in strengthening the peace and also assist in reconciliation, President Rajapaksa said the best role for Norway today would be to assist in development.

The President, while recalling how Norway had taken the initiative through NORAD to help the people of Hambantota many decades ago, when there was no help for such rural areas, said there was ample scope for Norway to be associated in such development work in all parts of the country.

In discussing the situation regarding the Tamil people and the possibility of being engaged in the developing political process among them, President Rajapaksa was of the view that the problems of the Tamil people should be resolved through their leaders within the country.

President Rajapakasa explained that there was no purpose in those who claimed to support the Tamil people, campaigning for them from abroad; they had to return to Sri Lanka and work with the Tamil people at home, the President said..

Minister Solheim, Norway’s Minister for the Environment and International Development expressed an interest in visiting Sri Lanka to identify areas in which the two countries could cooperate in development activity. He suggested areas such as the protection of the environment, fisheries and the hospitality industry.

President Rajapaksa informed the Norwegian delegates that Tourism in Sri Lanka had risen by 196 per cent during the last year, and there was ample scope for development and investment in that sector.

Solheim said that the leaders of the expatriate Tamil community in the West should take a proper view of the changes now taking place in Sri Lanka and how best those developments could be used to benefit by the Tamil people and the country.

Prime Minster Stoltenburg looked forward to continued co-operation between Sri Lanka and Norway in areas of social and economic development, investment in the new economic environment following the end of the conflict, and the emergence of a fresh and mutually beneficial relationship between the two countries.

Associated with President Rajapaksa in the discussions were External Affairs Minister Prof. G. L. Peiris, Secretary to the President Lalith Weeratunga, Secretary, External Affairs Romesh Jayasinghe, Namal Rajapaksa MP, Sri Ranga MP and Dr. Palitha Kohona, Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka in the UN.

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UNF rebel joins Namal on visit to Vanni East...!!!

UNF rebel joins Namal on visit to Vanni East
September 21, 2010, 8:23 pm

by Shamindra Ferdinando

Close on the heels of UNF MP Sri Ranga switching his allegiance to the ruling party, he received an invitation to accompany MP Namal Rajapaksa on a visit to Vanni east, where they visited several places, including the scene of the final battle.

The VIR (Vijayabahu Infantry Regiment) troops killed LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran on May 19 morning, 2009 to bring the war to an end.

MPs Rajapaksa and Ranga also saw what was left of Jordan’s Farah III at Vellamullivaikkal. They had an opportunity to visit one of the houses owned by LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran

The Jordanian merchant vessel ran aground in December 2006 and since then the Sea Tigers had used it as a platform to launch attacks on SLN convoys. Sources said that the two newcomers to parliament had participated in a series of events organised by the government in the former LTTE-held area. Sources said that the MPs had visited the Vanni overland and met both officials and people to explore ways and means to improving living conditions in the area. They visited Pooneryn on the north-western coast.

The government also accommodated Ranga on its delegation to the 65th United Nations General Assembly headed by President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

The UNP Working Committee hit back last Friday by terminating political links with Ranga, former Sirasa employee, who had been in charge of Tamil political programmes. Political sources said that the UNP action meant nothing as Ranga had quit the UNP-led coalition several weeks ago. Ranga had cut off political links first, sources said, recalling the government had provided the media personality with police body guards even before the last parliamentary election. Sources said that Ranga had been with the government throughout, though the UNP fielded him in Nuwara Eliya at the April 8 election.

Sources said that with Ranga and Palani Digambaram (UNF/Nuwara Eliya) switching their allegiance to the UPFA, the government had full control of Nuwara Eliya represented by seven members.

Copyright © Upali Newspapers (Pvt) Ltd.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Tamil civilians in the North and East,had to take that risky journey to neighbouring India as they were reluctant to keep their children in Sri Lanka!

Peace prevails in the country :

Returning refugees need guidance


A helping hand to a returning rufugee

Refugee families, happy to be back in their homeland
They opted to journey risking their lives in the shallow waters of the Gulf of Mannar to flee the country when the flames of war engulfed their homesteads in the past two decades. They, the Tamil civilians in the North and East, had to take that risky journey to neighbouring India as they were reluctant to keep their children in Sri Lanka fearing that they be conscripted to the LTTE.

So they crossed the Gulf of Mannar in small fishing boats paying exhorbitant prices to fishermen to get them out of Sri Lankan territorial waters and become refugees in neighbouring India. It became a nuisance to the Navy personnel patrolling the India-Sri Lanka Maritime Boundary Line amidst the existence of a terror outfit considered the most ruthless in the world.

The LTTE sometimes used these innocent Tamil civilians as shields to cover up their terror activities and also to influence the Indian Government against Sri Lanka by sending them in an organized manner to give a wrong impression to the world that these Tamil civilians were harassed by the Sri Lankan Armed Forces.

So they ended up in refugee camps in Tamil Nadu-the most favoured destination of the Tamil civilians who fled the country during the North East conflict. Those who went in search of new vistas ended up spending their lives in refugee camps with no progress.

Today, one year and four months after that glorious day when the Sri Lankan Security Forces eliminated the terror outfit that had become a menace to the entire country, the situation has seen a reverse trend.

Instead of talking about the civilians fleeing the country the authorities concerned have now observed a trend where many Sri Lankan refugees return to the country having heard of the remarkable progress the country has shown in resettlement.

When a section of the international community is talking about boat loads of Sri Lankan refugees reaching Western countries seeking refuge, a large section of Tamil civilians who had fled to India are now returning to their homeland as they see that the country is safer for them than the countries they sought refuge in sometime ago.

Twenty-nine-year-old Anthonipillai Jayakanthan, a Tamil civilian from Mannar who had fled the country when he was eight years old fearing LTTE conscription is one such person who had decided to return to Sri Lanka.

Although he fled the country alone in 1990, he has returned to it along with his wife, J. Sriyani and two children after a 20 year stay in India. Jayakanthan married Sriyani, a girl who had fled Sri Lanka and lived in refugee camps in Tamil Nadu.

Same mode
After a two decade stay in Tamil Nadu they decided to return to their homeland two weeks ago. However, it's pathetic that they had opted to the same mode they used to flee the country to make their return journey also.

They were among the 13 people rescued by the Sri Lanka Navy on September 11, at the seventh sand bank of Adam's Bridge off Thalaimannar.

The India-Sri Lanka International Maritime Boundary Line goes through the 7th and 8th sand banks of Adam's Bridge between Sri Lanka and India and many people who get the contract for human trafficking used to dump them on those sand banks.

According to Navy spokesman Captain Athula Senerath, there are 17 to 18 sand banks in Adam's Bridge and many of the refugees crossing the IMBL between the two countries are found dumped in those sand banks.

"Those who come from India are normally dumped after passing the eighth sand bank in the Bridge", he added.

The Special Boat Squadron of the Sri Lanka Navy patrolling the IMBL had found them dumped in the seventh sand bank and they were later taken to Thalaimannar to be handed over to the Police.

They have been identified as residents of Vavuniya, Jaffna, Mannar and Nanattan who had fled the country in 1990, 1996 and 2000 respectively.

According to Captain Senerath, seven males, three females and three children made up the group of three families.

"They had lived in the Mandapam refugee camp in Tamil Nadu for a long period and had decided to return to Sri Lanka after they heard the situation was much better in Sri Lanka now", Captain Senerath added.

Anthonipillai Jeyakanthan who was among the 13 rescued by the Navy also expressed the same sentiments.

According to the group, they had paid 5,000 Indian Rupees for each person to the boat owners for their return to Sri Lanka. Although they thought that they would be brought to the shores of Sri Lanka they were dumped in the sand banks putting their lives at risk again.

They were not the first set of people who had opted to return to Sri Lanka taking this risky journey. The Navy detected another set of five persons in March this year in the same area.

"Out of this set of people there were three men from Jaffna and Vavuniya who had fled the country due to the war situation in the North and East. There was a person from Kandy who had gone to India through legal channels for business purposes. He also had decided to return to Sri Lanka since he had not made any progress in his businesses there", Captain Senerath said.

After the war ended in May 2009, the Navy detected the first set of people returning to Sri Lanka in December 2009 when six persons were rescued from the 6th sand bank of Adam's Bridge. The group consisted of two males, two females and two children.

Again on February 19 this year, three males and two children were rescued from the 6th sand bank by Navy personnel patrolling the sea off Thalaimannar.

On May 4, one man was rescued from the 8th sand bank of Adam's Bridges and another four males and eight males were rescued respectively on July 6 and July 15 from the 7th and 8th sand banks, Captain Senerath said.

"The Navy fast attack gun boats and fast attack craft from the Northern Naval Command are patrolling the northern seas and the inshore patrol craft and rapid action boat squadron deployed in the sea off Thalaimanar would detect refugees returning to the country during the past few months", Captain Senerath said.

"We are constantly on vigilance on drug traffickers and human smugglers using our waters", he said.

"Those people who are willingly returning to Sri Lanka after their long stay in India need a proper system to return to the country rather than going through this risky journey paying huge sums to fishermen", he said.

Spokesperson for the UNHCR office in Colombo, Ozgul Ozcan told the Sunday Observer that UNHCR has observed a trend of increasing numbers of Sri Lankan refugees returning home from India in comparison to last year.

According to her in the first eight months of 2010 from January 1 to August 30 about 1,150 refugees returned voluntarily from India with UNHCR's help compared to 843 refugees for all of 2009.

Sri Lankan refugees in India - around 100,000 in total - mainly live in 112 refugee camps in Tamil Nadu in South India.

There are about 72,000 in the camps, and there are also around 34,000 living outside the camps.

"We expect this upward trend to continue. There are also refugees who have returned on their own, some of whom approach our office. At our last count 1,005 spontaneously returning refugees approached UNHCR offices in Sri Lanka reporting they had returned on their own but the overall number of spontaneous returns could be much higher", she added.

She said that Sri Lankan refugees in Tamil Nadu could contact UNHCR's office in Chennai when they wished to come back home.

"UNHCR organises and pays for their flights to Colombo, and then provides a transportation grant that covers the train and bus fares to their home areas in the north of the country. After arriving back in their home area they can contact the nearest local UNHCR office for a standard package of non-food items - the basic essentials to help them restart their lives such as cooking sets, mosquito nets, sleeping mats, plastic sheets etc. We can also offer advice on some issues such as where to go to get replacement documentation or other help they might need", she added.

"Refugees who have returned on their own, 'spontaneous returnees', can also contact UNHCR's local office for the non-food item kit", she added.

UNHCR stresses that all returning refugees must do so voluntarily - that is, of their own free will. All around the world UNHCR has seen similar stories that when a conflict ends refugees start coming back home. Most refugees want to live in their own country, be near their families, have their children grow up in their own culture, and often, importantly, they want to reclaim their land.

But what should be highlighted here is that many people who are unaware of the opportunities available to them are unnecessarily risking their lives in returning to their motherland that is now free of terror after decades of stay in refugee camps in India.

Produced by Lake House Copyright © 2010 The Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Ltd.

We crept into the small house! No chairs to sit! Gunawathi humbly invited us to sit on the mat! An oil lamp was lit for God Shiva!

Normalcy returns to Northern villages:

Rising from the ashes

By Sahanika SRIYANANDA reporting from Vavuniya

Aiiyadorai Gunawathi

True peace has now dawned in the Northern region after many years. With no deadly sounds of firing or explosions or abductions, the villagers of Vellankulam, 40 km off Vavuniya, are planning their future. After a brief spell of rain, the fertile land has turned more green with fresh leaves popping out.

Children now live without fear

Still facing a water scarcity, the villagers thanked the soldiers for cleaning the abandoned well. Aiiyadorai Gunawathi (60) was drawing water from the well when we stopped at her doorstep.

The villagers fled Vellankulam in end-2008 and the LTTE herded them like cattle. Gunawathi, though physically not fit to run, moved with the rest of the villagers from place to place.

The villagers carried their household items in tractors, motorcycles and bicycles the day they stepped out of their village on orders from the LTTE. They continued to run each time soldiers captured an LTTE-dominated area. The number of goods that they carried dwindled and at last they possessed only the IDs and a few certificates to prove that they were citizens of Sri Lanka.

Gunawathi’s last destination in the harrowing journey was Ammpalanpokkanei, where the LTTE kept thousands of civilians as a human shield to get international sympathy to stop the military push, last year.

Her only son, who is married, lives in Varani, Jaffna. Undergoing many hardships including starvation, the villagers fled LTTE control and ran for safety towards the Army.

Those bitter memories are now fading away with the infusion of a new lease of life. Twenty eight families have returned to the village from the Chettikulam welfare centre. Instead of their damaged houses, they have now got small wattle and daub houses.

We crept into the small house. There were no chairs to sit. Gunawathi humbly invited us to sit on the mat woven of palm leaves. A bag of clothes was hung on the wall. An oil lamp was lit for God Shiva. Gunawathi boiled water to make tea while relating to us her story of those days when they were in the grip of the LTTE.

Her small kitchen had some stocks of essential food items given by the Government as rations to resettled villagers.

“We thank the soldiers for helping us to build these houses”, she said.

The newly-built houses give the village a fresh look. Yet, with no colour washing, the row of houses reminded us of an eco-friendly tourist resort.

Fed by the Government

K. Kailanathan

Anandaraja at his stall
Subramanium Lechchami (58) was Gunawathi’s neighbour. Her daughter, Lakshmi, who is a widow and mother of three grown-up girls, owns the village’s only boutique.

Though the villagers resettled here after an year-long stay in the Chettikulam Welfare Centre, they are still fed by the Government. A small plot of land has been turned into a home garden with vegetables and fruits. Earlier, they grew tobacco, but abandoned the cultivation due to water scarcity. The Army has now promised them to find sponsors for water pumps.

“There is good demand for rice. I sell essentials worth Rs. 1,000 daily”, Lakshmi said. Her three daughters continue their studies at the Nedunkerni Tamil Maha Vidyalaya.

They said the LTTE ordered them to run, saying the Sinhalese soldiers were coming and killing people. Lechchami, Lakshmi and her family ended their deadly journey at Pokkanei and were lucky enough to get the help of the Sri Lanka Navy, which shipped them to safety.

The Nedunkerni town, a strategic location for the LTTE for several years, fell into Army hands on December 20, 2008. The few severely-damaged and bullet-ridden buildings which remain among the buildings coming up are showpieces of the battle that captured Nedunkerni. It had an LTTE ‘police’ station and a prison operated by the LTTE’s intelligence unit.

Today, it is yet another busy township where business booms and lives are returning to normal with more displaced people returning home.

In the makeshift boutique, teenager Anandaraja sells everything, from vegetables to essential food items to soft drinks to chocolates. Though they are not chilled, the soft drinks have a fairly good demand.

Small business
Anandaraja re-started schooling after they returned to Kulavisuddan village from the welfare centre nine months ago. With Rs. 25,000, the money granted by the Government for the refugees, his mother has started a small business in the town.

His mother became the breadwinner of the family after his father was shot dead by the LTTE, which started firing when the family together with thousands of displaced civilians fled Puthumathalan, a few weeks before the military defeated the LTTE.

Being a Grade 10 student, Anandaraja looks after the business while his mother attends to housework and takes his two younger sisters and brother to tuition classes. With the Nedunkerni Tamil School returning to normal with new teachers arriving and facilities for children improving with the assistance of the Army, private tuition classes have started, especially to help children catch up with the lessons they had missed.

The teenager recalled how his mother hid him from the LTTE, which came on several occasions to recruit him as a child soldier.

“We ran from place to place and lived in huts. Some died of snake bites. They came to take me and some other boys, but my mother kept me hidden.

The Sinhala villege of Kokeliya

She told the LTTE police that I was missing while I remained in a hole dug near the hut.

Each time we ran away, my mother did that. It was difficult to live there as it was hot during the day time. Some times I thought I would die as I could not breathe”, he said. The happy and proud mood of the boy changed and tears glistened in his eyes.

But he kept on relating his experiences. Life for him and thousands of other children was dangerous after they reached Puthukudiyiruppu and then Puthumathalan, where the Government had declared two No Fire Zones (NFZ). Civilians on the run expected relief, but the LTTE had made the NFZ its battle pad with their heavy weapons fixed amidst the civilian population.

“Now, I can’t even imagine how we suffered two years ago. I don’t want to suffer like that again”, the boy said.

With soldiers moving around frequently, talking to them in a friendly tone, helping them in their day-to-day activities and guarding their townships and villages from dawn to dusk, the young Northern generation is now in touch with these souls whom the LTTE had described to them as evil.

Anandaraja hopes his mother will secure a place in the new market that is being built for the first time in the Nedunkerni town. A Co-op Shop is the latest attraction in the town. A new bus-stand is under construction and the Divisional Hospital of Nedunkerni functions well with a crowded OPD with 75 patients and five deliveries being performed daily.

For the first time, the town is connected to the national grid and the hospital which is currently running on generator power will be given priority.

The majority of villagers being farmers, they have reaped a high yield in tobacco, vegetables - brinjal, chilies, pumpkin - and fruits from the fertile soil which is similar to that of Nuwara Eliya. They sell the products at the market in the town and also to traders that come from Vavuniya and Anuradhapura. The farmers have been given water pumps by several NGOs, through the Army.

Nedunkerni Tamil Maha Vidyalaya, which has 370 students, has got a ‘Happiness Centre’ and a psychotherapy centre, funded by the Army for the primary section. After many years, the map of Sri Lanka now adorns the school walls. Instead of a Tiger with a T-56 drawn out and the map of Sri Lanka with LTTE-dominated areas in red, to motivate schoolchildren to join the outfit, a picture of a teacher dancing with small schoolchildren is now displayed.

The Centre has toys, books, sports equipment for cricket, chess and badminton and musical equipment. The small children who were used to scenes of flesh and blood, and crying in fear when they were caught up in a deadly war, are now learning life through dancing, music and playing.

Major Anura Illangakoon, Commanding Officer of the 17th VIR, said that from the initial stages of the resettlement program, the soldiers helped the villagers and this gradual assistance grew to a strong bond between them and the Army.

Dry rations
“Though the Government provided these villagers with dry rations for the first three months after resettlement, the Army gave them cooked meals, and then helped them build their houses, clear the land for cultivation, and guarded their villagers. Now they want us to help them restore their livelihoods”, he said.

Resettled in Kulavisuddan, a village eight km off Vellankulam, the villagers have started cultivating vegetables and selling them in the Nedunkerni market.

Seventy-year-old Kaneshavari, who cultivated tobacco earlier, is growing vegetables as they have a good demand.

She has to feed her two young daughters and also her eldest daughter who had been given in marriage in her teens to prevent her from being forcibly taken away by the LTTE. Today, the old mother is saddled with extra responsibilities as she is compelled to feed two grandchildren.

Her daughters who missed schooling for over two years are now doing their Advanced Levels at Nedunkerni Tamil Maha Vidyalaya.

Kaneshavari, who is sick of being trampled under the LTTE’s boot, prays to the Gods to not make them suffer.

“We had to pay a tax of five percent from each kilo of vegetables or any thing we sell, to the LTTE. We did not want to go with the LTTE, but they started assaulting us when we refused to go with them. The males and young boys and girls were abducted by the LTTE. The parents who refused to give their children away were badly beaten and left in prisons”, the woman who fled Puthumathalan during the last days of the conflict said.

She said that the LTTE never helped the villagers and even the food and other items sent by the Government were used by the LTTE and distributed among their loyalists. None of the villagers had proper houses, but they lived in huts which were like cowsheds while the LTTE leaders enjoyed luxurious lives.

“The LTTE spread false propaganda that they were helping the Mahaveera families. When a cadre died, the family got Rs. 5,000 and that was all. When we were in Puthumathalan, the LTTE attacked the Army using heavy weapons fixed among us. They shot at us when we tried to flee.

“The LTTE ordered every one to join them to fight, but people refused and prayed that the Army would save them”, Kaneshavari said.

She still curses the LTTE and Prabhakaran for making the Tamils suffer. She does not want the LTTE to raise its head again.

“We want soldiers to be with us. When they are here we know the LTTE cannot come back. We want to save our children and provide a good future for them. Today, even in the middle of the night, we can be out on the road as the Army is there to protect us. Those days, after 6 pm, we were in bunkers”, she recalled.

The Army which had set up camps in private buildings and other areas, are gradually vacating them, following the instructions of Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa. The Thandikulam Army Camp, which had occupied over 10 acres of private land, was handed over to the original land owners, in July.

K. Kailanathan (68), a former employee of the Ceramic Corporation, was busy clearing his three-quarter acre land which had debris from the Army camp along the A-9 road. “It’s very difficult to find a labourer and it’s also costly”, he said.

Happy that the Army has returned his land, Kailanathan, who was clad in a verti, the traditional dress worn by Tamils, said he stayed with relatives after his land was taken over by the Army in 1990.

Store room
His five-room house with a big store room which could stock over 1,000 bags of paddy was completely destroyed by the crossfire in 1997.

Being a farmer who owned 23 acres of paddy land, Kailanathan said that he could not build the house as he is now old and weak.

“Tamils became poor due to the LTTE and lost everything. With no education, it will take ages to produce educated Tamils as the present young generation lost the opportunity for education due to the 30-year war”, he said.

Kailanathan said though they very well know that the LTTE is no more, they get nervous even when they hear a tyre puncture.

He said people were happy as normalcy had returned and the A-9 road had become a busy highway with hundreds of vehicles using it daily.

After the military silenced the LTTE’s guns, the villagers of the 175-year-old Sinhala village - Kokeliya - have returned to their homes which they had left in 1985.

Kokeliya is the only Sinhala village in the area and was always targeted for LTTE attacks. Since the 1980s, the LTTE abducted and shot dead many villagers to make them run away from the village.

Nine prominent village personalities, including the chief-incumbent of the village temple, Grama Sevaka and schoolteachers, who tried to save the village, went missing forever. The LTTE set fire to the Kokeliya village one night and bombed some houses.

Unable to face the LTTE terror, the entire village - 980 people - fled and sought refuge in camps in Senapura and Nochchiyagama while some went to their relatives. Some families returned to the village in 1992 and 2002, but again abandoned the village as the LTTE started harassing them again.

“We came here in January this year and on the instructions of Brig. Napagoda, the soldiers are helping us to build our houses, clean wells and schools and clear abandoned paddy land. As we are now 100 percent sure that the LTTE will not come back, we want to develop this village”, Sunil Gamini said.

He recalled the days where they, as young children, crept into the forest to sleep in a hole dug for their safety. “ The LTTE, who came to the village in the middle of the night, massacred many families and set fire to their houses”, he said.

Ajith Priyashantha, an ex-sailor who ran away from the village when he was 16, said his father and seven others were abducted by the LTTE. They are still missing.

“As we were displaced several times, we missed our education. The LTTE killed our family members. The damage the LTTE did to us is enormous”, he said.

The villagers of Kokeliya want to develop the village to provide a better future for their children who are now schooling. People from the adjoining Tamil village, who too have been recently resettled, helped the villagers of Kokeliya to clear the roads and cultivation and in turn the villagers of Kokeliya helped the Tamil villagers in their work. Both communities now have one desire - “Don’t let the LTTE raise its head”.

Reconciliation among the two communities, the missing ingredient in strengthening relations, has naturally begun with new found peace after the annihilation of the 30-year curse - LTTE terrorism.

I recalled Gunawathi’s kind invitation. “Vanthu Irukkavum. Tea Kudikkavum” (Come and have a seat. Have a cup of tea). The lost link between the two communities is re-emerging. The hatred created by LTTE terrorism is gradually fading away. Despite the communication barriers, facial expressions denoting happiness and kindness have helped bridge the gap between them to renew their ties.


A helping hand from the soldiers

Brigadier Priyantha Napagoda

Brigadier Priyantha Napagoda, the General Officer Commanding of the 56 Division, said resettlement is nearing completion in many areas of Vavuniya. Soldiers helped the villagers to construct houses, clear abandoned land for cultivation, clean wells, repair schools and hospitals and remove earth bunds built by the LTTE .

“In most villages, there are many widows while some men are in rehabilitation centres. The soldiers helped them construct their houses. There are three Army units in charge of these activities and they build 10 houses every month”, he said.

Brig. Napagoda said villagers want the soldiers to remain in their village to provide security though the Army was gradually vacating private premises.

Several medical clinics have been held with the help of local and foreign doctors. The villagers who mainly depend on agriculture are waiting for the rains so that they can commence farming. He said the change in these people is obvious from their physical appearance. “We noticed their appearance and behaviour when they initially came to us. Nobody was laughing and they looked at the Army officers with suspicion. They had doubts about the soldiers as they were thoroughly brain washed by the LTTE for over three decades”, Brig. Napagoda said.

The 56 GOC said after ending the conflict the Army had delivered the message among the villagers that the Government needed their support to re- build their villages and also to re-build a new Sri Lanka. “We told them that the Army would not leave room for the LTTE to make a comeback and needed their support. We requested them to give information which could protect them. During this short period, we have built trust and given them confidence that they can rise from the debris of the 30-year curse”, he said.

According to Brig. Napagoda, not a single incident of violation of law and order has been reported since May 2009. Police Stations are gradually being set up in these villages.

For the first time in decades, a musical show and Sinhala and Tamil New year celebrations were held. “Tamil girls and Army soldiers took part in some games to strengthen trust and understanding among each other. These activities have helped remove many doubts”, he said.


Produced by Lake House Copyright © 2010 The Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Ltd.

Daya Master wants the Tamil Diaspora to help the Northern Tamils to stand on their own! Nothing was achieved through the 30-year-old arms struggle.!!!

Govt’s rescue operations saved over 280,000 lives:

‘Thanks to the humanitarian operation I’m still alive’ - Daya Master


The ex-media spokesman of the now defunct LTTE, Daya Master wants the Tamil Diaspora to help the Northern Tamils to stand on their own. Nothing was achieved through the 30-year-old arms struggle, he said.

In an interview with the Sunday Observer from Jaffna, where he works as the head of operations of a private Tamil TV Channel - Dan TV - he said he was alive today thanks to the military that liberated over 280,000 civilians who suffered under the LTTE.

“It was a very successful humanitarian operation. People were waiting for the soldiers to save their lives”, he said.

The 55-year-old Velayutham Dayanidhi popularly known among the media as Daya Master said that he leads a happy life with his family and witnessed the development taking place in the Northern region after decades.

A few days before the military defeated the LTTE shot dead the LTTE’s leader V. Prabhakaran on the banks of Nanthikadal Lagoon and area, Daya Master fled to the government controlled with thousands of displaced civilians. He witnessed LTTE atrocities while living in Vallipuram.

“The government treated me nicely after I surrendered. They fed us and looked after well until I was bailed out”, he said.

Daya Master, who was summoned with the Deputy Minister of Resettlement Vinayagamoorthi Muralitharan alias Karuna Amman, the trustworthy former body guard of Prabhakaran to identify the body of the LTTE leader on May 19, said thousands of Tamils have sacrificed their lives prematurely for his dream - Eelam.

“We have suffered enough and it is enough. The Tamils of Sri Lanka now want education and peace for a better future”, he said.

Following are the excerpts of the interview:

Q: What do you think about the life under the LTTE?

A: We, the Tamils suffered immensely. The LTTE terrorized the North and East to achieve Eelam. Normally Tamils hate violence. They did not want war. The LTTE made them fight and converted their mind set for a useless cause. They were sandwiched between the LTTE and their perceptions. Especially the young Tamils were compelled to fight. The LTTE did not honour human rights. They ordered all Tamils to fight for its leader’s dream.

Q: You were the LTTE’s media spokesman. Why didn’t you flee the terror before?

A: You know that the LTTE did not spare anyone who defied their orders. People were under their terror and wanted to come out of it. But all, including me were helpless as there was no way to flee.

But during the last few years I was sidelined by the outfit mainly because I was sick with a heart ailment and due to some other reasons only known to the LTTE leadership. Though I was disappointed with the LTTE and its leadership because of the way they operated and the way they harmed innocent people, I kept mum as I did not have a say. I was afraid that they would kill me if I utter the truth. I never engaged in any of the military activities of the LTTE from the beginning.

But I knew that the LTTE’s fate was not luck as the Rajapaksa Government was determined to eradicate terrorism. I knew that LTTE would not survive long.

Q: But were Northern Tamils in favour of the LTTE?

A: Due to the extensive propaganda, Tamils had hopes of an Eelam, earlier. The LTTE had brain washed people claiming that the Sinhala government and the military were engaged in ethnic cleansing. People, who were born after 1983, believed this and were motivated to have a separate land.

But when the LTTE became hard with their own inhumane law, taxing people for everything and with no development, people of North were up in arms. But it was always a silent mission. Those who went against the outfit died prematurely and after that they harassed their families.

People knew the government would liberate them and civilians were getting ready to flee. They were desperately waiting for the soldiers to liberate them. It was so unfortunate that those who ran for life were shot dead indiscriminately.

Q: Do you agree that Prabhakaran destroyed the future of the Tamils and reduced their lives to zero?

A: Yes. He was a man who was glued to his dream - Eelam and until his death he wanted all the Tamils to sacrifice their lives to achieve his dream. Nothing and no one could wake up from his dream. Those who blocked his path went six feet under. The unfortunate thing is that thousands of Tamils sacrificed their lives for his dream.

Q: Do you know KP or have you met him before?

A: No I have not met him but I knew him by name.

Q: How do you see the government’s military operation to defeat the LTTE and humanitarian operation to save over 280,000 civilians in 2009?

A: I personally think that the government did a very successful military operation to destroy the LTTE. Due to failure of the military strategies, the previous governments had failed to defeat the LTTE and it became stronger in its fighting power. But this government adopted a strong and correct military strategy to bring the outfit to zero. The continuous military assault was one main reason that made the operation successful.

The humanitarian operation needs to be honoured as it saved the lives of over 280,000 Tamils. The LTTE during the final stages used us as hostages. They exposed people to fighting. They fixed their heavy guns in the highly populated small patch of land in Puthumathalan. It was the No Fire Zone and but the LTTE attacked the Army from there, their intention was to get the Army to retaliate.

I think we are fortunate to be liberated by the Army. I was with the civilians and if the Army retaliated, I would not be here to talk to you. They never shot at civilians but step by step the soldiers rescued us.

Q: What do you expect from the Tamil Diaspora to do at this juncture?

A: I think, a huge responsibility lies with the Tamil Diaspora to make a better future for the Tamils. They did not experience the gravity of hardships, the Tamils here faced. They lead luxurious lives and we have sacrificed our future for them.

It is no secret that they willingly or unwillingly raised funds for the LTTE. Now it is their noble responsibility to help the people of the North to stand up on their own. We need development and to secure a better future for our future generation.

Peace has dawned and no Tamil wants to go back to that dark era. They deserve a better future. The Tamil Diaspora should help the people of the North to re-build their shattered lives.

Q: But the pro-LTTE Tamil Diaspora still propagates the LTTE’s ideology despite the truth at home. Can they give a fresh breath to the LTTE and can they mislead the Tamils and the international community in future?

A: They will soon realize that they are in a futile mission. There is no future for the pro-LTTE elements internationally. The sympathy for the LTTE is almost over and no one would help them. That is why I say that the Tamil Diaspora needs to shift their activities to upgrade the lives of Northern people. The government is doing well to facilitate the Northern people. They cannot have any more propaganda claiming that Tamils in Sri Lanka are suffering.

Q: Since you are now in Jaffna, what is the feeling of the common people about peace?

A: They are happy and enjoying the lives free of terror. They want peace to be continue. Now, Tamils, especially those who are in the Northern region, wants their children to be educated. They lost opportunities for education due to the war and they don’t want their children to face the same in future.

Q: You are now witnessing rapid development in the Northern region. How was it under the LTTE?

A: Yes, the development is taking place in the North in true sprit. Under the ‘Uthuru Wasanthaya’ program lots of development activities are taking place. New roads, bridges and State buildings are being constructed. Many areas have been given electricity for the first time after the liberation.

The resettlement is going at a rapid pace and people are back with their livelihood with the support of the government. In some areas in Kilinochchi and Mullaithivu, there is a delay in the process due to de-mining. These areas need to be carefully de-mined as those were the areas the LTTE fought last.

Life has begun in the Northern region after decades. People are slowly catching up with their day-to-day activities. The government is helping them in every aspect in life.

Thanks to the humanitarian operation I’m still alive!

Produced by Lake House Copyright © 2010 The Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Ltd.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

"The People". Here the concept of People’s Councils in all the 14,000 Grama Sevakas could be a major contribution to make this happen..!!!

Reconciliation is a phased process and people have to be central in it says Gandhi Centre
September 18, 2010, 6:04 pm

by a Special Correspondent

Reconciliation to be successful has to be a phased process and a rationally thought out evolution.

It does not take place because of an agreement between a few leaders or because of a few signatures on a document. If one is serious about it, it has to be looked at from a much longer perspective. Central in this process has to be the citizens of one’s country, "The People". Here the concept of People’s Councils in all the 14,000 Grama Sevakas could be a major contribution to make this happen said the representatives of the Mahatma Gandhi Centre in their submissions to the Presidential Commission on "Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation", and subsequently at an interview with this writer.

Mr Navin Gooneratne, Patron of the Mahatma Gandhi Centre (MGC), Dr Mohamed A Saleem, the President of the Mahatma Gandhi Centre, Mr Arjuna Hulugalle, and Major General Kamal Fernando, Board Members, represented the Centre. Dr Lionel Weerakoon, coordinator of the Center for Sustainable Agriculture Research and Development (SARD), was also associated with the presentation. The group made their submissions on Monday the 13th September 2010.

The Centre’s submission focused primarily on reconciliation. Its thrust was to elaborate on a common platform so that the virtues of reconciliation can take root and prosper across our country. It was meant not only to remedy past mistakes but also to address emerging issues.

The submission avoided a post mortem of what went wrong in the past, but concentrated on a format it has conceptualized based on empirical knowledge. One lesson it reiterated and it was that "under no circumstance can this country allow a repeat of what it has gone through in the last thirty years."

Realities of Reconciliation

The position of the MGC is that reconstruction alone of damaged infrastructure or building new ones piecemeal cannot be equated with reconciliation.

Rather, it might even increase victim frustration as many of them already have come to feel neglected from post conflict normalization efforts of the government. Therefore, helping everyone’s capacity to rebuild at the same time seems critical for reconciliation, and to lay a solid foundation for sustainable peace and communal harmony. Once the virtue of co-existence is rooted at the grassroots level through the participation of the people, it will be easier to transform the perceived unjust, social relationships.

Reconciliation will be effective only if fairness rules and justice systems are set out so that people can trust each other for sharing of economic, political and social endowments in the country.

It is only in such an environment that hatred be transformed to forgiveness which is the basis for true reconciliation.

Basic Platform for Reconciliation Process: Self Reliant Villages

A weakened democracy with people sidelined from policy decisions and development will be defective, warned the Gandhi Centre. This democratic deficit can nurture in hibernation, revolutionary visions based on hatred which are likely to rupture the country in the near future.

This is more so because of the regional disparities with wide scale poverty, unemployment, development inequality and under-provision of public goods especially in the war affected areas. All these can make them fertile grounds for youth recruitment to engage in militancy.

A commitment to governance based on self reliant villages administered by People’s Councils can rectify several of these shortcomings swiftly with financial inputs, which the country can afford, instead of waiting for donor inputs which will be slow in the future.

Reconstruction of the war ravaged areas is urgent

The immediate need is the reconstruction of the war affected areas.

Every post conflict returnee to the village of origin has to be resettled. Each person has to be engaged in constructive activities to rehabilitate lives. Only the affected people are able in reality to retrace their homes, their neighbours and the village boundaries. Therefore, an organized structure involving the people is the most realistic, effective and transparent way to achieve this.

The MGC representatives describing a recent visit to resettling villages near Mankulam (Mullaitivu District) revealed that a substantial number of households are female (widow) headed, and poverty is pervasive.

Although the village receives food rations from an international agency it was learnt that it will be discontinued shortly.

The Resettlement Villages are full of widowed mothers as parents had given them in marriage very young as protection against forced recruitment. Despair and the lack of confidence in the future seemed an acute trauma the communities have to free themselves from.

It is vital that the present pitiable plight of these (resettling) people should not become a plaything for political or personal ends. A large number of persons labeled ‘resettled’ are still living under tents, and in a month’s time they will be experiencing the seasonal rains. Illness will manifest and depression of the highest order will prevail.

Reconciliation and perceptions of discrimination

Reconciliation is looked at differently by the different communities admitted the representatives of the MGC.

On the subject of the perceptions of discrimination, the importance of communication between the communities was emphasized and the learning of the two national languages was an essential factor to achieve this.

In addition the teaching of English has to get priority.

English has always been of great significance to the minorities. It was one of the reasons which enabled the Tamils to get Government jobs in Colonial times. In recent times it has given a substantial momentum to the development of the Muslim community in the various professions.

Had the English language been given equal status as the two national languages from the nineteen fifties, the history of this country may have been significantly different.

The Tamils, and to a lesser degree the Muslims, would not have felt alienated, and the English speaking Sri Lankans, particularly the Burghers would have remained in the country. They would have remained, worked very hard and made the country prosperous as has occurred in Singapore and India.

Another aspect in the process of reconciliation will be to create opportunities for skills training.

Technical Institutes should be established in every Pradeshiya Sabha and Agricultural Centres in every village. These institutions should be similar to the Gandhigram Universities and schools. Those institutions are where the campuses are embedded in the villages. They do not have the pompous structures that we have in our tertiary institutions. Such institutions can be set up with minimum funds. Supervision to maintain standards is, however, vital.

A new breed of politicians will emerge

The Commissioners questioned the representatives on the role of the politician in the model the Gandhi Centre is promoting. The experience of the Gandhi Centre is that ideally village dynamics should be apolitical. This, the MGC representatives admitted will be difficult in the context of the highly politicized society we are living in.

However, everyone agrees that the present scenario cannot continue.

This is a historic moment, the Gandhi Centre maintained, where with a good leadership a new political culture can emerge, leading to a fresh breed of politicians.

This new group of politicians will pay greater attention to the macro issues of the regions through in-depth studies and profile themselves on implementing larger regional initiatives.

This will spare the public from having to line up for hours, as they do now, to meet politicians to attend to trivial matters. The facilitators at the People’s Councils could attend to such matters.

The workings and benefits as a result of constituting People’s Councils

The Commissioners questioned the representatives of the Gandhi Centre of their experience pertaining to the working of the People’s Councils.

The Centre has started a People’s Council in the Dambadeniya Electorate. It is with the voluntary participation of the people. Some of the salient features of People Council highlighted by the MGC representatives were the following:

1. Regular consultation between the representatives and interest groups on all issues of the village has led to social cohesion

2. Village Resource inventories and land use plan

3. Coordinated people pressure for efficiency on various government officers

4. Better bargaining power with Banks and other financial institutions. Getting Banks to set up depots in the village for micro-finance.

5. Village Share Holder Company and joint Investment with Commercial Sector

6. Job targeted skill development including computer literacy and learning of English.

7. Enterprise diversification.

8. Better security and surveillance

9. Settling of disputes by the elders as conciliators

10.Nurturing Spirituality in the village, leading to harmony and better relations with the other ethnic groups.

The long road to Reconciliation

The Representatives of the Mahatma Gandhi admitted that their proposal is only a part of the long road to Reconciliation, but it is a significant one for an evolutionary process to bring about Peace and Stability to the country.

An encouraging message was received by the Centre from a commentator in India after reading the submission. It read:

"My congratulations on presenting a truly humane, just and realistic paper on Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation. This type of thinking can only be reflected by the Gandhi Centre which in true spirit is the sane voice of people . I fully agree with the views expressed and strongly feel that to ensure that such a situation does not arise in future, people centred model Gandhi centre has evolved must be followed.

I pray that sane voices like yours be taken note of by those whom God has placed to govern".

(A copy of the submission can be handed over to anyone from Mahatma Gandhi Centre, 22/17 Kalyani Road Colombo 6. Tel no: 2501825)

Copyright © Upali Newspapers (Pvt) Ltd.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Indeed, commonsense tells us that we now have a unique opportunity to start over. Ask ‘why’ and that would beg the question. Why not?

Politics, Populism, Paranoia & Perfidy

September 12, 2010, 8:46 pm

By J.B. Müller

Sri Lanka’s politics are distinguished by the adversarial interplay by two main forces and their shifting coalition partners contending for power by opportunistic manipulating of the electorate. Each shift to the left or right is by the popular acclaim of about 65 per cent of the electors who are ignorant of the real issues at stake. These are those who are fed on a diet of promises and solemn pledges. Their expectations are raised to impractical levels by these pronouncements made in public that are neither doable nor could these be continued in any way. However, by harping on the real, felt needs of the masses, some politicians gain immense popularity as we have lived to learn since 1948.

The Sri Lankan politician’s perennial prayer is that the majority of the electorate will continue to remain blissfully ignorant of the vital issues that must be addressed. This ignorance is a child-like faith in the almighty politician and his ability and dexterity to command and control the institutions of power: Parliament, the financial establishment, the security establishment and the all-pervasive administrative bureaucracy. To this should be added both immunity from prosecution as well as the freedom to act with diabolical impunity, both of which go hand-in-hand as weapons in the armoury of the politicians. We have had many examples, actually, too many to even mention in passing, from way back to the present.

Our so-called ‘democratic socialism’ is a wholly arbitrary exercise in the worst features of the use (or abuse) of power exercised by politicians of all stripes. In other words, it is a colossal farce perpetuated on the People and this charade has become a 62 year-old tragedy of broken promises and pledges by successive governments. We might well ask ourselves why this is so.

First, neither the Western form of ‘democracy’ nor the alien ideology of ‘socialism’ has any organic roots in the Sri Lankan polity. Both are foreign introductions and impositions that the People are thoroughly unfamiliar with. Even in the plant and animal kingdoms there is a natural setting that is compatible and where alien species cannot exist without upsetting the balance. We have enough accumulated evidence to demonstrate that this is so amongst human beings, animals and plants. For example, people are familiar with the phrase ‘invasive species.’ Indeed, the introduction of some animals (e.g. rabbits, rodents) and plants (water hyacinth, salvina, cooch grass) has proved to be detrimental to the natural environment. The same could be said for both Western ‘democracy’ as well as ‘socialism.’

Second, during the 443-year Colonial Era, the Portuguese, the Dutch, and to some extent, the British went along with the indigenous systems in place for thousands of years—systems that were familiar to and accepted by the people. When unfamiliar ways and means were used the peopled tolerated it for a time until their patience was exhausted and then, uprisings occurred. The Uva and Matale uprisings were cases in point. The most far-reaching changes were introduced by the British in order to consolidate their hold on power in the early 19th century. Thereafter, Anglo-Saxon structures and systems were imported and set-up changing the entire system of governance. Today, what we have is essentially the model introduced by them with superficial modifications. Since the mode of governance did not answer the real, felt needs of the people, the country was plunged into the 1971 and 1987 uprisings led by the vernacular-educated youth in the South and the Civil War in the North and East that began in 1976 and ended bloodily in 2009. The invasive, alien structures and systems have cost hundreds of thousands of lives, mostly of young people, and billions of rupees that could have been better utilized to improve and expand the country’s essential infrastructure. However, we might well ask whether any lessons have been drawn from these several tragedies?

Third, it should be clear that what isn’t organic to our indigenous polity is unsuitable for us simply because it isn’t organic or home-grown. It has not evolved or developed in this environment. It would be an arguable point to ask any gainsayers, especially those with corporate experience in the banking, commercial, and agricultural spheres whether they would run their companies along so-called ‘democratic’ or ‘socialistic’ principles. Would they have their employee’s debate and vote upon company policies? I daresay they would agree that such a system would be ridiculous and unworkable. Then, the reader would understand that the country, too, is one big corporation with a chairman or president, a managing director, and a board or directors to formulate policies. The corporation has divisional heads and other subordinates to carry-out those policies, an internal affairs branch to maintain discipline, an audit branch to keep track of how income and expenditure have been managed and so on.

Fourth, many people are wont to point-out how successful the city-state of Singapore is. Many agree that Sri Lanka should follow its example in good governance. The fact of the matter is that the city-state of ingapore is run like a tightly-controlled corporation that keeps its stakeholders happy by ensuring that their real, felt needs are met. Sri Lanka is small enough to permit each district to be organized and run like a city-state—Singapore being the model for stable governance under a strict Law & Order system where all are equal and no one is above the Law. No one enjoys immunity and no one could act with impunity because of political patronage.

Then, what this discourse points to is that Sri Lanka now has the unique opportunity to consign the J.R. Jayewardene constitution of 1978 to the garbage dump where it rightly belongs. We should now start work on a new constitution, a bottom-up structure from village & town-level to district level to national-level: A three tiered structure where an executive president is elected by all the eligible voters and his or her election is ratified by the national-level assembly. For one thing, the entire system would be non-partisan there being no political parties to divide the electorate. The elected president could contest any number of terms until he or she no longer enjoys the confidence of the People. The Judiciary would be wholly independent of executive or legislative control or limitation, maintaining its integrity as uninfringeable. Pointers to the proposed new constitution should be drawn from the ancient system of governance, the age-old and robust polity that existed for over 17 centuries until the demise of Maha Parakrama Bahu in 1186. The entire system that was developed over the centuries coupled grass-roots level democracy or consensual politics with a strong, authoritarian government at its apex. Once policies were formulated for the well-being of the People, those entrusted with implementation carried-out orders, period. The Water Management Heritage of Sri Lanka was developed within such a polity. Recorded history which we take as authentic informs us that peace, harmony and tranquility prevailed in the realm for centuries with no rebellions and no civil wars. Our innate intelligence is more than adequate for us to learn lessons from the past so as to fashion a constitution in keeping with inborn nature of our people.

Sri Lanka, being an island at the cross-roads of the great Maritime Silk Road since time immemorial has ever been a multi-ethnic, multi-religious, and multi-lingual melting-pot. Then, the common language was Sinhala and the intelligentsia was probably also knowledgeable in Pali and Sanskrit. Today, the universal mode of communication is English and perforce we should make it our common language, too, because that would make life easier for us within the Community of Nations. This also means and implies that the State should encourage the distinctive Sri Lankan culture, i.e. broadly, the Sinhala-Buddhist, the Tamil-Hindu, the Sonahar & Malay Muslim, and the Burgher-Christian cultures as intrinsic parts of a unique and harmonious cultural mosaic. This cultural montage has gone to create the extremely gregarious Sri Lankan nature with its smiling tolerance and welcoming hospitality. Sri Lankans are also an artistic people with a well-developed aesthetic and literary sense. They excel in singing, dancing, composing and performing music, drama and acting, painting and drawing, in the fashioning of handicrafts of exquisite beauty, in weaving cotton and silk yarn into textile of alluring colours and textures, in writing and in poetry—all the fine arts and all of those point to a peace-loving nature and a well-entrenched peaceableness. That is a great strength that equips us with a rare dynamism and sociableness that disconcerts sundry bigots, extremists and the lunatic fringe found in every human society. This even provoked President Rajapakse to state that there are no majorities or minorities within Sri Lanka—but only One Nation made-up of different communities.

As a people we are also acquainted with the perfidious behavior or various individuals who would do anything and stoop ever so low to gain the power to command and control the people for their own aggrandizement.

We have also suffered the travails visited upon us by paranoid leaders. Both perfidy and paranoia are natural outgrowths of the alien structures and systems this country has been under. With the restoration of age-old organic structures and systems this entire nauseating business of politics, populism, perfidy and paranoia would recede to become blips on our 2,500 year-old historical screen. Indeed, commonsense tells us that we now have a unique opportunity to start over. Ask ‘why’ and that would beg the question. Why not?

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