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Archive for December, 2007

Colombo, 29 October, (Asiantribune.com): This month marks 20 years since the Indian Peace Keeping Force launched ‘Operation Pawan‘ against the Tigers in response to their mortar and machine gun attacks on IPKF patrols. The only photo-journalist present in the combat zone at the height of the battle for Jaffna was India Today’sShyam Tekwani. Having been taken to Jaffna , by the LTTE, he was witness to actual battle scenes and obtained a unique insight to Tiger tactics, their weapons, morale and mentality. His cover story appeared in the India Today of November 15, 1987 under the title, ‘ Sri Lanka: A Bloodied Accord’ with a picture of an Indian soldier killed by the LTTE in Kokuvil.

Now, two decades later with a wealth of experience with the Tigers behind him he draws attention to lessons that all governments fighting the terrorist menace had better learn if they are to effectively meet the challenge.

Presently Assistant Professor, School of Communication and Information, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, Tekwani’s exclusive reportage of the conflict has been published internationally.

Addressing the recently concluded International Conference on Countering Terrorism in Colombo, he said:

“To understand the significance of the regional security threat posed by the LTTE it is necessary first to examine the relationship between terrorism and new media technologies. The information revolution in Asia offers terrorist groups the same benefits and advantages that it extends to business enterprises in the region.

Increased globalization and rapid absorption of new media technologies into business practices has enabled the ongoing dynamic economic environment in many Asian nations. Just as business corporations in Asia are adapting their tactical and operational strategies to make the best use of new technology and the emerging global economy, extremist groups are doing the same.” Tekwani was speaking on ‘The LTTE’s online network and its implications for Regional Security.’

Tekwani recalled that the IPKF lost the media war against the Tigers having failed to win the confidence of journalists. It clearly proved the theory that terrorists understand the value of the media far better than governments.

He recalled that once when he returned from the battle zone after seven weeks he was amazed to read in the Indian press reports that were almost a total distortion of the real situation. He did not require much intelligence to realize that the LTTE had fed these newspapers with virtually fabricated stories.

“The LTTE branded the IPKF the ‘Indian People Killing Force’ and – sometimes – the ‘Italian-Parsi Killing Force.’ The latter was meant to personally ridicule Sonia (Italian) and Rajiv Gandhi (Parsi).”

Tekwani said that the Western media too had eagerly lapped up everything that the Tigers offered to them, since the former always loves any group that projects itself as the underdog, although the today the world is beginning to see the LTTE as an integral part of the international terrorist network.

“The Tigers are so clever in deceiving the young that when I show my students Tiger websites meant for different audiences the students are impressed and almost express support for the LTTE cause. But afterwards when I explain to them the organization’s background and who the Tigers really are they begin to think differently.”

He observed that one of the main factors affecting the Sri Lankan military’s handling of the LTTE has been dwindling morale, whittled away by the support the LTTE had garnered in its early years from the international community. This was in large part due to its international propaganda campaign, which capitalized on its status as a marginalized minority and used the propaganda to focus on the sufferings of the Tamils rather than the violence of its own actions.

“The LTTE continues to do so with considerable success on the Internet.”

In addition, Tekwani says, the LTTE has also ventured into cyber crime on occasion. He recalled that the Tigers had used the Internet to hack into Sri Lankan Government networks in 1997 – the first recorded use of Internet in the world by any conventional terrorist group. The Tigers are also reported to have used the Internet for criminal profit, as evidenced by the University of Sheffield case, which exposes the more serious issue of the Internet identity theft by terrorists.

According to him, the Tigers were also able to hack into the Sheffield University in England in 1997, and use the university computer system to send their propaganda and to engage in fund raising. And they did it in a covert manner. Having captured legitimate user IDs and passwords of well-respected university academics to disseminate e-mail communications around the world, they used those legitimate e-mail accounts and asked people to send money to a charity in Sri Lanka! While such instances are not yet the norm, they are undeniably the trend of the future. And the LTTE is nothing if not a trend setter in such tactics.

Tekwani regretted that the Sri Lankan Government – which many perceive as having lost the propaganda war with the LTTE even more thoroughly than it has the war on the ground – has no infrastructure legal or technical, to block access to LTTE and pro-LTTE sites within Sri Lanka even though the State has its own press, radio and television.

“This is a loop hole the LTTE has used well. In a related matter the creator of the ‘I Love You’ virus in the Philippines escaped punishment because the government there had no laws in place to prosecute cyber crimes. The situation is depressingly similar across Asia with the exception of perhaps Singapore. Asian nations are getting on to the information highway without any traffic laws in place…”

Tekwani noted that the LTTE was one of the first groups to use the Internet in its campaigns. The LTTE’s use of the Internet and other new media and communication technologies as an integral part of its campaign represents an emerging security issue in the region, according to him.

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Holding talks with the Tamil Tigers’ shadowy leader would be a blunder and there will be no peace unless he is killed, Sri Lankan militant-turned-minister Douglas Devananda has warned.

Social Services and Welfare Minister Devananda, a minority Tamil vehemently opposed to the Tigers, says he has escaped more than a dozen assassination attempts.

The last was on Nov. 28, when a female bomber officials say was sent by Tiger supremo Velupillai Prabhakaran made her way into his ministry in central Colombo.

Devananda was watching closed-circuit TV footage of visitors in the ministry’s offices and hallways when the woman blew herself up, killing one of his aides.

“Prabhakaran … is anti-human,” Devananda told Sri Lanka’s Foreign Correspondent’s Association late on Thursday, after showing journalists a recording of the attack. “You have to compare (him) with Pol Pot or Hitler … He has to die.”

“As long as Prabhakaran is alive, he won’t allow anyone to solve the problem (conflict) amicably,” he added. “If the president goes again for talks, it’s a blunder.”

Prabhakaran is infamous for his use of suicide attackers as part of his campaign to create a separate state for Tamils in the island’s north and east.

Devananda himself took up arms against the state with other militant groups in the late 1970s and 1980s. He remains at the top of the Tigers’ hit list.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa says the door is open to peace talks with the rebels, but his government has also vowed to wipe out the Tigers military.

Thousands have died in renewed fighting since early last year after a 2002 ceasefire pact broke down. The last round of a series of abortive peace talk initiatives fell apart last year.

Since 1983, about 70,000 people have died in the two-decade civil war and many hundreds of thousands have been displaced.

FUTURE CHIEF MINISTER IN NORTHEAST?

Devananda heads the Eelam People’s Democratic Party (EPDP) and analysts say he has close ties with a renegade former Tiger commander who analysts say helped the government drive the mainstream rebels from their eastern strongholds.

He wants to be the future chief minister for north and east Sri Lanka.

“I have the right to be the chief minister of the north and east,” Devananda said.

He also wants the government and other political parties to decentralise power to provincial councils, rather than wait for divided parties to try to reach an elusive consensus on devolution.

“The Tamil people have grievances. They should be dealt with with a political package,” he said.

Devananda, who adopted the alias Douglas because it was his karate teacher’s name, laughs as he recalls a series of attempts on his life.

He was once forced to dive into the Palk Strait separating Sri Lanka from India in 1996 to escape a rebel attack and spent the whole night in the sea.

The minister, who founded the militant Eelam People’s Revolutionary Front (EPRLF), which later morphed into his political party, has no regrets about his own violent past.

He says killings he was responsible for were in self-defence. He also jokes about his former militancy and rivalry with the Tigers in the 1980s, when they were both fighting the state — and often each other.

“If the LTTE killed anyone from my organisation, I balanced that when I was in EPRLF,” he laughed.

Ironically, it is precisely through agreeing to peace talks that Prabhakaran could torpedo his foe Devananda.

“If tomorrow Prabhakaran comes genuinely for negotiations, I will give up politics and go, because I don’t want to be an obstacle,” he said.

“But the reality is Prabhakaran won’t come, and I won’t go.”

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A journey from elsewhere into Wanni gives one an extremely different experience. Especially for someone who travels from Colombo, the capital city of Sri Lanka can easily realize the contrasting atmosphere, lifestyle and the difficulties. I do not know if I should say that I was happy to be there or I had to leave the place with a heavy heart wondering ‘Oh there is a lot of ways in which these people have to be helped out. Here, I share with you my personal experiences I endured during my recent visit to the land of our own – Tamil Eelam. My few days there were just enough for me to imagine decades of sufferings the nation is undergoing. Indeed I appreciated their perseverance amidst all their difficulties.

Entry into the land of sufferings

At Omanthai, the main Checkpoint before entering Wanni, there were so many lorries with goods. People in Wanni still have to live with certain restrictions imposed on many goods and commodities. What is enjoyed in one part of the country is restricted for another part. No matter what the reason may be but certainly it places one section of the people as privileged against the other. They have to wait there for two – three days when they could be checked and allowed to proceed. Only certain items are allowed in and every single item from the lorry has to be unloaded and opened and then packed and again loaded. That was so strenuous. The weather will be extremely hot or will be raining and muddy. There are no basic facilities for anyone to stay overnight. Still they got to manage everything. As for the people passing thorough the checkpoint, no vehicles are allowed beyond the point till the next checkpoint of the LTTE at Puliyangkulam. Hence they have to carry all their goods and walk the distance.

This certainly is a difficult task for those who have most probably traveled a long way and waited in queues at the checkpoints and are already tired of the proceedings at every checkpoint. As mine was along journey that took almost three days at a stretch I was dead tired and to take out the bags at every checkpoint and open it and letting it to be checked and proceeding was awful. Even the batteries that were in the camera were not allowed to be taken into Wanni as they are one of the prohibited items. Again there is a checkpoint at Puliyangkulam as well. At last when I learnt that I have no more checking I let go off a sigh of relief.

Waking up-to daily shelling

But the relief at that point doesn’t mean that the life is going to be of peace and luxury. I realized it during my stay over there. The people in Wanni live and have learnt to live in a place where their days are opened up either with the sound of the artillery shelling or Kfir’s bombing. I wondered how these people who woke up at the sound of the temple bells and singing of birds could live amidst these disastrous noise. The thunderous blows of the shells come in all directions, from the north of Wanni, from Mannar, Killali. Poonagari, Muhamaalai and Naagarkovil and bang the boarders. It sounds as if to push the land. The blows would be like pounding ones chest. At the beginning I would be shaken out of a sudden thud. But when I felt that it is almost a daily routine for people to live with it. I realized that everyone has to learn to live with it. I wondered if one who is far away from the places of shelling is affected so much by the sound itself how far those who are facing it and the people closer to it will be feeling! People become displaced as a result and the suffering as a result is immense. If not for those who are guarding day and night at these boarders the people in Wanni will have no peace of mind. They will not be going on with their daily activities. They are there day and night amidst rain and heat amidst animals and snakes that swarm throughout the forests. Thanks in first place to those souls, who are really, really, great.

A land of joy becomes a land of cries

The land however,by nature’s bliss is a lovely place to live and the people are hardworking to make it prosperous. The days I was in Wanni had a mild weather and I didn’t have to face the heat. The weather was fine. You wouldn’t like to huddle in the bed a few more minutes- a few more minutes – to escape the cold and chill in the morning as you do in Canada: You would love to run into the lawn to enjoy the nature’s bliss that is showered early in the morning. It would send you into the happiest feelings to start a fresh day. The birds singing, the flowers blooming in different hues, the breeze that embraces you and the joy of seeing people actively starting the day with much hope and enthusiasm. You would just like to absorb all the happiness into every nerve of your body.

What was agony – Then and now

In the blink of an eye you are robbed off of all the happiness and turned out to be a panicky poor soul who would have not even a second to think if you are going to be alive or dead. In my childhood, while I was in our land of pride many more years ago, I have enjoyed the scene when a hen would take its recently hatched chicken out in the lawn at the dawn of the day. Scratching the soil with its claws, to reveal some kind of food buried in the soil for the chicks to eat. The lovely little chicken would make their way towards the spot to feast on their mother’s venture. So happy they are – that one would love to think, how nice it will be to be like them. But this won’t last long.

All of a sudden the hen becomes panicky and gives a signal fluttering its wings. The tiny chicken, whom we thought are just brainless little souls run towards their mother to find shelter under its wings. All happens in a jiffy. The hen and the chicken under the hen’s wings lie motionless under the shade of some foliage. There in the sky you see the hungry devilish eagle circling the spot ready to plunge on the innocent chicken. It is not always that the chickens escape the demonic eyes of the eagle and the hen could protect its babies. The eagle is at times quicker and lucky to carry away a chick. The mother hen cries loud, sounds its inability, runs after the eagle and al the other chicks would run about helplessly. I would just run after the eagle shouting out ‘choo choo’- all just efforts to save the chick if the eagle by accident let the chick go off its claws. But even if it happens the poor chick wouldn’t live long in my hands. The ultimate feelings however are to realize that one is desperate and can do nothing about it.

Those were the days we felt for the chicken. But now in Wanni- in the area of Tamils of Tamil Eelam it is far, far, far more a tragedy to see human suffering the same.

Kfir – Daily Messengers of Death

What a difference! In place of the eagle that took the lives of the chicks there is the Man operated Kfir. I couldn’t conclude if the man or the Kfir is the messenger of death. But certainly the man has his role as well. Kfir is a man-made huge iron air vessel that carries the dangerous poisonous thing called bombs that are shifted into its belly using cranes. They are so huge and heavy. The iron structure called as the Israeli-made Kfir flies from Colombo, the capital city of Sri Lanka in just ten minutes. It comes with the sole purpose of taking the lives of Tamils that have become so cheap in the eyes of the Sri Lankan government- a democratic government said to be adhering to the noble truths of Lord Buddha who preached against the killings of lives in whatever form. The eagle as said above stick to no moral rules neither it has the capacity to think. But the government that sends the killer in the form of a Kfir and the man behind the wheels are capable of thinking. They do think- in terms of killing Tamils. Let it be anybody – children, elderly, or sick, they are Tamils and they should be killed.

I happened to feel a piece of the outer covering of the bomb which at the blast was thrown to a distance of about 500 meters. It was about ten inches in length, sharp at all sides, uneven and weighed more than two kilos. That was enough to take the life of someone if it fell on some ill-fated person. It is made up of some poisonous metal. The bomb itself is more that a ton heavy and if that happened to be targeted on the people how worse the effect can be? Have men become so heartless to think about it or are they rather obsessed with killing people? Can anyone ever find pleasure in such merciless killings? I got no answer.

Even a small child in Tamil Eelam knows about a Kfir. It is the deadly dragon that comes to prey on them. It has become a daily exercise for the people to be prepared to protect themselves at the sound of a Kfir. In whatever activities they may be engaged they should be ready to abandon it at once and seek protection. There is always the tension and fear. Still they have to go on with their daily activities. They have learned to live a life with all the fear and tension- worries and sorrow. It is just because of this they are able to save themselves and not because of any kind of mercy shown towards them. Everybody including the elderly, sick, mothers with new-born babies, school children and the invalid have to run for shelter. Although no shelter guarantees safety that is their maximum effort to save themselves.

In the eye of the storm

It was the 25th of November 2007. I was sitting at the door-steps of the house, relaxing and enjoying the outside view -the garden and the flowers and the unpolluted atmosphere that refreshes anyone both mentally and physically. There were some children playing in the opposite compound playing and giggling and shouting in their natural carefree childhood innocence. I enjoyed it very much. But this didn’t last long.

All of a sudden there was the sound of the Kfir approaching. Before I could gather my senses the children took to their heels and fled somewhere and I too was called out to run away. There wasn’t time to run. I could just go to the backdoor of the house and there was the deadly noise of the bomb being dropped and the blast of it from all sides, the banging of the doors and windows and the people running and shouting out in panic. I heard as if a heap of daggers are being dashed simultaneously. I felt it close–so close that they rang in my ears. I shut my ears, closed my eyes and pressed myself against a wall and stood motionless. All what I could think was that I cannot do anything other than accepting whatever fate decides for me. My throat was parched; I lost the capacity to think anymore and everything was beyond my control. When all is over and there was absolute silence I couldn’t even think that I am saved. There was smoke everywhere. The unpolluted atmosphere I just enjoyed got surrounded with poisonous gaseous elements from the bomb. A silence that predicted the death of some innocent lives prevailed in the neighbourhood. People were running helter-skelter. They were running to see what had happened and who is left dead and injured. At once they started acting and rushed to the spot for help. All in a moment depicting how unpredictable is life in Tamil Eelam. What can we do to help these people? The question always absorbed my thoughts.

Again the following day I had a worse experience. In the nick of the time I heard the sound, the Kfir was there preparing itself to drop the bomb. I was neither in the house nor in a place to protect myself. I couldn’t run any further for the Kfir was almost ready to drop the bomb. The only alternative left was to lie on the floor and see if I survive or not. Your life is not yours – it is all I could feel. But I survived again.

Then came the worst of all days. It was November 27th. The whole of Wanni was decorated with red and yellow flags and posters of the Martyrs were everywhere, roads were cleaned and it was a commemorative day for Eelam Tamils to visit the martyrs who laid their lives in the freedom fight. People were going towards the memorial with garlands of flowers in their hands to pay respect to their loved ones. The roads were full of people of all ages. The land was so beautiful that the people never would have had the intention to think about the danger to their lives. Although they knew that the enemy is heartless they were fully absorbed in the thoughts of the loved ones to whom they were going to pay homage. But the cruel enemy did come on their way in the demonic Kfir to take the lives of some more.

Silenced Voice of Tamils

Voice of Tigers is the radio that currently brings the news in Tamil Eelam to the people around the world. The whole world was anxiously waiting to listen to the speech made by the national leader Mr. Velupppillai Pirabahararn. The time was 6pm. Just before the time the messenger of death assisted with a MIG aircraft entered the land of Wanni. It had the specific place of target. The Voice of Tigers radio station is right on the A9 highway and they had no strain in locating the place. It plunged on the building smashing the place with repeated bombing. The whole of Kilinochchi came to a standstill. Although most of the workers from the radio station expected such a disaster and escaped to safer place three of them including an engineer and a worker who is a mother of three got killed at the spot. The pedestrians on their way to the memorial fields were no exemption. Eleven civilians were killed and 15 were wounded. 17 of the nearby houses were also attacked. A person inside the house who was trying to switch on the TV to listen to the leader’s speech got his head severed and died on the spot. An International non-governmental organization ‘Forut’ was also severely affected.

On the same day 11were killed in a claymore attack carried out by the Deep Penetration Unit of the SriLankan army. This included seven schoolgirls and three male volunteers and the driver. It was just 50 meters from the place of attack that the children have alighted into a minibus to volunteer at the memorial celebrations. With all this, the speech was let on the air at the scheduled time using a clandestine transmitter. After a while I had the opportunity to see the radio station and the affected area. They were in shambles and remained a proof for a war torn area. That was not the only disaster on that day. There were still more bombings in other areas of Wanni as well.

All these were news in the international media. But did anyone help us out? No one could do anything. Is this the fate of Tamils? I became tired of thinking. ‘No choice’ is what makes the people go about with their daily routine with all the pain they experience throughout. But still you can never- never reject the impact of these, which are to affect the lives of the people permanently. Is ‘trauma’ the only word to express the suffering of these people? Will the elite group of people who enjoy the message of such disaster ever realize their pain?

Life on the run

I met a boy of 17years whom I asked which area of Tamil Eelam he is from. He answered, “Amma I had been running since I was three. I have lived under the trees. Slept in open places. Eating whatever is available and my mother has told me that she even had to quench my thirst with the water running in a canal that carried dirty water. I haven’t attended schools regularly. I was in several schools. I couldn’t concentrate in my studies for I didn’t know where I will go next.” He is not the only youth with such a story. There are many such people. Their agony doesn’t end there. They have seen people being killed due to the bombing and shelling. They have seen the distorted bodies; helped to clean them up. There live so many people who lost their limbs and eye-sight. The worry, the memories and the impact is too much to bear with.

Everyday news from the north of Wanni- the Jaffna peninsula stands out as a proof for our mere helplessness. It is a silent process. There are arrests, disappearances and extra judicial killings in the area, which is claimed to have been freed. Every single day there is no dawn without a killing of a youth. Yet we could do nothing. Nothing to help our people. Are we that incapable even in lands where at least our cries are heard?

Eelam – a clarion call

We know for sure there is no mercy we can expect from the Sri Lankan governments. However loud the expatriate Tamil community try to bring this into the attention of the foreign governments, they too keep silent as they believe only what the Sri Lankan government announces- because that is said to be the ethics of the governments. Where are we to turn for help? Even those who try to voice for the Tamils are branded as Tiger supporters and neglected and even pushed aside. All the atrocities against the Tamils have to be stopped. We have to work relentlessly until it is stopped. The international community definitely has the power to take control of the deadly activities of the Sri Lankan Government. They just don’t have to interfere in the domestic affairs but can definitely stop supporting and encouraging.

The situation as of now is such, it is only the expatriate Tamils who got to think of the plight of those in Tamil Eelam. We do know that and it is because of this that we always keep an eye on the news from Tamil Eelam.

Hence we do not fail to see the daily news. We sit in a cozy place and read the news either in a computer or sit in a comfort of a sofa and watch TV or read the newspapers. We do feel sorry for the Eelam Tamils and express our feelings in several ways and try to help the suffering of the people in Eelam. With that we forget everything and turn our attention towards various activities – working for our survival in the countries of refuge, caring to our families here and at home, and partying, and amusing us in whatever possible ways. But what we got to keep in mind is that we still have a lot to do. The dying nation has its fullest faith in us – the expatriate Tamils. Are we doing enough? The answer is ‘NO’, not enough. We got to act vigorously. This is what I personally felt during my recent visit to the land of our own. We are a nation full of capabilities. We have the strength. We have the resources. We are successful people with lots of talents. We should feel that nothing is impossible. It is possible!

(http://www.tamilcanadian.com)

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An average of 10 LTTE cadres a day or more are being killed by the Security Forces in limited offensives ahead of the Vanni FDLs each day. An average of 2 Security Forces personnel a day are also sacrificing their lives. These offensive operations from Mannar to Kokkuthuduwai and Kilali to Muhamalai is forcing a separation of LTTE ground forces. More experienced cadres from Charles Anthony Regiment are forcing less experienced cadres into the front to face SLA advances.

Meanwhile a team of instructors from The United States Marine Corp is to arrive in the island shortly to train the Sri Lanka Army’s 2nd Regiment Special Forces and the Special Boat Squadron of the Sri Lanka Navy at Trincomalee, Tangalle and Maduru Oya.

(http://defencewire.blogspot.com)

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During the recent military advance into non-liberated territory ahead of Wanni defences, security forces overran what was identified to be LTTE’s ‘VIETNAM Base’ located at general area Periyapunichankulama, security sources said.

Security forces met with minimum resistance during the advance as demoralized terrorists were on the flight with acute shortage of will and man power, defence sources said.

The LTTE strategic base stretching approximately 400m and 300m in breath consists with 18 to 20 overhead bunkers, ground sources said. Eight to ten cadjan roofed huts and a kitchen were inside the terrorist camp. Troops also located a 150m long tunnel (2 m width and 2 m height) forming a clandestine exit route from the camp.

“Few chairs were also found inside a building and the word “VIETNAM” was written on them”, military reported citing field sources.

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During the recent military advance into non-liberated territory ahead of Wanni defences, security forces overran what was identified to be LTTE’s ‘VIETNAM Base’ located at general area Periyapunichankulama, security sources said.

Security forces met with minimum resistance during the advance as demoralized terrorists were on the flight with acute shortage of will and man power, defence sources said.

The LTTE strategic base stretching approximately 400m and 300m in breath consists with 18 to 20 overhead bunkers, ground sources said. Eight to ten cadjan roofed huts and a kitchen were inside the terrorist camp. Troops also located a 150m long tunnel (2 m width and 2 m height) forming a clandestine exit route from the camp.

“Few chairs were also found inside a building and the word “VIETNAM” was written on them”, military reported citing field sources.

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In a rejoinder, Rajiv Wijesingha, Secretary General of Sri Lanka’s Secretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process has revealed, because in the North, and in particular at Muhumalai, the LTTE has continued with planned attacks on Government forces, regularly causing death and injury and It was precisely for that reason that the government is unable to open the A-9 road there.

While contradicting statement by Ms Selvy, LTTE Spokesperson for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs regarding Jaffna civilians and the transport of Sri Lanka military to and from Jaffna, Rajiv Wijesingha, in a statement wrote, “Anyway, by October 2006 there was another reason for withdrawal from talks, namely the closure of the A9. Ms Selvy does not however mention why the A9 was closed southward from Jaffna. To put it quite bluntly, this happened after a massive artillery and mortar attack launched by the LTTE on the government forces on August 11th 2006, an attack which was the gravest threat in years to the security of the Jaffna peninsula, and which also destroyed the entire infrastructure built by the government at Muhamalai to facilitate the movement of people and goods.”

Rajiv Wijesingha pointed out in his note contradicting Ms. Selvy’s statement said that when the Government agreed at Geneva to discuss the issue further, in trying to seek guarantees that national security will not be compromised by opening up this route, the LTTE remained intransigent.

While further blaming the intransigence of the LTTE he added, purpose of the LTTE after all was not the well being of the citizens of Jaffna, but rather the propaganda use it could make of the closure. Hence its determination to prevent civilian shipping, he said.

He further pointed out that LTTE threats forced the ICRC to stop its initial positive response to the government request ‘to facilitate the movement of goods and people from and to Jaffna by sea.’

“And still the failure to provide the security guarantees necessary for the ICRC to act continues. Indeed, after the attack on a civilian transport in November 2006, there was also an attack on a food ship, which contributed to shortages in Jaffna, though concerted efforts by the Commissioner General for Essential Services rapidly reduced the shortages and prices” Rajiv Wijesingha underlined in his statement.

Given below a statement made by Rajiva Wijesinha, Secretary General, Secretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process on a statement made by Ms Selvy, LTTE Spokesperson for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs regarding Jaffna civilians and the transport of Sri Lanka military to and from Jaffna,

LTTE abuse of Tamils and the Truth

Further disinformation by educated LTTE leaders

The attention of the Peace Secretariat was recently drawn to a statement by theLTTE Spokesperson for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs regarding Jaffna civilians and the transport of Sri Lanka military to and from Jaffna.

The writer, Ms N Selvy, and the Development Spokesperson to whom she had initially sent the statement, Mr V Bavan, are – especially the latter – amongst the brighter sparks in the LTTE. They were comparatively good students in the heady days of optimism, when Bradford University and the Social Scientists Association ran a Conflict Resolution Course up in Kilinochchi. If and when the present intransigent blight in the LTTE is lifted, such educated individuals will we hope be part of a cohesive Sri Lanka.

The present statement however shows a startling ignorance or perhaps ignoring of the need for consistency and evidence for pronouncements. It claims that the ‘Geneva II talks in October 2006, between the LTTE and the Government of Sri Lanka, broke down because the Government of Sri Lanka refused to open the A9 route to allow Jaffna civilians land access to the rest of the island and the world. Prior to the permanent closure of this A9 route, it served as a life line to the people of Jaffna as well as Vanni. Seriously ill medical cases from Vanni were taken in ambulances to the Jaffna hospital. Every day ambulances plied seven to eight times a day, carrying around six patients in each trip. This is necessitated by the poor medical resources in Vanni. Even the Jaffna hospital resources are very poor in comparison to what is available in the south of island. Many very seriously ill patients were taken to Colombo for treatment through the A9 route.’

There are several problems with these assertions. Firstly, talks between the government and the LTTE have broken down on several occasions simply because the LTTE decided they would break down. Shakespeare’s rather unfair characterization of women – I have none other but a woman’s reason. I think him so because I think him so – would have been far more appropriate for the LTTE, even if Ms Selvy is the specific exponent of this school of non-thought in this instance. In short, the particular pretext advanced by the LTTE at any stage is not the reason for anything because, as we have often seen, the reason changes each time.

In 2003 the LTTE withdrew for the reasons given in Mr Balasingham’s long letter. In June 2006 they did not even start talking, for reasons which are not clear, except perhaps in the revelation of the Norwegian Ambassador that Mr Thamilselvam ‘had insisted that the issue of child recruitment does not fall within the parameters of the CFA’. The Norwegian Ambassador had very properly disagreed with this and pointed out that the CFA did mention abductions, and also that ‘continued recruitment was extremely damaging to the image of the LTTE at the international level’. The LTTE may have finally understood this, when Ms Radhika Coomaraswamy spoke up boldly against their violation of national and international laws. Having run circles round the last UNICEF Head in Sri Lanka, they have finally said that ‘by the end of this year LTTE will announce that there are no more under-18 persons in the organization’.

Prevarications regarding child soldiers

Entertainingly, according to the LTTE, ‘The UNICEF Head said that his visit was an introductory meeting with the Political Head. Among the topics discussed were the work of United Nations in general in the Tamil homeland and the program of releasing under-18 persons in the LTTE….Pointing to the delay by UNICEF in completing its part in this program, Nadeson called on the UNICEF Head to ensure that UNICEF carry out its part in verifying the under-18 persons released by the LTTE and also in doing its part to reunite the released children with their families….UNICEF must be ready to do its part to complete its role in this program so that it too can remain in sync in its statement. The children being killed and injured by the aerial bombing and claymore attacks of the Sri Lanka were also discussed at the meeting.’

Such a release by the LTTE is understandable, though it is sad that the UN has not as yet seen fit to dissociate itself with the claim that there is ‘work of United Nations in general in the Tamil homeland’ or ‘claymore attacks of the Sri Lanka’. But perhaps the UN has even now realized how serious is the issue of child soldiers and, in welcoming the declaration that the excuses offered to the previous UNICEF head will now cease, perhaps it has forgotten all its other obligations.

LTTE resumption of large scale hostilities and destruction of the A 9 route

Anyway, by October 2006 there was another reason for withdrawal from talks, namely the closure of the A9. Ms Selvy does not however mention why the A9 was closed southward from Jaffna. To put it quite bluntly, this happened after a massive artillery and mortar attack launched by the LTTE on the government forces on August 11th 2006, an attack which was the gravest threat in years to the security of the Jaffna peninsula, and which also destroyed the entire infrastructure built by the government at Muhamalai to facilitate the movement of people and goods.

It is now forgotten that that attack, following hard on the massive attack on Muttur at the beginning of the month, represented the culmination of LTTE violations of the 2002 Ceasefire. And, while the 3000 odd violations before that could have been characterized as individual incursions, not part of a tactical plan (though undoubtedly part of a sustained strategy of attrition), the two attacks of August 2006 were designed to wrench control of the North and East from the government. Sadly, given the oafish antics of Gen Henricsson, diverted from intelligent analysis by his emotional response to restrictions on his movements in Muttur, the SLMM failed signally to monitor and report on the conceptual change represented by these LTTE attacks.

Perhaps because the attacks were repulsed so successfully, and the strategy fell into abeyance, the SLMM, the Norwegians and the rest of the international community have failed to register that that was the culmination of the subtle and not so subtle campaign of murder, abduction and intimidation (to say nothing of purchase and importation of heavy and lethal weaponry) that the LTTE had carried on sustainedly from the day the Ceasefire was signed.

In short, the actions of the Defence forces in August 2006 should have met with Churchillian gratitude, instead of the relentless attacks on them and the government that have ensured, by liars such as General Henricsson and Nicholas Howen of the International Commission of Jurists (who had the temerity to accuse the government of tampering with evidence). In the East, disregarding the continuing sniping, by the LTTE and by other votaries of falsehood, the forces have ensured that such sudden attacks can no longer occur. However, in the North, and in particular at Muhumalai, the LTTE has continued with planned attacks on Government forces, regularly causing death and injury. It is precisely for that reason that the government is unable to open the road there.

LTTE refusal in Geneva to discuss modalities of opening the A 9 or providing supplies and transport by sea

However, when the government agreed at Geneva to discuss the issue further, in trying to seek guarantees that national security will not be compromised by opening up this route, the LTTE remained intransigent. Its purpose after all was not the well being of the citizens of Jaffna, but rather the propaganda use it could make of the closure. Hence its determination to prevent civilian shipping. As reported even in the ‘Leader’, LTTE threats forced the ICRC to stop its initial positive response to the government request ‘to facilitate the movement of goods and people from and to Jaffna by sea.’ And still the failure to provide the security guarantees necessary for the ICRC to act continues. Indeed, after the attack on a civilian transport in November 2006, there was also an attack on a food ship, which contributed to shortages in Jaffna, though concerted efforts by the Commissioner General for Essential Services rapidly reduced the shortages and prices.

Meanwhile, assuming the LTTE wants to continue to keep the navy occupied in guarding the movement of civilians and supplies on the longer routes, Civil Society, led by the Bishops as well as genuinely concerned Tamil politicians such as Douglas Devananda, has requested the commencement of short haul services, from Mannar to the Jaffna islands. This would provide a much cheaper service for people wishing to travel from Jaffna, and for goods for sale. However, though the ICRC has now been twice requested to facilitate such a service, the required security guarantees have not been forthcoming.

The reasons for LTTE hostility to sea routes are suggested by Ms Selvy’s statement, in that generally when a particularly outrageous claim is made, it is because that sort of behaviour is characteristic of the complainant. She claims that ‘It is a well known truth that each time this “civilian passenger” ship plies to and from Jaffna and Trincomalee, invariably the Sri Lankan military personal traveling in the ship is many times more than the number of civilians in the ship. It is also well known to the Jaffna population the difficulties one must go through to first obtain a pass from the military to travel and then obtain a seat in the ship. Reports of the Sri Lanka military demanding every civilian wishing to get a seat in the ship to give the military a name of an LTTE supporter in Jaffna have surfaced many times.’

Unsurprisingly, these reports have surfaced nowhere except in Ms Selvy’s fertile mind, not even in those of the NGOs that joined together with LTTE NGOs to denigrate the Sri Lankan forces. And even if Ms Selvy believes her own fictions, the remedy is very easy, namely to allow the ICRC to resume supervision of such shipping.

But no, the point is that the sea route cannot be allowed to be successful, however much Tamils may want it, because what the LTTE seeks is fuel with which to set the Sri Lankan state on fire.

Firstly, it hopes to rouse hostility against the government.

Secondly, it wants the A 9 reopened so it could resume its practice of taxing those who use it, taking ruthless advantage of those who need to travel.

Numerous studies, the most detailed perhaps being by the essentially Tamil think tank, the ‘Point Pedro Research Institute,’ have made clear the enormity of Tiger taxation, which has been levied even on aid projects. Needless to say, the money raised by such taxes was used in the past to buy up and transport weaponry.

Humanitarian support provided by government to the people of Jaffna and the Vanni

Ms Selvy’s desperation to criticize is apparent too in the inconsistencies of her attack. She claims that people in the Vanni have no access to good medical treatment because the road from there to Jaffna is closed. This begs the question of the good medical facilities now available in the Vanni itself, services which the government continues to fund, while it recently ensured the development of the Kilinochchi hospital into one of the better equipped in the country. But it also ignores the fact that the government had throughout kept the route southward from the Vanni open.

Indeed the government wanted this open all week, and it was only because of the LTTE that for some time it was open only for three days. With regard to this too the government made several requests to the ICRC before the required security guarantees were obtained. A mark of LTTE duplicity is that it had insisted – and several British parliamentarians were foolish or cunning enough to believe this – that it was the government that wanted the road closed, and it even convinced the SLMM initially that it was because of an LTTE request that the road was opened for a longer period from a couple of months back.

The SLMM was however soon disabused, though SCOPP said it had no objection to the LTTE also being given credit for this. This failed however to win a similar concession regarding sea routes. Meanwhile the SLMM confirms regularly, since SCOPP as opposed to the LTTE is genuinely concerned about food supplies to the Vanni, that these are not a major problem.

So, despite Ms Selvy’s crocodile tears, those in the Vanni are able to get to the south for treatment if the recently modernized hospital in Kilinochchi cannot help them. Why they would therefore want to get to Jaffna should then be a conundrum to Ms Selvy, given how contemptuous she is of the situation and the services there. But the people of Jaffna disagree, as is clear from the use they make of the health services government provides, and obviously the people of the Vanni must agree, if the closure of the Muhumalai checkpoint is as great a blow as Ms Selvy suggests. But, just in case there are shortfalls, there is provision to move people by air or sea, to Colombo or Trincomalee, and the navy even provides transport on special requests if the regular ferry is not available. It should be noted that the ICRC also assists as necessary with regard to air transport, though as mentioned it cannot help as far as sea travel is concerned since it has not received the required guarantees.

But the hypocrisy continues. The LTTE and its agents still go on about starvation in Jaffna, despite the steady supplies government sends, despite the latest UN report claiming that even those in the Welfare Centres find basic needs both readily available and affordable. That report makes clear that government not only continues to provide education to almost all children in these centres, it has even supplied uniforms to the vast majority of them. Health and education are also freely supplied to the citizens in the Vanni, bitterly circumscribed as they are otherwise by the LTTE impositions, which even the United Nations has begun to talk about, in finally drawing the attention of international media to the habit of forced conscription.

Support of the military for civilians

Finally, Ms Selvy exceeds herself in her conclusion, which is that ‘Transporting military personnel using civilians, especially the ill, is also a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.’ She has evidently forgotten that it is the Sri Lankan government that now protects all transport (much of it, incidentally, owned by Tamil businessmen), since the ICRC has been in effect debarred, despite its initial helpful intervention in August soon after the LTTE assaults led to the closure of Muhumalai. Far from the government using civilians – unlike the LTTE, which launched its attack when a busload of apparent civilians turned their guns on the soldiers at the checkpoint – it provides services for civilians at the cost of several man hours of protection duty by our much malighed servicemen.

Indeed, it was pointed out that SCOPP could not expect the LTTE to allow the ICRC to look after civilian and food transport between Jaffna and Trincomalee / Colombo, because the poor ICRC might then be accused of freeing up navy personnel to perform their primary duty, that of fighting terrorism. However, at least on humanitarian grounds the LTTE could allow ICRC to run short haul transport, since that would be no advantage to the navy which is not doing that now.

But humanitarian grounds do not matter to the LTTE, not even to its spokesperson on humanitarian issues and human rights. By withdrawing poor Mr Thamilselvam from peace talks, and forcing him into military fatigues – including at the attack on Muhumalai – the LTTE exploded the myth of a political wing. By making the LTTE Peace Secretariat glorify suicide cadres on the eve of their (self)-destructive mission, the LTTE exploded the myth of an institution concerned with peace. And now, by making poor Ms Selvi issue self-contradictory statements regarding the closure of the road that resulted from its brutal assault last year and its categorical refusal at Geneva to discuss modalities of reopening it, the LTTE has exploded the myth of at least one person more concerned with humanitarian issues rather than militaristic propaganda.

But all this, we must hope, is simply due to the continuing intransigence of the leadership. Ms Selvy showed intelligence once, and awareness of at least some of the realities of the world outside. For her sake, and that of the suffering thousands still in the Vanni, we must hope that at least some elements in the leadership will ensure a sea change (in every sense) in the near future.

Rajiva Wijesinha,
Secretary General,
Secretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process.

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