ERASING THE EELAM VICTORY Part 10 G
Posted on January 10th, 2020

KAMALIKA PIERIS

The Tamil Separatist Movement said the whole separatist Northern peninsula was also a ‘victim’ of war, with the Sri Lanka army as the predator. The North-East was devastated and destroyed both by the Army and by the LTTE, they said. At the end of the war the North-east was thrown back 30 years as a defeated wounded and disintegrated population.

The Master Plan for an Economic Development Framework for the North (2019) recalled, nostalgically, the happy life in the north before the war.  In the past, smallholder farmers’ intensive cultivation of cash crops such as red onions and green chillies for Southern markets during the import substitution regime and intensive fishing for domestic consumption and exports, led to an agricultural boom.

This accumulation during the 1960s and 1970s was reflected in increased social mobility such as cement houses for the lower-middle classes in rural Jaffna, strengthening of consumer and producer co-operatives and urban development of Jaffna and many small towns in the peninsula. State corporations producing cement, salt and chemicals; small industries nurtured by the state including in the Atchchuvely Industrial Zone and a textile industry built by the co-operatives, led to the emergence of a small industrial sector mainly located in Jaffna with a limited worker base. The transport of seafood, cash crops and textiles were facilitated by road and train service linking Jaffna to Colombo and other national trading centres, continued the Master Plan

In the war decades immediately prior to the war, the North was characterised by outstanding educational institutions, a prosperous class of professionals, a booming agricultural economy and a nascent industrial sector. The escalation of the war disrupted this socio-economic trajectory with out-migration of youth and the professional classes to Western countries. Eventually, mass migration and internal displacement led to considerable depopulation of the North, concluded the Master Plan.

Then came the war. Here is Sampanthan on the subject. What has been happening to the Tamil people as a result of the war that is being waged in the North and the East?” Asked Sampanthan in Parliament in January 2009.

”There is constant aerial bombing, continuous aerial bombing, sometimes several bombings per day. There is constant multi-barrel rocket launcher fire, constant artillery fire, all into civilian populated areas. Is this happening in any part of the world? Are civilian- populated areas being bombed aerially and are multi-barrel rocket launchers and heavy artilleries being fired into civilian populated areas in any other part of the world? I got some statistics here. They are short of food; they are short of medicine; they are short of shelter; they are short of drinking water; they are short of sanitation facilities. People are undergoing immense difficulties in the Vanni. There are about 350,000 to 400,000 people now in the Mullaitivu District,  running helter-skelter from one place to another depending on where the bombing is taking place, where the shelling is taking place.”

There is no mention anywhere of the fact that it was the north that started the Eelam wars, never expecting it to go on for so long .instead, t is the government that stands accused. It is the government that is in the wrong, coming into the north, where it had no right to be and engaging in military attacks.

The war was illegal, they imply. And the damage done by the war was therefore also illegal and the government must now repair the damage. Tamil people, in particular, have suffered a great deal, the Eelamists said. There is much development that is urgently required, particularly, in agriculture, fisheries, livestock development, industries and employment. Women, widows, ex-militants and ex-LTTE cadres who have come back to civilian life need to be looked after.

It is necessary to understand the sensitive feelings of the Tamils. Many were killed, others were displaced, moaned the Eelamists. Many people were rendered homeless because of the war. And their livelihoods were decimated. These special needs have to be met and have to be recognized as unique.    The fragility of people emerging from a protracted war must be adequately addressed  said the Eelamists.

Post war reconstruction was essential.  There is an   almost total devastation of the infrastructure of Mullaitivu and Kilinochchi and the displacement of entire population of these two districts, said pro- Eelamists.

Catholic Bishops Conference observed that the day to day needs of displaced person need more attention, many of the displaced farmers wanted to return to their old lands. Education facilities were minimal children had to study in makeshift huts and shed, bullet pocked wall and battle scarred buildings were not conducive to study, nor did it help children to put the trauma of war behind. Some area had no electricity, and the land was snake infested. Displaced families had little or not say on how their lives to being administered. There was a sense of disappointment among the families.

The Department of Census conducted its usual Household Income and Expenditure Survey (HIES) in 2017.  The survey showed that Eight years after the war ended there is persistent poverty in the north and east. Incomes remain far lower than in other parts of the country. The median income in Sri Lanka is now Rs 43,511. In Mullaitivu, Kilinochchi and Batticaloa districts, it is Rs. 25,526, Rs. 27.050 and Rs. 28,297 respectively, the survey said.

Such low incomes are reflective of the high levels of poverty in the war-affected districts particularly, Trincomalee, Batticaloa, Mullaitivu and Killinochi, with double digit poverty head count of 10%, 11.3%, 12.7% and 18.2% respectively.  The poverty head count In Killinochi, was 12.7% in the earlier survey of 2012/2013.

There was a need to re-start the economy in the field of agriculture, fisheries, livestock development, industry, in various other activities, employment generation and skills development to enable  our  youth,  our women, our widows” to be able to recommence life and lead a respectable life.

Sambanthan and Sumanthiran asked Minister of Finance, Mangala Samaraweera to start a special fund for the rebuilding of the North-East. We will start a North-East development fund with an initial allocation of Rs. 5 billion from the Ministry to which we add more funds, said Mangala. We will ensure that more funds go in. The fund will be called “Palmyrah Fund”. It will be open for donations from the private sector as well as the Diaspora.

In 2017 TULF asked President Sirisena to return private lands occupied by the security forces to their owners in the North and East. TULF demanded the release of lands belonging to various individuals, at different places in the Districts of Jaffna, Mannar, Killinochchi, Vanni, and at various places in the Eastern Province as well. The movement to demand the release of lands is now fast gaining ground. Added to this, even the Catholic clergy is getting worried over the new developments. Hence the Government should not loose time to concede the demands of the people, concluded TULF.

The returnees faced the problem of land ownership. Many families have been denied of their freehold land titles though they have been living there for over 60 years. Tamil people have not been issued permits for lands possessed by them for several decades said Sampanthan. People were unable to receive various benefits for development of their lands due to this. This issue must be addressed at the earliest. Yahapalana said that issuing land deeds for those people was a complex task and would involve the cooperation of several ministries. “We however have decided to set up several special mobile kachcheris there and sort out the problem.

The people are also being greatly harassed by the actions of the Forest Department, Wildlife Department and the Archeological Department. People had been displaced from their land as a result of the war for several decades and the land is now grown with jungle. The Forest Department and the Wildlife Department are planting boundary stones and taking possession of these lands. Actions of the Archeological department are also causing harassment to the Tamil People.Tamil people have not been issued permits for lands possessed by them for several decades, said Sampanthan. It is unfair for people who survived a brutal war to suffer again owing to delays of departments.

Those who return find that their houses have been damaged by the military, with no compensation from the state, said Amnesty International. However, when Jehan Perera asked them, the army   flatly denied that it had destroyed houses. They said that the houses would have either been destroyed in previous rounds of fighting or had fallen into disrepair, but not purposely destroyed.

The army said that the soldiers who now are stationed in the North and East were not those who fought in the war and they would much prefer to be stationed outside the North and East than within it. They do not need to destroy houses when they vacate the land. What the army did not say was that the LTTE had instructed the Tamil villagers to remove the doors and windows of their houses when they left the village. LTTE knew that once the roof and doors were removed, the building would crumble.

The Center for Policy Alternatives said that the census on human and property damages done to conflict 2013 caused a ‘lot of distress ‘to northern victims of the conflict. This was not a standard census, the time period was too small, and it was a census which relied heavily on collective and subjective memory, from traumatized persons. The methodology was deficient, how could they record the entire families that died or went missing, who is to speak of them, there is no guarantee of completeness.

The intimidation faced by the northern today, the militarization, the harassment and violence face by families of ex-combatants could have prevented them from giving accurate information. Some household fear reprisals by the military if they say that the killing were due to the military.  So they say ‘don’t know’ one option given is death by the military and they will not want to admit this.

 They should have been asked to state whether by army, navy or air force.  Air strikes is not included in the questionnaire.CPA says this is one of the ways in which the public was killed.  And government is trying to cover this up. CPA gives the example of air strike in       9.7.1995 where 65 people were killed and 150 wounded taking refuge in St Peters church, Navaly, Jaffna.

Jaffna is in seeming throes of death, said S.R.N. Hoole, not least because of the lack of water. Teachers have fled. We have rote tuition, not education. Street killings are on the rise. That death shows even in the diminishing standards of English.  There was a high rate of alcohol consumption in Jaffna. LTTE cadres found that they were not welcome in their own villages and no one wanted to employ them. There is refusal the part of the Tamil community to accept these persons back into the community.

Sword-wielding youth have brought fear to the streets of Kokuvil, with internal gang wars and increasing criminal activity, reported the media. More than five incidents of sword attacks by gangs were reported in Jaffna, Madduvil, Chunnakam and Manipay, within one week, with attacks on targeted individuals and households, with houses and vehicles damaged. The youth are between17 to 25 years. They are now leading a an extravagant lifestyle achieved with money sent from families gone overseas during the war, and lacking any commitment or motivation to responsible living, these youths have become addicted to drugs at a young age and are engaging in violence.

People are constantly living in fear every moment without knowing what would happen next. It’s similar to the wartime years. We don’t feel safe, they said.” Unemployment is highest in the Northern Province. Unemployment doubled from 5.7 per cent in 2015 to 10.7 per cent in 2018.With no new industrial factories being built and slow-paced private sector investments failing to generate adequate youth employment.

There is also the usual criminal violence. That, the police say, are not a sign of organized crime, but random actions by notorious armed groups carrying out attacks on contract” for various vested interests. These include attacks on families over personal petty issues, feigned attacks on which to build a case for seeking asylum in foreign countries on the basis of claimed death threats, and rivalry between armed factions, with most members being youths or school-leavers.   ( Continued)

One Response to “ERASING THE EELAM VICTORY Part 10 G”

  1. dingiri bandara Says:

    This is something I always think about. Why is it that the so called Tamil politicians never ask for the Thesawalamai law be abolished so that all races can live in peace and harmony in the North or anywhere in the country? There is no restriction on land purchase by any other race in any other part of the country.

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