Ampara, Batticaloa, Human Security, IDPs and Refugees, Peace and Conflict, Trincomalee

Abandoned War Displaced People From Border Villages

The people who are displaced from border villages in the east face many problems. However other communities get assistances through some NGO’s or CBO’s (community base organization) than the Singhalese communities. Specially Sinhalese people from Ampara face bias in assistance with no voice or eye focusing on their worries and I would like to focus on this in this report.

In the eastern province, since 1983, over 100 villages with people from all three communities were destroyed or villagers were displaced due to the civil war between the LTTE and government. Villages, which were in LTTE-controlled area as well as on the borderline, were affected. Villages in government-controlled area were less affected.

After Black July of 1983, there was displacement of the Singhalese community from the eastern province such as from Batticaloa, Muhathuvaram, Kalkudha, Mankerni, Pullu malai area etc. In Trincomalee villages from Kantale, Somapura were affected.

In Ampara areas of Karadianaru, Pullumalai and Badulla people in border villages were displaced.

After the MOU the Singhalese community felt more safer compared to the time when there was blood shed and people were massacred by the LTTE. However, they were still worried that these attacks, which escalated in the 1990s, could happen again.

Now they are feeling the same fear. Because of LTTE revenge and an attempt to divert the concentration of government forces from the battlefield from what is happening in Vakarai and Amparai.

A few months ago they had such an experience in Kepity Kollawa and Kantale and Serunuwera people were displaced because of Sampoor clearance. Now the government forces are closing in on a Vaharai victory. The only base in the eastern province for the LTTE is Topigala base. So they may withdraw from Vaharai and head south to Topigala in Ampara district. Today, around 400 cadres under the leadership of Nagesh tried to move from Vakarai south towards Kirimichchai. Therefore the government forces already started the operation against the LTTE in side of Kanchchukudichcharu and surrounding areas to prevent this movement.

If the government forces start a major operation inside the Kokkadichcholai and other LTTE controlled area, LTTE may target civilian places in Ampara. People fear there could be attacks against Singhalese villages. In the 1990s the TNA (Tamil National Army) created by Indian forces used to withdraw through these border villages when they were fighting with the LTTE. Now these are close to LTTE controlled areas. Already ‘Mangala Gama’ and surrounding area people move to safe places during night time and return during the day. A wood collector in an Ampara border village said, “our family depends on my daily wage. Now I can’t go to the jungle due to fear of LTTE”. A woman said “we were already displaced from another border village, we are facing lack of resources such as water for cultivation.”

Normally the NGOs also don’t provide proper assistance for our community, she said. For example one INGO started a water sanitation hygiene program in Ampara border village areas but they didn’t include any Sinhalese villages, which the people there feel is unfair.

  • I agree that many of these NGOs practice ethnic discrimination when it comes to choosing people to help. Part of the reason is that the government does not welcome their intervention because they are actually taking over the state’s duties and responsibilities. Foreign aid would be channelled through these organisations and the government will not have much say in setting the agenda. On the other hand, the LTTE needs their help to complement their administration. The tigers cannot spend enough funds or resources to carry out development work and and other duties expected from a governing body, other than occassional photo ops and PR stunts. It’s vital for them that these NGOs have access to its areas and help the civilians in their day to day life. The government regards this as helping the LTTE’s illegitimate rule in areas claimed by it.

    Another reason may be the disproportionate ethnic mix in the staff of many of these NGOs. It’s not uncommon to see NGOs exclusively employing ethnic-Tamils or having a majority of Tamil employees. They do influence the organisations’ work to some extent and this might lead to this obvious disparity.

    Unlike the Tamil nationalists, the Sinhalese have too much pride to publicise their difficulties and call for assistance. There is a lot of propaganda that causes too much attention to be concentrated on ethnic-Tamils but not other ethnic groups who go through the same problems in the same region. Many of the donors who fund these organisations do not closely monitor their activities and tend to get satisfied with evidence of work done without worrying about smaller issues that are deemed unimportant.

  • Thanks for expressing what is happening on the ground, the practices of NGOs, and yes, their political dimensions of which Westerners can remain oblivious. One does converse with persons committed to development or relief issues and projects who are unable to fathom why Colombo has had enough of some NGOs, the general culture of NGOism. Please post more on which groups are neglected, where it is assumed that help is needed, which communities are omitted, including the important dimension of LTTE politics to which your posting referred. I hope that some on the East Coast do receive what is actually helpful. From what I’ve been able to piece together, the foreign response to the Tsunami survivors may have taken the cake in projects not geared to what local people required, in stated needs, contrasting with what tends to be projected upon people seen as victims rather than astute survivors well able to advise relief organisations. Bring on the basics of life!