Development, Human Security, Identity, IDPs and Refugees, Jaffna, Peace and Conflict, Politics and Governance, Post-War

Jaffna after the war: Observations by a visitor

Large crowds rush to Jaffna every day. Some of them have never been there before. The 30 years war is over and thanks to president Rajapakse, (General Fonseka is already forgotten), they are now at last free to visit those territories the Tigers once claimed as theirs. They are eager to visit the many places of worship including a few recently discovered ones. They are genuinely happy to be there, moving from Nallur to Mavattapuram, Keerimalai, Nagadeepa, Dambakola Pattuna and   Kandarodai.

Dambakola Pattuna in Madagal is where Theri Sangamitha is said to have landed with the sacred Bo sapling. A new dagoba has been built there and a statue of bikkuni  Sangamitha has been installed in December 2009, by the first lady herself. Kandarodai where the mini dagobas are found has acquired a new Sinhala name. In all these places name boards and notices are found in Sinhala. Therefore the visitors from the South feel very homely and comfortable. The forces are every where giving them a sense of security. The Keerimalai tank which is now being used as a swimming pool is also heavily guarded because it falls within the High Security Zone. In fact there is a police post adjoining one of the kovils. In Nallur and Nagadeepa people are not only free to worship but also to do a little shopping. The vendors who have put up their stalls in the Kovil vicinity and Nagadeepa are mainly Sinhalese and those who are not, speak in Sinhala anyway, for the convenience of the buyers.

Accommodation is a problem. The three big hotels in Jaffna, we were told are being occupied by the army and the police, Smaller hotels like Pillaiyar Inn are booked for months ahead. The cheap guest houses and lodges are also brimming with guests. Every week nearly four lakhs of people visit Jaffna it is reported, while the whole population of Jaffna only amounts to five lakhs. Some popular restaurants like “Cosy” put up their shutters by 6 or 7 p.m., unable to cope with the demand for food. But the people of Jaffna are making every possible effort to make the visitors comfortable. Even private homes are offering the extra rooms they have for a nominal amount, like the KR Inn on Palaly Road, Thirunelvely. Even the old Jaffna railway station is made available to those who fail to find lodging. The old platform is used as an open kitchen and toilet arrangements have also been made. Communication too is not a serious problem. Just as the Tamils in the South have learnt Sinhala for their own survival; the Tamils in the North too are learning Sinhala, perhaps to do business among the visitors from the south.

But the question we should be asking is whether this large influx of visitors to Jaffna will help in promoting peace and national reconciliation in our war torn country. According to the G.A. Jaffna, this vast crowd visiting the North is something positive. The people of the North and south can at least meet freely and begin to trust each other, which could later lead to building bridges between the two communities. Building trust should begin with people interacting with one another. At the moment one doesn’t see this interaction taking place. One major barrier being, that though both parties know enough of each other’s language to order and serve food, to ask and give directions, it is not sufficient to share each other’s experiences, feelings, deep rooted fears, hopes and aspirations. That requires a deeper understanding and one can only hope that this will happen in the course of time.

There is also the question of different attitudes and respect for each other’s religious sentiments. Nallur Kandasamy Kovil for example is treated with great reverence by the people of Jaffna. Today vendors from the South have put up stalls in the vicinity of the Kovil to sell trinkets, kotta kilangu and hakuru. It creates hurt feelings among the Hindus who will not enter the kovil without properly cleansing themselves, to see hundreds of visitors coming there as sight seers. One cannot blame the first time visitors but better awareness and understanding of the feelings of the local people is necessary, if reconciliation is to take place.

The local people feel that suddenly too many Buddha statues and shrines are coming up close to Kovils, Churches and Mosques. Recently when attempts were made to build a shrine under a Bo tree next to another place of worship, the people had intervened and stopped it. One irate young woman told us “wherever they see a Bo tree, they want to

build a shrine, I simply dislike these beautiful Bo trees now”. Creating this kind of resentment wouldn’t be conducive to peace building.

There has been a lot of senseless destruction. Apart from buildings and cemeteries that have been demolished, monuments of peace have also been wantonly broken like the one inside the Jaffna University premises. The statue of Thileepan has been destroyed very recently. (Thileepan was the LTTE political wing leader when the IPKF was in Jaffna. He started a fast and as his demands were not met, died fasting). These destructions do not help in healing and peace building.

Chatty beach is beautiful and no wonder visitors flock there. There‘s plenty of space for merry making. Busloads of picnickers from the South can be seen singing and dancing on the beach. Opposite the beach, on the other side of the road however, is a large cemetery that has been bulldozed. The broken tomb stones are found in heaps scattered over a large area. One sees life and death side by side. Those who make  merry on the beach cannot be considered insensitive because they may not even be aware that they are facing a cemetery. A little awareness would help in understanding the feelings of the others.

A lot of building material (from China) has been unloaded on either side of the road between  Murugandy and Mankulam. We stopped to ask one of the soldiers, whether there was a plan to build houses for the displaced. ‘No’ he said, it was China’s donation towards an army cantonment. The government plans to put up an army camp just like the one at Panagoda.  One does feel sorry for the young, in fact very young soldiers living in small tents in those remote areas without the basic facilities. Their living conditions are no better than those of the returning IDPs in their makeshift homes. But the question is why are they being kept there after the war is over? There is no fear or danger of LTTE attacks now. So what is the need for this heavy military presence in the North?  On the A9 road every hundred meters there is a bunker and every mile or so a major military base. It certainly does not promote peace and reconciliation.

While some people are happy with the army others are not. Those who are happy say “The solders are now friendly with us, they even speak Tamil”. Others say, “We are afraid of the army. They come and question our young boys and girls who have retuned from IDP camps. These young people are not admirers of the LTTE. They feared the LTTE would drag them away from their homes and make them fight. Today they are happy there is no LTTE. But the army suspects them and keeps harassing them. We spend sleepless nights because it is at night that they come.” Reconciliation cannot take place in this tense environment.

There is no enthusiasm among the people of the North about the general election. One senses a kind of apathy and indifference, but some feel people will still vote. A few of them told us “we voted for Gen. Sarath Fonseka because we wanted a change of government. But that did not happen, instead the man who won the war for the country is locked up in prison today. We are simply shocked and cannot help thinking – If this could happen to Sarath Fonseka, what’s going to be our fate? Is there any point in voting?”

If these people are to live with dignity and self esteem in the land of their birth there has to be power sharing at the periphery and at the centre. Today federalism and devolution of power have become dirty words. No political party in the South even talks about it. Building roads and army camps in the North is not the solution to the problems of the Jaffna people. The causes that led to the 30 years of  war must be addressed at least now.

But as one newspaper  columnist (MSM Ayub) points out “Though Perumal and most Tamil leaders still insist on the wider devolution of  powers, it might take a long or infinite time for the Tamils and Sinhalese to arrive at a common point in the light of the present psychological division on ethnic lines”.  It is possible for an enlightened democratic leadership to bring about this unity. But sadly after the Rajapakse regime introduces a new constitution we might have only a line of Sinhala Buddhist Kings, not democratic leaders who believe in a multi ethnic, multi religious society. Forces that support and control the present regime do not believe in a multi ethnic or multi religious Sri Lanka. What they envisage is a unitary  Sinhala Buddhist state where the minorities should merge with the majority, forgetting and losing their identity.

Is that possible? Only time will tell.

  • Thanks for your post, what seems to be fairly balanced and unbiased. Would have loved to see some photos. One of the major issues we face in the west, is that all we hear is propaganda from both sides, which makes if difficult to help. The propaganda from the pro LTTE diaspora on ‘genocide’ and other exaggerated comments undermines the real sufferings of the Tamil people.

    On the other hand the ‘all is well’ propaganda from his highness Rajapaska does not help Sri Lanka, that I have to constantly remind people is a poor lower end developing country. It has always been poor, war made it worse and the final stages of the conflic,t miserable putting them equal to many countries in Africa.

    Real solution is never possible until we uncover the real problems. Propaganda only helps those spreading it, not the people in SriLanka. Hope to get more of these people journalism, that paints the real issues in Sri Lanka and along with suggestions on what can be done to help reconciliation.

  • Nis

    [[Kandarodai where the mini dagobas are found has acquired a new Sinhala name.]]

    A new Sinhala name?? What is it? Kadurugoda??
    Kadurugoda is not a new name. It is written in centuries old “Nam Potha”.

  • niranjan

    Leela Isaac,

    Yours is an interesting article. There will never be peace and reconciliation in this country. That is because racism is at the root of many of our problems. Racism is to be found on both sides of the ethnic divide. You are correct when you said that devolution and federalism have become dirty words in the south. That is partly due to racism.
    Those words are limited to academic circles.

    The situation is similar today to the prewar days. Even in the prewar days the army had camps in the North. Perhaps not as many as today. However, the pre- war army camps could not stop the LTTE from taking to arms. So the question is how far can the setting up of additional army camps prevent an insurgency from breaking out again.
    Is it not better to devolve adequate power under the 13 amendment to the Tamil people and satify them politically and economically ?

  • kavi

    Current Sri lankan government gave a military solution to tamils, not a political solution.Tamils feel military solution is temporary and oppressive.Actual problem in Sri Lanka is still existing.LTTE is only an output of that problem,not the root cause.This is the main difference between Sinhalese and Tamil views.

    Current government of Sri lanka didn’t take any significant movement towards political solution even after one year of war end.Tamils already lost trust in Sri lankan government which is ignoring their problem as usual.Thats is the main reason for poor interest in election even in the first democratic election in Northeast after war.

    Tamils are just living without any hope about their position and future in Sri Lanka.

  • anthony jones

    Reading this article enlightened me a lot.

    How the troops live in plastic tents similar to what the IDP’s have to undergo. It is the poor on both sides who have to endure the difficulties.

    The armed forces will keep on building more and more camps their troops will one day get a better billet, as to the improvements for the IDP’s it maybe only a wishful dream.

    The harrasment of the young tamils especially after dark, is most likely undertaken by the frustrated racist low life’s in the armed forces who need to seek a quick relief for their built up sexual frustrations.

    The armed forces must hand over the few hotels that they are forcibly occupying to enable the owners and the public to benefit.

    As to the respect rightfully expected by the various religous denominations in the north unfortunately the buddhists have one set of norms for themselves and for the others it is sour grapes they have a psychological defect and just cannot let a bo tree live happily they have to errect a buddha by force.

    I am happy that the two communities are enjoying each others company, may it continue for ever abd ever. a j.

  • Ravi

    I agree with Vejay Sappani on about the article and on his view. Apart from some points in the article on democracy. What is democracy if UN can’t solve and largest democracy next door can’t solve? We are being bombarded with ideas by multi-nationals and super powers. Can I be heard, I have my own view too. This line of view was reflected in the parliament on Sivagnanam’s speech. What I believe is in action if it has to be bit old fashion, it doesn’t matter. We still have our Queen in the UK.

    But I insist only if it can bring about good long lasting solution and not to full fill one race’s desire.

  • Pearl Thevanayagam

    Rebuilding Jaffna will take a very long time but rebuilding the lives of the displaced Jaffna civilians will take even longer.

    It does not bode well for the government to start changing names of traditional Tamil places to Sinhala. If Jaffna is populated with a sizeable number of Buddhists then there is a need for buildling temples since we have great tolerance and accommodation for all religions.

    But the government should first reconstruct all the structures both the LTTE and the armed forces destroyed including churches, temples, the famous Jaffna library, Jaffna Fort and the myriads of homes.

    Then it has the laborious task of replanting vast coconut and palmyrah plantations by compensating landowners. There is an urgent need to let Tamils build their peninsula and not give contracts to those from the South.

    The government defeated the LTTE but this defeat itself will turn on its head if Tamils see the government spending international aid on assisting major businesses from South to rebuild Jaffna.

    This government has yet to placate EU and receive its Generalised Special Preference + concession on exports. EU’s criteria is crystal clear. It is that SL improves its HR track record.

    Human rights include allowing a person to live with dignity, freedom and economic self-sufficiency and not just the removal of fear for one’s life.

    Is the government ready and willing to grant the Tamils in the North and East these rights? The current developments do not point to any desire by this government to compensate for the four decade of misery, loss of lives, livelihood and dignity.

  • Yoganathan

    Pearl Thevanayagam

    Well said.

    The N-E Tamils are now leaving in open prisons in subjected daily to numerous road checks, roadblocks, checkpoints, patrols, systematic surveillance, harassment and intimidation by the Sri Lanka Army.

    Sri Lanka’s present government running a virtual police state, the ruthlessness and pervasiveness of which warrants the description ‘Nazi’

  • andy

    another crap from a SF supporter! its funny to see the comment about the election and SF! I’ve visited Jaffna for 10-12 times after the war. 80-85% people are very happy and live peacefully. this guy seems like unhappy of the happy crowd of Jaffna.

  • KolithaBahu

    Enjoyed reading your tour of Jaffna, but it seems a bit generalised in my opinion. You ask the visitors to be more considerate and to have better mechanisms for peace and reconciliation, does that work both ways ?

    at some points you sound as if the glass half empty rather than half full.

    Ha, and the comments, Is it me or all the comments above from the dearly beloved Tamil diaspora ? If peace and reconciliation must work both way, take a look at the comments you have attracted for your post !

  • Observer

    “There will never be peace and reconciliation in this country.”

    niranjan, unlike you we dare to dream!

  • A related article published in the Economist – Winners and Losers (http://www.economist.com/world/asia/displaystory.cfm?story_id=16068930&fsrc=rss)

    “A year after the war, reconstruction in Jaffna is marred by the perception that the benefits are being reaped by the government and distant companies. Chinese firms are rebuilding the north’s main road network. A state-owned bank is financing Jaffna’s first three-star hotel. Young people lack the training employers want; joblessness remains a problem.

    Nor has the end of fighting brought the lifting of military restrictions. Foreigners need defence-ministry permission to visit the peninsula. So do vehicles with commercial cargo. Far from the city centre, a local-government official, whose older brother—a senior rebel leader—was killed during the final days of the war, laments the dashed hopes of those who had expected development to take off. The war may be over but mindsets, it seems, are slow to change.”

  • Ravi

    Niranjan, on the bright sight, it won’t be too long from devolution and federalism to conquring Tamil homeland becoming a dirty word.

  • Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

    Negombo is Meegamuwa in Sinhala and Neer Kolumbu in Tamil. Kandy is Mahanuwara in Sinhalese and Kandi in Tamil. Many such instances can be found all over Sri Lanka. If there is a Sinhala name for a Tamil village or place, in the ‘Nam Potha’ , let it be used by the Sinhalese. In the 1950’s, a book ‘Letters to a son’ was published by a Tamil, which traced the Tamil origins of many Sinhala place names. let us also remember that Anugrammam of old is now Anuradhapura/ Anuradhapuram!

    Let us not waste our energies on such issues and irrigate our conflicts further to harvest more misery and sorrow. The people in the north and east have to find a foothold on life first. Issues being raised in this article are of importance to only the minority that is having three full meals a day and have the time and energy to indulge in such luxuries. The majority of people in the north and east are ‘Just’ clinging to the edge of life! Let all Tamils who have the ability and time to indulge in politics and journalism remember this reality.

    Let us demand from the government the diversion of the Mahaveli waters to the north, re-establishment of the salterns in elephant pass, modernization of our fisheries, establishment fish processing factories, investments in agriculture and horticulture, and most importantly resettlement, rehabilitation and provision of livelihood for the war affected. Let us concentrate our efforts and generously contribute to providing the basic facilities to restore ‘Human dignity and rights’ to these war-affected.

  • Travelling Academic

    “Let us not waste our energies on such issues and irrigate our conflicts further to harvest more misery and sorrow.”

    Hear hear!

  • Reader

    Well said Dr.Rajasingham Narendran!

    Many of the writers on blogposts and numerous pro-tamil websites fail to articulate ‘constructive’ criticism of the government’s actions, they are rather narrow minded and doing the job of mud slinging at the government, failing to provide effective strategies and measures that could alleviate the average tamil in the N-E from their current state.

  • i. s senguttuvan

    Pearl Thevanayagam and Dr. Narasingham Rajendran are experienced commentators with the former being an ex-journo. They mean well and their thoughts need to be looked at seriously. If the Mahaweli is diverted to the arid North, as it should have been done long ago, the whole of the country would have benefited – not just the Jaffna farmer. Ministers Devananda and “Karuna” should have pressed on this years ago. There is no objection to our Sinhala brothers calling NEP place names in Sinhala – but what is resisted are those attempts to Sinhalise Tamil names and subtly force Tamils to call these by Sinhala names. Prior to new Viharas, the old destroyed structures in the war torn areas must be built in a systematic form of a form of priority – with Tamils being involved in the process. The rebuilding efforts in the NEP should be given largely to Tamil contractors so there is an improved standard of living
    and employment there. Dr Rajasingham Narendran has listed some of the industries in the North that can be easily and quickly made to function – and that should include the KKS Cement Works and Valaichenai Papaer Factory as well.

    ISS

  • Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

    The new museum in Sigiriya , opened by the president last year, was constructed by a Tamil contractor. I am sure there are several such instances of Tamils taking on major projects in the ‘South’. Why then should the Sinhala contractors be excluded from the north and east?

    When the Tamils are excluded from the ‘South’, it is called discrimination! However, I wonder what the demand to exclude the Sinhalese from the north and east, should be called?

    There is severe shortage of skilled workers in the north and east. There has been a criminalization of society at all levels, including politicians, in the north and east, following the lumpenization of society set in motion by the LTTE and the other ‘liberation’ groups. It will be difficult to set in motion the re-building and development process in the north and east, at a rapid pace, if only the resources available locally are to be depended on.

    We have to have an influx of not only Sinhala contractors and workers, but also those from India, China and even Timbuctu! This will be learning experience for Tamils. Further, it should not be forgotten that there is severe dearth of capital in the north and east.

  • Prof.A.H.Sathananthan/Prof.Sath

    The last para in Dr.Narendra’s comments posted on 10 May 2010 are particularly relevant to the Tamils of the North today. These are some of their immediate needs for their rehabilitation and development. The railway line and A9 to Jaffna, in particular, are vital conduits for their economic development. Lets hope that all politicians in the North negotiate with the Government and get urgent assistance from countries like India, Japan or China to fund rehabilitation of IDPs and transport to the North. This will also help tourism and investment.

  • Pearl Thevanayagam

    As we approach one year anniversary of ending the ethnic war and annihilating the LTTE for better or for worse the government should seriously re-think its approach to the Tamil conundrum.
    Does the goverment want a re-enactment of the LTTE or does it like the UK’s newly elected parliament give Tamils their due rights in a coalition part thus ensuring peace and economic stabity.
    Tamils have suffered in the hands of Sinhala hegemony since 1948 and this is not disputed.
    The only way forward is to ensure that Tamils, inheritors of Sri Lanka as much as the Sinhalese are given their due rights and not be treated as second class civilians as the successive governments have held them.
    Otherwise the diaspora (meanign the dissemination of seeds among the same clan) will not sit idle while their rights are flaundered to the detriment of this island’s peace and tranquility.
    Th diaspora are not going nowhere. Their claim to their motherland is deadly serious.
    The government has a choice for future prosperity and conceding what is lawfully Tamil rights.

  • Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

    I paste below veteran journalist D.B.S.Jeyraj’s recent response to a readers comment in Transcurrents.com . He has boldly stated the ‘Naked Truth’ . I salute him for his objectivity and honesty. I hope the Tamils and their leaders will take his advice and act accordingly.

    “DBSJ RESPONDS;

    Whatever you may say the bulk of Sri Lankan Tamil people will live in Sri Lanka in an undivided country. The destiny of Tamils is inextricably inter-twined with that of the Sinhalese.

    The LTTE has caused irredeemable harm to the Tamil people. Now we have to face bitter realities and pick up the pieces and get along with life.

    The Tamils in Sri Lanka are a battered and shattered people. At the moment it is a case of “we dont want alms. Just call off the dogs”.

    But I have immense trust and pride in the resilience of my people. If we get a period of peace we can slowly pull ourselves up gradually

    The Tamils need to avoid irrational confrontational politics and adopt a pragmatic approach. If we try to take a hardline we will get decimated further. The Sinhala hawks are itching to demolish us further and the policies of the Diaspora idiots and Tamil nadu jokers are helping them.

    Today the TNA is slowly trying to disown its LTTE past and move forward. We need to encourage that.

    Today the Rajapakse govt is right on top. Whether we like it or not we have to try and reach some amicable understanding with him in power.

    The Sinhala hardliners will try and put us down further.We have to defend ourselves and protest the Sinhala hardline activity. But this cannot be countered by continuing to advocate a separate state.

    We must try and contain Sinhala hawkish actions within a unitd Sri Lanka and move forward. Our discourse should not be secessionist but within universally accepted standards of human rights, democracy and pluralism.

    There is no magic wand to change things overnight. It is an uphill task. But there is no other way. Tamil Eelam is no option

    The Tamils living in Sri Lanka can only decide what is good for them. We can only help and support them humbly without trying to dictate or engage in rhetoric.

    The Tamils have been resisting Sinhala domination from the thirties of the last century. Today that struggle has been defeated militarily. But the political roots of that struggle remain.

    In the process of resistance the armed struggle also commenced.If we had translated the “military muscle” we had at one point into bargaining power we may have had federalism.

    The LTTE had golden opportunities which it missed. The best was the 2002 Oslo accord declaring an exploration of federalism.

    Fully realising the futilty of an armed struggle I repeatedly implored the tigers to change course and go in for a political settlement.

    I was ridiculed and harassed and intimidated by Tamil tiger sycophants for that .

    Today the LTTE is no more and the Tamils are in a terrible plight. I did not cause this.The LTTE caused it.

    Tamils who kept silent or cheered the LTTE on its destructive cause are asking me now ‘What do you say about Tamil situation”? as if I was the architecht for this plight.

    I have been saddened immensely by recent happenings that I dont really want to talk about the past.

    But tiger sycophants and fellow travellers irritate me into touching on that.

    Today the Tamils will have to accept reality and try and make the best of a bad situation.

    We must slowly re-build ourselves first. Our priorities now are repairing and restoring damages of war.

    We need full re-settlement of our people, We need reduction of high security zones, we need massive reconstruction, we need to get the 10,000 plus LTTE cadres released and re-integrate them into society. We need to get release of detenues under PTA. We need to revive agriculture, fisheries, small and medium industry etc and boost our economy. we must develop tourism and also encourage foreign investment.

    There is so much to be done.

    To do all this we have to work and cooperate with the Sinhala President and Sinhala dominated government. There is no other way

    On another track we must also try and push the case for greater devolution. If we had negotiated from a position of strength when the LTTE was vibrant we could have got more. But now we have no clout and so will have to rely on the good sense and magnanimity of the President and govt.

    There is no point in relying on the west or India. We the Tamils must reach out directly to the Sinhalese.

    There is no point in getting external pressure to compel Colombo into entering political arrangements.

    Even if the Sinhalese do so under compulsion they will always fight rear-guard action to scuttle or prevent it (as in the case of 13th amendment).

    The Sinhala polity or majority of Sinhala polity must give willingly and not yield under pressure.

    In that case Mahinda Rajapakse is ideal because the Sinhalese will trust him. So whatever he does in this respect will be accepted. His Sinhala credentials are impeccable.

    But we have to be realistic. We cannot expect Mahinda to give all that we ask. That is impossible. For one thing Mahinda himself is not amenable to some of our demands . Also he is fully conscious of the trust placed in him by Sinhalese and will not like to be seen as letting them down.

    So we can only hope for some limited rights and concessions at present. But That is enough for me now.

    What we must avoid at all costs is a return to violence and militancy. It would be suicidal for Tamils.

    Mahinda will not give up the UNITARY state. He will NOT agree to a North – East merger.

    The practical course to follow would be to strengthen the current provincial council system. While keeping full – fledged federalism as a long – term goal the Tamils must work together with the Sinhalese and Muslims to gain as much devolution as possible within a unitary state.

    WE can strive for full implementation of Tamil as an Official language.It is in the Constitution already.

    We should try and use the devolutionary powers we get and develop our areas and address our grievances. But these should be very clearly within a UNITED country. Reasonable minded Sinhalese (not the fanatics and paranoids)must be convinced that secessionism will not rise again.

    If we can work together the current hostile atmosphere will get gradually reduced.

    If we Tamils find that the powers and rights within a unitary state are adequate to fulfill our needs and accommodate legitimate aspirations then fine. We need not agitate further.

    But if we genuinely find them as inadequate then we can try to make the Sinhalese understand why more powers are necessary and ask for more. In a cordial non – confrontational situation the Sinhala polity would be in a better state of mind to understand these concerns and be more sympathetic.

    The Tamils have to adjust to a situation of accepting the attainable instead of striving suicidally for the desirable.

    We had a verti but we thought that was of poor quality or feared it would be stripped away and strove for a silk verti. We were offered a khadar verti but spurned it demanding and fighting for a Pattu verti Now we have no verti and only have a loin cloth to cover our nakedness. If we continue to be confrontational there wont be a Komanam too.

    When I say the Tamils must shed confrontational politics and reconcile to reality I am not giving them a choice. There is ACTUALLY no choice at the moment.

    I am only trying to cover up the pathetic plight of the Tamils and trying to give them a semblance of self – respect.

    I am asking the Tamils to make a virtue out of necessity because Sri Lanka is the homeland of the “Ilankai Thamizhar” and the bulk of our people have to live there whatever the problems.

    PS: I hate to keep on writing these self-evident hometruths. Please dont engage me on this again.”

  • niranjan

    Pearl,

    “Tamils have suffered in the hands of Sinhala hegemony since 1948 and this is not disputed.”-
    I have met quite a few Sinhalese people who will dispute this statement.
    There are many people in the Sinhala camp who take the view that Tamils have no grievances.
    That view has gained more acceptance after the war.

    A political solution to Tamil nationalism is highly unlikely under this regime. The best that can be hoped for is the proper impementation of the 13 amendment with respect to land and police powers.

  • Mel Gibson

    The biggest drawback of annihilating the LTTE seems to be that all accountability for misdeeds has suddenly been cast upon the Sri Lankan Army and Government.
    Although the LTTE is no longer a threat, the population that made it possible for it to commit acts comparative to those Ms Isaac discusses should not be absolved of their mistakes.

    Just to show the other side of this story:

    1. The LTTE memorial mentioned at Kopay, Jaffna is NOT a cemetary. It does not contain a single human remnant.

    The area is a massive 2 acre memorial with mock coffins -mostly of cement commemorating fallen cadres. If further proof is necessary, names of two suicide bombers who died in Colombo are marked on two plots (tiled with ceramic since they attained Maveer status) just to the right of the main entrance. I have been to this memorial twice and on one occasion saw the inside of one mock-coffin. there is nothing underneath but virgin soil, and nothing within the coffin but bricks.

    Preserving a monument to suicide bombers that doesnt contain human remains would not advance a case for anyone’s dignity would it.

    – – –

    2.The Kopay LTTE Memorial is built on land forcefully privateered by the LTTE from the farming community of Kopay in 1988.

    The memorial is completely surrounded by fertile banana and tobacco plantations and lies slap-bang in the middle of one of the most arable areas in Kopay. The land was forcefully taken from the village farmers and cleared for construction in 1988 although most of the memorials are of a later date (1990s).

    – – –

    3. Sri Lankan Army camps exist in perfect harmony with Hindu Temples all through the Jaffna peninsula.

    Examples for can be seen at Elephant Pass and Keeramalai and all through town.

    However both these regions contain many little churches shelled to smithereens by the LTTE as they attempted to evict the SLA from Elephant Pass and Kankasanturai camps respectively. The Mosques you mention as threatened by new Buddha Statues were empty for the large part of a decade after the LTTE purges Jaffna of Muslims.

    – – –

    4. The greatest ever wanton destruction of an established structure was perpetrated by the LTTE in the 1990s. They completely devastated the ramparts as well as interior of the massive 300-odd year old Dutch Fort in Jaffna, trying to chase away 200 SLA soldiers. The Jaffna fort was an architectural marvel and used to be the best preserved in South Asia, as those who knew it before the 1990 demolition would recall.

    – – –

    The point i want to make with these 4 observations is that reconciliation is a two-way process. This is the other side to Ms Isaac’s story.

    Therefore lets not mince words – the two populations that now meet in Jaffna are those that supported and sustained two opposing armies for the best part of 3 decades. If one population is held accountable for the doings of the military that it supported and sustained, then the other should also do something concrete about the one they nurtured.

    The GOSL and many private donors have done their bit to rectify at least some damage done by the senseless destruction of the Jaffna Public Library. It is also painstakingly rebuilding the Jaffna railway line destroyed by the LTTE (although the one leading to Talaimannar is still to even commence). It is slow work, but things ARE happening.

    However when it comes to Sri Lanka, there has always been a very vocal minority who love to pick at the faults of one side, sympathize with the faults the other, and turn out a half-baked hash that sounds like the real thing.

    Ms Isaacs belongs to this group of people who seem to be able, within 20 years, to watch a patch of farmland being forcibly taken from their own people and turned into a concrete memorial to suicide bombers that DOESNT CONTAIN ANY REMAINS IN THE FIRST PLACE, and then protest its ‘destruction’ when the govt proposes to plough up the bricks again. And two paragraphs later she wails that a statue of the buddha has come up near a Bo Tree. Oh, the Inhumanity.

    So i’m pretty damn sure no one will even think of rebuilding Jaffna Fort. And in 50 years time, someone will say that that was the SL Aarmy’s doing as well.

  • ModVoice

    Recently I have talked to people whom I know in Jaffna and others who have just left Sri Lanka. The picture of post-war Jaffna I get from them is that although people are happy that some restrictions such as curfews were lifted, they live in fear as the crimes have increased markedly. There are abductions for ransoms, daylight robbery, abuses, etc. I have also heard that the people from the South are being paid by the gov’t to visit Jaffna so as to promote people moving in and setting up businesses there. Contrary to the opinion in the article that people are happy without LTTE, most of the people whom I have talked to have rather expressed some loss and have felt much better during CFA than now, when there existed some negotiation power and respect to the Tamil people. Most who could afford are choosing to leave the country, even risking life.

    So where is the peace that Rajapakse & Co have claimed of achieving with the defeat of LTTE? I don’t think opening up financial institutions, repairing some roads, building hotels, all in the name of economic development will do anything for reconciliation, peace, and to solve the core issues Tamil people are facing. There is nothing worth mentioning that the Jaffna locals gain from any of these developments, as the Chinese and Indians are competing each other for the contracts along with some Sri Lankan hotel chains and financial institutions. I don’t think Tamil people find anything wrong with having Buddha statues around as Buddhism and Hinduism are related, however, the issue is that Buddha statue in Sri Lanka could be regarded as a political symbol representing Sinhalization, hence should be done with consideration.

    As far as Jaffna is considered, what we rather see is building up of resentment and insecurity – the same pre-conditions that led to the ethnic conflict. If the government fails to address the core issues then it won’t be surprising to find another separatist struggle fully fledged up and I think with the attitude of the Majority, this is the direction people are heading to.

  • Mel Gibson

    ModVoice:

    “There are abductions for ransoms, daylight robbery, abuses, etc.”

    Things were so much better during the good old forced conscription days when you had to ‘donate’ one rebel per family or 50,000 rupees, werent they?

    “I have also heard that the people from the South are being paid by the gov’t to visit Jaffna so as to promote people moving in and setting up businesses there.”

    I bet you have also heard of alien invasions and extra-terrestrial impregnations that take place on a regular basis in the Arizona desert , presumably from the same people.

    “most of the people whom I have talked to have rather expressed some loss and have felt much better during CFA than now, when there existed some negotiation power and respect to the Tamil people”

    Of course. Most Sri Lankans hoped for some sort of negotiated solution, not only the citizens of Jaffna. But thats the price you have to pay when you look to a blind egocentric megalomaniac with no political agenda apart from acts of terrorism to win equality and fair say for the Tamil people. Negotiations are 2-way things. If you wish to count the number of instances the LTTE broke the CFA compared to the SLA, just ask your friendly Norwegians for details.

    “I don’t think opening up financial institutions, repairing some roads, building hotels, all in the name of economic development will do anything for reconciliation”

    So that should stop right? Doesnt auger well, since that was he very first attempt you made to ‘think’ instead of quote someones opinion.

    “As far as Jaffna is considered, what we rather see is building up of resentment and insecurity – the same pre-conditions that led to the ethnic conflict.”

    Yes, i suppose what you WOULD ‘rather see’ is the whole thing never resolved until you achieve your impossible dream of separatism.

    “If the government fails to address the core issues then it won’t be surprising to find another separatist struggle fully fledged up and I think with the attitude of the Majority, this is the direction people are heading to.”

    With veiled threats like that how can you actually have the nerve to question why Army camps still dot the peninsula?

    When you start with pessimism, resort to scaremongering and false allegations, and end with veiled threats, its pretty clear that you intend to make the GOSL fight every inch of their way into the hearts and minds of the Northern Tamils. I hope the sense of self-righteousness you feel is worth the opportunities you lose with that mindset.

    As i mentioned earlier reconciliation is a two way process. Commentators such as you seem to live in a fools paradise that suddenly sees the Tamils of Sri Lanka as victims of everything.

  • SomewhatDisgusted

    Dear Mel Gibson,

    Well said! 2 excellent posts. Hope the crazies on all sides pay attention.

    cheers,
    /SD

  • ModVoice

    “With veiled threats like that how can you actually have the nerve to question why Army camps still dot the peninsula?”

    Gibson needs to wake up and smell the coffee. A separatist struggle does not have to be in a form of insurrection, neither does it have to be confined to the boundaries of Sri Lanka. How would having army camps deter the the external or the internal political threat of separatism?

    Yes, reconciliation is a two-way process. So what has the government done from their side? You mean having victory parades and all these economic development hogwash are all examples of reconciliation efforts?

  • Mel Gibson

    “A separatist struggle does not have to be in a form of insurrection”

    Where exactly were you living for the past 30 years and which country exactly are we talking about here?

    “neither does it have to be confined to the boundaries of Sri Lanka.”

    This gem of yours can be construed in two ways. Either you mean the that the next struggle for Tamil separatism will be launched in Malaysia, Tamil Nadu or Scarborough, or could it be that you plan to defy language, logic and common sense by now establishing a (Sri Lankan) Eelam outside the limits of Sri Lanka?

    “How would having army camps deter the the external or the internal political threat of separatism?”

    If you had thought before typing this in, and really need this explained to you, i’m afraid you require the kind of help that is beyond me.

    “So what has the government done from their side? You mean having victory parades and all these economic development hogwash are all examples of reconciliation efforts?”

    Come to Jaffna, my friend, instead of talking from afar. Talk to the fishermen who bring in a catch thrice the old amount now. Ask the Ice Cream vendors in Nallur. Watch the rate at which the townspeople are setting up restaurants and guest houses.

    And on your way up North, just pause at Omanthai and watch Sri Lankan labourers painstakingly rebuild the last 150 km of the Jaffna Railway line that the LTTE destroyed. The railway was an economic lifeline to Jaffna. We still remember the avocadoes that went North on the roof of Yarl Devi, and the massive Bananas and Mangoes that replaced them on the journey back South.
    All through the island Citizens of all castes and creeds are buying tickets to raise funds for the Railway line.

    Jaffna has very few citizens remaining with the economic clout to invest in big businesses. Hence external investments not only make sense but are the only way to inject much needed resources. The Government does what it can. It is not God, neither is it a First World economy.

    Last week the BBC reported from Sri Lanka that there is currently a shortage of international donor funds to the war-displaced Tamils. They said that the $220 grant offered to returnees is, for now, suspended. Again, the GOSL does what it can, but this goes only a short way.

    If you are asking for 30 years of destruction to be reversed in 11 months, perhaps it is time you stopped playing Strategy Games on a PC console and, yes, wake up and smell your own proverbial coffee.

    Or perhaps i am mistaken and you are truly a believer in reconciliation. If so, why not engage your fellow diaspora brethren and address any of the issues i have brought up?

    Why not invest in small term business ventures in Jaffna and give the people there an occupation?

    Why not subscribe to the Jaffna Railway reconstruction fund?

    Why not use some of the funds wasted on your Transnational Bollocks to fund some returnee refugees?

    Why not get really serious international investors to take over large projects instead of sitting and griping that the Government is acting alone?

    For the better part of 3 decades you claimed that the Tamil Tax was funding humanitarian causes, not weapons. Only in the aftermath of the LTTE’s defeat and the recent US/Canadian investigations did the full enormity of this lie become evident. Why not do something different for a change now instead of funding the remnants of the LTTE to protest against women wearing Sri Lankan panties? How irrelevant do you think that looks in the context of what needs to be done up North?

    And finally, your perpetual claim to US and Canadian authorities have been that your are political refugees, not economic ones (although you generally bypass 74 countries including India, home to 60 million Tamils, on your way there). So why not prove your point and do your bit?

    – – –

    Dude, are you trying to act stupid or is this for real?

  • Punitham

    Leela
    Thanks for writing this.
    You have brought out the first part of a series that would give a reasonable window into the reality.

    Many commentators here and elsewhere look at the visible destruction of the LTTE(I don’t say it has to be praised) only but fail to understand the whole problem of the last 62 years covering what the government(through its various institutions) does at home, at intergovernmental bodies and at various bilateral(including the work of high commissions) and multilateral(eg EU) meetings/regulations/norms.

    I very much regret that the Tamils failed to take some Sinhalese around the Northeast in late 60s/early70s. Then we wouldn’t have reached this point. But even now it is not late. I appeal to NGOs in the South to arrange a section(vertical and horizontal) from the South to go round the whole of the Northeast. We are most likely to bring a very quick end to the conflict.

  • Nish Sene

    TO THE SRILANKAN TAMIL DIASPORA. COME BACK HOME NOW; IT IS SAFER HERE THAN WHERE YOU ARE.

    Yes, we remember 1983 and regret the actions of a few stupid elements. But how many of you out there today really left home purely as a result of that black July? Whatever the reasons may be, you left home for a better and safer life for your family. While most of you have found better life you have not found safety from the greatest threat to us all, the LTTE. They found you wherever you went and exploited you under threat and still continue to do so.

    We in Sri Lanka, Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims, Burghers & Malays, are at last rid of that menace and live mostly in peace with each other. So come back home and live in peace as one family.

  • Very insightful article. My impressions of Jaffna and its relationship with the Sinhala majority is similar–the attempt to incorporate the Tamil identity into the main Sri Lankan / Sinhalese one is unmistakable. The recent terrorism against Muslims in the country also points to a bleak future. Fingers crossed for a truly unified Sri Lanka.