Jaffna Sri Lanka


Photo courtesy Christian Science Monitor

Chaos and Fear

Much has happened in the space of three months. Soon after the Eastern Provincial Council election came the Divi Neguma bill and the subsequent calls for the abolition of the 13th Amendment. The impeachment motion against the Chief Justice and the recruitment of Tamil women to the military followed before the Maveerar Naal (Heroes’ Day) incidents in Jaffna. It would seem that the government is bent on creating chaos and fear.

The Present State of Affairs

In response to the negative Supreme Court verdict on the Divi Neguma bill, the government did two things: it unleashed a strong call for the abolition of the 13th Amendment to the constitution and set the wheels in motion to impeach the Chief Justice. It is highly unlikely that the company of Gotabaya, Wimal and Champika made a spontaneous decision to go public with a demand that strikes at the very heart of power devolution: it is a collective decision and the orders must have come from the very top. Abolishing the 13th Amendment, of course, is a long standing agenda of the Sinhalese extremists. But, the time at which Gotabaya Rajapaksa launched the offensive is what demands attention: the government shrewdly diverted the attention of the Sinhalese from the motives of the Divi Neguma bill to separatism. By issuing statements like ‘the TNA is attempting to accomplish what the LTTE failed,’ the government succeeded in evoking the ghost of the LTTE in the minds of the southerners.

It is plain that all protocols pertaining to recruiting for state service were bypassed in the recent conscription of Tamil women to the military. Two questions are worth asking: a. why recruit more to the military three-and-a-half-years after the end of war? b. why recruit women? The government has intentionally kept the Vanni people from returning to normality by limiting livelihood opportunities and robbing them of their lands—the most precious asset for the majority of the people. By preventing the war affected people from actually ‘settling,’ the government has prevented them from mobilising for any common cause, let alone a political cause; everyone in the region is busy thinking about the next meal.

The actions of the government’s Muslim allies, the Company of Rishad, Udumalebbe and Hisbullah, have deepened the division between the Muslim and the Tamil communities.[1] In addition to this, the government has been active Sinhala-izing—creating Sinhala settlements, maintaining a heavy military presence and building Buddhist stupas—the North and the East. There are already many disputes over national resources between the Tamils and the other two communities, and the problems will only get exacerbated with time. Through the impeachment motion against the Chief Justice, the government has sent a strong message to the judiciary: it would be a surprise if any member of the judiciary plucks up enough courage to rule against the Rajapakse bandwagon. The Courts would henceforth be the last place a Tamil would to look for justice.[2]

In forcibly entering the university hostels or in quenching the protests that ensued the next day by using force the army did nothing to improve its reputation: it did the opposite. On the surface, the way the government handled the Heroes’ Day incidents may seem like a mistake or an act of folly. It is not so. The government anticipated what happened on the 27th: military intelligence was present in areas surrounding the university and the hostel starting from Sunday (25th). Thus, it is clear that the army and the police had ample time to evaluate their modes of intervention; if indeed intervening was necessary. Yet, the forces resorted to barbarian conduct. What is even more interesting is the way the military has followed up on the incident. Many student leaders have been arrested on suspicion of—guess what—engaging in acts of terrorism. If the fears the Divi Neguma bill evoked in the minds of the Sinhalese were shadows, the way in which the state media is reporting the whole saga must make such shadows real.

The Future

What is obvious is that the government is intentionally toying with the Tamils. And what we are left with is a powerless Tamil community that is oppressed from all corners, and importantly with no avenue for justice—very similar to the university students of Jaffna. Frustration would build up and with a few encouraging words it could easily translate into a violent response. Surely this regime would love that; perhaps that is what it wants. Amidst all the chaos and fear, the real issues like reaching a political settlement, accountability, poverty and corruption will, naturally, be forgotten. The Rajapakse Brothers will continue in their merry way.

What remains to be seen is the response of the Tamils. Will they repeat the mistakes of the past? Or will they do things differently?

[1] Tamils, of course, cannot blame the Muslims here, for they are directly responsible for the origin of the division.

[2] It must be noted that anyone who doesn’t agree with the regime, regardless of his or her ethnicity, will be treated like an enemy. As the title suggests, this is just an evaluation of how recent developments impactthe Tamils.

  • Preveen

    While the note [2] is a clever way to CYA, why would the writer be interested in pinpointing one group in a chaotic scene that affects all groups? Its this kind of divisional propaganda that causes issues among groups in the first place! This isn’t something that just one group needs to address, but all groups. And together is better, as democracy IS the ultimate strength in numbers option.

  • You see the problem is that nobody really cares about the fate of the Tamils. The diaspora is not interested in the day to day improvement of quality of life. They want independence; everything less is outside their attention span.
    The international community delegated obviously to India the role of guarantor of the Tamils’ rights. Of course India was actively supporting the Rajapaksa agenda and has no particular interest in interfering in foreign affairs, when it has the same problems at home. It must be remembered to the Tamils that for New Delhi, Tamils and Sinhalese are equivalent in the struggle for dominance of the ruling elite.
    I’m afraid it’s becoming a lost cause.

  • Jayalath

    This is a ridiculous development , and extremely disgusting .honestly what is happening in this territory ? The state has to directly involve to address these people’s right and grievances .also the people who live in war torn areas should learn to build a close relationship with rest of the people and government , as no one can clap by single hand .

    However, The government should preside over the issue ,and establish the justice and fairness . Before these people seek alternative ways to resolve their needs. The growing situation is looming appalling & outrageous .

    I wonder why the rest of the people are quiet , do they want the problem in big scale , ok , if so wait and see , what will give you people out of this chaos .
    I do not believe the repression which is similar to a time bomb . We all are belonged to one race in this world which is bloody human race , why we still not respect each other ? Just tries to imagine people , we can be different from the amount of money we have or the size or even race ETC , but the time we all share is very similar , may be 70,80 years of age, and all of us needs are very similar , the foods , shelter, cloth , medicine Etc , also the amount we could eat or drink at once is very similar , so we are similar to every aspect . Why the stupid humans want to kil, kill each other .

  • eureka

    Alarming stories from Kilinochchi

    on the heels of:

    Tamil Women Coerced Into Joining The Military – A Statement Of Concern By WAN), 8 December 2012, ://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/tamil-women-coerced-into-joining-the-military-a-statement-of-concern-by-wan/

  • stanobey

    Whilst the Tamils complain of re-settlement – the TNA and the Tamils object to Muslim re-settlement in the North. I think it is their attitude and conduct that is dividing the Muslims and the Tamils.

    • jansee


      You have to ask Rauf Hakeem of SLMC this question. He realised that if he were to stand with the govt during the eastern province elections, he would have lost heavily. As it has become quite clear now, it was a cleverly crafted plan, fight independently but after the elections become cosy with the govt. His latest drama has been to petition for the implementation of the 13A – a move against govt interests. What is he actually?

  • Off the Cuff

    Chaos and Fear,

    I support power devolution under a modified 13A which includes Land and Police powers. But ONLY under a 13A modified to provide Alienation of Public Domain Land on a per capita basis to the population in a province (as against ethnic based division) and the complete prohibition of separation.

    You say “……….. demand that strikes at the very heart of power devolution”

    Did the Tamil Politicians accept or reject the 13A, which you identify as the very heart of power devolution?

    Is it not the Myth, propagated by divisive Tamil Politics, of an exclusive historical Tamil homeland or habitat, that is preventing reconciliation? Can you justify claiming the extensive expanse of the Northern and Eastern provinces that contain over half of all public domain land of Lanka as an exclusive Tamil domain?

    Are you aware that 80% of Land in Lanka, is Public Domain Land, that has no ethnic owner?

    • Off the Cuff

      Chaos and Fear,

      Over a week has elapsed and still cannot answer?

      • Chaos and Fear

        Off the Cuff,

        Thanks for the comment.

        I refer to the 13A as the heart of devolution,because its the only piece of the constitution that acknowledges the need to devolve power to the minorities.

        You seem bent on diverting the focus to ‘Tamil Eelam'(and consequently the LTTE). You are missing the point, because what we are seeing in Lanka, clearly, is a repetition of past mistakes that led to ‘divisive Tamil politics.’

        Chaos and Fear

        • Off the Cuff

          Chaos and Fear,

          Thank you for your reply.

          You say “I refer to the 13A as the heart of devolution,because its the only piece of the constitution that acknowledges the need to devolve power to the minorities”

          Please prove the above statement with reference to the 13 th amendment.

          I believe you have no understanding of the 13A as it makes no such reference to MINORITIES as claimed by you. The word minorities is an unjustified juxtaposition made by you for reasons of your own.

          13A is about devolving power to the Provinces not to the minorities. It is a higher unit of devolution than the units of local govt devolution that existed previously. Hence the UNIT of devolution is of PRIMARY importance.

          My question to you was based on the hugely disproportionate claim to PUBLIC DOMAIN land that is claimed for the exclusive use of the people living within the current Provinces of the North and East without delimiting those two provinces to reflect the National per Capita unit of land (Area of Land in Public Domain / National Population).

          No Province should claim EXCLUSIVE use of PUBLIC DOMAIN land unless the Provincial per Capita Land holding of Public Domain Land is equal to or less than the National Per Capita Land holding of Public Domain Land.

          Furthermore such a Province should support itself exclusively by funds internally generated within such province in order to justify exclusivity and not depend on the collective funds contributed to the National govt by the other Provinces. Meaning that the other Provinces should not be called upon to subsidise the activities within any such exclusive Province.

          Neither of these have happened within the existing 13A and hence my conditional support to the 13A.

          I believe that the current opposition to the 13A will cease to exist, the moment, Tamil Politics drops their unjustified and unreasonable demand for over 50% of Lanka’s PUBLIC DOMAIN Land for the EXCLUSIVE use of about HALF the TAMIL Population of Sri Lanka, while the other half of the Tamil population, is excluded from that exclusivity because they live OUTSIDE the claimed exclusive zones.

          You seem to have confused my comment about the UNIT of devolution, with Tamil Eelam and the LTTE. Was it by mistake or by design?

          Hence I believe, You are missing the point, because what we are seeing in Lanka, clearly, is a repetition of past mistakes of ‘divisive Tamil politics’ that lead to a 3 decade long war.

          Many thanks

  • Rohini Hensman

    The title of this article – ‘Will the Tamils Lose the Plot Again? – correctly warns Tamils of the danger of allowing themselves to be provoked into violence by a regime that seems hell-bent on doing precisely that, in order to distract the attention of the Sinhalese population from the economic and political disaster that Sri Lanka is becoming. It is encouraging that the Federation of University Teachers’ Associations and the Inter University Students’ Federation have both shown solidarity with the arrested Jaffna University Students, and hopefully this solidarity will continue until they are released. Only a democracy movement in which members of all communities are involved can prevail against the horrific authoritarianism of the state.

  • Thinakaran

    This article clearly pictures the further opression thay is being done towards the already war-torn Tamil community, even the majority Sinhalese also were being cheated by their governments in case of the island’s economy and etc.Observing the states ongoing reactions towards is minority people it is clear that those Tamils wont get any of their desired political solutions and now the responsibility fully lies in the shoulder of international communities.If the issues in Syria and Palestine can attract much of international communities concern,why the same does not occur in case of these Ceylonese Tamils.

  • One who is not married cannot and will not seek divorce. Tamil Eelam(TE) and Sri Lanka(SL) were not married constituionally as one country, when SL declared the former Ceylon as a republic for the first time in 1972, when the people of TE boycotted the drafting of the constitution.

    The Tamils of TE were made stateless and made a colony of SL. The people of TE rightly asked for independence from the coloniser in 1977; when Britain refused to intervene, when TE requested.

    TE took the same steps taken by more than 30 African countries to successfully liberate themselves and be independent.

    The people of TE did not and will not ask for “separation” as the GOSL pretends. All what they ask for is the liberation of TE and to be independent.

    The word “Liberation” and not “Separtion” in the names of TULF and LTTE showed clearly what the people of TE asked and will ask.

    The Sinhalese of SL are racialised, emotionalised, brain washed and stupidised by their racist leaders to believe that TE is asking for “Separation”.

    The Sinhalese badly need rehabilitation to this truth and not the four University of Jaffna students who were arrested and are being “rehabilitated” by SL.

    From what was told by Mahinda Rajapakse to Mano Ganeshan this week on “separtist move”, it is clear that the head of state should first be rehabilitated speedily.

  • Thambi

    Losing.. that’s what they do the best! Been doing it in spectacular form for the last 30 years!