தமிழ்த் தேசியம்

"To us all towns are one, all men our kin.
Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."

- Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 

Home

 Whats New

Trans State Nation Tamil Eelam Beyond Tamil Nation Comments Search

Home  >  Struggle for Tamil Eelam > Human Rights & the Tamil Nation > University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna Branch) > The Quest for Economic survival & Human Dignity: Batticaloa & Amparai Districts

The Quest for Economic survival & Human Dignity:  
Batticaloa & Amparai Districts

UTHR Bulletin No.11
  9 July 1996

Whatever may be said, who ever may say it - to
determine the truth of it, is wisdom
- Thirukural

 Summary

The situation in the Batticaloa and Amparai Districts, as of June 1996, is  one of limited and slow improvement regarding the accountability of the  Sri Lankan Armed Forces. Nonetheless, Human Rights violations by the  security forces, LTTE,and homegurads continue. The mood among Tamil  communities is that while abuse by the army is less outright than  previously, there is a definite lack of concern for civilian interests among  the security forces. Feeling that that LTTE is by no means representing the  interests of Tamils either, these communities also find themselves  neglected by government rehabilitation, as well as find their own  politicians not meaningfully effective.

 Torture in the form of beatings by the armed forces is prevalent, as are  cases of arbitrary arrest.In the Batticaloa District, reprisal shelling has  cost more civilian lives, though the extent of casualties is less than that  which was occurring during the final months of 1995. Some amount of  sensitivity has recently been reported on behalf of some members of the  army in the East, while the extent of abuse seems to be more prevalent in  STF controlled areas. Use of human shields, forced labour and beatings  continue to be carried out by the STF resultilng in at least two  disappearances this year. Of increasing concern are violations committed  by homeguards and other Tamil militant groups, which act under the  direction of the security forces. Extortion, abduction and beatings have  been attributed to some of these groups, often in coordination with  security forces.

 LTTE movement in the East is reported to be higher, though recruitment in  urban areas is down. Although attacks on Sinhalese villages in the East by  the LTTE have not been reported since January 1996, individual killings of  Tamil civilians continue. Central command of the LTTE may be breaking  down, leaving local leaders to act at will. LTTE destruction of public  property such as telephone exchanges and passenger buses is frequent, as  is extortion of unbearably large sums of money and resources from Tamil  families.

 Extortion by the LTTE is increasingly harsher and more difficult because it  is these regions in the East to which it has access that are the poorest.  Tamils are thus left with unmitigated alienation and poverty. This is  especially true in the area south of the Amparai District. It often appears  to Tamil communities that it is only the Muslim and Sinhalese areas that  are being restored, even at the expense of Tamils. This is very disturbing  since many Tamil and Muslim communities rely on a close relationship of  communal interdependence in the East.

 Progress on the thousands of disappearance cases in these districts has  been frustratingly lacking. The Government apparatus continue to release  accused members of the security forces on bail, with no charges being laid.  If the past cannot be properly investigated and perpetrators brought to  justice, it is difficult to seriously tackle the problems of today. If Tamil  communities can expect nothing positive from the armed forces, the LTTE  or their Tamil politicians, the future remains bleak. Civilians need to be  guaranteed the freedom to speak out and be heard, without fearing  further reprisals. All perpetrators of this violence and brutality must be  held accountable for their actions. Atrocities will continue and  communities will continue to fall into never ending poverty and instability,  if anything less is done. 

 The Quest for Economic survival & Human Dignity:  Batticaloa & Amparai Districts: June 1996

 1. A sort of normality 

 Where security is concerned, it must be said that some of the worst fears  have so far not materialised. Since last December, following the Sri  Lankan Army gaining control of much of Jaffna and the dismantling of the  LTTE's structures of control there, reports emerged of a massive LTTE  build up in the East to destabilise Batticaloa District. In the run up to the  operations in Jaffna, the Sri Lankan Army (SLA) had removed its camps in  the interior and had concentrated on controlling the main trunk road. The  two major attacks by the LTTE last December on Puthukkudiyiruppu STF  camp and on the army around Sittandy claiming the lives of about 70  servicemen were the first signals of the LTTE's intentions.

The first  claimed the lives of about 30 civilians- killed by the LTTE when they were  used as shields by STF reinforcements. In the latter the SLA had acted with  commendable restraint towards civilians. When 40 soldiers were killed  near Vantharumoolai on 23rd March 1996, the Army's reprisal or response  was confined to shelling which caused the death of a small girl. The worst  incident affecting civilians this year was the reprisal shelling of the village  of Kaluwankerny on 11th May following an LTTE attack on troops at  Morakkatanchenai. Eleven civilians including 5 children were killed. The  pressure on the armed forces is also regularly evinced in attacks on patrols  in the sparsely populated area around Welikanda. Hardly a fortnight  passed without ten or so servicemen, attempting to keep the Batticaloa  road, open being killed.

 Thus at present bus travel to Batticaloa is subject to enormous delays and  the train has ceased to run following a land mine attack. Although civilians  have to continuously go through a series of ordeals owing to the security  situation and face many uncertainties, there has been in most places a  steady but slow improvement with regard to accountability on the part of  the armed forces .

 There have been no reports this year of the use of civilians as shields by the  Army. There have on the other hand been some reports of the STF using  human shields in the Amparai District. Instances of disappearance this  year that came to our notice are two persons reportedly taken by the STF  in Thirukkovil last April. The last instances of direct cold - blooded murder  by the armed forces on record took place in November last year: four by the  police in Akkaraipattu and one by the Army in Valaichenai. There has been  no official response to 13 disappearances that took place about the last  month of 1995: two taken by the Army in Valaichenai and eleven taken  from around Unnichchai in December by persons believed to be Sinhalese  homeguards.The Government has no excuse for evasion on this matter. It  could easily find out the truth. Homeguards operate under the forces.  Abductions could hardly be the work of ordinary civilians living in villages  with no credible protection.There are also regular individual killing by the  LTTE.

 For those arrested on suspicion torture in the form of beating is still very  much the norm. It is suggested by local sources that the two youths who  disappeared in Thirukkovil may have succumbed to beating. According to  the Batticaloa Peace Committee, the Army high command for its part is  anxious to show that it is playing by the book. They said that receipts for  arrest are issued even in rural areas. The STF had issued receipts for the 9  persons detained in Akkaraipattu in early June.

 Thus while there has been a measure of real improvement, very much  remains to be done. There remains the feeling that the improvements are  responses to constant prodding by the political executive and presidential  commissions of inquiry into past violations, rather than from reflection  within the armed forces on what it takes to win and the political  implications of their conduct. For example the civilians still do not feel that  the armed forces are concerned about their interests. Civilian interests  tend to be overshadowed by the often unimaginative measures taken by  the armed forces to protect themselves. This will be discussed in the sequel.

 Having said this, the problems of the East to a large measure arise from  the urgent questions Tamil politics has failed to address, and indeed  appears to lack the capacity to do so. When these questions go by default, it  often appears to the Tamils that the other communities- the Muslims and  the Sinhalese -particularly in the areas of rehabilitation, educational and  economic advancement, are gaining at their expense.

 This sentiment receives support from the disarray within the Tamil  community compounding the absence of meaningful political or  administrative power. The way they see things and experience the effects,  every ministerial visit, and every development programme announced for  the East, is seen as another blow aimed at the community. There is a sense  in which the politicians are failing again while the armed forces are trying  to improve. These are matters in which fiction and reality lie strangely  intermingled. Yet it remains important to separate them out.

 2. Tamil perceptions 

A very common sentiment one hears among Tamils is that they expect  nothing good, neither from the Government, their own politicians, nor  from the LTTE. There is much anger against their helplessness, against the  course of murder and ruin the LTTE's politics has condemned them to ,and  also their inability to speak freely what they feel. These were expressed  most forcefully by a Tamil writer and respected senior public figure, who  has put in several years of service at the grass- roots level:

 "The manner in which Government policy works in the East is totally  contrary to stated intentions.The Tamils, their areas and their life  are being progressively downgraded. The Tamil MPs are totally  ineffective, and the LTTE does not care nor understand the plight of  the Tamils in the East.You see, every day , every hour we are being  killed, whether in cross-fire, in killings by LTTE, the armed groups,  or by the Army. Even otherwise we are dying a slow death through the  strangulation of our economic life and the resulting inability to  educate our young or to obtain the necessary nutrients to keep body  and soul together.

 "The LTTE's strategy is utterly mistaken and counter-productive  particularly where the East is concerned. We only see destruction. Whom  do they kill? Several of the victims are young boys with no political  interest who joined the police to earn a living and perform some  innocuous tasks such as traffic control, record complaints of theft  and mediate in minor disputes.

 "In every village and close to or within every family there are young  men who dropped out of other militant groups such as the TELO  several years ago, are married with say three children, and are now  ordinary farmers. One day an LTTE person, quite often a relative,  comes to the paddy field, calls him and shoots him dead. It is all  meaningless. A number of heart-broken youths from other militant  groups come and talk to me.They continue their militant association  only because they cannot go home and live in security, and they lack  the connections to go aborad. If the LTTE wanted to, it had the  capacity to bring unity among the Tamils and end all this meaningless  killing. But now it may be too late."

 The speaker also recalled the heart - breaking sight in December 1989  when the LTTE entered Batticaloa town with the aid of the Sri Lankan  Army. Corpses of hundreds of members of other Tamil groups and the  dissolving Tamil National Army, and of youth dying but not dead, were  loaded into trailers like rubbish and driven out via Lady Manning  (Kallady) bridge.

 "When the Government talks of the rehabilitation of Batticaloa,  officials descend on the Batticaloa Kachcheri and a meeting is held  with the GA, public officers and engineers, most of whom are Tamil,  with our Tamil MPs also present. Plans drawn up at the Rehabilitation  Ministry are unveiled. Practically all the major infrastructural  development is in the Muslim towns of Kattankudy and Eravur. The  public officers and engineers are asked to carry out the work and  are told that funds would be forthcoming. No one openly discusses  or questions the rationale behind the programmes. Health Minister  Fowzie came here recently. He visited Kattankudy and Earavur and  was received by Deputy Minster Hizbullah and MP Moulana  respectively. He made major allocations for expansion of their two  local hospitals. But he did not care to visit Batticaloa hospital.  The Hospital Committee has been for more than a year writing to the  Ministry of Health for a new cooler for the mortuary as the existing  one had broken down. There is yet to be a response.

 "You would recall the incident last December when 30 civilians used as a human shield were killed. There are so many international agencies  represented here, but there was not one to attend to the injured on time or to collect the bodies [See our Bulletin No. 9]. 48 hours  later the bodies were brought to the hospital mortuary in a bloated,  stinking state and deposited there without any cooling. Then fresh  bodies were brought and placed between these bodies. A sticky fluid  began oozing out of the old bodies and flowed into drain. One could  not even go 50 yards within. Among those killed as part of the  human shield was Anandan, a polyglot versed in the literature of  several languages and a man of letters-truly a renowned son  of Batticaloa. In paying his last respects, even his family did not see the body. It was taken home in a sealed coffin because of the state  it was in. "The Health Ministry has been asked again and again for an emergency  unit that could cope with situations such as which arise after a  confrontation. There has been no response. Promises have been made to  upgrade Batticaloa Hospital to teaching hospital in view of the faculty of medicine that Eastern University has been pledged. This is now a  bit of a joke.

 "A few months ago a new container was to be installed at the Batticaloa  telephone exchange to provide 1000 more connections. Citing reasons of  security the project was transferred to Polonnaruwa or Kandy. Since then the same reasons have been given to install a massive telephone substation at the Muslim village of Kattankudy hardly 3 miles away,  from which village the Deputy Posts & Tele-communications Minister  Hizbullah hails. Kattankudy has barely a hundred telephones. It is  now feared that the Batticaloa telephone exchange will be shifted  to Kattankudy.

 "Recently the LTTE robbed equipment from the Fisheries Training School  at Navalady after intimidating or roughing up some of the staff and  inmates.The students have since been sent to Negombo. It is now feared  that the school too will be shifted out. The LTTE using its access to Tamil areas to attack public amenities like telephone equipment (eg: Kalmunai), public buses, the train, and transformers is playing into  the hands of those who would use these as excuses to keep Tamil  areas deprived.

 "Take even agriculture, our most important pursuit. I tell you, if the  Government and the LTTE would leave us alone, we would get by. Our  people would farm or fish. Now most of Batticaloa's rice growing area is under LTTE control. Those who cultivate would first have to pay the LTTE a tax of Rs. 500 per acre. Then there are other taxes such as water tax. Claiming that urea could be used for explosives, the Army allows farmers to transport only restricted quantities of mixed urea. When  the crop comes up and it ready for harvesting, the LTTE may ask the  owner to keep away and harvest it themselves. The owner then bears  the loss and ceases to cultivate. The next time the LTTE does the  cultivation with hired labour. They get all the urea they want from  Sinhalese merchants in Amparai District. To the LTTE it is a matter  of making money whatever the cost to the society. Now, most of our  fishermen are lagoon fishermen. This activity too is severely  restricted after it was found that LTTE infiltrators often came to  Batticaloa in boats disguised as fishermen. Thus thousands  have been plunged into dire poverty. But no compensation is paid to  farmers and fihserfolk who are affected by the prevailing situation.

 "This in short is the development and rehabilitation of Batticaloa. What makes it even more painful is the fact that the Tamils voted  overwhelmingly for Chandrika Kumaratunge as president. For example,  in the entirely Tamil electorate of Paddiruppu the proportion she polled was 85%". This refrain one hears over and over again from Tamils. The catalogue of  neglect is much longer, and some of them, such as pertaining to Eastern  University, are keenly felt. Travelling from Batticaloa to Akkaraipattu, the  contrast between Tamil and Muslim areas has become more visible over  the years.

To the cursory outsider there is much more building activity,  both public and private, in Muslim areas, the Muslim poor are of course  hardly visible from the main road although there are many. In the Tamil  areas one would see the scars of war and hardly a new building of  significance. The people too would appear frequently undernourished. A  part of the reason is of course that agriculture has been much more  adversely affected than trade, and that the Muslims have been more  successful in adapting themselves to new circumstances. The dominant  feeling among Tamils is one of being overwhelmed and rendered helpless,  and behind the events they read a conspiracy to disinherit them. As a  consequence the feeling that `if the LTTE is defeated the Tamils are  finished' has wide acceptance despite strong reservations and even anger  at the LTTE's conduct. Recently when some foreign personnel met  Karikalan of the LTTE near Batticaloa, he cold-bloodedly articulated the  view that the people need to lose everything, and only then will they join  the struggle en masse! That says something about the thinking of the LTTE  and what the people are up against.

 Muslims in Batticaloa:The Struggle for Economic Recovery  

For the Muslims in the Amparai District economic recovery was relatively  easy. The LTTE is present but not in control, and neither the security forces  nor the LTTE have obstructed cultivation in the proximity of Muslim  areas. Tamil paddy land owners around Muslim or mixed villages ( eg  Akkariapatu and Sammanthurai) too have benefitted from being able to  cultivate and harvest their fields.Tamil labourers too have benefitted from  employment. At present the ripening rice fields bear the colour of joyous  green as far as the eye could see. Yet Muslim traders, particularly those  catering to Tamil customers, such as those in Akkaraipattu, Kalmunai and  Batticaloa bazaars, feel the pinch of falling incomes resulting from the  general impoverishment of the Tamil population in particular.

 The hardest hit were Muslims in the Batticaloa district who had lost the  use of their fields in areas under LTTE control. Several of them receive a  small rent for their fields from Tamil cultivators, since the latter had also  to pay the LTTE a land tax in fields west of the lagoon. Eravur, for  example, is a Muslim village that depended mostly on agriculture.

 In the Muslim villages of Eravur and Oddaimavady, many of their  tractors and boats used for fishing have been taken by the LTTE. Only 3  tractors are now owned by Eravur folk that are currently employed in the  Polonnaurwa District.

 But through sheer determination and a willingness to adapt, Eravur has  been making a slow recovery. A number of Muslim paddy land owners or  Podiars now work as seasonal labourers in Akkaraipattu and  Sammmanthurai, and also in Polonnaruwa District where lands are  owned mostly by Sinhalese.

 As communal tensions with Tamils, which reached a peak in 1990, eased,  milling activity in Eravur has recovered. An estimated 75% of the paddy  cultivated in the surrounding area is brought to Eravur by Tamil  cultivators for milling.

 Several more have also taken to the traditional pursuit of tobacco  cultivation which was pursued along the banks of the Mahaveli and in the  less accessible parts of Polonnaruwa District ( earlier known as  Tamankaduwa Division) at least as far back as the 19th century- when the  majority population in the district was Muslim. During 1993 a police party  from Anuradhapura raided tobacco plots along the Mahaveli close to the  Mannampitiya security post. The crop was destroyed, the pumps and  other equipment were severely damaged and several hundred cultivators  were remanded for a time at Anuradhapura. The reason given was that  the land concerned was protected as a forest or wild life reserve.

 Asked for his observations, a conservationist said that the police action is  probably defensible under the law. "But", he added, "there is a broad  shaded region between what is a legitimate traditional pursuit or is  permissible, and what is clearly not. Now take the Sinhalese peasants who  have been planted on the borders of forest reserves in the Mahaveli region  [eg;Dimbulagala] and in the Trincomalaee district [ eg; Tamplakamam]  with influential backing. That in itself may not violate the reservations.  But in the absence of a viable economic life you know for sure that they  would make a living off the forest by becoming party to timber rackets.  Then the question of taking action to protect the forest becomes also a  political decision, and you know what politics in this country is about."

 There have also been allegations by the security forces that the LTTE  obtains food from Muslims in the tobacco `Wadis'. But life in the East is  such that it is difficult to draw lines. There is no separation between the  LTTE's economy and the `legal' economy.

 Communal Interdependence  

As we have pointed out in earlier reports, the inescapable interdependence  of the Muslim and Tamil communities stands in sharp contrast to the drift  towards separate schools, hospitals, AGA divisions and even separate  universities:

 * Tamil rice cultivators traditionally obtain advances from Muslim rice  merchants( eg. in Eravur ) and pay these back at harvest time.

 * Muslim tobacco cultivators obtain advances from tobacco merchants  from Jaffna's off-shore islands who have been prominent in the trade  from the last century.

 * Tamil migrant labour from the Batticaloa District have found regular  and lucrative employment in harvesting the rice fields of Muslims in  the Amparai District.

 *Akkaraipattu provides a stark illustration of how the economy falls  apart if the two communities do not get on. Of the 4900 families in the  Akkaraipattu Tamil Division, 2000 persons go daily into the Muslim  area to work as labourers( Rs 150 per day), masons (Rs 250 per day) and  carpenters ( Rs 500 per day). Another 800 to 1000 Tamils work as  agricultural labourers in more than 10 000 acres of rice fields owned by Muslims in Tamil areas. It has been said that when there is communal  tension and life comes to a standstill, there is no food in Tamil houses. Although there appear to have been cases of isolated threats  in times of tension, senior members of both communities have been at  pains to insist that communal relations are good.

 With all these signs of steady improvement of their economic life, there is  among Muslims an anxiety about the LTTE's unpredictable behaviour.  Further, the feeling of powerlessness among Tamils has built up a  dormant animosity against the Muslims. Moreover, leading Tamil  politicians privately express the view that they are unable to concentrate  on economic development because they have no control over the LTTE  and its actions. Consequently they feel that the criticism directed against  the Muslim politician is unfair. But, since they, nor the Tamil intellectuals,  could discuss these concerns in public and so exert pressure on the LTTE,  they are unable to have any impact either on the Government or on  Muslim politicians. This results in a very unhealthy environment and  drives the people further into narrow ideologies.

 3. Incidents 

 The following give the general flavour, but are by no means meant to be  exhaustive:

 Batticaloa District 26th November 1995: Valaichenai: During an Army round up Siripala  Yogeswaran(27), a vegetable seller, was killed by soldiers while visiting his  uncle at Kannakipuram. His brother Athishtan(17) and cousin-sister  Miss.Jegasothy Sivanandan(29) who went looking for Yogeswaran  disappeared after being taken by soldiers. The matter was given publicity  by Mr.Thruairajasingham, the local MP, and Amnesty International.  There has been no official response to date.

 17th - 21st December 1995: Unnichchai:The following six and another were  reportedly abducted by Sinhalese home guards probably from  Mangalagama at 7.00 AM while grazing their cattle: Manikapodi  Shanthakumar, Devanayagam Kiruparajah, Somasundaram  Linganayagam, Ananthan Sinapodiayan, Samithamby Vellakuddy and  Kandappan Govindan. Another who escaped reported the matter to the  Police in Batticaloa, the HRTF and the ICRC.

 On 21st December Vianayagamoorthy Karalasingam, Peryathamby  Vellapodi, Thiagarajah Jeyasangar and Ponnambalam Koneswaran of  Unnichchai were picked up at Koppaveli while collecting firewood by  sinhalese speaking persons believed to be homeguards. The matter was  raised with President Kumaratunga on 22nd December by Joseph  Parajasingam MP and subsequently given publicity by Amnesty  International. Local inquiries had also been made by HRTF personnel.  There has been no official response to date despite rumours that the  persons concerned were seen at an army camp in the area.

 Mangalagama in the Amparai District is an interior Sinhalese village, and  though relatively new is not part of a colonisation scheme. It was one of  the border Sinhalese villages attacked by the LTTE in late October 1995 on  the eve of the Sri Lankan Army's capture of Jaffna. There are aspects to  this incident that remain unexplained. Were these abductions a reprisal? If  it was a reprisal the villagers would have feared further LTTE attacks  which have not taken place. The villagers must be dealing with the LTTE  through some channel. Since October 1995, the LTTE too has been  generally restrained in attacking Sinhalese villages. The attack on  Eluvankulam in the Puttalam District on 11th June 1996 was, according to  the residents, a private vendetta directed against the inmates of one house  by a former Tamil resident of the village, who had joined the LTTE after  many in his own family were killed by a tough belonging to the house  attacked.

 23rd March 1996: Commathurai: The LTTE were waiting in ambush for  the anticipated army patrol. The Army was informed of this by civilians. A  group of soldiers went towards the place where the LTTE were said to be  waiting. They spotted 3 LTTE men dressed in camouflage kits with foliage  and shot them dead. They then went to the corpses, according to civilian  sources, in a mood of jubilation. The LTTE opened fire when the soldiers  were bunched together, killing 40. Thirteen others including an officer  were injured. Although the particular incident reflects carelessness on the  part of the Army, the general pattern, according to local sources, is that the  civilians inform the Army of any impending danger.

 Following the incident shells fired by the Army fell at Mavadyvembu,  Vantharumoolai, resulting in the death of a little girl Rajani(7). A further  three women Appachchi Kumarasamy(55), Nagamma (55), Arasamma(23)  and a girl Kalaichelvi(7) were injured.

 April 1996: Batticaloa: The following incident illustrates the Army's new  sensitivity to be seen to be playing by the book. A 15 year old boy was  doubling his 12 year old brother on the causeway, on their way home,  when they were stoppedä at an army check-point. The Army detained the  elder boy and asked his younger brother to go home. Perhaps to avoid  further beating, the detainee admitted knowing a spot near a Hindu  temple where arms were hidden.

When taken there, no arms were to be  found. Soldiers were then seen beating the boy. The matter was raised  with Brigadier Kottegoda by the Peace Committee. The former  immediately summoned Captain Suleyman of Military Intelligence and  verified that the boy was being held. He then told the Captain, "The men  have been told that if a prisoner is beaten, they will be punished. The  officers have been instructed that there should be no beating of prisoners".  On a subsequent occasion Kottegoda told the Peace Committee that the  officer concerned had been dismissed from the Army. Although the truth of  the claim may be doubted and it is known that detainees are regularly  beaten upon arrest, the new sensitivity of the Army was welcomed.

 It is also reported that the Counter Subversive Unit of the Police at  Batticaloa has been disbanded and the OIC demoted, following charges of  extortion for the release of prisoners.

 Brigadier Kottegoda was commended as being "Very reasonable, active,  and having very good public relations.... as good as Rohan Gunawardene,  who was sometimes a little moody though". Kottegoda has been succeeded  by Brigadier Anton Wijendra.

 2nd April 1996: Batticaloa: Jude was a student at St Michaels, a well  known sportsman, was friendly with the armed forces and had even been  photographed with leading army officers at sporting events. On this day  Jude was injured by an explosion while assembling a bicycle bomb at a  house in Bharathy Lane(Muslim colony), and died on the way to hospital.  The owner of the house, a teacher, was detained. His wife, an Agriculture  Department clerk and his sister were questioned and released. A young  newly married Seventh Day Adventist pastor who had bought a  motorcycle from Jude is also under detention, but is allowed Sunday visits  by his wife.

 It is now reported that Jude had joined the LTTE, but that the LTTE had  sent him back to carry out sabotage operations. May 1996: The following illustrates the continuing concern over Tamil  groups operating with the forces with considerable impunity. The most  recent addition are EPRLF cadre under Razik, a key figure in the short- lived Tamil National Army, many of them recently brought back from  India. The total number is variously estimated at 500 and above. The  EPRLF which had formerly eschewed militancy maintains that the persons  deployed are part of the regular forces and have no links with the  organisation. But locally the Razik Group are known to indulge in some  extortion, even issuing `EPRLF' receipts for 'donations' of figures such as  Rs 500 for a lorry per month from the owner.

 Two youths, Balasubramaniam Pradeepan(an undergraduate) and  Rajasingham Anushyan(an A.Level qualified boy), happened to meet on the  road and were chatting. Anushyan had been given forced training by the  ENDLF in 1989 when youths were conscripted for the TNA. At this point  they were arrested by Shankar of the EPRLF, taken to their office and  assaulted, and then handed over to the Army as LTTE suspects. This was  on 23rd May. Two days earlier Xavier Shanthikumar(fisherman in his  early 20s) was given similar treatment. All three were released by the Army  as innocent by June 3rd.

 The presence of armed militant groups in Batticaloa contributes to the  atmosphere of lawlessness. A number of cultivators from Paduvankarai  have been avoiding coming into Batticaloa out of fear of harassment and  further extortion to what the LTTE takes from them. A good example is a  farmer in connection with whose support for the TULF leader  Amirthalingam at the 1989 parliamentary elections, had his brother killed  by the EPRLF.

 11th May 1996: Morakkatanchenai- Kaluwankery: The LTTE attacked  troops in Morkkatanchenai, killing 14 and injuring 15. Troops claimed to  have recovered 9 bodies of LTTE cadre.

 Subsequently the coastal village of Kaluwankerny, 1 1/2 miles from  Morakkatatanchenai camp, was shelled from Sittandy. This led to the  death of 11 civilians, including 5 children, the youngest aged 3. A further 16  were injured, including an infant and several children.One house was  badly damaged with three corpses mutilated beyond recognition. The  Army's explanation of the shelling of the village was that they had fired at  the withdrawing LTTE force.

 Late May: Thurainilavanai: The STF and a party of the militants from the  Razik Group(EPRLF) waited in ambush for the LTTEers who often made  the lagoon crossing before dawn. Civilians who came that way were asked  to sit down quietly. The LTTE failed to turn up. The withdrawing ambush  party caught a boy from the village whose brother was in the LTTE, beat  him and cropped his hair.

 Late May 1996: Batticaloa: The following illustrates the plight of  fishermen who receive no compensation for the loss of trade. A fisherman  went to Buffalo Island in the Batticaloa lagoon to fish during the night and  was mistakenly shot dead by an ambush party. He leaves behind 3 children.

 Individual Killings by the LTTE 

 7th March 1996: Peruveddai, Sittandy: K. Thangaraja, father of seven,  shot dead.

 20th March 1996: Chenkalady - Badulla Road: Vyramutthu  Kathalinam(43) and Sooty shot dead by the LTTE and left on the road with  accusatory statements. The two had been held for 45 days by the LTTE.

 28th March 1996: Puthukkudiyiruppu: Thangaraja Pushparaja (20) of  Nasivanthivu shot dead about 4.00PM. He had formerly been associated  with the LTTE. The Virakesari quotes TELO sources as having said that he  had contemplated joining their group. The incident is one among many  which illustrates the meaninglessness of the politics among the rural folk.  All groups have lost any sense of purpose and carry only their hatreds,  wounding the same community and even the same family, from whom  they all have drawn their cadre.

 10th May 1996: Vantharumolai: Vani was a Radiologist at Batticaloa  Hospital. Her father, Mr.Sornalingam, is a well-known Tamil poet who  was first a supporter of the Federal party, then the UNP and lately the  TULF, the FP's successor. Such things are normal in the politics of the East  where the choice between `Rights' and `government patronage' is an acute  one.

 Vani was fluent in all three languages and Army officers were among  those who conversed with her. Gossip grew around her accusing her of an  illicit affair with an army officer. She was not evidently conscious of  danger and continued staying in Vantharumoolai that was readily accessible  to the LTTE. The LTTE abducted her and held her for 45 days.

 Delegations of her relatives and well-wishers met the LTTE and pleaded  on her behalf. On 10th May she was shot dead and left on the road with a  written accusation charging her with being a traitor and informer.

 29th May 1996: Cheddipalayam: A member of TELO and two members of  PLOTE were shot dead about 6 P.M.

 Damage to public property caused by LTTE activity: 

 4th January 1996: Kalmunai telephone exchange was severely damaged by  a bomb which went off at 2.30 AM.

 23rd March 1996: Akkaraipattu telephone exchange damaged by bomb  explosion resulting in outage of 300 telephones.

 20th April 1996: The LTTE set fire to a public passenger bus at Urani on the  Akkaraipattu-Pottuvil Road about 12 noon. a bus on this route had been  burnt previously.The Police party that went from Akkaraipattu was  attacked by the LTTE. Three died in the melee including an inspector and a  constable. The bus service has since been stopped. The journey from  Pottuvil to Akkaraipattu now costs an extortionate Rs 30/-, with especially  women and children who travel for medical care packed in tiny vans.  Tamil villages on the 20 mile stretch between Thirukkovil and Pottuvil are  now largely cut off.

 Such bus burnings have been reported elsewhere- eg; Vantharumoolai  when the driver protested at the LTTE for removing fuel and putting him  in an awkward position.

 10th May 1996: Kallady Fisheries Training school robbed by the LTTE.

 13th May 1996: Explosion at the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation's depot in  Batticaloa. The claim that the LTTE was responsible is contested (see  below).

 31st May 1996: 8 buses parked in the major bus depot at Kalmunai were  burntä by the LTTE during the night.

 On 5th June 1996 Rehabilitation Minister M.H.M Ashraff obtained  Cabinet approval to replace the burnt buses using Rehabilitation funds and  to shift the depot to his electoral base of Sammanturai.

 This is the kind of development that Tamils most fear and are helpless  against. They see the LTTE playing the scape goat enabling public  infrastructure and amenities to be progressively run down in Tamil areas  and being developed or transferred into Muslim areas.

 Doubts about bombs: 

Several bomb explosions have been more or less definitely identified as  being caused by the LTTE. But certain incidents have created doubts as to  whether more than one party is playing the game. On 5th June at about  10.30 A.M there was a bomb explosion in the police booth on Trincomalee  Road by the side of Hindu College. No one was seriously hurt. The  Batticaloa Station Master who was on his way to the market received  three blows from flying objects, rolled away upon seeing the flying booth  descending upon him, and crept to safety under a fence to avoid being shot  at by mistake.

According to some sources the two policemen in the booth  had crossed the road into a boutique a few minutes earlier. A Maruthi jeep  with service personnel who were laughing and talking among themselves  while the jeep was parked on the opposite side of the road, had passed  close to the booth when it was driven away. The belief that the armed  services were responsible for the bomb was contested by others who said  that on an earlier occasion when a bomb was discovered in the area, the  police had stopped civilians from going that way.

 Earlier on 9th May a bomb had gone off in the Petroleum Corporation's  Batticaloa depot. 13 newly recruited employees were taken into custody  and 8 of them, including the 4 Muslims among the detained, were released  a few days later. Senior citizens said that the continued detention of the  five is unfair, since all employees were rigorously checked by the police  prior to entry and were required to leave their bicycles outside the  premises, as at the Telecom, out of fear that they may conceal a bomb. The  police sub-inspector, they said, had resented the employees having  complained about his excessive strictness. They feel that the police cannot  shake off the entire responsibility for the explosion.

 Some months ago a member of the EROS group was killed when trying to  placeä a bomb in a transformer close to the EROS office in Puliyantivu.

 Tamil Militant Groups

Presence of armed militant groups along with the army is still cause for  concern among the people. Although no killings or disappearances, as far  as we are able to locate from the best informed sources, have been  reported, these groups have been known to extort either by pressure,  intimidation or abduction. The distinction between current members of  PLOTE & TELO and former members who now closely work with the SL  Army is difficult to make. As far as the people are concerned they do not see  any political need for the existence of these groups with arms. Although  the groups claim to have arms for their defence, they are invariably used to  intimidate the people.

 It also shows the confusion these groups have about their present role. All  these groups still carry names which have lost all relevance. In the present  context they are unable to redefine their role and to seek a common  consensus in order to work for the benefit of the people.

 Two cases of detention by the TELO or PLOTE were given worldwide  publicity: Nagalingam Rishikeshamoorthy (36) of Chenkalady on 1st  January 1996 and Kandiah Vyramutthu(31) of Sittandy on 20th February  1996. According to the sources contacted, the two have been released.  Currently, these groups normally do not hold detainees for more than two  days.

 The situation in Valaichenai 

 The atmosphere here was rendered oppressive owing to the relatively  harsh attitude of the Army, which feels insecure, and the LTTE, which  moves freely during the nights while the Army are in barracks. To ease  their fear, soldiers have frequently fired shells westward in the night  towards the jungle, from the army camps at Valaichenai, Kumburumoolai  and Kiran.

 An incident involving the murder of a civilian by soldiers and two  disappearances took place in November 1995 (see above). But of late the  situation is said to have improved following a change of approach by the  Army in trying to be friendly towards the civilians. During June, attacks by  the LTTE also reached a low ebb after showing signs of intensifying in  May. Shelling at night too has largely ceased.

 Amparai District 

 7th -8th November 1995: Akkaraipattu

 At 9.15 A.M on 7th November, Constable Hashim of Oluvil who brought  his OIC Jamaldeen's car for repairs to a garage at Carmel Convent  junction, was shot dead by an LTTE intruder who then escaped. Some time  later, firing was heard as policemen came running towards that area.  Civilians ran way while the village council chairman alerted the STF, 2/3  mile away, by phone. The Police then advanced from the junction. Not  finding anyone in the first few houses on Sagamam Road, they came to the  fourth set of houses, where they met Mrs.K. Ponnammah (60). The woman  had previously upon hearing the commotion asked the workmen on the  roof to come down and go into the house.

When the police asked her for  persons in the house, she summoned the workmen. The three workmen  Jeevaratnam(55), a mason from Akkaraipattu, his son Wijeyaratnam (20)  and Sritharan(20), a labourer from Vinayagapuram, along with the old  women, were shot dead by Constable Irashad. Another boy had escaped by  hiding in a rolled up mat. The STF then arrived and prevented further  incidents, and tried to douse the fire in two boutiques. An Elf van-load of  home guards who arrived with fuel in cans were also turned back by the  STF. The Police then got downä a coroner from Palamunai who certified  that the four victims had died during cross-fire in a confrontation with the  LTTE.

 The following day after a meeting of the Citizen's Committee, drunken  policemen in mufti were found assaulting two boys. The policemen were  confronted by Thayaparan, the AGA,who was also a former militant. The  latter was instrumental in the release of 5 Tamils who had been locked up  in a police station lavatoryä by home guards. Relations with the Police  have continued to be problematic. No action has been taken to punish the  killer.

 The use of human shields and forced labour by the STF

 10th April 96:Colony 13: STF from Colony 13 camp selected 25 civilians  from Colonies 7 & 15 and forced them to march ahead of the STF into the  Nediyawattai jungle, with the STF firing. No one was hurt.

 17th April 96:Kittangi (near Kalmunai): STF in mufti took 8 students  including Thevarajah (18) as a shield on their way to  Thauraivantheriyamdu.

 11th Apr 96: Urani and Thandiyadi (between Thirukkovil & Pottuvil): STF  forced daily wage earning labourers to clear jungles and shrubs along the  roadside without any compensation.

 Cases of assault by the Security Forces 

 12 Apr 96: Kamalaharan (23) of Navithaneveli: By the STF at Mandoor  check point, on his way to discuss sale of goats.

 15th Apr 96: Kalmunai: N.Sivaharan(21), N.Gengatharan(26) &  V.Vishnutharan (22)by Kalmunai police during overnight detention, after  being detained with the aid of Natpiddimunai home guards.

 The STF in Thirukkovil had recently ordered all boutiques to shift to the  main road and the quantities of essentials in stock have been severely  restricted, in an attempt to allegedly prevent the LTTE from getting  supplies. Some of the shopkeepers including Krishnan, Mylvaganam and  Murugan were beaten. The first is said to have been ordered to close  down.

 About 14th April 1996: Thirukkovil: Two boys in their teens from Kolavil  paid a traditional new year's visit to a lady in Vinayagpuram and were  returning the next morning when they were stopped by the STF at the  Thirukkovil check point. They were detained reportedly because the STF  suspected the lady of the house they visited to be entertaining the LTTE.  The lady then went to the STF camp. She was given the bicycles of the two  boys and told that they would be released later.The lady informed the  relatives of the boys at Kolavil who went to the Thirukkovil camp. They  were told that the boys had been sent to the Akkaraipattu STF camp . The  latter when contacted denied having received the boys. The boys remain  unaccounted for.

 2nd June 1996: Akkaripattu: The STF made a swoop late in the evening and  detained 9 persons accused of helping the LTTE, including the co-operative  manger Kalanathan. Kalanthan's parents -in-law,  Mr.&Mrs.Kanapathipillai, said that Kalanathan was an innocent, timid  man who mostly stayed at home. Other local sources said that the arrest  was based on information supplied by young LTTEers who had deserted  and surrendered to the STF. Local sources also said that the LTTE is  usually about the place and have little difficulty in negotiating supplies  from merchants or agents in the Muslim quarter where there are no  restrictions.

 Latter June 1996: Colony 13: The LTTE attacked a security post in the  colony under the Gal Oya scheme killing two policemen and two Muslim  homeguards from a neighbouring ward . Other policemen with  homeguards marched towards wardä 3 of Colony 13 where Tamils live.  The STF tried to prevent the reprisal attack going to the extent of firing  warning shells into the paddy field. However the attackers burnt some  Tamil huts while the residents ran away. The STF has since encouraged  the Tamils to come back, but the residents are reported to move into the  jungle for the nights. An year ago Sinhalese homeguards attacked Tamils  in Colony 4, that was recently resettled, after an LTTE attack on a nearby  Sinhalese colony. Up to about 4 Tamil civilians were then killed. The STF  had also then intervened to reassure the Tamils.

 No structures exist at present where community leaders from different  communities could meet regularly to prevent such reprisals from taking  place. The role of homeguards remains as questionable as ever.

 Poverty & alienation in Tamil areas. 

 Conditions are far from ideal for a community severely caught up in the  war. The problem is most acute in the south of the Amparai district where  the residents between Akkariapatu and Pottuvil are solely Tamil. the STF  has been applying restrictions on farming and trade without any political  opposition. The better off have moved close to STF camps to escape LTTE  extortioners. The others who supply wage labour have been largely left to  themselves and the LTTE, without work and without means.

 The rice growers who need to maintain a delicate routine and keep to strict  timing say that it is pointless for them to sink capital when the STF has  been whimsical and arbitrary in the instructions it issues. On crucial days  the labourers may be prevented from going to work resulting in damage by  cattle, the rice not being fertilised or even the irrigation gates may be  closed on STF instructions. The owners have also lost about half their  cattle. Calves have not been branded for about two years. While regular  cattle-men are prevented from going into the fields by the STF, rogue  teams sent by butchers in Akkaraipattu who bribe the STF, the owners say,  are rounding up cattle.

 Vinayagapuram, just south of Thirukkovil, is among the badly affected  villages. Since the LTTE burnt two public buses between Thirukkovil and  Pottuvil, the villages inbetween are for practical purposes `out of sight and  out of mind'. It must be remembered that it is from among the poorest that  large numbers were killed, particularly during 1990. Amparai District  alone has over 1500 Tamil widows.

 Several people in Vinayagapuram came from the Ninthavur area and  have close Muslim contacts. So intense is the poverty, it is said, that most  parents borrow Rs 5000 to pay agents and send their daughters to the  Middle - East as domestic helps using passports bearing assumed Muslim  names. In several cases young women married to a farmer who went out  of work, had left the children with him and went to the Middle-East, for a  wage as low as Rs 3000 (USD 60) per month. They are often illiterate and  their salaries are conveyed home through Muslim agents. Since they  cannot write letters, the same agents bring home taped messages.Any  proper rehabilitation exercise would have ensured each householdä a  proper livelihood in place of the Rs 3000 from the Middle-East obtained at  heavy cost to the community.

 The LTTE

 There are reports of significant LTTE movement everywhere in the East  served by informers and agents. For the present, at least, a decision has  been taken not to give offence to the Muslims. Relations with the  community are relatively cautious and indirect. Younger members of the  LTTE are seldom identified by older civilians, but the young often know  better.

 Current recruitment in areas not controlled by the LTTE is placed by many  observers to be almost nil. Many in the Paduvankarai area, who could  afford it, have sent their children to Batticaloa town. The town has  undergone a significant change in its composition since the beginning of  the war. Extortion by the LTTE has been among the causes of movement  into town. While people know and some times admire the LTTE's  destructive capacity, its image as a liberating force has fallen sharply. Due  to the lack of movement towards a political solution, a feeling commonly  remains among Tamils that if the LTTE is defeated, the Government  would then cheat them.

 The LTTE's excesses too have contributed to whittling down its economic  base. There is too much disillusionment present for voluntary  contributions. Had it not interfered with economic activity and had  avoided alienating the Muslims, it may have got away with taxation that  was not extortionate. By driving people off economic activity through  extortion, it has now taken over abandoned paddy fields and herds of  cattle in the Batticaloa District.

 A Muslim from Earavur went in search of his 145 head of cattle driven  away by the LTTE from the Welikande area. He encountered the LTTE  near Veppuvedduvan. He was courteously entertained, served tea and  vadai and was told that they needed his cattle. The herd kept by the LTTE  is estimated at 2000, from which milk reaches depots along the main road.  It also taxes many necessities that reach the residential areas from the  interior, such as gravel and illegally felled timber. Bricks that formerly cost  Rs 2000 for a tractor-load of 2000, now costs Rs 3800.

 Its methods of extraction in the poorer areas are much cruder. These also  point to its difficulties. Those able to pay something are no longer in areas  it has ready access to. The poverty stricken village of Vinayagapuram  though in an STF controlled area, is virtually under LTTE rule. Young boys  facing an empty life are given grenades by the LTTE or allowed to handle  weapons and are thus made to feel important. They in turn help the LTTE  in extortion. This means harassing people with hardly anything to give.  After starting by demanding Rs 1 1/2 lakhs, the LTTE goes away with Rs  5000 or so paid after pawning some belongings. When such boy helpers go  to the jungle and join the LTTE, they are often a liability. When they get  disillusioned and surrender to security forces, valuable information is  passed.

 Several local observers feel that the influence of the central command has  weakened and that the area leaders are doing very much their own thing.  Several individual killings of civilians have been placed as private  vendetta affairs. The LTTE's mindless destruction of public property and  its readiness to interfere with any rehabilitation effort which the people  desperately need, notä to ensure that they get a fair deal, but to fill its  purse at any cost to them, contributes towards the Tamil people despairing  of any future for them in the East. The LTTE is on the other hand a  beneficiary from official corruption that thrives off funds destined for the  lost and the bereaved.

 The Security Forces: An overview

We mentioned that the main public grievance against the security forces is  notä so much to do with outright violations as the feeling that their routine  actions show very little respect or concern for the people. These actions  they feel are primarily about protecting themselves. A respected citizen  pointed out that the Army's attitude to road closures and diversions points  to sheer lack of imagination: "When the Government claims that the Army  is in control, we expect to see more confidence on its part and a  progressive easing of the situation.

But we see the opposite. Alright there  is a security problem at the Batticaloa Telecom. The Army's answer to that  is to close the road. Now one taking a child to a nursery, instead of  crossing 75 yards of Station Road, has to travel over quarter of a mile.  Outside Batticaloa, Army camps meant to protect the main road feel  threatened. Fair enough. But what do they do? Instead of shifting the  camp away from the road, they close the road. At Commanthurai, the  traffic has to take a very dusty diversion of half a mile on an ad hoc loose- gravel road. Buses and lorries raise a lot of dust, and old men pushing  loaded bicycles and five year old children returning from school have to  walk this road at noon, covered in dust and sweat."

 A middle aged man who lived close to Morakkatanchenai army camp said,  " I returned after being a refugee in 1990, rebuilt my house and lived for  four years alongside the army without any problems. But suddenly after  the resumption of war in 1995, the Army forced us terrified civilians to sit  around their camp as a shield during the nights. I decided to leave the  place and am now in Batticaloa. I do not know why they did that. The trust  we had in the Army was shattered."

 Such practices have been controlled at least in army controlled areas. But  the feeling remains with civilians that it is not their army, but an alien  army with an agenda, and basically untrustworthy.

 Although there is tremendous disillusionment with the LTTE and  recruitment has fallen sharply, the effects of even seemingly minor  breaches of discipline should not be underestimated. Most such incidents  are covered up and forgotten. One such happened in May last year, in the  Batticaloa suburb Of Iruthayapuram [Bulletin No 6], where the police went  on a rampage killing about six civilians and causing harm to several more.  

The only action taken was the transfer of several policemen. A couple of  journalists from the foreign media went there, but sadly, hardly any one  from the mainstream local media, and things seemingly returned to  normal. We learnt that about 25 youths from the locality had subsequently  joined the LTTE. A boy Rathy went the following morning. The rest  followed over the coming week as the LTTE sent messages that the only  thing they could achieve by staying there was to be beaten and killed by the  armed forces. Kumar, a recruit, was killed during the attack on the  Ambalanthuri STF camp a month later. The majority were sent to the  North by the LTTE, and their fate is not known. The effect of the Killiveddy  massacre and that at Kaluwankerny in May, we only guess.

 Our reports suggest that the situation in the STF controlled areas is  worse. This is felt more strongly in parts on the Amparai District where  there is a strong feeling that the STF is part of a planned attack on the  Tamils' economic life.

 Investigation into Disappearances 

 This particular matter which concerns several thousand victims and their  families in the East, would to a large extent determine the credibility of a  political solution. The number for the Eastern Province, if one is to go by  the applications before the disappearances commission for the North-  East, is around 4 to 5 thousand post 1987. Other estimates point to around  double that figure. Owing to the political vacuum and the lack of activism,  human rights observers feel, things are not going too well. As long as the  armed forces play an obstructive role, it would hinder a political solution.  Terror would then be in covert use,through agents and members of Tamil  groups who play a subservient role. It must be kept in mind that even this  government continues to maintain in reserve, at least, operatives such as  Martinersz (aliases: Munas and Dias Richard) and Mohan who had  earned notoriety. The former though reported dead by the Sunday Island  columnist `Ravana' in November 1993, was reported seen at the Ward  Place STF camp in mid-November 1995.

 The following gives an indication of how the commission is faring: The  Commission met at Batticaloa during the first half of last year. It promised  to meet there again, but has not done so. The commission questioned the  officer, who was then Lt. Colonel Percy Fernando of the Batticaloa  Brigade, about the massacre by the Army on 9th September 1990, of about  180 persons from four villages around Sathurukondan.Percy Fernando is  reported to have told the commission, "This is the first time I have heard  about it".

 Father Harry Miller, a member of the Peace Committee, recalled that as  soon as they had recorded the testimony of an injured survivor the  following day, they had informed Brigadier A.M.U Seneviratne [our  Report No.8]. Seneviratne had gone to that area with a party in vehicles,  that included Percy Fernando. Brigadier Seneviratne then contacted  Fr.Miller and told him that they found nothing. Fr.Miller then asked ,  "How about the people?" Seneviratne replied that there were no people.  "There", replied Fr. Miller, "I told you that a large number of them had  been killed!" The Peace Committee had later sent the Brigadier a list of  missing persons. Percy Fernando when later questioned by the Peace  Committee had replied, "It is a mystery".

 The matter was raised with JOC Chief General Wanasinghe by Amnesty  International in February 1994. Wanasinghe replied in April that he had  instructed the Inspector General of Police to conduct an investigation `at  the grass-root level'. In July 1994, Fr.Miller inquired about the  investigation from Brigadier Rohan Gunawardene who was in charge at  Batticaloa. The latter expressed surprise and suggested that the past  should be left alone!

 Two recent events provide grounds for further pessimism despite some  firm initial action by the present government- action though confined to  low ranking personnel who could not have acted without sanction or  complicity from above. About a dozen army personnel had been detained  following inquires, following the Killiveddy massacre of February this  year.

An MP for Trincomalee District, while talking to a judicial officer in  Trincomalee, learnt that the detained soldiers had been released on bail  during mid- June. "Who ordered their release?", the MP asked . " The  Acting Magistrate", replied the judicial officer. " Who is the Acting  Magistrate?" the MP asked. After some hesitation the judicial officer  admitted sheepishly, " I am". The MP, himself a lawyer, observed that  those detained on charges of murder cannot be granted bail by a  magistrate, it requires a High Court decision. In February, STF personnel  and other security operatives detained 5 months earlier in connection with  missing Tamil persons who appeared as corpses in waterways, were also  released on bail by a Colombo magistrate.

The technicality in both cases  perhaps, is that no charges had been framed even though the evidence was  strong- in the latter case, this was claimed by the IGP at a press conference  at the end of August 1995, where the murders which took place at the STF  head quarters were described in graphic detail.It seems that the wheels of  justice in Sri Lanka turn slowly and differentially: If a member of the  security forces is accused of murder, after a face - saving public relations  exercise, he is quietly allowed bail. If an ordinary Tamil is picked up on  mere suspicion of LTTE links, he could spend an agonizing 3 years being  'reformed' at some detention centre, before a court decides that the  charges, if any, are without substance.

 Further issues 

 Other important issues which underlie current developments such as the  Government's Rehabilitation Programme, Muslim - Tamil relations and  questions surrounding the North-East merger, have not been discussed  here. Associated with these are the political compulsions of the Muslim  Congress and of Tamil Nationalism that are on a divisive course, from  which all stand to loose. On the Tamil side matters are going by default,  owing to a fear of frank appraisal. These will be discussed in a coming  publication.

Mail Us up- truth is a pathless land - Home