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Report 11



This report deals mainly with the East and takes up from Report No.9. One of the matters it focuses on is the key issue of Tamil-Muslim relations ( Chapter 7). We regard this polarisation as one of the major tragedies of the misdirection of the Tamil struggle. It is only right that whatever vision we have for the future of   Tamil society, it must account for the unforeseen developments over the last decade. It is a society that is to start with, no longer geographically compact. Is there room for a coherent Tamil society other than one that is multi-religious, multi-ethnic and open? (See Y.Ahamed , Appendix I). Our ancient heritage seems to point that way.

Also taken up are developments in the Trincomalee District and the interior of the Batticaloa District. The former is now the focus of secretive administrative manoeuvring and the second a theatre of military operations. Chapter 2 deals with the urgent questions confronting the Trincomalee District. Much of the material on Trincomalee is being carried over into the next report.

We dealt with some of the issues concerning state sponsored colonisation of Sinhalese in  Tamil areas  in Chapter 8 of Report No 7 . Questions of extreme poverty and malnutrition in certain Sinhalese areas do impinge on any complete discussion of colonisation. We will endeavour to deal with some of the human aspects of this in future reports. We do not argue against colonisation per se. The whole question needs to be gone over thoroughly by institutions better equipped. What we attempt in Chapter 2 , and we think it is urgent, is to show that what the state is doing in Trincomalee has nothing to do with justice, poverty alleviation or development. Nor can it ever be for a policy once described by a key minister in   terms of solving the Tamil problem by settling ex-convicts and fishermen in their midst. This raises the question   how far has this country, and especially the state, moved away from communalism?  We find the developments in the Trincomalee District and the contrasting attitudes to Tamil and Sinhalese farmers working on lands not belonging to them, very disturbing. Chapter1 reflects on the broader questions concerning human rights in Sri Lanka.

The present and the last report suggest that the conditions and security  of Tamil detainees of the government forces in urban areas of the North-East,  have improved. But it is still nowhere near satisfying     the requirements of the Amnesty International. The outrage  of the international community to the massacres of     Muslims in the Polannaruva District seems to have had an impact  on the LTTE locally [See 8.7]. After the massacre of the civilian  passengers in the Jaffna lagoon on the 2nd January, no alternative having  been worked out yet, civilians continue travel at considerable risk to their  life. Killings by the forces in the interior of the Batticaloa District have  been continuing and aerial bombing of civilian areas in the North continues  to be callous. On 12th February 1993 a school in full session near Killinochchi  was just missed ( Chapter  8).

However, much credit for the sharp (temporary?) decline in the killing rate should go to organisations as well as groups that have kept up human rights pressure on both sides. It is in the wake of these developments that the LTTE leader gave an interview over the BBC Tamil service under restrictive conditions on questioning, sought and obtained,in which he accepted for the first time that he would consider a federal solution. It may be noted that many other Tamils have been killed by the LTTE over charges such as compromising the goal of a separate state and for contesting elections to the parliament of the foreign country of Sri Lanka. Previously such offers of a solution have been made through third and fourth parties. We will not speculate why the LTTE leader went publicly. But for whatever reason, the offer is welcome.


The derisive, unstatesmanlike response to this offer by Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe speaking on behalf of the government at a press conference was most disappointing. This stance was repeated by President Premadasa in his BBC phone in. They wanted the LTTE to submit its proposals to the parliamentary select committee, which, other Tamil parties and political analysts believe, has come to a dead end. At all costs, slipping back into the decade old illusion that only violent pressure on civilians, by either side, would lead to negotiations on favourable terms, must be avoided.

Our reports deal with several aspects pertaining to violations and are very unorthodox as human rights documents. In order to clarify our position,we once more reiterate the purposes for which these reports are written.

1. To expose human rights violations by all forces in order to bring about general awareness and to make violators accountable.

2. To bring out the human background to these violations through a portrayal of individual characters together with an analysis of social pressures and external circumstances governing their behaviour. We try to show that the characters involved, even in the worst violations, are often human, whose actions are governed by mislaid human potential,past choices,and oppressive circumstances.

3. To leave behind a historical record of this crucial part of our history. Since there is no space in our community to discuss and choose between different options,and the young especially are giving their life even without knowing our recent history, we feel it is necessary to leave a record. Moreover, in this country, we seem to suffer from historical amnesia combined with a moral vacuum, forcing us to re-live an unpleasant history again and again. We trust these records will also help benign minds who in the future would like to make a re-evaluation.

4. As responsible members of an academic institution and citizens of our community, we would like to express our opinions and make room for free expression and an edifying debate. We also seek to highlight the untapped human potential in all communities in our country, for both internal regeneration and to make a success of living in one plural nation.

              Issues raised in our reports highlighted for action

We are aware that several of our readers find these reports daunting. For easy reference we highlight issues, which if acted upon will considerably improve the general situation. References in brackets refer to reports from which more information could be obtained.

1. Call upon the Human Rights Task Force to investigate the disappearance of more than 158 persons taken by the army from the Eastern University refugee camp on 5th September 1990 and afterwards, who are believed to have been taken to the army camp at Valaichenai commanded by a brigadier. The HRTF had inquired into the disappearance of 32 schoolboys in Emplipitya the previous year, and according to a press report charges are likely to be brought against several army personnel, including a brigadier.

Although thousands disappeared during the current war, this is a particular instance where the army entered a refugee camp and took away 158 persons in the presence of senior academics from the university and thousands of others. The general commanding the East was aware of it within 3 days and the secretary, defence, replied to a query claiming that only 3O were detained and had subsequently been released. All this points to a cover up at very high level. If the HRTF will not act and those involved can get away with something so blatant, then for the people of the North-East, the government appointed machinery to enforce human rights would be exposed as mere window dressing. [7:4,11:1].

2. The LTTE is believed to hold about 4OOO detainees. Large numbers of prisoners had been taken into custody in the early part of 199O and have spent in custody almost three years! Demand from the LTTE that it makes a complete list   available and invites the ICRC to visit the detainees. Demand the release of all political prisoners. [4.4 of Briefing No.1. & 1O.3]

3. Call upon the government to release all detainees against whom charges are not framed within a reasonable period of time.The centre at Kalutara has nearly 5OO Tamil detainees against whom no charges have been made and have been held for more than a year or two. Most them have been arrested on flimsy charges and are kept in various centres.These detainees have gone on hunger stike in protest. There are several Tamils detained by the police in Colombo, in a significant number of cases evidently for purposes of extortion. The latter category includes Tamils with intention of foreign travel and those arriving from the West.[11:1,5;8.1]

4. We have strong grounds to believe that the Sri Lankan government is misusing funds for development and rehabilitation through its military and administrative machinery to drastically alter the ground situation in the East and the Trincomalee District in particular, so as to place the minorities, many of whom are now refugees, in a permanently disadvantaged position. Urge the government to halt all land alienation, changes to the administrative machinery, and all projects that would involve major movements of population, until the cessation of war and the negotiation of political and administrative arrangements fair to the minorities.[11.2].

5. Urge the LTTE to come out with a declaration respecting the rights of Muslims to free movement, to freely carry out their economic and cultural activities without any threat or hindrance, and to reoccupy their former homes in the North-East [6:3; 7,8,11].

6. Call upon the government to pay compensation to Tamil paddy farmers whose crops were confiscated or destroyed on the grounds that they worked on fields belonging to others on arrangements reached with the LTTE.

Adopt uniform standards for all farmers, whether Tamil, Sinhalese or Muslim, who work fields of others absent as a result of violence [11:2.5]


7. Demand that the air force halts aerial bombing in civilian areas and near public places and schools.

8. Call upon the government to fully implement all 32 recommendations made by the Amnesty International in September 1991 [11:1]






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