What lies behind the uprising in the East
17 October 2002, Northeastern Herald
The incident in Kanjirankudah in which fifteen civilians were
wounded and five were killed by STF fire on Wednesday has once again
given a boost to those who argue that the LTTE is deliberately and
systematically provoking civilians into attacking military camps.
They see a sinister pattern in such incidents where civilians have
raised not only their voices but also their fists against the
presence of the Sri Lankan armed forces in several key points in the
northeast. They also argue that the LTTE is using civilian
unruliness as a cover to push the army out of strategic positions.
Let us, for argument’s sake, assume for a moment that all this is
If so, the following assumptions also have to be necessarily true –
a) That the people in the areas where the incidents said to
have been provoked by the LTTE have had no reason now or in the
past to harbour any anger or grudge against the presence of the
armed forces in the camps;
b) That they had no reason to feel that military barriers,
defence positions or camps of the Sri Lankan armed forces should
be removed from those places that have faced civilian protests
since the signing of the ceasefire agreement between the Tigers
and the United National Front government;
c) That they had remained passive and law abiding until the LTTE
deliberately pushed or compelled them to act as a cover for
their operatives bent causing havoc against the Sri Lankan armed
To iterate our point, it should be plain by any common sense
yardstick that these assumptions should have to be necessarily true
if the argument that the LTTE is deliberately and systematically
instigating incidents such as the protest in Kanjirankudah on
Wednesday with ulterior motives.Let us first take the Amparai
incident itself first to test the above assumptions.
Hospital records show that two members of the LTTE were seriously
assaulted by the STF and were admitted to the Thirukkovil District
Hospital for treatment.According to the civilian driver who was also
assaulted by the STF who beat up two LTTE members, the head of the
political division of the Tigers for the Pottuvil area, M.
Visuvanathan and a Tiger activist, Christy Rajah were travelling in
a tractor when some commandos of the STF stopped them at the
Kanjirankudah camp, which is by the main road on the island’s
southeastern coast around 10.30 a.m. Wednesday morning.
The commandos had started assaulting the driver and Rajah when they
had got down from the tractor to find out why they had been stopped.
Visuvanathan had then intervened and informed the STF personnel who
were assaulting them that he was an LTTE official and that they were
transporting some material for constructing a memorial.
The STF commandos had told him that they knew he was from the LTTE
and that is why they were assaulting the driver and Rajah.
Thereafter they had severely beaten up Visuvanathan too, injuring
The chain of events that followed culminated in the protest by
villagers of Vinayagapuram against the attack turning unruly and the
STF opening fire on the civilians.
The STF cannot have so soon forgotten a similar incident it provoked
earlier this year when commandos in its camp at Sakamam, near
Kanjirankudah, assaulted an LTTE member for apparently not
possessing a driver’s license. This sparked a demonstration against
the STF main camp for this area, which is in Thirukkovil. The STF
opened fire on the demonstrators but fortunately no one was killed.
The STF of course had no right to check for driving licenses.
So much so for the argument that the incidents in question are well
calculated and premeditated.
Now lets examine the second assumption that the people in these
areas had no reason to resent the STF’s presence in this part of the
country until they were compelled by the LTTE to protest.
The STF has ruled the roost in the Tamil villages on the
southeastern coast of the Amparai District since 1985. There were
only two hospitals serving this remote region. Both were taken over
by the STF and converted into military camps. Part of the
Thirukkovil hospital was allowed to function inside the STF camp
Any one with an iota of commonsense visiting the villages of
Thirukkovil and Thambiluvil will meet a whole generation that has
grown up with not so sweet memories of being checked and often being
humiliated at the hospital by STF guards who virtually ran the
place. And anyone with an iota of commonsense would see that there
are so many other strategically advantageous places in that area
where the STF could have set up its camp.
How many of those who are howling hoarse about the Kanjirankudah
incident know that the villagers who protested against the STF were
subjected to the same kind of harsh economic embargo under which the
people of Vanni had to suffer for more than a decade. People
entering the area were subjected to the same draconian checking
procedures. Everyone passing beyond Kanjirankudah was closely
question before they were allowed on their way. Outsiders were often
turned back. It was virtually an open prison.
The predicament of the people here was far worse than those living
in the Vanni. The STF forcibly evicted thousands from their villages
in the interior of this region in 1990. Tens of thousands of acres
of fertile paddy lands lay fallow in the interior for twelve years
while their owners languished in squalor and abject poverty in the
crumbling, ill maintained refugee shelters near Thirukkovil.
The STF strictly banned all cultivation and cattle herding in this
region under pain of death. Many refugees who were driven by poverty
to look for their lost herds in their abandoned farmland have been
shot dead or arrested and tortured. Several went missing. There are
very few men in the refugee camps of Thirukkovil who have not been
assaulted, tortured, or forced to labour by the STF. Kanjirankudah
is 84 kilometres south of Batticaloa. The STF camp here overlooks
the key junction where the interior road from Akkaraipattu town
through the farmlands of the area meets the main coastal road to
Hence the STF camp at this junction and nearby Sakamam, have been
the chief imposer of the draconian restrictions and the ban on all
cultivation and cattle herding in the interior. Pathetic and
persisted pleas by the refugees, beseeching the STF to let them
clear their overgrown fields and homesteads fell on deaf years.
Last year even the residents of Thirukkovil and Thambiluvil who had
been allowed to cultivate the lands by the coastal main road too
were hit below the belt when the STF banned them from reaping more
than three thousand acres of fertile paddy they had nurtured at
great expense and risk.
Hundreds of petitions and pleas urging the STF to let the farmers
reap their harvest were callously rejected. Yet fools have the
temerity in this country to argue that everything was rosy and fine
between the people and the Sri Lankan armed forces in this part
island until the LTTE instigated them to protest.
You cannot wake up people who deliberately pretend to indulge in the
slumber of convenient ignorance. After 53 years of blowing the
trumpet futilely into the ears of those who pretend to sleep, it is
indeed time for Tamil politicians to take stock and act.