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Home > Tamil National ForumSelected Writings by Dharmeratnam Sivaram (Taraki) > What lies behind the uprising in the East

Selected Writings by Dharmeratnam Sivaram (Taraki)

 

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 true.

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 forces.

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 him grievously.

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 there.

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 Pottuvil.

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.
 

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