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"To us all towns are one, all men our kin.
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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 

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Home > Tamil National ForumSelected Writings by Dharmeratnam Sivaram (Taraki) > Suspicion and mistrust, reality of Jaffna

Selected Writings by Dharmeratnam Sivaram (Taraki)

 

Suspicion and mistrust, reality of Jaffna

14 March 1999


Keeping Jaffna under control continues to pose a problem for the government and the security forces. And most western countries that back the PA's policy on the ethnic conflict think that it should be made a showpiece or a 'window of opportunity' for weaning the Tamils away from the politics of separatism.

Managing Jaffna is still no easy affair because at the bottom of the whole thing is mistrust. Mainly the army isn't still completely sure who's who in the peninsula. The Tigers keep reminding the army that they could be anywhere. The bomb that went off in the heart of Palai town on Friday, killing a soldier and wounding another; the killing of two Policemen in the high security zone of Temple Road in Jaffna on Tuesday, the ambush in Erlalai close to the Palaly high security zone on February 9 etc., seem calculated to keep the army on its toes as it were.

This naturally makes the army, or at least many in its ranks, view the general population with mistrust.

Measures recently adopted by the security forces in Jaffna clearly indicate that army brass believe that the local population remains quite susceptible to the designs and manipulations of the LTTE.

The army now carefully and minutely peruses all the financial transactions of the traders' associations of Jaffna following reports last month that the Tigers intend to raise ten million rupees in the peninsula, mainly from traders and small businessmen. A week ago a person was arrested at Kottady in Jaffna town allegedly for collecting money from traders and other moneyed people in the areas on behalf of the LTTE.

Now traders in the peninsula say that local business associations have to submit copies of their dealings with banks, details of their collections during the week etc., to the camps in their area.

Again, the private 'tutories', another salient feature of Jaffna's social landscape, have also come under the army's close scrutiny.

The suspicion here is that the Tigers might be infiltrating the towns using brigade passes issued to students who come from the villages to study in the numerous money minting 'tutories' of Jaffna.

'Tutory' owners and managers have to now submit every month to the army a list of the students in their establishment along with details of their brigade passes.

Tamil groups say that other measures have also been adopted in recent weeks to monitor the student population in the north.

Vadamaradchi still remains a special security region. Civilians entering the Vadamaradchi have to leave their national identity cards with the army at the Vallai check-point. They can get it back only when they leave. This is apparently intended to make sure that no civilian from outside Vadamaradchi can blend with the population there and engage in pro-Tiger activities.

And who said that the restrictions and bans on food, fuel and medicine are woes that beset only the people of Wanni and remoter hinterlands of the east? People in the coastal villages of Vadamaradchi east complain regularly that they are permitted to get these things through the Nagar Kovil and Vallipuram checkpoints south of Pt.Pedro.

This part of Jaffna is still not under the army's control, despite gradual attempts to expand since last year. Bakeries in the area are not permitted to take flour and the dispensary at Amban was refused permission to bring in the medicine required for the first quarter of 1999.

There are restrictions on public transport as well. The army appears to further expand its very loose grip on Vadamaradchi east by expanding the detachment at Nagar Kovil and setting up a new camp on the beach road from Amban to Mamunai.

There are such 'uncleared' areas in the Thenmaradchi division as well. Varani is one of these. The army permitted residents here until this week to take five litres of kerosene for each 'family card'.

Now the quota has been reduced to 1.5 litres per family card. Farmers in the area, particularly in the villages of Varani and Idaikkurichchy are now stuck for fuel to pump water to their fields. The Thenmaradchi division has several 'uncleared' places like this.

Even some of the so called 'cleared' areas in Thenmaradchi such as Kilaly face similar problems.

On March 3 the Army at Kilaly told more than 300 fishing families in the area to ply their trade in the deep seas off Naakar Kovil in Vadamaradchi east.

The fishermen in Kilaly were banned from fishing in the Jaffna lagoon off the Thenmaradchi coast last month. They sought the permission of the SLA at Kilaly to begin fishing in the lagoon again as their families were unable to secure adequate relief from the concerned government agencies in Jaffna.

The army, however, refused to let them fish in the lagoon again and told them to obtain special passes to fish in the sea off Naakar Kovil which is under its control.

The Kilaly fishermen say that they have to travel more than 18 kilometers to the coast in Naakar kovil and that, very importantly, they do not have the gear to fish in the deep seas.

They said that traditionally they have engaged only in shallow water fishing in the Jaffna lagoon off the coast of Thenmaradchi, and hence do not have the wherewithal to fish in the ocean. The army has now instructed them to obtain forms from the Citizens' Committee office at Palai to apply for the special passes required for fishing in the seas off Naakar Kovil. I can pile up more instances of the tensions which continue to stymie the efforts by the army and the government to make, with some helpful input from the Germans, British etc, Jaffna a 'showcase' item in the "war for peace". But two more would suffice to underscore the fundamental issue we set out to discuss here. The agencies and the press in Colombo gave the impression that everything was going fine with the much awaited start of the Chemmani investigation after flying back from Jaffna with the AG department officials and the CID.

But what did the only paper in Jaffna, the Uthayan, do? It described the visit as a political stunt.

And then, Douglas Devananda has, in a surprise swipe at the army on Thursday charged that there is a "diabolical scheme" to colonise Sinhalese on 12 thousand acres of prime land in Kankesanthurai (KKS), Tellipalai, Palaly and Vasavilaan in Waligamam North belonging to Tamil civilians He says, "For some time we have been hearing a theory. That is that the armed forces in Jaffna would be safe from the Tigers if they were surrounded by a colony of friendly civilians, meaning Sinhalese civilians. This theory starts with the axiom that the Tamil civilians will never be friendly."

Douglas I think has, in what seems to be a remarkable flash of wisdom or compunction, hit the nail on the head.

Mistrust, at the bottom, is the problem. The remedy, as always, seems nowhere in sight.
 

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