OF THIS SECTION
Letter from Teaching
Staff of Jaffna University, 27 January 1996
Reply by UTHR(J) to Letter by Teaching Staff of Jaffna University
The Hypocrisy of the Uncommitted Mind, 25th February 1996
UTHR Credibility Under Attack
Human Rights Group Linked to Sri Lankan Government -
South Asia Media Services, Chennai, 11 January 1997
Mugunthan on the UTHR - Ignorance Costs Lives,
Tamil Circle, 14 January 1997
Bulletins & Statements
[see also http://www.uthr.org
The curse of Impunity Part I - Bindunuwewa, the Thin End of the
Wedge of Impunity - Special Report 19 Part I, 12 June 2005
Political Killings and Rituals of Unreality - No. 38
- 21st July 2005
of two Disasters and the Fickleness of Terror Politics
Bulletin No. 37, 10th January 2005
Batticaloa Fiasco & the Tragedy of Missed Opportunities
Bulletin No. 36, 29th May 2004
Worm Turns and Elections Where the People Will Not Count
Bulletin No. 35, 8th March 2004
Tyranny: Undermining Democratic Potential for Peace - Special Report No.17,
7 October 2003
Murder of T. Subathiran : Sri Lanka’s End Game - UTHR
Statement, 15 June 2003
North – East: Democracy on Death Row - Bulletin No.32, 2 May
Child Conscription and Peace: A Tragedy of
Contradictions - Special Report No.16, 18 March 2003
Gathering Storm in the East - Bulletin No.31, 13th January, 2003
Cost of 'Peace' and Dividends of Terror - Bulletin No.30,3
Meaning of "People's Action" and Consequences of
Prolonged Negotiations - Bulletin No.29, 26
In the Shadows of
Sattahip : Many Faces of Peace - Special Report No.15, 4 October 2002
Plight of Child Conscripts, Social Degradation & Anti-Muslim
Frenzy - Special Report No.14, 20 July 2002
Towards Totalitarian Peace: The Human Rights Dilemma - Bulletin
No.13, 9 May 2002
the test: LTTE extortion continues unchecked - UTHR Statement, 20
the Name of "Peace": Terror stalks the North-East - Bulletin
No.28,1 February 2002
activism, suicidal politics and civil society - Briefing No.4, 4
Response to President Kumaratunge’s CNN Interview -UTHR Statement,
12 November 2001
LTTE, Child Soldiers and Serial Disasters : A
Challenge Without an Answer? Bulletin No.27,
19 October 2001
Vanishing Young and the silent agony of Sun Set shore (Paduvankarai) -
Bulletin No.26, 20 September 2001
Fatal Conjunction:Women, Continuing Violations & Accountablity:
Bulletin No.25 11 July 2001
Ordeal of Civilians in Thenmaratchy: - Bulletin No.24, 7 September
Sun God’s Children & The Big Lie - Bulletin No.23, 11 July
Scent Of Danger - Bulletin No.22,30 January 2000
|Disturbing Drift in the
Vanni - the Lost Civilian Dimension - Bulletin No.21, 21 July 1999
Of Peace & The Primacy of the Political Thrust - Briefing No.3,
17 June 1999
Tragedy Of Vanni Civilians &Total Militarisation - Bulletin No.20,19
Case: Disappearances & Accountability - Special Report No.12, 28 April 1999
Air Flight 602 From Jaffna: Crossing The Bar Into The Twilight OF
Silence - Bulletin No.19, 16 October 1998
Heroine Unmourned & the Sociology of Obfuscation - Special Report
No.11, 15 September 1998
Jaffna: Urgency Of Political Settlement &
Importance of Larry Wijetatne’s Legacy - Bulletin No.18, 8 July
| Countdown in the
Vanni - Looking Beyond the Tigers - Bulletin No.17, 27 May 1998
Through Jaffna’s Sultry Sunset - Special Report No.10, 9 April
Outrage at Thampalakamam - The hidden reality - Bulletin No.16, 5
Behind the war of words - Bulletin No.15 -
Bulletin No.15, 4 November 1997
Murder Of Rev. Arulpalan And The Government’s Denial - UTHR
Statement, 11 October 1997
Current Situation & Prospects - Bulletin: No.14, 24 August 1997
vision skewed - Special Report No.9, 7 June 1997
Politics of Fear - Special Report No.8, 7 March 1997
of New Trends in Jaffna - Bulletin No.13 -
Bulletin No.13, 27 December 1996
People Crushed - Bulletin No.12, 22 October 1996
Contest Between Man & Beast - Special Report No:7, 29 August 1996
Survival & Human Dignity: Batticaloa & Amparai - Bulletin No.11,
9 July 1996
Massacre, Trincomalee District - Bulletin No.10, 2 March 1996
and Armed Forces - Batticaloa District - Bulletin No.9, 30 December 1995
from Jaffna - Special Report No.6 , 6 December 1995
& the Jaffna offensive - Bulletin No.8, 8 November 1995
Lanka : Civilian well being in a time of war : A lost hope? - UTHR
Statement, 10 October 1995
Military Operation & its after effects - Bulletin No.7, 4
in the North - East war: 1985-1995 -Briefing No.2, 20 June 1995
on the situation in the Batticaloa & Amparai Districts - Bulletin
No.6, 9 June 1995
of hostilities : Keeping issues in perspective - UTHR Statement, 8
prisoners of the LTTE - Bulletin No.5, 8 March1995
the burden of Ideology - Bulletin No.4, 13 February 1995
Peace Process & the Incident near S .Sebastian's, Mannar -
Bulletin No.3, 15 October 1994
Minds & The Violence of Attrition - Report No.13, 15 June 1994
Sullen Hills, The Saga of Up Country Tamils - Special Report No.4, January 1994
Sovereign Will to Self-Destruct-The ContinuingSaga of Dislocation &
Disintegration - Report No.12, 15 November 1993
Manal Aru To Weli Oya and The spirit of July 1983 - Special Report No.5, 15 September 1993
Human Rights & Eastern Predicament. - Report No.11, 15 April
rights and The Issues of War and Peace - Briefing No.1, August 1992
Trapped People among Peacemakers and Warmongers - Report No.9, 18
of Hope Amidst Deepening Gloom - Report No.10, 15 January 1992
Debasement of Law and of Humanity and the Drift Towards Total War. -
Report No.8, 28 August 1991
|Continuing Tragedy in
Batticaloa & Amparai Districts - Report No.7, 8 May 1991
Politics of Destruction and the Human Tragedy - Report No.6, 4
|The War and its Consequences in the Amparai
District. - Special Report No.3, 16 October 1990
A Bloody Stalemate. - Report No.5, 10 September 1990
- The Sri Lankan Military Operation in the Islands off
Jaffna - Special Report No.2, August/September 1990
Bombing in Jaffna - Special Report No.1, 25 August 1990
War of June 1990 - Report No.4, August 1990
1989 - Report No. 3, November 1989
end, 1989 - Report No.2
1989 - Report
University Teachers for Human Rights
Whatever may be said, who ever may say it - to
determine the truth of it, is wisdom - Thirukural
The Reports by the University Teachers for Human Rights
(Jaffna Branch) have often attracted controversy.
On the one hand, the
criticism has been made that the writers
of the reports are no longer attached to the Jaffna University and that their continued
use of the description UTHR (Jaffna Branch) is not only misleading but is also an attempt
to give the reports a legitimacy and 'status' that they lack. The further point has also
been made that the Sri Lanka government and the Sinhala media have often given inordinate
prominence to the UTHR reports, and exploited these reports to undermine the
struggle for self determination. Here, the comments of the
Asia Media Services and Mugunthan are not
On the other hand, UTHR (Jaffna Branch) reply that the writers of the reports were
unable to continue to work in Jaffna because their lives were endangered, that the
termination of their employment by the Jaffna University is being contested, and that in
any event the reports should be judged on their instrinsic value and content.
This latter contention is not without merit.
The struggle of the Tamil people for self determination is rooted in that which is
right and just - and will be strengthened, not weakened by an open examination of the issues that confront it. The Tamil struggle for freedom has no need for a 'media
censorship' of the kind imposed by the Sinhala dominated Sri Lankan government from time
to time - a media censorship which has served
as a cloak for genocidal attacks by the
Sinhala dominated Sri Lanka government against the Tamil people.
An armed resistance movement is not an afternoon tea party. At the same time, the means
adopted by a struggle for freedom and the ends that it seeks to achieve are inseparable.
Furthermore, 'humanising the armed conflict' is a necessary objective (and should be honestly
supported). But the good faith of those who question some of the means adopted by the
armed resistance of the Tamil people will be less open to question, if at the same time
they do not deny the justice of the ends that the Tamils, as a people, are struggling to
achieve. Martin Luther King's words in April 1963
are not without relevance:
"Over the past few years ....I have tried to make clear that it is wrong to use
immoral means to attain moral ends. But now I must affirm that it is just as wrong, or
perhaps even more so, to use moral means to preserve immoral ends."
Those who deny the
right of the people of Tamil
Eelam to freedom from alien Sinhala rule and the
legitimacy of the armed resistance movement, may end up
by making impotent pleas for 'human rights' and
'justice' from Sinhala dominated Sri Lanka governments who have
systematically oppressed the Tamil people during the past
The Sri Lanka government then uses these 'pleas' and 'reports' to undermine the
legitimacy of the Tamil struggle for freedom - and continue
genocidal attacks on the Tamil people with increased vigour. Furthermore, given the
use to which the UTHR reports have been put by Sri Lanka, the 'sources' (often unnamed) on
whose information the reports are based, become suspect - suspect as being agents of the
Sri Lanka government. Having said that, it will be wrong to dismiss the UTHR
reports out of hand and without careful examination - because in the end -
Whatever may be said, who ever may say it - to
determine the truth of it, is wisdom - Thirukural
Letter from Teaching
Staff of Jaffna University, 27 January 1996
University of Jaffna,
Sri Lanka Faculty of Agriculture,
27 January 1996
To whom it may concern
UTHR (Jaffna) and its activities
We the members of the teaching staff of the University of Jaffna wish to express our
anger and resentment at the reports published by the so called University Teachers for
Human Rights (Jaffna) regarding the recent happenings in the Jaffna peninsula.
The information contained in these reports are based on hearsay and authenticity of the
sources from which they are supposed to have been obtained is open to question. The
information does not give a true or complete picture of the events preceding and following
the exodus of people from the Valigamam and Jaffna town areas of the peninsula and seems
to be intended to serve only one goal, namely to discredit the LTTE.
The authors of these reports under the pseudonym UTHR (Jaffna) with a view to winning
respect and credibility from its readers by misleading them into believing that the Jaffna
University Teachers are associated with their reports.
We wish to deny categorically, once again, that any teachers of the University of
Jaffna other than these two ex-staff members are in any way connected directly or
indirectly with this organisation called UTHR (Jaffna) and we challenge the organisation
to disprove our assertion.
The authors of the report have not even visited the North ever since they
ceased to be members of the University staff five years ago. They have taken up residence
in an area outside the theatre of war and have no first hand knowledge of the conditions
here. Whatever they publish has to be based on information supplied to them either by the
government or the people travelling to Colombo from the North and such information and the
inferences the authors have made from them are highly selective and suited to their goal
of vilification of the LTTE.
The people living in the North, including ourselves, have suffered infinitely more
hardships due to military action by the Sri Lankan security forces and the oppressive
administrative actions of the Sri Lankan government than due to any human rights
violations of the LTTE. Hundreds of civilians have been killed in a gruesome manner and
thousands have suffered serious injuries as a result to the indiscriminate artillery
shelling and aerial bombing of thickly populated civilian areas by the security forces.
A large number of houses have also been completely damaged due to the same reasons.
Under these circumstances the people living in the war torn area needed no encouragement
or coercion from the LTTE or any other sources to leave the area and seek shelter
elsewhere when there was a sudden worsening of the security situation. In fact, people who
valued their lives more than their properties quickly sought shelter elsewhere as they did
during the previous military operations in the peninsula, the islands and the eastern
province. Heavier civilian casualties were avoided not because of the sympathy and concern
shown by the security forces to the safety of civilians but due to the timely evacuation
of the civilians from the area of conflict. Perhaps the authors of the report are not
aware that people are still leaving the Vadamaratchchi due to intense artillery shelling
which has claimed more than fifteen lives during the last two months and caused serious
injuries to several more.
Incidentally, the appeal by the government to the civilians to return to the
"liberated area" sounds hollow under these circumstances.
The above human rights violations by the security forces and those of the government in
preventing free flow of food, medicine, liquid cash and other essential items to the
North, detaining mails and postal articles destined to the North in Colombo for several
months, indiscriminate arrest and harassment of Tamil people in the South and detaining
Tamils who travelled to Colombo in transit camps in Vavuniya irrespective of their age,
sex or status, do not apparently seem to the authors as serious human rights violations as
those purported to have been committed by the LTTE. If these matters are referred to at
all, they find only casual mention in the reports and their inclusion seems to be intended
to give a semblance of impartiality with a view of hiding the real purpose of the reports.
We are surprised that even the BBC and particularly its Tamil service which has been
one of the few dependable sources of news for the Tamil people in Northern Sri Lanka has
come under attack by this so called human rights organisation. It appears that the
popularity of the BBC among the Tamil people seems to be a cause of worry for the authors
of the report. We would like to congratulate the BBC and urge them to continue their
impartial reporting without being deterred by the comments or criticism by organisations
like the UTHR (Jaffna)
It is not clear on whose behalf or for whose benefit the
authors have been preparing these reports but it is obvious that the reports will not
serve the cause of the Tamils who have been struggling for over four decades to liberate
themselves from the tyranny of an ethnic majority, first peacefully, and having failed in
their peaceful attempts, now militarily.
Dr. A. Navaratnarajah, Senior Lecturer in Animal Science
Mr. R. Vijayaratnam, Senior Lecturer in Agrucultural Engineering
Mr. S. Rajadurai, Senior Lecturer in Agronomy
Dr. S. Mohanadhas, Senior Lecturer in Agricultural Chemistry
Prof. S.V. Parameswaran, Senior Professor of Physiology
Prof. K. Kunaratnam, Senior Professor of Physics
Reply by UTHR(J) to Letter by Teaching Staff of Jaffna University
The Hypocrisy of the Uncommitted Mind
Published in the Sinhala owned Sri Lanka Sunday Island, 25th February 1996
"Anybody who wanted to recognize the full extent of the terror had to keep his eyes open. One would think that the intellectual class of people would have seen this; but this was by no means true as whole. At that time I had to learn to revise my ideas about the role of education and intelligence in political matters. The fact is that the intelligent person has at his disposal enough arguments and associations to prove to himself that what he fears isn't true at all. He is also much smarter at assessing the opportunistic chances of getting ahead than naive spirits. Thus precisely in the intellectual class one could observe lamentable examples of character failure and delusion. In times which demand the utmost of men, intellectual enlightenment is of very little help. The uncommitted mind, though it has been highly trained and perhaps has even achieved the eminence of a renowned academic chair, all too easily succumbs to the law of least resistance. The person who insists upon maintaining his self-respect in the midst of the terror or refuses to become an object of contempt in the face of the hunger and dread of a concentration camp does not need to be an 'educated' man; " but he must have inner reserves and commitments. -
Helmut Thielicke, Between Heaven & Earth
"We have now been living under the long shadow of the gun for more than a decade and a half, holding hope against hope for the survival of our children who are dominated by violence from all directions without purpose or meaning. But, on the other hand, we also note the glazed faces of people accepting it all with a sense of resignation. Under these circumstances, to be objective or analytical seems to be a major effort, like trying to do something physical in the midst of a debilitating illness.
Whenever we write we are dogged by this reality, fearing our losing the tread to sanity and the community submerging without resistance into this slime of terror and violence. The community is bereft of all its human potential. Every "sane" person is fleeing this burning country.... If our earlier account had appeared to be "plugging a line", as some would want to put it, it was because it was important for us to arrive at a synthesis in analysis, seek an understanding, find spaces to organise, and revitalise a community that was sinking into a state of resignation.
Objectivity was not solely an academic exercise for us. Objectivity, the pursuit of truth and the propagation of critical and honest positions, was crucial for the community. But they could also cost many of us our lives. Any involvement with them was undertaken only as a survival task...."
Dr. Rajani Thiranagama , Broken Palmyra
The first of the two quotations above was taken from a response by the German theologian Helmut Thielicke to a question from an American audience on how Germany which produced men like Beethoven and made great contributions to civilisation, also produced Hitler and the Nazi regime? The second is from Dr.Rajani Thiranagama, who was killed in 1989 while she was an active member of the UTHR(J). The two bring out the present reality in Jaffna and the role of the intellectuals.
It is in this context that we have the statement questioning the activities of the UTHR(J) which appeared in the press, signed by 27 members of the staff from the University of Jaffna. This is about the sixth in a series of statements over the last four years intended to discredit the University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna).
The tone has now risen to a shrill cry of 'anger and resentment' along with claims about us phrased in severe adjectives. Despite the quantitative rise of excoriations there has been no specific criticism of our facts or analyses.
The recent attack again is mainly personal. The facts presented in our recent report
'The Exodus from Jaffna; October - November 1995' are very specific. This is now available in print along with other bulletins and statements pertaining to military operations in Jaffna.
We have tried to present a fairly comprehensive picture of the suffering and the evacuation of civilians caught between the LTTE and the government forces. We said very specifically that the people who had moved into refugee centres in and around Jaffna were forcibly evacuated causing them and their animals enormous pain and suffering. To this end the LTTE used rumours, terror, shelling, and the forced closure of Jaffna Teaching Hospital.
This is not disputed in the statement in question. We have been very clear in our reports that people had been displaced from outlying areas by bombing and shelling that was callous and inexcusable. The point of the statement and of the 'anger and resentment' are not at all clear.
It is quite apparent from the contents of the statement that none of the signatories had actually read our report, but are rather responding to the commentary based on it broadcast by BBC Tamil Osai, and the effect it was likely to have on people. The commentary was a translation of the original written by the BBC correspondent in Colombo.
The LTTE for their part had been very clear about the reasons for the forced exodus. For one, they did not want to 'lose their grip on the future generation'. Refugees at St. John's were told that they must leave because once the army enters they would let loose poison gas all over the city area. They have always maintained that they would never allow a rival Tamil group to run the civil administration in Jaffna.
Our assertions are based on wide- ranging testimony from those who went through the exodus experience, and also from facts collected by those in Jaffna who with all the odds against them value our work as a means to counter the politics of suicide imposed on them. They also include persons from the University. In doing this, they risk their life.
Rationalisations of the LTTE's behaviour are invariably the work of 'intellectuals'. To the ordinary people, however, it was as though fate had decreed that they too should suffer the indignity and tragedy of this exodus, which was very similar to what had been inflicted by the LTTE on the Muslims, 5 years ago, on the identical date of the same month, while others remained silent.
A questionable argument that has been trotted out repeatedly to assert the non-existence of the UTHR(J) is based on spurious legality. The reports are said to be the work of two staff members who ceased to be members of the university five years ago, who therefore use the name of the University of Jaffna in vain.
They (the signatories to the statement) are understandably silent on why the two academics ceased to be on the staff of the University of Jaffna.
Several of those who expressed their 'anger and resentment' in the statement under reference were members of the university council that made the decision to discontinue them. It is not an event that they could be proud of and they certainly did not do it because the LTTE pointed the gun at them.
While the authorities in the University of Jaffna were going through the motions of discontinuing them, senior officials visiting Colombo kept on telling Prof. Aluvihare, who was then UGC Chairman, that owing to their association with human rights work, it was dangerous for them to report at the university.
A former chairman of the Jaffna University Council was questioned about their dismissal in Colombo in the presence of Prof. Aluvihare. The chairman of the council in Jaffna maintained that the dismissal was wrong, and had indeed reminded the council that one of the two had to flee Jaffna(he had narrowly escaped arrest by the LTTE and had first to go underground). But he had failed to record his dissent on the final decision.
When pressed further, he said, "A councillor said at the meeting that they (those openly active in the UTHR(J)) cannot come here because they will be killed. Another councillor shouted that they must be sacked. In the sequel the decision to dismiss was taken. As for me I go with the majority. I believe in consensus".
He then asked Prof. Aluvihare to give him a letter requesting the Jaffna university council to reconsider the decision, and went away. After the next meeting the Council replied, "The former decision stands". The reasons were not given and remain as mysterious as those for the original dismissal.
Prof. Aluvihare urged the two of us concerned to write appeals to the university council and in turn wanted the council to allow the UGC to handle the issue. The Council did no more than repeat, "The decision....stands".
Such abuse of academic power in a supposedly 'autonomous' institution surely belongs to one of the darkest chapters. Legally, our case is still being contested by the Federation of University Teachers' Associations (FUTA) which agrees with our position.
Although University Teachers Association (Jaffna) is also a constituent member of FUTA, it never contested the FUTA's stand. Without going into details, we would like to point out that a large number of teachers in schools and some staff members of the Eastern University had not been vacated when they were forced to leave.
In comparison with the understanding shown to them, our treatment was extremely ungenerous and utterly anomalous. Like some of us were five years ago, the statement's signatories too are now in a position where their (forced) shift out of Jaffna has no legal standing and are effectively debarred by the LTTE from returning to the main university premises in Thinnavely.
Even if the government were to be vindictive and deprive them of legal standing, they would still earn the right to call themselves the University of Jaffna, and the world would recognise them as such, if they determinedly remain a credible voice of academics in service of the community. That has little to do with spurious legality. It is in this very sense that we continue to remain the UTHR(Jaffna), by keeping to the original aims and principles which we adopted at our foundation nearly eight years ago. That was when Dr. Rajani Thiranagama, one of our moving spirits who was since assassinated, was with us.
Again no one has accused us of being untrue to the aims and principles reflected in our early reports. So far we have published 13 reports, 6 special reports and 9 Bulletins. The first seven reports and 3 special reports were published when the two of us who continue to be openly identified with UTHR(J) were `legally' attached to the University.
Credibility & academic integrity
It is here that the question of credibility and the academic integrity of the signatories arises. What they have revealed about the UTHR(J) is more an exercise in concealment. The same could be said at best about their statement's allusions to the
A senior signatory proclaimed thus in an earlier statement faxed all around the world from a suburb of London:
"We from the University left Jaffna on 30th October 1995 with hardly anything in our hands. Such was the fear and panic caused by the shelling of the approaching army... We have walked and cycled many miles in the pouring rains on that memorable night of 30th October 1995 and have taken refuge in Thenmaratchy..."
He had actually left by car when the LTTE made the exodus order, and turned back when the roads were blocked by the large crowds. He continued to criticize the LTTE in Jaffna for several more days before again leaving by car.
Another signatory and senior professor is a leading official of the university. At 10.00 in the morning he was very firm that he would remain defying the LTTE's exodus order. By about 3.00 p.m. the same day, he had been forced to leave for the Vanni. Privately he was cursing the LTTE, accusing them of a big let-down. But a few days later both these gentlemen were associated in pro-LTTE statements addressed to such persons as Boutros Ghali and John Major, often around the theme of genocide!
While attacking the work of the UTHR(J) as one-sided we could safely assert that few, if any, of the signatories had read our reports, not even the recent one on the Exodus. The general attitude to our reports among our erstwhile academic colleagues is a fear that even touching them would be taken amiss by the LTTE.
Our reports on the East have dealt mainly with the role of the State. We have had problems with getting these into the local press. Only one paper used our recent report on the Batticaloa District. Two earlier ones dealing with Jaffna were largely mutilated by the government censor. We have tried to offset these difficulties by going to sections of the foreign media and by posting several hundred printed copies.
Several leading human rights organisations have valued our reports not because we are members of the University of Jaffna, but owing to their contents and analyses. We have a continual dialogue with such organisations that includes sympathetic criticism. One of our earlier reports on the East was, we think, rightly criticised for its handling of Muslim-Tamil relations, both by Muslims here as well as by others concerned with human rights. It is unfortunate that relatively a few people read our reports and the media had meanwhile made selective use of them. In this situation it is all too easy to slander our work.
While we are being accused of discrediting the LTTE with some dark motives and acting contrary to the interests of the Tamils, the statements about us themselves offer no defence of the LTTE. There is no discussion of the LTTE beyond a reference to 'violations purported to have been committed by the LTTE'. Their silence on the all-important role of the LTTE says much that is readily understandable. It is the very reason for which their 'anger and resentment' of the UTHR(J) is all-the- more misplaced.
We would readily sympathise with a young boy or girl led to join the LTTE because of alienation resulting from the conduct of the State and falling victim to the seemingly alluring alternative offered by the LTTE. But in the very defence of the Tamil community, the academics are duty-bound to ask questions on a broader level.
If they cannot do this, their actions supposedly in the defence of the Tamil community are only a self-serving game. Their repeatedly accusing the government of bombing, shelling, genocide and harassment of Tamils in the South is not defending the Tamils. The problems of Tamils they mention are serious problems. But they do not happen in isolation of the broader context - that of paralysis of the political and intellectual life of Tamils.
It is for example important to ask: Why did the LTTE continuously choose the course war without giving other options a chance? Why does the LTTE massacre Sinhalese peasants, including women and children? Why are we trapped in a political environment that drives the people through the same tragedy and trauma again and again? Is not the open discussion of such questions key to the survival of Tamils?
Once more on the question of responsibility, those issuing the statements on behalf of the University of Jaffna pass them on immediately to LTTE agents. Within a short time these are splashed in the LTTE media and are faxed and E-mailed to their agents all over the world. The statements themselves stop short of the explicit - "It is not clear on whose behalf or for whose benefit the authors have been preparing these reports?".
The LTTE media and propagandists extrapolate without restraint as is most often characteristic of the perverted minds of 'long distance nationalists.' The UTHR(J), these nationalists assert, are fakes and traitors in the pay of the Sri Lankan government. These statements and commentaries on them are further used to campaign against us among the Tamil people and among the youth - 'the future generation must decide the fate of these traitors'. Such is their sense of responsibility, that these academics have been happy to issue statements and let this go on.
There is a level at which the authors of the statement deserve understanding, if not sympathy. Hardly any of those who have signed are genuine sympathisers of the LTTE. The LTTE know that. Like with other institutions, the university too is run by influential individuals, several of whom used the LTTE for personal ends.
We must understand the utter hopelessness and despair resulting to a person living in Jaffna if he is to look at the situation straight in the eye. Hence he has to avoid seeing it straight and has to repress the truth. Such has been the conditioning that people at a meeting would automatically perform the ritual of praising the LTTE and delivering a scathing attack on the government. Today they are all effectively trapped. The majority would be happy to get out if the whole family is given a pass to Colombo or to go back to their homes in Valikamam if there is a semblance of normalcy.
If those who signed the statement believe that our work does not serve the cause of the Tamils, do they believe that the LTTE's politics serves the Tamil cause? If so would they take responsibility for the resumption of hostilities in April last year and its consequence? would they wholeheartedly support the present exodus? Would it not be more worthwhile for the Tamil `cause' for them to explore the ways and means out of the present predicament rather than issuing statements and venting their anger on scapegoats? Can they not help the people to go back to their homes by talking to the opposing parties and creating a climate conducive to that end?
Why do we continue with the work of the UTHR(J)?
The tragedy is that many of us have avenues to send our children away to safe places, or have the influence to save them from LTTE recruitment through connivance with the organisation.But what options are there for the suffering masses who have no avenues, but get further trapped in to the politics of collective suicide?
We may make the point here that our criticism has never been directed against ordinary LTTE cadre or their families, whom we have always regarded as victims. But much, if not most, of our criticism has been directed against intellectuals and religious leaders whose opportunism and failings of character did much to cast the entire Tamil community into the grip of a terrible fate.
Again, Helmut Thielcke, reflecting on the Nazi regime that brought so much tragedy both within and outside his country, had this to say:
"As bitter folk humour expressed it at that time, of the three qualities, namely, being a Nazi, being intelligent and having character, one can have only two. Either one can be a Nazi and be intelligent, in which case one has no character; or one can be a Nazi and have character, in which case one is not intelligent; or one can be intelligent and have character, in which case one is not a Nazi."
We believe that by being true to ourselves, we could influence the international community and even the ordinary Sinhalese people. Only thus could we make the Government and the security forces accountable to the Tamil civilians and bring sanity into the drift.
We in the UTHR(J), which includes those who share our ideals and help us, but cannot, and indeed need not, associate themselves with us publicly, felt that this was the minimum we could do. With this aim, and the change in our situation which followed the murder of our colleague Rajani Thiranagama, we have gone along as events carried us, with no lack of help from friends. We had no illusions of being popular. Obviously, we have stirred too many emotions, both favourably and unfavourably, for there to be an objective consensus about our work. That will come in retrospect.
UTHR Credibility Under Attack
Human Rights Group Linked to Sri Lankan Government
South Asia Media Services,
Chennai, 11 January 1997
Analysts long believed that the Sri Lankan government has engaged both internal and external agents to carryout its smear campaign against the Tamil struggle and LTTE. The internal agents include the government's own media and its support staff, some individuals within the Sinhala and Tamil communities and a few front organizations. Invariably, all these agents are either directly or indirectly funded by the Sri Lankan government. This practice of government sponsored smear campaign is reminiscent of the tactics used against East Timorean struggle and the African National Conference(ANC).
The South Asia Media Services(SAMS), an independent non profit media services with reporters in all South Asian countries has undertaken to write on the different propaganda sources used by the Sri Lankan government. As a first topic, the SAMS has chosen to review the activities of one of the internal front organizations, the Jaffna University Teachers Human Rights(UTHR) group, based in Colombo.
The UTHR is headed by Mr. Rajan Hoole and his brother Jeevan Hoole. Although the Hoole brothers use the name, "Jaffna University Teachers", they have no affiliation to the University of Jaffna
... The Hoole brothers have not set foot in Jaffna since their expulsion, but they continue to publish their reports under the UTHR title from the capital Colombo, Sri Lanka. Our Colombo correspondent reports that the major source of information
.... for the UTHR is the Sri Lankan government.
The Jaffna University Teachers Association and the Vice Chancellors, both Professors
Thurairajah and Kunaratnam, of the Jaffna University have
repeatedly written to the press and to the international human rights organizations indicating that UTHR is not affiliated to the Jaffna University and its source of information is a suspect. Furthermore, they added that the university administration has no responsibility to the contents of the "UTHR Reports" and they asked the Hoole brothers not to use the university's name in any of their reports.
A professor who was contacted by phone, insisting on his anonymity for fear of reprisals by the Sri Lankan government, told SAMS, "Hoole brothers have not visited Jaffna since their expulsion in 1988, and they have no way of gathering first hand information about the events in Jaffna". He went on to say that the " Hoole's UTHR reports are biased in favor of the Sri Lankan government. It is not an independent human rights group, but a front organization for the Sri Lankan government".
He added that a recent UTHR report even published a letter from the army commander in Jaffna apologizing for the
gang rape of Miss Rajani Velayuthapillai in
Kondavil. "Do you think that a human rights group can defend the army when the case involving this poor girl has not even come to the court", "Who will bring the dead girl back", asked the professor.
There are many rapes of young girls and murders of innocent civilians going on a daily basis in the army occupied areas of the Jaffna peninsula, and UTHR is helping the status quo by praising the army. In a recent report, the UTHR said that the ten year old,
Miss Renuka Selvarajah of Pathaimany
"may have been molested but not raped as reported by the LTTE. The entire Tamil community is outraged" said a prominent Tamil activist. "This statement clearly shows that UTHR is trying to please the Sri Lankan government and its armed forces. The UTHR has no credibility what so ever in the eyes of the Tamil people", said the human right activist.
The UTHR report has recently praised an army officer, General Janaka
Perera, for his role in Jaffna. The report said that many Tamil civilians
commended the officer for being more humane and easily approachable by the people of Jaffna. It is the same officer, General Janaka Perera, who took some 20
Sinhala prisoners from Nikaweratiya, who were later tortured, clubbed with iron bars and killed at the army camp.
A leading expert on human rights organizations said, "it is unprecedented that any human rights group will pay tribute to an army officer who was accused of killing innocent civilians". The expert observed that UTHR has consistently violated the norms of any human rights groups. One of the recent UTHR reports concluded that,".. a great deal would finally depend whether the army could successfully transform itself from being the conscious instrument of a populist ethno-nationalism that is synonymous with indiscipline, or into a truly national army. This conclusion by the UTHR is more like a report on how to improve the image of the army rather than a report on human rights issue", said the expert.
Experts on Sri Lanka pointed out that the mounting human rights violation by Sri Lankan army in the recently captured territory in the North has severely tarnished the image of Chandrika's regime abroad and organizations such as the UTHR are being used to soften the outrages human rights violations by the armed forces in the North-East of Sri Lanka.
The Tamils are fighting for a homeland in the north and east of the island nation, claiming that they are discriminated against by the majority Sinhalese, who control the government and military. More than 78,000 people most Tamil civilians have been killed in the conflict.
Copyright 1997 South Asian Media Services
Mugunthan on the UTHR - Ignorance Costs Lives
Tamil Circle, 14 January 1997
It is interesting to read that an army officer who would not mind killing his own people was praised by UTHR in
its last report. My belief is that UTHR blatantly ignores the facts. UTHR reports goes on praising the Sri Lankan army all over its report. Then again it also lists all the atrocities committed by the army. How can an army which rapes and kills people be called a well
Are these people (two brothers) just confused? Most of our problems are probably from within. If it is hard
to convince our fellow Tamils that we have a
problem, it would be much much harder to convince the international community we have a problem.
Only the toughest will survive in this world. It looks like there nothing is going to stop the death of the Sri Lankan Tamil nation with the help of Devananda and UTHR. I would like to point out that UTHR was completely silent during the Sri Lankan army early consolidation period in
Jaffna... Is it not possible to take UTHR to court for running something in the name of Jaffna university without any representation or whatsoever from current Jaffna university people.
If you are reading this mail Mr. Jeevan Hoole, why do not you publish who are the members of UTHR? Given that no one I know from Jaffna University ever claimed to be a member of UTHR how can you call yourselves human rights group of Jaffna university? It makes me wonder whether you have personal problems with LTTE which makes you write supporting Sri Lankan army? If we do not solve our personal problems and short sightedness then the Sri Lankan aggressors will demolish us.
We have to look at the whole picture and what are the consequences of what we are doing.
If our former politicians just thought once about Tamils rather than themselves we would have had less problems now. I ask UTHR to think about the Tamils future. I do not have any problems pointing the finger at LTTE for some problems. However, please do not write poems admiring Sinhala generals who simply murdered their brothers and sisters without any regard for humanity.
I would like to point something else out here. If we look at the 1987 Liberation Operation by Sri Lankan army, we will find that Sri Lankan government waited till all the rebel groups fought each other and loose their strength. LTTE demolished TELO, PLOTE to EPRLF without thinking about the consequences. What they got eventually is Liberation Operation and the Indian army.
Pirabaharan made a big mistake by attacking his brothers and sisters...
... We all are perhaps too personally ambitious to do something together as a
community.. I just want to ask all the people who can make a difference in Sri Lankan Tamils to just to consider their plight and please
could you stop fighting over small minded personal problems. anbin Mugunthan