Peace process and fundamental rights of Tamil people

by V. Anandasangaree
President, TULF
(A letter Mr. Anandasangaree has written to President Chandrika Kumaratunga. .)

Please bear with me for this lengthy letter which I hope you will have the patience to read and take suitable action. Since I have to give certain details related to the issue, the letter had become lengthy for which I seek your pardon.

When the Norwegian special representative Mr. Eric Solheim took up the responsibility of bringing the Government and the LTTE to the negotiating table, to work out a satisfactory solution to the ethnic problem, everyone was very happy. Although Eric Solheim started his mission as a facilitator he gradually assumed the role of the mediator, which I welcomed. I am aware of the embarrassment he faced and of the obstacles that crossed his way. One day in Parliament the Speaker Hon. Anura Bandaranaike had to remind a member of the presence of Mr. Solheim in the gallery, when that member made a speech slandering Solheim. Since the front benchers failed to defend him I, from the opposition, had to defend him and offer an apology on behalf of the country. I am now compelled to believe that Mr. Solheim, is deviating from his mediatory role and acting in a partisan manner, favouring the LTTE without any regard or consideration for the suffering Tamils. His role now appears to be detrimental to the Tamil cause, more related to the democratic and fundamental rights.

I am a Tamil senior citizen. I had been in active politics for well over 45 years and served as a Member of Parliament for about 17 years. I have a duty cast on me, when all The elected Tamil Members of Parliament from the North and the East and various NGOs have failed in their duty, to highlight the sufferings of the Tamil people in the provinces of the North and the East. Many Tamil voices had been silenced by the LTTE’s guns. Even Heads of States of various countries are silent on this issue. I am duty bound, in spite of the risks I face, to bring to the notice of the International Community, through the respective Diplomatic Missions, the poor plight of the Tamil people in Sri Lanka and urge them to break their silence and express their views, without leaving the entire matter in the hands of a single or few individuals.

What the country wants today is peace. There is no doubt about it, but certainly not at any price. If we are going to achieve Peace only by surrendering all our fundamental, human and democratic rights to the LTTE we do not want that Peace. What the Tamils want is peace with dignity and all their rights preserved. We want to live like any other Sri Lankan in the South of Sri Lanka.

For obvious reasons Members of Parliament from both the Government and the opposition come out with strong statements, off and on, praising the LTTE without realising the ground situation in the areas held by the government and the LTTE. In a statement made recently Mr. Eric Solheim too had boasted that three years of Cease fire has saved thousands of lives. It is true, but it has also deprived the Tamils of the North and the East of their fundamental and democratic rights.

Everyone is talking only about Peace and everyone wants to satisfy only the LTTE by conceding all their demands. The latest addition to this list is the World Bank Country Director Mr. Peter Harrold who wants to release 06 Billion Rupees to the LTTE recognising it as a legitimate Stakeholder. This is a glaring example of the lack of knowledge of the ground situation. The World Bank is for the people and not for the LTTE. Unfortunately no one bothers about the Tamil people who are living under the subjugation of the LTTE and weeping in silence. The Tamils need to be liberated from these so called liberations, the LTTE before they are made Permanent Slaves of theirs. The Tamils never suffered like this, under any government, at any time. There was discrimination at one stage mainly in the fields of Education, Employment and Development. However they were not completely overlooked in these fields. In any case, the Tamils enjoyed their democratic rights although there were violations of Human Rights and Fundamental rights, off and on, which are nothing compared to what is happening today, even in areas held by the Government which had been gradually taken over by the LTTE, after the Cease Fire Agreement was signed with the Government. By allowing this the Government had made the biggest blunder, other one being allowing the LTTE to levy taxes on goods that pass through the A9 road and collecting toll from the users of that road.

In the good old days, the people could make their protests in any form and in any manner they wanted to. People had hartals, black flag demonstrations, protest meetings etc, but not under compulsion of anybody. As long as they were non-violent the Police looked on without any interference. We had an Independent Media. One could write or say, for or against, anything they liked.

I remember, when Hon. Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike the Prime Minister, at that time visited Jaffna to open the Jaffna University, a number of public meetings were held to condemn her policies. A massive Sathiyagraha, was organised to protest against her visit. Yet she came and opened the University without any incidents. Not a single person who participated in that function was harmed or threatened by anybody. Our fundamental rights were not interfered with by any authority.

This is the type of freedom and democratic rights the people enjoyed in the past. The LTTE cadre had been so brain-washed that they will not believe that the Tamils were so free and were never subjugated to the Sinhalese people or to anybody else.

What is happening today in Tamil areas is shocking. Our people can’t talk or write freely. They can’t do anything without the interference of the LTTE cadre. There are a handful of fictitious organisations representing various trades, unified under an umbrella organisation calling itself the Federation of People’s Organisations. They derive their authority from the LTTE Leadership. This organisation is made use of by the LTTE for all their activities. Innocent school children are used in large numbers for demonstrations against the Government, backed by the LTTE. When even educated leaders of some Political Parties do not properly understand the provisions of the Interim Self Governing Authority (ISGA) how can one expect these organisations and small school children to understand it. Yet instigated by the LTTE they all, demonstrate, demanding the ISGA as a prerequisite to re-start talks with the Government.

The Tamil people are now at the mercy of the LTTE I do not deny that successive Governments from May, 1972 had been very cruel towards the Tamil youths who had been actively involved in politics. Some times even innocent Tamil youths had become victims. There were some killings, long term detentions, torture etc. But today the LTTE had broken all records as far as the killings and detentions of the Tamil youths are concerned. Recently, in Vavuniya, when a Member of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission wanted to visit a youth belonging to another group detained by the LTTE, he was held by the neck and pushed out of the LTTE’s political office. This is not the type of Political activity for which provision was made in the Cease Fire Agreement (CFA).

Apart from those who had the means to flee the country, thousands of Tamil youths belonging to other armed groups had been killed mercilessly by the LTTE. There had been abductions with no trace of the abducted. Even after the cease fire agreement had been signed, many Tamil youths belonging to other groups had been killed, accused of giving information to the Army. What is the type of information one could give against the LTTE when they have easy access to any part of the country, in any number.

Many Politicians, Heads of Schools, Academics, Lawyers, Journalists top ranking Government Servants, Government Agents etc., were killed by the LTTE It should be noted that not a single person in this category had ever been killed by the Sinhala forces. All these killings are among the Tamils and by the Tamils.

Of the nine provinces in Sri Lanka there is a larger concentration of Tamil population in the provinces of the North and the East. Each of these two provinces is divided into two sections, one under the control of the LTTE and the other under the control of the Government. Before the Cease Fire Agreement was signed on 22.02.2002 between the Government and the LTTE the parties to the agreement confined themselves strictly to the respective areas under their control. No one was allowed into the LTTE held areas. Behind the LTTE’s "IRON CURTAIN" no one knows as to what is happening there. No information, about their activities, leaks out. Even a person like Mr. Eric Solheim has no access to their areas beyond their meeting point at Kilinochchi. Will Mr. Solheim give a guarantee to the International Community that every thing is o.k. behind the "Iron Curtain?" Is he in a position to give a guarantee that people in Vanni are leading a contended life? I am sure he can’t.

The most unfortunate situation is that in this 21st century-in this modem world in spite of the presence of the United Nations, even long after slavery was abolished and with all countries, except a few enjoying full democratic rights, a group of people are kept like slaves by the very same people who claim to be the liberators of the Tamils.

This situation prevails only in Sri Lanka. Even three years after the Cease Fire Agreement was signed between the two, the situation has not changed at all. The irony is that the Government Machinery is functioning in all the LTTE controlled areas, but strictly under the control of the LTTE and limited only to the benefits received through the Government Machinery. The LTTE is so strict about admitting anybody into their areas that a few months back when two soldiers strayed into their areas they were arrested and remanded by the LTTE court. But these two were released after bargaining with the Government for the release of ten of their cadre in return for the Government’s two. Perhaps there is provision in their penal code for such release, but how these ten LTTE suspects were released is not within my knowledge. There are a number of Tamil detenus detained for very trivial offence for long periods. But unfortunately there is no provision in our laws to release those youths unfairly detained for fair length of time.

A few days back when two soldiers strayed into the no man’s land from the defence line at Kilaly, the LTTE fired at them, killing one and severely injuring the other.

On the other hand, from the day the CFA came into force the LTTE cadre started going into the areas held by the Government very freely, making use of the provisions in the agreement in batches of 50 during the first 30 days, another 50 during the next 30 days and any number after 90 days, to do political work. The only restriction imposed was that they should be unarmed. This provision was very cleverly manoeuvred to out-wit the Government. The Government failed to take into consideration that these area were recaptured from the LTTE which held these areas for a long time. Today they are not only in the so called cleared areas, they can be found in every nook and corner of Sri Lanka.

Another provision agreed on was relating to the disarming of the other groups. The Government’s failure to get an assurance that the LTTE’S arms will not be used against anyone resulted in hundreds, belonging to the other groups, getting killed. Before the CFA anyone could go to any area held by the Government. But today the LTTE’s dominance all over, prevents others opposed to the LTTE from going freely to any part of the area held by the Government in the North and the East.

A matter that should be condemned is the recruitment of small children by the LTTE to their cadre. Even the Member of Parliament of the TNA who themselves have children had not protested to the LTTE against this.

Civilians and school children are compelled by the LTTE to take part in anti-Government demonstration, under threat. Demonstrations and hartals are organized by the LTTE for trivial matters, merely to promote themselves. LTTE is behind all hartals and demonstrations. In many cases the poor civilians become victims due to the LTTE provoking the army. If an army vehicle meets with an accident, the civilians are incited to set fire to the vehicle. The LTTE is going all out to provoke the army to precipitate communal riots.

Every LTTE cadre is a leader. The people have to carry out the orders without questioning. The people live in constant fear and tension. Unfortunately the electronic and the print media do not say or write a word against the LTTE. The Tamil media in foreign countries also are under the control of the LTTE.

I have not given an exaggerated report of the prevailing situation in the North and the East. Much more could be said about the LTTE. I humbly request the International Community to study the situation carefully and find out the ways and means of reaching the ordinary people in these areas to know the truth. It is not easy to get anything from them without strong assurance that strict secrecy would be maintained.

The LTTE is trying to establish a dictatorship. They are not interested in finding a solution to the problem that will be acceptable to the Tamil people. They want a solution the way they want. Today they are in control of the North and the East. They dictate terms to the government officers who, from top to bottom, obey the orders of the LTTE. Minister’s can’t visit even areas under the control of the Government. The Governor of the North - East was warned not to visit Jaffna. All the Tsunami relief had to be handed over to them. They have not allowed the 22 Members of Parliament to take part in any discussion with the President or with the Prime Minister about Tsunami relief. By their arrogance they have already deprived the Tsunami victims of their due share. The Tsunami victims will have to pick up the crumbs and the left oversa, after all the requirement of others are met.

Off and on the LTTE organises demonstrations and engage in provocative acts. They insist on hoisting their Tiger flag in every function in the cleared areas also. A number of people had died in accidents, in their areas. If by chance an army vehicle knocked down a person, they made capital out of it and organized hartals and demonstrations, at which throw stones to provoke the army. The conscription of children continues to take place. They do everything they want and any way they choose.

The time has now come for the International Community to tell the Tigers that they must now tame themselves or get tamed.

The Government of Sri Lanka has given in too much to the LTTE to the detriment of the Tamil people. The interests of the Tamils were not considered at all. In the enxiety of bringing peace, the preservation of the rights of the Tamils is forgotten.

The Tamils will be satisfied with a Federal solution. The Indian type or any other model recommended by the International Community should be acceptable. I am positively sure that the International Community with the participation of our neighbour India can easily find a solution to the satisfaction of everybody. The responsibility of liberating the Tamils from the LTTE is now in the hands of the International Community.

I strongly urge you your Excellency to persuade your Government also to get involved fully in finding a reasonable solution to the ethnic problem. If it is not now it will then be never.



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