Sinhala  Tamil    Seperate    
Governtment of Sri Lanka

LTTE abuse of Tamils and the Truth

( Created date: 24-Dec-2007 )

The attention of the Peace Secretariat was recently drawn to a statement by the LTTE Spokesperson for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs regarding Jaffna civilians and the transport of Sri Lanka military to and from Jaffna.

The writer, Ms N Selvy, and the Development Spokesperson to whom she had initially sent the statement, Mr V Bavan, are – especially the latter - amongst the brighter sparks in the LTTE. They were comparatively good students in the heady days of optimism, when Bradford University and the Social Scientists Association ran a Conflict Resolution Course up in Kilinochchi. If and when the present intransigent blight in the LTTE is lifted, such educated individuals will we hope be part of a cohesive Sri Lanka.

The present statement however shows a startling ignorance or perhaps ignoring of the need for consistency and evidence for pronouncements. It claims that the  ‘Geneva II talks in October 2006, between the LTTE and the Government of Sri Lanka, broke down because the Government of Sri Lanka refused to open the A9 route to allow Jaffna civilians land access to the rest of the island and the world. Prior to the permanent closure of this A9 route, it served as a life line to the people of Jaffna as well as Vanni. Seriously ill medical cases from Vanni were taken in ambulances to the Jaffna hospital. Every day ambulances plied seven to eight times a day, carrying around six patients in each trip. This is necessitated by the poor medical resources in Vanni. Even the Jaffna hospital resources are very poor in comparison to what is available in the south of island. Many very seriously ill patients were taken to Colombo for treatment through the A9 route.

There are several problems with these assertions. Firstly, talks between the government and the LTTE have broken down on several occasions simply because the LTTE decided they would break down. Shakespeare’s rather unfair characterization of women – I have none other but a woman’s reason. I think him so because I think him so – would have been far more appropriate for the LTTE, even if Ms Selvy is the specific exponent of this school of non-thought in this instance. In short, the particular pretext advanced by the LTTE at any stage is not the reason for anything because, as we have often seen, the reason changes each time.

In 2003 the LTTE withdrew for the reasons given in Mr Balasingham’s long letter. In June 2006 they did not even start talking, for reasons which are not clear, except perhaps in the revelation of the Norwegian Ambassador that Mr Thamilselvam ‘had insisted that the issue of child recruitment does not fall within the parameters of the CFA’. The Norwegian Ambassador had very properly disagreed with this and pointed out that the CFA did mention abductions, and also that ‘continued recruitment was extremely damaging to the image of the LTTE at the international level’. The LTTE may have finally understood this, when Ms Radhika Coomaraswamy spoke up boldly against their violation of national and international laws. Having run circles round the last UNICEF Head in Sri Lanka, they have finally said that ‘by the end of this year LTTE will announce that there are no more under-18 persons in the organization’.

Prevarications regarding child soldiers

Entertainingly, according to the LTTE, ‘The UNICEF Head said that his visit was an introductory meeting with the Political Head. Among the topics discussed were the work of United Nations in general in the Tamil homeland and the program of releasing under-18 persons in the LTTE….Pointing to the delay by UNICEF in completing its part in this program, Nadeson called on the UNICEF Head to ensure that UNICEF carry out its part in verifying the under-18 persons released by the LTTE and also in doing its part to reunite the released children with their families….UNICEF must be ready to do its part to complete its role in this program so that it too can remain in sync in its statement. The children being killed and injured by the aerial bombing and claymore attacks of the Sri Lanka were also discussed at the meeting.’

Such a release by the LTTE is understandable, though it is sad that the UN has not as yet seen fit to dissociate itself with the claim that there is ‘work of United Nations in general in the Tamil homeland’ or ‘claymore attacks of the Sri Lanka’. But perhaps the UN has even now realized how serious is the issue of child soldiers and, in welcoming the declaration that the excuses offered to the previous UNICEF head will now cease, perhaps it has forgotten all its other obligations.

LTTE resumption of large scale hostilities and destruction of the A 9 route

Anyway, by October 2006 there was another reason for withdrawal from talks, namely the closure of the A9. Ms Selvy does not however mention why the A9 was closed southward from Jaffna. To put it quite bluntly, this happened after a massive artillery and mortar attack launched by the LTTE on the government forces on August 11th 2006, an attack which was the gravest threat in years to the security of the Jaffna peninsula, and which also destroyed the entire infrastructure built by the government at Muhamalai to facilitate the movement of people and goods.

It is now forgotten that that attack, following hard on the massive attack on Muttur at the beginning of the month, represented the culmination of LTTE violations of the 2002 Ceasefire. And, while the 3000 odd violations before that could have been characterized as individual incursions, not part of a tactical plan (though undoubtedly part of a sustained strategy of attrition), the two attacks of August 2006 were designed to wrench control of the North and East from the government. Sadly, given the oafish antics of Gen Henricsson, diverted from intelligent analysis by his emotional response to restrictions on his movements in Muttur, the SLMM failed signally to monitor and report on the conceptual change represented by these LTTE attacks.

Perhaps because the attacks were repulsed so successfully, and the strategy fell into abeyance, the SLMM, the Norwegians and the rest of the international community have failed to register that that was the culmination of the subtle and not so subtle campaign of murder, abduction and intimidation (to say nothing of purchase and importation of heavy and lethal weaponry) that the LTTE had carried on sustainedly from the day the Ceasefire was signed.

In short, the actions of the Defence forces in August 2006 should have met with Churchillian gratitude, instead of the relentless attacks on them and the government that have ensured, by liars such as General Henricsson and Nicholas Howen of the International Commission of Jurists (who had the temerity to accuse the government of tampering with evidence). In the East, disregarding the continuing sniping, by the LTTE and by other votaries of falsehood, the forces have ensured that such sudden attacks can no longer occur. However, in the North, and in particular at Muhumalai, the LTTE has continued with planned attacks on Government forces, regularly causing death and injury. It is precisely for that reason that the government is unable to open the road there.

LTTE refusal in Geneva to discuss modalities of opening the A 9 or providing supplies and transport by sea

However, when the government agreed at Geneva to discuss the issue further, in trying to seek guarantees that national security will not be compromised by opening up this route, the LTTE remained intransigent. Its purpose after all was not the well being of the citizens of Jaffna, but rather the propaganda use it could make of the closure. Hence its determination to prevent civilian shipping. As reported even in the ‘Leader’, LTTE threats forced the ICRC to stop its initial positive response to the government request  ‘to facilitate the movement of goods and people  from  and  to Jaffna by sea.’ And still the failure to provide the security guarantees necessary for the ICRC to act continues. Indeed, after the attack on a civilian transport in November 2006, there was also an attack on a food ship, which contributed to shortages in Jaffna, though concerted efforts by the Commissioner General for Essential Services rapidly reduced the shortages and prices.

Meanwhile, assuming the LTTE wants to continue to keep the navy occupied in guarding the movement of civilians and supplies on the longer routes, Civil Society, led by the Bishops as well as genuinely concerned Tamil politicians such as Douglas Devananda, has requested the commencement of short haul services, from Mannar to the Jaffna islands. This would provide a much cheaper service for people wishing to travel from Jaffna, and for goods for sale. However, though the ICRC has now been twice requested to facilitate such a service, the required security guarantees have not been forthcoming.

The reasons for LTTE hostility to sea routes are suggested by Ms Selvy’s statement, in that generally when a particularly outrageous claim is made, it is because that sort of behaviour is characteristic of the complainant. She claims that ‘It is a well known truth that each time this "civilian passenger" ship plies to and from Jaffna and Trincomalee, invariably the Sri Lankan military personal traveling in the ship is many times more than the number of civilians in the ship. It is also well known to the Jaffna population the difficulties one must go through to first obtain a pass from the military to travel and then obtain a seat in the ship. Reports of the Sri Lanka military demanding every civilian wishing to get a seat in the ship to give the military a name of an LTTE supporter in Jaffna have surfaced many times.

Unsurprisingly, these reports have surfaced nowhere except in Ms Selvy’s fertile mind, not even in those of the NGOs that joined together with LTTE NGOs to denigrate the Sri Lankan forces. And even if Ms Selvy believes her own fictions, the remedy is very easy, namely to allow the ICRC to resume supervision of such shipping.

But no, the point is that the sea route cannot be allowed to be successful, however much Tamils may want it, because what the LTTE seeks is fuel with which to set the Sri Lankan state on fire. Firstly, it hopes to rouse hostility against the government. Secondly, it wants the A 9 reopened so it could resume its practice of taxing those who use it, taking ruthless advantage of those who need to travel. Numerous studies, the most detailed perhaps being by the essentially Tamil think tank, the Point Pedro Research Institute, have made clear the enormity of Tiger taxation, which has been levied even on aid projects. Needless to say, the money raised by such taxes was used in the past to buy up and transport weaponry.

Humanitarian support provided by government to the people of Jaffna and the Vanni

Ms Selvy’s desperation to criticize is apparent too in the inconsistencies of her attack. She claims that people in the Vanni have no access to good medical treatment because the road from there to Jaffna is closed. This begs the question of the good medical facilities now available in the Vanni itself, services which the government continues to fund, while it recently ensured the development of the Kilinochchi hospital into one of the better equipped in the country. But it also ignores the fact that the government had throughout kept the route southward from the Vanni open.

Indeed the government wanted this open all week, and it was only because of the LTTE that for some time it was open only for three days. With regard to this too the government made several requests to the ICRC before the required security guarantees were obtained. A mark of LTTE duplicity is that it had insisted – and several British parliamentarians were foolish or cunning enough to believe this – that it was the government that wanted the road closed, and it even convinced the SLMM initially that it was because of an LTTE request that the road was opened for a longer period from a couple of months back.

The SLMM was however soon disabused, though SCOPP said it had no objection to the LTTE also being given credit for this. This failed however to win a similar concession regarding sea routes. Meanwhile the SLMM confirms regularly, since SCOPP as opposed to the LTTE is genuinely concerned about food supplies to the Vanni, that these are not a major problem.

So, despite Ms Selvy’s crocodile tears, those in the Vanni are able to get to the south for treatment if the recently modernized hospital in Kilinochchi cannot help them. Why they would therefore want to get to Jaffna should then be a conundrum to Ms Selvy, given how contemptuous she is of the situation and the services there. But the people of Jaffna disagree, as is clear from the use they make of the health services government provides, and obviously the people of the Vanni must agree, if the closure of the Muhumalai checkpoint is as great a blow as Ms Selvy suggests. But, just in case there are shortfalls, there is provision to move people by air or sea, to Colombo or Trincomalee, and the navy even provides transport on special requests if the regular ferry is not available. It should be noted that the ICRC also assists as necessary with regard to air transport, though as mentioned it cannot help as far as sea travel is concerned since it has not received the required guarantees.

But the hypocrisy continues. The LTTE and its agents still go on about starvation in Jaffna, despite the steady supplies government sends, despite the latest UN report claiming that even those in the Welfare Centres find basic needs both readily available and affordable. That report makes clear that government not only continues to provide education to almost all children in these centres, it has even supplied uniforms to the vast majority of them. Health and education are also freely supplied to the citizens in the Vanni, bitterly circumscribed as they are otherwise by the LTTE impositions, which even the United Nations has begun to talk about, in finally drawing the attention of international media to the habit of forced conscription.

Support of the military for civilians

Finally, Ms Selvy exceeds herself in her conclusion, which is that ‘Transporting military personnel using civilians, especially the ill, is also a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.’ She has evidently forgotten that it is the Sri Lankan government that now protects all transport (much of it, incidentally, owned by Tamil businessmen), since the ICRC has been in effect debarred, despite its initial helpful intervention in August soon after the LTTE assaults led to the closure of Muhumalai. Far from the government using civilians – unlike the LTTE, which launched its attack when a busload of apparent civilians turned their guns on the soldiers at the checkpoint – it provides services for civilians at the cost of several man hours of protection duty by our much malighed servicemen.

Indeed, it was pointed out that SCOPP could not expect the LTTE to allow the ICRC to look after civilian and food transport between Jaffna and Trincomalee / Colombo, because the poor ICRC might then be accused of freeing up navy personnel to perform their primary duty, that of fighting terrorism. However, at least on humanitarian grounds the LTTE could allow ICRC to run short haul transport, since that would be no advantage to the navy which is not doing that now.

But humanitarian grounds do not matter to the LTTE, not even to its spokesperson on humanitarian issues and human rights. By withdrawing poor Mr Thamilselvam from peace talks, and forcing him into military fatigues – including at the attack on Muhumalai – the LTTE exploded the myth of a political wing. By making the LTTE Peace Secretariat glorify suicide cadres on the eve of their (self)-destructive mission, the LTTE exploded the myth of an institution concerned with peace. And now, by making poor Ms Selvi issue self-contradictory statements regarding the closure of the road that resulted from its brutal assault last year and its categorical refusal at Geneva to discuss modalities of reopening it, the LTTE has exploded the myth of at least one person more concerned with humanitarian issues rather than militaristic propaganda.

But all this, we must hope, is simply due to the continuing intransigence of the leadership. Ms Selvy showed intelligence once, and awareness of at least some of the realities of the world outside. For her sake, and that of the suffering thousands still in the Vanni, we must hope that at least some elements in the leadership will ensure a sea change (in every sense) in the near future.

Prof.Rajiva  Wijesinha
Rajiva Wijesinha
Secretary General
Secretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process



The material presented on this website is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license , which allows free use, distribution, and creation of derivatives, so long as the license is unchanged and clearly noted, and the original author is attributed. Some of the works on this server may contain live references (or links) to information created and maintained by other organizations, the accuracy for which we are not responsible.The views expressed in the material on this website are personal to the respective authors and do not necessarily reflect any official view.

animated gif
Processing Request
Please Wait...