An Open Letter to UNDP (Sri Lanka)
From Prof. A. J. V. Chandrakanthan

Ms. Lisa Hiller
UNDP - Sri Lanka

Dear Ms. Hiller,
The sum and substance of the Report that was published by you recently on the Economic prospects for Sri Lanka is ostensibly aimed at demonising and destroying the Tamil Nation’s cry for freedom and dignity; both overtly and covertly under the deceptive guise of development. Your report is seemingly aimed at crushing the Tamil nationalist spirit and in that it surges to rejuvenate the Sinhala State machine that it may continue its oppressive agenda against the legitimate aspirations of the Tamil nation.

In plain and simple words UNDP’s report not only casts unfounded aspersions on the legitimate Tamil struggle for freedom and self-determination but in its content and character it is an indirect and blatantly unjust aggression on a nation and a people whose life and dignity have been trampled upon by such shamelessly provocative and pro-government lobby.

As a powerful organisation, the UNDP under the pretext of promoting "development" has become a stooge in the hands of a military junta that camouflages itself as a democracy. Needless to say that many western nations within the walls of their foreign offices laugh at the manner in which democracy is understood or practised in Sinhala Sri Lanka. But quite unashamedly they continue to pour economic aid to the war coffers of Sri Lanka. Even at this eleventh hour of the national disaster, it may be good for an organization like UNDP that purports to be neutral in the face of a human tragedy of genocidal proportions perpetrated by a State on a section of its population, to ask what has the UNDP done in terms of development in the northeast (Tamileelam) for the past ten years?

I shall spell out at least ten of the major accusations that would render President Chandrika not only culpable in the International courts of Justice but would put to shame the charges levied against the Chilean dictator Pinochet whose crimes against humanity are now discussed in the open. The invasion and the subsequent destruction of the Tamil homelands is done today in the name of development, under the facade of  "fighting terrorism" and "safeguarding democracy"  - easy euphemisms for Sri Lanka’s State-terrorism.

I remember the visit of a UNDP envoy to Jaffna sometime in August or September 1995. He wanted to meet some members of the faculty at the University of Jaffna. As President of the Jaffna University Teachers" Association, I chaired the meeting at which some religious dignitaries including the great and audacious Bishop Amabalavanar were also present. The UNDP envoy repeatedly told us (warned us!) in advance of the impending assault on the city of Jaffna. He spoke in glowing terms about the 'firepower' of the Sri Lankan army.

This envoy in fact came to us as a messenger of death. He was the last foreign national to visit Jaffna before the invasion of Jaffna by the Sinhala army. He seemed to have had a blueprint of "operation Reviresa" for he really spoke with conviction as to how the city of Jaffna will be destroyed by the Sinhala army. I remember exactly what he said: "Some Sinhala army generals have decided to capture Jaffna because they want their names to be written in history as the Victors". Bishop Ambalavanar said, "if that is what they wish let them do it. But it will be short-lived victory. Tamils will never allow themselves to be subjugated and fettered."  If you check your records you should be able to get the name of this envoy. Ask him about the responses he got from the intellectuals and religious leaders in Jaffna.

Did we not tell him that in no time in the history of the Northern Province had there been such development, free of corruption and pilfering, under the administration of the LTTE. The UNDP envoy is a personal witness to this.

The reforestation program initiated and sponsored by the LTTE, the small industries and revolving loan system introduced and managed by the LTTE besides the massive agricultural revolution spearheaded by them were a few of the major projects that helped the poorest of the poor. All retired civil service personnel, experts in Agriculture, Animal husbandry, post-masters and professors and all experienced professionals freely made their time and assistance available to the planning and development branch of the LTTE. This fact can be cross-checked with any one in Jaffna. The establishment of such excellent organizations as TRO and TEEDOR by the people of the Northern Province are but a few successful examples of development by and for the people - initiatives that were born from the grass roots.

Eelam Tamils have never required and will never require experts from UNDP to tell them how to develop their homeland economy. Perhaps it is under your advice that President Chandrika formed a Rehabilitation Committee for North with a Sinhala Chairperson and one or two Tamil quislings who have no idea of the terrain of the north. We neither want you nor the Sinhalese to determine our development priorities. But you will do a great deal if you can use your good offices to prevent the army from destroying the little development that was done by the Tamil people with the co-operation of the LTTE in the past ten years.

A severe economic embargo was thrust down the throats of the Tamil people in the North between 1990 to 1995, and in spite of this not one single death occurred due to starvation.

UNDP had nothing to say when for over a decade paddy fields belonging to the Tamils were set on fire by the Sinhala army. UNDP responded with a mute silence when the government’s department of Agriculture refused to send certified paddy seeds to the North or even placed a rigorous ban on seed potatoes, vegetable seeds or seedlings, banned all types of fertilizers and kerosene (required by farmers to pump water from underground wells).

UNDP turned a blind eye when the successive governments imposed ban on fishing, the only source of protein for the Tamil children.

UNDP never raised its voice when successive Sinhala governments declared one day, chicken, live-stock, mother-stock, vegetable oil, butter and margarine, chocolates and sweets, biscuits and even chicken-feed (mash) as weapons of war. These were banned for over seven years.

In light of this agonising past, you should be ashamed of a report produced in the name of UNDP as a political ploy to enhance the image of the demonic state of Sri Lanka and to smear mud on the LTTE that is paying daily with their youthful life to reinstate the value of freedom and dignity, self-determination and self-rule for an oppressed nation.

As a paid employee you and those racially-biased Sinhala intellectuals who were commissioned to produce this so called report quite legitimately have your/their own agenda. After all it is numerocracy that is always used interchangeably as democracy in Sri Lanka. It is not surprising that you too have worked under this frame of Sinhala democracy.

In the common vocabulary of POLITICAL ETHICS, an unjust aggression is defined as an unlawful and oppressive act of support directly or tacitly given to an individual or to a totalitarian regime that remains in or retains power by unjustly suppressing a part or a whole of a national population. That the government of Sri Lanka, particularly under President Chandrika Bandaranaike is a perfect illustration of a regime that uses military repression as a weapon of political subjugation of the Tamil nation is a case that can be well argued in any international courts with substantial evidence.

I wish to outline the following ten facts which in any liberal democracy will serve also as an indictment against a State that uses military power to achieve political ends. If you can refute any one of them with acceptable evidence, I shall be too pleased to correct my stand:

  1. It is under the regime of President Chandrika that the largest number of disappearances has ever been reported from among the Tamil population in the North and East of Sri Lanka.
    The world-renowned Human Rights Organization, Amnesty International has recorded that in April-May 1996 alone, there were 676 cases of disappearances of Tamil children, women and men. Is this an integral part of your understanding of democratic development?
    Why not start your development program right in the heart of Chemmani that is soiled in Tamil blood.
  2. It was under Chandrika’s Presidency that the largest number of children were mutilated, maimed or blown to bits by bombs and shells unleashed by the Sri Lankan army
    (I am a personal witness to the brutal bombing of Navali on July 09, 1995 and Nagerkoil Primary School in Jaffna on the 20th of August 1995 which killed over 40 children between the age of 6 and 10.) The Jaffna sub-delegation of the International Committee of the Red Cross (Geneva) will have the names and addresses of these children in their confidential files. Ask your government to obtain these for you. Does the UNDP consider children as worthy of any development? Or does it condone these killings as part of Sri Lanka’s national development?
  3. The most dramatic increase in the number of amputees among the Sinhalese and Tamils is taking place under the USA and UNDP sponsored regime of Chandrika.
    It would greatly benefit the world of the less-able people, (handicapped) if UNDP can commission an unbiased report on the amputees as they will form a visible and sizeable population both in Sri Lanka and the future State of Eelam. I do not know whether UNDP discounts the amputees as half persons or non-persons, if not how do you account your connivance with a State that is sowing land-mines and anti-personal mines like sowing paddy seeds in the North and East? What have you done to prevent this horrible development that is taking place in Jaffna after the invasion?
  4. It was President Chandrika and her uncle Ratwatte who have also set an unbeaten record in the endless production of refugees and displaced persons.
    It was under Chandrika’s diabolical regime that the entire city of Jaffna, the second largest city in Ceylon became a ghost-city on October 30, 1995. Once again I was both a victim and a witness to this unimaginable tragedy. You name a President who created half a million refugees in one single week as an agent of democratic development. How do you then define development?
  5. In the post-colonial history of the island of Ceylon, it was under Chandrika’s regime that the largest number of Sinhala military personnel are deployed in the Tamil homelands especially in Jaffna, Batticaloa and Vanni.
    Nothing can be a more glaring example of military subjugation and repression. And you still call this development?
  6. It is after Chandrika assumed power that the largest number of Tamil civilians suffered arrest, torture, detention, merciless interrogation or held in custody without any judicial process etc. You seem to consider this humiliation of a community as a sign of development.
  7. With the exclusion of the anti-Tamil pogrom of 1983, if you count the largest number of Tamil civilians killed during the term of each President, it is under Chandrika’s regime that more than 13,000 Tamils have died. The other fact is that the largest number of Sinhala military personnel also died in the war under her absurd governance. I still find it difficult to understand the philosophy of development advocated by UNDP. Are death and development two parallel columns without any connection whatsoever?
  8. The most cruel form of economic and medical embargo has been rigorously imposed by the government of President Chandrika on a hapless and helpless population especially in Vanni and you wish to promote this form of development as the most ideal one in South Asia.
  9. The worst form of media censorship on foreign and local media net work is imposed by this government and you see this as a tool of development.
  10. It is under Chandrika’s government that education in all levels had taken a severe beating. The worst is in the North and East.
    More than two hundred primary and secondary school buildings and college buildings (e.g. Mahajana College and Union College Tellipallai, Vasavilan Mahavidyalaya, Colleges and Schools at Atchuvely are all occupied by the army since 1992. More than 40 per cent (the largst number since 1983) of the schools in jaffna are occupied by teh army in addition to the occupation or demolition of a very large number of private houses and properties - all this under the supervision of the Deputy Minister of Defence and the President herself. You call this atrocity as a model of development. Truly one should be out of one’s depths to categorise these as a program of democratic development.

I will extend my support to any non-violent and democratic effort that helps to cripple or strangle the economic development of the evil State of Sri Lanka which thrives by engaging in a systematic, cultural, educational, political, physical and economic genocide of the Tamil nation. Non-cooperation with evil is a basic human value if not a duty. Every Tamil living abroad or in Ceylon should engage himself or herself in this national duty.

Dear Madam Hiller, I place these facts not only for your perusal but for your Humanitarian reflection and therefore effective action toward alleviating the suffering of the poor people from among the Sinhalese and Tamils who are paying daily the heaviest price for this ugly war conducted with the blessings of the UNDP. Your vision of development surely lacks a human and a humanitarian content, until that is there all rhetoric about development will only be a lucrative discourse filling the purse of the so called experts on "the economic development of the third or fourth world (the nations in war).

Prof. A. J. V. Chandrakanthan

Concordia University Montreal, CANADA.