Sri Lanka government says that the Tamils suffered under the LTTE administration and the war was to 'liberate' them. The following is a firsthand account of a German National who visited Jaffna twice - first during LTTE administration and again under the present Sinhala administration.

By Dr. Beate Bartoldus

In June 1994 I visited Jaffna, which was then under LTTE administration. The program was especially related to education. I saw schools, kindergartens, the university and the burned out library. I took part in propaganda events of the LTTE and met with Mr. Anton Balasingham, with the women’s wing of the LTTE and with the Government Agent.

I got a good impression about the work our partner organisations were doing. They tried to be independent of any political affiliation. Their work was totally geared to easing the burden of the people whom they were meant to serve.

All goods were very expensive, mainly because many things had to be "imported" from the south of the island. They felt abandoned by the Sri Lankan government, threatened by the war and locked out of the larger world. They missed news, electricity, newspapers, telephones and contacts to the outside.

Yet Jaffna was their town, where they moved about as they liked, even at night. There were no checkpoints, no restrictions and hardly any LTTE military visible. The same freedom applied to me. Once I had entered the town, I could move freely about.

My second visit to Jaffna took place in September 1997. I wanted to see how our partner organisations were doing under the new circumstances. Although official statements and newspapers claim that life in Jaffna is almost back to normal, my personal experience was quite different.

The scenes of destruction are still terrible, the dilapidation of the building is appalling. Only three bulbs can be lit in a house in areas where there is electricity and only four telephone lines lead out of Jaffna. The town still seemed to be cut off from the rest of Sri Lanka. Many promises made by governmental authorities had not been kept.

What struck me most was the permanent presence of the military. Although Jaffna was captured by the Sri Lankan army almost two years ago, there are still checkpoints every 20 yards. Everybody has to get down from their bicycles and from their cars and wait in line for a body check.

As the Sri Lankan army is Sinhalese, communications between them and the Jaffna population is difficult, and sometimes embarrassing. Although army officers assured us that the people in Jaffna are very cooperative, it seemed to me that the city is still under siege rather than having been liberated.

Both my visits made clear to me that regardless of the political and administrative system, it is always the people who are suffering.

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Dr Beate Bartoldus was the resident representative of the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, a German political foundation, for four years.

Courtesy: SAMY YAMAYA (Time of Peace in Sinhalese) the newsletter of the National Peace Council of Sri Lanka.

Also See
Civil Administration in Tamil Eelam by A US Academic
Editorial Tamil Voice - Fall 1996