by R Shanmugananthan
1.) While Tamils are grappling with the enormous rehabilitation work from the tsunami, the government is trying hard to obstruct any relief work in Tamil areas.
In government-controlled Tamil areas Sinhalese soldiers are hindering the relief efforts being carried out by TRO. They are grabbing the emergency relief supplies and diverting them. In Trincomalee, according to reports from that area, they are diverting TRO emergency supplies to unaffected Singhalese areas. In other Tamil areas they are grabbing the relief supplies from TRO and distributing the supplies themselves. Seeing government soldiers in the rehabilitation camps is causing panic. Seeing a Sinhalese soldier in their camp is the last thing a traumatised Tamil person needs.
Thalaiyady, Jaffna (photo courtesy eelavision.com)
On the other hand, aid to the affected Sinhalese is overflowing unhindered.
The international community that opened their hearts and wallets for the victims of the Tsunami must intervene continuously to ensure aid is reaching all the areas.
2.) The presence of Naval forces from various countries to help Tsunami victims is another development, which is causing concern. The USA, India, and the United Kingdom have deployed many Naval vessels to help the Tsunami-hit people. Even the Pakistani and Bangladesh navies are helping out with relief work. People receiving the help must gratefully acknowledge this help.
The naval presence is, however, also causing misgivings among Tamils. There are good reasons for this misgiving. Deployment of the foreign Navies from these countries has amplified the belligerence of Sri Lankan soldiers. They are more openly obstructing the relief provided to Tamils.
The government believes these navies are there to support them against the Tamils. In the past external military involvement always helped the Sinhalese. So the Sinhalese will naturally expect the foreign navies to be on their side and Tamils will fear them. These countries must allay the Tamil fears and also provide assistance to Tamils.
3.) Sections of the Sinhalese media suggested that Tamils need to lower their self-defence capability in return for the tsunami aid. This is an unacceptable proposition because Tamils justifiably fear the Sinhalese even more than any Tsunami. Tamil people need outside help and also have a need to maintain their self-defence.
Some well-wishers were hoping that this tragedy would create an environment for peace. But so far, this tragedy has not changed the attitude of the government. The government’s attitude towards providing relief to Tamils is a clear indication of this.
4.) Another worry is the media; in particular the Sinhalese-dominated Sri Lankan media. The international media quotes the Sri Lankan media often. Initially the Sri Lankan media was aiming to hide the government obstructions of the flow of aid to Tamil areas. Gradually it veered away from this into militarily-significant matters. One example of this change of direction is the ‘situation Report’ in the most recent ‘Sunday Times’. The writer Iqbal Athas is a well-known defence analyst with close connection to the highest echelon of the armed forces. He has access to top-level military secrets. His close connection to the military men has enabled him to write about matters not available to other journalists. In return, he helps the government with their propaganda work. He is good at making a lie stick. In the following paragraphs I have highlighted some of the lies and half-truths in his report dated 2nd January 2005:
This report starts off with the claim that LTTE is not allowing international relief agencies into their areas. This is not true. Our national leader and various LTTE leaders have made appeals to the international community for assistance. On the other hand, the government is trying to prevent international organizations from visiting Tamil areas. Only the outcry in Tamil media has improved the situation somewhat.
Next Athas claimed that the LTTE is commandeering supplies to Sinhalese areas in the East. This is another fabrication by him to hide the actions of government forces. His fabrication is aimed at countering many reports that government soldiers are diverting relief supplies destined for affected Tamil and Muslim areas to unaffected Sinhalese villages.
Athas then falsely claimed that government forces have been lulled by the ceasefire, and have lowered their preparedness. This is also untrue. Each year the government spends close to 60 billion rupees on defence. Its soldiers are being trained regularly by countries like the USA and India. Recent reports suggest that the Government armed forces have substantially boosted their weaponry and firepower.
Athas then made another unsubstantiated claim that the LTTE has lost 2,100 fighting cadres in the Tsunami attack. Why he made such an unsubstantiated claim is a mystery. his is the sort of report dished out to the Sri Lankan public by these journalists. They will continue to do so.
Rehabilitation of the Tsunami damage is an enormous task. Tamils can’t do it alone. Tamil people must make ceaseless appeal to the international community for assistance and make ceaseless efforts to minimise government obstructions against relief work.
Posted January 11, 2005