Ilankai Tamil Sangam

Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

Printer-Friendly Version

Reporting from Vanni

Part 1

by K. Mylvaganam

The undeclared embargo imposed on the Tamils areas has created severe shortage for lots of things – both essential and nonessentials. Sugar, flour, rice, dhal are the main essentials that are hard to get.

I have neither received nor sent out any email for the past 22 days. I have very little faith as to whether this article will find its way out. But I have a faint hope that it will, if things work out as planned.  

Vanni is still in darkness and cut off from the outside world by denying us telephone facilities. If the GoSL thinks that it can prevent its atrocities in the Northeast from being spread to the outside world, then it is making a big mistake. By now, from the reactions of the world leaders and the UN, it should have realised its mistake or is it like the cat that drinks the milk with its eyes closed?

We may not have the luxuries of things man gets from electricity and we are denied inflow of all items from outside the Northeast. Prices are soaring high. A bag of cement that was sold for around Rs.650.00 fetches over Rs.2000.00 if you are lucky enough to get one. But that is not going to break the determination of the Tamil people. They have undergone these treatments in the past and have come through it meticulously; so will they even now and in the future as well. Many people have already planted more maniocs, sown grains like Kurakkan and Thinai, etc. These grains do not need heavy watering. And the rainy season being round the corner even the Manavari (rain fed) paddy cultivation is to commence in full swing with the first onset of the rain. So the supply of rice is assured.

I have parked my vehicle in my garage due to unavailability of diesel. But I have gone in for a bicycle. I admit it was a bit tricky to restart cycling after forty years, especially for a person of my age -74. But I am now getting the hang of it gradually. The only major problem was to swing my leg over the rear wheel to get seated. But I solved it by swapping the Gents bike to a Ladies one. Now it is a piece of cake, except for the sarcastic smile from the members of the opposite sex on the road.  

Jaffna is one of the worst hit areas, in addition to Vaharai, where there are over forty-six thousand refugees living under extremely primitive conditions. A good number of them spend their days and nights under the trees. The GoSL not only refuses to supply these refugees their basic requirements, but also refuses the International Non-Govermental Organisations (INGOs) and the NGOs access to these refugee camps. Several lorry loads of goods belonging to these organisations are kept held up at the army checkpoints.  

The GoSL is so heartless that they do not allow the transport of relief materials even to the refugees who have been driven away from their homes by the numerous and indiscriminate bombing and shelling of the armed forces. Severely ill patients taken from LTTE-controlled areas to major hospitals by ambulance for special and emergency treatments are denied passage through the checkpoints and are mercilessly sent back, resulting in the death of the patients.  

The undeclared embargo imposed on the Tamils areas has created severe shortage for lots of things – both essential and nonessentials. Sugar, flour, rice, dhal are the main essentials that are hard to get.

The shortage of fuel, especially diesel and kerosene, is causing immense hardship to the people. For example, the number of CTB busses plying in Jaffna has been cut down to the minimum and it is expected that the busses will come to a total standstill within a matter of days. The private minivans, too, face the same fate and even the few that are running have put up their rates, thus hitting the commuters who are already paying very high prices for essential food items. I hasten to add that I do not blame the minivan owners as they too have to pay high prices for their fuel. The farmers are unable to irrigate their plots as their water pumps are short of kerosene. They are now resorting to the old method of the well sweep. But the only hitch is that three people are needed to irrigate in this way – one has to be on the well sweep, the other to draw the water from the well and the third to divert the running water on to the plots. With a water pump the farmer can do all these single-handedly – after starting the pump, he can irrigate the plots without any additional help.  

Abductions, disappearances and cold blooded murders in broad daylight are taking place daily, not only in the Northeast, but also in the south, especially in Colombo. Tamil merchants are taken away in unnumbered white vans and later released after obtaining heavy payoffs by their relatives. Some are murdered and their mutilated bodies are thrown on the road. All these crimes are done with the blessings of the army, if not by the army itself.

They claim that Colombo is well fortified from any attacks. Many checkpoints have been newly introduced. All the seven inlets leading into Colombo are excessively manned and all vehicles are thoroughly checked before they are allowed to pass through. If this is so, then how come the unnumbered white vans are moving freely, carrying their captives, without being caught at any of these checkpoints?

There are two motives for these abductions. One is, of course, to make money. It is reported that so far within the past two months 50 leading merchants have been abducted. Each is expected to pay between Rs.3 to Rs.5 million before they are released, depending on their wealthy status. Some are not released even after receiving the ransom. There are a few cases that are not reported but “arranged” in a “hush hush” manner.

The other motive has a deeper intention. It is to drive away the Tamil merchants from Colombo and its suburbs so that the majority community can take over many, if not all, well-established multimillion business institutions free of charge served on a silver plate - a repetition of July 1983 - but is being done in a very subtle, deceitful and treacherous manner.

When the business community threatened to go for a massive demonstration in protest, the GoSL became a bit nervous and promptly contacted President Mahinda Rajapaksha, who is overseas at the moment. It is reported that the President requested to postpone the demonstrations until he returns to Sri Lanka and had assured that he would stop the arrests and abductions forthwith. Now we know as to who is behind all these atrocities – the cat is let out of the bag.

Killings of youngsters are also taking place daily at a rate unabated, particularly in Jaffna, Batticaloa and Vavuniya. On an average about five to six youths are targeted daily. I understand that during the last four months more than four hundred and fifty people have been killed and many have gone missing. They are shot down even in broad daylight. Arbitrary arrests are also taking place very frequently. Every time there is a so called “Roundup and Search” on dozens of people are taken into custody and some of them get released after “questioning” and the fate of the rest remains a mystery.

When their close relatives approach the army officers and inquire about their relatives who were arrested by the army, they only get a blunt denial of the arrests. They go to the Human Rights organisations and to the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) and lodge a complaint and there ends the story. And those arrested and not released add up the statistics of “Missing Parsons.”  

When an individual like a Thiruchelvam, Kathirgamar or an army moron is killed, the whole world raises its voice condemning it as a “Terrorist Action.” Why is the same world, including our worthy neighbour, keeping mum when so many innocent lives are being taken away mercilessly by an undisciplined army; the most recent ones being the 51 school children at Senchcholai and the 11 Muslim workers in Amparai?  

The question that arises out of logical thinking of the people of the Northeast now is; why don’t we follow the footsteps of our government? Is anybody listening?

  • Publication date: