Ilankai Tamil Sangam

Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

Printer-Friendly Version

A Reading of the Current Situation in Sri Lanka

by Victor Cherubim

All in all as neither the GOSL nor the LTTE at present can move freely enough to create the changes they so desire, with the world community tardily looking at the scenario from the sidelines, an open mind and a new vision wider than ever before envisaged, is necessary, to obtain a lasting home-grown solution. 

Sri Lanka today is stoic in resolution, stale in war and the prevailing inclement weather has made the soil sodden.

During my recent month's stay on the island, I noted that, unlike my previous visits, a cloud of fear and despair enshrouds everywhere. Life goes on amid the perils of war and the fear of intimidation. With the cost of living higher than before and with soaring exchange rates, there is no deterrent to the desire of the many to live and be seen to drive well, irrespective of hike in the petrol and other prices.

 There is a stoic reality that Sri Lanka is different and it visibly parades this approach for all to see. Different in that there is no sense of urgency for a return to normal life, as over the many years war is now normal. Different that they see the world owes them a living, due to its strategic value to the West and irrespective of what happens in the island, it will be “saved.” Different in being Sri Lankan, true and true, irrespective of what the world thinks or approves. In this sense, it prides itself in its intolerance, which is hardly understood by foreigners and which needs no justification.

I was not able to visit, but only able to read, reports of the war in the North East due to travel difficulties. However, I witnessed the unusual change in weather pattern, during this time of the year, with the North East monsoon prevailing in the Southwest, with daily afternoon thunderstorms, lightning, heavy showers and flooding around the Island. Strangely, bombings - due to the cloud cover - were not on target and there was possibly a slowing down of killings and disappearances in the south. It seems the weather had taken control of man’s desire for vengeance in war and dampened it somewhat.  

What I heard of the displacement of the population in the war-zone and the civilian casualties was well chronicled. The near starvation of almost 600,000 people in the Jaffna peninsula, who according to reports, live on one meal a day, due to the shortage of food supplies since August 2006 by the closure of the A9 highway linking it to the mainland, is a humanitarian disaster. This fact is not exposed. Milk powder, sugar, and daily foodstuffs are only available in small quantities but at exorbitant prices, not affordable to the ordinary man Long queues and subdued tempers vie for the meagre handouts at the co-operatives, even for those who can afford.

For the Tamils in the South, perceptible changes in attitudes to the conflict are to remain quiet without dissent or discussion, due to their visible inability to help their brethren in the North East. Posting of food parcels from the south to the north is, to say the least, tedious, as all items have to be listed on duplicate postal forms and x-rayed prior to posting, for fear of illegal items being included. Even this method of despatch is not a guarantee of delivery. Delivery of food supplies to the peninsula by sea is equally a lengthy process around the coast from Trincomalee.

Further, with all the rhetoric, India too has hardly ventured to supply the needs across the Palk Strait.

The alarming escalation of war, and the condemning of the growing violations of human rights, are yet to be addressed, although the GOSL has intimated that a Commission of Inquiry will soon investigate such atrocities.  NGOs are reluctant to draw attention to the killings and disappearances. These disappearances, according to informed circles, may have been caused by criminal elements among self discharged military personnel, who hoped to profit from extortion and as a means of retribution. The newly appointed Inspector General of Police is known to have made it clear to his force that he intends to take some action. But, all that he could do up to now is to transfer a few Officers in Charge of Police stations, who turned a blind eye to this criminal activity. But, what is never understood by the world outside is that a sense of urgency is not part or parcel of the Sri Lankan scene or vocabulary. Thus what can and will happen to right these violations will take time.

Colombo by night is a ghost town, with shops, eateries, some cinemas and traffic coming to a standstill after 10.30 p.m with the military Police patrols and the weather, a threat to unwanted travel. The real reason is fear which has engulfed the locals to remain in their homes rather than in the shopping malls. The fear of dissent, particularly political dissent, which ordinarily is muffled, is further swelled at times of emergency.

The GOSL has intimated time and again to the world that it cannot be rushed into any concessions to any minorities in the island. For anyone, including the LTTE or the world, to expect a distinct change in this approach, is to ask for the impossible. Hardening of world opinion or even of the Co-chairs of the Tokyo Agreement, to the attitude of the Government’s use of force to limit the growth of Tamil military assertion, or for that matter, the condemnation and non recognition by two of the Co-chairs; the U.S and European Union, whilst simultaneously seeking a solution, is again futile.

Perhaps, a new thinking as reflected in the immediate GOSL and LTTE stand offs, may in fact ease the stalemate and may bring the realities of the ground situation to both parties to the conflict, to find a way forward.

Perhaps, meanwhile, the GOSL will see the need to open up a new highway to the North with international aid, as well as make use of both the A9 and the A32 along the Mannar coast up to Pooneryn (Sundikuli) ferry point and let the trade decide to vote with their feet and their lorries to reach Jaffna, to supply the needs of the peninsula.

All in all as neither the GOSL nor the LTTE at present can move freely enough to create the changes they so desire, with the world community tardily looking at the scenario from the sidelines, an open mind and a new vision wider than ever before envisaged, is necessary, to obtain a lasting home-grown solution. 

  • Publication date: