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Selected Writings by Sachi Sri Kantha
Expulsion of Jaffna Muslims
[see also Muslims & Tamil Eelam]
Part 1: The Numbers & D.B.S.Jeyaraj, 31 October 2005
Part 2: The Context & D.B.S.Jeyaraj, 8 November 2005
Part 3: The Attributable Motive, 12 November 2005
Part 1: The Numbers & D.B.S.Jeyaraj, 31 October 2005
Many Tamils would be wondering what had happened to the token Tamil pontificator D.B.S.Jeyaraj, if they had bothered to read his contribution on ‘Fifteenth anniversary of the Muslim expulsion from Jaffna’ (Sunday Leader, Colombo, Oct.30, 2005). I did. This is how Jeyaraj had begun his piece.
“Fifteen years ago this day (Oct 30th) around 28,000 men, women and children were expelled from Jaffna by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam organization. They were all Tamil-speaking Muslims living in the Muslim ‘vattaaram’ or zone of Jaffna town.”
28,000 Muslims living in Jaffna town in October1990. Holy cow! The temerity of Jeyaraj to cook up this number is astounding. He probably was not even an eye witness to that event of expulsion. If Jeyaraj’s number of “28,000 Muslims” has to be believed, one of the two demographic miracles should have happened in Jaffna between 1980 and 1990. First, there should have been a large scale immigration of Muslim population into Jaffna region between 1980 and 1990. Second, an unprecedented birth of Muslim babies should have occurred for 10 years due to some kind of divine blessing. Any sane Sri Lankan knows that none of the two miracles happened. Because, in the period from 1984 to 1990, the population flow was in the reverse direction from Jaffna peninsula to
(a) escape from the aerial bombing exercises of a ranting and raving Minister of National Defense, Lalith Athulathmudali (1985-87); and
(b) to escape from the atrocities of Indian army and its local collaborator gangs (1987-90).
Let me refute Jeyaraj’s wild assertion of “28,000 Muslims” promptly. Historian and American missionary Robert Holmes published his Jaffna 1980 book in 1980. Between pages 188 and 191, he had given the numbers for the Muslim population residing in Jaffna region then.
“According to local authorities there are 16,000 Muslims in the region but their number eight years later is estimated to be around 18,000. However, if the 1971 Census is correct in saying the Muslims of Jaffna were only 1.5% of the population in Jaffna, then their numbers must have been nearer to 11,000 than to 16,000.”
Robert Holmes had defined the “region” as Jaffna peninsula and the surrounding islands. Thus, in the best guess of Holmes, the Muslims in Jaffna amounted to 11,000 in 1980. How could they have increased to 28,000 ten years later? Jeyaraj has provided a bloated number to splash mud on LTTE. It should be mentioned that Holmes lived in Jaffna and worked as a teacher for 12 years from 1948 to 1960 and his observations on the then Jaffna society as a sociologist are highly reliable to withstand scrutiny, from other independent sources.
I provide another authentic source to refute Jeyaraj’s baloney in Muslim numbers living in Jaffna electorate in 1990. As per the findings of the 1976 Delimitation Commission, for the 1977 general elections, Muslims accounted for 12.98 percent of Jaffna voter list of 34,865. [Source: A Statistical Survey of Elections to the Legislatures of Sri Lanka 1911-1977, by G.P.S.H.De Silva, Marga Institute, Colombo, 1979 p.186]. Simple calculation reveals that 12.98 percent make upto 4,525 Muslim voters. Since these are adults over 18 years, this number is in agreement with Holmes’s figure of 11,000 Muslims if one includes the population below 18 years.
Let me provide the number of Muslims residing in the Jaffna district from 1827 to 1981, from a third source; the Department of Census and Statistics of Sri Lanka.
1827 – 2,166; 1881 – 2,648; 1891 – 3,049; 1901 – 3,078; 1911 – 3,485; 1921 – 3,748; 1946 – 5,620; 1953 – 7,083; 1963 – 8,600; 1971 – 10,374; 1981 – 13,757.
Please make note that the number of 13,757 Muslims were for the entire Jaffna district, and not for the Jaffna electorate. Then, how could the Muslim population have increased from 13,757 to “28,000 Muslims” in 1990, within mere 9 years? The only certainty is that, the phenomenal 200 percent increase could occur only in the mind of Jeyaraj.
Part 2: The Context & D.B.S.Jeyaraj, 8 November 2005
On 4th June 1937, at the gathering of American Writers’ Congress, a veteran (at the age of 37) war reporter delivered a lecture in New York. Here I reproduce some of his thoughts because, decades ahead he had anticipated the musings of analysts like D.B.S.Jeyaraj.
“When men fight for the freedom of their country against a foreign invasion, and when these men are your friends – some new friends and some long standing – and you know how they were attacked and how they fought, at first almost unarmed, you learn, watching them live and fight and die, that there are worse things than war. Cowardice is worse, treachery is worse, and simple selfishness is worse.”
This war reporter was none other than Ernest Hemingway. He had seen real battlefields and he had been seriously wounded. And unlike the analysts like Jeyaraj, he knows by first hand there are quite a few things worse than war – and he listed cowardice, treachery and simple selfishness among these. Hemingway earned his fame for both non-fiction writing and fiction writing. He could clearly distinguish between non-fiction and fiction. But, the tragedy with Jeyaraj is that he indulges in fiction writing and passes it as non-fiction analysis.
In this part, I provide the contrast in the descriptions provided by Jeyaraj for the expulsion of Jaffna Muslims [Sunday Leader, October 30, 2005], and another international source, which also have been critical of LTTE, as per the context that event. The complete exclusion of specific numbers by Jeyaraj in his descriptions when it comes to Tamil victims of Sri Lankan state violence and Muslim homeguard violence, while at the same time inclusion of bloated numbers when it comes to Muslim victims in Jaffna in 1990, clearly reveals the partiality of Jeyaraj for indulging in an LTTE smear campaign.
(1) soft pedals the decisions made by one of the then ruling top dogs of the Government of Sri Lanka (Ranjan Wijeratne), and
(2) attempts to create mischief and confusion between the Northern Tamils and Eastern Tamils, by provincial name calling should be exposed.
Also, his penchant for provoking distrust between Northerners and Easterners among Eelam Tamils need to be scrutinized.
Yes, creating mischief and confusion is a strategy in which slick operators and selfish agents excel. The ‘Savadaal Vaithi’ character played by C.K.Nagesh in the movie Thillana Mohanambal, also portrayed this mischief-confusion strategy of slick operators splendidly. For what? Not for any altruistic purposes to serve the community at large. Rather, for the thrill of selfish aggrandizement, and for the cheers from the anti-LTTE groups and interests.
Jeyaraj’s version of events during the second half of 1990 and 1991
This is how Jeyaraj has provided the context for the Muslim expulsion from Jaffna at the end of October 1990.
“…Tamil - Muslim hostilities were increasing in the east. The desertion of some Muslim cadres in the LTTE and a few of them going over to the enemy incensed the eastern LTTE under Karuna (military) and Karikalan (political). Many other Muslim cadres in the LTTE were executed by the leadership. An anti - Muslim spirit pervaded the LTTE. On the other hand the state also exploited and aggravated these feelings. Many Muslim anti - social elements were inducted as homeguards. These sections collaborated with the security forces in promoting anti - Tamil violence. In some cases Muslim homeguards were responsible for Tamil civilian massacres. Some Tamil hamlets and villages were destroyed by Muslim homeguard led mobs. They were given cover support by sections of the security forces.
The LTTE in turn responded with equally gruesome massacres of Muslim civilians. The Sammanthurai and Kattankudi attacks on mosques and massacre of civilians at the Saddam Hussein model village of Eravur being notorious examples. Though Tamil - Muslim relations were at a low point in the east the situation was quite different in the north. Both communities continued to co - exist there peacefully. One reason being that Muslims were a small minority posing no threat to the Tamil majority.
This situation of Muslims living peacefully in the north while tensions prevailed in the east was unacceptable to the eastern Tigers. A delegation led by Karikalan came to the north to persuade Pirapaharan that "stern" action should be taken against Muslims. Karikalan apparently wanted a lesson to be taught to the Muslims….”
Then, Jeyaraj offered another cockeyed reason, which exposes his complete ignorance on military affairs and intelligence gathering in times of war. According to him, after LTTE found about 75 swords concealed in a Muslim shop in Chavakachcheri,
“The LTTE intelligence known for its excessive paranoia suspected a greater conspiracy. It was suspected that the security-intelligence apparatus could be using Muslim businessmen travelling frequently to Colombo as agents to engage in sabotage or act as spies. Preemptive action was required it was felt.”
One popular Tamil proverb Kaluthaiku Theriyuma Karpoora Vaasanai? [Does the donkey knows anything about camphor scent?] sums up Jeyaraj’s ignorance on military science. His ignorance was nakedly exposed last year, when he bloated Karuna’s military strength in the Eastern Eelam during March 2005, only to see that his hero making a ‘run for life’ retreat to Colombo on Easter Sunday. The volatile situation which prevailed in the North and East Eelam during the second half of 1990 was not so simple and not so clear as black and white. Jeyaraj has bloated the number of Muslims expelled from the Northern province as follows:
“Around 55,000 to 60, 000 Muslims were expelled from the northern mainland by the LTTE. Together with those of the peninsula the Muslims driven out from the Northern Province numbered 80,000 to 85, 000 in 1990.”
In part-1 of this commentary, I presented evidence from more than one source to show that Jeyaraj’s “28,000 Muslims living in Jaffna electorate” then was nothing but baloney. And the real number of Muslims living then in Jaffna electorate was around 12,000. Similarly, according the Amnesty International survey, the number of Muslims who had to flee from the Northern province then was “an estimated 40,000”. Just a half of what Jeyaraj had bloated.
To rebut this type of grand deception in Jeyaraj’s selected and overtly biased reminiscences of an event which happened 15 years ago, I provide below the relevant excerpts from the report of Amnesty International, covering the critical period from June 1990 to June 1991. To reiterate, Amnesty International has been critical of LTTE’s deeds, but at least then, its report could be relied upon for details on anti-Tamil violence perpetrated by Sinhalese and Muslim service personnel and para-military groups embedded with these personnel.
Amnesty International’s version of events during the second half of 1990 and 1991
[source: Tamil Times, London, October 1991, pp.14-18]
“…As the Indian troops withdrew [at the end of March 1990 that is], heavy fighting was reported between the LTTE and a newly formed force, the Tamil National Army (TNA), which had been established using forced conscription by the EPRLF, aided by the Indian forces. There was also fighting between the LTTE and the armed cadres of Tamil groups which had allied with the Indian forces. Hundreds of lives were lost, thousands of members and supporters of the EPRLF and its allies fled to India, and the LTTE took effective control of the northeast. Negotiations continued between the government and the LTTE on the future administration of the area. Government administrative officers remained in place in the northeast, as did government police officers, but in practice most of their activities were subject to control by the LTTE.
The situation changed on 10 June 1990 when the LTTE suddently surrounded and occupied Batticaloa police station, ostensibly because of a quarrel about police having assaulted a civilian. The next day, the LTTE ordered police officers in the east to vacate all police stations. That day, the LTTE also attacked an army convoy at Kalmunai, killing ten soldiers. Reports indicate that most police officers surrendered their police stations without a fight. At Kalmunai and Kaluwanchikudi, however, police and LTTE fought before police surrendered. The LTTE took captive hundreds of police officers. It appears that most Tamil police officers, as well as some Sinhalese and Muslim officers held prisoner were summarily executed. The bodies of some of those killed have been found. For example, a police officer from Kalmunai who escaped with injuries was reported in the press as saying that he and 113 of his colleagues had been taken off by the LTTE, lined up and shot. Amnesty International has collected information about 91 police officers considered ‘disappeared’ since June 1990. Some of these officers may be still alive in LTTE custody, others may have been killed…. [Note by Sachi: The then LTTE military leader of Batticaloa-Amparai region was none other than Karuna, the current darling of D.B.S.Jeyaraj and the anti-LTTE lobby in Colombo.]
The government moved military reinforcements into the area, and as hostilities escalated the late Minister of State for Defense, Ranjan Wijeratne, announced to parliament on 18 June 1990 that ‘from now on it is all-out war’.
Although the government repeatedly stated that security forces action was intended to destroy the LTTE alone, and was not an assault against the Tamil population of the northeast as a whole, it also said it would deal with the LTTE in the same manner as it had recently dealt with the JVP in the south. Indeed, the broad powers granted to the security forces under the Emergency Regulations, which included the power to dispose of bodies without post-mortem or inquest, facilitated extrajudicial executions and ‘disappearances’ and also appeared to contribute to a sense of impunity within the security forces.
Similarly, after the war resumed in the northeast, the government appeared to condone the summary execution of suspected members of the LTTE instead of insisting on their lawful arrest where possible, and on their trial and punishment according to law. Thus the former Minister of State for Defence, Ranjan Wijeratne, told parliament on 7 August 1990 that ‘the government will show no mercy to these Tamil terrorists, criminals who do not deserve to live’ (as quoted by Associated Press, 7 August 1990). Amnesty International fears that such public statements made by senior members of the government, together with lack of action by the government to halt serious abuses over the years, have encouraged the security forces to commit extrajudicial executions and ‘disappear’ prisoners with a sense of impunity. This fear is reinforced by reports that military officers in the northeast have intimidated Tamil civilians in refugee camps with stories of how they finished off the JVP in the south, and would repeat this performance in the northeast against the LTTE.
After the outbreak of the fighting in June 1990, government forces quickly took control of Vavuniya and the main towns in the east, which the LTTE vacated as government forces advanced. They also took control of the eastern coastal road linking the towns. In August , government forces took control of Kayts and Mandaitivu islands off Jaffna, and in November they took control of Mannar island.
By May 1991 the LTTE remained in firm control of almost all of the Jaffna peninsula. Over 200 members of the Sri Lanka army and police force remained besieged in the Jaffna fort until mid-September 1990, when they were rescued and the fort was abandoned. The LTTE also remained in control of the area north of Vavuniya, despite the presence of army camps in several locations in the area, and was also active in other areas of the northeast.
The conflict has taken a different form in different parts of the northeast. Government forces have waged a bombing campaign from the air on those areas of the north controlled by the LTTE. Damage to property through bombing has been extensive; thousands of civilians have been displaced; many others have been injured or killed. The government has repeatedly announced that its forces drop leaflets from the air to warn civilians in advance of air-raids, so that they can vacate the area for places of safety. In some reported instances, however, leaflets were not dropped at all; in others, the bombing started very much sooner than the deadline indicated in the leaflets. For example, on 20 January 1991 leaflets were dropped from helicopters onto Valvettiturai, Jaffna district, warning the residents to leave within 48 hours. The bombing of Valvettiturai began only three hours later. People were reported to have been killed in the bombing, but details of the casualties are not known.
Residents of the Jaffna peninsula have also complained that civilians have been chased by military helicopters, fired at and sometimes killed. Markets, where civilians gather to buy supplies, are also reported to have come under attack from the air. For example about 12 people were reportedly killed at Chavakachcheri market, Jaffna, when it came under helicopter on 9 October 1990…”
In his recent reminiscences on the expulsion of Jaffna Muslims, Jeyaraj makes specific mention about LTTE finding 75 swords concealed in a Muslim shop. But, he has not mentioned about what happened in Chavakachcheri market on 9 October 1990, as presented in the Amnesty International report. He also has the temerity to ridicule LTTE’s then actions as “some form of retaliatory warning to the eastern Muslims. This decision was further influenced by the exaggerated threat perception.”
Exaggerated threat perception? Isn’t this an amnesic distortion of real events, as presented in the above cited paragraphs from the Amnesty International report? The then the loud-mouth Ranjan Wijeratne, the Minister of State for Defence, was gloating on his success of breaking the neck of JVP in late 1989, following the executions of the then JVP leadership. Pirabhakaran and LTTE taught military lessons repeatedly to the Sri Lankan majority and also to that loud-mouth Minister that LTTEers even in 1990, –unlike the JVP - are for real when it comes to a challenge in the military front.
How? by what I have tagged as ‘Jimmy Malone offense’, in honor of Sean Connery’s character in the movie, ‘The Untouchables’ in my ‘Pirabhakaran Phenomenon’ series.
In Jeyaraj’s crooked view of military science, ‘threat perception’ should have some cockamamy meaning akin to leakage from bowels at an unexpected moment.
Furthermore, Jeyaraj has claimed that the “LTTE looted almost all possessions left in the Muslim houses. Many houses were stripped of tiles, wooden frames, doors, windows etc…” What evidence he has to prove this baloney? Was he there to witness such “looting”? Were the affected Muslim victims there to see and report such “looting” to Jeyaraj? Or did he receive such information from an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV)?
If one believes the Amnesty International report cited above, how much damage would have occurred to the properties owned by the Jaffna Muslims by the bombs thrown from the air by the minions who minded the orders of Minister Ranjan Wijeratne in 1990? How could Jeyaraj separate the damage caused by aerial bombing and that from the hands of LTTEers? I write on behalf of hundreds of Eelam Tamils who have come to believe that the persona of Vaithi vividly portrayed by comedian Nagesh in the Thillana Mohanambal movie lives in the weekly pontifications of Jeyaraj to the Sunday Leader weekly in Colombo. Jeyaraj is entitled to tag all of us as ‘LTTE propagandists’ as he needs to assure his media money bags in Colombo and elsewhere.
To conclude this part, I cite again from the Amnesty International report on the number of Muslims and Tamils who were displaced by the war in 1990.
“An estimated 40,000 Muslims who had to flee the north following threats by the LTTE to leave the area or be killed are presently residing in Puttalam area in refugee camps or with relatives. It is also estimated that around 100,000 Tamils have taken refuge in Colombo, either in refugee camps or with relatives.”
Check the numbers again provided by the Amnesty International. It is nothing but perfidy for Jeyaraj to distortingly reminisce solely on the plight of 40,000 Muslims expelled from Jaffna and barking from the roof top as ‘ethnic cleansing’, while at the same time ignoring 100,000 Tamils who also suffered the equal plight due to the actions of a belligerent Minister and his minions in the government armed forces and homeguard services.
Part 3: The Attributable Motive, 12 November 2005
Role of Muslims in the Sri Lankan armed forces
I digress a little from the main theme of this series, to focus attention on the recent news coverage of Tuan Nizam Muthaliff and Tuan Rizli Meedin. But, the activities of Muslims represented by Muthaliff and Meedin (on behalf of the Sri Lankan army) provide a counter-point to the premise of D.B.S.Jeyaraj that LTTE was unusually harsh on Jaffna Muslims in 1990. It is also not irrelevant to the issue of how LTTE was forced by the then circumstances to treat the Muslims with a suspicious eye.
One of the unmentionables in the commentaries and analyses of anti-LTTE pundits, including Jeyaraj, is the anti-Tamil role of Muslims in the Sri Lankan armed forces. Just check this. The names of Muthaliff and Meedin remained hidden to the public until their recent assassinations. Did Jeyaraj know that they worked in the army intelligence for long? Has he ever written anything about what they were doing?
Here I provide excerpts from the posthumous eulogy to Col.T.R.Meedin, as it has appeared in the Sri Lankan army’s website. Check the dates about his activities in 1986, 1989 and the euphemistic clauses such as “served in the Operational areas for a longer period”. The “Operational areas” were undoubtedly the regions within Eelam territory.
“Colonel T.R.Meedin was born on 27 July 1966 to a pious Islamic family at Hambanthota in Southern Sri Lanka. He was educated at St.Aloysius College, Galle…To safeguard the territorial integrity of his motherland, he joined the Sri Lanka Army as an officer cadet on 17 March 1986. On completion of his basic military training at Sri Lanka Military Academy, Diyatalawa, T.R.Meedin was commissioned to the 3rd Battalion, Sri Lanka Light Infantry as a Second Lieutenant. To his credit, he was promoted to the next Senior rank of Lieutenant on 17 March 1989. Military authorities identifying inner talents of young Lt.Meedin, offered him the opportunity to work with the Intelligence Section of the Joint Operation Command under Ministry of Defence….He served in the Operational areas for a longer period and rendered a yeoman service on Intelligence matters that led the Army to many a success…In recognition of his bravery and service to the Nation, the Army conferred him gallantry awards and decorations such as…North and East Operational Model,…Vadamarachchi Operational Medal…”[source: www.army.lk , news posted 31 October 2005]
So, Col.Meedin has been an Intelligence operative in the North Eelam since 1987, for him to receive the Vadamarachchi Operational Medal! The army intelligence duo Muthaliff and Meedin were neither selling shirts, suits or gems nor cultivating rice and vegetables, like majority of the Muslims living in Sri Lanka. They sure were pious Muslims with families, but they earned their monthly paychecks by doing seamy work to disturb the peace in Tamil homelands and wreck the lives of numerous Hindu and Christian families. Thus, for Jeyaraj to prattle that there was no military threat to Tamils in their homelands (including Jaffna peninsula) in late 1990, following the commencement of Eelam War II, is nothing but deception.
What Iqbal Athas, the noted defence analyst for the Sunday Times (Colombo) newspaper, has described about the recently deceased intelligence agent Meedin’s role in penetrating LTTE defences should be a revelation to blockheads only. Here I provide some excerpts:
“He [Meedin, that is] confessed to a close friend and colleague who was among those who gave him the warning "Don't worry, I know what I am doing. I am careful. I am trying to get at Sornam. I am running him. This guy has promised he would kill him."
The reference was to Chaminda. Instead, it now transpires that Chaminda had plotted to kill the handler. Was Chaminda throughout a double agent? Lt. Col. Meedin is said to have known him since 1995. Was it a case of the predator ending up as the prey? These questions assume greater importance in the light of another fact. Officially, state intelligence agencies have called a halt to all covert operations since the ceasefire of February 2002. Hence, only the completion of Police investigations can throw more light into the matter.” [Sunday Times, Colombo, Nov.5, 2005]
Even though the specific details of LTTE leader Col.Sornam’s links to Chaminda alias Ice Manju, the alleged assassin of Meedin, is somewhat tenuous and has to be taken with a pinch of salt, the bragging of Meedin to one of his confidants that he is targeting the neck of Col.Sornam cannot be cast off as casual chit-chat. Eelam Tamils should be thankful to the LTTE that they have established a solid surveillance section under the supervision of Pottu Amman and the Tiger cadres who work under him keep constant vigil on the nefarious plots cooked by the intelligence agents of more than one arm of the government. For Jeyaraj to ridicule the thankless job performed by Tiger cadres headed by Pottu Amman as “paranoia” shows how much he lives far from the reality of statecraft. Can Jeyaraj mention one country or state (however democratic it may be) without an intelligence arm and intelligence budget? This being the pragmatic reality, it is to the credit of LTTE that its intelligence wing is even envied by its adversaries.
1990 Expulsion of Jaffna Muslims; a military strategy and not ethnic cleansing
Though I may be tagged as anti-Muslim for presenting the action of LTTE in October 1990 as a military strategy, I’d state that security consciousness was (and is) no joke for LTTE and it has survived until now because of its high priority for security concerns. Whether its decision to expel Jaffna Muslims was right or wrong can be debated endlessly.
But there was precedence from what happened during the Second World War. President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 on February 19th 1942 to place 120,000 majority of American citizens of Japanese descent living in the mainland USA in internment camps, following the Japanese attack of Pearl Harbor in Hawaii on December 7th 1941. Even now the popular verdict is equally split among Americans on what President Roosevelt did was right or wrong. While one half condemns it as a racist decision, the other half defends it as a harsh decision made for war-time needs to protect the American territory from enemy designs. As the then Commander in Chief, did President Roosevelt apologize to the American citizens of Japanese descent? No.
I have no military experience. But I knew well an American who served in the American armed forces during the Second World War. During my graduate studies at the University of Illinois, I had discussed this issue of internment of Americans of Japanese descent with my American host family Prof.Stan Stolpe and his wife Virginia in early 1980s. Prof.Stolpe served in the Pacific theater of war as a young private lieutenant and was one of the thousands of Americans who were assigned duty in Japan, in post-1945 period. His views were that, though looking back after 40 years [this was around 1983-84], the Roosevelt decision of 1942 sounds racist for the inexperienced who were not faced with such a delicate situation, the President was the Commander in Chief as well as a politician. Thus, at times he had to exercise his leadership with a firm mind, and he could not be faulted for that decision to protect his country and he had to be given the benefit of doubt.
In October 1990, LTTE also held territory. Let us be frank about this issue. Before LTTE’s arrival to defend the Tamil rights, the previous generations of Tamil politicians since 1948 could only talk about “Tamil territory being lost”, but they couldn’t do anything about “holding such territory”, other than parliamentary protests and public appeals to the international media. Can V.Anandasangaree, the current holder of an empty TULF crown, show to the Tamils that he could protect even a miniscule area (equivalent to a latrine pit!) by his press releases and parleys with anti-Tamil elements in the government?
Because of its military muscle, LTTE has come to hold territory. As such, security consciousness is part and parcel of its statecraft. Thus, one should give the benefit of doubt for LTTE on why it took such an unpopular and embarassing decision in October 1990. Expulsion of Jaffna Muslims was simply a battle field strategy to cause inconvenience to the political leaders (both Sinhalese and Muslims) of Colombo. But to label it as “ethnic cleansing” as Jeyaraj has claimed in his Sunday Leader (October 30, 2005) double feature is outrightly erroneous and mischievous.
Let me recapitulate some dates for relevance. The Eelam War II, began on June 11, 1990. The Jaffna Muslims were evicted on October 30, 1990. Mankulam army camp fell to LTTE on November 23, 1990. Five days after this major setback to the government’s military build up in the North Eelam, the State Minister of Defence Ranjan Wijeratne requested the paramilitary cadres of PLOTE, to beef up its ‘forces’ in the Vanni region. The Sri Lankan government’s army commander for the Trincomalee region, Brigadier Lakshman (Lucky) Wijeratne was killed on December 19, 1990, in a landmine blast. LTTE declared a unilateral ceasefire beginning midnight of December 31, 1990. And after that, a Tamil journalist residing in Canada did a telephone interview with Kittu (one of the then LTTE leaders), who was domiciled in London then. This interview has appeared in the Tamil Times of January 15, 1991.
Then the Sri Lankan president was R.Premadasa. His loud-mouth deputy was Ranjan Wijeratne, for whom the Grim Reaper had fixed a definitive appointment on March 2, 1991. Would you believe that the tamil journalist who interviewed Kittu was a Jeyaraj? It’s the same D.B.S.Jeyaraj. I provide below the complete text of this interview, as it appeared in print,
(1) for its historical value,
(2) to rebut Jeyaraj’s reminiscences in October 2005 and expose his current amnesia that there was no imminent military threat to LTTE in late 1990,
(3) to show that, at least in the version which appeared in print, not a single word transpired between the interviewer and interviewee on the expulsion of Jaffna Muslims, which had happened about eight weeks earlier.
Jeyaraj didn’t ask a single question on the plight of expelled Jaffna Muslims, among the 19 questions answered by Kittu then.
If the plight of expelled Jaffna Muslims was of such a big heartache to Jeyaraj, as he is pretending now, how come he didn’t challenge Kittu then? Now that Kittu is no more among the living, Jeyaraj may attempt to wiggle out of this expose by meekly suggesting some questions relating to Muslims were on an “Off the record” basis ( a popular deceptive trick of integrity-challenged journalists). But, here is the truth, as it appeared in January 1991.
Kittu’s Interview in January 1991 [Tamil Times, Jan.15, 1991, pp.11, 17 & 21]
D.B.S.J.: On what basis will your organization hold talks with the government?
Kittu: Tamil people have the basic right of self-determination to decide their future. They have a sovereignty. We are observing the changes that are taking place in the international arena. The European countries are coming together. But in the Soviet Union it is different. The tendency to demand self-rule can be seen there. Federalism has improved into a system of confederation. In Canada the Meech Lake accord has failed and Quebec prefers a system of sovereignty association.
One thing becomes clear from all this. That those countries, although they like to find greater accord among themselves, do not want to lose their identity and the right of self-determination. Constitutions are changing to suit the aspirations of the people. This can be seen taking place in the world today. The people of Eelam also need a form of rule based on the right of self-determination which would recognize our distinct political identity and ensure self-rule (Thanaadchi).
Although the safety and the distinct political identity of our people cannot be compromised we can discuss the kind of political powers which are required without impinging upon our right of self-determination. The substance of the discussions has to be about the form and the principles of this political power. Nothing should be thrust upon us during these talks.
D.B.S.J.: What about Defence Minister R.Wijeratne’s statement that there can be talks only if arms are laid down?
Kittu: We will never accept that. We are not ones who love weapons nor are we mentally ill. Those who ask us to lay down our arms should find out why we took up arms in the first place. They won’t express such views if they consider this. We have the responsibility to ensure the safety of our people at all times. And then it would also be an argument to demean us by showing us as separatists. This is a problem between two separate nations. A problem between two different countries.
D.B.S.J.: What are the reasons for the unilateral declaration of ceasefire?
Kittu: It was the plight of the people of the Eastern Province particularly, the plight of the Tamil there that compelled us to take this decision. Their predicament is most pitiable. They have been chased away from their villages, and are suffering as refugees. The floods have wreaked havoc, there is no food, relief supplies do not reach them. Many are even living in the jungles. There is no medicine or medical help. No foreign aid giving or social service organizations are allowed to do relief work. Two hundred and one people have died there due to lack of medical attention and starvation. One hundred and five of these are women and children. It is different when people die as a direct result of a war. But here they are dying because of this situation. It is a duty by us to help these people. We want to show their predicament to the world and will provide them aid.
D.B.S.J.: If all this is to be done isn’t it necessary for the ceasefire to succeed?
Kittu: Upto now ([Jan] 2nd) Sri Lanka government has not announced that it has accepted the ceasefire. We do not know whether they will accept it, and even if they accept it, we do not know how long they will let it last. For 40 years there has been cheating by various governments in power. It is not clear whether they will come for talks. Even if they come we do not know whether they will allow any good to come out of it. But it is the duty of the movement to use any opportunity that it may get to remove the suffering of the people. That is why we have begun this effort. We have given an opportunity to the government to settle the problem through peaceful means. We don’t know whether they will accept our offer but it is our duty to create an opportunity for peace.
D.B.S.J.: If that is so what have you got to say about the opinion that you did not make use of the opportunity before the June 11 war?
Kittu: We will not allow at any stage, anyone to deprive us of our right in the guise of peace. What will those who express this opinion have to say about the fact that 35 army camps were put up in Trincomalee following the withdrawal of the IPKF?
D.B.S.J.: What do you have to say to those who ask why you should not give up arms for good if you are concerned with the suffering of the people?
Kittu: I would ask such people whether anything called the Tamil nation would remain in the country if we give up our armed struggle?
D.B.S.J.: The LTTE said earlier that there will be a four day ceasefire for the New Year. Why have you now declared an indefinite ceasefire?
Kittu: Earlier we had decided to have a brief ceasefire for the New Year. But later it was felt that it was necessary to have a long ceasefire in view of the sufferings of the people in the East. Now even when we have asked for an indefinite one the government has requested three days to make its response. Under these circumstances it was thought that a ceasefire for three or four days would not be practicable. We also thought that the government could agree to an indefinite one if a brief ceasefire was acceptable to them.
D.B.S.J.: Once you said that some countries and independent organizations stressed the need for talks but Prabhakaran at that time had said that the time was ‘not ripe’. Do you now feel that the time is ripe for talks?
Kittu: Prabhakaran did not use those words. But he expressed his opinion to the effect that the conditions had not arisen to make the Sri Lanka government feel the need for negotiations. Even now we do not believe that the government will come for real negotiations. But we are trying. If the governmnent ignores negotiations then the truth that they are war-mongers will be known to the world.
D.B.S.J.: Did international pressures, the arrests in Tamilnadu and the drawbacks in the East compel you to declare the ceasefire?
Kittu: There were efforts at the international level to bring about negotiations. You cannot call that pressure. But those efforts were considered with due respect. All those who are being arrested in Tamilnadu are not our fighters. Our wounded fighters for whom Karunanidhi had made medical facilities available are the ones who are being arrested without any mercy. It is not appropriate to say of us who opposed even the Indian army that the arrests in Tamilnadu have affected out capability.
Our struggle is not based on Tamilnadu. In the north we have the upper hand, militarily. The situation there is such that another camp may fall into our hands. In the East we have carried out many successful attacks recently. Even the Brigadier-in-Charge of the Trincomalee district was killed. Our strength in the East is increasing. Therefore none of what you cited are reasons for this ceasefire. As I mentioned earlier the reason was to give relief to the people in the east and an opportunity to the government to settle the problem peacefully.
D.B.S.J.: Why haven’t you asked for a committee to monitor the ceasefire?
Kittu: Sri Lanka government has not as yet agreed to a proper ceasefire. When there is a proper ceasefire which will be observed by both parties an arrangement can be made for monitoring the ceasefire.
D.B.S.J.: Earlier Dr.Balasingham said that the Tigers would go for talks only if India acted as a mediator. What is your position now?
Kittu: Even though we had said that India has not indicated any willingness on its part to mediate. There hasn’t even been a signal from them. Now they are hunting down and arresting our wounded fighters. Under these circumstances the possibility of Indian mediation is becoming less practicable.
D.B.S.J.: There had been reports earlier that you were holding talks with the Sri Lankan High Commissioner in London, Sepala Attygalle. Did you and the government have any talks about a ceasefire at that time?
Kittu: After the fighting began in June the first contact I made with them was to send our statement on the ceasefire. But many organisations have been engaged in trying to bring about negotiations. There have been exchanges of views with the government through these organizations.
D.B.S.J.: About Arular’s efforts in Colombo?
Kittu: Arular met Mahathaya, Yogi and Balasingham and told them that he was going to make peace efforts. We told him that we were not opposed. He is doing it on his own. He is not our representative.
D.B.S.J.: How should it be with the security forces during the ceasefire? The army has said that the regular patrolling will continue.
Kittu: This regular patrolling can cause trouble. There is no patrolling in the north. But if the army tries to make use of the ceasefire and move out of their camps we certainly will attack. We expect the army to be in their present positions.
D.B.S.J.: What are the countries and organizations behind this peace effort?
Kittu: We cannot name any country in particular. Many like Canada, Britain, Australia and Norway made efforts. Many organizations like the Red Cross also tried. We can’t name any one country or organization.
D.B.S.J.: Can your indefinite ceasefire continue without the government’s cooperation?
Kittu: Certainly not. We will give time for them to think about negotiations. We cannot continue it for years just because we said it was indefinite.
D.B.S.J.: Was this ceasefire approved by Prabhakaran?
Kittu: The headquarters would not have made the announcement without his approval.
D.B.S.: In your last round of talks with the government one of your demands was the removal of the 6th amendment. What is your position now?
Kittu: That was at that time. Now we have only asked for holding talks. But during the talks a situation may arise where we may be able to seek the change or removal of this constitution itself.
D.B.S.: Finally, how do you think the government will react to your ceasefire?
Kittu: I cannot say. The ball is in their court. We hope that they will act without reasonable goodwill.
When one reads the questions of Jeyaraj and the answers by Col.Kittu, it becomes evident that many questions centered around ‘ceasefire’. For a ‘ceasefire’ to be discussed in the interview held in early January 1991, there should have been intense fighting in multiple fronts during November and December 1990, isn’t it? How does this gel with Jeyaraj’s recent observation that LTTE acted on expelling Jaffna Muslims due to their paranoia of exaggerated ‘threat perception’, with the implication they were suffering from war psychosis.
Ethnic cleansing of Tamils in 1960s and 1970s
There was indeed ethnic cleansing in Sri Lanka. It began not in 1980s (at a specific location of Eelam homeland called Manal Aaru/Weli Oya as a military strategy of Jayewardene-Premadasa-Athulathmudali-Dissanayake cabal, as asserted by Jeyaraj) but in public institutions which were totally supported by the tax payers. The major victims were Tamils, and not Muslims. In the aftermath of the failed 1962 army coup d’e-tat, ethnic cleansing became a norm for recruitment in the armed services. Who were the victims? Tamils. In the aftermath of failed JVP insurgency in April 1971, ethnic cleansing became a norm in the admission to the universities in Sri Lanka. Who were the victims? Tamils. And who was the poster guy for this ethnic cleansing act, euphemistically called as ‘standardisation’? A servile Muslim politician Badiuddin Mahmud, who was the then Minister of Education. And who were the beneficiaries of this 1970s ethnic cleansing? Muslims and Sinhalese.
Ethnic cleansing occurred even within the Sri Lankan universities in 1970s. Once the Jaffna University was established as the Jaffna Campus of the then solitary University of Sri Lanka in 1974, the Tamil medium in more than one faculty at the Colombo Campus was closed. Again, this was also an exercise on ethnic cleansing. Jeyaraj may be oblivious to these ethnic cleansing acts by the then Sinhala-Muslim political leadership. But, I should know. I was a Tamil undergraduate who got scalded by these nasty anti-Tamil edicts. I conclude by noting that those pundits who live by tagging unsavory labels of convenience should restrain themselves from re-writing history.