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The Ghost Island: Liberation Tigers to hit back,
The Week, India
Ash on an old mans sleeve
The story has not ended, it has just begun. Yes, scabs are forming over the sores, the rubble on the battled streets of the ravaged capital is disappearing, a ghostly peace is peeping in. But how long will this unreal calm last?
The old man with the face of an emotionless Roman statue sitting in his presidential mansion in Colombo would have the benumbed world believe that the blood-spattered pearl of the Indian ocean is limping back to normal even as he was making a virtual declaration of war against one million Tamils of the island. He is right, partly. The island is limping, whether its destination be peace or a full-scale war, and the grievous limp is there to remain for years to come
The Tamils have been pushed into a tight corner and it is only a matter of time before the Tigers re-align themselves overcoming differences within, and strike back with deadly results. As a foreign diplomat in Colombo said, it needs only a few hundred machine-guns to wipe off the meagre Sri Lankan forces. Such an eventuality would be more devastating than the death and destruction wrought by the riots of July which the Jayawardene government dismally failed to control. Already, in the refugee camps where thousands of uprooted Tamils have sought asylum, mothers filled with the fanatic Dravidian nationalism are asking their young sons to avenge their murdered brethren. The indignities they suffered at the hands of the ravaging Sinhala mobs and the inhuman conditions in the refugee camps have inflamed the passions of the people who till two weeks ago were living in prosperous homes.
There are 17 refugee camps in Colombo city alone, sheltering more than 50,000 homeless Tamils, and an equal number of refugees are housed in barbed wire fenced camps all over the country. In the largest refugee camp at Ratmalana, which was the site of the old Colombo airport, are huddled 17,000 Tamils without even the basic necessities. The camps are filthy, stinking and without adequate toilets and water. ....
To feed the refugees, the government has to have 800 tonnes of rice a month, 140 tonnes of flour, 38 tonnes of sugar, 80 tonnes of fish, 55 tonnes of potatoes, 102 tonnes of chillies, and spices, 30 tonnes of powdered milk, and 28 tonnes of pulses apart from mounds of butter and cheese, according to a quick official estimate.
Even then, what the refugees get will be iron rations. Contributions to the relief fund are slow in coming from within the country mainly because the general attitude of the Sinhalese to the plight of the Tamils is of little or no concern.
While a few Tamils fleeing from the violence had stories of good Sinhala Samaritans to tell, most of the Sinhalese who did not take part in the Tamil hunt had closed their doors on their faces. Said a girl without any touch of pity: "Only the Tamils are affected. We don't bother". The attitude of the majority community is unfortunate, especially since the Sinhalese are traditionally very generous people. .....
One of the houses burnt in the Sinhala violence belonged to the editor of Virakesari which is owned by Indian tennis star Vijay Amritharaj's father-in-law Wenceslaus. The editor took refuge in the house of Wenceslaus who himself was on the lam and was hiding in a hotel. The newspaper building was however left untouched by the rioters although earlier reports had stated that the building was burnt down. Not many people knew why the Virakesari building was spared by the rampaging mobs. It was not an oversight on the part of the rioters but a deliberate omission. Sri Lankan President was born in that building and the rioters knew well that burning it would be sacrilegious. Jayawardene has been trying to get the building back for some time now.
However, the calm in Jaffna is disquieting. Emotions run powerful there, the Tamil militancy being as strong as the brand of tobacco the Jaffnaites produce in their plantations. Even the most pacifist of the Tamils are now convinced that there is no alternative to the creation of a separate state for Tamils now that they have found the ugliness of the Sinhala fanaticism unbelievably horrifying. The Tamils are idealistic and clannish, typical of Dravidians, and the fiery slogans of the Tigers are attracting more and more young boys in their teens to the path of armed struggle. An Indian journalist who toured Jaffna just before the outbreak of the riots asked his host where he could meet some Tigers and the answer was "you have already met them".
Members of the Sri Lankan armed forces are jittery at the five-letter word "Tiger" which spells terror for them. When a rumour spread in Colombo during the riots that some Tigers had arrived from Jaffna in military uniforms and were sniping at the soldiers from rooftops, there was a virtual stampede by the patrolling army men who ran helter-skelter. They started firing at anyone in military uniforms and when shooting stopped they found that most of them who lay dead were their fellow soldiers. The streets were cluttered with 30 bodies of soldiers and many civilians....."