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Sri Lanka's Genocidal War - '95 to '01
Judge District Judge, M. Thirunavatkarasu speaking at a training seminar on
Human Rights organised by the Jaffna Coordinating committee of NGOs at the
Maritime Development Centre of the Jaffna University, in connection with
International Human Rights Day, 10 December 2000, declared:
" Human Rights and Civil Rights are blocked and denied to the people of Jaffna. They live in an open prison in the dark. We in Jaffna live in a completely dark room. We do not have any way out. We see the Human Rights Organisations twinkling in the distant twilight. I don't know how useful they could be?
Here, many speak of human rights, come together to discuses about human rights
but in vain. When you look at most of the things happening in Jaffna one begins to wonder what human rights is - let me explain this through many incidents.
Look for example what happened last week in Thenmaratchchy. Tamils are denied the right to live in their own place of birth. One cannot question this, nor appeal to a higher authority. Is this the democratic human right?
In Allarai the Army had been forcing the people to quit their village. The inhabitants did not move. At this stage the Armed forces set fire to 18 houses and chased the inhabitants out of the village. Subsequently the affected people with the help of an English typist sent letters to ICRC, UNHCR, and international organisations and to the local authorities. When the Army officers came to know this they started hunting for the 18 householders. Since they could not find them they arrested the Gramasevagar (the village headman) and requested him to give all information regarding the people concerned but he did not divulge, eventually he was released. Then they started harassing the typist at Point Pedro-Jaffna. The typist came to me for legal assistantce. But what could I do. He is now unable to go back home and went into hiding.
In another incident: a famous lawyer and a justice of the peace in Jaffna
went into a bunker for 5 days, following a clash in Madduvil area and
escaped to Jaffna town. From there he kept writing to ICRC and UN Refugee
organisation to rescue him from this situation.
Following clashes in the Jaffna peninsula the Sri Lankan Army bring to the hospital many tens of dead bodies saying they are the bodies of members of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Then they take them away as and when they want without any legal formalities and they bury these bodies. Recently when I spoke to a foreign co-ordinator of ICRC, I asked him if they conduct inquest on these deaths. He, cynically, replied that is a valuable question.
Among the bodies the army brings to the hospital there are bodies of women. Who knows the cause of death, if they were raped, subjected to sexual harassments, or if they really died of gunshot? Who knows if they were beaten to death? They dump the dead in the hospital even without the knowledge of a judge or even the hospital authorities then they collect them as they like and bury them with hands and legs showing outside the ground. The dogs pull them around. Will this happen to the Sinhalese? This happens to only Tamils because they are Tamils. When things like this
are taking place, what is the use of talks and meetings.
As far as Jaffna is concerned, everything including human rights, education, health is all zero. If a Tamil is arrested he could be detained without inquiries. When he is arrested, only the army officer knows the reason for his arrest neither person arrested nor the judge who orders his detention knows why he was arrested! When the arrested person is produced before the courts they do not say why or what reason, but they ask detention order 3 to 6 months, that is all. They say everything in Singhalese no one understands anything. I ask where to sign in the detention order form and I sign.
Many arrests are due to anonymous letters. If someone has a grudge against his neighbour he sends a petition to the office of the Army and they will place a grenade in the hands of the person and he is accused as a terrorist. This is what is happening in Jaffna.
The people of Jaffna are either terrorist or they have a smooth life. This
is the propaganda in foreign countries. Whosoever who wishes an arrest or kill people of Jaffna. Even hit with the vehicle. This is what happened recently. Last Friday a University girl was hit by an army vehicle in Point Pedro junction and the undergraduate was in a critical situation fighting for life. This took place in the morning the army came to me, after the courts were closed in the evening, I asked the driver of the vehicle if he had a valid driving licence. The reply was I am an army driver! The case is put off. A personal of the army in Jaffna could do anything and get away with it.
Take for example health facilities, there should be a surgeon for 4000 people but we have 400 000 people and only one surgeon and in Vanni there are 300 000 and no surgeon. If a child needs an emergency surgical operation she has to be sent to Colombo but by the time we go through the red tape spend money and the child will arrive in Colombo dead, in Vanni the child will die even before going to Colombo. A foreign handout on human rights is being distributed here, it doesnt worth a penny. Here people suffer without a days meal and they speak of milk and honey in the handout.
In Jaffna district, 51 village headman divisions were declared high security zones and 65 thousand people were denied permission to live in their own houses. There are 240 000 displaced people in Jaffna. This is one half of the Jaffna population. In addition, there are about 140 000 displaced from May this year. Therefore the activities of the human rights are insufficient. In 1985 when shooting in Valvetithurai killed 25 people and another 25 locked up in a building and bombed, the Human Rights organisations spoke out in the international forum. Similarly the human rights organisations should bring out boldly whatever happens in Jaffna today.." (Transcript release by the Tamil Centre for Human Rights, 12 December 2000)