Tamils - a Trans State Nation..

"To us all towns are one, all men our kin.
Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."
Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C

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Home > Tamils - a Trans State Nation > Struggle for Tamil Eelam > Indictment against Sri Lanka: Introduction & Index > Indictment against Sri Lanka - the Record Speaks

The Charge is Ethnic Cleansing


"...(The) August (1981) incidents of violence centred on three specific areas: the gem mining area of Ratnapura, Negombo near the capital city of Colombo, and the plantation towns in central Sri Lanka. Before the violence was brought under control... at least 10 Indian Tamils had been killed, numerous Tamil shops and businesses burned, and more than 5000 Indian Tamils had fled to refugee camps...

It was widely reported that attacks in Negombo as well as an attack against passengers on a Jaffna to Colombo train were made by organised gangs. Tamil sources stated that it could not be ruled out that people close to the government were behind the organised violence.

They also claimed that the police and the army did not intervene to prevent attacks until the declaration of the state of emergency many days after the attacks began..." - Virginia Leary: Ethnic Conflict and Violence in Sri Lanka - Report of a Mission to Sri Lanka on behalf of the International Commission of Jurists, July/August 1981

The Cover Up That Failed - The Prohibited Report From Colombo, 20 September 1981 from Brian Eads in Bangkok, The London Observer, 20 September 1981

"Since Jayewardene came to power four years ago, a system of what his critics call 'State terrorism' has brought an Ulster-style situation in the Tamil majority areas of the north and east."

This Dispatch should be datelined `Colombo': that it is not is a measure of the sorry state of Sri Lanka after a summer of racial violence marked by killing, arson and rape.

The report I sought to telex a to London on Friday night was seized by Sri Lanka's Commissioner of Police `on the instructions of the Ministry of Defence,' he said. I would not be allowed to send it, or any other material, and the original would not be returned to me. It appears that the decision originated with President J.R. Jayewardene himself.

The police, the army, and the President have much to be ashamed of and much to conceal from the prying eyes of the British press.

It is now established that the orgy of looting and arson in June in the northern city of Jaffna, the 'homeland' of the minority Hindu Tamil community, was planned, orchestrated and carried out by the predominantly Sinhalese Buddhist police force in the area.

Among their targets were Jaffna public library where 97,000 books burned, the offices of a Tamil newspaper, and the home of a Tamil MP.

It is also clear that subsequent violence in July and August, which was directed against Sri Lanka Tamils in the east and south of the country, and Indian Tamil tea estate workers in the central region, was not random. It was stimulated, and in some cases organised, by members of the ruling United National Party, among them intimates of the President.

In all, 25 people died, scores of women were gang raped, and thousands were made homeless, losing all their meagre belongings.

But the summer madness, which served the dual purpose of quietening Tamil calls for Eelam, that is a separate state, and taking the minds of the Sinhalese electorate off a deepening economic crisis, is only one of the blemishes on the face of the island which the tourist brochures characterise as 'paradise.'

Since Jayewardene came to power four years ago, a system of what his critics call 'State terrorism' has brought an Ulster-style situation in the Tamil majority areas of the north and east.

Ostensibly in response to terror tactics by the so-called Tamil Tigers, who have killed 20 policemen, staged daring bank robberies and captured weapons from police posts since 1977, the Government has given carte blanche to police and army units in Tamil areas.

Hundreds have been detained without charge or trial. This year at least 156 Tamil youths have been detained and tortured , then released. Thirty-five are still held at Colombo's Panagoda army camp.

Human rights workers, Sinhalese as well as Tamil, told me that the most favoured tortures are hanging prisoners upside down over heaps of burning chillies, and inserting needles under their finger nails.

As counter-insurgency experts the world over might have told them, the strategy is counter-productive. The Tamil Tigers now number over about 1,000, some 200 of them armed, and overseas Tamil communities are looking to them rather than the mainstream politicians of the Tamil United Liberation Front.

President Jayewardene has abandoned the previous Government's `welfare socialism' in favour of 'what the World Bank calls 'a bold economic experiment.' Colombo now has newcars, television, shops filled with consumer durables, telephone operators who urge you to 'have a nice day,' and call girls in the hotel lobbies. Inflation, however, runs at nearly 30 per cent, and huge shortfalls are in prospect for the budget and balance of payments.

The country is totally dependent on Western aid, Western loans, and Western investment. Some of The debt has been paid in Sri Lanka's drift from genuine non-alignment. Colombo has become the 'Western Voice' in South Asia, used to counter the `Soviet voice' of Delhi.

While human rights runs a distant third to strategic and economic interests, the prospect of civil strife will not delight western bankers and businessmen. It helps explain tentative settlement efforts which continued last week between the Government and Tamils.

The Tamil leader, A. Amirthalingam told me that agreement in principle had been reached on all demands save one - that an international body, such as Amnesty International, be invited to report on the violence. Among other things, the Government agreed to speed the recruitment of Tamil speaking police, look into compensation for the victims of violence and slow down colonisation of Tamil regions by Sinhalese.

''In April and May 1981 some 30 members of the Tamil minority were arrested without warrant and held incommunicado following a bank raid in Neervely in which two policemen were killed... On 30 April and 11 June Amnesty International expressed its concern to President Jayawardene about these reports and urged him to allow all detainees immediate access to lawyers and relatives... At the end of 1981, 22 were still held without charge or trial in Panagoda Army camp; five in solitary confinement...

Amnesty subsequently received allegations that all the detainees had been tortured. Habeas Corpus applications of four detainees resulted in their first court appearance... In its judgment on these petitions the Appeal Court ruled that torture and ill treatment had occurrred in two cases...'' - Amnesty International Report, 1982

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