Tamils ordered to vacate lodges in Pettah, 31 May 2007
Sri Lanka begins forced eviction of Tamils from Colombo, PTI 7
500 Tamils expelled in 8 buses from Colombo, 7 June 2007
தமிழர்கள் பலவந்தமாக வெளியேற்றப்பட்டது தொடர்பாக மேலக மக்கள்
முன்னணியின் பொதுச்செயலாளரும், கொழும்பு மாநகர சபை உறுப்பினருமான
நல்லையா குமரகுருபரன் தமிழ்நாதம் இணையத்தளத்துக்கு வழங்கிய நேர்காணல்,
7 June 2007
Expulsions �a disgrace to humanity� - NGOs, 8 June 2007
Tamils Arrive in North - BBC, 8 June 2007
U.S. calls on Sri Lanka to stop removal of Tamils but fails to call
for return of evicted Tamils to Colombo, 8 June 2007
Supreme Court issues temporary order to suspend eviction,
8 June 2007
Facilitating voluntary departure of Tamils says Sri Lanka Government,
8 June 2007
Tamil bride in
Colombo evicted to the North before Wedding Ceremony, 8 June
Sri Lanka accused of ethnic cleansing of Tamils, UK
Guardian, 8 June 2007
- Professor Aaron Rajah, San Diego, California, 8 June 2007
மகிந்தவின் கொழும்பு நடவடிக்கைக்கு விடுதலைப் புலிகள் கண்டனம்,
- Ms N Selvy, LTTE spokesperson on Humanitarian
Issues and Human Rights condemns Sri Lanka's Actions,
8 June 2007
How to tell Tamils they don't belong to Sri Lanka? - M.R. Narayan
Swamy, New Delhi-based Sri Lankan watcher & author of two books
on Tamil militancy
ordered to vacate lodges in Pettah [TamilNet, Thursday, 31 May 2007]
Tamil owners of 68 lodges in Pettah (Peaddai) Police Division in
Colombo have been instructed by the Police Officer in Charge of Pettah to
immediately expel around 5000 Tamil tenants from Northeast and Upcountry,
currently staying in 68 lodges in Pettah, to their "native places" within 24
hours before the military is deployed to forcefully transport the inmates. Chief
Inspector Jayaratne, the OIC, Thursday evening summoned the owners of the lodges
on short notice to convey the warning, lodge owners told media. Tension prevails
in Pettah as Tamil parliamentarians were trying to get in touch with the Sri
Lankan government officials.
The OIC issued a 24-hour deadline to vacate tenants from Northeast and
People who come to Colombo from Northeast, stay in lodges. Individuals who have
come for medical treatment from remote areas, individuals who were waiting to go
abroad for education or employment, families on reunion staying in Colombo with
their family members visiting from abroad and those who have come with military
clearance are among more than 5000 Tamils who are instructed to vacate the
lodges, according to lodge owners in Pettah.
Upcountry Peoples Front (UPF) and Western Province People's Front (WPPF)
parliamentarians who contacted the defence establishment in Colombo, said they
have sought assurances from the government authorities that nobody would be
forced to vacate or close down lodges based on their ethnic identity.
"Even those who were scheduled to leave Colombo to India on Sunday were not
allowed to stay in the lodges after Friday," a lodge owner told TamilNet.
"Are you from North, go back to Vavuniyaa. Are you from Hatton, go back to
Hatton," the OIC has told the lodge owners stating that he had clear
instructions from higher authorities.
The chief inspector has given a strict warning, saying that he would not be
entertaining complaints on missing persons if the lodge owners did not adhere to
the instructions from the top authorities.
Sri Lanka begins forced eviction of Tamils from Colombo, PTI 7 June 2007
Colombo. Sri Lanka's police today began a forced eviction of
minority Tamils from the capital as part of a crackdown against Tamil Tiger
suspects, officials said.
Tamil men, women and children, who had taken shelter at low-budget hostels were
forced out of their rooms, ordered into buses and driven off under armed
escorts, residents said.
The move followed an announcement by police Inspector General Victor Perera last
week that Tamils "loitering" in Colombo were a threat to national security and
that they will be given transport to return to their villagers.
The Government blamed Tamil Tiger rebels for bomb attacks in and around the
capital last week.
The national parliament was in uproar over the forced eviction with ethnic Tamil
MPs disrupting proceedings to protest the police action, officials said.
"Tamil MPs were protesting against the police forcibly taking away the Tamils in
buses," a parliamentary official said. The proceedings were suspended and party
leaders went in for an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis.
The Government has also tightened restrictions on Tamils leaving the north-east
and travelling to the rest of the country.
From today, authorities will not allow any heavy vehicle to travel out of the
northern and eastern regions to the rest of the country in a bid to prevent bomb
attacks, police said.
Tamils expelled in 8 buses from Colombo [TamilNet, Thursday, 07 June
Around 500 Tamils were forcefully expelled from the lodges in
Colombo Thursday morning by the Sri Lankan Police, and a further 300 are being
detained in Pettah (Peaddai) police station due to lack of transport. Persons
lodged in Colombo for medical treatment, travel, family re-union, study and in
search of jobs, were packed in 8 buses and sent out of Colombo to the east and
Vavuniyaa with Police escort. Three buses were heading to Vavuniyaa and 5 buses
were on their way to Batticaloa, according to the latest information from the
Remaining persons in lodges, irrespective of their travel and other needs, were
told they would be arrested if they failed to vacate the lodges within 3 days.
All the lodge owners were instructed not to lodge people for more than 3 days.
Two buses have reached Vavuniyaa Gamini Maha Vidyalaya with 75 people. UNHCR
officials co-ordinating with Vavuniyaa District Government Agent, Sinnathamby
Shanmugam, were seen making necessary arrangements, informed sources said.
Mano Ganesan MP of the Western Province People�s Front (WPPF), speaking in the
Sri Lankan Parliament Thursday charged that the "humiliation of this magnitude
ultimately points at a policy of gradual eviction of Tamils from Colombo."
Sri Lankan Government Spokesman and the SL minister, Keheliya Rambukwelle, in
Sri Lankan Parliament Thursday said that the Tamils from Colombo lodges had
"voluntarily come forward to be sent out of Colombo," and that the GoSL was
transporting them "free of charge."
Ranil Wickramasinghe, the opposition leader, responding to the statement by Mr.
Rambukwelle in the Sri Lankan parliament, stated that the Tamils were being
expelled from Colombo on a discriminatory way, violating the article 11 of the
Sri Lankan constitution, and compared the current situation in Sri Lanka to the
humanitarian tragedies that took place for Jews in Germany, Palesitians in
Middle East and Blacks in South Africa in the past.
R. Sampanthan, the Parliamentary Group Leader of the Tamil National Alliance
(TNA) charged that the Police had expelled Tamils in a "gruesome manner treating
the lodgers like animals."
Suresh Premachandran, the Tamil National Alliance parliamentarian for Jaffna
questioned if expulsion was the solution to the problem. He said the SL
Government should consider pulling back the Sri Lankan troops from traditional
Tamil areas and let the Tamils live in the Northeast peacefully.
A 70-year-old man in West Court Lodge in Messenger Street was among the oldest
persons to be ousted from Colombo. He had come to Colombo to see send-off his
son to a foreign country. Both, he and his son were sent in the bus.
Persons who had medical appointment Friday were forced to board the buses, and
were told to comeback from Vavuniyaa to medical treatment at the appropriate
Expulsions �a disgrace to humanity� - NGOs [TamilNet, Friday, 08 June
2007, 00:27 GMT]
As several hundred Tamils were forcibly expelled from Colombo
Thursday, a group of civil society organizations appealed to President Mahinda
Rajapakse �to call an immediate halt to this practice and to offer facilities of
return to anyone who has been forcibly removed.� An open letter from several
Colombo-based NGOs said: �while we are full cognizant of the current security
situation and the need to maintain close surveillance of the city and its
environs � we are convinced [this] process is NOT capable of guaranteeing
security and rather creates further polarization between the different ethnic
"We reaffirm the principle enshrined in the Constitution of Sri
Lanka guarantees all Sri Lankans the right to choose their own residence
(temporary or permanent), and freedom of movement and maintain that what has
taken place in Colombo today is a flagrant violation of this principle, and a
disgrace to humanity,� the open letter said.
The organizations that signed the petition are: Center for Human Rights and
Development (CHRD), Center for Policy Alternatives (CPA), Free Media Movement
(FMM), INFORM Human Rights Documentation Center, Institute of Human Rights
(IHR), International Movement against All forms of Racial Discrimination
(IMADR), Law & Society Trust (LST) and Rights Now (RN)
The full text of their letter follows:
Honorable Mahinda Rajapakse,
President of Sri Lanka
On receiving reports of the expulsion of Tamils from various
locations in Colombo this morning, June 7 2007, members of our organizations
visited the Wellawatte, Pettah and Peliyagoda areas and spoke to various
persons who had been affected by the process and the police in the area.
This move is directly attributed to the statement made by the IGP on the 1st
of June, claiming that Tamil people cannot remain in Colombo without a valid
reason. On May 31 Tamils from the North and East residing in lodges in
Pettah were forced to leave, as lodge owners were reportedly instructed by
the police to not to shelter people from the North and East who had no
"valid reasons" for being in Colombo.
According to the information we have received, in an operation that
commenced in the early hours of the morning, police and army officers
visited various lodges occupied predominantly by Tamils in Colombo and
forcibly removed Tamils from these guesthouses. In several instances,
eyewitnesses reported that these were not from the local police stations.
Hundreds of Tamils from the Northern and Eastern Provinces, who had been
staying in Colombo for a range of reasons were forcibly loaded onto buses
and taken to Peliyagoda. A Police Officer at the Peliyagoda Police reported
that at least 8 buses with approximately 50 people in a bus left Peliyagoda.
Later today, we heard that the IGP had clarified to the party leaders
meeting in the parliament that 6 buses had left for Vavuniya, 1 bus to
Batticaloa and 1 bus to Trincomalee. At 8.30am in the morning, an officer at
the Wellawatte Police reported that 3 buses with approximately 60 people
left for Trincomalee and that they would be sent to Jaffna by ship. Later on
in the day, the Wellawatte Police reported a figure of 83. However, as of
now, there is no confirmation of the numbers of people who were put on the
buses, nor of their names.
Many of the lodge managers, and remaining inmates, complained to us that
people were given less than half an hour to pack all their belongings and
board the CTB buses that were parked outside these lodges. They were also
not told their exact destination, only that the return to their homes was
The criteria for their expulsion seemed to be determined arbitrarily by the
police and army. Even in some cases where lodgers were able to explain their
presence in Colombo to establish their bona fides, they were told that
Tamils who were not permanent residents of Colombo had no right to be in
Colombo and had to leave. According to a senior official at the Wellawatte
Police, the criteria for determining return was: those who wished to return
but did not have the funds to do so; those who had no rationale for
remaining in Colombo; and those who said they were remaining in Colombo out
The Police claimed that they were simply assisting Tamils return to their
home towns, and that they had come to know about these desires during
checking carried out. The reports from residents, owners and staff of
lodges, eye witnesses to the expulsion however are in complete contrast to
these accounts. People were forced to leave, even those who were in Colombo
for health reasons and were not fit to travel.
While we are full cognizant of the current security situation and the need
to maintain close surveillance of the city and its environs, in terms of the
human rights principles that guide us in our work as human rights defenders,
we are convinced that the above process is NOT capable of guaranteeing
security and rather creates further polarization between the different
ethnic communities that share this island, and heightens the sense of
marginalization and alienation of Tamil people of this country.
We reaffirm the principle enshrined in the Constitution of Sri Lanka
guarantees all Sri Lankans the right to choose their own residence
(temporary or permanent), and freedom of movement and maintain that what has
taken place in Colombo today is a flagrant violation of this principle, and
a disgrace to humanity.
We call on you, as our head of State, to take all steps available to call an
immediate halt to this practice, and to offer facilities of return to
Colombo to anyone who has been forcibly removed from Colombo in this
Arrive in North
BBC, 8 June 2007
Human rights groups have condemned the evictions
Hundreds of minority Tamils who have been expelled by the
authorities from the Sri Lankan capital Colombo have arrived in a northern town.
The town is close to the front line that divides government and Tamil Tiger
rebel-held territory. A defence ministry spokesman said nearly 400 Tamils were
expelled because they were part of a plot by rebels to set off bombs in Colombo.
The police have offered no evidence against any of the evicted Tamils. Human
rights group The Free Media Movement in Sri Lanka has condemned the expulsions
saying they are tantamount to ethnic cleansing. Police said that Tamils who were
in the capital "without valid reasons" were made to board buses bound for the
north and east of the island on Thursday.
The police said the crackdown was part of continuing efforts to stop the Tamil
Tigers infiltrating the capital city of 600,000 people. They also said the
measure was being taken for the safety of the Tamil community amid a rash of
abductions across Colombo blamed on the rebels and the security forces. A
statement released by the government said that the evictions were made "without
communal considerations". The Tamil Tigers have so far not commented on the
evictions, but mainstream Tamil political leaders have condemned it. "This
operation is a very bad example," Tamil political leader Dharmalingam Sithadthan
told the AFP news agency. Many ethnic Tamils complain they have been
deliberately targeted by the security forces, detained and searched.
forced removal of Tamils but fails to call for return of evicted Tamilsto
The Embassy of the United States of America in a press release
issued from Colombo Friday condemned the forced removal of Tamils from Colombo.
"Such measures violate the Sri Lankan Constitution�s guarantee that every
citizen has the right to freedom of movement and choice of residence within Sri
Lanka," the U.S. Embassy said.
The United States condemns the forced removal of Tamils
Colombo, June 8, 2007: The United States condemns the forced removal of
Tamils from Colombo. Such measures violate the Sri Lankan Constitution�s
guarantee that every citizen has the right to freedom of movement and choice
of residence within Sri Lanka.
The United States understands and supports Sri Lanka�s obligation to defend
itself against terrorism. But this action can only widen the ethnic divide
at a time when important efforts are underway to reach a national consensus
to end Sri Lanka's nearly quarter-century old conflict.
We call upon the Government of Sri Lanka to stop the forcible removal of its
citizens from Colombo, to make public the destinations of those already
removed, and to ensure their safety and well-being.
Supreme Court issues temporary order to suspend eviction
[TamilNet, Friday, 08 June 2007]
Sri Lanka's Supreme Court Friday issued a restraining order
to the SL Inspector General of Police, Victor Perera, and his department to
temporarily suspend the eviction of Tamil civilians from the lodges in
The petition was filed by the Executive Director of Center For Policy
Alternatives (CPA) Mr. Pakkyasothi Sarawanamuththu.
of Tamils says Sri Lanka Government - Sri Lanka Sinhala owned
Daily Mirror, 8 June 2007
Responding to the eviction of North and East Tamils from
Colombo, the government yesterday said it was only facilitating the
voluntary departure of Tamils� who stayed in lodges.
Government Defence Spokesman and Minister Keheliya Rambukwella told
Parliament the security authorities conducted search operations in Colombo
during the past few weeks to prevent terrorist attacks and explosions.
Minister Rambukwella said the security authorities were also able to arrest
a lorry carrying an unprecedented load of explosives to Colombo.In this
context, he said they found around 15,000 to 20,000 Tamil lodgers , staying
in Colombo temporarily for various purposes.
He said this action was taken for the safety of 19 million Sinhala, Tamil,
Muslim, Malay and Burgher people of the country, as lodges had been used by
terrorists to carry out bombings during the past ten years.
�Among them, 260 people including 63 women were found to be staying in
Colombo even after attending to their businesses here. They volunteered to
go back to their homes. We are now facilitating their departure,� he said.
Meanwhile, Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage said LTTE suspects in custody
had revealed to security forces that 90 percent of bomb blasts in Colombo
had been planned and carried out by Tamils living in lodges.
He said it was the stance of the President that no bomb attacks must take
place in Colombo.
Tamil bride in Colombo
evicted to the North before Wedding Ceremony -
Sri Lanka Daily Mirror, 8 May 2007
"A young Tamil woman who was looking forward to getting
married to her childhood sweetheart next Wednesday in Colombo, was among
those evicted to the North yesterday.
Twenty-three-year old Dharshani Selvam had already booked the reception hall
and was living with her aged mother Saraswathie awaiting the bridegroom�s
arrival in Colombo on Sunday. The bridegroom was to return to the country
from London where he works.
Darsahni and her mother lived in a Colombo lodge ever since they moved to
the South from Karaveddi in Jaffna following the death of Dharshini�s
Yesterday�s predawn search operation shattered all the dreams of Darshani
and her mother thus plunging their lives into uncertainty.
Speaking to the Daily Mirror the proprietor of the lodge who is an all
island JP and a former Secretary of the Ceylon Teachers Congress - a trade
union arm of the CWC - said that at around 4.00 a.m. yesterday a team of
five police officers and three army personnel arrived at the lodge. They
checked the 22 rooms in the lodge, questioned the inmates and left the
�They did not take a single inmate with them following the first raid.
The unexpected happened in the second raid an hour later. Five police
officers claiming to be from the Wellawatte police returned to the lodge and
took away seven females and five males from five families. Saraswathie and
Dharshini were among those who were removed from the lodge by the police,�
�What am I going to tell the bridegroom when he comes on Sunday. The mother
and daughter have nowhere to go in Karaweddi as they had mortgaged their
house and property to raise money for the wedding,� he said..
�Saraswathie even showed police officers the receipt of payment made to the
owner of the wedding hall where the ceremony was to take place but the
police paid no heed. I am worried about their future and safety mostly
because the police have asked us not to entertain anymore inmates hereafter�
He has to think about his family and his own future, the lodge owner said.
Police had warned them not to give lodgings to anyone from the North and
�This has been our only means of living in fact. Several families there are
dependent on the lodge income for their livelihood. Now we have been
deprived of our only livelihood,� he lamented. "
Evicted - Professor
Aaron Rajah, San Diego, California, 8 June 2007
German Gestapo Chief - Himmler
The Gestapo regime, with their ruthless evictions of the
Jewish in Germany, inspired some modern day dictators and police forces
throughout world history. In the context of Sri Lanka ethnic cleansing the
Gestapo regime looked like boy scouts as the organized killing fields of
ethnic Tamil minorities continues unabated. Sri Lanka had now become the
poster child for the modern world to follow in the quest of ethnic
cleansing. There are some striking similarities and differences
between the German Gestapo regime and the current armed forces of Sri Lanka,
as well as, a much-needed warning to Colombo based Tamils.
New Gestapo regime:
In early May of 2007 the Sri Lankan Police Chief announced that the
so-called loitering Tamils in the city had to be evicted from the
fatherland. Earlier the same Tamils were evicted from their motherland due
to government forces illegal occupation of the High Security Zone (HSZ) in
which the evicted Tamils have lived from their ancestry days.
For the minority Tamils, it was a transient stop over in
Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka, in which they paid high rent at motels as
a temporary hiding place from the violence of security and paramilitary
forces; thus the Sri Lankan police chief found an easy target which gave
eviction notices to Sri Lankan Tamil citizens for loitering in their own
The action of the police chief came with a justification
note to stop the �terror� attacks in the city by suspected Tamil forces, but
failed to justify that the citizens of the country could be evicted from
their own country for simply staying in motel rooms, in this case he claimed
extended stay in motel rooms. The scenario is simple.
Assume that you have decided to go to a Los Angeles Motel
for a few more days than you anticipated but the Los Angeles Police
Department decided that you may be a threat to the local area and decided to
kick you out - if my memory serves me right, this happened when the SS army
of Nazi Germany with the help of the Gestapo decided to evict the Jews even
though they were German citizens.
But interestingly enough, there are some sharp differences between the
Gestapo regime and the Sri Lankan police force. The Gestapo regime claimed
the Jews did not belong in Germany as they were not the legal citizens of
the country, but Sri Lanka Police claimed that Tamils are citizens of the
country but simply do not belong in the country.
This brings the age old question in this land dispute: can a
legal citizen be given a �fix it ticket� for loitering in their own country
or more simply can a citizen be evicted from their own country for being at
the right place at the right time?
In this case, minority Tamils were in a safe place from violence and were
then evicted to a violent location by a ruthless state police. This is by
far the hallmark of ethnic cleansing: first the eviction and later the
killing of the displaced in a different location, and the capital of Sri
Lanka is now facing the early stages of it. Now we know as the famous poem
�When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.
When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.
When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.
When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.�
All in all, this is the first step for the so-called Colombo Tamils to make
their voice heard and fight for their rights. If they do not speak up now,
they will be the next to be evicted from the capital and then we can all
sing a new poem:
When they came for Malayaga Indian Tamils
I was partying at the Colombo Hilton,
When they came to take the transient Jaffna Tamils
I was still partying at Royal dinner dance,
When they came for me,
There was no one left to speak out for me even though I was partying at the
Sri Lanka Gestapo Chief and the SS army
- congratulating each other on first step of eviction of Tamils from Sri
மகிந்தவின் கொழும்பு நடவடிக்கைக்கு விடுதலைப் புலிகள் கண்டனம்,
Puthinam, 8 June 2007
தமிழ் மக்களை சிறிலங்கா
தலைநகர் கொழும்பிலிருந்து பலவந்தமாக வெளியேற்றிய அரச தலைவர் மகிந்த ராஜபக்சவின்
நடவடிக்கைக்கு தமிழீழ விடுதலைப் புலிகள் கண்டனம் தெரிவித்துள்ளனர்.
புலிகளின் மனித உரிமை விவகாரங்களுக்கான பேச்சாளர் நவரூபன் செல்வி வெளியிட்டுள்ள
அரசாங்கத்தால் கொழும்பு நகரில் வசித்து வந்த தமிழர்கள் பலவந்தமாக
வெளியேற்றப்பட்டு வடக்கு - கிழக்குப் பகுதிக்கு திருப்பி அனுப்பியமையானது
இனப்படுகொலையின் மற்றொரு செயற்திட்டமும் பாரிய மனித உரிமை மீறலுமாகும். கடந்த
அரை நூற்றாண்டுகாலமாக சிறிலங்கா அரசாங்கங்களால் தமிழ் மக்கள் இத்தகைய
ஒடுக்குமுறைகளுக்கு உள்ளாகி வருகின்றனர்.
நிலைமைகளை மேம்படுத்துமாறு அனைத்துலக சமூகம் குரல் கொடுத்து வரும் நிலையில்
இனச்சுத்திகரிப்பு நடவடிக்கையை சிறிலங்கா அரசாங்கம் மேற்கொண்டுள்ளது. இலங்கைத்
தீவின் மனித உரிமை நிலைமைகள் குறித்து ஜப்பானிய சிறப்புத் தூதுவர் யசூசி அகாசி
இலங்கையில் விவாதித்துக் கொண்டிருக்கும்போது இத்தகைய செயற்பாட்டை சிறிலங்கா
அரசாங்கம் மேற்கொண்டுள்ளது. தமிழ் மக்களின் மனித உரிமைகள் தொடர்பான சிறிலங்கா
அரசாங்கத்தின் உண்மையான நிலைப்பாட்டை அனைத்துலக சமூகம் புரிந்திருக்கும்.
மற்றும் முதியோரை கொடூரமாக தங்கள் வசிப்பிடங்களிலிருந்து வெளியேற்றியிருக்கும்
இந்த பாரிய மனித உரிமை மீறலை நாம் வன்மையாகக் கண்டிக்கிறோம் என்று அதில்
English Text of
Ms N Selvy, LTTE spokesperson on Humanitarian Issues and Human rights
condemns Sri Lanka's Actions
The latest forced eviction by the Sri Lankan Government by physically
pulling Tamils out of their residence in Colombo and bussing them to
Northeast is yet another human rights violation against the Tamils in the on
going program of ethnic genocide of Tamils. For
nearly half a century, beginning
in 1956, Tamils have been subjected to such atrocities by the successive
Sri Lankan Governments.
This latest act of ethnic cleansing was committed amidst calls from the
international community to improve the human rights situation. It was
committed in Colombo while the Japanese Peace envoy, Yasusi Akasi, is in
Colombo discussing with all sides the human rights situation in the island.
It therefore should demonstrate to the international community the Sri
Lankan Government's true stance on the issue of the human rights of Tamils.
We condemn this serious human rights violation of brutally evicting the very
young, the very old, and the sick from their residence.
How to tell Tamils they don't belong to Sri Lanka?
Swamy, New Delhi-based Sri Lankan watcher & Author
Inside an Elusive Mind - Prabhakaran
Any government in any country can err. But some errors can
turn out to be political blunders. Sri Lanka's startling move to throw out
Tamils from numerous lodges in the capital Colombo falls in that category.
Comment by tamilnation.org
It was all an error of
judgment - like, for example
Trinco et al. A
Commission of Inquiry will set it right.
For too long it has been claimed by Sri Lanka's ruling elite
that there cannot be a concept of "Tamil homeland" because more Tamils now
live outside of the war zone that is the northeastern province, which was
once overwhelmingly Tamil.
Government leaders would point this out to outsiders gleefully.
On Thursday, the Sri Lankan police's high-handed action seemed to prove that
the "Tamil homeland" does exist and it does constitute precisely that region
the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) wants to secede.
security reasons, some 500 Tamils staying in the many small lodges in
Colombo's predominantly Tamil areas were ordered to pack up their bags -
never mind why they were in the city - and get into buses that took them to
Vavuniya in Sri Lanka's north and Batticaloa in the east.
and Batticaloa are among the major towns in the island's northeast, which
the Tamils describe as the "Tamil homeland".
In one stroke, Colombo
appeared to prove right the LTTE argument that Sri Lanka is made up of two
nations - the Sinhala nation and Tamil nation - and that these two nations
can never co-exist.
No wonder, then, the mass expulsion ignited
widespread condemnation, from within and outside Sri Lanka. Mercifully, the
Supreme Court ordered a halt to it.
But the damage has been done - in the minds of ordinary Tamils at least.
The police argue there may be LTTE agents - even potential suicide
bombers - among the Tamils in the lodges. That may well be true. But what is
the guarantee that LTTE sleeper agents don't live elsewhere in Colombo,
pretending to be normal law-abiding residents? So will all Tamils be made to
quit Colombo - as a precaution against terror attacks?
In the 1980s,
as Tamil militancy took root in Jaffna, the authorities decided to ban
cycling because Tamil guerrillas were using them to bump off unsuspecting
security personnel and pedal away. Saturday Review, the now-defunct
outspoken Jaffna weekly, had asked: What will happen if the militants take
to tri-cycles, will they too be banned? And it went on: Should sex be banned
because some cheat their spouses?
Those of us who have lived in
Colombo for short and longer durations know that a deep though unfortunate
Tamil-Sinhala divide very much exists. Indian families who employ
Tamils as domestic help intervene occasionally when these men and women get
picked up from buses and streets on suspicion of being linked to Tigers and
at times end up spending a night or two in police custody. Tamil Hindu women
are known to take off their 'bindi' when they step on to the streets so that
it doesn't mark them out as Tamils.
I have travelled many times in
three-wheeled autos in Colombo whose Tamil drivers would promptly switch off
Tamil radios when they near police or military checkpoints. And they would
whisper: "If they ask who you are, don't say you are a Tamil. Say you are an
Indian, from Delhi."
A Sri Lankan army major who 'raided' the Colombo
house of Indian journalist Nirupama Subramanian asked her, after viewing a
photograph of her standing by a LTTE signboard in Batticaloa: "So you have
been to Tamil Eelam?" "Sorry major," she replied, "we call it Batticaloa."
Sri Lanka is no doubt fighting a very difficult war, and against a very
determined and sophisticated enemy. But throwing out Tamils from Colombo
lodges, even if the number is only 500, reflects poorly on a society and a
government who are expected to prove wrong the LTTE ideology.
Thursday, however, as they were forced out of Colombo, many of the Tamils
may have asked if they were citizens of Sri Lanka or Tamil Eelam.