From December 2005 people are
continuously displacing from the Jaffna peninsula that is controlled by the Sri
Lankan armed forces to the Vanni region administered by the Liberation Tigers of
Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
The above map shows the Muhamalai border check-point
where people pass through when they are displacing from Sri Lankan Army (SLA)
occupied area to LTTE administered area. Other area names referred to in this
report are also marked in the map.
Rehabilitation Organisation (TRO), the main organisation that provides
emergency relief for people in Northeast,
registration points at the Muhamalai border check-point and at Palai where
displacing families can request assistance. By January 14th, 1725 displacing
families have registered for assistance with TRO. Families with relatives in
Vanni are moving in with them without registering with TRO. In total, close to
3000 families have displaced up until January 14th.
This report is an attempt to
evaluate the reasons for this displacement based entirely on the views
repeatedly expressed by the displacing people. NESOHR recorded the views of
around 50 displacing people and also spoke to scores more displacing people to
produce this report.
NESOHR has also spoken to several families whose members were killed,
abducted, arrested and disappeared. Their comments are not included in this
report. NESOHR will be producing separate reports on these violations.
There were four main threads in these views repeatedly expressed by the
The first thread gives some
indication about the people who are displacing.
The second thread is what people said
about their own experience that has forced them to make the decision to displace.
The third thread is the stories
people related that has started to permeate the entire Sri Lankan military
controlled region in Jaffna.
The fourth thread is the frequent
lament of people in leaving behind a home, their possessions in it and their
People’s views separated into these threads are
Who are leaving
Comments made to NESOHR by the displacing people
revealed some categories of people who are displacing. In order to extract these
categories of people NESOHR also spoke to several people who have not displaced
and are staying in their homes in Jaffna. NESOHR found the terror in the minds
of people cuts across all strata of the Jaffna society. Yet, a determination to
face whatever that may come and stay put was found also among all the people.
People expressed their fatigue about displacing yet again. Yet, some have been
forced to let go of this determination as the fear mounted. The final decision
to displace was influenced by several factors.
During the four years of the ceasefire agreement (CFA),
people genuinely believed that there would not be another escalation of
violence. They therefore confidently expressed their political views in public
gatherings, supporting the Tamil rights to self determination in events like the
“Pongu Thamil”, and the “Tamil Uprising” events. The Sri Lankan military has
noted the people at the forefront of these events and now appears to be on an
extermination drive to eliminate these people. People have commented that those
who are terrorising the people are doing so with a list of names.
A large number of university students and recent
graduates who are yet to find employment are feeling vulnerable by the terror
spread by the SLA and its paramilitaries and are displacing to Vanni.
Some of those displaced are families of LTTE members who
are frightened that they may be targeted because some of those killed in the
recent violence are families of LTTE members. For example,
NESOHR case report) was abducted in Ilavalai, even though he is intellectually
handicapped. His late brother was a LTTE member.
During the period of 1996 to 2001, the SLA has given
people in Jaffna an Army Identity Card, commonly referred to as “Army IC” by the
people. Those who returned to Jaffna after the signing of the CFA do not have
this “Army IC”. Thus there exists a clear identification method between the
people who stayed in Jaffna during this period and those who returned after the
CFA. NESOHR found that people who do not have the “Army IC” expressed this as an
additional cause for fear because the SLA is readily able to identify them as
those who chose to stay away. Many of these people are choosing to displace.
Majority of the displacing people have relatives who are
already in Vanni. They are therefore more familiar with the different
administrative style and know exactly what they can expect if they displace.
This was a factor influencing people’s decision to displace.
Their own experience
The comments below are typical of people’s experiences
and were constantly repeated by those who have displaced.
- “The SLA camp is not very far from our house in Point Pedro. The SLA comes
regularly to our home to check. They will search through all our belongings. All
our clothes will be pulled out”.
- “The SLA detained my husband for one day and then released him. He was not
allowed to go to work. This went on for four or five days. We had no income.
Then he started going to work in a round-about way, hiding from the SLA
soldiers. Sometimes if SLA soldiers are standing there he comes back home
without going to work”.
- “The SLA forced me to clean the bushes where there are a lot of broken
glasses because it is next to a tavern. I had several cuts on my feet from the
broken glass and could not walk”.
- “We were displaced from our own home because of the Palaly High Security
Zone and we have lived in a refugee camp in Urumpirai for the last 12 years. My
daughters have to go to work early in the morning, when it is still dark. At the
refugee camp there are only common toilets, so I will take them to the toilets
with the lamp and wait outside for them. One morning, they were getting late for
work, so I told them I will go back to the house to make the tea, and I left
them. Two SLA soldiers had been standing behind the toilet, but I did not see
them. When my daughters took the water buckets and went to wash the SLA soldiers
were there. My children came running and screaming without washing”.
- “We friends were talking in front of the shop. There was a grenade attack
close by. Two SLA soldiers came on a motorbike. They said “Hands up” to us and
we all put our hands up. They took us on a bus and beat all of us. They used the
butt of their guns to hit us. They pushed us against the wall and kicked us in
the stomach with the butt of their guns. Eventually they let us go. They said
they are beating us because we were LTTE people”.
- “EPDP people (paramilitaries) come to our home to sell their newspaper.
They usually arrive in the SLA’s pick up vehicle. SLA soldiers stand guard
outside while the EPDP men come in to sell the paper. We heard that the SLA has
occupied our home after we have left”.
- “SLA soldiers told us to cut the fence short. Next day they came and kicked
the fence with boots and broke the fence”.
- “The SLA would whistle and hoot when we go past. It has become worse in
recent times. We just walk with our head down,” said many young women.
- “Once my 25 year old son and I were near a grenade explosion. SLA detained
my son and told me to come back at 5.30 pm to collect him. I refused to leave my
son and go. My son put his hands together and begged the SLA soldiers and said
several “sirs” to the SLA. They let him go. We saw many other men also pleading
and begging in front of the SLA to let them go”.
- “SLA is there for every few metres”.
- “We always wear our work uniforms out of fear and as a protection”.
- “I have two children aged 1 and 3. My husband was involved in organizing
the Maveerar day event in Jaffna. SLA threatened him not to do that. He left
Jaffna and escaped to Vanni after that. The SLA soldiers came looking for him
after he had left. I was scared. I left Jaffna with my children at 2.00 am one
morning without taking anything and came to Vanni”.
- “We are always scared. We do not sleep peacefully at night. If the SLA
soldiers call we have to come out.
- “The SLA will stop us in 100 places and ask for the IC and will want to do
What the people of Jaffna are talking about
- “Three and a half year old child of Yogarasa in Urumpirai was bitten by a
scorpion. Parents were too scared to leave at night. They waited till morning
and took the child to hospital. Child was dead”.
- “I know two young men from my village, Sangaththani in Chavakachcheri, who
were beaten by the SLA. The church fathers went and obtained their release”
- “I know one boy through my business. He one day came to arrange the hiring
of the sound system. They took him soon after. He has disappeared”.
- “We hear a lot of stories of people coming in “white van” and abducting
people. Nothing is heard about the abducted people after that. People have been
abducted like this in Ilavalai, Point Pedro, Nelliady and many other places”.
- “One family in Pasaiyoor found a shopping bag hanging on their front fence.
They checked it and found a grenade inside it. The home owner went to inform the
Church priest about it. Before he could return home from the church the SLA has
arrived. When the home owner returned he was beaten by the SLA soldiers and
taken away. He has been handed over to the police and a court hearing took
- “Our home is on the main road in Point Pedro. There was a bakery known as
“Chiththappa Bakery”. One day around 2.00 pm they came on a motorbike with black
helmet so we cannot see who it is. They took the owner of the bakery to the
narrow space near his bakery and shot him dead”.
- “If someone is dressed well the SLA soldiers will ask them to rip the
posters of the LTTE pasted to the walls using only their saliva and fingers with
no other tool or water”.
- “We cannot leave home after 2.00 pm. Men cannot go out. When we have to go
we must carry a small child. We cannot go to work or shops. We do not know if
they are Karuna group (one group of paramilitary) or EPDP (another group of
paramilitary). They talk Tamil. They will come and ask all sorts of questions.
They will then ask us to show LTTE people. They have a list and they will read
from it names and ask if we know them. If we say we do know them then they will
- “Until recently SLA soldiers would just go past by the road. Now they roam
around the paddy fields between our home and the SLA camp. We have seen boot
marks near our fence left by the SLA soldiers overnight. This has really
- “SLA soldiers will knock at the gate, they will stand at the gate and look
inside. They cover their face with black clothes. All of a sudden people will
close the shops and there will be no one on the road. It is scary to even get
out of the house”.
- The chief of the “Kalikai” SLA camp talks to us in good Tamil. He never
shows his face. His face is always covered with a black cloth. He told the
people if there is a grenade attack on the Kalikai camp he will shoot several
thousand Tamils in the area.
What they are leaving behind
- “We couldn’t bring all our things. At the checkpoint the SLA asks us why we
are leaving. We are frightened to answer them. So we leave most of our things
and take just a few clothes”.
- “My eldest son was half way through a Higher National Diploma in Accounting
Course in Jaffna. For this he needed to travel to Jaffna during weekends. He is
too scared to travel”.
- “My daughter has left behind several of her chickens, goats, and children’s
school uniforms. It is not easy to replace them”.
- “Always there are roundups. They threaten and beat randomly. We have not
gone to work for one month due to these troubles”.
- “I have no father. My mother worked hard to bring us up and educate us. I
have got good results for my GCE AL. I am certain to get admission to
University. But the results will be sent to my home in Jaffna. There will be no
one there to receive it”.
This report should have brought out to some extent the
absolute terror in the minds of people that is forcing them to displace.
Dr N Malathy (NESOHR Secretary)