Protecting Crime by Criminalising an Entire Populace

Part 6 of the UTHR(J) Special Report No 34: Protecting Crime by Criminalising an Entire Populace

Welcome to Snake Farm

Although the plight of the IDPs in Manik farm has received considerable media attention, an aspect of the IDP situation that has received little attention, illustrates best the rationale behind mass detention of IDPs. Until mid-March 2009, IDPs with the most serious injuries from shelling and bombing who were evacuated from the NFZ by the ICRC, with their care givers, landed at Trincomalee. Trincomalee is a place where most Tamils have social contacts in the local civil society, its hospital and in the government administration. It is also a place with several foreign organisations and is frequented by foreigners.

Trincomalee thus became a major point of information exchange about how the war affected civilians, but this was not a situation the Sri Lankan government appeared happy about.. During the early half of March 2009, Amos Roberts of Australia’s SBS spoke to Major General Palitha Fernando, the military liaison officer in Trincomalee. The latter informed Roberts that there was ‘absolutely no problem in visiting Trincomalee’, but added that it is not possible to interview wounded people who have been evacuated from the war areas and brought to Trincomalee. Asked why, Maj. Gen. Fernando replied, “That’s the way we want it, Simple answer.” Continue reading “Protecting Crime by Criminalising an Entire Populace”

When People Do Not Matter

I normally do not repost material from other sites here; however, I am going to make an exception with the UTHR(J)’s Special Report No 34 released on 13th Dec 2009. On my blog, I have dealt with mostly the SL Army side of the conflict, and occasionally the LTTE side, but haven’t really touched on the civilians’ plight, except peripherally, mostly because of my lack of first-hand experience. Another reason I’m doing this is in the hope that more people will read this horrifying account of the last year of the war and its immediate aftermath. For ease of reading, I will be breaking the report into its eight parts and posting it unedited. Many of us might disagree with the conclusion and analyses put forward by the UTHR(J), particularly on deducing motive, but it remains a very balanced and sobering piece. The original report appears on the UTHR(J)’s site.

When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers and for a time they seem invincible but in the end, they always fall – think of it, ALWAYS. – Mahatma Gandhi

Part I of UTHR(J) Report No 34: When People Do Not Matter and Tyrannical Egos are Dressed-Up as Nations

The Still Eloquence of Wastelands

The legacy of war and the devastated lives of hundreds of thousands of people will remain with us long. Its effects will be felt in every corner of the country, by the blind, blighted, marred and crippled; and beyond this is the mutilation of democracy, freedom and the ability of different communities to live together.

Weakened, impaired communities of widows and fractured families may be rehabilitated in name, but they continue to live in isolation under a paramilitary regime; their sons, brothers and fathers who were LTTE conscripts – some for only a short time – , have been intimidated and recruited as agents of the state security apparatus. Under these conditions human rights abuses would inevitably remain hidden deep below the surface.

Highlighting a few that are hard to prove such as rape may actually help the State to hide others no less grave and systemic.

The truth must be faced in its full horror without compromise for partisan gain. Visible tokens of what thousands of ordinary Sri Lankans were compelled to endure owing to the ideological games played by those more powerful are nowhere more evident than in what mine clearing teams have found in their treacherous and delicate labour, where a slip could be fatal. The wastelands they move in have their own story to tell.

Just north of the Mannar – Vavuniya Road that had been a frontline for more than a year, no house in the once prosperous agricultural area stands undamaged. Most of them are ruins. Virtually all the trees are destroyed. In the fields, a larger version of the thorny Udai trees have grown up, making thereby cultivation this season far more arduous after resettlement is done.

The variety of weapons that they had collected on the field is an indicator to the heavy casualties that both sides must have suffered. There were all types of weapons collected and piled up in houses to be cleared. These are all that remain of many a friend and foe, who once fought one another with them.

The whole area had been heavily mined by the defenders – in this case the LTTE. They had built up a long trench for their line of defence and then heavily mined a vast area behind it. They left behind varieties of mines with timing devices. The delayed action mines had been set to various times. Wire-trip mines were also used widely. Observers with military experience are amazed at the sophistication of the devices. To this day, soldiers on patrol die regularly as they go inadvertently into certain areas and houses that have been mined.

Four groups are working on mine clearing, including a local company, two Indian companies and one from the Sri Lankan Army, each allocated different areas.

A widely understood catch in the affair is that the last “No-Fire-Zone”, the strip of coast north of Mullaitivu that was the final, traumatic and devastating home for over 240 000 persons, has been given to the Sri Lankan Army unit. Far more than mines, which our informants tell us the LTTE was very short of at that time and, at best, laid astride a handful of well defined bunds across the narrow strip between the sea and the lagoon, the area undoubtedly contained a great deal of incriminating material including remains of a huge number of shells and cluster munitions the Army fired into the helpless IDPs from February to May 2009. This is just the tip of the iceberg in the continuing war on truth. Continue reading “When People Do Not Matter”