The Terror Journal

A Journal on Terrorism and Genocide

Sri Lankan voices on the war

Sri LankaIt has not been possible to contact people living in Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu districts.

MANAF RAZACK, COLOMBO, QUALITY ASSURANCE MANAGER, 38

I was extremely happy about the capture of the last rebel base. The entire country has been suffering ever since I was young.

I have heard only of war in this country. This achievement is something none of the previous governments have been able to do. The LTTE [Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam]have always recaptured territory in the past.

The LTTE never stuck by their word. Despite a peace agreement, they continued with suicide attacks. I don’t blame the government for not negotiating with them now.

But I don’t think this will make the country a safer place. The war will be over and we are happy about that. But most people expect an insurgency like in Iraq.

There is just a bit of jungle left to capture and once that is done the government should opt for a political solution. They should not treat Tamils as they did in the 1980s.

As a Muslim, I am a minority myself but I love my country. I know many Tamils who do not trust the government. That is what they are taught to think.

We must now think of the people of the north and east and the government must look after their needs now.

NIMALKA FERNANDO, HUMAN RIGHTS LAWYER, COLOMBO

From the manner in which the Sri Lankan government developed its military strategy over the past few years, it was very clear that they were not interested in coming to any political negotiation.

There was never any hope from my side that President Mahinda Rajapaksa would deliver any political solution to the ethnic conflict because the whole psyche of the Rajapaksa regime is a psycho of being a victor.

If you look at the songs that were written about him during his election campaign – they were calling him the king. If you have a king, you must have a kingdom.

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The latest developments can be described as a geographical victory. But this is not the end of the struggle for Tamil nationalism in Sri Lanka.

Nor will this provide a solution to the aspirations of the Tamil people as well as the aspirations of the Sinhala people who want a democratic country, democratic values, media freedom, human rights protected.

The actual struggle for Tamil nationalism will take a different form. Those who are lighting crackers in celebration have been given crackers for free by the civil defence corps. I am yet to find a poor Sinhalese family go into a shop to buy crackers.

This will definitely not bring security to Sri Lanka. This is a short-term military strategy that has gained access to certain territories that the army couldn’t go hitherto. That has not given a solution to the ethnic conflict in this country.

We will see another cycle of violence.

ANONYMOUS TAMIL MAN, TRINCOMALEE, OFFICE WORKER

We are not feeling any different. Nothing has changed. As usual the government is pressing forward with its military advance.

We feel that the TNA [Tamil Nationalist Alliance] is the most representative Tamil body and they back the rebels broadly.

We have been asking for a political solution for a long time but no solution has been forthcoming. We don’t know how the government will react after it has claimed a full victory.

I don’t know if it will help or abuse people. The government needs to give some solution but I don’t know if all the Tamil people will accept what is on offer. We want a peaceful end to this, I don’t mind about not having a separate state.

I don’t think there will be any difference to my personal safety. I don’t know if this is a victory.

The government promises a lot of money for rehabilitation. That is just a political stance. So far what they have done is not worthy of applause.

ASOKA JAYASINHA, COLOMBO, BUSINESS CONSULTANT, 75

The whole country was ecstatic. But there is a sense of disappointment that the LTTE, in their desperation, are causing harassment and problems to civilians who are in Mullaitivu and surrounding territory.

The government has announced a massive development programme for the area.

I think Sri Lanka will be a safer place now. Everybody wants to know where Prabhakaran [the rebel leader] is. He has said he will commit suicide if apprehended but who knows?

The most important thing is to give proper recognition to Tamils and acknowledge their rights. That can only be done with the support of the opposition party.

When the advance was announced, crackers were going off all over the place. People were so happy. There is a lot of goodwill towards Tamil people here. This is not a war against Tamils. No one is even thinking on those lines.

RAMILA WALGAMAGE, PROPERTY AGENT, GALLE

Everybody is very excited because everyone wants this war to end. Everybody has big hopes that it will finish soon. We are fed up with it. Every day people are killed.

We don’t have a problem with Tamil people – there are many Tamil businessmen in this area. It’s just with the LTTE leader who wants this war.

I went all over the eastern provinces which used to be under Tiger control right after the elections. People seemed much happier, they can travel, vote.

The government is saying that right after they get the LTTE out they can call elections in the north.

People here are firing crackers, hoisting the Sri Lankan flag on vehicles, on homes. The people celebrating include many Tamils. The local shop-owner is Tamil and he says that whenever the LTTE set off a bomb he was worried about reprisals from Sinhalese people. They have had to close the shop before because people have thrown stones.

As a property agent I know there are people who want to buy property on the east coast. I see the area can boom. Once the war is over, Tamil people can come and invest. I know Indian clients who are looking to open boutique hotels in the north.

Everybody is optimistic.

INTHU KUMAR, DOCTOR, LONDON, UK

The land may have been captured but they they haven’t won the people. This isn’t a victory. I have lived through much of the war.

I was born in Jaffna. In 1981 I woke up seeing the Jaffna library in flames. We lived very close by and the army set it on fire.

When I entered university in 1985, that was when the shelling started. From then onwards in my medical career I saw lots of victims, lots of suffering.

When the army moved into the Jaffna area in 1995 I moved on and served in Chavakacheri in LTTE [Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam] controlled territory and then later to Kilinochchi. There was a lack of doctors.

What is happening now is very hard for us to bear. People are suffering, they are moving. They don’t want to move into the army areas. I know this is a reality because it happened to me when I was on the move.

In my view you shouldn’t use any bombs on civilians. There is so much blood.

I condemn the killing of all civilians and I also feel sorry for Sri Lankan army soldiers, young men being killed.

I don’t believe the capture of Mullaitivu will do anything – it will just be an occupying army. I will go back if there is a separate state for Tamils. I believe it will come.

A BAHEERATHAN, DOCTOR, LONDON

We are caught in the middle. I don’t feel the government has been properly protecting civilians. More could have been done. But I don’t trust the LTTE either.

My father was a Tamil MP. He was assassinated because he supported the Indian army intervention in Sri Lanka in 1989.

He thought it was the best solution for our people at that point in time. He angered the LTTE because they rejected it and it is widely believed they assassinated him.

I came to the UK after that. I feel there should be a political solution rather than a military solution. But the Sri Lankan government view is something different.

But I don’t have the right to say what people there should believe and do. The people in the field have to decide what happens.

We can’t depend on the LTTE on the one hand but on the other hand there has been no acceptable political solution. It’s a real problem for people.

Tamil nationalism, Sinhalese nationalism, it will all still continue. I am optimistic as long as the Indian government gets involved.

SUJITH JOSEPH, LONDON, ANALYST

I was born in Sri Lanka and I lived there until I was 12 years old when the 1983 riots broke out. Our house was almost burned and we were looted, my parents were pinned to the floor, and a mob tried to kill us.

The people who attacked us were our neighbours, most of them people who came to the house and worked for us.

I have been back to Sri Lanka a number of times but I’m finding it difficult to go back to our old house in Colombo. For the last 25 years, many battles have been fought and won by the Tamil Tigers and Sri Lankan forces. A vast area has changed hands many times.

Now the Sri Lankan forces have the upper hand, but I don’t believe they will be able to finish off the Tamil Tigers. Historically no guerilla movement has ever been crushed.

Until the Sri Lankan government stops treating Tamils as second-class citizens and address their aspirations the war will carry on. The world acknowledges that Tamils have legitimate grievances in Sri Lanka and the international community should pressurise to come back to talks.

My personal view is that Tamils will happily accept a reasonable political settlement where powers are devolved and where they have the power to rule themselves and Tamils can maintain their identity in the island.

KUMARATHASAN, PENSIONER, TORONTO, CANADA

I came to Canada in 2001. Before that I lived in Colombo because of war in Sri Lanka.

But before that we were chased out of our homeland in the Jaffna peninsula in 1995. We suffered a lot.

Unless the Sri Lankan government gives a reasonable solution to the Tamils, the Tamil diaspora and people will never give up. The disarming of the LTTE won’t end the problem.

Self-determination will solve the problem. What we wanted before was parity and we didn’t get it. I was deprived of a job because of the Sinhala-only act – which made Sinhala the official state language.

Many of us suffered. We know that this isn’t the end for Tamil nationalism. We have had to leave the country and we have support all over the world.

The humiliation the Tamils underwent will one day be answered.

Source: BBC News

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