Cries From The Palmyra Grove

(September 04, Jaffna, Sri Lanka Guardian) We give below the contents of a letter from a civilian to the Jaffna High Court Judge, as it will present an example of how people are treated here and their difficulties.

My Lord,

Harassment by the Army

The owners of most houses along the road at ‘X’ (village name expunged for security), are asked by the army personnel to fix electrical lamps on the road and keep them lit throughout each night.

Many had told my wife about this and at my house, we kept a road side light of our house burning. However, today in my absence, a soldier had come to our house and told my wife to fix a bulb on the street-side tree and to keep it burning during the nights.

My Lord, most people are poor and find it very difficult to manage their expenses since
1. Their income is highly curtailed due to fishing and other restrictions and lack of many other avenues of earning their livelihood.

2. The cost of living is very high here compared to other parts of the country.

3. The electricity tariff introduced recently is highly prohibitive. It makes very big jumps when the monthly meter reading passes 30, 60, 90, 120 units etc. (In fact we stopped burning any light as a night lamp, though both of us in our house are very old being 74 and 69 and would prefer to have a light burning.)

We consider it dangerous to even try to explain to them our difficulties. In fact, when I told my wife that I will try to explain and request them to be satisfied with our house bulb facing the road, she through fear, pleaded with me not to do so, and to have an additional bulb fixed.
If lights are needed along roads for public purposes or that of the security forces, I think, it is the duty of the State sector to provide them. It is unjust to demand from the public and further burden an already struggling population.

I understand that this problem is faced by the people in many parts of this District.
I therefore beg of you to use your good office in the name of Justice, and intervene in this matter on behalf of the suffering people, so as to bring relief to us.

I hope that my name will not be released (if avoidable) as I fear dangerous consequences.
Thanking you and begging for pardon for addressing this appeal to you,

Yours obediently,

“Development of the North”

This week we learnt over the State media that very many Heavy earth moving equipment were handed over ‘for use in the development of the Northern areas freed from the LTTE and brought recently under State control’. Probably they were obtained from some agency purportedly for the said purpose. But some pertinent questions arise.

Why were they handed over to the Army Commander at a time when a protracted war is going on there?

Are they to be used for war or peace, for true construction or destruction?

Who will be the immediate beneficiaries when there are no civilians in those areas?
- Sri Lanka Guardian