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What I said at the LLRC?

Leader of the PLOTE, Dharmalingham Siddharthan told the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) yesterday that the involvement of the army in certain matters should be limited as it hampers with the process of development and reconciliation in the North.

by Dharmalingham Siddharthan

(October 26, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) * When the war was brought to an end by the SL armed forces, a section of the Tamils in the country breathed a sigh of relief.

Another section was saddened as they were extreme Tamil nationalists and LTTE supporters.

However all sections of the Tamil community whether they be LTTE sympathizers or opposed to them, were fearful because the war came to an end without there being a reasonable solution, and all the sacrifices and dedication were in vain.

Today nearly one-and-a-half years later, there is still no sign of a political solution to the problems faced by the Tamil people. Similar hardships are being faced by the Muslim community and the Upcountry Tamils.

The Muslim community suffered terribly at the hands of the LTTE. The community was ethnically cleansed from the north, resultantly bad blood still exists to an extent between the two communities.

Efforts have to be made to take away the pain and suspicion which has arisen.  

* Many Tamil people, Tamil groups, political parties and militant groups helped successive government in its efforts believing that a political solution would be offered by the government of the day.  

* Unfortunately today the contributions of all groups have not been recognized nor are the groups consulted in the search for a solution to this vexing problem which has eluded the country since independence.

Even Tamils who were in positions of power in the governments, for example the Honourable Lakshman Kadirgamar who was largely responsible for procuring the help of the international community in the government’s war with the LTTE. He played a major role in getting the support of western countries to ban the LTTE.

* I have had many discussions with Mr. Kadirgamar and he clearly stated his entry into the political field was based purely on his belief that a political solution should be found within a united Sri Lanka. He also believed the problem had to be solved politically and NOT by military means.

Similarly other political parties like my own party the PLOTE, supported the successive SL governments because we believed in seeking a political solution to Tamil grievances within a united framework.

*

Unfortunately the LTTE saw this as being traitorous to the cause of for the setting up a separate state and commenced killing large numbers of our cadres as well cadres of those organizations which recognized a solution to the Tamil problems could be found within a united Sri Lanka.

Today thousands of widows and orphans belonging to parties which did not contribute to the LTTE beliefs languish below the poverty line.

But government as well as international organisations seem to be hell bent on helping only LTTE cadres and their families with not a penny being spent to help uplift the families of Tamil militants who were killed because they strived towards achieving a political solution.

This situation must be corrected in the here and now.

These families must be helped to overcome the poverty into which they have been thrust by giving them a helping hand to restart their lives economically as well as to help them out of the traumatic times they have been, with trauma counselling.

*

As I mentioned earlier Tamils today fear they will never see a reasonable solution to the problems they face, as 1 ½ years after the war has ended it appears the majority community seem to believe they have conquered the Tamils and therefore their problems could be brushed aside.

I see clearly there is a conquered mentality among the Tamil people.

*

There are many reasons for saying this. Today we see state lands in the north and east being grabbed in the name of development in Trincomalee, Batticaloa, Mullaitivu, Murukkandy etc. and being allocated to big-time Sinhalese business people.

I must hasten to add, while we do not oppose the entry of Sinhalese business people into the north, we are saddened that while the Tamil people who lost all but their lives during the war, are offered no help economically and are thereby in no position to compete with the financially affluent business people from the south of the country.

These people (from the south of the country) in addition have political support and the support of the armed forces. Lands are identified and have demarcated for particular Sinhalese business persons.

*

Tamil people in general and my organization in particular welcomes back into the north and east Sinhalese people who were displaced or perhaps I should say ethnically cleansed by the LTTE.

Unfortunately today we are witnessing hundreds of people who have never lived in these areas, suddenly descending and laying claim to lands in the north.

*

We are also deeply concerned about the sudden mushrooming of Buddhist temples in areas where no Buddhists live…

A good example of this is the land being allocated to construct a Buddhist temple in Mullaithivu (Vadduvahal Jnc.). This land was originally reserved for the construction of a co-operative society building.

I really cannot understand why a Buddhist temple is being constructed in an area where no Buddhist lives… unless there is a plan by the state to settle Buddhists in this area.

This suspicion is shared by the people of the area as well.

The plan to construct this temple is proposed by the military in collaboration with a monk from Vavuniya.

*

At Pandivirichchan in the Madhu DS division a Buddhist temple was built on a piece of private land.

Today the owner of this land has returned. But she is at a loss as to what she should do. She does not want to demolish the temple in fear of a backlash…

Her family is presently homeless.

*

I am happy to mention I have been reliably informed by some military officers that in fact a number of military camps in the north are being vacated from private lands and moved to state lands. But unfortunately another problem has now arisen in that Buddhist temples were constructed within the premises or in the vicinity of the military camps.

These temples were built on private lands and the returning owners are now in a quandary as to what they are to do with these temples which are situated within their premises...…

*

One major problem faced by the people in Jaffna is the Palaly military complex. This camp covers nearly the entire Kankasanturai electorate.

We are not opposed to the continued presence of the old Palaly camp which has been in existence prior to 1983.

The Walikamam complex must definitely be vacated as it is situated atop the most fertile agricultural lands in the Jaffna district and has been home to generations of families who are displaced because of the extension of the Palaly camp after 1983. These families must be resettled in their villages.

*

In the Wanni area inland fishing is denied to the local people. We have a peculiar situation where non residents living miles away from the tanks and other inland waterways have been given the sole right to fish in these waters, whereas the local people are prohibited from even approaching the tanks by the military.

For example at Muthayankaddu kulam the tender for inland fishing has been

awarded to a person from the south!

*

Many parents whose sons and daughters were conscripted by the LTTE are deeply concerned that while these innocents still languish in detention camps, while top leaders and kidnappers are at large, many of them enjoying luxurious lifestyles

What I have mentioned are only a few examples of the injustices which have been heaped on the Tamil people of the north and east since the war ended. These are among the factors which are leading to the rising fears and suspicions which have been building during the past 1 ½ years.

These fears must be allayed and the Tamil community made to feel they are a part of this country.

It is up to the Sinhalese people to make the Tamils understand they do not look on them as second class citizens, but are their equals in all respects.

For this it becomes necessary to provide a political solution which can help the Tamil community to look after its own affairs in the regions.

I am not talking of separation. I am emphasizing the need for a devolution of power to the regions.

As regards devolution different sections speak of the ‘13th Amendment’, a federal solution, a unitary state etc. etc.

Our party believes the 13th amendment is a good starting point.

Even when the Indo-Lanka accord was signed our party welcomed it as a good starting point as both the Govt. of SL and the Indian Govt convinced us that a reasonable solution could be found within a united Sri Lanka via devolution of power.

It was this belief which prompted us to give up the armed struggle and the demand for Eelam.

Unfortunately though 23 years have passed, we still see no reasonable solution to the problem.

It was not only our party –PLOTE— but even successive governments of this country recognized the 13th amendment was NOT the final solution to the problems of the Tamils.

President Premadasa appointed All Party Conference. Our party too participated in these deliberations and even the LTTE sent its representatives.

Premadasa also appointed the Mangala Munasinghe Parliamentary select Committee to work out a solution

President Chandrika Kumaratunge during her tenure appointed a parliamentary select committee under the chairmanship of Prof. G.L. Pieris, convened all-party meetings and in fact she presented a proposal in parliament which went further than the 13th amendment to the Constitution.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe’s UNF government was party to signing a declaration in Oslo declaring a federal system of government as a solution. This document was signed by Professor GL Pieris and Anton Balasingham of the LTTE.

HE President Mahinda Rajapakasa, also continued talks with the LTTE with Norwegian facilitation. He also appointed the All Party Conference and the All Party Representative Committee under the chairmanship of Prof. Tissa Vitharana.

These actions of successive governments indicate that it was not only the Tamil

parties but the two major national parties also believed the 13th Amendment did not offer a final solution to the aspirations of the Tamil people.

It is a fact that there is a lack of trust between the Tamil-speaking community and the sinhala community.

However it is the Sinhalese who are the majority in this country.

It is now up to the Sinhalese people to convince the minorities especially those who have undergone the trauma and hardship of war that they are an integral part of this country.

Therefore let us make a start by implementing the 13th Amendment to the Constitution in its totality while continuing the search for a final solution within a stipulated timeframe.

My humble request to all sections of the country is that this problem should not be passed to our collective children -the next generation. Your children and mine should not have to undergo the same hardships and pain that the past two generation were forced to undergo.  

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