| by Gam Vaesiya
( September 16, 2014, Ontario, Sri Lanka Guardian) For almost forty years since the Vaddukkoddai Resolution of 1976, the North and East of Sri Lanka had been a land soaked in blood -- Terra Sanguinis -- mostly "Tamil blood" shed by the LTTE as well as blood from army actions and from the Sinhalese , the IKPF and others who fought the LTTE . This was to wrench control from the Tigers who have been named terrorists by almost very civilized nation on earth. However, although we use words like "Tamil blood", we hasten to note that there is no distinction between "Tamil, Sinhala", or "Muslim" blood since they have the same chemistry, and "ethnic" distinctions are merely cultural (perhaps mildly proteomic but not genomic).
The LTTE and its proxy, namely the TNA, committed genocide (if we are to use their own vastly hyperbolic language), but it is now trying to shift ALL the blame to those who saved a vast majority of Tamils and their young children from the exterminating hand of Parbhakaran. The soldiers are still there to prevent the LTTE from raising its ugly head. But Eelamist-apologists like Paramasivam writng in the Sri lanka Guardian claim that ",Tamil Homeland Being Treated as Terra Nullius " as well as the most recent resolutions of the ITAK show that they have not learnt anything from the events that started in 1976, in Vaddukkoddai.
The origins of current land ownership in the North, e.g., ownership by absentee landlords living in Colombo and outside the country today can be traced back to the land plundered by the Portuguese, the Dutch and the English, and given to their supporters. Many of these pro-colonials converted to colonial religions and acted as traitors who undermined the Vannimar chiefs.
Interestingly, according to historians, the town of Vaddukkoddai had been known as Batakotte since ancient times, through the times of the Portuguese and the Dutch, and anglicized to Batikotte by the American missionaries in Jaffna. Batakotte means a fort or garrison of soldiers (Bhata); they had been stationed there to safeguard the country against Chola Invaders from South India. The name Batakotte was used till almost the early 20th century when it gradually changed to its tamilized form. Thus it was an irony of fate that the "Vaddukkoddai resolution" should have been proclaimed in an old Sinahlese town dedicated to holding the North against South Indian invaders.
There were many other military installations in the North. Muhamalai just North of Ali-mankada (Elephant Pass) was known as Mukha-maale (pendent around the mouth), as it had a string of fortifications to prevent invaders coming southwards. Ancient inscriptions show that there were edicts from ancient kings in the Northern ports and islands.
Extensive military installations existed in the North in ancient times when it was called Naagadeepa, (and the Waeligama region is mentioned in the the Sigiri Griffiti, with no Tamil griffiti) New fortifications were erected when Prince Sapumal succeeded in recovering the Jaffna peninsula back into the fold of the king of Kotte. Jaffna fell into the hands of South Indian Aryya-Chakravarthi and Vannimar chiefs, and briefly back into the hands of the Yuvaraja who held it for the Sinhalese king, only to be finally captured by the Portuguese circa 1620.
Today Vaddukkoddai (Batakotte) is not a garrison anymore, but a bristling civilian town. Now there are far less military installations in the North than in ancient times. Today these exist in the north to defend the country, and to re-assure the southern population whose emotions are parallel to those in the North, in their fears and suspicions, after a war where civilians of both sides have been brutalized. The new generation of Jaffna youth, uneducated, idle, flush with pocket-money sent by a Diaspora that longs to send guns to Jaffna, have little need to work; instead they have become little hoodlums, as described in the Sunday Leader article of 14-10-2014.
The noises made by some south Indian politicians, the brutal assaults on Sri Lankans (Tamils included) who visit Tamil Nadu, the non-conciliatory Thimpu-attitude of the TNA, and the trans-national LTTE supporters add continued strength to those who wish to continue the presence of soldiers in the North.
However, the number of soldiers has been extensively reduced, while those retained are used for developmental work. But the TNA, western-funded NGOs close to the TNA (like the Center for Policy Alternatives) and pro-Eelam writers like Gajalakshmi Paramasivam, Tisaranee Gunasekera etc., writing in the Sri Lanka Guardian claim that there is extensive militarization of the north. They seem to claim that the land should be reserved "only for Tamils", while their very leaders live in the South. They ignore the incentives given by the British since the building of the Jaffna-Colombo railway in 1905 for Tamils to move to the south. They ignore the safety and prosperity offered by the Lankan government in welcoming Tamils to the South during Prabhakaran's reign of terror, inducing them to come to Colombo. This should be contrasted with how US and Canadian governments put away their citizens of Japanese and German ancestry behind barbed wire during World War II. Today Colombo has even become a Majority-Tamil-speaking city. The dissident Tamil writer Sebastian Rasalingam has suggested that Jaffna should become a majority-Sinhala speaking city and that the Tamils should support that as a sign of reconciliation. Instead, they push for a Terra sanguinis as a prelude to an exclusive Tamil homeland. They are ready to put the majority of Tamils in danger once again, forgetting that the majority of Tamils live OUTSIDE this region, among the Sinhalese.
In Singapore, the founder president insisted that no ethnic enclaves could be established, and required a mixed ethnic tapestry every where. House rentals, sales, and residences were controlled and a `safe' ethnic mixture was maintained. Unfortunately, the TNA, and many NGO writers have failed to understand the Singaporan wisdom of Lee Kwan Yew. A a number of perceptive Tamil writers like Sebastian Rasalingam, Noel Nadesan and others have also noted that ethnic peace and safety hinge on such principles of land allocation. Unfortunately, the government has not moved swiftly and decisively in that direction. Perhaps the land of the absantee land-lords should be nationalized and distributed equitably. The Sinhalese, tamils and the Muslims driven out of Jaffna by the LTTE should be given financial and other incentives to return.
The claims of militarization of the north are gross mis-statements that distort the actual situation.
It should be noted that in the Falklands, the ratio of military to civilians is 2 to 1. That is true militarization. Given a population of 1,060,000 people in the Sri Lankan North (2012 census data), the claims of people like Pakiysoothy Saravanamuttu of a 1 soldier to 10 civilians ratio implies a huge army of 106,000 soldiers! Such an army would need five times that many supporting staff, and half-a-million extra people should be obvious to any visitor, or to satellites. Here are some typical street views of Jaffna showing no military presence.
The NGOs complain that there are no officers to serve in Tamil. Increasingly there are new recruits to the security services. Such recruitment for army, police and civil services was not possible till May 2009 as the LTTE prevented such recruitment by harassing and even assassinating recruits.
|An edited image by the author|
Many statements of NGO spokespersons are empty of empirical content, but blown up to support advocacy agendas. Here is the testimony of a recent Tamil visitor from the UK to the North of Sri Lanka:."The passage to Jaffna was without military interferences. Except for the driver who had to register the vehicle details at Omanthai (Omandha) , the journeys to and from Jaffna was hassle free. Unlike six months ago (2013), there were no army sentry points. Even in the Jaffna town, I visited four times successively, I did not see a soldier on foot in uniform,.... by Rajasingham Jayadevan.
According to a statement made in Geneva (Jan. 2014) by Mr. Lalith Weeratunga, Secy. to the President, there are some 12,000 soldiers in the North, giving a ratio of 1:88, that is, the NGOs and the TNA had exaggerated the figures by a factor of nearly 10. Even if we argue that the government is under-stating figures, Mr. Saravanamuttu's hyperbole stands in the extreme. As Mr. Saravanamuttu has admitted, most of the 1:88 ratio soldiers are in civilian work, and not soldiering. So the actual militarization is even less. We have dealt with the topic of Militarization when it was raised previously by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International etc, in their testimonies in Ottawa, Geneva, London and other locations. ( click here )
(i) Institutionalized militarization or absorption into civil society?. What some NGOs call 'institutionalized militarization' is simply the use of the military for doing civil engineering and service sector tasks, designed to gradually accustom the army personnel into civilian life, and reabsorb them in to society. We prefer to call this civilification. Every general, be it Napoleon in France or General Giap in Vietnam realized that one cannot leave an army to idle after a military campaign, nor can the army be arbitrarily disbanded and sent back into civil society. Soldiers are people who have learned to blow up bridges, shoot people, lay mines etc. They have to be gradually brought back to civil life. Referring to soldiers returning from Afghanistan, Mr. Steven Harper in Canada renamed this 'the transition from helmets to hard hats' but he opposes Sri Lanka for doing exactly the same thing because he is conscious of the swing-vote of the Tamil diaspora in a significant number of Ontario electorates. The soldiers are employed to do civil works, not only in the North, but in every part of Sri Lanka including in Colombo.
The reader may follow more details of this at here
We can only hope that the TNA, having inherited the legacy of the LTTE, and having been the sole representatives of the LTTE, would take account of their past crimes towards the Tamils, Muslims and Sinhalese, and express their apologies for their past deeds. Instead it boycotted the LLRC, and it is going to the UN only to point fingers calling the kettle black!
Alternatively, the Sri Lankan government should use its courts to address all such war crimes, be it committed by the TNA, or the armed forces, after having clearly spelt out who (e.g., K. P, and Karuna ?) have been granted presidential pardons for their services to the sate, or for their role in furthering the strategies of the armed forces and bringing back peace to the North and the East.