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         University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna)
 
          SPECIAL REPORT NO.6
                        Date of release 06th December,1995
 

        THE EXODUS FROM JAFFNA:
        October/November 1995
 
 

        "However,the greatest death and destruction, loss and
grief, dislocation and relocation, are associated with
the man made disasters that have occurred through
warfare. The slaying of man by man in either direct
combat or through sophisticated weaponry bring cruel
mutilating injuries and sudden untimely violent deaths.
Such deaths bring little opportunity for the healing
process of physicians or the healing rituals of grief.
And, of course, warfare destroys the house and
habitants, the livelihoods and even lives of many non-
combatants......Mankind's capacity to create psychic
trauma through war, to create horrifying forms of
warfare, has increased exponentially."
                - Prof. Raphael from Australia in
                  " When Disaster Strikes. "

Introduction

When the government forces launched their drive towards Jaffna at
the beginning of October, the people were once more caught between
the callousness of the Government and the LTTE to whom the
civilians mattered little. The Government, while using the
rhetoric of "liberating the Tamils from the clutches of the LTTE",
had little tangible conception of the welfare of the Tamil people.
It had supposedly air-dropped leaflets which never reached them,
asking people to seek shelter in schools and places of worship.
People were also advised to keep away from the LTTE. All this was
too vague. By the seemingly random manner in which the government
forces were bombing and shelling, these instructions made no
practical sense to the people. At times even schools and places of
worship were hit.  Against the backdrop of heavy shelling and
aerial bombing, most of the people decided not to take a risk and
sought refuge mostly around Jaffna town. In their experience,
there was nothing `liberating' in the Government's actions.

On the other hand, the LTTE, apart from making the claim that it
would fight to the last man to prevent Jaffna from falling, took
no responsibility for the civilian population that it claimed to
represent. An observation about recent LTTE practice is that they
did not, unlike in the mid-80s, use their own cadre as sentries to
monitor enemy movements. In the past these young  sentries used to
be the first casualties in any offensive action. Then several
militant groups operated in competition. The posting of sentries
in those days also served the public relations function of giving
the civilians  a picture that they were living behind a border
under the protection of the militants. This early warning role in
recent times has been played, instead, by civilians who were not
conscious of their role. In the event of firing noises now, LTTE
forces rushing into an area would ask civilians for information on
enemy movements. Once the army had significantly expanded its
perimeter in Jaffna and used mobile limited operations, it had
become a war without borders in which the civilians had this new
role.

Certain aspects of the LTTE's thinking had however begun to
surface since the government forces' abortive military operation
this July. Heavy shelling had caused the majority of the
population to flee. But those who had remained behind found
government troops far better behaved than in the previous phases
of the war and LTTE propaganda had led them to expect. The troops
had withdrawn by 19th July and word got around that army behaviour
had been friendly or at least tolerable. This was evidently
annoying to the LTTE. A number of those who had remained behind
had been questioned or otherwise harassed by the LTTE allegedly
under suspicion of being informers to the government forces.

The LTTE thought it had successfully moulded the people for six
years and more to view them as liberators and be slavishly
obedient to them. The notion that they could live under government
control and manage their affairs struck at the roots of the LTTE's
ideological edifice. This time, in October, the LTTE encouraged
and even forced the civilians to vacate as the government troops
advanced. Apart from the heavy bombing and shelling, also in the
minds of the people was the Indian Army's advance in October 1987,
exactly 8 years earlier. Many people had then remained behind in
their areas. The LTTE then, as happened again in 1990, provoked
the army from  near places of civilian refuge and ran away. The
worst incident of this kind at that time was in Jaffna Hospital.

The foregoing incident featured prominently in recent discussions
among Jaffna Hospital doctors on the decisions they had to take
concerning the hospital. Just about 4 members of the LTTE cadre
had been in the hospital in 1987 when the Indian army column came
near. Having thrown one grenade and fired shots which claimed
several casualties, the four had run through the hospital and
escaped. About 70 patients and medical staff died during the
subsequent Indian army action. (Many civilians died from
indiscriminate action by the Indian Army causing a total civilian
death toll of 800 - 1500 for the entire operation of taking Jaffna
in 1987.)

This time because the civilians had left Jaffna ahead of the
advancing Sri Lankan army, the death toll for October was about
100, more than a half of it owing to aerial bombing well outside
fighting zones. The comparatively low death toll owed very little
to any initiative on the part of the Government. [The civilian
death toll for November, to give rough estimates, would be about
30 from bombing and shelling and 300, very conservatively, from
causes directly related to the forced exodus resulting in disease
and debility. Most deaths taking place outside hospitals are
unaccounted.]

On 26th October air force bombing claimed the lives of 10 refugees
from Urumpirai camping at the edge of Jaffna's city limits in
Ariyalai East. On the 28th began the decisive battle for Neervely,
6 miles up the Pt. Pedro Road from Jaffna. The battle was intense
because, according to civilians, an LTTE counter-attack happened
to have coincided with the army advance. Shelling by the army on
the 29th morning fell at the edge of Jaffna's northern city
limits. On that day about 42 civilians died because of aerial
bombing  in civilian areas outside town, far from the combat zone.
A further 4 died because of shelling. Two shells fell in
Gurunagar, inside city limits and facing the lagoon to the south.
Although people were terrified by the noise, the city remained
fairly safe.

In the first phase, by the 5th of October, the government forces
had brought Puttur under control. The LTTE launched a counter-
thrust similar to that of 14th July 1995 in Allaveddy. This time's
counter offensive by the LTTE ended in catastrophe with the latter
losing more than 150 seasoned cadre. From what emerged from top
ranking LTTE leaders, they had accepted the likelihood of losing
Jaffna. A decision had been taken that if the army persisted in
its advance the LTTE would vacate and revert to guerilla warfare
centred about the Vanni (Wanni) jungles. Yet for civilian
consumption the rhetoric of fighting the 'final battle' and
pushing the army out of Jaffna was kept up!

We may remark at this point some reasons for the army's calling
off the July advance. A common belief in the South attributes as
the main reason the LTTE's thrust on 14'th July which resulted in
50-100 army casualties. This did perhaps give the army the feeling
that it had moved too far too fast. But based on information
available to knowledgeable persons in Jaffna, the LTTE itself did
not consider the 14'th July thrust resulting in about 60 LTTE
casualties a success. The army appears to have devised a drill by
which an intruding party is trapped. LTTE sources consider this to
have happened on 14'th July. They also believed that the army had
been unaware of having trapped the intruders due to a breakdown in
communication at the centre, allowing most of the intruders to
escape. The LTTE was not so lucky in October when they tried the
same thing at Punnalai Kadduwan and lost about 150 fighters.

The LTTE seems to have believed that the main reason for the
army's calling off the July operation was the civilians' fleeing
(mostly because of heavy shelling) the area where the Government
hoped to set up its civil administration. The way LTTE analysts
read the Government's plans for the October advance following the
initial moves, was that on reaching Kopay, the army would bring
Chemmani (Navatkuli) bridge under their control. There was also
speculation that another party would come from Pooneryn by sea and
both together would block the Chemmani and railway bridges. This
would have prevented the civilian population from moving out of
Valikamam.

But this did not happen. Confusion in Government thinking made the
lot of civilians far worse. There seemed to be no unity between
the Government and the army, or within the army itself, on whether
they wanted the civilians to stay or go. The Government for its
part talked of restoring civil administration and accelerating
reconstruction, but gave no clear instructions to the people. As
barbaric (and barbarous) a means off communication as it was, when
the army shelled certain areas, the people took it as a message to
go. The army was happier when the civilians left as it made their
work easier. When civilians inadvertent got 'caught', by the army,
they were encouraged to flee.

By 30th October 200,000 or so refugees in the Valikamam division
(the western sector of Jaffna peninsula including the city,
separated from the rest of the peninsula, i.e. Thenmaratchi and
Vadamaratchi, by two lagoons) had moved into Jaffna and other
centres (Jaffna University, Jaffna College in Vaddukoddai and
Uduvil Girls' School, among others). The refugees felt that by
using available institutional connections and international NGOs
to communicate with the authorities in Colombo, their security
could be adequately looked after. They were determined to stay put
and move into their homes once the army took control. In all,
together with the population in Jaffna and suburbs,about 350,000
people were involved.

But following the LTTE announcement on 30th October and
intimidation during the subsequent days, by 16th November the City
of Jaffna for the first time in its 600 year history was almost
empty. The trauma was extremely painful both mentally and
physically. Why did the 'Liberators' do this?

It would often be mistaken to look for rational or justifiable
reasons for a particular action of the LTTE's. In terms of its
totalitarian aims, it has acquired an instinct for what
developments are favourable and what are not. As an institution it
has learnt through years of experience. It is quite capable of
taking a precipitate decision with little or no forward planning,
and then manoeuvring the developments to its advantage.

To begin with, having decided to quit Jaffna and revert to
guerilla tactics, as in October 1987, it made no rational sense
for the LTTE to turn the City of Jaffna into a final battle zone
and bring enormous suffering and loss to the civilian population.
For its brand of politics it is useful to turn Jaffna into a stage
for the enactment of 'martyrdom' and a city supposedly destroyed
by the enemy. The drama would be relished by Tamil nationalists
abroad, irrespective of the cost to cadre and people.

If one were to look for reasons for the exodus order in the
utterances of LTTE leaders and in past developments, it is perhaps
not so much the imminent possibility of the Government's
controlling the area and setting up a civil administration that
bothered the LTTE. The drama put on by the LTTE after the Indo-
Lanka Accord of 1987 precipitating war, showed that it was rattled
by the notion of sharing power with the rival Tamil groups it had
disabled by force and terror in 1986 (i.e., with 'traitors' in
LTTE parlance). In late 1988, the North-East Administration being
in the hands of the EPRLF had sent the LTTE scurrying into talks
with the arch-enemy, the 'Sinhalese Government' in Colombo. This
time round, Thamilchelvan, chief of the LTTE's political wing, in
his address at Jaffna Hospital, had displayed strong emotion when
he said, "We will never let the EPDP run the civil administration
in Jaffna". Also notable is the reckless attempt on the EPDP
leader Devananda's life in Colombo in early October.

The loss of Jaffna also meant that the LTTE had lost considerable
public resources and infrastructure that helped it to maintain a
sizeable standing army. The continuing emphasis on recruitment
gives some hint as to why the LTTE is trying to build up a large
refugee population in the Vanni. It is partly an attempt to
reconstitute what it lost in Jaffna, albeit under much more
primitive conditions.

If we have not been moved to question ourselves so far after what
has happened all these years, we as Tamils should do so now before
it is too late for our community.  Our documentation, as always,
is based on the experiences of the victims.
 

The Exodus: Varying Claims and Perceptions

On the evening of 30th October, LTTE loudspeakers announced in
Jaffna town: "No one must take this announcement lightly. We are
doing battle intensely and bravely with a  demonic force. It will
attack us from several directions. We too will respond likewise.
Since we are going to resist every inch against a state drunk with
racism, you people must evacuate for Thenmaratchi and Vadamarachi
this same night." LTTE men then went from house to house and
ordered people to evacuate. They were told, "Jaffna town would
soon become a battle zone. We are blowing up Chemmani bridge at
4.00 a.m. If you are not out by then, you will have to remain and
face the consequences." By 6.30 p.m. Kandy Road was blocked by
panic stricken people trying to leave on foot. A man who decided
not to leave and went 300 yards to discuss plans with another
family said that owing to the press of the multitude, the journey
took him two hours.

There had evidently been privileged sections of the civilian
population who had received prior notice of the exodus and had
made an early exit with their moveable property. On the 30th
evening people in different places were told different things.
Some were told that the Chemmani Bridge (Navatkuli Bridge) would
be blown up at twelve mid-night. In Uduvil people were told that
the army would soon subject the area to a rain of shells. Four
shells were fired into the area, which were later identified by
the people  as LTTE shells. People in Jaffna town were told that
an army attack from Mandathivu is imminent.

Chemmani Bridge was never blown up as threatened. On the morning
of that same day, the LTTE had made a proclamation of 'War-time
Exigency' through loudspeakers. It was that night, after the
exodus order, that the people found out what it meant.

Those in Jaffna who switched on to the LTTE's radio bulletin that
night were astonished to discover that no reference was made to
the exodus that had been ordered. In the days that followed, while
doing everything to force civilians to leave Jaffna, the LTTE went
on denying that it had ordered people to do so.

There had been a steady exodus of people from Jaffna fleeing the
fighting and the bombing and shelling, owing to the fact that the
Government had failed in its duty to give confidence to the
civilians that tangible measures for their safety had been taken.
What is worse, it was denying or greatly underplaying civilian
casualties and suffering behind a mask of censorship. By its
reprimand (and subsequent suspension) of the Government Agent of
Jaffna, the Government was behaving as though it was treachery to
talk about such matters - an ironical position for a Government
that had staked much on openness, democracy, political
accommodation and human rights.

On 3rd November the Spokesman for the UN Secretary General Boutros
Boutros-Ghali issued the following statement: "Reports of the
massive displacement of the civilian population in northern Sri
Lanka are a source of deep concern to the Secretary General. It is
evident that humanitarian assistance on a significant scale will
be essential to minimise suffering..."

In the days that followed scores of foreign journalists came to
this country to follow up the story. The Government too panicked
as it came to be revealed that owing to excusable delays as well
as some obstruction from the government and military machinery,
there had been a significant shortfall in the food rations sent to
civilians in Jaffna. It thus continued to prevent foreign
journalists from going to the North. In addition to rebuffing the
U.N. concern, the government (Ministry of Defence) also blocked
relief workers, including doctors, from going into the refugee
area. It appeared that the government wanted to hide the
developing disaster from the rest of the world. Foreign
journalists had therefore to be content talking to civilians
coming from the North. Most civilians were afraid to talk.
Nevertheless, the international media soon came to blame the LTTE
for engineering  a forced exodus, and thus pushing to extremes a
humanitarian crisis already resulting from the military advance.

The truth however could not be denied where the people were
concerned. The LTTE offered an oblique rationalisation in an
appeal for recruitment issued on 8th November and published in the
press in Killinochchi (i.e. Eelanadu) the following day. It read:

"In a single night along a narrow road brimming with water on
either side, more than 5 lakhs of people made their exodus from
Jaffna carrying only a few urgent requirements. This saga is truly
one that causes unbelievable amazement. It was undertaken to
escape a genocidal military onslaught. The soul of the nation was
melted by the flow of this oceanic waves of humanity. There were
expectant women, infants, mothers, the elderly, the sick and
injured fighters. Despite the crush they came, sitting, standing,
falling and crawling.

"However, through this agonising exodus, our people have given our
struggle a miraculous political victory. They have revealed to the
world the truth that our people cannot live, and do not wish to
live, under Sinhalese military rule. Thus have they displayed
their immense patriotic opposition to the Government. The Tigers
salute the people for their racial pride..."

The only true claim here concerned the description of the
suffering the people were subject to. This was made clear at the
end of the same statement that was in effect an admission:

"Given this prospect [of bombing, shelling and genocide of those
who fall among Sinhalese forces], warring against Sinhalese forces
with a large number of people in Valikamam was dangerous. It would
then be as though we gave the enemy the excuse for genocide.
Therefore considering the safety of the people and not to have any
impediment that would deter us from hitting back at the enemy
effectively, it became inevitable for us to order the people to
move [emphasis ours] to safer areas...We performed this historic
duty with a sense of responsibility."

But to audiences abroad, LTTE propaganda continued to maintain
that the exodus was an act of volition on the part of the people.
An LTTE front organisation, the International Federation of Tamils
issued from a London suburb a statement attributed to the
University of Jaffna and allegedly signed by two departmental
heads of the Medical Faculty, a professor of Tamil and two others.
The statement dated 17th November said:

"We from the University, left Jaffna on 30th October 1995 with
hardly anything in our hands. Such was the shelling and the panic
caused by the approaching army. The continuing monsoonal weather
is also against us. We [are] without proper food, psychologically
traumatised...[Having striven for many years for the educational
advancement of our people] today we have left everything to be one
with the people. We had walked and cycled many miles in pouring
rain on that memorable night of 30th October 1995..."

The story, however, as related by the people is something
chilling, as we shall see. It also shows that the ordinary people
kept up a sense of justice, decency and good sense despite years
of fascist control. To the rulers and their elite partners the
people never mattered. Suffering was constantly inflicted on them
for military, political or propaganda advantage.

Prelude to the Exodus

As the army advanced and the people fled, several old people and
many animals were left behind. During the early hours of 9th
October, after the army was in firm control of the Puttur area,
some shells were fired, which fell on the Puttur mission hospital,
housing several of the old who were left behind. Nine inmates were
killed. Several people in Jaffna identified the LTTE as having
fired the shells and interpreted the incident as a punishment
meted out to those who remained behind SL Army lines. Others
opined that the shells had been meant to fall on nearby Puttur
junction, considered a strong point of the SL Army. A few days
earlier state television had shown army officers visiting the
Methodist Mission and the medical officer in charge had made an
innocuous  statement to the effect: "We trust God and God will
give us peace." For some time the LTTE denied the allegation that
it had fired the shells, but later, according to witnesses,
tacitly accepted that it had done so. Several of these who had
talked to the army and later came into LTTE areas were subject to
some harsh questioning. The incident along with the events of
July, suggested an increasingly hardening attitude against those
wanting to live in army controlled territory, despite the LTTE's
inability to offer acceptable alternatives. This had been in the
making from 1990 when the LTTE began projecting itself as a state
power and started controlling the movement of people. Those from
the Islands who were displaced when the SL Army took control in
August 1990 had been refused permission by the LTTE to return to
the Islands. With all the reservations they had about an
essentially alien Sri Lankan Army, most of them, despite their
insecurity, would have preferred going back to their homes to
being refugees. They have since lived  in and around Jaffna.

There were other considerations which prompted the civilians to
treat the LTTE's expulsion order of 30th October with dread. Three
months earlier at the end of July, the LTTE had experienced its
first spectacular military failure in recent times in Manal Aru
('Weli Oya'). More than two hundred very young LTTE cadre on an
offensive were mown down. The LTTE immediately blamed the failure
on 'traitors'. About two weeks before the October 30th exodus
order, 29 or so alleged traitors were executed in the Vanni area
following the LTTE's first reverses earlier in the month. A school
principal was among those executed. All were claimed to be
informers of the SL Army. In the case of an elderly man who was
executed, his close relatives claimed that the man's only fault
had been that he sometimes drank too much and scolded the LTTE.
Those who contemplated remaining behind army lines took these
executions as another warning.

It was mentioned earlier that the LTTE took serious note of the
failure of its counter-attack in Punnalaikadduwan leading to a
radical change of strategy. There was little military activity for
a few days thereafter. On 17th October the army launched
'Operation Riveresa (sunshine)'  and resumed its advance towards
Jaffna. Soon after the fall of Neerveli, the LTTE began shifting
its personnel, stores, equipment and documents out of Jaffna. This
further confirms that the LTTE had already decided to quit Jaffna
if the army persisted in its advance. At this point, however, the
possibility that the LTTE may ask the entire population to quit
Jaffna was not taken seriously. The City of Jaffna, unlike Moolai
or Puttur, was crucial to civilian life in the area. Where else
could these hundreds of thousands of people be provided with
schools, a university, banks, shelter, a regional hospital and
administrative infrastructure?

As the LTTE began shifting its possessions, there was alarm. The
camps with refugees from the Islands and Valikamam North also
began to be shifted out to Thenmaratchi and Killinochchi. The
dominant question in the minds of people was, "What is to become
of us?" On the one hand the LTTE was evasive. Had it told the
people of its intentions, there could have been an orderly exodus.
The LTTE instead repeated that it would fight to keep the army
out, and, even more emphatically, pressed the people to make their
contributions to the LTTE's National Defense Fund.

In 1990 the LTTE had launched its liberation tax to which each
family had to contribute Rs 10,000 or 2 sovereigns of gold. Even
the destitute had to pay this 'once and for all', which was
explained as buying shares in the future state of Eelam. It took
more than two years of pressure, harassment and even selective
detention to force even those without money to borrow and pay up.

The second collection was started after the army's July operation.
This time the existing refugees were exempt. But others were
charged varying amounts. Some businessmen were charged several
lakhs. Those with family members abroad were taxed according to
the number and country, irrespective of access to their money; for
example, about Rs. 45,000 for a son in Switzerland. Since those
living in Jaffna were increasingly poorer and the sums higher, the
collection was very slow. The increased harshness of collection
methods used left even LTTE supporters disturbed. Four or five
persons are known to have died of heart attacks during
`negotiations' for the amounts to be paid. There were several
scenes such as of a lady with a child falling on her knees and
pleading. Amounts which could not be found were demanded with a
note of menace. While the army moved nearer, collection meetings
were frequently organised where some direct objections were
raised: "You are going to take our money and run away". This was
strongly denied, and the people were urged to somehow find the
money.

In spite of all this emphasis on collection and squeezing out the
last cent as it were, as a sacred duty the people owed the LTTE,
the LTTE acknowledged no reciprocal obligation. The shortfall in
government food supplies to the Jaffna peninsula was being voiced
abroad as an example of the Government's genocidal intentions. In
the meantime the LTTE, in view of its monopoly over purchase and
distribution, had some stocks of rice in Killinochchi. When it
came to feeding the people, it fell to the Government Agent of
Jaffna to request money from the Government in Colombo for funds
to purchase rice from the LTTE for distribution in Jaffna. The
LTTE did little to hide the fact that the GA had to function as
its stooge.

After bombing or shelling several refugees left Jaffna for
Thenmaratchi, but most refugees and residents stayed put. In the
city the LTTE made announcements reminding people about the
National Defence Fund, saying further that collection offices
would be open. By this time a large number of people had gathered
in churches, temples, schools and particularly within the ICRC
protected Jaffna hospital zone.

The City of Jaffna:
        After 30th October's Exodus Announcement

Apart from the residents, the city was one of refugees. Every
public building or institution was occupied by refugees. The
management had once more opened Nallur Kandasamy Kovil premises to
the refugees as it had in 1987. The church authorities in Jaffna
and Vaddukkoddai had given information about refugees in their
institutions to leaders or representatives in Colombo, to be
conveyed to the presidential secretariat. The presence of the ICRC
was also considerably reassuring.

The Commercial Bank opposite the hospital for example had
exhausted its stocks of cash giving one and a half months' advance
to its employees and making the balance available to the hospital.
Moreover about 60 persons connected with the bank stocked
provisions for the month and lived on the premises.

Likewise others chose safe places to stay and made arrangements
compatible with their security and private obligations. Many for
example went daily to their homes in places outside the conflict
zone such as Manipay and Uduvil to feed their animals or tend
their gardens. The common understanding was that once the SL Army
took over, they would return to their homes. It was in many ways
the most sensible decision under the circumstances. It was also
implicit in all these arrangements that the people expected
nothing positive from the LTTE. While the Government and its
forces were totally alien to them, there was some hope that they
could be pressurised to show some consideration towards civilian
safety. They had also learnt some lessons on survival from past
military onslaughts.

These preparations were no doubt objectionable to the LTTE. For
six years and more the LTTE had cleansed the society of
individuals who showed the least signs of independence and had
done everything to control their thoughts and actions. These
preparations showed that the people had a collective mind of their
own, a sense of wanting to preserve something, a way of life or a
civilisation, that went beyond their individual interests and
lifespan. Moreover faced with a crisis and caught between two
hostile forces neither of which was accountable to them, and with
no individual leaders they could trust, their instinctive actions
showed an independence their so-called 'sole legitimate
representatives' could not stomach. It was also a powerful
judgement on the LTTE. The LTTE leadership found itself obliged to
do something, if only to postpone the day of reckoning.

On the 30th October evening came the anonymous, yet highly
organised and terrifying, order for the exodus. There could be no
doubt about who was behind the message. But also significant was
the immediate gut reaction of panic to the announcement of the
army's supposedly imminent approach which evoked fear based on
past experience.

The LTTE announcement had given the people 4 hours to leave. So
great was the panic that the people did not know what to take with
them. Such was the conditioning of the people that they often
forgot their birth and educational certificates and property
deeds, but took great care to take along with them their LTTE
supplied family cards and receipts of payment to its National
Defence Fund. The Kandy and Chemmani Roads were so much packed
with people that movement was hardly possible. It was moreover
raining heavily. Some seeing the state of people on the road felt
demoralised and decided to turn back. Had they got on to the road
they would have been able to move neither forwards nor backwards.

The quarter mile from Muthiraisanthai to Nayanmarkadu alone took
about 4 hours. Several children either died or were lost in the
crush and several of the elderly who attempted the journey just
gave up on the way or died of exhaustion. Individual testimonies
are difficult to come by. For example, according to witnesses two
children died in the crush near Nayanmarkadu. But who they were or
from where they came is not known. Likewise with weary elders left
behind and sitting along the road or lying down apparently
lifeless. These were common scenes. For days thereafter people
travelling along the route of the exodus testified to foul smells
coming from rotting carcasses and human excreta.

In Vaddukkoddai, where a large number of refugees were at Jaffna
College, the LTTE exploded some grenades near the College library
to persuade people to quit. They were asked to leave by 7.30 p.m..
People left on bullock carts, bicycles and on foot. At Uduvil
Girls' School a grenade was exploded in the school grounds. The
flow of humanity continued for two days and more.

A family of strong LTTE sympathisers waited two days in a Jaffna
nursing home intending to stay on. They had been very helpful to
the LTTE, particularly to injured cadre. Two days after the order
was first given, other unknown cadre came and threatened them.
They were told that those who did not leave before 4.00 a.m. would
be considered traitors and informers to the Sri Lankan Army, and
would be punished accordingly. This, if carried out, meant
execution. The family set off on foot. The roads were still
crowded.

Once out of the town limits, in Chemmani, two miles of the road
ran through paddy fields and an abandoned saltern on either side
of the road, filled with rain water. The LTTE ordered the people
to leave the road and walk through the flood water so as to leave
the road free for LTTE vehicles. People continued their journey
walking through water with their bags on their heads and children
on their shoulders. The water was in places knee deep and
sometimes neck deep.

Despite years of imposed subservience, at times the people  ran
out of patience. In several places, the people refused to obey the
LTTE police and get off the road into the water. If one civilian
started a fight with the LTTE police, the others joined in
spontaneously with little thought of the consequences. Once a
policeman fell on the ground and the crowd walked over him. Other
policemen then rushed in to drag their fallen comrade from under
the feet of the moving crowd. On another occasion a police-woman
was bodily thrown into the flood. The short journey to
Chavakacheri took 20 hours.

An 11 year old who came with a group from north of Navaly
described his experience: "I travelled in a bullock-cart. My
father walked through the flood. We occasionally fought with
policemen. They hammered us and we hammered them back. Once they
fired above our heads and someone was injured."

There had been much talk among the people of drowning. One group
is said to have stepped into a hole hidden by rain water. Some are
said to have drowned while walking through the lagoon because of
the bursting crowd at Chemmani (Navatkuli) Bridge. Putting
together various accounts, at least 11 people died during the
exodus on the night of 30th October, of whom 3 were children and
others mostly elderly. During that period the air force aimed
bombs at Chemmani Bridge in which two civilians were killed.

Having arrived in Chavakacheri at the height of the rainy season,
people had to contend with the near absence of food or shelter.
Some who had arrived before the forced exodus considered
themselves lucky sharing houses with as many as 70 people. But
firewood was scarce and fires were extremely difficult to light.
Newer arrivals had to pay Rs.10 or more for a thatched coconut
leaf in a very unsatisfactory effort to keep away the rain. Some
of them were young mothers carrying infants. Others found standing
room under the eaves of houses, with two feet between the outer
wall and the rain falling over the edge of the roof. While
attending to a call of nature, the neighbour was asked to keep the
place like keeping a seat in a crowded train. It was so difficult
to find drinking water that people held their umbrellas in the
rain and drank the water flowing over its edges.

Throughout the early weeks of this ordeal, as a number of
witnesses testified, the LTTE offered no help at all with either
relief or organisation. They only provided a free boat service for
those wanting to cross Jaffna lagoon into the Vanni. LTTE vehicles
went up and down the Chavakacheri   -Jaffna road, passing drenched
women holding on to infants and children under trees, but offering
no help.

At Chavakacheri queues for a cup of plain-tea were about two hours
long, while queues for bread, continually baked at a few bakeries,
were about 5 hours long. A person was allowed only a pound loaf.
The scarcity of food was such that a senior member of a family had
to get up about 3.00 A.M. after sleeping late and join a bread
queue 2 miles long. Later tokens were issued where a person would
first queue up for a token in the morning, and later spend 2 hours
in a bread queue. Matters were made worse by the non-availability
of cash. The banks too were not functioning. Most people were thus
in very desperate straits.

There was a good deal of suppressed anger among the people over
what had been inflicted on them. It often burst out in a
spontaneous unorganised manner. In one of those long bread queues
in Chavakacheri one man blew up: "We are being treated as slaves.
If this is  their behaviour now, how would it be when we get
Eelam?" Unlike in other times this was not greeted by others in
fearful silence or with words of caution. But others joined in
with the kind of sarcasm for which Jaffna is renowned. One shouted
back, "Only those with knowledge must speak. Others must shut up."
Another said, "Shut up or these fellows 'will land you one on the
forehead'." Someone else added, "Watch it, they would stuff a frog
down your throat." As this exchange was going on, the police
arrived and ordered the first speaker to get into their vehicle.
The man was vocal in his refusal. Finally he was dragged inside
and the vehicle drove away.

During the course of these events, LTTE cadre needing medical care
were removed from Jaffna. They, together with other patients from
Jaffna hospital and others newly needing medical care, had all to
be accommodated in the much smaller Chavakacheri Base hospital.
The beds were reserved for LTTE patients and others had to take
the floor. Two senior LTTE men were heard sharing a joke: "Give
two months and the people would forget all this".

Developments in Jaffna

Even after the first phase of the exodus there were a large number
of people in Jaffna who were determined to remain. An important
consideration for them was the presence of the ICRC and the Jaffna
hospital safety zone it controlled. In order to break this, the
LTTE's strategy was to first apply pressure on the medical staff
to move Jaffna hospital. And, when the news of the exodus order
reached Jaffna hospital, pandemonium broke loose. The surgical
team had a heavy schedule and was operating late. When they heard
about the order, they walked out and sat down in the lounge,
paralysed by shock. The LTTE had spread the word that the SL army
was coming into the city from Mandativu, and that all the doctors
had fled. A large number of patients, medical staff and a few
junior doctors had fled the hospital to join the milling crowds
choking Kandy Road. In many cases, the patients themselves or
their relatives pulled out catheters and tubes connected to the
body and left the hospital. (Some of them were admitted to
Chavakacheri hospital, days later; but what happened to the rest
of the patients is guesswork.) In the intensive Care Unit at
Jaffna, one patient died of cardiac arrest as the nurses had fled.
But the senior staff at Jaffna hospital and a core of the others
continued to remain and work as a team. Nearly all LTTE injured
were cleared by the LTTE medical team.

In the next few days as uncertainty continued in the hospital,
several high-ranking LTTE men came there. When asked by individual
doctors for clarification of the exodus order on the 30th, it was
pointed out that the loudspeaker announcement had not claimed that
it was the LTTE's.

Thamilchelvan, the leader of the LTTE's political wing, addressed
a meeting of the hospital doctors about 3rd November. It was clear
that he was talking at two levels. At one level, the diplomatic
level, he was very reassuring - the LTTE needed the hospital for
some more days. He reiterated the position that the LTTE would
respect the ICRC zone and the agreement concerning it. They would
never, he said, force the closure of Jaffna hospital. But, at the
other level, there were undertones suggesting that they would do
the very opposite. One was his reference to never allowing the
rival Tamil group EPDP to run a civil administration in Jaffna
cited earlier. Another was a strongly stated aim that "they would
never let go of their younger generation [from under their
wings]". This meant that no family with children (i.e prospective
recruits) would be allowed to live outside the control of the
LTTE. He also said that if either side broke the ICRC zone
agreement, which required 72 hours' notice, there would be no safe
access to the outside world thereafter. Some of the doctors
interpreted Thamilchelvan's talk as giving in effect 72 hours'
notice for the closure of Jaffna hospital, since this anticipated
event had been very much in the air. The doctors raised questions
and argued back. He was told, "You are going to revert back to
guerilla warfare. But one day you hope to come back and run this
place, and then the hospital would be necessary. Is it not
therefore better for you to preserve this hospital?" Throughout
the interview Thamilchelvan remained smiling and seemed to be
patient and attentive. Finally, he told them, "Do whatever the
ICRC tells you."

The doctors were relieved. They thought that they had won their
case. Thamilchelvan had also been to see the ICRC. The following
day, the whole picture was reversed, when they heard that the ICRC
was considering pulling out and they would have to follow. The
same day, a few concerned doctors went to see the ICRC. From what
they gathered it appeared that Thamilchelvan had persuaded the
ICRC that everyone in Jaffna was leaving, so that there would be
no reason for the ICRC to remain. One of the doctors asked the
ICRC poignantly, "There are a hundred thousand people left in
Jaffna. Are you going to leave them all and go away?"  The ICRC
representative responded with some alarm, "One hundred thousand?
Or, do you mean one thousand?" The doctor replied, "One hundred
thousand is correct." He explained the locations of the refugees
in Valikamam, including those out of town, and said that nearly
all of them intended staying. It was from this conversation that
the doctors concluded that Thamilchelvan had persuaded the ICRC
that all the people were quitting.

The ICRC representative then explained that from what he had been
told, the LTTE intended to mine all the access routes to their
zone, in which event they would all be trapped. He then said
sadly, "I might personally like to remain. But the head office in
Geneva would probably order us to move." The doctors were
crestfallen.

>From the following day the ICRC prepared for the eventuality of
moving out. The doctors were consulted about their preferences and
lists were made of those who would work in Chavakacheri and Pt.
Pedro. The Jaffna hospital zone had been patrolled by the ICRC and
any LTTE cadre carrying arms within this zone was scolded and
asked to move out. But after the LTTE had ordered the exodus,
armed cadre were often seen in the safety zone.  The ICRC told the
doctors to be ready to move out on foot at short notice, adding to
the alarm among civilians.

On 1st November the hospital had several hundred patients and
staff. This number kept declining as even some serious patients
quit. The talk got around the hospital that the LTTE was placing
its cannon on the zonal boundary to fire at the army across the
lagoon at Mandaitivu. Firing noises were also regularly heard
within the hospital zone. The LTTE had ordered the shops in Jaffna
to close. Although those in Jaffna had provisions, they had to
cycle to Thenmaratchi for fruits and vegetables.

The LTTE's attitude towards the civilians too was becoming openly
intimidatory. A large number of refugees were at John Bosco school
next to the ICRC at the Temple Road-Rakka Road junction. The LTTE
fired what are believed to have been fake shells at this camp.
Shells were also fired near Ariyakulam and Pathirakali Amman
temple, but no casualties were reported. The LTTE claimed that the
shells were fired by the SL Army. But from the sound the people
were certain that it was the LTTE. Near Kanthasamy Kovil some
refugees wee beaten by masked men. Sometimes masked persons went
into private premises, pulled out knives, helped themselves to
young coconuts and behaved in an intimidatory manner. About 2nd
November the last of the refugees were forced out of the Medical
Faculty of the University of Jaffna.

Last Scenes

At the time the LTTE made the expulsion order those remaining in
Jaffna did so in the expectation that the SL Army would move in
quickly. But this did not happen and things were comparatively
quiet for a few days in early November.

These developments led to dissension among the civilians. Some
felt it was better to leave soon while they could remove some of
their moveable property, rather than wait for the last minute and
lose everything if the LTTE chased them out. Once more the exodus
picked up. Persons who had left Jaffna were prevented from
returning by police sentries manning Navatkuli. Those coming to
collect their things were given a day-pass until 4.00 p.m..
Overstaying was an offence. The road to Chavakacheri was regularly
crowded with people removing their things. Some doctors visiting
the bank observed, "The big guys have created an atmosphere of
panic. The people are now moving".

LTTE cadre now sought out houses where the owners were still in
occupation and set about targeting them for intimidation.
Sometimes gun positions were mounted close by or rockets were
fired. Those walking the roads were sometimes deliberately given a
fright when a mortar shell landed close enough. A house was
sometimes surrounded and the inmates asked to come out. They were
told, "The army is coming to Jaffna because of Tamil traitors. We
have received information that there is a traitor in this house.
We will conduct a full search. Why would people want to remain in
Jaffna when the army takes over, unless they are traitors?"
Sometimes the householder had the presence of mind to throw back
at the LTTE its pretence of legality, by insisting that the house
could not be searched unless they came with a warrant from
Thamilchelvan. Such efforts were of no avail. Search meant that
contents of bags were spilt out and even women's items gone
through one by one.

During early  November there were periods of little discernible
activity on the side of the Government forces. They were strangely
silent. This was not what the LTTE wanted since it wanted the
civilians to leave. The LTTE could be heard repeatedly firing into
army controlled territory in a bid to provoke them, but with no
response.

By 11th November harassment and sounds of LTTE firing inside town
as well as noise from the intensity of fighting outside town
reached a point where most remaining residents left their homes
and went to schools and churches. During the early hours of 12th
November the LTTE made a final bid to drive away the remaining
civilians from town. About 2.00 a.m. the LTTE broke down the gates
of Chudikuli Girls' College and barged in noisily. The refugees
were ordered to assemble. Militant cadre barged into class rooms
and dragged out sleeping refugees with no respect for age or sex.
An infirm lady who was semi-blind was grabbed by the wrist and
pulled off her bed, while her daughter screamed in protest.

Once assembled, following the usual harangue, the refugees were
asked, "Those who want to remain when the SL Army comes in, raise
your hands and give your names and addresses." No one spoke or
protested. After sunrise the refugees dispersed to other churches.
The LTTE was to bring lorries to transport those remaining. (From
the time the LTTE started moving its things, it had commandeered
all lorries belonging to Multi-Purpose Co-operative Societies.)
Some clergymen accepted the LTTE's move to shift them with
resignation. One said, "They want us to go. We have little
choice." Some strong resistance appears to have been put up by the
Ceylon Pentecostal Mission. It was reported that in a melee, a
leading elder, an electrical engineer, had been pushed down and
dragged by his feet into a lorry, thereby causing bruises to his
body. The pastor of the Kandy Road church is said to have been hit
on the shoulder resulting in a fracture or a bad sprain that
caused much swelling.

The principal of Chundikuli Girls' College was a cautious lady who
had avoided confrontation with the LTTE, but had kept her
reservations. The LTTE breaking into the school at 2.00 a.m. was
the last straw. She told them, "I am leaving everything open and
am going. Do what you like."

A number of clergy were among those assembled in a  church. The
LTTE asked them to leave and the clergy refused. The LTTE shot
dead two dogs outside the church and warned those in the church
that this may become their fate too. In some other places, those
who refused to go had shots fired into the ground by their feet,
resulting in pebbles flying up and injuring them.

Among those most bitter were persons who had built themselves up
under LTTE rule and had developed a vested interest in its
continuance. All of a sudden the bubble burst and their world had
emptied. This was true of some of the church leaders,
professionals, professors, traders and manufacturers. They cursed
the LTTE as intensely as they had boosted it in the past. For all
their flattery, the LTTE now indicated plainly that they counted
for nothing. Some even said that the Sri Lankan Army was better
than the LTTE.

A doctor had narrowly escaped the Welikade prison massacre in July
1983. He had lived in Jaffna, was the manager of a leading private
boys' college, and the LTTE had been readily accessible to him. He
had a number of animals and birds at home. In asking him to quit,
out of deference to him, the LTTE offered him a car. The doctor
indignantly turned it down. He, his wife and daughter mounted on
three bicycles and moved out of Jaffna.

As the first two weeks of November wore on, the LTTE got about
removing things in the houses of what they regarded valuable -
furniture, electrical items, household items and roofing. Teams of
boys worked like termites to gobble up houses in about two hours.
What meant nothing to the organisation, namely books, documents
and photographs collected over generations, were left abandoned in
heaps for the wind, the rain and the termites.

Much of the equipment belonging to the University of Jaffna
including microscopes and other laboratory apparatus were carted
away to Palai and dumped in an open field which has been
christened `The Open University'. The Jaffna Hospital equipment
and much of its asbestos roofing was also removed. Its supply of
fuel and drugs too was carried away.

The scene at the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Jaffna
in Thinnevely about 12th November, left memories even more painful
because of contrasting impressions. The Faculty had been
completely ransacked and turned into a fortress and a nerve-centre
for the final defence of Thinnevely. There were trenches across
the roads in the locality  to serve as tank traps. Sandbags were
evident everywhere. Narrow trenches led to the boundary wall to
accommodate defensive positions made up of stacked sandbags. There
were also gun positions all over,

These first impressions took the minds of the visitors through the
long and laborious years through which the institution was built
by dedicated souls, some of whom are, thankfully, at rest. Those
long hours of committee meetings, consultations with architects
and contractors, trips abroad for recruitment and canvassing of
staff and materials, hassles with the Government for funds and
permission to import equipment - all this was to disappear in the
twinkling of an eye, in a brief and futile military encounter. In
other countries at war, armies kept away from monuments to the
heritage of the people, and even as the enemy advanced, dedicated
people remained in those institutions to protect them. Here in the
name of liberation, the heritage of the people and of future
generations was being sacrificed for transient military use.

The second impression was in sharp contrast to the first. The
place was full of young LTTE cadre - boys about 16 or 17. Several
of them were playing badminton. Others were cleaning themselves
after a day's work, applying soap and bathing in leisurely
fashion. The war seemed far away from these young boys. Did they
realise that at this time the next day a number of them would be
corpses or would be lying in hospital with their limbs blown off?
How did they become caught up in this monstrous fate?

The experience was most painful for those with dependents who
could not be moved. From many parts of Valikamam there were
reports of elders heard screaming as those younger left them in
their homes and joined the exodus. Several of those about to quit
Jaffna on 13th November looked up their animals for what was
probably to be the last time. Although the fighting and sounds of
shelling were heavy, the SL Army was careful not to shell Jaffna
town. Cows about to calve and gazing helplessly had to be left to
fend for themselves. Some forced to leave behind their dogs,
walked miles to leave them in familiar surroundings. On that day
the sound of shelling could be heard loudest in the northern
precincts of Jaffna. Buildings were vibrating as though there was
a giant earthquake. The dogs left behind were transfixed by fear
or were running aimlessly only to find that one place was no
better than the other. In most parts of Jaffna and surroundings
there was an unbearable stench coming from animals starved to
death and rotting on the roads. Those dogs that were alive, filled
the air with their constant howling for their masters (themselves
wailing) and because of the stench of death.

Society had become apathetic about very young children being
tricked or dragooned into serving the LTTE leadership. Those close
to the children cried in their homes. But otherwise there was
little noise. Bishops, professors and religious gurus had talked
and behaved as though this was the normal order of things. It was
all sanitised. Yet, the terrified howls of creatures being
deserted, against the continuous blasting of artillery shells, was
something that wrenched the heart and pierced it with a recurring
pain. The experience recalled to mind the lines of William Blake:

          A dog starv'd at his Master's Gate
          Predicts the ruin of the State.
          A Horse misus'd upon the Road
          Calls to Heaven for Human blood.
          Each outcry of the hunted Hare
          A fibre from the Brain does tear...

To those receding from the scene, these cries of agony seemed to
translate into curses to be borne by the Tigers.

The last evacuees boarded the lorries. Passing Jaffna's deserted
suburbs, and then the last habitations marked by fences, coconut
trees and a broad stretch of Kandy Road, the travellers emerged
into open space, the flooded fields of Ariyalai East on either
side. Beneath the lowering sky, the road stretched out towards the
Bo-tree junction, one and a half miles away, and beyond it over
the dull blue waters of the lagoon and then the tree-lined horizon
marking Navatkuli. It was a scene of desolation where the hands
that channelled the waters and tended the fields were all fled.
Only the winter birds whose yearly peregrinations had pre-dated
mankind's labours were there. The evacuees spontaneously broke
down crying.

The Closure of Jaffna Hospital

The final act in the closure of Jaffna Hospital is another of
those painful episodes in the history of the Tamil people that
deserves to be meditated upon with sympathy, trying to imagine
oneself in the shoes of a handful of doctors and a few dozen
individuals called upon to make agonising personal decisions.
Apart from problems of medical ethics in such extreme situations
as the country had not faced before, it also raises some questions
about the role and obligations of the ICRC as an institution.

In the first few days that followed 30th October, the LTTE, as
pointed out, had made its intentions clear. Soon after the
announcement some surgical equipment went missing, and the
authorities had to place some new locks. The LTTE was brazenly
flouting the condition that no arms should be carried within  the
zone. From the first day the LTTE started removing stocks of
medicine and the hospital generators one by one. Yet it continued
to bring its injured cadre in for treatment.
 
The ICRC's conduct was also wobbly. It seemed to have accepted
that the closure was inevitable and to have swallowed the LTTE's
reading of the situation. This was that the patients, people and
even medical staff were moving into Thenmaratchi and that soon
there would be no work at the hospital. The senior doctors were
however determined to keep the hospital open and to remain in
Jaffna. In this they were supported by most of the junior doctors
and by medical staff who had not quit. The junior doctors even
helped in menial tasks such as cooking, and they all worked as a
team. The ICRC's attitude however indicated that it wanted to
move. As the doctors understood it, Thamilchelvan had `really
scared the daylights' out of the ICRC by threatening to cut off
access. Worse still, a shell fell near the ICRC office, a shell
whose source is disputed. The general opinion among the people was
that it was an LTTE shell. Others however maintained that it was
an SL Army shell on the grounds that the explosion was louder than
that obtaining from LTTE shells. But given that the area was not
subject to general shelling by the SL Army, it would appear
strange that the army from 3 or 4 miles away should aim a single
shell at the location of the ICRC office.

>From about 7th November the ICRC started taking down their flags
and insignia, heralding the closure and spreading panic among all
those who had depended on the ICRC zone for their protection. The
doctors at the hospital and the ICRC seemed to be working towards
different ends and the communication gap was quite evident. Mr.
Georg Cunz, the head of the ICRC mission was guarded and
diplomatic in what he said. But remarks attributed to the ICRC
team as a whole gave doctors the feeling that they were very much
misunderstood and that the ICRC team was more influenced by what
the LTTE told them than by the ground situation in the hospital.
Of course no one could take the LTTE's reputation lightly and
there was the shell near the ICRC office of unknown provenance.

The ICRC opened a mobile clinic with Jaffna Hospital doctors in
Thenmaratchi and the medical doctor of the ICRC team was
constantly comparing statistics between Jaffna Hospital and
Chavakacheri Hospital. A member of the Jaffna Hospital  surgical
team took a breather from a grinding routine by standing on the
balcony of the house officers' quarters. The European lady ICRC
representative who passed by below addressed a remark to him,
"There are lots of casualties in the ward, why are you idling?".
There was a regular insinuation attributed to the ICRC that the
hospital doctors were shirkers. By the time the ICRC started
pulling down their flags, the doctors came to know of remarks from
the ICRC team to the effect, "Why are the doctors drinking tea
[here in Jaffna hospital] and wasting their time [when there is so
much work elsewhere]?" The ICRC seemed unable to see the value the
native folk and the doctors attached to Jaffna Hospital as a key
community institution that had to be preserved despite temporary
setbacks.

The LTTE was at the same time working hard at different levels to
close down Jaffna Hospital. There was a great deal of individual
canvassing of patients, staff and doctors by others sympathetic
to the LTTE. Their fears were constantly played upon. But the
senior doctors and a core of junior doctors and medical staff
worked as a team and stood firm in their resolve to keep the
hospital functioning. The LTTE had always feared any showing of
community spirit  and cohesiveness that was outside its direct
control.

The LTTE used some of what is known in military parlance as
`softening up', before the final coup de grace in the form of a
carrot. There was intimidation in the form of remarks. An LTTE
patient who was receiving treatment, for example, addressed a
remark to a nurse, "Why are the doctors waiting here without
going? We have marked who the traitors are. We know how to deal
with them!" A very worried nurse communicated this  to the
doctors.

On the 10th of November, ll days after the exodus order, there
were 300 patients in the hospital with a little more than 1000
beds, providing more than enough work for the staff who remained.
Many of them were elderly patients, seriously ill paediatric
patients and women who had undergone caesarian operations. LTTE
agents came in vehicles and made a determined bid to get the
patients out. Intense pressure was applied on the patients and
their relatives and what went on was more or less public. As soon
as someone  gave-in to pressure, someone, in most cases the
relative, simply pulled out the naso-gastric tubes or the IV
(intravenous) drips. The patient was then loaded onto a stretcher
and driven away to Chavakacheri. In the meantime the LTTE had told
the ICRC that there were no patients in the hospital.

The battle was simultaneously joined in by some of the doctors.
While on one side the LTTE was asking patients to go, the doctors
went around reassuring the patients that they would be around and
that there was no need to leave. Within a few hours, however, the
bulk of the patients had been carried away. Some of the doctors
asked the ICRC to station one person permanently in the hospital
so that they could see for themselves what was going on. The ICRC
representative replied that there were no patients in the
hospital. The doctors went in for a quick count and told the ICRC
that there were 30 patients! the ICRC representative then promised
to send someone around regularly to take a look.

On the following morning or the one after (12th), Thamilchelvan
came to deliver the final thrust. He used the well-tried method of
a totalitarian force. Having constantly rattled the nerves of the
defenders of Jaffna hospital and built up fear, he offered a
carrot to a chosen few whom he judged to be vulnerable and were
key to the continuance of the hospital. It was a gamble that paid
off. Had it failed, it would have increased resistance, creating
more problems for the LTTE. Thamilchelvan met a closed group
comprising a few hospital consultants and offered their families
passes to go to Colombo, including their teen-aged children who
are normally not eligible for passes. The consultants accepted.
Thamilchelvan left after promising to collect a list of names that
evening and issue the passes. A way out of the draconian pass
system had become a lure that few could resist.

Immediately afterwards the hospital staff met. One of the
consultants who had accepted Tamilchelvan's offer represented the
position slightly differently. He told them that all the hospital
staff  were offered passes for their families. He said that all
who wanted passes could include their names in the list that
Thamilchelvan would collect in the evening. But the nurses and
other staff had already heard that only the consultants were
included in the offer. Some of them asked, crestfallen, "Then how
about us?" It was a severe blow to the junior doctors who had
totally trusted their seniors along with the remaining junior
staff, and had given themselves entirely to working as a team. The
hospital superintendent was also offended that those who had
agreed to Thamilchelvan had never consulted her in the matter. The
consultants were urged to reconsider. At the meeting at 3.00 P.M
that day, the majority of the consultants voted to accept
Thamilchelvan's deal. The fate of the hospital was sealed. The
ICRC was told of the decision to move the hospital. Mr. Cunz's
face, it is reported, brightened with plain relief. The evacuation
of Jaffna hospital was fixed for the 14th.

It was also evident that Thamilchelvan's attitude to the doctors
changed after the consultants fell for his offer. He seemed to
have lost respect, particularly towards those advocating his
offer. He never came to collect the list of names and avoided the
doctors thereafter. For several of those who had agreed, the
obtaining of passes became a long drawn out harassing affair. The
blow was also keenly felt by those who had remained in Jaffna
drawing strength from the hospital. The methods used to expel
civilians became decisively harsh following the LTTE's success in
closing the hospital. The doctors themselves had drawn comfort
from the decision of the Roman Catholic Bishop in Jaffna to
remain. How he eventually came to leave is not clear. One version
of the event is that he went out to visit members of the clerical
orders and nuns who had shifted to Vadamaratchi and was not
permitted to re-enter Jaffna.

A comic event took place on the 13th when the LTTE sent vehicles
to evacuate the remaining civilians, which also showed how some of
the young cadre innocently carried out their order to clean up the
city. A cadre stopped his bus outside the hospital, sounded his
horn, and shouted out to the lady superintendent standing in
front, "Get  in madam, this is the last bus out of Jaffna. If you
miss this one, you will never get another one!"

The exodus of the hospital to Pt. Pedro was arranged by the ICRC
with meticulous care. But once there, the ICRC appeared to wash
its hands of the Jaffna hospital. The hospital staff had looked
upon the ICRC in some sense as a guarantor of their security and
this had influenced their decision to stay on till the last. Since
security reasons were among those compelling the movement of the
hospital, the staff felt that they should be moved to a place that
was at least safe. This was not the case with Pt. Pedro which was
subject to shelling by the SL Army and there was no officially
accepted security zone around the hospital there.  Doctors applied
to the ICRC for transport on their ship that sailed regularly
between Pt. Pedro  and Trincomalee. This was at first refused.
Mr.Cunz later suggested that if those wanting transport write
jointly to the Ministry of Defence in Colombo and obtain their
sanction, the ICRC would transport them. Such a letter was given
to the ICRC for forwarding. It was later reliably learnt that the
letter stopped with the ICRC office in Colombo, and was not
forwarded. The ICRC in Pt. Pedro, however, told them that the
defence ministry had refused permission. On the other hand it
seemed to them that the Government which wanted to reopen Jaffna
Hospital would like to get them down to Colombo, since from
Colombo, the government would have better control over the doctors
than when they remained in Tiger territory. Further, whereas the
LTTE would want to keep doctors under their control, the ICRC too,
it appeared, was playing a game of delicate balancing  between the
two armed forces it had to work with. In actual fact, the major
actors were acting in such a manner where the people were being
hemmed into smaller and smaller areas and were being used as pawns
in a game. The ICRC also contributed to this by refusing to open a
safe passage to the people out of this contracting circle. Its
ships regularly returned to Trincomalee almost empty.

The ICRC had rendered invaluable service to the community by
ensuring the continued security and functioning of Jaffna Hospital
for more than 5 years. It has acted as a commonly trusted
intermediary in peace moves and arranged exchanges of prisoners
and visits to them. It has also served as a foreign presence
witnessing the plight of ordinary people. However, the ICRC has
the practice of changing delegates every 6 months. Staff whose
experience had just enabled them to understand the intricacies of
the situation are changed. Several of the delegates had proven
their worth, standing firm for the hospital. But during the recent
crisis, the individual delegates proved to be only too human, like
the Jaffna doctors.

Vadamaratchi

The last evacuees went to Chavakacheri, Killinochchi and the
majority to Vadamaratchi. Many of those who went to Killinochchi
hoped to find their way to Colombo. Vadamaratchi was less crowded
than Chavakacheri, and bread was more easily available since there
were more bakeries. Even here there were queues and, like
elsewhere in Jaffna, cash too was hardly available. Friends and
well-wishers helped those who arrived in Vadamaratchi to find
rooms in Pt Pedro. But here there were constant reminders of the
war in the form of shelling. A few days later, on 14th November, a
long convoy of vehicles with ICRC flags, preceded by motor-cycle
outriders reached Pt Pedro. This was the final evacuation of the
ICRC along with Jaffna hospital. For a few more days lorries and
bullock carts continued to go to Jaffna to fetch the properties of
institutions and private belongings. But most people left behind
everything.  The banks too had moved to Pt. Pedro with whatever
records they could carry. But their coffers were empty. The
Government also placed severe restrictions on the carrying of
cash into Jaffna; even institutions were refused permission by the
Ministry of Defence to take cash for salary payments. Each
individual going north was restricted to Rs 5ooo/-. Thus people
and institutions like orphanages were placed in a position where
they could neither operate their local bank accounts nor get cash
from Colombo.

Withdrawals from banks were restricted to Rs 500/-. While the
Government restricted the flow of cash, the LTTE, which received
priority in withdrawing its huge cash deposits from the banks, had
plenty of cash. It had also been insisting on cash payments for
its National Defence Fund contributions. As the exhausted refugees
poured into Vadamaratchi, the LTTE's NDF collections from
Vadamaratchi folk went into top gear. Those who were desperate for
cash had to part with their gold to the LTTE for a ridiculously
low price. The LTTE capitalised on the suffering of the people in
various ways. For example, the proprietor of the Milk White soap
company  wanted a pass to go into Jaffna and collect his stock of
soap from the stores. The LTTE agreed on condition that they would
be given half the stock. Soap was being sold under LTTE monopoly
for the astronomical price of Rs 70 a cake.

Within limits the LTTE had striven to keep the elite on its side.
 As Pt. Pedro became crowded with refugees, the LTTE got about
looking for houses. Several refugees who had just found shelter
and settled down, found themselves virtually getting thrown out on
the streets with bag and baggage after being promised alternative
accommodation. The only consolation they found was in tears, until
some good soul came along to help.

The LTTE press, radio and loudspeakers constantly advised people
to move to the Vanni. Fear also got around that a second exodus
from Thenmaratchi and Vadamaratchi  into the Vanni would be
enforced. The LTTE was providing free transport across the Jaffna
lagoon to the mainland, but was not in general permitting movement
into Jaffna - i.e., a one-way passage was on offer.
 
In this situation several people decided that rather than remain
with the LTTE and get trapped, it would be better to go to Colombo
while they could return to Jaffna when the situation improves.
Long queues gathered outside pass offices. About 17th November,
the LTTE closed its pass offices and stopped issuing passes.
Several of the offices were stoned by frustrated crowds.

Killinochchi and Vanni

Amidst the trauma and disorder of being thrown out of Jaffna,
there were just three matters in which normality quickly returned.
First, in the matter of recruitment. Displaced people entering
Navatkuli were greeted with messages on banners with a yellow
background at regular intervals. Young men and women were urged to
join the LTTE to liberate Jaffna and were told that there was a
recruitment office nearby at their service. A meeting of the
Jaffna University Students Union was called at Chavakacheri. This
was not to discuss education or the future of the University. The
matter was simply this. After perhaps 6 or 7 years of trying to
get a degree there was virtually no university. The South was
essentially hostile and was not going to accommodate them. They
were on the roads with nowhere to go. Likewise with high school
students who were geared to advancement through education. The
LTTE had precipitated a situation where there was to be no school
in the foreseeable future. The message now was: Join us, the LTTE,
and with greater numbers we would get the separate state of Eelam
quickly. Then you could go back to whatever you want to do.
Otherwise you will rot on the roads for years." If the number of
university students joining the LTTE was negligible in the past,
it was now significantly higher. For some months now it has been
fairly common for LTTE cadre to tell young boys that if they did
not join the LTTE now, they would be conscripted later. This
message was often heard by the young fleeing through Thenmaratchi
and the Vanni.

The second aspect of normality is in the collection of taxes. In
the areas where the refugees have been dispersed, the tax
collectors have returned to work very efficiently. Goods sold are
taxed and  collections to the National Defence Fund are going on.
At the beginning payment to this fund was a requirement to cross
the lagoon of those wanting to go to Colombo (This appears to have
been relaxed when the LTTE decided to move as many as were willing
across the lagoon into Killinochchi). The Tiger greed for  gold
also quickly surfaced. It has been decreed that only the LTTE
could purchase gold. The price initially offered at Rs.3000 per
sovereign was about 50% to 60% of the market rate. There are also
restrictions on the carrying of jewellery by those leaving the
North. By comparison, the Muslims the LTTE chased out of Jaffna in
1990 had to surrender all their valuables. Women then were subject
to humiliating body searches with sometimes ear-rings being
plucked off bleeding ears - all by women cadre. The recent
extortion exercise  was observed with suppressed anger by people
who had parted with their cash-in-hand to meet their payment to
the LTTE and were the next day thrown out of Jaffna with nothing
in hand. Owing to the monopoly the LTTE had enforced, later
reports said that gold had been sold for much less than 3,000
rupees a sovereign by people desperate for cash.

Thirdly, new pass offices were quickly established after the
computers originally from the University were relocated. A new
centre was established in Kodikamam. The elderly wanting to go to
Colombo had little difficulty. Children were almost always
refused. For a short time the minimum age for refusal was raised
from 10 to 14 and has since dropped to 12. The maximum age is 30.
Moreover, the LTTE was not too keen on restraining middle class
persons who feel they have alternatives, such as going abroad, and
hence would be a nuisance to the LTTE in the Vanni. On the other
hand such persons had in general proved very useful abroad. But
this leniency ended after a short time, when the issuing of passes
was stopped.

Those crossing the lagoon into Killinochchi found things much
better organised for long term recruitment and settlement. By
contrast the LTTE had done nothing or very little to cater to long
term civilian welfare in Thenmaratchi and Vadamaratchi. Those
crossing the lagoon and landing at Alankerni on the mainland were
offered plain-tea by courtesy of Thamil Eelam Boat Service and the
Thamil Eelam Administrative Service. Then came the usual tractor
ride to Nallur and a free but jam-packed lorry ride to
Killinochchi. There, shelter was provided in schools, with school
teachers, boy-scouts, and cubs providing supervision and free
food. They were later taken to shelters from where vehicles
proceeded to different locations in the Vanni. By the 9th of
November UNHCR lorries were seen in Killinochchi suggesting that
food sent by the Government had begun to come in. Refugees going
to villages in the Vanni were given free food for two days. Within
that time they were enabled to register with the local headman and
start receiving government rations. They were then given land,
mammoties, and other agricultural implements to begin cultivation.
The Tamil Refugees' Organization (TRO), an NGO started by the
LTTE, was at the fore-front of this activity and is responsible
for Vadamaratchi, Thenmaratchi and Vanni. Formerly, all NGOs were
registered as part of the NGO Forum, giving an illusion of
partnership and democratic functioning. The illusion is no longer
there with the TRO openly calling the shots. All other
international NGOs have to work through the TRO, thereby giving
the impression that it was the LTTE that was their benefactor. The
bulk of the resources at its command come from the government
machinery and other Nogs. All this suggests that the LTTE had had
put considerable effort into this and had long-term plans for the
displaced people. It would also appear that the LTTE wishes to
empty the population of Jaffna into Vanni.

Some of the international Nogs had protested to the TRO of the
LTTE's control in refugee camps being used to recruit minors. At
least to these Nogs, the TRO has acknowledged that the recruitment
of minors is wrong. The matter no doubt ends there. Initially
there was a great deal of anger against the LTTE among displaced
persons thrown into chaotic conditions in the Vanni. The TRO has
tried hard to soothe the anger and bring some order.

By early December, the LTTE had ordered the TRO to stop work in
Thenmaratchi so as to apply pressure on the population to move to
the Vanni. This led to dissatisfaction among relief workers who
had been working hard. International Nogs are worried. Following
the exodus order, they reluctantly moved out of Jaffna into
Thenmaratchi and Vadamaratchi. They had decided that they would
not move again. Should the LTTE engineer a second exodus into the
Vanni from the remainder of the peninsula, these Nogs are
apparently not quite sure what they would do.

As November wore on, several of those wanting to take to Colombo
their children to whom the age restriction applied, did so by
paying sums of up to Rs 1 lakh at the Thandikulam crossing point.
Others who came to Thandikulam without passes paid sums of money
from Rs 10,000 upwards after negotiation and were allowed to pass
over to Vavuniya. Once the LTTe stopped issuing passes, there were
also scenes at Thandikulam, where for example A.Level boys threw
stones at the pass office. In some places, the LTTE opened the
pass office for a short time and issued a few passes to calm the
unrest and then closed it again. From mid-November travellers
reported signs of discontent among some LTTE cadre they met. Some
complained that the big ones were not to be found and they were at
a loose end. Not everything went smoothly for the LTTE in the
Vanni. It had to find housing for a large number of its supporters
who had come over. This was causing some heart-burn. The editor of
the 'Eelanatham', the LTTE's paper, whose wife is from an upper
middle class background, was said to be dissatisfied with the
house he had been assigned in Uruthirapuram.

The Government in Peace and War

Looking at the events over the last year, it would appear that
during the peace process the Government was not clear about the
nature of the LTTE. Moreover, during  war it lacked clarity and
consistency in its approach to the Tamil people, whom, it aid, it
sought to win over politically. One of its marked achievements is
however the peace package announced at the end of July, laying
down the outlines of a political settlement. During the peace
process the Government paid little attention to the complications
arising from the nature of the LTTE. Having consulted the Tamil
elite in Colombo and those abroad, the Foreign Minister, who had
no grass-roots contact, maintained confidently that the Tamil
people supported the Government's efforts for peace with the LTTE.
These were ultimately noises modulated by the LTTE and kept
changing with the LTTE's strategic considerations. Once the war
was precipitated the Government and the foreign office became
hostile to NGO and other voices which tried to represent the
people who were victims of military measures.
 
In both these phases there has been a notable lack of conception
regarding the place and interests of the ordinary Tamil people.
The manner in which the current war is being conducted has shown
little respect for the civilians as people whom the Government is
trying to win over. With the exception of Jaffna town and suburbs,
bombing and shelling in other areas appears to have been
untargetted and done in the way of reprisals. It was pointed out
earlier that most of the hundred civilian deaths during October
occurred as the result of bombing and shelling well outside the
combat zone. Vadamaratchi and Thenmaratchi had been regularly
shelled during the month of November and these are areas to which
displaced people have moved in large numbers. Shelling of these
areas had notably taken place during times when fighting was heavy
and the army sustained casualties-i.e., shelling had been frequent
from about  10th to 14th November.

Two civilians were killed in the Mattuvil area in Thenmaratchi on
the 10th. On 11th November a refugee child was killed when shells
fell in Maruvan Pulavu, Thenmaratchi, on the Kerativu road. Two
were killed in Kaithadi, Thenmaratchi, on the 12th. On the same
day one civilian was killed near Thikkam in Valvettithurai. Many
more were injured in all these incidents. During the 13th night a
total of about 40 shells were accounted by civilians to have
fallen in several parts of Vadamaratchi, most of them on the coast
or into the sea. Only one shell is known to have fallen on or near
an LTTE women's camp in the Mattuvil-Nunavil area  killing a
female and injuring two others. The LTTE later claimed that they
had apprehended a woman spy with a walkie talkie! On 21st November
the air force dropped bombs in the Mullaitivu area. In Nedunkerni
4 persons from three families were killed and 15 were injured. At
Kachilamadu 5 members of a single family were killed. Some of the
injured are receiving treatment in Vavuniya. In the Navatkuli-
Kaithady area bombs were dropped near a refugee camp - no reports
of casualties. Such indiscriminate shelling of civilian areas
helps to negate in the minds of ordinary people the apparent pains
taken to ensure good behaviour of advancing troops.

The same lack of clear conception of civilian welfare also applies
to the banning of travel through Jaffna lagoon. If it is done for
a  short term purpose, the civilians should be told so. As it is,
this threatens to become another fiasco like what happened under
the UNP government. For the lack of an alternative passage Tamil
civilians travelled through Jaffna lagoon for three years under
fire from the navy and the air force. Well over a hundred civilian
lives were lost. In one incident in early January 1993, 30 to 60
civilians were massacred with knives and guns by the Sri Lankan
Navy who boarded some of the boats. Those who lost their lives
included government servants who were required to go to Colombo to
transact government business.

Also unfortunate is the choice of some of the officers leading the
offensive. One of them, Brig. Karunatilake, was in charge of the
brigade at Valaichenai that was responsible for the notorious
Eastern University disappearances during September 1990. There are
also cases being taken up against him pertaining to his earlier
activity during the JVP insurgency. This again shows a certain
lack of concern about civilian welfare and civilian sensibilities.

The relative care shown in not shelling or bombing Jaffna town
suggests that the operation had been discussed with the more
influential sections of the diplomatic community in Colombo and
that some agreement was reached (One shell had fallen within the
ICRC zone, in front of the surgeon's house. The bombing in
Ariyalai East has been referred to already. Several shells fired
from Mandaitivu fell about the Gurunagar coast). The Government
itself fails to have appreciated its strong position in this
respect. Having scored a success in influencing the UN Secretary
General to make a statement, the LTTE propaganda failed
thereafter. There were two main reasons for this.

Foreign journalists covering the war were told by foreign
diplomats and some of the international Nogs that the government
forces had been careful to avoid civilian casualties, with the
exception of about two lapses. The latter seemed to refer to the
bombing of Ariyalai East on the 26th October and the two shells in
Gurunagar on the 29th, suggesting again that they were looking
almost exclusively at the town area. The bombing and shelling
elsewhere does not seem to have featured significantly in their
thinking. To this extent the army and air force had been careful.
On the other hand they seem to have had the license to vent their
anger anywhere, but sparing Jaffna town where the refugees were
once supposed to gather. This may satisfy foreigners, but it is
far from being a satisfactory approach towards the Tamil people
who are citizens of this country.

The second reason for the failure of the LTTE's propaganda blitz
was that its claims were found wanting in two respects. Although
the LTTE under-estimated its own power to force an exodus from
Jaffna, the resistance of those who remained had to be overcome by
force and terror. (An LTTE functionary later confided privately
that they had under-estimated the panic that would result from the
announcement of the exodus order.) Despite the use of terror it
took the LTTE 16 days to throw out those who remained and the
truth came out very soon. The figure of 500,000 refugees claimed
for the exodus too raised scepticism. It turned out that the
Government Agent was quoting Nogs and the Nogs were quoting the
government administration that was under the GA. A figure of
300,000 may have been more realistic since a steady exodus had
been taking place for 5 years. Moreover, the LTTE's conduct over
the years had made the foreign media far less sympathetic. Its
spokesmen too cut little ice with the foreign media.

Very damaging to the LTTE and the Tamil people had been the
massacre of a hundred Sinhalese civilians in the East. Had the
LTTE not done this, the 100 or so Tamil civilians killed during
October would have aroused greater concern. As it was, it appeared
as collateral damage that was light by the standards of other
wars. A veteran correspondent experienced in Vietnam and Cambodia
remarked, "I hate to be the father of one of those killed. But
look, what is a hundred civilians dead given the heavy fighting
involved?" The indications are that the death among combatants was
about 1500 over the same period.

Our questions are however not based on numerical considerations,
but rather on the politics behind the civilian deaths. The death
of even this relatively small number of civilians cannot be
attributed to collateral damage. It was mainly callousness.
Whether the number killed by the random shelling in Vadamaratchi
and Thenmaratchi is 2, 20 or 200 is not the question. The question
is about whether the Government should bomb or shell civilians at
all in the manner it had done? What is the politics behind such
actions? Can it bring peace? Can it reconcile the Tamils to accept
living in a united Sri Lanka? These are long term questions that
go beyond numbers.

It is in the same vein that we have questioned the LTTE's
politics. What it represents is not determined so much by the
number of Tamil dissidents tortured and killed, or the numbers of
Muslim and Sinhalese civilians massacred, but rather that these
killings and massacres are integral to its workings as an
institution and have  frightening implications. We need to use a
different yardstick from foreign observers because these are all
our own problems and an indication of the callous attitude towards
people in general that is part of the Tamil nationalist legacy.
 

Looking at events over the weeks, it was remarkable how much the
government and the LTTE were playing identical games with the
people and actually reinforcing each other's actions. Both parties
seemed most at ease in extreme polarised positions, found in a
state of confrontation and war.  The government through
restrictions starved the people of cash. The LTTE did the same by
withdrawing its cash deposits from the banks and collecting for
the National Defence fund. It then reaped thumping profits by
exchanging cash for gold with desperate civilians on highly
advantageous terms. When the LTTE wanted to expel the civilians
from Jaffna, it looked to the government for some help in the form
of shelling civilians. But early November witnessed a lull in SL
army shelling. The LTTE had to go through the embarrassment of
firing its own shells and getting caught.

Now in Vadamaratchi and Thenmaratchi, the game is more complex.
The LTTE wants the people to move to the Vanni, but appears to be
hampered both by international opinion and the tougher nature of
the people in Vadamaratchi in engineering a second exodus without
help from the SL army. The government appears to have no clear
policy. The army, it seemed, had acquired a taste for taking over
an area without the inconvenience of having civilians around. It
would be more convenient for the government if the LTTE could be
blamed for chasing the civilians out. Following its capture of
Jaffna, the army continued to shell Vadamaratchi and Thenmaratchi,
but not heavily. In mid-December, however, the army announced a
heavy artillery barrage against LTTE targets in Vadamaratchi,
claiming that it was to prevent LTTE infiltration into Valikamam.
Based on past experience, one could have no illusions on what this
means to the civilians. This made the censorship then prevailing
even more inexcusable.

How does the ordinary Tamil civilian see the government through
all this? He experienced bombing and shelling around Jaffna. But
once the LTTE drove him out, and made him a vagrant, his anger
turned against the LTTE. In Vadamaratchi or Thenmaratchi, he again
experienced shelling. He under-went privations because the
government was made to appear responsible for starving him of cash
and other necessities. He came to Vavuniya to proceed to Colombo.
He had to undergo the humiliation of being herded and confined to
a camp for three days by the government. He came to Colombo to
experience police harassment and fear. All around him people were
saying that it felt rather like July 1983. By this time, many in
his position would have concluded that the LTTE is something in
the nature of a necessary evil, that is the only check on the
communalism of successive governments.
 
The celebration by the state for the fall of Jaffna and the
general treatment of Tamil civilians in the South which followed
the exodus  again raised the important question of what the Tamils
can expect from the government in the face of rising buoyancy
among extreme Sinhalese. If there is no change of heart but a mere
continuation of the same state machinery and polarised attitudes,
the Tamils will be only pushed further into the arms of the Tigers
leaving only the prospect of continuing divisive conflict,
destruction and war in the coming years.

The government needs to be far less cynical and do much better if
it wants to involve the Tamils in a political process of
reconciliation that in the long term will help the whole country
to get out of this vicious cycle of destruction.

It must be borne in mind that even this government has been guilty
of war crimes. We quote from a recent publication titled "Post-
Traumatic Responses to Aerial Bombing" by a medical don to appear
in "Social Science and Medicine"(UK): "In addition to detention,
torture and displacement, bombing [and shelling] is one of the
major stressors of the war. It would appear that in many
instances, bombings are used primarily as psychological weapons
against civilians, for their ability to accurately hit military
targets within densely populated areas is exceptional, as seen in
the war in Sri Lanka where the sophistication of instruments is
low. At the same time, the guerillas have consistently sought
civilian cover, thereby drawing fire on to the general public. The
usually sudden, unexpected and unpredictable nature, the blast and
noise of the explosion giving rise to what was called 'shell-
shock' in World War I; and the massive destruction, injuries and
death that follow are dimensions of stress ...Thus the variety of
symptoms and even the cluster of more severe symptoms amounting to
a psychiatric disorder in some individuals had been accepted as an
inevitable part of the war situation. It could also be true that
many of the responses to a traumatic experience are manifestations
of an organism's attempt to cope or adapt in an abnormal
situation. Obviously what is abnormal is the bombing itself and
not the reactions to it. Lifton had stressed that it is important
not to delegitimise the suffering of the victims by assigning a
psychiatric label. Bombing of civilians should be considered a
grave offence - a war crime."
 

The Elite, the People & Illusions

The elite are nearly always atomised individuals whose confidence
and reassurance come from their association with institutions,
whether the state, commercial institutions, religious and
educational institutions or Nogs. In the present world all these
have ramifications in the global power structure. It is power that
they respect and power relations they understand best. In the
event of a phenomenon like the LTTE which jars their complacency,
it is natural for them to approach the problem in terms of co-
opting it into power structures. But such attempts to deal with a
phenomenon such as the LTTE, the total thrust of whose actions is
entirely contrary to the well-being of people, further corners the
people and inflicts enormous suffering on them.

Thus from an elitist point-of-view, the human rights violations of
the Tigers, their eliminations and their virtual conscription of
children were largely non-issues. The blood and spirit was taken
out of these violations and they were sanitised and explained away
in such allegorical terms as painful and curative reactions,
necessary side effects to combating state terrorism. There was a
persistent refusal to see its ultimate destructiveness towards its
own community in the long term.

Among the illusions held by the elite is that of rationality.
Morality was of little significance in their world-view as appears
the norm in international relations. There was an expectation of
being able to deal with the LTTE rationally. This was largely the
approach of the various peace missions, both foreign and Southern.
A confidence was expressed from within the Government negotiating
team that the LTTE leaders now reaching middle age and not far
from old age would like to settle down. The 40 year-old LTTE
leader's son's being sent to an elite mission school was deemed a
healthy sign. In other words they understood each other, or so it
seemed.

There was such confidence also among the Tamil elite whose
position had become morally compromised. They had a contempt for
those who raised questions of human rights and morality and
suffered for it. They believed that they were doing the rational
thing that was the need of the hour. Whatever compromise they
made, they argued, it was to keep institutions going and to
preserve the foundations for the future. What was happening to the
people for whom these institutions existed was lost sight of. Even
sections of some of the churches plummeted to their lowest depths.

Both the elite and the LTTE sustained these illusions and built
vested interests around them. The edifices - underground
facilities, hospitals, impressive buildings for administrative
divisions and public relations, parks, tombs and mausolea - the
LTTE built in the Neervely, Urumpirai and Kondavil areas which
fell to the government forces within a month are a testimony to
the magnitude of the illusion. The breaking of the bubble so irked
the LTTE that it decided that if it could not have Jaffna, no one
could have it, not even the people to whom it belonged.

The elite who thought they had the LTTE in a relation of
partnership discovered overnight that they did not matter a hoot
to the LTTE. They were thrown out of Jaffna along with the
ordinary people and the institutions which they sought to preserve
ceased to exist. The nation was on the roads, rain and all. But
they were so cornered that even at this juncture they could not
move to represent the concerns of the people. Although privately
expressing bitterness against the LTTE, publicly they signed
petitions to the international community blaming it all on the
Government. Although the relatively low death toll and the recent
massacres of Sinhalese diluted their case, expressions were used
giving the sense that the Government of Sri Lanka which had killed
thousands of Tamil civilians [in the past], was now [through
forcing them out of Jaffna under conditions of inclement weather
and utter want], finally destroying them through mental trauma and
physical hardship. The constant theme in these statements was the
claim that the Government was subjecting the Tamil people to
genocide.

Yet the voices of hundreds of thousands of ordinary people that
were not heard and are not meant to be heard, carried no sophistry
and no illusions. Forced in the night and under heavy rain, on
30th October, to trudge through the flooded moorlands of Chemmani
and Kaithady, one clear refrain was readily heard and assented to:
"This is happening to us today because we did it to the Muslims
exactly five years ago." Some recalled that they were given 4
hours to vacate, while the Muslims were given two. The common
people's sense of justice had remained clear and unambiguous. A
recent evacuee from Jaffna asked: "I know even school boys who had
got together and told the LTTE recruiters coming to their schools
that they would not join, because 'those who live by the sword
will die by the sword'. If school boys could do that much, why
cannot our religious and community leaders do more?"

The Cost of the Exodus

The one defence of the enforced exodus that is also advocated by
the LTTE statement quoted earlier is that it saved human lives, in
view  of the looming military confrontation. However, temporary
displacement from directly endangered areas could have been best
left to the judgement of the people who are themselves well
experienced in such matters. Even if the claim to saving lives is
valid, it is so only in the context of the perverse nature of the
LTTE's insistence of turning Jaffna into a battle zone and the
paralysis it has brought on the civil society. Having decided on
reverting to guerilla warfare, if it had concern for the people,
it had no reason to bring death and destruction on the people and
their institutions by confronting an army in the city for the
second time in eight years. (Many national armies avoid
confronting an invading army in cities for the sake of the people
and to protect their cultural treasure and institutions.) If there
was moreover a functioning civil society with teachers,
professionals and religious leaders who could voice the concerns
of the people independently, their demands would have had a global
audience. Then pressure would have been brought to bear and their
security far better ensured with the ICRC playing a more active
and positive role. The Government would not have got away with the
kind of bombing and shelling it has indulged in. Instead of
credible voices on behalf of the people, we have statements from
bishops, vicars-general and academics that are so one-sided that
no one takes them seriously except expatriate Tamil nationalists.

The roots of the exodus must be sought in the character of the
LTTE's politics, its unchanging agenda of totalitarian power, its
absence of concern for the people, and its duplicity resulting
from a historical inability to negotiate as part of a political
process.

It must also be pointed out that the physical death toll from the
exodus is high, beginning with a dozen or two who died in the same
night as the direct result of conditions in the march. We do not
exactly know how many patients shifted from the hospital died as a
result, or how many sickly persons succumbed (some conservative
estimates have been given at the beginning of this report, based
on available information). Moreover, tens of thousands of animals
succumbed to an agonising death through starvation.

Death from disease arising  as a direct consequence of the exodus
is certainly high. Approximately ten persons from Thenmaratchi and
5 persons from Vadamaratchi were dying daily as the result of
malnutrition debility, weakness and diarrhoea that were endemic
among the displaced children. This alone would make the LTTE claim
of life-saving very dubious. There was also the accidental
explosion of an ammunition truck in Chavakacheri during November
which was then crowded with refugees. According to medical
authorities, thirty six, including 14 civilians, were killed and
many others injured. Such hazards were greatly increased by the
exodus.

What is perhaps the key point here is that physical death that is
readily recognisable is just one way of ceasing to be. Other forms
of death that are at least as serious are far less easily
recognised. In this second manner, the community has suffered
grievously and, perhaps, permanently. Each man or woman is
organically linked by deeply felt bonds to his or her home, the
soil, the environment, the domestic animals, educational
institutions, and to institutions of culture and religion. It is
for this reason that the Muslims forced out of Jaffna five years
ago have resisted resettlement elsewhere and still want to come
back; it is not merely for a small plot of dry land and the walls
of a looted home. These institutions are the lifeblood of the
community, built through generations of labour, and represent an
extension of the life of those long gone.

This second form of death is evident in various degrees among
those forced out of Jaffna. The conditions and rigours of the
march made people feel humiliated and robbed them of their self-
esteem. They also lost their sense of identity as their homes,
schools and the university ceased to be and they became vagrants
and beggars on the streets.

Many who were part of the exodus described in dramatic detail the
stages by which they were destroyed as persons and members of a
community. In the milling crowd each person high or low was a
nobody. No one cared about women, children or the sick. It was a
struggle to take just one step in several minutes. Each move hurt
or toppled someone else.  Everyone was a curse to his or her
neighbour. Everyone was scarred by the terrible experience. Life
in the conditions of Thenmaratchi only reinforced it. At the end
of it many felt empty as though they had lost an important part of
their self.

It is a cruel irony for LTTE sympathisers abroad to put out
statements about the wonderful life in the brave new world of the
Vanni, where people are supposed to be rediscovering their
authentic Tamil heritage by tilling the soil and living as equals.
In the face of such claims, even aid agencies are becoming anxious
about finding funds to deal with the impending disaster.

To begin with, the Tamil middle class and most of those who went
abroad aspire to give their children the best education and see
their entering prestigious professions. Almost all writings on the
Tamil militant struggle start with standardization and
discrimination in educational opportunities. The struggle was
significantly about equal access to educational opportunities. It
was never a struggle to dismantle our educational infrastructure
and go into the jungles. Even LTTE supporters had talked
enthusiastically about the Singapore model. This propaganda about
the Vanni is just a shoddy attempt to sell and cover up the
destruction resulting from the LTTE's precipitate decision and its
politics.

Most Tamils continue to condemn the burning of the Jaffna Public
Library by the Government in 1981 as cultural genocide. Has not
this exodus resulted in unquantified, but large losses of our
public and private cultural and educational treasures, including
most libraries? Many leading Tamils were aghast at UNP minister
Ranjan Wijeratne's proposal, which they described as crazy and
inhuman, to shift the Tamil population into Vavuniya and then
conduct an operation to take over the peninsula. But now this very
same 'crazy and inhuman' idea has been accomplished by the so-
called protectors of the rights of the people. Has not our case
been gravely weakened by recent events?

The Exodus and the Tamil Media

An aspect of how Tamil society has become paralysed and locked
into this totalitarian politics is the failure the Tamil printed
and broadcasting media to come to terms with this historic exodus.
Obfuscation has been the general rule. There has been a great
reluctance to come near the truth, and give in-depth coverage and
analysis.

The BBC Tamil Service (BBC(T)) and Radio Veritas, a Philippines
based broadcasting station belonging to the Roman Catholic Church,
are regularly listened to by Tamils in the North-East. A regular
listener in the Eastern Province spoke for many others: "When an
incident takes place, the people caught up in it are most often
angry with the Government. But they also become disillusioned with
the LTTE and its politics. But when others, even those a short
distance from the incident, passively listen to these stations,
they blame only the Government. They continue to believe that the
LTTE is doing something positive and would achieve something. In
this sense the media are a disturbing influence on the people".

The BBC(T) has been very efficient in providing versions of events
favourable to the LTTE - mainly through the choices it makes in
interviews and in what is said. Thus when about 100 Sinhalese were
massacred by the LTTE in October, a Tamil Politician based in
Colombo who was interviewed suggested that the massacres could
have been done by other Tamil groups to discredit the LTTE. In the
case of the recent exodus, there were correspondents' reports
translated and broadcast over BBC(T) which spoke of the exodus
having been engineered by the LTTE. But in a series of subsequent
 interviews it was the LTTE version that was prominent - i.e., the
Government's military operation was almost exclusively blamed. The
producers cannot be accused of being naive. Any Jaffna Tamil
living in this country after all has to be stone-deaf not to know
the truth.

The producers of BBC(T) in London cannot be accused of
inefficiency  either. They even scooped the Vanni based Tiger
leader Prabakaran's speech from the Tiger Radio based in Vanni.
The BBC(T) spent a good 10 minutes of a 30 minute broadcast on
26th November giving the voice of the Leader addressing the Tamil
nation in connection with National Heroes' Day. The producer
clarified what was lost in a bad recording. The Leader affirmed
the supposed voluntary nature of the exodus. The speech had its
local broadcast in Vanni the following day as coming live from the
leader addressing the nation.

Such an approach to broadcasting, which is highly emotional at
times, cannot be construed as informing the listeners. Given the
delicate manner in which the people are poised between life and
death, such broadcasters may qualify to become undertakers to the
Tamil nation.
 

A Divided Nation: Questioning Ourselves

A few weeks ago an LTTE publication widely circulated among Tamils
in mainland Europe, England and elsewhere in the West carried the
cartoon of a man in Jaffna covering his head in an attitude of
shame. His shame, he explained, was because none of his sons had
joined the LTTE. The readers in Europe, North America and
Australasia are very sure that none of their own sons would join
the LTTE and certainly do not want them to, but compensate instead
with financial contributions and by attending vocal LTTE rallies.

One such rally in London was reported in the same journal. Many of
the speakers were well-to-do Tamil professionals. Some of them had
sponsored the coming over to London of young relatives who had
been in the LTTE. Indeed, most of them, however, would share an
indignation against unfortunate ordinary folk at home who do not
want their sons to join the LTTE.

During the SL Army's Operation Liberation in 1987, refugees from
Vadamaratchi coming into Valikamam found weddings being celebrated
in the usual manner and people going to amusement parks run by the
LTTE. There was little sense of an impending calamity. The
illusion is often sustained until the last minute that the LTTE
would not allow the SL Army to come in. After the recent exodus,
angry Valikamam folk going to Vadamaratchi were taken aback to
find many of the Vadamaratchi folk defending the LTTE. Again the
sympathy many Tamils in Colombo feel for the LTTE is governed by a
consciousness of alienation in the South that is oblivious to the
experience of the people in the North-East.

The recent exodus  brings out again the atomisation and
leaderlessness brought about by the bankruptcy of Tamil
nationalism. For most people the focal points of community life
and leadership had either lapsed or been destroyed. When the LTTE
ordered the people to go, most had to decide for themselves and
their family.

The abandonment of Jaffna hospital is a historic event where the
fate of a community and the fate of a city seemed to rest on the
exhausted shoulders of a handful of medical staff tired in body
and mind. Having endured much, they failed, and had they resisted
then, they would very likely have failed the next time or the time
after. The episode, while bringing out human weaknesses, also
brought out strengths. It ended very much like many battles of a
handful of individuals against a determined totalitarian force.
Yet it is an event that we ought to be proud of. It demonstrated
human potential and the spirit to organise around a common cause
and resist. It showed that the Tamils had not caved in to
totalitarian domination, but could act independently.

It is not these doctors and consultants who are on the dock, but
the Tamil community itself, the expatriates, the elite and the
more than 4,000 doctors the community has produced since 1960. How
did we come to allow a political drift where it fell to a handful
of doctors to take some momentous decisions on behalf of the
entire community? The catastrophe had after all been in the making
for decades. Moreover, of the thousands of doctors the community
produced, only a handful were willing to work in Jaffna. They had
also spurned the option of leaving Jaffna with dignity some months
ago. What have these hundreds of expatriate Tamil doctors who
support the LTTE done to make the lot of their colleagues who
remain easier and more dignified?

Numerous petitions are being signed today by professors and
religious leaders. These neither address the people nor reflect
their experience. They rather address the LTTE versions and the
LTTE's concerns to the international community. They have
therefore nothing to offer the people in the way of leadership.
Their actions are rather a betrayal of the people.
 
There is again no leadership being offered to the Tamils whether
in journalism, broadcasting or in parliamentary politics. They,
the practitioners of these, do not address specific concerns in a
convincing manner where the Government would have an interest in
listening to them. Their general refrain to stop the war and
resume talks with the LTTE makes no practical sense since the LTTE
is yet to demonstrate that it seeks political accommodation and
permanent peace. This is only a way of playing safe with the LTTE
on the one hand, and on the other,  in the event of the LTTE being
destroyed, to play the same nationalist card saying that it was
not they who betrayed the LTTE!

All this is troubling particularly because of the absence of a
clear policy on the part of the Government on being accountable to
the Tamil civilians. Reports of bombing and shelling well outside
combat areas are being angrily denied and censored. If this
direction is not changed, worse may come and alienate the
Government further from the Tamil people.

Meanwhile the LTTE Leader has in his National Heroes' Day address
in late November asserted that the people left Jaffna of their own
free will, and that he would not talk to the Government as long as
the SL Army is in Jaffna. For the first time he has personally
made a claim in stark contrast to the people's experience. He has
both cornered himself and put a further distance between himself
and the people. It also faces those who would like to return to
Jaffna with unpleasant choices, while the LTTE blows more bubbles
of illusion in the Vanni and prolongs the suffering. It would save
the Tamils a great deal of tragedy and loss if the LTTE could be
brought into a critical process of questioning by all concerned
Tamils, and made accountable as well responsive to the wishes of
the people. However because of the LTTE's absolute command
structure, the supremo Velupillai Prabakaran may remain isolated
from these avenues of influence and pressure.

This places a great burden on the Tamils living here and abroad,
to recognise that the community, particularly at home, is
leaderless and in grave danger, and to act with a sense of
responsibility. Even at this late stage we have to question our
politics of death -the death of people, with so called martyrs and
traitors, and of children used in bearing arms or used as
instruments of terror. In the Exodus we have an experience where
the truth according to the rulers is in sharp contrast to the
testimony of hundreds of thousands of people. The LTTE's claim to
protect what those in Jaffna valued most - their education and
their infrastructure so painfully built up - has been laid bare
after this exodus. We need to ask, what is the politics behind
this and what does it mean for us? Is it possible to sustain a
society and a civilisation through sheer manipulation without an
underpinning moral commitment?