Make your own free website on Tripod.com

          THE UNIVERSITY TEACHERS FOR HUMAN RIGHTS (JAFFNA)
                           (UTHR(Jaffna))
                      Information Bulletin No.8
 
                Date of Release : 8th November 1995
 
                  CIVILIANS & THE JAFFNA OFFENSIVE
 
   A recent evacuee from Jaffna described the situation thus:
   "You cannot look at the expressions on the faces of the
   people- staring eyes, frozen with fear. No one talks any
   sense.The continuous noise of shells is unbearable. There
   are wild stories going around about atrocities of the army
   in  recenlty captured areas with no way of verifying them.
   People do not want to take chances.They have lost their
   ability to think and act. For many years we have been
   treated like sheep and now we are behaving like sheep.Only
   the survival instinct works.It is maddening. There was an
   aerial attack near where I was staying. I was told that
   several people had been killed. I did not go to look.I did
   not wish to know more.Few in fact know with any accuracy.
   Had I remained two more days I would have gone mad. I left
   Jaffna with my family, crossed the lagoon and brought them
   to Killnochci."
 
   A large number of people leaving Jaffna and moving into
   very difficult conditions in Thenmaratchi, having
   frequently quit their homes under pouring rain, has
   received publicity worldwide.
   In the meantime the LTTE had launched a series of
   massacres on largely unprotected Sinhalese villages close
   to the border of the Eastern Province.Among the hundred or
   so killed indiscriminately at close range were many women
   and children.
 
   The LTTE had made it clear in a variety of ways that it
   wanted people to quit Jaffna. On 30th October the LTTE
   made a loudspeaker announcement in Jaffna in which it
   stated: "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 this same night and leave for Thenmaratchi and
   Vadamaratchi". When questioned later by Jaffna Hospital
   authorites,a key LTTE leader said that whoever announced
   had not said that it was the LTTE, but stated that those
   staying may not be able to leave as the periphery of the
   ICRC zone would be mined by them, in the event of either
   party breaking the "agreement". Elsewhere masked LTTE
   cadre went to houses and acted intimidatingly. There were
   also a large number of refugees at John Bosco school next
   to the ICRC. Here the LTTE fired a kind of shells, which
   people thought were rubber shells, at the refugee camp  to
   force their evacuation.
 
   Some of the other main causes for the exodus however are
   all-too-evident in the attitudes of the Sri Lankan
   Government and the actions of its armed forces.These had
   failed to provide any tangible reassurances to the people
   of Jaffna that the Government was duty bound to
   provide.The official military spokesman claimed on 2nd
   November that there had been at best 10 unconfirmed
   civilian deaths, dismissing the figures given by
   Government Agent/Jaffana.President Kumaratunge in a
   television address a little earlier again minimised
   civilian casualties and claimed that the military
   operation had been highly successful.But aerial attacks
   have taken place and shells have fallen far away from
   areas of actual fighting, and civilians were forced to
   flee after hurriedly burying the dead. The Government
   claimed to be attacking LTTE targets and asked civilians
   to keep away from such  places. Where are then such safe
   places when even refugees camping in temporary shelter on
   the outskirts of Jaffna were attacked? The experience of
   the people is of fear and devastation. If targeted aerial
   attacks were a fiction earlier, the claims now are totally
   unsustainable.The LTTE's unconscionable massacre of
   Sinhalese civilians along the Eastern border had also no
   doubt added to the fear among civilians of reprisals by
   the armed forces.
 
   If anything, the Government is fooling itself with denials
   behind a mask of censorship which few others believe.
   Indeed, the censorship has contributed to the Government's
   conduct which lacks evidence of the civilians having
   featured in any significant way in its thinking. Although
   little is known of the situation in areas under control of
   the army,the indications are that strict instructions have
   been given to the security forces to be sensitive to
   civilian interests. The overall military operation has
   however been very  dependent on intense shelling and
   unwarranted bombing. Against this, instructions given to
   the  soldiers to be on their best behaviour become
   meaningless, since  the effective  thrust  of the
   operation is to drive the people away from their homes and
   villages.
 
   Civilian Casualties:
   For the month of October this was placed at 104 killed and
   194 injured by the Government's administrative machinery
   in Jaffna.The breakdown is as follows:
 
   Date                  Dead                          Injured
   4th October           22                            90
   17th                  6                             15
   18th                  20                            23
   26th                  10                            10
   30th                  46                            56
 
   Total                104                            194
 
   The dates refer to the date of receipt of report and the
   figures record the progress of the army from Atchuvely to
   Kopay.These figures are generally conservative and are
   lower than those given by civilians leaving the area,
   since they are mostly based on claims by families for
   government relief.
 
   Figures given by other agencies (eg. NGOs) may differ in
   some detail according to the source (eg. Jaffna Teaching
   Hospital)and time of record. The ten killed on the 26th
   were sheltering in a coconut estate in Ariyalai, in the
   eastern extremity of Jaffna town, 5 miles from the combat
   zone. They were victims of an aerial attack at 7.00 A.M.
   First reports placed the number killed at 20 to 30.
 
 
   The 46 reported on the 30th were civilians killed on the
   29th when there was intense fighting between the SL Army
   and the LTTE for the control of Neervely, six miles from
   the Jaffna town centre. Shells fired by the army from
   early morning reached the edge of Jaffna's municipal
   limits 2 miles from the centre, particularly about the
   Nallur market area along Pt Pedreo Road. Civilians had to
   flee in pouring rain. Most civilian casualties however
   occurred in aerial attacks six to nine miles from the
   scene of fighting.
 
 
   Of the 46 recorded by the government administration, 42
   were killed in aerial attacks and 4 in artillery shelling-
   30 in Anaikkottai, 12 in Chavakacheri and 4 in Kokkuvil.
 
   Other sources accounted for several among those killed in
   aerial attacks on the same day. One witness was near the
   area when rockets fired by Puccaro aircraft hit Potpathy
   Road in Kokkuvil a quarter of a mile from the University of
   Jaffna. The number killed was reported  as six including
   an unidentified old lady. He had helped to bury the pieces
   of `mangled flesh'. Other sources said that the rockets
   fell either on or near an LTTE camp - one among many
   interspersed among civilian dwellings. The Roman Catholic
   parish priest in Anaikkottai reported 14 killed (two
   sisters (ages 8, 10), two boys (7,12) , girl (14), three
   women (25, 26, 30) and six others). Koolavady, Manipay-5
   dead, 10 injured. At Navaly near the Catholic Welfare Centre-
    1 girl(15) killed and 4 boys inured. At Chavakacheri
   missiles  fired from the air  hit houses opposite the old
   police station. 12 were killed including an old lady after
   admission to hospital. All were refugees, some bodies were
   in pieces and two remained unclaimed. All these incidents
   took place in the morning. The discrepancies between
   reports are mainly due to the circumstances of the sources
   and the demarcation of areas.
 
   On Wednesday 31st October bombs were aimed at Chemmani
   bridge  just before Navtkuli on the Jaffna-Kandy Road
   along which civilians were streaming towards Chavakacheri.
   Two civilians were killed. Other sources said that it is
   difficult to put a number on those killed at Anaikkottai
   on the 29th since several bodies remaind unidentified at
   that time.
 
   During breaks in the rain clouds, the aircraft were seen
   as small specks at a distance whose sound was barely
   heard.The sound was heard as the aircraft swooped dawn,
   followed by a `flash of lightening and a boom of thunder',
   with the aircraft keeping well outside the range of a
   possible missile attack. Even during the 80s when Sia
   Machetti aircraft used to dive low to attack, it was
   mainly civilian dwellings that were hit.
 
   One might add that for the first time in the civil war,
   casualties among the civilians were not just less than
   those among combatants, but were less than a seventh of
   number among the latter. The main reason for this is not
   any initiative on the part of the Government, but that
   the civilians traumatised again and again simply moved out
   en masse. Had the Government thought a little about them,
   much of the death and suffering could have been avoided.
 
 
 
   Refugees:
   From about the 20th of October those already in refugee
   camps began leaving Jaffna. They were mainly people from
   Valikamam North and the Islands who had been refugees for
   3 years or more after their areas came under army control.
   They were given free transport by the LTTE across Jaffna
   Lagoon to Killinochchi. These are people over whom the
   LTTE has exercised patronage by becoming the effective
   channel of all relief, as among displaced populations in
   the Wanni areas.Those seeking refuge in the Wanni are
   among the poorest.
 
   Then came others who were required to show a receipt to
   prove that they had made the contribution recently
   demanded for the LTTE's national defence fund, before
   being allowed to cross Jaffna Lagoon.Several others moved
   to Chavakacheri 9 miles east of Jaffna and to refugee
   camps in Thenmaratchi, often on foot or on bicycles. These
   were mainly people displaced recently with little hope of
   returning to their homes or even finding them other than
   as rubble. Many of those last remaining in Jaffna were
   those still having some modest property to go back to.
 
   By  29th October those remaining in Jaffna had moved to
   schools and places of refuge close to their homes. Among
   these are the ICRC protected Jaffna Teaching Hospital
   Zone. Other places of local refuge were Jaffna Railway
   Station, St.Patrick's College, St.John's College,
   Chundikuli Girls's College, Nallur Kandasmy Kovil area,
   Univeristy of Jaffna and several other schools and places
   of worship in these areas. The Univrsity had about 5000
   persons. Kandasamy Kovil and precincts formed the largest
   refugee concentration during the October 1987 Indian Army
   advance into Jaffna. People living north of Adiapatham
   Road in Kokkuvil, Kondavil and beyond had either quit
   their homes or did not spend the nights in them.On first
   November Jaffna Hospital was functioning with the medical
   staff and patients totalling about 200. Reports received
   a few days later suggested that the movement out of Jaffna
   had increased after the LTTE announcement referred to
   earlier. Messages had been received for the Government to
   be informed that a number of people are remaining in
   schools and places of worship. NGO sources placed the
   number remaining in Jaffna at about 50 000.
 
   A report giving the situation on 3rd November quoting NGOs
   put the figures at 73 000 new refugees in the Chavakacheri
   area (Thenmaratchi AGA Division)& 25 000 families waiting
   to cross  Jaffna Lagoon into Kilinochchi. A government
   administration report on 6th Novermber placed the number
   of peninsular refugees in Killinochchi at 110 000 of whom
   70 000 were new arrivals. Taking the normal population of
   Vadamaratchi and Thenmarathi to be 300 000, that leaves a
   further 100 or 200 thousand. They would either be old
   refugees or persons not accounted for.
 
   The latest reports say that only a few doctors remain in
   Jaffna Hospital. Patients had little choice but to be
   evacuated to very crowded conditions in Chavakacheri
   Hospital which was only a base hospital. The beds were
   reserved for LTTE patients and civilians were forced to
   take the floor.Among those refugees forced to leave Jaffna,
   many elderly and infirm were seen sitting on the
   roadsides as if they could not move any further. Some
   seemed lifeless and no one seeemed to know who they were.
   Two LTTE high rankers were heard sharing a joke:"Give two
   months and the people would forget all this".
 
   Relief supplies:
   Both the Government and the LTTE have contributed to the
   problems of civilians in Jaffna over several years. But
   the responsibility for relief has fallen on the Government
   while the LTTE had not made matters easier by insisting on
   keeping closed the trunk road to Jaffna through Elephant
   Pass. There are difficulties in sea borne deliveries
   arising from the  weather and docking facilities. The
   tendency has been to blame the Government exclusively
   whenever there was a crisis in Jaffna, without any
   reference to the fact that the LTTE has compounded
   civilian suffering for political and military gain without
   any acknowledgement of responsibility for the people.
 
   At present three ships ply between Trincomalee and Jaffna
   carrying supplies that are handed over to the Government
   Agent after being unloaded at the improvised pier at Pt
   Pedro. There are sometimes breaks in schedules due to
   technical problems such as unavailability of labour in
   Trincomalee on certain days or due to other disruptions
   such as the hijacking of the passenger vessel Irish Moana
   by the LTTE and the recent attack on the petroleum
   installation in Colombo.A total of 96,500 tonnes of
   supplies were scheduled for delivery in Jaffna as agreed
   to between GA/Jaffna and the Ministry of Rehabilitation.
   The delivery was due to have been completed by October-end
   before the North-East monsoon set in. But only 58 000
   tonnes had been delivered by October-end and deliveries
   are continuing into the monsoonal weather.
 
   The Government too has at times opened itself  to
   accusations of being grudging and vindictive when it
   should have been seen to be going extra lengths in
   showing concern for the very deprived people of Jaffna.
   Following the LTTE attack on the petroleum
   installation,apparently citing a shortage of fuel, the
   Government Agent/ Jaffna was asked to leave behind a part
   of the kerosene purchased and taken to Trincomalee for
   shipment to Jaffna. The matter was resolved after he
   argued his case and lobbied through concerned persons in
   the South.
 
   For the last year or so the relief supplies reaching
   Jaffna are placed by Government sources at 30 to 40% of
   what is required. For the poor this has often meant
   missing meals. The recent rise in the refugee population
   has made matters significantly worse.
 
   Salient features of the militray operation:
 
   1. No change of practice regarding the use of aerial
   bombing and shelling. Despite well-known absurdities and
   fiction, there has been no reassessment based on past
   experience.
 
   2. The rejection of relaible information about civilian
   casualities has shown a continuing lack of sensitivity to
   civilian voices.

   3. No clear strategy to give confidence to the people
   through tangible practical measures such as  providing at
   the outset safe areas and procedures. No contingency plans
   for possible outcomes of the operation and no clearly
   thought-out policy towards civilians.

   4. No proper mobilisation of NGO and government machinery
   to coordinate relief work and provide food and shelter for
   civilians in anticipation of different scenarios.

   5. Censorship and the barring of journalists from the war
   zone has effectivly shown that the Government is prepared
   to negate the interests of civilians for short term
   militrary gain.

   The humanitarian crisis:

   For the moment at least the humanitarian crisis has
   overshadowed totting up scores of LTTE and army
   casualites. It is partly a crisis engineered by the LTTE
   and in part one arising out of Government negligence and
   even callousness. Whether the number is 200, 400 or 500
   thousand is not the main issue. It is true that large
   numbers have lost their homes, been turned out in
   inclement weather and live in utter want. It is true that
   children have died of exposure who would otherwise be
   living.

   In a BBC Tamil Service interview , a key government
   official described how a weary woman who had crossed
   Jaffna Lagoon had asked four plain-teas with poison for
   herself and her children. Such instances are often
   dramatised for proaganda aginst the Government. But anyone
   familiar with Jaffna would know that it is a subtle
   indictment of both sides by those rendered helpless and
   disillusioned. That is the state of  mind among  the
   people.

   The initial wrong-headed decision to impose censorship has
   led the Government step by step to a position where it
   cannot rationally face up to the humanitarian crisis. The
   apparent decision on 7th November to suspend GA/Jaffna was
   a symptom of it. The priority of the Government should
   have been to address the problem rather than quarrel with
   GA/Jaffna about technicalities and figures.By  making this
   an issue so much is being sacrificed, and in particular
   the politcal process initiated for which the Government
   has duly received credit.