Special Report  No.8
Date of release : 7th  March  1997


The objective of this report is to highlight the deeply entrenched
discriminatory practices of the State machinery and the Armed
Forces, as touched upon in Reports 11 and 12, using contemporary
factual evidence as well as recent history.  Trincomalee District is a
key example of why the people are unable to trust a Government
which remains too passive in its approach to tackling these
problems.  The fact that refugees cannot return to their native areas
still today demonstrates that insecurity and poverty remain as
impenetrable barriers.  Settlement of communities continues to be
shaped by political ambitions and the approach of  the Central
Government  where too often partisan considerations prevail.  The
findings of this report are presented to help those concerned to push
for administrative and political reform by addressing the problem in
a realistic light.  The present Government has indeed established a
political breathing space which was not in existence before 1994.
Having said this, efforts towards devolution will not be fruitful
unless the State begins to take steps towards gaining the confidence
of the people in the North-East.  A fundamental change in ideology
and an end to discrimination are desperately needed before there
can be any hope for a peace with dignity for all.

The Trincomalee jail break serves as a primary example of a
continuing unwillingness on behalf of the State to bring
perpetrators of gross human rights violations to justice.  Medical
evidence has revealed indications of torture and that some prisoners
were deliberately shot at close range.  Further information tells us
that many of the suspects involved were prisoners who were to be
released soon after and thereby having no reason for attempting to
escape, and may have only done so out of fear of reprisals.  What
resulted was a cover up by the Government with NGOs and citizens
either too fearful or simply not caring enough to help find the truth.

There are a number of recent incidents which demonstrate the
ideology being imposed by the central governing powers on
Trincomalee, the market fiasco being one.  In this case, a tender
which was legally entitled to a bidder who was a Tamil man was
viewed as a threat to Sinhalese control over business, by both the
Army and local reactionary tendencies.  What developed was a
situation where the Urban Council dared to stand up to the
BrigadierÕs orders to revoke the tender by use of emergency powers.
In another case, a Tamil government officer was denied the regular
five year extension of office before retirement at 60, clearly because
he had challenged discriminatory land settlement practices by the
Army in the past.  Further, the flaring of hatred following the killing
of land officer T.D. Pieris was yet another incident showing the
volatility of a situation where business and politics have become
poisoned by communal tendencies, furthering detrimental suspicions
among the people.

While altering the ethnic balance in favour of the majority
community in the  Trincomalee District has been the common
practice of the State, the eviction of Tamil settlers from lands such
as Linga Nagar take on overt characteristics of discrimination since
pervasive fear renders public scrutiny and opposition ineffective.
The displacement of Muslims from areas such as Aakuwatte near
Uppuveli Vihara have involved a concerted effort of distortion of
land claims as well as supplying Sinhalese settled in their place with
building materials.

Sinhalese and Muslim communities in the area have been forced to
rely on protection by the security forces due to a history of massacres
by the LTTE.  In villages such as Dimbulagala, youth often join the
Army out of sheer desperation to escape poverty.  Untrained
civilians are sometimes forced to man security posts while their
wives at home may be harassed by Army personnel.  The resulting
social problems and frustration of not knowing where to turn for
security has become largely ingrained.

Widely held suspicions have broken much of the friendly relations
between the communities of Trincomalee.  Discrimination in
practice by the Armed Forces and the State, combined with blatant
misinformation by the press in Colombo, continue to fuel the fire.
Unwillingness on behalf of the Government to investigate cases of
mass disappearances and extra-judicial executions which occurred
not so long ago, convince the people that protracted ill-will would
remain business as usual.

The responsibility for reform of the State machinery lies not only
with the Government but also with the people.  If Tamils who have
the privilege to live abroad continue to thoughtlessly support the
LTTE, then the progressive demise of all communities which remain
in the East and the values of civilised humanity will continue.  The
LTTE would rather have  Tamils continue as refugees while the
organisation remains trapped in its inertia unable to negotiate an
honourable peace or conclude  the war in its favour.  What is needed
is room for discussion among all communities and a Government
which is actively committed to ending the discrimination which is
built into the State and administrative machinery.  The youth, with
their past experiences of militancy and sacrifice for better and for
worse, must be encouraged as organisers of the peace movement.
The confidence of the people must be established long before the
displaced can return to their homes, long before communities can
freely work together, and long before any proposals for devolution
can be respected.

Why this report?

Unlike our usual reports that deal in matters more directly related to
violence, conflict and the hurt caused to vulnerable groups, this one
concentrates on state structures and ideology. These are no doubt
the root cause of the civil war that began in earnest in late 1984, and
are among the chief obstructions to a political resolution. The
political package now being discussed is a move in the right
direction. But unless the Government displays a will to tackle the
issue of state structures and ideology independently, the political
package  too may prove a meaningless exercise.

Trincomalee is an area where the damaging and discriminatory
practices of state structures are most deeply entrenched, and have
shown no change for the better under the present Government. It
would serve the cause of peace well if the Government would make
an effort to understand the situation and make Trincomalee a model
of how different communities can realise their common interest of
harmonious co-existence. If on the other hand the Sinhalese in such
areas see any just and adequate political resolution , necessarily
involving considerable regional autonomy, as transferring the boot
to the other foot - where the minorities will do as they were done by
- peace would long elude us. Confidence building must therefore be
an exercise independent of the package. In part it involves cleaning
the Augean stables that comprise the state machinery.

The problem is again highlighted in an answer given by the
President in a recent television interview. She elaborated her claim
that her Government had tackled the problem of Ôstate terrorÕ
within a short time of assuming office. By this she meant that the
Government no longer encourages nor orders security personnel to
indulge in violations, and has up to a point taken measures to
discourage them. The main reason why the Government has made
little or no qualitative impact is that this is too passive an approach
to structures and practices that are very deeply entrenched, have a
life of their own and are so alienating to the minorities. They call for
hard-headed positive action.

It has never  been our intention to make our reports
catalogues of misery. But rather we would also like to point out
signs of hope for the reader to meditate upon and if possible
contribute to their enhancement. In the course of what follows
below we will point to a theme that has its reflections in two very
different situations. The North and the South of this country have
both a valuable resource - youth who have participated in militant
struggles, have had time to reflect on their experience and have
matured politically over the years. The common tendency is to treat
them as flotsam and jetsam from a past that most people would like
to forget. Yet many of them represent a section of society imbued
with a spirit of sacrifice and trained  to endure  present discomfort
for long - term goals. It would be fair to say that it is such persons
who comprise the back bone of the peace movement in this country.
Owing to the fact that internal terror is still dominant within the
Tamil community, few Tamil youths with a militant past have found
themselves able to play an active role, and indeed the intellectual
discussion in the Tamil media that would help them to do so remains
largely stifled. This is the principal challenge facing the Tamil
community in this crucial period of change.

Before taking up this theme in Tamankaduwa (Polonnaruwa
District), we set the scene with an incident that points to the role of
the State in Trincomalee that has been a constant feature of all

The Jail Break
On the night of 30th October 1996, some LTTE prisoners made a
planned escape from the Military cum Police detention centre for
LTTE suspects in Customs Road in Trincomalee Town. Many details
of the incident  appeared as the lead story in the Island of 1st
November. `Five Tigers killed in Trinco jail breakÕ, the title chosen,
as we shall see below, was utterly misleading. The report from
Colombo contained as much as could be obtained by telephoning
Trincomalee a few hours after the event. The report gave some
disturbing testimony from a senior officer of the Human Rights Task
Force in Trincomalee. He said that two of the alleged escapees killed
could not be identified because their faces were disfigured by
gunshot injuries. It is a fair surmise that the two at least were not in
the act of escaping and had been shot deliberately at close range. As
most often happens where Tamils are concerned, the story was not
followed up even though the censorship had been lifted three weeks
earlier. Indeed, after the headline reference to `Five Tigers killedÕ,
there was no room for a follow up that brought out foul play on the
part of the authorities.

The true fate of the five prisoners killed began to emerge through
testimonies given in confidence. This was further confirmed by the
state of the corpses.

Of those killed Krishnapillai Meharasa (22), Ward 7, Kirankulam;
and Nallaratnam Sasi(19), Senaithurai, Mahaloor,
Kaluwanchikudy, were from Batticaloa District. Achchuthan
Irajasekaran(27), 677 Anbuvelipuram; Shanmugam Pushpakaran
(25), Varodayanagar, Sambaltivu, and Thiyagarajah Nagaratnam
(30) , 64/4, UNHCR camp, Alles Garden, were from Trincomalee

They had all been detained between mid-February and early June
1996. In the case of Pushpakaran, his corpse had an eye badly
damaged, a tooth broken and the  stomach had been pierced. It was
a case of a person who was tortured and killed. He was married to
Mangala (20), had a year old son and was arrested on 5th June`96
near the 3rd Mile Post security post between home and Trinco town.
He was held by the police, produced in court a month later on 5/7,
again on 18/7 and then transferred to Army detention on 26/8.

The case of Nagaratnam ought to be even more a matter of
international concern. He had left the LTTE, married , gone to India
as a refugee and returned on the basis of what was essentially a
guarantee by the UNHCR. He was arrested on 6th March, spent 2
months in police detention and then was transferred to army
custody. He was produced in court on 8/8/96. He was to be released
on 5th Nov. 96. These persons were just technically suspects against
whom no case had been made, and whose detention was being
periodically renewed. Achuchuthan for example had been in the
process of being released. His release date was 13th Nov. 96, and so
had no reason to escape.

The press report claimed that further investigations were to be
conducted under Chief Inspector E.Mahendra, HQI Trincomalee
and that the military was to launch a high level inquiry into the
incident. Not surprisingly, nothing further has been heard. The
incident took place  near a middle-class residential area of
Trincomalee. Yet in talking to people, hardly any one seemed to
know anything definite. No two versions seemed to agree. The
priest  in the neighbourhood through whom  two of the escapees
reportedly surrendered, would only say that he was not in
Trincomalee at that time. There had been no activist group to
marshal the facts, provide assurances to the witnesses and press for
action. This is hardly the situation of lack of information or interest
that one would encounter in, say, Batticaloa. The fear of knowing
too much and saying too much was very real. What should have
been a matter for concerted public pressure was dissipated in
private gossip.

We give the facts as pieced together from several sources.  The LTTE
`suspectsÕ were kept in a two storey building. The cells were on the
ground floor. Upstairs was used by the military police. The
atmosphere there had become friendly. At 7.30 pm the  prisoners
used to be let out of their cells for dinner which was followed by a
sing - song from 8.00 pm, after which the prisoners were locked up.
When the military police were given a TV set, the prisoners used to
be invited upstairs to watch TV or videos at 8.00 p.m.- all completely
against regulations. On the night of the escape there were  three or
four military policemen seated on a bed, two policemen seated on
chairs and 26 prisoners seated on the floor, all watching a video.
The police appear to reckon that 7 or 8  of the 26 had LTTE
involvement. This figure of 7 or 8  as the reader might surmise,
seems to include those who had LTTE connections in the past and
were leading ordinary civilian lives when detained as suspects.

The escape, it appears was planned no more than by four or five
prisoners with the others knowing nothing - had they known, they
had a vested interest in tipping off the guards. That night these
persons had placed themselves close to the policemen. About 10.30
p.m. they set upon the policemen and grabbed their revolvers and
shot the military policemen, of whom Corporal Bandara died. The
two policemen quickly escaped unharmed. Those who planned the
escape got away by jumping over the wall. Most of the rest followed
not because they wanted to escape, but did so fearing reprisals.
Indeed, many had release dates coming up in November.

One of them jumped onto the tin roof of a  lavatory  in a
neighbouring  house and broke his leg when the roof gave way. As
the alarm was given the security men began firing. They were also
joined by other security personnel, including the Harbour Police. The
nearby residents were put up and their houses were searched while
firing noises were heard. Three or four of the escapees were seen
running towards the beach . One version suggests that a boat was
waiting for them. The more plausible version coming from the police
is that they were seen running along the beach and had then escaped
along side North Coast Road, after dropping a seized weapon on
the beach.

By about 12.30 am firing noises had ceased. A little later neighbours
heard one prisoner being moved  along the road by the prison
shouting, ÒAiyo amma  ( mother) do not beat meÓ. A little later a
single shot was heard. This was the end of the prisoner who had
fallen  into the lavatory.

Five bodies were found on the beach the following morning near the
Buddhist monument. According to witnesses all had injures in the
head from firing at close range. Sources close to prison officials said
that four among the dead were persons who had not escaped.
Witnesses who were about near the monument to the victims of the
Welikade jail massacre, opened by the TELO that same month, said
that they saw these persons being brought out and shot.

There are also other corroborating circumstances. The four other
than the man who fell into the lavatory, appear to have been killed
while there was regular firing from the vicinity of the prison. A
tractor and trailer were forcibly removed from the Urban Council
premises that were later returned with blood- stains in the trailer.
This is said to have been used to transport the five bodies from the
vicinity of the prison to the beach. The security authorities later
claimed that a weapon was recovered from one of those found dead
on the beach.

As for the other prisoners, circumstances suggest that their main
problem was not how to escape, but how to surrender.
Ranjithakumar and another prisoner had spent the night hiding in
the Calvary monument at the nearby St. MaryÕs church and had
surrendered through the parish priest the following morning.
Krishnadasan, Singarasa Sivaarasan, Puratchidasasn and
Sandirasingham surrendered through Sub- Inspector Ubaithullah of
the CID.  Five others were reportedly picked up from around town.
Of these Sivarasan had been a Sea Tiger who had left the

The HRTF  knew the facts and ought to have raised the matter and
informed the President as it was bound to do. The MP for the area
raised the matter in parliament. But with no organised follow-up
locally, the matter ended there.  The shameful incident remains
effectively covered up.

With much apparently going for Trincomalee to check such incidents
or ensure that proper action is taken, all systems seem to have
failed. Several international NGOs including the ICRC and the
UNHCR are represented in Trincomalee. There are a number of
local NGOs. The judicial authorities too could not be drawn into
commenting on the incident. The only action known to have been
taken is that the two police officers who were watching the video
were interdicted. The surviving prisoners who should have been key
witnesses in any proper investigation, continued to be held in the
same vulnerable conditions.

The victims of the incident were persons who were routinely
remanded at the request of the security forces. In sharp contrast 11
soldiers who were identified at considerable personal risk by
civilians as having participated in the massacre at Killiveddy during
February 1996, were released on bail by the Acting Magistrate of
Trincomalee during  June the same year, to return to active duties.
The failure to bring these men to trial has been cited as one of the
failures to enforce the law  in the recent Country Report released by
the US State Department. While the Acting Magistrate claims that
he did what was required by the law in view of the failure by the
Attorney General to file charges within three months, others
knowledgeable in the law maintain that it is the High Court and not
the MagistrateÕs Court that is empowered to grant bail to any one
remanded on charges of homicide. The Acting Magistrate further
denies that he was under any pressure from the Army to grant bail.

The Army Brigadier in charge of Trincomalee has powers of court
martial to take disciplinary action against the men concerned in both
the incidents above in the best interests of the Army. He did nothing
of that kind. What moved him to action in December 1996 was
something most singular. Citing a `deteriorating security situationÕ
in the Trincomalee market area, he moved to cancel the tender  for
the market legally awarded to a Tamil individual.

These are reflections of the continuing nature of the State that is at
the root of current problems around Trincomalee town, that have
made land settlement, the arrival of Tamil refugees from the North
and even the control of the market highly sensitive issues. In these
matters  the Government has been seen to vacillate between the
mean and the infantile.

ÔDistortions of  broad settlement patternsÕ:

One aspect of this is the most unusual step taken by the Defence
Ministry in confining Tamil refugees arriving from the
North(Vanni) in so called welfare centres in Vavuniya. Conditions
for them to move out and go to a place of their choice in Vavuniya
town, the South or East of the same country where they are fellow
citizens is governed by extremely stringent conditions. These
generally involve paper work, documents and letters of acceptance
to establish that the internal refugee is a permanent resident of, or
has a close relative such as a parent, spouse or child residing in,
these areas. Several people in frustration went back to the LTTE
controlled Vanni with all its privations. Those willing to go to
Jaffna, other alternatives unavailing, were most readily accepted,
transported to Trincomalee, kept in camps, loaded into ships often
after waiting hours in a queue under the sun and shipped off to

The policy came in for severe criticism in the foreign press. This
liability applied only to Tamils in the North. Security reasons cited
did not justify the degree of harshness especially considering that
other avenues for LTTE infiltration were wide open. Moreover
many of those being confined were elderly, women and children.
The Defence Ministry issued a press release on 5th December 1996
confirming that it had very much in mind reasons other than
security. It contained the sentiment : ÒAs a matter of principle, mass
movements of persons in a situation of this nature cannot be
permitted to develop into distortions of  broad settlement patterns
without creating undue tensionsÓ.

The last part of the sentence could only apply to Vavuniya, and
particularly, to Trincomalee whose Sinhalisation was a foregone
conclusion by the early 80s. It was  distortions by Ôbroad settlement
patternsÕ of Sinhalese that successive governments had been trying
to bring about in the Trincomalee District with the Defence Ministry
taking an increasingly prominent role. As a matter of policy every
Government Agent(GA) appointed to the majority Tamil-speaking
district from the 60s has been Sinhalese. A concerted attempt to
speed up Sinhalisation was undertaken by the new UNP
government of J.R. Jayawardene elected in 1977. In the late 70s and
early 80s under Mr.D.J. Bandaragoda as GA, large extents of crown
land were brought under the control of various government
ministries by gazette notification. The employees of these
corporations were mostly Sinhalese brought from outside.
Sinhalese encroachers were encouraged to move in under the
patronage of government ministers, Buddhist monks or local
Sinhalese merchants around Trincomalee market who were
invariably agents of either the UNP or the SLFP. A new order of
local power was so being fostered with the active patronage of the
security forces. A case in point concerning encroachments is that the
Ports Authority(SLPA) at no time used more than 100 acres of the
5000 it had acquired. At PremadasaÕs Trincomalee Presidential
Mobile Secretariat on 6th January 1993, the case of Sinhalese
squatters on these lands came up. The SLPA obligingly offered to
release 700 acres to regularise these encroachments. Some of these
encroachments on the west side of 4th to 6th mile post on the
Colombo road were regularised about 1994.

>From 1977 communal violence in which recently settled Sinhalese
elements were mobilised with the connivance of the armed forces
was used to bring about the displacement of Tamil and Muslim
civilians. Some of the merchants around Trincomalee market too
saw violence as a means to enhance their commercial advantage.
>From the mid-80s and then again in 1990, the armed forces played a
direct role in the destruction of Tamil property and the displacement
of inhabitants in the suburbs of Trincomalee town and in the rural
villages of the district. From 1977 to 1992,  upwards of 1400 Tamil
civilians were killed or went missing in the Trincomalee District.
The worst period was June 1990 - March 91 when about 870 youths
disappeared after being detained by the security forces. About 100
were killed during July 1983. [See our reports 10,11 & 12  for more

Sinhalese fears and psychology of the armed forces

A combination of events led to the first attack by Tamil hoodlum
elements against Sinhalese civilians in September 1987. The Indian
Peace Keeping Force had arrived in early August. Tamil militant
groups opposed to the LTTE had returned to town and there was a
new assertiveness on the part of the Tamils. There was also
growing friction between the Indian Army and the Sri Lankan Army
which took being confined to barracks very badly. On one occasion a
Sri Lankan Army vehicle speeding past the Town Hall opened fire at
a group of Indian Army men and local civilians which included
Brigadier Joshi. About this time around 2000 Tamil youths who had
been confined at Boosa without charges were shipped to
Trincomalee and released under terms of the Indo-Lanka Accord.

One day Tamil hoodlums started attacking Sinhalese with the
backing of certain militant leaders. Some of the local civilians
helplessly observed some horrendous scenes of cruelty. An old man
who went to a Tamil house to purchase milk for his grand-daughter
when confronted by Tamil hoodlums pleaded for his life from the
lady of the house. She was unable to stop them chasing the man and
beating him to death. A Sinhalese lorry driver was assaulted and his
lorry was set on fire. As he emerged crawling from under the
burning lorry, he was lifted and thrown into the flames screaming.
Witnesses also spoke of Sinhalese women being raped and killed.
Several bodies were thrown into a well that was covered up.
According to these witnesses in the region of 50 Sinhalese were
murdered in the area around the main Sinhalese school, east of
Inner Harbour Road on the isthmus. These Sinhalese were long
settled there and had been close to the Tamils.

The mob moved northwards towards Anuradhapura junction
raiding liquor  shop after liquor shop on its way before tottering to
exhaustion. By that time the Indian Army had also intervened.
According to a widely believed story, elements of Tamil militant
groups had been given a few hours by a section of the Indian Army
to clear the Sinhalese before they intervened. The cycle of cynicism
and mischief was to go on bringing further distrust among the
civilians and complicating matters at every turn. According to
documentation presented in Narayanan SwamyÕs `Tigers of LankaÕ
Brigadier Kobbekaduwa who took charge of the Sri Lankan forces in
Trincomalee about that time was instrumental in supplying arms to
the LTTE which had commenced a war with the Indian Army,
during the middle of 1988. This was done irrespective of the fact that
the LTTE had never stopped attacking Sinhalese civilians and had
been responsible for massacres during the same period.

Following the event above, a large number of Sinhalese fled as
refugees. Although most of them returned, they never regained the
confidence that the Sri Lankan State was ultimately willing to or
capable of protecting them. This has persisted despite the fact that
the old-order returned after June 1990 with the town area firmly
under  the  Sri Lankan Army & other  security forces and police
under Sinhalese leadership and the administration essentially
controlled by Sinhalese. It is notable that when the Sri Lankan forces
went on a binge in June 1990, the Sinhalese population and
merchants kept aloof. The politics had become too murky for anyone
to take sides.

For the defence establishment too there was the persisting unease
and a feeling of self-doubt, that their ideological goal of
Sinhalisation that had seemed so certain in the mid-80s and on
which they had staked much, had been thwarted. From the point of
their goal, talk of decentralisation and a political settlement brought
more uncertainties. Another factor adding to their unease is the
arrival after 1990 from the North of a Tamil refugee population
who have bought property and settled down.

Further there are now in Trincomalee town armed Tamil militant
groups who though in one sense junior partners of the armed forces
in fighting the LTTE, also support the present Government in
parliament. This has given them a, perhaps illusory, measure of
autonomy. Given their past experience,  Tamil civilians though not
necessarily liking them, see them as a useful counterweight to what
they see as a Sinhalese army and police. This in turn has spurred
some of these groups to go in for populist actions that are
counterproductive in the long run.

These in turn have enhanced the fears of the local Sinhalese
population who had a bad experience in 1987. Although relations
between the communities are normal on the surface, the deeper
suspicions are seldom talked about openly and mutual fear lurks
underneath. Each community continues to hold on to very dissimilar
interpretations of events based on half truths and falsehood. The
press contributed much to keep Sinhalese suspicions on the boil by
giving ample space to extreme nationalist spokesmen in Colombo
whose knowledge of the ground-reality in Trincomalee is scant. As
we shall see below the press often gives total misrepresentations of
facts and events and are calculated to feed Sinhalese suspicions.

It is this background that would help to explain the attitudes of  the
Defence Ministry to the land issues in Trincomalee, tenders for the
Trinco market and Ôdistortions of broad settlement patternsÕ that
would otherwise seem idiosyncratic. We must also keep in mind that
the State and its essentially repressive and discriminatory structures
will remain the most decisive force around Trincomalee with the
capacity to do the greatest harm.

Dimbulagala, Tamankaduwa

Some remarkable speeches were made at a peace meeting organised
by the Sri Lanka Solidarity Forum held in the local conference hall at
Dimbulagala. A number of peasants from the surroundings had been
present there after finishing their dayÕs work. Dayawansa, a
member of the Provincial Council spoke on the theme of a majority
becoming a minority. He said that before the Mahaweli Scheme was
instituted the majority of the people in the area were Tamils. The
chairman of the Village Council at Mannampitiya was a Tamil.
Under the Mahaweli scheme the lands on which the Tamils had
been cultivating were taken over by the Mahaweli Authority. When
lands were given under the Mahaweli Scheme many Tamils were
left out, and today these Tamils suffer many disabilities. Today, he
said, there are 80 Tamil children in Dimbulagala who are unable to
attend school. Such experiences, he said, are at the root of the
present conflict. Another speaker was Dharmasri Liyanage, an
official of the Samurdhi Movement and a farmer in Mannampitiya .
He said that he grew up in Batticaloa and left in 1985 when the
troubles began.  When he came to Mannampitiya his Sinhalese had
been imperfect and he had often substituted Tamil words in his
speech. He had later served in the police for a time.  He had
witnessed the Sri Lankan Army looting Tamil houses from which the
owners had been chased away, and retrieving jewellery from nooks
where they had been hidden by those fleeing. In Mannampitiya,
there are today 80 families who had not been given land by the
Mahaweli Authority that had taken over the land on which they had
previously cultivated. In this land on which the Tamils had been a
majority, they now cannot get their official work done in Tamil.
They often need to hang around government offices until they find
someone who could translate from Tamil to Sinhalese.

These speeches were more remarkable considering that this was the
home-base of the late Dimbulagala Thero who had led a crusade of
5,000 people with the connivance of the Mahaweli Authority to
occupy lands used by Tamils to the east across Madhuru Oya in the
wake of the July 1983 violence.

Since that time the press and a number of well connected militant
Sinhalese based in Colombo have represented Dimbulagala as a
bastion of heroic Sinhalese resistance to the Tamil menace. When
reporting on  these border areas, press-men have regularly relished
photographs of peasant women  carrying shot guns. In the course of
such reporting, the humanity and ordinary human aspirations of
these people have been suppressed. The real life of these people is on
the other hand a tragedy imposed on them by the dominant
Sinhalese ideology of the State of which they too are of victims. The
audience listened patiently and were obviously looking for a change
in the course of this countryÕs history. The pervasive  influence of the
ideas of the  late Dimbulagala Thero on these people is again a myth
created by the press.

Nimal Munasinghe, the local organiser of the peace movement is a
much respected English teacher in the area based at Nidanwela
Central School. He was one of the rebels during the 1971 JVP
insurgency, who then spent a few years in prison and married a
fellow prisoner from a family of women rebels. He has continued to
be politically active. It is clear that the people look up to him and are
receptive to his ideas. The people of the area have suffered
immensely from the war. Over the years there had been more than
50 LTTE attacks in the area claiming more than 60 lives of civilians.
Many of the people are unable to use their lands. Consequently
several men from the area have joined the armed forces. The
protection given to the villages too is not adequate to prevent LTTE
incursions. It was reported that equipment from the conference
centre too was robbed by the LTTE. Even worse soldiers had often
forced untrained civilians to man the bunkers, and in complaints
reminiscent of Weli Oya, had crept into their homes and harassed
their women. This caused many social problems in the area that had
become very much impoverished. Such practices, it is said, had
decreased after PA government assumed power.

Shortly after sun set, as the home guards were taking up their
positions in the bunkers, we were taken to the last sentry point to the
east that was manned by five soldiers. This point had been attacked
after night fall on three occasions and in one attack two soldiers had
been killed. By the side of the sentry point is the house of Mr
Somapala of the All Lanka Peasants Congress who died of natural
causes a few days ago. During 1995, two of his sons-in-law who
were farmers were hacked to death by the LTTE in the paddy field,
about quarter mile east from their home. Especially from that time
Somapala had become an ardent campaigner for peace. This was
the village of Arunapura, lying on the edge of the main village of
Aralagamavilla.  Also recently police constable Susil Nandana, the
husband of a grand daughter of SomapalaÕs, was killed in action,
leaving his 18 year old wife widowed with an infant child. Normally
the house would have been empty by this time, as the inmates sought
safety in a house further to the interior. Owing to funeral
observances this period was an exception. Five youths from
Arunapura are said to be serving in the army.

Looking eastwards from the army post one could witness flickering
lights in empty huts meant to dissuade elephants from coming into
the paddy fields. Across the  Madhuru Oya (River) two miles away,
lies Padduvankarai in the Batticaloa District, where too life for the
Tamil peasants must be no less miserable. But the situation there is
one where no active peace movement can take shape. This is
another aspect of the internal tragedy of the Tamils.

The misery of 87 Tamil families in Dimbulagala is hardly ever
mentioned or written about. They are a forgotten people with no
one to speak for them. The children used to attend an old Tamil
school towards the jungle where they had to spend a good part of
the morning clearing buffalo dung. Since the onset of the war the
children had stopped going there. Nimal Munasinghe said that
although school space  can be found for them nearby, this has not
been done. He had also found it difficult to highlight this in the
press. An even deeper tragedy of the Tamil families is that in 40 out
of the 87 families the men folk are missing. According to
Munasinghe the families maintained that the men had been finished
off by the Army, while  several of the Sinhalese claimed that they
had joined the LTTE. This also reflects the state of suspicion against
these Tamil families. It has been claimed that some of the youths
from the area have ties with the LTTE and were instrumental in the
murder of Dimbulagala Thero during mid-1995.

During the night we encountered another problem that is quite
typical of the area. An elderly lady R.B.Somawathy, originally from
Bibile, and her elder son, Jayathilake(21), a home guard working
under the police, sought out Nimal Munesinghe. SomawathyÕs
younger son Rajapaksa had joined the army when he was 18, had
later deserted and was working as a tailor in the village. He was
arrested by the police when the government ordered all deserters to
return. He then absconded again when the police sent him to a shop
to buy something. He was re-arrested and in the course of
assaulting him, the police broke his arm. He is now remanded in the
custody of Polonnaruwa police. The mother was concerned about
her sonÕs medical condition. She could scrape up Rs 3,000 for the
lawyerÕs fees in Polonnaruwa, but it was difficult to find lawyers in
these parts willing to take up cases against the security forces. Those
such as Munasinghe were among the rare persons to whom she
could turn for help.

Technically Rajapaksa by deserting had acted in breach  of the law.
But this was a predicament that was very unlikely to be faced by a
boy from a well-placed middle-class home in Colombo that was
comfortable with the war. The two acres of land which the family
had been given was very inadequate to be shared among the
children. Alternative employment is hard to come by. It would have
been very hard for a young boy who had known only the motherÕs
affection to go into the army and be assaulted and abused by the
sergeant in the course of breaking him. Unable to take it, Rajapaksa
made his escape. Now the government wants Rajapaksa back, not
for his own good, but to use him as cannon fodder.

These are other aspects of  the legacy of  state ideology based on
narrow Sinhalese nationalism, that has brought only tragedy to
these people. The lands on the other side of Madhuru Oya, once
taken over by the Dimbulagala Thero in the crusading zeal that
followed the July 1983 violence, now lie bare of inhabitants. Even
older settlements such as Maligatenne on the western side of
Madhuru Oya, had been abandoned. It has indeed  been a harvest of
blood and misery.

Law of the Jungle and the Trivialising of the State

We now go into an investigation of some current problems
confronting Trincomalee, two of which have been much in the news.
Indeed they would hardly have been newsworthy had the
authorities applied the law impartially without harbouring an
agenda that was hurtful to the minorities. How these problems have
been dealt with at the highest levels of a government that in many
ways represents a change for the better from past governments is a
sad comment on the state of the country. These cases below  also
give a gloomy picture of the levels to which the State and
administrative machinery have degenerated particularly at a time
when a political solution is being sought to end a wasteful ethnic
conflict. Indeed a far higher standard of administrative integrity is
called for.

In land matters that further Sinhalisation in keeping with state
ideology, the different government ministries and departments have
the capacity to work together very expeditiously. The instances of
Ports Authority land and the acquisition of Muslim squatter land by
the Uppuveli Vihara which was itself originally built on crown land
have been cited. Brigadier Lucky Wijeratne settled squatters along
Colombo road on forest reserve in 1990 and in the meantime got the
land de-reserved and regularised. When Tamil residents in Love
Lane who fled their houses in 1990 found Sinhalese occupying them
when they returned, two powerful ministers in the last government
intervened in an effort to have the Tamils shifted to alternative
housing.  On the other hand when it comes to public uses of land
where Tamils and Muslims would benefit, obstructions are thrown
up that carry little reason. A particular instance of related
obstructiveness is the case of the Tamil officer given in the sequel.

1.  Displacement of Muslims from Aakuwatte (now Pansalwatte),

At the outset of the war in June 1990 the LTTE attacked the police
station in Uppuveli and ran away. In the resulting pandemonium
Tamil refugees streamed out of Trincomalee and the barons of local
power did not fail to use the security forces to carry through their
agendas. The victims of one such event were the 50 or so Muslim
families of Aakuwatte, squatters originally from 7th Mile Post (Iqbal
Nagar), Nilaveli Road, who had been there from about 1980. They
had evidently moved there at the invitation of a Muslim mill owner
who sought security from the Sinhalese squatter settlements

On 13th June 1990 the Police set fire to their dwellings.
Rahamathullah Sahib, the leader of the community, asserts that the
police performed this act of arson at the behest of the influential
Buddhist priest at the Uppuveli  Vihara. The displaced persons had
continued to live as refugees in two sheds in Love Lane partitioned
by polythene paper. They insist that they would go nowhere else
except where they were chased from.

A second blow came when President Premadasa came in January
1993 to hold the mobile Presidential Secretariat and the Buddhist
monk requested and received from the President _ acre of land in the
same area that has so far remained idle according to the refugees.

Following the election of the new government in 1994, the refugees
have taken up the matter with Mr.M.H.M. Ashraff, Minister for
Ports and Rehabilitation, Deputy Minister Hisbullah and Mr.
Najeeb, MP. All of them promised to resolve the matter, but had
proved powerless. The worst came when recently the National
Housing Development Authority(NHDA) began supplying materials
for the construction of 30 houses for Sinhalese on the land where the
Muslims had lived. The local head of the NHDA told the Muslim
refugees that Ôthere had been orders from aboveÕ. When they
approached the AGA(DS) Trincomalee Town and Gravets, he told
them that he was powerless to do anything in the matter.

The problem was later put to a number of Sinhalese residents who
were present at a local peace meeting. The response received was
that the Muslims were making a bogus claim because the Uppuveli
Buddhist monk had produced a title deed to that land. This also
gives an insight into their psychology of beleaguerdness. It had not
occurred to them to question the ethics of dealing with the Muslims
in this manner, leave alone by a Buddhist monk. Further if the monk
had a genuine legal claim, and with the apparatus of the state
behind him, he could easily have dealt with it through the courts in a
humane manner.

A similar case is that of Mattikali which housed Sri Shanmuga BoysÕ
Home until the disturbances of 1983. Then Sinhalese encroachers
moved in. A Land Officer, T.D. Pieris, tried to regularise these by
producing a deed showing that the land belonged to the nearby
Jayasumanarama Buddhist temple. This move was dropped after
other Tamils produced old deeds to establish PierisÕ document to be
a forgery. (More on forgeries in the sequel.) But many Sinhalese
continue to insist that the land is as described in the forgery.

2. Linganagar

Mr. T.D. Pieris the Land Officer was shot dead by an unknown
gunman on 17th September 1996. Among his last major acts was to
issue eviction orders to squatters at Linganagar who were recently
placed there by the Tamil militant group, the EPDP, whose 10 MPs
support the Government in Parliament. The Defence Ministry was
claiming that the land was the property of the Army. The LTTE is
generally ruled out since the assassin is said to have watched PierisÕ
home in town for some days and Pieris regularly visited rural parts
of Trincomalee where the LTTE had greater access. Although the
Tamils had long looked upon his activities with alarm, there is no
suggestion that he was ever an LTTE target. Although the killer has
not been identified and evidence is lacking, suspicion remains
focused on the EPDP.

The ÔSunday IslandÕ of 29th September 1996 carried a feature article
titled ÔThe murder of a land officerÕ. It was a compendium of claims
and suggestions gathered by interviewing officials and a former
UNP minister, Gamini Jayasuriya - all Sinhalese with seemingly a
similar mind-set. What follows is the essence of the feature. An
official was quoted as saying that Linga Nagar is situated on a 47
acre plot of land belonging to the Sri Lankan Army, that was given
by the UNP government to build a firing range.

Officials were further quoted as saying that the authorities had
decided to relocate the people in Linga Nagar elsewhere because the
LTTE could use it to threaten the naval dockyard, Plantain Point
SLA detachment, the SLAF base and the Trincomalee harbour.

A survey conducted by Pieris had found that only 31 of the 177 Tamil
families at Linga Nagar had been displaced by the war. The rest it
was claimed had been Ôbrought from all parts of the countryÕ.  There
was a fear, it was claimed, that the group behind the settlement
Ôwas planning to intensify its activitiesÕ.

Gamini Jayasuriya claimed that there was a well organised
campaign to cripple civil administration in Trincomalee, one among
whose objectives was to settle a large number of so-called Tamil
refugees around Trincomalee town.

We shall now give the truth as best as we are able to piece together.

The story of Linga Nagar

Linga Nagar is situated north of Trincomalee town. Travelling
north on the main road leaving town on the inner (western) side of
the isthmus one finds Cottiar Bay to the left, first the Inner Harbour,
and then a promontory known as OrrÕs Hill also to the left going
into the bay. The nearer part of OrrÕs Hill has offices of the NE
Provincial Administration, then what is now a crowded residential
area and lastly a wide extent of land occupied by Plantain Point
army camp. The road then passes Jayasumanarama temple on the
left, then Yard Cove (a lagoon inlet) on the left with Mattikali on the
right and then a promontory on the left, the nearer part of which is
Linga Nagar. Further down the road is another Tamil village
known as Palaiyootru.

Linga Nagar consists in part of the old village close to the main road
with more than 150 families which existed prior to 1970. By the 1980s
there were more than another 100 squatter families living on crown
and private lands further interior into the promontory. In 1989 the
Ministry of Lands called all encroachers on crown lands throughout
the country to register themselves with a view to regularisation if
the land concerned was unused crown land not ear-marked for
other purposes. A circular further said that no regularisation was to
be done after 27.10.89. Some families on crown land at Linga Nagar
registered themselves and obtained LDO permits.

In early 1990 the Indian Army was in the process of withdrawing
and the LTTE which had close dealings with the UNP government of
President Premadasa moved into Trincomalee. A number of youths
from Linga Nagar quite imprudently identified with the LTTE and
appeared to enjoy a spell of authority. In a multi-ethnic context
where the Sri Lankan forces too had a large presence, they were
warily observed, marked and the SL forces awaited their chance.
This came in June 1990 when the LTTE massacred policemen, started
a war and pulled out of towns in the East. Several people of Linga
Nagar in the category above, or who had moved with the Indian
Army, were among the 870 or so persons in the district picked up by
the Sri Lankan forces without great finesse or discrimination, and
eliminated in death orgies at Plantain Point among other places.
[Reports 10, 11 & 12.]

Once more large numbers fled as refugees. In 1992 there were 14
families with LDO permits living in what was earlier crown land in
Linga Nagar. It is this land that is the subject of controversy. The
older part of the village with its school and temple carries on  much
as before with many of the refugees having returned.

Plantain Point Army Camp and Claims on Linga Nagar

The story now goes back in time. Plantain Point, at the further end of
OrrÕs Hill was earlier used by  the British Admiralty and remained
abandoned when they pulled out in 1958. The area turned to shrub
jungle and came to be occupied by Tamil squatters. In 1975 a land
officer named Jayasuriya who was in the Volunteer Force moved to
get the Sri Lankan Army to take over the area. He went in and
unceremoniously evicted the residents overnight. The action was
grossly discriminatory and unprecedented in the treatment of
squatters. It was the time when estates in the South were being
taken over by the government  and much land was being given to
Sinhalese peasants.

Tissa Devendra who was government agent at that time, it is
reported, was unhappy with the move, and had left the station to
dissociate himself from it and at the same time to avoid confronting
the Army.

While the original camp was a small one at the edge of the
promontory, the new one was greatly enlarged with the boundary
moved several furlongs eastwards towards the main road. The
lands on OrrÕs Hill including what was taken over by the British
Admiralty during the last war were private lands. The British
Admiralty tried to trace the owners with a view to returning the
lands as they pulled out in 1958. Being unable to do so and the
owners not showing much interest then since land prices were low
at that time, the lands were left as crown lands  by the Admiralty.

About 1978 or  1979 the Army at Plantain Point made a request for 6
chains (132 yards) of  land to be measured from the tip of the
adjacent promontory containing Linga Nagar to be used as a
demolition ground. The land was measured and marked off by the
Kacheri Surveyor for Town and Gravets, Mutur, Kinniya,
Kuchchaveli and Thampalakamam. The extent of land was 1.9
acres, but it was never taken over by the Army(see map). At this time
T.D. Pieris was Kacheri Surveyor for the remaining divisions of
Trincomalee:- viz.  Kantalai, Seruvila and Gomarankadawela.

In 1982 T.D.Pieris was interdicted by the chairman of the District
Development Council(DDC) elected in 1981 for allegedly having
taken a bribe of Rs.500/- from a lady for the issue of a land deed.
Such remained constant complaints against Pieris throughout his
career. With the communal violence of July 1983, the last vestiges of
the DDCs - that were advanced as a solution to the ethnic problem -
collapsed. Under Camillus Fernando as GA, Pieris was returned to
his position. It was a time of confusion and what sort of inquiry was
held, if there was one, is not clear.  Following the retirement of the
Kacheri Surveyor covering Town & Gravets, Kinniya, Mutur,
Thampalakamam & Kuchchaveli, Pieris was given charge of the
whole district and was later promoted to Land Officer.

It was after the collapse of the North-East Provincial Council under
the Indo-Lanka Accord, and the onset of the war in June 1990 that
PierisÕ hand was felt in a big way. His small-time jobs consisted of
taking  money, getting clerks to fill up LDO (Land Development
Ordinance) forms, and forging the signatures of former land
officers. The Army and the Administration found him useful in
identifying lands around Trincomalee to settle Sinhalese, exclude
Tamils and Muslims or to plant some state body such as the Army.

                          MAP 1
MAP  2
with SLPA
Linga Nagar
                    Linga Nagar

        for Army
                  firing range

                              Yard Cove
                                                                 OrrÕs  Hill

Bay                                                         *   Plantain Point
                                                                  Army Camp
Edge of
 Sketch of PierisÕ  map
produced in  1992

In 1992 T.D. Pieris produced a map (map 2 above) which showed 47
acres east of the ridge as belonging to the Army and another piece of
land as vested with the Ports Authority. The Army command at
Plantain Point under Brigadier Siri Pieris made an insistent claim
that they needed the land for a firing range. Had the land been
measured from the edge of the promontory, taking a natural slice of
it with the boundary running north-west, instead of north-east
through the middle, Linga Nagar would have been excluded. But the
lands claimed by the Army and supposedly vested with the SLPA
were so placed as to take over much of Linga Nagar. It was claimed
that the transfer had been effected in 1979.

Confronting the Army in Trincomalee was then considered a
dangerous thing to do. But several officials challenged this claim.
This also brought the claims of the Army in conflict with the actions
of A.Thangarajah, Additional Land Commissioner for the North -
East, who earlier as a land officer in 1989 had issued LDO permits to
encroachers on land which the Army claimed had already been their
property. Thangarajah had acted according to a government
decision at that time as already explained.

Major General Nalin Seneviratne, Governor of the North-East
Province, appointed a 3 member commission that could not report
because the chairman Markandu was transferred to Colombo and
A.Thangarajah resigned because the propriety of his own action
was in question. The Governor then appointed a second commission
chaired by Mr. Velayuthapillai with two other Sinhalese officers.
The commission report found the claims of T.D. Pieris and the Army
inconsistent and badly wanting. T.D.Pieris and an army officer who
was earlier Lieutenant Tikiri Banda told the commission that the
hand-over of 47 acres shown had been done in 1979 on behalf of the
administration by T.D. Pieris and Tikiri Banda had accepted on
behalf of the Army. The following are some salient features of the

(i)  No record of procedure such as: Request  by the Army for
land stating extent and purpose, record of survey, request
by GA to the Land Commissioner for authority to transfer
crown land, gazette notification, and documents of
transfer. In particular, there is no gazette notification of the
land transfer.
(ii)   The transfer was claimed as having been done to the 22nd
Brigade of the SLA in 1979. But the 22nd Brigade was formed
only in the late 80s.
(iii)   The SLPA could not in 1979 have possessed the land shown
in the map as belonging to it. Land   acquisitions by the
SLPA were not gazetted until the early 80s. No record of
any request for the land by SLPA.
(iv)  T.D. Pieris could not have done the transfer in 1979 as his
duties then did not cover Town and Gravets. A more senior
surveyor covered the latter area and there was no reason
to call upon Pieris, a junior officer, to do the transfer.

There is another little known fact. While the controversy was going
on General Nalin Seneviratne wrote to the Army asking them to
shift the firing range to some other suitable rural location. Being an
experienced military man he considered the suburban setting in
Linga Nagar inappropriate for the purpose - and even more so in
the location nearer the main road chosen by Pieris.

It was clear that the acquisition had nothing to do with any military
purpose. The motivations were ideological. The map and the claims
were fraudulent. Although the Army did not subsequently press its
earlier claim, it did not drop the demand and the matter remains
unresolved. It is also very much a reflection of the degree of ethnic
polarisation within the administration and the absence of
professionalism that the report of the commission on the lines above
was submitted by the chairman, with the two Sinhalese members
refusing to sign in the matter of what was an open and shut case.

But T.D. PierisÕ presence became an embarrassment and even a
nuisance in the administration of Trincomalee and during 1993 the
Government Agent Mr. Godawela called for his removal and a
transfer order was given by the Ministry of Lands. According to
prominent local sources Brigadier Siri Pieris and the Defence
Ministry successfully lobbied to retain him in Trincomalee on the
grounds that his services were invaluable to them. T.D. Pieris
remained in Trincomalee but was thereafter not taken very
seriously. He continued to do the small-time jobs for which he was
well-known. We also reliably understand that in the Land office of
the Trincomalee Kacheri, LDO permits held by non-Sinhalese were
picked up from stacks, a small number at a time, and destroyed on a
regular basis. It was in the wake of EPDP activities that Pieris
managed to revive the ArmyÕs interest in taking over Linga Nagar.

This time apart from the old claim that the 47 acres of land belonged
to the Army, security reasons were being advanced (Shamindra
FernandoÕs report cited above) and the officials are quoted as
denying charges that they intend settling Sinhalese on the land. Both
these deserve comment. In terms of proximity, Linga Nagar is
further away from security installations than other Tamil
residential areas. OrrÕs Hill in fact adjoins Plantain Point camp. If
one goes on the basis that any Tamil residential area is a security
threat, this line of reasoning would lead to herding all Tamils into
fenced  and guarded Ôwelfare centresÕ such as obtain in Vavuniya.
What would then be the countryÕs fate?

The claim of having no intention of settling Sinhalese is again
disingenuous. Going by past experience, some junior army officer or
local official has only to give a signal and encroachment would be
guaranteed. The authorities have no record of ever taking action
against Sinhalese encroachers unlike the third degree methods used
against other communities.

It may also be asked why the Army made such a flimsy case for the
Linga Nagar land that was full of gaping holes? The short answer is
that they expected little active opposition. There are many officials
retired and in service who are familiar with the original history of
the case, the actual request in 1979 for 6 chains of land and what
happened thereafter. But they remain reluctant to testify in public or
have their names quoted. Trincomalee has a particular history and
there is real fear that once you are marked, anything could happen.
Something did happen to one official who was mixed up in the
Linga Nagar case. This will be taken up below.

EPDPÕs Activities & its Antecedents

Through a fluke of history the EPDP got ten MPs into parliament
from the Jaffna District with as few as 5 votes from some
electorates. It had been allied to the last UNP government and its
cadre had been posted in JaffnaÕs offshore islands which had the
bulk of the effective voters in the district, since the vast majority of
voters who were  then under LTTE control could not vote. The
EPDP also effectively prevented other Tamil parties from
campaigning in the islands. The elections were technically held and
the EPDP got its reward. Thereafter it switched sides to support the
newly elected PA government in parliament. This was the source of
its influence. The EPDP did not have a reputation for being so unruly
or heavy handed as, say, the PLOTE or TELO.

In November 1994 , following the last elections, an incident revealed
something of the EPDPÕs inner nature. One of its cadre Udaya
Sooriyakumar  who is said to have been wanting to leave the
movement was found dead  with 17 stab injuries on  the Wellawatte
beach on the morning of 15th November 1994.. A report in the
Observer of 13/11/94 by P.Senanayake & J.Jayasinghe said that
acting on an anonymous call two members of the EPDP, including
the organiser for Trincomalee, were detained and questioned about
this killing. They had revealed that the deceased had been abducted
on 1/11/94 for leaving the organisation without notice and detained
at the EPDPÕs head quarters then at Park Road, Havelock Town. On
the evening of 14/11/94 he was taken in an EPDP jeep to the beach
where he was murdered. The EPDP hierarchy was clearly
implicated, and according to the Observer of Sunday 27/11/94, the
police searched the EPDP HQ following the organisations failure to
hand over three suspects. Nothing remarkable came out of these
investigations. The EPDPÕs MPs were already supporting the
Government in parliament. The support was no doubt more firm
after the investigations.

With the breakdown of any rational administrative policy or outlook
it is the general rule throughout the country that the distribution of
state resources depended overwhelmingly on the political
patronage of the government in power. As the last president D.B.
Wijetunge put it crudely, it was the government that ladled out the
rice from the bowl. The message was that those who voted for the
opposition would suffer. The Tamils in the East who lived in a
multi-ethnic environment saw themselves as having suffered
heavily through being in the opposition most of the time.  Tamils,
even  nationalists, in the Amparai District who now have no
representation, feel that the benefits that had accrued to them by
their former TULF MP Kanagaratnam crossing over to the UNP
government had been crucial to their survival. Today all four Tamil
MPs including the one from the Trincomalee District support the
government in parliament. The means by which state resources are
distributed has also consolidated a populist political culture where
the MP gets the credit for resources brought to the area. The EPDP
is largely prevented by security considerations from working among
its own constituents in Jaffna. On the other hand Trincomalee town
and suburbs which are considered fairly secure have become a hub of
activity for all militant groups opposed to the LTTE. But the EPDP
has few resources to build up its image in Trincomalee since the local
Tamil MP is from the TULF which supports the government. Given
the large refugee population in Trincomalee, the EPDP resorted to
another brand of populism where the lack or resources did not pose
a big problem. What it did was to call applications for land in
Trincomalee town from refugees who were nearly all from the rural
villages. It then blocked out 6 to 8 perches of land for a family from
two blocks of land. One was the contentious crown land in Linga
Nagar, and the other was the 30 acre plot purchased by the Tamil
University Movement near 3rd Mile Post on the Nilaveli Road. The
move was both short sighted and had serious inherent limitations.
Other residents pointed out that the land belonging to the Tamil
University Movement could have been used for an educational or
cultural purpose at an appropriate time in the future. The trustees of
this land were at present not contesting the move by the EPDP. The
fact that it is an armed militant group that currently enjoyed some
influence with the State is something that would cross anyoneÕs

In the case of Linga Nagar the EPDPÕs move to settle people on the
land provided opportunity to T.D.Pieris who had largely ceased to
be taken seriously. Once again publicity was loudly voiced to the
effect that there was a sinister move to settle Tamils on land that
belonged to the Army. The Army too began voicing its claim which it
had not taken seriously for some time. Under Pieris moves were set
in motion to evict the squatters. It was agaist this backdrop that
Pieris was shot dead on 17th September. Then cries of foul play by
sinister Tamil forces became even more strident with the ultra-
nationalist sections of the press, Buddhist monks and members of
the elite in Colombo getting into the act. There were calls to disarm
the Tamil militant groups opposed to the LTTE. It is a measure of
the influence commanded by the EPDPÕs parliamentary support to
the government that in Trincomalee the PLOTE was disarmed for a
time. Indeed the PLOTE was notorious for killings in Vavuniya town
for which no serious action had been taken. ItÕs three MPs from
Vavuniya too supported the government in parliament. But any
suspicion that the PLOTE was responsible for the killing of T.D.
Pieris in Trincomalee was extremely remote.

Prior to the temporary disarming of the PLOTE there were
demonstrations in the market area on 10th October 1996. This was
preceded by a drama that is not widely known and the potential
danger it portended should not be underestimated when taken in
conjunction with the volatile political climate in the South. During
early October there was a meeting in the suburban Sinhalese
settlement of Sirimapura which is the home of some rougher
elements with interests in the market and associated with leading
communal violence in the past with the co-operation of the security
forces. Those considered friendly to the Tamils were excluded from
the meeting that was also attended by some Buddhist monks. The
issues of T.D.PierisÕ murder and of a police sub-inspector were
discussed. The dominant sentiment was that the Sinhalese interests
were being threatened and that they could no longer take things
lying down. Emotions were running high.

A prominent Tamil citizen was informed by a Sinhalese resident that
there were plans afoot to spark off communal violence. This was
communicated to the TULF general secretary in Colombo and
preventive measures were taken. It also turned out that a number of
Sinhalese had urgently communicated the danger to their Tamil
contacts. This is again suggestive of a strong interest in avoiding

The demonstration which began in the market and moved to the
EPDP office passed off without much incident. Muslims and Tamils
in the market area too had little choice but to participate in the
protest for the fear of displeasing the rough Sinhalese elements. The
press in Colombo reported this as a broad-based protest against the
armed Tamil militant groups.

What happened then was that the Army became insistant on taking
over the Linganagar land. The EPDP which was crucially dependant
on the Army at one level could not go far in confronting the Army.
Thus the logical thing for the EPDP to do was to slowly wash its
hands off the Linganagar matter alltogether. The Army which
regarded T.D.Pieris as their man and was convinced that the EPDP
had done the killing was prevented from getting at the EPDP
because of its influence with the government and the lack of  any
evidence. So they were demanding their pound of flesh by getting at
the people who were not EPDP supporters, but  had simply wanted
land. It was again the old logic of reprisal action against the people
after the attackers were safely beyond reach .

In the case of theTamil University land too, once some kind of peace
returns, the board of trustees of the Tamil University Movement is
bound to file court action and the people will have to leave the land.
In either case, the EPDPÕs populism is bound to leave the people in
the lurch and worse off than what they would have been.

The people concerned are those from villages in the district and feel
that there are too many uncertainties for them to go back. Any
solution to their problem needs to take into account their well-being
and economic viability in the long term. Perhaps the most serious
criticism of the EPDPÕs action is that it was using these people to
score a point in the same manner that the Army plants Sinhalese
peasants along the roadsides in insecure areas.

Mr. Chandradasa, the present Government Agent, has a reputation
for having  sympathy for the down -trodden with a sincere
diapproval of violence. While serving as AGA in Seruvila some
years ago, he had worked hard at helping the neglected Tamil
peasants in Ichchilampattai.
Even while T.D.Pieris was trying to raise alarm in circles of power
about the EPDP settling squatters in Linga Nagar, Chandradasa did
not take sides. But once Pieris was killed, he had reportedly become
coloured by the view that the settlers were EPDP supporters and
that the killing was a threat to the administration. But on the market
issue reported below, Chandradasa had voiced the view that the
Army was in the wrong.

The Trinco market  Fiasco

A letter dated 5th January was sent to the Chairman of the
Trincomalee Urban Council by Brigadier P.S.B.Kulatunge RSP USP,
Commander 22nd Brigade and Co-ordinating Officer, TCO South.
The letter contained the following unusual statement: Ò The decision
to cancel the tender after our discussion, as you know, was made
due to the deterioriating situation in the area, and in the general
interest of the public in TrincomaleeÓ.

The letter further added a note of warning, ÒYour hasty decision to
allow the tenderer to collect the rent at the vegetable market as
from 4th January 1997, would further aggravate the security
situation, and hence I would like you to abide by my earlier decision
for the UC employees to collect the rent from the vegetable market.Ó

The foregoing would suggest a most singular drama considering
what was involved was simply the Trincomalee market being given
out on tender with all the rules followed to the letter.

The facts in short are these. The Trincomalee market was
dominated by Sinhalese traders. The Tamils who were the majority
in town, generally did not show much interest in this line of business.
The influence of some Sinhalese merchants rose sharply with state
patronage, the backing of the security forces and the advent of
communal violence from 1977.  Their power was greatly reduced
when the Indian Peace Keeping Force arrived. From June 1990
however, the market was under the control of an influential
Sinhalese agent who got control of the market for Rs 300, 000/= a
year with no competition offered.

In November 1996 the chairman of the Urban Council decided to call
for tenders and set the minimum at Rs500,000. His contention was
that the Council needed the money and moreover business had
picked up in recent years. Jayaratne, the man who originally
controlled the market objected to the new minimum set and did not
tender for the market. This being the situation the tender period was
extended at the request of the Brigadier. Only one person, Kennedy,
tendered, who also happened to belong to the militant group
PLOTE. This is understandable since only a Tamil person with such
a background could hope to stand up to those who had hitherto
controlled the market and wielded considerable intimidatory
power. Kennedy was awarded the tender. A protest was organised
by the supporters of Jayaratne on 17th December 1996 which closed
most of the shops in Trincomalee and public and private transport
too was brought to a standstill as Sinhalese operators dominated
these sectors as well. It was clear that these sections were using the
power they had enjoyed with the blessings of the Sinhalese
dominated security forces, to prevent the law from taking its course.
Buddhist priests too joined in the protest against the award of the
tender to a Tamil man. It reflected arm twisting by interests that had
been increasingly asserting themselves in Trincomalee for the last
few decades.

The Brigadier in charge of Trincomalee intervened using his
emergency powers to cancel the tender, but the Chairman of the
Urban Council stood his ground. Following a meeting with the
Brigadier on 26th December the Chairman agreed as an interim
measure for employees of the Urban Council to collect the rent from
the market stall holders. The Brigadier in turn promised police
assistance to the Urban Council officers who went to collect the
rent. But no such police assistance was forthcoming and the UC
chairman decided to allow the tenderer to collect the rent. The
tenderer too proved unsuccessful. Up to the time of writing the UC
had not collected any rent from the market. The ÔSunday IslandÕ of
26th January 1997 carried a feature by Namini Wijedasa which gave
an impartial report on the situation based on interviewing Mr.
Sooriyamoorthy, chairman of the Urban Council and some of the
Sinhalese traders. In comparison with the protest on 17th December
new reasons were being adduced such as a threat to the Sinhalese,
plans to shift the market to a Tamil area and so on. The report also
added that the Tamil and Muslim traders refused to comment and
concluded that the truth of the matter may have evaded the writer.

According to the Tamil residents the BrigadierÕs action
demonstrated that laws in this country are applicable only to the
minorities. They added that the Tamil and Muslim traders in the
market had to do as they were told by the former Sinhalese bosses,
as given their experience in the past, they feared being marked and
something unpleasant happening later on. The ÔIslandÕ of 27th
January carried an editorial referring to the Trincomalee market
sitting on a powder keg and calling for the situation to be defused.
Eighteen years ago in 1979,  the ÔFinancial TimesÕ of London carried
a Survey on Sri Lanka where the lead item was headlined, ÒSri
Lanka sits on a powder kegÓ. This country went happily living out
the prophecy over the next few years with the burning of the Jaffna
Public Library, communal violence and then precipitating a war.
Neither the press nor the ruling establishment ever seemed to take
all this seriously, and now we seem to have discovered that
Trincomalee market is sitting on a powder keg! Indeed,  the
situation must be defused. But we seem to be going through a
certain kind of warped reasoning again and again. Where it is an
issue where the law appears to place the minority in an
advantageous position a grave crisis and a threat to peace are
discovered and used as an argument to deprive the members of the
minority. A similar argument was used to introduce a very unfair
system of standardisation of university admissions in 1971, which by
lowering the marks for Sinhalese candidates gave the advantage
overwhelmingly to privileged Sinhalese students in the best schools.
[Originally preference was based on purely linguistic criteria. The
district quota system was introduced some years later.]

The Administration :
 The cost of being effective and belonging to the wrong community

Given below is the fate of a Tamil officer who exercised initiative
and whose services were uniformly commended. His recent
penalisation is linked in particular to two land matters. One of them
is Linga Nagar:

At the time he reached 55 on 10th February 1995, A. Thangarajah had
worked 20 years in the Administrative  Service, having earlier
worked as a teacher, also in government  service. A number of
others with his experience had reached the top. But what happened
to Thangarajah was very unusual. On reaching 55 (the age of
optional retirement) while he was AGA(DS) Mutur, he was told that
he should go on retirement. Upon application it is practically routine
for SLAS officers to be given extensions until they reach 60 (age of
compulsory retirement).

In 1980 the officer was punished while serving as AGA Vaharai by
having to spend 40 months on no pay, losing several increments and
his seniority. He had then refused to register a Rural Development
Society where the president and secretary were UNP minister
DevanayagamÕs men who were resident in Valaichenai. The
inquiring officer had found no charge to be valid. The officer who
should have reached Class I in 1992 retired at Class II -Grade 2. His
deferred promotion to II-1 due in 1993 was not given and is still on

Thangarajah came to Trincomalee in 1983 as a land officer covering
the mainly Tamil and Muslim AGA divisions of Town and Gravets,
Kinniya, Mutur and Kuchchaveli. Up to 1990 he had strictly followed
government regulations and circulars in issuing 17000 Land
Development Ordinance permits in these divisions. Working hard
for the people on land matters was no doubt undesirable from the
point of State ideology. He was never faulted on his work, except
that later in 1992, his issue of 14 LDO permits on land in Linga
Nagar to which the Army subsequently made a claim was advanced
in certain quarters as unlawful and conspiratorial.

In 1990 Thangarajah was appointed Additional Land Commissioner
for the North-East under the NE provincial administration. Acting
within  his powers under the 13th Amendment to the constitution, his
administration issued more than 2000 LDO permits mainly in the
Mannar and Kilinochchi districts and appointed 40 land officers and
assistant land commissioners to expedite land work.

He was made AGA (DS) Mutur in early1993. In all matters under his
purview, he used his powers to the full and ensured that the people
received the best possible benefit. As DS Mutur he spent all the
money allocated for public works at the rate of about Rs 78 million a
year without returning any to the treasury. Of about 50 projects
allocated to Mutur under 15,000 Village Level Projects, he saw that
the work was completed.

When floods came to Mutur in December 1993, his work in flood
relief was commended by the co-ordinating officer Brigadier Siri
Pieris. Once the brigadierÕs commendation came, the excess Rs 3.9
million spent above the 0.5 million allocated, about which questions
were being raised,  was expeditiously settled.

Thangarajah made an application to the Ministry of Public
Administration (MPA) for the first one yearÕs extension from 11.2.95
about August 1994.

On 13th February 1995 he received a letter from the ministry
informing him that he should go on retirement. Thangarajah
appealed to the Public Services Commission on 14th February, the
following day. He found that his application had not been
recommended by Mr. Chandradasa who was appointed
Government Agent in late 1994 after the election of the new
government.  The grounds for not recommending were said to be
some petitions against him. Thangarajah stated in his appeal that
Chandreadasa who was only familiar with his work for a very short
period  could not be a suitable referee and that Mr.Godawela, the
former GA, would be the right person. Godawela later confirmed
that he had recommended Thangaraja. The PSC approved his
extension and informed the MPA. After a long delay of 18 months
that included the MPA asking for ThangarajahÕs  birth certificate
which they said was not in the file, Thangarajah  received his
approval from the MPA on 11 th November 1996, by when even the
period for his second yearÕs extension had almost expired. He sent
his second appeal to the PSC the following day on 14.11.96 and at
the time of writing this report he had been out of work for 24 months
and was yet to receive a response. But it is learnt that the PSC had
hand-delivered its approval to the MPA on 7/2/97. The matter had
been raised by a number of persons including a local MP. Ratnasiri
Wickremanayake, the minister of public administration is
understood to have said that the officer had been treated unfairly.

It is widely understoodthat what is held against Thangarajah is in
particular his issue of 14 LDO permits in Linga Nagar in 1989.
Another that surfaced after Chandradasa became GA is the issue of
Sinhalese squatters who had lived near the Mutur jetty. Some time
after June 1990 the Army put them into occupation of public land in
town designated for a bank and the telecommunication centre, and
were helping them. Moves to regularise the encroachment in 1993
were dropped following protests, including by Mr. M.H.M Ashraff,
now a minister in the present government. Chandradasa took up
the matter again and wanted Thangaraja as DS, Muthur, to
regularise the encroachment. This Thangarajah refused as he had
refused Minister Devanayagam in 1980. In ThangarajaÕs case one
could think only of utter inefficiency, or the cabal applying the
unwritten rules of the public service, knowing what they want.
Either way the state of the administration bodes ill for the credibility
of any political settlement.

The new PA government in late 1994 called for appeals from those
who had suffered political victimisation under the previous UNP
government of 1977-94. ThangarajahÕs case is expected to receive a
positive response. In the meantime his treatment by the new
government was hardly an improvement.

At the highest level

In what is again a very unusual development, both the Linga Nagar
matter and the Trincomalee market affair were brought to the
president for her resolution. Both these matters are governed by
clear rules laid down in the law and should have been disposed of at
a much lower level. These should never have been brought to the
president whose job was quite something else. The fact that these
matters came to her is again a symptom that rules had ceased to
apply in the ramshackle state machine worn down by decades of

The parties to the market dispute had been invited to the
presidential secretariat for a discussion. The TULF MP for Trinco
District met the president at the end of January, showed her T.D.
PierisÕ map of Linga Nagar and explained the facts to her with the
findings of the governorÕs commission. The president immediately
saw through the issue and asked the MP to discuss the matter with
defence ministry officials. The latter stood by their claim to 47 acres
of land. The MP asked the defence officials to show when and where
they had shown cause and asked for land in Linga Nagar, and how
they arrived at the magic figure of 47 acres, except for the fact that it
surfaced in the claim faked by T.D. Pieris. Later the defence officials
modified their claim to 47 acres, that were to be measured from the
edge of the promontory. There were even later suggestions that
some officials dissatisfied that Linga Nagar would be largely left
untouched, had wanted 30 acres of SLPA land (again a fiction from
PierisÕ map) to be first marked off from the edge of the promontory
before measuring 47 acres for the Army. The matter is bound to drag
on and probably go back to the president again.

Had an ordinary member of the public made the kind of claim in a
court of law that the defence ministry was making on the basis of
PierisÕ map, he would have been found guilty of fraud, perjury and
forgewry. By right, the president should have severely reprimanded
the officials concerned as persons who ought to set a better example
and even have demoted some of them as unfit to represent the
country with honour at its highest levels. By not doing so, she had
chosen to appease the defence ministry, thus adding to her
problems. We also get a fair idea of why cases of violations by
security personnel under this government either continue to get
covered up, or even where arrests are made, the accused are bailed
out with the trial indefinitely delayed.

The murder of T.D. Pieris was a crime against an individual who
was also an officer of the State. But would such a crime in a
Sinhalese area have sent the Army hell-bent on acquiring land in the
area to punish residents, as at Linga Nagar, who were not party to
the crime? The Linga Nagar and the market issue further confirm
what has long been said about the inner motivations of the Army
and the Defence Ministry. They perceive themselves as Sinhalese
state institutions furthering a communal state ideology. By standing
his ground and calling the brigadierÕs bluff on the market issue, the
chairman of the Trincomalee Urban Council has exposed State
ideology at its silliest and most ridiculous. It also aptly sums up Sri
LankaÕs post-independence political legacy as communal politics of
the fish and vegetable market.

  Refugees and Resettlement

Sinhalese refugees from Kallara:
Mary Agnes (50) was originally from Thiriyai just south of Kallara.
She had belonged to the only Sinhalese family in the farming village
of Thiriyai who farmed several acres of paddy land. She had good
friends among the Tamils and spoke the language fluently. In 1985
as the conflict intensified her neighbours advised her to leave. She
went first to Trinco town and then to live in Kallara with Sinhalese
fisherfolk in 1987 after the IPKF arrived. With the onset of war in
June 1990 the residents of Kallara fled to Trincomalee town and
returned six months later. On 25th May 1995 the LTTE attacked
Kallara a month after it broke its cease-fire agreement with the PA
government. 46 Sinhalese civilians were killed including a niece of
Agnes and the husband of her niece. Agnes now lives with other
Sinhalese refugees in Love Lane receiving food rations from the
government. The LTTEÕs claim was put to these refugees that it had
attacked the village because these Sinhalese were integral to  the
armed aggression against Tamils and were so part of the military
machine. The refugees responded that they did not work for the
Army and hardly saw the LTTE. The only help they gave the Army
was that their fishing boats were used to transport vegetables to the
Army from Puddavaikkattu and soldiers who were going home on

The presence of Sinhalese fisherfolk in the area goes far back and
has been mentioned in the Ceylon Census of 1901. The LTTEÕs
actions have forced isolated Sinhalese and Muslim communities to
depend on the Sri Lankan Army for their protection. The choice was
not theirs. Several of the men among the refugees now work for
fishing boat owners in the area.

Refugees: General

A key problem presently facing refugees from the Tamil villages of
Trincomalee is that they are scattered in several camps or in small
communities around Trincomalee town, in Mullaitivu District and
further afield such as Mannar Mainland(Madhu), Mannar
Island(Pesalai) and India.

The camp at Alles Garden near Trincomalee town was built by the
UNHCR and is now administered by the Trincomalee Kachcheri . All
refugees who are not resettled are provided rations by
rehabilitation ministry. Nilaveli, still has a refugee camp at the
Roman Catholic church where the refugees came mainly from the
villages further north such as Kuchchaveli and Thiriyai. The
difference is that those in Nilaveli, had evacuated after the army
arrived in 1990 and harrassed the people, causing some to
disappear. The people had then moved towards Trincomalee town
for relative safety and some had settled in Nilaveli. Those in the
UNHCR camp are generally people who fled into Mullaitivu
District before the Army arrived in June 1990, trekked through the
jungle to the Mannar coast, were in India as refugees and were
brought back by ship to Trincomalee from 1993 under what they took
to be a guarantee of their security by UNHCR. The UNHCR camp
thus contains people from all parts of the district starting from
Pulmoodai, Thiriyai and Kuchavelli in the north, from Kannia and
Pankulam to the west of Trincomalee town, and also persons from
the Mutur  and Kinniya divisions in the south of the district.

Kannia, Pankulam and Thiriyai are at present not under army
control., and lie almost totally abandoned. These persons may not be
able to go back, unless the LTTE and the security forces agreed to
certain norms that would guarantee their safety and reconstruction
is made possible. But a number of persons in these camps are from
Kuchchaveli which is the last village going north under Army
control. Between Kuchchaveli and Pulmoddai is a gap containing
Pudavaikkaddu, Thiriyai and Kallara from which the Army pulled
out in 1995. Refugees from Kuchchaveli have for some time been
asked to return. Some of the factors are that these refugees from
Kuchchaveli have found work as employees of fishing boat owners
close to town, as labourers or as farm hands around Nilaveli. They
receive rations as displaced persons, have some kind of rudimentary
housing particularly in the UNHCR camp, and their children have
found schools close to the camps. Combined with doubts and
uncertainties about going back home, a certain inertia has set in. On
the other hand if communication is established between the
scattered communities from the same village and they can jointly
decide to go back., there would be greater confidence in returning.

The refugees at the Nilaveli Roman Catholic church also related a
problem faced by a number of refugee families who did not flee the
district in 1990. The Army had come into the Nilaveli church camp on
three occasions from July to August 1990 and taken away a total of
56 males who are now missing. The families who lost bread winners
have been eking out a living supported by government rations. It is
not easy for them to contemplate going back to their village and
starting life anew, without assurance of further support. Further,
entrenched discriminatory practices followed at check points and by
the Navy reinforce Tamils in their insecurity. For the refugees in
particular these prevent them from developing trust. For example,
the Tamil and Muslim fishermen are not allowed to go beyond a
certain distance from the shore. But this does not apply to Sinhalese

Also among the refugees in town are Muslims from Pulmoddai.
These people too are scattered with some in Kinnia, some in
Puttalam and others in Pulmoddai itself.  According to Ahamed
Lebbe, the head of sixteen families living in Love Lane, they had
come to town in 1990 and went back on foot after two years. But has
received little from the rehabilitation ministry besides their rations.
There is no direct access to Pulmoddai along the coast. Ahamed
Lebbe feels that they may be cheated again and is reluctant to go
back without more concrete assurances.

In the case of Puddavai Kaddu the Muslim villagers were even
earlier treated with suspicion by the security forces. At the outset of
the present bout of war in April 1995, the LTTE  attacked soldiers in
the area and five civilians were killed, reportedly in reprisals by the
Army. The area is now under LTTE control. These refugees feel that
they cannot go back until the security forces are firmly in control,
owing to the LTTEÕs ambivalent attitude towards Muslims.

The TULF MP was asked for his observations on rehabilitation and
to respond to some of the shortcomings that people had complained
about. One of  the complaints was that the 186 families of estate
labour origin who were resettled in Kappalthurai six miles south on
the Colombo road are living in dilapidated conditions. The MP
admitted that the conditions for resettlement are not ideal and the
Rs25,000 /= provided for housing by the rehabilitation ministry was
inadequate. He pointed out that adjacent to Kappalthurai 50
Muslim families  and another group of Sinhalese families were
resettled with identical facilities - that is an initial Rs 6,000/= and
then the housing grant in stages. The Muslims and Sinhalese he
said, had done some gardening and had found some other means to
supplement their income. They participated in the self-housing
scheme and had put up houses using the Rs 25,000/= from the
rehabilitation ministry along with their own money and they are
now fairly stable. The Tamils he said had not participated in the
self-housing scheme. But they had been given  a hospital that is now
being built and two school buildings. But they had been slow in
finding means of a reasonable income. Although the dry rations
would normally have been stopped after they were paid the Rs
6,000/=, this facility has been extended. It is therefore not correct, he
said,  to say that they have been unduly neglected or treated

The MP observed that although settling rural refugees in small plots
of land around Trincomalee town is welcomed by some, it would on
the long run be ruinous for the Tamils. He added, ÒMost of these
people are from the  villages and that is where  their culture and
community life belong. In your village you have your culture, your
place of worship, your home garden and you will never starve. In
the case of refugees in town their children are in a sorry plight and
you could see many of them rootless and becoming   undisciplined.
Ò It is not fair to say that Trincomalee town is being neglected by me.
In fact the building programmes of  schools that had long been
stalled are now being looked into and new buildings have been put
up under various schemes. But I would say that my priority is the
rural villages. It is these areas that had suffered the greatest
destabilising damage and conditions must be created for people to
go back.  Several tens of millions of rupees are now being  spent on
rural infrastructure such as roads, hospitals and dispensaries. I
would say that resettlement in Thampalakamam is a fair success.
Sippitthidal, Munmaritthidal, Parathipuram, Mulliyady and
Patthinipuram have been resettled. They now have a hospital with a
maternity ward, a medical ward and an ambulance and patients
need not come to Trincomalee except in the serious cases. Because
some people went back and resettled the area, other refugees are
now coming back, even from places such as Mullaitivu.

ÒIf you look at the refugee phenomenon closely, it is often the case
that at the slightest sign of trouble those in villages more accessible
from Trincomalee town tend to flee there. You take Ichchilampattai
(in the south of the district near Verugal). This has been the most
difficult area. It has been changing hands from the Army to the
LTTE. But all this time hardly two percent of the people ever fled the
area. Sambaltivu, Athimoddai, and Illupaikulam had been resettled,
and money is being spent on infrastructure including Rs 15 million
on water supply. The LTTE twice attacked the police in Sambaltivu
and about 60% of the people ran back to Trincomalee town that is
barely 6 miles away. But the rest are staying put, and hopefully
those who left would return. Kuchchaveli  now has a hospital built
by the Swiss Disaster Fund and it is about time the people went
back. The rations supplied by the Rehabilitation Ministry too cannot
be kept up for ever and sooner or later they would be stopped. We
need to work at bringing life back to our villages, if not our villages
may be gone forever. As things are, the basics such as a decent
school, a hospital and basic help in housing can be provided to those
who return. The rest is left to usÓ.

Staying home and the political challenge before the Tamils:

Among the urgent questions facing the Tamils of Trincomalee are
the abandoned villages and the refugees, many of whom are now
around town, seeing little prospect of going back in the near future.
There are a number of similarities between those leaving Jaffna and
going to Colombo, eventually hoping to go abroad; and those
refugees in Trincomalee. If this goes on the former may end up as
marginalised plebeians in Western society, while those who
abandoned their villages in Trincomalee may find themselves as
impoverished vagrants in new slums around Trincomalee town.
Both these phenomena have to do with the refusal to tackle serious
political and human rights issues internal to the Tamil community.
For the middle and upper classes, it has become too comforting to
send their children abroad and involve themselves in NGO activities
that amount to little more than giving handouts. In this culture there
is a good market for blaming the Sri Lankan government, the
security forces, the rehabilitation minister Mr.Ashraff and the Sri
Lanka Muslim Congress, besides the ordinary Sinhalese, for all the
ills of the Tamils. This goes hand in hand with the refusal to face up
to the crucial questions posed by the activities of the LTTE.

For those Tamils who intend to retain this country as their home,
the problem has reached crisis proportions because the market for
blaming the government, the security forces etc. has its greatest
demand at the higher and most articulate levels of Tamil society.
Whether the latter realise it or not, their conduct suggests that they
have much to gain by going on blaming the government and
continuing a situation of war. It does help their children to establish
themselves abroad. But it also creates hell for those wanting to
remain behind. For those sections of Tamil society who support the
LTTE or the actions of the other groups such as the murder of
T.D.Pieris, the militant cadre and their eventual fate count for
nothing. They are just regarded as our thugs who are a useful
counter to Sinhalese or Muslim thugs, whether in uniform or
without. This makes the task of creating a healthy politics which
would help the Tamils to live in dignity at home even more difficult.

The reality is that a good deal has at least temporarily changed for
the better under the present government. There is breathing space
which was not available before. Activities in the South by peace and
political groups have shown that there is far greater receptivity
among ordinary Sinhalese people for a just settlement to the war
that is also very hurtful to them.  There is also more space to
mobilise on human rights issues with less fear of repercussions.  We
too need to use these openings to consolidate and expand them. Our
purpose in highlighting continuing deficiencies in the state
structures is to help bring about corrective political action and not to
feed a market.

If we try to answer the question why the refugees in Trincomalee
are not going back to their villages, the blame lies not so much with
the rehabilitation effort, but primarily with the policies  of the LTTE.
The same is true of those leaving Jaffna, who most of the time
though, find it far easier and self-justifying to cater to the market
and blame the government. In Jaffna those seen to co-operate with
the government on rehabilitation and reconstruction have been
threatened by the LTTE. Where the LTTE is concerned they do not
want the credit to go to anyone else for reconstruction and the
restoration of village life.  They would keep the people refugees
until the war is ended in their favour. One need not explain why this
would be catastrophic. Our villages and our community life may
then be gone forever.

Thus the political and human rights issues remain paramount. Our
first handicap is that there is no real political discussion within our
community. For example, why are a number of Tamils happy with
the murder of T.D.Pieris? There was similar rejoicing in nationalist
quarters in 1975 when Alfred Duraiappah was murdered. The
failure to condemn this ultimately led to grave violations and rivers
of blood within the community. Twenty two years later, have we not
learnt? The problem with Pieris ought to have been tackled
politically. The facts were there and so was the commission report.

It is generally considered bad form  among Tamils to have a good
word for the North-East Provincial Council which was a result of
the Indo-Lanka Accord. But many in Trincomalee feel that this was
the most hopeful thing that ever happened to the Tamils. Now they
see the attack on Sinhalese in 1987 as grave blunder. Had we instead
sought accommodation with the Sinhalese then and persuaded them
to participate in the NEPC, it would have attained greater stature
and stability. Much has thus gone by default owing to the lack of
moral and political vision.

It is today far easier for those who are not  refugees to see that it is
in the best interest of the refugees to go back to their villages, than it
is for the refugees themselves. They have gone through the
experience of becoming refugees on more than one occasion and
thus have legitimate fears. It therefore falls to the community to
articulate a politics that gives them confidence. If we have failed to
persuade the government to bring to trial those service personnel
behind the Killiveddy massacre last year and the jail-break murders
recently, what reasonable guarantees can we give those returning
to rural villages? Even the jail murders  which happened in the heart
of town have been covered up with next to no protest.

Once more we return to the theme mentioned at the outset of this
report. A large number of Tamils aged 45 and below have one way
or the other  gained valuable experience through the militant
struggle. Much has been learnt and forgotten. What has been learnt
must be openly discussed and put to good use. The Trincomalee
Urban Council is controlled by such persons. What they have
demonstrated by going strictly  according to the law and standing up
to the Brigadier, is an  example of what can be achieved.  If they
could go even further and convince the Sinhalese residents that their
actions are in the common interest of everyone, it would be a
hopeful sign.

Trincomalee poses a potent challenge to all those concerned with
bringing about peace. It is a misfortune that most peace groups are
based in Colombo and have only a cursory understanding of the
deeper problems in Trincomalee. Although some of these activists of
proven dedication have made a significant impact in the South, the
intricacies of Trincomalee go far beyond general sentiments. The
ideological workings of the state apparatus, the legacy of Tamil
nationalism that fostered strife within and without, and the survival
oriented populism of Tamil militant groups, have all combined to
create an atmosphere of mutual fear among the different
communities. On the other hand the people have continually
demonstrated a common vested interest in communal harmony. But
with a fragile political climate in the South, the destabilising
potential in Trincomalee should not be underestimated. Herein lies
the task of the peace groups: to marshal their energies,  co-ordinate
their activities and bring to bear a common voice of the people.