Enforced exodus.....Daily Mirror Editorial
This dislodging operation on Thursday seemed to have come as a desperate move by the government. The authorities obviously have to discharge their duty of ensuring the safety of the people. There is increasing public demand that the government should take effective action to stop the destruction of life and property and disruption of normality as a result of endless terrorist acts of violence carried out particularly in the capital city.
The roadblocks and other security measures carried out continuously have to some extent checked the movement of terrorists. But they have not succeeded in putting an end to the periodic bomb blasts, killings and other criminal acts carried out by terrorists. This task of ensuring complete safety in a city with a resident population of over two million and another several lakhs visiting it daily, is obviously extremely difficult.
Lodges, boarding houses, slums and other nooks and corners in the city provide safe places for terrorists to operate from. Even imposing mansions in Colombo and suburbs could be places giving accommodation for them, perhaps unwittingly. The security forces have found that it is from these many and varied places that suicide bombers and other terrorists conduct their operations. Hence the demand from them for clearing these places as quickly as possible.
The statements made by government spokesmen show that it is at the behest of security authorities that the government has permitted the launching of the present operation. The immediate angry reaction from all who treasure fundamental rights of citizens to this abrupt move is understandable. Very few, however, would object to any action taken against terrorists or suspected terrorists. But the bundling of innocent people who had come to Colombo for various private purposes other than terrorist activity and sending them away unceremoniously in buses is a clear and serious violation of their rights. Among them probably have been people who had escaped the atrocities and harassment of the LTTE.
This move also, in the opinion of many, has had the effect of indirectly contributing to the much feared and threatened division of the country. These people will undoubtedly feel that their hopes and aspirations for living as equal and respectable citizens in this country could be achieved only through the creation of a separate eelam for them. They will thus become active supporters of the LTTE.
It is unimaginable that there would be persons even among government supporters who would be blind to this invasion of personal rights and freedoms. Of course, there are those holding positions in the government, particularly ministers, who are under obligation to defend whatever action the government takes, breathing fire and brimstone against those condemning the move. It is for those sections in the government who are alive to the consequences of this action to make their influence felt by those at the helm of affairs and prevent government from embarking on ill conceived plans and programmes.
Minister Rajitha Senaratne who has said it was wrong to evict Tamil lodgers has assured that every possible action would be taken to ensure that no further inconvenience would be caused to those who had been taken away in buses to various places. He had told the media that he had assigned some of his supporters to look into the problems encountered by them. However, he too has found the excuse of war to rationalize the violation of human rights. It is indeed creditable that the JVP has adopted a humane attitude to this issue. While condemning the move, it expressed the hope that the government would realise the futility of this move.
It is indeed surprising that the JHU, which is a party, inspired by the teachings of the Compassionate One remains so far unmoved by the suffering caused to the innocent by the present move. Is this party of the view that all those dislodged have been terrorist suspects? This party that is committed to the task of constructing a society in which people of all communities could live in peace, harmony and brotherhood has a special duty to advise the government on the right conduct to be followed.
A painful blunder! ....... The Island Editorial
The war for dismembering this country is not confined to the North and the East. It is being fought in many other places, both here and abroad, especially in Colombo, where the political leadership and the national economy are targeted. Ridding Colombo of LTTE cadres is therefore a sine qua non for defeating terrorism. All over the world, capital cities are the prime targets of terrorists and countries battling terrorism are compelled to adopt extraordinary measures to protect them.
In dealing with an elusive enemy, the police and the armed forces are at a distinct disadvantage. Terrorists are omnipresent and can pose as civilians as long as they are not caught in flagrante delicto. Even the democratic role models like the US and the UK have had to adopt draconian measures to keep terrorists at bay. The British police have orders to shoot terror suspects in the head slap-bang with no questions asked.
In this country, the security forces and the police are doing a thankless job. When raids are conducted, they are blamed for harassing the public and when bombs go off, they are faulted for their lapses! Their difficulties and concerns must be appreciated vis-à-vis the monster they are fighting, against numerous odds. They have to think of novel ways of tackling an outfit which is quite innovative and full of surprises. It is against this backdrop that the controversial expulsion of Tamils from Colombo should be viewed.
The government has naturally drawn heavy flak over its action, which is being widely condemned as discrimination against the Tamil community. Some have chosen to blow it out of proportion. Opposition and UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe has likened the plight of Tamils under the present government to that of Jews in Germany during the World War II and that of black Africans under the apartheid regime in South Africa. We thought Mr. Wickremesinghe needed lessons only on Sri Lankan history. Another politician (Mano Ganeshan) promptly chose to call the eviction of Tamils ‘ethnic cleansing!’ They are entitled to their views. But, where were those champions of human rights when the LTTE forcibly evicted tens of thousands of Muslims who had been living in the North for generations at a two-hour notice in 1990? They were allowed to carry only a change of clothes with them. Ear studs of women and girls were removed with pliers! They are still languishing in welfare centres in Puttalam. That, Mr. Ganeshan, is ethnic cleansing!
A TNA MP took his shirt off in Parliament in protest against the expulsion in question. Those who have so shamelessly enslaved themselves to the LTTE and are justifying its savage terror don’t need any clothes at all. No amount of clothes is going to help cover their nudity!
Such hypocrites are doing the biggest disservice to the civilians caught in the nutcracker of terror. They have hijacked the cause of those innocent people and are making political capital out of their plight like vultures that feast on carrion. If their concern for hapless civilians is genuine, they must be able to take on the LTTE, too, which is making cannon fodder of their children and exploiting them in every conceivable way. Why are those human rights campaigners silent on what is happening in area like Kilinochchi, which the LTTE has turned into mono ethnic hellholes?
It is not to those hypocritical opportunists that the government must listen. It must listen to the feeble voice of the hapless civilians, whom the police want to evict. (Military Spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella is trying to have us believe that they are leaving voluntarily and the government is only providing transport: He must go tell that to the marines!) They may not be able to provide ‘valid reasons’ as such to justify their stay in Colombo but they, as is well known, have a thousand and one reasons to be away from the war zone and the LTTE’s clutches, the main being the safety of their children. When life becomes unbearable in a particular place, the people naturally vote with their feet. The government is driving them back into the jaws of the predator. That is the tragedy!
There are, no doubt, LTTE cadres posing as civilians among them. But, should all the Tamil people be penalised for that? As TULF Leader V. Anandasangaree has pointed out in a letter to the President—(The Island of June 08)—the LTTE is smart enough to evade eviction.
The city of Colombo belongs to all Sri Lankans, regardless of their ethnicity or religion and they have a right to live there or anywhere else in the country. That right guaranteed by the Constitution cannot be questioned or denied. It is the duty of the police and the armed forces to make the country safe for all communities to live in. While extraordinary measures are certainly called for to meet the growing threat of terrorism, the eviction of Tamils from any part of the country on any ground cannot be countenanced. That amounts to blatant racial discrimination. If the government considers such action a surrogate for better surveillance and intelligence, which alone can help keep the Tigers at bay, it is making a terrible mistake.
The Supreme Court is right in having immediately halted the harebrained scheme. Three hearty cheers!