<body><script type="text/javascript"> function setAttributeOnload(object, attribute, val) { if(window.addEventListener) { window.addEventListener('load', function(){ object[attribute] = val; }, false); } else { window.attachEvent('onload', function(){ object[attribute] = val; }); } } </script> <div id="navbar-iframe-container"></div> <script type="text/javascript" src="https://apis.google.com/js/platform.js"></script> <script type="text/javascript"> gapi.load("gapi.iframes:gapi.iframes.style.bubble", function() { if (gapi.iframes && gapi.iframes.getContext) { gapi.iframes.getContext().openChild({ url: 'https://www.blogger.com/navbar.g?targetBlogID\x3d10174147\x26blogName\x3dServing+Sri+Lanka\x26publishMode\x3dPUBLISH_MODE_BLOGSPOT\x26navbarType\x3dBLUE\x26layoutType\x3dCLASSIC\x26searchRoot\x3dhttps://servesrilanka.blogspot.com/search\x26blogLocale\x3den_US\x26v\x3d2\x26homepageUrl\x3dhttps://servesrilanka.blogspot.com/\x26vt\x3d-4968390320626182740', where: document.getElementById("navbar-iframe-container"), id: "navbar-iframe" }); } }); </script>
Serving Sri Lanka

This web log is a news and views blog. The primary aim is to provide an avenue for the expression and collection of ideas on sustainable, fair, and just, grassroot level development. Some of the topics that the blog will specifically address are: poverty reduction, rural development, educational issues, social empowerment, post-Tsunami relief and reconstruction, livelihood development, environmental conservation and bio-diversity. 

Saturday, November 05, 2005

E-government Best Practices for Sri Lanka

Daily Mirror: 28/11/2005" By Poornima Weerasekara

Oracle South Asia Growth Economies (SAGE) West Regional Director Ms. Samina Rizwan recently highlighted several best practices for champions of e-Government in Sri Lanka.

“Before any project can be successfully implemented government workers must be transformed to knowledge workers,” Ms. Rizwan told the Daily FT.

“It is not possible to deliver excellent government services via the internet or by using new technologies if the people who provide such services are not aware of and competent in the different mechanisms used,” she added.

According to Ms. Rizwan the advantages of this approach are two-fold. Transforming decision makers in government institutions into knowledge workers would create champions of e-government initiatives within these organisations. However, this process is also invaluable to other government servants. It helps to reduce resistance against technology and new systems, by giving them the confidence that their invaluable knowledge services will not be made redundant through automation.

Although there is much hype about e-government initiatives being launched in Sri Lanka, the inadequate infrastructure is seen as a major stumbling block which has denied access to such services for rural masses. However, as Ms. Rizwan points out the second best practice is to “understand your current infrastructure and leveraging on its strengths,” rather than waiting till all the infrastructure was in place. The high level of mobile phone penetration among Sri Lankan masses was highlighted as a positive factor, which could lay the foundations for an ubiquitous government, where services can be obtained anytime, anywhere, by anyone, on any device.

The third best practice was to focus on the different “solutions” rather than the underlying technology. Ms. Rizwan noted that “people who are not tech-savvy are immediately put-off when you talk to them about complex technologies. But if you could simply show them a demonstrative prototype of the end-product, and explain how its going to benefit a certain community, then they would more readily accept technology.”

She hailed the e-Government Centre of Excellence in Sri Lanka, located at the Sri Lanka Institute of Development Administration (SLIDA) as a pioneering move to demonstrate the potential benefits of e-government applications to the public.

The fourth best practice highlighted was to “create a partnership with all the stakeholders, as there are both social and political challenges to be overcome for e-government success.” Ms. Rizwan noted that it was imperative to devise a common service delivery framework with the consensus of all stakeholders to take any e-government project forward.

Oracle Corporation is an established world leader in delivering e-Government solutions. It has extensive experience gained from over 2000 successful Oracle-based e-Government projects across the world.

| Permanent Link

International Migration cuts poverty in developing countries but massive brain drain for some, says World Bank study

Daily Mirror: 27/10/2005"

Migrants' remittances reduce poverty in developing countries, but massive emigration of highly-skilled citizens poses troubling dilemmas for many smaller low-income countries, a new World Bank research study finds.

International Migration, Remittances and the Brain Drain, a study produced by the Bank's research department, includes a detailed analysis of household survey data in Mexico, Guatemala and the Philippines---all countries that produce millions of migrants---which concludes that families whose members include migrants living abroad have higher incomes than those with no migrants."The studies show that remittances reduce poverty and increase spending on education, health and investment," said World Bank economist Maurice Schiff, who co-edited the book with Caglar Ozden, also an economist at the Bank. "The findings are consistent in all three country studies in this volume, and further studies are under way to see if they apply in other countries."

Close to 200 million people are living in countries other than the ones in which they were born, and remittances are estimated to reach about $225 billion in 2005, according to a forthcoming World Bank publication, Global Economic Prospects 2006. This makes remittances the biggest source of foreign exchange in many countries and has major implications for strategies to reduce poverty in developing nations.

"In Mexico, the larger the share of households with migrants in a region, the more favorable the effect of increases in remittances on rural poverty," concludes one of the book's eight studies, by researchers Jorge Mora and J. Edward Taylor. And in Guatemala, says another chapter by Richard H. Adams Jr., remittances reduce the level, depth and severity of poverty. The greatest impact was on the severity of poverty, with remittances accounting for over half the income of the poorest 10 percent of families.

It is no accident that the main sources of migrants to Europe are from Africa and the Middle East, while the dominant source regions for migrants to the United States are from Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean. Proximity to the destination country matters to potential migrants, the study says, especially those who are poor and unskilled, as it costs less to migrate to a nearby country than to a distant one. In addition, a chapter in the book by David McKenzie finds that the presence of migrant networks in the destination country encourages further migration, as they further reduce the cost of migrating, while also providing contacts needed to find jobs.

"As a larger share of the community migrates, migration costs fall and relatively poorer members are able to migrate, and to benefit from the larger network as well," McKenzie concludes.

On a larger scale, migration dramatically increases global economic output by enabling workers to move to locations where they are more productive, and as a result, earn much higher wages than they would have in their developing home countries. A large portion of these economic gains accrues to the migrants and to their families back at home through the remittances they send.

"Economic modeling can give a good idea of the global economic gains to be obtained from international migration," said François Bourguignon, the World Bank's Chief Economist and Senior Vice President for Development Economics. "But the household survey evidence presented in this book demonstrates a direct link between migration and poverty reduction. It is groundbreaking work that is essential to sound policymaking in this area."

While remittances increase incomes and reduce poverty, the book shows that their impact—and the impact of migration, more broadly—on education differs between Mexico and Guatemala. In Guatemala, (both rural and urban) households receiving remittances spend relatively more on education, and proportionately less on day-to-day consumption. But in rural Mexico, children in migrant families acquire less education than the non-migrants, probably because they aim to follow their parents' example and migrate to unskilled jobs in the U.S., for which more education is neither necessary nor rewarded.

Brain drain: a complex picture
While the data and analysis on migrants' remittances highlight migration's positive impact on development, a more complex picture emerges when the study's focus shifts to the educated migrants from developing countries, the so-called "brain drain".

A chapter by Frederic Docquier and Abdeslam Marfouk unveils the most comprehensive database to date, based on census and survey data from OECD countries, tracing a massive exodus of professionals from some of the world's most vulnerable low-income countries. Eight out of ten Haitians and Jamaicans who have college degrees live outside their country. In Sierra Leone and Ghana, the same ratio is five out of ten. Many countries in Central America and Sub-Saharan Africa, as well as some island nations in the Caribbean and the Pacific, show rates of migration among professionals over 50 percent. This is in sharp contrast to much bigger countries such as China and India, from which only three to five percent of graduates are abroad, as well as Brazil, Indonesia, and the former Soviet Union, which also have low migration rates among the educated.

In Sub-Saharan Africa as a whole, although skilled workers account for just four percent of the region's labor force, they account for 40 percent of its migrants. The data reveal that 20 percent of Sub-Saharan Africa's skilled workers have migrated. "These new data need to be analyzed in greater depth," the co-editors conclude. "The massive scale of the brain drain in some countries suggests an urgent need to find incentives that would reduce the loss of much-needed skills—possibly by increasing cooperation between sending and receiving countries on this front, and by introducing policies that boost potential income for these professionals in their home countries."

It has been said that the prospect of migration may actually increase the sending country's level of education and welfare, by providing an incentive to people to seek more education in the hopes of boosting their employment options as migrants. This contention is challenged in the chapter by Schiff. "Our analysis shows only a small so-called 'brain gain', or increase in the average level of education in the sending country, due to anticipated migration." This result is reinforced by Ozden, whose chapter points out that skilled migrants in the US often fail to obtain jobs that match their education levels. This indicates both differences in the quality of education and a "brain waste" due to difficulties faced by migrants in obtaining requisite licenses to practice in certain professions.

Not all migrant brains are "wasted" however. A chapter by Gnanaraj Chellaraj, Keith Maskus and Aaditya Mattoo examines the contributions of skilled migrants and foreign students to the United States. It estimates that a 10 percent increase in the number of foreign graduate students raises patent applications in the U.S. by 4.7 percent, university patent grants by 5.3 percent, and non-university patent grants by 6.7 percent.

This World Bank research study will be complemented by the release in November of Global Economic Prospects 2006, which examines policy options to increase the poverty-reducing impact of international migration and remittances.

Skilled emigration rates (selected countries)

Country with Skilled emigration rate (%)

Guyana 89.0

Jamaica 85.1

Haiti 83.6

Suriname 47.9

Ghana 46.9

Mozambique 45.1

Kenya 38.4

Laos 37.4

Uganda 35.6

El Salvador 31.0

Sri Lanka 29.7

Nicaragua 29.6

| Permanent Link

Sri Lankan tsunami survivors paint the town red ... and purple, and blue

ReliefWeb - Document Preview - Sri Lankan tsunami survivors paint the town red ... and purple, and blue:Source: United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Date: 25 Oct 2005

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka, October 25 (UNHCR) – Like so many other people in Sri Lanka, Mrs. A.L. Sulahaummah will never forget 26 December 2004, the day the tsunami struck, killing more than 200,000 people in 13 countries, including Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Thailand, the Indian-owned Andaman Islands, India itself, and even far-away Somalia.
Sitting outside her yellow and purple home in Kalmunai, in Ampara District, on the eastern side of the island, Mrs. Sulahaummah said she had no time to collect her possessions before running upstairs with her three children when the tsunami came. In a few seconds, the huge waves stormed some 500m inland. "We heard people crying out and saw them running from the sea. Then we went upstairs as quickly as we could," she recalled. "Our house was very badly damaged, but at least we survived."
Her new home is neither temporary, nor permanent – in aid-speak it is called a "transitional shelter" – and was given to her by the UN refugee agency. The vibrant colours, however, are entirely her own choice.
The sheer ferocity of the tsunami is almost impossible to imagine for those who did not witness it first-hand. The ten-metre-high palm trees that lined the shore, and are still upright, stand like silent memorials to the deadly wave, their leaves brown – killed by the salt water that engulfed them. Behind the trees scattered stones mark the scant remains of the buildings that bore the full force of the wave and were razed to their foundations.
But go a little deeper inland, and you will find Mrs. A.L. Sulahaummah and others like her, and the mood lightens a little, despite the awful memories of that fateful morning ten months ago.
On October 14, a small ceremony was held in Ampara District, as UNHCR handed over the keys to Mr. S.M. Adam Bawa and his family – recipients of the 2000th transitional shelter constructed by UNHCR and its partners in Ampara. As of 25 October, only 134 of the total of UNHCR 2,800 shelters planned for Ampara remained to be completed. In all, these should provide safe, sound and relatively dignified accommodation for up to 14,000 people made homeless by the tsunami.
Transitional shelters are precisely that: more than temporary, less than permanent. They are necessary because reconstruction on such a scale – tens of thousands of new permanent houses and apartments – will take several years: far too long to remain under temporary shelter such as tents in a hot country which has an annual monsoon season and is prone to storms.
UNHCR's transitional shelters measure 12 x 16 feet (3.7 x 4.9 metres) and consist of two rooms, built within a galvanized iron frame. They are compliant with the internationally-recognized SPHERE standards for a family of five. The brick foundations provide a strong and solid base. The upper walls are made of plywood, and the roofs of zinc aluminium. Although more expensive than tin, zinc aluminium is also more heat-resistant – an important factor in a hot climate.
Perhaps the most immediately striking element of the transitional shelters in Ampara District, however, are the range of bright, cheerful colours which the beneficiary families have chosen to decorate their new homes. Mrs. Sulahaummah claims she was the pioneer with her decision to go for purple and yellow.
In a year or two, she plans to use government grants to rebuild her old damaged house, which stands next to her colourful new shelter. But she shows little sign of impatience.
"I am very happy living here now, and love this house," she said, smiling and tapping the wall. "We wanted to paint it happy colours, and now everyone else is copying us!" She pointed at a bright green transitional shelter close to her own, and laughed.
Around 50 families live in this area of Kalmunai, which is imbued with a real community spirit. All around, people are working together to clear away rubble and reconstruct ruined houses. Small shops are open, selling fruit and vegetables. A sense of positive momentum fills the air.
Jo da Silva, UNHCR's outgoing Senior Shelter Coordinator in Sri Lanka, believes that the choice of colours reveals more than a mere desire for decoration. It is a way of personalizing the building and as such reflects a desire to look to the future, rather than dwell on the death and destruction wrought by the tsunami. "You can see so visibly the way that the beneficiaries have taken ownership of their shelters and even painted them bright colours and added porches, and when you interview them they really are genuinely happy," she said shortly after leaving Sri Lanka at the end of her assignment.
From the outset, UNHCR realized it was important to keep communities together. This was achieved by identifying available private land located close to, or within, affected areas that could be used for building transitional shelters.
"While logistically it has been much more complicated to construct our shelters on small plots of private land, rather than a large shelter site, there are many advantages to keeping displaced communities in familiar surroundings," said Edward Benson, Head of the UNHCR office in Ampara. He pointed out that the fact that in June his agency constructed 300 transitional shelters in Ampara on no fewer than 270 different sites illustrated the challenge presented by this community-friendly policy.
UNHCR, which set up its transitional shelter operation in Ampara in February (after the initial emergency phase was over), began with a 42-shelter pilot project. During this important initial stage, the agency's shelter specialists worked closely with the beneficiaries, and incorporated their feedback into the construction of the subsequent transitional shelters. As a result, alterations were made to the standard design, including adding cadjan on the gable ends to keep out the rain; replacing rear doors with lockable windows; and using solid timber, rather than plywood, for the doors.
"Perfecting our original design through the pilot project has ensured that the shelters effectively meet the needs of beneficiaries," Benson explained.
UNHCR will complete its transitional shelter work in Sri Lanka by the end of 2005, having built around 4,400 shelters – 2,842 in Ampara and another 1,558 in Jaffna – and actively supported the government in coordinating the provision of over 55,000 shelters island-wide. The 4,400 UNHCR shelters will accommodate up to 22,000 people, whose houses were damaged or destroyed. Nationwide, more than 200,000 people in all should benefit from the transitional shelter programme.
As lead agency in Ampara, which was the worst-affected district in Sri Lanka, UNHCR coordinated the work of over 40 shelter actors, who have constructed a total of more than 17,000 transitional shelters, Benson said. UNHCR itself constructed 2,500 of them. Although the actual construction is now virtually complete, shelter work in Ampara will continue in the form of upgrading before the start of the monsoon season at the end of the year.
With 95 percent of transitional shelter needs met nationwide, the focus is now beginning to shift to 'care and maintenance' throughout all the tsunami-affected parts of island, according to Richard Dietrich, da Silva's successor as UNHCR Shelter Coordinator. "To ensure that these transitional shelters remain an adequate interim housing solution, ongoing care and maintenance is essential," said Dietrich.
"Apart from maintaining a sustainable infrastructure, this will involve ensuring effective site management, access to basic services, such as water and sanitation facilities, schools and medical care and other issues cutting across sectors such as protection or access to reliable information," he added.
One of the most poignant transitional shelters in Ampara belongs to Hamsa, his wife Junaitha, and their five children. On the interior wall, Hamsa has painted a beautiful mural for his family, and a UNHCR logo on the outside. "We lost three of our children in the tsunami, and all of us were so unhappy," he said. "I could see the sadness on the faces of my children every day, so I decided to paint the mural to cheer them up."
Pointing enthusiastically at the various birds and elephants depicted in the mural, the young children evidently take great enjoyment from the painting. As with Mrs. Sulahaummah, to some extent it seems the house, and the paintings, have helped Hamsa and his family to look towards the future, instead of becoming mired in memories of the terrible day when some of the children survived, but three of their siblings died.

| Permanent Link

Friday, November 04, 2005

Extend integrated watershed management

Sunday Observer: 23/10/2005"

The Upper Watershed Management Project funded by the Asian Development Bank and the Government of Sri Lanka comes to an end this year.

Integrated Watershed Management in the highlands of Sri Lanka encompassing absolute forest conservation and forest regeneration, wildlife conservation, integrated participatory agro forestry livestock and inland fishery development, bio-diversity research and strict scientific Soil conservation is a Permanent Need in the country, and it is hoped that integrated watershed management in Sri Lanka will not die a natural death with the end of this project.

All the forestry problems and soil conservation problems in the country started in the highlands with the colonial policies of full scale clearing of natural forest for coffee and tea, the downright robbery and export of timber, and for the decimation of wildlife in the name of sport.

Either a follow up project or an extension of the present project is considered to be a dire need whilst the expertise and grass roots interest generated by the present project are still at hand. In addition other watersheds in critical hilly areas should be brought together and linked up with the highland watersheds the Uma-Oya, Kirindi-Oya, Walawe Ganga and Kalu Ganga watersheds covered by the present project, eventually making it a nationwide umbrella effort.

The Government should also consider gradually terminating potato cultivation in the highlands the number one enemy of the soils in the highlands, and bringing all lands above at least 5000 ft m.s 1 under a single National Watershed Management Authority for the whole country.

This could be done through a stepwise process under a new project or through other mechanisms, in order to manage the watersheds scientifically without any political pressure whatsoever thus conserving these invaluable highlands with their rich and diverse vegetation, fauna and topsoils for posterity to benefit future generation.

V.R. Nanayakkara, Retired Conservator of Forests

| Permanent Link

Microfinance and Rural Development

Microfinance Development Gateway: "Rural areas are often forgotten by the financial institutions because of the difficulty to reach the clients and because of their extreme poverty. These documents focus on the great challenges of reaching rural areas by financial organisations or institutions. They explore the way products and services have to be adjusted, they explain the specific risks encountered in developing microfinance in rural zones. This collection of documents is based on various concrete cases that help to understand better the different issues related and the different approaches and strategies that can be implemented to reach the poorest rural people.

This week's Microfinance page highlight examines the development of Microfinance on the rural areas. This collection of papers provides a background to understand better the challenges and the risks linked with the development of microfinance in rural areas. We invite you to submit your resources and express your opinion on Microfinance and Rural Development.

| Permanent Link

Funding Microfinance Technology

Microfinance Development Gateway: "A wide range of technologies is available to help microfinance providers improve efficiency, track operations more accurately, increase transparency, and reach new customers. Yet the majority of microfinance institutions struggle to select the right technologies and get the most from their investments. Donors should be realistic about what technology can achieve. In addition to providing funds, donors should ensure that microfinance providers follow good investment and management principles when choosing and implementing new technologies. Organization: CGAP Donor Information Resource Centre- Date: April 2005 "
Download the report (PDF,165 K)

| Permanent Link

Is Microfinance an Effective Development Tool in the Context of Poverty Alleviation? Evaluating the Case of Rural China

Microfinance Development Gateway: "This paper is examining to what extent the ``win-win'' assumption of Microfinance is reality today by taking a closer look at the case of rural China. This assumption claiming that Microfinance can combine effective poverty alleviation with profitability has significantly contributed to the popularity of this new instrument of development finance. As a result, a standard model of Microfinance has emerged that is promoted globally as a ``best practice''. However, the analysis of the Chinese Microfinance environment in this work is revealing some special circumstances in this country, limiting Microfinance's impact as an instrument of poverty alleviation. Together with an empirical case study of a rural Microfinance program in China, this analysis of the environment is demonstrating the limitations of the ``best practice'' approach. Rather than transferring a standard model from one country to another, Microfinance has to adjust to the local environment by continued organisational and product innovation. The evaluation of the case study in terms of outreach, financial sustainability and impact is also exposing the existing trade-offs between these factors, questioning the above mentioned ``win-win'' assumption. In this context, the difficult environment in China shows that the effectiveness of Microfinance in terms of poverty alleviation is always depending on environmental features and the way Microfinance is able to adjust to those. "

Download the report (PDF,165 K)

| Permanent Link

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Tides of War

The New Yorker: Fact:
After the tsunami, the fighting continues.
Issue of 2005-08-01; Posted 2005-07-25

There was talk in Sri Lanka, not long after the tsunami, of an expensive coffin heading north. The story appeared in the press and was passed on in conversation, unencumbered by any trace of verifiable reality: Did you hear . . . a coffin, very fancy . . . what to think? Perhaps such a coffin existed, perhaps not. More than thirty thousand people had been killed on the island in the space of a few minutes when the Indian Ocean rose up and surged ashore under a bright, cloudless sky on the morning after Christmas; and Velupillai Prabhakaran, the leader of the secessionist Tamil Tigers, who control a sizable swath of northern Sri Lanka, had not been seen or heard from since. The coastal town of Mullaittivu, where Prabhakaran had his military headquarters in a network of underground bunkers, had been largely erased by the sea. An announcer on the state-owned radio, the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation, speculated hopefully that, if so much of Mullaittivu was gone, perhaps its most notorious resident might be, too. For thirty years, since he took up arms against the government, which is dominated by the island’s Sinhalese Buddhist majority, Prabhakaran, the self-styled Sun God of the Tamil Hindu minority, has been the defining figure of Sri Lankan history—a wearying chronicle of civil war, assassination, and terror. For a country dumbfounded by the senseless loss of life along its coasts, the rumor of the northbound coffin attached to the mystery of his absence to suggest the possibility of a single meaningful death.
Prabhakaran, who turned fifty last year, is one of the most bloody-minded and effective warlords in today’s crowded field. Osama bin Laden is more infamous, on account of Al Qaeda’s global reach and sensational operations, but Prabhakaran and his Tigers, in their determination to carve out an independent Tamil state in the north and east of Sri Lanka, have been every bit as bold. The Tigers, whose extremist ethnic nationalism is essentially secular, are often credited with inventing suicide bombing, and although that claim is surely exaggerated, they did develop the sort of explosive suicide vests favored by Palestinian terrorists, and they refined the technique of using speedboats as bombs to ram large ships, which was employed in 2000 by Al Qaeda agents in Yemen against the U.S.S. Cole. In 1991, long before female suicide bombers became a fixture of Middle Eastern terrorism, the Tigers deployed the woman who blew up India’s Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi. That was Prabhakaran’s most notorious hit, but his suicide squad of Black Tigers has claimed more than two hundred and sixty bombings in the last two decades—an average rate of nearly one a month—injuring and killing thousands of people, the great majority of them civilians. “Of course we use suicide bombers,” a Tiger official who was overseeing humanitarian relief for displaced tsunami survivors near Mullaittivu told me. “Because, as a revolutionary organization, we have limited resources.”
Prabhakaran depicts his struggle as a quest to reclaim his people’s historic homeland, but the idea of secession is actually a relatively recent phenomenon, a response to the government’s discriminatory policies and its complicity in communal violence against Tamils during the decades following Sri Lanka’s independence, in 1948, from British colonial rule. Until the early nineteen-eighties, most Tamils favored the establishment of a federal system that would grant them substantial local autonomy within a unified state; and, even as hope for a political solution gave way to Tamil militancy, armed struggle was widely seen as a means to force such an outcome. Prabhakaran, however, has always been hostile to the idea of power-sharing. He proclaims himself and his Tigers to be the only true representatives of Tamil political aspirations and has waged a systematic campaign—every bit as relentless as his war against the state—to eliminate Tamil rivals. Nevertheless, the Tigers have consistently had to resort to the forced recruitment of Tamil children, a practice barely distinguishable from outright abduction, to fill their fighting ranks and replenish their suicide brigades.
In Sinhalese, the name Sri Lanka means “blessed land,” and in its physical aspects the country is a tropical paradise, hemmed by palm-shaded beaches and, in its interior, fragrant with the florid vegetation of astonishingly varied landscapes—salt marshes and mountain lakes, mist-shrouded tea plantations, glimmering paddies, and mahogany jungles. The contrast between the island’s natural attractions and its repellently violent history was thrown into stark relief by the tsunami, which killed half as many people in one blow as three decades of war and terror had claimed. Yet this devastation was perfectly arbitrary, and it is a measure of the depth of Sri Lanka’s troubles that for this reason the tsunami was widely regarded there not only as a disaster but also as an occasion for hope.
The President, Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, articulated this unlikely optimism when she addressed the nation two days after the tsunami. Sri Lanka, she declared, had been “incredibly humbled” by the waves, which had dealt death and destruction to all ethnic groups indiscriminately. Never mind that Sinhalese, who count for nearly seventy-five per cent of the island’s twenty million inhabitants, outnumber Tamils by roughly four to one, and that Tamils, in turn, outnumber the next largest minority group, Muslims, by three to one. “Nature does not differentiate in the treatment of peoples,” the President said, and she urged Sri Lankans to follow nature’s example. In fact, many had responded to the disaster by rushing to the aid of the afflicted without regard for their identity. There were stories of Sinhalese soldiers risking—and losing—their lives in efforts to rescue Tamil civilians; of Tamil businessmen carting meals to displaced Sinhalese survivors; and of Muslims buying up clothes and medicines to hand out to Hindus and Buddhists. It was only later that Sri Lankans had time to register their surprise at their own unthinking decency, and their relief at this discovery was compounded by a sense that the tsunami had saved the country from an imminent return to war.
Although a ceasefire between the government and the Tigers has held since early 2002, peace talks broke down the next year—with the Tigers demanding what amounts to self-rule, and the government refusing to grant it—and, in the unhappy deadlock that followed, both parties have been riven by internal disputes. On the government side, President Kumaratunga forged a new ruling coalition in April of last year with the People’s Liberation Front (known by its Sinhalese initials as the J.V.P.), a small but aggressively divisive Communist party, which spikes its Marxism with an extremist strain of Sinhalese nationalism and Buddhist supremacism, and regards concessions to the Tigers as tantamount to treason. Kumaratunga, who first allied with the J.V.P. in 2001, has acknowledged that her affiliation with the party was a devil’s bargain, made to retain power. This political realignment in Colombo, the capital, coincided with an armed revolt against Prabhakaran by one of his top commanders, a man known by the nom de guerre Colonel Karuna, who drew his support from his home area in eastern Sri Lanka, where Tamils had long felt exploited and ill served by the Tiger leadership. Karuna’s aim was to secure autonomy for eastern Tamils from both the Tigers and the government, and although he could not prevail militarily against Prabhakaran, he remains at large—in hiding, and probably in exile—and the Tigers have been unable to reëstablish dominion over large areas of the east. Karuna’s rebellion dramatized the threat that peace poses to Prabhakaran’s authority, and a month before the tsunami struck, when Prabhakaran delivered his annual Hero’s Day speech, he declared himself fed up with the stalemate.
The Hero’s Day oration, which is delivered at night, in a cemetery for martyred Tigers, lit by flaming torches, is often Prabhakaran’s only significant public utterance in the course of a year, and his pronouncements have come to be seen as oracular. “We are living in a political void, without war, without a stable peace, without the conditions of normalcy, without an interim or permanent solution to the ethnic conflict,” he began. He accused President Kumaratunga of rejecting the prospect of peace through her “unholy alliance” with the J.V.P. The Sinhalese and the Tamils, he said, were more polarized than ever—“two separate peoples with divergent and mutually incompatible ideologies, consciousness, and political goals”—and he concluded, ominously, “There are borderlines to patience and expectations. We have now reached the borderline.” In the weeks before Christmas, assassinations and attacks involving Prabhakaran’s forces and Karuna sympathizers escalated steadily in the east. Some Sri Lankans cancelled vacations in order to be at home if the war resumed; others made plans to leave the country.
“We were running at the rate of about a murder a day until the tsunami came along,” Father Harry Miller, an American Jesuit missionary in the devastated east-coast city of Batticaloa, told me. Batticaloa, and the surrounding province, which shares its name, was the epicenter of Karuna’s rebellion, a predominantly Tamil region where the ceasefire lines describe a confusing patchwork of government and Tiger territories. For dozens of miles before you reach Batticaloa city on the two-lane road that links it to Colombo—a slow, eight-hour drive away—the scrubby bush is punctuated by heavily fortified Army camps, and a pervasive military presence makes the government-controlled town feel like a place under occupation. Miller had heard the rumors that Prabhakaran might be dead, but he was not surprised when the Tiger leader reappeared in mid-January, without a word of consolation for his people’s losses. Miller did not share President Kumaratunga’s view of the tsunami as a cosmic corrective to what she called “a country where every aspect of life has been politicized,” much less as a providential opportunity. The prevailing sentiment in Batticaloa, he said, was “We are victims again. We’ve had flood, we’ve had wars, we’ve had drought, we’ve had a cyclone. Victims again.”
The defining catastrophe of post-colonial Sri Lankan history was an act of man, a law, promulgated in 1956, when the island was still called Ceylon. The law established Sinhalese as the sole official language (a status previously reserved for English). Sri Lanka’s Sinhalese and Tamils both trace their origins to migrations from India, and, despite their different languages and religions, their coexistence had previously been untroubled by ethnic violence. The 1956 law, however, effectively transformed the parliamentary democracy into an instrument of Sinhalese nationalism and excluded Tamils and other minorities from careers in public service, access to many educational opportunities, and other rights and privileges to which citizenship supposedly entitled them.
The man behind the law was President Kumaratunga’s father, Prime Minister S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike, the scion of a Sinhalese noble family, who was raised an Anglican and educated at Oxford. Although Bandaranaike had converted to Buddhism as a young man, he spoke English with greater ease than he did Sinhalese. In fact, he had to brush up on his native language before campaigning as a populist opposition leader, who mixed leftist rhetoric with nativism in order to tap the resentment of ordinary Sri Lankans toward the class from which he came, the British-educated élite. His Sinhalese-only policy coincided with celebrations in honor of the twenty-five-hundredth anniversary of the Buddha’s enlightenment, and scholars tend to regard Bandaranaike’s alienation of the Tamils as inadvertent. “He could just as well have included the Tamil poor in that anti-English campaign,” the human-rights lawyer Radhika Coomaraswamy told me in Colombo. Coomaraswamy is a Tamil, and she said, “I don’t see anti-Tamil sentiment at the core of the original Sinhalese nationalism. Tamils were just ignored, which may be an even greater insult.”
Bandaranaike was unprepared when outraged Tamils took to the streets to protest the law and were met with violence from Sinhalese inflamed by the jingoism he had preached. Tamils were beaten (some of them to death), their homes were set ablaze, and their businesses were ransacked. Bandaranaike could not undo the damage. In 1957, he negotiated a pact with Tamil federalists that met many of their demands for regional autonomy. Sinhalese hard-liners protested, and in 1958 he repudiated the pact, and the country was again swept by violence, of which Tamils were overwhelmingly the victims. A year and a half later, Bandaranaike was shot dead by an apparently deranged Buddhist monk.
Bandaranaike was succeeded, the following year, by his widow, Sirimavo—the world’s first female Prime Minister—who offered concessions to Tamil federalists and won their support during her campaign, then turned her back on them, triggering mass protests in the northern city of Jaffna. In 1962, the Army was sent in to quell the unrest, and although there was little violence between Sinhalese and Tamils during the next decade, the dispiriting effect of militarization in the north, coupled with official discrimination, was such that a generation of Tamils grew up with an acute sense of disenfranchisement. In the early nineteen-seventies, Sirimavo Bandaranaike hardened these feelings by elevating Buddhism to the equivalent of a state religion and by imposing harsh quotas on the number of Tamil students admitted to state universities. In the late sixties, half the students admitted to university programs in engineering and medicine were Tamils; by the end of the next decade, that number was closer to twenty per cent. In 1975, Velupillai Prabhakaran staged what he called his “first major military encounter,” when he shot and killed the mayor of Jaffna, a close associate of the Prime Minister’s, who had been on his way to pray at a Hindu temple.
Tamil militants had attempted to assassinate their politicians before, but none had succeeded, and Prabhakaran’s example inspired others to take up arms in the name of Tamil self-determination. Some joined his tiny band of Tigers, who supported themselves by robbing banks and smuggling weapons from India. Others enlisted with competing Tamil guerrilla factions, which began claiming credit for assassinations and ambushes of politicians, policemen, and soldiers. Sinhalese agitators set off a new wave of anti-Tamil riots in 1977, and again in 1981, when the Jaffna library—the major repository of Tamil literature and history—was burned to a shell. Then, in July of 1983, the Tigers staged a carefully planned ambush of government forces near Jaffna, massacring thirteen officers. As news of the slaughter spread, the country was convulsed by the most hideous pogrom in its history, a wave of anti-Tamil violence so extreme that observers reached back to the horrors that accompanied India’s partition, in 1947, for a fitting comparison.
As many as two thousand Tamils were hacked, bludgeoned, torched, or beaten and kicked to death by mobs. In Colombo, Sinhalese criminals in the high-security Welikade prison were allowed to slaughter dozens of Tamil political prisoners, and two days later another massacre of Tamils occurred in the same prison. Nearly eighty thousand Tamils fled their homes to hastily established refugee camps during those weeks, which became known as Black July; others piled into boats to seek asylum in India—the first great wave of an exodus that has, over the intervening decades of war, created a global diaspora of hundreds of thousands of Sri Lankan Tamils. Some Sinhalese were so disgusted by the horrors of 1983 that they, too, left the country. Johnny Attygale, a businessman whose father had served as Sri Lanka’s police commissioner in the sixties, told me that he had been driving to the beach when a couple of frenzied Tamils appeared in front of his car, pursued by a lynch mob. He packed the men into his trunk and drove them to safety, then packed up his family and moved to Australia. “Bodies on the road, people being burned in the street—how do you explain that to your kids?” he asked.
To Prabhakaran, Black July was an affirmation of the Tiger cause—proof that the only hope for Sri Lankan Tamils was to establish an independent homeland by force. “The July holocaust has united all sections of the Tamil masses,” he declared, and Tamil militants took to comparing their struggle to that of Palestinian nationalists and anti-apartheid South Africans. India’s Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, faced with a flood of Sri Lankan refugees and with discontent among sympathetic Indian Tamils, decided to train and arm Sri Lanka’s Tamil militants (not only Tigers but a number of other factions as well). India’s support for the rebels inspired more young Tamils to join the separatist fight, and Sri Lankans date the beginning of civil war to 1983, the year when the state’s claim to be the representative government of all the island’s people appeared most thoroughly discredited. Yet, as with so many armed liberation movements, the more the Tigers pressed their advantages and consolidated their power as a military and political force, the more they came to resemble—and then to exceed—the most repellent aspects of their enemies. Thirty years after Prabhakaran shot and killed the mayor of Jaffna, he is probably the world’s most prolific political assassin. But the paradox of his monomaniacal pursuit of a Tamil homeland is that Tamils have borne the brunt of his violence.
Father Miller came to Sri Lanka from his home parish of New Orleans in 1948. “It was a brand-new nation with a beautiful administrative structure,” he told me. “The British did a good job. They had trained people who knew how to keep accounts and write and type and file and everything else. There were people who’d studied in Oxford and Cambridge, and people trained at Sandhurst.” Tea, rubber, and coconut plantations sustained a developing economy; a reliable rail system served the entire island; and most of the country was electrified. “We used to call Bangladesh bad off,” Miller said. “We called them the basket case over the years. They never seemed to be able to get their act together. We’ve got to their stage now. They’ve gone forward, we’ve fallen back.”
Miller was an undergraduate at Springhill College, a Jesuit school in Mobile, Alabama, when he volunteered as a missionary, and he packed his bags knowing that he was committing himself for life. Except for a stint in India in the early fifties, to complete his theological training, and a few years in other parishes in Sri Lanka, he has made his home in Batticaloa, teaching primary and secondary school—and for a decade serving as rector—at St. Michael’s College, which is housed in a large Italianate building of ochre stucco and colonnaded terraces beneath red tile roofs, where he lives in a tower room, atop a steep and rickety wooden staircase. The office area of his L-shaped room is sparsely furnished, and the walls are barely adorned—a few pictures of Jesus hang on nails, along with a cross and a crude folk-art mask. His living quarters are even more ascetic: there is a narrow cot, a hot plate and washstand, and a clothesline, which, when I visited, was draped with a duplicate of the outfit he was wearing—a threadbare polo shirt and hiking shorts. Beneath his desk chair, a wooden prayer kneeler supported Miller’s sandalled feet. He is a small, vigorous man, with thick workman’s hands and a face that might fairly be called Roman on account of its sharp-featured, weathered intensity. Despite his Louisiana roots, he has a New England accent (a peculiarity he acknowledges yet cannot account for), but the most striking feature of his speech is the way he uses the first-person plural when describing the Batticaloa Tamil community, with which he has come to identify. “I’ve been here long enough,” he said. “I say ‘we’ when I talk locally.”
In the early days of the war, Miller told me, “one of the Sri Lankan colonels here gave me a nickname. I was a white Tiger, because I was always arguing the side of the Tamil people against the government.” At that time, in the early eighties, the fighting was all in the north. But the government regarded Batticaloa as enemy territory nonetheless, Miller said, “and they came in and started arresting people right and left, in great numbers.” Miller joined with other community leaders to document and contest instances of government abuse. In 1990, when the Tigers seized control of large areas of Batticaloa, Miller took to hounding them even more. “I object to both sides, and I’m talking on behalf of the people who are victims,” he said. He was particularly incensed by the Tigers’ forced conscription of Tamil children. “They had put in a rule,” he explained. “Each family must give one child. And they were exacting that.” He told me that when he went to the local Tiger commander to complain about a thirteen-year-old girl with a game leg and a fifteen-year-old boy with a terrible lung condition who had been taken from their families as recruits, the commander told him, “I don’t have time for these minor matters.”
Miller’s sympathy for Tamil grievances was equalled by his disdain for the Tigers. “That leader, Prabhakaran, is a megalomaniac, and in anybody’s books a mass murderer,” he said. “Let me tell you one story. Mother and father have about five kids—three of them are girls, boys are younger fellows—and the Tigers go to the house, and say, ‘You’ve got to give us one of the children.’ The mother says, ‘Never, never.’ The father says, ‘What are we going to do? We have to give them one of the children, that’s all—we don’t have a choice.’ One day when the woman was away from home, they came and he was there, and he let one of the girls go. And the mother came back and she said, ‘Where’s the kid?’ And he said, ‘Well, they came and took her.’ She said, ‘You gave her?’ He said, ‘Yeah, what?’ She said, ‘That’s not even your child.’ Now, they were not getting on well, and when she said, ‘That’s not even your child,’ he went out and committed suicide. That’s the level of pressure that they were able to put on people.”
The Tiger commander in Batticaloa was Colonel Karuna, and when he turned against Prabhakaran, last year, the recruitment of children in his zone stopped. His declaration of independence inspired a number of Batticaloans to take to the streets and show their support by setting fire to the portraits of Prabhakaran that Karuna’s men had, until the day before, required them to hang in their homes, and, before he went into hiding, Karuna disbanded the children’s brigades. “He sent them home,” Miller said. “The Tigers tried to get them back. They were going around in some of the villages with loudspeakers: ‘We’d like to talk to you again, we need to bring things up to date, at least come and have a discussion with us.’ ” The tactic didn’t work, but shortly after the tsunami unicef reported that Tiger recruiters were luring children from displaced-persons camps in the east.
Father Miller wasn’t surprised. “Deep down inside, people realize that we haven’t crossed that border yet to where we can say that there’s going to be peace,” he said. “We’re going to go on killing each other, and there may come some time when it becomes so totally desperate that we get some good sense. I’m an optimist.”
“Ceylon—the radiant, incomparable East,” Mark Twain wrote when he paid a brief visit to the island in 1896, and his rhapsodic response to the place was typical of travellers’ accounts through the years:
All the requisites were present. The costumes were right; the black and brown exposures, unconscious of immodesty, were right; the juggler was there, with his basket, his snakes, his mongoose, and his arrangements for growing a tree from seed to foliage and ripe fruitage before one’s eyes; in sight were plants and flowers familiar to one in books but in no other way—celebrated, desirable, strange, but in production restricted to the hot belt of the equator; and out a little way in the country were the proper deadly snakes, and fierce beasts of prey, and the wild elephant and the monkey. And there was that swoon in the air which one associates with the tropics, and that smother of heat, heavy with odors of unknown flowers, and that sudden invasion of purple gloom fissured with lightnings—then the tumult of crashing thunder and the downpour—and presently all sunny and smiling again.
You could find much the same sort of gushing, albeit less memorably rendered, in most of the leading travel magazines last year: feature after feature touting Sri Lanka, post-ceasefire, as a hot (in every sense of the word) destination, where the suspended war provided a titillating whiff of adventure. Sri Lankans are prone to similar raptures about the Edenic luxuriance of their land. Their literature—heat-stunned and gin-soaked—is full of an aching auto-exoticism. Yet this fond self-regard contains a painful element of what another Southern writer, William Faulkner, called “a furious unreality,” and nowhere is it more furious or unreal than in the Tiger-controlled territory.
To get there, you must cross what amounts to an international frontier in the middle of the kilometre-wide no man’s land that bisects the island from coast to coast along the ceasefire line. Although the government of Sri Lanka refuses to recognize it, the Tigers have established their own state, with customs officials, a border control, a uniformed police force, and a full complement of ministries. The sheds on the Tiger side of the border crossing, where travel documents are examined, are plastered with posters celebrating the exploits of suicide bombers, and staffed by uniformed female cadres with braided pigtails looped and gathered on their heads, like helmets. The landscape on this side is indistinguishable from the rest of Sri Lanka, except that it is so sparsely populated as to seem abandoned, which in large stretches it is. The war damage is most striking in Kilinochchi, the political and economic capital of the Tiger zone. Three years ago, when the truce went into effect, there was hardly a roof left on any structure along Kilinochchi’s main drag, and even now, after a fever of reconstruction, largely funded by overseas Tamil supporters of the war they have fled, ruins are everywhere. There are few private cars on the road, and a good many of them are archaic Morris Minors, jerry-rigged to run on kerosene, at perilously slow speeds. At the center of town, a side street leads to a complex of ultramodern hotel-like buildings, which make up the various departments of the Tigers’ political commissariat. Here, the conspicuous absence of visible security measures—no guns or guards—signals the confidence of absolute authority.
Tiger apparatchiks are notoriously wary of the press. But after the tsunami they launched a charm offensive on foreign reporters, earning highly favorable reviews of the efficiency with which they orchestrated relief efforts. So, one evening, I was granted an audience with the head of the Tigers’ political wing, S. P. Tamilchelvan, a slight, heavily mustached man, who is considered to be second only to Prabhakaran in the hierarchy. Tamilchelvan walks with a limp and the help of a cane, on account of an old combat injury. He does not speak English, or pretends not to (he clearly understands it). He received me in a bitterly air-conditioned conference room and was accompanied by his translator, George, an elderly rail of a man, who was extravagantly groomed, with gray hair slicked fiercely back, and profusions of equally gray hair sprouting from his ears in carefully combed tufts several inches long. George’s English was as eccentric as his coiffure. When I posed a question—for instance, why had Prabhakaran failed to appear for weeks after the tsunami, giving rise to suspicions that he had been killed?—Tamilchelvan would answer at great length in Tamil, and then George would deliver his own baroque stem-winder:
This is a story that has been in the spin for quite some time, not just since the tsunami but for two decades. Disappearance of the national leader takes place so many times, and people kill him several times, and there is a concerted effort on the part of the media in Colombo, and some racial elements in Colombo, political elements who have a wishful thinking of that to happen. So these are all planted by interested parties. Now we must understand the structure of the Liberation Tigers organization, the efficacy of the structure. How did it happen for a guerilla movement to transform itself into such a conventional army and while at the same time maintain structures that have been formulated to meet the day-to-day requirements of the people in a void that was made by the government’s absence to do such things during the past twenty-five years? So efficacy of the structures is now indicated by the leader’s commands being taken into account immediately, and the response that came forward from all the units of the Liberation Tigers organization. And one walks into the street and sees how efficiently the mechanism is functioning. . . . Our leader never cares to pose for photographs in occasions, and show the world that he is living and he is distributing and he is participating in the effort. Those are all done within a framework that he himself has formulated. . . . A totally unprecedented contingency like this has been met squarely by the Tamil people and the Tamil Liberation Organization. So our leader never bothers much about this type of cynical reporting about the leader being conspicuously absent in places where he’s needed. He is there.
Tamilchelvan sat expressionless during this outpouring, which went on for nearly five minutes. When I mentioned that most Americans think of the Tigers, if at all, as suicide bombers, George told me that Tamilchelvan said that this was “quite understandable,” since Americans “are not in a position to discern the truth of any equation, since they are not familiar with the political situation.” He urged me to consider that the government had deployed military personnel to attend to survivors of the tsunami in Tamil areas. “It is the very same military that was instrumental in hundreds of thousands of people being massacred overnight and end up in mass graves,” he said, in a fit of impassioned exaggeration, and he warned, “If the administrators in Colombo do not think of removing that mind-set—the majoritarian, the supremacist, the military mind-set—then the paradigm is of course very gloomy.” It was up to Colombo, he added, “to make a decision whether the Tamil people are again going to be asked to fight for their rights, or whether there is going to be accommodatingness in the center for devolving and sharing power.”
On the way out of the conference room, Tamilchelvan’s press officer wrote a letter for me in Tamil—a laissez passer—that gave me permission to visit Mullaittivu, Prabhakaran’s seaside stronghold. I drove there the next day. Standing at the epicenter of the devastation, I could see from the surrounding grid of streets where block upon block of houses had stood, but what remained was just crumbled chunks of concrete, with here and there an isolated vestige of human design: a staircase lifting to nowhere, an iron gate opening to nothing, a bicycle twisted like a paper clip tossed aside by nervous hands, and a grand church signified by an ornate façade. The silence of the place was broken only by the relentless cawing of crows.
A minivan pulled up to the wreckage of the church, and a party of clergymen in flowing white vestments emerged to inspect the damage. One of them, distinguished by a crimson sash as a bishop, stopped to chat with me. At the same moment, a barefoot, severely bow-legged man appeared, heading toward me. He wore an indigo sarong and a light cotton shirt, and his eyes were bright with madness. He did not stop until he was almost standing on my toes. He offered his hand, which was eerily limp and weightless, and began to speak. The sharp, sweet smell of palm toddy filled the narrow space between us. His voice was high and a little hoarse, and he went on at length, staring into my face. “He is disturbed,” the bishop explained. “He lost everything.” The man continued his address, but he sounded different. The bishop chuckled. “He is talking no language,” he said. “It’s just made-up sounds.” The madman smiled at me. I smiled back. Suddenly he reached up and felt my hair, then drew his hand back in a salute and, without another sound, wandered off into the ruins.
“People have a real psychosis now,” the bishop said. But who knew what that man’s story was? Perhaps his mind had been swamped by the tsunami, or perhaps he had always been mad, Mullaittivu’s village idiot. Still, meeting him there made George’s renditions of Tamilchelvan’s soliloquies seem less strange. Recalling Black July, the Tiger spokesman had said, “Just because we were Tamils, we were assaulted, killed, and made to feel humiliated. To call ourselves Tamils was a matter that we were ashamed of—we were made to feel so small. That made the youths of that day, in the year 1983, to decide that the pursuit of learning, education, for purposes of prospering in our personal lives has no meaning as long as our brethren get killed in this manner, at the hands of a cruel military.” He seemed to be saying that the Tigers had chosen to fight because they felt they had no alternative. They had agreed to the ceasefire for the same reason that the government had, because neither side could win the war. As I drove through the barricades and out of Tiger territory, it was almost impossible to imagine how Sri Lanka might be put back together again.
On my last day in Sri Lanka, I had lunch in Colombo with Dayan Jayatilleka, a Sinhalese political scientist and newspaper columnist. At one point, as he was telling me about himself, he smiled a little and said, “Oh, by the way, one thing I did over the last twenty years, I was indicted as a terrorist, under the Prevention of Terrorism Act, during the Emergency.” This was in 1983, when Jayatilleka was twenty-five. The year before, he had been a doctoral student studying revolutionary political theory at suny-Binghamton, but Black July inspired him to turn his learning into action. “I not only had friends who died—close Tamil friends who were killed in the Welikade jail—I saw people killed on the street, and as a Sinhala I had a crisis of conscience,” he said.
Jayatilleka and his comrades got armed and trained “in a very amateurish way” and set out to become urban guerrillas. “The idea was that the non-Tiger groups among the Tamils and the non-J.V.P. groups among the Sinhalese could link up and prevent this terrible polarization of fundamentalism on both sides,” he said. “It was very utopian, and it didn’t work. Some of us died, some of us went underground—like me, I was three years underground—some of us did time. We were caught between the state and these fanatical movements, and we got crushed.” In 1986, when Jayatilleka was on the run from his terrorism indictment, he heard that Tigers were burning other Tamil militants in the streets of Jaffna, and that a Sinhalese student leader had been caught and murdered by J.V.P. thugs. “They cut his throat slowly. Apparently, they kept asking him where I was,” Jayatilleka said. The shock of such killings sapped his appetite for armed struggle. “When we started out, none of us ever thought we’d ever be killed by other liberation fighters,” he told me. “We thought we’d be killed by state forces, or tortured. We were all psyched up for that—that was the way the script was supposed to go. And then we were blindsided by the J.V.P. and the Tigers.”
In 1988, Jayatilleka negotiated an amnesty, and joined the government as a minister for Batticaloa province. He resigned after six months. “We were doing atrocious things at the time to anyone suspected of Tiger associations,” he said. He described entering the provincial office one day and finding a teen-age boy, lying bound and beaten, face down on the floor. “I asked what he was doing there. They said, Oh, they were going to take him out to the swamp and shoot him in the back of the head. They didn’t have a case against him of any kind. I managed to get him released—but how many more like him were there?”
That year, Jayatilleka’s close friend and political comrade Vijaya Kumaratunga—a charismatic movie star, who had entered politics to promote a multi-ethnic, federalist policy for Sri Lanka—was shot in the face and killed in his driveway. Although no one was ever tried for the crime, the J.V.P. is widely assumed to have been responsible, which made it all the more shocking to many Sri Lankans when Vijaya’s widow, now President Kumaratunga, allied with the party. Three days before Kumaratunga was elected, in December, 1999, she survived a Tiger suicide attack, which killed twenty-two others, wounded more than a hundred, and mutilated one of her eyes, but Jayatilleka, who despises the Tigers’ barbarism, does not believe that personal animus to one extremist enemy can justify an alliance with another. “There is something that has been wrong for quite some time with the political system here,” he said, and added, “It’s a zero-sum game. Everybody here will ally with anyone else.”
Sri Lanka’s problem, as Jayatilleka sees it, is the absence of an overarching sense of national identity. Nobody in public life really talks about being Sri Lankan; there are only Sinhalese, Tamils, and Muslims. By way of contrast, he cited India, a state held together by a political understanding of itself as secularist and federalist. “Unlike Nehru, who had an idea of India, we went the other way,” Jayatilleka said. “Our nationalism wasn’t national in the sense of pan-Sri Lankan. Our nationalism took a cultural form—cultural, ethnic, religious.” And, he said, “Anybody who looked like a true nationalist unifier got shot.”
When I left Jayatilleka, I had an appointment to visit the Minister of Hindu Religious Affairs, Douglas Devananda, at his home office, a fortified compound on a quiet residential byway in central Colombo. The entry to the street was guarded by soldiers, who tugged aside a metal barricade to let me pass through an elaborate roadblock. Devananda, who spent many years as a Tamil guerrilla before he renounced violence and entered parliament, is the only former Tamil fighter in the government, and he has survived more assassination attempts than Rasputin endured. His home was hidden behind high walls posted with watchtowers and an iron gate piled high with sandbags and blockaded by oil drums filled with concrete. As I approached on foot, a narrow shutter slid open in the gate, and two eyes and a nose appeared in the window. “American?” a voice asked, and I was admitted.
Jayatilleka, who had received arms training from Devananda in the early eighties, had told me that I would find the minister surrounded by “heavy iron,” and, sure enough, a half dozen fidgety young men wearing submachine guns were huddled in the entryway. One led me through a labyrinth of short hallways that switched this way and that at ninety-degree angles. There were more men with guns at every corner. Outside, rain was threatening, and the air in Devananda’s den was heavy with dampness. As we progressed, the smell of mildew grew stronger, and mold stains claimed ever larger patches of wall. We passed a screened-off antechamber filled with parakeets, an atrium with a blue-tiled carp pond, and a dim room filled with tropical vegetation, where a chattering monkey sat on a rock clutching a gnawed orange. Finally, we reached a door studded with deadbolts, which clicked open by remote control from within, and there, at the back of a long, wide, windowless room, cluttered with furniture and stacked with papers, Devananda sat behind a desk: a big, bearded man, in a loose white V-necked undershirt and a green floor-length sarong, clutching two telephones to his head, one at each ear, while talking to a man standing next to him in a booming voice.
We sat on a rattan living-room set, where an aide brought us orange soda. Jayatilleka had said of Devananda, “When I needed a submachine, he gave me one,” and, when I reminded Devananda of this, he let out a true belly laugh: “Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha—those days!” He had gone for his own training as a fighter—in 1978, and again in 1984—to Lebanon. “P.L.O., Al Fatah, George Habash,” he said. Devananda had been a prisoner in the Tamil wards at the Welikade prison in 1983, when Sinhalese inmates began massacring his comrades with iron bars and blades and bludgeons. He survived by fighting off the attackers, hand to hand. Four years later, following his amnesty, when Devananda had become a government officer, he was asked by Tiger prisoners who were staging a hunger strike to come and talk to them. When he entered their cell, he was surrounded and attacked. A metal spike was driven into the back of his skull. A Sinhalese surgeon saved his life, but he describes himself as only eighty-five per cent recovered. At one point during my visit, an aide brought him a vial with a medicine dropper, which he used to lubricate his eyes. “This is unnatural tears,” he explained. “If I want to cry, I put this, then I can cry. Ha-ha-ha-ha!”
He laughed again when he told me how last summer, on a day when he opened his office to his constituents, a young Tamil woman had refused to let his guards search her above the waist. Devananda told them not to seize her, in case she was wired as a bomb. Instead, he had his men lead her to a police station, where she blew herself up, killing four officers. It was the first suicide bombing in Sri Lanka since the ceasefire, but Devananda wasn’t surprised. As a former guerrilla, he said, he knew Prabhakaran’s mind. “It takes a snake to know a snake,” he told me. He wriggled his hand through the air. “Prabhakaran doesn’t want peace, he wants p-i-e-c-e—a piece of land to rule as a dictator,” he said, and added, “I tell Tamils in my community that earlier, when we fought for liberation, we were in an iron handcuff. If tomorrow the Tigers lead, it’s a golden handcuff. The difference is iron or gold, but the handcuff is the same.”
Devananda claims that eighty per cent of Tamils want a federal solution but that most are too terrorized by the Tigers to say so. In last year’s parliamentary elections, the Tigers bullied every Tamil candidate in the areas where they have influence to swear allegiance to Prabhakaran’s policies, and even then they resorted to fraud to insure victory for their candidates. Devananda read aloud from a report by European Union monitors, which said, “If the election results in the north and east had been a critical factor in determining who formed the government, it would have raised questions about the legitimacy of the final outcome. The events that took place in this part of Sri Lanka during the course of this election are totally unacceptable and are the antithesis of democracy.”
Still, Devananda refused to call himself anti-Tiger. After all, he said, “If, tomorrow, Velupillai Prabhakaran genuinely comes for talks, I may give up politics.” But, in the next breath, he added, “The reality is he won’t come, and I also won’t give up.” Thinking as a snake who knows his kind, Devananda predicted that Sri Lanka would see a steady escalation of violence through the first half of this year, and so far he has not been wrong.
The killings began again in February, when a spate of tit-for-tat assassinations involving Tigers and Karuna’s faction in the east broke the post-tsunami lull. The Tigers organized angry street protests, accusing the government of colluding with Karuna’s cadres, and of failing to negotiate a mechanism for distributing aid to tsunami victims in Tiger areas. Throughout the spring, whenever President Kumaratunga declared herself ready to negotiate such an accord, the J.V.P. denounced her as a traitor; and when at last she succumbed to international pressure and agreed, in June, to an aid partnership with the Tigers, the J.V.P. quit the ruling coalition and persuaded the Supreme Court to suspend the pact, pending a review of its constitutionality. Meanwhile, in the north and the east, the killings have continued at a steadily intensifying rate—with a Tiger officer here, a couple of Karuna cadres there, and civilians inevitably picked off in the crossfire. Rather than bringing peace with unwanted force, the tsunami has become a new casus belli.
On the evening of April 28th, a prominent Tamil journalist named Dharmeratnam Sivaram—a founding editor of TamilNet, a widely read news Web site that is largely sympathetic to the Tigers—was accosted by four men outside a Colombo police station, bundled into a jeep, and driven away. The next day, policemen, responding to an anonymous tip, found his body in a high-security area behind the Sri Lankan parliament. Sivaram, who also wrote for the mainstream English-language newspaper, the Daily Mirror, had received death threats four years ago, after state media denounced him as a Tiger spy, and again last year, after he wrote about alleged ties between the government and Karuna. In May, 2004, his house had been ransacked by forty policemen, who claimed to be looking for arms. Sivaram’s last column had been critical of Karuna’s faction, and the stench of government collusion that clung to the circumstances of his murder further inflamed Tamils in Tiger areas. There has barely been a day since without violence.
“The fascist enemy cannot be fought by imitating him. He can be fought only by maintaining a moral and ethical superiority, as exemplified in an open, pluralistic society,” Dayan Jayatilleka wrote in his column, when he heard of Sivaram’s death. He counted the journalist as a friend, and his column concluded with an homage: “Sivaram challenged us with his writing. He was an uppity Tamil: confident, aware of Sinhala society and political trends, knowledgeable of international affairs. He held up a mirror before us. He was the Other in our midst. Now that he is dead, this is a lonelier place.”
In his next column, Jayatilleka lashed out at the “cowardice” of Sinhalese commentators, who derided Sivaram’s ideas after he was dead, but never “took him on in print when he was alive”—or did so only “in the safety of a language he couldn’t respond in because he did not know it.” Rather than blaming the dead journalist for failing to denounce the crimes of his side, Jayatilleka said, the Sinhalese should ask themselves what offenses they have chosen to ignore. He posed as “the final question” of his friend’s life a conundrum that belongs equally to every side in every ethnic-nationalist conflict on earth: “Had we been Tamil, are we sure we would not have been Sivarams?”

| Permanent Link

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Sri Lanka: Imperative to Respond to Needs of Conflict Displaced

Reuters: 31/10/2005"

The 20-year civil war in Sri Lanka displaced more than 800,000 people, equal to the number affected by the December 2004 tsunami. The conflict-displaced have received subsistence assistance, but far less than what they require to re-establish their lives. The stark contrast between the meager funds available for the conflict-affected displaced and the generous outpouring of funds to assist survivors of the tsunami is unjust. The international community and the government of Sri Lanka must act immediately to rectify this injustice if Sri Lanka is to achieve stability and peace.

The generous reaction of the international community to the December 2004 tsunami is evident from the moment one arrives along the southeastern and southern coast of Sri Lanka. Signs announcing the projects of international humanitarian agencies line the roadways. For the conflict-displaced, however, the experience of assistance has been much different. Nadukuddirrppu, a village 90 minutes drive up the eastern coast from Batticaloa town, encapsulates the contrasts and contradictions of the current situation in Sri Lanka. “The Sri Lankan army entered our houses and burned them to the ground in April 1994,” said an elder leader of the village. “The army threatened us and told us not to report them.” After residents re-built the destroyed houses on their own, they had to flee and hide in the forest in 1995 when the army and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) battled in the area. The village received no international assistance during and after this cycle of violence.

It took the December 2004 tsunami to elicit assistance to the village. The destruction was not total. Residents lost fishing boats and gear but their houses were not destroyed. They are therefore considered “secondary affected” and have received some support, but not funds for housing improvements or household goods. The president of the village’s rural development society asked pointedly, “In other tsunami-affected areas they were given bicycles and everything. We are worried. Why have they ignored us?”

Away from the coast, the situation for the conflict-affected displaced persons living in camps, known as “welfare centers,” is grim. About 80,000 people remain in these centers, which are located in former schools, warehouses, and other public facilities in government-controlled districts such as Vavuniya, Mannar, and Puttalam.

Refugees International visited the Poonthotham Welfare Center in Vavuniya and was shocked by the poor conditions there. The disparity was especially obvious compared to the relatively fine transitional shelter locations for the tsunami displaced in the south that we had just visited. The 1,400 residents of Poonthotham, a former school, live in rows of tiny shelters, with no light or air, blackened from years of cooking inside with charcoal. The school in the camp goes only up to Grade 5 and other services have diminished over time. An elderly man told RI, “When we first came to this camp at the beginning [in 1996] there were so many facilities. But they are gone now and we don’t know why. We would like to resettle in an area where we can live.” Another man added, “Every year we go [to the government] and request to be resettled. We are fighting to resettle.”

Most of the residents of Poonthotham are “estate Tamils,” ethnic Tamils of Indian origin who worked as virtual indentured servants on tea plantations in the hills of central Sri Lanka. They fled communal rioting to the LTTE zones in 1983, but they were unable to establish themselves before having to flee again. Now, after being displaced by the conflict in the 1990s and languishing in camps in Vavuniya for eight years or longer, the former estate Tamils are especially vulnerable as they have no home community to which they can return. The only realistic solution is for them to be “relocated” to new land in Vavuniya or other districts. The Government, however, has been reluctant to support relocation outside of LTTE areas for fear of upsetting the ethnic balance in districts under its control.

The situation for the 380,000 conflict-affected internally displaced who chose to return after the ceasefire is almost as precarious, especially for the 250,000 who returned to the Vanni, the core area of LTTE control in north central Sri Lanka. Governmental and international support to the return process has been significantly less than needed, largely because it took place in the context of a ceasefire rather than a final peace accord that would have assured potential donors that a return to conflict was unlikely. Rather than investing in reconstruction to create conditions for peace, donors chose to offer the possibility of major investment as an enticement to the Government and the LTTE to reach a permanent accord. But while the Government and international donors decided not to risk investment immediately in the north, the displaced have risked their own lives on the peace process by returning with their families. They are the ones that are bearing the consequences of the meager support to the overall reconstruction process.construction process.

Funding for the housing situation in the Vanni is emblematic of the overall problem. Money for housing is not a problem in tsunami-affected areas where the government of Sri Lanka and humanitarian agencies are under fire for not building permanent shelters fast enough. Meanwhile, the conflict-displaced in Vanni have been living in temporary shelters made of thatch for as long as three years (on top of many years in camps) primarily because of lack of funds. The World Bank initiated a pilot housing project for returning conflict-displaced people in 2004 which supported the construction of 600 permanent houses. The main phase of the Northeast Housing Reconstruction Project is due to begin shortly. It will fund the construction of 32,000 houses for conflict-displaced, which will take four years and still falls short of meeting the overall need for houses.

The contrast between the instant mobilization on behalf of tsunami survivors and the historic neglect of the conflict-displaced has been too great for the Sri Lankan Government and citizens, as well as the donor community, to ignore. Some Government officials have expressed a renewed determination to address the terrible conditions in the welfare centers through resettlement and relocation programs. Senior staff of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Colombo told RI that they will be seeking Government approval and donor funding for a program to conduct a census among the remaining welfare center residents and relocate the most vulnerable by the end of 2006. The European Commission humanitarian agency, ECHO, and the U.S. Agency for International Development have both endorsed the concept of allowing tsunami funds to be used in “affected districts,” which would allow partner agencies to respond to displacement throughout a given district regardless of the original cause. Non-governmental organizations should apply the concept of affected districts to their ample private funds as well.mental organizations should apply the concept of affected districts to their ample private funds as well.

If implemented, these measures will mitigate some of the worst aspects of the neglect of the conflict-displaced, but the core issue impeding comprehensive action is the lack of progress towards an overall peace settlement. The signs are deeply discouraging. The eastern districts of Batticaloa and Trincomalee are more militarized than they were in March 2001, prior to the ceasefire. In early September, Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar was assassinated in Colombo, an act that had all the hallmarks of an LTTE operation, though they have denied responsibility. The LTTE has closed its public offices in government-controlled districts in the east and withdrawn their officials. Presidential elections are scheduled for November 22 and the ruling party candidate, current Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapahse, is running in an alliance with two Sinhala nationalist parties that have vowed to abrogate the agreement with the LTTE on the sharing of international tsunami funding while expressing deep skepticism about the utility of further peace negotiations. In this context, a comprehensive reformulation of the donor strategy for Sri Lanka, as embodied in the agreements of the Tokyo Donor Conference, is not possible. lity of further peace negotiations. In this context, a comprehensive reformulation of the donor strategy for Sri Lanka, as embodied in the agreements of the Tokyo Donor Conference, is not possible.

Refugees International therefore recommends that:

• Donors clarify to their implementing partners that tsunami funds may be used throughout tsunami-affected districts and partner agencies take advantage of this flexibility to respond rapidly to the needs of conflict-displaced persons;

• Non-governmental humanitarian agencies begin sensitizing their private donors about the need to assist conflict-affected displaced persons and then expand programs for them;

• Donors increase their support to UNHCR to continue their assistance to conflict-displaced;

• The Government of Sri Lanka and UNHCR agree on a plan for the relocation of the most vulnerable individuals from the welfare centers and complete the relocation process by the end of 2006 at the latest;

• Donors increase their support for other programs benefiting conflict-displaced persons who have returned to their home communities, focusing on housing and livelihood;

• The Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Tsunami Recovery highlight the issue of the needs of conflict-displaced persons by visiting a welfare center on his next trip to Sri Lanka.

Vice President for Policy Joel Charny and Advocate Sarah Martin assessed the displaced situation in Sri Lanka in September.

Contacts: Joel Charny and Sarah Martin ri@refugeesinternational.org or 202.828.0110

| Permanent Link

Worst corruption offenders named

BBC News: 18/10/2005"

Corruption is on the rise in some rich countries as well as poorer ones, research by anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International suggests.
The group's Corruption Perceptions Index labels Bangladesh and Chad as the most corrupt places on the planet.

The situation worsened in countries such as Costa Rica, Russia and Sri Lanka - as well as Canada and Ireland.

But nations where perceptions of corruption are declining include Hong Kong, Turkey and even Nigeria.

TI's survey asks businesspeople, academics and public officials about how countries they live in or do business with are perceived.

The results are used to gauge how corrupt public officials are. The CPI does not deal directly with private-sector corruption.

Usual suspects?

At both the top of the list and the bottom, the index shows little change from 2004.

Topping the list, the cleanest countries are Iceland, Finland and New Zealand, with Switzerland not far behind.

The UK is equal 11th with the Netherlands, with the US back at 17.

Bangladesh and Chad - joint 158th - share the bottom end of the table with the likes of Haiti and Turkmenistan.

Several other parts of the former Soviet Union also fare badly. Russia itself is joint 126th, while Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan rank even lower.

Resource-rich African states are seen as particularly corrupt, the CPI says. Nigeria, Angola, Equatorial Guinea, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo are all in the bottom 20.

But Nigeria has managed to move up the rankings, from being ranked third-bottom last year.

TI said the survey demonstrated that the corruption continued to threaten development by hampering growth and putting off investors.

"Corruption is a major cause of poverty as well as a barrier to overcoming it," said TI chairman Peter Eigen.

"The two scourges feed off each other, locking their populations into a cycle of misery."

But although poor countries stood to gain the most from fighting corruption, TI said richer countries needed to take responsibility too, by investigating and prosecuting companies suspected of corrupt practices abroad and barring them from public contracts.


Corruption has been high on the official development agenda for some years, but campaigners have often argued that governments only pay lip-service to it.

Recently, however, attitudes appear to be changing.

The United Nations Convention against Corruption comes into force in December 2005, enshrining in international law rights to pursue looted resources sent overseas.

In the UK, the government's Commission for Africa has called for a much tougher line on the proceeds of corruption and their repatriation.

Similarly, London's Metropolitan Police is working on an initiative to strengthen economic crime prevention, including anti-corruption activities, across the Commonwealth.

| Permanent Link

Top economist slams Presidential candidates

Daily Mirror: 21/10/2005" By Kelum Bandara

A top economist on Wednesday slammed the Presidential Candidates of two major parties for coming up with vote-catching gimmicks with regard to economic policies in their manifestos without spelling out the procedure to achieve those economic targets.

Addressing a seminar on “Economic Policies of Two major Parties,” Sri Lanka Economist Association (SLEA) President Prof. A.D.V.De Indraratne said that both presidential candidates had placed emphasis on vote-catching proposals which were symptomatic treatment.

“One party promises to give fertilizer at Rs.550 per 50kg bag. The other party promises to give it at Rs.25. One party promises to create 100,000 jobs annually, the other 200,000. What, how and where is not clearly spelt out. One party proposes a guaranteed price of Rs.16 50-17.50 and the other party Rs.17 for a kilo of paddy, and both parties offer Rs. 25 for a litre of milk, and the list thus goes on,” he said.

The seminar had been organized by the SLEA jointly with the Organization of Professional Associations.

Prof. Indraratne said that the major problem faced by the country today was the poverty and hunger and the deprivation of poor, and still 40 percent of people live below the poverty line, resulting from the slow economic growth accompanied with high unemployment rate.

He said that the bottom 20 percent of population receives less than four percent of the Gross Domestic Product and the top 20 percent receive 55 percent of it.

“The slow growth and income disparities, in turn, were due to low investment and low productivity and unbalanced development, namely neglecting the rural economy and agriculture and concentration of development in a few urban areas,” he said.

He said that ad hoc salary hikes and other payments or issue of food stamps without corresponding growth in the real domestic product income would turn out to be illusory and self-defeating.

“Fifty years ago, we were very much ahead of our East Asian neighbours like Singapore and Malaysia. Today we are lagging far behind them because of our confrontational politics,” he said.

Economist Dr.Harsha De Silva said that the cost of living was the major problem of people living outside the North-east in the country.

Referring to the Mahinda Chintana manifesto, he said that his plans to move away from the open economic policies to a national economic policy would be a sign of the country being driven back to the 1970-1977 era.

Speaking at the occasion Economic Consultant to Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse Ajith Nivard Cabraal said that the SLFP alliance with JVP and JHU was extremely important because of the ability to achieve targets with consensus.

He said that they would support local industries as in Japan and India, and small and medium scale entrepreneurs would be strengthened .

| Permanent Link

Tuesday, November 01, 2005


Lines Magazine: Eastern Province Update

The Eastern Province of Sri Lanka consists of the three administrative districts, Batticaloa, Ampara and Trincomalee. It remains difficult to paint an accurate picture of the population living in the Eastern Province, as due to the political climate there, the Census of 2001[1] could not be effectively conducted in the East. In the Batticaloa district five divisions were enumerated completely, but six divisions were only partially enumerated. In Ampara all districts were enumerated. According to the census, the estimated population for Batticaloa was 486,447 with a growth rate of 1.9%. In Ampara the estimated population is 388,970 with a 2% growth rate. In Trincomalee, the population is 340,000 with a 1.4% growth rate. This must be contrasted with the Jaffna peninsula where the estimated population fell dramatically to 490,000 with a negative 2% growth rate. The war has greatly affected the Eastern Province but the population statistics do not show the dramatic displacement that is evident in the Northern Province.

In addition, the ethnic composition of the eastern province has not been comprehensively enumerated by the Census and Statistics department since the 1981 census, which is now out of date. There was insufficient data collected for the 2001 Census regarding the ethnic composition of the population, and due to the exigencies of the armed conflict, officials of the census department were unable to carry out their survey in parts of the East. Again, in Batticaloa, only five divisions were enumerated completely, six partially, and one not at all[2]. Of those enumerated, a majority Tamil population is evident. The population survey for Trincomalee was also incomplete, but indicates a large Muslim majority. In Ampara district, the 2001 census also points to a majority Muslim population. Due to gaps in the census-taking, it is impossible to accurately enumerate the ethnic diversity of the Eastern Province as a whole. The 1981 census, points to 243,701 Sinhalese living in the Eastern Province, 399,299 Tamils and 315,436 Muslims. The 2001 census provides provisional numbers of 311,522 Sinhalese, 324,446 Tamil, and points to a Muslim population of 452,911. Although the 1981 and 2001 figures are not comparable, and the latest 2001 figures are not fully accurate, they do highlight the Eastern Province as a multi ethnic, multi religious province with a different social composition from the rest of the country. The heterogeneous mix of communities also gives rise to a cultural distinctiveness in the East. The majority of the population is in fact both Tamil and Muslim, or Mukkuwa, and has formed its own legal system and matrilineal form of inheritance[3]. This varied social composition has increased the complexity of the ethnic conflict and must therefore be taken into account in any assessment of the human rights situation in the Eastern Province.

In addition to a variegated social composition, the Eastern Province has remained an area with some of the lowest physical quality of life figures and some of the worst social and economic indicators for the whole country. For example though the national maternal mortality indicator is 2.3/10,000births the maternal mortality rates for Batticaloa are 5.1, for Ampara 9.8 and for Trincomalee 4.1.[4] Though the national female literacy rate is 83.2%, the female literacy rate is 61.9% in Batticaloa, 66.7% in Ampara and 73.1% in Trincomalee, the lowest in the country. [5]

The complex political history of the Eastern Province continues to unfold, with the third anniversary of the Cease Fire Agreement (CFA), signed between the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in February 2002, presenting unforeseen challenges. The political groupings continuing to share political power in the East are the following. The first are the parties that claim to represent the Tamil community: the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), and its present day allies, the LTTE with some of the other militant groups also having a limited following. 2004 also saw a separatist faction of the LTTE emerge under Colonel Karuna. The second are the parties that claim to represent the Muslim community, the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) and National Unity Alliance (NUA) as well as more militant formations that have emerged in recent times. The two major national political parties the United National Party (UNP) and the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) also have a presence in the area.

In December 2003, the Commission found the situation in the Eastern Province to have changed dramatically since the signing of the ceasefire agreement. The majority of people the Commission met with were happy that the ceasefire had been signed. They pointed to the resumption of normalcy in economic and social life, the halt to the destruction that had taken place and the decline in the number of deaths since February 2002. However a significant number were of the opinion that the situation was actually worse, that there was greater insecurity, uncertainty and abuse after the signing of the ceasefire agreement. Many of the people who were of this view were from the Muslim community and Tamils living in the so called “cleared areas”.

This uncertainty and feeling of insecurity has continued through 2004 and the beginning of 2005, and has been exacerbated by two main events. These are the divide manifested within the LTTE in March 2004, and the Tsunami of 26 December 2004. Thus, the third anniversary of the CFA has seen both successes and failures. There have been no clashes between the two military forces in Sri Lanka since the signing of the agreement, showing that the ceasefire agreement has withstood the test of time. However, assassinations and killings have continued throughout the past three years, and many groups were of the view that Article 2 of the agreement, which prohibits assassinations, abductions and hostile acts against the civilian population, was often observed in the breach. The Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) that monitors the ceasefire agreement informed us that all allegations relating to Article 2 are recorded but they had limited capacity to investigate the crimes independently. However where they are certain of the facts, they do approach the military and political leadership of the LTTE and where relevant the GOSL. In some cases their requests are complied with but in many instances there has been no follow-up to their recommendations. They were of the view that if the police are unable to be effective then some alternative mechanism must exist for the protection of human rights which has full powers of investigation and inquiry.
Since December 2003, the political situation in the Eastern Province has been marked by the defection of Colonel Karuna, the former LTTE eastern commander, who broke away from the LTTE in March 2004. His denunciation of Prabhakaran and the northern (or Vanni) dominated LTTE leadership, was based on claims of LTTE discrimination against the eastern Tamils in relation to the northern Tamils. In April, shortly after national parliamentary elections, the LTTE attacked the approximately 6,000 soldiers under Karuna deployed in the East. Defeated, Karuna disbanded his forces, going into hiding. From mid-2004 until the present there has been a surge in political killings of Tamils, not just in the North and East, but also in Colombo. Attacks have been directed at members of the LTTE, supporters of Karuna, and politicians and journalists deemed to be opponents of the LTTE. The attacks and killings have mostly been attributed to the Vanni LTTE, and persons believed associated with the Karuna faction. In addition, human rights workers who criticize the LTTE are increasingly at risk.

These events have had major repercussions on the human rights situation in the East. Any general improvements in the situation since the cease-fire agreement (for example freedom of movement and general stability) in the Eastern Province have been somewhat erased by Karuna’s defection. Since April 2004, the Military has been setting up camps and fortifying checkpoints. Civilians are being stopped and checked again, and Government machinery is essentially non-operational in the un-cleared areas. Freedom of movement is therefore lessening, and people are afraid of another war breaking out. Child re-recruitment by the LTTE also boomed after Karuna released the child soldiers under his command. The increase in factional fighting has also affected the livelihoods of fishermen (as it is difficult to market their catch) and has prevented children from attending school (as parents are reluctant to let them go in case they are recruited into the LTTE). In addition, the lack of security has meant that there is limited NGO activity, and the government has not implemented any development projects[6].

All three areas of Batticaloa, Ampara, and Trincomalee, have seen an emergence of low-intensity conflict in the last few months. The Tsunami brought a brief respite to the political tensions in the area, however, the sympathetic and cooperative spirit inspired by the natural disaster has waned, and political killings have resumed. This is demonstrated by the marked rise in killings since the beginning of 2005. January saw no killings take place, whereas the number rose to 9 in March and then to 23 in March[7]. Amongst those killed were 9 civilians, caught in the crossfire of warring factions of the LTTE. Those civilians killed included 5 Muslims and 1 Sinhalese. The killings continued throughout April and into May, although numbers waned at the end of April. Ethnically, most of those killed have been Tamils, and the killings have been attributed to the LTTE and the Karuna faction. The numbers of violent acts in the region such as abductions and injuries that do not result in death have also risen from none in January, to 29 in March. These political killings are not only a violation of international human rights standards, but are also a violation of the 2001 CFA. The high incidence of political killings and other violations[8] of the CFA have prompted the government of Sri Lanka to bring these acts to the attention of the international community. Acting Defence Minister Ratnasiri Wickremenayake pronounced on 17 April 2005 that despite the CFA, the LTTE had been engaged in killings, abductions, assaults and other violent acts, and that the government of Sri Lanka was accordingly under an obligation to inform the international community.

Tensions between ethnic communities have also resurfaced, following a change in attitude post-Tsunami. Tamil and Muslim communities are protesting discriminatory action on the part of the Government, staging some large protests outside the DS offices in Ampara in March 2005. These communities are also increasingly worried that ethnic divides that have been established and solidified via the homogenous geographical distribution of populations in the region throughout the war years will disappear, as Tsunami displaced populations encroach upon unaffected land to resettle. Moderate LTTE leader E. Kaushalyan (the political head of the LTTE in the eastern Batticaloa-Amparai region) had started a process of dialogue with the Muslim community leaders and the LTTE, in an attempt to better relations between the two communities. However, he was killed on 8 February 2005, in an ambush in a government-controlled area while returning from discussions in Kilinochchi on post-tsunami relief and recovery work. Five members of his convoy were also killed, including Chandranehru Ariayanayagam, a former parliamentarian and a member of the LTTE human rights body, the North East Secretariat on Human Rights (NESOHR)[9]. The GoSL condemned this act in a welcome move; however, this has not affected the negative repercussions the killing has had. Recent developments have included a spate of killings in March and April 2005 mainly in and around Batticaloa. Targets have included LTTE cadres, and persons believed to be associated with Karuna. Tension thus remains high in the East as this fighting between Karuna loyalists and the LTTE escalates[10]. The Tsunami has also generated a certain amount of political strain in the area, with opinions diverging as to whether or not Tsunami aid is being fairly distributed across the Island. Perceptions seem to be that the North and East are being neglected at both national and local levels, leading to events such as the shooting and subsequent death of the Thirukkovil Divisional Secretary (DS), allegedly threatened by the LTTE and accused of the unfair distribution of Tsunami aid[11]. In addition, the Eastern Province has been affected by several hartals during 2004 and into 2005 held to protest events from the arbitrary arrest and detention of individuals, the putting up of Buddhist religious iconography in predominantly Tamil and Muslim areas[12], and perceived discrimination.

Added to these tensions is the question of Muslim participation in both the peace talks, and in the establishment of a Joint Mechanism to address the Tsunami affected areas. Thus far, there has been some agreement to include Muslims in the peace process. However, there has been no commitment to the inclusion of a separate Muslim delegation. Regarding the joint mechanism to address Tsunami affected areas; The President held talks in May with the relevant parties, however, the Muslim parties were not invited and therefore did not participate in the actual negotiations for the Post-Tsunami Operational management Structure (P-TOMS). This lack of involvement has resulted in disquiet among the Muslim community, as this joint mechanism may well serve as a template for the interim authority for the North and East, and will therefore have far-reaching consequences for the Muslims. A new phase began in the Tamil and Muslim relationship, with the LTTE (under the leadership of the late Kaushalyan) commencing meetings with the Muslim leadership in the area, and post-Tsunami, Tamils and Muslims were working together in the relief effort. However, the killing of a Muslim on 8 March was attributed to the LTTE, led to protests, and has had negative repercussions on Tamil-Muslim relations. In a recent development, the Supreme Court issued an interim order preventing the P-TOMS from being implemented. In response to a fundamental rights petition submitted by the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), the Court issued an Interim Court Order on 15 July 2005 against four clauses of the agreement signed by the GoSL and the LTTE. It was stressed that the whole agreement was not suspended, but that the injunction would apply only to specific clauses[13]. The Court upheld the right of the President to enter into such agreements but wanted stricter scrutiny on issues related to finance, planning and the location of the Committee so as to ensure non discrimination. The rising tensions in the East have been aggravated by this development and are exacerbating the possibilities for human rights abuses to take place.

In addition to the present political situation, the Tsunami has brought even more strain on an already struggling region. There are now IDPs displaced by both the war and the Tsunami in the area, all with concerns for their security, their livelihoods, health, education and resettlement. With the Tsunami, the amount of donor money flooding into the area has increased, as well as the number of NGOs that are present. This has led to high expectations among local communities, and a splintering of efforts to ameliorate the situation. The large amount of money and donor presence in the area has not sped up any processes of relief, rehabilitation or reconstruction, and has caused competition between agencies. In addition, it must be noted that the border areas between cleared and un-cleared areas are also the most susceptible to violence due to the lack of scrutiny by outside actors. The Tsunami has directed NGOs and INGO attention elsewhere, thus leaving these populations more vulnerable to violence. Border populations are under pressure to align themselves with the either the LTTE or Karuna, and suffer consequences for either decision[14]. In addition, with increase of conflict between the LTTE and the Karuna faction and resultant killings, there is an increasing danger of civilians being caught in the crossfire. There has been a general escalation of violence following Kaushalyan’s death, with attacks against PLOTE cadres and Karuna group camps. In January, February and March 2005, there have been 32 incidents of violence, (29 in government-controlled areas, and 3 in LTTE controlled areas), and 18 persons injured. There has been an increase in the number of checkpoints (8 new checkpoints established on 11 main roads), which has also contributed to an increase in tension and suspicion among the population[15].

Given the tension between the communities, it is absolutely necessary that the political leadership on all sides of the ethnic divide come up with creative political and administrative arrangements that will protect the security of all the communities living in the North and the East.[16] This security is paramount if there is to be human rights protection in these areas. In addition to security arrangements, a human rights agreement between the combatants, to be monitored by an independent monitoring mechanism is a major requirement of the moment. The resumption of peace talks should focus on such a discussion. Many of the problems highlighted below, the lack of a rule of law, impunity, abuse and harassment take place because of a lack of an adequate security arrangement that truly reflects the concerns of all parties living in the North and the East. They also result from a lack of commitment to human rights protection by combatants, especially those related to the LTTE and the Karuna faction. Any final or interim solution must ensure that appropriate political and or administrative arrangements must be creatively imagined and implemented so that all communities can live without fear, in safety and security.
The recent assassination of the foreign minister Lakshman Kadirgamar, the latest high profile victim in the cycle of political killings again raised tension and heightened fears that the ceasefire will not be adhered to. Kadirgamar was a major player and advisor on the peace process and his assassination will have a major impact on the government’s policy with regard to peace. In this context, the recent moves to begin talks on the implementation of the ceasefire agreement will provide an opportunity to deal with the violations of the ceasefire, often with impunity, by the LTTE and the Karuna faction. In this context, the Commission would like to draw attention to its first recommendation, the need for a human rights agreement between the parties with international monitoring as the only effective means of monitoring human rights violations of the ceasefire.
On 26 December 2004, an earthquake about 150 kilometres off of Northern Sumatra in Indonesia generated a disastrous tsunami that caused destruction in 11 countries bordering the Indian Ocean, including Sri Lanka. As of 3 January 2005, Sri Lankan authorities report 30,196 confirmed deaths[17] The Southern and Eastern coasts were worst hit. One and a half million people have been displaced from their homes. Destruction in some places was total, with schools, hospitals, and homes completely washed away. The result is that the country is in the process of engaging in the massive task of rebuilding infrastructure and lives. Batticaloa and Ampara were two of the Districts worst affected by the Tsunami. In Batticaloa alone, 14 Divisions were severely affected. 2,837 people died, 2,375 were injured, and 340 recorded still missing by April 2005. As of April 55,935 persons remain displaced in welfare centres or with relatives and friends. Ampara was the worst hit, with 6,007 deaths, 6,706 injured, and 159 missing as of April. A total of 99,551 persons still displaced and living with relatives or in camps. As of April 2005, 17,343 persons remain in the 65 Welfare Centres in Ampara District. In Trincomalee, 6 of 11 Divisions were affected. The Tsunami left 969 people dead, and as of March 2005, 45 were still missing. The District has 30,547 Families that were directly affected, 126,676 internally displaced persons (including 22,265 displaced children below the age of 12)[18].

In affected areas, there are several areas of concern arising from the devastation and subsequent relief and reconstruction efforts, of which a number have human rights implications. While reconstruction of both temporary shelter and permanent housing is pending, camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) continue to function. The rights of these IDPs is thus of critical concern. In this context, protection of vulnerable groups such as women and children is particularly relevant. In addition to protection of vulnerable groups from abuse, there is a concern with the implementation of the right to education in the wake of the Tsunami. Despite schools having reopened, the rate of attendance has dropped in some instances due to lack of transport, and in the Eastern Province, fear for children’s security. It is impossible to determine the actual percentage of school-going children before versus after the Tsunami with the available statistics. UNICEF undertook a survey in the East, for which all the collected data was lost in the Tsunami. It is important to ensure the return of children to schools and a life with some normalcy, in addition to ensuring that their rights under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child are protected. With the destruction of hospitals and the communal circumstances of living in welfare centres, it is also important to protect the right to health of all those affected by the Tsunami. Additionally, civil and political rights must be protected, such as the right to property. There are several concerns raised in the Eastern Province regarding land rights and the non-discriminatory redistribution of land, post-Tsunami.


The Human rights commission conducted a fact finding mission into the Tsunami affected areas of the eastern province, The terms of reference of the Visit were as follows:-

Terms of Reference

I. To establish the state of human rights in the Eastern Province from December 2003 to the present day.

II. To establish whether there has been discrimination in the distribution of aid in the form of both immediate relief and in addressing long-term needs

III. To establish that needs of Tsunami victims and whether their human rights were being protected in the aftermath of the Tsunami.

Most of the complaints regarding human rights violations by the GoSL in 2004 are to do with harassment, and the abduction of adults. In 2004, the SLMM recorded 183 complaints against the GoSL for violations against the CFA, including regarding measures taken to restore normalcy[19]. Since the Tsunami, the LTTE has also lodged complaints against the GoSL, alleging that the Government has not allowed the LTTE to move freely in order to deliver relief to Tsunami victims, and alleging that the Special Task Forces (STF) have not allowed relief to come into LTTE controlled areas.

The Human Rights Commission has received allegations that the number and use of checkpoints in the Eastern Province has increased over the period of the last year, in response to Karuna’s defection and the resulting decrease in stability throughout the Province. What is of concern to the Commission regarding this increase is the incidence of harassment by security forces at these checkpoints. Harassment can include security forces not allowing people through checkpoints, or simply stalling individuals, limiting their freedom of movement.

The arbitrary deprivation of property is also a human rights violation. Security forces and the Sri Lankan Army (SLA) have, however, been reported to occupy private property in order to establish high security zones. In relation to already existing high security zones that are on private property, persons are denied access to their lands.

Another complaint was of discrimination on the part of the Government of Sri Lanka. The general perception among members of the public is that the eastern province receives far fewer resources and facilities than other provinces. A cursory glance of some of the indicators seems to confirm this allegation. The Commission is unable to ascertain all the figures to make a judgment accordingly but there is no doubt that the Eastern Province has some of the worst social and economic indicators in the country. There is a shortage of teachers, doctors and all manner of skilled personnel. There are other reasons for these shortages than active discrimination. The Eastern Province was a theatre of conflict and very few skilled personnel wished to be stationed there. In addition, there is a fear that their salaries may be “taxed” or their children recruited into an armed group. However, there is a widespread belief in the eastern province that they are discriminated against not only by the Sinhalese majority governments of the south but also the Tamil dominated political groups of the north. This continuing sense of discrimination is pervasive and needs to be addressed if the Eastern Province is to be brought back into the mainstream of Sri Lankan economic and social life. This sense of discrimination has not been assuaged by the Tsunami, but has continued and expanded to include a perception of discrimination in the distribution of relief and services to Tsunami victims in the East.


Since the conclusion of the ceasefire agreement, the Commission has received many allegations of human rights violations by the LTTE. In keeping with the ceasefire agreement and in particular article 2, the Commission has referred such matters to the Sri Lankan Monitoring Mission (SLMM). The Commission realizes that the powers assigned to it under the Human Rights Commission Act cannot be effectively applied with regard to the LTTE. However, since December 2003 the Human Rights Commission (HRC) has continued a process of dialogue with the LTTE through their regional coordinators. The Commission hopes to maintain this channel of dialogue with the leadership of the LTTE on matters of human rights.

Political Killings

Since March 2004, the incidence of political killings has increased, with Colonel Karuna’s defection from the LTTE. There have been several killings of politically involved individuals, including of the LTTE political wing chief for Ampara, Vasu Bawa, and the regional rehabilitation chief. The political wing chief of Batticaloa, Senathiraja was also shot in July. The surge of killings in mid-2004 saw the deaths of politicians and journalists deemed to be opponents of the LTTE, notably –

“The LTTE has claimed responsibility for the public executions of Balasuntaram Sritharan and Thillaiampalam Suntararajan on July 8 at Illupadichchai junction. Their dead bodies were found by the side of a road, blindfolded, with manacles around their ankles. The LTTE publicly stated that the two men had been sentenced to death as pro-Karuna “traitors” and called on all Sri Lankan Tamils to identify any other such “traitors.” Aiyathurai Nadesan, a Tamil journalist, was shot in Batticaloa on May 31. On May 24, Eastern University lecturer Kumaravel Thambaiah was shot and killed at his home in Batticaloa. The Karuna group is suspected in both killings”[20].
A democratic society depends on a vibrant press that is free from harassment and intimidation. The government must therefore move swiftly to find, arrest, and prosecute those responsible. As aforementioned, there was a lull in these political killings post-Tsunami, but that has ceased with the death of Kaushalyan, and the numbers killed has risen from zero in January, nine in February, and twenty-three in March 2005[21]. These numbers are those that have been reported, however, there is the sense in the Eastern Province that the actual number of killings may be higher than this.

The added danger these political killings have is that civilians may be caught in the cross-fire. For example, in October, the Sunday Times reported that Karuna’s wing of the LTTE launched a rocket propelled grenade, killing a 55 year-old woman 42 km north of Batticaloa. This followed a claim by the LTTE that they had killed Karuna’s brother Reggie (reported to have led the rival group). In March 2005, there were reports of abductions and killings of Muslim civilians (6 Muslims were killed, one of whom was abducted). The Tamil community continues to be the most affected community, with 16 deaths of Tamils in March as compared to 6 Muslims and 1 Sinhalese[22].

The police and the SLMM have pointed out that they cannot do their investigations in areas that are not under their control. The impunity for these crimes following the ceasefire has serious human rights implications. The right to life is the most fundamental of all human rights and if that right is taken away arbitrarily and violently without due process of law, the most basic of all rights is violated. Both the LTTE and the GOSL have a responsibility to ensure that no future political killings take place and that those who committed these crimes be identified, prosecuted and punished.
The killing of Lakshman Kadirgamar, the foreign minister, has been attributed to the LTTE though they have denied any involvement. He was a staunch critic of the LTTE and was a major player in the peace process. His assassination calls into question the viability of the ceasefire agreement and the need for concerted action. Killing with impunity remains the major challenge for the interim phase of the peace process.

Underage Recruitment

A main complaint against the LTTE in 2004 has been the continuing recruitment (both voluntary and forced) of child soldiers. The recruitment of underage cadets by the LTTE is first and foremost a human rights and child rights issue, despite its politicization. The Convention on the Rights of the Child as well as jus cogens norms prohibits such action. Under international law, eighteen is set as the minimum age for all participation in hostilities, and any recruitment or use of children under the age of fifteen is considered a war crime. Nevertheless, the LTTE has continued to forcibly abduct and recruit children, and continues to accept ‘voluntary’ child recruits into its ranks after the signing of the cease-fire agreement (CFA). Despite LTTE statements’ attesting to the voluntary nature of recruitment, according to Harendra de Silva (NCPA), in 2004, only one in nineteen children is a volunteer[23]. The Commission is unaware as to whether these recruitments are sanctioned by the political leadership of the LTTE situated in the Vanni or whether these are local operations by local members of the LTTE. Nevertheless, the LTTE leadership remains responsible for the actions of its cadres at all levels.

In addition, the CFA allows the LTTE to establish political offices in government-controlled areas. In July 2004, the LTTE had opened four or five such offices, and it has come to the attention of the Commission that these offices are being used for recruitment in some instances[24].

In June 2003, the GoSL and the LTTE both signed an Action Plan for Children Affected by War (the Action Plan included a commitment by the LTTE to end child recruitment). Under the Action Plan, three transit centres were established to receive children released by the LTTE. The transit centres have not been used to their full potential, and there were times in 2004, when they stood empty. There are now talks of their being used for purposes other than transitional spaces for children returned home until such time as they may be realistically needed again.

With the defection of Karuna in 2004, the LTTE has initiated a recruitment drive. It has specifically targeted the 1,800 underage recruits released by Karuna[25]. Between April and August, The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), had documented nearly 100 cases of child recruitment, mostly from Batticaloa district, and anecdotal evidence collected by Human Rights Watch (HRW) indicates that the actual number is much higher than this[26]. UNICEF is also aware that the actual numbers of recruitment cases may not be reported to them for reasons including fear on the part of parents that they may face repercussions from the LTTE. The existence of child recruitment thus becomes not only a breach of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and jus cogens norms, but also a breach of international safeguards on rights to freedom of expression as provided for in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

UNICEF, as of October 31, 2004, had documented 3,516 new cases of underage recruitment since the signing of the cease-fire agreement. The LTTE formally released only 1,206 children during this time. Of the cases registered by UNICEF, 1,395 were outstanding as of November 2004[27]. The total number of cases documented by UNICEF for the year 2004 is 1,138. Of these, 696 were released. Following the Karuna split, 2,437 underage recruits were returned, and there were 297 cases of runaways recorded. It must be noted that these figures are simply an indication that child recruitment by the LTTE is continuing. They cannot be used to establish an accurate idea of any percentage increase or decrease in the number of children recruited over the past year. Figures provided by UNICEF post-Tsunami indicate that the incidence of recruitment has decreased, although it remains a grave problem. From 26 December 2004 to 16 May 2005, there have been a total of 137 recorded cases of child recruitment, 18 of who were re-recruited (all from the Eastern Province). Of the 137 recruited since the Tsunami, 24 ran away, and 28 have since been released.

Since the Tsunami and there has been a marked decrease in the numbers of children recruited as compared to 2004, where one month alone would see more than 100 cases of recruitment. The reasons for this are not known, although there is speculation that the LTTE lost many during the Tsunami and therefore had to regroup. The Human Rights Watch report, as well as the clear condemnation of child recruitment by the Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin[28], and the present talks between the EU and the LTTE may have also had an impact on the decrease in child recruitment. There has also been speculation that due to the large number of IDPs post-Tsunami, the collective presence of large groups of people in Welfare centres as well as STF presence has deterred the LTTE from recruiting in these spaces. On 28 March 2005, clashes between the LTTE and STF ensued at a camp in Thirukkovil, Ampara after the LTTE attempted to abduct a child who then ran away and sought protection with the STF. This has, however, been a rare occurrence, and as of April 2005, UNICEF has documented only 9 cases of child recruitment from Tsunami welfare centres[29]. However, it is important to note that recent reports from the East, after the fact finding mission and in the months of May, June and July show a dramatic increase in child recruitment especially during the temple festivals in the east. UNICEF reports that as of 24 July, there has been more than double the number of reports of underage recruitment than there were in the month of June[30]. Batticaloa in particular has seen a dramatic increase in the number of reported cases, with 43 cases reported, as compared with 18 in June[31]. The end of the respite after the Tsunami and the decline in international agitation in recent months may have led to this sudden increase.

It is important to note that with the establishment of NESOHR, the LTTE has begun to release underage recruits to their officers rather than to UNICEF. NESOHR is reportedly reluctant to immediately release the names and addresses of the children discharged to them, although UNICEF has been able to verify (once the lists have been released to them), that the large majority of children released to NESOHR have been returned home.

It is clear that the LTTE has not fully honoured its commitment made to either Mr. Olara Otunno, the Special Representative of the Secretary General or to UNICEF under the Action Plan that it would release child soldiers. It is imperative that the LTTE leadership take firm and decisive measures to stop this practice and to uphold its agreement with UNICEF to have these children released and reoriented so as to be absorbed into the mainstream of society.

Other Allegations

The abduction of children is also augmented by the abduction of adults, either for ransom or punitive treatment. These abductions do not necessarily take place solely in the East. In April 2005, the government was called to account for failing to protect against the abduction of a police inspector in Colombo, allegedly abducted by the LTTE. The SLMM records around 314 such complaints of adult abductions for the year 2004, a marked increase in the number recorded for 2003, of around 130 abductions. The Batticaloa office of the HRC received complaints of 35 adult abductions for the year 2004, with half of the cases reported in the third quarter. In addition, the SLMM records 56 cases of adult abductions from the beginning of February 2005 to the end of April 2005[32]. The brief respite from some of these activities post-Tsunami has not changed the general situation in the East. The abductions of adults are also a serious cause of concern and point to the ineffectiveness of the rule of law in the Eastern Province. As a result there is a great deal of insecurity and fear among the people living their daily lives. Adult abductions and other rule of law issues are slowly chasing away the skilled professionals, businessmen and people with means who may have a great deal to contribute in rebuilding the society. In addition, adult abductions do not solely impinge on the rights of the individual, but also on the rights of family members. When abducted individuals are held in the custody of the LTTE, it has been reported to the Commission that family members are often prevented from seeing the individual in question violating the right to family life.

The other persistent complaints the Commission received from the Eastern Province during the year 2003 related to the issue of extortion or “taxation” by the LTTE. The year 2004 saw the end of ‘official extortion’ due to, perhaps, the split between the Vanni LTTE and Karuna’s group. Nevertheless, it is apparent that extortion is still occurring in the rare instance. Post-Tsunami, the LTTE has been threatening contractors unless an agreement is made to pay 10% of the contractors’ profits to them. Very few complaints have been made with regard to extortion during the year 2004 (only seven were recorded by the SLMM). The decrease in the number of complaints may reflect the reality on the ground. Equally, it may only reflect a reality that has seen an increase in the climate of fear and uncertainty following Karuna’s defection, where opposing forces are threatening repercussions on those who do not comply with demands from either side. The Commission was unable to ascertain which of these realities exists in the Eastern Province.


Allegations of human rights abuses by the Karuna faction are more limited in scope than those against the main body of the LTTE. For instance, there have been no specific allegations of the Karuna faction either recruiting child soldiers or re-recruiting those it had released, due to difficulties in establishing who the actors are. In addition, the infighting between the Vanni LTTE and the Karuna faction, as well as international pressure and presence in the area, has meant that both incidences of extortion and child abduction are generally fewer. However, the defection of Karuna has led to the significant increase in political killings (see above) and has contributed to the continuing breakdown of the rule of law and culture of impunity that exists in the Eastern Province. As aforementioned, the Ceasefire Agreement had as its aim, the end of hostilities between the GoSL and the LTTE. Since Karuna’s defection, the political killings taking place bring an additional dimension to the Ceasefire Agreement. Technically, they are not a direct violation of the CFA, as they are attributed to either the Vanni LTTE or the breakaway Karuna faction, and are an expression of hostilities between these two groups – not the GoSL. The killings do, however, remain a crime as well as a violation of international human rights laws and norms.

An added dimension to these political killings is the popular perception that the Armed Forces are involved – if only by standing by without reacting to them. Commissions of Inquiry (such as that set up to inquire into the death of Kaushalyan) have been set up to look into these killings, but face the difficulty that nobody will go before them to testify. It is however necessary that the perpetrators of these crimes be brought to justice. There are two possible ways of ensuring the rule of law is upheld in the East. One is to request an international inquiry into these political killings, the other, to push for the establishment of a human rights agreement between the parties. In this context the Commission welcomes the decision of the government to invite the UN Special Rapporteur on extra judicial killings to make a visit to Sri Lanka at the end of the year.


In looking at the human rights situation in the Eastern Province, the effect of the relationship between the Tamil and Muslim communities must also be understood, as tensions between the two communities reinforce the climate of fear and uncertainty in the East. The signing of the CFA initially saw a general decline in relations. This decline has reversed somewhat, with the agreements made in 2003 between the LTTE leaders of the East and the North East Muslim People’s Assembly on 20th September 2003. It was agreed that the LTTE would
1. Waive all hitherto prevailing restrictions on paddy cultivation, fishing and movements in LTTE controlled areas in the East
2. Form Zonal Committees in all villages consisting of Muslim civil society leaders and LTTE representatives.
3. Do away with taxes on traders, both Tamil and Muslim, when its various economic ventures in fishing and agriculture begin to yield profits.
4. Restore paddy lands to the Muslims in time for the Maha season, 30,000 acres to be handed over immediately.

The Zonal Committees have been in operation and reflect the efforts the LTTE has made to assure the Muslim community that they have nothing to fear, however, are not sufficient to stop the deep-rooted distrust and uncertainty. The promises to hand back land to the Muslim community have not been kept, with a failure to resolve the land question leading to indefinite delays in its return.
Nevertheless, relations remain uneasy due to the ongoing battle over access to land, as well as the non-contiguous nature of the geographic distribution of the communities. For example in the Batticaloa district, the Muslim areas of Kathankudy, Eravur and Valaichenai are not contiguous and there is no collective representation at the political level. On a very practical level, fear from each community that the other will encroach upon and slowly take over their lands and homes has been exacerbated with the Tsunami, as the Government struggles to identify land for resettlement. The ethnicisation of DS divisions has led to increased difficulties when allocating land for resettlement of Tsunami-affected peoples. In some cases, communities will prefer not to move to allocated lands due to the ethnic composition of the neighbouring villages. This adds to the mutually suspicious perceptions that the average member of the community entertains toward the other, in terms of each asserting their dominance over the other.

Tensions between the Tamil and Muslim community temporarily subsided immediately after the Tsunami, as both communities were affected, and helped one another to deal with the loss and destruction. However, four months after the Tsunami sees some of the old tension revived and causing uncertainty mainly in terms of resettlement and land allocation.

One of the biggest problems regarding the Muslim question with land allocation both pre and post Tsunami. Although they are the majority ethnic group in the East, the Muslim population enjoys ownership and access to a very small percentage of the available land. It has been pointed out that in Batticaloa district, Muslims represent a ¼ of the population, yet have access to only 40 square kilometres out of 1400 square kilometres. In Ampara district, state and Sinhala settlements are allotted 76% of the land, while Muslims and Tamils are correspondingly allotted 15% and 9%[33].

Although a majority in the East, Muslims remain a minority, and do not have full representation in the peace process. The arguments surrounding Muslim inclusion in the peace process centre on whether or not the Muslim politic was unified enough for their inclusion (with the emergence of several Muslim splinter groups of the main Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC), the divisiveness of Muslim leadership was acknowledged). A promising development has been the establishment of the Muslim Peace Secretariat (MPS). A result of a memorandum of understanding signed by the two main Muslim parties (the SLMC and the National Unity Alliance (NUA)), the MPS plans to provide a forum to which all Muslim perspectives can be brought. Post- Tsunami, it has been mentioned that Muslim participation in the talks for and final composition of the Joint Mechanism has caused an increase in uncertainty as to the Muslim community’s involvement in the peace process and participation in a possible interim authority for the North and East.

Despite the Muslim community being politically removed from the LTTE, the split between the Vanni group and the Karuna faction has left Muslims in the middle of this conflict. They remain victims of killings, abductions, threats, and harassment, and have been in fact targeted in this factional war. There is no way of establishing the exact identity of the perpetrators, however, both the mainstream LTTE group and the Karuna faction have been implicated in these acts. Association (whether real or attributed) of Muslims with one or the other group has led to the opposing group taking severe action, such as killing or abducting the individuals in question. This violence has had severe repercussions on the security of Muslims living in the East, as well as on Muslim-LTTE and Muslim Tamil relations. The failure of the LTTE to protect the Muslim community against this violence has increased the perception that they are responsible for that violence.

Experience from every conflict-ridden country in the world suggests that continued suppression of minority rights eventually ends up in violent conflicts. Thus, both the Government and the LTTE must recognise and respond to the concerns put forward by the Muslim community in order that a just and permanent peace and a solution encompassing the rights and security of all communities are reached. An effective framework for security must reflect the realities on the ground as well as entrench the rights of minorities to representation, participation and non-discrimination.


The tsunami has only worsened the already fragile state of social and economic rights in the districts of Batticaloa, Ampara, and Trincomalee.

The Annual Report 2004 by the Ministry of Health and Indigenous Medicine of the North-East Province reports that the morbidity and mortality rates among the most vulnerable groups of the population have increased compared to national figures. Additionally, approximately one in five newborns has a low birth weight (below 2.5 kg). Of these children, on average 15% suffer from acute under nourishment (underweight for height), 25% from stunting (low height for age) and 40% under weight (low weight for age). [34] Such figures clearly demonstrate the effect that the war has had on the infrastructure of the health system in these districts. The main complaints received by the Commission pointed to the lack of human resources in the East, particularly with regard to the lack of capacity to deal with mental health and trauma – areas particularly relevant to upholding the right to health in a region ravaged by both conflict and natural disaster. Post-Tsunami there have been efforts on the part of both the Ministry of Mental Health as well as local and international actors to train and provide counsellors. Despite these efforts, there remains a grave deficit of resources allocated to this area.

There are also notable economic disparities between these districts and the rest of Sri Lanka. For districts in the Eastern province, the mean household income in 2002/2003 was Rs.7,640 per month with fifty percent of households receiving less than Rs.5,500 per month. In comparison, Kegalle district, which has a mean household income of Rs. 8,342, has the lowest household income for the rest of Sri Lanka.[35] Furthermore, the poorest 40 percent of the households in the remainder of Sri Lanka receive less than Rs. 7,050 per month.[36]

The general literacy rates in Batticaloa, Ampara and Trincomalee remain low.[37] In comparison to the rest of the country, however, Ampara has a relatively high level of computer awareness. Batticaloa was among those districts that had the lowest percentage of computer awareness.[38]

These social and economic indicators suggest that substantial and accelerated efforts must be made to improve the social and economic conditions of the population in the eastern province. The Tsunami, and the consequent influx of international aid provides an ideal opportunity to dramatically improve the lives of the people in all the eastern districts. This requires that all agencies entrusted with relief, reconstruction and rehabilitation earmark programmes and projects that will have a direct bearing on improving the long-term social and economic conditions of people living in the province. The central government and donors must give social and economic rights such as the right to health, education, housing and food their immediate attention, not only in the present processes of relief and rehabilitation in the province post conflict and post-Tsunami, but longer term as well.


Following the Tsunami, the Eastern Province has seen a massive increase in the number of IDPs. The latest figures reported by the UNHCR show that in Ampara and Batticaloa Conflict IDPs number 24,397; Returnee IDPs number 7,286; and Tsunami IDPs number 156,550. The latter are now either in one of the 96 welfare centres across Batticaloa and Ampara districts, or with friends or relatives. Prior to the Tsunami, there was only 1 welfare centre in Batticaloa district.
In addition, the BBC Reports that “Tsunami victims were demonstrating in front of the Arayampathy District Secretariat on Sunday protesting the dumping of relief stocks by officials”[39]. Journalists had found relief goods meant for IDPs buried in the area, including rice, lentils, milk powder, paracetamol, pain relief balm and canned fish.
There have been allegations that some of the population displaced from the cleared areas are being relocated to un-cleared areas. This may be due to the fact that most of the Tsunami-affected areas are cleared areas, however, in the context of political and civil strife and tension between communities, differences in socio-economic conditions between the cleared and un-cleared areas may make involuntary movement between the two areas another source of tension in the Province[40].

In the East, government agents and district secretaries are not taking the lead with regard to rehabilitation – rather handing that role to INGOs, leaving (purportedly limited) local knowledge and skill out of the picture. It is reported also that there is considerable pressure on persons displaced by the Tsunami to leave the schools and public buildings where they are housed, resulting in their returning to the sites of their homes pre-Tsunami and rebuilding temporary shelter there. Another major concern raised is that the needs of the population affected by war have been sidelined in the wake of the Tsunami[41]. The human rights concerns related to the aftermath of the Tsunami largely relate to the situation of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). It must also be noted that the needs of conflict IDPs have been sidelined through the prioritizing of Tsunami victims. The land question and the tensions between ethnic communities are also exacerbated by the Tsunami.
The Tsunami has also given rise to concerns regarding the civil and political rights of the affected people. In IDP camps, the right to privacy is completely undermined. There is a total lack of privacy, as in several camps men women and children must cohabitate in single rooms. This increases the likelihood of violence against women occurring, including domestic violence, sexual harassment and rape. The reissuing of identity cards, birth and death certificates is imperative in order to establish who is entitled to relief as well as to allow IDPs to participate in the political life of the nation. Tsunami-affected communities are still facing difficulties in obtaining their lost documents such as National Identity Cards as well as educational certificates. The Human Rights Commission (as well as the Department for the Registration of Persons and various other government agencies) has been conducting mobile services in the tsunami affected Districts trying to place the process of obtaining these documents on the fast track. Allegations of discrimination in the distribution of relief continue to the present day. The LTTE alleges that although the North and East bore the brunt of the Tsunami, they are not receiving sufficient international aid and relief from the Government. The Muslim community has also expressed strong concerns in this regard. There is a perception that they are being ignored by the central government and the delays in rebuilding and resettlement have added to that sensitivity. With regard to property rights, the 200m buffer zone policy being implemented by the Government in the East raises concerns that the livelihoods of IDPs will be negatively affected[42]. Fishermen in particular, need to be located close to the source of their livelihood in order to sustain it. In addition, there are difficulties with establishing land ownership and with the relocation of IDPs. Several villages are located within the 200m buffer zone, therefore preventing IDPs from returning to them.

IDP Camps/Welfare Centres

The Human Rights Commission visited several camps/welfare centres in Batticaloa and Ampara. There were differences in their size, location, access to amenities, and general comfort levels for those IDPs living there. There was a marked difference between the camps set up in areas near villages, and those in urban areas. Those in villages were smaller, with usually only one community living there, increasing security as everyone present would be familiar. In addition, the smaller camps were run by specific NGOs or INGOs that saw to water and sanitation as well as some psychosocial needs. In contrast, the camps in urban areas were larger, with several communities living in the same space. For example, the Government run Paddy Marketing Board in Batticaloa town has been turned into a large camp hosting 616 people. 157 families live in close proximity to one another, with their cramped living spaces separated by a wooden frame covered with black plastic sheeting. Having been built as a paddy storage warehouse, the inhabited space suffered from poor ventilation and no light. Only 6 toilets for approximately 600 people have been provided causing sanitation to be well under minimum standards of health and hygiene. It is clear that as an urban camp, the Paddy Marketing Board is in abysmal condition. However, not all urban camps are in such a state and the conditions in camps set up in schools as well as more open areas are somewhat better.

The Government of Sri Lanka has allocated subsistence allowances to Tsunami IDPs. These are 175 Rs. a week in dry rations (flour, rice, dahl, sugar, oil), 200 Rs. a week cash allowance. In addition, a monthly payment of 2,500 Rs. is made to individuals, and a monthly payment of 5,000 Rs. made to families of two or more. Along with the subsistence allowances, the Government has provided a one-time payment of 15,000 Rs. for funeral expenses, and a one-time payment of 2,500 Rs. for the purchase of kitchen utensils. The Government is to be commended for the provisions that it has made. There are however some concerns that were brought to the attention of the Commission. In all of the camps visited, the common complaints were that the 2,500/5,000 rupee allowance had only been paid out for two months (January and February). This was a cause of grave concern to many of the IDPs the Commission spoke to, as they still had no livelihood and therefore no alternate form of subsistence. In addition, all of the women expressed concern that the dry rations were always the same, and were not distributed according to need. Rice and flour are distributed in bulk, leading to excess in many instances (which is then sold in some cases), and items such as milk and sugar are not provided in sufficient quantities. There is also a worry that children are not receiving the necessary nutritional foods.


A good many months into the post-Tsunami reconstruction process, there are still tens of thousands of Tsunami affected people living as internally displaced in welfare centres and camps. In the Eastern Province, the move from emergency shelters set up in the immediate aftermath of the Tsunami, to transitional shelters and to permanent shelters has been delayed. As aforementioned, there is a large discrepancy between conditions in each camp. The lack of uniformity is due to the ad hoc way in which responsibility for camp welfare has been devolved to NGOs and INGOs, each working within their respective means and mandate. On one hand, some agencies have constructed sturdy structures with some provisions for privacy (i.e. a partition will separate a structure into two rooms), and will have toilets and bathing areas a good distance from the shelters. On the other hand, some agencies have constructed cramped structures that do not allow the IDP to live in privacy or dignity. IDPs are therefore still living in accommodation that is well below the standards set by UNHCR. There is thus a need for greater uniformity and the setting of minimum standards in these camps that take into account the inevitable delay in locating land in the East on which to build permanent shelters. The needs of women and children must also be taken into account in the drafting of guidelines. For example, setting up perimeter fencing, insisting on an unlimited power supply in order to maintain a well-lit camp, as well as ensuring privacy within the shelters are all essential criteria in ensuring the security and safety of women.

The delay in locating land for the resettlement of Tsunami IDPs is inevitable when the question of land ownership remains one of the main sources of conflict and tension in the Eastern Province post-Tsunami. All of the inter-ethnic tensions that existed pre-Tsunami in relation to land have been exacerbated by the Tsunami in that the number of displaced has sky-rocketed and the amount of land available for resettlement has decreased partly due to the implementation of the buffer zone, and partly due to what is seen as a reluctance on the part of the central government to allocate build-able land to the Muslim communities. The government is reportedly allocating paddy land for the resettlement of some Muslim communities. This land must be filled in order to be built upon, and if filled, will affect the livelihoods of farmers who have been using it for cultivation. Resettlement of Tsunami IDPs is also complicated by the clear ethnic divides existing in the East. Villages are mostly ethnically homogenous and it has been expressed that there is unwillingness to upset the ethnic balance of existing communities.

The implementation of the Buffer Zone policy stems from an already existing law. The Coastal Conservation Act 1981 prohibits construction within specified distances from the beach. Despite this, the legality of the blanket implementation of the 100 metre buffer zone in the western and southern provinces and the 200 metre buffer zone in the north and east is questionable[43]. In this regard, the Commission welcomes the establishment of a Buffer Zone Committee under the auspices of TAFREN, which is in the process of reviewing possibilities for exceptions to the policy. Exceptions may include waiving the prohibition to construct within 200 metres of the beach in cases where there is no possibility of building inland due to other natural features such as lagoons[44].

Well into the reconstruction process, complaints regarding the information gap between what policies are being implemented, and what the internally displaced are notified of, are of grave concern to the Commission. The right to participate in decision-making processes as well as the right of the displaced to be consulted throughout the process of relocation and resettlement are clearly outlined in documents such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, and the UN Comprehensive Guidelines on Development-Based Displacement. The Commission has, however, received consistent complaints that IDPs are not being informed or consulted on when or where they will be relocated and resettled.


The Ministry of Health is to be commended for its response to the Tsunami disaster. Quick action on its part prevented any major outbreaks of disease, a common occurrence following large natural disasters. Nevertheless, hospitals in the Eastern Province were badly affected by the Tsunami, and are not functioning to their full capacity. In Trincomalee, 3 hospitals were completely destroyed and several other facilities affected. Health services in Ampara have also been significantly disrupted with 6 Hospitals and associated infrastructure including ambulances reported destroyed. The central drug store for the coastal region was also destroyed, therefore drugs have had to be shipped from other regions but remain in short supply. District medical staff is in short supply with only approximately 20% of personnel reporting to work from affected areas. The health services are not likely to be able to meet the short, medium or long-term primary health care needs of those displaced to collective centres. In Batticaloa, the Commission received reports of medical supplies donated and shipped from various sources having already expired by the time they were opened for use. In addition, the Medical Officer of Health (MOH) in Batticaloa has not been making regular visits to camps. This is in contrast to Matara district, where the MOH makes weekly visits to all camps.

A healthy environment and access to clean potable water is necessary for the fulfilment of the right to health. Post-Tsunami, all of the wells in the affected areas have been contaminated with sea water, and must be desalinated. Until that time, relief must include the provision of water. In most cases, potable water has been provided by NGOs and INGOs. However, there are some camps that are still suffering from a shortage of water. It should also be noted that there were complaints regarding water contamination in Batticaloa pre-Tsunami as well. In April 2004, the Northeastern Monthly reports that the area’s Municipal Council (MC) has done nothing regarding the seepage of seawater into pipelines and domestic wells, contaminating water used for domestic purposes with salt water. The MC is also purportedly responsible for collecting garbage, and has not done so, causing refuse to encroach into water sources.

In Batticaloa, the Commission also came across camps that had been set up on abandoned land where squatters had set up cottage industries making white powder from shells. The fumes created from burning the shells to make the powder are toxic and a health hazard to those IDPs living close by. Should transitional and temporary housing be set up on this same land, the cottage industries must be relocated.


Schools officially resumed classes on January 25. Again, accurate statistics are unavailable for the Eastern Province; however, it appears that attendance has been low in many tsunami-affected areas due to difficulties with the unavailability of transport as well as fear some parents have of losing their children to another Tsunami. Schools also remain ill-equipped to provide the psychological support needed by students and teachers who are survivors of the Tsunami. The Ministry of Education has handed over the reconstruction of schools entirely to the private sector (NGOs and the business community, local and international), and has set up a special unit to monitor the processes of their reconstruction and relocation (in instances where schools must be moved outside of the buffer zone). Despite schools now functioning in affected areas, throughout the East, schools remain occupied by displaced persons, and are therefore functioning simultaneously as schools and homes, leading to student protests. In Ampara District, 12 schools remained occupied by displaced persons in April. In February, in Kinniya (Trincomalee, EP) angry families re-occupied the public school that they had vacated since the resettlement location they were taken to was barren ground with no facilities whatsoever. In Batticaloa, three large schools (Hindu College, Central College and Janaraja Vidyalaya) among others, continued to be occupied by displaced persons. The decision to hold the A Level examinations in August continues to create high levels of anxiety among adults and children. Persons living in Welfare Centres have commonly complained that the environment in the centres is hardly conducive to intensive study and preparation for major public examinations. As in Mandane Camp, Ampara, many of the shelters are close together, causing neighbourhood activities to be a disturbance. In addition, the lack of electricity, the increase in alcohol use and consequent noisy activity, the loss of books and other materials, and the lack of school equipment also makes it difficult for students to manage.


The Tsunami was a natural discriminator in that it claimed the lives of more women and children than of men. Reasons given for why more women died range from cultural to gender specific, and show the lack of protection women face. Many have pointed out that women were unable to run away from the Tsunami because of their long hair and saris getting caught in fences, or because they were trying to cover their nakedness when the Tsunami ripped their clothes from them. Others say that culturally prevalent modesty had nothing to do with why women were not running away, but that women’s natural response was to return to a site in order to try and help whoever was still there to escape. Thus, after the first wave, women returned, and were caught unawares by the second wave. Regardless of the reasons, it is clear that more women died. Ampara district is the only one that has produced gender disaggregated data on deaths and the displaced. According to this one district, 3,677 women died within the Division as compared with 1,926 men.

In the aftermath of the Tsunami, there remain concerns regarding the right to be free from discrimination. In the East, there has been discrimination between war-affected and tsunami-affected IDPs in the allocation of land and relief. Concerns specific to women include discrepancies in the allocation of relief. Women will often collect the food rations allocated on a weekly basis, however, allocation of cash relief is designated for the “head of household” who is defined as the person “who earned income”. In practice it is usually the husband who collects this relief, causing problems in some cases where the money may be spent on alcohol, or in the case of separated husbands. In addition, special measures are required for certain groups of women. Muslim widows who practice ‘Ida’ and are in isolation for four months and ten days have in some cases had difficulties accessing relief. Single women households also require that special measures be taken to ensure that they have access to materials and labour, through for example, six-month loan programs.

It has been observed that in the aftermath of a disaster, there is a tendency for violence against women to increase. In the context of the Tsunami, there were reports of rape in the early days, but no continuing reports. The Commission has heard some complaints of sexual harassment due to the lack of privacy in some camps, with the limited space sometimes leading to touching and teasing at night, or verbal harassment. It has been generally observed that there has been an increase in domestic violence, however, women are generally silent on this issue, and do not want to raise it as a problem. The Commission has nevertheless noted that it does exist, and some cases have been recorded, such as the suicide of a woman in Ampara following regular abuse by her husband. The Commission would like to ensure that a police post be established close to every camp in order that there is some mechanism for these violations to be reported and prevented. In the East, there are potential security problems due to the different political interests in the area. On the one hand, IDPs living in the camps want to have protection from the STF, the army or the police. On the other hand, there has been this dynamic war fought in Sri Lanka that has left tension between the LTTE and the security forces. Camps have in several instances become sites where this tension is played out, with confrontations sometimes taking place between the STF and LTTE. Security therefore becomes a complex operation. For example, the Paddy Marketing Board in Batticaloa had a police post that was removed after an altercation with the LTTE. The camp is now negotiating for a return of the police post.


The biggest problem faced in the East of the Country is that of child recruitment by the LTTE. As outlined above, the incidence of child recruitment continues to be documented by UNICEF. Initial reports stated that IDP populations are more at risk because they have fewer social structures in place to protect them. The cases documented by UNICEF show that there have been only 9 recorded cases of recruitment from the Tsunami welfare centres. However, these are only the recorded number of cases.

The right to education has been severely undermined in the case of IDP children. Often, schools are geographically inaccessible and are too far away for children to attend. In addition, following the Tsunami, those schools that are close enough for children are often still not functioning in a manner conducive to study. As aforementioned, there are concerns regarding the timing of A-levels, and with the continuing occupation of some schools by IDPs.

It must be noted that UNICEF and its partners put emphasis on the need to avoid the institutionalisation of children affected by the Tsunami, and has largely been successful. However, once resettlement of Tsunami IDPs is underway, the resettlement of Tsunami orphans must be monitored, as the option of institutionalising a child is often given priority over placing the child with relatives or with foster care. Although the intentions behind placing children in institutions may be good, it may not be in the best interests of the child. UNICEF has documented 1019 cases of minors that are unaccompanied, separated, or with one parent. Placement of an orphaned minor (aged 6 to 16) with relatives, or in foster care entitles the caregiver to receive a ‘fit person’s allowance’ under the Fit Person Ordinance Act. Following the Tsunami, the criteria for being eligible for the allowance have been relaxed, so that a caregiver can receive the allowance for children under 18 as well. In addition, if the child has lost one parent and the other parent is unable to support the child or is affected mentally, then the caregiver is eligible to take the allowance to support the child. This provision by the government is a positive step towards ensuring the care of orphaned children, but has not been sufficient. The Commission has received reports of children placed with relatives who receive the allowance, but who do not spend the money on the child. This leaves these children in an increasingly vulnerable position where those whom they are dependent upon do not give them the support they are entitled to.


The Commission would like to recognise Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), International Non-Governmental Organisations (INGOs), and International Organisations (IOs) for their vital role in the process of relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction. The Commission had the opportunity to visit and see first hand, the benefits accrued through the work of these organisations. In several camps, these organisations have provided crucial resources such as shelter, water and sanitation to the Tsunami affected IDPs. In addition, recreational activities, nursery schools and community committees among other things have been organised by these organisations, adding to the quality of life of those still living in camps. Keeping in mind the enormous task of these organisations in handling the emergency situation presented to Sri Lanka on 26 December 2004, it is important that support is given to them in their acquisition of large numbers of staff, and increases in responsibility.

The delegation of responsibility is necessary to the proper functioning of and implementation of relief and rehabilitation programmes. With this delegation of responsibility, there is however a danger that the responsibility is misused in some ways that may violate the human rights of individuals. The vulnerability of these individuals means they are dependant on support from aid workers to a large extent. It is imperative that the support given by aid workers at the ground level is appropriate to the social and cultural context, and that the responsibility given to these said workers is not abused in any way. The Commission is aware of a few unfortunate instances where there have been aid workers or volunteers using their access to the welfare centres in order to call in favours from affected persons in return for relief.

The Commission is also aware that the government is delegating a great deal of its functions to international NGOs with regard to housing, health, sanitation and education. In this context there is a need for a monitoring process that ensures equity and the meeting of standards. In order to ensure that all levels of work are carried out in a humane and professional manner, the Commission would like to recommend that a transparent monitoring mechanism be established by the INGOs themselves as a means of self regulation so as to ensure that rights violations at the ground level do not take place. Such a mechanism can also provide for a complaints procedure so that individual complaints can be attended to.


The human rights situation in the Eastern Province has steadily worsened during the course of 2004 and into 2005, with the decrease in stability in the area following Colonel Karuna’s defection. The marked increase in political killings and low intensity conflict has negated many of the positive developments following the cease-fire. Factional fighting between the LTTE and Karuna’s group has meant that the human security situation is now tenuous. In addition, the advent of the Tsunami has meant that already sub-standard social and economic conditions are now worsened, with thousands of homes and livelihoods destroyed. In this context, pursuing the recommendations made by the Human Rights Commission in 2003 and those outlined below, is a vital factor in restoring peace and stability, as well as minimum social and economic standards to the region.

General Recommendations
1. A human rights agreement between all armed parties given the re-emergence of low-intensity conflict. The agreement should include effective monitoring and implementation of human rights standards through an independent monitoring mechanism. The 2003 report states:

“The human rights situation in the eastern province involves serious issues of human rights awareness, compliance and enforcement. Given the fact that it is a militarised theatre for armed groups, the framework and enforcement mechanism for human rights must be reconstructed to suit the realities of the eastern as well as northern provinces. It is the Commission’s belief that no national or regional human rights entity will be able to effectively monitor and implement human rights standards in the north and the east. No organisation or individual enjoys that kind of universal authority and legitimacy. If a national organization is entrusted with this task it must be with substantial international aid and assistance. The Commission believes that the following course of action should be agreed to by the parties to the peace process.

· A Human Rights Agreement or Memorandum of Understanding must be agreed to by all parties to the conflict as soon as possible. It must be recalled that many peace processes and agreements have such human rights frameworks and that Ian Martin, human rights advisor, has been entrusted with this task with regard to the Sri Lankan peace process. According to the Hakone Agreement “The parties (to the peace process) asked their international advisor… to develop…the drafting of a Declaration of Human rights and Humanitarian Principles. This would reflect aspects of fundamental international human rights and humanitarian standards, which both parties would undertake to ensure, are respected by their personnel…” This Declaration must be finalized sooner rather than later.
· A monitoring mechanism must be set up which involves substantial international assistance. The monitoring mechanism must have strong and independent investigating wing which is fully trained and competent. Witness protection schemes and victim protection schemes should also be in operation.
· The parties should agree to abide by the Declaration and the decision of the monitoring mechanism. Some punitive or compensation element could be added so that there is a sense that sanctions will operate.
· Any such Declaration should also make provision for human rights training”

These recommendations remain valid in the present context.

2. The Commission also believes that other measures should be taken to ensure security and participation at the provincial level.
a. All communities should be involved in discussions aimed at developing administrative arrangements that would strengthen security at the local level. These talks should be facilitated by the SLMM.
b. All communities should be involved in discussions relating to security and political participation. The Muslim community feels particularly aggrieved by the lack of involvement in the important decisions that deeply affect the community. The P-TOMS agreement is a case in point. The principle of representation should include all communities and diverse political voices at every level.

Tsunami: - General Recommendations
Civil and Political Rights
Discrimination between Tsunami affected populations and war affected communities remains a source of conflict and discontent. It is necessary that policies aimed at ameliorating the conditions of the internally displaced who are Tsunami affected should be extended to war affected IDPs.
Government agencies and INGOs should ensure the protection of the right to property (including land and housing) without discrimination based on ethnicity, religion, or gender. This includes the provision of temporary shelters and permanent shelters that meet minimum standards provided by UNHCR and the Sphere Guidelines.
Measures should be taken to protect women against violence as the Tsunami has seen an increase in alcohol consumption and other factors that have led to an increase in violence against women.
Decisions with regard to future plans of reconstruction and rehabilitation should be done in consultation with the affected communities and should not rely on top- down directives.

Social and Economic Rights
The Eastern Province has some of the worst social and economic indicators in the country. The Tsunami provides an opportunity to ameliorate social and economic conditions, given the donor presence and support in the area.
Government agencies and NGOs should ensure the right to housing of affected populations. Shelter is an essential right that must be upheld and meet minimum standards. Now that most IDPs are housed in temporary shelters, the government must expedite its process of land identification and allocation for permanent shelters to be built.
It is also important to ensure equal enjoyment of the right to education in environments that are conducive to education (for example, some schools have been occupied by IDPs, disrupting children’s schooling).
The government and donors should give priority to re-establishing the health systems in the Eastern Province in order to protect the right to health and the right to health care. This includes ensuring that IDPs are not placed in areas that are environmentally harmful. The opportunity provided by the reconstruction effort should lead to strengthening hospitals, local level health care and access to pharmaceuticals.
The relief provided by the Tsunami has led to what may be termed a “dependency” syndrome on part of some of the recipients. It is important to pursue right to livelihood programmes to ensure that people can take control of their lives and be self sufficient and independent.
Civil and Political Rights: - Recommendations to the Sri Lankan Government
1. The increase in the number of checkpoints in the East to meet the present security crisis has led to many allegations of harassment. It is important that those manning the checkpoints are properly trained and speak the language of the people to ensure security with dignity for people of that area.
2. Tamil speaking officers should be present in large numbers in police stations and government offices. This remains a major grievance and it is linked to the deteriorating security situation.
3. The arbitrary deprivation of property through the establishment of high security zones and the use of private buildings is a violation of human rights. If land is to be acquired, individuals should be paid compensation or alternative housing should be given to those deprived of the use of their property.
4. There is a perception of discrimination on the part of the government in its allocation of and distribution of resources to the Eastern Province. This perception is vindicated by the social and economic statistics of the area. It is important that in the context of the Tsunami resource allocation to the eastern province should increase substantially.
Civil and Political Rights: - Recommendations to the LTTE
The LTTE has stated on many occasions both nationally and internationally that it is ready to abide by international human rights and humanitarian standards. It is essential that it implement these commitments in the areas under its control.
1. Political killings must come to an end. The right to life is a paramount right and the ceasefire agreement must put an end to all killings that are extra-judicial. Impunity for these crimes must also be put to an end. In this context the Commission welcomes the proposed visit of the UN Special Rapporteur on Extra- Judicial Killings.
2. Child recruitment, re-recruitment (following the defection of Karuna) and child abductions must stop. The recruitment and use of children under the age of fifteen is a war crime. The LTTE should work with UNICEF to end child recruitment, release children, and ensure that they are educated and trained in skills so that they can be absorbed into society. In this regard the Commission calls for the visit of the Special Representative of the Secretary General on children and armed conflict to ensure that the LTTE complies with its commitments to Mr. Olara Otunno.
3. Adult abductions violate both the right to liberty and security of the person, and the right to family life. These abductions must also cease.
4. Although “official extortion” has seemingly ended, it is apparent that it still occurs in the rare instance. The LTTE should ensure that its cadres do not extort at the local level.

Civil and Political Rights: - Recommendations to the Karuna Faction
Although allegations against the Karuna faction are more limited, perhaps due to the difficulties in establishing who actors are, the split in the LTTE has greatly contributed to the increase in political killings and the general culture of impunity in the Eastern Province. The Karuna faction, in pursuing a strategy of assassination has only heightened tension and increased insecurity, providing an environment where civil and political rights are denied with impunity. It is important that political killings by all parties come to an end.
Recommendations Regarding Relations with the Muslim Community
Muslim representation in decision-making is absolutely crucial to human rights protection in the Eastern Province. It is important that Muslim concerns be given the highest priority and that the community participate in all political decisions affecting the eastern province.
It is important to strengthen Zonal Committees designed to address the distrust and uncertainty existing between different ethnic groups
Identification of land for resettlement of Muslims affected by war and/or Tsunami. Within this comes the larger problem of limited Muslim landownership in the East despite their being the majority ethnic group. This is an issue that should come before a Land Commission set up to deal with land issues in the Eastern Province.
There is a need to protect Muslim civilians from killings, abductions, threats and harassment.
Social and Economic Rights:- Recommendations
As the report indicates, the eastern province has some of the worst social and economic indicators for the whole country. Post-Tsunami, plans for reconstruction and rehabilitation provide an important opportunity to better this situation, and should prioritise the amelioration of social and economic conditions in the province. There should be concerted, well thought out plans in the health, education and housing sectors. Without these comprehensive plans and the resources to carry them through, development in the East under the reconstruction programmes may only exacerbate the situation.
Recommendations to INGOs
Recognising the vital role that INGOs have to play in the relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction process, the Commission would like to recommend that a transparent monitoring mechanism be established by the INGOs themselves as a means of self regulation so as to ensure that rights violations at the ground level do not take place. Such a mechanism can also provide for a complaints procedure so that individual complaints can be attended to.

Dr. Radhika Coomaraswamy -Chairperson
Dr. Deepika Udagama - Commissioner C Senanayake – Commissioner
Dr. A Zainudeen – Commissioner N Selvakkumaran - Commissioner

[1] The Department of Census and Statistics conducts a nationwide census every 10 years. The figures presented in this report are therefore the same as those in the Human Rights Commission Report on the Human Rights Situation in the Eastern Province, 2003.
[2] There are no statistics available on the ethnic composition of Manmunai West
[3] Anthropologists such as Bryan Rice and Dennis McGilvray have written about the rituals and practices of the Mukkuwa people. Organized into matrilineal groups called Kudis, they are still recognised in Temples and Mosques and each Kudi has a leader called Thalaivar for the Tamils and Maraikayar for the Muslims. Cattle registers, village leadership, and many other practices relied on the Kudi system. Marriage customs and other rituals are also governed by the Kudi system though under increasing challenge from more dominant ideologies such as a pan Tamil nationalism and growing Islamic awareness. This shared Mukkuwa history among both Tamils and Muslims of the eastern province is rarely mentioned in the current crisis and now there are many efforts to erase this commonality between the communities. The eastern province also has a special place in Sinhalese history as “Vellassa” the Sinhalese territory that resisted the colonisers. (For a comprehensive description see McGilvray, Dennis,(19882) “Mukkuvar Vannimai: Tamil Caste and Matriclan Ideology in Batticaloa, Sri Lanka” in Dennis B. McGilvray Ed Caste Ideology and Interaction, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.) – Human Rights Commission: Report on the Human Rights Situation in the Eastern Province 2003
[4] Registrar General Department, Annual Health Bulletin-2000,
[5] Department of Census and Statistic, Statistical Abstract, 1999
[6] The Sunday Times, 3 October 2004, p11
[7] Courtesy of the Foundation for Co-Existence Information Centre. Presentation on “Emerging Facets of Human Security in the Eastern Province”
[8] The Daily Mirror Reports on 19 April 2005 that the LTTE has continued to fire rounds of ammunition over Army roadblocks for a fourth day, action amounting to a clear violation of the CFA.
[9] The presence of a NESOHR representative may or may not be indicative of the independence this body holds from the LTTE.
[10] Reported in the Daily Mirror, “Violence Escalates in East”, 7.3.05 pg 1
[11] Two special teams are investigating this death. Daily Mirror, Front Page on 18 April 2005
[12] One such incident took place on 17 May 2005, when one youth was killed and four others were injured when LTTE supporters threw a hand grenade this evening at Marathady junction in Trincomalee. A hartal was subsequently launched by the LTTE-backed group, ‘Tamil People’s Alliance’, in order to protest the replacement of a Buddha statue with a larger replica near the clock tower in Trincomalee town. There is a danger that both the act and the hartal will serve to fuel both religious and ethnic tension in the East.

[13] The Court’s ruling provides that the Tsunami Regional Committee (RC) should not be based in Kilinochchi; provides for the powers vested upon the RC of the Tsunami Relief Council (TRC) (i.e. financial management, drafting and authorizing projects) to be suspended; disallows the transfer of powers of financial management and policy planning by the government to any other committee; and recommends that monies received for the TRC be held in a separate account under the purview of Sri Lankan law. (Sourced from UNICEF Sri Lanka Situation Report, 26.7.05)
[14] Observations communicated by local organisations working in the area.
[15] Provincial Situation Report: Ampara. Courtesy of Foundation for Co-Existence presentation given on 29 March 2005
[16] For a discussion of these issues please see S. Nanthikesan, lines-magazine.org (Nov 2002)
[17] At: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/4143459.stm#map
[18] Statistics for these areas were provided by the relevant Government Agent Offices.
[19] Figures are from the SLMM website as well as hard copies of recorded complaints not yet on the site. Measures to restore normalcy include: Hostile acts against the civilian population; Intimidation; Abduction of Adults; Abduction of children; Extortion; Harassment; Child recruitment; Other measures to restore normalcy; Forced recruitment of adults; Provocative acts by the Parties; Confiscations; and Fishing restrictions.
[20] Sri Lanka: New Killings Threaten Cease Fire, Press Release, Human Rights Watch, July 28, 2004
[21] Courtesy of the Foundation for Co-Existence Information Centre. Presentation on “Emerging Facets of Human Security in the Eastern Province”
[22] Ibid.
[23] Human Rights Watch, LIVING IN FEAR: Child Soldiers and the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, November 2004, p16
[24] As told to Human Rights Watch by the senior superintendent of police in Trincomalee. Ibid.
[25] Human Rights Watch, Sri Lanka Country Page
[26] Human Rights Watch, LIVING IN FEAR: Child Soldiers and the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, November 2004.
[27] Ibid., p38
[28] Paul Martin made a public statement prior to his visit to Sri Lanka on 16-17 January 2005 that LTTE recruitment of children “is the kind of thing that requires universal condemnation”.
[29] All figures on child recruitment provided to the Human Rights Commission by UNICEF.
[30] 76 cases have been reported as of 24 July, as compared with 36 in June.
[31] These numbers include reported cases of re-recruitment as well as recruitment.
[32] Figures provided by the SLMM.
[33] CPA Draft Paper on “Post-Tsunami Reconstruction and the Eastern Muslim Question”.
[34] Annual Report 2004, Ministry of Health and Indigenous Medicine, NEPC (www.nepc.lk)
[35] The Household income and expenditure survey, Conducted in Northern and Eastern Province - 2002/03 Department of Census and Statistics Sri Lanka (http://www.statistics.gov.lk/poverty/HIES2002-03N_EPro.pdf)
[36] Household Income and Expenditure Survey 2002, Department of Census and Statistics Sri Lanka (http://www.statistics.gov.lk/poverty/HIES2002_DistrictLevel.pdf)
[37] This data was also cited in the 2003 Human Rights Report for the region. The literacy rates are respectively 75%, 68.3% and 79.5%. The Department of Census and Statistics has not conducted a review of the literacy rates since 2001.
[38] Computer Literacy of Sri Lanka, 2004, Department of Census and Statistics (http://www.statistics.gov.lk/cls2004/)
[39] BBC Sinhala, 13 March, 2005 - Published 18:58 GMT, Police attack tsunami protest in East
[40] Interview: Regional Head of CARE International, Batticaloa.
[41] Tissainayagam, J.S., Tsunami shows up poverty of northeastern academics and NGO games., The Northeastern Monthly (March 2005)
[42] For a detailed account of the problems associated with this, the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) has put out an issues paper on the proposed Coastal Conservation Zone.
[43] See publication by INFORM: Human Rights Issues in the Post-Tsunami Context, Feb 2005 for further analysis.
[44] This is the case in Kalmunai, Ampara District.

Read the entire report

| Permanent Link

Powered for Blogger by Blogger Templates