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IDPs in Sri Lanka: The untold story

Insurgency has its causes and reasons but not terrorism. In the early stages of the conflict there were many insurgent groups and all of them except one chose democracy to serve its people. That one is the LTTE which transformed itself from insurgency into terrorism.

According to David Rapport, an expert on terrorism, man has experienced four waves of terrorism to date. The first being the start of Terrorism in the early 19th Century by way of anarchist terrorism and thereafter followed by the second and third waves of colonial and anti colonial, new left wave and the fourth being religious and ethnic wave. Sri Lanka is the only country in the world that defeated the last two waves and bravely faced the second.

Unreserved support


An IDP child at a welfare center. File Photo

No nation, no army can defeat terrorism without the support of its population. Sri Lanka, I must say, was able to defeat LTTE because of the unreserved support it received from all citizens living on Sri Lankan soil, in particular, the Tamils. Without the support of all communities living on Sri Lankan soil, this miraculous victory would never have been a reality.

It is now time to reconcile and develop the nation. Every word we utter, every action we take should help to develop the country and not dent the progress in any manner. I must emphasize and admit the fact that we need the unreserved support of the Diaspora to accelerate this process. It is with this in mind, in our hour of need that we thought it appropriate to enlighten you from the media and our beloved friends whose roots begin from Sri Lanka to obtain your fullest support in the reconstruction process of Sri Lanka devastated by a three decade war.

Peace initiatives

To begin with, there had been four peace initiatives since 1985; first under President, JR Jayewardene with the mediation of the Indian Government, second under President R. Premadasa, third under President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga with the facilitation of the Norwegian Government and the fourth initiated by former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe with the facilitation of the Norwegian Government again, which, was re-commenced by the present President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

All four initiatives stopped abruptly due to the LTTE unilaterally pulling out from the peace initiatives. It is a sad reminder that all the chief architects or their closest relatives were either killed or their lives were attempted by the LTTE.

The chief architect of the first peace talks Gamini Dissanayake from the Sri Lankan side and the former Indian Prime Minister Sri Rajiv Gandhi from the Indian side were both assassinated by suicide bombers. The chief architect of the second peace talks President, Ranasinghe Premadasa was also assassinated by the LTTE on May 1, the very particular day dedicated to workers by the world community.

The chief architect of the third President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga’s life was attempted and she escaped miraculously but lost an eye.

Then the life of own brother of President Mahinda Rajapaksa; the chief architect of the fourth peace talks was also attempted by the LTTE.

This is not all, there had been 94 assassinations of political leadership by the LTTE in Sri Lanka and out of them sadly, the majority are Tamils. This include the assassination of Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar.

The life of Minister Douglas Devenada was attempted 13 times. They also did not spare the clergy of all religions and innocent civilians of all ethnic groups.

Although three attempts of peace talks failed to bring the LTTE to the mainstream politics, all the other insurgent groups were brought into the main stream politics through negotiations.

Another significant achievement in conflict resolution through negotiations was the establishment of Provincial Councils through the 13th Amendment of the Constitution thereby devolving power to provinces.

Though this is a huge burden to the exchequer in a country so small as Sri Lanka, it was introduced to share power and give due recognition to all communities. While people of seven provinces enjoyed devolution of power, people of the other two; the North and East to whose benefit and request the power was devolved, were not allowed to reap the benefits by the LTTE.

Humanitarian operation in East

The 2002 peace talks were initiated with a ceasefire agreement signed between the Prime Minister Sri Lanka and the leader of the LTTE on February 22, 2002.

It was given a fresh start after a lapse of time by the present President Mahinda Rajapaksa until he was forced to realize that fruitful results will not be achieved through this process.

There were as many as 10,000 ceasefire violations by the LTTE until it was officially terminated in January 2008 after realizing that negotiations never worked with terrorists.

The Government and the Security Forces turned a blind eye to all those violations for the sake of peace. However, on July 28, 2006, the LTTE closed the sluice gate of Mavil Aru depriving water to 5,800 families with 25,486 members and 4,500 acres of paddy.

Sri Lankan villages are based on three main pillars; place of worship; it can be a Temple, kovil, mosqe or a church; school and irrigation tank. All three pillars are important and sacred to villagers.

Mavil Aru

A Hindu Kovil is built on the embankment, close to the sluice gate of every tank. That is to say only the god has the discretion and liberty to control water.

Therefore, depriving water so sacred to them was a very sensitive issue not only to those who were deprived but to all Sri Lankans. Thus the Government did what any other democratically elected Government would have done.

The military was tasked to open the sluice gate and restore water supply after all efforts through Norwegian facilitators to open the gates failed. The humanitarian military operation was a success and the water supply was restored by August 8, 2006.

Thereafter, the Government continued its humanitarian military effort and cleared the entire Eastern Province by July 2007. Before commencing the military operation, the Government laid down rules of engagement to the Security Forces, the foremost being zero casualties of civilians.

To be continued

The Writer is Deputy Sri Lankan High Commissioner in Malaysia

 

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