The TNA, Armed Forces And Tamils In North
- Right of Reply
I thought of responding to the article published in The Sunday Leader on 16th Dec 2012 titled “Plight of resettled IDP’s, striving make ends meet” which mentions the “concerns” of the TNA MP’s Sumanthiran and Premachandran. What has been implied by their allegations was that IDP’s in North are not properly looked after, continuous harassment of Tamils by the Army, land mine story is a bluff, presence of “unnecessary” large cantonments of army in the north etc.
As an officer who was in service from the beginning to the end of war and now a Member of Parliament representing East, I view the above “concerns” of the TNA as contemptuous if not hilarious. With my experience I do not think that the TNA, today, has any moral right to speak about the Tamils or to grumble about their welfare. In the absence of that moral right, one can easily understand that their consistent treacherous attempt to paint a wrong picture in the eyes of the international community as above is to undermine the economy of Sri Lanka, to dissuade investment, persuade tourists to boycott the country, reduce volumes of international trade and to strike at the root of the economy in Sri Lanka which is at the moment vibrant.
It is interesting to ask a few questions from the TNA members who cry their hearts out about the plight of the Tamils in the Northern peninsula. Did they ever condemn, whenever the LTTE killed the reputed Tamils like Neelan Thiruchelvam, Amirthalingam, Thangathurai, Lakshman Kadirgamar? Did they ever protest against, when the Tamil MP Yogeswaran was killed and his wife who became the Mayor too was assassinated? What was their response when the LTTE systematically destroyed the entire democratic leadership of Tamils as above? None! They always stood by the LTTE and consequently the reputation of being a ‘proxy” of that terrorist organization.
The TNA today is very critical about the Army who had entered the Jaffna University to prevent certain elements commemorating Prabhakaran / LTTE cadres killed during the war. It should be remembered that during the “Peace accord” how the LTTE regularly entered all the schools in Jaffna and forcibly took away students for protest marches during school hours. When some school principals objected to it, they were brutally assaulted in front of the school children and some were even killed. Where were Sumanthiran and Premachandran at that time? What was their response towards those innocent Tamil children whose education was consistently disrupted by the LTTE in the above manner?
The Army entered Jaffna University to prevent certain elements, backed by TNA, instigating the students to commemorate the ruthless killer Prabhakaran, who was responsible for the devastation of the country including the Tamil nation. A terrorist is a terrorist whether he appears as a beggar, businessman, lecturer or a student. LTTE is banned in many countries and even the FBI has branded LTTE as amongst the most dangerous and deadly extremists in the world. Hence commemorating those who were killed in that organization is also an act related to terrorism. Army went in to stop that. Would the US President Barak Obama or Secretary of State Hilary Clinton allow students to light lamps to commemorate Bin Laden and his Al Qaida members inside the Washington University? It should be reminded that in Germany, since World War II, no German commemorates Hitler, who killed millions of innocent Jews, even though he was the Head of the State at one time.
During the final phase of the war, what was the response of the TNA when LTTE opened fire and killed many Tamils, mostly the aged and women, who were trying to escape into government controlled area? What has Sumanthiran got to say about the innocent 12 year old Tamil boy, whose legs were both chopped off by the terrorists when he was running into the arms of his parents? Only a terrorist or a terrorist sympathizer could abstain from condemning such a barbaric act, and we know Sumanthiran and Premachandran did abstain.
On the other hand it was the army who rescued hundreds of Tamils including pregnant women risking their own lives. Many women army soldiers were killed whilst trying to save genuine innocent Tamil women, knowing that there were suicide cadres among them. During the last stage at Nandikadal, when Prabhakaran was keeping hundreds of Tamils around him as a human shield, our army advanced to the target across the mine field, knowing that they would lose their legs/lives, in order to prevent civilian casualties. They could have easily fired Arty shells or mortars and destroyed Prabhakaran together with the civilians without entering the mine field. That supreme sacrifice on the part of the soldiers, which has no parallel in any part of the world, was for the sake of their Tamil brethren.
With regards to the alleged “plight” of the IDP’s, I would like to briefly mention the following. The important post conflict development challenges the government faced were, demining approx 5000 square kilometres, resettlement of 297,000 IDPs, rehabilitation of 12,000 LTTE carders and reintegrated into society and reconstruction and economic development.
As it retreated, the LTTE had laid a large quantity of anti tank mines, anti personnel mines, and Improvised Explosive Devices (IED). Swiftly demining them was a big challenge. Army with a few NGOs have by now removed 469,000 anti personnel mines, 390,000 IEDs and 1400 anti tank mines. Did TNA, which says demining is a bluff, offer even a cup of tea or a glass of water to a soldier who worked on it for the Tamils to resettle and live safely? If the efforts of TNA is genuine and if TNA still says that demining is a bluff, they must spend a few days with the soldiers who still work in agro-areas, paddy fields, forests etc looking for mines for the sake of Tamil families.
No sooner the war was over, the Presidential Task Force was set up for Resettlement and Reconstruction in the North, headed by Minister Basil Rajapaksa. The government also launched a program titled “Northern Spring” to undertake large development projects in North.
As at today, 142,300 families have been settled, and the balance will be completed by mid 2013. TNA is collecting colossal amounts of funds from the Tamils living abroad and sympathetic front groups operating in Western soil to politicize, radicalize and mobilize Tamil youth in Sri Lanka to revive terrorism. It is considered prudent to inquire from TNA, who today cry for the welfare of Tamils, as to whether they have spent even 20 rupees from that money to give a cup of yoghurt to an innocent child in a refugee camp. Instead of helping the government’s effort to serve the innocent Tamils, they still attempt to sabotage the same by various means for petty political gains and this time with a person called a Professor in Geology.
This professor says “every morning when the innocent Tamil in North wakes up what he sees is a gun/armed soldier…Army may seize the land not the hearts”. I wonder where this professor was before May 2009. What does he think, during that period, the innocent Tamil in North saw when he woke up in the morning? LTTE “boys” clad like angels, carrying coloured balloons and kites in hand, asking the children to come and play hide and seek? If he was in Europe in a lavish villa at that time, he must tell this sentiment to the Tamil people in Kilinochchi. They would definitely tell him to go somewhere and dig for minerals without wasting time. It is not hard to understand that this professor is trying to gain some “cheap” popularity among Tamils, after found himself to be a miserable failure as a lecturer.
Today in the North nine hundred schools are functioning, with 260,000 students and 13,967 teachers. It is said that when compared to other countries under similar circumstances, the achievements of SL government in restoring the damage done for 30 years in just 3-4 years is highly commendable. In that regard this was what, the UN special Adviser for counter terrorism, Maj. Gen. (Rtd.) Dr. Douglas Stone, USA had to say at the last Defence Meeting held in Colombo, “I want to congratulate your country that has taken on an objective of 3 decades and then in 3 years done something that the rest of the globe needs to hear about. There are very few, less than a handful of other nations, who have done that and done it as well as you have.”
There is a considerable misunderstanding, deliberately created by TNA, on the nature of the armed forces and their relationship to the Sri Lankan community. There is no disparity of treatment meted out to Tamils in North. There is army presence in some form in every part of the country. Jaffna is no exemption.
The army’s role what the TNA is trying to paint in the eyes of the International Community, is far from truth. Like in any part in Sri Lanka, military is now a part of community in Jaffna whose role is to defend, protect and to help to build the nation. Sri Lanka military has been able to speed up development at a rapid pace to enable the area to “catch up” on the aspects that held her back due to terrorism.
The armed forces in Jaffna are fully committed to let the Tamils enjoy that “freedom” without any interruption. They will ensure that no one will regroup and engage in any terror activities in the area. The army has freed the people from terror, brought normalcy to the area, developed the infrastructure, resettled them and provided them with security. Hence they have more right to be in the North than anyone else including the TNA whose contribution to the freedom, security and welfare of the Tamils is disgracefully negligible or zero when compared to that of the army.
Rear Admiral (Rtd.) Dr. Sarath Weerasekera
Member of Parliament