The Sunday Leader

All Eyes On The Northern Front

By Easwaran Rutnam

Jaffna, on the surface, seemed to be returning to normalcy with the successful conclusion of provincial elections. However recent incidents have shown that the situation is far from being “normal” and may spiral out of control if not arrested.

The discovery of a corpse of a woman at the Nachiyar Hindu Temple at KKS road in Jaffna recently sent shockwaves among the public.

Devotees who had visited the Temple on October 18 got a bad stench and they investigated where the stench was coming from and found the badly decomposed body of the woman in a corner. The face of the victim had marks and they were similar to ones some may get due to an assault. The police later identified the victim as a resident of Vavuniya. Jaffna police said that the woman was mentally retarded and she was staying with her relatives in Ariyalai, Jaffna.

Her relatives had reported that she was missing from early last month and after several days her body was found at the Temple.

While the dust was about to settle on that discovery the Jaffna media reported that another dead body of a woman was also found days later. The 27-year-old woman, Identified as Amirthaalingham Maithalai, was found dead in Puttur a day after she was reported missing from her home. She had reportedly received a telephone call last Tuesday night while she was watching television. She had then stepped out but never returned. Her body was found inside a well the next day. The police are investigating the circumstances that led to her death.

Army vs TNA

The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) claims soldiers are mostly dressed in civvies and roam among the general public. The Army and the TNA came head to head last week when a group of TNA members confronted soldiers who were demolishing houses in Valikamam North in Jaffna. TNA MP E.

Sarawanabavan told The Sunday Leader that the soldiers were clearing the land despite over 1000 cases being filed against it. “The army is taking things into their hands. They are not following the law. If this continues, we will need to turn to the international court,” he said.
He questioned why the army requires over 6000 acres of land in a civilian populated area.

The MP also claimed that the army had warned a group of journalists who had accompanied him and some provincial councilors when they went to inspect the clearing of the land.

“We got the impression that families of soldiers are to be settled on this land,” he added.
Sarawanabavan emphasised that the TNA and the Tamils as a whole have no concerns over Sinhalese people being settled in Jaffna as long as the lands are their own property.

“We have an issue with colonisation. That is wrong,” he said.
He also said that the environment for the media in Jaffna is also unsafe in light of the heavy army presence despite the end of the war.

Army not involved

However, the army denied allegations that troops in large numbers are responsible for sexual violence, sexual harassment, abuse, exploitation and other types of violence against women and girls.

Army spokesman Brigadier Ruwan Wanigasooriya said that there have been repeated attempts to draw a “non-existent correlation” between the presence of the military in the North and insecurity of women and girls in that region. He said that during the conflict (January 2007 – May 2009), seven Security Forces personnel were reported as being involved in five sexual violence incidents in the North. This is out of a total of 125 persons accused in 119 incidents for the entirety of the Northern Province. The ethnicity of the victims of these cases is 4 Sinhalese and 1 Tamil.

The army spokesman says, in the post conflict period (May 2009 – May 2012), 10 Security Forces personnel were reported being involved in 6 sexual violence incidents in the North. This is out of a total of 307 persons accused in 256 incidents for the entire Northern Province. The ethnicity of the victims is 2 Tamil, 1 Muslim and 3 Sinhalese.

“Legal action has been taken by the Government in all of the above cases in which the Sri Lankan Security Forces personnel have been involved. The military has taken strict action to either discharge or to give other punishments to these personnel. Furthermore, cases have also been filed in civil courts, some of which are pending in Courts while some are with the Attorney General’s Department,” the army spokesman said.

He says the inference that the presence of the military contributes to insecurity of women and girls in the former conflict affected areas is baseless.
“This is a part of yet another attempt by those with vested interests to propagate a culture of fear and apprehension amongst the people of the North with regard to the presence of the military in those areas,” the army spokesman added.

The spokesman insisted that the Armed Forces do not condone such acts of violence against women and girls and has taken concrete action against reported cases.

Jaffna on CHOGM schedule

Meanwhile the British government says it will press the Sri Lanka’s Government to investigate all human rights abuses, including the shocking allegations of sexual violence committed during and after the conflict.

UK Foreign Secretary William Hague says he and Prime Minister David Cameron will urge the government to allow free expression and to stop intimidation against journalists and also bring about reconciliation and political reform. “It is important that we give that message to them in person,” he said.

Prime Minister David Cameron and the UK Foreign Secretary will be visiting Sri Lanka next month for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM).

“The Prime Minister and I will visit the north of Sri Lanka to see ourselves what is happening. We will press the Sri Lankan Government to investigate all human rights abuses, including the shocking allegations of sexual violence committed dung and after the conflict. We will urge them to allow free expression and to stop intimidation against journalists, and call on them to bring about reconciliation and political reform. It is important that we give that message to them in person,” William Hague said.

New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully said he will also travel to the North to see first-hand civilian life since the end of the country’s long civil war in 2009.

“New Zealand has a strong interest in the progress being made on reconciliation and devolution in the North and I will report back to the Prime Minister (John Key) on the situation there ahead of the CHOGM Leader’s Retreat,” McCully said in a statement.
“CHOGM sets the Commonwealth’s agenda for the coming two years, and with 53 member states home to more than 2 billion people, a number of significant global issues will be up for discussion.”

The Foreign Secretary said that there have been some steps forward in Sri Lanka, which need to be recognised, including the northern provincial council elections that took place in September. “They were generally peaceful and well-regarded, but all the issues I listed remain. While there have been some steps forward, many more are needed. There are many serious criticisms, including in our own reports, of the human rights record in Sri Lanka. Of course these are issues that we want to take up in Sri Lanka. The Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting however will consider matters such as the future of the millennium development goals, expanding international trade and upholding human rights in other parts of the world. We need to be present at those discussions with a quarter of the globe. We also need to recognise that the consequences for the Commonwealth of the United Kingdom not attending a Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting would be very serious and could be long term. That is why it is important, and that is why we decided to be there at the table, as well as raising the concerns so well expressed in this House,” he said.

6 Comments for “All Eyes On The Northern Front”

  1. Sangaralingham

    Difficult to comment on situations when all humans are behaving in a manner not involving is the responsibility to investigate and decide where are the culprits if abuse if anything involved a humans behind it. Civilians and army personal I civilian uniform has a moral responsibility to protect the public within their home and in public if not we are all entering Ina country of barbarism in spite of various religious moral teaching so called cultural dignity

  2. sinniah

    Having Elections cannot be counted DEMOCRACY .How the elected one`s words are COUNTED is important.
    Years after years there were elections and TAMILS were DEPRESSED and OPPRESSED insted of their GENUINE democratic non violant PROTESTS.
    Singala Only implemented against the will of WHOLE Tamil community Where were this COMMONWWEALTH then TAMILS were in AGONY.
    Friendly ways will not work as there are more horrible friends for SL.

  3. Sri

    Hope they can move for lifting the draconian PTA which underpin gross crimes against humanity.

  4. Sri

    Hope the PTA can be lifted. Also, move for ban on sales of arms and armaments and for full accountbaility.

  5. DMR Gunawardene

    The genocide of Tamils continues. Unless economic sanctions are pursued and an international crimes investigation are hend, Tamils will be wiped out by this regime.

  6. v

    These Tamils cannot stay away from killing…. even themselves. What losers/

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