whom is the peace dividend?
is now nearly two years since Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and
LTTE Leader, Velupillai Pirapaharan signed a Memorandum of Understanding
(MoU) to halt a bloody 19 year war that official figures estimate to
have killed some 65,000 people since 1983. Having attempted to negotiate
a political solution to the crisis the two conflicting parties reached a
stalemate in April this year and since then the talks have remained
Secretary, Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) and parliamentary group
leader, Tamil National
Alliance, R. Sambandan, said Tamil parliamentarians last Wednesday (22),
had a "very good and positive" meeting with the LTTE in
Killinochchi. He asserted that the LTTE stated they will on October 31,
hand over their counter proposals to the government's interim
administration proposals and will "definitely fix fresh dates for
the commencement of talks with the government."
Political Wing Chief, S. P. Tamilselvan has said he will meet with the
media on November 1, soon after the LTTE's response to the government
proposals are handed over.
indicated that the proposal by the LTTE for an interim administration in
the north and east, most of which is already under rebel control, is
likely to include heavy demands for control over policing and financial
government has already proposed a power-sharing plan that gives the
Tigers wide powers over rebuilding and resettlement of displaced people,
but no control over policing and security.
however pointed out that while the south has enjoyed the dividends of
the ceasefire since February 2002, people living in the north and east
have not yet been so lucky.
maintained the armed forces have not yet fully realised that a ceasefire
does not merely mean a stoppage in fighting.
"A ceasefire also means that the Tamil civilian population
must return to normal life which means they must begin enjoying all the
rights and privileges they are entitled to as citizens despite being
Tamils, much of which they were deprived off during a situation of
war." he said.
asserted that the aspect of security on the part of the armed forces is
being thoroughly overplayed and it is having a disastrous impact on the
thinking of Tamil civilians.
said it is impossible to equate the dividends of the peace process
enjoyed by those living in the south and west of the country to people
living in the north and east. He asserted however that the Tamil people
will be quite satisfied if they can return to their homes and recommence
normal living, their occupations and socio-economic cultural activities
without once again being "handicapped as a result of oppressive
army presence or the army shutting them out of various areas on grounds
am not saying the government should abandon security but I think it is
being overplayed to the extent where Tamils are not the recipients of
the dividends of the present peace," he said.
noted that people from southern and western parts of the country are now
holidaying freely in areas of the north and east which is very welcome -
but he said what is unfortunate is that this same freedom is not enjoyed
by the people living in the north east.
quid pro quo of this situation is that despite the ceasefire the LTTE is
still continuing to victimise both Tamil and Muslim civilians in the
north and east subjecting them to extortion and abductions.
Tigers according to statistics maintained by UN agencies continue to
recruit children to their armed cadre despite a public display of
releasing some child recruits to a UNICEF sponsored child rehabilitation
programme in Killinochchi. Muslims
living in areas of the north and east continue to complain bitterly that
the LTTE seriously harasses the Muslim community, extorting large sums
of money and in some instances abducting Muslim civilians who refuse to
bow to rebel rule.
the country's flagging economy has received a boost in the south as a
result of the peace process and tourism is booming, areas in the north
and east remain largely undeveloped.
is true both sides no longer have to contend with body bags being handed
over to grieving families and the guns have fallen silent - but
restructuring the shattered ruins of war ravaged areas is at a slow
people in the Wanni, an area largely held by the LTTE, reaping any
rewards from the peace process is still a distant illusion. Other than
the war itself having ceased, there is little or no dividends for
civilians living inside the Wanni as they battle against overpowering
odds to make ends meet.
of hectares of fertile farmland is yet fenced off as a result of land
mines and unexploded ordnance making it impossible for this once
agriculturally rich land to be fully productive.
entire civil administration of the Killinochchi District is at a low key
due to a massive shortage of resources such as personnel, office
accommodation and inadequate transport facilities. Most government offices in the Wanni area function out of
either semi permanent or temporary buildings while some official's
swelter in the scorching heat as they valiantly attempt to administer
civil work in bullet riddled buildings devastated by heavy artillery.
acute shortage of staff and support services is self-evident. For
instance the Poonakary Divisional Secretary's office has only four
clerks. The Pachchilaipalli
Divisional Secretariat is also working with only nine clerks. As a
result they are unable to carry out routine work for the Triple 'R'
project which was mooted by this government to carry out rehabilitation
work and provide humanitarian assistance for civilians in the Wanni.
to a situation report issued by the government agent and district
secretary, there are no transport facilities to even deliver drugs to
institutions. There is a shortage of staff in all health categories
while building facilities are not available to run the district hospital
- Killinochchi - and the hospitals at Pachchilaipalli and Poonakary.
main Killinochchi town does not yet have a hospital. The Killinochchi
District Hospital was completely destroyed during the war and as a
result functions 15 miles away at Akkarayankulam which is a small hamlet
west of Killinochchi.
offices of the deputy provincial director of health services
in Killinochchi also functions out of temporary shelters
consisting of sheds constructed from aluminium sheets.
M. O. H. offices of Killinochchi is temporarily functioning at
Akkarayankulam while the M. O. H. office at Poonakary is also
functioning temporarily at Jeyapuram. Some 30 primary health centers are
functioning out of private buildings due to government health sector
buildings having been almost completely destroyed and no renovation work
being initiated since the ceasefire agreement.
of students continue to study under cadjan sheds or bomb battered
classrooms, still bearing the shell shocked scars of a two decade long
Vadamaarachchi East a similar situation exists.
Huge craters in the ground are silent testimony to the area where
once a family lived and called home. Now filled up with green
contaminated water, these craters lie silent, evidence of a devastating
two decade long war. Few
homes are being rebuilt as the maximum earnings of a government servant
inside the Wanni is not more than Rs. 1,500. In fact, according to the
Wanni District Secretariat only 3, 632 families earn this amount and are
considered to be above the poverty line.
Rasanayagam, government agent for Wanni said this amount is barely
enough for a family to survive for a period of 30 days.
He said out of a total population of 142,372 persons "the
situation is desperate" as people have no employment opportunities
and as such are living below poverty lines. He maintained that more than
24,532 families depend on dry rations issued via government food stamps.
Over 32,000 families inside the Wanni live below the poverty
line, he said.
in the area is at an all time low as 12,000 hectares of land cannot be
cultivated due to these
lands not being cleared of mines and explosives. Out of a total 30,000
hectares of farmland, Rasanayagam asserted that only 18,000 hectares
were cultivated last year.
buildings in the war battered north and east are yet to be reconstructed
and many government servants are forced to work out of cadjan sheds and
bombed out shelters.
rehabilitation organisations are working at odds with each other and
even themselves.A senior officer of the North East Provincial Council
who requested anonymity said that at official meetings many of these
representatives do not have a clue how to coordinate funds and implement
said there has been "no dividends from this peace process for the
civilians inside the Wanni - "nothing has happened over this last
year - everything is merely pledges and nothing more," he said.
He added that monies provided to the North East Provincial
Council are diverted to Batticaloa and Amparai. "Not a cent is
allocated for the Wanni region," he claimed.
mail service is in a similar mess. With no proper facilities the postal
service in this area functions in an adhoc manner out of deplorable
working conditions. The
building which once housed the sub post office at Paranthan is just a
shell of its former self. Instead the post office, together with 31
employees functions out of an eight by 12 room at the cooperative store
Killinochchi post office is hardly any better.
Windowless and bullet-riddled this once impressive building is
yet to receive a face-lift. People's Alliance Spokesman, Dr. Sarath Amunugama said that
in his view there is no development taking place in either the north or
all the major activities - they have all been stalled" he said,
citing the Kukule hydro power project, the airport development project,
the super highway project and the Colombo Kandy expressway to name a few
- "are all in limbo."
said most of the hype about investment is just talk and nothing else. He
said more money has been spent promoting investment than ensuring an
influx of money to the country. "With
our present fuel and electricity costs, utterly inefficient bureaucracy,
and problems obtaining land, just saying because we have opened up there
will be a rush to invest is just a pipe dream," he asserted.
asserted that India last week has more or less endorsed the PA position
which is that the interim arrangement must be linked to a final
settlement. "Upto this time the government has been dilly dallying
on this subject." he said.
added the position of the PA has now been vindicated and "we now
feel there is a platform for discussion" he said, adding that the
PA and SLFP are awaiting the LTTE's counter proposals to that submitted
by the government for an interim administration.
Amunugama pointed out that India has also emphasised that the
territorial integrity of Sri Lanka must not be compromised and that the
democratic rights of all her citizens must be safeguarded at any cost.
He reiterated that the PA has been long maintaining this same
stance and he can only hope that since India too has now endorsed this
view it will serve as a springboard for a united effort between the PA,
SLFP and UNP towards resolving the country's conflict.
decision on SLMM Head criticised
Sambandan was critical of President Chandrika Kumaratunga's
decision to call for the removal of Head, Sri Lanka Monitoring
Mission, Tryggve Tellefssen asserting that the SLMM was
constituted on a joint decision arrived in the MOU signed by Prime
Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and LTTE Leader, Velupillai
Pirapaharan in February 2002.
reiterated that while he cannot comment on the reasons for
Tellefssen's removal he can only say that it should have been done
after discussing the matter with the government.
took the decision to call for the removal of the SLMM Chief
following a complaint by Navy Commander Daya Sandagiri that the
SLMM had seriously compromised a naval operation to apprehend a
possible LTTE ship by informing the rebels of the sighting.
60 meter long ship was spotted 225 miles east off Mullaitivu last
week. The vavy following a ceasefire ruling informed the SLMM and
took an international monitor on board a naval vessel.
The monitor however had reportedly using a satellite
telephone contacted the LTTE in Killinochchi and asked if the
Tigers were expecting a vessel.
ship thereafter disappeared. It had first been sighted by
fishermen who had alerted the navy.