திங்கள், மார்ச் 30, 2009

Memorial Meeting for Kumarasamy Pararajasingam



Berlin,29.03.09: A memorial meeting will be held at the Quaker Meeting House,Wanstead, Bush Road, London E11 3AU on April 5 to commemorate the first death anniversary of the dinstinguished activist and writer comrade Kumarasamy Pararajasingam, who passed away in Germany December 2007.

Mr. Thamayanthi from Norway will deliver an introductory notes,"Through my lens..." on Pararajasingam's photographic exhibitions. "Twisted Things"- A journey from 1983 to 1991,a play by Ridley Silva and extracts from the play "In the Shadow of the Gun" by Sumathy will be performed on the occasion that being organised by his family, friends and well-wishers.

ஞாயிறு, மார்ச் 08, 2009

A reply to the deaf and blind

Published: Sunday Island, Colombo, 8 March 2009.

They ask: "What ails the Tamils?"

Kumar David



Last Sunday a correspondent in the Island, N. A. de S Amaratunga, pointedly directed a question at me: "At least now at this critical juncture can KD tell us in clear terms what he and his ilk (sic) refer to as the Tamil problem, Ethnic Problem, or lack of democracy for Tamils in Sri Lanka" (‘Sinhala Nationalism – A reply to Kumar David’). My first reaction was to ignore this person again because of his vitriolic tenor; it seems that I had taken no notice of a previous challenge (5 October 2008) to "prove with facts and figures that Tamils are discriminated against in Sri Lanka". Inexplicably, he refers to "KD’s dream of partition" and implies several times that I am a separatist, which I am not - though for the record I must state that separatists have a perfect moral and democratic right to further their aims by democratic means – and the piece is so replete with puerile distortions that, methinks, is he worth the ink and paper? However, a friend persuaded me otherwise, saying, "Though we see this query often in print the educated classes (both Sinhalese and Tamils) dismiss it because we know that intelligent Sinhalese, that is, all except the loony fringe, recognise that there is a serious problem of accumulated discrimination to address". But, added my friend, "this is the proper time to put some of it down again, not for the sake of the fringe, but as a reminder".


Sinhala nationalism’s triumphal moment The ethnicchasm by Kumar David



One corner of the story


I really refuse to use up the few valuable column inches that my Editor permits me going through a whole litany of woes. It is not my job to educate the deaf and the blind about systematic discrimination in employment and promotion in the public sector and university admissions in the post Sinhala Only decades. Nor am I in the mood to write a treatise on difficulties Tamils face in dealing with government departments and state corporations, and in cringing before an unhelpful and obstreperous police force - otherwise why is DEW rushing around with Tamil language training crash courses in the public service? Nor do I have space today to write about the denial of self-administration in Tamil areas, the sabotage of a few efforts to grant some devolution, and the disenfranchisement and forced repatriation of Upcountry Tamils to India.

Rather, my topic today is a different corner of the problem, physical security, because it is not often explicitly dealt with in the Colombo seminar circuit, or in media discussions, or in scholarly texts. But it is one of the central issues that defines the Tamil psyche, not only in the diaspora - and that is important enough given that the centre of gravity of Tamil nationalism will and has moved in that direction after the defeat of the LTTE - but it has also never ceased to occupy a central place in the attention of Tamils in Lanka.

Beginning 1958 the issue of violence and physical security has come to sway Tamil concerns and consequently shape politics. The Tamils, even the apolitical and regardless where they are domiciled in the island, are conscious of the possibility of violence directed at them as a community. Initially they saw in violence the work of politically-driven mobs, but in the last thirty years they have come to see violence as emanating from the state and its institutions. In the interim period they experienced and recognized an important change in the state and its police and armed forces (the emergence of the Sinhala State) and in their attitude and behaviour towards Tamils. Thus they see themselves as victims of a unilinear history of racially-motivated violence.

A personal and a recorded anecdote

Jeyan Anketell, whose mother is English and father Tamil, was in school with me, a classmate for several years, until he migrated to England and I entered university here in 1959. He is now an Anglican priest in the UK and wrote as follows in the Guardian (17 January 2009).

"The systematic physical abuse, including murder, of Tamil civilians (began) in 1956, while I was still resident in Sri Lanka. In 1956 supporters of Sinhalese political parties forming the coalition government attacked peaceful demonstrators calling for use of the Tamil language to be allowed in civil and other proceedings. The situation was aggravated by the then prime minister, and a number of Tamils living in the south of the country were attacked, beaten up and even killed, and houses were burned down. I can remember my English mother’s anxiety regarding my Tamil father’s insistence on driving the seven miles to work during these four or five days. The violence was all committed by Sinhalese thugs in the Sinhalese south - but the government sent the army into the Tamil north, in order to "keep the peace", where peace already existed. Similar Sinhalese-on-Tamil violence erupted again on an even uglier scale in 1958. Just a few hundred yards from my home, a Tamil man was set upon, doused with paraffin, set on fire and burned to death for no other reason than being a Tamil in a Sinhalese area. There was no Tamil-on-Sinhalese brutality during this time. From that time on Tamils lived with the terror of having a Tamil name or being identified as Tamil".

These are facts that Amerasekara seems not to know. I guess he is also unfamiliar with Tarzie Vittachi’s Emergency ’58. A little something then to tickle his memory buds.

"Young Annesly Mendis of Moratuwa and a friend of his, both employed as Technical Assistants in the Irrigation Department at Polonnaruwa, decided to flee the district with their families… As they were about to set out a youth called Leo Fernando — who had changed his name discreetly from the Tamil Fernandopulle after the Gal Oya riots — was offered a lift…. The Ford limped into Diyabaduma and was promptly surrounded by 200 terrorists. The leaders greeted them with a hostile question: ‘Aren’t you Tamil?’ They protested that they were Sinhalese. Mendis was forced out of the car and asked to recite a gatha — a Buddhist stanza in Pali. Being a Methodist he knew no gathas. He had also a bad stammer and fear made it worse so that he could not explain himself".

"The mob began to beat him up. Bleeding from his head and ears Mendis ran down the street. They shot him in the back. Insatiable, they then dragged Leo Fernando out of the car and hacked him to death without any palaver. In the confusion the other occupants of the car escaped into the jungle and reached Colombo two days later. Mendis’s body was carried, tied to a pole like a shot animal, to the far side of the bazaar. The goondas poured petrol over the mutilated bodies. Within minutes Mendis and Fernando were two hideous heaps of charcoal".

Wonder what the aforementioned Amarasekara makes of these "facts" and countless more such stories counting up quite some imposing "figures." And all this was long before 1977 and 1983 when things got really very ugly.

The Tamil and Non-Tamil narratives

I am not the best person to write this section; I am no nationalist and far from Tamil-typical in my attitudes, culture and lifestyle. But perhaps the political detachment that comes when a Marxist internationalist makes a point about "the Tamil problem, ethnic problem, or lack of democracy for Tamils" has its advantages since it is a more universal moral outrage, not an ethnic passion, that drives the interlocutor.

One seminal strand in ethnic relations over the last thirty years has been state inflicted violence. To the Tamils of those decades, and now to their children and grandchildren, this has become the Tamil Narrative. This Tamil Narrative has been complemented by the development of a non-Tamil Narrative, (the ‘NAdeS narrative’) one that denies the fundamentals of the Tamil Narrative. And it is the parallel existence of these two narratives which are in complete contradiction to each other that is critical because it is these opposed perceptions, or narratives of events that has ripped Lanka apart and left it bleeding with a bitter civil war in which no prisoners are taken.

To Tamils their narrative does not speak of events of a past that has ended. The experiences of 1956 and 1958 continued after 1977, especially in and since 1983, and now the humanitarian catastrophe in the Wanni. The attitude of non Tamils (including India and the international community) towards Tamils trapped in the Wanni, where tens if not hundreds of thousands are subjected to aerial bombardment, artillery shells and rocket fire, in an ever shrinking area, has angered and embittered Tamils and reinforced their narrative. One sees this even among Tamils who are openly anti-LTTE or largely apolitical; cosmopolitan, middle class Tamils. This narrative has taken deep roots in the Tamil psyche, but as they watched the violence against them was denied in the non-Tamil Narrative. In and after 1983 the architects of the then non-Tamil Narrative (forerunner of the N.AdeS narrative), the Jayewardene Regime and its successors, put their energy into denying this violence.

While Tamils are aware of the non-Tamil Narrative, they are also aware that a proclivity to denial prevents the converse, that is, an awareness of the Tamil Narrative and the fears and forebodings it evokes, not only by Amerasekara and the chauvinists, but also among many Sinhalese who are free from bigotry. This state of denial is why the question is repeatedly asked by some in all innocence: "What is the problem that the Tamils face?"

Closure

This piece has focussed on the issue of violence as a cardinal element in the ethnic conundrum. It is not implied that discrimination in the more ordinary sense, or that political-constitutional alienation, are less significant. Furthermore, this article must not be read to imply that the Tamils, as a people, did not make serious political blunders in the post independence decades, or as a whitewash of Tamil leaders, from Ponnampalam through Chelvanayagam to Prabaharan. I have written on these matters before and will return to these themes from time to time; but rest assured that my critique will be diagonally contrarian to the Amerasekara narrative and standpoint.

வெள்ளி, மார்ச் 06, 2009

சர்வதேச மாதர் தினம் 08.03.2009

ஊடக வெளியீடு :

இலங்கையின் அன்னையரும் புதல்வியரும்

வன்முறையைப் புறக்கணிப்போம்! வாழ்வைப் பேணுவோம்!


போரைப் பற்றிய பெண்களின் நோக்கு


இலங்கையின் இனப்பிரச்சினை, மிகப் பயங்கரமான துன்பியல் பின்னணியை எதிர்நோக்கியுள்ள ஒரு காலகட்டத்திலேயே, நாம் 2009 சர்வதேச மாதார் தினத்தை (08.03.2009) நினைவு கூருகின்றோம். இலங்கையின் இனப்பிரச்சினைக்கு அரசியல் தீர்வைக் காண்பதற்குப் பதிலாக, போரையே இலங்கை அரசாங்கம் தெரிவுசெய்துள்ளது. பல்லாயிரக்கணக்கான இடம்பெயர்ந்தோர் மத்தியில் பெண்களும் சிறுவர்களும் ஆதரவற்ற நிலைக்குத் தள்ளப்பட்டுள்ளனர் என்பதையே எமக்குக் கிடைக்கும் அனைத்துத் தகவல்களும் உறுதிப்படுத்துகின்றன. வைத்தியசாலைகளில் கைவிடப்பட்ட நிலையில், தனிமைப்பட்டுள்ள சிறுவர்கள், தமது பெற்றோர்களைத் தேடி அழுதுபுலம்புவதாகவும் அறிக்கைகள் கூறுகின்றன. வானத்திலிருந்து விழும் எறிகணைகள் காரணமாகவும், போர் புரியும் தரப்பினரின் மோதல் காரணமாகவும், நிராயுதபாணிகளான சிவில் மக்களில் பெரும்பாலான எண்ணிக்கையினர் படுமோசமான காயங்களால் பாதிக்கப்பட்டுள்ளனர். கை-கால்களை இழந்த நிலையில், கர்ப்பிணித் தாய்மார், பாரிய எண்ணிக்கையில் திருகோணமலை-வவுனியா மருத்துவ மனைகளில் அனுமதிக்கப்பட்டுள்ளனர். அரசாங்க அறிக்கைகளுக்கமைய, கர்ப்பிணித் தாய்மார் சுமார் 600 பேர் வவுனியா இடைத்தங்கல் முகாம்களில் தங்கவைக்கப்பட்டுள்ளனர்.

தமிழ் மக்களின் பிரச்சினைகளுக்குப் பேச்சுவார்த்தைகள் மூலம் தீர்வு காணவேண்டும், என்பதையே கடந்த 3 தசாப்தங்களாக, இலங்கையின் அன்னையரும், புதல்வியரும் அமைப்பு, இரு தரப்பினரையும் வலியுறுத்தி வந்துள்ளது. அதேசமயம், சகல தேசிய இனங்களும் சமத்துவத்துடன் வாழ்வதற்கு உகந்த அரசியல் சட்டகத்தை உருவாக்க வேண்டும், என்பதையும் நாம் வலியுறுத்தி வந்தோம். இன்று எதிர் நோக்கியுள்ள அரசியல் துன்பியல் சம்பவங்களைத் தடுப்பதற்கே, நாம் தொடர்ச்சியாக சமாதானத்திற்கு எம்மை அர்ப்பணித்திருந்தோம்.

போரும் சுனாமியும், இம்சையையும், இடப்பெயர்வையும் மாத்திரமே இன்று பெண்களுக்கு உரித்தாக்கியுள்ளது. போரின் இறுதிப் பெறுபேறுகள் எவ்வாறு அமைந்தாலும், அதன் கொடூரமான விளைவுகளை தாய்மாரும் மனைவியருமே அனுபவிக்கின்றனர். ஓட்டுமொத்தமாக சிங்கள, தமிழ், முஸ்லீம் பெண்களே துயரங்களை அனுபவிக்கின்றனர். போரில் மாண்ட ஆயுதப்படையினரின் பிரேதங்கள், பாரிய எண்ணிக்கையில் வந்து குவிவதாக எமது உறுப்பினர் அமைப்புக்களிலிருந்து கிடைக்கும் தகவல்கள் கூறுகின்றன. ஹசலக்க, ஹிங்குரக்கொட, மெதிரிகிரிய போன்ற கிராமங்களுக்கு பிரேதங்கள் வந்த வண்ணமுள்ளன. தமிழ் விதவைகள் மாத்திரமன்றி, சிங்கள சமூகத்திலும் விதவைகள் அதிகரித்துக் கொண்டே இருக்கின்றனர். ஆட்சியாளர்களின் அரசியல் முடிவுகள் காரணமாக சிங்களக் கிராமங்களும் விதவைக் கிராமங்களாக மாறிவருகின்றன.

பொருளாதார நெருக்கடி பெண்களைப் பாதிக்கும் முறை


இலங்கை மாத்திரமல்லாது முழு உலகமும் இன்று பாரிய பொருளாதார நெருக்கடியை எதிர்நோக்கியுள்ளது. இந்நெருக்கடி குறிப்பாக முதலீட்டு வலயங்களிலும் புலம்பெயர் உழைப்பாளர் மத்தியிலும் பாரிய தாக்கங்களை ஏற்படுத்தி வருகின்றது. வேலைவாய்ப்பற்ற பெண்களின் எண்ணிக்கை அதிகரித்துள்ளது. சுதந்திர வர்த்தக வலயத்திலும் மத்திய கிழக்கு நாடுகளிலும் வேலைவாய்ப்பற்ற தன்மை அதிகரித்து வருகிறது.

தேயிலைத் தொழிலிலும் வீழ்ச்சி கண்டு வருகிறது. இதன் காரணமாகத் தேயிலைத் தோட்டங்களில் பணியாற்றும் தமிழ்ப் பெண்களின் சம்பளம் வீழ்ச்சி கண்டுள்ளது.

இலங்கையின் ஏற்றுமதி வருமானத்தில், 47 % ஆடை ஏற்றுமதியிலேயே கிடைக்கிறது. சுதந்திர வர்த்தக வலயத்திற்கு GSP+ சலுகை கிடைப்பது சந்தேகத்திற்கு இடமாகியுள்ளது. எனவே, தொழிற்சங்கங்களை அமைப்பது இங்கு தடைசெய்யப்பட்டு வருகின்றது. இந்த அச்சுறுத்தல்களின் மத்தியில் ஆடைத் தொழிற்சாலைகளை இழுத்து மூடி, ஆயிரக்கணக்கான தொழிலாளர்களை நடுத்தெருவில் கைவிட, தொழிற்சாலை நிர்வாகம் முயன்று வருகின்றது. இத்தகைய நிலைமை உருவானால், இளம் பெண்களே பாரிய அநீதிக்குள்ளாவார்கள்.

மத்திய கிழக்கு நாடுகளுக்குப் புலம்பெயரும் உழைப்பாளர்களாகிய பெண்களே, எமது பொருளாதாரத்தை வளப்படுத்தி வருகின்றனர். மிகப் பாதுகாப்பற்ற நிலையிலேயே இவர்களின் வாழ்க்கை அமைந்துள்ளது.

அரசியலில் பெண்களின் பிரதிநிதித்துவம் எங்கே?.....

கடந்த மூன்று ஆண்டுகளாக அரசியலில் பெண்களின் பிரதிநிதித்துவத்தை அதிகரிப்பதற்கு பெண்கள் அமைப்புக்கள் செயற்பட்டு வருகின்றன. எமது வலைப்பின்னல் உட்பட பல பெண்கள் அமைப்புக்கள், பெண்களின் அரசியல் பிரதிநிதித்துவத்தை 30% வீதத்தால் அதிகரிப்பதற்கு, பாராளுமன்றத் தெரிவுக்குழு முன்னே 2006இல் தமது யோசனைகளை முன்வைத்தன. எமது கோரிக்கையை, மேற்படி தெரிவுக்குழு பொருட்படுத்தவில்லை. அதேசமயம், அரசியற் கட்சிகளும் தாமாகவே முன்வந்து, 30% வீதமான பிரதிநிதித்துவத்தைப் பெண்களுக்கு ஒதுக்க, மறுத்து வருகின்றன. இந்நிலைமைகளின் கீழ், அரசியல் கட்சிகளில் செயற்படும் பெண்கள், தைரியமிழந்துள்ளனர். ஒருபுறம் தேர்தலில் ஈடுபடும் பெண்களும், குடும்ப ஆதிக்கம் - பணப்பலம் என்பவை முன்னே, பாரிய போராட்டத்தில் ஈடுபட நேர்ந்துள்ளது. மறுபுறம் சுதந்திரமான - நீதியான தேர்தல் நடவடிக்கைகளை மீறிச் செயற்படும் தேர்தல்களை, பெண்கள் எதிர்நோக்க முடியாத ஒரு நிலைமையும் நிலவுகின்றது.

ஜனநாயகமே எமது கோரிக்கை


ஒட்டுமொத்தமாக ஜனநாயகம், மனித உரிமைகள், சுதந்திர ஊடகம் என்பவற்றிற்குப் பாரிய அச்சுறுத்தல் விடுக்கப்பட்டு வருகின்றது. மனித உரிமைகளுக்காகவும், ஜனநாயகத்திற்காகவும் குரல் கொடுக்கும் பெண் செயற்பாட்டாளர்கள், ஊடகவியலாளர்கள், சிவில் சமூக அமைப்புக்கள், பயங்கரவாதத்திற்கும் ஒடுக்குமுறைக்கும் ஆளாக்கப்பட்டுள்ளனர். போருக்கான கூக்குரலிடையே மறைந்திருந்த வண்ணம் இவ்வொடுக்குமுறை கட்டவிழ்த்து விடப்படுகின்றது. இதன் காரணமாக சிங்கள சமூகம் அரசியலில் செயற்பட முன்வருதல் செயலிழக்கப்பட்டுள்ளது.

வன்முறைகளையும் இம்சையையும் புறக்கணிப்போம்

அம்பாறை - மட்டக்களப்பு ஆகிய மாவட்டங்களில், பெண்களுக்கெதிரான பாலியல் வன்முறைச் சம்பவங்கள் அறிக்கையிடப்படுகின்றன. குறிப்பாக, சர்வதேச மாதர் தினம் நெருங்கிக் கொண்டிருக்கும் இவ்வேளையில், மார்ச் 1ஆம் திகதி மட்டக்களப்பு மாவட்டத்தின் வெள்ளாவெளிக் கிராமம் விசேட அதிரடிப்படையினரால் சுற்றிவளைக்கப்பட்ட போது 14 வயது தமிழ்ச் சிறுமி பாலியல் வன்புணர்ச்சிக்கு ஆளாக்கப்பட்டுள்ளார். இது தொடர்பாக குறிப்பிட்ட சிறுமியின் தாயார் பொலிஸ் நிலையத்தில் முறையிட்டமையால், மறுநாள் ஆயுதப்படையினர் அங்கு வந்து மேற்படி தாயாரை அடித்து உதைத்து கொன்றுள்ளனர், என அறிக்கைகள் கூறுகின்றன. இது பெண்கள் அனைவருக்கும் எதிரான பாரிய அவமானமாகும்.

வன்முறையையும் இம்சைகளையும் இல்லாதொழிக்க, பெண்களாகிய நாம் முன்வருதல் வேண்டும். ஐக்கிய நாடுகள் சபை வெளியிட்டுள்ள, பெண்களுக்கெதிரான இம்சைகள் பற்றிய விசேட பிரகடனத்திற்கு அமைய (48/140) பெண்களுக்கெதிரான இம்சை, சமாதானம் - அபிவிருத்தி மற்றும் சமத்துவத்தை அடைவதற்கான முக்கிய தடையாக அடையாளம் காணப்பட்டுள்ளது. இம்சை, அனைத்து அடிப்படை உரிமைகளையும் மீறும் செயலாகும். பெண்களுக்கெதிரான வன்முறை ஆண்-பெண் இருபாலாருக்கிடையில் நிலவும் அசமத்துவ அதிகார உறவையே வெளிப்படுத்துகின்றது. பெண்களுக்கெதிரான வன்முறையை புறக்கணிப்பது முழுச் சமூகத்தினதும் பொறுப்பாகும். ஏனெனில், இம்சைக்கு உள்ளாகும் பெண் - உங்கள் தாய், சகோதரி, மனைவி, மகள், காதலி அல்லது பாட்டியாக - இருக்கலாம். இவ்வுறவுகளைப் பயன்படுத்தி பெண்களைத் தாக்குவதற்கு, எரிப்பதற்கு, துஷ்பிரயோகம் செய்வதற்கு அல்லது கொல்வதற்கு ஆண்களுக்கு எதுவித உரிமையும் கிடையாது, என நாம் வலியுறுத்திக் கூறுகின்றோம்.
  • பெண்களின் அரசியல் பிரதிநிதித்துவத்தை அதிகரிப்பதற்கான சட்டங்களை அங்கீகரிக்கவும்.

  • பெண்களுக்கெதிரான வன்முறை மனித உரிமை மீறலாகும்.

  • வீட்டு வன்முறைக்கெதிரான சட்டத்தை அர்த்தபுஷ்டியுள்ளதாக்குவோம்!

  • பெண்களுக்கெதிரான பாலியல் வன்புணர்ச்சியை புறக்கணிப்போம்!

  • பெண்களுக்கெதிரான வன்புணர்ச்சியாளர்களுக்குக் கடுமையான தண்டனை வழங்குக!

  • சுதந்திர வர்த்தக வலயத்தில் சமிளா திசாநாயக்க சகோதரியை கொலை செய்த பாதகனுக்கு உரிய தண்டனை வழங்குக!

  • புலம்பெயர் தேசிய நியதிச் சட்டத்தை உடனடியாக செயற்படுத்துக!

  • போரை நிறுத்தி இயல்பு வாழ்க்கையை அமுலாக்க இரு தரப்பினரும் நடவடிக்கை மேற்கொள்க!

  • மட்டக்களப்பு மாவட்டத்தில் இடம்பெற்றுள்ள பெண்களுக்கெதிரான பாலியல் வன்புணர்ச்சிகளை வன்மையாகக் கண்டிக்கின்றோம். குறிப்பாக மட்டக்களப்பு மாவட்டத்தின் வெள்ளாவெளிக் கிராமத்தில் இடம்பெற்றுள்ள பாலியல் வன்புணர்ச்சி தொடர்பாக முறைசார் விசாரணைகளை நடத்தி குற்றம் சுமத்தப்பட்டுள்ள விசேட அதிரடிப்படையினருக்கு அவர்களின் அந்தஸ்தைப் பாராமல் தண்டனை வழங்குக!


  • சட்டத்தரணி நிமல்கா பர்ணாந்து
    இணைப்பாளர்

    இலங்கையின் அன்னையரும் புதல்வியரும் அமைப்பின் சார்பில்

    செவ்வாய், மார்ச் 03, 2009

    Sri Lanka's war zone - an insider's testimony

    By Peter Foster




    The humanitarian situation in Sri Lanka deepens daily, with up to 200,000 (the Sri Lankan government says 100,000) civilians trapped in the conflict zone as Sri Lanka's armed forces attempt a final rout of the Tamil Tiger rebels (LTTE) in defiance of requests from India and others for a ceasefire.

    I have referred in the past to the difficulties for aid workers in Sri Lanka, so I wanted to share a communication that I received from a veteran international aid worker who was delivering food-aid to displaced people in the Vanni towards the end of last year.

    I'm giving you the account in full below, but what is interesting to me is how it shows the extent to which relations between the Sri Lankan government and the United Nations are strained on the ground.

    To my source it appeared that Sri Lanka army and politicans didn't see the UN as 'their UN too', but rather a "hostile and subservient" force in its own country.

    Attempts to deliver aid (such as shelter materials) are often obstructed for fear of anything landing up in the hands of the LTTE. From this perspective, 'humanitarian aid' becomes indistinguishable (to some of those prosecuting this war) from 'aiding' the enemy.

    This explains a lot of Sri Lanka's foot-dragging when it comes to meeting its humanitarian obligations. It is true that the LTTE (shooting at fleeing civilians) is worse, but then it is fair to expect higher standards from a democratically elected government.

    The source also reports that UN vehicles and staff were subjected to searches in disregard of the Vienna Convention that grants immunity from such intrusions. "Not even in Kosovo in 1998 (before NATO came in) were the Serbs so disrespectful of international UN staff as is the Sri Lankan Army," the aid worker adds.

    This attitude towards the UN and its humanitarian mission has very serious implications - not just for the suffering displaced people on the ground who need an effective aid-operation - but because it gives the world another reason not to take at face value the 'good intentions' of the Sri Lankan government.

    Pro-Tamil groups are pressing hard to have the Sri Lankan war-effort censured at the UN (which won't happen because China and Russia will veto such efforts), accusing the Sri Lankan government of conducting what amounts to a 'genocide' against the Tamil minority.

    Without wanting to get into the legal definition of 'genocide', such claims - true or false, exaggerated or otherwise - are given a certain amount of force by the apparent reluctance of the Sri Lankan government to be more transparent and co-operative with international agencies as it conduct its war.

    The ultimate question, as I have written in the past, is what post-War settlement the right-wing Sinhalese government of Mahinda Rajapakse intends to impose on Sri Lanka's Tamils.

    The fear - fuelled by the repeated attacks on the Sri Lankan media (most recently the Tamil newspaper editor N Vithyatharan), the refusal to tolerate dissent in Sri Lanka and the often chauvinist rhetoric of key figures in the Sri Lankan government, including the army chief Sarath Fonseka - is that the final settlement will be so discriminatory and demanding of subservience from the Tamil minority that it will amount to a piece of ethnic suppression/cleansing in all but name.

    Only time will truly tell if those fears are justified. I make no predictions, however I do believe that the legitimacy of such fears - indignantly dismissed as Tamil propaganda by the Sri Lankan government - is deepened by the current Sri Lanka's government's apparently hostile attitude towards the UN, both on the ground and in international diplomatic circles.

    What follows is a simple account of one aid workers experience on the ground in Sri Lanka. At one level it is perfectly mundane, but at the same time provides a rare insight into how difficult and highly politicised aid has become on the ground in Sri Lanka.

    The correspondent writes as follows:

    "On one particular food convoy which consisted of 60 x 35 ton trucks loaded to capacity the loading of it was monitored by soldiers and trucks they were sealed and secured in a compound the night before departure. Fuel tanks were sealed as were spare wheels etc. This may be reasonable in order to deny giving help to the enemy but it also included searching personal effects of UN international staff - short of body searches everything was searched.

    On 2 occasions government propaganda leaflets were secreted into vehicles by a soldier - these were aimed at the Tamils who would be unloading vehicles at the destination.

    When the convoy left it was escorted by the army to the SLA [Sri Lankan Army] front line (to prevent anything being added to the loads) and then accompanied by ICRC [Red Cross] through 30 kilometers of no-man's land (NML) to the LTTE checkpoint. Apart from counting trucks there was no problem from the LTTE.

    About 10 kilometers into NML 2 shells landed to the rear far enough away to cause no damage but the light vehicles (Toyota Land Cruisers) shuddered with the vibration. This despite being assured by both sides that it would be safe.

    On arrival at Puthukkudyiruppu (PTK) the convoy split and 30 trucks went to Dharmapuram - it was still daylight and the state of the IDPs [internally displaced people or refugees] in shacks, etc along the roadside and deeper into the countryside was easy to observe. There was no chance to get out and speak to them as the mission was to deliver food and educational material to Dharmapuram, unload and get out. The government had given times to keep to.

    One staff member compared the situation of the IDPs to that he'd seen in Somalia when talking to the BBC. The IDPs were living very basically. The BBC added that Somalia had no government since 1991. This angered the government which only wants to see positive reporting and the person who made the remark was banned from carrying out any more humanitarian activity in the Vanni. Such is the control of the press and objective reporting. Clearly the government is scared about the world hearing what is going on.

    The following morning from first light (6am) some IDPs were visited in Dharmapuram. IDPs were found living under plastic sheet shelters, used rice bags, cardboard etc. There were no shelter materials which agencies wanted to distribute as the government would not allow these to be taken in case LTTE used them as defence stores.

    ...............................

    On the return trip there were further shellings to the front of the convoy which lasted about 2 hours. When it stopped the convoy carried on south out of the battle area. In no man's land the road was partially blocked by debris which was found to be shell debris - a shell impact was found on the track and broken branches across the road. This was the case also 500 meters further on. The shelling was happening despite being given assurances by both parties that it would be safe. Had the convoy not stopped or proceeded with care it could easily have been under the shelling.

    The track was cleared and we drove on - arriving at the government front line where there were some troops and an ICRC tent with some of their staff. The front line was at a river and over a dozen SLA soldiers were splashing around almost naked in the river. Only one man was clothed and holding and weapon. Is it much surprise that the army take such heavy casualties? It was odd that that only a corporal was present - no officers. One wondered where the officers were - an officer was not seen for another 25 kilometers!

    Later, at Omantai Checkpoint, (a purpose-built government vehicle search area) the convoys have to stop. Each and every one of the UN trucks is systematically searched. Although they were empty by this time, some 4 hours was spent by soldiers measuring interior dimensions and comparing them with external dimensions. Engines, chassis, driving compartments - everything was subject to such detailed searches.

    Not only that, but the UN cars occupied by UN staff went through the same routine. International staff are required to empty out their personal effects while every item is examined by soldiers with a pompous attitude which would not have been tolerated by those being searched on Belfast Streets years ago. Food containers were opened, toothpaste tubes, etc. The troops are unsupervised except by Military Police junior NCOs. No officers are present.

    A UN staff member who told the BBC that the situation of the displaced community in the battle area was comparable to that he saw in Somalia some years before. As a result of making that comment the government ordered that he report to the commanding general. He refused to do so as it was very likely to be reprimanded and he was not to be humiliated. He was informed that he was persona non grata in the LTTE area and was to keep out of it. Foreign eyes are not supposed to say anything about what is seen in the battlefield.

    He returned to Colombo and went into low profile. In the following days a TV studio (which did not tow the government line) was trashed by 20 thugs with weapons, a leading journalist (critical of the government) shot dead in the street, an ambassador called to the Minister for Foreign Affairs for making unbecoming comments at the funeral of the journalist.....there is a risk in saying anything critical of the situation in Sri Lanka.

    திங்கள், மார்ச் 02, 2009

    Theatre Of the People: Multi-Ethnic Theatre Groups

    http://www.theatreofthepeople.org


    Multi-Ethnic Theatre Groups

    Initiating, instituting and maintaining multi ethnic theatre groups is a highly successful experiment carried out by Janakaraliya. We have realistically demonstrated through Janakaraliya that potential and ability of theatre arts to inculcate positive ingredients of peaceful and harmonious coexistence within multi ethnic communities is quite remarkable.

    Full time Theatre Group

    The Janakaraliya full time theatre group was established in the year 2004 with a multi ethnic composition of Sinhala and Tamil youth as an experimental crusade. At the time of recruitment the members of our theatre group were unskilled school leavers hailing from destitute rural Sinhala and Tamil families. These young men and women from Sinhala and Tamil communities engaged in a war that has lasted for more than two decades, were housed full time under the same roof. They were educated thoroughly on the theory and practical applications of theatre arts as well as important social issues. Learning together as a single family facilitated the Sinhala youth to acquire skills and usage of the Tamil language and the Tamil youth to acquire skills in the usage of Sinhala language.

    As a result the first ever multi ethnic theatre group was able to produce all the dramas produced by them in both Sinhala and Tamil languages. With this newly acquired language skills facilitated them to understand each other better. Experiences gained during the past four years on theatre arts and other Janakaraliya programmes have toned their skills well enabling them to continue with the programmes envisaged by Janakaraliya.

    Janakaraliya Zonal Drama Groups

    Wherever Janakaraliya traveled, it has created tremendous enthusiasm and degree of excitement among the local population. As a means of sustaining and nourishing these positive trends among the people Janakaraliya has created a communication network linking these local drama and arts groups and helped them by educating them on theory and practical aspects of theatre arts. Thus three Zonal groups have been established in three districts, a mixed group centered in Anuradhapura and Hambanthota and a Tamil group in Nuwara Eliya. Members of these Zonal groups are also hailing from family backgrounds similar to those of the full time members. They have already produced several short and long dramas and are performing them in their localities keeping in par with the vision and objectives of Janakaraliya.

    Independent Drama Groups

    As already mentioned Janakaraliya has created tremendous enthusiasm among the local population wherever they traveled. In some places art and theatre lovers have formed their own independent drama groups. We always help enthusiastic local drama and theatre groups to re-organize their theatre arts groups, providing opportunities and motivating them to perform for the audiences in our theatres, popularizing their creations and thereby introducing them to audiences which them some recognition. There are two such groups in Polonnaruwa and Monaragala.