Rather than empty promises, the Jaffna people now expect genuine deeds

Total Freedom Still Eludes The Tamil People

MAHINDA LIARWith the presidential elections around the corner and Colombo buzzing about the possible front runners in the race, Jaffna people show indifference. The northern Tamil people feel that irrespective of who comes into power, their grievances will be the same. While thanking for ending the war, the Tamils in the North say that total freedom still eludes them.

The people complain that while roads are being developed, the living condition of the Tamils has been stagnant or perhaps, in some areas, deteriorated. There is a clear breakdown of law and order. It is alleged that criminals can get away from anything by simply bribing the law enforcement officials.

While crime rate in the North is increasing drastically, released on bail, the criminals are freely roaming in the area regularly, it is said. However, the Police claim that they have to release offenders due to lack of detention facilities. Meanwhile, the people point out that many premises and vast areas are there under the security forces. The people charge that despite these facilities, the authorities do not construct detention camps. They also charged that many court cases are pending for years, especially rape cases, subjecting the victims to severe traumas causing them to eventually drop the charges.

The people show displeasure with the TNA indifference to the issues the people face and they charge that the TNA is only interested in opposing the government and trying to bring discredit instead of helping the Tamil people.

A prominent member of the catholic clergy in Jaffna speaking to The Sunday Leader said that the people who left in 1991-92 from KKS and Mailady were still not been resettled.

“I understand the army needs land to expand the harbour airport etc, but should they need such a big area? Why can’t the Army stay among people? The intelligence network of the Army is superb and they did a great job by defeating terrorism. However taking over lands and leaving people stranded and displaced cannot win the people. Alcoholism has increased in the North and crimes are rampant. People are fed up with the whole system and they feel that the Government, Army or TNA does not assist them.”

The Sunday Leader spoke to the people regarding their concerns and what they expect from the government and how they feel about the situation five years after the war.

 

Ramesh Thomas

“The Tamils highly expected a political change. They don’t trust the TNA but that is the only option they have and that is why they are supporting them. We want to support Douglas but since he is in the government, we don’t know what to do. We certainly want a change. Even though the government developed roads, they did nothing to gain the people.

“The Tamil people suffered immensely during the war and just making roads and opening up the railway line is insufficient. ‘We want to govern our own land. We don’t want a separate state or Eelam, but only we Tamils know what we want and feel. We need our people’s representatives in the North who can identify requirements of the Tamil people’ and fulfill them. In the guise of high security zones, the Government has taken people’s lands and they have become helpless and destitute. Holiday homes and stuff are being built on our lands while we have no place to call ‘our homes’. This is unfair and is one main reason for the Tamil people to feel that they want a government change hoping it will look at their concerns better. The war is over, but we are still living in fear. We don’t have the right to free expression. All we are asking for is our basic rights.

“One may say that Tamils are living in the South too, but they buy or rent lands and live there. Here they forcibly take our lands and stay here. They expelled us from our own lands that we have been living for generations.

“They have brought Sinhalese people by force and resettled them in Nawatkuli.”

 

A. Rajeswaran

“Inflation and lack of employment is making it very hard for us to survive. We suffered extremely in the past and although we had high hopes of achieving our past glory and prosperity, this government has not given us anything and we are in fact in a worse state than we were before. Our people feel that there should be a definite change in the political situation in the country. But we do not know if the next presidential candidate can deliver any benefit for the Tamil people, but we are hopeful.

“The government could have done a lot more for the northern and eastern people but unfortunately corruption and frauds are overwhelming and they took precedence over everything else .That is why the people are fed up. In this way the government cannot win the election because it is in a worse state than before the end of the war. We fed up with the LTTE because they forgot their original intentions due to their power and greed.

“I have four in my family and I am a farmer. I earned well in 2001-2002 but now my earning has dwindled. Even though the government has been promising various subsidies for the farmers, so far we did receive nothing. Whatever little the government give they give to paddy farmers. They left us in the lurch.

“We are fed up of this situation and hope that there will be a definite change to bring in prosperity and peace to the entire country and not just for a handful of those in power.”

 

Nawaratnam Paramalingam

“The Tamil people are fed up with the present situation and the way the government act. They are only interested in benefiting their family members and close associates. They have not done anything for us. It is well and good that they are building the roads and railway lines and improving the infrastructure facilities. We really appreciate all that, but what is the point in having all that if the people have no money to spend or even provide the food needed for their families. The roads are fine for the people who have the money to own vehicles and move around.

“But what about the poor man and their requirements? Are we not citizens of this country too? When we questioned TNA in this regard they say that the government is not giving them the power and the allocations to benefit the Tamil people, then the government say the allocations are made and the money has been given to the TNA and they do not use it to help the people. This passing of the ball has done nothing beneficial but brings us misery.

“Those in power struggle to keep it while we suffer immensely to feed and educate our children. We are a proud race and we do not beg for living. We also lived happily in the past, but today we are living worse than animals. We are being displaced for over 24 years and we did not receive any compensation nor alternative lands. Our cases are still pending in courts. Only gods know when courts will extend us justice.

“Our lands are in the Palai High Security Zone and the army is happily building holiday bungalows and hotels earning from our lands keeping us homeless. We don’t care who comes into power. We have lost all faith in every government and party.

“The Northern Region has enough resources including the sea and fertile soil but the Government do not provide us with any support or assistance. Past 25 years, we have not received anything from anyone – the LTTE or the Government. We received some help from foreign governments.

“We agree, the Government defeated terrorism and brought in peace for which we are very grateful. But what is the point in winning the war if they do not help us and let us to starve and die. We are not asking for handouts or free funds, what we want are our lands back and some assistance to restart our lives.

“We do not need a separate state, but the central government should give us right to self-governance even for a limited period of time to regain our lost prosperity. Our expatriate Tamils can come and invest here in the North creating more employments for us. With present government, the expatriates are reluctant to come here to invest in as they do not want to waste their money by oiling the palms of the greedy politicians. They want to help the Tamil people. This government does not encourage Tamils, instead they deterred them.”

 

Asha

‘I work at Jaffna Municipal Council. We, women, cannot even walk on the streets after 6 in the evening. During the LTTE time, people did not commit any wrong fearing severe punishment. Now the police are just turning a blind eye to crimes and corruptions.

“The younger generation is totally ruined and they are now to form gangs. This is creating great fear among the females.

“Even when we travel on the streets, the police stop us and when there is something wrong with our documents, the police take bribes, sometimes they take even meager amount of Rs. 50. The police have stooped to that level. There is no law and order. The government has done nothing to rectify the shortcomings in these areas, so we feel that they are actually happy at the deterioration of our culture. Now you can commit any crime here and simply walk away by bribing the police. Things are so bad. Every week so many crimes are being reported but the police are silent. By 5.30 in the evening the police officers are all off for the day.

“We have no faith in the TNA as well. Until today they did not say a word against the corruption and deterioration of our values and the breakdown of law and order. We have no idea what Maithripala Sirisena or any other would do or if there be any positive change. However, we expect that they will make some changes for the better.

“Just developing roads is not enough since there is so much more that need to be done in every field. Rather than empty promises, the Jaffna people now expect genuine deeds.”