Wednesday, October 20, 2004

From graveyards to ghosts of liveration by Frances Bulathsinghala in Wanni

Balasundarampillai, is one among four hired masons who have come from government-controlled Vavuniya to the LTTE-controlled Madhu region to construct anew the LTTE cemeteries that have been left incomplete.

He is following the instructions given by the LTTE on how the cemetery is to be arranged - with trenches cut. "Just in case, there is a war again," he adds without being asked. He does not have to add: to bury those who are killed.

The cement on the oblong tomb stones, 320 in all, is barely dry. This cemetery, in the vicinity of the Madhu church, unlike the many others which are completed with marble slabs and podium, had been mounds of soil, marking the graves of the cadres. Now wet and glistening, the name plaques are marked. Irrespective of rank, following the LTTE status of proclaimed equality.

Does the idea of another war seem to bother Mr. Balasunderampillai, a father of three children to feed? Not yet. For him after two and a half years of peace, war seems to hover in the distant, improbable horizon. The recent LTTE suicide bombing which shook Colombo in particular and the country in general does not apply to him.

He does not live in Colombo and is not a Sinhalese and the impact of the recent LTTE suicide attack has little effect on him. He does not know or care about the reasons behind the attack which was targeted at the arch enemy of the LTTE and the only Tamil political ally of President Kumaratunga, Minister Douglas Devananda.

And Mr. Balasundarampillai has only vaguely heard of Mr. Devananda, the Hindu Affairs Minister, the only Tamil politician who does not support the LTTE and whose very name on Tamil lips is considered poisonous fair by the Tamil Tigers.

And as he arranges brick upon brick to create the cemetery infrastructure which is similar to all the LTTE cemeteries in the other northeastern areas, Mr. Balasundaranpillai explains that he is lucky because he is hired by the LTTE directly. Lucky, because this way he does not have to pay the LTTE tax -- the rate depending on the nature and size of the construction -- for entering Tiger-controlled territory for obtaining employment in this land of liberation.

Not that there is any construction work as such, unless it is carried out by the LTTE. No one can afford constructions. And if any is attempted by any chance, there is the LTTE interrogation to be faced, as to why such constructions are needed for the ordinary people. There is no question here of building a house as opulent as one likes. Cement cannot be found anywhere except with the LTTE cement 'dealers' and (to a minimum extent) at the cooperative society located in the towns. And even here it is priced at Rs. 550 , because of the LTTE tax, nearly 150 rupees higher than the price in Colombo.

"We will be given another contract for a cemetery in Kilinochchi and maybe more. This is an assured income," says Mr. Balasundarampillai. He begins to enumerate the LTTE tax strategy but stops as the keeper of the cemetery, an LTTE member who declines to divulge his name, arrives to brusquely demand why we want to know anything about how the LTTE runs its administration.

He is friendlier when asked to explain about the costs of setting up the cemetery. About the LTTE cemeteries, the stamp of its military past and its 'freedom struggle', he is happy to talk.

It costs Rs. 6,000 a tomb, including the labour costs, he explains. He does not enumerate the expenditure for the lofty wall that surrounds the cemetery acreage, though. Nor does he explain about the LTTE proliferation of its coffers mainly through its taxes. According to the LTTE-run Wanni Transport Board, the tax, one way travel on the one bus which plies twice from the main Madhu route, is Rs. 40.

For bringing in bikes, cycles and tractors from government-controlled territory to LTTE regions, the tax is 25% which applies for any kind of goods including large quantities of consumer goods though the LTTE propaganda website claimed last year that they had waived taxes on most items.

More than 15 kilometres away from the area of the Madhu church, which was a camp for the war displaced, where over 10,000 families lived in shacks we turn towards the Mawawi-Kilinochchi route, the non-tarred jungle bordered road leads to pockets of land cleared for habitation. No buses of the LTTE transport service, the only transport service in the area, ply on this road. Dust creates an almost palpable curtain and the brown of the dried up shrubs gets thicker with each mile.

Periyapandivirichan, an arid jungle terrain, is one area along this stretch which houses around 35 families who had earlier lived in the huddled confines of the Madhu IDP settlement.

"There is no way of earning a living. We survive because we cultivate our own food," says Ponniah Mahendra standing on the parched ground which he has tried to force into bearing fruit with meagre results. It is now almost eight months since he and his acquaintances at the Madhu settlement arrived here with their scanty war preserved belongings and cleared the heavy jungle into a marginally habitable place.

He has tried to tame this land into agriculture as much as possible and his present agricultural bounty totals to a few plantain trees, onion paths, manioc and chillie cultivation.

He remains mute to what he thinks of the LTTE. Nobody makes any comment of what he thinks of the LTTE. Fettered by a poverty as parched as this land, liberation hovers in the air and blends into the hot winds. Yet, when asked why he does not make an effort to sell some of the produce, he says the effort of cycling five kilometres to the nearest village on his rusted cycle is not worth it as he has to also pay the 5% LTTE tax levied for selling vegetable produce.

Those owning cycles or motorcycles have a better way of earning a living as they rent the vehicles out for Rs. 10 a ride for short distances which total to around Rs. 50 for over ten kilometres.

Asked if the LTTE assists the Tamil people living in territory controlled by it through the LTTE-run monetary organisations such as the Tamil Rehabilitation Organisation and the LTTE Economic Development Centre, he says he is not aware of such organisations as they do not assist the Tamil people in the Wanni. Nor does he seem aware of the nature of the liberation the LTTE is fighting for.

Images of a ravaged culture

Aham Puram, an exhibition depicting the horrors of war by gifted artists from both the North and South will be open throughout this month at the Jaffna Public Library. Frances Bulathsinghala reports

As a young boy Pakianathan Ahilan used to often watch the sunset. From his hometown Araly, a remote village in Jaffna overlooking the sea, he would observe beyond the horizon, how the sun would make its glorious exit from day and sink in the sky just behind the edifice that the Tamil people considered part of their intellectual heritage - the stately structure of the Jaffna Public Library. This image he would later sketch if there was sufficient chalk in the house.

Ahilan was too young to be familiar with the vast number of texts and chronicles that existed within those imposing walls and going to the library for him then was as ceremonious as attending the yearly cultural festival with his parents. However he dreamt of the day he would be able to enter those hallowed precincts and discover the key to knowledge.

His eight-year-old dreams were shattered on May 31, 1981 when his horizon became submerged in fire and all that was left to view were charred remnants and a burning city.

It has been 23 years since the burning of the Jaffna library by political goons and the fuelling of a bloody ethnic conflict opening the gates of terrorism. Ahilan who is qualified in art history and in art criticism stands in the premises of the old Public Library. Surrounding him are new walls. New books. A new phase. A new version of the old library. And in this new library which was opened to the public in February this year, is the one month long art exhibition opened on September 5 of which Ahilan is one of the key organisers and curator.

The biggest ever art exhibition so far to be held in Jaffna with the participation of over fifty Southern artists through sculpture, paintings and installation creates an awareness that is harrowing. And the Jaffna Public Library which stands as witness to a senseless , politicized war seems the most appropriate place to have the exhibition dealing largely with the theme of war and peace leaving it to the viewer to imagine the horrors of those who lived through what was acted out in real, cold blooded, life.

Titled Aham Puram (translated from Tamil meaning 'inner' and 'outer'- the two words also could be interpreted as home and world), the exhibition is the result of the labours of the organisers - Jagath Weerasinghe and a group of artists from Colombo belonging to the Theertha International Artists Collective and a group of literary and aesthetic figures based in Jaffna and affiliated to the Jaffna university. The exhibition is also mainly the brainchild of the study site for visual culture, named Sethu, an organisation launched in July this year to improve the arts in Jaffna and especially propagate artistic communication between the South and the North.

With over fifty paintings mostly oils on canvas portraying the various aspects of conflict displayed, the exhibition has a large number of installations with a separate installation titled 'History of Histories' which takes up two halls of the library. This art installation consisting of 'war remnants' collected randomly from 500 houses within the Jaffna peninsula captures vividly the ashes that the twenty- year- old conflict created in the souls of the Jaffna people.

A board describing this art work 'History of Histories' has this to say : "Loss, destruction, despair, disappearance, suffering, death, exodus and nostalgia became part of mundane and ordinary experience. There is no house or street or village or town without the touch of war. Even though the people restarted removing the physical destructions of war and engaged in reconstruction, they still live with their inner wounds in the 'no war' time'.

Plastic bottles cut into half and sealed with the tops of the bottles turned inward contain 'ordinary' things : an identity card , a Ministry form filled by a desperate wife looking for her missing husband suspected to have been taken in by the military under the Prevention of Terrorism Act, an empty cigarette packet, a knife, a rusted door knob, a faded photograph of happy times… The list continues. Ordinary things rusted in time in the receding memory of war. Every assembled item could be taken for its own symbol. The knife for the hope, joy, and life the war has severed, the door knob for the opening of the doors of terror and again (if a positive note is to be forced) for the opening of the doors of peace. Pieces of rusted and broken lamps for the snuffing out of the light of living.

Among the items in this display are many identity cards of owners whose whereabouts were never known. Ahilan walking through the two halls containing this artwork explains that it was specially done for the Jaffna Public Library. He points out that even after the conclusion of the exhibition this installation might get its permanent place in the library as the two halls it is displayed in are so far vacant.

"In this particular installation it is for the people to make their own impressions. We are forcing nothing upon them but give them 'reality' in aesthetic hues," explains Ahilan who says that there have been many visitors from Colombo since the opening of the exhibition on September 5th.

Speaking of the paintings from Southern artists including veterans such as Chandragupta Thenuwara, Jagath Weerasinghe, Sarath Kumarasiri and Anoli Perera he says that although there was no formal theme in particular for the selection of works, all the paintings invariably dealt with war and peace "This is the 90's trend," he says by way of explanation and states that this trend had most of the artists juxtaposing Buddhism against conflict and terrorism. This he says is a campaign against the institutionalization of Sri Lankan Buddhism as a political tool.

Among the paintings is Chandragupta Thenuwara's famous depiction of war in the form of 'barrelism' as exhibited from the beginnings of the 90s in Colombo. Although the exhibition clearly deals with a past that is wrapped in darkness and which seems to still have only glimmers of light, T. Shanaathanan who is a Jaffna based artist and affiliated to the Jaffna University in the capacity of lecturer in the Department of Fine Arts says that more than the past or the present the exhibition is aimed at focusing on the aspect of transition.

"The existence and meaning of aham (inner) is dependent upon and inclusive of puram (outer) and a yearning to grasp the subtleties of aham takes us to the wider world of puram. The anxieties of suspicion and fear that ensues when confronting puram makes us realise the meanings of aham," explains Shanaathanan delineating the spiritual cum philosophical aspect of the two words and their implications.

The most unique art installation 'The table of food' which has a remarkable sense of acuity, is in the form of a dinner table, covered by a white tablecloth, with white plates, where the 'food' burnt to cinders is placed. The menu includes among other sooty 'delicacies', a severed hand.

This creation of Sanath Kalubadana delivers the message by its concept but it is in the handwritten 'menu' fixed on the table at every plate that the weight of the message comes through. Within a folded sheet of paper with red letters that states ‘menu’ is the statement with space for comments that says : "I have only this to offer. Since this food is inedible, please write about a culture that can produce edible food".

This message epitomizes the message of all the artists. Existence is no longer human. Politics is no longer there to serve people. And religion a political rhetoric.

Tiger facilities to be reviewed by Sunil Jayasiri

The facilities now being extended to the LTTE are to be reviewed in the wake of several instances where the LTTE had reportedly taken undue advantage of them under the Ceasefire Agreement, a top government official said.

The highly placed official told the Daily Mirror yesterday that SLMM Head Trond Furuhovde, the Norwegian facilitators and Government Peace Secretariat chief Jayantha Dhanapala would meet on Thursday at the Peace Secretariat to discuss the issue.

According to him the review of facilities is to be undertaken after several instances have been cited by the military where sick LTTE cadres who are brought to a cleared area for medical treatment are accompanied by several other persons whom the military cannot identify.

Other instances are where senior LTTE leaders seek helicopter rides from the North to the East and vice-versa. It has come to light that a large number of such trips have not been made for peace-related matters, the official said.

"We cannot identify who is coming to the cleared areas. Sometimes they submit their identities and sometimes they don't, and recently a senior LTTE cadre tried to enter the government-held area posing as a civilian, though he had been issued with an identity card. That is why the government wants the facilities reviewed", he said.

"Some groups have taken undue advantage to infiltrate Colombo and the suburbs under the Ceasefire Agreement", he charged.

He also said the government had to spend a large sum of money to maintain the peace process at the time the country was facing an economic crisis.

Meanwhile, Defence Secretary Cyril Herath said that the SLMM chief had informed him that he would personally visit the controversial Nagar Kovil area in Jaffna, where the LTTE had moved its Forward Defence Line closer to the Army Forward Defence Line.

Following the meeting with the SLMM head, Mr. Herath said the SLMM would submit a full report on the issue soon after conducting a first hand study there.

Speaking on the LTTE bunker issue in Trincomalee, he had already received a full report from the SLMM and was studying it.

No direct aid to LTTE, says World Bank

The World Bank has reassured it would not be providing direct funding to the LTTE, despite speculation that it was preparing to implement its proposed development programmes in the uncleared areas with the LTTE.

A spokesman for the World Bank office in Colombo told The Sunday Times they would remain with the original position that all funding would be channeled through the Central government.

The controversy came after World Bank country director Peter Harrold this week visited the LTTE in the north and handed over a Tamil translation of the Country Assistance Strategy which covers projects to be introduced in the northern and eastern provinces, including the uncleared areas.

Following the meeting, the LTTE's peace secretariat in a statement said that discussions took place between Mr. Harrold and LTTE Political Wing leader S.P.Thamilselvan on removing 'impediments in the delivery of humanitarian assistance in the absence of the right mechanism'.

Mr. Tamilselvan had pointed out that the delay on the part of the government to resume negotiations on the basis of the ISGA proposals was seriously viewed by the Tamil people who had been denied the dividends of peace, the report said.

The statement quoted Mr. Harrold as telling Mr. Thamilselvan that the World Bank was aware of the necessity of institutionalising the ISGA. But, on arrival in Colombo the World Bank in a statement said Mr. Harrold had referred to the Tokyo declaration which stated that 'assistance by the donor community would be closely linked to substantial and parallel progress in the peace process'.

The World Bank Colombo office will this week also be writing to the National Patriotic Movement, spelling out its position about the funding and clearing doubts of the World Bank allocating any funds to the LTTE.

The NPM had written to Mr. Harrold that it was worried that the 2004 development plan including the continuation of the humanitarian aid was handed over by him to the LTTE political wing leader.

The NPM said the "World Bank is a lending organization recognized throughout the world. It often deals with sovereign states. Never before have we heard about the World Bank extending financial aid to a terrorist organization anywhere in the world or officially presenting its reports to such organizations. As the ban on the LTTE was lifted by the previous UNP government it is true that it is now not an officially proscribed organization in Sri Lanka.”

Former pro- Karuna MP shot dead

Former TNA Parliamentarian Kingsley Rajanayagam was shot dead allegedly by LTTE pistol gang members at Jayanthipuram in Batticaloa yesterday, military sources said.

They said Mr. Rajanayagam, known to be a close associate of dissident leader Karuna, was travelling in his car, when the gunmen had followed him on a motorcycle for some distance and then shot him dead near the Kalliyankaadu cemetery.

A police security guard who was with Mr. Rajanayagam was also injured and admitted to hospital.

Following the killing additional troops were called in and security tightened while a hunt was launched for the killers.

Mr. Rajanayagam had contested the April 2004 general election and was elected from the Batticaloa District with 38,633 preferential votes. He had attended the TNA's first Parliamentary group meeting but he was summoned by the LTTE and was allegedly forced to resign.

Book review - The ISGA according to SL - no halfway house

ABOMINATION - About the demand for an ISGA- by S. L. Gunasekara. Reviewed by Rajpal Abeynayake

S. L Gunasekara likes to pre-empt the big boys, and this time his tilt is at the would-be negotiators of the government and the LTTE if they get to the table to negotiate the Interim Self Governing Authority (ISGA) that now joins the long list of acronyms that have sprung to life in the over twenty year discourse relating to Sri Lanka's long-running conflict.

Gunasekara, a civil lawyer (see profile) pumps up his argument against the ISGA with legalistic citations, but then, when he cuts to the bone, he unearths some posers that will not be liked by any would-be negotiators, I wager, on either side.

He writes: If as the LTTE states, the ISGA is necessary to bring the dividends of the purported peace process to the Tamils, how is it necessary for that purpose to rule areas like Dehiattakandiya (98.8% Sinhalese), Padavisripura (100% Sinhalese), Bintenna Pattu East and West (99.4 % cent Sinhalese), Gomarankadawela (99..5% Sinhalese), Kinniya (96.1 % Moor) Addalechchenai (93.12% Moor) or Akkraipattu ( 96.3 % Moor.)

It is of course precisely due to these kinds of population figures that those in favour of the shared-ruled self-rule argument have pointed out that there is something in any arrangement for devolution of power called the "regional minorities".

Whosoever administrates any economically viable province, it is argued by them, has to administer the entire province which will necessarily contain some regional minorities.

But with S.L. Gunasekara such arguments do not cut, because he is primarily against any idea of an ISGA because he feels (with very strong language that's unremittingly pugnacious) that the Tigers are a bunch of criminals.

On occasion he calls the LTTE Tamil Nazis -- and apart from the fact that it might raise hackles among some Jews to whom Nazis are in a class of their own in their atrocities -- the Nazi epithet certainly lends that much more colour to the gamut of adjectives that have been used over time to describe the Liberation Tigers.

Gunasekara's enumeration of the provisions of the Tiger ISGA proposals is to be expected from a man who has written intermittently about the lopsidedness of the ceasefire agreement, and other such issues – such as the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord, issues which have figured in the long march that the Sri Lankan conflict has endured since those incipient days of attempted reconciliation in the far off aeon of Thimpu.

It is very clear that Mr. Gunasekara feels the ISGA is a ploy for the Tigers to sack the Sri Lankan judiciary in the North East and take over the judicial process while taking over all control of land and sea resources. He also says the ISGA is a patent violation of the ceasefire agreement.

In his own words: "While the fact of this demand being a patent violation of the ceasefire agreement is as plainly visible as the nose on one's face, neither the present government, nor the last nor the so called 'International community.'''etc.,etc.,

One does not need a nose for these things to know that the author wants to shred the ISGA to pieces. Does he assume that the ISGA as a demand should be considered beyond the pale that it does not merit any sort of negotiation based upon it?

Well, it certainly does appear so -- but he does not leave room for supposing that all that has been asked for in the ISGA, can be significantly watered down. Two thirds of his book is devoted to demolishing the ISGA as it is.

But he does say in the eighth chapter that supporters and apologists of the LTTE as well as Neville Chamberlain-like appeasers want the ISGA discussed. Here he makes clear that the ISGA in his mind is not a document that can be sufficiently watered down.

His argument in its rudiments is to say that it's an affront to the Sinhalese people, and should therefore be ditched and destroyed. In his own inimitable pastiche, "it is like A making a pact with B (in an assumed conflict between A and B) for A to rape B's mother in order to arrive at an amicable settlement of the dispute.''

With that sentence, one does, of course, understand exactly where Gunasekara's arguments are coming from. He sees the LTTE and its proposals as beyond the pale, and he almost places himself beyond the pale in the style, the aggressiveness and logic of his rationale.

It is vintage S.L. Gunasekara of course – he represents a point of view that almost seeking a total absolution for the nation's sins in reversing to a total status quo ante since the LTTE's armed action began. His book's cover is of infants macheted to death by LTTE death squads in the Eastern Province. It's a gruesome picture. He also makes the more than valid argument that the LTTE is persecuting its enemies even as it is asking for an Interim administration for itself to govern the affairs of the North and the East.

His point that murderers cannot be allowed to govern even a half inch strip of territory is more than abundantly clear; it's an ideological position which in fact does not have to technically be told in a book because it is plain in one sentence.

It can be posited that his position is the antipode of those who say that compromises and adjustments could be made; that even the worst murderer can be made malleable by negotiations or can be made to arrive at a reasonable arrangement that had the off-chance at least of putting an end to a problem that seems to be without end.

Gunasekara's position will certainly be at odds with those who say that the Sri Lankan army was unable to deliver the coup de grace to the Tigers, which therefore necessarily means that the government should come to some sort of arrangement with them, however unpalatable it may seem. Gunasekara argues completely out of that frame of reference.

His is a zero sum position that says: if they are murderers and criminals, it is no way to solve the problem with their cooperation. He might as well have said there is no point talking to the Tigers at all - period - - about anything at anytime. I'm not sure he does not say this, at least implies it, but the bottom line with this book is that either a reader agrees with him, or he doesn't.

You could say if you are for nicety that his book does not believe in a nuanced argument - - or you could just say that Gunasekara thinks one does not give an inch to LTTE or their sort no matter what – even if it's the collective national agony of mutual self-annihilation and slow death. Certainly he offers a very clear choice - and you can either agree with him, or not. The book is priced at Rs. 300 and is available at Vijitha Yapa Bookshops.

S.L. - a voice refusing to be smothered?
When inaugural peace talks between the Sri Lankan government, Tamil rebels and Tamil political parties were held in the Bhutanese capital of Thimpu, S. L. Gunasekera was sent along with Mark Fernando, both at that time upwardly mobile legal eagles, to be a part of the negotiating team.

Gunasekara was also previously assigned a secret file on violence in the North while serving in the Attorney General's Department, and then, when runaway political ambitions of the LTTE were manifest, S.L. was able to put his experience to good effect. Gunasekara leads a nationalist movement aimed at helping Sinhalese victims of the civil war and soldiers fighting it.

Gunasekara, a civil lawyer who lives in his well-appointed digs in Colombo 8, is identified by the LTTE sympathizers and sometimes by a larger swathe of liberal minded Tamils and Sinhalese as a hawk of quite unrelenting proportions.

A former Editor of the Davasa, Mr Gunasekara is a bi-lingual who has nevertheless been faulted by the hard-line Sinhala lobby for accidents of birth, and other incidental upshots from a sheltered life lived as a scion of an urban and urbane family with a public school background. S. L. was educated at S. Thomas' College, Mt Lavinia, and he was born a Methodist. He claims agnosticism now.

Gunasekara has been uncompromising in career and conviction, to the point where he has refused silk as a lawyer, and also sacrificed his parliamentary seat when the SLFP changed its stand on the issue of devolution of power.

He was a founder of the Sihala Urumaya, a precursor of the current Jathika Hela Urumaya, but he then resigned from this outfit as well, claiming that a Taliban like rump had taken over the party.

He went on to found the Sinhala Jathika Sangamaya which has not still found the resonance of the JHU, which makes Gunasekara what he referred to himself in a press interview once as "a voice in the wilderness”.

However, Gunasekara carries on an activist campaign to redress grievances of terrorist-affected families in Anuradhapura, Vavuniya, Mullaitivu Trincomalee, Ampara and Polonnaruwa districts. He has written four previous books on the Sri Lankan conflict, with titles as colourfully terse and poetic such as 'Wages of Sin' and the 'Tragedy of Errors'. The other two are 'Tiger Moderates and Pandora's Package', and 'The Indo Lanka Accord - An Analysis'.

The son of late Justice E. H. T. Gunasekara, judge of the Supreme Court, S. L. naturally gravitated towards the law. It's a career that he does not necessarily adore, often saying that its hurly burly and unmentionable ways are not quite endearing to his temperament. But he has had no such hesitation jumping headlong into the political whirl, in which he has been known to be as pugnacious as his personal trademark style portends : gravelly voiced, quip-prone and utterly uncompromising. He lives like his book - you may or may not agree with him, but his politics stays the way he wants it. -

TNA MP deported from Tamil Nadu By Chris Kamalendran

A TNA parliamentarian who was on his way to attend a conference organised by a pro-LTTE group in Tamil Nadu was deported yesterday, party sources said.

The member, Kanahendran Eelavendan accompanied by Upcountry People's Front leader P. Chandrasekaran left Colombo last afternoon for the meeting, but was stopped at the Chennai airport and refused entry into the country.

Mr. Chandrasekaran, who was allowed to proceed from the airport, reportedly made an attempt to argue the case for his colleague, but failed to convince the authorities to allow Mr. Eelavendan to enter Tamil Nadu.

They were on the way to attend an annual event organised by pro-LTTE Tamil National Movement leader Pala Nedumaran who had been detained for more than one and half years under India's anti-terrorism laws and released along with pro-LTTE MDMK leader Vaiko early this year.

The event in Bangalore attracts a large number of delegates from various parts of the world to speak on the rights of the Tamils. According to these sources, Mr. Eelavendan was last night heading back to Colombo from Chennai, leaving behind Mr. Chandrasekaran. ITAK General Secretary Mavai Senathiraja had also gone to Tamil Nadu earlier to attend the same conference.

Explaining the reasons why Mr. Eelavendan was turned away, party sources said he had been living as a refugee in Tamil Nadu for more than 15 years, but had been deported in December 4, 2000 after being accused of being a pro-LTTE activist.

He is learnt to have gone to Tamil Nadu without a visa, using the privilege given to MPs to travel visa-free to any SAARC country. Though the deportation caused a stir across the Palk Straits, an official of the Indian High Commission in Colombo claimed last night they were not aware of the happenings.

Jaffna people yearn for peace, says Ilamparithi by Frances Bulathsinghala

The Jaffna district LTTE political wing chief C. Ilamparithi said the EPDP was one of the biggest worries of the LTTE and he believed Jaffna has to be rid of this menace because one of the main problems with the EPDP was that it aids and abets the government's security forces.

Turning more or less a deaf ear to questions on LTTE killings in Jaffna, in other areas of the northeast and in Colombo, the LTTE's Jaffna political chief focused instead on questions regarding the resettlement of Muslims and the reasons for LTTE taxation.

The heavy taxes imposed by the LTTE on any Tamil (or non Tamil) for every item he purchased or brought into Jaffna, he claimed was necessary for the development of the Tamil people and added that the tax issue was used as a 'political boomerang' by forces opposed to the LTTE as a means of discrediting the organisation.

Following is the full text of the interview given by the Jaffna district LTTE political wing chief to the Sunday Times:

In your view how would you describe the present situation in Jaffna?
The Jaffna people hope they can achieve their fundamental rights and an environment of peace. They are still suffering economically. The government has not done anything to improve their living standards. The military is still a threat to them. They hope military pressure on them will be reduced.

What kind of military pressure are you speaking of?
There are fifty-eight fishing jetties in the Jaffna district. Out of this only about twenty are allowed to operate by the Jaffna security forces. There is no freedom for fishing for the fisher-folk of Jaffna because of the strict security measures implemented by the Navy.

The LTTE is also maintaining its own stringent security measures in the area before allowing people to enter the Jaffna peninsula, so is it not understandable that the security forces too would be adopting similar precautions especially at sea?
These measures invariably affect the people of Jaffna.

With regard to the security measures you undertake on land, could you comment on the need for the kind of heavy security precautions taken by the LTTE by way of meticulously screening all those who enter the Jaffna district?
There are many government spies who come here. In the past two years this region has seen a large-scale infiltration by government intelligence officers. It is to prevent this type of infiltration that we are compelled to screen all visitors.

But are not the Jaffna people also affected by these measures adopted by the LTTE?

What about the repercussions in case the people are unable to pay taxes as specified by the LTTE?
That is a different matter. There are tax exemptions for items such as school equipment.

However isn't the tax charged in the first instance and a rebate if any is to be obtained later? Is that correct?
Yes. These are the regulations.

You spoke of the security forces obstructing the fishermen when they go out to sea. Aren't you aware that at present the biggest problem faced by the north east fishermen is from Indian fishing boats poaching in Sri Lankan waters, which is also posing a grave threat to the lives of fishermen in these areas?

What has the LTTE done about this?
A. We are not in a position to do anything. It is up to the Navy. However the fishermen's associations have spoken to the Tamil Nadu fishermen's society representatives but the problem still continues.

Has not the LTTE on many occasions staged vociferous protests against issues arising between the people and the security forces?
And since the Indian fishermen's issue is clearly affecting the people in the northeast, why have you not taken up the matter with the Indian High Commission and the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission?
We have done what we could.

It is often alleged that at present the LTTE has distanced itself from the ordinary Tamil citizen living in the northeast and in LTTE controlled areas as they are supposed to be undergoing many hardships. How do you respond to this?
We deny this. This is baseless.

What is the LTTE doing to improve the lives of the north east people and especially those living in Jaffna where the LTTE is now very clearly making its presence felt?
We are in the process of setting up social groups in all areas of the Jaffna peninsula to create an awareness among the people about their rights. We also want them to be ever conscious of the Tamil struggle.

Is this part of your political work in Jaffna?
A. Yes. We have to change many things in the social context such as the issue of dowry. We are aware that there are certain classes who may be unhappy with the way we operate our political system.

Since you admit that there may be those who would not fall in line with your regulations, does it mean that you are aware of a rift in Tamil opinion about your organisation?
There is no rift as such. I was explaining about the commitment we require from the Tamil people. But we are aware that those opposing the LTTE are using the tax issue as a political boomerang.

Some time ago Muslims and Sinhalese also lived in Jaffna before the LTTE sent them away at gunpoint. In today's context do you agree that Jaffna belongs to the Muslims and Sinhalese as well?
Yes. We do not have anything against any Sinhalese or Muslims settling in Jaffna.
They are free to buy land and make their homes here. They are free to settle in Jaffna or even Kilinochchi. Any Sri Lankan can settle in any part of Sri Lanka.

So do you consider the Kilinochchi region, which you call the Tamil Eelam in placards placed at your police stations, the judiciary and banks as a part of Sri Lanka?
Yes. But we do not agree to Sinhala colonization?

Do you then mean that one person can buy land in the Northeast but that many cannot?
No. What we mean is that we do not agree to colonization for Sinhala political purposes.

So would you say that if the thousands of families who were chased away by the LTTE were to return then this would be Sinhala colonization?

Regarding your verbal assurances regarding the resettlement of Muslims and Sinhalese what are you doing to put these assurances into practice?
We have reassured the Muslims who are coming back that they are safe here. When necessary we have also seen to it that the houses of Muslims occupied by Tamils are cleared for the Muslims returning from the refugee camps to resettle in Jaffna.

It is alleged by the Muslims who have returned to Jaffna that they find it impossible to stay on in Jaffna because of harassment by the LTTE. Do you have any comments?
We do not agree with this. These are all statements made to slander the LTTE.

What comments do you have to make on the string of murders of anti LTTE persons and the latest murder in Jaffna of former Pradeshiya Sabha member of the EPDP, Arul Prakash?
It is up to the government to comment on these killings. They are happening in government-controlled areas.

Yes, but these are people who oppose the LTTE and the LTTE stands accused of these murders that are taking place despite the ceasefire agreement signed between Velupillai Prabhakaran and former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.
What are your comments on the common knowledge that the spate of assassinations carried out in Jaffna and other regions throughout the country is by your organisation?
We have always denied this.

Sea Tiger Chief flies to Singapore By Sunil Jayasiri

The LTTE's Sea Tiger chief Thillayampalan Sivanesan alias Soosai flew to Singapore yesterday for medical treatment security sources at the Katunayake airport said.

They said a special Air Force helicopter had brought Soosai to Colombo from Kilinochchi on Monday evening and he spent the night in Colombo before leaving for Singapore.

It is learnt that several other LTTE cadres also accompanied Soosai.

Soosai's visit to Singapore follows speculation that he had defected from the LTTE due to a dispute with the leadership.

In a statement later, London based LTTE spokesman Anton Balasingham denied the reports and said Soosai had a bullet lodged in his back from a wound sustained in fighting during the IPKF intervention. The bullet had gradually moved and occasionally causes severe discomfort, compelling him to rest.

Meanwhile, the Government Peace Secretariat in a statement said it was informed by the Norwegian Embassy in Colombo that Soosai was in need of emergency medical treatment abroad because of a rapidly worsening condition caused by an old injury sustained in a conflict. The assistance of the government was sought to facilitate his departure from Sri Lanka yesterday accompanied by his medical team.

In response to this, and on humanitarian grounds, the LTTE group was transported by the government from Kilinochchi to Colombo. Thereafter, the group travelled abroad on Sri Lanka passports at their own expense, the Peace Secretariat said.