Tamils getting isolated from Sri Lankan state: report

October 28th, 2008 - 6:31 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Oct 28 (IANS) Tamils are getting isolated from the Sri Lankan state because the war against the Tamil Tigers is becoming “an ideological crusade” against minorities, a reputed Sri Lankan rights group has said.The University Teachers for Human Rights (UTHR) has also said that the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which is now facing the armed forces in its lair in the island’s north, remains a force despite suffering military setbacks.

The 52-page report, released late Monday, is critical of both the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE for rights abuses but lays most of the blame on Colombo as well as the military and intelligence agencies.

“The government’s ‘war on terrorism’ quickly took on the character of an ideological crusade against the minorities in general,” it said.

“Fighting the LTTE became almost secondary to the prerequisites of the extremists in power to establish a totalitarian Sinhalese-Buddhist state and erase all semblance of pluralism.

“An important category that became targets of the state’s killer groups were those who were not LTTE sympathisers but were active in defending and speaking up for legitimate Tamil interests,” said the UTHR, which extensively documents rights violations in Sri Lanka’s horrific ethnic conflict.

“The result was the complete isolation of the state from the Tamils,” adding the government’s high-handedness since late 2005 had “strengthened the admittedly negative political appeal of the LTTE…

“It has left the Tamils feeling bitter and angry against the government.”

It added: “In this reality, despite the military setbacks, the demise of the LTTE should not be taken for granted.”

The report has said that desertions and casualties in the military were far higher than admitted and the government used deception to send young men from the Sinhalese community to battle the LTTE. “This does not match the government’s claim that the LTTE is on its last legs.”

The UTHR makes a pointed reference to the mainly government-controlled Vavuniya district where mass detention centres have come up for those fleeing the LTTE zone.

“Those in Vavuniya find themselves in a place of crime and lawlessness, where torture, murder, extortion, abduction and rape are routine and women are powerless. The blame lies mainly with security forces and Tamil paramilitary elements working with them.”

The report added: “At the root of the present crisis lies the Sinhalese polity’s inability to offer a political settlement acceptable to the minorities; in this regard, President (Mahinda) Rajapakse’s record has been one of patent duplicity.”

The report presents a dismal picture of Tamil civilians displaced from their homes in the north due to the fighting between the LTTE and the military.

“Facing abysmal conditions, they have even stopped putting up temporary shelters. They move north and as shells begin to fall they know they must move again. For the night they spread a mat under a tree.

“When they roll the mat in the morning, it is not unusual to find snakes and scorpions under the warmth of the mat.”

UTHR said the general mood among the people in Tamil Tiger territory “was strongly anti-LTTE four months ago. But with increased aerial bombing and shelling (by the air force), the mood is changing”.

The report blames military apparatus for the Sep 21 murder of Sivakururaja Kurukkal, the priest of Sri Lanka’s most revered Hindu temple dedicated to Koneswaram in Trincomalee.

It said the murdered man was intent on asserting the Hindu character of the region and had recently visited India to buy images for a temple. He also frequently took on the security forces over cases of arrests and torture.

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