Colombo Tamils in a
Sound of silence of the Tamil
leadership, is embarrassingly deafening
The minorities living in Colombo and suburbs are disoriented.
They have been shabbily treated, pushed against the wall, with
no respect for their basic fundamental rights.
To an average Tamil, it remains a mystery as to why he/she has
been forced to face this callous treatment.
The north-east war and the birth of the LTTE have changed the
destiny of the Tamils in Sri Lanka. By and large, they are not
considered respectable in society anymore but, branded as
“Where do we go from here?” an axiom used by most Tamils in
Colombo, because of an uncertain future.
Tamils who voted for President Mahinda Rajapaksa are doubtful of
the next minute.
They fear that they or, their next of kin could be the next
target of the abductors. They are even reluctant to answer the
telephone, fearing the caller could be an abductor demanding for
They are petrified because they have nobody to turn to, if they
are confronted by the abductors, as they have lost faith in the
law enforcement authority.
Death, is acceptable, as death is the one and only constant
truth. However, the unremitting abductions has scarred them.
This has prevented them from going out, engaging in social
activities or, even visiting places. “We are in an open prison”,
said a resident of Dehiwela.
Their hopes and dreams have been shattered. They are, today,
like lost sheep, wandering about in the wilderness, in search of
Probe by The Nation
In a bid to highlight the actual plight of the Tamils, who,
today, are subject to harassment, The Nation conducted an
investigation in all five constituencies of Colombo district-
Colombo North, Colombo Central, Colombo West, Colombo East and
In addition, The Nation also interviewed Tamil residents from
Dehiwela and Wattala, for their comments on the present
Sadly, none of them wished to be quoted, out of fear. Worse was
when they, initially, refused to even talk about this. However,
after much persuasion, they made their observations, strictly on
the condition of anonymity.
While some were critical of the Rajapaksa regime and the manner
in which they were being harassed, others said that security
checks sans harassment, could be tolerated, given the present
security threat posed by the LTTE.
However, their worries were twofold. One was harassment by the
State or, elements within, without the knowledge of State
machinery. The second was the deafening silence by the Tamil
Kayalvizhi, (real name withheld), one of the leading musicians
in the country, winner of several foreign awards, was of the
view that the government was wittingly or, unwittingly, pushing
the Tamils into a revolution.
Her opinion was that when all the Tamils are put into one basket
and branded or, suspected, as ‘terrorists’, there was much room
for a future rebellion.
“The Government is provoking the Tamil community so much that
they would soon be obliged to support the LTTE,” she explained.
Kayalvizhi further said that the Tamils’ lips were sealed and
their hands tied.
“We can’t turn to anybody and that is the pathetic situation.
Knowing that the Government is directly or, indirectly, involved
in abductions, killings and disappearances, how can we run to
the Government for protection?” she queried.
She expressed shock and dismay over the prolonged silence of
Tamil parliamentarians. She said that what was so pitiable was
when those claiming to represent and lead the Tamil community,
were silent, when scores of Tamils were killed, harassed or,
Residents from Wellawatte said that Tamils would never vote for
President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s party, in the future.
“Now we know that this government is hungry for Tamil blood.
They have failed to fight the real terrorists. Instead, catch us
to humiliate and harass us. The government has shown no mercy
towards this community,” they pointed out.
A particular resident said that from the time his children go to
school, until they returned home, there was no peace at home.
“I am a businessman in Colombo. I know that the abductors are
targeting businessmen or their families. What if my child was
abducted? What will happen to our lives,” he wept.
He said that most Tamils of Indian origin, have already obtained
their Indian visas, and were ready to flee the country, if faced
with this situation. “A Tamil’s life has been reduced to this.
We have contributed so much to the economy. However, today, we
are chased. We are running for our lives,” he said.
A resident from Bambalapitiya was highly critical of nocturnal
searches by security personnel, as she found it frightening.
“The government must stop this forthwith. We do not know who is
coming and going. These officers come without any official
warrant to search our houses. How can we let this happen?” she
She also said that each time explosives were found in the city,
security was heightened and the immediate target was the
innocent Tamils living in Colombo.
A resident of Mattakkuliya said that all busses plying between
Tamil populated areas, were subject to security checks, adding
that it was very humiliating.
He said bus routes such as 145, 112, 102 and 155 were stopped
for such checks, adding that this was harassment to the Tamils.
“Often, security personnel conducted early morning sweeps, when
we are preparing to leave for offices and schools, delaying our
departure. This is very unfair,” he said.
Residents of Kotehena opined that this was the ‘worst’ period
for the Tamils in their history.
They said that they understood the government’s objective of
military superiority but, added that this was not done mindful
of the innocent people.
“We are imprisoned. We are treated like animals. What has
happened to our political leaders? Where are they? Will they
come to us for votes again?” were questions raised by the irate
and disillusioned residents.
They were furious that Tamil parliamentarians were not reacting
to the violence unleashed on the Tamil community.
“Out of the 32 Tamil parliamentarians, why are only Mano Ganesan
and Radhakrishnan shouting on our behalf? Where are the rest?”
Meanwhile, residents of Borella said that they intend appealing
to the international community for action through the United
“Our Tamil and Sinhala politicians have failed. The country is
ruined. All Tamils are treated like Tigers. There may be Tiger
sympathizers in the city but, the government has no moral right
to treat all the Tamils as Tigers,” influential residents of
Whither Tamil politicians?
The outcome of the The Nation’s investigation was the lack
of political will and leadership on the part of Tamil
politicians to stand up and be counted.
The Tamil people, in general, praised Deputy Minister P.
Radhakrishnan and MP Mano Ganesan, for confronting the
government, on their behalf.
However, they were critical of the silence by the others.
A critical scrutiny of those representing the Tamils in
Parliament, revealed that Tamil politicians were either
emasculated by the LTTE or, by the State.
For instance, the TNA, that came to power with the LTTE’s
blessings, was condemned as an LTTE proxy and hence, the party’s
The other parties such as the EPDP, CWC and various other small
parties survived on State support and assistance, hence their
silence over this issue.
The elections department recently endorsed the Akila Illangai
Tamil United Front (AITUF) under the leadership of Dr. K.
Vigneswaran, who is a member of the APRC expert’s panel. To
date, this party has not shown any allegiance to either the
State or the LTTE but, is not recognized or sufficiently
forceful to afford immediate assistance to the victims.
The Tamils, therefore, feel they have lost political leadership,
with nobody to turn to in a crisis of this magnitude.
Move to approach International Court
Frustration is virtually prompting affluent Tamils in
Colombo to seek assistance from the International Court of
Justice (ICJ), The Nation reliable learns.
Only State parties or governments have direct access to the ICJ.
Any matter to be taken before the ICJ, should be initiated by
the State. However, as the Tamils have a grouse against the
government, they said that it would be futile to approach the
government to take this matter with the ICJ.
They pointed out that they now intend to approach the ICJ based
in Geneva, through the United Nations.
A seminar organized by the Colombo University last week,
prompted a lengthy debate on the possibility of taking this
matter to the ICJ.
Apparently, only two heads of State, from Yugoslavia and Rwanda,
have been produced before the ICJ, with Tamils in Colombo
threatening to take some of the leaders in Sri Lanka, to the ICJ.
Deputy Minister P.
The Deputy Minister admitted that Tamils were living in a
“The fear psychosis affects them deeply, because of the
continuous violence. Abductions occur at random and is very bad
for the country,” he said.
He said that, though fingers were pointed at the government,
other elements with underworld connections, were also benefiting
“I agree that the onus is on the government, to prevent such
incidents. However, one cannot hold the government totally
responsible. The government is doing everything possible to
arrest this situation,” he said.
He said that the special committee appointed by President
Mahinda Rajapaksa, to monitor investigations into abductions and
disappearances, has already commenced sittings, adding that the
committee has already directed the police to be more vigilant.
“I am raising this matter at almost all the forums. This has
become a dangerous trend. None of the white vans used for
abductions have been taken into police custody. This worries all
of us,” he said.
He said that the special committee he represents, intends to
direct the police to separately check all white vans in the
“We have also instructed the police to expedite their
investigations. If anybody, with information of the abductors,
cannot inform the police, they could simply go to the specially
appointed committee anytime,” he said.
CMC Opposition leader Vasudeva Nanayakkara
Presidential advisor Vasudeva Nanayakkara said that the
government has still not shown its sincererity to arrest the
present trend in the country.
He said that the war could give rise to a situation of this
nature but, added, yet, the State must be more vigilant.
“There are others taking advantage of this as well. This is
terrible. If I put myself into a Tamil’s situation, I am
certain, I would be living in constant fear. I would be mortally
“The government is doing acting to bring the culprits to book
but, it could do more than this,” he added.
Economist Muthukrishna Sarvanantham
“I do not think that there is widespread insecurity among Tamils
living within Colombo city and the suburbs.
“There are over 300,000 Tamils living within Colombo city, out
of which, only 300 were forcibly sent to the north and east, a
few weeks ago. Besides, only those staying in lodges were
evicted. Therefore, there is not much insecurity among Tamils
living here for medium/long time. Only recent arrivals to
Colombo, from the north and east, are experiencing severe
“However, Tamils in Colombo, abducted for ransom, have been
living and doing business in Colombo for sometime/long time.
There is certainly a great deal of insecurity among the Tamil
business community within Colombo city and the suburbs. This is
not just among north and east Tamil business persons but also,
among the upcountry Tamils living in Colombo.
“In the case of the north and east Tamils (whether business
persons or otherwise), working/living in Colombo is relatively
safer (I emphasize, relatively) than working/living in the north
and east, in the present security environment. Of course, people
who can afford and with means, are going abroad, because it is
safer than even in Colombo.”