News Features


Colombo Tamils in a quandary

Sound of silence of the Tamil leadership, is embarrassingly deafening

By Wilson Gnanadass
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 ‘terrorists’.

“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 ransom.

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 security.

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 Borella.
In addition, The Nation also interviewed Tamil residents from Dehiwela and Wattala, for their comments on the present situation.
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 politicians.
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, abducted.

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 asked.
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?” they asked.

Meanwhile, residents of Borella said that they intend appealing to the international community for action through the United Nations.
“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 Borella said.

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 silence.
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. Radhakrishnan
The Deputy Minister admitted that Tamils were living in a hopeless situation.
“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 from this.
“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 country.
“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 scared.
“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 insecurity.

“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.”