Political Column 2013 (2)

Thamils Should Not Lose Heart But Fight Back Peacefully

Veluppillai Thangavelu

President Mahinda Rajapaksa is holding Sri Lanka’s 65th independence anniversary celebration with pomp and gaiety in Trincomalee this year. The choice of Trincomalee, a once predominantly Thamil dominated district as the venue should not be lost in the cry for justice.

At the time of independence in 1948 the Thamils constituted 44.51 (33,795) of the population in Trincomalee as compared to Muslims 30.58 (23,219) and Sinhalese 15.29 (11,606) but today the demography has been drastically altered. The Thamils now (2012) constitute only 30.6 (115,549) Muslims 40.4 (152,854) and Sinhalese 27.0 (101,991). There is no need to explain why the Thamil population declined so dramatically. In 1827 the Thamils constituted 81.80 (15,663) of the population, the Muslims only 16.90 (3,245) and Sinhalese a mere 1.3 (250). The Muslims between 1981 and 2012 have more than doubled their numbers from 75,039 to 152,854 (11.08) as seen in the following Table 1:

TABLE 1

  Population of Trincomalee District by ethnic group 1827 to 2012

Year

Sri Lankan Moors

Thamils

Indian Thamils

Sinhalese

Others

Total

No.

  No. %     No. % No. % No.

%

1827

3,245

16.94, 15,663 81.76, 250 1.30, 0 0.00 19,158

100

1881 Census

5,746

25.89 14,304 64.44 935 4.21 1,212 5.46 22,197

100

1891 Census

6,426

24.96 17,117 66.49 1,105 4.29 1,097 4.26 25,745 100

1901 Census

8,258

29.04 17,060 59.98 1,203 4.23 1,920 6.75 28,441

100

1911 Census

9,700

32.60 17,233 57.92 1,138 3.82 1,684 5.66 29,755

100

1921 Census

12,846

37.66 18,580 54.47 1,501 4.40 1,185 3.47 34,112

100

1946 Census

23,219

30.58 33,795 44.51 11,606 15.29 7,306 9.62 75,926

100

1953 Census

28,616

34.10 37,517 44.71 15,296 18.23 2,488 2.96 83,917

100

1963 Census 40,775 29.43 54,452 39.30 39,925 28.82 3,401 2.45 138,553 100
1971 Census 59,924 31.83 71,749 38.11 54,744 29.08 1,828 0.97 188,245 100
1981 Census 75,039 29.32 93,132 36.39 85,503 33.41 2,274 0.89 255,948 100
2001 Census*
2007 Estimate 152,019 45.47 96,142 28.75 84,766 25.35 1,436 0.43 334,363 100
2012 152,854 40.4 115,549 30.6 6,531 1.7 101,991 27.0 1257 0.30 378,182 100
Increase(1827-2012) 149,609 4610.45 99886 637.72 101,741 40696.40 359,024 1874
Sources: Census and Statistics Department

Colonization

Through systematic state-aided Sinhalese colonisation of the traditional homelands of the Thamils, the demographic profile of the Thamils has been drastically altered. In the Eastern Province, the once majority Thamil community (53.54  in 1921) has been reduced to a minority 39.79 in 2012 (42.06 in 1981) whereas the percentage of Sinhalese rose from 4.53  in 1921 to a staggering 23.15 in 2012 (24.99 in 1981).

TABLE 2

Population of Eastern Province by ethnic group 1881 to 2012

Year Thamil Muslim Sinhalese Other

Total
No.

No.

% No. % No. % No.

%

1881 Census

75,318

58.96 43,001 33.66 5,947 4.66 3,489 2.73

127,755

1891 Census

86,701

58.41 51,206 34.50 7,508 5.06 3,029 2.04

148,444

1901 Census

96,917

55.83 62,448 35.97 8,778 5.06 5,459 3.14

173,602

1911 Census

101,181

55.08 70,395 38.32 6,909 3.76 5,213 2.84

183,698

1921 Census

103,245

53.54 75,992 39.41 8,744 4.53 4,840 2.51

192,821

1946 Census

136,059

48.75 109,024 39.06 23,456 8.40 10,573 3.79

279,112

1953 Census 167,898 47.37 135,322 38.18 46,470 13.11 4,720 1.33 354,410
1963 Census 246,059 45.03 184,434 33.75 108,636 19.88 7,345 1.34 546,474
1971 Census 315,566 43.98 247,178 34.45 148,572 20.70 6,255 0.87 717,571
1981 Census 410,156 42.06 315,436 32.34 243,701 24.99 5,988 0.61 975,251
2001 Census n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a
2007 Enumeration 590,132 40.39 549,857 37.64 316,101 21.64 4,849 0.33 1,460,939
2012 Census 617,295 39.79 569,738 36.72 359,136 23.15 5,212 0.34 1,551,381

Island-wide the Thamil population also declined steeply from 26.69 in 1901 to 15.37 in 2012 as shown by the following Table 3:

TABLE 3

Population of Sri Lanka by Ethnic Group 1871 to 2011

Year Sinhalese Sri Lankan Thamils Sri Lankan Moors Indian Thamils Sri Lankan Malays Burghers/

Eurasian

Indin

Moors

Others Total

No.

% No. % No. % No. % No. % No. % No. % No. %

No.

1871

2,400,380
1881

1,846,600

66.91 687,200 24.90 184,500 6.69 8,900 0.32 17,900 0.65 14,500 0.53 2,759,700
1891

2,041,200

67.86 723,900 24.07 197,200 6.56 10,100 0.34 21,200 0.70 14,200 0.47 3,007,800
1901 2,330,800 65.36 951,700 26.69 228,000 6.39 11,900 0.33 23,500 0.66 20,000 0.56 3,566,000

1911

2,715,500 66.13 528,000 12.86 233,900 5.70 531,000 12.93 13,000 0.32 26,700 0.65 32,700 0.80 25,600 0.62

4,106,400

1921

3,016,200

67.05 517,300 11.50 251,900 5.60 602,700 13.40 13,400 0.30 29,400 0.65 33,000 0.73 34,600 0.77

4,498,600

1931 (Esti)

3,473,000

65.45 598,900 11.29 289,600 5.46 818,500 15.43 16,000 0.30 32,300 0.61 36,300 0.68 41,800 0.79

5,306,000

1946

4,620,500

69.41 733,700 11.02 373,600 5.61 780,600 11.73 22,500 0.34 41,900 0.63 35,600 0.53 48,900 0.73

6,657,300

1953

5,616,700

69.36 884,700 10.93 464,000 5.73 974,100 12.03 25,400 0.31 46,000 0.57 47,500 0.59 39,500 0.49

8,097,900

1963

7,512,900

71.00 1,164,700 11.01 626,800 5.92 1,123,000 10.61 33,400 0.32 45,900 0.43 55,400 0.52 19,900 0.19

10,582,000

1971

9,131,300

71.96 1,424,000 11.22 828,300 6.53 1,174,900 9.26 43,500 0.34 45,400 0.36 27,400 0.22 15,500 0.12

12,689,900

1981

10,979,400

73.95 1,886,900 12.71 1,046,900 7.05 818,700 5.51 47,000 0.32 39,400 0.27 28,400 0.19

14,846,800

1989 (Esti)

12,437,000

73.92 2,124,000 12.62 1,249,000 7.42 873,000 5.19 48,000 0.29 42,000 0.25 52,000 0.34 16,825,000

2011

15,173,820 74.88 2,270,924 11.21 1,869,820 9.23 842,323 4.16 40,189 0.20 37,061 0.18 29,586 0.14

20,234,137

In 1946 the  Thamils (both Ceylon and Thamils of Indian origin) constituted 22.75  (1,514,300) and Sinhalese 69.41 (4,620,500), but in 2011 the Thamil population declined to 15.37  (3,113,247) while the Sinhalese population rose to 74.88 (15,173,820). This decline is reflected in the dilution of their parliamentary representation as the following  Table 4 shows:

                                                                                                                                  TABLE 4

                                                                                                         The ethnic-wise representation in Parliament

Year

1947

1952

1956

1960

1965

1970

1977

1989

2002

2004

2010

Total seats

95 + 6

95 + 6

95 + 6

151;

151

151

168

225

225

225

225

Sinhalese

68

75

76

122

123

124

136

194

179

167

186

Thamils

20

12

18

18

18

18

19

19

27

33

23

Muslims

7

        8

7

11

10

9

12

12

19

25

16

The repatriation of  525,000 Thamils of Indian origin in the seventies reduced their population from 1,174,900 in 1971 to 818,700 in 1981.

Sinhala Army  of Occupation

There are more than 265 Sri Lankan army, naval and air force camps (about 90 of total camps in Sri Lanka) scattered throughout the North and East.  In the North alone there are army camps in 153 Grama Niladhari Divisions.  Out of a total of 20 Divisions, 17 are stationed in the North (15) and East (2) consisting of more than 150,000 soldiers. Along A9 highway there are over 30 army camps. The heartland of  Vanni is dotted with army cantonments, army camps, naval and air force bases. The army has taken to cultivation on lands previously owned by the Thamil people in a big way.

West of the Iranamadu Tank  and  East of the A-9 highway 25 acres of land are being cultivated by the army with vegetables; in Theravil, almost 150 acres of  land is being cultivated by the army with fruit trees, in Vellamkulam, about 600 acres of land is being cultivated by the army with cadjunuts,  in Mukkombu 100 acres of land is being cultivated by the army with coconuts; in Chunnavil, 600 acres of lands are being cultivated by the army with cadjunuts.  These are all in  Vanni. A large extent of paddy fields under village tanks is being cultivated by the army. The army is engaging in all these activities in lands previously owned by Thamils.  These areas are out of bounds for civilians.

In Murugandy a mega housing scheme consisting of 10,000 houses covering 12,000 acres of fertile land previously owned by Thamil peasants is ready for occupation by army personnel.  The housing scheme built by Chinese is complete with all infrastructural facilities like roads, schools, hospitals, water, electricity etc. The displaced Thamils have been asked to fend for themselves in welfare centres.

In the Jaffna peninsula, a  total of 716 private properties are under occupation by the army. Out of these, 378 lands are with houses, 283 are plain lands and 46 lands are business buildings. The SLA has also seized 9 public lands for its use outside the HSZ. Further 253 lands are under the control of the Sri Lanka Navy, 123 of these are with houses, 104 plain lands, 7 lands with commercial buildings and 19 public lands. 64 lands are under the control of the Sri Lanka Police, 57 of these lands are with houses, 5 plain lands and at least one with a commercial building. Now, the SL military is seeking to legalise the seizure to enable itself to establish permanent cantonments in Jaffna.

2013 Budget The 2013 budget envisages a 13.5 per cent increase in spending from 2.22 trillion rupees to 2.52 trillion rupees (US$19.5 billion). Total Projected Income for year 2013 Rs. 1,280.00 Billion resulting in a Budget Deficit of Rs. 1,240.00 Billion. In 2012 the budget deficit was Rs 468 billion.

Like in the past years a major chunk of the budget is allocated for the Defence and Urban Development Ministry with 289.5 billion rupees. The amount is an increase of nearly Rs. 60 billion from last year’s allocations of 229.9 billion rupees, an increase of 26.  The Ministry of  Rehabilitation and Prison Reforms has been allocated a pittance of  Rs.500 million!

The total maximum borrowing for 2013 has been increased by 12.6 per cent from 2012 to 1.3 trillion. The debt repayment expenditure in 2013 will rise to 1,154 billion rupees ($US9.1 billion) from 914 billion rupees in 2012, a 26 per cent increase. Total outstanding loans were 6,262 billion rupees, a 23 per cent increase over the previous year. Of that total, external foreign currency loans accounted for 2,981 billion rupees, up by nearly 33 .

Sri Lanka is maintaining the largest army in the world on a per capita basis. Sri Lanka’s population of 21 million has a standing army of 500,000. Ninety-five per cent of the army consists of  Sinhalese.  This means that there is a soldier for every 42  persons in the population. India has an army of  1.13  million and a population of 1020 million, which means a ratio of one soldier to 916 people. On the Sri Lankan ratio India has to have a standing army of 10.2 million.

There are  144 government MPs in Parliament out whom 68  are Ministers and 28 are  Deputy  Ministers.  It cost around Rs. 400 million per Minister per month (about 3 million US dollars). The government also proposes to appoint 25 District Ministers. That will escalate the number of Ministers to 121 leaving only 23 ordinary MPs. The tragedy is Mahinda Rajapaksa gets away with jumbo cabinet, corruption, nepotism and authoritarianism without much ado.

Human Rights Violations

In its World Report, the Human Rights Watch slammed the  Sri Lankan government claiming ” Sri Lanka continued its assault on civil society and failed to take meaningful steps towards accountability for war crimes during the country’s armed conflict that ended in 2009.

There was no fundamental progress on key human rights issues in Sri Lanka over the past year, Human Rights Watch said. Overly broad detention powers remained in place under various laws and regulations, leaving several thousand people detained without charge. State security forces committed arbitrary arrests and torture, including sexual assault, against ethnic minority Thamils. Repatriated Thamils allegedly linked to the defeated Liberation Tigers of Thamil Eelam (LTTE) were at particular risk, Human Rights Watch research found. While the Thamil population in the north benefitted from greater access by humanitarian groups, the military presence kept living conditions from being normalized.

“The Sri Lankan government needs to address the many problems that undermine basic rights for people in the war-torn North and East,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Justice and accountability for abuses, an end to torture in detention, and ending constraints on basic liberties continue to prove elusive for the Thamil population.”

The UN Human Rights Council, responding to the government’s prolonged failure to investigate alleged laws of war violations, adopted a resolution in March 2012 calling on Sri Lanka to take all necessary steps to ensure justice and accountability.

“UN member states have made it clear through the Human Rights Council resolution in March and the Universal Periodic Review hearings in November that Sri Lanka needs to make fast and meaningful progress on its rights commitments,” Adams said. “The Sri Lankan government should recognize that its past stalling tactics have run their course and that it will need to take real action.”

President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his siblings continued the trend of recent years to accumulate power at the expense of democratic institutions, including the judiciary, and constrict free speech and association. The government targeted civil society through threats and surveillance. Statements by government officials and government-controlled media named and threatened human rights defenders who called for accountability for wartime abuses or criticized other government policies.

“There is ample evidence that Sri Lanka’s current government acts to serve its own interests at great cost to democratic institutions and equal treatment of all communities,” said Adams.

“When a government fails to protect the rights of its citizens, the need for international action increases,” Adams said. “The international community in 2012 focused renewed attention on Sri Lanka, and given the lack of progress on accountability and the shrinking political space, should continue to do so.”

But for Mahinda Rajapaksa, it is business as usual. He has sacked the Chief Justice Dr.Shirani Bandaranayke with minimum fall out. The unprecedented constitutional crisis elicited only a yawn.  It has not made any dent on the popularity of the government. Mahinda Rajapaksa continues to ride on the wave of Sinhala nationalism.  The black coated fraternity which threatened not to recognize any new Chief Justice has now fallen in line.

The government, unlike last time, is taking things easy about the forthcoming 22 nd sessions of the UNHRC in Geneva in March 2013. No Ministers will take wings to Geneva only diplomats will attend. Foreign Minister G.L. Peiris says Sri Lanka will lobby enough votes to defeat US resolution.  He is confident that unlike last time  India will support Sri Lanka.

There is no progress in the implementation of the LLRC recommendations. The Army says it will not withdraw from North and East. In fact, the army is building more bases and refusing to dismantle the HSZs it is occupying. The Thamils IDPs in their thousands continue to languish in camps and welfare centres. In short militarization, Sinhalization and Budhistization of the North and East continue merrily.

Not withstanding the fact that the Thamils are in the political doldrums, economic stagnation and social strangulation since independence, we should not lose heart but fight back peacefully to regain our lost freedom and dignity.  It may not be within our power, may not be in our time,  but if we choose to stand firm, unrelenting and continue to resist we shall prevail one day.

Sources: Census and Statistics Department

*2001 Census was only carried out partially in Trincomalee district

Independence for the Thamils has meant slow liquidation of their identity as a Nation that lived in the well-defined territory with their own language, arts, culture, customs and heritage. They have been living in the Northeast historically for several centuries.

On February 4, 1948, 2 million Thamils of Ceylon exchanged their white masters (British) for the brown sahibs the Sinhalese. It was like jumping from the frying pan into the fire.
Sri Lanka, then Ceylon, would not have gained independence from Britain without the support and consent of the Thamil people. That was exactly what happened on that fateful day! Thamil legislators trusting D.S.Senanayake almost voted with their feet giving a 4/5 majority for the constitutional recommendations. These constitutional recommendations were largely those of the 1944 Board of Ministers’ draft, a document reflecting the influence of D.S. Senanayake behind the scene and his main advisor, Sir Ivor Jennings. It ushered in Dominion status and Independence to Sri Lanka then Ceylon in 1948.

On the eve of the arrival of Soulbury Commissioners, D.S.Senanayake master-minded the appointment of Arunachalam Mahadeva to the Pan Sinhala Board of Ministers as the Minister of Home Affairs to project a “Ceylonese” vision for Sri Lanka, i.e., co-operation of all the ethnic and minority religious groups. It was a diplomatic coup by Senanayake and the Commissioners fell for the ruse ignoring past history.

The Thamil Congress, led by Ponnambalam, argued for 50-50 representation, an artificial concept doomed to failure in the face of “one man-one vote” concept thoroughly accepted in European liberalism. However, the Kandyan Sinhalese were more pragmatic and wiser. They proposed a Federal scheme where the Up-country region, the Low-country, and the North would be three federal states. Their suggestions were rejected by the commissioners who found no merit in the federal proposals.

In fact, it was the Thamil leaders like Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan (1851-1930) and Sir Ponnambalam Arunachalam (1853-1924) who fearlessly spearheaded the struggle for constitutional reforms that led to independence from the colonial yoke.

However, the Ponnambalam brothers in their evening of life realised that the Sinhalese politicians have let them down the garden path and taken them for a ride to advance the interests of the majority community at the expense of the Thamil people. Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan foresaw that the democratic principle of one-person one vote in a heterogeneous society would ultimately lead to tyranny of the majority.

In a speech to the Legislative Council during the debate on the Donoughmore Reforms, Mr Ramanathan appears the precursor of the Thamils demand for a sovereign state of Thamil Eelam.
“Why did the (Donoughmore) Commissioners not study Ireland, which is next door to them? They (Irish) said that we are one lot and you are another. We cannot work together. We must have separate governments. Then I ask what happened in the Dominion of Canada? The officials concerned said it is an impossible situation… Let us give these French descendants one form of government and let us give the other people another form of government – forms of government suitable to the interests of each of these great big communities. Why did the Commissioners think of that?”

It was Sir Arunachalam Ponnambalam who first (1923) exhorted the Thamils that -“they should work towards promoting the union and solidarity of what we have been proud to call THAMI EELAM. We desire to preserve our individuality as a people, to make ourselves worthy of inheritance. We are not enamoured about the cosmopolitanism which would make us neither fish, fowl nor red-herring.”

D.S.Senanayake, the first Prime Minister of independent Ceylon, gave the following solemn promise to the Thamil and other minority communities “no harm need you (non-Sinhalese) fear at our hands (Sinhalese) in a free Lanka.” He was speaking in the State Council in October 1945 when all the Thamil members had unanimously voted for the acceptance of the Soulbury constitution in a White Paper.

“Do you want to be governed from London or do you want, as Ceylon, to help govern Ceylon? On behalf of the (Ceylon National) Congress (founded by Sir Ponnambalam Arunachalam in 1919) and on my behalf, I give the minority communities the sincere assurance that no harm need you fear at our hands in a free Lanka.”

But in 1948, the very year of Independence, D.S.Senanayake blatantly went back on the promise and bared his true colours as an unrepentant champion of Sinhala chauvinism by depriving one million Thamils of their citizenship.

The Citizenship Act No.18 was unique in that it denied citizenship to a person born in the country before or after 1948 unless, at least, his father was born in or was a citizen of Sri Lanka. The following year, the same Thamils were deprived of their franchise rights by a simple amendment to the  Parliamentary Elections Ordinance that stated only citizens have the right to vote in elections. This reduced Thamils representation in Parliament from 33 in 1948 to a mere 20 in 1952.

The Citizenship Act No. 18 of 1948 opened the floodgates to further legislative and administrative acts, which robbed Thamils of their language, educational, and employment rights.
It might be informative at this stage to recapitulate the history of the National conflict between the Thamil Nation and the Sinhala Nation.
National Conflict Between the Thamil Nation and the Sinhala Nation

The Thamils and the Sinhalese are divided on the basis of territory, language, religion, and culture. The enmity between the Thamils and the Sinhalese go back to at least two centuries before Christ.

The Mahavamsa, a Buddhist chronicle written in the 6th century AD by a Buddhist monk portrays the Naga King Dutugemunu as the National Hero who defeated the Thamil King Ellalan and unified the whole of Ceylon. Though Buddhism infinitely values human life as being the one and only condition from which Nibbana (salvation) could be attained, Mahavamsa made a virtue of killing in defence of Buddhism. This 5th century AD chronicle has been used to raise the cry of Race, Land and Faith by the Sinhalese-Buddhist chauvinistic forces during the past years.
The Mahavamsa has perpetrated the myth that Sinhalese-Buddhists are a chosen people with the special mission of preserving the Buddhist religion in Sri Lanka. Dr.Walpola Rahula, a scholar monk, wrote: “for more than two millennia the Sinhalese have been inspired that they were a nation brought into being for the definite purpose of carrying the torch lit by Buddha.”
In Mahavamsa tradition the Thamils are considered unbelievers, villains and invaders.

It is the Mahavamsa theory that the Island as a whole belongs to the Sinhalese Buddhists only, and that there is no place or only second class status for Thamils. This Mahavamsa tradition is the root cause of the present conflict between the Thamil Nation and the Sinhala Nation. Those who wish to see an end to the national question would have to take into consideration the Mahavamsa mindset. For it is the Mahavamsa mode of thinking which has influenced all the rulers, especially the governments of post-independence Ceylon.

Broken Promises and Pacts

The planned state-aided colonization of Thamil traditional Homelands, the Sinhala Only Act, the recognition of Buddhism as the state religion, the lion flag as the national flag, the national anthem and the stubborn insistence on a unitary constitution are manifestations of the Mahavamsa mindset deeply embedded in the Sinhalese psyche. Initiatives in the past to settle the national question by the signing of the Bandaranaike -Chelvanayakam pact (1957), Dudley Senanayake- Chelvanayakam pact (1965), and the Indo-Ceylon Accord (1987) failed because of this single factor.

Colonization.

Through systematic state-aided Sinhalese colonisation of the traditional homelands of the Thamils, the demographic profile of the Thamils has been drastically altered. In the Eastern Province, the once majority Thamil community (53.54 in 1921) has been reduced to a minority 39.79 in 2012 (42.06 in 1981) whereas the percentage of Sinhalese rose from 4.53 in 1921 to a staggering 23.15 in 2012 (24.99 in 1981).

Sinhala Army  of Occupation

There are more than 265 Sri Lankan army, naval and air force camps (about 90 of total camps in Sri Lanka) scattered throughout the North and East.  In the North alone there are army camps in 153 Grama Niladhari Divisions.  Out of a total of 20 Divisions, 17 are stationed in the North (15) and East (2) consisting of  more than 150,000 soldiers. Along A9 highway there are over 30 army camps. The heartland of  Vanni is dotted with army cantonments, army camps, naval and air force bases. The army has taken to cultivation on lands previously owned by the Thamil people in a big way.

West of the Iranamadu Tank  and  East of the A-9 highway 25 acres of land are being cultivated by the army with vegetables; in Theravil, almost 150 acres of  land are being cultivated by the army with fruit trees, in Vellamkulam, about 600 acres of land are being cultivated by the army with cadjunuts,  in Mukkombu 100 acres of land are being cultivated by the army with coconuts; in Chunnavil, 600 acres of lands are being cultivated by the army with cadjunuts.  These are all in  Vanni. A large extent of paddy fields under village tanks are being cultivated by the army. The army is engaging in all these activities in lands previously owned by Thamils.  These areas are out of bounds for civilians.

In Murugandy a mega housing scheme consisting of 10,000 houses covering 12,000 acres of fertile land previously owned by Thamil peasants is ready for occupation by army personnel.  The housing scheme built by Chinese is complete with all infrastructural facilities like roads, schools, hospitals, water, electricity etc. The displaced Thamils have been asked to fend for themselves in welfare centres.

In the Jaffna peninsula, a  total of 716 private properties are under occupation by the army. Out of these, 378 lands are with houses, 283 are plain lands and 46 lands are business buildings. The SLA has also seized 9 public lands for its use outside the HSZ. Further 253 lands are under the control of the Sri Lanka Navy, 123 of these are with houses, 104 plain lands, 7 lands with commercial buildings and 19 public lands. 64 lands are under the control of the Sri Lanka Police, 57 of these lands are with houses, 5 plain lands and at least one with a commercial building. Now, the SL military is seeking to legalise the seizure to enable itself to establish permanent cantonments in Jaffna.

2013 Budget The 2013 budget envisages a 13.5 per cent increase in spending from 2.22 trillion rupees to 2.52 trillion rupees (US$19.5 billion). Total Projected Income for year 2013 Rs. 1,280.00 Billion resulting in a Budget Deficit of Rs. 1,240.00 Billion. In 2012 the budget deficit was Rs 468 billion.

Like in the past years a major chunk of the budget is allocated for the Defence and Urban Development Ministry with 289.5 billion rupees. The amount is an increase of nearly Rs. 60 billion from last year’s allocations of 229.9 billion rupees, an increase of 26.  The Ministry of  Rehabilitation and Prison Reforms has been allocated a pittance of  Rs.500 million!

The total maximum borrowing for 2013 has been increased by 12.6 per cent from 2012 to 1.3 trillion. The debt repayment expenditure in 2013 will rise to 1,154 billion rupees ($US9.1 billion) from 914 billion rupees in 2012, a 26 per cent increase. Total outstanding loans were 6,262 billion rupees, a 23 per cent increase over the previous year. Of that total, external foreign currency loans accounted for 2,981 billion rupees, up by nearly 33 .

Sri Lanka is maintaining the largest army in the world on a per capita basis. Sri Lanka’s population of 21 million has a standing army of 500,000. Ninety-five per cent of the army consists of  Sinhalese.  This means that there is a soldier for every 42  persons in the population. India has an army of  1.13  million and a population of 1020 million, which means a ratio of one soldier to 916 people. On the Sri Lankan ratio India has to have a standing army of 10.2 million.

There are  144 government MPs in Parliament out whom 68  are Ministers and 28 are  Deputy  Ministers.  It cost around Rs. 400 million per Minister per month (about 3 million US dollars). The government also proposes to appoint 25 District Ministers. That will escalate the number of Ministers to 121 leaving only 23 ordinary MPs. The tragedy is Mahinda Rajapaksa gets away with jumbo cabinet, corruption, nepotism and authoritarianism without much ado.

Human Rights Violations

In its World Report, the Human Rights Watch slammed the  Sri Lankan government claiming ” Sri Lanka continued its assault on civil society and failed to take meaningful steps towards accountability for war crimes during the country’s armed conflict that ended in 2009.

There was no fundamental progress on key human rights issues in Sri Lanka over the past year, Human Rights Watch said. Overly broad detention powers remained in place under various laws and regulations, leaving several thousand people detained without charge. State security forces committed arbitrary arrests and torture, including sexual assault, against ethnic minority Thamils. Repatriated Thamils allegedly linked to the defeated Liberation Tigers of Thamil Eelam (LTTE) were at particular risk, Human Rights Watch research found. While the Thamil population in the north benefitted from greater access by humanitarian groups, the military presence kept living conditions from being normalized.

“The Sri Lankan government needs to address the many problems that undermine basic rights for people in the war-torn North and East,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Justice and accountability for abuses, an end to torture in detention, and ending constraints on basic liberties continue to prove elusive for the Thamil population.”

The UN Human Rights Council, responding to the government’s prolonged failure to investigate alleged laws of war violations, adopted a resolution in March 2012 calling on Sri Lanka to take all necessary steps to ensure justice and accountability.

“UN member states have made it clear through the Human Rights Council resolution in March and the Universal Periodic Review hearings in November that Sri Lanka needs to make fast and meaningful progress on its rights commitments,” Adams said. “The Sri Lankan government should recognize that its past stalling tactics have run their course and that it will need to take real action.”

President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his siblings continued the trend of recent years to accumulate power at the expense of democratic institutions, including the judiciary, and constrict free speech and association. The government targeted civil society through threats and surveillance. Statements by government officials and government-controlled media named and threatened human rights defenders who called for accountability for wartime abuses or criticized other government policies.

“There is ample evidence that Sri Lanka’s current government acts to serve its own interests at great cost to democratic institutions and equal treatment of all communities,” said Adams.

“When a government fails to protect the rights of its citizens, the need for international action increases,” Adams said. “The international community in 2012 focused renewed attention on Sri Lanka, and given the lack of progress on accountability and the shrinking political space, should continue to do so.”

But for Mahinda Rajapaksa, it is business as usual. He has sacked the Chief Justice Dr.Shirani Bandaranayke with minimum fall out. The unprecedented constitutional crisis elicited only a yawn.  It has not made any dent on the popularity of the government. Mahinda Rajapaksa continues to ride on the wave of Sinhala nationalism.  The black coated fraternity which threatened not to recognize any new Chief Justice has now fallen in line.

The government, unlike last time, is taking things easy about the forthcoming 22 nd sessions of the UNHRC in Geneva in March 2013. No Ministers will take wings to Geneva only diplomats will attend. Foreign Minister G.L. Peiris says Sri Lanka will lobby enough votes to defeat US resolution.  He is confident that unlike last time  India will support Sri Lanka.

There is no progress in the implementation of the LLRC recommendations. The Army says it will not withdraw from North and East. In fact, the army is building more bases and refusing to dismantle the HSZs it is occupying. The Thamils IDPs in their thousands continue to languish in camps and welfare centres. In short militarization, Sinhalization and Budhistization of the North and East continue merrily.

Notwithstanding the fact that the Thamils are in the political doldrums, economic stagnation and social strangulation since independence, we should not lose heart but fight back peacefully to regain our lost freedom and dignity.  It may not be within our power, may not be in our time,  but if we choose to stand firm, unrelenting and continue to resist we shall prevail one day.


 

About editor 1415 Articles
Writer and Journalist living in Canada since 1987. Tamil activist

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