Sri Lanka: Plight of civilians living under an army of occupation

September 25, 2018 Asia , Opinion , OPINION/NEWS

AFP photo



Kumarathasan Rasingam



Contrary to promises made in Geneva that in the name of peace and reconciliation the Sri Lanka government would dismantle High Security Zones, close army cantonments and return lands seized from the people, the Northern and the Eastern Provinces, considered the Tamil homeland, continue to be occupied zones even nine plus years after the end of the war.


There are 14 Divisions stationed in the Northern Province:


Jaffna District: SFHQ-Jaffna- 51, 52 & 55 Divisions

Vavuniya District:- SFHQ-W – 56, 61, 21, 54 & 62 Divisions

Kilinochichi District: SFHQ – KLN – 57. 66 & 68 Divisons

Mullaitivu District:- SFHQ – MLT – 59, 64 & 68 Divisons.

The total population of the Northern Province is 1,058,762

14 Divisions of Army = 14 X 15,000 = 210,000



The ratio of Army to civilian = for every 5 civilian 01 military

Civilian to Army ratio = 05 : 01



Tamil civilians live under a militarized and securitized system in which surveillance and intimidation continue in everyday life. The horrifying reality is that the military has no plans to leave but is there to stay, making the Tamils’ traditional and historical homeland a virtual military camp.


The Tamils in the majority Sinhala military forces occupied areas in the North and East live in a Nazi style concentration camp.


Military camps thrive well in the resettled areas, causing fear and trauma for many people are still living in a war related post trauma. They have natural fear about the hostile alien military.


Despite numerous promises made to the United Nations and the International Community the Sri Lankan Government has not reduced the military presence in the North and East and continues to occupy private property. The Government is unwilling or unable to overcome the political and administrative obstacles that stymie progress on the Reparation Office, Truth and Reconciliation Commission and Special Court to investigate war crimes, crimes against humanity, etc.


Protests by the affected Tamils, whose lands are occupied by the military, are continuing their daily protest for well over 500 days demanding answers.


The continued military presence in the Tamils’ homeland is viewed as hampering the post-conflict ethnic reconciliation. [The military is entirely Buddhist Sinhalese and the people in the Northern Province are Hindu/Christian Tamils].


The North and East of Sri Lanka are not under the Sri Lankan Government but under the Sri Lankan [Sinhalese] military [99% Sinhalese]. It is a military state where the military can do what they want with no accountability.


The Armed Forces have gone into non-military commercial activities. They are engaged in large scale property development, construction projects and business ventures such as travel agencies, holiday resorts, restaurants and innumerable cafes in the North and East.


Tamils suffer from a lack of economic and educational opportunities and economic underdevelopment in Tamil majority areas. According to the International Crisis Group, “Tamil concerns have been constantly marginalized,” and ethnically biased state institutions and politicized court system provide ‘little or no redress for or legal protection against the range injustices faced by Tamils.” [International Crisis Group 2012.3]


The Sri Lankan Government is good at talking, they will go on talking and the UN, UNHRC and International community and Tamils would be fooled again and again as in the past.


The Sri Lankan Government is determined to protect the security forces even if they are war criminals.


People for Equality and Relief [PEARL] have recently published a timely report based on field research that was conducted in January 2016. According to the report “Sri Lanka’s Military is still heavily involved in civilian affairs. Unsurprisingly sustained militarization continues to have extensive negative effects on the Tamil community, this includes ongoing reports of sexual violence and fewer livelihood options for Tamils, among other problems.


Waiting to return home is the continued plight of internally displaced people [IDPS] in post-war Sri Lanka.


Former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights His Excellency Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein stated at the IDP Camp in Sri Lanka 2016:


You Must Be Tired When You See People Like Me Year After And You Tell Your Stories And Nothing Seeems To Happen.



Domestic mechanisms do not work in the context of war crimes. The former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein in his report said, “The sheer number of allegations, their gravity, recurrence and the similarities in their modus operandi as well as the consistent pattern of conduct points towards ‘system crimes’ and that it was the Sri Lankan state that was the perpetrator of the international crimes.”


It was for this reason that hybrid courts and tribunals, as in Cambodia, East Timor, Kosovo and Sierra Leone, were suggested. [Source: The Straight Times – March 17, 2017]


If the Government was serious about addressing Tamil oppression, it would have ended the military occupation of the Tamil areas and repealed the Prevention of Terrorism Act. Instead, the government is seeking to get the 30/1 Resolution amended to wriggle out of inclusion of foreign judges failing which it will seek an extension of two years to do nothing in the hope the problem will disappear.


It is to be noted that the President of Sri Lanka has vowed several times to protect the Security Forces even if they committed war crimes and crimes against humanity. The President very recently at a meeting in Nivitigala again vowed to vindicate the Security Forces at the United Nations General Assembly where he was scheduled to speak on September 24, 2018 [Daily News of Sept. 09, 2018], even requesting the UN drop and abandon the allegations of war crimes, etc. and grant a blanket general amnesty for the Security Forces so as to ensure their guaranteed culture and policy of impunity.


Member of Parliament Hon. S.B. Dissanayake, a Cabinet member of the previous Rajapaksa administration said that “the media, too, were aware of some of those executed after they had surrendered (with White Flag after UN negotiated the surrender) though they remained silent. “Both you and we don’t talk about those who had been executed,” the National List MP said. [source]



The legacy of war continues to impose hardhsips, particularly on conflict affected women.





Kumarathasan Rasingam

Kumarathasan Rasingam

Kumarathasan Rasingam, a Human Rights activist and former President of the Tamil Canadian Elders for Human Rights Organization, migrated to Canada from Sri Lanka in April 2011.

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