By Rajasingham Jayadevan
Rajasingham Jayadevan is an accountant based in London, Britain. He has been and continues to e a political activist concerned about the future and well-being of Sri Lankans in general and Tamils in particular
Pic courtesy of: A visit to the market in Jaffna ~ more pics-by By helpingmedia
~ David Brewer-Dec 6, 2011
Some years ago while visiting Sri Lanka Jayadevan had an unpleasant experience at the hands of the LTTE which he had supported at one time. He was detained and interrogated by the tigers in the Wanni while pressure was exerted by the LTTE to gain control of the Eelappatheeswarar temple in London of which Jayadevan was chief trustee.
A loud outcry was raised on his behalf by concerned persons. This was at a time when the LTTE was riding high and few dared to criticize the, There was a big band of sycophants within the Tamil Diaspora singing paeans of praise to the tigers. Today these LTTE elements project themselves as human rights champions sshedding crocodile tears for “our people” back home.
I was then the only Tamil Journalist who voiced on behalf of Jayadevan and his friend Vivekananthan and spotlighted his predicament in “The Sunday Leader” through a series of articles. British authorities were in touch with me over this issue then.This enraged the LTTE in Britain particularly the tiger political adviser Anton Balasigham.
Thanks to British “intervention” Jayadevan was released and returned to London. The pro-LTTE and LTTE media conducted a sustained campaign vilifying Jayadevan and family members.
Jayadevan continues to be active politically in London and has been critical of the Rajapaksa regime.
Recently he visited Sri Lanka and travelled up to the North. Jayadevan wrote a lengthy article in three parts about his trip.
The article was quite interesting and disclosed many interesting pieces of information such as the fact that the” Sri Lankan armed forces have been shutting down all retail businesses run by them in the North” and that there is a “Visa Pillaiyar temple” in Wellawatte where devotees pray to Lord Ganesha to gain blessings to get a visa to a foreign country.
Jayadevn has also observed and written about how the conduct of irresponsible sections of the Tamil Diaspora is corrupting and undermining the lives of people in Jaffna particularly the youths.
I think Jayadevan’s observations about his Sri Lanka visit deserve a wider audience and so am publishing all three parts of his article as a single one on my blog.
Here it is Friends-DBS Jeyaraj
Irresponsible diaspora sections cause many problems in Jaffna
By Rajasingham Jayadevan
My planned visit to Sri Lanka took place between 27th December 2011 and 8 January 2012.
My visit came under mixed reaction from my family members, relatives and friends. My relatives in Sri Lanka wholeheartedly welcomed the visit, but unfortunately, the response from my wife, relatives and friends overseas was generally very negative. Those who objected to my visit had every reasons to fear as my encounter with the LTTE in Vanni in 2004/05 justified their fear. The fear resulted in only my son accompanying me and extensive advice was received from close quarters on the issues that could put me into trouble.
Based upon reasons that I am an ardent critic of the government on a wide range of issues, in particular, on post war matters and extremism of the right wing Sinhala groups in the Sri Lankan Diaspora and in Sri Lanka and about the Tamil paramilitary groups, was the issues that worried the concerned. Flying on the 26th December was another worrying issue as what I faced after I flew to Sri Lanka on 26th December 2004 with the LTTE was a real worry that inflicted my family members.
Then my contributions to the Sri Lanka Guardian that was banned lately by the Sri Lanka government fuelled the worry further. The pressure was such that anyone in a similar situation would have given up the visit but my sheer determination desisted the pressures.
Coincidently, I was approached by the Deputy High Commissioner of the Sri Lanka High Commission Mr P M Amsa a week before my travel, who raised an issue relating to a write up which appeared in the Sri Lanka Guardian. The discussion that followed led to a meeting with the High Commissioner Dr Chris Nonis at the High Commission. The meeting was attended by my colleague and the Chairman of Alliance for Peace and Reconciliation in Sri Lanka (APRSL), Mr M Marzook. We discussed a wide range of issues and importantly about the LLRC report released on 16 December 2011.
Though I and my colleagues were critical of the composition of the LLRC committee and limitation of its mandate in our campaign work, we expressed our satisfaction on aspects of the report and were able to point out the deficiencies on the accountability issue at the meeting. Our position was that the LLRC report must be fully implemented and the issues that were inadequately dealt with must be handled separately.
At the meeting, I confirmed to the High Commissioner of my planned visit to Sri Lanka.
We were asked by the High Commissioner to attend a public meeting at the High Commission soon after our meeting on the subject matter of the LLRC report. The meeting was attended by a cross section of the Sri Lankan community and a dozen of them represented the minority Tamil and Muslim communities. The High Commissioner went into greater length to highlight the pertinent issues in the report. Following his presentation, the attendees were asked to express their views and we were surprised there was general consensus that the report must be fully implemented to end the stalemate in Sri Lanka. The consensus was such that even those who traditionally opposed any accommodation of Tamils under the pretext of the LTTE, on the whole, supported the report.
I did not encounter any difficulties with the immigration or the Intelligence Service on arrival at the Bandaranayake International Airport as feared by my relatives. I did not engage in any political meetings and limited my visit to meeting my relatives, friends and occasional chats with people whom I met during my travel.
Soon after my arrival, it was brought to my attention that a Tamil website run by an activist of the EPDP paramilitary outfit operating from France gave a provocative twist to my visit to Sri Lanka. It stated that I have had gone to Sri Lanka to take on an official position with the government. The write up gave all the indications that it was the work of a frustrated self driven Muslim member contributing to this gutter website who in fact attended the High Commission public meeting. He was one of the members taken by me in a delegation to meet the government in early 2008. This particular gutter website (I do not wish to name herein to avoid giving undue publicity) is fulfilling the vacuum created by the degrading and lethargic pro-LTTE Nitharsanam.com and its associate websites operated from Norway by a maverick provocateur who has now changed his coats to sing for his supper for pittance to cover up his dastardly deeds.
However, I kept my eyes wide open and my ears to the ground during my visit to understand the situation in Sri Lanka.
I stayed in Colombo until the News Years Day and travelled around without any hindrances. I did not see any military check points nor I was I stopped at any point to check my identity. Colombo enjoyed the calm but I found the situation is eerie as it has still not woken up to the level of brief peace prevailed with the LTTE with the peace agreement. The Colombo transport network is better organised and the city is clean. All the street corner rubbish dumps have disappeared.
I travelled to Jaffna with my brother, son and a nephew in a hired van on the 2nd January. I had the opportunity to verify some of the issues debated during my long drive to Jaffna and return on the 5th January.
Though peace is prevailing in the north and people are moving about freely on the roads, there are many military camps and sentry points on both sides of the road. Such presence confirm a feeling of military rule of the north.
At the main army check point at Omanthai, the process of vetting was simple and friendly.
The military had closed down its retailing outlets in the north from 1st January. They are also vacating the camps in the private lands and was told they are moving them to government lands or will be absorbed by the existing military barracks in the government lands.
The military has informed that they will be vacating the property I own in Navatkuli by end of this month. This change of stance was said to be a result of the government attempting to implement the recommendations of the LLRC.
It was quite evident that the government is investing heavily on infrastructural development work to the/in the north. Beyond Vavuniya on the A9 road, there is extensive road work being undertaken and one could see workers were proactively engaged which is unprecedented to the lethargic and lazy work force I have seen before I migrated to the UK.
The road is widened on both sides and concreted before being tarred. Even the culverts and bridges were concreted. The trucks used in hundreds were of the TATA and Asok Leyland makes. I also witnessed Chinese engineers in some points supervising the work.
I also recalled the road work on the A9 road beyond Omanthai during LTTE control. The road was redone with the funds of Asian Development Bank. The scandal involving the LTTE and a company associated with a government minister of the then UNP government only made the development short lived. I was told a chunk of the fund was siphoned off by both the parties that resulted in the tidy road I saw in June 2004 infested with massive potholes in December 2004 following Monsoon rain.
There were at least 10 Buddha statues and a small Dagoba erected in the road sides north of Vavuniya. A small Buddhist Dogoba has been built in the Mankulam town. The emergence of the these have earned the criticism of the Tamil parties and it is clearly the work of the military. When the country has to go through the reconciliation process, erection of Buddhist shrines have caused concerns, as Hindu and Christian Tamils do not worship Buddha.
An argument was put across that there were Hindu deities placed in the majority Sinhala areas which is visibly seen in the Anuradhapura area. These are surely placed by the Buddhist as part of worshipping as they too worship Hindu deities. If the erection of the Buddhist worshiping places in the Tamil areas was local civilian effort, it would not have been an issue. In the un-reconciled political climate, such moves are seen threatening and I too found it uncomfortable and unhelpful.
On the A9 road north of Vavuniya I was able to see construction of Hindu temples. These are civilian efforts had the support of the people.
Further to Omanthai checkpoint, one could see housing estates being built with Indian and Australian funding.
Vibrant Kilinochchi is going through a rapid transformation since the end of the war in Sri Lanka. This one time capital of the LTTE that symbolised the group’s activities is no longer there. The shops and various offices of the LTTE reflecting heavy grammatical Tamil names have disappeared. The two famous restaurants that sold inventive tasty foods like Mithi Vedi pie (Landmine shape curried pie) and the indigenous special ice cream are not in sight.
The Kilinochchi town heavily symbolises the war victories of the government forces that has overridden monuments that LTTE erected during its rule. The shattered remains of the large water tank that was flattened to the ground by the retreating LTTE men has been ring fenced and portrayed to show the dastardly deeds of the group.
The LTTE made bulldozer is displayed on the roadside depicting the heroic courage of a dead soldier of his sole effort of suicide bombing. The bulldozer had gone on a mission to the Elephant Pass army camp to cause devastation, but was instead disabled in a spontaneous suicide attack by the said young soldier of the army.
It is quite evident that the people are moving around amidst the heavy presence of the army.
The famous Murugandi stop point for worship for a safe journey is still vibrant. The much deterred hero worshiping site of LTTE’s Col Thileepan placed next to the famous temple has been removed.
There was an elementary checking at the Elephant Pass causeway that only involved the driver of our vehicle. As we entered Palai area, crownless Palmyra trees standing amidst the stretches trees are visible evidence of war that progressed not very long ago. Compared to what I saw since early 2000 during my visits, the crownless palm trees are progressively declining due to natural causes of weather and resultant decay.
The road work is visibly fast tracked in intermittent blocks on the A9 road until Navatkuli.
Military victory monuments built following the defeat of the LTTE in the Tamil areas give unpleasant feeling as these are not constructed in Southern Sri Lanka in the parallel scale- an issue that is innermost causing an unpleasant feeling for the Tamils.
Chavakachcheri, the mini town that faced the ravages of the war, is proving to be emerging out from the ashes and showing all the signs of unprecedented infrastructural development and economic activities.
The Chemmani road from Navatkuli is redone and roads beyond Navatkuli to Jaffna through Chundikili and all other roads in the inner perimeter to the Jaffna city are in a pathetic state. There was no evidence of any work undertaken and the roads are in an appalling state.
The city of Jaffna is bustling and is attempting to overcome the depredation of the war. Except for the busy Stanley Road, all roads in and around the Jaffna city limits, are in a dilapidated state.
I witnessed the historical Dutch Fort that was pounded by the LTTE firing and desecration is said to be reconstructed with Dutch government funding. Heavy earth digging machineries are being used to restore the fort to its original position.
During my school days, I have cycled through with my schoolmates on the Pannai causeway and gone on fishing expeditions with rudimentary fishing rods in the lagoon. Abundance of fish in the lagoon made us succeed once when we caught half a dozen of Mural fish.
The drive through the causeway brought back all the memories of cycling through Allaipiddy to Chatty beach.
Some road work is being carried out to broaden and re-tar the Pannai Road to the islets. But the work is not in the scale of the A9 road work. Soon after the heavy rains, the Jaffna lagoon was full of water and the green patches gave us the real sight of beauty.
As we proceeded through Velanai and Pungudutivu, I felt saddened that many properties remained abandoned and are in a derelict state. There was little movement of people. The Valanai town is a skeletal remain, whilst Pungudutivu appeared to be a ghost island. The vibrant and energetic Pungudutivu community is no longer there and it appears they have given up hope to engage with their birth place as many of them have migrated and are preoccupied with their business expertise that they are famous for.
Of the two jetties available to enter the islet of Nainativu, the driver opted for the Buddhist Nagadeepa Vihara entry point. The boat ride was semi-primitive and the roaring petrol bustling boat took this entry point. My thoughts compared with the wide sea surface of the historical Cochin bay in India. Comparatively, the massive lagoon area is unparallel and is of tremendous potential if Sri Lanka adopt a political path of good governance and the wider political accommodation of the minorities to progress a vibrant economy around the islets.
When we walked through the jetty and entered the Naga Vigara, we were welcomed by a large cut-out of President Mahinda Rajapakse. Such portrayal in a religious worship place put me off but we went around the temple premises and the place remained tranquil except for the irritation of political portrayal in the Vihara. In the Vihara we also saw a display of photographs of political and military figureheads.
We walked through to Nagapoosani Ambal temple where we saw unprecedented reconstruction work taking place. The temple with colourful multi goburams is getting ready for the auspicious Kumaba Abishegam. My chat with the priests confirmed that the temple is able to come out of its financial difficulties with the help of the local and the diaspora Pungudutivu people. Also worshippers too have increased following the end of the war.
We exited from the Nagapoosani Ambal kovil jetty to Pungudutivu.
On our return journey from Nainativu Islet, we stopped over at Chatty beach near Velani for a refreshing swim. The sea-beach was quiet and tranquil. Except for another family from the United Kingdom, there was no one else on the stretch of the beach, . The calm tranquillity of the sea welcomed us and for nearly one hour, my son and the youngsters had a good time in the sea.
What is noteworthy is that the quiet beach has become a merrymaking site for the local dogs and it was interesting to see how the dogs were enjoying the beach in the absence of humans. Even one dog was seen resting quietly in the shallow sea waves rolling over the beach.
On the very same night, on our return to Jaffna, with the help of one my relatives, we bought a portion of special Urumbirai Pangu (mutton) meat to take to Colombo. In Colombo, the meat in the cooking hands of a Jaffna style specialist, was the best food we had during our visit.
Our return journey to Colombo went without any hiccups. We decided to spend few hours in Anuradhapura and went around the historical city. The city was quiet and very little activities were to be seen. The historical Dagobas, lakes, palace etc., spoke of the city’s strong history but unfortunately there was a sombre feeling due to the lack of people around. The Dagobas in Anuradhapura are surely some of the most exquisite examples of their kind in the world.
Even the dogs and the small monkeys were bony and were not active like the ones in Vavuniya or Southern India. The shops and street stalls were basic. The historical city was clean and some road work was taking place.
One of the Sinhala visitors with whom I acquainted briefly made some comments of annoyance about the events unfolding in the historical city.
Just next to the faded and derelict monument in front of a historical Dagoba, a new tomb had been erected with inscriptions claiming the achievement of President Mahinda Rajapakse defeating of the LTTE. The acquaintance went on to say in Sinhala: ‘What? Is he trying to create a new history for this historical dagoba?’
Speaking in Sinhala, he pointed his finger to a large banner further away and said ‘this is where Mahinda wants to build his own new Dagoba but the work has forestalled following opinion received from elders, that going forward with the work would be life threatening for the President’. During the few minutes he spoke to me, he was critical of the cross section of the political divide and expressed his sadness that military victory has not been translated into political accommodation in the country.
The last two days in Colombo was mainly running about meeting with my relatives and friends.
Interestingly, a Hindu temple has come up on the seaside road close to Ramakrishna Road to cater for the worshipping needs of the migrating Sri Lankan community. The name Visa Pillaiyar Kovil by implication tells it all.
Those who are yearning to migrate or those who are close to the ones wanting to migrate visit this temple. Though I did not go into the temple, my brief passing-by confirmed temple is active.
Having said about my visit in three parts, I will fail if I do not dissect some of the socio-corrupting issues that are haunting the Tamil people in the north – by implication having heavy bearing on the people.
Thirty years of war has degenerated the strong Tamil society and present circumstances is further compounding the relapse. Beyond the deep scars of the war on the people, social evils are plaguing the society that needs to be addressed through serious efforts. The issues are bedevilling the society and there is clear evidence that the Tamil Diaspora can play its role positively and responsibly to correct the situation.
It is seemingly evident from what I heard from people that money transmitted by individuals from the Diaspora to their family members are creating social decay in Jaffna.
Some young school boys and girls are enjoying the luxuries of cell phones, motorcycles and imported alcohol bought from shops with the money received from overseas and are on the spree during school hours. The hyphened activities of these youngsters is said to be the product of the irresponsible Diaspora money that has become the spoiler. The hard earned money in the west of the relatives is creating an unprecedented and uncontrollable culture amongst these youngsters that the Tamil society did not experience in the past.
It is said that the effort of the much criticised Government Agent of Jaffna amongst the Tamil Diaspora, Mrs Imelda Sugumar, has brought controls over mushrooming guest houses in Jaffna to stop them entertaining school children as customers. But youngsters have unlimited abandoned and derelict houses to go on their spree. It is claimed there are under aged pregnancies dealt by the hospital as a result.
The parents trusting their daughters and sons that they are attending schools and returning on time are left with the heavy burden and the society too suffers as a result. On occasions when their daughters do not turn up on time, the parents become frantic and go on the search for them.
One elderly acquaintance told me that with the control over guest houses, the boys and girls made use of a nearby abandoned derelict property close to his house. The situation had become menacing that it needed intervention.
The boys and girls had come in motorbikes with mobile phones, scotch whiskey, cigarettes etc., without attending school. They were once approached and severely warned of the consequences if they continue to enter the derelict premises.
When confronted, one chap had verbally challenged the local resident, demanding why he was interfering unnecessarily. With the lambasting explanation of the social evil they are generating, the youngsters listened to him with their head down and went away – not to be seen again in the vicinity.
The other type of social evil progressed by some Diaspora Tamils too is very worrying. Some young Tamils from overseas have visited the war torn area and have married and lived with the bride for few weeks and disappeared without contacts.
The girl’s parents too are so desperate and are wanting their daughters to leave the country to have a settled life overseas. These girls are falling prey to this evil minded sex predators from overseas. These innocent girls are told heaven is waiting for them by the visiting grooms. After few weeks of fun following the wedding, the girls are abandoned and left behind. Some of them even have become pregnant.
This is the typical situation facing the Sikh community of Punjab in India, where dubious Punjabi men from overseas take large amount of dowry to marry and abandon them after few weeks.
The end of the war has created the atmosphere for the Diaspora Tamils to sell their properties in Sri Lanka and pack their bags for good from the country of their birth. It is a buyer’s market in the north at present. Even some properties are sold at desperately meagre price. In the war torn area, there is an abundance of unclaimed and abandoned properties and the fear of returning to Sri Lanka due to the human rights situation is creating further detachment.
There are rogue property sellers all around Jaffna peninsula. Their expertise is such that they sell a property in multiples. During my brief stay in Jaffna, I came across three deeds being created by a rogue former banker and each innocent victim is an unfortunate victim to this unscrupulous predator. I was told that this former banker had done many such rogue deals. He first approaches the due owner to taunt him to get as much information as possible to prepare fraudulent deeds for the new buyers.
Despite the adversities faced, I found that Tamil people are still resilient. With the heavy presence of the military resembling a occupied state and facing adversities on all fronts, they are pulling through with hardship.
The Tamil Diaspora has to come forward to meet their urgent social needs and such efforts are taking some momentum in the Diaspora but unfortunately it is inadequate. Even the established Nuffield School for the Deaf and Blind in Kaithady is struggling to cope, due to the lack of resources and the ever increasing demands for their service from the community.
Heavy interference of the EPDP paramilitary group in the day to day affairs in Jaffna is another worrying factor that the government needs to urgently attend to. This paramilitary group is enjoying the support of the government for the mere reason of helping to defeat the LTTE. When I met a victim of the LTTE who was held captive for many months, he too was critical of this group and expressed his displeasure that the group has placed its men in the Jaffna Secretariat of the GA, Mrs Imelda Sugumar, and that they are heavily interfering in her work.
Though the government is appealing to the Diaspora to invest in the North and East, it has not taken the meaningful step of political reconciliation and demilitarisation of the North and East. Responding to the government appeal is very risky, as the country has not responded legislatively to prevent anti-Tamil violence in the future that has historically caused colossal harm to the Tamils.
It is my belief that Sri Lanka is still not prepared to deal with anti-Tamil violence as the political climate is very volatile that a mad incident will revisit the calamity that inflicted Tamils in the past.