» 07/09/2008, 00.00
Jaffna: government eases curfew, security problem remains
Melani Manel Perera
A note from the diocesan commission for justice and peace lists the area's most urgent problems. For almost 25 years, the northern peninsula has been the theatre of a bloody war between the army and the Tamil Tigers, claiming victims above all from the civilian population.
Colombo (AsiaNews) - The general level of security seems to have improved, the hours of curfew have been reduced, but many unresolved questions still remain, preventing people from living in tranquillity. This is affirmed in a note from the Commission for Justice and Peace of the diocese of Jaffna: the little peninsula in the north of Sri Lanka has been living with a civil war for almost 25 years, pitting the government army against the Tamil Tiger rebels (LTTE) who are fighting for independence. The curfew went into effect in August of 2006, and the army has decided to use the strongest measures possible against the guerrillas, but the emergency provisions have not been successful in stopping the escalation of violence. For this reason, the diocesan commission wanted to emphasise the difficulties caused for citizens, and the violations of human rights, challenging the general indifference shown by the international community.
Crisis for fishermen
The lagoon of Jaffna has been reopened for fishing, but restrictions have been increased: fishing is permitted for six or seven hours a day, beginning at eight in the morning, but fishermen are forbidden to carry food or other provisions on board their boats; they cannot use a particular kind of net helpful for catching large quantities of fish, and fishing at night is banned. Snorkels have also been forbidden. All of the rules are aimed at maintaining order and security, but they also have the effect of disturbing the rhythm and habits of the fishermen, who were used to working mainly at night when the fish are feeding. The fishermen denounce a climate of growing hostility, and being treated as "enemies".
Banned by the international community, torture is a widespread practice, especially in the northern regions of Tenmaradchi and Valikamam. It is mainly used by the Tamil Tigers. The victims often do not report the violence because they have received threats, or are afraid of retaliation.
The list of brutal crimes continues to grow: people have their throats cut or are decapitated, and their remains are tossed aside without any pity. The violence does not even spare women, the elderly, or children.
This is a common means of obtaining money to support armed conflict; those who refuse to pay are killed or kidnapped for ransom. The presence of police forces and the government curfew have little effect.
Most of the weapons that sustain the fighting between rebels and the government come from India: an outrage, according to the diocesan commission, which emphasises the spirit of peace and brotherhood promoted by Mahatma Gandhi, India's founding father and the standard bearer of "nonviolent" resistance. By providing weapons, India is indirectly responsible for perpetrating conflicts in the nearby island, instead of taking on a role of peacemaker and resolving disagreements.
Hope against hope
There remains a feeble sign of hope: India emphasises that "recognition of political rights in a Tamil region would be a workable solution to the ethnic question". For this reason, the diocese calls upon the international community to intervene, and to put aside conditions and personal interests in order to "guarantee stable and lasting peace".
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