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    » 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.

    Growing cruelty

    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.

    India's complicity

    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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    See also

    27/01/2009 SRI LANKA
    Massacre of civilians, bishop of Jaffna calls for extension of buffer zone
    Hundreds of civilians dead, killed even in the "safety zone." The army and the Tamil Tigers are trading accusations. Bishop of Jaffna: the buffer zone must be extended immediately and respected, to save many lives.

    30/08/2006 SRI LANKA
    Amnesty International joins appeals for Fr Jim Brown
    In an urgent appeal, the agency said the Catholic priest and his aide, who disappeared on 20 August, may be victims of 'disappearance' by state agents. The military blocked a peaceful procession of Catholics in Jaffna in support of Fr Jim

    23/04/2009 INDIA - SRI LANKA
    Bishop of Chennai: nothing can justify the massacre underway in Sri Lanka
    Archbishop Chinnappa denounces the resignation of the international community. The Church of India prays for peace, and calls for a political solution to the conflict. "We are with the Tamils living in Sri Lanka, and those dispersed all over the world."

    12/12/2008 SRI LANKA
    In the future of Caritas, commitment to peace and reconciliation
    Fr. Oswald B. Firth, the former director of the charitable Catholic institution, hopes for a greater commitment to the renewal of Sri Lankan society. At the 40th anniversary of its foundation, he calls upon Caritas to support peace between the Tamil Tigers and the army: "people are exhausted with the war."

    04/01/2008 SRI LANKA
    Christian leaders tell government it is their “duty” to negotiate peace
    The Catholic Archbishop of Colombo and the Anglican leader in Sri Lanka have both sent letters of condolences for the death of a leading Tamil politician and the January 2nd attack in the capital. Both remind politicians of the urgency to find a negotiated solution to end the civil war and violence, But the government has already announced its withdrawal from the ceasefire with the Tigers.

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