Thursday, January 20, 2011

Post-war normalcy diminishing in the North

By Mandana Ismail Abeywickrema | The Sunday Leader

Civilians in Jaffna and many areas in the North are living in fear once again following the increase in the crime rate in the area. The crimes that have so far been reported from the North include abductions, murders and robberies.

Civilians in Jaffna and many areas in the North are living in fear once again following an increase in the crime rate in the area. The crimes that have so far been reported from the North include abductions, murders and robberies.

The post war normalcy that prevailed in the North has now diminished with civilians returning to the state they were in during the period of the war. The robberies, abductions and murders that have taken place since last November has created a new fear psychosis among the Northerners.

Several Jaffna residents, who spoke on conditions of anonymity, said the people in Jaffna have once again restricted their movements during evening hours and are now compelled to shut their doors and switch off the lights in their houses by 6 p.m.
Civilians in Jaffna find it difficult to have a good night’s sleep since the escalation of crimes in the area.

“People in Jaffna are now scared to step out of their houses in the nights and to stay alone,” a resident said, adding that most often the thieves who have broken into houses have carried knives with them.

According to the residents, criminal activities continue even with the police and army patrolling the area.

An intellectual from Jaffna also speaking on condition of anonymity explained to The Sunday Leader that while there are many sentiments being expressed about the persons behind the increasing crime wave in the North, there has been no definite answer.
“At least during the period of the war, we knew what was going on. Now the war is over and with the increase in abductions, murders and robberies, no one knows exactly who is behind these acts,” she said.

While some suspect the crimes to be acts that have been politically motivated, others suspect the abductions and murders to be related to former LTTE members.
According to Jaffna residents, most of the former LTTE seniors and cadres have joined the EPDP since the defeat of the LTTE in 2009.

“Most of the former LTTE members who have returned to their homes in the North are now with the EPDP. Since the EPDP is a constituent party of the government, they are protected,” they said.

“When the situation is normal, certain political elements operating in the North fear they would lose their hold on the civilians and therefore feel that a sense of insecurity among the people would keep them under their supervision,” they added.

Residents allege that some of the robberies are being carried out by EPDP members.
The Sunday Leader last week reported the arrest of an EPDP member while trying to break into a house.

Commenting on the situation, Commander of the Army for Jaffna, Major General Mahinda Hathurusinghe observed that certain elements were trying to disrupt the lives of civilians in the North by creating a fear psychosis.

Referring to the arrest of the EPDP member, the intellectual from Jaffna said, “Although the suspect has been identified as an EPDP member, EPDP seniors have claimed that he is a former LTTE member.”

“It is a clear indication that when a crime is committed everyone tries to place the blame on some one else,” she said.

Nevertheless, the Jaffna civilians are hopeful that the government would intervene and bring normalcy back to the North. “Everyone talks of the crimes and the law and order situation in the North, but the government that won the war can easily identify and take action against the culprits,” residents said.

The security situation in Jaffna figured prominently in parliament during its last sessions with Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe calling for a full debate on the matter and the Tamil politicians blaming the government for the situation.
The questions raised by EPDP Leader and Minister Douglas Devananda on the security situation have even created issues within the administration as well.

Housing and Construction Minister Wimal Weerawansa winding up the emergency debate in parliament on the 6th said, “If there are abductions and killings in the North the perpetrators should be punished according to the law. According to information received certain under-ground elements are working in coordination with Tiger terrorists not only in Jaffna but in other areas as well and hence it is necessary that the emergency regulations should prevail until these under-ground elements are eliminated.”

Given the statements made by government ministers, the onus is now with the administration to ensure that action is taken to curb the situation. Commenting on the situation in Jaffna, Bishop Rt. Rev. Thomas Saundranayagam noted that there was a lack of law and order in the area.

He also said that there was suspicion among people in Jaffna on whether the crimes that have taken place in the last two months have been politically motivated. He observed that while there is speculation over the persons behind the robberies, alleged abductions and murders, the police and the army have been unable to find the culprits.

Saundranayagam told The Sunday Leader that the number of incidents are on the decline from last week and that most of the incidents were related to law and order rather than crimes.

He explained that with normalcy returning to Jaffna, the number of police patrols in the area was reduced. “This has also helped various unruly elements in Jaffna to carry out robberies.”

However, one of the issues faced by the people in Jaffna is the inadequate number of police personnel serving in the area, Bishop Saundranayagam said. “There is a lack of adequate police officers in Jaffna to patrol the areas and provide security to the residents,” he said.

The Bishop observed that while the situation in the North has even been raised in parliament, the government has taken action as well.

“The IGP visited the area last week and held a meeting. After looking at the incidents, he said they were similar to those being reported in other areas in the country. The IGP said the police and army would work together to increase security in the North,” he noted.

Be that as it may, statements made and oral responses given in relation to the security situation in Jaffna are insufficient to create a sense of freedom in the Northerners’ minds. Civilians in the North seek action and justice regardless of who is behind the incidents that have created a fear psychosis among the people. It is now up to the government to take the initiative by way of action against the culprits in order to strengthen the confidence of the people of the North in the administration. A failure to do so would undoubtedly result in the civilians in the North distancing themselves from the Southern politicians.

"Jaffna is normal" – Jaffna OIC

HQI, Jaffna Police, OIC Saman Sigera says there is no deterioration of the security situation in Jaffna. He observed that the situation in Jaffna is similar to that in any other part in the country.

“It is false reports that have created an impression of a lack of security in Jaffna,” he said.

According to OIC Sigera, the crimes that have been recorded in Jaffna are similar to those that are reported from any other district in the country. “The only incidents of concern are two murders that have taken place and the police is conducting investigations into them,” he said.

Referring to abductions, he said that in one instance a wife who had claimed that her husband had been abducted in a white van called him at 11pm. “When I called the residence the following morning, the son answered the phone and said the father was back at home. The police had to then stop the inquiry,” he noted.

The OIC observed that in some instances people make complaints about abductions in order to seek asylum in European countries. “Therefore the so called abductions are not always abductions.”

OIC Sigera says that normalcy prevails in Jaffna with people moving about freely.
The OIC said following a directive by the IGP, the police and the STF now carry out joint patrolling of the streets in Jaffna. “Jaffna Army Commander Major General Mahinda Hathurusinghe has also joined the move by assigning army personnel to carry out patrolling,” he said.

When asked if robberies and other crimes are being carried out by former LTTE members and EPDP members, OIC Sigera said, “There are a large number of former LTTE members who are now among the civilian community after they have returned home. In such a backdrop, if a person is arrested even for a minor issue, the fact that he was a former LTTE member is what receives prominence.”

A list of incidents

Following are a list of murders, abduction, robberies and sexual violence that have taken place in Jaffna during the last two months:

*On 11.11.2010 at Kudathanai in Vadamarachchi area two women who went to collect firewood have been subjected to sexual violence. The two women who were harassed were a 19-year-old student and a wife of a detainee who is still in the detention camp. The Manatkadu Police had inquired into the incident.

*On 13.11.2010 Pathmanathan Thusyanthan from Polikandy had disappeared and was later found dead on the beach. The police investigation has stated that the boy was a mental patient.

*On 13.11.2010 a mine clearance unit found a skeleton of a person in Nagarkovil. Point Pedro judge is investigating into the matter.

*On 06.12.2010 a 26-year-old boy had reportedly raped a 13-year-old child in Point Pedro. The injured child had been admitted to the Point Pedro base hospital and the suspect had been arrested.

*On 11.12.2010, 19-year-old Thulasy Ariyanayagam was found dead in an abandoned well in Puloly. The girl was reportedly missing on 29.11 .2010.

*On 12.12.2010 a young girl had been abducted by two persons on a motorbike in Udupity in front of MPCS at 6 p.m. Investigations are on going.

*On 12.12.2010 three members from a family of Hindu priests have been shot and armed men robbed their jewellery and cash in Chankanai in front of Murugamoorthy Temple. One of the injured Nithyanantha Sarma succumbed to his injuries later on. The others were admitted to hospital.

*On 25.12.2010 the Vavuniya police arrested a person on suspicion that he has sold some stolen jewellery. While investigations were ongoing, persons in civilian clothing have taken more jewels and sovereigns from the shop owners. The shop owners have complained to the Jaffna police but no information has been received.

*On 26.12.2010 Deputy Director of Education in Vallykamum, Markandu Sivalingam was shot dead by unknown gunmen. The incident had taken place at his residence in Urumpirai west. A police investigation is ongoing.

*On 27.12.2010 unknown armed men have entered a house in Point Pedro and caused injuries to the lady of the house, Thankavelautham Selvarany and robbed her Thali Koddy. She was admitted to hospital.

30.12.2010 one R. Chandrasiri had been found dead in an unoccupied house in Maniyanthoddam, Eechamoddai. His head had been covered and police investigations are ongoing.

*On 30.12.2010 one vehicle broker had been abducted by three unknown persons in Meesalai and later found at Vempirai cemetery with injuries. He has been admitted to hospital.

*On 31.12.2010 a young boy had been abducted in a white van near three temples in Urumpirai. The boy had been released from the rehabilitation camp recently.

*On 01.01.2011 on the 31st evening Thavarasa Ketheswaran (28) had been shot dead in Kudathanai. Unknown persons reportedly abducted him before he was found dead.

*On 01.01.2011 on 31st evening, a mother of six children, 48-year-old Pushpadevy Yoganathan, had been abducted in a white van in Alvai Vadamarachchi. Police investigations are ongoing.

*On 01.01.2011 Kopinath, a three-wheeler driver had been abducted in Urimpirai. His wife had lodged a complaint with the Kopay police.

*On 03.01.2011 a labourer and a father of five children, Mahalingam Amutharasa, was reported missing.

*On 04.01.2011 at about 11.30 a.m. thieves wearing masks have robbed jewellery from a house in Chankanai.

*On 5.01.2011 father of a child, S. Itayan had been killed by a group of unknown persons after slashing him with swords. He had returned to Thitunellvely recently from the Wanni.

© The Sunday Leader

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