Four of his workers, who were documenting alleged human rights abuses and land grabs by the army, received death threats or were attacked by thugs who threw oil on them, the latest method of intimidating those who criticize the government or army. All four have been forced into hiding, he said.
Exclusion and fear
The government says it is pouring money into northern Sri Lanka, building roads, hotels and schools, and even promoting tourism there. Time and money, it says, will heal the wounds of war.
“We have not neglected development,” said Information Minister Keheliya Rambukwella. “In fact, we get so many complaints from the south that all the funds are going to the north.”
It is not an argument that impresses many Tamils, who complain that they are excluded from decision making as well as from the profits that flow from development projects. Better roads, they say, are only being built so the army can move around more quickly, while reconciliation among the island’s communities will be built not by roads and hotels but by promoting justice and accountability.
The army has grabbed vast expanses in the north, either to set up military bases, farm for profit or, many Tamils fear, resettle Sinhalese from the south and change the demographics. The construction of Buddhist monuments where no Buddhists live reinforces those fears.
Late last month, the Sri Lankan government announced that it would hold provincial elections around the country except in the Tamil-dominated north. It says electoral rolls are not ready there after the extensive disruption of the war, even though presidential, parliamentary and local government elections have taken place since then.
But Tamil politicians from the north say the government is unwilling to hand over political rights to areas where Tamils are in the majority.
“As far as reconciliation is concerned,” said Suresh Premachandran, a member of parliament for the Tamil National Alliance, “the war is over, but still the conflict is alive.”