|Displaced people flee Vaharai, which is under daily bombardment by Sri Lanka's military. Photo Rukmal Perera / Daily News|
The Northern region of Batticaloa district is being rapidly de - populated of people.
People living amid great hardship in areas controlled by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) there are moving out to the relatively safe areas controlled by the Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL).
There is a propaganda war on. The GOSL says the people are fleeing from LTTE oppression and seeking liberty in GOSL areas.
The LTTE says the Government is driving out these people in a systematic campaign of ethnic cleansing.
Meanwhile the people are on the move seeking refuge and safety. All they want is to be safe and exercise that fundamental freedom - the right to life.
The Koralaipattru North region has been impoverished and backward even during the best of times. Its economy is mainly based on fisheries, agriculture, forestry and livestock and dairy. The outbreak of war has affected it drastically.
With the LTTE gaining control of the region it became systematically deprived and deliberately targeted. This northern region of Batticaloa district is separated from Southern region of Trincomalee district by the Verugal river.
The Koralaipattru North region had around 10 - 12,000 permanent residents in April this year. Then came the deliberate bombing and shelling of Tamil areas in the Muthur East region of Trincomalee district.
This campaign was undertaken with the ostensible purpose of driving the people out of the strategic Sampoor area. The people fled southwards moving from place to place in search of safety as aerial bombardment and artillery shelling intensified.
The bulk reached the Koralaipattru north region and took up temporary residence as IDPs. The number of people in Koralaipattru north swelled up to more than 50,000.
Their troubles however were not over.
The GOSL began deliberately curtailing the movement of people and transport of medicine, building materials, food, essential goods etc to and from the Koralaipattru north division generally known as Vaakarai region.
GOSL also conducted several aerial bombings of the area. Artillery was also used to fire into the area. The GOSL of course justified these attacks and stringent measures on the grounds of security.
While the LTTE oriented hostilities provided the security forces with a convenient excuse to target the Vaakarai - Verugal region there was also a larger objective.
The Sinhala - supremacist regime of President Mahinda Rajapakse has a major politico - military objective.
It wants to de - link the North and East and then bring the Eastern province under its full control.
In the process the regime also wants to depopulate Trincomalee district of Tamils and drive Tamils living in LTTE controlled areas in Batticaloa - Amparai into GOSL dominated regions.
This is in effect a scorched earth policy where many Tamils will be deprived of dwellings and livelihood and reduced to a hand - out dependent life in refugee camps in their land of historic habitation.
The security forces game plan seems to be that of a southern push in Trincomalee and a Northeastern push in Batticaloa to take the Vaakarai region.
Against the backdrop of such an elaborate politico - military design the people of Vakarai region - both permanent and temporary - are regarded as being of no consequence.
The deaths, destruction and displacement undergone by them will only be “collateral damage”. The stakes however are high and both sides have been fighting fiercely to win or more importantly not to lose. Inhuman methods have been employed.
The GOSL has restricted food and essential items being taken to the Vaakarai region.
Quantities amounting to less than half of what is required have been taken irregularly. Movement to and from the area has been restricted for nearly ten weeks.
Access by ICRC, UNHCR and SLMM are severely curtailed. Artillery attacks have been launched regularly.
In a display of callous disregard for civilised norms refugees housed in schools have been victimised on many occasions. Nearly a hundred civilians have been killed and more than two - hundred injured in these attacks.
The LTTE request for a ‘safe haven’ in Vaakarai was pointedly ignored.
A slow exodus in search of safety and relatively better conditions began.
It was Mao Ze Dong who compared guerrillas to fish and the people to an ocean. If the ocean is drained then fish will flounder. Likewise a region bereft of people will render guerillas vulnerable.
The LTTE did not want that to happen. So the LTTE enforced strict controls. The people would have come out sooner but for LTTE prevention.
No people on earth can continue to suffer like the people of Vaakarai. There had to come a breaking point.
The first signs came when the LTTE began moving out some cadres, artillery and military assets out of the region. The people realised the LTTE was not going to hold out much longer.
Adding to their woes was the weather that would make existence a tremendous burden. This fear of bad weather provided further impetus to the refugee outflow.
So the people began moving out. Initially it began as a trickle but soon became a flow. From hundreds a day the outflow increased to thousands per day.
After some attempt to prevent the exodus the LTTE apparently gave up. The local tigers from the area did not have the heart to prevent the people from going out.
The IDP figure of people taking refuge in Other areas of Batticaloa has reached 27,837 on December 21st evening, more than half of the population in Koralaipattru North.
Given the current rate of movement this figure is likely to exceed 35, 000 in a few days unless the LTTE enforces firm restrictions.
The people living in Koralaipattru North are moving out primarily to eke out a life of relative safety.
They have been pushed to this position by the series of harsh, inhuman measures adopted by the GOSL to drive them out.
The GOSL has reached the heights of hypocrisy when it says the people have escaped from tiger tyranny to seek liberty in Government areas.
The GOSL has used brute force and inhuman methods to persecute a voiceless segment of its population and drive it away from its habitat for politico - military reasons.
This is part of the genocidal war being waged by Colombo.
With Vaakarai region being rapidly de - populated GOSL security forces are likely to escalate military activity soon. Massive aerial bombardment and artillery attacks will be launched. The civilians remaining in Vaakarai will be regarded as “tigers” and treated as such.
The on going de - population of Koralaipattru indicates what lies in store for Eastern Tamils currently.
Sampoor was ethnically cleansed of Tamils. A high security zone bereft of Tamils is being established.
A similar re-play with slight modifications is likely in Vaakarai too. This pattern is likely to emerge in other theatres of conflict in the East.
Later the North too will be afflicted in the same manner.
The Tamil homelands are being systematically ravaged and de - populated. A scorched earth policy is being implemented ruthlessly.
Only the Western nations and India can curb the Rajapakse administration.
The Tamil people are on the edge of disaster. The regime is all out to wreak havoc.
The International Community can halt it if it wants to.
Edited, original published Dec 23, 2006