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On Sri Lanka’s ‘development’ in the Northeast

These are extracts from a press release by the British Tamil Forum (BTF) on August 12, 2011.

[Sri Lanka’s] so-called development agenda is geared towards establishing the infrastructure necessary to sustain the long-term occupation of the Tamil land by the Sinhala only military.

It is the military, which controls the civil administration. The local people have no say in matters concerned with their local services, justice system or law enforcement, let alone development. The only visible development is building of Buddhist temples, in areas where no practising Buddhists exist, building of military infrastructure, and building of roads which sustain the military occupation.

The Tamil National Alliance (TNA), which represents Tamils in Sri Lanka, has also released a report describing the current state of the Tamils as second-class citizens in the island. TNA has also catalogued the ‘land grab’ by the Sinhala state for building Buddhist temples and military camps, and colonising the Tamil people’s homeland with Sinhalese.

The Sinhala regime has been projecting the expenditure on these projects as development and rehabilitation. [Through their endorsement of the TNA in last month’s elections] the Tamils in Sri Lanka have rejected the government propaganda and have endorsed the view that what is needed is granting of political rights to the Tamil people in their own homeland, to look after their own affairs and to protect their own land.

International aid

International aid that had been given by donor countries specifically for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the Tamil people’s region is being used to build Buddhist temples, military bases and monuments of conquest.

With no accountability for the funds donated, a substantial sum is suspected to be siphoned off for projects in the South as well as into personal accounts of government cronies. The Sri Lankan state has banned the operation of foreign NGOs and has severely curtailed the operation of local NGOs in the North and the East.

The Sri Lankan government which clearly has the responsibility to look after the Tamils under their absolute military control, has deliberately blocked [the activities] international humanitarian organisations as well as Tamil Diaspora organisations through its Presidential Task Force and Ministry of Defence.

Diaspora contributions

In a recent interview, Mr. K. Pathamanathan (KP), former procurer of the LTTE and now a captive of the Sri Lankan military, claimed that the Tamil Diaspora is only interested in revenge [for war crimes] and not interested in the welfare of the Tamil people in the North and the East.

This is again a blatant lie. Sri Lanka’s own Central Bank has reported an increase in foreign remittance of 27 % in the last quarter alone.

When the TNA parliamentarians raised the issue of lack of rehabilitation of the war affected, Sri Lankan president Mr. Mahinda Rajapakse replied that enough money is being remitted by the Diaspora into the personal bank accounts of war affected Tamil people in the North and East.

By this callous response he has unwittingly admitted that it is the Tamil Diaspora that is sustaining the battered people and that the Sri Lankan State was not taking responsibility for the rehabilitation of the Tamil people.

The Tamil people in Sri Lanka know that it is the Diaspora, which has looked after the war orphans and the disabled. In order to plunder the funds remitted by the Diaspora, Sri Lankan military intelligence has formed NEDRO, an outfit using KP as the front man.

The Tamil Diaspora will only remit funds through channels which ensure that [these] are not financing the decimation of their own land, heritage and culture. The Diaspora is not going to send its money to an outfit run by the Sri Lankan military , which would use this money to sustain and develop its own infrastructure in the Tamil region, further subjugating the Tamils.

The Diaspora will continue to work with international and local agencies to reach their kith and kin, despite the obstacles thrown at them by the Sinhala state.

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