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Jaffna - Forgotten and Tragic
Bishop Duleep de Chickera
CEYLON 071221-1
December 21, 2007

A Statement by the Rt Revd Duleep de Chickera, Bishop of Colombo

[The Church of Ceylon (E-P) - Ceylon] The trials and tribulations that the people of Jaffna face have been further aggravated over the recent couple of months. Residents now receive threats over the telephone calling for the payment of large sums of money into certain bank accounts. The callers numbers as well as the bank account numbers are known. The Security Force Commanders must be commended for certain steps taken to reassure the people and also to probe these incidents. Some persons are believed to have been taken in for questioning as well and this too must be commended.

It is possible that those responsible for these extortion demands are a mix of political para-military groups and anti social elements who exploit the climate of fear and intimidation that prevails in the Peninsula. Given the evidence and the tight security controls in the Peninsula, the Government of Sri Lanka can and must put an immediate stop to this harassment. If not, its continuation will further alienate the people of Jaffna, further spread lawlessness and further embarrass the Government of Sri Lanka.

Arbitrary extra-judicial killings, almost on a daily basis, continue to paralyse Jaffna society. Responsible sources and groups have compiled statistics and reported consistently on these killings. It is hard to explain how these killings can occur, given the current security control the Sri Lankan security forces have in Jaffna. Something very sinister is clearly happening in the Peninsula.

Local sources say that most persons killed this way have had some past or present connections with the LTTE or are suspected of having connections. If this is the case, they must then be arrested and dealt with under the law. The Government of Sri Lanka should also consider offering an amnesty. Such an amnesty will bring better results if representatives of Jaffna's civil society serve on an Amnesty Commission. Representatives of a group of former Security Service Commanders who have organised themselves to work for peace could also serve on this Commission. If planned with sensitivity and vision, an amnesty will provide a much more civilised and just option to assassination or surrender to a Magistrate and ending up in the overcrowded Jaffna remand prison.

A University Professor recently indicated that some forces in power seem to believe that Tamils must be punished collectively for the misdeeds of the LTTE. In the name of God and our common humanity, such collective intimidation and punishment of the Tamils as an ethnic group must stop.

There comes a time when people and leaders are exhausted of violence and oppression and feel the urge to turn away from conflict and confrontation. It has been a long overdue right of the people of Jaffna to be able to return to normalcy. The Government of Sri Lanka must now turn the current negative trends around and ensure the rights, safety and welfare of all Sri Lankan citizens of Jaffna. This is best done through the strengthening of civil governance, infrastructures, the development of trade, industry, farming and fishing; and public amenities and welfare measures such as education, health and transport. This can be done while security measures are still in place; but the threat to life and harassment and deprivation must stop.

May the God of order, dignity and freedom forgive us and nourish us.

With Peace and Blessings.

The Rt Revd Duleep de Chickera
Bishop of Colombo
21st December 2007