Two Years On: No War but No Peace for Women still facing the Consequences of the War – CMTPC

 

Women in the north and the east of Sri Lanka have undergone severe hardships during the war, including the loss of loved ones, family’s support structures, livelihoods, houses and also a loss of life and dignity. While there have been numerous changes announced by the Government the situation for women on ground, however, has continued to be challenging. It is sad since the end of the brutal war women’s lives have not seen a dramatic transformation over the last two years and they have continued to face the basic challenges of safety, shelter and basic facilities. It in this light that we wish to put forward a few issues that these women have been facing within the broader context of life in the north and east for the communities living there.   We have chosen to highlight these issues because of their gravity, the State’s involvement in the same and the inability of women to seek justice in such cases owing to the lack of an effective civilian administration, security threats and the lack of a concrete remedy within the local legal system.  While we write of the issues relating to women, they raise broader concerns impacting the families and communities. The incidents and the report cover only the Northern and Eastern Province of Sri Lanka.

 

Resettlement – Even though there has been publicity about resettlement, the manner and the speed in which it has been done harmed the women.  Muslims returning to Jaffna have a long drawn process and have to spend about Rs.1500 to government officers to register themselves. They also need to cover their travel and food costs to and from Jaffna. They forgo the cost of food rations, have no shelter in this intermediate stage and are forced to shuttle between Puttalam and Jaffna. Granting of land permits has also been stopped. In other areas people have been able to go back to their villages but their house has been occupied by the army. There are fears that some areas will be barred for access either due to national security or development reasons.

 

The government has been taking over land that people earlier inhabited and in some cases owned title deeds either to set up military camps or for developmental projects. In the North and the East several public and private lands have been taken over by the military to set up camps or check points.[1] The people from Sampur still await return but the Government claims it needs their land for military and development purposes, including a coal power station built by an Indian Company.

 

The Sri Lankan government needs to provide a systematic and speedy resettlement process for the people in the North and ensure that the aid promised by donors and the government are in fact distributed to those who are being resettled. Equal treatment in the process of distribution across the sexes has to be assured by the responsible government officials.

 

The government’s new rule stopping the grant of land permits need to be re-looked at as this new policy ensures that families with no land are left destitute and with no possibility of resettlement or aid, particularly of housing. The GoSL however has been continuing its land grant under the Mahaweli scheme in the Central Province. Likewise, either it must treat the Northern citizens the same by providing them permits in the North or ensure that they can apply for land in the Central Province.[2]

 

Missing Persons, Detainees and Political Prisoners – A critical issue faced by a number of  families in the north, particularly women in the north and the east, is that of the missing – of husbands, sons, daughters and other family members. The Government has failed to provide these families any system of recourse to help them trace their family members. While currently much of the focus is about what happened in the last months of the war, the victims from the last two decades are waiting for some help to know what has happened to their loved ones. Also a number of the detainees who were subsequently released have undergone torture during the period of detention.[3] There is also a systemic harassment of women who have been detained and subsequently released in the new resettlement areas. They are constantly monitored and cannot lead normal lives. But more importantly there is a culture of harassment that comes with this form of monitoring. For women there are additional issues. When female ex- cadres and women arrested ‘under suspicion’ under the emergency law, which has been extended again this month[4], and the Prevention of Terrorism Act, report to military camps, which they are constantly asked to do, certain military personal make sexual advances and the women have been threatened for non-compliance. Increased military presence and the constant surveillance of these women released are at great risk within the community and also with the military. A few women are still in detention even though they have been sent for rehabilitation and their said period of rehabilitation has been completed.[5]

 

There are several cases[6] where women have been arrested and detained for long periods of time without a charge sheet and released subsequent to the filing of a Fundamental Rights petition. These women have faced torture and inhuman treatment in the prison on mere suspicion. The GoSL of Sri Lanka must ensure that arrests and detention are not used by the State to control people and harass them but are done in the proper manner where the detainees safety is assured at all times. It should be a system through which wrong doers are apprehended. Hiring legal counsel is expensive in Sri Lanka and many women do not have the finances or the knowledge that they have a right to legal aid. Therefore many women languish in prison. Therefore the GoSL must take steps to release those who have no charge sheet against them with immediate effect.

 

The case of Thirumakal Maxmillan[7] and Vasanthy Ragupathy:[8] they were arrested under suspicion of aiding in illegal activity. They have been in prison for the last 10 years, away from their young children and suffering mental trauma and illness. These women when arrested with their husbands were tortured and made to confess to crimes that they were not aware of. The GoSL should ensure that the case which has been dragging over a decade is tried and a verdict issued  so that these women can return to their young children who are currently in the care of relatives/orphanages

 

Violence against women and Rape by Military and Security Personnel – The civil administrative system has been replaced by the military system in the North in the ‘post war’ context. This started with the management of interim camps such as Menik farm in the last days of the brutal war that ended in May 2009. Militarization of the everyday lives of people in the north has caused significant problems to women’s security, such as increased insecurity and even rape. In many areas there are no police posts and people need to seek the assistance and permission of the military for their daily needs. This places women in a vulnerable position.

 

In the Vishvamadu rape case for example, four military men raped one returnee women and sexually abused another on 06th June 2010.[9] The raped victim and other two women were with their children in the resettlement areas clearing their plot of land and the military men who visited the site in the day, realizing that the women were without male companions and went back to the site on the same night and assaulted the women and children and went on to sexually abuse and rape the women. On 14th June the victims identified the four military men. On 19th November 2010 four accused military men were released on bail and one of the accused has been absconding the last two hearings.  To date the case has faced several postponements and there is a complete disregard by the State to ensure speedy justice.

 

On December 16, 2005 Ms. Vijekanthan Tharsini was raped and murdered in Punguduthivu. It is alleged that the crime was committed by the Sri Lankan Navy since a cap used by the forces was found near her dead body. A number too was found in the cap. No reference was made by anyone regarding this cap and no attention was given regarding this matter. Investigations were carried out. Subsequently it was found that  it belonged to an army personnel serving in Kayts who later served in Batticaloa. The case is still pending in the courts.

 

On March 19, 2001 two Tamil women, Mrs. Sivamani Sinnathamby and Mrs. Vijikala Nanadakumar, were arrested in Mannar by naval officers and taken into custody. While in custody both were raped and tortured by police officers.[10] At the time of the incident the case was very sensitive and drew the attention of the international community. The case was transferred to Anuradhapura where the women were humiliated during court proceedings and faced great threats as they had initiated legal proceedings. Both victims and their family members underwent continuous harassment at the hands of the military and repeatedly received death threats.  In 2008 the case was stopped on a stay order by the Court of Appeal. There are several such cases where women who were raped, tortured and even murdered by security personnel are unable to come forward, for if they do, they might have to face violence, being abducted and even killed.

 

Women lost their husbands and young male family members, as a result of forced recruitment by the LTTE or of  targeted arrests and detention of male members of the ethnic Tamil population by the government etc.  Therefore, many women have found themselves without any male ‘protection and support’ and outside their conventional and cultural concepts of family. Single women have been facing harassment, the threat of rape and also rape in many instances.  Rape given social taboo is a difficult issue for women to raise and rape by State actors more so given the risk not only to the women’s lives but also to their family members. Therefore even when women are raped they do not file a case against the perpetrators.

 

Under Sri Lankan law while rape is an offence against the State the victim per se receives no remedy. In many other jurisdictions women are provided compensation, especially in cases where State actors are perpetrators. However in Sri Lanka apart from rape being an offence which is very difficult to prove, once proven the accused is sentenced and the women is said to be served justice.

 

The Sri Lankan government needs to provide speedy justice for the victims of rape by the military and other State actors and provide compensation for the victims.  The Sri Lankan government must make a commitment to prosecute military personal and not hinder court proceedings as it has done in several cases. It must also put in place a local system of compensation for victims of rape, especially in the cases where where State actors have been perpetrators. Justice delayed is justice denied.

 

Cases of detention and rape from the North are constantly transferred to the Anuradhapura Courts where the language of the Court is Sinhala. This ensures that the victim is left in the dark about court proceedings and places the victims and family members of those detained in a new environment. Victims are also forced to travel for hearings which is a cost most times women cannot bear.

 

While the fighting may have stopped today, in the post war situation, women continue to face violence. In the last six months there have been 28 reported cases of death mostly among young women in Jaffna alone and many of these deaths are either murder or suicides as per Jaffna hospital officers. It is difficult to claim that these have been carried out by agents of the State or political groups, and the perpetrators could be members of the family or community. What is clear is that there continues to be a climate of insecurity and perpetrators are confident of being able to carry out such acts, while the victims are forced to submit to a culture of fear, shame and secrecy.

 

Trafficking – Since the end of the war there are increased reports of women and girls being trafficked. Recently a statement was made by the head of the National Child protection authority[11] warning parents of the North to be vigilant and protect their girl children as many were found as victims of trafficking.  There have been several cases where disabled women have also been trafficked. Given the current military presence and surveillance, it is indeed a matter of concern how traffickers are able to bypass several check points and take young girls and women across to other parts of the country.

 

In one incident a member from a political armed organisation was found to be taking young disabled women across to Colombo promising them work in the film industry. However no action has been taken as it would incur the wrath of this member of the political group. The police have also been inactive in this matter owing to this political influence.[12] The Sri Lankan government needs to take steps to apprehend the military and political personnel involved in this trafficking cartel and ensure women and girl children from the North and East have mobility free of harassment and abduction.

 

Presidential Task Force Rules – The civilian administration and local elected bodies continue to be circumvented by the central government that has established a Presidential Task Force that decides policy and provides approval for all projects in the North. No organization in the North or the east has been granted permission for psycho social intervention.  This denial of a basic health care service for people who have undergone severe trauma and faced violence as a result of the war is deplorable, unjust. The government has set up mental health units at the government hospitals. However, these are neither safe nor gender sensitive spaces for women to talk regarding the war, violence faced during the war, rape, detention or the disappearance of their loved ones. This denial is a denial of healing and mental wellbeing of a whole ethnic community that faced immense violence. The same need to be addressed immediately. Even the LLRC did not allow women to grieve and it was noticed by several witnesses[13] that there was impatience and a lack of sympathy from the commissioners themselves who berated the women for crying and moved on to other cases if the woman was unable to recompose herself. They also suggested that a few women should speak on behalf of the multitudes of women who had gathered there to report the abductions of their loves ones – sons, husbands, brothers and other loved ones.

 

The Sri Lankan government has reiterated its commitment to peace and reconciliation time after time in the last two years. However, the actions of the government fail to convince us of this commitment.  The Sri Lankan government must ensure that it addresses the continuing suffering of all communities, especially those from areas that faced the brunt of the war. It needs to restore civil administration in the North, hand over administration from the military to civil bodies and prosecute State actors who have engaged in gross human rights violations, and take steps to find solutions for the problems faced by women.

 

[1] Mullikulam in Mannar and Sampoor in Trincomalee are well known examples of the same.
[2] Currently only Sinhala people have been provided land under the Mahaweli scheme in the recent past. No Tamil or Muslim villagers are informed of the same through the State as it is done for the Sinhalese.
[3]  Interview with a woman in Jaffna who was arrested and detained, 2009-2010. interview with women in Mannar.
[4] http://www.colombopage.com/archive_11A/Jul05_1309878253CH.php
[5] Interview with Mother of detainee, Killinochchi.
[6] As per data gathered by a legal aid organization.
[7] Dehiwala Railway Station bomb blast case HC/9429/99
[8] Town Hall bomb blast HC/891/02
[9] http://www.lankaenews.com/English/news.php?id=9652
[10] MC/20265/01 — HCV/REV/131 — HCA/53/2006
[11] http://www.bbc.co.uk/sinhala/news/story/2011/06/110625_sexual_abuse.shtml
[12] Information gathered from two sources working in the North who were faced with this issue and do not wished to be named.
[13] Witness account at the LLRC hearing.

 

 


Word On The Tamil Street


How are Tamils reacting to the end of war? I’ve been watching the flag convoys thru town and them seem to be mostly Sinhala and Muslim. Which is fine, but I wondered how the Tamils feel. So I called a few friends and walked around the Tamil parts of town. Most people were scared to talk, certainly not on camera. On camera they say that if Mahinda does what he says and Tamils have rights it’ll be good. Off camera, they are hurting for their relatives in the north, believe that Prabhakaran may be alive and worry about the flag convoys running thru town.

Trishaw Johnny

I called up a trilingual friend and picked him up in what turned out to be a pretty Sinhalese Buddhist neighborhood. We drove to Kochikade to have a look around that more Tamil hood. So we’re walking around and peeps basically won’t talk, certainly not to the camera. Gave a trishaw driver my ID and explained this that and the other and his opinion is still somewhere between the lines. He says Prabha isn’t dead. He said there was good and bad on both side. Between the lines he seemed a bit bummed that LTTE had got thrashed.

Barside Chatties

Then we went round the corner to Kotahena and caught some bit tipsy guys getting out of a bar and having a chat on the street. They were quite excited and, in my opinion, lovely. They were Sinhala, one mentioned from Matara, and spoke of how all races should be as one and how expats should come back here and build. Matara fellow was very clear to say ‘we love them’, as in Tamil people and that we are together. I mentioned that Tamil people don’t have full rights and are in camps. They said we need to give it time. They also said they understood how they must feel right now. They were quite sweet. And a bit drunk.

Garland Seller

Spoke to a fellow selling flower garlands and a man hanging about. He said the war is incomplete. Tamil people still don’t have equal rights. Can’t say if Prabhakaran is living or dead.  But if he’s alive or dead, should give Tamils equal rights. When they see Tamil people they see different, at checkpoints.

Of Mahinda’s speech, if he does what he’s talking good. If everyone can go where they want, which Tamils can’t do. If it goes like this, the country will be good. All should be in peace. Again, he was clearly not comfortable. These seems to be the rote reply. I’m really not sure what he or the other people who talked truly feel. He said the people with flags were wrong. The right way is to be at home and celebrate. Not going around, showing and disturbing other, mocking others. Wrong it seems.

Another guy in that hood also spoke, as YouTubed below

Lassi Lady

Popped round the corner to get some samosas and sweet lassi. A flag convoy passed with a faux coffin for Prabhakaran.

She said, ‘You don’t celebrate when someone dies’. I asked her what race she was and said mixed. I asked if I could film an interview and she said no.

Hood Friend

Off the record, the Tamil friend I was with says many Tamils are not happy, they are just keeping quiet. Prabhakaran was a leader, whatever’s said, and many seemed to feel that he protected Tamils up there. Now they’re not sure. Certainly all or even most Tamils don’t support most of the LTTE, but I’m just repeating.

Mostly, he said that people are really concerned about their families in the north who are suffering. He told me a friends relative was raped and basically disappeared. This is a tertiary source and I can’t confirm, but I’m sure there’s at least one story of this. I should add the Army is extremely professional on the whole, in my experience.

There are also stories that Prabha has escaped with a cadre of 3000 hard core fighters or something. There are also rumours that the flag convoys have smashed up Tamil house and people. This is serious and I checked as much as I could and found nothing of the sort. Let me know.

Wellawatte Friend

Also called a friend in Wellawatte and actually took notes. These are the notes:

Wellawatte is tense.

Mahinda’s speech: Didn’t like speech, pouring oil and flame. This is time to celebrate, not about peace. What I feel, educated ppl, who regard humanity, they never go for these cheap celebrations, they stay home, worry about lives lost, pray. That’s not patriotic. Sri Lankans should be Sri Lankan. If you have the freedom to celebrate, Tamils have the freedom to mourn. They should have respect for everyone.

Still ashes over flame. The flame is covered with ash. Whoever can come and fan it, it will burn out. You remember 1983. If something happens somewhere, it will become a big flame. That’s what people are expecting.

However, during 83 who saved us, the sinhalese people. My fathers friends. They had conflict with the neighbors, they fought them, they sent us to batti with security.

I do not see sinhalese or tamils, only those who have humanitarian instincts and who don’t have. Whoever have good mind and heart care for people in the hospitals and IDPs.

All in all, I think there is danger here and that this Tamil uneasiness must be addressed for the country to develop as it needs to. As one. There is something to celebrate, but there is so much to mourn that I personally don’t feel it. There is a real danger in these flag convoys in that one terrorist attack could set them off into something worse. But I don’t believe that and I believe that we have come a long way since 1983. I also know that our armed forces are professional and can secure the city.

However, Tamils are A) scared to speak and B) frightening themselves with rumor because they don’t trust the information getting out. These are all functions of the crackdown on freedom of speech and media, basically fear. Beyond that, they are hurting because their relatives are hurting. However, they seem to hold hope of equal rights and freedom. I have the same hope, in time, but we have a lot of work to do before we can all celebrate in earnest.

Uploading the actual video interviews now. Will post.

Statement on Women’s Day 09 March 2009

Statement on Women’s Day March 8, 2009:

As the world is celebrating international women’s day 2009 on the theme “Women and men united to end violence against women and girls”, we the undersigned civil society organisations from Sri Lanka wish to highlight and express our deep concern at the increasing vulnerability of women, especially those living in the conflict affected areas to violence and brutality in the context of the ongoing conflict between the government of Sri Lanka (GOSL) and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), and increasing militarization and societal violence in Sri Lanka.

This year’s women’s day is commemorated when there are serious concerns about the human rights and humanitarian situation in the North of the country, where intensified hostilities by both the government forces and the LTTE are causing death, displacement and injury of civilians and humanitarian actors. Among the casualties are an increasing number of women and children. Of more than 1,100 persons who have been evacuated from the Vanni to the Trincomalee Hospital by the ICRC in the last few weeks, 661 patients were women including 256 serious cases. There are also a growing number of pregnant women who have been evacuated or who had fled the Vanni, giving birth in Vavuniya and Trincomalee hospitals. Information released by the Regional Director for Health Services in Mullativu in March indicates that starvation and under nourishments due to lack of food is a growing concern in the Vanni particularly affecting women and children. The civilian population is trapped within the Vanni as the LTTE is not allowing the civilians flee and is even shooting at civilians attempting to escape, even nuns.

Women are a significant proportion of those who have been displaced in the recent phase of the conflict and who are living in poor overcrowded conditions in camps in Vavuniya, Mannar and Jaffna. Women are particularly affected by the lack of privacy and lack of adequate spaces to bathe and change. The screening and separation of those entering government controlled areas from the Vanni is a grave concern which needs urgent attention. Many women who were evacuated by the ICRC to hospitals report that they have no idea about the whereabouts of their family members, including their children. We also highlight the urgent need to address the psychosocial needs of those fleeing the Vanni, many who have directly witnessed and experienced violence and the loss of their loved ones.

Another spectre that haunts periods of heightened conflict in Sri Lanka is violence against women including sexual harassment, abuse, rape, torture and even murder of women by armed actors in the North and the East. Most of these go unreported, uninvestigated and unpunished with a few exceptions. Over the last few months there have been a number of individual cases reported from the East, of women and girls being raped. Most recently, on Sunday March 1st, a 14 year old girl from a village in Vellaveli, Batticaloa was sexually abused and has been admitted to hospital, where her complaint of sexual abuse has been confirmed. Following an identity parade on this case a police officer has been identified and remanded. On March 4, a woman from a Women’s Development Society in Batticaloa was murdered and her body thrown into a well. We appeal that the due process of law is followed in these cases and the perpetrators brought to justice. The case of Krishanthy Kumaraswamy, as far back as 1996, remains the single instance where the state showed unprecedented political will to prosecute the perpetrators of that heinous crime.

The present fear of reporting and possible reprisals in reporting has spread a blanket of silence among the victims and affected communities. We wish to highlight that continuing violations and violence against women by armed actors has been made possible by a climate of impunity and the breakdown in the rule of law; by the threat of further violence against complainants and witnesses. While the Government refers to various initiatives it has taken to address the numerous human rights violations in the past, these are yet to yield any substantial results and there has been no political will or commitment to deal with past crimes against women. As the former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, also pointed out during her visit to Sri Lanka in October 2007, “in the absence of more vigorous investigations, prosecutions and convictions, it is hard to see how this will come to an end”.

Violence, intimidation and harassment of women has also been made possible due to continuing lack of implementation of Presidential Directives of 07 July 2006, (re-circulated by Secretary, Ministry of Defence on 12 April 2007) issued to Service Commanders and the IGP which lay down rules and procedure to be followed in search, arrests and detentions, as well as treatment of women and girls during such search, arrest and detentions.

On this women’s day 2009, we therefore appeal to the government, LTTE and all other key actors to:

• Set up a mechanism in the North and East mechanism led by women, where victims of violence can in safety and security make complaints without the threat of further violence;

• Ensure that these complaints are independently investigated in a gender sensitive manner and that perpetrators brought to justice;

• Fully implement presidential directives with regard to search, arrests and detentions, as well as treatment of women and girls during such search, arrest and detentions;.

• Ensure screening of those fleeing the Vanni is continuously observed by the ICRC who are provided access to all detention centers and those detained;

• Ensure camps and hospitals in the North and East are prepared for the influx of displaced and injured civilians and have separate facilities for women;

• Make it compulsory that all camp committees will have at least one women member; • Ensure that all mechanisms established by the government in relation to the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the Vanni, should have women in decision making positions;

• Ensure that agencies assisting the displaced and injured are provided information and access to camps, including information of women who are injured and needing special care, pregnant women, women separated from their families, women who have lost loved ones;

• Act in a transparent manner in relation to humanitarian and human rights concerns in order to win the confidence of civil society organisations and the international community who are raising legitimate concerns about these issues, and

• Protect all civilian life and take measures to guarantee the security of all civilians.

Signed: Civil Society Organisations against Violence against Women

Womens Dayin Sri Lanka =Sinhala=

Clip 01

Clip 02

Clip 03


Clip 04


Clip 05


People & Power – Righting Women’s Rights – Mar 7 –

Part 1


Part 2


Emergency Appeal

image0011

Get More Info :-  Part 01

Part 02

‘Respect Life: say ‘no’ to violence!’ Campaign

Many of us feel helpless as we witness an increase in violence in our everyday lives. We see violence perpetrated against civilians, women, children, the media, and our environment. We look to others to take action without realising that we can make an important impact ourselves. Through joining the ‘Respect life’ campaign we are saying a simple ‘no’ to violence. We believe that as citizens of Sri Lanka we can work together to change this growing pattern of violence, help those who are unable to help themselves, protect our basic human rights, and stand up against perpetrators of unjust, uncalled for violent acts.

This campaign is a collective endeavour with an ever rising number of people’s organisations joining its cause, including NGOs, civil society, trade unions; inter religious groups, plus representatives of the media and the business community. It is a national campaign denouncing all forms of violence; whether against civilians, women, children, media, institutions or individuals. Please join us in this important cause.

The ‘Respect Life’ campaign is simply that – asking people to respect life and work towards a culture of non violence. The campaign is not targeted ‘against’ anyone. It is a sustainable effort to promote nonviolence within the hearts of homes and communities. We seek to open the eyes of both the nation and of those afar who have Sri Lanka in their hearts, and to bring out the compassionate qualities that seem to lay dormant within us until we are struck by crisis. We hope to raise awareness and highlight the plight of all victims of violence and in doing so we hope to protect those who need our help.

Over a period of three years the campaign will organise events, workshops, symposiums, youth clubs, and awareness sessions concentrating on particular themes, for example violence against women and children. Activities will be implemented through four instruments: Awareness, Education, Legal, and Protection to assist in our efforts to empower and enlighten people to find strength, compassion and resilience within. We propose to stand in solidarity for nonviolence, in honour and in memory of all victims of violence. We propose to pay tribute to all Sri Lankans who have suffered and continue to suffer at the hands of violence. We propose to provide a platform for all citizens to make a pledge for nonviolence showing their empathy, impartiality and kindness to all – be it families, friends, colleagues or communities.

Ending violence is in all our hands. Let us all take this opportunity to reflect on our society and on ourselves. Let’s contemplate on what we can do as citizens to ensure that the use of violence as a way to settle disputes is rebuked and replaced by reconciliation and a commitment towards a plural and multi ethnic society that flourishes.

It is together, and only together, that we can bring this change. In bringing this change, we humbly request you to take ownership of this campaign, believe in its principles and reflect it’s principles in your everyday actions. Please extend your support in any way you can to help Lanka work towards a nonviolent culture. You can get involved either by participating in our many initiatives, by declaring your support, by organizing your own events that reflect the principles of the campaign, or simply by spreading the word.

Help us mobilise citizens to take action and make our country a better place. The ‘Respect Life: say ‘no’ to violence!’ campaign will continue until change is here; and it is changeable so long as you are with us.

To Download>>as_PDF

%d bloggers like this: