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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2648

Scarred Sinhala conscience

Dushy Ranetunge

Driving from Colombo to Kandy last week with a Sinhalese passenger from Ampara revealed some disturbing aspects of Sri Lanka’s conflict.

The man is married with two small children and lives in an interior village about 3 km from Tamil villages in Ampara. He states that during a particular military offensive in the area against the LTTE in the late 1990’s, the Sinhalese villagers decided to treat the soldiers who had camped near a Tamil village.

The Sinhalese villagers had organized a convoy of tractors and local Sinhalese had filled the trailers of these tractors with various food stuffs, predominantly, “kurumba” from the coconut trees for the soldiers to drink.

The convoy had then driven through the jungle and entered the Tamil village, where the soldiers were camped and had been received by the soldiers gratefully.

The Tamil civilians had fled the village and could be seen some distance away on the opposite side of the paddy fields at the edge of the jungle. They could be clearly seen watching from a distance with their women and children. There were only two Tamil occupants left behind in the village and they were two old women who had been too feeble to flee from the village.

Some of the young male Sinhalese villagers who had accompanied the convoy had entered the house of one of these old feeble Tamil females and killed her. He states that this was done by some of the “chandiyas” or local thugs. When they were trying to kill the other old Tamil female, some other Sinhalese villagers had intervened and prevented them from doing so.

Afterwards the Sinhalese villagers had looted the Tamil village and stripped it of everything, including pots and pans, loading the tractors and driving this pathetic loot back to the Sinhalese villages.

My Sinhalese passenger informs me that many of the weeds spraying machines currently used in his and adjoining villages are those which had been looted from the Tamil villages.

He states that while the Tamil villagers were watching from afar, the Sinhalese even harvested their (Tamil) fields and sold it. He states that even today, Sinhalese are occupying and harvesting Tamil paddy fields, given to the Tamils by the government under various irrigation schemes.

He states that the Tamils worked hard and kept beautiful paddy fields and gardens and that as a child he remembers Tamil friends of his father from nearby villages visiting their home and staying with them.

I inquired if the army or the police did not intervene and stop the Sinhalese villagers committing such crimes. He states that the army and the police ignore it and pretend that it did not happen.

He confirms that the LTTE carried out several massacres of Sinhalese villagers in the area and in his opinion these massacres were carried out in revenge for atrocities committed by Sinhalese against Tamils.

He states that he visited sites in the area where Sinhalese villagers had been cut to pieces by the LTTE with machetes. He says that even the bones had been cut with sharp knives. He claims that for Tamils who lived among them so peacefully to act in this demonic manner, the Sinhalese may have been gravely inhuman to them.

Being a Buddhist my passenger views it as Karma and does not consider if the LTTE behavior was a part of deliberate strategy. The LTTE is not an emotional organization. Its actions are always, planned and deliberate with a specific objective in mind.

I inquired if this kind of behavior by the Sinhalese villagers is still continuing. He said no, and that the villagers have realized the error of their ways. Outrageously, he states that the massacre of Sinhalese civilians by the LTTE helped in this realization. However this week, there were reports in the electronic media of accusations of Tamil homes being looted in the newly liberated areas in the East.

My Sinhalese passenger states that the LTTE fought a just war until some time ago, because a great injustice was done to the Tamil people by the Sinhalese. But he states that the current LTTE war is not just. He states that now there is realization among the Sinhalese that there has been a great injustice done to the Tamils and there is an aspiration to achieve peace. The LTTE he states, is now fighting against the achievement of peace, and fighting not a just, but a political war trying to carve out a separate regional entity. This he states is not practical since it will lead to more bloody conflict.

While driving to Kandy and listening to my passenger, I wondered how many more Sinhalese and indeed Tamils there are, who have stories such as this that bothers their conscience and the benefits of a proper truth and reconciliation commission such as the one in South Africa.

- Asian Tribune -

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