Army still ruling Tamil areas with ‘iron fist’

The civil war in Sri Lanka is over, but the military still governs Tamil areas with a heavy hand, according to a report.

Residents said that they still live in fear of security forces, and also fear speaking out about the atrocities meted out on them.

According to the Christian Science Monitor, three years after the national army defeated the Liberation Tigers for Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in a 2009 offensive that left 40,000 civilians dead, military camps still occupy the predominantly Tamil north.

According to the report, the Sinhalese-controlled government has justified the militarisation citing national security concerns.

“When you’ve lived under terrorism for 30 years, you’re going to take precautions,” Malinda Seneviratne, the editor in chief of The Nation, a weekly English newspaper in Sri Lanka, said.

But many Tamil civilians worry that the increased security is a cover to exert control over the Tamil minority, the report added.

“Given the ethnic divide in Sri Lanka, there is a perception amongst people that the military are there to restrict the rights of the people of the region,” Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, the director of the Centre for Policy Alternatives in Colombo, said.

“There is no chance of violence anytime soon. But if people come out in peaceful protest and violence is used against the population, then the likelihood of the population itself becoming more militant is greater,” he added.

The army tightly controls the region. Civilians have to take permission from the army for everyday activities, from purchasing property to hosting a funeral, the report said. Even non-governmental organiSations must get all projects pre-approved before proceeding, it added.

“There is no freedom here,” the report quoted one Tamil social activist, as saying.

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