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Dark days are back in Jaffna

In January, 2010, Jaffna was thrown open to Lankan citizens after decades of isolation. Passing through the former LTTE capital, Kilinochchi, thousands flocked to the peninsula in rickety buses over the potholed A9 highway.

world Updated: Jan 11, 2011 23:29 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis

In January, 2010, Jaffna was thrown open to Lankan citizens after decades of isolation. Passing through the former LTTE capital, Kilinochchi, thousands flocked to the peninsula in rickety buses over the potholed A9 highway. Jaffna residents were beleaguered by the sudden attention from southern tourists and traders but it seemed acceptable in exchange for a post-war sense of normalcy.

A year later, that sense of normalcy is dipping. A spate of murders - some suspect extra-judicial killings -- and abductions around the district have brought back dark fears. What is deepening the fear is that the crimes were committed even though the district is still under tight security - or at least enough number of well-armed policemen and military personnel are seen to be on duty.

Opposition leader, Ranil Wickremasinghe told Parliament that an all-party delegation should be urgently sent to the Tamil heartland to assess the situation. Government minister, and Tamil politician, Douglas Devananda added that "a fear psychosis" was prevailing. Tamil parliamentarians submitted a list of 15 incidents reported in less than two months.

Among the most shocking incidents were the beheading of a young man, killing of a Hindu priest and the murders of an education department officer and an environmentalist.

The response from the authorities was immediate and innovative: leaflets were distributed and announcements made asking the citizens to be wary and take care of themselves. Women were asked to wear imitation jewellery and homeowners asked to keep a light bulb on at night; don't go out alone at night, residents were warned.

"Such violence were the daily events when the government troops were locked in fierce war with LTTE but the re-emergence of the dark era even after the military defeat of the LTTE has raised a million dollar question on the motive of such organised crime," Journalists for Democracy, a group working in exile, said in a statement.

Last week, the government announced that it would recruit Tamil personnel for its police force; a move that would probably improve policing in Tamil-dominated north and east where lack of communication between Tamil citizens and Sinhalese policemen is a sharp hindrance against policing. Currently, less than 5% of Sri Lanka's 85,000 policemen are Tamils.