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Killings and shortages torment Jaffna

Increased security has not reduced the killings, which have become the order of the day in the island nation, reports PK Balachandran.

india Updated: May 08, 2006 11:41 IST

The ugly shadow war that has been going on between the LTTE and the Sri Lankan armed forces has brought life to a virtual standstill in Jaffna, in North Sri Lanka.

Sources in Jaffna told Hindustan Times on Sunday that fear was pervasive in this Tamil-speaking district, known as the heartland of the Sri Lankan Tamils.

"There is virtually no traffic on the roads after 12 or 1 pm," said Suresh Premachandran, MP for Jaffna.

"Business establishments close shop at 4 pm. People return home by dusk and few venture out after that," another resident said.

Sri Lankan troops have pickets every half-a-km. Check points, barricades and speed breakers are dime a dozen.

But the awesome security apparatus put in place has not reduced the killings, which have become the order of the day.

Young men and three-wheeler drivers seem to be the main targets for the non-LTTE groups looking for suspected LTTE sympathisers.

Sri Lankan soldiers seem to be the main target of LTTE hit squads.

So far, 12 young men and 10 three-wheeler drivers have been killed by unidentified gunmen, local residents say.

No one claims responsibility for the killings.

It can be safely assumed that army troops are killed by the LTTE. But civilian deaths are a grey area.

The LTTE blames the "Tamil paramilitaries" of the Sri Lankan armed forces and the forces themselves, for the death of civilians.

The government, of course, attributes all the killings to the LTTE, and stoutly denies that its armed forces have any "Tamil paramilitaries".

The government attributed to the LTTE, even the attack on the offices of the pro-LTTE daily Uthayan in which two staffers were killed.

"The attack took place on the eve of World Press Freedom Day which was being celebrated by the government. It was done to discredit the government in the eyes of the world. We should see who benefits from a crime," argued Keheliya Rambukwella, the government spokesman.

LTTE call for evacuate Jaffna

The LTTE has told the people of Jaffna that a war is imminent, in view of the assaults on the Tamils, allegedly by the Sri Lankan armed forces and their "Tamil paramilitaries."

Notices put up by the shadowy "Pongi Elum Makkal Padai" (Rising Peoples' Army) have warned that Sri Lankan army posts and camps are going to be attacked, and that the people living around them should leave for safer places forthwith.

The notice had been reproduced in the pro-LTTE Tamil website www.sankathi.com.

The Rising Peoples' Army has highlighted the killing of five Tamil youth in Puthur, seven in Vadamarachchi, and two in the office of the Uthayan daily in Jaffna.

Traders create shortages

The war-like situation in Jaffna is being exploited by the trading community, which has started hoarding essential commodities, local residents say.

"The price of petrol has gone by 50 per cent. A litre of petrol now goes for SLRs 160 or SLRs 170. Milk powder is up by 20 per cent," one resident said.

Traders, on the other hand, are complaining of a sharp fall in business.

In the main market at Stanley Road, turnover has come down from SLRs 30 million to SLRs 2 million a day, a source said.

The uncertain situation has brought all repair and construction work to a stop, throwing masons and others out of job.

Indefinite hartal worries residents

Jaffna is now bracing itself with extreme trepidation for an indefinite hartal from Monday onwards.

To add to the inconvenience, the government has clamped a curfew from the mid night of Sunday to 4 pm on Monday.

Called by one of LTTE's shadowy front organizations, the hartal would mean that banks, schools, trading establishments and government offices would be shut indefinitely.

Only the essential services were exempt, a resident said.

"The closure of banks is going to hit the people hard because 70 per cent of the population of Jaffna depends on remittances from abroad," he added.

Prabhakaran refuses to see peace envoy

Meanwhile, Japan's Special Peace Envoy, Yasushi Akashi, has failed to get an appointment with the LTTE Supremo, Velupillai Prabhakaran.

Akashi would therefore be meeting only SP Tamilselvan, the LTTE's political commissar, during his scheduled visit to Kilinochchi on May 9.

The Japanese Special Envoy had wanted to see Prabhakaran ahead of a crucial meeting of the Co-chairs of the donors' conference in Tokyo later in May, diplomatic sources said.

The Co-chairs of the Tokyo donors' conference had been very concerned about the deteriorating political and security situation in Sri Lanka and had been urging the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE to end the killings and counter killings and resume talks.

While the Sri Lankan government has been keen on going for the second round of talks in Geneva, the LTTE has come up with one reason or the other not to go to Geneva.

The latest excuse is the on-going killings.

Tamil MPs' plea to Akashi

Members of the Sri Lankan Parliament belonging to the pro-LTTE Tamil National Alliance (TNA) met the Japanese Peace Envoy Akashi in Colombo on Sunday.

"We told Akashi that the Sri Lankan government must stop the extra-judicial killings in the North East, before the LTTE could consider going for a second round of talks in Geneva," said Suresh Premachandran MP for Jaffna.

"The existing agreements must be implemented first. The government should fully implement the Ceasefire Agreement of February 2002 and the agreement made at Geneva I in February this year," he added.

According to the LTTE, since the first meeting at Geneva, 130 Tamils had been killed by the armed forces and the Tamil paramilitaries.

But according to the government, 200 armed forces personnel and civilians had been killed by the LTTE in April alone.