Destitution and Desperation in North Eastern Sri Lanka - An Inevitable Road To Women Being Abused!
It's now well known that people in North-Eastern Sri Lanka suffered wars that lasted over thirty years but are yet to lead a normal and civilised life after the civil war ended some eight years ago. They encountered severe loss of their loved ones, lost properties, livelihoods and harassment and abuse from the massive army occupation of their homes and lands. The fallout from the war is still widely reverberating throughout the North-East.
It may take the hapless civilians in those areas a decade or more (if at all) to put those events to the back burner and to erase them from their memory and to start a normal life again, provided conditions are normalised immediately and they are allowed to control and make decisions about their lives like in any democracy . Time, it is said, is a healer!
In the meantime, the lives lost or people missing from the wars can be quantified, like over 90,000 widows or as the former Catholic Bishop of Mannar, Rev. Dr Rayappu Joseph has computed the number of people who were unaccounted for in his Diocese, based on the government's statistics as 146,679. But there are some other issues which cannot be quantified such as the traumatic suffering, the massive infant deaths, frequent displacement and living in the jungles, hopelessness, lack of promised international help and interruptions caused by the displacement.
As a further dimension to this, according to reliable information shared by a religious missionary/NGO who work in Vanni, people are very poor and desperate and they need money to keep their body and soul together. According to the information gathered, women are being sent to Jaffna to earn money through whatever means they can, even immorally. The moral fabric of our traditional Tamil society is crumbling with the undesirable elements based in our areas corrupting our youth, with drugs and prostitution being rampant in addition to the lack of aid to rehabilitate the war affected by not allowing international and national aid. The war traumatised Tamil masses have been just left to tend for themselves with the little aid that comes from the Tamil Diaspora.
Whilst adversaries would rejoice in disintegration of the Tamil society and culture, this is a sad situation because, in the cherished epic of Mahabharata, it is said: 'A Nation is judged by how it respects its women'. Such activities shouldn't take place in Jaffna or anywhere else which has a rich and cherished culture.
This situation has to change, if we are to become a healthy and respectable society. The missionary exclaimed that if enough industries and projects are started in the North East and in particular, Vanni, people will be usefully employed and they would not have to resort to other means to earn a living or succumb to the toxic plans of external elements.
The idea of starting factories and industries is positive but it needs the backing of the Sri Lankan government, so that the North East provincial government could take full control of developments of their respective areas and receive aid from the international community directly instead of it being blocked by the Sri Lankan government's bureaucrats. At present, the international aid is not reaching the North Eastern Tamil areas, due to concerns that the Sinhala bureaucrats will siphon off funds to the Sinhala south. The Sri Lankan government's actions in blocking and delaying the development projects in the North East add to the Tamil masses' further frustrations.
The issue requires a very urgent united effort from all the local, national and international agencies and governments before the situation gets worse and the sheer frustrations of the young Tamils could lead to a recurrence of old turbulence. The current Syrian debacle provides a gruesome example of how a country can disintegrate when politics and social fabric fail.
These issues have to be addressed with honesty, humanity, integrity and most importantly, urgency whilst ongoing negotiations are held for a lasting solution in the form of a North Eastern federal state where Tamils can control their own lives, control their own destinies, and govern themselves in their homeland.
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Tamil Writers Guild Editorial Board
Source: Tamil Writers Guild, UK
Date: 01 October 2016