KILINOCHCHI :Civilians in the North Sri Lankan Tamil-speaking district of Kilinochchi keep complaining about ubiquitous surveillance by the army and state intelligence agencies, and say that the former “war zone” is today an “open prison”.
But security forces justify spying on the grounds that it was necessary to prevent the recrudescence of the terrorist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and ensure a peaceful life.
“What is ‘spying’ for you is ‘being aware’ for us. It is a thin line which divides spying from being aware,” said Major General Sudantha Ranasinghe, commander of the Security Forces, Kilinochchi District.
Justifying the compulsory presence of military intelligence personnel in civilian functions and meetings, he said: “We do not interfere with the proceedings. We just listen to find out if anyone is promoting terrorism and anti-state activities.”
The general then produced a book of Tamil poems on the Tamil separatist movement written by a Catholic priest, Fr Anton Stephen, with provocative headings, one of them being ‘Bloody History’.
A Tamil National Alliance (TNA) MP had asked government schools to place this seditious book in their library. The TNA dominates the Northern Provincial Council under which the schools come.
“The politico tried to put the germ of terrorism in young impressionable minds. We prevented this from happening,” General Ranasinghe said.
“The army is working for peace and development. It is giving 2,275 scholarships to school students. Forty-five university scholarships are also given, with each beneficiary getting `3,000 per month for four years. And, every month, my soldiers collect `1,30,000 from amongst themselves to pay for the education of local children,” General Ranasinghe said.
He pointed out that LTTE cadre who had been rehabilitated by the army and released into society have not indulged in any disruptive activity. “Cadre like Appan and Gobi, who were caught trying to revive the LTTE, had not gone through rehab,” the general pointed out.
Asked about the Tamil National Alliance’s demand that the army quit the North, he said: “If a referendum is held on this, the people will vote for the army to stay because it has ensured a peaceful, crime-free district.”