The Sunday TimesNews/Comment

8th December 1996



Rape probe: focus on judicial officer

By Christopher Kamalendran

A special police team has been assigned to investigate the alleged rape of a domestic aide by the chief occupant of the house, a judicial officer in an area out of Colombo.

DIG Sabaragamuwa Province Nimal Jayasinghe The Sunday Times the team comprising four specially picked police officers from a station outside the region where the alleged crime took place was named on Friday to carry out the investigations.

The investigations began after the wife of the judicial officer lodged a complaint at the Slave Island Police station that her domestic aide had been raped by her husband at his bungalow. She also handed over the victim, a 15 year-old girl to the police and two medical examinations had been carried out by the Colombo Judicial Medical Officer (JMO) by Friday. The girl was to undergo another medical examination yesterday.

DIG Jayasinghe said, "We will have an impartial inquiry into the case. There will be no room for any interference."

A spokesman for the Slave Island police station told "The Sunday Times" that Judicial Services Commission (JSC) has been informed about the allegations and the complaint.

Lankan refugees: Tamil Nadu's cautious and wary approach

By P. K. Balachandran

Despite pressures from Tamil sub-nationalistic or chauvinistic groups, the Karunanidhi government in Tamil Nadu is cautious about admitting Tamil refugees.

The flow of Tamils fleeing war ravaged north Sri Lanka to Tamil Nadu has slowed down considerably, though at times, hundreds of them make it, landing clandestine in remote areas on the Rameshwaram shore.

Since the beginning of the current influx in July, the Indian navy, coast guard, the customs and the police have seized scores of boats which had brought refugees, and the Sri Lankan navy has intercepted and captured some.

"The realization that seizure is not an empty threat has made both Sri Lankan Tamil and Indian boatmen wary of bringing refugees, however, lucrative it might be," said a top Tamil Nadu police official.

Police say the refugees cough up anything from Rs 3,000 to Rs 5,000 per person to be ferried across the 35 km stretch of water called the Palk Straits. But since July 31, when the current movement towards India began, only a little over 3,000 have made it, officials say.

Some have been going down south to Colombo in the hope of getting a visa for India. But here they are stonewalled. Officials in Madras say New Delhi has clearly instructed its mission in Colombo to be extremely wary about issuing visas to Lankan Tamils and anybody suspected to have links with the LTTE should be referred to the anti-terrorist 'Q' branch of Tamil Nadu police.

"One has to be very influential to get a visa for India," said S. C. Chandrahasan, who heads Proteg, a Madras based Sri Lankan Tamil Human Rights Organisation.

"But this could well be a passing phase," felt a top State official dealing with the LTTE and other extremists in Tamil Nadu. The official view is that the LTTE has been actively encouraging civilians to move over to Tamil Nadu so as to use the refugee problem to whip up world sympathy for the Sri Lankan Tamil cause. "This has been the case especially after Canada, Cambodia and the UK became cold towards the LTTE after a recent anti-terrorism conference in Switzerland," the official said..

The Tigers seem to have other reasons also to allow civilians to flee.

"So long as the Tigers were administering populated areas like Jaffna they needed the people to show that they were running a liberated zone with all the paraphernalia of a government. But the moment they had to retreat to the Vanni jungles after the Sri Lanka troops recaptured Jaffna, the Tigers had no use for the people. Now they do not mind if people leave for India in droves,'' said Chandrahasan.

"With the fighting in the populated Kilinochchi area becoming fiercer, the day is not far off when the people would be constrained to flee to India no matter what the barriers and the top brass of the Tamil Nadu government declaring that the Lankan refugees would be accorded formal refugee status may well encourage an inflow," noted an official.

Even as the Indians and Sri Lankan authorities seize boats, some fishermen have abandoned the Rameshwaram coast and are operating from less well policed coastlines. "About 175 fishing boats are now operating from Soliakodi, Kottaipatnam and Jagadapatnam. One boat from Soliakodi smuggling diesel for the LTTE was seized by the Sri Lanka navy," said police chief Chidambaranathan from Rameshwaram.

However, by all accounts, life in the war ravaged, north of Sri Lanka is becoming unbearable. The Sri Lanka military and the civil administration have changed their attitude towards the Tamils after the LTTE's successful attack on the vast Mullaitivu army camp and the bomb blast in Jaffna in which a Lankan minister escaped miraculously, but an army officer was killed. The Red Cross was rendered ineffective and the UNHCR had to watch ' helplessly at the calculated neglect of innocent civilians. Recently, the Colombo representative of the UN was constrained to issue a statement on the appalling conditions in the government-run UNHCR-aided refugee camps in Mannar. He feared a huge refugee flow into India soon.

But the journey to India is by no means a joy ride, according to Chandrahasan.

Many of the Sri Lankan boatmen unload the helpless people on the rocks of the Adam's bridge of the Palk Straits in the dead of the night and scoot back, afraid of being caught by the Sri Lankan or the Indian navy. When Indian fishermen pass by, these refugees are expected to plead with them. And the hazards are increasing by the day. The Indian navy and the Tamil Nadu government agencies are keen on discouraging the flow of refugees, as an increased flow could bring, in its train LTTE operators, who could turn the refugee camps into nerve centers of their deadly operations.

The LTTE's links with anti-national groups in Tamil Nadu and other parts of India have been causing concern. "Prabhakaran (the LTTE supremo) not only wants to be the boss of Tamil Eelam, but the leader of the Tamils all over the world," noted a senior police officer tackling extremists. This gives the jitters to the government in India, because there are 50 million ethnic Tamils, mostly in Tamil Nadu, dangerously close to a potentially expansionist "Tamil Eelam" in Sri Lanka.

It was the LTTE which had assassinated former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, and that too, in Tamil Nadu. The assassination had dealt a severe blow to the DMK party, which was then accused of encouraging the LTTE's nefarious schemes when it was in power in Tamil Nadu only months prior to the assassination in May 1991. The DMK had to suffer an ignominious defeat in the elections held after the assassination. The party had to wait for five years to come back to power in Tamil Nadu.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, M. Karunanidhi, is acutely aware that some of the members of the squad which killed Rajiv Gandhi had initially come as refugees and built an elaborate network here. He also knows that the LTTE had fought its rival, the EPRLF, in Madras, killing its top brass brazenly in broad daylight in a crowded middle class colony in 1990. The killers, who included the members of the squad which killed Rajiv Gandhi, had escaped to Jaffna allegedly with the connivance of sections of the Tamil Nadu police.

"The DMK would never allow Tamil Nadu to be used for any violent activity. As for the Tamil question in Sri Lanka, it is for the Sri Lanka government and the Tamil leaders to settle. We can have no role in it," has been Karunanidhi's refrain from May 1991 onwards. Recently, when Mr. Karunanidhi was asked if the LTTE was deliberately sending refugees to Tamil Nadu in order to get him into trouble, he said, "I should think so."

Courtesy Hindustan Times

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