They complained that virtually every decision relating to community life needed to be taken after permission was sought and obtained from the military.
On my way to Jaffna over the past weekend I stopped over in Vavuniya to meet with several civil society leaders. When we discussed the current political situation, the main issue that was brought up was the over-control by the military in the affairs of the people. The military presence in the Northern Province continues to be very high.
They complained that virtually every decision relating to community life needed to be taken after permission was sought and obtained from the military. They spoke of the vulnerability of women-
headed households, of which there are very many after the war, in the more interior parts of the Vanni and the presence of large numbers of military personnel. Their plea was for a return of the military to barracks and a return to full administration by civilians rather than by the military.
As the second anniversary of the end of the war approaches it seems clear that the military role in governance of the north needs to be substantially reduced if there is to be alignment with the legitimate desires of the people, which is what democracy is about. There is resentment that they feel current imperatives and protocol demand military permission for the events they conduct, and even school events, where to make matters worse they believe they have to sing the national anthem in the Sinhala language rather than in Tamil. It is in this context of frustration and powerlessness that it appears the community leaders of Vavuniya see the UN panel report as an opportunity for re-establishing democratic normalcy to their lives.
There are sections of the international community, both human rights groups and the Diaspora, who see the UN panel report as a means of paving the way for the future punishment of Sri Lanka’s leaders who were responsible for the prosecution of the war and its great human and material costs. However, at the meeting in Vavuniya, there was no opinion expressed in favour of using the UN panel report as a weapon of revenge. Instead the panel report was seen as an opportunity to put pressure on the government to be responsive to their needs for reconciliation with democracy and justice. It is, therefore, no cause for surprise that the UN panel report is also welcomed by those sections of the people who were the main victims of the war.
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