TamilWeek Feb 19, 2006
Hopes of peace in the Wanni

By Arthur Wamanan

When the LTTE delegation for this week's talks in Geneva
left Tiger controlled Wanni, there was only hope that was
resonating among the civilians - hope for peace.

Many of the civiliansfelt that the Geneva peace talks were
the last chance Sri Lanka had to bring an end to the long
standing war.

"This problem has plagued the country for over 20 years
and still no solution has been reached by the relevant
parties," said N. Subramaniam from the Wanni. He said that
every Tamil in the country knew the seriousness of the
problem even though the extent of the troubles faced by
them differed.

"All Tamils would have undergone some sort of a problem
during the war time, but a Tamil in Colombo would have
faced different problems than a Tamil living in Jaffna," he
said.

He said that even though the war had affected the whole
country, the Tamils were directly affected.

He said that the people in the south got to know the impact
of the war only due to the bomb blasts in some places. "Ask
the Sinhalese to come to the war affected places, then they
will know how much we have suffered," he said.

Impact of war

"We faced a lot of problems. The fighting went on in the
north where Tamils are the majority, and many were
displaced and some still live in camps. They have to go back
to their old places and live a normal life without any fear.
That is what we want," he added.

A sign of how disruptivehostilities could be was evident when
more than 16,000 fled government areas in Jaffna and
Trincomalee to the safety of Tiger held areas when violence
erupted in December and January. Ironically the refugees
felt safer in the war ravaged Wanni than in any other area.

Speaking on the current situation Subramaniam said the
people in the Wanni were always safe and very rarely had
problems.  "I have been living here all my life and the
situation here was calm even when there was violence in
Jaffna," he added.

Most of the civilians also agreed that the Wanni was the
safest place to live in. "The situation will be different if war
breaks. We don't want that to happen," said T. Kularasa. He
said that the people were happy in Wanni and wished that it
remained the same.

"We have no problem now. We earn money by farming and
we are content. We only hope that the peace talks would be
fruitful as we cannot face another war," he said.

While most Tamils said that they had no problems in the
Wanni, some said they face problems when travelling.

Freedom to speak Tamil

"We know only Tamil and most of us understand Sinhala but
speak it poorly," said Subramaniam. He added that the army
often harassed Tamil people for they could not convey their
message in Sinhala.

"This is why we took up arms. We have the freedom to
speak in our language and we should not be harassed for
not knowing the other language and we expect some sort of
respect from them," he added.

Most of the Tamils have not travelled out of Wanni, and
therefore are not aware of the situation in other parts of the
country, but those who have, have a fair knowledge of the
situation. "I have travelled to Colombo many times after the
ceasefire and the people there are not bad as I thought.
They are broad minded and they respect us," said V.
Naman. However, he said there were some groups of people
creating divisions.

"There are only a few of them, but this issue has grown and
we have to find a solution at least now, and I feel that this is
our very last chance for a permanent peace," he said.

Some Tamils however were not sure as to how they should
get their rights. "We had to take up arms to win our rights
and it seemed to go on and thankfully it ended with the
Cease Fire Agreement," said S. Arputhan. He added that he
felt that war was not the solution to any problem, especially
considering the present situation, and the only way out was
for both parties to sit down and talk.

"It is the only way. We have lost all our possessions and we
have no hope except the future. We just cannot face
another war and we may have to start our lives all over
again," he added.

Possibility of war

He said that war was possible if the talks were not
successful. "No one wants war, including the soldiers. We
have lost many lives, those of soldiers as well as civilians
and many families are separated. We want everyone to
unite. But I feel that war would break out if this does not
work out," he added.

The civilians felt that the war would definitely destroythe
future of the younger generation who had just started to
settle down.

"The youngsters have almost settled down and it would be a
pity if war starts as they may have to leave the country,
sometimes for good," Kularasa added.

Subramaniam also admitted that the youngsters would be
affected and also stated the country would face economic
problems. "The Wanni is doing fine as far as business is
concerned and most of our businesses run on profits. The
war would not only affect us but the whole country and the
people know it very well," he said.

"We don't want peace that lets us move freely inside our
own territory. We want a peace that will let us move freely
around the country without the fear of not knowing another
language," he added.
[SundayLeader]
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