According to records of the SL Government Agent offices of Mullaiththeevu and Ki’linochchi districts, the population of Vanni was 429,059 in October 2008. The total number of people who got into SL government control after the war was 282,380, according to UN update as of 10 July 2009. “Due clarification should be made regarding what happened to 146,679 people, which is the discrepancy between the number of people who came to government controlled areas between October 2008 – May 2009 and the population reported to be in Vanni in early October 2008,” said the Catholic Bishop of Mannaar, Rt. Rev. Dr. Rayappu Joseph in his submission to the LLRC Saturday. The Bishop has also raised the issues of militarization, colonisation, land grab, Sihalicization, Buddhicisation and civil as well as human rights abuses that take place in the Tamil land following the war.
The LTTE, other armed Tamil groups and the war, are not the cause, but only results of the conflict. Their actions were prompted by the failure of successive governments to respond favourably to Tamil’s efforts to resolve their problems through peaceful and political means. Roots of the conflict and reasons for the war that caused so much pain, destruction and polarization dates much further, the Bishop pointed out.
Citing the case of Rev. Fr. Jim Brown, whose case of disappearance in 2006 was part of the mandate of a previous presidential commission proved futile, the Bishop said “we must express our disappointment that previous Commissions of Inquiry have failed to establish the truth into human rights violations and extrajudicial killings they were inquiring and bring justice and relief to victims and their families.”
“Although establishing the truth is not explicitly mentioned in your mandate, we believe you will share our conviction that there can be no genuine and lasting reconciliation without truth,” the Bishop told the LLRC.
Commenting on colonisation activities the Bishop said: “There is suspicion amongst historical inhabitants in the district that these are part of a government plan to bring about demographic changes in terms of ethnic and religious composition of the districts and the Northern Province as a whole. Such efforts in the past have been a key factor that led to the conflict, war and violence and as we try to move towards reconciliation, it is crucial to learn lessons from the mistakes made in the past and not repeat such mistakes.”
While expressing his disapproval over limiting the amount of money spent on each permanent house in the North and East to 3,25,000 which is hardly enough for decent housing, the Bishop also has cautioned against possible obstacles to the Indian plan to build 50,000 houses.