Friday, March 22, 2013

Jaffna post civil war

Lovely sleep. Woken by church bells and music from temples. Guess that comes from staying in a hotel on 'Temple road'.
Jaffna has been in recovery for longer than the southern parts of the previously LTTE controlled area of Sri Lanka. Although the population has been halved, people who were displaced from Jaffna in the 90s have been back for at least 10 years.
Not so for other parts. My friend's brother an her family have land in an area that is still inaccessible. They cannot return to even check that their land and small home still exist in a habitable form.
On the route to Jaffna, we past the passport check point that is still in operation.  Being the only foreigner on the bus, I was the only one to alight and show my passport to the 12 soldiers looking rather bored. The point of the exercise was unclear.
The hotel I am staying at only reopened last October. It is one of the nicest in Jaffna, but it is still simple. A lizard greeted me in te bathroom and there is no Internet access - hence relying on iPhone and a portable wireless device Ramsay sorted for me. (Even that device required 4 visits to shops in Colombo to unlock for the Sri Lankan air waves).
The family I have met lost their second son in the 2009 battles. He was a civilians living with his wife, son and parents in Mullitivu. When the Sri lankan army and the LTTE had their final bloody battle, he was wounded. He was taken to the infamous refugee camp an separated from his wife and son. He later died in Jaffna hospital from complications from the wound.
The oldest brother in the family was wounded in earlier fighting - also as a civilian.
As they tell me their stories, translated by their son in Australia via Skype, they talk softly and their eyes reveal pain. They apologise that it is not easy for them. I apologies for asking.
The estimates of the death toll of civilian Tamils in 2009 from January to May are somewhere between 40,000 and a bigger even more horrific number. I am reading 'Still countin the dead' by Frances Harrison whose interviews with survivors are horrifying.
The coincidence of timing - that the UNHCR voted on the US resolution yesterday - is poignant. The ongoing approach from the Australian government seems perplexing. Why deny the undeniable?  Tamils in Sri Lankahate still afraid of the government, are still traumatized by their experiences and still live under some restrictions with rrespect to access to land, information and
accountability.
It's a complex situation for Australia but I don't believe any other western nations are denying the events of 2009. We have to be better at counting the numbers in that tete a tete.

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