We are being treated as second-grade citizens, say Tamils
By Gokul Vannan | ENS - KATCHATIVU
25th February 2013 01:54 PM
“My children love eating peanuts candies. I paid `1,000 to buy a packet,” said Xavier, a Sri Lankan Tamil from Jaffna, with a smile displaying the packet.
Xavier, along with a group of Sri Lankan Tamils, visited Katchativu to participate in the annual festival of St Antony on Saturday, bought the packet from a shop in the island.
“I know I was cheated by our Tamil brothers, but I can’t resist buying this sweet,” he said. The smile on his face stayed only for two minutes. He then stared blankly at the sand for a few minutes. “Brother, I need at least 1000 rupees per day to feed four members of my family,” Xavier added.
After the war, the situation in the Northern Province, where most of the Sri Lankan Tamils reside, was pathetic, he said. “We don’t have a ration shop like Tamil Nadu where rice and other basic commodities are sold for minimal price. We need to pay 85 rupees for a kg of rice, 300 rupees for a litre of cooking oil,” he lamented.
There was a brief silence. They then turned around pointing at men in civilian clothes. “They are Lankan intelligence officials deployed here to observe who are giving interviews to media,” they said, before ending the conversation abruptly and leaving the place.
However, the most striking statement came from a fisherman from Mannar: Sri Lankan Tamils in the Northern Province were being treated as second grade citizens. “We are denied rights in public places. Army personnel insult us publicly, the poor economic condition has deprived us of our livelihood,” said Manikandan. “There is no value for money. Population in Northern Province is less, which means the economy is stagnant as all people depend on the same job,” he added.
A Sri Lankan Tamil who had put up a stall at the festival said that most of the shopkeepers were selling Sri Lanka sandalwood believing that they could earn more during the festival. “As many have put up stalls, we will incur a loss. The same thing is happening there. Many of us run shops or hotels with no one to buy,” asked a shopkeeper, who kept shop open till late night.
Unable to cope with the situation, many Sri Lankan Tamils were attempting to escape to Australia. But what many did not know was that the Sri Lankan government was indirectly encouraging the Tamils to leave the Northern Province, said a businessman from Jaffna.
“In a week, thousands of our people, including women and children, are risking their lives to escape illegally by boats to Australia. Our navy knows about it, but they want us leave so that they can speed up settling Sinhalese in our areas,” said the group of Lankan Tamils.
“They are also changing the names of places from Tamil to Sinhalese. Soon, Tamil race will be wiped out of Lanka. You all will read about us only in history books,” they maintained.
(Names changed to protect identity of the persons)
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