Issues arising from the preliminary census of the Northern Province

Faraz Shauketaly, in The Sunday Leader, 4 March 2012 where the ttiel reads Where Are They? 6,352 Listed As Missing” …. This is an important starting point though all sorts of other questions and factors have to be added to this review. I have simply not had the time to insert these queries after I posted two reports on this preliminary census. My essay challenging Rohan Gunaratna’s estiamate of deaths in the last stages of Eelam War IV is also pertinent.Web Editor.

A staggering 6,352 persons from Sri Lanka’s former conflict areas are listed as missing without any plausible explanation. According to Sri Lanka’s Department of Census and Statistics in their report “Enumeration of Vital Information 2011 Northern Province” a total of 71,201 persons were reported as either Dead, Untraceable or Not Stated between 1982 and 2011. 61,651 persons were reported as dead including death caused by natural causes, illnesses as well as due to acts of terrorism during the so-called “war years”. These figures do not include members of the armed forces and Police who lost their lives during Sri Lanka’s fight with the terror group, the LTTE. It appeared that the information provided in the report may well be incomplete if not downright flawed. Under the Outward Migration statistics, the report claims a figure of 26,927. These figures have not been matched with embarkation records from the airport and ports and when compared to the numbers living in key western states like England, the USA, France, Scandinavia, Far East, India and Australasia, proves that the rushed report is not worth the paper it is printed on. For a proper evaluation of the data the census for the rest of the country too would have to be completed: thereby begging the question as to why over zealous employees at the Department rushed to put out the Northern report so rapidly.
The Sunday Leader contacted the Director Sample Surveys, W. W. M. A. S. Premakumara and asked him to explain exactly how the Department could be sure that these persons were missing. “This is the information that has been provided by their families or friends at their last known place of residence. It is from the information provided by them that these figures have been established.” We asked if it was possible that these people were abroad. “Our report shows those people who are reported to be abroad in a separate listing.”
The Department of Census and Statistics commented on the issue of “untraceable persons” within their report by stating, “the EVE 2011 has been reported with 4,156 cases (Table 3.1.15) of untraceable persons during this period from 2005 to 2009 and also that a majority, 63 percent, of such untraceable persons were reported to have been last cited in 2009. However it should be noted that due to the conditions that prevailed in this province there had always been a degree of untraceability among the people throughout and the causes of such untraceability may be due to natural disasters like Tsunami as well.”
Whilst the overall figure for deaths over the 1982 / 2011 period was 71,201, with an ‘average’ of 6,472 per year, between 2005 and 2009 the total was 22,329 deaths – contrasting the average sharply with 4,445. In 2009 Mullaitivu and Kilinochchi saw sharp increases in deaths, when the fighting between the rebels and government troops reached a climax and the LTTE using the civil population as a ‘human shield’.
Sri Lanka’s Department of Census and Statistics were at pains to point out that the information was reported to their enumerators by the people on the ground. Some of this information may well be incomplete. For instance, the information listed under the “Outward Migrated” list between 1982 and 2011 shows that 26,927 persons had migrated to another country. This can contrast sharply with diaspora populations across the world. In Australia for instance the Sri Lankan origin population amounts to nearly 1,000,000 people or 0.5 percent of the total population of Australia. The Tamil origin population in Britain alone would be closer to 100,000.

Northern population still significantly Tamil – over 94.49 percent
Inspite of growing claims made by the Tamil Diaspora that Jaffna and its environs is subjected to colonisation, the statistics provided in the latest census carried out suggests otherwise. According to Sri Lanka’s Department of Census and Statistics, the population of Tamil Sri Lankans in the Jaffna peninsula was 934,392 and together with the Indian Tamil population of 8,432 made a total of 942,824 out of a total population of 997,754. Expressed as a percentage the Tamil population in the peninsula was 94.49 percent. Again by contrast the Sinhalese population making the North their home amounted to 21,860 persons or a mere 2.2 percent of the population. The Muslims numbered 32,659 or 3.3 percent of the population. The figures for the Tamil populace was up from those in 1981 – in spite of the exodus of persons of Tamil origin to countries as diverse as Canada, USA, England, France, Germany, Australia and even South Africa.

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