In studying the blog-comments on “Sinhala Mind-Set” and presenting the lot for public scrutiny a specific claim by a person identifying himself as “Flloyd” caught my attention. Whether Flloyd is a Tamil is of lesser moment than his allegation. It is the sort of claim that is widely peddled by reporters and VIPs who drop in and fly out after short stays and have the clout to reach a worldwide audience – for instance Roger Draper in the National Geographic and Greg Bearup in The Weekend Australian recently. Thus prodded, I took the initiative to test the degree of validity that we could attach to this type of assertion by approaching a selected body of personnel (mostly Sri Lankan) via a one-on-one letter presenting the QUESTION repeated here [in blue].
“I came across a blog comment from one “Flloyd” in April 2013 which adopted a reasonably moderate stance on the ethnic situation in the country but which also presented this assertion: “The presence of an organized rebel group is no more, but the Tamils continue to be tortured, raped, and killed by the state. Many still mention the brutality of the rebels, but in no way can that justify the current situation, as the rebel activity is gone.”
From my location outside Sri Lanka the claim marked in dark red seems to be a sweeping generalization that is over the top vis a vis the two years preceding. However, I am prepared to be persuaded otherwise by those residing in the north and east and/or those with solid groundings in those regions and in the greater Colombo circuit. SO I am asking you to provide statistical or anecdotal data on this issue as an aspect of your overview of conditions in the north and east (A) in the period 2012-April 2013 and/or (B) the full sweep of the period mid-2009-April 2013. I encourage you to provide citations with your data and request those having familiarity with Tamilnet, Tamil sangam and Tamil sources to refer me to specific citations therein as comprehensively as o possible. I hope to build up a Bibliography on the topic detailed referencing is important.
This is an EARNEST REQUEST for both my edification and for the benefit of the public…………. Michael, 12 Nov 2016
Apart from the Tamils I approached, some of the Sinhalese (e. g. Ruki Fernando, Jehan Perera, Frances Bulathsinghala) are individuals who visit the north often. Note that several of those approached would be busy people, while some do not reside in Sri Lanka. I did not expect everyone to respond, but hoped that the yield would be useful and would enable me to expand on the Bibliography that I am compiling on this topic. I am listing the names of those who did NOT respond at the end. The following answered promptly, indicating that they were not able to help: Daniel Alphonsus, Dilshy Banu, Arun Dias Bandaranaike, Emily Howie, Lucien Rajakarunanayake, Dushy Ranatunge, Jagath Senaratne, Jayantha Somasundaram, Dominic Sansoni, Rajiva Wijesinha and Sanjiva Wijesinha. Alas, my GMAIL account was cut off by Google immediately afterwards for a few days and now again on the 25-28th November. This may have disrupted some responses. The following responses convey assessments and/or information that may interest readers. Basic bio-data is provided on occasions via Footnotes.
I am ready to entertain further comments from those invited to participate in this exercise in response to the inspirations – or otherwise – provided by the set below. Indeed, I encourage any thoughtful individual to pen extended papers with concrete data on the topics embraced by this post: viz, (A) missing and/or disappeared in the years 2009-16; (B) torture in the same time period; (C) rape in the same time period –with particular reference to the northern reaches of the island.
I will be presenting a BIBLIOGRAPHY on DISAPPEARANCES in a separate post soon, while crafting an article inspired by the responses from the personnel below – to whom I extend my warm thanks.
12 November 2016: PK BALACHANDRAN [in Colombo]
Dear Michael, What Floyd is saying is utter rubbish. In none of my reports in that period have I ever said anything like what Floyd has said. In none of my visits to the war zone has anyone I met said anything like this.
However, motivated propaganda by Tamil Diaspora groups influenced some non Sri Lankan writers and jounos (like Frances Harrison) continue to parrot this line. But ground conditions were very different. The Tamils in the post war North had severe resettlement and economic issues to face but it was not torture and rape by the Security Forces. The people of the North have moved on and no one is talking of the past. They have issues with the govt but they are rooted in the present which is different from the past. I earnestly appeal to you to ignore Floyd and the likes of Floyd.
13 November 2016: MALATHY KNIGHT
Dear Prof. Roberts,
Upon first glance, it appears to me also that this is a rather sweeping claim. However, I have no direct way of confirming/repudiating this since I don’t live in these areas. I will talk to people I know who actually live there (and perhaps also to MP Sumanthiran) and see if I can dig something up.
Some of Amma’s relatives also live there so I see if I can contact them…
Warm regards, Malathy
13 November 2016: Dr. DAYA SOMASUNDARAM [in Adelaide and Jaffna]
Dear Michael ….. …. In regard to your query, worth going through these reports with an open mind. Though prepared by your Bette noire(s), I don’t think they are ‘lying’ … ADDENDUM: Definitely there’s been a gradual reduction on cases and the report misses some of the nuances and bigger picture
13 November 2016: Sir DESMOND DE SILVA
Greetings from London. What has been said is a gross exaggeration motivated to persuade the international public to swallow the political line that such is the evil of the state that there is nil hope of reconciliation, with a separate Tamil state the only alternative. As for statistics, I am afraid I cannot help because the Report to which I was a party was concerned with events from Jan-May 2009.
13 November 2016: Dr. DINUSHA PANDITHARATNE [in Colombo]
Thank you for your email. Please forgive the quick response as I’m in the middle of working on something else for a tight deadline, and therefore only slept a couple of hours last night…
Aside from the specific cases and broader concerns raised in the links below, I am not aware of any specific facts to support the statement in red (grievances appear to relate more frequently to missing persons, and lack of demilitarization). Others – especially those based in the north and east – would be much better placed to respond. Please don’t cite me in providing these links as I haven’t been able to make any detailed / informed conclusion as to their veracity.
http://newsfirst.lk/english/2015/05/nationwide-protests-continue-over-jaffna-students-rape-and-murder/97223 [= case of rape & murder in JP … Vidya Sivaloganathan]
http://www.sundaytimes.lk/97162/vidyas-murder-was-a-revenge-killing-cid[ [Vidya Sivaloganathan killed because she turned down love proposal ]
It’s terrible to think this may still be going on. I will forward your email to a couple of researchers at the LKI and if they have any further information, will let you know. Apologies for this brief reply on a grave topic and really sorry for being generally too preoccupied to respond to the many interesting and important emails that you have sent!
13 November 2016: NIRGUNAN TIRUCHELVAM [in Singapore]
Flloyd’s claims are unfounded.
13 November 2016: VIRAN COREA [in Colombo]
Hi Michael……. Unfortunately, I don’t have access to that statistical data.
I do however have a fair sense that those agitating in the interests of both the ‘North’ and ‘South’ (especially right-leaners) tend often to over-generalise and over-simplify, in what may be a tendency to less than ideally conflate the urgency of addressing identified concerns with the nature and extent of present ground realities. The result can often be misleading and unrepresentative of the fuller picture.
14 November 2016: G. USWATTE-ARATCHI
Dear Mike, I am utterly ill-informed on the subject you ask me to inquire into. Could you please write to (Mr.) Elankoven, whom I find well informed and very reasonable in the way he handles these questions? If you wish you can say that I gave you his e-mail address. His address email@example.com
15 November 2016: MICHAEL O’LEARY [in Badulla]
I would also like to see evidence of continuing current abuses against Tamils.
15 November 2016: SRIKANTHA NADARAJAH [in Sydney]
Hi Michael, Good to hear from you. From all reports I’ve received so far, there has been a notable improvement in security after change of government last year. Even earlier, when we visited Jaffna about three years ago, there did not appear to be any serious concerns about security of civilians in the north. So, this report comes as a surprise and I am inclined to agree with you the it is an exaggeration to say the least. However, I will make enquiries through the usual and let you know.
19 November 2016: HARINI AMARASURIYA
I am not sure I am in a position to do this — I too am hearing anecdotal stuff of many incidents but I cannot confirm anything reliably. I think people like Dr Hoole, Ahilan and others do investigate and write about these things. There are also human rights groups who are documenting such incidents.
Best wishes, Harini
23 November 2016: Dr. KALANA SENARATNE
While I don’t have any statistical or anecdotal data, I will forward them to you if I get hold of any. On the question of torture, though, the HRCSL’s recent report to the UN Torture-Committee (http://hrcsl.lk/english/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/Report-to-CAT-Committee-.pdf) remains the more reliable piece of data.
23 November 2016: NOBLE SUGUNANATHAN
Dear Mike, I received your emails today and a week ago. I sent it around to a few of my friends who could provide you with that information. Daya Som said he has already sent you some information. Jebanesan is yet to respond. Why would you think I have more information than you can get from the usual sources Tamilnet, Tamilcanadian and the Sri Lankan papers that are available on the internet? …………………………Sugunan
23 November 2016: KK DE SILVA
Prof. Michael…………I cannot remember reading reports of any such activities during that period but isolated incidents may have taken place, just as in other parts of the country. This is surprising because shortly after the conflict ended, no one would have dared to engage in such activities, due to the presence of the forces and civilian officials in large numbers to restore order in the area and grant relief to those affected. It is of course possible that a few incidents of this nature took place
However, I will look into this further and let you know whether I have found anything to support this view. Prof. Michael
Further to my earlier comment.
The LLRC held its last sitting around August 2011 and up to that time’ about 30 persons gave evidence in camera’. Of these’ about 25 persons’ statements were recorded and I had access to them’ , but these did not contain any allegations of the nature referred to. About 5 complaints were not recorded and the Chairman personally took them up with Heads of Depts. and followed them up. These might have been complaints of the nature referred to but I cannot be sure.
I later remembered that Hilary Clinton had made this allegation, but she was probably referring to the period immediately before the end of the conflict, when many things are alleged to have taken place.
However, I did find some material by the UN, HRW and CPA in Colombo in respect of the period referred to by you. Links are given in the Annexure’
24 November 2016: RUKI FERNANDO
Hi, below is my reply, an earlier reply bounced back
There are many reported cases / examples of Tamils being tortured in period mentioned. Even in 2016. But not only Tamils. It’s clear torture is very commonplace all over Sri Lanka, many cases are reported, across the country. The recent report by the National Human Rights Commission is a good example. Asian Human Rights Commission has published numerous individual cases of torture.
I can’t immediately recall a Tamil woman being raped by state agents. But survivors and activists who have been helping such survivors have told me of examples of sexual abuse and harassment (not rape) of Tamil women in north and east. By state agents AND Tamil men not linked to state. I have got direct testimonies of men being raped between 2010-2016 by state agents after being abducted. I can only say anecdotally, as I have not documented these in detail. And im a man and im Sinhalese from Colombo (who travels often in North) and thus, not many Tamil women from North are likely to tell me such stories.
Many i have talked to don’t want what they told me also to be reported out of fear of reprisals, from state and from society. Also coz they don’t have faith they will get anything out of reporting of complaining.
I know of Tamil woman being raped in Vishavamadu (between Kilinochi and Mullaitivu) and another Tamil woman being sexually abused in same incident in 2010. 4 soldiers were convicted last year for this. There has been several media reports on this.
There was case of two Tamil university students killed in Jaffna by police this year which got wide media coverage. I can’t recall Tamils killed in 2013 and after. But I know of Tamils disappeared in 2011 and afterwards including 2016 in North. If you look in Groundviews, under my name and also Watchdog, you will see some reports about abductions, disappearances, torture, for the period you are talking about, but also 2015-2016. Including specific incidents, names, places etc.
Freedom from Torture and Intl Truth and Justice Project have documented several stories. But my understanding is their reports are limited only to stories of people who have fled overseas. Their reports don’t include stories of survivors who continue to live in Sri Lanka. Freedom from Torture is future limited coz they only report on cases which has medico-legal reports
Hope this helps in some way. Sorry don’t have more time on hand.
23 November 2016: Dr. MUTTUKRISHNA SARVANANTHAN
Dear Michael, I received the following inquiry sometime ago as well.
I do fully agree that the quote in red is a hyperbole.
However, I really do not have the time to send you sources or references to refute that claim.
You may read Yasmin Sooka’s articles which throws some light because she claims to have interviewed persons tortured or sexually abused in custody after the end of the civil war but who are now settled in Europe and elsewhere abroad.
My informed guess is that even such excesses (torture & sexual abuse) after May 2009 to date will be less than one hundred. Moreover, extra judicial killings will be less than 10 (including the two recently murdered university students at night in Kokuvil, Jaffna) to date after May 2009.
24 November 2016: FRANCES BULATHSINGHALA
Dear Prof. Roberts, I am sorry I missed your email. I was in the field and returned last week. Pls see the two articles below which has some focus on the question of disappearances. My personal view is that it has to be looked into and addressed by the State as a way of moving forward. Hope the below two articles would be useful, although it does not tackle disappearances exclusively.
Very best wishes, Frances
24 November 2016: LALIN FERNANDO
I passed your request on to editor Asian Tribune Mr. Rajasingham as he lives in JFN and knows a lot about events thereHowever, as you say the accusations are sweeping Whatever happened criminally in SL was not based on race or location. There are normally about 3,000-5,000 rapes annually but please check SL Police statistics.
JFN ‘s problems were made in JFN by its own people – many of them quite violent having LTTE links…. LALIN
24 November 2016: SOMAPALA GUNADHEEERA
Sorry for the delay in my response. … As for your query, I have had no contact with the North and the East during the relevant period. Hence, I am not in a position to make an authoritative statement on the subject. My gut feeling in the background of my past associations with Tamil areas and the Forces that are posted there, is that the quoted assumption is an overgeneralization of episodic evidence.
25 November 2016: Muralidhar Reddy
Hi Here are from the heart responses. I say this with my all sincerity from the depth of my heart. I do not attribute any motives but this is my conviction. On what basis are they saying these things. Where are the statistics, real people to back up the claims? I have absolutely no issue in you putting up out my frank response on your web site,
Indeed, these are disturbing facts/ observations / views — especially at a juncture when facts/bare facts are scarce and opinion is floated like free air. Murali in a LTTE hospital bunker, mid-May 2009
25 November 2016: JEHAN PERERA
Dear Michael, I have just returned from the North, from Jaffna. Life seemed quite normal. I went to the university to conduct a peace programme for students at the university. These were the students in the science faculty who had clashed in July. 500 attended from all three communities. There were no complaints that the Tamils continue to be tortured, raped, and killed by the state.
But to those who fall, or who are suspected to fall, on the wrong side of the law, I am sure life can be tough. Not only in the North but in the rest of the country too. Torture in the sense of third degree methods is widely used in Sri Lanka, in all cases, even presently. It is not sanctioned by the political leadership of the government, but it is happening at the level of the police stations.
Torture is a method, an interrogation technique. So if the military intelligence wish to interrogate they will use torture and if the police wish to investigate they will use torture. It does not matter whether it is the military or police. They are both trying to get information, they both use torture; and that is the norm. They will use it on Sinhalese, Tamils or Muslims, if they are suspects. It is not specifically sanctioned by the top but it is part of the security culture.
As for rape and murder by the security forces, I think it is minimal if at all. There are isolated incidents, and not systematic.
25 November 2016: LASANDA KURUKULASURIYA
Relating to irresponsible allegations, I found these two columns from the Sunday Times – not sure if its what you are looking for … but hope they are useful.
22 November 2016: DANESH CASIECHETTY
As you are aware the Government has set up the ‘Office for Missing Persons’. The PM’s Office and the Foreign Ministry worked closely with the ICRC to draft the mandate for this Office.
The ICRC has assessed that there are 16,000 persons who have gone missing during the conflict. Many of them were males and bread winners. There next-of-kin are suffering from the debilitating psychological condition known as ‘ambiguous loss’, not knowing whether their loved ones are alive or not.
I was at a meeting organised by the Law & Society Trust at Renuka Hotel, earlier this year where TNA MPs Sambanthan and Sumanthiran were present as well as Judge Maxwell Paranagama.
Several women from the North and East made tearful representations regarding their missing spouses or sons who had been former combatants and had been handed over by their families to the security forces/police after 2009 and some even after January 8th, 2015.
Their whereabouts are not known since.
PM RW made the comment that if the persons are listed as ‘Missing’ they should be presumed to be no longer in the land of the living!
A very interesting read is Commodore Ajith Boyagoda’s ‘A Long Watch’.Prof. Charles Ponnuthurai Sarvan’s review is annexed.
Best regards, Danesh
Subject to a caveat arising from the disruption of my GMAIL account, I have NOT received answers from the following individuals.
Kirupa Hoole [Rajan
Manik de Silva
Nimal SanderatneNirmal dEwasiri
Padma Rao Sundarji
Renton de Alwis
A. Rohan Perera
Fr. Rohan Siva
Dr. ASA Safras
 Dilshy Banu is a Muslim lass from the eastern coast who worked for a while with the ZOA assisting the Tamil IDPs at Manik Farm. She Has written a book on her experiences entitled Operation Manik Farm (2009) …….… https://www.amazon.com/Operation-Manik-Farm-DILSHY-BANU/dp/9556583165). At present, she is pursuing her career in USA.
 Emily Howie is an Australian who spent some time in Sri Lanka on here researches and interviewed me once in Colombo in late 2011(?). she has joined Amnesty International at some point since and was one of the speakers with Gordon Weiss and Dr. Sam Pari at an event organized in early 2016 (?) by a centre at Queensland University directed towards a critical review of Sri Lankan affairs.
 “Bala” has spent decades in Colombo and Sri Lanka initially reporting the Hindustan Times and then for the New Indian Express. See https://www.facebook.com/pbalachandran2?fref=nf We have tapped each other for information on several occasions, both face-to-face and via email. Note his essay https://thuppahis.com/2015/09/16/pk-balachandran-on-overt-and-covert-faces-in-indian-and-american-policies-towards-the-sri-lankan-war-2008-09/
 Malathy is the daughter of Revd Sydney and the late Saro Knight (both my compatriots at Peradeniya University and I recall meeting her at Swarthmore college. She now works for Verite Research in Colombo.
 Professor Daya Somasundaram is an experienced psychiatrist from the Jaffna Peninsula and its University who contributed to the book Broken Palmyrah and yet continued to serve the people of that locality and as well as LTTE controlled areas in the l1990s ad early 2000s. He and his family moved to Adelaide in the late 2000s but he has recently returned to service at Jaffna University.
 Born in Kandy and educated initially at Trinity, Desmond de Silva migrated to UK with his family when young, served in the British Army and had a distinguished legal career. He was recruited to one of the Committees advising the Paranagama Commission and has been dividing his time between the island and Britain ever since.
 Dinusha Panditharatne has a D. Phil from Oxford and was teaching at the Faculty of Law, Hong Kong University before she was chosen as Executive Director of the Kadirgamar Institute in Colombo by the present government.
 One of the late Neelan Tiruchelvam’s sons, Nirgunan is a cricket enthusiast and one of my pals. He is a bank executive in Singapore who visits Lanka often.
 Viran Corea is lawyer in Colombo and a keen student of politics as well as cricket -common interests which have brought us into friendship.
 Uswatte was my senior at Ramanathan Hall, Peradeniya University in the late 1950s and went onto work for the GSL as an economist before moving to the international circuit. A longstanding friend, he is now retired and lives in Colombo. He is a member of the Frida Forum – see https://xfileslanka.wordpress.com/tag/dr-g-uswatte-aratchi/
 O’Leary is an Irishman from England whose early career included feature writing. He has settled in Uva with his Sri Lankan wife and maintains a web page under his middle names “Padraig Colman .
 “Nada’ has been a pal from Peradeniya University days in the late 1950s. A bank executive he lives retirement in Sydney but sustains a keen interest in Sri Lankan affairs and has recently produced a book on Nationalism in Sri Lanka (2014) – see https://www.amazon.com/Nationalism-Sri-Lanka-Srikantha-Nadarajah/dp/9556652361.
 Harini Amarasuriya is a Lecturer at Open University I Colombo and has participated in symposiums on such topics as civil rights.
 Dr. Kalana Senaratne received his D. Phil in International Affairs at the University of Hong Kong, and is presently a Lecturer at Colombo University. See https://lk.linkedin.com/in/kalana-senaratne-83558042.
 Noble Sugunananthan received his degree from Colombo University and moved to South Australia at some point. He is an activist in the Tamil diaspora. His younger brother Jebanesan is a friend from my Peradeniya days and served as Bishop of Jaffna in the Church of South India – see http://archives.dailynews.lk/2005/04/05/fea05.htm and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S._Jebanesan.
 KK de Silva played soccer and cricket with me for St. Aloysius College, Galle and recently served as one of the Secretaries to the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission.
 I have never met Ruki Fernando but know of him as an assiduous civil rights campaigner who appears to have good contacts among the Catholic circuit. He is an adviser to INFORM, a human rights documentation centre in Colombo. See https://rukiiiii.wordpress.com/ and https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/case/case-history-ruki-fernando. When detained by security forces in early October 2015 his case was taken up by several agencies, including Huffington Post, and his release eventuated. Note the articles he has presented in Groundviews by visiting its search engine.
 Dr. Sarvananthan’s field is “Development Economics” and in recent years he has sustained a research institute straddling Point Pedro and Colombo. Fiercely independent and straight-talking he does not swing with any tide. See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tIOy08jlmXs and http://www.pointpedro.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=32&Itemid=59.
 Frances Bulathsinghala is an independent researcher and feature writer who interviewed me at my sister’s place in Wellawatte in August this year. She has been visiting the northern reaches regularly of late and is therefore better placed than most Sinhalese to report on processes there.
 Ex-Trinity, Retd Major-General Lalin Fernando served in the Gemunu Regiment during the wars. He is an assiduous reader and searcher for truth. He writes to the local newspapers regularly and sustains column in Asian Tribune – see http://htsyndication.com/htsportal/articles/byline/Major%20General%20(Retd.)%20Lalin%20Fernando.
 Gunadheera was the first young man from the central school system to breach the elite CCS in the 1950s. In his retirement years in Colombo he has written sympathetic articles on the north after his visits to that arena in recent years. He is a searcher for truth.
 I met Murali once in Delhi in 1996 at a luncheon arranged by an academic colleague, Sanjay Srivastava. When I was in Colombo in April 2009 it was a pleasant surprise for me to receive a call from him –in his capacity as local correspondent for The Hindu and Frontline – with the request that I to write an article on the war situation. Ever since then we have maintained friendship and trust. Though he has moved office so to speak, we sustain email links.
 I recall that I first met Jehan when his wife approached me in late 1999 to request an article for the Special Millennium Issue of The Island. I have since interacted with him regularly in his capacity as the Executive Director of the National Peace Council of Sri Lanka and banged into him at seminars. He travels widely in Sri Lanka and meets people from all walks of life. He is as earnest as honest. Though I believe his reading of the LTTE in the 2000s and his assessment of the war situation in April 2009 (see http://www.e-ir.info/2009/04/28/the-us-proposal-to-end-war-in-sri-lanka/) was incredibly naïve, his findings on the ground situation today have to be taken seriously.
 Lasanda Kurukulasuriya isa journalist and feature writer who lives in Colombo and writes for the New Internationalist as well as local Sri Lankan newspapers.
8 responses to “Disappearances and Torture in Sri Lanka, 2011-13 … or Thereabouts: Soundings and Question-Marks”
I do not agree with” Flloyd”, this is not happening now. He must be an LTTE sympathiser who missed the bus. There still are a few trying to rekindle the fire.
On Wed, Nov 30, 2016 at 7:18 PM, Thuppahi’s Blog wrote:
> thuppahi posted: “Michael Roberts In studying the blog-comments on > “Sinhala Mind-Set” and presenting the lot for public scrutiny a specific > claim by a person identifying himself as “Flloyd” caught my attention. > Whether Flloyd is a Tamil is of lesser moment than his alle” >
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Amazing blog! Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
I’m hoping to start my own site soon but I’m a little lost on everything.
Would you recommend starting with a free platform like WordPress or go for
a paid option? There are so many options out there that I’m totally
overwhelmed .. Any recommendations? Cheers!
Why usea PAID OPTION IF ONE CAN MANAGE ON ONE’S OWN. UNLESS ONE IS WELL -HEEELED OF COURSE.
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