State Complicity in Jaffna Library incident?


by Dushy Ranetunge in London

There has been considerable publicity given by the Hindu and Hindustan Times, the BBC etc to an incident at the Jaffna Library last week perpetrated by Sinhala vandals against a sensitive icon of Tamil culture.

Unfortunately, the Sri Lankan state’s response has been disappointing.


Jaffna Library ~ pic:

Its primary response, which emanated from the Presidents Secretariat was to play down the incident and to accuse a Sunday newspaper in Colombo of misreporting.

That newspaper had suggested a link between the attackers and the Presidential Secretariat. The Presidential Secretariat denied it.

But what cannot be denied is the complicity of the Sri Lankan state in this latest attack on the Jaffna library.

To date there has been no arrest in relation to this incident.

There are armed Sri Lankan soldiers in almost every street corner in Jaffna. In addition, there are bunkers and check points. According to reports, the incident lasted for almost three hours.

North of Omanthai, there is a significant check point where all vehicles are registered on their way up to Jaffna and checked comprehensively for arms and explosives on their way out of Jaffna.

Considering the substantial military lock down of the city and the province, the failure to arrest the culprits involved in the Jaffna library incident last week could be attributed to incredible inefficiency on part of the security establishment or state complicity.

The administration cannot have it both ways.

In light of its claims to the general population of its military prowess it is unlikely to have been a failure of the security establishment.

Therefore the only conclusion that one could reach is, state complicity in the incident at the Jaffna library.

The library was attacked in 1981 and burnt to the ground by Sinhalese mobs, including allegedly members of the security services at the direction of a Sinhalese minister in the then UNP cabinet.

President Premadasa speaking at a Muslim College in Puttalam in October 1991 in the aftermath of the impeachment resolution against him sponsored by UNP dissidents led by Mr. Lalith Athulathamudalai and Mr. Gamini Dissanayake made the following comment.

"During the District Development Council elections in 1981, some of our party members took many people from other parts of the country to the North, created havoc and disrupted the conduct of elections in the North. It is this same group of people who are causing trouble now also. If you wish to find out who burnt the priceless collection of books at the Jaffna Library, you have only to look at the faces of those opposing us."

It is alleged that the LTTE assassinated the UNP minister responsible for the burning down of the Jaffna library.

In light of the sensitivity in relation to this site, it is in the interest of the Sri Lankan state to investigate and bring to justice persons responsible for the latest incident.

Unfortunately, the behaviour of the Sri Lankan state so far indicates impunity and a lack of accountability leading to the conviction that the process of learning lessons and reconciliation is a sham.

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