The most important element of the process of Sinhalization is the continued militarization of many aspects of civilian life. While this is a national phenomenon, it is most aggressively practiced in the Tamil majority areas of the country. Even though at present it is the North and the East that are MOST MILITARIZED, creeping militarization is also evidenced in the Hill Country. As set out in the report, militarization is an effective tool used by the State to gain and maintain both government and Sinhala monopoly of various aspects of day to day life, including the provision of services by civil administration, economic activities and civic activities in Tamil majority areas. It also helps create and maintain a sense of fear within the Tamil community.
RECONSTRUCTION AND DEVELOPMENT IN THE NORTHERN PROVINCE:
Today, in the Northern Province, there is evidence that under the purview of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) and the Ministry of Defence (MOD) the same strategy, ONE THAT FAVORS THE ETHNIC MAJORITY AT THE EXPENSE OF TAMILS, is being utilized. Just as State-planned policies fomented Sinhalization and strategic Sinhalese settlement in the past (under the auspices of Gal Oya, the Mahaweli plan, and other initiatives), the State is now able to initiate similar objectives which are coordinated by PTF.
Created in May of 2009, this opaque nineteen-member body regulates all reconstruction and development activities in the Northern Province. The PTF, which includes NOT EVEN A SINGLE TAMIL or woman member, ensures that all reconstruction and development projects are vetted and approved by the Sri Lankan State. Even though a `Special Government Gazette notification` was issued in May of 2009, there does not appear to be any existing legal framework that supports the PTF. The PTF holds extensive powers yet the legality of such a body remains dubious. According to the Sri Lankan State:
`Mainly the Task Force is subjected to co-ordinate activities of the security agencies of the, Government in support of resettlement, rehabilitation and development and to liaise with all organizations in the public and private sectors and civil society organizations for the proper implementation of programs and projects`
Through the PTF, the Sri Lankan State has deliberately created a non-transparent, ever-changing, burdensome regulatory framework, generally encouraging projects related to tangible outputs like infrastructure hardware, while rarely approving projects on psychosocial counseling, trainings in emotional wellness or human rights education (`software`) the access of some humanitarian and development agencies to the North---further underscoring the central government`s questionable approach towards post-war development in the Northern Province. While many times hardware projects are approved, software projects are frequently rejected. This invariably means that many Tamils in the Northern Province do not have access to services (like counseling) that they need the most. As Darini Rajasingham-Senanayake has noted:
`The military mindset that has led to the concentration of power at the centre in Colombo under the Presidential Task Force for Reconstruction in the North and East headed by Basil Rajapaksa, the president`s brother, is counter-productive to locally owned and equitable economic development, public-private partnerships, and entrepreneurship by the local business community in peace time. Central government control of development policy-making and the lack of fiscal devolution means that the regions, provinces and local people lack ownership or control and are often denied the benefits of economic development done in their name.`
While the analytical foundation underpinning the PTF is consistent with decades of State planning, the creation of the PTF can also be traced directly to the final phases of the civil war. Ever since that time, the State has waged a massive diplomatic campaign to avoid international scrutiny of its security forces` attacks on civilians and the extra-judicial killing of surrendered LTTE members and combatants. In July of 2010, UN`s Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, appointed a panel of three experts to probe alleged violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law during the final phase of the war. After the Sri Lankan State denied permission to the panel to conduct its own investigations in Sri Lanka, the panel called for written submissions of evidence of war crimes from sources within the country. The Sri Lankan State likely suspected that NGOs operating in the former theaters of combat would convey evidence of war crimes to UN investigators. According to one employee of a national NGO operating in Sri Lanka restrictions have been placed on the UN `because they were accusing them (The State) of mass murder.`
Consequently, the State`s clear suspicion of NGOs has translated into an ever more burdensome system of regulations since the end of the ethnic conflict. Aside from establishing the PTF shortly after civil war ended, the central government also brought the NGO Secretariat, another body which must also approve of project plans within the purview of the Ministry of Defence.
Consequently, the rules and regulations surrounding the PTF encourage development practitioners to implement projects which do not always reflect the needs of community members living in the Northern Province. By creating the PTF, the State has successfully established (though to a lesser extent) a climate of fear amongst international development practitioners as many foreign staff fear deportation and the possibility of losing employment if do not adhere to the rules of the PTF or the NGO Secretariat. The need to gain PTF permission for projects has meant that some development organizations have been willing to `lower the bar` and/or craft projects that they know will be approved by the PTF, including State-sponsored settlements.
Quite recently, the Presidential Task force has been explicitly encouraging development agencies to focus on certain issues and `areas` that the State believes are most important. This is evidenced by a December 22, 2011 letter written by Mr. S.B. Divaratne, Secretary to the PTF. THE LETTER EXPLICITLY CALLS FOR HUMANITARIAN AND AID AGENCIES TO HELP (MOSTLY) SINHALESE PEOPLE `RETURN` TO THE HISTORICALLY TAMIL DISTRICT OF MULLAITIVU. Mr. Divaratne mentions that this is a group of Sinhalese who were a part of the state`s Weli Oya project decades ago. Unsurprisingly, this project area falls under the `Mahaveli zone.`
The day before Mr. Divaratne issued the abovementioned letter, he sent another letter outlining the State`s priorities vis- -vis development policy for the coming year in which the State has asked `UN agencies and NGOs` to focus on less recent cases of displacement in the Northern Province, including Sinhala families displaced from the Province in 1980swith LTTE attacks on civilians.` In an obvious move to placate the international community and human rights activists, the letter also emphasized the need to help Muslim families who were compelled to leave the Province in 1990.
STATE-SPONSORED SETTLEMENT OF SINHALESE IN HISTORICALLY TAMIL AREAS IS SUCH A WELL-ESTABLISHED PRACTICE OF STATE POLICY WHICH HAS BEEN NORMALIZED THAT IT MAY, AT TIMES, BE OVERLOOKED (OR IGNORED) BY THE GENERAL POPULACE AND EVEN THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY. As mentioned above, in the past, prominent international aid organizations, including USAID and UNDP and the FAO to name a few, have actively promoted the State`s policy of Sinhalization in the form of both technical and financial assistance.
In post-war Sri Lanka, history is repeating itself ethnic Tamils are being excluded from the development process, especially in the Northern Province. Distressingly, when international NGOs cooperate with such policies, State-backed extremist Sinhala Buddhist objectives are legitimized, strengthened and allowed to grow.