Writing in the Kindlemag, Meena Kandasamy interviews a Tamil journalist who reported from Vanni during 2009. Lokeesan was the Vanni correspondent for TamilNet during that time, and is currently living in exile.
See here for full interview entitled 'The Dialectics of Genocide'.
Excerpts of Lokeesan's interview reproduced below:
Meena Kandasamy: How different was your work, from the kind of reporting that Lasantha, or any of the dissenting Sinhala journalists were doing?
Lokeesan: "Lasantha had all the facilities available to the media – internet, phone, email, camera, everything. But where we worked, we could not even charge our laptops. In the South, they were spared such horrors. They never had to dwell in death, whereas we worked in an area where it was impossible to operate."
"To understand my situation, you have to remember that the Vanni never had telephonic connectivity to begin with. In thirty years, I never saw electricity. We were living in prehistoric times, like in the days when messengers and couriers carried news. After 2005, no fuel was provided. Even hospitals functioned with these difficulties. From late 2008, there was no agricultural activity. During the war, even a thousand rupees could not buy you a kilo of rice. The LTTE procured fuel through the fisher-people. Newspapers used to be published with power from generators. The supply of medicine was totally stopped. Only 10 to 15 percent of the required medicine required was provided through the ICRC. Vanni was a dark country cut away from the whole of existence."
"You cannot calculate the body count based on my reports alone. Because of the difficulty in verifying facts, I tended to report only what I witnessed. While I kept telling the world about deaths among the Vanni people, I learnt that the world wanted to remain blind, deaf and numb. Everything happened within a 7-10 km stretch of the Vanni, the world could have easily seen this through satellites. The world did not want to save us. We were entrusted to our killers. The world acted for its own greed, for its own needs, though it publicly spoke of human rights. If 150 people died and 500 were injured in a single attack, I would report the same to TamilNet.com. For the next two, three days there would be a lull. They would hesitate and stop these mass civilian attacks briefly. But the world’s outrage was not potent enough. In the last days, there was no water for the injured and the dying. There was no cloth to tie the bleeding wounds of the bombed.”
“I know how this world functions. If I had died in Lasantha’s place, nobody would have questioned Gotabaya (Rajapakse) about it. They would have called me a Tiger."
"The local Tamil media continued to exist. Puligalin Kural (Voice of Tigers, a radio) and Eelanaatham paper existed up to a few days before the end of the war. But it was the Army's plan to run a war without any witnesses. They did not even allow Sinhala journalists to witness or document the war. They were not allowed into the Vanni. If a dozen civilians died in an SLAF bombing, I would report it directly. There was no Sinhala media there. The Sri Lanka Defence website was the only one but it said that these bombings had targeted a Tiger camp. At that time, the world did not believe us. Now, the stories prove otherwise."
Meena Kandasamy: It is said that Tigers held the civilians as human shields, and shot innocent civilians who got into military convoys?
Lokeesan: “I have never witnessed this. But I have always been asked this question. One has to understand that the Sri Lanka Army had infiltrated the Tigers as well. They had a force called LRRP (Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol). They were responsible for claymore attacks that killed the top leadership. They were known as the demon brigade because they impersonated the Tigers to carry out their operations. They were responsible for the Ambulance attacks. They killed K Sivanesan, the Tamil Member of Parliament from Jaffna. So, these incidents of shooting the civilians could have been carried out by the Sri Lankan armed forces, wearing Tiger uniforms. Also, Tigers were coerced into becoming informers for the Army. I do not rule out the possibility of these incidents, but since I did not witness anything like that, I can only surmise.”