Editorial - Conflict over counting of conflict-deaths

30 December 2013 09:22 pm - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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A row had developed between the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and the Census and Statistics Department over the “Census on human and property damages due to conflict.” The TNA has rejected the census conducted by the State and claims that it will conduct its own census. However, the Census Department states that no one other than the Department can conduct a census in the country.

According to the website of the Census and Statistics Department, the present census has been planned according to the National Action Plan prepared by the Task Force which is appointed for the implementation of the recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) and headed by the Secretary to the President. Under this census which has to be completed within six months, detailed information with regard to deaths, missing persons, injured/disabled persons and damages to property due to internal conflicts in the island from 1982 onwards are to be collected.

At a time when many people behave in a manner to incite another conflict in the country, it is essential for the public to be acquainted with the human and material cost of the thirty-year-long conflict.  However, the actions of both sides of the row seem confusing to the country. On the part of the government, it has appointed a Commission to investigate into the claims on missing persons after having initially denied that civilians had gone missing during the (last lap of the) war.

On the other hand, the TNA should be the party that has to be concerned most about the exact number of persons killed and gone missing during the war, as the general perception is that it was the Tamil people who had been most affected by the war. But the party seems to be not interested in that.
Between June and August in 2011, the Department of Census and Statistics carried out another census called “Enumeration of Vital Events” for the Northern Province.

The exercise was mainly aimed at countering the allegations of extra-judicial killings during the last stage of the war between the armed forces and the LTTE. Then there was the decennial Census of Population and Housing in 2012 which was conducted island-wide. Now we have this “Census on human and property damages due to conflict.” Hence there is a possibility of clashes occurring between the outcomes of the government’s own censuses and commissions.

It is interesting to note that the TNA, while stressing the need for the government to implement the recommendations of the LLRC, is backing down when the government, apparently due to the international pressure, has taken measures for a count as one of its obligations under the recommendations of the same LLRC.  Also, the Census Department had refuted the claim by the Tamil Alliance that the census process did not accommodate the circumstances  of disappearances and deaths. If it is a loss of life, the Department said, it even inquired into who were the people thought to be responsible and whether they were people in civilian clothes or in uniform.

Also the TNA never challenged the outcome of the enumeration that was conducted in 2011 which put the number of deaths in the North in 2009 as 7,896 while its own election manifesto for the Northern Provincial Council election in September claimed that over seventy thousand people had been killed during the last phase of the war. The same manifesto stated that over one hundred and fifty thousand Tamils had perished over the years due to the war.  
Thus, the need for a comprehensive assessment of the human and material cost of the war is comprehensible. Therefore, politicians and officials should not confuse the country.

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