Killinochchi – the town that is quiet again

Dr. Noel Nadesan

Killinochchi was just another obscure dot in the map in the eighties. It was a sleepy town which had no importance of any sort to anyone except to the farmer, peasants and the government servants who administered the area. Perhaps, the most important place was the railway station which the people used either to get in or get out of the train that ran from
Colombo to Jaffna.

Back in the eighties Killinochci was a quiet farming area with a lot of
cattle roaming idly on open lands. Farmers in Kilinochchi were
considered to be rich not only in the Jaffna district but in the whole
country. It was a centre for collection of milk and often lorry loads of
cattle were sent to Colombo to be sold as beef.

After I passed out from Peradeniya University as a veterinarian in the
eighties I was postedat Medawachchiya to service the farming community by the
government . Everyweek I would ride weekly from Medavachchiya along A9
road to my home in Jaffna on my motor bike. The road was almost empty
except for the roaming cattle and the odd deer and other wild life. My memories of
Killinochchi are filled with nostalgia. Life was easy going and people
led quiet lives despite the shortcomings of living in the dry zone. The
turbulent politics of the nation had not disturbed this isolated place.

But all this changed after October 30, 1995. The Tamil exodus from
Jaffna herded out by the LTTE flooded Killinochchi changing it forever.
With the rush of nearly 300,000 Jaffna Tamils the landscape of
Killinochchi changed beyond recognition. Besides, the LTTE which was
forced to retreat from Jaffna decided to make it their capital.
Overnight the sleepy town of Killinochchi hit the world headlines. It
became the military and the political headquarters.

After their retreat from Jaffna it became their promised land. But the
promised land had nothing to offer except misery to the Tamil people.
They did not even have a roof over their heads. No food. No medicine.
The best they had was plastic covers to keep their heads dry. The money
collected by the Tamil expatriates never reached them. They were
pocketed by the collecting agents partly to maintain their lavish
lifestyle, partly to hold extravagant weddings for their children and
partly to buy arms in the underworld to fight a futile war that took the
Tamils nowhere.

The importance of Killinochchi grew as the LTTE could not even reclaim
Jaffna – their heartland — and as it got stuck in this town until they
were forced to retreat by the advancing armies of the Sri Lankan
government. They ran from Killinochchi and never stopped until they sank
in Nandikadal on May 18, 2009.

Killinochchi also gave hope to the Tamil expatriates who believed that
they had established their capital of Eelam in the heart of Vanni. They
flocked to this town in thousands. They met the LTTE leadership in this
town. It gave them the illusion of the LTTE holding power forever. They
were impressed by the Western diplomats queuing up at the gates of
Killinochchi, They described Kilinochchi as the paradise on earth under
LTTE. Something like Poompokar in South India in Sangam literature.

I was a sceptic all along knowing the violent politics of Veluppillai
Prabakaran and LTTE intimately in their days in south India. Lions never
eat grass and leopards never change their spots.

When I was riding up and down A9 road in the eighties I never dreamt
that this dusty, quiet town would one day become the centre of
international diplomacy. Nor did I dream that it would be the last hell
hole of the Tamils. At the height of their power I did hear that they
had a training college for diplomats in Killinochchi from which
Nediyavan graduated. I was also told that they had law colleges where
their advocates were trained but I was not told by their supporters
where Gandhi and Madhavan master established their torture chamber or
where the burial ground for traitors was located.

More than Jaffna Killinochchi represented the peak point of LTTE power
when Prabhakaran was ruling the roost. But all that went down Nandikadal
thanks to the folly of our Tamil leadership.

Now Killinochchi is quiet again. Traffic, heavier than in my time, flows
without much fuss. I returned to spend sometime in KIlinochchi around
November 26 and 27 — the most important days of LTTE calendar. There
were no portraits of Prabhakaran and the expatriates were subdued. I was
there to coordinate with my friends a sponsorship program called
“Rainbow for War Widows” which I started six months ago. Under this
program Rs. 2000 are sent to these families for month and also to
provide some livelihood for the next 3 years. We have five families in
Killinochchi and I was visiting them along with my friend who lives in

I spent some time with each of the family. One woman’s husband died as
LTTE cadre. All of them have decent houses, most of them permanent house
except one make-do house. The Government had given 300000 rupees to
repair their houses. The NGOs were also linked to this programme. Thanks
to the educational system the girls were educated and this was reflected
in their family values.

We went unannounced and their houses were spotlessly clean and children
washed and clothed. The free health system too had helped them. I always
believe that we have bad politician but we have world class primary
health and primary education system.

I asked many questions about their welfare and asked them whether they
had any trouble with law enforcement authorities. All replied
emphatically “NO”. I felt stupid asking that question but with
disinformation campaign conducted by expatriate Tamil media like
Tamilnet I thought that was necessary.

I visited the 57th Brigade Army Commander’s head office and spent one
hour with him He explained situation very professionally and
enthusiastically. He said 133,501 people with 42,430 families were
resettled in Kilinochchi district. I was told that 2185 ex-LTTE cadres
who were beneficiaries of the rehabilitation programmes also live in
this area. Army also built 3708 shelters for the people. After talking
to the Commander, I felt that the Tamil media bombarding the people with
negative news were causing distress to the people and I was no
exception. I am not saying that what I saw was paradise. I am saying
that it is far superior to conditions living under Prabhakaran or the
people in the south living in dirty shanty towns.

Martyrs’ cemetery ,Kilinochchi

Like, pre-war expatriate Tamils I also went to Martyrs’ cemetery, LTTE
court and other significant places. Only TRO office was intact because
it is now the home of 57th Brigade. At least some of the Tamil  doctors  funded the TRO office, can feel happy that their contribution had not
gone waste.

I noted that 26th and 27th of November was like any other day in
Kilinochchi. People were walking away from the nightmares that hunted
them for decades. They felt at ease. At least they were not traumatized.
Only TNA politicians and some expatriates are still refusing to accept
the new realities of Killinochchi.

Thanks to  -Lakbima 1/1/2011

“Killinochchi – the town that is quiet again” அதற்கு 9 மறுமொழிகள்

  1. Well Nadesan, having had first hand information during my past three visits to Killinochchi I do not agree with your observations. Firstly, large number of people I met are not at all happy with the progress in bringing normalcy to the area devastated by war. Did you not notice that the large army camps had electricity and running water as well as telephones the adjoining houses, schools and the buildings belonging to the people did not have any basic necessities that in the other areas people take for granted. Thousands of damaged homes still stay damaged and the rehabilitated LTTE cadres or any other job seekers had found found any jobs. LTTE put Killinochchi in the world map but have the govt of SL made any real progress in providing the basic support for survival for the poor people I doubt it. Whilst Jaffna enjoyed significant growth from money pouring in from the Tamil diaspora the poor people of Vanni are a forgotten lot by the so called Eelam supporters.

    1. Thank you, Sunder.
      I agree with you observation. Many things need to be done in Kilinochchi. Government was slow but real work being done at the movement. We need private sector participation to reduce the unemployment. Jaffna was vacated by LTTE more than 15 years ago. That is why Jaffna situation looking better. I have much hope for Kilinochchi and you can see sea changes soon.

  2. I’m lost for words. Your account is beautifully written and honest. It also tallies completely with my own experiences as well as those of my friends and family who paid an awful price for the tragic and insane nationalistic ambitions of a few.
    I’m going to share this on facebook here:!/groups/slpolitics/

  3. […] Original article first published- Click here Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. This entry was posted on February 2, 2012. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment […]

    1. Ram
      U seem to be really a ignorant fool
      When article get published, article go through writer, sub editor, editor but when u comment on article, u just type it
      But again language is a tool wise man can use it properly but u may be good in English but you not articulating. I am using both languages to express my opinion
      Do not be a coward to take cheap shots.
      This letter may in broken English but make you rethink again before write something again

  4. Noel when you write an article-the Englsih seems to be perfect (no errors). When you start to comment ( I have read your comments even in DBS Jeraj’s web long time ago) your language seems to be terribly broken. Can you get your masters to write teh comments as well!. That will be wonderful.

    1. @Noel – to call one of your subscribers a “really ignorant fool” is inappropriate and arrogant.

      1. Dear Gerard.
        I am sorry. This is not my nature but ram asked for that
        Without ambiguity, Ram’s letter text and subtext are insulting my integrity as a writer. My language is moderated actually. For me, Criticism acceptable, accusation tolerable but insulting not.

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