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Jaffna communities living in fear as violence returns

Growing crime rate sees return of neighborhood watch groups

Jaffna communities living in fear as violence returns
A soldier stands guard in Jaffna reporter, Jaffna
Sri Lanka

January 7, 2011

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Fear has returned to haunt communities and parishes in the Jaffna Peninsula following an upsurge in violent crime that has prompted the return of neighborhood watch groups. The past month has seen at least three people murdered, one young girl raped and a spate of kidnappings including the abduction of 30 schoolchildren, 28 of whom were later freed by police. Lawlessness since the end of the civil war has become so acute priests are now giving advice to parishioners on how they can prevent falling victims to violent criminals. The crime wave is affecting all members of society, politicians, non-governmental organizations and parish officials say. “We’re praying to God for help; we do not know when and where the gunmen are going to strike next,” said neighborhood watch member, Jayanthan Emmanuelpillai. Emmanuelpillai is from Chankanai, a village where a Hindu priest was killed and his two sons injured one month ago. Villagers are gripped by fear following several murders and a number of disappearances, he said. The concern is so acute Sri Lanka’s main opposition leader Ranil Wickremasinghe demanded in parliament on Jan. 5 that an all party delegation should be sent to Jaffna to assess the situation. New Year celebrations were marred by killings, abductions and robberies. Worshippers refused to attend evening Masses and are going to church in daylight hours and in groups. “Everyone’s at risk. Something must be done to stop the killers and robbers,” said Father J.A. Jesudas, rector of St. Hendry’s College in Jaffna. Father Arulanandam Johnaly Yavis, head of the Caritas Human Development Center in Kilinochchi district said he has already appealed to the Jaffna bishop and met several local government officials to demand more action. The Sri Lankan government will take necessary steps to ensure security, Keheliya Rambukwella, a senior minister told media Jan. 6. Related reports Sri Lankan bishops promote post-war unity Bishop seeks equal aid for Tamil refugees Govt provides material to rebuild north Sri Lankan monks walk to war-scarred cities SR12730.1635
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