Over 200,000 in Jaffna deprived of phone service now for two months

Posted on October 30, 2006  /  9 Comments

Dialog Telekom took a courageous step in 2002, deciding within weeks of the Cease Fire Agreement being signed that it would supply telecom services to the people of the North and East who had been excluded from the country’s telecom revolution for so long, because of the conflict and the military’s prohibition of service in conflict areas.  The services thus provided were, without question, the most important dividend that the people of Jaffna saw from the path of peace, followed by the mobility allowed by the opening and restoring of the A9 highway.


Now, Dialog and the people of the North are paying the price of the path of war.  For two months, the mobile networks have been shut down in the North, with service being allowed intermittently in the East.  This means that approximately 220,000 families are unable to communicate with their loved ones in the North and that another 200,000 or so families are not sure their phone will work when they most need it.  


Dialog, a company that has been the darling of the stock market since its successful IPO is looking at the loss not only of a significant number of subscribers, but also of a higher proportion of revenues because these are high-spending customers, as documented in the sample survey LIRNEasia conducted in the Jaffna district before the window of opportunity closed in 2005.  It is noteworthy that they are continuing to maintain their commercial relationship in the region, optimistic that they will be allowed to restore service soon.    


LIRNEasia believes that communication is a basic right.  We have shown that in many conflict areas the phones continue to work, Israel and Palestine being the classic examples.  We hope that the leaders of the government of consensus will do the right thing by the people of Jaffna and the East, who are today unable to communicate with their loved ones.    


  1. Can Dialog GSM operate in North without paying LTTE Tax? Or should government allow telecommunication companies to pay LTTE Tax and carry on services in those areas? What is the best way to solve that conflict and bring things back to normal?

  2. With reference to the post made by Sam.

    Let us not bring politics to the issue. Whether Dialog pays Tax to LTTE or not is not our problem. I don’t think it is anything new. Probably Dialog would have been doing so since 2002 the time they have started the services. They would have still continued because they would have found it is economical for them to provide telecom facilities even after allocating a portion of revenue for LTTE taxes.

    LTTE tax too is just another form of “kappang”. There are so many business organizations that pay “kappang” to the powerful in the area. This is an accepted practice in Sri Lanka for generations. Even in South one cannot run a business without oiling the palm of a local politico or the chief of police. Ultimately the consumer pays it, but there is no other way to avoid these realities in business. We are used to that. No rules can prevent such happening.

    So let Dialog address that. It is not our problem.

    One more thing we should remember is this is not an isolated issue and there is no point trying to solve this issue in isolation. For example, it is not practical to demand Dialog provide telecom facilities to Jaffna, when they do not have any means to send their technical people there. There should be an environment to ensure the safety of their technical personnel. How can one expects Dialog to send their technical personnel to a conflict zone, in a country where even the media is reluctant to do so?

    Also it is not practical to expect the telecom facilities to be operational at a place people starve and the price of other consumer goods have raised to 4-5 times more the normal price.

    Call me a pessimist, but I do not see there is a solution without reopening the A9. Opening of A9 is a must to bring the normalcy back to Jaffna peninsula.

  3. Rohan’s artcle should be commended as he has brought an issues, which has been conveniently forgotten by many of us. A9 closure is discussed since it is a conventional infrastructure and carries basic human needs such as food.

    Nevertheless why did they distrupted the communication, instead of monitoring them? Distruption is a twoway weapon which I think is well knon to military strategists.

    But when it come s to major ops I am confident LTTE is using sttelite phone and powerfull two way communication equipments. In both the cases moist intelegent policy would have been wire tpping rather than
    Nevertheless if you consider pressurising the Tamils in those areas as an effective strategy attack on tele towers may have some outcome. But this too is a two edged weapon.

    Payments to LTTE by tele operators too would have been reduced. A9 taxes were amounted, according to some estimates, to approximately Rs mn 350/.

    Will any of these justify the distruption of the civilian use of comminication for very civil purposes?

    When the war and hatred drives the rationality away from the human beings any destruction could be justified in the name of the cause. Whther it is LTTE or the Govt this is true

  4. Donald Gaminitillake

    LTTE tax too is just another form of “kappang”.

    This is not a topic to discuss in this blog but please remember the laws of Provisional Councils.
    Take an example of western province if you pay a fine for the traffic violation it goes to the Provisional Councils. Courts are administrated by the Provisional Councils.Education is administrated by the Provisional Councils.

    We got to study more on the subject of Provisional Councils. What a Provisional Council can do. How much tax each Provisional Councils could collect, the limits etc before we accuse anyone.

    Donald Gaminitillake

  5. Who is this Luxman Siriwardena? Is he Donald’s brother-in-law?

    Looks like he has the same intelligence of Donald.

    1. Siriwardena suggests to ‘monitor’ the mobile phone usage. It is a well known fact mobile phones are used as remote control devices to trigger bombs. You fix a phone in a bomb, give a buzz at the right time and here it goes boom. The best remote control device. Siriwardena can explain how such a usage is monitored.

    2. Siriwardena also suggests that tele operators pay less tax to LTTE. I wonder how they can do that. Say LTTE asks for Rs. 1 million. Operator says I do not have that much money I will give only Rs. 500k. What LTTE would do? Will they except Rs. 500k and let the operator work?

    Siriwardena please explain.