Topic started by VP (@ 18.104.22.168) on Tue Feb 5 02:57:39 .
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Child abduction in the environs of Mutur
A similar pattern of child conscription has been in evidence around Mutur in the Trincomalee District. Both in Batticaloa and Trincomalee Districts the LTTE has been putting up its own checkpoints close to those of the security forces. Those going into LTTE controlled villages around Mutur are now required to surrender their identity card to the LTTE, bringing about a high level of surveillance that sits ill with high expectations of peace. The stark reality is of a draconian, militarised regime.
Here too the last few months have seen a high level of child conscription, but more by waylaying them on the streets. The control here is so strong that principals and teachers have been dragooned into giving pep talks to the children urging them to join the LTTE. The following cases, mainly from Senaiyoor and Sambur, during November and December 2001, illustrate the situation in the area. Dozens of children around 13 years old carrying guns can be readily seen in the villages.
Miss. Mythili (15), was caught by the LTTE while returning from school. Her parents who heard about it and rushed to the camp, found that her earrings and books had been taken away. They fought with the LTTE and brought her back home.
The following three were forcibly taken:
Mas. Ramu Mathiyan (12), mother Vellai. The father works as a mason and labourer.
Mas. Lohithan (11), father a farmer.
Mas. Sivan Thangan (16), owned a bullock cart. Was forcibly taken while returning from work in his cart.
More recently, particularly after the cease-fire, nearly everyone has been forced to undergo military training. They have been told that they should be prepared to go to war anytime that they are ordered. The strictness with which this is enforced is illustrated in the case of Ramu (19) of Sambur, who had done his A. Levels. He has been forced to undergo training despite having an artificial leg. None of this was however allowed to disturb the rosy prospects for peace painted in the media.[
4. Forced conscription of child soldiers: the ultimate tragedy
There is mounting incidence of reports from the East that read like something out of the notorious African slave trade. On the morning of 20th January some distraught parents rushed into Batticaloa from Vavunativu with reports of an LTTE round up to press gang children. The LTTE, these reports said, had appeared around the villages of Kannankudha, Karaikantivu and Thandiyady in the Vavunativu DS Division. A number of children were reported hiding in the undergrowth along the lagoon shore. The LTTE, it is said, subsequently left, taking a number of children along. Earlier, similar reports had come from Pattipalai, Vellavelly and Vaharai.
Such events would seem less a fantasy if one faces the fact that since August 2001, during the election campaign and afterwards, the LTTE has gone on insisting that each family should contribute a child for its army (see our Bulletins 26 & 27). The stridency and degree of force have intensified after the cease-fire. In fact around 20th November 2001, the LTTE took about 35 children from the Petthalai area. Six days later, the parents went to Theelivattai across the lagoon from Santhiveli to talk to the LTTE. They were scolded and sent back.
More ironically, the demand that parents must give children to the LTTE has been aired by some TNA candidates during the election campaign. Among them were Vellimalai and Sathyananthan (see below). When the Army closed the entry point from Vaharai at Mankerni at 10.00 AM on election day, Sathayananthan made a public statement to those at the polling station. Referring to the Government’s utter disregard for the democratic rights of the Tamil people, he told them that they now have no choice, but for each family to give a child to the LTTE and join its struggle.
The event also has a revealing sequel. After the elections, as part of its general campaign, the LTTE wanted Sathyananthan’s son in his mid-teens, born to his wife in Kathiraveli, Vaharai. According to local sources, Sathyananthan took his son and went to stay with his second wife in Welikanda.
In the Kiran area the pressure on child recruitment intensified after the elections leading to families moving out of the area. The houses of those who left were broken into by the LTTE, looted and sometimes burnt. About 10th December 2001, the LTTE broke into the houses of the following in Kiran and removed the tiles, for their having quitted without giving a child:
1. Manoharathas, Teacher,
2. Thillainathan, Overseer,
3. Pooranasingam, GM, Kiran Co-op, and
4. Paskaran, Headman (GS)
North of the Batticaloa District being a poor area, the days after the elections saw about 150 young adults joining the LTTE. This was the time there was a rising expectation that the new government would hand over the administration of the North-East to the LTTE, which meant jobs. It seemed that pressure on child recruitment might ease up. This expectation was short-lived. The Government and the LTTE agreed to a cease-fire on 24th December 2001, but for the people there was little to celebrate.
The LTTE moved into towns to freeload from Muslim shops and to extort from Tamils and Muslim civilians alike. In areas along the main road from Valaichenai to Kallar where the LTTE’s movements were hitherto inhibited, the LTTE came in and started demanding children and money to set up offices. Where the children were extremely young, the LTTE often demanded a written declaration from the parents that they would give the first child that comes of age – reportedly 12 years. We note that many of the conscripts are in this age group. Those with no children had to pay money. When the people complained to the Army and STF, they were told that the new government would take offence if they tried to stop the LTTE’s activities. The best they could do was to offer the people the security of their camps.
By early January, some new MPs of the TNA and other failed candidates went about the district addressing meetings, often in school halls. The new stridency of the speeches could only give people the jitters. Vellimalai, MP, insisted that parents who do not give a child to the LTTE are traitors. The struggle for Tamil Eelam, he said, has reached a peak and no one can stand in its way. “‘We’ will first try to talk to the UNP government and obtain Eelam,” he said, “failing which ‘we’ will ‘hammer and smash’ our way to victory”. Some witnesses have testified to references about using strong-arm methods in Parliament, if necessary.
In the meantime schools in the rural areas were grinding to a halt as the LTTE’s threats and demands on children became more vocal. Families were quitting to Batticaloa Town and Colombo or were keeping their children at home. The LTTE let it be known (e.g. Periya Kallar) that if the parents do not hand over a child by 24th January when the cease-fire was due to end, they would forcibly remove a child and pull out.
In Kiran East, from after the elections, to date, at least 40 houses of people who quit the area have been burnt by the LTTE. Further names of some householders are:
Kovinthan, Manoharan, Kanthasamy, Perinpam, Subramaniam, Jeevarathinam and Sinnathurai.
The following persons were forcibly removed from their homes in Kiran East, their ages are given in brackets:
1. Miss. Thevaranjini Selvarajah (28)
2. Miss. Kala Kanthasamy (14)
3. Miss. Dharshini Sundaram (12)
4. Miss. Sutha Kanagaratnam (13)
5. Mas. Kanthan Sinnavan (13)
6. Mas. Kanthasamy Suthaharan (14)
7. Mas. Kanthasamy Kanapathipillai (15) of Kinnaiady
A particular reason for the LTTE to be angry with E. Kiran is that it is the home of its senior commander, Karuna. They are annoyed that the people of the village have not set an example by showing eagerness in giving their children to the LTTE.
Priyadharshini from Vellavelly was a pupil schooling in Batticaloa Town. Her family had a tragic history, which had prevented her from visiting her village in the LTTE-controlled area for many years. Her elder brother Pararasan had been a member of the TELO when the LTTE launched a murderous attack on it in 1986. Pararasan escaped owing to the clandestine exertions of another sister. Upon finding this out, the LTTE stabbed her to death. Following the much-acclaimed recent cease-fire, Priyadharshini made a journey to Vellavelly. On 19th January 2002, she was abducted by the LTTE for service in the machine her family dreaded.
Another matter of deep concern is just beginning to be talked about. A large number of the LTTE’s child deserters are in hiding, some of whom have made it to the mainland. The others are in the wild close to the villages, with their kith and kin secretly taking food to the innocent fugitives in their own land. Sources in the village of Pandariaveli spoke of about 16 deserters in the area. The following were abducted by the LTTE for military service from Munaikkadu, but succeeded in escaping:
1) Mas. Pakiarajah Mithileswaran(16),
2) Mas. Subramanian (16) and
3) Mr.Kanagasabai Raguvaran (18).
The LTTE detained their parents as hostages and released them some days later in late January, apparently after recovering their children. On 23rd January, about 40 children in uniform were brought to Kokkadichcholai by the LTTE. The parents were allowed to talk to them and give them sweetmeats bought from the local shop.
A world of fantasy
The media have flocked to the Vanni to take in the rare photo opportunities into the exotic and mysterious, now being laid out by the LTTE. Talking about reciprocity and equality, Tamil Chelvam, the smiling LTTE spokesman, has called for a lifting of restrictions and normalising of life so that the Tamils and Sinhalese can live as equals, and for a lifting of the ban on the LTTE. Here the fantasy begins.
Today, the Tamils in the North-East are being subject to the abduction of their children, political violence and both the Tamils and Muslims to systematic extortion and kidnapping for ransom. These gross inequalities and injustices are being imposed by self-styled liberators with the complicity of the Sri Lankan government. While the Sri Lankan forces are removing check points and allowing the LTTE to move into areas under their control, the LTTE is imposing new barriers to monitor its own people.
The list of persons being called and threatened or detained for extortion is simply enormous. Among prominent persons taken and not released is the Vaharai DS, Mr. Balasubramaniam, who was taken from his home in Batticaloa and is now believed to be held in Unnichchai. Mr. Kathirkamanathan, DS, Batticaloa, is said to have been warned and sent back, apparently regarding failure to make collections from his staff.
In Pandiruppu that is under STF control, an LTTE man called Sudar is running an extortion racket under their very noses. People are sent messages to report to a certain house. Among those summoned are reportedly some doctors and Dr. Parasuraman, who performed yeoman service to the Karaitivu citizen’s committee during many dark years. As regards children, the inactivity of the security forces has spelt further disaster. Although we have received individual testimonies of recent abductions by the LTTE for its fighting cadre, from areas closely controlled by the security forces (e.g. a boy successful in his A. Levels from Periya Kallar and due to enter for medicine and a worker in a video shop in Iruthayapuram East), the true extent is not known. The people are terrified.
We give a typical example of the routine terror that people in the East live through, all the way down from Trincomalee. Maheswaran (45) of Karunkalichcholai, Petthalai, in North Batticaloa is the father of a boy and four younger girls. He owns a tractor with which he ferries limestone and sells it to Muslim traders. LTTE men went to his home and demanded Rs 2. lakhs and a child. Maheswaran refused and told them that they could kill him and do anything they liked. The LTTE men proceeded to attack Maheswaran and left him with a swollen chest. He was asked to report at Vinayagapuram.
Maheswaran borrowed a Cabal 90 motorbike from a Muslim friend and went to Vinayagapuram to meet Inpuniyan of the LTTE finance section. When Maheswaran asked for time to pay the money, Inpuniyan took possession of the motorbike and told him that he would get it back only upon paying the money. Later, Mrs. Maheswaran scraped a total of Rs. 50,000 from friends and got a youth to take her to Inpuniyan on a push-bike. (Her son had gone into hiding.) She was seen coming back crying miserably. On 26th January, Maheswaran told people he met on the road that he had purchased poison for Rs. 25/- and they would see him no more. He swallowed poison the next day and was admitted to Batticaloa Hospital.
Confronted with events of this kind under their very noses, the typical answer of the security forces is, ‘Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe must decide’! The LTTE’s interference in the most routine civil liberties becomes more bizarre all the time. For some months now the LTTE has been applying pressure on registrars of marriages in the East. This is because parents tend to register children very young in an attempt to obviate conscription. Tamil mothers in their early teens are common in parts like Mutur.
In Batticaloa at present, registrars are so scared that they try to pass the buck when approached to register any marriage. On 26th January, a remarkable story spread by word of mouth in the Chenkalady area. A wedding was said to have been taking place in Ward 5 (probably Eravur) with photographers clicking away. The festive occasion, it was said, was rudely interrupted when the LTTE came in and abducted the couple. We did not get at the details, but the report is consonant with the prevailing atmosphere. We also reliably learn that leading schools in Batticaloa (e.g. Shivananda, St.Michael’s, Anaipanthy, Central and St. Vincent’s) have been told by the LTTE not to accept pupils form the area under their control as boarders!
The cease-fire and the prospect of an interim administration in the LTTE’s hands not withstanding, the LTTE is acting as though it is in a hurry to mine the East. It is now setting up a parallel Kacheri at Arasaditivu in the Pattipalai DS Division. Senior administrators have been called and ordered to send copies of all transactions to them. All projects must have their approval.
People in rural areas north of Batticaloa have seen the LTTE transporting to the coast in the night, items such as cooking vessels, generators, motors and Mortein in large quantities, to be transported by sea to Vaharai. On 22nd January, a Caravan van belonging to Unico Marketing Ltd. of Kurunegala, bringing Rs 2.5 lakhs worth of electrical items for sale in Batticaloa, was hijacked in Eravur by two members of the LTTE. At the time of writing, neither the vehicle, goods, nor the three Sinhalese occupants (Jayasinghe the driver, Dharmasena and Taraka), have been traced.
All kinds of demands are being orchestrated by the LTTE as though they are the first priority of the Tamil people. What can be more convincing than when these are aired by candidates and MPs of the apparently hugely successful TNA and leading social figures. At the recent ‘Tamil Inspirational Festival’ at the University of Jaffna, poor Vice Chancellor Balasundarampillai, who two years ago, with VC Batticaloa, signed an appeal by academics for the re-election of Chandrika Kumaratunge, called for the removal of army camps to restore normalcy. Making similar demands in Batticaloa, A. Selvendran, TNA candidate and head of the NGO consortium, called for a repeal of the PTA. The list goes on.
These are perfectly legitimate demands. But they do not touch issues related to the prevailing total abnormality and terror of the LTTE. If the LTTE were a genuine liberation group that protected the rights of the people, these demands would have more resonance with the interests of the people. Dismantling draconian laws should be an integral part of the peace process. We in our reports have argued that the PTA is an objectionable law that has long been used arbitrarily, especially against Tamils of humble origin, but has proved itself costly and ineffective. But today, no Tamil intellectual or writer in Sri Lanka is harassed by the PTA or any other law for articulating pro-LTTE views. They are even free to use the media as an instrument of LTTE terror.
For example, in an article in the Sunday Virakesari of 20.1.02, a Colombo-based academic urged the registration of the TNA as a party to carry forward the struggle, as dictated by the LTTE, with a single voice. With reference to objections, especially by the TULF, he said: “If they carry on doing politics or seeking positions, thinking that ending the war alone is sufficient, the struggle will inevitably be retarded. Further, they will have to bear the consequences for having deceived the people.” This is the language used from TULF platforms in the 1970s to instigate the murder of their political opponents. The Virakesari was then responsible enough not to highlight bilge.
While the LTTE lobby demands the removal of the PTA, the pertinent issue today is the imposition on the Tamil people by their sole representatives of something far more insidious. Although unwritten, this may be compared with Hitler’s famous Enabling Law, Law for Removing the Distress of People and Reich, of 1933. This was used by the Nazis to legitimise the removal and extermination of opponents, who were already reeling from systematic thuggery, and to impose a totalitarian state.
Thus for the LTTE, the peace process, holding out for them the prospect of uninhibited power, has meant dusting up its old intelligence files. This entails making a list of people whom the Great Lord has suffered to live too long, and for whom the time has now come. The cases of A. and two others given above are clear instances of this happening. We have also received testimony of the LTTE making inquiries in Vavuniya about dissidents living in Colombo, in anticipation of the UNP government giving them a free run in the City as Premadasa did.
The LTTE, as revealed by its actions, has not deviated one whit from its agenda. Instead, we are witness to a brand of newspeak! It has absolutely no intention of restoring normalcy for the people. When it calls upon the Government to relieve first the day-to-day needs of the people, what it means is the day-to-day needs of the LTTE. The LTTE hailed the Government’s decision to allow a free flow of most goods into the Vanni. But almost at the same time, prices of goods in Jaffna shot up by 15% and more, imposing new hardships on the people. This happened after the LTTE reorganised taxes on shipping agents in Colombo moving goods to Jaffna and distributed monopolies among them. It has become taboo to talk about it. Hardly an MP or newspaper will raise the matter.
A public demonstration against the arbitrary price hike was organised in Jaffna on the initiative of the PLOTE, with the EPRLF (V) and the New Democratic Front joining in. Maheswaran, MP and minister, who was earlier a partner in, and later in opposition a vocal critic of, high prices of goods in Jaffna, had the Police arrest, and hold for some hours, several leaders of the protest!
The LTTE will make sure that even the relief enjoyed by people in the Vanni will be short-lived. Indeed even as the Government removed restrictions on goods, the LTTE put in more senior persons and notably tightened up the issue of passes to people leaving the Vanni. Maintaining war psychosis and a sense of frustration is necessary for the LTTE, lest the people start thinking deeply about peace and start questioning the regime imposed on them. For instance, the LTTE quickly put a stop to any expectations of normality in the East.
This was spelt out in a speech in North Batticaloa on 19.1.02 by Thangavadivel, MP, a bachelor. He spoke about ‘Veerat (Brave) Thamilan’ and ‘Adangatth (Unconquered) Thamilan’, expressions that were music to the ears from TULF platforms 25 years ago, and now a sordid memory. He said that they would fight if the Government does not accede to their demands. He added that there will be no jobs or rehabilitation, until the LTTE is given its due place. Of course, there is little said about the Tamils having their due place, they are being given a taste of it! So much for the day-to-day needs of the Tamil people!
Against the irony of the Government’s eagerness to speed up rehabilitation work in the North-East, there is a steadily mounting refugee problem, which seems, amidst the euphoria, too unseemly to talk about. There is a growing influx into Colombo both of families fleeing child conscription and also of those who feel anxious on account of their personal political views. This time, the Western embassies can rest assured that a large number of refugee claimants are genuine. We also learn that should well wishers open a refugee camp in Colombo, it would fill up in no time with a large numbers from the East. People are agonised by being unable and afraid even to talk about their suffering – ‘Who will listen to us, who will do something to help us?’
We now examine the recent parliamentary elections, which illustrate how the LTTE can and does use the lack of moral scruples among local and international civil society to its advantage. In the process the perception of reality is violently distorted