The onset of the season of give and take appears to have induced the two sides to participate in a combined operation in Mannar island. This was an operation conducted with shopping lists rather than with hit lists. All shoppers were looking for electrical items, jewellery, sarees, motor cycles and bicycles - the minimal necessities of life that have become luxuries in this country. By common understanding, both sides used the currency of the North-East - not Rupees, but Grabits.
As the first part of the operation, the LTTE looted the Muslims from 21st - 28th October [See Chapter 3]. the Tamils who were heart broken at seeing what happened to the Muslims, soon turned their thoughts to the other group of shoppers, whose arrival was now inevitable. The coastal area was bombarded from air and sea in preparation for the landing, on 1st November. One civilian was killed as the result of this. The LTTE which was itself preparing to leave without waiting to welcome the new arrivals, advised those in town to move towards Sunny Village. A group of civilians on the way to Sunny Village met another group coming from Sunny Village who said that they were coming because the army was going to land there. Both groups stood in confusion in the soaking rain near the hospital, where they had met. Then others came and warned them sternly not to loiter about as the army was coming, and to get into churches and schools.
The army arrived and there were no further civilian causalities. The refugees stayed in their camps for a week. When they got home they found practically every house ransacked with valuable items removed. Items removed included stationary, presumably to inform those at home about the progress of the shopping. Ladies who had Kanchipuram sarees not fashionable in the South, discovered to their happiness that they had a change of clothes. Some were lucky enough to get back their bicycles and motor cycles. The rest of the shopping was shipped to the South. In the end there was some season's cheer all round. The Muslim and Tamil residents could say, "We are thankful that they spared our lives." The others had the goodies.
By the end of November no food relief had been brought into Mannar. Quite appropriately, the population had to ply their tummies with drum-sticks (murungaikkai) - the only fruit or vegetable available in Mannar, besides coconuts.
As things quietened down, a young lady approached a young army officer to obtain permission to travel to Colombo. The officer, in a public relations mood, inquired after her well-being and asked if she was pleased that the operation had been conducted without any loss of life,. The young lady reminded him that the population were now paupers and refugees without even a change of clothes. Feeling embarrassed the officer patiently explained: "You see, I am from a good family whose name is renowned in national sports. Stealing is neither a part of my nature nor upbringing. The first group of soldiers we send on an operation like this are thugs. We are mindful that they may not come back. So we do not place too many restrictions on them. We just tell them to avoid killing civilians. That is the best we could do. If you have any problem, now, do tell us. We will take immediate action." The officer also informed the lady that 60 swords were recovered from the LTTE office and asked why a liberation group needed swords.
One does feel sorry for the hopeless plight of such officers. The bankruptcy of both parties is such that to fight this war, each is using sections of its society that are cornered and have few options in life. The LTTE is using children from among the Tamil poor, and the government is using the poor state of the economy to get its recruits. But there is an important difference. After decades of bungling and brutality, the government's task is that much harder and requires character, patience and wisdom. The LTTE is uncertain about its ends, but is very clear about its tactics. Against such clarity attended by the expected success, if the government can only send in this kind of an army, the future of those like the young officer is unenviable. Judging by press reports, there are rumblings within the army.
Looting being an officially sanctioned pattern
of army activity is now clearly established. [See our earlier reports]. When
the question of compensation for civilian survivors comes up, where will the
money come from? From the national defence budget, from the President's National
Defence Fund, or will it be put before the Paris aid group meeting in October
Following the operation in Mannar island (See 4.1) one ship bringing looted goods and already unloaded in Colombo, when a second was on its way in early November. A radio message was received conveying an order from the defence authorities not to bring any more loot into port. Two motor cars, four motor cycles and several bags were then dumped into the sea. Many of the bags were seen floating for a long time.
We drew attention to this phenomenon which transpired in the Amparai District during late September and early October. The Island of 1.11.90 carried a report obtained independently in its front page. There was a sharp reaction from the Minister of Defence who claimed that he had ordered an inquiry. The result of the inquiry was a denial couched in threatening tones in a Defence Ministry broadcast over news bulletins and published in the Sunday Observer of 4th November. All relevant press cuttings are given below:
["The Island" 1st November 1990]
Headless bodies washed ashore
From our Ampara Corr.
A number of headless bodies of adult males have been washed ashore in Akkaraipattu and Tirukovil recently.
It appears that the necks have been cut with some guillotine type machine, as the cut appears very fine and smooth which is not possible with any sword.
Fifty-year old Mrs.Periyathamby Marimuthu of Vinayagapuram identified one of the bodies washed ashore as one resembling that of her son called Rejendiran alias Raju aged 19. According to eye-witness about 32 such bodies had been washed ashore and "the Island" understands that inquests were not held into these killings.
Whenever a body is washed ashore, the people living in the locality bury it on the beach itself. They explained that the law is dead in this area, and there is no person in authority to entertain such complaints.
["The Island" 2nd November]
How does 'The Island' get reports before me? asks Ranjan
Plantation Industries Minister and State Minister for Defence, Ranjan Wijeratne said yesterday that 'The Island' in its 'verbatim report' of last week's Cabinet, news conference had given an accurate version of what he told journalists in reply to a question why the security forces did not take action to prevent the LTTE from holding a meeting at Valvettuturai. "I said that it could not be done because of the lack of initiative on the part of the forces. The "Daily News" reported it as "lack of ammunition". "The Island" had it correctly. They give a verbatim report. The "Daily News" put me in a mess. It let me down. "The Island" report was accurate.... it gave it verbatim", the Minister said.
When Mr.Wijeratne was asked at yesterday's Cabinet Press briefing about "The Island" report of 30 headless bodies being in Akkaraipattu, the Minister replied, "How is it that "The Island" gets it before I do?" He directed Defence Secretary, Gen. Cyril Ranatunge, who was present at the conference, to make a note of that and submit a report.
Investigations conducted revealed that newspaper reports which appeared on 1st Nov. 1990 to the effect that a number of headless bodies of adult males were washed ashore in Akkaraipattu were found to be not, only baseless, but also false and mischievous. The Asst.Govt. Agent of Thambiluvil and Tirukkovil has denied the discovery of any bodies with or without heads. He stated that the Grama Niladari for Vinayagapuram reported that there were no such bodies as reported in the media. The citizens committee for Peace and National harmony, Akkaraipattu South and Thambiluvil state that they were not aware of any such incident. The President of the Federation of Akkaraipattu Mosques found no truth in the allegation.
The manner of the inquiry is a comment on the state
of law and of the judicial process in this country. What happened? As was to
be expected, a local security forces official approached leading local citizens
and demanded a statement of denial. According to our information, a letter was
given to the effect, saying truthfully, that the said number of headless bodies
did not appear on any one day. The official came back later saying that he was
not satisfied. A second letter was then given.
On 24th January 1991, the Colombo press broke the news of 27 Sinhalese peasants massacred by the LTTE in Maha Oya. The contingent of security forces and home guards guarding a village in the area had apparently left when they were fired upon. The dead consisting 15 children, 7 woman and five men, were buried in a single grave the following day.
`The Island' said in an editorial comment: "The savage massacre of hapless civilians .... brings into question that infamous organisation's claims to be fighting for rights or freedoms of any kind ....these horrific killings in Maha Oya can only be interpreted as an attempt to fan the flames of ethnic hostility to even fiercer temperatures...."
The Island and the Colombo press, not through ignorance, missed out important elements in the tragedy. Both the government and the LTTE have been involved in shows of strength through a series of massacres of civilians. We follow from where we left off in earlier reports.
During the second week of December 1990, the LTTE ambushed an STF vehicle in Panama killing 7 STF men in the first incident of that kind in the STF controlled area. The STF was then escorting Sinhalese students for O.Level examinations.
According to information made available to us, about 54 Tamils over a wide area were killed by the STF in reprisals. Victims were picked up from Periyanilawanai and Padiruppu. Those picked up at Kallaru included 4 members of one family. Some of those picked up were students going from Kurumanveli to Kalmunai for O.Level examinations. Among those picked up were two teachers. One was from Thurainilawanai and another was Sritharan from Kottaikallaru. Five women from the 37th colony at Palaiadivattai, 5 miles from Vellaveli, were raped by Sinhalese home guards from the 32nd colony, during this period.
the man concerned hails from Jaffna and was employed in Eravur. In August the LTTE placed a land mine near his place of work. Fearing normal army reaction, he, and several others with him, took refuge with Muslims. Later the Muslims told them that it was not safe for them because of Muslim home guards armed by the government. They then walked about half an hour and took shelter with some Tamils. That same night (11th) two armed persons whom everyone took to be LTTE cadre, came to that area and asked them to leave, saying that they were going to attack Eravur. They then moved to Chenkaladi. the attack which commenced at 10.30 or 11.00 p.m. went on till the following morning.
Asked why the army did not intervene, he replied that they had been in Chenkaladi only two days and would not have known the area to move out confidently. According to him, "Ranjan Wijeratne came the following day and armed more Muslims and went away. Over the next two days the army went on a rampage at Chenkaladi. Since that time armed Muslims have been killing Tamils who went back to look over their property".
According to this man, the local opinion was that the Tigers had conducted the massacre at Eravur, because they were desperate and thought they could create friction between Sinhalese and Muslims. While we do not know enough to comment on this, it is significant, that according to a Muslim source in Eravur, the attackers had spoken Sinhalese!
This man and his party then moved into the refugee camp at the Eastern University. Several of them worked with the Red Cross. There were adequate provisions and electricity, and the refugees began to feel comparatively relaxed. This angered the Tigers who came to the camp and accused them of living comfortably while they suffered in the jungle, and left after warning them that they were going to attack Muslims. Thus began the panic stricken exodus from Vantharumoolai into snake infested jungles, starvation and disease.
The man found his way back to Jaffna, where the general belief was that the army had killed the Muslims. The man held his tongue and his life.
About 17th January, the army commenced an operation in the Vakarai area. Two columns of troops moved into that area, one from Polonnaruwa and one from Batticaloa. According to sources from the area, over 100 civilians who had taken refuge in the jungles were killed during the operation. Most of them were those who had been made to move out from the Eastern University and other refugee camps by the LTTE, last September.
Militant groups operating with the Sri Lankan army are now said to be moving freely around Batticaloa and the phenomenon of revenge killings has again begun. About 5 persons with alleged LTTE connections were killed recently. The severed head of a TELO man was placed before the house of an alleged TELO supporter. A principal from Araipattai, Mr.Nallaratnam, who was involved in peace efforts between the Tamils and Muslims was killed 2 months ago.
The lives and the well being of refugees has become a lethal form of political football. Shortly before the September exodus, 158 persons were taken away by the army from the Eastern University refugee camp. The army later admitted having taken 144. It was claimed subsequently that only 32 were taken and that they were all released. (See report by Rita Sebastian, Sunday Times, 4.11.90). None of those said to have been released reached their homes. The LTTE had visited refugee camps. Some have claimed that the disappearances were the cause of the exodus. Other LTTE sources claimed that it instigated the refugee exodus to save them from disappearing. But many others routinely treated LTTE visits and army forays as part of the game they had to survive and gave it little attention. Rather than in terms of cause and effect, this can only be understood in terms of the callousness of the government and the calculating destructiveness of the LTTE.
The LTTE's mobilisation of the people, through a mixture of persuasion and coercion, to observe national heroes week, brought about the expected response from government forces, but on a scale lower than expected. Decorations, pandls and public meetings marked the week, beginning 21st November. On 20th November Puttalai School, Pt.Pedro was bombed. There were no casualties as it was outside school hours. During the same session, the LTTE office in Pt.Pedro was bombed. The bombs missed the target and damaged nearby houses. The LTTE moved house without difficulty. But neighbouring civilians had to stay in their own houses warily awaiting the second attempt. In Vaddukoddai, a bomb aimed at an LTTE target felled a palmyrah tree. As usual, for those near LTTE establishments the choice was between leaving their houses and risk losing them, and remain, risking the wrath of aerial marauders.
The LTTE overrunning the Mankulam camp resulted in more punitive measures against civilians. Shells fired from land or sea towards an LTTE training area at the end of November injured Mr.R.D.Mylvaganam of Navindil and his servant girl. Mr.Mylvaganam, a retired land office was milking his cow in the morning. Both were treated by the MSF. Another old lady living next to an arms factory in Vadamaratchi was advised to move by relatives who made reference to aerial bombing. The lady replied that she was hardly concerned about the bombers, since the possibility of an accidental explosion next door weighed heavily on her mind.
On 6th December, a bomber circled Velayuthm school, Pt.Pedro, where slogans marking national heroes week were painted prominently on its wall. Puttalai school had been moved to this school following the former being bombed. Mr.Arulpragasam, a senior teacher of the school and circuit steward of the Methodist Church, who was doing some work inside, had gone out of the school to do some shopping. He was killed, together with 5 others by the bomb(s) which missed the school. Shells fired from Palaly base on the same day, killed an elderly lady in Urumpirai.
The activities by the forces provided an apt setting for the LTTE to campaign on the need to defend the land. Balasingam speaking in Pt.Pedro explained the leader's absence by saying that inspite of his advice to the contrary, the leader felt shy of meeting the people until the goal of Tamil Eelam is realised. Yogi, speaking in Manipay gave his line that there may come a time when all people would have to bear arms. This time in a departure from its earlier stand, the EROS dead were included among the martyrs. This issue had caused verbal friction in 1987.
The emotional climate resulting from these festivities was used to draw in more children to bear arms. A typical event was what took place at Sagara Vidyalayam, Varani in early December. The area leader went to the school with some of his men and made a rousing speech about everyone's obligation to defend the land. 12 children went with the Tigers. When the parents went to the local camp, they were told that the children were not there. It took them 3 days to trace where their children were being held. On going there, 9 children ran into their parents' arms in tears. 3 remained behind.
Visitors to Jaffna coming there after an interval have described the human scene as depressing. Hungry looking people moving from place to place with their meagre belongings, or going about with gunny bags and chits of paper in the hope of obtaining relief.
Again as many sensitive observers have pointed out, whatever the exciting distractions of military ups and downs, the people have lost, perhaps irreversibly. An entire generation of young persons have been variously affected. A large number of persons who were economically self-sufficient and possessed qualities of hard work and honesty, have been driven to grinding poverty. While the effects on the economy in the South are marginal, the effects on the Jaffna farmer are catastrophic. Housewives in the South had to put up with the minor inconvenience of items such as potatoes and onions, normally exported from the North in large quantities, shoot up in price. Owing to a blight in the South potatoes shot up from Rs.28/- to Rs.70/- per kilo. The Jaffna farmer who is unable to export these together with other crops would in Amy cases sell at a loss. Thus there is pressure on a large section of the population to turn to racketeering of one kind or the other in order to survive.
Another irony of the struggle is that the major source of cash inflow has become salaries paid by the adversary to government servants. The economy has to adjust itself so that everyone gets a share. Many in productive work have taken to some vocation that will give them a share of this resource. A common occupation is to hawk goods in short supply at highly inflated prices. Agents make money in charging heavy commissions from cashing salary cheques. With transportation to Colombo disrupted, there are astronomical profits to be made in transportation. On the way villagers and boatmen extort money to help people cross flood waters or to carry the elderly. A large part of the money again finds its way back to Colombo - a considerable part of it into the hands of travel agents constantly getting Tamils across fool-proof barriers in the West.
There are features of the current war which are common to all wars. Every war has produced its racketeers and arms manufacturers who were amply rewarded for their patriotism. But through the tragedy there also often developed new forms of social organisation, new ideals, a spirit of reconciliation and new institutions to prevent war. In our case every development is negative. The Tamil identity has been obliterated. People trust each other less and love each other less. There is no concerted move to protect those most adversely affected and build social solidarity. Leaders of communities or nations fighting a war where there was a perception of a common cause have even co-opted their political opponents to share in the responsibility of organising services and the people. Instead, here, thousands who felt for the community have been arrested and tortured as traitors. Because it suited their politics, the leaders have actually presided over the community going to pieces and have even played a leading role in the extortion and racketeering. Jaffna is unique in having its law enforcing authority kidnapping people for ransom. In early December a senior professional was kidnapped. The wife who approached the rulers was asked to come back with a certain sum of money. A close relative who then went to them was told, that if the matter dealt with his immediate family they would entertain him. But that this did not concern him. People were being told again and again that loving their neighbour was none of their business. Those who did the contrary were terrorised instead of being rewarded.
These developments combined with the stifling of any independent thought or organisation has had a devastating effect on character. Literally thousands complain about personal irritations such as the effect of military distractions on their children's education and motorcycles commandeered by the rulers and returned with the kick-start broken. But they do not wish to see the overall tragedy. While describing the fate of other gun carrying children as voluntary, they would bring their own child to Colombo complaining of unhealthy impositions. They would also readily rationalise the fate of `traitors' and Muslims.
It is not difficult to imagine how these
persons would react when they become expatriates - the one safety valve allowed
and encouraged by the LTTE. They would look at the struggle sans the personal
irritations they had complained about bitterly at home. On the other hand the
slogans of the LTTE had been popularised long ago by the now traitorous TULF.
The Tamil community appears to be in for a long haul.
About 11.00 a.m. on Sunday 20th January, notices were air dropped in the Valvettithurai area asking people to evacuate within 48 hours. The bombing however commenced 4 1/2 hours later around 3.30 p.m. 4 bombers, 3 Avro transports and 2 helicopters took part in the operation. The coastal area between Urikkadu and Nediakadu was subject to heavy bombing for two hours. It was to be expected that many civilians would have been in Valvettithurai under these conditions. According to reports 8 civilians were killed, and of the 30 injured, 21 were admitted to Manthikai hospital.
On the 21st VVT, Kokkuvil, Valikamam North, Sirupiddy and Puttur were subject to bombing and heli-straffing. 4 bombers were seen above Kokkuvil and 10 bombs were dropped, about 5.00 p.m. It is not known whether the target was an LTTE camp or the kerosene queue that was on the road. A retired principal, R.Mahadeva, was killed and 7 others injured.
In the meantime the LTTE issued a notice, addressing the people `who had co-operated with them fully and had inspired them in the armed struggle'. The aerial attack by the Sri Lankan state, it said, was to demoralise the people. The Sri Lankan state, it said, which could not succeed in Mankulam or in the Fort cannot succeed in making any advance or establishing a camp in VVT. It further said, "The whole of North Tamil Eelam is under aerial attack. It is therefore meaningless to seek safety by moving from Vadamaratchi to Thenmaratch or vice versa. In order to defeat your enemy's intentions, please dig bunkers and stay in your own homes."
On the 22nd, two bombs fell in front of Hindu Ladies College, Manipay, one of which exploded. It was 12.30 p.m. when children were in the school compound. It was the third day of bombing at VVT. 6 fire bombs were dropped from a transport at 7.00 a.m. 15 more were dropped in the afternoon. Several buildings were seen burning for hours.
The Eelanadu reported that 5,2000 families
from the affected area in Vadamaratchi had sought refuge in Thenmaratchi. The
bombing was said to be most intense around the former army camp at VVT. The
LTTE bunkers were hardly affected, and their Pasilan cannon were loaded in preparation
for an army advance. It appears that the army had delayed its plans.
In VVT, about 5 schools (including Sithampara and the Roman Catholic school), 4 temples and 500 homes were affected, according to the `Eelanadu'. Among the temples bombed is the famous Athiady Vembadi Pillayar Kovil.
the situation with regard to essential commodities is very bad in Jaffna. Over a matter of days, rice shot up to Rs.52/- per kilo, and petrol, Rs.400 per bottle (1/6th of a gallon). The situation was becoming so out of control that the Tigers who had previously organised or presided over the black market suddenly imposed price controls. Goods promptly vanished from the shelves. Subsequently the LTTE announced sporadically that it had discovered hoarded goods, which it was to distribute. Crowds which queued for kerosene at Rs.30/- a bottle, often received 1/4 bottle after a long wait. It is expected that there will be severe shortages until the black market is restored to make the smuggling of goods from the South worthwhile. Even then, the prices will be far too high for most people.
With regard to medicines, the government
hospitals, as of 24th January, had satisfactory stocks for the time being. But
nothing is available from the shops. At the rate at which people were getting
injured, the situation with medicines too may become critical.
A sense of identity was forced on the Tamils through the common experience of state oppression. At the same time there is enormous potential for conflict within Tamil society itself. WE have pointed out that the nature of the current politics, instead of defusing such potential to strengthen the community in the face of state oppression, does the opposite. The ability to recruit and brainwash children from all sections belies the fact that there are deeply felt divisions hidden by the supervening threat of the Sri Lankan army's projected arrival. Parallel trends are also in evidence in the South.
To understand the deeply felt suspicion with which the LTTE moves in certain parts of Vadamaratchi, one needs to realise that Vadamaratchi is a patchwork of diverse communities and political influences. Karaveddy, covering a sizeable area, forms the agricultural core of Vadamaratchi. Its inhabitants are hard working and are mostly farmers or farm labourers - many of them from the depressed class. The traditional Left was strong in the area and many of its people politically sophisticated. The LTTE did not command a large following there until it wiped out the other groups militarily. To this day, the LTTE is unduly sensitive to both ex-militants from other groups as well as to hints of dissent, which a more mature force would have ignored.
In May the LTTE looked for Sellathurai Atputhan (20) of Karaveddy North. Being unable to find him, they took his father, mother and wife as hostages.
Sebaratnam Kanthan (21), an EPRLF supporter was arrested in April. He was being held at the LTTE'S detention centre at Karaveddy VC with about 40 to 50 others.
Uthayakumar (23), a mill owner from Karaveddy was detained by the LTTE during a night in mid-August. The charge against him was that he had financially helped a friend in the Peravai, a defunct Left group from that area. Uthayakumar is the second of two sons in a family having in addition five daughters.
Kuhathasan (Kuhan) was picked up by the LTTE at Athulamman Kovil, Karaveddy in mid-August. The temple has a well that provides drinking water for the area. As a tradition, people were not meant to keep their footwear on in the temple precincts. Female LTTE cadre used to come in a vehicle to fetch water, and used to keep their boots on, disregarding the tradition. One day the local people put a board requesting users to remove their footwear. The female cadre who came disregard the sign. Some boys who were there drew their attention to the sign. The female cadre ignored them and went away. 10 minutes later, LTTE boys arrived in another vehicle and detained 25 bystanders. The parents complained to Selvam, an LTTE intelligence man from that area. 10 were released in early September. Up to the end of October, there had been no information about the rest, including Kuhan. On 20th August, an LTTE camp at Kachchi was bombed. The LTTE later claimed that 49 detainees were among those killed. A person well known to an LTTE guard killed during that incident, was asked about the detainees who were killed. He remained silent. After the others in the company had dispersed, he took the inquirer to a side and told him, "I did not want to discuss the subject in front of the women". He added that it was true that that 49 detainees were killed. But those who died in the bombing were 3 detainees and 2 LTTE guards, he said.
Thirukumaran (21), son of Rajaratnam and Chandralingam
(Chasi) (23), son of Ambalavanar were arrested by the LTTE at Vathiri on 26th
October. The arrest was at Irumpumathavady, Vathiri junction. They were charged
of talking about the LTTE at the junction. Chasi had been trained locally by
the LTTE before the IPKF arrived.
Vasantha Sulosana aged 39, mother of two children from Navatkiri, Neerveli was executed publicly on the 15th of August by the LTTE. The LTTE accused her of indulging in `financial fraud' using the name of LTTE. This was the first public execution after the IPKF's withdrawal. During the IPKF period, she rendered her help to the LTTE in a number of ways - especially giving food parcels to their camps in her village. It is worth noting that during this period people who used to give them food were subject to severe torture and even death. If the IPKF or the groups in power at that time came to know about this, by all means she would have become a martyr. Thus she had a strong desire to help the LTTE, unmindful of the risk she took at that time. She came from a `well to do' family from the village and she used to help people through natural generosity. According to sources from her village, at times she ran short of money. Then she used to sell her lands to settle the money. This attitude of hers made people feel that she was a little irresponsible. The kith and kin of the detainees who were detained for ransom by the LTTE used to go for her help to mediate their release. While doing this she seems to have collected nearly Rs.90,000/- from various people, without the LTTE's knowledge, and used it for her own purposes. In the first week of July, the LTTE somehow came to know about this and she was taken into custody. Hearing this her uncle sold few of her lands and repaid one lakh to the LTTE. The lady was a heart patient and during her detention she suffered from severe chest pain and was admitted to hospital. But the LTTE did not release her even after that and whenever her sister went to the camp, they promised that she would be released soon.
On the ill-fated day - 15th August she was brought to "Muthiraisanthai" in a van with a man by the name of Shanmuganathan known as Guru master. According to the LTTE he also had indulged in `financial fraud'. Both of them were blind folded. Around 4 o'clock in the evening both were given the `lamp post punishment'. Vasantha Sulosana became a hapless victim of a woman's gun. Incidentally her daughter's age attainment ceremony was held on the day she was killed. Actually her sister visited her camp on the previous day and requested them to release the mother to attend her daughter's ceremony. The person who was in charge promised to release her the next day. When they were anxiously waiting for her arrival, a van came to her place driven by a woman and her daughter asked the woman who was in the front seat, "Where is my mother?". The woman in the uniform sarcastically said, "She is coming behind." The girl was under the impression that their mother was coming by bus and she ran towards the bus stand which is a few yards from their house. But her son who saw his mother's body through the shutter screamed. Immediately the body was pushed out and the van sped away.
This cruel murder brings out two things revealing the true nature of the LTTE. A woman who took lot of risks and helped them in a period of uncertainty has a strong character of her own. Of course, she has used her contacts with the LTTE which was involved in abducting people and demanding ransom, to gain certain benefits for herself. The LTTE could have disassociated her from them, and could have warned her about her conduct. After she had returned the whole amount of money, the way in which they have killed her shows their brutal bankruptcy.
The people at Muthirai Santhai witnessing the act were really appalled. But there are also people justifying the whole thing. After this there were another 6 to 8 public executions in the Jaffna peninsula alone. In the meantime from September 15 onwards up to 500 names were given out as persons executed by the LTTE, by their Information Centre for detainees. Because of the threat posed to families, it is difficult to get details about the victims. The pattern of events regarding these incidents also brings out certain sadistic features of the episode. The LTTE was keeping a large number of people under detention and parents were never allowed to see them. There are people aged around the 40's who have been taken in just because they had contacts with the IPKF, immediately after the IPKF withdrawal. During IPKF's presence, the people who were residing near the camps became very vulnerable due to IPKF officers' visits to their houses. Those who were arrested allegedly had cordial relationships with IPKF personnel. Nobody knows what type of threat they can pose at this juncture to the LTTE!
During the early part of September some of the kith and kin who were regular visitors to the information centre to find out the fate of the beloved ones, were told to fill certain forms and were informed by the people who were in charge that they will release their relatives on September 15. When parents, sisters and relatives visited the camps on the 15th, the LTTE started to read out names and said that they had been executed. This went on for a week and the list is said to have contained up to 500 names. Those who went to see the loved ones were told in no uncertain terms that they had been killed. Why did they allow the mothers and relatives to come with hope and suddenly give the cruel news? The people who were there threw stones and sand and cursed the LTTE for their evil deed. According to one eye witness, some mothers vowed to give birth to a new generation of children to fight the Tigers!
A senior LTTE figure speaking to a relative of a detainee had said that they were holding 8,000 prisoners, including 2,000 women. Whatever the truth, other sources guess that 4,000 would be a minimum. This reflects the spate of arrests during and around September. We have described the conditions under which they were being kept in Report No.5. All reports [See other reports in this section] suggest that the bulk of the detainees are suspected of political connections, not even necessarily opposed to the LTTE. Some were picked up in Vadamaratchi because they had received leaflets by post from India from former associates of the Peravai. Apparently they were kept under observation and their contacts were noted.
Torture of detainees has been routine. Many had been forced to dig bunkers in dangerous places. A group of persons with heads shaven and chained to each other, digging bunkers near the Kachcheri were identified as EPRLF prisoners. According to the same LTTE spokesman, they do not easily kill people now. But when released these persons cannot move out of a specified area, must report daily to the LTTE and will have to perform jobs assigned to them by the group - generally of a military nature.
According to the last information we received, the LTTE has routinely ignored ICRC inquiries about its detainees. If it does, it would have to conform to international norms. Any talk about a cease-fire and a democratic process would be meaningless unless this scandal is ended. [It was reported in the Colombo press that the ICRC had visited about 40 policemen held by the LTTE about 9th January 1991].
According to other sources, one of the constant fears of a detainee is that if he succumbs to torture, he would be listed as having been killed during aerial bombardment. On one occasion about September a large number of parents of detainees were summoned to a camp in Jaffna. The parents went in anticipation of their sons being released. Then over 100 names were read out as having been killed during bombing. The total number which the LTTE claims to have killed is said to be up to 500.
Parents of detainees usually fear reporting the issue to anyone out of fear for the safety of their child. Those released are enjoined under threat not to talk about their experience under detention. The ICRC is technically meant to help relatives to draw up affidavits about those detained. But fear of informants prevents them from going near the ICRC. By contrast, in the South, reporting detentions to the ICRC has become accepted as routine and useful at times. Thus the fate of the detainees is one where little information is available and people dare not talk about individual cases.
A large number of girls and children were recruited and were flung into battle in reckless fashion with little understanding of the purpose and the lack of maturity to come to terms with blown limbs and permanent physical disability. Once the original boyish sense of adventure and evaporated with injury, children often bitterly cursed the movement and even attempted suicide. Others talk about the experience in a dazed matter of fact manner. The two attacks on the Fort and the attack on Mankulam resulted in a large number of such casualties. The LTTE which had evidently not given serious thought earlier to problems of injured women and child cadre, appears to have come up against unforeseen difficulties.
The following were related by eye witnesses. The scene was Manipay hospital just after the attack on Jaffna Fort on 5th August. The ward was full of injured girls. A woman major in military uniform with her hands on her hips walked from bed to bed, mechanically repeating the same thing: "Do not be sad. We will liberate our soil". Her disposition was totally incongruous with the mood of the injured, writhing in pain. Some had even hesitantly tried to commit suicide with cyanide capsules. One girl with a leg blown off and a slit mouth nonchalantly related her experience: "We surrounded the Fort and announced that unless they surrendered, we would attack in 10 minutes. The planes arrived and we were getting missiles from the air as well as from the Fort. We ran. There was an explosion and I fell down. I tried to move my leg to get up. But nothing happened. I then noticed that my trouser leg was hanging, and my foot was somewhere behind. Then an `anna' (elder brother) carried me. After he went a few paces, there was another explosion. The `anna' who carried me collapsed dead. As I fell, I saw Mathangi. She too was dead. I lay on the ground for 20 minutes while shells flew over me. One exploding shell spit my mouth....."
Another girl with a head injury was at Manthikal hospital. The place reeked with blood. The tractor in which her party had been travelling in Karaianagar had caught a shell when they tried to attack the naval base. After being injured as girl held on to her gun as instructed until someone collected it. Asked how she felt before the attack, she said that it was the most exhilarating experience. They were simply thrilled as they had a cup of tea before setting off. Then she became anxious. She asked the lady close by, "Akka (elder sister) will you stay with me tonight?" Later in her sleep she cried, "Amma (mother), amma, come and stay close to me!" Then: "Drive the tractor slowly, my head hurts.... I asked the akka to stay with me, I don't know if she is here....."
Towards the end of the national heroes week celebrations, the families of the martyrs were collected for a ceremony. There was little choice. They were escorted by guards with guns and grenades and taken in vans. They were addressed by the deputy leader Mahattaya renowned for honeyed words: "....It is a great privilege for me to meet you. You have made the immense sacrifice of a member of your family to the cause of liberation. It would have been my great pleasure to have come to you individually. But alas, because of the exigencies of the situation, you had to come to me... We were in a weak position after fighting the Indian army, having lost many of our cadre. So we had to talk to President Premadasa to buy time and build up our strength. Now we are in a strong position to attain our goal..... Only five percent of the people really support us. Because we are now strong, many opportunists are coming after us and are working for us.... You are the link between us and the people. You must help us. You must identify those opportunists and traitors and let us know. You must identify those persons who demean our struggle by spreading lies. Tell us also of those who speak against us..."
The impression left after the meeting was
that rather than wanting to honour them or to assert confidence, it was
an admission of weakness and of gnawing inner despair. The exercise was about
She was a woman of about 50, A Trincomalee
refugee in the Jaffna district. Some younger members of her family were in the
LTTE. Her rations had been stopped. On 20th December, she went to the village
committee (Sitturavai) to lodge a complaint. Faced with a reluctance to reverse
the decision, she had criticised the LTTE. Persons came to her home that night,
and asked her to come the following day and that her rations would be issued.
When she went the following day, she was sent in turn to 3 LTTE camps and then
there was no trace of her. There was no prospect of pursuing the matter because
the LTTE said that she had not come, and the boy who had gone with her was refusing
to speak. Nothing more had turned up by new year. Such incidents illustrate
increasing sensitivity to any criticism, even when the cause was hunger rather
than political ideas.
Three people were killed in a mysterious way in Kayts on the 16th of December 1990. Their bodies were found in a well, tied together with a huge stone, 36 hours after the incident. They were identified as Anthonipillai (75), his wife Theresamma (65) and his sister Elisammah (72). Anthonipillai's boy is said to have been found without any wounds or scars. Both of the women were squeezed to death.
While the inhabitants of Kayts were fleeing from their places in fear of the Lankan army's retaliation, these three remained in their homes assuming that in any case they won't get harassed because of their age. They seemed to have related this to some of their relatives that the Sri Lankan army and the EPDP had come to their place twice in search of the LTTE and no harm was done. The gruesome killing had brought panic to that area. Why they were killed still remains unanswered. It is worth mentioning here that the area in which the incident took place is about half a mile from the Kayts civil hospital and the area has virtually come under the Sri Lankan army's control after the recent operation against the LTTE. There is an LTTE sentry post situated near the place of the incident.
It has been known that members of the LTTE had all sworn an oath of absolute loyalty to the leader and the slightest sign of dissent is ruthlessly rooted out. But members who wish to leave had been allowed to leave provided they are perceived as posing no threat to the organisation. A large number of those who remain, do so with a feeling of discomfort, fearing the world outside as they fear the organisation.
Confessions made to an aunt by an LTTE area leader killed by the IPKF in November 1987 are revealing. His brother who described the deceased as a `lamb' before he joined the organisation, came to know of these confessions later. This area leader was very loyal to the leadership and never questioned their orders. These qualities were put to use. He was occasionally given secret instructions to kill certain comrades in the organisation marked by internal intelligence as having dangerous tendencies. The method often adopted was to get into a conversation with the victim, take him out on a motor bike ride, and do the deed in a lonely place. Having done this several times the area leader felt deeply disturbed and poured out his mind to his aunt. After about a year in the organisation, he developed some maniacal tendencies. He said that when he faced someone he just felt like pulling out his pistol and putting a bullet into the person's head, even into his father's head, just to see how the victims suffered.
He had also told his aunt that secret instructions had at times been given to trusted individuals to surreptitiously finish off a comrade on the battle field, so as to put the blame on the enemy. This had long been suspected. So much so that whenever a prominent LTTE'er was declared martyred on the battle field, seldom did persons close to the LTTE take it at face value.
When a close relative of the area leader, an expatriate scientist and a functionary of the LTTE's ROOTE, was told of these confessions, he put it aside as something regrettable. Members of the late area leader's immediate family in London who do not know of these confessions, still faithfully attend LTTE meetings.
During national Heroes week in November, a street was named after the late leader in his hometown, and the leader, and presumably his victims, were commemorated as martyrs.
Following the IPKF offensive in 1987 when the LTTE was disorganised and civilians were hysterical, an order went to area leaders from the top, to kill any civilian protesting against the laying of land mines in his area. Except for Lollo and Mathi, all other leaders are said to have ignored this instruction. Mathi and Lollo were killed about a year later by the IPKF. Lollo's list of individual killings is said to have numbered more than 60. Gamini, an area leader in Nelliady, was sent on punishment transfer after internal intelligence reported him too soft on civilians.
The LTTE spent large resources observing in Jaffna, National Heroes Week last November. This was regarded by the leadership as a tactical necessity. But cadre from the Eastern province, who form the majority, are said to have taken this badly in consideration of the misery in the East. It has been suggested that the reference to the suffering of Tamils in the East in the cease-fire declaration was in deference to this internal development.
Observers with contacts within the LTTE report that a large number wish to leave the organisation, particularly in the 16 to 18 age group. One of those who left and went abroad recently was a notorious area leader, mentioned in the landmine incident in UTHR(J) Report No.2. In that incident he had threatened a man who discovered a landmine next to his house and had consulted a neighbour. He was told that if he had a problem he could quit his house, but it was criminal of him to tip off his neighbours and spoil the planned attack.
This leader has curious story behind him. His parents were unpopular persons in the village who used to pass comments at other people's children who had not joined the movement. When their own son Ravi joined, they took it badly and went in search of him and pleaded with him, but to no avail. When Ravi returned from training, his sight used to strike terror into the villagers. `He is going to do something. Get ready to run', was a frequent remark. His family was influentially placed in the local Sitturavai (Village Committee). When he left, his parents accompanied him to Colombo to make the travel arrangements.
Another leader who left and went abroad is one who played a prominent role in the assassination attempt on the ENDLF leader in 1987, which led to the death of 4 AOG churchmen.
Those who extol the sacrifice and courage of ordinary LTTE persons, wilfully ignore their internal sufferings. Nor do they acknowledge that they were allowed to real power to determine the movement's direction. They were used. The only power they enjoyed was to kill ordinary civilians and to bring misery to many homes.
According to those who have been in touch with a number of persons who want to leave, their fear and anxiety is to do with their future. An immediate problem is that if they leave and some informer points them out to incoming Sri Lankan troops, they would almost certainly have a summary death. Supporters of the cause also have a duty towards those who leave.
Many public institutions in Jaffna are said to be applying normal rules to employees who are absent from work. The university has been dealt with separately. The education department has sent out a circular with excerpts from normal regulations for absenteeism - first a period on no pay and then termination. Even the government does not maintain that the situation is normal. Do these normal regulations apply to people subject to bombing and shelling? Apart from normal risks, how about heart patients, Muslims and those requiring regular medical care that is not available? All very abnormal!
Although this incident took place more than 3 years ago, it illustrates the difficulties involved in peace keeping, and even more, in monitoring the observance of Human and Democratic Rights, where one needs to take for granted that there is no change of heart.
In early September 1987, 4 AOG men, including 2 clergy and 2 lay persons, were shot dead at Uduvil junction at 10.00 p.m. while travelling in a white van. The following day an LTTE loud speaker vehicle went around Chunnakam accusing the traitor groups brought in by the IPKF of killing even Christian clergy. The truth was widely sensed, but few dared to talk about it. The following account was given by an ex-LTTE man who was privy to the facts. "The group led by Kutti Prabha was waiting at Uduvil junction to ambush the ENDLF leader, Rajan, who was expected to come that way in a white van. But unknown to the group, Rajan had already passed. When the van with the clergy came, one of those in the ambush signalled the van to stop. The driver, perhaps excited at seeing the gunman, swerved towards him. Immediately, the order to fire was given. On realising the mistake, Kutti Prabha went to teh top man himself. In anticipation of the IPKF, then in a peace keeping role, coming to examine weapons, they were ordered to clean their weapons and deposit them in different camps".
The truth usually comes out. But there remains
the problem of protecting unarmed individuals who practice freedom in
such a vicious atmosphere. The IPKF was negotiating power between armed parties
and lacked the sophistication, training or the motivation to protect or even
be sensitive to democratic activity at the level of the people. That was one
of the key reasons for its failure. Much more imaginative thinking will have
to be done to have a monitoring process whose first concern is the unarmed people.
[From `The Virakesari", 30th December]
The aftermath of the operation on the Mankulam army camp brought on untold sufferings to the people of Vavuniya and Mullaitivu. In the months of (late) November and (early) December 18 civilians lost their lives in different acts of atrocities including aerial bombing and army in discipline. In the Nedunkerny Mathiamadu district 3 people who were taken away by the army in early December are still reported missing. And, to date, not a single soul knows what fate befell the seven lorry drivers who left for Jaffna from Colombo on the 24th of November. That same day an unidentified armed gang broke into a hamlet in the Vavuniya Thekkankadu district and hacked to death 8 persons including women and children. Aerial bombing and the uncertainties of the time have brought great damage to the economy of the area, notably to cultivation. In the Thanaimurrippu, Kulakattu district the reservoir developed a leak from damage caused to the bund of the dam. This poses a great threat to paddy cultivation. There is much damage caused to building and property not excluding schools, temples and other public institutions. In Mathiamadu, Paranthan and Sannasi areas the homes of several inhabitants were looted prior to attack from the air. The people rendered homeless continue to live with relatives and friends.
In calling off the ceasefire the government put forward the following demands to the LTTE [Daily News 12th January 1991]:
Reiterating the government's commitment to the search for a peaceful solution on the North-East question, the government called upon the LTTE to demonstrate its concern for civilian hardships (resulting from LTTE action) with the following steps:
* Release all hostages and not take any more of them;
* Stop all torture and execution of all captives and prisoners or
* Stop using civilians in mine-clearing operations;
* Stop recruiting innocent children and innocent citizens for combat;
* Stop all reprisals on civilians;
* Stop all acts of terrorisation of civilians as a means of obtaining their support; and
* Allow humanitarian access to all prisoners-of-war.
Coincidentally the demands in their wording and order bore a close resemblance to demands put forward to both sides by the International Alert on 4th January. The IA declaration was received by the government with mixed feelings, particularly because of its reference to a federal solution. It is good to know that the government is capable of learning from those frequently maligned as `human rights do-gooders'. Hopefully, it may in time follow them.
Significant omissions from the original IA declaration were references to bombing and shelling and food blockades. Had the LTTE responded positively it could have gained in political image. [See Appendix for the IA declaration].
4.10 The ICRC taken to task:
The following report appeared in the Island of 31 January:
Vehicle with Red Cross markings fire's at
(By Norman Palihawadana and Shamindra Ferdinando)
Air force helicopter on Tuesday morning strafed a vehicle with Red Cross markings in the northern Jaffna peninsula after a group of LTTE terrorists travelling in it allegedly fired at the helicopter with light machine guns and other arms, the Army said yesterday.
The helicopter was flying from the strategic Palaly base towards Elephant Pass when it `located' a vehicle with Red Cross markings about three miles east of Kodikamam. At that time the vehicle was moving towards Iyakachchi, the Army said.
Then the vehicle had moved into a coconut plantation and this `action' had prompted the pilot of the helicopter to hover over the spot. Within minutes terrorists had jumped out of the vehicle and allegedly opened fire at the helicopter.
the helicopter too had retaliated with machine gun fire. The Security Forces believe that at least a few terrorists had been killed or injured in the `incident'. The Operational Headquarters of the Defence Ministry was aware of the Kodikamam `incident' and the alleged use of a vehicle with Red cross marking to transport terrorists. Army said yesterday.
The Defence Ministry is expected to raise the alleged use of a vehicle with the Red cross markings to carry terrorists and ultimately fire at a Government helicopter with the ICRC.
Since the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) under Mr.Philip Comtesse moved to help the affected people of the North-East war, some security forces officers have continuously expressed the possibility of the ICRC assisting the LTTE terrorists.
The ICRC upto now has failed to blame the LTTE for any of the crimes committed in the past seven months, sources aid. Since June last year nearly thousand Sinhalese and Muslims had been killed apart from murdering hundreds of captured policemen.
However despite the ICRCs willingness to express continuous concern over security forces operations against the terrorists, they had not blamed the terrorists for anything, security officers complained.
"The Island" was unable to reach any ICRC official by the time of going to press, yesterday afternoon.
The Red Cross has long been a matter of controversy in this dirty war. During the spring of 1987, a government helicopter bombed an ambulance with red cross markings, taking injured persons from Pt.Pedro hospital to Jaffna hospital, destroying the hospital ambulance, and killing the driver and the patients. Later on, the IPKF accused the Sri Lanka Red Cross of transporting arms for the LTTE. Whatever the truth of the incident reported, it is sheer facetiousness to draw the ICRC into it, even a hint of malice.
The ICRC has been performing a yeoman task under difficult conditions, coming under accusations from both sides. When the LTTE and the Sri Lankan army were battling it out near the Fort in September, shells fell on the Jaffna ICRC office, and not by accident. We know for certain the ICRC's genuine concern for the welfare of civilians. There was very real concern for prisoners, both in the South as well as for those held by the LTTE in the North. There is no question of accusing the ICRC of dishonesty or hypocrisy.
The ICRC has operated according to rules and has intervened in the press in accordance with these, during the war. The first time in early September was to deny a government claim that the LTTE had prevented it from transporting food for civilians in the North. The second time was during the third week of October after the ICRC assumed control of Jaffna hospital and an air force plane bombed within the area under ICRC control. The Island should have known better how the ICRC operated, including its rules of confidentiality.
Criticism of the ICRC has to be made at a different level, such as how relevant are its rules, how much it should bend them, and whether it is realising its full potential or not. Such examination in a constructive spirit would be useful and that is the prerogative of the press. When everything looked absolutely dark in the South in 1989, the press too treated the coming of the ICRC as a sign of hope. Why so much bile when the ICRC had also extended its services to Tamils in distress? [Top]
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