Rewarding Tyranny: Undermining the Democratic Potential for Peace
The Diplomatic Blitz and the Message
The War on Terrorism and Sri Lanka
What of the People?
II. REWARDING MURDER AND DISINTEGRATION
III. FANNING EMBERS IN THE EAST
Mutur: April, 2003
LTTE Statements on the events
May-July, 2003: Continuing Provocation and a New Trend
The Incidents of August 2003
Context Of Conscription
The Sammanthurai Murders
The LTTE’s Obsession with the EPRLF(V)
The LTTE, the State and Tamil Insecurity in Mutur
Buried Links in the Disappearance of Adrian Selvan
The Withered Tree – the Demise of a Family
The New Vanniars
Children and the New Bondage: the LTTE’s Compulsory Military Training
Conscription in the Amparai and Batticaloa Districts: An Unexpected Turn in Valaichchenai
An Impenetrable Wall of Silence
6th October: An Unexpected Turn of Events in Valaichchenai
Fallout from the Valaichchenai Protest
Branding the Very Young
UNICEF’s Role and De-Conscription of Child Soldiers
Ceremony, Misery and a Plaintive Cry
IV. TRENDS IN THE NORTH
Jancy’s Ordeal: In the Dark Shadows of Pongu Thamil
A New Turn in Hartley College, Point Pedro
V. MUSLIM POLITICS: TAMIL HISTORY REPEATING ITSELF?
Militancy in Mutur
The Limitations of TULF – SLMC Politics
VI. INTENSIFICATION OF ATTACKS ON OPPONENTS AND FORMER OPPONENTS
Abducted and Missing
Beaten, Harassed or Attempt on Life
VII. DISPLACEMENT, REFUGEES AND THE LOGIC OF FAIT ACCOMPLI
No Peace Without Challenging Ideologies of Conflict
Rallying Extremism in the South
The Dangerous Logic of Fait Accompli
The Advance of Hubris
Cases of Conscription and Forcible Induction of Children
LTTE-Controlled hinterland of Mutur:
Persons detained in forced labour camps on account of their escaped children
A Tribure to Subathiran by a Tamil Coward, from the Ceylon Daily News, 21st June 2003
This latest report by UTHR(J) examines grave
contradictions between the rhetoric of peacemaking in
Special Report 17, Rewarding Tyranny: Undermining the Democratic Potential for Peace, provides documentary evidence of the LTTE’s continued abuse of civilians: killing of political opponents, violence against Muslims and conscription of children, and shows the destabilizing effect of these activities on Sri Lankan society. Communal violence is on the rise, and party and inter-party squabbles at the parliamentary level are growing increasingly bitter. The report warns that the LTTE’s concurrent military build up and strategic deployment threatens not only Sri Lankan security, but the security of the region.
UTHR(J) remains critical of the continued “appeasement”
policy towards the Tigers, practiced most strenuously by the UNP and
As the new report notes: “the course of the ‘peace process’ tells its own story very clearly:”
Contrary to all expectations of the agreement signed with the UNICEF to oversee the demobilization of child soldiers, the LTTE has once again intensified its conscription programme, renewing its demand for one child per family in several eastern districts, while making aggressive intrusions upon school children in the North. In Batticaloa the SLMM received on average 5 complaints of child conscription every week during the first three weeks of September from parents brave enough to come forward. Reports on the ground suggest further intensification subsequently.
Democratic opponents and their families, (and others long out of politics) continue to be targets of LTTE violence. The report documents the cases of at least twelve murders and seven unresolved “disappearances” of persons abducted by the LTTE in August and September. Several serious assaults resulting in injuries serious enough to require hospitalization were also reported.
LTTE violence against Muslims and constraints imposed by the
Tigers on Muslim economic activities are creating a dangerous situation in eastern
The September press indicated that some Muslim youths were
gravitating towards militancy, and had sought to procure arms to protect their
communities. Clearly vigilante activity in Mutur showed that the violence was
more organized than it had been previously and this is troubling. But one fact
stands out: from the start of the cease-fire up to May 2003, guns had only been
used by Tamils. The agents who used them were members of the LTTE, either regulars
or vigilantes, and they did so with LTTE backing. The first time Muslim vigilantes
used a gun against a Tamil was when Gunam Subaraj was shot on
Abuse of vulnerable groups in the North-East by the LTTE continues
unabated. It is time for
Special Report No. 17
The LTTE has engaged in a deliberate effort over the last 21 months to advance its political and military hold on the North-East under the cover of the cease-fire, to gain access to billions in foreign assistance, and meanwhile to contain any democratic effort (local or international) that might challenge its basic totalitarian nature. While its leaders honed their diplomatic skills, their cadres terrorised opponents and sowed communal discord. The LTTE’s audacity in disclaiming any responsibility for the killing of its political opponents in the government-controlled areas, mirrors the disingenuousness of its assurances to the Sinhalese people and the international community that it is earnest in its quest for peace.
The effects are being felt. Violence and communal unruliness are on the rise; as are inter and intra-party political squabbles at the parliamentary level. While Tiger leaders parade around European capitals shaking hands with every dignitary the Sri Lankan government can muster, at home, on the orders of these very same leaders, their frightened, confined and often-impoverished democratic opponents and their families, (and others long out of politics) are being abducted, tortured and killed.
|A peace process is generally understood to involve progressive movement towards a stable order, based on broadly agreed upon principles which promote resolution of conflicts rather than their aggravation. Assessed by these very basic tokens, the "process" in Sri Lankan was not about peace. It was an exercise in public relations, spearheaded by the Norwegian and Sri Lankan governments that intentionally ignored clear signals that the LTTE was not operating in good faith. "|
The LTTE, which routinely denies placing children under arms, was forced to implicitly admit it engaged in the practice, by the fact of an agreement with UNICEF in March this year, on demobilizing child soldiers. However, the UNICEF’s sacrifice of principle in the name of realpolitik has parodied the effort to bring relief to child soldiers. Contrary to all expectations of the agreement with UNICEF, the LTTE has once again intensified its conscription programme, renewing its demand for one child per family in several eastern districts, while making aggressive intrusions upon school children in the North.
UTHR(J) has repeatedly argued that a peace process that accommodates systematic violence is a contradiction in terms. We document the LTTE’s conscription of children, its violence against Muslims and against its own people, not simply to illustrate how LTTE terror functions, but to show its devastating effect on society. The fascist ideology practiced by the LTTE -- one that denies independent thought, compassion and tolerance -- will never bring peace and dignity to the Tamil community or security to its neighbors; its destabilizing nature in the region must not be underestimated.
Current efforts to secure a lasting peace in
The Government’s bankruptcy is evident in its critical, but
perhaps misplaced, reliance on
The Norwegian interlocutors, the Japanese, who are mustering the financial incentives, and the international community, together with the Government, have shown a dangerous ineptitude in their stark failure to hold the LTTE to international norms, which it repeatedly acknowledged. Were the LTTE’s perception of interest in a federal solution, it had at its disposal international goodwill and war wariness and a desire for peace in this country as cardinal assets. In the Guatemalan case, even a militarily weak rebel group became a key partner in the peace process through the agency of the Assembly of Civil Society.
What we have in this country is a total perversion of the peace process by the LTTE. Instead of calming the situation and allowing the country to ‘think peace’, it has steadily stepped up the warlike rhetoric. It has used the military space provided by the ceasefire to conscript children under the very noses of the Army, to launch a massive military build up and to secure strategic deployment. The course of the ‘peace process’ tells its own story very clearly:
Paragraph 16 of the Tokyo Declaration reads: “The Conference also urges the parties to move expeditiously to a lasting and equitable political settlement. Such a settlement should be based upon respect for human rights, democracy and the rule of law. In this regard, the Conference looks forward to the parties reaching early agreement on a human rights declaration, as discussed at the sixth session of peace negotiations at Hakone.” But what does the Declaration really mean in practice?
On linkage between donor support and progress, Paragraph 18
includes, “Participation of a Muslim delegation as agreed in the declaration
of the fourth session of peace talks in
An important contradiction in the Interim Administration approach
with sinister consequences is being overlooked. The High Security Zones issue
can be resolved only through a political settlement leading to de-militarization.
The interim administration having a brief for re-construction in the absence
of a political settlement, will quickly lead to rancorous, irresolvable contradictions
over the High Security Zones. The LTTE apparatus is well practiced in making
the Government and the Sinhalese look unreasonable, even while it pushes its
military stakes. At this time the LTTE has turned a traffic accident in
The response of the international community was reflected in
the World Bank’s announcement on 16th July of a release of $1 billion
over the next four years for reconstruction in
The World Bank, ADB and the Japanese Bank for International
Cooperation (JBIC) issued a statement on 2nd October after a two-day
meeting. It spoke of their commitment to assist reconstruction and development
in line with the Tokyo Declaration, and to fund new projects based on progress
in the peace process. AFP quoted Peter Harrold on financial aid, “Merely
resuming the talks between the
Whenever questioned on human rights, Harrold has merely reiterated the Tokyo Declaration, but avoiding the subject otherwise, as in the 2nd October statement, even as child conscription and assassinations by the LTTE are alarmingly on the rise. As indicated above, the Tokyo Declaration’s intentions regarding human rights, democracy and an expeditious political solution have been surrendered almost casually. The idea of progress now appears to rest largely on a neo economic agenda. We argue in this report that this is an area that calls for much rethinking.
There is little doubt now as to who was calling the shots,
but by this time the attention of the international community was wandering;
Along with the meeting of donors in
There is no doubt that they all raised the same issues, including killings, with perhaps differing emphasis. What is more important is the impression they make on the LTTE. During the period covering this diplomatic offensive, from 7th to 28th September, there had been in the Batticaloa and Amparai Districts, a record of 6 murders by the LTTE, 3 disappearances and one injured victim in hospital (see Chapter VI below). This is not surprising.
The LTTE media represent this intense courting of its functionaries by diplomats as the international community endorsing their exclusivist ideological claims (see articles by Thuraimehanathan and Venithan in Thamil Alai, 20.09.03). They see this as a special privilege granted to them for the sacrifices of their dead, and hold it an insult for anyone else, the Muslim leaders for example, to think that they should sit with them as a party to the negotiations. Any injunctions by diplomats about killing or child conscription do not register. Why should they, if they are not seen to be seriously meant?
The EPDP complained in a letter to the Japanese ambassador
(17.9.03) expressing distress over the Japanese Special Envoy Yasushi Akashi’s
negative approach to meeting democratic Tamil parties. It pointed out that members
of the Tamil opposition parties who were being decimated by LTTE assassins were
excluded from the delegations
If one is in any doubt about the message the LTTE is getting
from the West and
“In support of the interests of Sinhalese communalists, some Muslim leaders [Rauf Hakeem in particular] are engaged in creating divisions between Muslims and Tamils…Therefore if communal clashes break out in the North and East, it is the people of this region who will be destroyed. Hence the Muslims must be extremely careful in this matter… When a separate police unit is raised for the protection of Muslims, it will lead to many problems. The Muslims must understand this. When an ordinary problem explodes into a clash, it is the Muslims of this region who will bear the destruction… If a special police unit is created under the present conditions, the Muslims will have to be very vigilant to prevent communal clashes. We have experienced at first hand the tragedies and losses resulting from armed struggle in the past. The Muslims too must take note of this.”
This interview came against the background of Muslim leaders
demanding government protection after at least 28 deaths and disappearances
of Muslims during the peace process. Much of the message is in the man saying
it and his bloody record. The context would suggest to the ordinary reader the
Although in general the war on terrorism as led by the US has tended to politically arm ‘terrorist movements’ rather than weaken them, in our context it has some impact on restraining the LTTE from embarking on war, as they had regularly done earlier. However, it could not restrain them from terrorising the community locally and carrying out their agenda. That too because the UNP's appeasement policy, which was backed by the Norwegians, undermined even the small but significant degree of external pressure applied on the LTTE.
The Sinhalese nationalists have on their part pounced on the War on Terrorism as their only platform to deal with the LTTE. Glossing over the inherent inconsistencies of the US-led war, they have harped on its ambivalence towards the LTTE. They leave world opinion unconvinced by trying to hide what the rest of the world knows – the long and harrowing history of state terrorism against the Tamils – and shedding instead tears for the Tamil victims of LTTE terror. Reliance on the lopsided US-led war on terrorism to deal with the LTTE in the absence of any local initiative to disarm it politically is doomed to failure.
Such an initiative must seek to disarm not just the LTTE, but also all ideologically narrow, violent and anti-democratic forces that are now coming to the fore. Many of them are offspring of the same forces that marginalized the minorities, while playing up the insecurity of the Sinhalese to keep themselves in power.
Meanwhile, the peacemakers are relying on military parity as the sole rationale for peace.
They miss the point of the LTTE strategists’ reliance on this peace process as the stepping-stone to Eelam, and the manipulation of Tamil civil society under the aegis of the same.
This is in part a reflection of the impotency of Colombo-based civil society actors, who too have no strategy except to hope that the current global milieu would induce the LTTE to compromise. They have largely lost the ability to mobilize pressure from below-upwards to influence the different actors – in particular the UNP to build a constructive relationship with the opposition parties, especially with the PA, towards a real peace process that brings human rights concerns to the forefront.
Unable to do this, many have become mere fiddlers, playing to the Government’s discordant orchestration of appeasement. Their camaraderie with the UNP and the cry by the JVP and other extremist forces to eradicate the LTTE militarily are the two sides of the same coin. Both show no concern for the ordinary Tamil people, whom they both crush. Both conspire to arm the LTTE politically, which plays on Tamil insecurity and claims to offer the only viable solution. [Top]
The people are intelligent enough to be cynical about the present peace process. Their hope against hope that the LTTE may be serious this time has faded and they cling now to the hope that the current state of non-war will last just a little longer.
For members of the Tamil community, the widely publicized issue of rehabilitating child soldiers is fast being overshadowed by the whole society facing a sort of LTTE conscription. From 1986, the LTTE has tried to impress on the people that their duty is to obey “the movement” without question and in effect to be cogs in its military machine. They will be assigned roles in the Orwellian world of Eelam, as fighters, bearers of fighters, publicists, demagogues, bureaucrats, or even human rights activists who are blind to what happens within.
Once such a regime is in force, there is no need to abduct children. They are simply there, conditioned and ripe for harvesting. The LTTE has no other vision for human society. Although this ordering of society has been implicit in the LTTE’s propaganda for nearly 20 years, it has largely failed because the people had some room to manoeuvre or escape. However by increasingly atomizing society by advancing its terror, it has gone some way towards making the poorest sections bow to a fate of not being able to exercise guardianship over their own children. Protecting that right is an object of human rights activity, which this peace process is fast eroding.
When the International Community came in, the people did expect them minimally to ensure that human rights and democracy were enshrined in the process. When Sri Lankans see the International Community more interested in keeping up appearances with the LTTE, meekly accepting the shifting of goal posts and leaving the process a shambles with mere token protest, naturally their worst fears are aroused.
The motto of the LTTE “The thirst of the Tigers is the Motherland of Thamil Eelam” is still the slogan at rallies, Pongu Thamil events and other gatherings. But recently, they are, as it were, flagging a new cry: “The thirst of the Tigers is an Interim Administration”. Many peace activists see it as proof that LTTE has changed its colours.
Those who vilified earlier calls for an interim administration by other Tamil groups, remonstrating that we need political rights and not interim solutions, are now very deliberately, even fearfully, avoiding any discussion of the core issues. Is this an inconsistency on the Tigers’ part? No. Any one who follows developments on the ground knows there is no inconsistency.
The process allows the LTTE to be totally unaccountable. It permits the Tamils’ “sole representatives” to continue their exercise of power through sheer violence, and to control and manipulate Tamil society. Hence the leadership’s perception of interest in this process is to achieve their “goal” which is intertwined in form and content. Eelam, that is, in form, and absolute control of its polity in content. But the concomitant political developments in the South will further aggravate the already uncertain future confronting the Tamils. Unless the Norwegians and the international community see clearly to insist on meaningful accountability, by both the LTTE and UNP, the LTTE will drag the Tamils again into massive death, waving the mirage of Eelam as their banner.
One could feel how swiftly the shadows are closing in since
the murder of Subathiran less than four months ago. An incident in
Since the beginning of the peace process a number of Colombo-based NGOs have been going to Jaffna with foreign speakers to hold discussions and seminars in places like the University of Jaffna, on topics like, federalism, political solutions, alternative models, reconciliation and challenges of peace around the world. These efforts were well meant and provided some life and discussion in an otherwise drab environment.
Recently, four young men accosted an intellectual who had been
to one such seminar. They told him, “Annai, you mustn’t go to these seminars”.
The man replied, “ Why, I only sit and listen, I don’t say anything”.
One of the young men shot back, “But you might speak to them afterwards
in private!” This kind of intimidation is very effective against the background
of political killings, which is part of their purpose. Unknown filibusterers
have deliberately insulted some delegations from
One day the peacemakers will give up and leave. To defend their LTTE-centred appeasement and dismissive attitude towards other ‘disruptive’ interests, they will blame this or that ‘extremist’ group or the President. But that would be to confuse secondary with primary phenomena. It does not take much perceptiveness to discern that the UNP government’s crudely opportunistic elevation of the LTTE was pregnant with tragedy.[Top]
Karuna’s grand tour of Europe placed in sharp relief against the murder in broad daylight of Navaneethan (Patkunam) by his goons a few days later, in Batticaloa town, tells us what this MoU and peace process are now really about. Navaneethan had been a member of the EPRLF(V) and like many others left for reasons, including the lack of resources. Navaneethan lived with his family in Batticaloa town and worked as a mason. At the last elections he had worked for the party. The LTTE had visited his home twice before and missed him. On his way to work at on 15th September, an LTTE party led by Sathyan and Mathan accosted him near the petroleum depot.
Sathyan pulled out a knife and stabbed Navaneethan, who
fought back and protested, “I am not in any movement, why do you want to
kill me?” This went on for 5 to 10 minutes in public view during rush hour,
Navaneethan fighting back attempts by the goons to stab him. Finally Mathan
pulled out a revolver and shot him several times. Navaneethan died in hospital.
This happened at the height of the diplomatic blitz by donor countries and on
the day of Mr. Akashi’s press briefing in
The LTTE’s deliberate disregard for the terms of the MoU could not have been more public. Complaints have been made to the Police and the SLMM. The Police are ‘investigating’, but no arrests will be made. Since, as we understand, Murder is not listed specifically as a violation in the MoU (although ‘violence against civilians’ and carrying weapons in the government controlled area are forbidden), the SLMM will not investigate.
Though the SLMM has now said publicly that political killings are violations of the cease-fire agreement, the real problem might be their utter lack of any capacity for investigation. They will ask Karuna, or one of his nominees, during their regular meetings and he would deny having anything to do with it. SLMM, Batticaloa, would then send a report to HQ, who may in turn take it up with the Police, who will continue to ‘investigate’.
Privately, a member of the SLMM in Batticaloa has said he believes that the LTTE has been, by the course of events, given a clear message that they could get away with anything, and so have pulled out their old hit lists. The Police appear to be under orders from the top not to act on complaints against the LTTE. The member opines that this is a bad patch, and things might ease up if an Interim Administration came into effect in which the LTTE had to be accountable to the Sri Lankan Police. Giving the LTTE police powers, as they have demanded, would make things worse than they are now, he added. But the international community has already lost the game of nerves. It has no stomach for matters that may complicate the drive for appeasement.
The resettlement of Muslims in the North whom the LTTE meanly robbed and expelled to live in miserable conditions is another issue requiring special consideration from donors. Resettlement is their right and cannot have anything to do with the LTTE’s likes and dislikes. Everywhere in the North-East the economic life of the Muslims is being deliberately squeezed and their slow displacement that is taking place in the East today may become a catastrophe in a time of war. However, to represent the Tamil people as beneficiaries in this game is the characteristic folly of Sinhalese chauvinism. Where there was malnutrition in the LTTE controlled areas, it is still there. Fear and hatred of the Muslims is being deliberately cultivated among children, who deserved far better, to force them into military service.
No, things are going badly and it is better to be honest about it. In early August, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued a joint statement of concern about political killings by the LTTE along with a detailed report by HRW. Just after this an expatriate supporter reportedly met LTTE leader Prabhakaran and Intelligence chief Pottu Amman. We understand that the latter’s casual remarks evinced no change in the LTTE’s approach to political opponents. The Japanese Special Envoy Mr. Yasushi Akashi met the LTTE leader for 3 hours on 8th May. The LTTE press statement on the meeting concentrated on the utilization of donor funds. What it did not say is contained in an instructive story in the diplomatic grapevine.
During the meeting, Mr.Akashi made a vigorous plea dealing
with democracy, human rights and the conscription of children. The LTTE leader,
the story goes, heard him out impassively without a word of response, and no
The vast majority of the people in any community are not extremists by nature. Even if they are unconvinced they are willing to give an initiative by a new government a chance. They cannot be blamed for having no confidence in what is going on now in the name of peace. This loss of confidence is evident in the deep and even violent divisions within the SLMC. The TULF is transfixed. If the JVP is emerging as a major ‘disruptive’ force, it is the peacemakers who must question themselves. The UNP’s handling of Southern opposition parties too raises questions about its seriousness in seeking the essential Southern consensus. While the President is being blamed for a ‘negative’ approach, the UNP has failed to heed repeated calls to broad base participation in the talks. The LTTE, which has spared no effort to keep things that way, is the only force with a clear grasp of what is doing. Its current strategy is clearly reflected in recent events in the East.[Top]
Among the techniques used by the Sri Lankan Forces along the
eastern seaboard south of Mullaitivu in the 1990s, was that of calculated provocation,
by introducing Sinhalese settlers or by importing Muslim agent provocateurs
The LTTE then, in the traumatic year of 1986, did much of the work for the Sri Lankan forces by decimating the other Tamil groups. Were it not for the Indo-Lanka Accord, the Sri Lankan forces would have succeeded. Today, however, it is the LTTE that is using the technique against the Muslims in the East. Attempts to constrict the economic life of Muslim traders in Valaichenai had begun before the incidents in Mutur in June 2002 (our Special Report No. 14). The events in Mutur culminated in massive LTTE-organised retaliation, principally against properties, business premises and crops. This was followed by Muslim protests in Valaichenai, where the LTTE killed 14 Muslims and followed it up with further constraints on their economic life.
In the East in particular, a large proportion of fields worked
by Muslims were in areas where access required the cooperation of the LTTE.
When SLMC leader Rauf Hakeem and other Muslim MPs met the LTTE leader in April
last year, the LTTE leader agreed to all their requests to normalize the lives
of Muslims. But for Muslims returning to
After nightfall on 31st March 2003, two married Muslim youths Maqbool Naim (28) and Abdur Razak (28) sailed eastward in their boat towards the LTTE-controlled Tamil area of Kadatkaraichenai. According to sources from the area, they had gone at the invitation of a Tamil businessman from Sampur, as Muslim fishermen often did, to trade in dry fish, ganja or timber. The youths did not return and it was presumed by the Muslims that they had been arrested by the LTTE as confirmed to them by Tamils coming from the area. The latter said that the missing youths would be produced in LTTE courts after inquiry.
However, a very balanced report prepared by the Muslim Information
Centre (MIC, 28 Apr.2003) points out that when local community leaders sought
information by visiting LTTE offices, LTTE leaders acted evasively, keeping
the community leaders waiting from 9.00 AM to 3.00 PM on several occasions.
As frequently happens when dealing with a fascist force, the community was divided.
One section felt that the youths would be released in two weeks if they did
not agitate for the release. Thus when the youths were not released, they blamed
the politicians and those who agitated with them. The drama was reminiscent
of the disappearance in 1986 of
Meanwhile, tensions between Muslims and the LTTE had been on the rise over other causes. Under the MoU, the Muslims began moving into parts of their traditional economic zone lying in areas under LTTE control and tried to reoccupy abandoned villages and take possession of properties that had contributed to their livelihood, in for example, Uppural southeast of Mutur. MIC points out that the LTTE prevented them by citing such reasons as landmines, and coincidentally or otherwise, Muslims were approached by Tamil individuals and organizations with offers to buy up their very fertile properties. There were also according to Tamil sources, the usual tensions that arise when men from a better off, property owning stratum of society have dealings in an impoverished area, which is made worse when an ethnic factor is also involved at a time of rising tension. (See the Sammanthurai killings below.)
Further, Muslims going into LTTE-controlled areas such as Sampur identified some of their possessions presumably looted during the disturbances of June 2002. A number of complaints were made to the SLMM and they sometimes even got back their goods. The Muslims attribute this to be the main reason for the LTTE imposing a prohibition on Muslims going into the Sampur area, which was in force when the two youths were abducted. M.K. Isiyathumma (48), the mother of Jabir, who had been going to the LTTE regularly inquiring for her son, committed suicide on 15th April, leading to a heightening of tensions in Mutur.
Meanwhile, Ministers Rauf Hakeem, Abdul Cader, M.H.M. Azwer and MPs M.M.Mahroof, M.M. Thowfeek and ‘Thidir’ (‘Surprise’) Thowfeek had rushed to Mutur. The LTTE, which had been silent on the subject of the missing youths for 15 days issued a statement denying responsibility and regretting the death of the mother. The LTTE accused a mysterious ‘third force’ of trying to foment division between the Muslims and Tamils.
While Rauf Hakeem complained about the helplessness of the Muslims and demanded government protection, Mahroof, who is from the UNP, said that Hakeem should resign for failing to protect the Muslims. As during the previous year, the Muslim UNP MPs were following the party line of keeping up appearances with the LTTE and not blaming it. In turn, with Hakeem getting a bad press as a troublemaker, the situation became more confused.
As for the disappearance of the two Muslim youths, Tamil villagers in the LTTE-controlled area east of Mutur are not in any doubt about the LTTE’s involvement. The stories circulated often try to attribute some reason, and one such story is that the youths belonged to the ‘Osama Group’ or the ‘Jihad’. Other stories are variations on this theme. Another is that one of the youths was caught escaping and killed and the other was also killed to cover up the affair. A less speculative reason comes from the Muslim delegation that met the LTTE’s Trinco political leader Thilak for talks on 21st April. Without admitting anything, Thilak casually told some in the delegation to tell Muslim fishermen to keep off the Sampur-Kadatkaraichchenai area as they have facilities that are secret.
We have no doubt that the LTTE was behind the attacks on Muslims during that period. No independent group of persons would be allowed to take the initiative in such matters, and, what does not suit the LTTE, it could have stopped quickly. Besides guns were used by Tamil mobs, as seen also from photographs by journalists. The sequence can be seen to fit the pattern of provocation of Muslims, Muslim reaction and major reprisal. Apart from reports from our sources and the MIC report, we have also used reports in the TamilNet to fix the chronology.
While Thoppur lies about 6 miles south of Mutur town, a Tamil crowd came across the river from Kattaiparichchan into the Muslim area of Vattam east of the town and burnt 15 boats belonging to Muslim fishermen near the Mutur jetty and also some houses and looted Muslim shops.
17th – 18th April 2003: Beginning the 17th night and going into the morning, angry Muslims reacting to what happened in Vattam burnt a number of houses and shops belonging to Tamils in Mutur town. In the process a Sinhalese shop and one or more Muslim shops were also burnt. About 250 Tamil families (over 1000 Tamils) sought refuge in the Roman Catholic and Methodist churches in Mutur town. By this time the Government had declared curfew in Mutur town, but the Police, especially, were not enforcing it. Policemen were seen standing by idly and watching as Tamil premises were burning.
19th – 20th April 2003: At mid-night about 10 members of the LTTE came to Jinnah Nagar and Arafat Nagar, which lie about the 58th Mile Post, 5 miles South of Mutur. They talked to the Muslims who served them tea, reassured them and left around . At about the two agricultural settlements were raided by a crowd of 300 led by the same LTTEers, following the throwing of a petrol bomb. The Muslims began running to the nearest army camp. The attackers removed jewellery from several of the fleeing women. The raiders looted the place removing valuables, paddy and tractors. About 650 gunny bags of paddy were burnt. The raiders also polluted the wells by throwing into it products of their destruction of shops and houses.
The following gives the general pattern of destruction as conveyed by independent observers: “There was a clear pattern of destruction in the Muslim villages, where the attackers generally came from the LTTE-controlled area. The exceptions were Thoppur and 58th Mile Post, where the attackers came from the government-controlled area, and in one instance, along with some Sinhalese, after the shop of a Sinhalese man married to a Tamil woman was burnt. The geographical pattern of the destruction tells its own story, indicating very clearly who the attackers were. Close to the border virtually every Muslim house was burnt. Further into the Muslim area, the pattern changes rapidly to a mixture of houses being damaged with machetes and items burnt inside houses. This in turn was followed by physical destruction but no burning, indicating that the attackers ran out of fuel and inflammable matter.
“The attackers in Mutur town at first burnt whatever they could, and subsequently took to destroying physically after stocks of petrol were finished. Everywhere, the intention was clearly to do as much damage as possible in the shortest time.
“Houses where doors and windows did not open easily escaped with a few machete marks on doors and windows. Valuables like, bicycles, fishing nets, boats, fridges, television sets, radios, closets with cloths, and in one instance a huge collection of books, were particularly targeted for destruction. In a number of instances the house itself was not burnt, but the things were collected together in a corner and burnt. While cooking utensils, pots and pans were systematically damaged, home gardens were usually left alone. In a number of cases, it was reported that household goods and furniture were thrown into the well.
“Among the telltale signs of direct LTTE participation in the attacks on Muslim neighbourhoods in Mutur town are the use of hand grenades in damaging several houses. Offhand, at least seven such houses were visible to the casual observer. These appear to have been chosen randomly. One may conjecture that the main purpose behind the use of grenades was to instill fear into those returning. In the Tamil areas of Mutur town, destruction was equally willful, but because it was confined to small patches, the proportion of houses burnt was much higher”.
Two more Muslims were shot dead. On Monday 21st April, Mohamed Rabsali (41) of Iqbal Nagar was shot dead, reportedly while bathing in a tank. The following day, Meera Lebbe (50), a resident of Selvanagar, was shot dead while his daughter Lafir Sashila survived with injuries, bringing the number of Muslims killed to five.[Top]
On the 16th April, the LTTE political secretary for Trincomalee issued a statement denying their role in the abduction of the two missing youths and blamed a third force that was against the peace process (TamilNet). At a meeting with TULF MPs in Killinochchi, on 19th April LTTE political leader Thamilchelvam said, “We are constantly striving to strengthen unity with the Muslim people. In spite of this incidents have taken place. Some [Hakeem?] are making mountains out of molehills and are creating violence” (Virakesari 2.04.03).
On the same day Seralathan, an LTTE dignitary, at an Annai Poopathy memorial meeting in Batticaloa, took exception to Rauf Hakeem’s request for more army personnel to protect the Muslims. He warned the Muslims that they must not forget that they are part of the Tamil Eelam nation whose flag will fly at the UN one day. Their economic resources are among the Tamils, he said. Should political forces drag the Muslims towards seeking illusory protection from the Sinhalese state and political forces, he added, they would have to face enormous losses and huge tragedies (Virakesari 21.04.03).
A statement by the LTTE’s political wing in Trincomalee (Thinakaran,
Sunday 20.04.03) said that in spite of their informing the public through leaflets
and the media that they had nothing to do with the disappearance of the two
Muslim youths, a group [Hakeem’s SLMC?] seeking to make political capital out
of this has created tension between the Tamil and Muslim communities. It said,
“Consequently, Tamils have been attacked and their belongings were destroyed.
The Muslim people have prevented the movement of goods and foodstuffs into areas
controlled by us. On
At a meeting arranged by SLMM in Trincomalee the following day (21st), LTTE’s Thilak and Moulavi Kareem of the Mutur Mosque signed an agreement committing themselves to rebuild trust between the communities, and to jointly call for impartial law enforcement by the security forces in areas under their control, while the LTTE guaranteed the security of Muslims in areas controlled by them. On the 22nd, LTTE’s Trinco military leader Colonel Paduman issued a statement condemning the attack on a group of Muslims in Allai Nagar, near Thoppur, denying the LTTE’s involvement and blamed it on forces against peace. This was the day an allegedly mysterious party shot and beheaded Meera Lebbe.
The rhetoric, propaganda and actions of the LTTE, with regard to the Muslims, are similar to those of the authors of the July 1983 violence against the Tamils and the counter-insurgency that followed. Deplorably similar are also the combination of patronizing appeals and threats to the Muslims, with the insistence that, like it not, there is only one nation that dictates their identity and terms of domicile.[Top]
One factor stands out in the violence involving Muslims under the MoU up to May 2003. Guns had been used exclusively by the Tamil side, and, without belabouring the point, we assert that the agents who used the guns, home-made (of which we have no specific instance) or otherwise, were members of the LTTE, either regulars or vigilantes, and did so with the LTTE’s backing. In discussing the violence in Mutur and Valaichenai in June 2002, we found no evidence of there being a politically motivated, organized and armed Muslim extremist group called the ‘Osama Group’ as claimed by Tamil politicians and the media. We argued that the floating of such group was an attempt to muffle the highly disproportionate violence suffered by the Muslims. As against 14 Muslims killed, one Tamil was killed, and that by police firing in Valaichenai during June 2002.
There are Muslim religious zealots, market thugs and younger educated Muslims who talk about doing more to defend the Muslims in a time of crisis. It is natural for them to come together when the community is under threat. Whether they call themselves Osama, Jihad or whatever the name one may wish to give them, there is no evidence that they were an organized force up to April 2003 and every indication is that they were marginal in Muslim society. But the deliberate deprivation and humiliation inflicted on Mulsims by the LTTE, as the Tamils should well understand, was bound to drive these marginal elements to the fore, eventually.
Take the continuing direction of these incidents. In Mutur town itself the destruction in the Tamil area is prominent and most Tamils have left except a remnant that takes refuge in the two churches when there is trouble. But for the Muslims the losses are crippling. For a community involved in trade, fishing and agriculture, many businessmen have closed shop and moved out. Fishermen have become highly restricted. In each Muslim settlement attacked by LTTE mobs, people have abandoned the fringes and so-called border areas. More and more fields have been abandoned because it is not safe to go there. Muslims have been beaten, killed or warned off places that had been their traditional zones of economic activity for generations.
After every crisis the Government is quick to announce that
more army patrols have been ordered for the protection of Muslims, life is fast
returning to normal and peace is progressing on track. UN and international
agencies refuse to look deeper and risk rocking the peace boat. In reality things
are going irretrievably wrong. Take the beating up of Muslims who went to Uppural.
It was not a newsworthy event in
After the violence, the LTTE turned the screws on the Muslims further by banning Tamils in Mutur and the surrounding villages from trading with Muslims. It was also in effect harassment of the Tamils who had to go far to buy their requirements from Sinhalese traders in Dehiwatte. Tamil farmers who normally sold their produce in Mutur, also suffered unbearable losses. The lengths to which the LTTE went were petty and humiliating to the Tamils as well as Muslims. Tamils coming from Trincomalee by ferry and going to a Muslim shop for a cup of tea or to purchase something, found themselves confronted by Tamil vigilantes telling them that they should not go to a Muslim shop. Persons carrying packets of biscuits were asked at LTTE checkpoints where the goods were bought. If they declared the goods to have been bought at a Muslim shop, they were confiscated!!!
These are not ordinary communal riots after which things can settle down to normal. There is a force with a clear agenda now courted beseechingly by the international community and against which the Government has gone into a state of voluntary paralysis. In July the LTTE’s new camp at Kurangupanjan among the rice fields chiefly of Muslims in Kinniya became a heated issue, but not because a number of Muslims were losing their livelihood. Such things are too much part of a pattern to be stray incidents.
In Batticaloa the LTTE claims that 5000 acres of paddy fields
belonging to the Muslims have been given back and another 35 000 will be given
back in due course. But for the Muslims in practice, something happens, like
the two farmers killed near Sammanthurai, and they are afraid to go. Grazing
land for Muslim cattle herders is now limited. A herder Mustapha, of
The desperation and anger felt by Muslims in Mutur expressed itself in a way that is not unexpected. A few of them decided to obtain weapons. It appears that the LTTE came to know of this because the Tamil agents from whom the weapons were sought had tipped them off. Sources in Mutur believe, and it is plausible from the events, that both the LTTE and the Muslim vigilantes prepared hit lists, based on persons who were most active on the other side. The Muslims were being further drawn into a trap.[Top]
3rd August 2003, Sunday: Noorthamby Rilwan, a police officer who had served in intelligence was under interdiction and was residing at his home in Jinnanagar, 59th Mile Post, Mutur. He was shot dead by the LTTE in the morning while cycling to his restaurant.
According to Muslim and Tamil sources from the area, Fareed, an SLMC supporter was known to take a significant part in violent agitations, while Riyaz was regarded fairly decent.
As people became aware of the tension, the Tamils, as before, went to the two churches as refugees. The mood among the Tamils was that earlier it was their properties that were at risk, but now there was no guarantee for their life. At mid-day on the 15th at Palathoppur 4 Tamils stabbed E. Jiffy of Azath Nagar who was cycling through. He was hospitalized with injuries.
On the 16th morning the LTTE abducted two Muslim fishermen at sea. They were Mohamed Rafik (46) and his son Rafik Firoz (15). Tensions rose steeply as a large crowd of Muslims stoned a passenger bus. The police used tear gas and batons to disperse the crowd. Five passengers and four policemen were injured according to the Daily News.
Muslim elements too reportedly kidnapped a Tamil teacher and student. All four abducted persons were subsequently released. Rafik and Firoz complained of beating.[Top]
The bodies of the two men were recovered the following morning. Nothing was stolen. Had instinctive suspicions about the incident led to communal violence, the natural target for Muslim vigilantes in Sammanthurai would have been the Tamil suburb of Veeramuani.
However, the mosque authorities in Sammanthurai were determined to prevent an outburst. They, to their credit, acted quickly, summoned the people, urged restraint and brought the situation under control. As to the main incident itself, confusion was rife. Among the Muslims themselves there was reluctance to blame the LTTE for two reasons. One, they would have been accused of throwing spanners into the peace works. Two, in an effort to resolve their parochial concerns, they were talking to the LTTE – at least talking – and this went a long way towards clinching the point for many: That it is not in the LTTE’s interest to kill Muslims at this time, when it has to impress on the international community its capacity for responsible behaviour.
The theories proposed to explain the killing of the farmers centered on groups with a motive for sabotaging the peace process: Some Tamil group opposed to the LTTE or a Muslim group opposed to the SLMC, particularly some extremist group. We rule out both possibilities. The LTTE has under the MoU terrorized and gunned down all Tamils who might pose the slightest hindrance to its hegemony. The others live in camps under police protection. In our judgment the choice was between some group in the security forces and the LTTE and we can largely rule out the former.
Such devious action has hardly ever been known to originate from individuals. It needs a very ruthless and calculating terrorist organization that has developed the capacity over many years along with routines to preserve secrecy. The latter involves brutal punishment for any breach of secrecy, and for dissent. Concomitant with this would necessarily have been a series of internal killings and general fear. The only organization that fits the bill is the LTTE.
The Muslim community has a long way to go to reach that state .Its politics remains contentious and open. No one party has succeeded in edging the others out. There is political violence, but far form being secretive; it is in the nature of open gang warfare. The kind of terrorist culture required for devious killing, preserving absolute secrecy by enforcing fear on the wider community, and complex logistics, does not exist in the Muslim community at present.[Top]
What in our judgment was the most important context behind the incident has not even been reported. Contrary to all expectations and the deal signed with the UNICEF, the LTTE has once again intensified its conscription programme. Reports of conscription in significant numbers in the area came from Karaitivu, Veeramunai, Akkaraipattu, Thambiluvil and Vinayagapuram since mid-August. The LTTE’s renewed insistence was one child per family.
Veeramunai, the sizeable Tamil village closest to the scene of the two murders above was visited by the LTTE on 15th August. It forcibly took away 14 youths. Karaitivu and Mandur are quite close and several Tamil villages lie in Sammanthurai West AGA Division. Resistance though passive was intense and people were hiding their children or sending them out. The Muslims were killed two days after the LTTE visited Veeramunai (which is incidentally under government control!) and it came back to Veeramunai a week later on the 24th and took away at least 5 persons. A Muslim backlash was useful and contriving one was not out of character with the LTTE’s record.
True, if one sees the LTTE’s principal need as succeeding in the peace process, killing these Muslims and all its manoeuvres in Mutur are utterly irrational. But movements governed by immoral ideologies have irrational compulsions. Was it rational for the UNP government, which wanted the open economy to succeed, to foment the July 1983 communal violence? We will return to the incident below.
In response to the Muslim agitation, the Government sent a special police team to conduct investigations. By tracing records of the numbers dialled on a cell phone belonging to the missing persons, the Police remanded M.A. Fowzie and M.B. Hussein from Oddamavady, Valaichenai, north of Batticaloa, whom the missing persons had gone to meet. While earlier reports said that the missing had gone to buy a trishaw, police sources, according to TamilNet (25.08.03), said that the disappeared youths had purchased a T-56 automatic rifle from the persons remanded.
The Police were evidently working on the theory that Fowzie and Hussein had abducted, killed, or knew the fate of, the missing persons. Oddamavady is a relatively small, crowded area and had anything happened inside, the Police could have easily found out. There is little prospect of any Muslims taking a corpse for disposal outside Oddamavady without the security forces or the LTTE finding out. About ten days after the event, we heard form a community leader who had spoken to SSP Sheriffdeen, then on special duty in Kalmunai, that the search for the fate of the missing persons in the Muslim quarter had drawn a blank. The media too lost interest in the issue of the suspects whose first remand date expired on 8th September.
We now come to the report in the Thamil Alai and Paadumeen.com of 22nd August that ties up the LTTE’s fatal and inevitable conjunction of activities – the attacks on Muslims and Tamil opposition groups and the conscription of children and adults.[Top]
“The Varathar Group (EPRLF(V)) Sells Weapons to Muslim Gangs in the Eastern Province”
“Certain gangs operating behind the cover of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) are getting prepared to attack Tamils according to information received. To this end they are purchasing huge quantities of weapons. It is learnt that the two Muslims killed in Trincomalee [on 13th Aug.] had gone to see a person from the EPRLF(V) to negotiate sales of arms that are being purveyed by this group at a discount.
“It is reported that the two killed were leaders of gangs, which attacked Tamils in Mutur. The Police are investigating why early after nightfall the two went to Uppuveli beach with Rs. 80 000 in their possession, and how the money went missing…
“A special CID team, it is reported, is probing whether there
is a connection between these killings and the subsequent killing of two Muslims
[at Sammanthurai]. A
“When the Indian Army was in
“It is to attack Tamils that Muslim gangs are buying these weapons. To this end these gangs have received huge funds. Amparai District SLMC MP Anwar Ismail spoke recently of a plan to wage war against the Tamils. MP Mrs. Ferial Ashraf too announced recently that Muslim youths will bear arms and wage war against the Tamils.”
‘Thamil Alai’ is the paper started by the LTTE in Kokkadichcholai after it forcibly shutdown the ‘independent’ paper ‘Thinnakathir’ published in Batticaloa town that was already toeing its line, and robbing its equipment wholesale. The piece above has been cleverly crafted using a mixture of half-truths, distortions and lies. Mrs. Ashraf never spoke of waging war against the Tamils. All that she said was the obvious, that as the Government has failed to protect the Muslims, it should come as no surprise if the Muslim youth take up arms to protect the community (the Island 20 Aug 03). A bit rhetorical perhaps, but nothing fundamentally wrong.
Rhetorical, because during the ceasefire the LTTE has killed or abducted many more Tamils than Muslims. The LTTE has also abducted thousands of Tamil children. As certain incidents in Mutur show (see Buried links…below), there is so much pressure on the Police by Muslim politicians calling for the protection of Muslims, that the Police have done nothing to protect innocent Tamils from Muslim vigilantes with party connections. As the result they play into the hands of LTTE propaganda and its campaign to have the Sri Lankan Police removed from the North-East. We have no illusions about the LTTE’s intentions towards the Muslims, but for that very reason Muslim political leaders have to be more sensitive to the intricacy of issues.[Top]
We note that while many observers are hesitant to blame the LTTE for the killing of the two Muslim farmers in Sammanthurai and are weighing many alternative theories, the Thamil Alai article quoted makes no attempt to hide the LTTE’s involvement. We now return to the incident that has defied simple explanation.
Having contacted a number of sources, we think we have an answer that is close to the truth. Nelluchchenaivattai, where the two farmers had their fields, borders the Tamil villages of Mallikaitivu and Valatthapiddy. There are also Muslims living close to the border. One of those killed (hereafter referred to as the deceased), was reportedly a strong supporter of the SLMC, who also had at least one Tamil mistress in Mallikaitivu. (The village suffered badly at the hands of the Sri Lankan forces during 1990 leaving many women widowed, see our Special Report No.3.)
‘Kottan’ Mahendran is a member of the LTTE from
Mahendran and Mangaiyan, a native of Thirukkovil in LTTE intelligence whose beat covered also Thirukkovil and Akkaraipattu, were regularly seen moving along the bund road by Muslim farmers. They often carried weapons like T-56s and grenades. On the day in question, the two had stopped at a wayside kiosk for a cup of tea after nightfall, not long before the murder. The incident occurred near a culvert not far from the kiosk. According to stories in circulation, the deceased had hit out at Mahendran after they were stopped.
This version of the incident makes at least obliquely some connection with the Thamil Alai article above. The killings of Muslims given above were not random or arbitrary. There was a vague shadow of a cause from the LTTE’s unacceptable and utterly hypocritical standpoint. The strategy in the Sammanthurai affair, for one, was not in the murder itself, but in the timing. If the Thamil Alai article is any indication, it was not Mahendran who determined the timing. There was an organizational hierarchy making careful calculations. [Top]
The LTTE did not express its fierce obsession with the EPRLF(V)
aloud until very recently. Since the ceasefire came into force the LTTE has
been targeting members of the EPRLF(V)very much on the sly. When it killed the
EPRLF(V) Mandur local council chairman Alahathurai last December, it
tried to conceal its action by choosing a stormy night, but failed. As soon
as the LTTE saw that the people were hostile, it claimed the victim to be a
supporter of theirs. Subathiran (Robert) challenged the LTTE politically
as an active member of the Jaffna Municipal Council. He moved about in
We quote from an appreciation for Subathiran in the Daily
News (21.06.03), which for the record we give in full as Appendix IV: “I
got to know Robert as a caring man, an idealist. He went out of his way to help
and showed how much heart he had. My assessment of his character proved correct
when he rose to the needs of the times and demonstrated his mettle working closely
with the TNA in running the
Not even the LTTE’s ardent armchair middleclass supporters
dared to say a word against him. Why suddenly weave those fantasies in the article
above, about a hunted group leading a hand-to-mouth existence, and whose supporters
and former members are literally starving because they cannot live and work
in their village for fear of their life? One reason is that this group was seen
as the LTTE’s main political challenge on the horizon. Another reason was suggested
in oblique justification by the LTTE’s mouthpieces in the Tamil Press (e.g.
Subathra in the Sunday Virakesari, 22.6.03; also similar allegations
in Uthayan). This was to the effect, citing some expressions of concern
over the killing in
Interestingly, in the piece above the LTTE has not named the putative EPRLF(V) person in Trincomalee to whom the two Muslims went to buy a weapon. Were it so, that would have been something for the LTTE to go to town on. While the Police have given journalists details like the deceased having Rs 80,000, which went missing, they have been strangely silent about how they came by that information and whom they went to meet. While Rauf Hakeem acknowledged that the deceased were his supporters by attending their funeral, he has evidently not pushed for a full police investigation and the arrest of the killers and their accomplices. This contrasts with Rauf Hakeem’s insistence on firm police action against violent supporters of party dissident, Minister Athaullah.
We thus gain some insight into the weaknesses of the Rauf Hakeen’s TULF-style ethnocentric politics and how the LTTE is drawing him on, along with his Muslim rivals, into a trap. The crux of the article above is that the Muslims must be attacked because they and their leaders are waging war on the Tamils, the EPRLF(V) must be attacked because they are traitors selling arms to Muslims to attack Tamils and, the Tamils must tolerate some irregularities so that the Tigers can raise an army to defend the Tamils! We move on to examine Tamil security in the Mutur area and explore how it fits into the overall scheme of things.[Top]
Where the peace process was concerned, everything was going in favour of the LTTE. It was in effect treated as the only force in the North-East that counted. Not just the TNA MPs, even Muslim MPs went on a pilgrimage for a dharisanam or audience with the LTTE leader in April 2002. He even graciously patted Rauf Hakeen on the back as the Thalaivar (Leader) of the North-Easten Muslims. Far from opposing the LTTE, the Muslims wanted a deal to live and let live. However, the LTTE’s intolerance of pluralism eroded the initial show of pragmatism within two months, as happened in 1990. The Tamils in Mutur town became in turn the sacrificial victims of its agenda. Their plight was also useful propaganda for the LTTE. Where its machinations were concerned, the ineptitude of the State and the shortsightedness of the SLMC played into its hands. The President and the PA too showed their lack of grasp of reality in identifying the North-East merger as the main problem, simply to make a populist gesture.
Adrian Selvan disappeared on the night of Wednesday 13th August, shortly after the murder of Fareed and Riyaz in Trincomalee (see above). Selvan went out about to confirm the booking of the van taking them to the Madhu festival and never returned. We understand that his father Mr. Selvan complained to a police officer patrolling the streets that same night, and at the Police Station the following day. The Police did not do a serious search. They walked along streets but did not enter any suspect houses.
The Muslims too were rather upset by what had happened, since
Adrian whom they called a ‘very good boy’, moved freely among them. One of his
three sisters was married to a Muslim. The Muslims too were feeling the onset
of internal terror at an incipient stage. They secretly passed on messages to
On Monday (18th) Mr.Selvan received an anonymous
letter saying that
A number of Muslims secretly passed on the identities of the killers. We received three names and have been told by responsible persons in the area that they have been cross-referenced by a plurality of sources. Our sources also stated that two of the three persons named are on the payroll of the Sri Lanka Ports Authority, which comes under Rauf Hakeem’s ministry. A number of his supporters are according to these sources on SLPA’s payroll, while in fact some do only party work, as was the case with one of the three named. It is also notable that the two Muslims killed in Trincomalee are SLMC supporters and one at least was on SLPA’s payroll.
We were also told that the Police in Mutur have the same information about the identities of the killers, but did nothing about it. Soon after the murder of Fareed and Riyaz, Rauf Hakeem waxed indignant on the insecurity of Muslims, but did not press for a thorough investigation. Similarly Tamil nationalists waxed indignant about Adrian Selvan’s murder, but as to the killers being brought to justice, there was an eerie silence on their part. Everyone found impunity useful, some for more intelligent reasons than others.
While the resentment of ordinary people like Adrian Selvan’s
family is nurtured through a system of justice that leaves them out in the cold,
the TULF’s legal expertise works full time to ensure that the LTTE receives
right royal treatment from the Sri Lankan system of justice. The Police arrested
the LTTE’s Pudur area leader Subaraj Devanayagam (Satyaraj) on
Against this one finds it almost sinister that not one TULF
lawyer, MP or politician in Trincomalee challenged Rauf Hakeem to sign a joint
statement demanding an impartial inquiry into Adrian’s murder, or demand aloud
that the Police should do a professional job and justice must be seen to be
done. Instead, when Tamil and Muslim representatives get together they jointly
utter empty platitudes declaring that Tamils and Muslims are brothers who must
continue their centuries-long fraternal coexistence, and then do little to make
that a reality. This is seen in the fate of the agreement initialled on 21st
April by the LTTE’s Thilak and Moulavi Kareem.
Mr. Selvan who worked for the Co-op in Alankerni, adjoining Kinniya, lost his job in 1982 over an allegation that he was responsible for a fire in the premises and was unemployed for 13 years, during which time he had moved to Mutur. He was reinstated in 1996 and works for the Co-op in Mutur. He had 3 girls and 4 boys. The story of the loss of all his four boys embodies several of the tragedies that overtook rural Tamils in the region, affecting hundreds of families:
Jesuntreepan Selvan (born about 1969): When the war
recommenced in 1990, Mutur became unsafe and many Tamils moved as refugees to
Presley Stephen Selvan (born 1973): Joined the LTTE
and died in action in Thampalakamam on
John Stewart Selvan (born 1974): Arrested on suspicion
of belonging to the LTTE, was held in Kalutura and was released, but had to
appear for his case in
Adrian Selvan (born 1982): Killed by Muslim vigilantes
The insecurity felt by Tamils in the region became particularly intense during the UNP government of 1977 – 94 and has continued ever since (our Reports No 10, 12, Bulletin No.10 and Sp. Rep No 8.). If it needs a graphic illustration, we quote from the survey done by a government agency, the Poverty Impact Monitoring Unit, in the Trincomalee District (the Sunday Observer 19.3.2000). According to the agency, children in the North-East are likely to be suffering from high levels of severe malnutrition and stunted growth. In the Trincomalee District 51% of children were underweight compared with the national average of 31%. In the same district, stunting was highest among Tamils (34% in government-controlled and 42% in LTTE-controlled areas), followed by 17% among Muslims and 15% among Sinhalese. Wasting among Tamils was 27% in randomly selected villages in the government–controlled areas and 38% in the LTTE-controlled areas. Corresponding figures for Sinhalese and Muslims were 25% and 14% respectively. Acute malnutrition among children in the District was 26% compared with the national average of 13%.
There is a chequered history in which the parties in government have behaved very badly over the years. Thus when the PA links the insecurity of Muslims, which is indeed grave, to the North-East merger, as though it (the PA) has a proud record of making the Tamils feel secure, it plays into the hands of the single dreaded actor, who today occupies the centre stage.
What these people needed most was for someone to prod the government machinery that already exists, and ensure that these people get minimally the health, education and welfare services that it is obliged to provide, and to canvas humanitarian agencies to supplement these efforts. In the normal course of things, even the imperfect working of a parliamentary democracy should provide this measure of stabilisation. This was not in the LTTE;s interests.
The LTTE did not choose its targets idly, but deliberately removed interlocutors who could advocate effectively for and between their communities. It assassinated two MPs from the region, A.L.A. Majeed of Kinniya (SLFP) in 1988 and A. Thangathurai of Killiveddy (TULF) in 1997. The two kept the social peace between Tamils and Muslims and developed the area. While in 1985 the Muslim UNP MPs had to toe the line and lend complicity to the plan of destabilizing the East by indiscriminate attacks on Tamil villages, Majeed stood alone, warning Muslims of the plan and the role of some UNP Muslim MPs (who eagerly embrace the Tigers today) and told them not to become pawns of these machinations. Where the UNP government failed in creating a permanent rift between the Tamils and Muslims of the area, the LTTE appears to be succeeding astoundingly well. Thangathurai was killed amidst his untiring efforts at getting the war-devastated area rehabilitated.
What the Tamil people of the area need most is better health, education, nutrition and better opportunities in life. What they needed least was to be starved, fed with hate and turned on the Muslims as mindless, marauding mobs. As for bringing the Tamil people to their knees, the LTTE appears determined to bring to fruition what a malignant government started in 1985.
The state of the Tamil people in the LTTE-controlled part of Mutur’s hinterland today is strangely reminiscent of the conditions suffered by their forebears 200 years ago, when a combination of colonial incursions and a decline of the authority of the King of Kandy, gave licence to wide ranging abuses by native chieftains (Vanniars), whose harsh rule and imposition of compulsory, unpaid labour to maximize immediate profits, forced inhabitants into grinding deprivation or flight. As the new Vanniars, the LTTE is busy imposing the bondage of military service on the Tamil population, using Muslims as the pretext. Those who hope that the LTTE would see the rational need to establish Muslim-Tamil amity, hope in vain.[Top]
Once the LTTE set Mutur on fire last April, rumours began to fly and people started getting worked up. The LTTE pretended to be aloof, while carefully pouring oil on the flames from behind. What happened in Jinnah Nagar and Arafat Nagar made the LTTE’s stratagems very clear to the Muslims, but it may not have been so obvious to the Tamils. According to Tamil sources, a number of Tamils asked the LTTE for help or at least for arms and grenades, but outwardly the LTTE made out that it was not getting involved. But as soon as the troubles were receding, the LTTE demanded that everyone living under its control must undergo compulsory military training as auxiliaries. The ages of persons called up ranged from 13 to 70.
Details about the auxiliaries, the Maravar Padai, vary
from source to source. All males in the LTTE-controlled area surrounding Mutur,
and school children from about the age of 13, were trained in armed combat.
Every village is said to have a leader who takes part in decision-making and
maintains the LTTE’s authority. The core of the auxiliary force is believed
to comprise several thousands. Our sources said that in all schools teachers,
under instructions from the LTTE, were compelling children from Grade 7 (Year
8) upwards to undergo military training. Among the 14 or so sizeable schools
in the area is
Although most of these children live at home, they have been issued with parts of the uniform such as caps and are regularly called up for duties at sentry points, check points and for patrolling. While on duty they carry automatic weapons. The following are some of the children used in such a capacity, whose names have been truncated for reasons of security.
4. Dharshan (14) Year 9
This is just a small sample of what is routinely going on in many schools. The LTTE might argue technically that it has not recruited them. But the reality is that they live under LTTE control, are under close watch by the LTTE, have been trained militarily and cannot escape. The LTTE can and will mobilize them whenever it needs them. They are conscripts and the effect of this on the society cannot be other than disastrous. The case of another class of children represents something even more insidious. Among this group are:
Here Kandappan and Nandan are in the LTTE and their very young sons have also been inducted into the organization and are constantly seen with weapons. They are full time members of the LTTE and their incorporation on account of their fathers may be non-formal, and so may be denied. Prasad, also a fulltime member, has two uncles in the LTTE. In his case too his incorporation may be considered a family affair.
We see here the emergence of a form of bonded military service
at menial level, among the most deprived sections in the East. For this purpose
they will be preserved as poor, deprived and ignorant. Socially, this area is
contiguous with Vaharai in the Batticaloa District across the
Even as the ‘peace process’ opened up government-controlled areas to free movement by the LTTE, the LTTE-controlled areas around Mutur have been closed to Muslims and others entering are questioned closely and monitored once allowed in. There is indeed much to hide. We next take the Amparai and Batticaloa Districts, where too, as the article quoted indicates, a Muslim threat is being floated and played up to intensify conscription activity.[Top]
The intensification of conscription is witnessed by the rise in complaints received by the SLMM. In Batticaloa there were about 5 complaints of child conscription coming in every week during mid-September as against 4 for adults. This is against an average of about 8 complaints a month for children for this year until that time. These figures are misleading as to the actual extent, on account of the tremendous rise in the fear of complaining or even talking about conscription. As seen above in the case of Mutur, and as will be seen below, the issue of child conscription is being overtaken by the virtual conscription of the whole society. This, as we have argued elsewhere in this report, is taking place with the connivance of the international community.
Reports are coming in from all parts of the area under consideration that the LTTE is holding regular meetings sternly demanding a child from each family. The people are being told, “The Muslims are raising an army. The Sri Lankan Army is recruiting. So the Tamils too must contribute at least a child for a family, so that in a war we could defend ourselves”. There were also reports from a number of sources that enhanced conscription was under way by mid-August from Sittandy to Valaichenai. Conscription was also reported from Palugamam in the LTTE-controlled area, where a child has been removed from nearly every family remaining there. A further intensification was evident about 20th September with reports coming from Interior Batticaloa of conscription in Illupadichchenai, Karadian Aru, Keluththimadu, Aithiyamalai and so on.
Yet unlike earlier this year, it has become much harder to penetrate the wall of secrecy that the LTTE has sought to erect. The utter impunity with which the LTTE can and does kill whom it will has done much to reinforce the silence. Many an outsider wonders why the parents are silent instead of launching mass demonstrations. The answer is the systematic destruction of all prospect of organized protest through murder, unopposed and unchallenged. Murder is the key to maintaining this order. A target must be found at regular intervals, even if the person targeted is not involved in any active opposition.
Once the threshold is crossed where the people can deal with the LTTE only as isolated individuals, a fascist order is in place. One could go to Palugamam and see the LTTE’s court functioning, complainants appearing at the police station and a façade of legitimacy. But are the people happy after losing a child from nearly every home? There can be only one possible answer.
A good example is Krishnapillai alias Vellimalai, the MP from Palugamam. He earned his place as a TNA candidate in 2001 by addressing meetings demanding that each family give the LTTE a child. To ensure that he set a good example, the LTTE made sure that he gave a son. During 2002, a group of journalists visited his home and wished to interview his wife, whom they thought would make a strident martial speech, like the famed warrior mothers of poetic licence in the Sangam age. She came, and did not utter a word. She simply stood before the journalists crying profusely. The clarity of her speech was more than any words could have conveyed.
As some of the cases below also suggest, there is among parents the widespread belief that reporting child conscription to the SLMM, or even talking about it to others, would affect their child’s fate adversely. To reinforce this belief, in recent weeks, the LTTE has even given back their children to several parents who went to them without going to another agency such as the UNICEF or SLMM.[Top]
One could now appreciate the conditions under which the true
extent of child conscription is concealed. The case of
In early July, members of the LTTE Military Wing under Karuna, went to Piriya’s home and abducted Chitra for their army. There are bound to be a number of such cases, as according to sources from Interior Batticaloa, LTTE circles speak of about 30 LTTE couples who have eloped in recent months, creating 60 places to be filled. Piriya and the two boys, according to local sources, first sought refuge in Puthukkudiyirippu in the government-controlled area. Getting word that the LTTE was coming for them, they went back to the LTTE-controlled area, fled again and surrendered to the Army at Vavunativu, and have now, according to these sources, gone back to the LTTE.
The situation has other ironies too. On
Present methods are also more devious. Not all temple festivals
were raided for conscripts. Daniel Yogeswaran (age 16) of Thompuhar Veethy,
Eravur 4, was abducted by the LTTE from the temple festival at Sittandy on 9th
September about . A family
friend said that according to Yogeswaran’s father dozens of youths were abducted
from the festival. On 20th September, Kandasamy Kumar (age
14) was watching a dramatic performance at
During August, the LTTE held about 3 meetings in Mandur, a government controlled area. The parents were asked to come with a child to be given to them. Many parents sent their children away to relatives in largely Sinhalese areas. Only parents were at the meeting. At a meeting towards the end of the month, the parents were given September 10th as the final deadline, after which they would help themselves. However, even by 20th September the LTTE had not moved. Up to then (and this may be very unrepresentative) we received only two cases of adult abduction from Mandur. Suntharalingam Pratheepan (19) of Mandur-3 and Periyathamby Vijayakumar (19) of Marungaiadypooval were abducted on their way to the Thanthamalai temple festival on 12th August. The first case of child conscription we received from the Mandur area was on 2nd October, of Kanagasooriam Nithiyanantham (16), Nellikkadu, Palayadivattai.
In the meantime, the LTTE had launched surprise incursions into the government-controlled areas of Karaitivu, Veeramunai and Akkaraipattu and conscripted dozens of persons. Here too the cases we received were mostly adults, perhaps owing to the fact that younger children had been concealed. Very few young children have been seen at temple festivals lately.
In Akkaraipattu 16 persons were abducted on 21st August, 10 on the 22nd August, and 5 on the 23rd. Out of this, we understand 4 cases went as complaints to the SLMM, and many more mothers were seen crying at the LTTE office. An attempt was made by the LTTE to abduct GS officer Saroja’s daughter on the 23rd night, but the group ran away when the people at home screamed. About this time the LTTE abducted 12 persons from a part of Karaitivu adjoining Nintavur, of whom 5 escaped. The LTTE abducted 14 persons from Veeramunai on 15th August and again 5 persons on 24th August. In early September, LTTE women went house by house in Mallikaitivu telling the residents that each family must give a child.
On 27th and 28th September, LTTE teams raided some interior areas after . Four children were reportedly removed from Aiththiyamalai on the 27th. Among those removed from Karadian Aru on the 28th was a 15-year-old daughter of Sinnavan.
At this time, with an LTTE-team led by Thamilchelvan about
to embark on a trip to
Over the weekend of 4th –5th October,
the LTTE conscripted over 40 persons in the area including Valaichchenai, Peththalai
and Kalkudah, of whom 17 were from
It was then, about that an LTTE conscription team under Thoathiran came to the grounds in a blue van with registration number GF 0295. Thoathiran had his own ideas about paying homage to Saraswathy. Thothiran called children to get into the van to help them push a vehicle that was stuck and left with about 10 captives. Nothing remarkable here for those who knew what was going on in the East these last two years. On Monday 6th, the totally unexpected happened.
The students of the school, about 700 of them, and some parents,
protested on the
The LTTE had carefully crushed any potential opposition in the area, which was of special interest to Karuna. He had the popular TULF MP Nimalan Soundaranayagam murdered and now the TULF is deaf and dumb. The only other person there with a significant electoral base is Siva of the EPRLF (V), who was given a prison warrant with the signing of the MoU, which would become a death warrant should he get a little humanly careless. He lives in his party office under police protection and the people fear that meeting him could be too costly.
VHC has been carefully cultivated by the LTTE and has a particular
significance for Karuna. The LTTE has used the school regularly as a centre
for propaganda meetings for teachers and students from the area, which is under
Karuna’s brother Reggie. On
Against this background the protest against the LTTE must have come as a rude shock. It was no doubt triggered spontaneously. How much could after all fascists do to ensure that the ground does not crumble under their tread? As was to be expected (e.g. the Vijitharan protest of 1986), the LTTE’s first move was to break up the protest with promises. Even as the protest was under way, LTTE men wearing helmets concealing their identity entered the school discreetly through the back entrance, and negotiated with the parents in the presence of the principal. The principal went to the protesters and reportedly gave an assurance that the abducted students will be released in a matter of days. Around , the protesters started moving into the school.
Although the protesters are confident of resuming the protest if the LTTE does not keep its word, it is not so simple. By now the LTTE intelligence would be hard at work trying to identify leaders through the principal and teachers whom it has ensnared into its web. In the next couple of days one could expect several individuals to be targeted for fascist-style intimidation at the least. [Top]
As expected, during the course of the 7th the LTTE’s repressive machinery was grinding at full throttle. When the LTTE had called children to get into the vehicle, one boy who was in the company had told the LTTEers that he would follow on his bicycle and had not gone. The LTTE suspected him of having given the alarm that the children had been taken by the LTTE. The LTTE’s Economic Development Secretary Nizam called the boy and his father to the Puthukudiyiruppu office and abused them for creating trouble.
Word was also sent to parents and students who were seen to be active in the demonstrations to call at Nizam’s office. Some did not go. The others went at different times. Those who went were abused and told that they will not protest if the Army shoots people, but come forward to protest only when LTTE abducts children. One man who lost his son Pradheepan (13 or 14) was the Post Master at Mankerni. Going in search of his son, he saw Jim Kelly Thaaththa and some other LTTEers on the road. He asked them to return his son. When they refused, he attempted to commit suicide, according to local sources. The incident will result in significant pressure of the UNICEF to change its approach to the LTTE. It has already issued a strong statement on the Valaichchenai fiasco.
Whatever the impression the LTTE would like to give the international community, it was unsparing in its efforts to halt the escape of conscripts. An unknown number of parents have been taken hostage in lieu of their escaped children (see cases in Appendix II). They have been sent out to hard labour in pig farms and other LTTE establishments in Tharavai, Kudumbimalai and Kathiraveli. Among the persons in charge of this project are reportedly Tharan of Intelligence, Thirumal and Vairavan.
There is therefore no change in the LTTE’s intentions. It is all the time adapting its methods to minimize scrutiny from international organizations. The manner in which it is handling the very young is instructive.[Top]
The following cases of abduction by the LTTE during August and September 2003 pertain to the south of Amparai District. They were all released. From time to time the LTTE summons the SLMM and UNICEF and releases some children to parents, claiming credit for releasing underage children who ‘came on their own’. Places and full names of the children below have been withheld.
Mas. Sasi (14) : Given 2 days training by the LTTE, which released him
when the parents went and asked for him.
Mas. Alec (15) : Given 4 days training, then brought back by the parents.
Our information is that there are many such cases and all of them treated differently. Some escaped from the LTTE base. Some were told that if they did not like it there, they could go. Some were not released. Some were released to persistent parents, and it is believed that several of the parents paid money. In all cases the LTTE told the parents not to talk about it. It is a variation of what is happening in Mutur, adapted to a government-controlled area, calculated to block complaints going to international agencies. Moreover, in these cases recruitment or conscription can be denied. Although the children were nearly always abducted, the LTTE could maintain that they came on their own and it released them. The ones kept back would generally be children of parents too scared on account of their child to talk or to complain.
The significance of this must be seen against the constant beat of war drums, a past where the security forces had been very harsh with the young suspected of LTTE connections and the proposed Interim Administration. The LTTE has already given notice that it will not return to peace talks unless its counterproposals, which would in effect formally confer on it untrammelled control over the people, are accepted – the final stamp on the conscription of the whole society.
As for the children, LTTE intelligence operatives and their agents move among the people questioning them on what they know about the children being taken, whether they are being taken by force, who said what and so on. Things are far worse than they were early this year. The UNICEF’s attempts to deal with the problem have been dictated by the international community’s ill-starred approach to the present peace process, along with unhelpful euphemisms. [Top]
UNICEF’s ‘Action Plan: Addressing the needs and care for the children in the North East affected by war’ has come under considerable comment and criticism in the media. Portions of the agreement reads remarkably like an LTTE propaganda piece, punctuated by practical input from UNICEF. It is not surprising. International NGOs, besides other agencies have been encouraged by the international community to ‘engage’ with the LTTE as virtually a parallel state. The result has been a war of nerves paralleling the disastrous ‘progress’ of the ‘peace process’. The LTTE came on top by effectively telling the agencies, “If you want to be in business accept our terms.” Once the majority kowtowed, the exceptions felt the sting of the TRO ‘police’. The TRO – the Tamil Refugee Organization – is UNICEF’s partner in the Action Plan.
We deal with some of the remarks made by UNICEF’s country director
Ted Chaiban, responding to many of the criticisms in a television interview
with Frederica Jansz on
As for what goes on at the transit centres, Chaiban said that UNICEF staff would be joint supervisors. On ensuring that the LTTE does not take back children returned to their homes, Chaiban said that UNICEF has limited staff, but the children would have regular visits from government child probation officers.
Anyone familiar with the North-East would know instantly that this exercise is flawed. The presence of UNICEF staff at a transit centre in an LTTE-controlled area means very little. It is the TRO staff who would exercise real control. After all, INGO (International NGO) staff operating in the LTTE-controlled areas know well that if they visit a village, LTTE intelligence would come shortly after they left, to inquire who said what. Further, under the present conditions of terror, government child probation officers could hardly report anything adverse to the LTTE.
More than anything that Chaiban was asked, there is the real possibility that the LTTE would further advance its terror by releasing selected youth into society through these transit centres to act as spies and assassins. Where there is opportunity the LTTE has no inhibitions.
Chaliban’s defence of the UNICEF’s process is rather like the semi-official Norwegian defence of another process – the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). One of its controversial features is the free movement of (on paper) unarmed LTTE cadres in government-controlled areas. We are told: “Peace needs a process: The MoU is something both sides have negotiated, agreed to and signed. Your best chance for peace is to go through the process. Otherwise you will not have peace.” Coincidence?
With most organizations that have a little sense of shame, the compromises of UNICEF and other INGOs would be relatively harmless. But with the LTTE, before they quite realized where they were going, it had made a significant start towards making them partners in crime.[Top]
CNN’s Kasra Naji reported on the LTTE’s release of the first batch of children, 49 of them, to a UNICEF-TRO transit centre at a ceremony in Killinochchi on 3rd October. LTTE representative Sutha Thangan was annoyed that there was a ceremony at all and warned against its use as propaganda against the Tigers. In an indication of how these centres would work, only 4 of the 49 were allowed to speak to journalists, and that too under LTTE supervision. A 17-year-old boy said he joined to fight the Army, a 17-year-old girl because her sister was raped by the Army, and a 16-year-old girl because her parents were too poor.
Chaiban, while being alarmed over continuing child recruitment, told the CNN that some of the children were abducted while others ran away from home. But on local MTV news he spoke of ‘underage recruitment’ in the same breath as domestic child labour and other forms of war-related child deprivation. Again the vast difference between an individual who violently abuses a child servant and an organization, a quasi-state, which systematically abducts children for both morally and physically lethal military serfdom, is being obfuscated. Trying to hide a pumpkin in a plate of rice, as a local expression goes.
The cause of child soldiers has lost much by the UNICEF surrendering its dignity so easily to place a gloss on the LTTE’s reputation. It should simply have demanded the immediate release of children abducted after the ceasefire, encouraged parents to report violations to competent agencies, and spearheaded the campaign for worldwide restrictions on the LTTE on the grounds that its abduction of children is a war crime. Instead, in the real context of the LTTE’s contempt for every human norm, the UNICEF’s diplomatic approach makes it in effect a public relations firm on contract to the LTTE. UNICEF’s argument that its, is the only way to get the children back is a statement of impotency.
Meanwhile, if the abduction of the four girls in Vavuniya (see next chapter) is any indication, the problem is becoming diabolically more involved. International agencies on the ground will become even more ineffective. While a great deal of attention is been given to worldwide public relations exercises for the LTTE and attempts to make them take money, a huge problem facing thousands of children is being swept under the carpet.
Hundreds of children in the Batticaloa and Amparai Districts,
from Valaichchenai and Sittandy, to Mallikaitivu, Thirukkovil and Pottuvil,
have fled to Sinhalese areas in the western sector of the
There are already rumblings of a new class of children being targeted. We have said in earlier reports that since last December a number of members and former members of parties opposed to the LTTE are confined, in hiding or are living in their offices under police protection. There are reliable reports that the LTTE is angry with those who have evaded its hit teams and is now targeting their children for conscription. Very small children of these party activists have been abused on the streets by LTTE functionaries, or cuffed on the head while riding past.
One party activist said plaintively, “They [the LTTE] tried to get me for a good many years and failed. Now they are trying to get me through my children. My life is now a burden. I have seen the people suffering immensely and have faced the deaths of many of those closest to me. The one thing I desire for my children is that they should not go through these same afflictions.” [Top]
Recent reports from the Vanni speak of increased recruitment activity, particularly around Mullaitivu. Meetings and disruption of school activities have resumed in a manner reminiscent of 1999-2000. The talk in the area is of a campaign by the LTTE to enhance its cadre by 10 000. This ties up with what is happening in the East and increased reports of abduction throughout the North-East. The following cases have been reported from the North:
Mas. Vijayasanthan Ramanathan (16) was abducted from
Thaali Kulam, Vavuniya, where his father is the principal of the local school,
Mas. Satheesh (17) was abducted from a tutory in
Manivannan Jeyajothi: A native of
Cases such as these are now routine and more can be found in Appendix I. A point about them is the uncertainty regarding the extent of coercion, both mental and physical. Unlike in the East, instances of witnessed physical abduction seem to be rare. But their age makes the use of the term conscription appropriate. The following case however represents an extraordinary new departure. EPDP News reported the first ripples of the story on 19th September in a form so unusually intriguing:
“Four female students were abducted from the Vavuniya town area on 16.09.2003, and forcibly taken to Batticaloa and detained in an abandoned house. Two of them escaped from there, and one of them Krishnasamy Jasmine (age 14) surrendered to the Batticaloa Police. The whereabouts of the others is not known as yet.”[Top]
Our attempts to find out more came up against conflicting versions. One was that Jasmine (hereafter Jancy, her real name) was abducted from Vavuniya, made to work as a child serf at a home in Batticaloa for some months, and unable to bear it, fled to a Convent on a neighbour’s advice, where the sisters did the needful. Although this version did not suggest an LTTE involvement, given the present reality the story was highly problematic.
We finally obtained a detailed story from what we call our
principal source, along with the address where the girl was detained,
where she escaped and the names of persons who helped her. We are confident
of the essentials of the story, but suppress some details. Pongu Thamil
festivals are ceremonies in adulation of the leader and his goal, at which principals
are ordered to ensure the attendance of a given number of children. The earlier
one last June in
Amidst the bustle, they, or others on their behalf, abducted four very young girls on the 16th evening, one of whom was Miss. Jancy Krishnasamy, daughter of Rasiah Krishnasamy of 6th Lane Veppam Kulam, Vavuniya. According to Jancy’s testimony, she was abducted along with a girl of Estate Tamil origin and two other girls whom she took to be Sinhalese from Vavuniya who were conversant in Tamil. The LTTE women gave them a hundred rupees each and put them in a Batticaloa bound bus at Vavuniya on the 17th morning. The LTTE women told them that their vehicle would follow behind, and should they get down from the bus before reaching Batticaloa, they would be shot.
The LTTE women picked up the girls at the Batticaloa bus stand about 4.00 PM and took them to a house in Munai Street, Batticaloa, shut them in a room and went away, talking among themselves about coming back after nightfall. Unknown to the LTTE women, Jancy had some familiarity with Batticaloa. She had earlier been in a children’s home in Kalmunai attending school, then dropped out early and returned home to Vavuniya. Subsequently her younger sister Dilanthi (now 13) had entered another children’s home, this time in Batticaloa.
After the LTTE women left, Jancy found the door unlocked. She opened it and found the coast clear and made her way to her sister’s home. She had seen the girl of Estate Tamil origin in a bus and thinks she got away. She does not know the fate of the other two girls. We will now go to a different source and take up the story from when she got to her sister’s home.
A very agitated Jancy unexpectedly turned up at her sister’s home late on the 17th evening, called Dilanthi and told her that she must go to Vavuniya immediately and asked Dilanthi to accompany her. The authorities of the home intervened and told Jancy that her sister can only be released to the parents, nor would they let her go as she was too young and it was late. Jancy was too agitated to think. She insisted on going and started walking towards the bus stand and got into a bus. The warden and some other girls followed her and asked her to get down from the bus. Jancy refused. The others called the Police, who then took over and in due course restored her to her parents.
According to the authorities of the home, Jancy said that bobbed haired girls in jeans, whom they gathered were Sinhalese speaking, brought her from Vavuniya. The Police told them later that when they asked Jancy where she was held, she had pointed to a shop that was closed. The Police added that upon inquiry, they decided that Jancy was telling a fictitious story. The authorities of the home did not want to go deeper into the matter. This is fully understandable and their reasons are obvious.
There is the objective fact that an agitated child from Vavuniya turned up suddenly in Batticaloa without any reason, was desperate to get out quickly and wanted her sister to accompany her. There is no fundamental conflict between what our principal source gathered from Jancy and the experience of the authorities of the children’s home. What the principal source had been told by Jancy about her connections in the East has been found to be accurate. Based on Jancy’s information, the principal source located where Jancy had been held and the owner of the premises. It was not a closed shop.
We may conclude that Jancy was trying to reflect her experience as best as she could and the essentials of her testimony are correct. Why the Police came to their conclusion we do not know. It appears that they restricted their role to restoring the girl to her parents and did not want to go deeper. It partly explains why the story became so confused after the initial ripples appeared in EPDP News. How easily do conditions in the North-East overlay important developments with myth and obfuscation.
The abduction of the girls from Vavuniya was not sudden fancy. It was planned and the modus operandi for transporting them to Batticaloa had been thought out in the light of experience: Our earlier reports gave cases of young conscripts in LTTE vehicles being rescued at Army checkpoints. This may not be the first time and the method can only work with very young children. It is likely to have been going on for some time, since the LTTE has been under the MoU conscripting a number of children in Vavuniya, and especially the refugee camps. Transporting them to Batticaloa does not involve any major checking, unlike taking them north through the Omanthai checkpoint.
Further, the LTTE’s recent behaviour (see accounts in this report) shows that the LTTE is more sensitive to cases of child conscription going down on record. When children are removed far away rather than kept locally, conscription is easier to deny and escape even harder. It becomes a matter of missing children – a routine police case! Without the security forces being present, Jancy stood no chance of escape. [Top]
Just over a year ago, the LTTE beat up, humiliated and drove
out the Hartley College Principal Mr. Sripathy (see Sp. Rep No15). The
principal’s sin was that he was trying to protect the children from being misused
by the LTTE in dangerous demonstrations to have the army camp removed from Point
Pedro. The Army is still there and
There an LTTE speaker gave the students a tongue-lashing. He told them, “You chaps are 17 now and you should be ashamed that you have not joined us. There are even 15 year olds joining us now. Do you think that you can study and go to university? That will never happen. In 4 months time, there will be war, and we are getting ready for it. We cannot do much while this army camp is here. We will soon remove it.” He spoke in this vein for an hour and asked if there were any questions. One student put up his hand and said that he has the responsibility of looking after his sister and so must study. The speaker sneered back, “What are you going to do when the army rapes your sister?” The students went away chilled by the experience. They fear that one of these days they may be thrust into a van and taken away.
Given the use of the Muslim community as a pretext fore the LTTE’s conscription, and the fact that the LTTE deliberately distorts statements by Muslim leaders to aid its military preparations, where do things really stand? What is the real significance of the rhetoric and violence associated with the Muslim community? These need to be clarified and placed in context, since as one occasionally discovers, there is no limit to the malignity casual Tamil propaganda attributes to a supposedly united and highly organized Muslim community. We earlier referred to the case of Isyathumma, the mother of Jabir, who committed suicide by taking poison. The Tamils in Mutur have no doubt that it was the act of a grieving woman. 14 miles north in Trincomalee, a different but highly conspiratorial story was being circulated; that the autopsy had not revealed poison in the stomach of the deceased woman. Conclusion: Muslim extremists had throttled her to death and poured poison into her mouth to create a drama![Top]
Muslim politics is, contrary to popular myth, neither united nor conspiratorial. There is a great deal of dissent that, unlike in the Tamil community, finds open expression. Muslim politics in Amparai, like Sri Lankan politics, can be both democratic and violent. But that is yet a far cry from Tamil election politics that by the 1970s reached the fatal stage of ideological killing of opponents.
In Akkaraipattu, about 4th September, supporters of dissident SLMC MP and minister of highways, Mr. Athaullah, pounced with swords without warning on a supporter of party leader Rauf Hakeem. The attack, described as ‘murderous’, left the victim badly injured.
Apparently because the police in Akkaraipattu, fearing Mr. Athaullah, did not want to arrest the culprits, Rauf Hakeem had to intervene. Under his direction as a key government minister, a police party from Amparai town went to Akkaraipattu and arrested the culprits from the home of Minister Athaullah!
The SLMC grew not only by its appeal to the Muslims in the East who felt that the UNP and SLFP had become insensitive to their interests, but also through forging advantageous alliances. For example Muslims from Kinniya and Mutur had largely voted for the SLFP’s Majeed and later for his son Najeeb, both from Kinniya. Under a deal the SLMC made with the SLFP in 1994, Najeeb was conscripted into the SLMC, and after one term, ceased from active politics. Muslims in Mutur came under the sway of ‘Thidir’ Thowfeek, SLMC nominee and the first MP from the town.
Before the 2001 elections, the uneasy alliance within the SLMC broke down and its late leader M.H.M. Ashraf’s widow, Ferial, took out a faction that decided to stay with the PA (SLFP) after Hakeem, in what turned out to be a costly misjudgment, allied with the UNP that was already committed to appeasing the LTTE. Another horse deal, this time with the UNP to keep out long-standing Muslim UNP politicians in the Amparai District from the electoral fray, and the SLMC emerged strong enough to demand and get some key ministries.
This kind of dealing is the stuff of parliamentary politics and is relatively harmless in normal times, but it has proved most inappropriate at a time when the LTTE poses a grave challenge to the Muslim community, one that is more imminent that one expected a year ago. Before proceeding, we examine some nuances on the ground.[Top]
We pointed out that the first time Muslim vigilantes used a
gun against a Tamil was when Subaraj was shot on
These charges were put to Minister Rauf Hakeem on
But on 14th August Rauf Hakeem was back in Mutur to attend the funerals of Fareed and Riyaz who had been killed by the LTTE the previous day. Fareed was reputedly in a militant league that many Muslims were uncomfortable with. Many sensitive Muslims felt that it did not behove their cause for a national level leader to attend the funeral and compromise his name by association. According to Muslim sources, Fareed had said the day before he was killed that should anything happen to him, the Thalaivar must be informed and he must attend the funeral, thus leaving Rauf Hakeen with little choice. We thus see that some significant change had taken place between May and August, given the uncontradicted reports that Fareed was killed while on a mission to purchase a weapon.[Top]
This is a brand of politics based on the victimhood of a particular community. It is as a rule indifferent to wider national issues and tends to be conservative or reactionary on economic and labour issues. It is hostile to members of the community who tend to pluralism in politics. Its rhetoric and practice, often violent, is meant to delegitimize political alternatives within the community, calling upon everyone to vote for that party and to maximize its bargaining power. While its rhetoric is militant, with glories of the race or religion thrown in for good measure, it has no programme to mobilize the people in a politically meaningful way, no creative solutions. It has no friends. It can do none other than bargain with the largest party in Parliament or any other it is forced to reckon with. The end result invariably falls far short of the rhetorical aspirations.
Given this reality, the leadership of such parties has to constantly negotiate the gap between what they could bargain for and the high expectations of their youthful supporters. In doing so they encourage exclusivist militant rhetoric and flirt with violent elements, which also come in useful to keep their political opponents in check.
This was the story of the TULF. It was characteristically overtaken by its violent offspring after its attempts to negotiate with Jayewardene’s UNP met with regular rebuffs and violence, similar to how the LTTE is treating the SLMC today.
Undoubtedly, while Rauf Hakeem was in Mutur last April, he would have been surrounded by angry youth demanding weapons to protect the Muslims. Rauf Hakeem could not antagonize the LTTE, but we may conclude that within the chain linking Rauf Hakeem and Fareed, some decision for a token arming of Muslims had been taken, in part to calm the angry youth. Again one cannot easily find fault with it except that it was walking into a trap against a group with far flung access to lethal weapons.
The only way Rauf Hakeem could have challenged the LTTE was to have mobilized his supporters to ensure that the Tamils and their property are protected, whatever the provocation. Then he could have explained his case to the Tamils in Mutur town, and assured them that they would suffer no harm from the Muslims. He could also have nominated persons to whom the Tamils could complain if they had any cause for alarm, and given a firm commitment that he would see to it that the Police acted impartially. That would have placed the Tigers in a fix. But TULF-SLMC politics is by nature too unruly, and the leaders are mentally unprepared for creative alternatives that run counter to their rhetoric.
The dilemmas and contradictions of Rauf Hakeem’s politics are seen in the way the Police act or fail to act under his influence. Investigation of Fareed’s murder may prove too embarrassing and a hindrance to peace, so it is out. Police action in the murder of Adrian Selvan would involve his supporters and compromise him, so it is out. When factional leader Athaullah’s supporters attack his in Akkaraipattu, the Police must be firm to shore up his hold on the party. To cap it all, the Tigers represent his largely token and defensive moves as a massive stockpiling of arms to attack the Tamils. The trap begins to close.
A number of Muslims in Mutur fully understand that the LTTE is setting a trap to bring about their eventual displacement. They also understand that the challenge requires a different approach that ensures the confidence of the Tamils in Mutur town. They blame the local SLMC stalwarts around Rauf Hakeem for advising him badly. It is no doubt the realization that the complex problems facing the Muslim community require a broader approach that led the late SLMC leader M.H.M. Ashraf to found the National Unity Alliance. It was a hopeful beginning for the Tamils and Muslims that was cut short by a mysterious helicopter crash three years ago.
The LTTE in its arrogance will fail to learn from Tamil history
and underestimate the incendiary capacity that a frightened and alienated Muslim
community might muster. Shortly after the 1977 communal attacks, LTTE leader
Prabhakaran went by boat to
The other element in the conjunction besides the suppression of Muslims and conscription for its army is the elimination of all traces of political opposition. The innate paranoia of the LTTE is now driving it towards tracing and killing all persons with past links to groups opposed to it or to the state forces (invariably forced on individuals by the LTTE’s terror).[Top]
The following lists pertain to persons killed, abducted, or
attacked since our last update in July. An intensification of attacks in September
is evident. According to local information in Batticaloa, a group has been sent
there by the LTTE intelligence chief Pottu
29th August 2003:
Sebamalai Vimalakumaran, a youth hailing from Tellipallai,
13th September (approximate): Anandarajah Vigneswaran
(Selvam) (27) of
19th August 2003: Elaiathamby Harichandra,
EPDP’s district organizer, who was riding a motorbike in
27th September 2003: Kandasamy Gnanasekaran, a police constable from his station in Trincomalee, on leave at his home in Kaluwanchikudy, Batticaloa District, was abducted and beaten up by the LTTE for two days, threatened and released.
The LTTE has routinely denied involvement in these killings. Its Tamil paper Thamil Alai (Paadumeen.com, 22.08.03) carried an article titled ‘Mysterious Circumstances Surrounding Batticaloa Murders’. It began by commenting on the Tamil opposition groups leaving the murdered Radheeskaran’s coffin in front of the Batticaloa SLMM office for some time as a mark of protest:
“There is no tradition in the Hindu religion where the coffin is opened and the dead exposed in all sorts of places. On the contrary, Hindus believe that such an unwholesome act would lead to death among the kinsfolk. Moreover Hindus worship the corpse as a god. No religion or people has the practice of abandoning a corpse and walking away”.
The article went on to argue that Military Intelligence (MI) and the EPDP got together and killed Radheeskaran, the reason being that MI was upset at his joining the EPDP after knowing a great deal about their inner workings. Another argument given is that his killers were allowed to get away in a high security area in Batticaloa. The TamilNet, a pro-LTTE website, however, after describing the killers as ‘unidentified persons’ (report on 14.07.03), did little to conceal the fact that the LTTE were the killers. TamilNet said:
“According to the Police Radheeskaran was a long time member of the EPDP, a close ally of President Chandrika Kumaratunga. Radheeskaran… was riding a motorbike with a colleague near the private bus stand in the heart of Batticaloa town, when a cyclist dashed across his path, making him fall. The cyclists then opened fire on Radheeskaran with their pistols killing him on the spot. His pillion rider escaped unhurt, the Police said…”
Similarly, the Thamil Alai article attempts to blame
a combination of the PLOTE and MI for the murder of PLOTE member Mehanathan
The dead were well known in the militant scene and certainly to local sources and the editor of the TamilNet. The Thamil Alai stories are an afterthought, very likely having something to do with international protests over continuing killings by the LTTE. The stabbing of recent victims, as in common criminal activity, is thought to be an innovation having to do with the fine distinction by means of which the SLMM disposes of many complaints -- by placing them in the category of ‘police matters’ as distinct from violations of the MoU. These murders are therefore not listed as violations in periodic SLMM statements.
We have a situation where the Government and the Monitors play tricks with words, while no avenue for redress exists. The Monitors pass the buck to the Police and what does one expect the Police to do? The Police arrested LTTE’s Pudur leader Subaraj (Satyaraj) for murder in June. The LTTE then abducted two policemen (see Ch. III, Buried links…). Though obviously a violation on the LTTE’s part, the Monitors could do nothing, even though the LTTE was very improperly linking the release of the arbitrarily abducted policemen to the release of Subaraj from any murder inquiry. The SLMM was, we reliably understand, averse to risking a war on this issue and are known to put up with several humiliating rebuffs by the LTTE. But at the SLMM’s LMC in Batticaloa, strong objection was raised to linking the issues.
Subsequently the SLMM accompanied the DIG Police for the range, for negotiations with the LTTE in the interior. The DIG agreed to release Subaraj through the courts, in return for the release of the two policemen. We understand the DIG told the SLMM that he was satisfied with the arrangement, and in effect let then off the hook. One wonders who gave the orders to the High Court Judge to do the needful. In effect the murders that we have recorded, along with many others, are sanctioned by all the powers that be, whatever they may say. There is no power on earth that the victims could appeal to.
The logic of fait accompli, we said at the beginning of Chapter III, governed the violations by the State in the North-East that began in earnest in 1984. The same logic, we averred, the Tigers copied and used against the Muslims in the North in 1990 and its use against Muslims in the East is underway at present. In both instances, the use of fait accompli is tied to ideology.[Top]
If one takes a map of
These experiences shaped Tamil nationalist thinking, its strategies, the obsession with land, the obsession with the North-East merger, the tolerance of fascism, and the justification for attacking Sinhalese villages. The potential for child soldiers too came first from the pool of the displaced, which the LTTE subsequently institutionalized.
Today displaced Tamils are attempting to return to several of these villages, a number of them totally destroyed, overtaken by jungle, infested with cobras and the wells polluted. In undertaking this Herculean task, they are faced with the inadequacy of funds, corruption in the government machinery through which the poor are fleeced by officials, and the lack of essential amenities like health and education. Many of the shortcomings could be overcome if local democratic accountability is given its due place, and the people have greater control over reconstruction. A typical complaint is that a state agency nominated a contractor, who supposedly repaired a village tank with a capacity to irrigate 120 acres. The contractor and his cronies collected the large sum of money allocated by the World Bank. But the tank can now irrigate only a tiny fraction of its capacity.
Today one sees no essential obstacle to all Tamil refugees going back home, if the LTTE would pursue earnestly a negotiated political settlement. That has largely been the case since the Indo-Lanka Accord of 1987. However, what confronts the Muslim refugees, especially from the North, is far more daunting, made worse by the unfriendliness of the LTTE that robbed and deported them.
There were in the Mullaitivu District a significant number of Muslim farmers and fishermen. Some went back after the signing of the MoU to see their places. The Tamil neighbours were welcoming. Some even told them half-jokingly that they were fortunate not to have been there. The LTTE has now more or less made it clear to them that they should not come back.
In Vidatthalthivu where Tamils and Muslims lived together, conditions remain unsettled as most Tamils themselves have not returned after, ironically, their forced eviction by the LTTE in 1999. The people refused to obey the LTTE’s orders to move north when the Sri Lankan Army was advancing and instead congregated in a church. The LTTE was caught shelling the church premises and killing several persons.
Most Tamils fled to
Compared with the LTTE’s hostile and grudging attitude to a people whom it wronged grievously, the ordinary Tamil people have frequently risen to much higher levels of humanity than their self-imposed leaders. On orders from the top, the Muslims, who had done no wrong to their fellows, were not allowed to take any property and were deported as absolute paupers. In Vattakandal many Tamils accompanied the evicted Muslims, carrying their Muslim neighbours’ jewellery and valuables as their own, and handed them to the owners once they were outside the LTTE’s clutches.
In Mutur where the LTTE had induced Tamil civilians to attack the Muslims, the Tamil people are far from comfortable with what had happened. To quote from the observer cited earlier: “A very positive sign is that many people seem to be convinced that what was done was wrong. They are formulating it as ‘what we did was not good’, rather than blame themselves. On the other hand there is fear…not so much blind hatred as overwhelming fear, regret and sadness that it happened and trust had been broken”.[Top]
The people are instinctively uncomfortable with ultra nationalist ideologies used in justification of crimes normally unthinkable, such as the LTTE’s unprovoked massacre of Muslims in Kattankudy and Eravur. Even the LTTE’s Muslim cadres were totally taken by surprise (see our Report No. 8 of 1991). Tamil ultra nationalist ideology is no less obnoxious than its Sinhalese counterpart, except that the international community frowned, rightly, on the latter, but is now rewarding the former. The methods of the two can have some striking similarities.
During April 1985 a group of army personnel from Kondavadduvan
camp in the Amparai District, went to the farming
Clearly, one cannot have justice, human rights, or even peace in any stable sense, unless these ideologies, whose motif is to establish an oppressive fait accompli, are challenged. This country has throughout its history had a rich diversity, and tolerance and accommodation were natural to it. What was heartening about the peace moves in 1994 that swept Chandrika Kumaratunge to power and were followed through for many months afterwards, was the widespread agreement that these divisive ideologies that are against the interests of the people must be challenged at popular level. Things could easily have worked out differently had the LTTE not returned to war.
Today’s globally driven peace process with the UNP as local
partner disdained any notion of justice and human rights or recompense for wrongs
inflicted on communities. Its main protagonists,
The snag was that they failed to understand the LTTE, which
had a clear agenda and a very lucid perception of where its interests lay. The
LTTE refused to take the bait and were becoming irritated by donor summits where
they were called upon to make token concessions to international norms. They
refused to attend the
Nonplussed and their egos battered, the protagonists were in
full panic. Appeasement was in roaring flood. The Tigers were set on their totalitarian
state where only the (nominally) ideologically pure would be tolerated. Any
illusions that making it a haven of global capitalism, where old traditions
and old identities become anomalous, could preserve the unity of
Far from bringing peace to
The main victims of such an outcome would be the Muslims, those who refuse to be ideologically pure, and perhaps the hundreds of thousands coming under pressure to move across the ‘border’ from places that had long been home. This is not a commendable or desirable end to a ‘peace process’. We thus come back to the original point - that there can be no peace without the ideologies that are at the root of this conflict being challenged and defeated.
This is why justice for the Muslims, especially those who suffered humiliation, expropriation and expulsion from the North becomes tremendously important. A leading Northern Muslim who had painstakingly documented the trails of the community and strived to have them resettled, said that his appeals to the World Bank, Asian Development Bank and the UNHCR fell largely on deaf years. They felt, he said, that their problem is unimportant amidst much larger issues. We are confronted again with their preference for managing pernicious ideologies like the LTTE’s, rather than challenging them, and becoming in turn willing partners to its fait accompli.[Top]
If one doubted our reading of the international community’s
role in the ‘peace process’, one need only have looked at the Japanese envoy
Yasushi Akashi’s careworn face during the press briefing on 15th
September, following his visit to the Vanni. Despite his offer of more than
a billion dollars to advance the peace process, he was denied the dharisanam.
Apart from the normal platitudes about the peace process,
These concerns, though raised by
The LTTE’s ideology simply does not allow for any notion of other people’s rights, and the basis on which it claims rights for itself has no parallel in the civilized world. Curiously, the shrinking of the Tamil community appears to serve the political claims of both Northern and Southern ideological extremes. The LTTE, which is busy abducting tomorrow’s ‘martyrs’, bases its claims to exclusiveness on the 18 000 already ‘martyred’. Its publications are in effect saying, “We stand tall upon the footprints of 18 000 martyrs with the blessings of the international community. How dare the Muslim leaders ask to sit with us at negotiations? Would that not be to devalue and denigrate our victorious 20-year struggle?” (See for example, Right or Wrong?: The Muslim Leaders Must Think, Venithan, Thamil Alai, 20 Sep.03.)
Given the foregoing considerations, the international community’s
positions are now clearly in effect pushing towards two utterly sordid banana
republics in what was once
We are now seeing the very predictable results of this flawed peace process. The Sinhalese are feeling humiliated and threatened. We have the unbelievable spectacle of the Government at loggerheads with its services top brass and the President over the security of Trincomalee. The latter on the basis of their intelligence and a study by the US Pacific Command say that there is a dire threat. The Government dismisses this assessment, on what grounds one does not know, as alarmist. While the Government has silenced its own members by exercising the whip, there are within the SLFP strong pressures to get back to its 1956 Sinhala Only roots. At present it seems to be mainly the President’s authority that is holding the party back from a slide into the abyss.[Top]
The feeling of threat and humiliation is leading even fairly
moderate Sinhalese to be less open about contentious issues. There is rather
a reassertion of the state of mind that prompted the State towards establishing
a fait accompli in the East. An open letter to the Prime Minister by
V.C.B. Unantenna, M.W.S. Gunaratne and Tissa Devendra on the subject of sacrificing
the Sinhalese in the Eastern Province was given wide media publicity during
early June (SPUR web site 8.6.03). The three gentlemen were government agents
(GAs) respectively of Amparai, Batticaloa and Trincomalee about the early 1970s.
They were convinced that the Prime Minister is ‘engaged in not-so-transparent
negotiations with the LTTE’ to hand over the
“It is clear that the present government has either forgotten, or turned its back on, the horrendous and barbaric massacres of Sinhalese peasants in the so-called ‘border villages’, peace loving Bhikkus in Arantalawa and the surrendered 600 policemen in the pursuit of mono-ethnic hegemony by this pitiless terrorist group.
“ Its aim is to either kill or drive away every Sinhalese
from the land that they, and their ancestors, have lived in for centuries, governed
by the traditional laws and customs of the
All facts pertaining to recent times are correct, but they weaken in their case the moment they complain as Sinhalese on behalf of Sinhalese. Is handing over Tamils and Muslims to a ‘pitiless terrorist group’ any more justified than handing over the Sinhalese? This line is rather strange in persons who worked among Tamils and were respected by Tamil friends and colleagues. It is perhaps a sign of the times.
In their relation of facts too the authors have blandly adopted Sinhalese nationalist historiography that deliberately leaves much that is of interest unsaid. In its massacres of Tamil civilians, the State surpassed the Sinhalese victims of the LTTE several fold. The massacre of Bhikkus at Arantalawa was horrendous and barbaric. But no less so was the massacre of civilians by forces of the State in Pullumalai near Arantalawa a few months earlier in November 1986. The dead included entire families and infants, including an eight months old baby trampled under a boot. How many others were driven to join the LTTE and take part in such massacres as described by the gentlemen?
Nor could they have been unconscious of another fact, which is at the heart of the conflict. Although neither Amparai nor Trincomalee had a Sinhalese majority at any time, all GAs of Amparai since the creation of the district in the early 1960s have been Sinhalese, and so have all GAs of Trincomalee after McHeyzer in the 1960s. Why?
An earlier census report than the one cited by the gentlemen
gives the answer. The proportion of Sinhalese in the
The proportion Tamils in the
These latter figures, whatever their merits, are frequently quoted without comment in the tone ‘The Tamils have no case, the chapter on the East is closed’. This is again a reaffirmation of the State’s long cherished fait accompli. Based on such flawed advice the President recently floated the proposed de-merging of the North and East that are merged only on paper, citing the security of Muslims. The problem is that everyone knows what happened, how and why. They all know very well what they write or refrain from writing and why.
They are all writing about a group of people in their own country – the Tamils of the East – whose proportion apparently dropped precipitately from 42.9% in 1981 to 33.2% in 2001. This represents a contraction of the Tamil community by 34%, or a third, in relation to what it should have been under conditions similar to those of other communities. It is a phenomenon without parallel in the stable growth of all communities between 1946 and 1981. It is so extraordinary and is surely a matter that cries for comment.
What happened to the Tamils? Did they die like flies or flee like hares? Sadly, we know the answer only too well, and in this the Tigers too are far from innocent. This statistical revelation of the catastrophe faced by the Eastern Tamils is a terrible indictment of all concerned, and especially the State. It is something too shameful to be trumpeted in aid of a partisan fait accompli. The missing in this case are certainly not people who went to the West.
It is as unconscionable a misuse of the suffering of these Tamils in aid of the Tigers’ case, as of the suffering of Sinhalese and Muslim victims of the LTTE in aid of the case for the State. The State has no excuse as the internationally accredited guardian of the Tamils, no less, and had to suffer the indignity of being placed on par with the Tigers. It has cost us all dearly.
The hard reality in the East is that the Tamils and Muslims must live and work together. The ghetto mentality on both sides must and will come to an end. There has right along been a strong element of artifice in the Southern polity’s interest in driving a wedge between them. They shared crucial common interests with regard to language and colonization. The late founder leader of the SLMC, Mr.M.H.M. Ashraf, was after all a considerable Tamil literary figure, who, moreover, commenced his political career in the Tamil United Liberation Front.
It is idle and counter-productive to watch the slipping percentage of Tamils in the East to clinch a fait accompli on very involved and sensitive political issues, such as the North-East merger. By what murderous folly on the part of the State did the merger came about, even after the TULF had agreed to District Development Councils? Its future can only be decided by a delicate consensus. Fait accompli cannot be the rationale for deciding such questions as the recent history of the Sri Lankan state shows. Unless we are willing to inject more openness and higher values into the debate, we may live to see the Tigers prove themselves the real masters of fait accompli. This is indeed a trying time for the Sinhalese. The worst they could do for themselves and the rest of us is to retreat into a shell of obscurantism.
A strong point in favour of the Sinhalese is that refugees from the North-East have been pouring into the South. No political party has made it an issue and the ordinary Sinhalese people have generally accommodated those who fled. That should not be undone.[Top]
We would be wrong to leave behind the impression that the intentions
of those who came to support this peace process were ignoble. The dominant element
was no doubt the one that wanted to push through a settlement with considerable
devolution and make
The surrender progressed by degrees through a game of nerves,
which the LTTE consistently won. Contrary to the original intentions, nearly
everything about the process has become a fraud. The direction of the process
is now firmly set towards creating two banana republics. The LTTE’s ambitions
have gone far beyond anything connected with righting wrongs, into the domain
of hubris – conquer, humiliate and dominate. The prospect that confronts
Unfortunately, journalistic presentations of the LTTE leader can result in unintended complacency. The LTTE leader Prabhakaran is not an ‘elusive mind’, or an idealist who lost his way. There is nothing elusive about his mind to the ordinary Tamil villager who kept his equanimity amidst the chaos around him. The mind, he well knows, is very transparent. He knows he is up against the mind of a paranoid and sadistic killer. A mind that is the epitome of how to amass immense power by single-mindedly eliminating all actual and potential opponents, and creating conditions of terror where people must deal with his regime only as individuals. Any semblance of an organized movement must be ruthlessly nipped in the bud. This is the basic precondition for child conscription.
There is nothing here that must ever be admired, emulated or encouraged. It is terribly repulsive and dangerous. This may all be novel to foreigners whose briefs here hardly exceed three years. And whatever their own judgment, they must stick to constraints laid down by their government or head office. The criteria by which the LTTE leader and his henchmen choose their victims, as illustrated by the small sample in this report, is a clear indication that the number of victims over the years runs into several thousands. (See our reports Nos. 5,6,8,9,10 and Bull No.4.)
If this were all the restraint the LTTE could show during a ‘peace process’ with the whole world watching them, what dire limits await their assumption of full control? The nature of the tragedy is one where open political competition in a society, where each one of the many parties had a base ranging from a hundred to several thousands, was abruptly fractured. One party declared all others traitors, and launched upon an orgy of slaughter.
It is high time the international community took stock. To begin with they should not reward what should never be rewarded, especially tendencies for aggrandizement, domination and disintegration. It will do no one any good.[Top]
The following are members of the Auxiliary Force founded in May 2003, carrying weapons while on patrolling and sentry duties
4. Dharshan (14) Year 9
The following children of persons in the LTTE are regularly seen with guns and have been virtually absorbed into the organization
The following minors have been conscripted into the LTTE
The following were abducted from Thurainilavanai on 20th September by Senthamilan of the LTTE and were released upon the intervention of the SLMM:
Sivalingam Sanjith (14)
Senathy Sri Krishna (15)
The following were among the schoolboys abducted from Valaichchenai and environs by Thoathiran and others of the LTTE over the weekend of 4th to 5th October, and whom the LTTE promised to release after the public protest:
Kauthan Satheeshkumar (12),
V. Pratheepan (13 or 14),
Nallathamby Kanthan (14),
Peethamparam’s son(14 or 15) of Puthukudiyiruppu,
Kamalanathan Parani (15) of Union Colony,
Konalingam Satheesh(16), Puthukudiyiruppu,
Roshan Micheal (16 or 17), of Paper Co-operation quarters, VHC
Atputharasa, Prasath(17 or 18) of Pethaalai, VHC
Nadarajah Gajayanthan(17) of Puthukudiyiruppu,
Vallimani Sivakumar (16 or 17), VHC,
Yohanathan Kamalanathan (17), VHC
The following are a sample of very young children from the district who were recently abducted by the LTTE, trained for between 2 days to two weeks and then released, some being warned that they will be needed when called
Mas. Sasi (14) : Given 2 days training by the LTTE, whichreleased him
when the parents went and asked for him.
Mas. Alec (15) : Given 4 days training, then brought back by the parents.
The following were conscripted as indicated
Akkaraipattu: Among 31 conscripted 21st – 23rd August, were A. Level taken from a tutory
Jeyaseelan Jason (17)
Thambirajah Sivachandran (17)
The following were abducted on 24th August
Thamotheram Tharan (O. Level, 14-16)
Krishnapillai Ruban (O. Level, 14-16)
Viswalingam Jesudas (A. Level, 16-18)
Tharmalingam Sivasuthan (A. Level, 16-18)
Manivannan Jeyajothi (age14-16): A native of
Lakshmanan Bhaskaran (14), taken from Araly, Vaddukkottai, 21st August
Sasikaran (16), taken from Mirusuvil, Thenmaratchy, on 1st September
Ravi Rajkumar, taken from E12 Gurunagar Flats, 5th September
Mas. Satheesh (17) was abducted from a tutory in
EPDP News of 24th September reported the following cases
of children taken by the LTTE and stated that the parents were keeping vigil
at the Muhamalai exit point from
(age 17) of
Balasamy Eesan (age 17) of Sudumalai, Manipay
Arulampalam Prabhakaran (age 17) of Chettiar Kuruchchi, Pandataripu.
Our attempts to get more information have been of no avail so far. The event itself is not unusual (see next case) except that there have been few known cases of conscription in that age group during this period. But that is of little significance.
Mas. Vijayasanthan Ramanathan (16) was abducted from
Thaali Kulam, Vavuniya, where his father is the principal of the local school,
Kavirajnathan Upendran (age 14) of 15/4
Ravindran Sashi (age 14) of 86
Subathiran of Chavakachcheri, better known by the code name of Robert, and of the EPRLF - Varatharajaperumal faction, is no more. He had been gunned down by a murderer, while exercising from the roof-top of his flat June 14.
I had got to know him when my institution required some help from the Army and the EPRLF and the EPDP were the only groups that could do anything for the people in the North East. Regardless of their politics and ours, many of us Tamils went to them and later on kept quiet about whose help we had got.
I got to know Robert as a caring man, an idealist. He went out of his way to help and showed how much heart he had. My assessment of his character proved correct when he rose to the needs of the times and demonstrated his mettle working closely with the TNA in running the Jaffna Municipal Council within a refreshingly democratic framework and serving the Tamil public in many ways.
By accident of history, like many other idealistic Tamil youth of the early nineteen eighties, Robert had joined a liberation movement that was not to be ascendant and then fell victim to the Tamil fascist politics of joining the bandwagon or being deemed a traitor and being damned as one. Many took the easy way out by leaving the country.
It was not an option for a leader like Robert on whom many of the cadre depended. He could not abandon them. He chose to stay on and work for democracy and political space for the Tamil people.
In the process, he, and others like him under physical threat had to make alliances with the Sri Lankan Army.
was a no-win situation. The dynamics of Tamil politics is tilted against any
idealist who seeks the Army's protection from the LTTE. Thus we simultaneously
have an endorsement of Robert's high calibre and a revelation of the cynicism
of Tamil politicians in the remark of a man from a nationalistic faction of
the TNA. "Yes, everyone in
The last time I saw Robert, his movements were largely restricted to his party offices, and the lean young man I first knew had become overweight through confinement. His was the lonely life of a hunted man that did not permit the comforts of a wife or the pleasures of children. As I conversed with him and recognised the courageous idealism he showed - idealism that I markedly lacked. I realised that he was likely soon to be killed, like his father and by the same determined people who had killed his father. I was moved to a quiet tear or two which I quickly wiped away. And he did not comments and seemed politely not to notice. But if in those brief moments, he realized that there are those who loved him and recognised the humanity in him, it would ease my bereavement at this dark hour.
wished to write a longer tribute describing how Robert helped me and sign my
name to it. But my family has strictly enjoined me not to jeopardise my safety
when I have a wife and children depending on me. I understand that Robert's
body now lies at a funeral parlour in Kanatte and his only sister is arriving
I am now resigned to accepting that I am a very ordinary man, a cowardly pigmy by the side of the toweringly courageous Robert, fired by his youthful idealism. Even in death he indicts the entire Tamil community and forces us to think about what kind of people we have become, when we cannot acknowledge friends; not even in death.
To his sister and other members of the family, I say this: There may not be many non-EPRLF people at the funeral. But in truth there are many of us cowards who respect and value what Robert stood for and acknowledge his humanity. One day, surely, we will be able to call ourselves openly his friends. As Robert meets his maker, be assured that Robert will be judged far more kindly than the Tamil community. - Tamil Coward. [Top]
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