|Farmers flee conscription
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|Author:||Percy [ Sun Apr 23, 2006 3:05 am ]|
|Post subject:||Farmers flee conscription|
LTTE prepares for war?
Farmers flee conscription -leave harvest behind them
@ ST /23APR2006
Paddy farmers in the villages near Valaichchenai were looking forward to a bountiful harvest two weeks ago. The fields were literally golden brown. Paddy plants were heavy with their ears and bent with the weight.
Forty one year old Seeni Sellathamby and his wife Thambimuthu Parameshwari (35) were readying themselves for the harvest. That meant money in their hands. They were thinking of the education of their children, Niranjani (10), Thawaseelan (8) and one year old Thangeswari.
When Sellathamby and Parameshwary stepped into their paddy field, they did not realise they had offended the local leaders of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) just two days before. The family had been told to take part in military training for civilians. Sellathamby learnt that at the training session, those between the ages of 18 and 48 had been conscripted to a civilian militia. Yet he had ignored the call.
Harvesting got under way one morning. The husband and wife together with helpers were busy with their sickles harvesting and piling the produce. It was around 4 p.m. that day when a Muslim farmer from a neighbouring property tipped off Sellathamby that LTTE hit squads were coming in search of him and his family. “I feared they would kill us for disobeying them,” he told The Sunday Times.
He added “soon the news that the LTTE gangs were hunting for me and my family had reached the village. My children came running to the paddy field to give us the bad news. All of us hid in the jungle nearby for the night. We could hardly sleep. Even the smallest noise caused fear. We thought they would come for us.”
The next morning, a youth from the village came to our hideout. He told us that armed LTTE groups have been looking for us in the villages. “They shouted aloud my name and that of my family. They had even gone to the house where I stayed. They have later remarked angrily that they would deal with me,” Sellathamby said.
He said he had told the youth that he was not feeling well and would enter hospital. Thereafter, he and his family members trekked the jungles to reach the Batticaloa–Colombo highway. The Welikanda Police who met the family had inquired as to what happened. Upon learning their travails and the fact that they had no money to travel, they were told to stay at the Karuppola village. The next day Police helped the family lodge a complaint with the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM). That was the fate that befell Sellathamby who was from the village of Minimiththaveli (near Vakaneri) in the Valaichchenai area.
This family was not the only one affected. Another fellow villager Sinnathamby Selvamanikkam (34) and wife Maheswari (33) faced the same problem. They had four children – Shashiharan (12), Thawaseelan (8), Sathyaseelan (6) and Khosikan (2).
Selvamanikkam told The Sunday Times “a group of armed LTTE members ordered us to come for training. We refused. We said the harvesting season was on. Two or three days later they came again. This time some of the villagers who had joined for military training accompanied them. We thought they had come to take us all.
“Though we were not taken away, the next day armed LTTE groups had arrived at the village in three tractors with trailers attached. Some of the villagers were taken from the paddy fields. A Muslim farmer came to my house and told me to hide since we were to be taken. We went into hiding and later learnt the LTTE had looked for us.”
There were several families that joined Selvamanikkam’s family and hid in the jungle. “We stayed there for three days. We walked through the jungle. A fish vendor whom we met near a road told us to proceed until we came to a village. We were both hungry and thirsty. At the village near a road a bus arrived. We boarded the bus though we were unaware where it was going. This was out of fear that the LTTE would track us down,” Selvamanikkam said.
He said his family arrived at another village and hid near a shop.
At this point a villager came and helped them by escorting them to the local SLMM office, he said.
“We lodged a complaint. Later, we went to the Welikanda Police Station. It was around midnight when we were given food. We ate very well,” he said. The next day, the males and females were separated. Tents were provided by the Police for them to stay. Since the encounter, these paddy farmers have not only lost their cultivated paddy fields but also their homes. They now live under tents thanks to the munificence of the Police.
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