WWW Virtual Library - Sri Lanka

 
[ Home || Forum || Tsunami || Ethnic Conflict || Heritage || History || Archeology || Food || Travel || People ]  
 
Child Soldiers from east Sri Lanka
Tamils are being forced to sacrifice one child per family to the LTTE
 
 
Chairman, SLMM office in Batticaloa, Heikki Hulkkonen said, the LTTE has told the SLMM that if a child escapes their clutches they will take another family member hostage. As a result, Hulkkonen reiterated that many children who do escape the claws of the Tigers are too afraid to return to their homes and hide instead in relatives houses or turn themselves to the police and military to be sent to rehabilitation homes.

Heikki Hulkkonen, however says a total of 270 children have been abducted by the LTTE after the Tigers signed a ceasefire agreement with the Sri Lankan government last February and the SLMM offices were set up in April 2002.

 
 
By Frederica Jansz in Batticaloa
Sunday Leader - 02nd February, 2003 Volume 9, Issue 29

Terror story of children from the east

 

Caught in a pact with the devil, the self-proclaimed saviour of the Tamil cause has emotionally slain hundreds of Tamil parents who are being forced to sacrifice one child per family to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

 

Distraught and bereft with grief, Tamil parents in Sri Lanka's east have not even been allowed the courtesy of a goodbye as their flesh and blood - children as young as 11 - are being snatched from their midst to be "trained" by the LTTE.

 

Their tears however go unnoticed. Recently, a mother was assaulted so badly by a LTTE cadre who dragged her 14 year old son from her home,  she had to be hospitalised for three days to receive medical treatment.

 

Arumugam Maiuram (14) was abducted on January 20, 2003, at around 11 p.m. His mother who tried to physically prevent the Tigers from taking her child, paid a price.

 

According to the Batticaloa police, Arumugam's elder sister later went to the LTTE camp at Tharavi where she had learnt Arumugam was being held and begged for her brother to be released, pleading that he is only 14 years old.  Finally, the LTTE had released Arumugam.

 

Others however have not been so lucky. In another separate case, two fathers last month attempted suicide when their 14 and 16 year old sons were abducted by the Tigers. These children are yet to be found and released.

 

There is certainly nothing new in the LTTE maintaining a 'baby brigade.' Since the Tigers began a full-scale war in 1983 against successive Sri Lankan governments, they have been renowned for recruiting children to their fighting cadre. The recruitment has been carried out both forcibly as well as voluntarily.

 

What perhaps has once more brought this issue to the forefront of the peace process and negotiations with the rebels is that the Tigers are now seizing children from government controlled areas. Allowed easy access to 'government held territory,' the Tigers have broadened their lair, using the opportunity afforded by the MoU, to enter state controlled land and grab children from Tamil families.

When we visited Batticaloa last week, the single most damning factor that emerged during our stay there was that almost everybody from the police, to civilians, peace monitors, members of the clergy, students, teachers, and civil servants, fear the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

 

This is why, there is almost a complete media blackout or self- censorship as far as this horrendous issue is concerned. Even the Scandinavian monitors attached to the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) in Batticaloa are wary of publicising vital statistics and information gathered in this regard which prove beyond all doubt, the LTTE  is  guilty of the most gross human rights violations  when they surreptitiously and in some cases openly kidnap Tamil children.

 

The most recent abduction was on January 24. Eighteen year old Indrakumar, an O/L student at Kinnaidi in the Valachchenai area in Batticaloa had just returned home from school around 2 p.m. and was eating his lunch, when five  LTTE cadres  stormed into the little house and forcibly dragged him away.  Kinnaidi is in government controlled land. His distraught mother, Pullaiammah and father, Naillah were overcome with grief when we met them.

 

Area leader present

Sobbing, Pullaiammah choked out details of the horrifying incident. She said she believes the LTTE has taken her only son to a camp in Vakharai. She had been able to identify the area leader of the LTTE, 'Nithi' who commands the area of Thiavatavan in Batticaloa who she says was present when the Tigers forcibly dragged her son from his home.

 

Naillah asserted that he is due to undergo an eye operation, but now cannot do so as Indrakumar was to have stayed with him while in hospital. Their plans for their son lie shattered as any hope of seeing him again is remote.

 

Both Pullaiammah and Naillah on Wednesday, January 29, made a formal complaint to the SLMM.

 

The five Scandinavian born monitors at the SLMM  can do little or nothing about the situation. SLMM Chief, Trond Furuhovde met with LTTE Political Wing Head, S. P. Thamilchelvan in Killinochchi on January 29 to discuss the issue of child conscription. He had little success other than a cursory acknowledgment that the LTTE would investigate the matter.

 

Chairman, SLMM office in Batticaloa, Heikki Hulkkonen said, the LTTE has told the SLMM that if a child escapes their clutches they will take another family member hostage. As a result, Hulkkonen reiterated that many children who do escape the claws of the Tigers are too afraid to return to their homes and hide instead in relatives houses or turn themselves to the police and military to be sent to rehabilitation homes.

 

Savarimuttu Madibadanan (19) was abducted from outside his home last December 5. Madibadanan is from Kattankudy from a village called Ariyampathy. He was taken while standing outside his home at around 7 p.m.

When his mother, Savarimuttu Wijeyalakshmi appealed to the LTTE to release her son, the Tigers had said they did not have him. Wijeyalakshmi has another younger boy aged 17 who she said was abducted by the LTTE three months ago but later released. She reiterated that she had been making plans to send 19 year old Madibadanan overseas when he suddenly went missing.

 

Wijeyalakshmi has complained to the SLMM, the Batticaloa police and the ICRC. She is hoping that one of these organisations will somehow be able to locate her son and convince the LTTE to release him.

 

Rarely seen once abducted

Her hopes may just be in vain. According to American born Father Harry Miller, who is a member of the Peace Committee in Batticaloa, at least six to eight children are grabbed by the LTTE every week in Batticaloa.  They are rarely seen again unless they escape.

 

This too, results in a fall-out. He recounted how a few months back the LTTE had abducted an 11 year old girl from a government controlled area in Batticaloa after her 15 year old sister who had been kidnapped earlier - escaped.

Miller reiterated that the Tigers are known to watch and pick up children even from temple festivals. He said the LTTE has on some occasions removed up to eight children from a temple festival on a single night. He asserted the Tigers are all over Batticaloa and even kidnap kids from playgrounds or while they walk home and in many cases from within their homes .

 

The Jesuit priest who has made Batticaloa his home after arriving in the island in 1948, recounted how the LTTE has approached many Tamil families and told parents who have three or four kids that they must give one child to the LTTE. All this, after the peace process began last February.

 

Fr. Miller asserted that the issue of child conscription has snowballed during the present peace process and the situation is that much more grave since the LTTE  is  now removing children from government controlled areas. Earlier, the Tigers' 'baby recruitment' was restricted to uncleared areas only.

 

He asserted the Tigers have successfully "rendered the Batticaloa police impotent." (See box for further comments)

 

Fr. Miller's perception is not far wrong in this respect. When we met with the Batticaloa Police HQI, Harischandra Bandara and asked him why the police cannot prevent this astounding situation in areas under their purview, he replied, "there is nothing we can do.  The LTTE is allowed free access to these areas as a result of the MoU. Hence the police cannot stop them or monitor their movements within government territory."

 

Having said that, Bandara however claimed that there have been a few instances, albeit few and far between, when as a result of police road blocks and checkpoints they have been able to stop and even arrest LTTE cadres who were attempting to forcibly remove children.

 

Gone missing

Bandara recounted how two weeks ago two fathers attempted suicide after their sons aged 14 and 16 years were kidnapped by the LTTE from their homes.  They drank insecticide but were saved as a result of being rushed to hospital and the deadly liquid pumped out of their systems.

 

According to the military, on January 7 this year, 16 year old Subramanium Maiuram was abducted from 27/6, Covington Road, Batticaloa. She is still missing.

 

January 11, 2003, 14 year old Yogendran Somachandran was forcibly taken from 32, 2nd Cross Street, Mamangama. Her mother went to the LTTE office in Batticaloa and threatened to set herself on fire if her daughter was not returned. The Tigers merely responded by saying, "go ahead."  Her daughter is still missing.

On January 18, 2003, 15 year old Ambiga Kuham Chandiakumar from Umavil Road,  Komanthurai was kidnapped. She is still missing.

 

Two days later on January 20, Thavarasa Sivakumar aged 16, was kidnapped from her home at 661, Thiravumam Kovil Road, Ambuvellipuram, Pandirippu. She is still missing.

 

On January 21, 2003, Sathasivam Prasam (18) from 108/3, Iridiyapuram South, Iridiyapuram escaped and surrendered to the Sri Lanka Air Force camp in Batticaloa after having been forcibly conscripted by the LTTE last month.

 

Some of the surrendees for safety reasons are not handed back to their parents but sent to rehabilitation homes in the south for protection. One such home is the Gangodawila rehabilitation home for destitute girls.

 

Father Paul Hogan, founder of The Butterfly Garden in Batticaloa, said that "at the moment parents in Batticaloa are panicking as it appears the LTTE has increased its recruitment drive."

 

 General Officer Commanding  Batticaloa, Brigadier Sumith Balasuriya agrees. He said the Tigers are seizing children between the ages of 14 to 18.  Balasuriya said that the Tigers appear to have stepped up their recruitment drive since last month.  He is of the view that the LTTE "may either be preparing for a possible military onslaught in the event of war breaking out or it may also be that they are merely trying to enhance their man power and show numbers."

 

Balasuriya also said the children are taken mainly from school playgrounds while in some instances they have been removed after being summoned to the LTTE's political offices now set up in government controlled areas in the Eastern Province. He believes the children are taken to a Tiger camp at Maranakaduwankulam close to Thoppigala.

 

Two 17 year old girls who escaped from LTTE camps last month and surrendered to the military have said they were held by the Tigers in a camp close to Unnachchi which is situated near the Dorabora tank in Batticaloa.

They have claimed that they were taken blindfolded and are not sure of the exact bearings as a result.

 

According to statistics gathered by the military on this issue, at least 220 children between the ages of 11 to 15 years  have been kidnapped by the LTTE since February last year. Another 370 below the age of 18 years they claim, have also been abducted.

 

Heikki Hulkkonen, however says a total of 270 children have been abducted by the LTTE after the Tigers signed a ceasefire agreement with the Sri Lankan government last February and the SLMM offices were set up in April 2002.

 

Unfortunately, there does not appear to be any unified attempt by any of the NGOs, international monitors and police including the military in Batticaloa to compare their individual reports and statistics on this issue and come up with comprehensive figures that would not contradict each other.

 

Police confused

The SLMM, the ICRC, the Peace Committee in Batticaloa, the police and the military all have varying figures and statistics on how many children have been abducted since the peace process began.

 

The police in Batticaloa are even confused with their figures, not certain how many children are in fact being forcibly conscripted from under their very noses.

 

When told The Sunday Leader has found that at least four  under-age girls had been kidnapped this month from the very heart of Batticaloa town and its precincts, Batticaloa HQI, Harischandra Bandara was amazed. At the outset of our interview with him he stated that "there have been no children abducted from any of the cleared areas in Batticaloa." He was proved wrong minutes later by another staff officer who read out names and places of children kidnapped - all from government held territory.

 

As a Scandinavian monitor who requested anonymity said, "in these so-called government controlled areas, the LTTE reigns  supreme and exercises more control than any other government authority."

 

Another senior clergyman in Batticaloa asserted, "the LTTE has already won the war. Not only will they have administrative control over the north and east they will also govern under a federal set-up with their own police and judiciary."

 

The all encompassing question is how this system will affect the Muslims. That it is not an acceptable solution to the Muslim community, they have already made blatantly clear.

 
 

[ Home || Forum || Tsunami || Ethnic Conflict || Heritage || History || Archeology || Food || Travel || People ]  

 
 
Google
LankaLibrary.com

WWW Virtual Library - Sri Lanka