RECENT DEVELOPMENTS- A MISCELLANY
1.7 The LTTE's Volunteer Force - The Mahaveli Regiment
The international public has become too used to being told by defence spokesmen in Sri Lanka that aerial bombing in Jaffna is undertaken with pin point accuracy against carefully verified targets. This claim though in stark contrast to the experience on the ground is now seldom challenged. The foreign press is not always there. The local press takes only a nominal interest in foreign affairs-it has long taken separation for granted. Having destroyed the last vestiges of independent civil society, the LTTE's very artful and meticulously detailed documentation, counts as mere propaganda. But the most palpable demonstration of the government's claims came from the air force itself. An ironic instance of bombing took place about 11th November 1993, when the Jaffna Kachcheri, the main symbol of the government's authority there, was hit by the air force. This was then passed off as an accident.
Jeevodhayam farm run by the Wesleyan Mission lies on the right bank where the Aruvi Aru takes a 14O degrees bend in the Murunkan area. It is managed by an elderly minister who resides with his wife in the mission house. The spread of the farm itself is larger than Nallur Central, the area encompassing several major temples which was the capital of the kings of Jaffna. 3 miles north-east of the farm is a government animal breeding centre, once occupied by the IPKF and subsequently used for a time by the LTTE. The LTTE had never used Jevodhayam farm. The airforce on the lookout for targets in order to stay in business, evidently got its identification mixed up and commenced bombing Jeevodhayam on 15th June as follows:
15th June - Sia Machetti trainers dropped 4 bombs and Pukhara jets another 5. All fell away from the buildings.
14th July - Sia Machetti trainer aircraft dropped four just missing the nursery and the hostel.
26th July - Pukhara jets dropped four, two falling outside the farm and two just missing the chapel. Bombs fell again at 5 P.M on 29th July with similar results. The more than 17 bombs dropped made huge holes in the ground and the shock waves caused damage to roofs. Other significant damage was caused by small bombs, thrown from the Sia Machettis.
We learn that after each bombing the JOC was at least verbally told by church spokesman with no apparent result. The church evidently became helpers assisting the judges in a competition. The fact that no building was directly hit was judged as a prodigious feat of bombing by the SLAF. With no prospect of ground fire except the prayers of those below, no condition for pin-point accuracy was wanting. In Jaffna the bombing is aimed at houses, supposedly LTTE occupied, amidst closely packed civilian residences and sometimes adjoining schools in full session. We invite the reader to judge the official claims and demand at least one thing. Tell the government not to carry the jest any further. Should they feel an urge to bomb, let them say plainly that their aim is to kill civilians, although they may accidentally hit the LTTE, as the latter too has intended.
Killinochchi : In 8.4 of Report No 11 we raised the airforce bombing of St. Theresa's school in Killinochchi on 12th February which was then next to an LTTE camp. The children then narrowly escaped. This school has subsequently been bombed at least once. The first bombing was raised by foreign correspondents at the weekly cabinet press conference. These conferences were later discontinued.
About July the school was in session when bombers circled overhead. The children gathered around a Roman Catholic nun who was in charge of a class, and squatted on the floor in fear, their heads down. Some held the nun's feet. The nun who was standing saw a shiny object fly past and thought that was the end. The bomb lodged itself in the sand 25 yards from the class.But had failed to explode.
The `Island' of 8th November 1993 carried as its lead story the setting up of a new naval base at Elephant Pass to launch air-sea operations to curb traffic in the Jaffna Lagoon. This follows the failure of the army's recent ` Operation Yarldevi' of 28th to 4th October to halt this traffic. The army commander's claim that the facilities at Kilali are not being used for the traffic had been widely contradicted in the press. With the Poonerayn disaster this proved superflous.
The role of the new base, the report added, is to " launch operations against LTTE and civilian boats crossing the lagoon, they ( highly placed military officials) said". Quoting these sources it went on, " In the early hours of last Saturday ( 6th November), the navy, helicopters and planes swung into action when security forces radar picked up a boat convoy. Several boats were believed to have been sunk in the attack".
The language used is evocative of a gallant attack by intrepid forces against an enemy with aircraft carriers, ground-to-air missiles and the like. But in reality the targets are mostly helpless civilians crossing the lagoon in dilapidated fishing boats for the lack of any other option. Moreover, they were subjects of the very government which was obliged to protect them, but was instead attacking them. We shall briefly trace how this impossible situation developed.
In Special Report No.5 we have given details of another massacre by the navy in the lagoon. In the improving visibility of the morning twilight, the navy would have had no doubt that the intended victims were civilians including women and children. The civilians themselves went to great trouble to identify themselves by audio and visual signs. Not one return shot was fired. The navy came alongside, boarded one of the boats and had attempted to make it sink or set it on fire. Even the Geneva conventions accepted by the state oblige it to treat enemy injured falling into the armed forces' hands as one of their own. Even if a mistake was made, as was not the case, the navy, once it came into contact with the victims, was obliged to carry the injured for expeditious medical care, and treat the care and safety of those injured at least in keeping with duties to prisoners of war. What transpired instead was an attempt to annihilate the survivors. There was no doubt that the navy's intention was to avenge in a perverse and misconceived manner, the army's defeat at Weli-Oya four days earlier.
Greater importance, as we have always said, should be given to what the government has been doing to ensure that such incidents do not occour. The official spokesman has ingenuously kept repeating that the lagoon is a prohibited zone and who travels therein is liable to being shot. We have argued before (Report No 10:0), that the role of curfews, prohibited zones, and intervals of martial law to meet particular exigencies are never intended to license the forces to transform themselves into ravening wolves, treating the civilians immeasurably lower than prisoners of war. The accountability of the forces is ultimately to the people. The measures above are only meant to meet a perceived threat to those vested with enforcing the law, in a manner circumscribed by political judgement. Are the political authorities or the forces conscious of this?
For much of the time since the naval massacre of 2nd January, the forces seem to have tried to balance the need for civilians to use the lagoon for the lack of an alternative, with a desire to ensure that civilians are not used as cover for the LTTE's movements in the lagoon. Goods and people explicitly destined for Jaffna had been cleared at military check points in Vavuniya and allowed to pass, knowing that the prohibited lagoon was the only available route. In the weeks after the 2nd January massacre, the LTTE promised protected convoys on days kept secret until the 11th hour. This too in time become more formal than active. Jaffna bound passengers came to be told by helpful soldiers at Vavuniya, "Go without wasting time, there will be a boat service tonight"
What happened most of the time was that civilians waiting to cross would hear noises of heavy firing from about 7.OO to 1O.OO P.M, followed by silence. The boats would then depart between 1O.OO P.M and mid-night, completing the journey by 5.OO A.M. Civilian casualties however did continue to occur in varying circumstances. That the recurrence of what was always dormant took an extreme form on 29th July is partly a consequence of leaving the forces at a loose end with the national leadership lacking in either political or military objectives.
That the LTTE makes money by making the civilians use the Jaffna lagoon is well known - a hundred rupees or more on each passenger plus a tax of Rs 5O/- or more for each piece carried. Nor can it sustain civilian life and its interests in Jaffna if people cannot travel south. Apart from this the LTTE's assurances of security and concern for the civilians has a great deal of theatre and shamefully little substance. Even when Sea Tiger patrolling was given a temporary high profile after the January massacre, people strongly suspected that their safety would be enhanced by being left alone. The boatmen are themselves the Tamil counterparts of Sinhalese civilians being settled by the forces in dangerous areas. They too are people forced by circumstances to live dangerously for their subsistence. Reports have consistently spoken of boatmen jumping into the sea at the slightest alarm, leaving the passengers adrift, and re-emerging when the coast was clear. In an unusual instance the boatman jumped in upon hearing a gunshot. Two passengers who could swim jumped in after him. Having the misfortune of not being bald, the boatman was dragged by his hair back into the boat and forced to steer the boat. When the LTTE presents disarmingly accurate press reports of naval atrocities, there is usually a passing comment such as `the boatmen could not be found' or are `yet missing'. Their conduct was hardly held worthy of blame. There is little doubt that prompt desertion at the mere sign of danger is a condition agreed to under which they function. The boats are increasingly unseaworthy and the engines fewer and more unreliable. For all the money made there seems to be little, if any, regulation, safety measures or instruction in drills to ensure passenger security. The boats attacked by the navy on the 29th July set off after 2.3O A.M with faulty engines, long after mid-night, when the last boats were supposed to leave. The reservations of passengers were not heeded by the boatmen, on account of perhaps Dutch courage, extracted from local materials, necessary in such professions. All the details are reported in the LTTE controlled press with a classic cowboy serial ending. After the naval predators had long departed leaving dead and injured in a boat kept afloat by a survivor baling out water, another boat approaches them. The anxious man looking to his end, hears the reassuring words of the Sea Tigers, "Fear not, we have come!"
The terror in which passengers are forced to travel is revealed by another incident in early August. One boat as was customary was being towed by another in heavy wind and rough sea when the tow rope snapped. The rudderless boat buffeted in the water, with perhaps the fourteen passengers crowding onto one side in fear, capsized, drowning many. These tragedies were mostly avoidable with responsible regulation. There were clearly no ethics in the game
Why are the people treated so cynically as a depoliticised, atomised mass? Was it necessary?
The UNHCR had been involved in a long series of negotiations to reopen the Sangupiddy ferry service and ensure passenger safety. The army in Sangupiddy had reportedly agreed to conditions on screening passengers under UNHCR supervision which could not be objected to. A UNHCR spokesman told a group of NGOs in June that over months of negotiations a 27 page document had been drawn up which was incapable of further improvement. He said that he was going to find out for the last time whether there was the political will to implement it. Significantly, the `political will' was being sought in Jaffna rather than in Colombo. After it became clear that the LTTE had turned down the UNHCR proposals, the `Island' gave the document front page publicity during the second week of September. It claimed, with obviously mischievous intention, that the government had signed the document. The government in a move which showed lack of direction and political clarity was quick to distance itself from the document. Instead of challenging the LTTE on its indefensible position as regards civilians, between the government and the `Island', the LTTE was given a reprieve if not a present.
We reliably understand that the LTTE spokesman Anton Balasingam has made it more or less explicitly known that they needed civilian cover to operate in the lagoon. The lagoon affair too,no doubt, gave the Sea Tigers valuable training to sharpen their skills.
1.2.3 The Battle of 25th
August 1993 /o:p>
On this night a trap had been laid for naval patrol boats from Nagathvanturai that were meant to act against movement in the Jaffna Lagoon. In a series of manoeuvres during a confrontation, Sea Tigers isolated naval patrol boat P 115. Black Sea Tigers Mathan and Varathan were waiting on the fringes of the confrontation in explosive packed boats `Pulendran' and `Kumarappa'. Mathan summoned by radio crashed his boat into P115. P123 which came to the aid of P115 was similarly attacked and sunk by Varathan.
This incident had several implications which were unsettling to the government. It also perhaps influenced ` Operation Yarl Devi' a month later - an operation whose results unleashed a spate of controversy.
We recapitulate the sequence to draw the implications. Despite the fact that the government from about the end of 1991 declared the lagoon a prohibited zone, the LTTE needed to break the prohibition.It needed the lagoon to transport men and materials. To this end it was prepared to use civilians as pawns or as a shield. Given that the civilians had no choice, a government respecting its obligations towards them had some choices. The Governmernt was apparently not in a position to extend its territorial control so as to check the traffic. The other was for it to order the navy to be very circumspect in dealing with civilian boats and expose politically the LTTE's cynicism. As the UNHCR affair above shows, the government lacked political courage to pursue this course.
It was in this context that naval massacres of civilians took place. On occasions such as 2nd January 1993 (Report No 10), the navy boarded civilian craft, mutilated and looted. The LTTE promised Sea Tiger protection to the civilians. This public relations exercise though backed by some action was far from convincing. The bottom line of what happened was that civilians continued to be used as bait to draw out the navy, around which Sea Tigers acquired considerable experience in manoeuvres. During a confrontation on 24th June Sea Tiger Admiral Charles was killed.
What the incident above of 25th August did, by sharply curtailing naval movements, was to provide considerable substance to what was earlier the fiction of Sea Tiger protection of civilian travellers. The introduction of airpower against civilian movement in the lagoon is an admission that a political blunder had been compounded by a military set - back. The new government moves in the press report above which defy sanity had the markings of a battle for individual egos.
By July 1983 the idea of a single Tamil nation that received political life in 1956 had become firmly rooted in the minds of the people. But a politics which replaced dialogue with terror has made the idea increasingly tenuous.
An ordinary, typical, but very suggestive incident took place in the Colombo Fort - Trincomalee train. A veteran Tamil leader of Eastern origin was in conversation with a 5O year old professional from Jaffna. On the subject of the Jaffna lagoon crossing, the Jaffna professional told then leader, "The LTTE would not go along with reopening the Sangupiddy ferry service. They would never allow Tamils to be checked by Sri Lankan forces on the soil of Tamil Eelam". The leader responded indignantly, "You are now going to Trincomalee. You will be checked by the police as you alight and thereafter at every sentry point. It will be the same if you go into Batticaloa, Vavuniya, Mannar or Kalmunai. What do you mean the LTTE will not allow Tamils to be checked on the soil of Tamil Eelam? Have you already given up on us?" The professional, who was among the privileged travelling to Jaffna by ship rather than through the lagoon, observed a prudent silence.
By destroying collective initiative, using every weakness to its advantage without reference to principle and thereby forcing people to think in terms of individual survival, a fracturing of the Tamil identity is in progress. Although there is no open political activity, in every district passive alignments are taking place based on local exigencies.
In Trincomalee there is a desperate search for a Tamil leadership that would address the land question. In Batticaloa, an end to Tamil militants hunting each other - something the Jaffna leadership of the LTTE is in no mood to address. Where enlightened military officers have convinced local Tamil civilians that troops would act in a disciplined manner, the LTTE has found itself in deep trouble.
In Jaffna there has always been, and still is, a class among the intelligentsia who would refuse to understand the changing ground situation around them and the dangerous isolation of Jaffna. But the people, whose perception is not to be underestimated, know that both sides are using them. The shared sense of disillusionment among Tamils is reflected in the word `pahadakkai' (Pawns) to describe their condition.
1.4. Mannar District
1.4.1 Recent Developments
The case of Mannar is one where poor judgement, lack of consideration for civilians and the absence of overall political direction, can bring despair where there was hope. The political stakes in Mannar were high because it was a staging post for refugees being returned from India. The coming of Brigadier Karunatilleke in January was followed by an LTTE ambush and an incident at Pesalai UNHCR refugee camp which boded ill [Chapter 8 of Report No 11]. The brigadier who came with a bad record on violations gave the LTTE a political trump card by stopping the boat service to Vidathal Thivu. This 12 mile boat journey was the only route operating between Mannar Island and the LTTE areas on the mainland. The brigadier simply declared that the main road across the causeway into the interior was open, while the LTTE maintained that it was mined at the frontier. The result was that those going to Madhu had to take the sea route to Kalpitya and then through Puttalam, Anuradhapura and Vavuniya. The LTTE let it be known that it would stage ambushes on the island until the boat service was resumed. On 13th April a few LTTE men infiltrated the town in the evening, fired at the police sentry and ran away. In keeping with the brigadier's tough image, the army shelled the town from the main Tallady camp. A Muslim child was injured. A Tamil boy whose vein was cut by shrapnel bled to death because he could not be taken to hospital under those conditions.
Another ambush on the 4th July where 5 policemen were killed was followed by passenger buses being stopped and the girls, especially, beaten.and the disappearence of three young men. A lack of communication between the police and the army resulted from the police resenting bunker duties and patrolling which they regarded as the army's job. The brigadier's style did not evidently contribute to the effectiveness of the forces.
Prior to the incident of 4th July a police sub-inspector returning after taking an injured colleague to Thallady was attacked on the causeway killing the SI and several constables in the vehicle. A member of the hospital staff in the ambulance ahead sustained injuries. The brigadier expressed surprise and indignation upon finding that no sentry point on the entire causeway connecting Mannar Town with Thallady main camp was manned during the nights, whereas he had thought that these were manned by the police - an odd position for someone in charge of security for the whole district. During a subsequent confrontation at the railway bridge in late July, 3 soldiers and 3 LTTE men were killed.
Throughout this period a confrontation had been brewing between the brigadier and the Roman Catholic Church - though other officers with a bad record on violations like Major Dias, the former town commandant, were smart enough to maintain outwardly cordial relations with the local elite. Matters came to a head in July when the brigadier disallowed a resumption of the Vidathal Thivu boat service for the festival of `Our Lady of Madhu'. The following month the brigadier was replaced. The new brigadier, Patrick Fernando, allowed the boat service to function for the August festival. The LTTE's displeasure with Brigadier Karunatilleke did not stem from any concern for the people. One area where the brigadier was effective was in largely stemming smuggling operations to the north where sections of the forces, traders and Tamil militant groups are widely spoken of as having had a stake.
The Weli Oya debacle of late July was followed by a precipitate withdrawal of the army from areas which it had held for more than seven months to new lines encompassing Thallady and Vankalai near the coast. Several refugee families who had resumed life in army occupied areas found themselves stranded. They had begun cultivation and had sold their milk and vegetables on the island where there was a big demand. Among those arrested by the LTTE following the army withdrawal were six civilians in Suriyakaddaikkadu. To many refugees the army has been discredited as a body to be depended on. They see the army as having pulled back without sparing one thought for them.
It is a clear demonstration of how an ill-conceived and untenable ideological project like Weli Oya can demoralise and confuse objectives. The new brigadier arrived at a time most ill-suited for his initiation. For a man in overall charge of security, administration and rehabilitation, people found him lacking in self-assurance and almost saying that he did not know what was going to happen. He was clearly the victim of either a policy vacuum or of policies which changed every few months.
At 1O.OO A.M on this day a police party was ambushed at Tharakkulam 5 miles out of Mannar town on the Talai-Mannar road.Five poicemen including an SI were killed. Apparently unaware of this incident, about mid-day, people were returning by bus to Pesalai. At the BMC (Building Materials Corporation) police check point on the edge of town, the police detained several people including school children. The three adults taken in were:
(32) of Trincomalee, Wife: Rajasuloshana(29), Children: four, ages 11 to 4 years,
two in Trincomalee. /o:p>
Arumugam Arasaratnam (31) of Kumburupiddy, Trincomalee District, Wife: Pushparani (28), Children: boy(8) and a girl-born and died after father's disappearance.
Arulanatham Amirthanayagam (28) of Kuddiyiruppu, Mannar District, unmarried living with two sisters, rest of the family in India.
The first two were living in the UNHCR ORC (Open Relief Centre) at Pesalai. They were both picked up on 16th November 199O in an army round up and were released on 8th August 1992, after being held at Thallady and Kalutura. The third who was in the government run Welfare Centre Refugee Camp, also in Pesalai, was released from detention in May 1993. We have dealt with similar cases in chapter 2 of Report No 10. It is also clear from their circumstances that they were not actively involved in any militant activity.
They all had to report monthly to the police in Mannar - the puropse for which they had come to Mannar town that day.
Following the abduction of civilians by the police on 4-7-1993 above, the ICRC came on the scene and the children were released. As transport came to a standstill people went back to town to stay over with friends or relatives. But no curfew as was declared.
What is puzzling is how the three men taken in by the police got missed out. According to local sources, the people there saw the police getting the three out of view upon seeing the ICRC coming. The local ICRC man in charge was described as dedicated and aware of the local situation. Moreover, the third person was accomapnied by one of his sisters. Normally she would have done all she could to have the matter acted upon, either directly or with help. Did the ICRC speak to the people? Or did they speak and the people too scared to give information?
The expatriate UNHCR officer in Pesalai too was stuck in Mannar town until the following day. According to our information it was the follwing morning that the ICRC and UNHCR raised the matter with the brigadier's office in Thallady army camp. The arrests were simply denied and the detainess are now among the disappeared. If some relative wishes to file a habeas corpus application, it cannot be done in Mannar. It will have to be done in Colombo and the applicant would of necessity have to keep out of Mannar. This is likely to be impossible given the expenses and local family commitments. That is the state of the people.
Something has gone inexplicably wrong and we do not have answers to the questions raised. One may put down a few points which may offer some understanding.
1.There was a general expectation that disappearances had largely ceased. For instance the ICRC in Batticaloa was then said to be pursuing only arrests of more than 24 hours durartion.
2. A general ignorance about the role of, and services provided by the ICRC. The is disputed.
3. The public mind being generally dominated by a mixture of fear and apathy. Mannar has been lacking in leadership and an active citzens' committee tradition such as is found in Batticaloa. People talk very cynically about the local social hierarchy and accuse the administration of rampant corruption, but are afraid of knowing too much.
It has also been said that the OIC of the BMC police post, having gone to the scene of the earlier ambush, was not present when the arrests took place and that the lower ranks were then doing their own thing. Still many questions about the role of the forces remain unanswered. Did the detainees also suffer their fate when the OIC was not present? Even after it was perhaps too late to save lives there was no talk of an inquiry or disciplinary action -only the proverbial denial.
All this goes to show that the existing machinery, both state(eg the HRTF) and NGO, to combat disappearances, leave alone torture and abuse, is nowhere near acceptable. Accountability, in final analysis, is no better than what it was at the worst of times.
The `Sunday Island' of 22nd August announced that there had been a lowering of requirements for recruitment. Age down from 18 to 17. Height from 5ft 4in to 5ft. Educational qualifications from grade 8 to grade 5. Of the 21 centres designated for walk-in interviews, the first were to be held in Trincomalee, Vavuniya and Amparai on 23rd August. Interestingly, these three centres would take in recruits from the controversial colony areas of the North-East, rife with social and poverty related problems.
The exercise also has a sinister ring. The new requirements remind us of how the country is teeming with stunted and undernourished children who are also school drop-outs. Perhaps under pressure from the international community, the army later modified its position about the age of recruitment.
Given the instinctive hawkishness of the new president, the visible component of the defence budget may soon reach 25% of the national budget or 5O% of national income - thus sowing the seeds for more conflict and more deprived children for the army. According to a peasant leader from Uva, the remains of about a hundred soldiers who died during the recent battle at Pooneryn are being brought to the region for internment. The final death toll among the forces at Pooneryn is said to exceed 6OO. The peasant leader said, "In recent times the army recruited a large number of youths from around Uva, including Hambantota, Moneragala, Buttala, Bibile, Badulla, Bandarawela and Haputale. An important reason for this is the dropping of the educational requirement to standard 5, considering the fact that these are neglected areas with a high dropout rate in schools. Even earlier the army was not paying much attention to certificates. A letter from the local MP was enough.
"Even in places where there was agricultural work paid at Rs 1OO/= per day, a son going into the army and sending home Rs 4OOO/= a month appeared an attractive proposition. That seemed a quick way to recognition and social upliftment. I also know people with strong Buddhist sensibilities who have told their sons, `Son, stay at home. You may earn less, but we can see you in the morning and in the evening and feel comforted. If you go into the army we may never see you again. Moreover son, we do not want money you would earn for killing others.'
"Another factor governing recruitment is the one sided presentation of the army by the state media and the mainline press. Although the alternative press has made a powerful impact among the educated in Colombo, almost nothing of it is seen in my area. So when our boys go into the army and see the other side at first hand, they become quickly disillusioned. That is why desertion of soldiers from these areas is also high."
The number of raw recruits killed or missing at Pooneryn is said to be nearly 3OO. The tragedy in these areas raises questions about whether any political party in parliamnet really represents their down to earth interests. The current public discourse about military disasters seems to have taken some lessons from the LTTE's book. For both the government and the opposition raising questions about political and military competence in relation to the war, such as may rock the boat, has become taboo. Young men whose lives are being thrown away as a result are commemorated as heroes and even martyrs. Thus any deeper examination of the tragedy is obviated.
But the common people faced with a mounting toll of dead and maimed have their doubts and the response to recent recruiting exercises has been poor. Nevertheless, to carry on blundering the army badly needs cannon fodder. Given the compliant mood of the opposition, observers believe that conscription may not be far away, provided it is designed to provide loopholes for the children of those who matter.
In the morning as soon as travel was permitted a group of persons coming into Vavuniya from the North were seen approaching the Sri Lankan sentry point at Nochimoddai which was manned by the PLOTE. Instead of coming in the usual manner the persons came in file as though being prompted by someone. On reaching the sentry point these persons were queuing up. A PLOTE sentry reportedly observed a weapon sticking out of the bag of one of the travellers. He immediately shouted a warning and an order to fire was given. During the sequel about 6 civilians and another 5 who were presumed to be LTTE men were killed. 12 injured civilians received treatment at Anuradhapura hospital. Also killed were 3 members of the PLOTE and one soldier. It is believed a person who was near the head of the queue was carrying a bomb in a bag which exploded on being hit by a bullet when the PLOTE opened fire. The 3 PLOTE men and a soldier died in the explosion. The plan it seems was for the bomb to be thrown inside the bunker, following which the other LTTE persons were to remove their gun from their bag and open fire. Travellers who came that way the following day, found between the LTTE and the army check points blood clots and an abandoned ladies slipper. There were also some school books in a plastic carrier bag. Evidently the civilians had not initially known that they had been infiltrated by persons planning to carry out an attack.
The LTTE's journal `The Liberation Tigers' of August 1993 carried a feature about its Volunteer Force. It was formed at the beginning of 199O, it said, reached the second stage of its development in mid - 1991 when the volunteers were trained to use .3O3 rifles, and is now said to have reached the third stage.
The context and idea behind its origins came out of the eviction of Tamils from the Manal Aru ( Weli Oya) region and the institution of Sinhalese settlement under Mahaveli System L.The report went on : " Town and village folk in Mullaitivu (District)were evicted in the course of military operations. For 3 years (since the beginning of war) the government gave no consideration to their plight. On the contrary, in the Manal Aru region, the peoples' houses, schools, community and medical centres have been destroyed by bombing. The volunteer Force was begun to save people from the government's atrocities and enable them to live with freedom". The Ministry of Lands and Mahaveli Development has thus much to do with the birth of the force.
The journal made the extra-ordinary claim, " All the villagers in the Manal Aru region have joined the Volunteer Force."
Counting able bodied men affected by System L, the claim, if true, would place the strength of the Volunteer Force in the Mullaitivu area at well over 5, OOO. [See our Special Report No. 5 - " From Manal Aru to Weli Oya"].
The claim, which sounds like hyperbole, may be technically true. A common response from educated, semi- urbanised and westernised Jaffna youth to political disillusionment and endless conflict is to flee abroad. But in areas like Mannar, Vavuniya and Mullaitivu of the rural North, decisions tend to have a collective and community based character. If the LTTE had pointed to the unconscionable nature of the Weli Oya colonisation and had demanded that everyone should sign up for the force and undergo training, the demand would have had considerable legitimacy. Despite reservations, a more - or- less collective decision to join up sounds plausible.
On the other hand when the LTTE puts the same demands to people in the Vavuniya and Mannar areas, the response has been seen to be lukewarm or tending towards hostility. ( See 3.2.2 & 3.2.4).[Top]
Home | History
| Briefings | Statements
| Bulletins | Reports
| Special Reports | Publications
Copyright © UTHR 2001