Back to Main Page History Briefing Statements Bulletins Reports Special Reports Publications Links


L I F E   I N   T H E   N O R T H

4.1  Food shortages - Incident at Uduvil Colony

4.2  A/Level Examinations : LTTE & Government Attitudes

4.3  Detainees in the North

       The Release:

4.4  The Young

4.1       Food shortages - Incident at Uduvil Colony

Following the outbreak of the war, all food stocks were taken over by the LTTE and were controlled by them.  Food that was released through retail shops fetched prices which only the middle income group could barely negotiate.  Food was distributed only to people staying in refugee camps.  The low income groups with no steady income who were not refugees, such as those in the Uduvil colony, suffered badly.

Recently hard pressed people in the Uduvil colony, who suspected that the manager of the local MPCS (Multi Purpose Co-operative Society) had lied to them, raided the MPCS store and found some food stocks.  The angry villagers informed the LTTE.  The LTTE searched the manager house and found rice and kerosene oil, which they removed in addition to what was in the store.  The manager was taken into custody.  The manager pleaded with the people who were well known to him and were from the same area.  Out of pity, the young men in the area drafted and signed a letter asking the LTTE  to pardon the manager and took it to the LTTE.  The LTTE  thanked the young men and took them all away to dig bunkers.  When releasing them, they were asked to bring their mothers who were at the forefront  in the MPCS affair.  In the end the villagers did not get any of the food stuff that was theirs by right, and were left feeling very angry that the movement did not care for their well-being.  A women from the community said, “We recovered food from a crow and gave it to an eagle.”

The two things to note here are the of humanity from the leaders of a liberation struggle and the discipline and magnanimity of some of the poorest people from the lower reaches of society.  Instead of ransacking the MPCS, they went to the ‘authorities’.  They were also ready to plead for the miscreant manager.

4.2       A/Level Examinations : LTTE & Government Attitudes

Thousands of students were busy preparing for the A. Level examinations scheduled for August, when the war broke out in June.  Ordinary civilian life was shattered in the North-East and in the East, people were living in terror,in refugee camps.  When the government announced that the  A.Level examinations would be held on schedule, the people felt furious and powerless.  The government further announced that people from troubled areas could sit at other center.  Given their own disturbed circumstances and the real risks facing young travellers, a very small fraction felt inclined to try this option.  By its insensitivity, the government was both alienating and frustrating the class of students whose disillusionment with the LTTE was greatest.  The delay in the government announcing a separate examination for the North-East was damaging.  The LTTE was on the other hand looking for any means to get students involved in anti-government protests.  Its student association organised a campaign against the government’s earlier decision and called for a boycott of A.Level  examinations.  The students for the most part remained cynical.

Subsequently, the LTTE became excessively agitated at the though that a few students may go to Colombo and sit for the examination - an option hardly feasible to the majority.  Then posters came up calling those who would sit for the A/L’s outside the North-East traitors.  They together with their families were deemed unfit to live in the North-East and were condemned to exile.  The problem itself was not a serious one in comparison with much else that was going on.  This action demonstrated the LTTE’s inability to appeal to reason  and community sense.  Its paranoia and insecurity impelled it to rely on terror.

A campaign and march were organised against, “Educational Oppression”.  When the government announced that a separate examination will be held in the North-East, the fear of a tougher examination was used to continued the same campaign.

When dealing with university students, the LTTE’s concern for education was quite the reverse.  They were told that studying was futile and were even asked to join the final battle.

The manner in which the LTTE  has handled several issues during this war, of which the A.L examinations is one, brings out its true nature.  It utilized, thrived on and enhanced the basic selfishness in the society, while frustrating any tendency for reform.  Brutality, self-centredness and suicide are responses of different sections of the society to the politics of ‘every man for himself’.  The LTTE cannot afford to extend its logic of stigmatising those who wish to sit for their A.Levels outside.  This would mean terming all those with means who wish to leave the country now because of real difficulties, traitors.  Indeed, it would place members of the leadership like Anton Balasingam, who left the country and became a British citizen at a time when the pressures to leave were minimal, in an unenviable position.

The LTTE has never valued independent persons who consciously came back to the country to serve.  Some of them have met with cruel fates.  On the other hand persons who went abroad for purely selfish reasons and who are willing to do propaganda or make contributions  to the merchandise of death have been highly valued.

Even in Jaffna today which faces an acute crisis, there is no attempt at a politics of promoting community sense or of helping the poor worst hit deprivations.  Releasing apparently scarce goods through  retailers at astronomical prices is a means of making money out of those who can afford, while not seriously providing for the poor.  Those who want to leave for Colombo can do so provided they could afford the extortionate transport charges.  The legitimate anger of the poor against the Sri Lankan state is also useful, as no alternative has been left to them except to depend on the LTTE.  The yawing gap of hypocrisy is bridged by terror.

It is little wonder that corruption had become an integral part of almost every aspect of Jaffna life over the last few decades, with the connivance of the social leadership.  The LTTE was an organic growth adapted to Jaffna society.  The minority of young men and women who tried to fight this tendency and lost patience, have been often driven to either compliance, madness or hatred.

On the government’s part, the insensitivity with which it handled the A.Level candidates in the North-East, is yet another instance of how it is the best friend of its sworn enemy.

4.3       Detainees in the North

Around 2000 persons have been arrested and detained in LTTE camps.  Their ages range from 20 to 70.  Many of those detained were alleged to have had links with rival groups or the Indian army.  They were detained in rooms walled with a space of 6 ft x 1 ˝ ft for light and air.  Their legs were permanently chained with no locks.  Detainees were chained together in the nights before sleeping time.  Toilet facilities were limited, with each person allowed three minutes.  Drinking water was rationed at half a tumbler a time, and sometimes only poured into the mouth.

A large number of sick persons suffering from a variety of illnesses including, hernia, diabetes, heart ailments etc received no medial attention.  Prisoners were called by their numbers.

A detention center was built at Thunukkai, south of Jaffna peninsula, where most of the prisoners were held.  Following the outbreak of war, most of them were moved to Chavakachcheri.  Some of the prisoners were released recently with each requiring 4 guarantors.  Generally, the guarantors were required to have some standing with the LTTE.  Some of the guarantors were detained recently after those guaranteed by them vanished from their areas.  They were kept with other prisoners for two weeks and then released.  Over 1000 are still said to be in custody.  While the torture is said to have been intensive, not many were killed.

The Release:

During late July, the guarantors were called for a meeting at Tinnevely which was addressed by Salim of the LTTE.  He made a forceful speech saying that the detainee to be released were not fit to live in Tamil Eelam, but were fit only to live under LTTE supervision.  Several conditions were imposed on those released.  They were to sign at Tinnevely every day.  No excuse such as heavy bombing will be accepted if they fail.  If they were leaving their areas, the LTTE should be informed 72 hours in advance.  They should not play any role in public life such as even being a member of a church committee.  Any failure would result in the prompt arrest of the person released together with all the guarantors.  The guarantors faced a confiscation of 40% of their property if the released person absconded.  They were told not to think that a person’s social position would be of help and claimed even to have a professor under detention.  Not even a severe military situation would enable them to escape, he said, a special unit has been devoted entirely to surveillance and monitoring.

The release ceremony was held in Pandeteruppu, 9 miles from Jaffna.  The main speech, made by Puthuvai Rathinathurai, in mellifluous Tamil, was opposite in tone to that of Salim.  The speaker headed the LTTE’s culture unit.  He said that those being released were neither traitors criminals.  They had not worked against the LTTE on their own volition.  They must be embraced and reintegrated into the society as brothers.  When those to be released were transported to Jaffna, the bus was stopped mid-way, and the detainees were told that under no circumstances should they talk about their experiences under detention.

Most of the detainees released were afraid to talk about their experience.  Persons close to some of the ex-detainees gathered bits and pieces over several days.  One told a friend that he would tell him a long time hence.  Some of the physical torture described consisted of the detainee being asked to lie flat and given 40-80 strokes with a wooden pole or being tied stretched and having a rough piece of wood forcefully dragged over the skin.  The mental torture was much worse.  So bad was the experience of humiliation and injury that this detainee felt that he was unfit for civilian life and felt like returning to prison.  He doubted that many of them would live more than a year.

It was also reported that several detainees at Chavakachcheri were taken to dig bunkers in frontline positions.  During air raids some of the detainees were sheltered while others were kept in the open.

4.4       The Young

We have observed that during the current situation, a large number of young persons are joining the LTTE under conditions of brutal alienation created by the government.  Boys above 16, the group most disillusioned with the struggle, are regularly taunted by girl propagandists who ask whether their books and studies would save them from the Sri Lankan army.  Ironically, experience suggests that this group would be the most vulnerable if the army came into Jaffna.

Many of the boys joining are about the of 12.  It is a society where the government has connived at the destruction and humiliation of its leadership, and the people have no one they could trust.  Social workers have observed that many of the children, of whose personal background something is known, have motives much to do with some shortcomings in their personal lives, rather than with any notion of liberation.  Anguished parents have gone from camp to camp trying to trace their children.  After several denials, the child sometimes tells the parents that he or she is well looked after and that they could stop coming.

The young recruits are sent into action after rudimentary training lasting about 2 weeks and are often sent for frontline duty.  It is said that the causality figures from this group are the older cadre leaving the scene of conflict, leaving the smaller fellows to do sentry duty.

As result of frontline positions being most prone to bombing and shelling, a number of very young persons have been maimed with limbs lost.  A large number of them want to leave, but are afraid that their condition would mark them off as victims of summary action by the Sri Lankan forces once they make an entry.  According to medical sources, a significant number of these young persons have attempted suicide by playing around with cyanide capsules.

The extent of desertion is not known, but following some desertions in recent times, there have been reports of shaving of heads of new recruits.  This was a practice resorted to when the Indian army formed the TNA through conscription - a measure strongly criticised by the LTTE.  A number of deserters are in hiding.

With education at a standstill, public meetings and displays of persons in arms function in part as means by which young persons are allured.  Sometimes several hundreds are gathered at a public  place for ‘defence’ training.  In the course of three hours of physical activity and swearing of oaths, a strong emotional drive is built up.  Sometimes a volunteer may be asked to report after several days.  There is then little room for second thoughts. 



Home | History | Briefings | Statements | Bulletins | Reports | Special Reports | Publications | Links
Copyright © UTHR 2001