Roy Mendis in Colombo, 9.35 PM SLT Friday May 10,2002 Lanka academic.
The Head of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) in Batticalao, Lars Tidbeck,has
asked the LTTE to stop harassing the public."The SLMM is much concerned
about the harassment of the members of the public in Batticaloa district by
the LTTE," Tidbeck said in a press release today.
He had met Vishu alias Sithampara Pillai Gopalan,the LTTE's leader for Batticaloa and Amparai districts, in Karadiyanaru on May 8 and requested him to have "good rapport" with the members of the public and "ensure that every one in this area lives with peace of mind."
Referring to the case of Sithamparampillai, the 82 year old Notary Public who the LTTE had abducted and released recently, Tidbeck asked Vishu to stop harassing the senior citizen and leave him alone.Though Vishu gave an undertaking that the LTTE would do so,the harassment continued, Tidbeck pointed out.
The SLMM Batticaloa would now inform its headquarters in Colombo about the matter so that it could be taken up with the LTTE's High Command in the Wanni,the release said.
Colombo, May 11. (PTI): A district-level committee of Sri Lanka's overseas
truce monitoring body has expressed concern over the mounting instances of harassment
of civilians in the eastern Batticaloa district by the LTTE, and asked the rebel
group to seek to earn the peoples goodwill.
Lars Tibeck, who heads the monitoring committee for the district, said in a statement released in Batticaloa town yesterday, that he had met local LTTE political wing leaders to seek assurances that the people would be allowed to live in peace.
The district panel said it had requested the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) in Colombo to convey its deep concern to the LTTE leadership.
The case of an 82-year-old notary, who was detained until a huge ransom was paid to the LTTE, was mentioned specifically. Sitham parampillai had been released after a ransom was paid, on an assurance that he would not be harassed any more. But the victim had once again complained that he was receiving threatening requests, the panel said.
SLMM is under fire from human rights activists and the media for not doing enough to stop abductions, child conscription and harassment in the east.
However, the 23-member SLMM says it needs more manpower and has decided to bring another two dozen monitors from other Scandina vian countries. (Hindu 11/5/2002).
An 82-year-old man from Batticaloa - allegedly abducted by the LTTE but released
after he promised to pay them a ransom of Rs. 2.5 million - is apparently so
traumatised that he refuses to meet officials of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission
"We are aware that he is back and we telephoned him because we had questions pertaining to the incident," said Lars Tidbeck, SLMM representative in Batticaloa. "He was supposed to visit our office for the inquiry but he never turned up."
Tidbeck said that the man was also not agreeable to SLMM officials visiting him at home. "He didn't want us to go there (home)," he noted.
The man was abducted by the LTTE on April 15 but released two days later after an assurance was given that the money would be paid, informed sources in Batticaloa said. They added that a nephew of the man had stood personal surety for the money that was to be paid in two instalments. Both Amnesty International and the SLMM were informed.
The SLMM summoned him last Saturday but he did not appear. Tidbeck said it was now up to the abducted man to come before the SLMM and furnish the information, explaining that they could not proceed further without the necessary evidence. "We are anxious to have a talk with him and to hear what his experiences were," he noted. "We want to know whether he was released conditionally."
He said the man appeared worried about meeting the SLMM.(NW)
By a Special Corr.
An organization set up recently to safeguard the human rights of Eastern Province Tamils has complained to Norway, the country facilitating the ceasefire between the Government and Tigers about the extortion conducted by the LTTE in the Batticaloa and Ampara districts against innocent Tamil civilians.
The newly constituted Batticaloa-Ampara Civil Liberties Association (BACLA) has written to Oslo's Ambassador in Colombo Jon Westborg and the Norwegian Head of the Ceasefire Monitoring Mission Major General Trond Furhovde about a series of extortion activities done by the Tamil Tiger organization in the towns of Batticaloa and Karaitivu.
The BACLA has pointed out that the LTTE has stepped up its extortion campaign in the past weeks in Batticaloa and Karaitivu because these are the largest two Tamil majority towns in the districts of Batticaloa and Ampara respectively.
In addition the LTTE has also begun spreading its extortion activity in other parts of the East coming under the control of the security forces also.
The Tigers who had been sending extortion notes from their offices across the Batticaloa lagoon earlier are now moving about freely in Govt. controlled areas because of the ceasefire.
This has resulted in the Tigers being able to go straight to houses or directly summon people to threaten and demand money described as taxes or donations.
The LTTE says that the Tamil people who have not paid any money for several years because they were living in Government areas in the past must now pay their dues with penalties for not paying earlier.
Prominent citizents, professionals and business people are being forced to pay money under different arrangements for different people.
Since the LTTE leader Velupillai Prabakharan has promised Muslim Congress Minister Rauff Hakeem that Muslim people will not be taxed, the BACLA fears that the Tigers are now targeting Tamil people in large scale to cover the losses incurred by not taxing Muslims.
LTTE leader Athiyaman is in charge of extortion for the LTTE in the East says the BACLA.
People are being abducted by gangs without any visible links to the LTTE and then being taken to Tiger camps in the Western interior called Paduvangarai alleges the BACLA.
Relatives then go to the camps meet Athiyaman or his assistants and come to an arrangement to pay money in instalments and get the abducted people released on guarantee of payment.
"There are nearly a hundred civilians being kept in forced captivity for extortion purposes at any given time" charges the BACLA.
Some others agree to pay immediately to avoid being abducted.
Many others have not gone to LTTE camps after receiving notes but are living in dreadful fear says the BACLA.
Some have gone into hiding in the East itself while others have moved to Colombo and other Sinhala areas in fear of LTTE it is said.
The BACLA has pointed out that by targeting professionals particularly leading lawyers the LTTE has put "fear" into the Eastern Tamil elite which would in normal situations help the public to oppose such extortion acts.
The Tamil lawyers being specifically targeted has made that breed quiet and passive without opposing such extortion or helping victims.
At least 30 million rupees have been extorted in Batticaloa and Ampara after the ceasefire. The amounts will in the future run into crores because many people have agreed to pay in instalment and also on regular monthly basis, points out the BACLA.
The ceasefire monitoring panels in both Ampara and Batticaloa districts have not started functioning effectively for the public to complain.
The Tamil public is not confident about the local ceasefire panels being able to do anything solid because it feels that the government and Norway will not be concerned about Tamils being victimized by the LTTE.
If Muslims and Sinhalese are affected there will be agitation but not about Tamil victims of the Tigers, points out the BACLA.
The Tamil people are also worried about complaining to the ceasefire monitors because there are Tiger representatives also included in it. The people are afraid that their identities will be leaked to the LTTE by their stooges, says the BACLA.
The Tamil National Alliance MP's elected from the East are useless and will not help the people who elected them because they are "shameless slaves of the Tigers and have no honesty dignity or self-respect", states the BACLA.
The BACLA says that the government and international community are cautious in dealing with the LTTE because they don't want to disrupt the ceasefire.
While the peace process should not be ended the BACLA urges that Tamil civilian rights should not be "sacrificed on the altar of the peace process".
Therefore the international community represented by Norway as facilitator should act fast and get the LTTE to stop this extortion pleads the BACLA.
"Please control the LTTE if you cannot do so and if the LTTE wants more money then please get it from the USA and give it to them but don't allow the Tigers to bleed the Tamils to death. We beg you for this arrangement" requests the BACLA.
The BACLA also says that apart from demanding money or gold the LTTE is also forcing Tamil people to legally transfer their property like houses and paddy lands etc in the names of people proposed by the Tigers.
"These people are "Benami" or front people for the LTTE and real control is in Tiger hands", discloses the BACLA.
The organization has also mentioned specific instances of victimisation in Batticaloa and Karaitivu promising to regularly supply more names and facts if Norway will really do something purposeful.
"Please inquire into these cases and find out the truth and take action. If you are unable to check or even control the LTTE then please give up your so called peace process because the ceasefire will in the future be a licence for Tiger extortion of Tamils", says the BACLA.
If Norway, the government and the international community will genuinely take meaningful action more and more people will come forward to complain against the LTTE says the BACLA. "If nothing is done then most Tamils will suffer in silence leaving organizations like us to represent matters", it points out.
Some excerpts of incidents of extortion cited in Alphabetical order by the BACLA to Norway are as follows:
* Chinniah DC a lawyer from Batticaloa was also summoned to Ambilanthurai. He promptly went there without any delay and met Athiyaman. This was praised by Athiyaman as a worthy example and because of Chinniah's action he was asked to pay only three lakhs of rupees.
* Parasuraman an ayurvedic doctor from Karaitivu was abducted and a demand of Rs. 25 lakhs ransom was made. He fell sick in the LTTE camp and was allowed to return home. But his wife was taken and kept in the Tiger camp in his place. Later a sum of ten lakhs was given and the rest promised in instalments to get Mrs. Parasuraman released.
* Rajendran a jail guard and his wife a school teacher are residents of Puliyantivu in Batticaloa town. Demands were made of them and now an agreement is in force where the couple has to pay 30,000 rupees per year with arrears for past years.
* Rajeswary presently resident in Batticaloa town is the widow of former UNP District Development Council member Kandapody Manickam. She has been summoned by Athiyaman of the LTTE but has not reported yet on the grounds of ill-health. She is living in fear.
* Satchithanandam a leading civil lawyer in Batticaloa was abducted while returning from Kalmunai courts where he had gone for a case. He was taken to the Ambilanthurai LTTE camp and asked for Rs.25 lakhs. He was released after Rs. 17 lakhs was paid. The remainder is to be paid in due course.
* Sharvananda another Batticaloa lawyer was summoned by the LTTE finance division to Ambilanthurai. He went there after some delay and negotiated the amount to be paid. He has paid Rs. six lakhs as advance.
* Sithamparapillai a notary public aged 82 from Batticaloa was abducted from his home at Thamaraikerny and taken to Ambilanthurai. His 80 year old wife was summoned by Athiyaman for a meeting after which Sithamparapillai was released on the basis that Rs. 25 lakhs will be paid before a certain date.
* Thiyagarajah a retired civil engineer from Karaitivu was abducted and coerced into executing a deed transferring all his property without any payment to a family recommended by the LTTE.
* Vadivel an engineer from Batticaloa town was abducted by the LTTE and released after a sum of five lakhs was negotiated to be paid immediately and another ten lakhs later. He has been released now.
* Vinobainthiran another Batticaloa lawyer was summoned to Ambilanthurai by Athiyaman. He has been asked to pay Rs. 25 lakhs in instalment.
* Vivekanantharajah a well known Batticaloa physician has also been asked to pay a "donation". He is reportedly paying one lakh rupees per month.
by Douglas Ayling
Representatives of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) met with LTTE leaders yesterday to discuss the abduction of the 82 year old Notary Public, Mr Sithamparapillai. Mr Sithamparapillai was detained for the second time in a fortnight last Friday as he visited the LTTE office in Paddiruppu to pay a ransom instalment pertaining to his first abduction.
Mr Sithamparapillai, from Thamaraikerny in Batticaloa, was originally taken by force from outside his house on April 15th. He was bundled into an LTTE vehicle when men seized him as he was gardening. In a subsequent phone call from a man identifying himself as an LTTE leader named Kannan, the victim's family was asked to pay a Rs 2.5 million ransom for the official's release.
The family was informed that he was being held by the LTTE Eastern Province Chief Karikalan.
Whilst Sithamparapillai was later released from Paddiruppu on condition that the ransom be paid in instalments, he has since been re-detained in the act of delivering his first instalment of Rs 300,000. Mr Sithamparapillai, Notary in Batticaloa, is also father of the well-known Canadian lawyer Kumar S. Sri Skanda.
Asked what powers are available to the SLMM under the Ceasefire Agreement to stop or censure violations of the MoU, Mr Haukland, Deputy Head of Mission said: "The only power we have is to strongly recommend to settle the problem by peaceful means; and also to come up with recommendations if they want it".
Haukland was not prepared to comment on the progress of yesterday's discussions. Asked whether there was any indication that this abduction was a reprisal, Haukland replied "I'm not quite sure because this is the second time this person has been abducted".
Since the MoU, there have been 190 complaints reported to the SLMM - according to Haukland, "The majority from the Government side".
By Nirupama Subramanian, The Hindu
BATTICALOA, Feb. 26. Sri Lanka is euphoric about the ceasefire between the Government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), but to this eastern town, it has brought no peace of mind.
The LTTE controls large swathes of territory in the region and walks in and out of the Government-controlled areas with ease because there is no well-defined "line of control''.
Last December, when both sides began an informal ceasefire, the LTTE began recruiting teenagers from the district, taking away underage children forcibly, and also intensified its "tax'' collection. Now, with a formal ceasefire in place, there is fear and uncertainty at the prospect of the LTTE being allowed to roam freely in all areas within a few weeks, as specified under the agreement. ``We have mixed feelings about the ceasefire,'' one man, whose business partner fled town after the LTTE asked him to pay up Rs. 15 lakhs, said diplomatically.
Before the truce, people complained about military checkpoints. Now, for the first time in several years, people are able to move around freely even at night, but ironically, they are asking where the security forces have disappeared. ``If the army would only check people's bags, at least we can give the LTTE the excuse that we cannot carry the money to them as we would be detected by soldiers,'' one man, who has been issued several demand notes, said somewhat desperately.
The LTTE tax collectors seem to have every detail about the income of their targets: salaries, bank balances, assets, liabilities. Those singled out have to visit the LTTE office in nearby Kokaddicholai. They can bring down the amount they have to pay by bargaining. Refusal to pay usually brings imprisonment till the person is worn down into accepting his fate.
A government official took voluntary retirement from her job last December, four years ahead of time, in order to move out of the area where she was posted to escape harassment from the "tax squad'' of the LTTE. Now she fears they will be able to get to her only too easily and punish her. A clause in the ceasefire agreement for the protection of civilians from extortion, abduction, intimidation and other harassment has brought no comfort to her. The Tigers have abducted several "tax offenders'' until they pay up.
Fears are rising that when they are allowed into the town, the LTTE will step up recruitment, which people said had eased off in the first few days of the ceasefire. Over the last three months, the LTTE is believed to have recruited as many as 200 teenagers, including underage children, mainly from areas under its control, demanding one child from each family. Several families that fled to Government-controlled areas to escape the conscription now dread being found by the LTTE and punished. Children who were daring enough to escape from LTTE camps and are still getting over the trauma, are panicking that their captors might return.
The Hindu spoke to several such children. One of them, an 18-year-old boy, said he was leaving for a Sinhalese village outside the north-east where the LTTE could not find him. The LTTE had taken his mother captive after his escape. The boy hoped they would release her once they realised he had gone for good.
A 15-year-old boy, who was taken away by two LTTE cadres as he came out of classes escaped on a bicycle from a camp where he was kept for three days. After two hours of frantic pedalling, he managed to reach a main road where he flagged down the first vehicle he saw. The occupants took him to the nearest police station and he was re-united with his family a few hours later. Now the boy is scared at the thought of stepping out again.
It is an open secret here that a recently-elected Member of Parliament attempted suicide by consuming poison when his son was taken away by the LTTE, and had to be hospitalised for three days. But that did not bring his child back.
Even those who are otherwise ardent supporters of the LTTE say they are ashamed at its conduct over the last few months. ``The LTTE has undoubtedly created a lot of resentment with its activities,'' said one eminent townsman who has close contact with the area leader of the Tigers, Sivagnyanam Karikalan.
But there are also those who justify the recruitment and "collection'' of money as necessary to strengthen the LTTE.
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