Thursday, January 22, 2009
Talking to terrorists
Those creation the crossing from approximately Mullativu are a different lot, from others who crossed during the last few months. They know it is dusk time for the sun god awaiting a call to be beheaded. Escape, he must, if he is to stay alive but before he could, those who lived in his area have decided to move. They are forceful the LTTE is destined to lose, so why wait?
Suresh, the LTTE combatant had ridden his bicycle to a territory not knowing the Army had already moved in so deep into the LTTE heartland." Cadres know they cannot fight the army with a 15 days training. All males between ages 18-40 are conscripted. So they run when the army fires as they cannot stand and fight. The will to fight is no longer there even among our senior cadres. More will desert, before, their mother or father were taken to custody-now the LTTE is unproductive. If they knew how well we are treated more will cross. We were told repeatedly the Army will kill or maim us". He had surrendered but many come in groups with a face liner often transport a white flag.
23 year old Ranga was promised an IT training but in its place given a crash course in military instructions and sent to the battle front. It was drilled to him the atrocities dedicated by the Army so he feared surrendering. He was shown newspaper articles of roaming white vans. They were lectured on the need that "all must be together to win the war". He opined that the Forces are moving fast and the LTTE is in confusion and many have taken flight and no longer can orders be effectively communicated to the public.
Young men were surveillance the finals of the one day global against Bangladesh squatting or stretched on the floor of the displaced persons camp (luxury to those who came from a district without electricity) seeing Murali display his skills with the bat on the brink of defeat, the soldiers on guard joined to watch TV; the moving instant was when the military and the young boys from the North, in unison cheered lustily as the winning caress was made. One Nation, One People.
Those in the camps from the Killinochchi District have piercing insights. The fall of the LTTE strongholds accelerated with the departure of the NGOs' from the area; clearly the second line of defense by the LTTE. It was these foreign organizations that provided the LTTE with first aid amenities for the injured, excess fuel for the vehicles, preservative food food for the fighting formations and building material for the construction of makeshift bunkers. The largest project undertaken by the NGOs' was providing gear for construction of the many high embankments which girdled principle towns that let down the progress of the Forces. LTTE could not survive for long without inputs of these NGOs that operated from Killinochchi. Often these foreigners, could be seen enjoying the ala carte menu of the Terrorist Kitchen in better-off times.
Army's hospitality treatment assuaged the initial fears instilled by the LTTE. At the crossing points itself the new arrivals are served with tea and biscuits. Soon a Tamil speaking officer arrives to offer soothe. Kind words were balm to scared souls. It was the women who feared most but the trepidation eased with the service of food parcels and the influx of women officers with buses being provided to take them to camps. With LTTE attendance becoming diminished in the ready areas, the people were able to bring more belongings and a line of trailers brought the goods to camps.
There were problems in the camps due to insufficient attention by the management under GA Vavuniya. There was agitation in my presence that there were not enough mats for sleeping provided whereas there should have been shock absorber stocks, and the camp officers had to ease the tension. It was known days ahead that flow of refugees would be on the rise. Many felt the GA was not adequately caring or was typically bureaucratic!
LTTE trishaws mounted with hailers circle villages announcing unreliably the likelihood of an invasion by the Army and demanding they leave homes forthwith. Most knew it is a false alarm but had no choice. A ring built approximately the village by armed terrorists in battle exhaustion blocked the many exits making them leave compulsorily to a chosen area. Having being shepherded to a virtual attentiveness camp the people were compelled to work- build emergency bunkers, fell trees, construct high embankments and dig wells.
Where free speech is not tolerated there was no right to complaint and punishments were galore with jail sentences. A possible effective protest was to launch on a hunger hit as it attracted unfavorable publicity in the vicinity. Much of Prabhakaran's image has been destroyed by his cadres. People remain baffled whether such herding of the population was to make a human shield or a concentration camp for emergency work. The objectives could be twofold.
Weeding bells peal persistently during the CFA but the limits have come again. The marriage are frowned but allowable on the condition the honeymoon is on till midnight on the day of the wedding. It was comical that before the first light the groom or the bride had to join to serve the LTTE. It was an early to bed early to rise manipulation. Who would not care to flee from such a megalomaniac? Life became more unbearable with the LTTE forces losing ground.
The most terrible story was of an aged cultivator (former State Timber business employee) who had hidden his two children (boy 27 girl 22) for two years on an islet around the many lagoons in the inland waters. When the LTTE came in look for of them he told them the girl had left to get married and the boy has run away. At 1.00 or 2.00 a.m. fearing the presence of village spies, the parents used to secretly visit the children in the hide out with roti fired in oil so that it is potted to last three meals. They use to take the children infrequently to a well which did not contain salt water for a bath . The happy family of four I saw at the refugee camp was relieved to be out of the clutches of the terrorists though the comforts at the site are minimal. There was agreement that accumulation forced child staffing with parents held as sureties which began after the fall of the East, was the most telling factor for Prabhakaran to sully his image.
The boys in the person in exile camp discovered a former LTTE child recruiter posing off as a refugee and sought the consent of the lady warden to physical attack him. Before long the parents joined the melee to launch the attack but the camp officials who are responsibility bound to protect all registered refugees had to intervene and escort him to safety and send off the offender to another camp. The little boys jeered him all the way out of the camp while a few cried. He defense was that he had to carry out orders of the LTTE high command -the stand many took at Nuremberg trials.
There was the story of human trafficking where LTTE agents safely deserted kids out of their territory to safe homes if Rs 200000 was offered. Many affluent parents had resorted to making such payment but there was no confirmation whether this was authorized by the LTTE or clandestinely carried out. If unauthorized it would have met with capital sentence so it more likely it had the blessings of the high command. The old feeble and the ill had to pay Rs 5000 for not making a manual payment to the cause.
A doctor at the government hospital had often asked patients who came why they arrived for treatment to discourage non LTTE cadres from visiting the hospital. It did not shock me since I was told the same question was being asked by a high public official from refugees who came to the camp over the last few days? LTTE still has its operatives in strange places!!
A middle aged father from Puthukudiyiruppu described being imprisoned in a jail for distribution his son to India in a cubicle designed in the form of a 6 feet x 3 feet kennel and he was fed in the same manner as a dog and was kept chained for 10 days.
A frequent grievance was that provisions doled out by the State or the NGOs were siphoned off by the LTTE agents. The LTTE had it own identity card system in place and preparations with the cooperatives to which the food was dispatched. The goods were over priced and the locals knew part of it was channeled to LTTE pockets. Vegetables sell at Rs 400 per kilo, Petrol liter sells presently at Rs 1000 and Kerosene liter at Rs 320.Tractor motors have been modified to pick up on petrol and run on kerosene.
These traumatized people coming from entrapped areas yearn for peace. Their right to live a normal life has been more shortened than ours. Convinced the days of the LTTE are numbered, they, more than us, want the LTTE decimated for their own good. The wear and tare of hard life under the LTTE bears tell story marks on their faces which show more age than the passing years. Swiftness of the desired military victory is with the expect that normalcy will go back to their lives in their lifetime.
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