Posted on December 6th, 2019


REVISED 4.1.2020

The Tamils living in the north were    admired as aggressors during the Eelam War.  After the war, they suddenly became ‘innocent victims’.  The Tamil population in the north is an innocent group   who have suffered during the war, said Tamil Separatist Movement.  The Tamils are an aggrieved people not aggressors, they added.  The Tamil people were the victims of the last phase of the war, said Jehan Perera. They lost their loved ones, lost their lands, their livelihoods.

However, these so-called innocent people were not all that innocent, when in the 1970s they readily followed an anti-government anti- Sinhala stance. When Jayatissa Bandaragoda went as GA Trincomalee in 1978, his first public function was to attend the prize giving of St Joseph College. When he went there, he found posters urging parents not to be a part of a ceremony to receive a Sinhala chief guest. The boycott was effective, auditorium was almost empty, a few prizes were given away and the ceremony concluded. Bandaragoda then observed that on National day, 1980, many of the schools in Trincomalee did not hoist the national flag. Instead in one school they set the flag on fire.

The Eelam wars were initiated and fought, on behalf of the Tamil Separatist Movement by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.  LTTE fought it with the local Tamils and not with mercenaries from abroad.  LTTE was able to sustain the war for thirty years because the Tamil population supplied the manpower.

 A large section of the population would have gone voluntarily with the LTTE, to play their part in the LTTE war, said Desmond de Silva and David M Crane, in their reports to the Paranagama Commission. Anne Abeysekera was told in 1994, 49 bodies of dead Tigers were brought to Pooneryn, immediately 112 boys and girls joined the movement.

According to Amnesty International some were motivated by government abuse against their families or communities.  A 1993 study in Vaddukoddai found that one quarter of the children studied had witnessed violence personally and many had joined the LTTE seeking to protect their families or to avenge real or perceived abuses, AI said.

One respondent said he   had joined in 2004 because in 1991 ‘the army came to my house, burned my house and raped women in the neighborhood, they tortured us’. This comment had been taken from a Human Rights Watch interview in Kilinochchi 2004. When I was 8 my father and all my uncles were killed by the Sri Lanka army, said another.  None of them had any links with the LTTE. They were normal simple Tamil men. I had a lot of anger to army because of that.

After the Ceasefire of 2002, LTTE established a parallel administration in the north. Two or more operatives were put as Grama sevaka in each area. They knew the ‘family details of every family’. They visited the homes and forced the youth to join. All households were required to send one member to join the LTTE. Sometimes sisters were taken as hostage when the males were hiding.  Some tried to hide their children in the jungles but the LTTE found them.

It was not possible to escape the LTTE. Fifteen families asked to give a child left the area, LTTE burned their house. When they returned after five months, LTTE came to look for the children. Parents married off their children. Because then they were not taken as cadres, but used for other things. They may give them training and use them in the border areas or our own villages”. 

Cadres were also told to nab persons. I was told I had to capture two children or I would not be given food, said an LTTE cadre member. I thought I was captured so why should I not do that to another child, they were sent to the temple to each get two about 15 years old and strong and fit.”

The population in the North was very limited. Once the youth and adult male groups were exhausted, LTTE had to turn to children. Children were frequently abducted from homes at night or picked up by cadres when walking home from school or attending a temple festival. Parent who resist the abduction of children   were beaten up.

 LTTE   had visited schools and spoken favorably about the LTTE. LTTE regularly exposed Tamil children to special event honoring LTTE heroes, parade of LTTE cadres. Families of LTTE heroes were afforded special respect and children were drawn to the status and glamour of serving as cadres, reported AI.  LTTE had street plays. One play was about the Struggle. It had a father, mother, two children. One child gets shot and killed by the Sri Lanka army. Remaining child decides to join the LTTE. Father encourages.

LTTE wanted to alienate the Tamil people from the Sri Lanka government. They banned the movement of people to government controlled areas.  They could only go if somebody stood surety for them and they had to return within the stipulated time. The LTTE brainwashed the Tamils that Sinhalese were very brutal and anti Tamil. LTTE visited families and questioned them. Those who said they have no problems with the Sri Lanka army were scolded severely.

The Tamil population it appears has been terrorized by the terrorists. The Tamil population could have resisted the LTTE, helped the Sri Lanka army and brought the war to an end. But they did not do so. They stayed with the LTTE. When the fighting started we went behind the LTTE, as they conquered territory”.   

When Eelam War IV started, they left their villages and trekked to the east thinking that eventually LTTE would win and they could return home. LTTE had instructed them to remove roofs doors and windows of their houses, when they left. They did that too. They also had to help with the war, such as building bunkers. Each family had several tasks like building bunkers’ said an LTTE informant. The support for the LTTE was due   to fear of repercussions from the LTTE, also that the Tamil cause would be weakened, said analysts.

This could be contrasted with the JVP insurgency of 1987. When the JVP militants took up arms in 1987, the Sinhala public helped to bring JVP under control. Private armed groups, such as Black Panthers and Yellow Scorpions, emerged to counter JVP terrorism. When JVP issued threats,   these vigilante groups issued counter threats. They replied JVP death threats with a poster which said ape ekata thope dolahak.”   These private vigilante groups killed JVP members.

The ‘Deshapremi Sinhala tharuna Peramuna’ circulated a letter to JVP. This letter said Dear father/ mother/ sister, your son, / brother/ husband has taken the lives of mothers like you, also sisters and innocent children.  They have killed the family members of heroic Sinhala soldiers who fought the Tamil tigers to protect the motherland.  Is it not justified to put you also to death? Be ready to die. May you attain Nirvana. A  female JVPer returned to her village, but found that it was difficult to live there since the villager suspected her   and decided to return to the JVP camp.

The Tamil population   took  the position that the war was entirely the fault of the army. They ignored the fact that  the war was started by the LTTE  in 1983, to create the state of  Eelam. The state has an obligation to protect its territory. The Sri Lanka army had to respond.

In 1994,  the Methodist church, Jaffna arranged  for a good will  visit from a  group of Methodists from Colombo. Anne Abayasekara who led the mission wrote on it in her newspaper column. It was like going to another country, she said. We had to show ID and obtain visas at LTTE checkpoint to enter. No radios, TV, fridges, electrical conveniences, no water on tap, no telephones, no regular mail service, all cooking done on wood  fires, No drugs including even Panadol. Triposha is not allowed into Jaffna so they were trying to prepare a local substitute. There were  memorials all over to LTTE heroes.

Anne observed that there was deep distrust of the government and outrage towards the army. A doctor told Anne  ‘you have seen the destruction, tell this to the Sinhala people how intolerable are the conditions we have to live under. Are people in the south aware of the  conditions here. We live in fear. We want to lead a normal life. If they would at least stop the bombing and shelling they was shelling even on Christmas day and Thai Pongal.

A priest said the children in Jaffna do not know any Sinhala people. The only Sinhalese they know is the soldier at Palaly releasing a shell that kills people. One person said to me, our children have never met any Sinhalese people but when the shelling start form Mullaitivu or ht bombs drop  from the skies they know it is Sinhalese people who are doing this to us. The message given by the shelling and aerial bombing is that the Sinhala government is our worst enemy. Children of Jaffna know what it is to be subject to shelling and bombardment, noted Anne.

We are not against the Sinhala people, we are against the government. If Sinhalese can bring pressure on the government to establish peace and harmony we would be very happy. Tell the Sinhala people we would like to live peacefully with them. Old grievances have not been settled, and now our children are fighting for their rights.

Anti –Eelamists  have their own view regarding the Tamil population. They do not think that the Tamil population are innocent  victims. They argue that the Tamil civilians supported the LTTE in the Eelam war. They were not victims. They were complicit. ‘Complicit’ means involved with others in an activity that is unlawful or morally wrong”.

Nimal Lewke, then senior DIG Northern Province had a close view of the last stages of the Eelam War IV.  How come that the people in Kilinochchi, Mullaitivu and other surrounding areas ended up in Nanthikadal Mukkuwal areas, he wondered . A number of buses, lorries, tractors, other vehicles, motorcycles and push cycles were abandoned in this area in large numbers. When he  questioned the people who escaped from the LTTE and came over to the government, they said that they were forced to leave their homes and proceed to Nanthikadal area and they had to abandon their vehicles and join the LTTE members as per instructions.  This means that the LTTE used them as human shields.

It is extremely unlikely that 20,000 LTTE cadres could have taken control of 330,000 hostages against their will, said  the lawyers Desmond de Silva and David M. Crane in their reports to the  Paranagama commission. The population has cooperated.

 If so, then the captive Tamil civilian population is not ‘innocent’, they are voluntary human shields,  said  lawyer    Michael Newton. By placing themselves in the line of fire, voluntary human shields   are   participating in the war. They are playing a passive role, not an active one, but they are definitely a part of the war and they definitely helped to influence its outcome, said Newton.

The Sri Lankan armed forces rescued nearly 290,000 Tamil human shields held hostage by LTTE, at  the end of the war. The Sri Lanka army took heavy losses to save these people. They went that extra mile to bring scores of malnourished wounded and star4ving Tamils to safety, many of these men handed whatever food provisions they had. Television  news showed these hostages running to government for shelter in 2009.

then  they voted against the government at  the elections. In the Presidential election of 2010 these rescued hostages voted for Sarath Fonseka against Rajapakse.   The northern and eastern districts overwhelmingly voted for Maitripala Sirisena at 2015 presidential polls.  They did so knowingly. Derana news of 15.10.2017 showed a Tamil woman speaking to President Sirisena.  She said in Sinhala it is we who voted you into power.”  These are not innocent victims. They are ever ready to help de-stabilize the country. They are ungrateful too. They are ‘complicit’

It should also be pointed out that throughout the war the government had continued to provide social services, including health and education, to the North and east. The government   actively delivered all essential services in the LTTE controlled areas through the GAs of Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu, reported the media.  State hospitals were administered by the government . It is the government  that is running the schools in north and east, paying salaries of teachers,  said observers. That meant, free books and uniforms, funds for school maintenance and public examinations. The salaries and pensions are fully met by government.  When we got shot we would go to a hospital and be taken care of by the very government  we were fighting against, said LTTE respondents of  the Voices of Peace” study.

Lastly, we are told that the IDPs who came across at Puthumathalam, fleeing from the LTTE at the last stage,  came with their land deeds tightly held.  they also carried millions of rupees in cash and gold securely wrapped in pottanis.  They had deposited a total of 390 million in the bank.

Army also came across a large stock of gold jewelry that had been hidden in  by the LTTE in the East of Puthukudiyiruppu. It had 852 bangles, 188 small bangles, 20 damaged bangles, and these had been kept neatly hidden. This jewelry had been pawned at the LTTE Eelam bank in the area. Security forces have recovered gold jewellery worth Rs 680 million during operation in Vanni east, reported the media. They were handed over to state owned banks. The army has shown exceptional conduct in this matter. 

TULF at its AGM in 2012 decided to demand that the government return the gold recovered or seized from the LTTE by the security forces during and after the war to their owners who have proof of their ownership.

There was also the issue of political prisoners.  Tamil Separatist Movement drew attention to the Tamil prisoners detained under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA).  There are 107 detainees in prisons without charges filed against them the Movement said in 2018. Almost all of them have been in custody for very long periods of time   and this had caused considerably   suffering for their families, as well. The Tamil Separatist Movement urged Yahapalana government to release them all without further delay.

Convener of the Movement for the Freedom of Tamil Political Prisoners, Rev. Fr. Sathyavel  as well as the Committee for Protecting Rights of Prisoners (CPRP)   urged the government to look into the plight of Tamil prisoners detained under the PTA.

They are held under the PTA which is considered a ‘draconian and obnoxious’ piece of law. “The PTA is very different to proceedings conducted under the normal law. The manner of arrest, investigations, extracting confessions, basing prosecutions entirely on extracted confessions and the nature of the evidence are all different. The only evidence available against most of them is confessions extracted from them against their will. This would not be accepted in a normal court of law.

These Tamils had committed crimes for political reasons and not for personal benefit, said the Tamil Separatist Movement. Persons who were arrested during the JVP insurrections had been granted amnesty and released. The same principle should be applied in regard to the Tamil prisoners.

In 2017, Yahapalana had transferred some cases from Vavuniya to Anuradhapura courts. The Tamil Separatist Movement protested over this too saying the transfers could deprive the accused of the opportunity of legal assistance and a fair trial.  Tamil Civil Society Forum questioned the grounds on which the transfers have been made. It gives the impression that these Courts in North and East are treated as second class.  Further, the lawyers appearing for the suspects practice at Vavuniya High Court, also when the case is transferred to Anuradhapura the proceedings would be conducted in Sinhala,

In 2018 Eight inmates at the Anuradhapura prison launched a hunger strike, yesterday, calling themselves political prisoners and demanding that the cases against them be heard expeditiously. All eight inmates had been detained under the provisions of the PTA and each of them had spent more than nine years behind bars without their cases being heard. (Continued)

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