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Sunday, 12 February 2012

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Eyewitness accounts in DVD :

More LTTE atrocities come to light


The bus blown up by the LTTE with the injured cadre,Kandhayya Ravi as seen in the DVD
St. Mary’s Church

Although one is severely wounded or completely paralysed, one has the right to live until one breathes one’s last.

Unaware of the fate which would befall them within the next few minutes, several dozens of wounded Tigers, including forcibly conscripted children, brought from a makeshift medical facility in a Rosa bus, were helplessly gasping for life. Another group of Tigers, who were guarding another bus load of wounded youth a few metres away, was impatiently waiting for the final nod from their superior, to finish off their task.Their intention was to get rid of the ‘burden’ and also not to leave any room for the wounded to be interrogated in the event of their capture. While those who fought unwillingly to make the dream of their megalomaniac leader a reality were struggling to breathe, the Tigers hurriedly strapped explosives around the buses. In the next minute, everything disappeared under heavy black smoke, triggered by the thundering explosion.

The two badly damaged buses lay between Vellamullivaikkal and Wadduvakkal, a grim reminder of the gravity of the final battle fought against the LTTE in May 2009.

The new-found peace and fear-free environment that restored freedom of speech in the North of the country enabled people who had been suppressed and oppressed to come out with their views; and those who had been trampled under a terror-filled era to reveal atrocities committed by the ruthless LTTE against humanity.

True statements by ordinary Tamils in ‘Ruthless’ –Hulugalle

Director General of the Media Centre for National Security (MCNS) Lakshman Hulugalle said the DVD titled ‘Ruthless’ contains true statements submitted by ordinary Tamils who suffered under the LTTE control. He said this at the launch of the documentary last week.

He said though the documentary was not released targeting any forum that accuses Sri Lanka of alleged war crimes, the main intention of the video was to give a true picture of the LTTE’s atrocities during the final days of the battle. “It contains eye-witness accounts of LTTE’s child recruitment and its violence against Tamil civilians.” he said.

Hulugalle said unlike ‘documentaries’ such as the Channel 4 video which aired without proper identities of the ‘victims’, the video titled ‘Ruthless’ has authentic evidence coming from Tamil civilians who had been at the receiving end.He said first-hand accounts of the incident at Mullaivaikkal, where the injured and disabled LTTE cadre were blown up in a bus, were also included in the documentary. “The Government aimed to counter false allegations coming from unknown individuals about the final battle in May 2009”, he said.

The Director General said if the media wanted to interview the people quoted in the video, the MCNS could provide their information. “Now the media is allowed to visit any place in the North and the East. This is not like the propaganda work of Pro-LTTE groups where they hide the true identities of the people who they interviewed”, he said.

Thiruchelvam Vardarasa from Wattappalai was an eyewitness to a mass murder that had been intended to remain hidden forever.“The LTTE brought a bus full of a wounded boys, girls and elders who had been forcibly thrown into battlefronts. Then the bus was exploded with the people inside under the instructions of leader Nedumaran. I witnessed this with my own eyes”, Vardarasa, who was temporally accommodated 200 metres away from the location, said.This was a first-hand account of a civilian who narrated his agony two and a half years ago in the latest video titled ‘Ruthless’ released by the Defence Ministry to show the world just how ruthless the world’s most ruthless terrorists - the LTTE - were.It is an account that provides concrete evidence about the LTTE’s ruthlessness over their own people. It was on May 17, 2009, in the wee hours, that the above described mass murder took place while the soldiers were squeezing the terrorists into their last tiny patch of land in the edge of Mullaitivu. Two days before the LTTE’s annihilation in the waters of the Nandikadal lagoon, the LTTE leader instructed his subordinates to destroy their battle casualties, who had been ill-trained and conscripted to fight the advancing military might. The ruthless LTTE cadre loaded the disabled and wounded cadre into a bus from the makeshift hospital and exploded the buses; not leaving a trace of them.

Hostages

Kandhayya Ravi, a resident of Puthukuduirippu was herded with his family and thousands of other families to Vellamullivaikkal by the LTTE, which kept them as hostages.

“When we were rushing towards Mullivakkal, I saw my injured stepbrother in the Rosa bus. I requested the person in-charge to release him as I could take care of him. The LTTE cadre told us to be patient for two days as the injured would be released to their relations. Not only me, others who had relations in the bus requested their release, but the LTTE threatened us. Again, on May 16, I pleaded with them to release my stepbrother, but they refused. The next morning around 3.30 a.m. I heard a thundering blast. When I arrived at the site people were running in all directions and some were screaming with wounds. The LTTE had burnt the vehicles parked along the roads”, he said, recalling how he saw the bus in which his brother lay semi-conscious, was in flames after the terrorists had blasted it. “As the LTTE was chasing us, we had to leave in tears”, Ravi said.



Rev. Fr. James Paththinadan

Jesikumar, an ex-LTTE cadre who was snatched away while returning from school in 2007, was also an eyewitness to the bomb blast in the bus, to destroy LTTE casualties. “On May 17, we were fleeing as the soldiers were taking control of the land. It was 4.00 a.m. and while we were running towards the bridge, an LTTE cadre tried to prevent us going further as they were preparing to explode a bus, containing injured LTTE cadres. A few minutes later, the bus went in flames”, Jesikumar, who had sustained injuries while fighting in Pooneryn and Mannar, said.Apart from eyewitness accounts on LTTE atrocities during the last days of the battle against terrorism, victims - parents, a member of the clergy and ex-LTTE cadre testified about their nightmare experiences on the LTTE’s forced conscription of under-aged children. The video contains an account by a Catholic priest of St. Mary’s Church at Valayamadam in the northern Mullaitivu district about forced recruitment of under-aged children to fight. He revealed how the LTTE stormed the church premises where displaced civilians and orphans had been accommodated.

St. Mary’s Church in Valayamadam is in the north of Mullaitivu and in the No Fire Zone. It was the last refuge for children brought in by their parents who were terrified that the children would be forcibly taken by the LTTE to fight the last battle.

Rev. Fr. James Paththinadan is the resident priest of the church who witnessed the heinous crimes carried out by the LTTE. “I have been working mostly in the Jaffna diocese, especially in the Wanni region. In December 2008, we were dislocated from the Mullaitivu town and ended up in Valayamadam. It was an intense situation where the Army was advancing and the Tigers were resisting. The church was not meant to be a refuge for people to come and hide because it was very small; 60 feet by 30 feet. However, not only children, but adults and also Tiger deserters sought shelter in the church. We got information that Tigers were going to raid the place to take the children. We requested the LTTE to avoid stepping into the church as there would be violence. As I was in charge of the church I made this request to the Tigers several times while making announcements for the people to find safe places”.

Heavy weapons


Nimalan, Vignesh and Bala

 


Niruba in the DVD

“Despite our protests, the Tigers took over the church on March 21, 2009. They installed heavy weapons within the premises and thousands of cadres moved in. They took the people out and there were over 600 civilians at the time”, he said, adding that there was nothing he could do to prevent the terrorists from abducting the children and their parents.

Following are the testimonies of some of those who experienced LTTE terror during their stay in the church. Velayudan, a labourer lived in Rektavaikkal. - “I sent my child to the church in fear of the LTTE abducting her. One day the LTTE came, indiscreminatly firing, and took away all the children in the church. My daughter managed to hide in a neighbouring house. Later, I went to the church and saw that they had taken all the children”.

His daughter Niruba (15) was sent to the church as they believed that the LTTE would not conscript the children in the church but the terrorists who had no regard for the clergy started abducting innocent children hiding in the church. “One day, the LTTE surrounded the church and we ran to hide ourselves. They closed the entrance and opened firing at the roof. We were threatened not to run and told that we would be killed if we defied their orders. However, I was able to run and hide myself in a neighbouring house. Except for myself, the terrorists took away all the children in the church and they had beaten the parents who had refused to allow them to take their children”, said Niruba, who doesn’t want to experience the same agony in future.Niruba and thousands of other children in the North want a violence-free secure future. “We hate violence. No child willingly joined the LTTE; they always forcibly took us. Angal Uyir Kadawulal Kappatrappattom (God has saved our lives)” the teenager said.

Among the eyewitnesses to LTTE’s forced conscription is Madavaraja, President, Vallipunam Regional Development Society who recalled an unforgettable incident where the LTTE dragged underaged children who were crying and pleading with helpless parents to save them from the terrorists.

“It was the morning of March 20. I heard the LTTE shooting inside the church and dragging away the children. They were intimidating the priests and parents who were desperately trying to stop them. All were beaten badly as we tried to save the children from being abducted. During the final stages of battle, we experienced immense hardships. Children were not spared and were abducted continuously. There was a terrible struggle day and night to keep ourselves awake as the LTTE made every attempt to snatch away our children. We didn’t have anything to eat”, he said.

Much suffering

Sinnayya Sivaneshan said, “My mother brought me to the Church like many other children. We were provided with meals from our households and stayed inside the church throughout the day. There were hundreds of people and we suffered a lot. We had only one well to get water to drink and bathe and one toilet closer to the beach. The girls had a difficult time, going to the toilet far away, as they were in fear of LTTE conscription during the daytime. One day, the LTTE cadre stormed the church to abduct the children. There were a few ex-LTTE cadre with us and they told us not be scared as they would protect us. They had their weapons. When the LTTE stormed into the church, the ex-cadres started shooting the LTTE, but they could not stop the LTTE from taking away the children and assaulting the parents”.

“My little sister (14) was also shot at and dragged away by them. The Rev. Father was beaten when he tried to stop the LTTE. The children also experienced a similar fate. The LTTE opened indiscriminate fire at the roof. Subsequently, the children were forcibly loaded into a vehicle. My elder brother sustained serious head injuries. In sheer desperation, we broke some furniture to be used as clubs to fight with the LTTE. Deserters who had weapons retaliated with gunfire. Shovels were also used to fight with them. We fought desperately and were able to drive them away, but the LTTE came again in the same evening and tried to take the children away. Some of the children managed to escape, I also escaped. Half of the abducted children abandoned the LTTE and returned to their families, but we don’t know what happened to the rest. My sister, who was found with injuries was admitted to the medical centre later.”

Shanthan from Valayamadam who ran a tea kiosk 50 metres away from St. Mary’s Church, too witnessed the LTTE’s last attempts to snatch children who were sheltering in the church. “One day the LTTE surrounded the church and opened fire. They had cut off all escape routes and no one was allowed to go out. As I came out of the bunker, another group of LTTEers came out and shot at me. My right arm got injured, but the bullet is not yet removed”, he said.

Child conscription

Three victims of child conscription narrated the incident at the church where the LTTE forcefully took them away. Nimalan: “ My parents used to hide me in a bunker which was well concealed inside the house. Fearing my abduction, my father sent me to the church and he said the LTTE would not abduct children from the church. But I was there only a day, the LTTE stormed the place and abducted the children. Girls and boys ran hither and thither inside the church while the LTTE started shooting us. Pieces of roof fell on the ground. The LTTE left only one door open and they pulled out the children - one by one. A woman was shot at as she was obstructing the LTTE from taking her child away. I too was thrown into the vehicle”.

Vignesh: “We went to the church that day but I could go only 50 metres and I started running home as I heard the LTTE firing inside the church. I hid myself and later heard that the LTTE had taken all the children away. When I went to the church later, I only saw women crying and cursing the LTTE for abducting their children”.

Bala was another child who was snatched away by the LTTE while he was at the church along with many other children. “We were confident that the LTTE would not enter the church and that they would listen to the priest. But it didn’t quite happen that way. They abducted many children and I was among them. The LTTE took me to Mullivaikkal to fight”.

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