Monday, March 16, 2009

Sri Lanka: No Firing Zone is the final happy hunting ground for LTTE in prey of children

Source: Ministry of Defence, Public Security, Law & Order - Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka

By: Gomin Dayasri

The look on the faces of those coming from the No Fire Zone (NFZ) tells the story. It is a story of children. Aged and haggard, looking well beyond their age it is their stoic nature and the desire to live for the sake of their remaining children that kept them alive.

As they alight from the packed buses to seek lodgings in the camps for Internally Displaced Persons (IDP's)

there are no young men among them. Where have all the young men gone? Yes, gone, gone or rather taken to LTTE camps. Now they are coming for the girls. It is for them the parents grieve and show no leniency to the LTTE. They know their children are destined to die; with 3 days basic training they are dispatched to the front to face the war machine of the Sri Lankan Forces. Worse, they are positioned in the first line of defense.

They talk of nothing else but of their lost children. Life is not worth living without the children lost; life must continue for the younger children still with them. They live in that dilemma. More than food and drink they need psychological care having gone through agony and trauma in the NFZ under LTTE rule.

NFZ is the final happy hunting ground for the LTTE in prey of children. In a confined space of 21 square kilometers any child above 12 years is vulnerable and easy picking for the terrorist running desperately short of man power. It's a child ranch with easy access for the bandits. Few girls have been untouched the rest have been hunted and hounded. Usually exempted children of the Mahavira (dead soldiers) and Porali (present soldiers) have been conscripted. They were the firm bedrock of LTTE; the last support column but that too is gone with their children kidnapped. The final bastion of goodwill is lost. There is mayhem in the midst of desperation.

A 77 years old lecturer in English among the IDPs, spoke fondly of LTTE achievements with his eyes glowing with pride He crossed because life was becoming uncomfortable but awaits the return of the LTTE. He is married but childless.

Howling children are carted away from the NFZ like dogs taken to the dog pound. The parents intervening are mercilessly beaten and few have been shot at by impatient cadres. Some artful kids have escaped from the clutches of the LTTE but they have not returned to their parents. Parents know of their fate with LTTE ground area shrinking rapidly there are no sanctuaries for escaped kids to hide. In retaliation angry cadres return to take an elder from the family as a substitute.

They moved from their earlier NFZ as they heard on radio and from leaflets dropped from low flying planes of the newly designated zone. They covered 12 km to reach the new secure area from the old. LTTE did not hamper the movement but watched from a distance.

They live as families in tents purchased at Rs 2500 out of material supplied free previously by the UNICEF and has found its way to the traders. Prices are exorbitant, food sparse and scare. Two panadols cost Rs 250.The desire to eat is absent amidst the turmoil. Being close to the sea it is not necessary to dig deep to strike water; salty and unhealthy but no option. The ladies toilets come to existence with saris wrapped between four poles to provide privacy. Commode was a barrel dug into the soil covered with earth with squatting space useable for two weeks.

They live every second cursing the LTTE but at their mercy seeking space to cross the invisible border not too far to reach. From the desperation on the faces of the cadres they gauge the distance is becoming closer. There is hope within despair.

Each family dug a trench for they knew within the NFZ the LTTE guns are booming. Retaliatory fire was anticipated but has not arrived so far. They had pleaded with the LTTE to take away the artillery pieces from the NFZ but it is of no avail.

Did they tell their tale of woe previously before reaching the NFZ? Yes, to the Tamil boys and girls who came with the NGOs when they operated from Killinochchi. But it made no impact or improvement. Hindsight, they surmise those NGO representatives were LTTE sympathizers. Otherwise they may not have been permitted to enter LTTE territory.

Most are adamant, LTTE will get no vote at a free and fair election from the residents in the NFZ. The TNA are discounted as the running dogs of the LTTE. Sambandan is the hate figure as the outsider from Trincomalee who sold them to the LTTE. They yearn for a new leadership. Ananda Sagaree has support from the elders coming from around Killinochchi.

A camp for the Internally Displaced Persons is no home sweet home. The camps have an unending inflow with bus loads arriving with those that made the crossing from the NFZ .The camps are far from comfortable being over crowded and situated in hastily arranged tents and established classrooms. But they live without being tensed except for fate that awaits the children, relatives friends left behind. Yet a dream from the accommodation provided to the 80000 Muslims ethnically cleansed from the north and the Sinhalese ejected comprehensively from the north and east.

Those Muslims and Sinhalese lived for years on government dry rations and a few hand outs from Muslim and Buddhist organizations. The present IDPs are fortunate to have World Vision distributing footwear to mirrors, clothes to linen and crockery and cutlery to pots and pans. Some other NGOs distribute biscuit packets and bottled water. Nutritional foods and milk foods are provided for children. There are medical centers banks and schools in the premises. Strangely nobody cared when the Sinhalese and Muslims were rendered homeless? Where were those INGOs then? May be they require an LTTE link, least of torture to come to assistance!

There were complaints on the quality of food. Northerners as farmers had plentiful food and ate well. Sure, in the camps it does not taste like the cooking at home. There is quantity but not quality. It was yellow rice with beetroot and mixed vegetable curry and a few sprats. Families do the cooking on rotation. Mobile toilets and bathing facilities are available with kids engaged forever in water fights.

Escaping from the NFZ requires piercing two rings. The inner circle is manned by the circling terrorist police and the outer by vigilant LTTE armed cadres. The rings are becoming thinner with defection and death. Those caught escaping are sent to the frontline to fight like Pulidevan of the peace secretariat or made to do forced labor. With numbers dwindling there are becoming desperate and making an exhibition of gruesome killings to deter crossing. Those seeking escape roam in the night identifying unmanned territory and then slip through with families on alert to cross at any possible moment.

No escapee has desired to return. Not because they are satisfied with life in the camp. In comparison it is a much freer friendlier world. They were unanimous in praise of the kindness bestowed by the Security Forces along the way except for a sole mistaken identity in belief of a terrorist.

The favorite pastime is conjecturing the names of the LTTE leadership seeking escape in collaboration with enemy sources. Many believe the LTTE leadership operates from within the NFZ for their own security. But the hate factor is running high in the tent city that they dare not show face to the dwellers. The voice of the people can now be heard as the LTTE know their days in uniform are few- some cadres are easing the iron grip, some are becoming ruthless. It is like in the last days of Pompeii. Exodus will soon begin.

It is more than being freed from a cage. It is like landing on another planet to cross the border. Forget not, the terrorists are smuggling their hard core cadres along with the civilians for an operation unknown.
Published by Mike Hitchen, Mike Hitchen Consulting
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