Those who had served the LTTE willingly as well as those who were recruited to their movement by force came to the Receiving Points of the army along with the civilians during the final phase of the war and surrendered before the army there. However, do you know as to who had helped the army to identify the Tigers from the surrendered lot?
The army, addressing the surrendered civilian groups, had announced "even if you had served the LTTE for one hour come out separately. We will release you after inquiries. Mostly young men and women, who were forcefully recruited to the LTTE cadres at the last stages, stood up and surrendered admitting the truth.
However, those who had served the movement for many years did not admit the truth and remained silent. In that situation, civilians themselves stood up and incessantly complained, pointing out "here, he is the one who had dragged my son to the Movement. There, he is the one who had dragged my daughter to the Movement". This was a very clear proof to show the fact that as to how far the Tamils were angry on Tigers during the final phase of the war. Those, who were forcefully dragged to the Movement too had identified considerable numbers of their "Tiger Colleagues" on their part.
Around 12,000 odd Tigers were identified in this way. 11,000 out of these 12,000 Tigers were sent to Rehabilitation Centers through judicial procedures provided technical training and were released subsequently in the last three years. There are only around 350 people in the Rehabilitation Center in Vavuniya as of now. There are around 20 people in the Women Center. These former Tigers are taught English, Sinhala, Computer and professional subjects of their choice at these Rehabilitation Centers in one year's time. They get released subsequently.
Since we had obtained a prior permission, we were allowed to visit the Women Rehabilitation Centre in Vavuniya. A Badrakali Amman Temple had invited us at the very entrance. We were surprised to find a Hindu temple inside an army camp amidst the allegation that the army demolishes Hindu temples. [The former women Tigers, who were at that Camp, told us that the army not only allowed the Hindu temple inside, but they worship at that temple too].
The former women tigers at that camp came out and sat before us, with the kind of vexed feeling. However, they started talking to us with smiling faces once they got to know that we were journalists from Tamil Nadu. They said, "We were fed up of being subjected to inquiries and being asked the same questions repeatedly in the last four years. We live in peace only after coming to this Rehabilitation Centre. We got vexed thinking that someone is coming to inquire us once again. Luckily you have come," they said.
Because of this situation we did not ask them many questions and allowed them to speak on their own. They said with a vexed feeling, "we saw in television, the demonstrations of students in Tamil Nadu. We could have benefited out of it, if they had carried out these demonstrations 4-5 years back. What is the use of belated demonstrations now? ," they said.
We selected 4-5 women from that group of former Tigers, who had served the LTTE for more than 5 years and talked to them. "We had joined the Movement voluntarily" they said.
They have further said, "We had joined the LTTE due to our wish that we would gain an independent state and could live there peacefully and also got attracted by the campaigns of the LTTE. We underwent complete training and had served the Movement by wearing cyanide capsules. However, our interest level went down once we started realizing that we could not win and will lose. A change had occurred in our hearts when the loss of lives of innocent civilians had increased. We had started going closer to our relatives when our forces had started withdrawing gradually. They too had started telling us "you can't win hereafter. Come and join us". We have surrender before the army by believing army's declaration that Tigers too can surrender and they will not be killed. Hence we are alive now.
"Though we had suffered for few years in detention camps and prisons we live peacefully now. We will go out in the next few months time. After that we will live independently", they have said with a hope.
They also said, "Before we went to surrender to the army, we had a kind of fear that they will kill us and sexually harass us. However we had surrendered as we had no other option then. However, no bad incidents like that had happened to us here. We stay independently here. The army cadres celebrate our birthdays. They make arrangements, for us to celebrate all our festivals like Diwali, Christmas, Tamil New Year etc., They allow us to invite our relatives here during these festivities and dine with us happily. In fact, we live peacefully here," they said.
Having said that, they brought a photo album of the above events and showed it to us. The army had even arranged the wedding of a former woman Tiger. A young son of a woman Tiger at the camp too was staying with her at the camp. The army takes care of his education. That child remains as a favourite child of all the women army officials there. The army had even conducted the "naming ceremony" of that child as per Tamil and Hindu customs.
We had questioned those former Tigers as to whether they are sad about not gaining the Tamil Eelam. They said, "Yes we are unhappy. However, can we think that the entire Tamil race here should get ruined because of the reason that we did not achieve Eelam? We have so many wishes in our life. Are we killing ourselves if those wishes are not fulfilled? We continue our lives by accepting the failures is it not? This is also like that only. Losing the lives, body parts and peace of minds of many people are enough. No more chaos should be created by talking about Tamil Eelam once again. It is a closed chapter. Hereafter, it is impossible anyway," they said firmly.
We asked them regarding the forceful recruitment of minor boys and girls to the LTTE cadres. A Woman [name removed] who had served the Movement more than 10 years spoke to us on that matter. She said, "When I had joined the Movement, all the youngsters had joined the Movement voluntarily. The Movement campaigned and made request to "give a child from each house". The children were not dragged to the Movement forcefully. Subsequently, at one stage, the LTTE had made the "one child per house" compulsory.
"After 2004, due to the string of failures, a situation, where all the available children were dragged to the LTTE Movement, had risen. It was painful to see the Mothers' weeping and running behind the children. Those Mothers were chased away with a reply "get lost. We will not send your children to the war front. We will keep them for other works only". It was a pathetic sight. Some mothers hurl sand and curse the LTTE at times", she said. She suddenly broke up and said amidst tears, "want to forget……. Want to forget everything. Please forgive me".
We consoled and encouraged her by extending our wishes to her for a new life. We did not ask any questions to her thereafter. We asked others "though many opportunities had come for a political solution, the LTTE had missed them …… Why you didn't realize at that time that it was wrong?" They replied "we did not have (direct) links with our leadership to the extent of telling them as to what was good and what was bad. We just carried out the duties assigned to us. That's all. During the final phase of the war, we had started to contradict to the instructions of our leadership, since even the Tamils, who were with us, had started scolding us. We had a pep talk within ourselves and surrendered before the army" they said.
A youth, whom we met in Pudukudiyiruppu, spoke to us with so much fury on Tigers to the extent of proving the fact that even people had scolded Tigers during the final phase of the war. He said, "If you meet a youngster of my age here, he could be either a person who had escaped to a foreign destination or to other provinces during the final phase of the war. If he had stayed here, he might have been dragged to the LTTE Movement and sacrificed in the war. It is a great miracle that I managed to escape. They dragged me to the Movement on four occasions but I managed to escape on all those occasions. When I get escaped I can't go home. I used to hide in one of the houses somewhere. I lived without a single penny to eat even on those occasions. I became a thief, looted and filled my stomach on many occasions. They (LTTE) would nab me again in some other village.
They had tonsured my head to identify me as a person who escaped from the Movement. In spite of that I managed to escape. I had negotiations with many weeping children at the Tigers' camp by telling them that "they have to pay me if I take them to their homes and they should give me refuge in their houses etc.", and I took them with me while escaping. Likewise, I got money from some houses and got refuge in other houses. I was even beaten by the Tigers for questioning them angrily "After killing everyone, whom you are going to accommodate in the Independent state which you try to achieve."
Once army had formed "Receiving Points" in Sudanthirapuram and announced "No Fire Zones", people happily went to the "Receiving Points" in groups from the LTTE–controlled areas. While all were going in line, a woman Tiger, who was going in front of me, suddenly exploded as a human bomb amidst the people. Many civilians were killed on the spot in that attack. Many had lost their body parts and were suffering amidst bloodshed. Luckily I was not harmed in that attack. I just fell down. That's all. All those who fell down, stood up and ran backwards. Suddenly, a male human bomb Tiger, coming in a two-wheeler in front of us, too exploded himself and the two-wheeler suddenly. Some more people had died in this attack and many had lost their body parts and were struggling amidst bloodshed. My shoulder was injured in that attack only. After the explosion of these two human bombs, army went back. All of us, who were moving with a dream for liberation, were forced to return to the LTTE-controlled areas once again.
"On another occasion, I managed to escape to the "Receiving Point". I, as a Tamil, say that liberation Tigers were several times more brutal than the Sri Lankan army. If an Independent State had been established under their leadership, it would have been a graveyard for the Tamils. They were merciless sinners to the core", the youth, whom we met accidently, said furiously. When we went to have a talk with two women, who were buying cloths at a small textile shop in Pudukudiyiruppu, a youth, aged around 25 years, came to the shop in a two-wheeler. We had a talk with him as we thought that he might speak in favour of Tamil Eelam as he is a youth and hence wanted to get his opinion as well. But, the youth spoke to us so angrily (against LTTE).
"I have a plan to go to a foreign country and earn money there. However, the injury marks of the wound which I had suffered on my shoulder during the explosion of the LTTE human bomb are still seen on my shoulders. When I go abroad, if someone suspects me as a Sri Lankan Tamil and check me, might think – after seeing my injury marks - that I was a former Tiger. Hence, I have put a tattoo on those marks", he said while entering our car and showing his shoulders. [We have avoided putting his name and face, by keeping in mind his future interests].
When we were getting ready to go, the youth bid farewell to us by saying "you have come from Tamil Nadu. I don't know as to whether you will believe what I tell you and write what I told you. However, there is a government hospital in ………………. There is an ambulance driver called……… Don't forget to visit his family before you go", he said.
Immediately, we wanted to know as to what kind of information the said family is having. We told our car driver to go to that village".
Were the Tamil names of the villages changed?
"The names of Tamil villages are getting changed" is one of the main allegations put forth by the pro-LTTE supporters. Some people have released a list too on this matter. When we inquired this matter with some people there, they said "many places in the North and Eastern provinces have Sinhala names too. When these places were under LTTE's control, the name boards of those villages were in Tamil only. Now, the government has written the names of all the places in the name boards in English, Tamil and Sinhala languages.
For example, a place called "Aanai Iravu" in Tamil is also called as Elephant Pass in English and "Ali Mankada" in Sinhala. All these names mean "a place where elephants cross". Hence, they have started using the names in all the three languages but it doesn't mean at all that they have removed the Tamil names. Tigers had given the names of their martyrs to few places and streets. Those names have been removed completely", they said. All the name boards of the villages, we have seen, were written in three languages only.
Chinese dominate in Sri Lanka?
A rumour, "that the dominance of Chinese in Sri Lanka has gone up?", prevails in India. We had visited many places like Colombo, Jaffna, Kilinochchi, Mullaitivu, Vavuniya, Baticolla, Kandy etc., during our six-day trip to Sri Lanka. We did not see even a single Chinese during this trip. When we inquired this matter with some people in Colombo, they said, "Chinese government has been building an express high-way which connects Central Sri Lanka with Northern Sri Lanka. If you go there, you can see the Chinese working in that project", they said. Therefore, the indirect dominance of Chinese government might exist in Sri Lanka. However, it seems that the direct role of the Chinese remains only up to this level in Sri Lanka.
Ethnic cleansing effort?
A strong accusation, that an attempt was made to ruin the Tamil race in Sri Lanka, is being made in Tamil Nadu. A member of EPDP, while commenting on this matter, has said, "people believe the pre-planned rumours spread by the politicians of Tamil Nadu and the Members of the Tamil Diaspora, who do not know any of the things happening here. If it is ethnic cleansing, the army could have killed the 12,000 surrendered Tigers, is it not?. The Eastern Province and Jaffna came into army's control from the LTTE long back. The army could have massacred Tamils in all those areas as well. However, no such things had happened. Around 3 lakhs of Tamils came out of the LTTE-controlled areas during the final phase of the war. The army did not massacre all these people. In the war against the LTTE, the army did not purposely kill any Tamil in other areas but some civilians were killed after being kept as human shields by the Tigers. Hence how this could be termed as an ethnic cleansing act," he questioned.