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These blog postings do not necessarily represent the views of all members of the Advisory Council.

22/03/2012

Human Rights Council condemns Sri Lanka on accountability.

The Human Rights Council today voted in favour of a motion criticising Sri Lanka's shortcomings on accountability.

This is a very good start, but it is just a start. We need to keep up the pressure to make sure there is real change. The call for an independent international investigation remains, and will until it is answered.

Many of the nations that supported Sri Lanka in 2009, such as Nigeria, Cameroon, and India, have realised that they were lied to and today took the courageous step of supporting the resolution. We particularly thank them. The Government has tried to paint this issue as one of east vs west - whereas in reality it has been the Sri Lankan regime vs its own people. Today that was demonstrated, as nations from all over the world joined with Sri Lanka's internal critics to tell the government it is wrong, and its policies are flawed.

The text of the resolution is below:

Human Rights Council 
Nineteenth session
Agenda item 2
Annual report of the United Nations High Commissioner  for Human Rights and reports of the Office of the  High Commissioner and the Secretary-General
United States of America: resolution


19/2 Promoting reconciliation and accountability in Sri Lanka

The Human Rights Council,

Guided by the Charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenants on Human Rights and other relevant instruments,

Recalling Council resolutions 5/1 and 5/2 on institution building of the Human Rights Council,

Reaffirming that States must ensure that any measure taken to combat terrorism complies with their obligations under international law, in particular international human rights, refugee and humanitarian law, as applicable,

Taking note of the report of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission of Sri Lanka and its findings and recommendations, and acknowledging its possible contribution to the process of national reconciliation in Sri Lanka,

Welcoming the constructive recommendations contained in the Commission’s report, including the need to credibly investigate widespread allegations of extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances, demilitarize the north of Sri Lanka, implement impartial land dispute resolution mechanisms, re-evaluate detention policies, strengthen formerly independent civil institutions, reach a political settlement on the devolution of power to the provinces, promote and protect the right of freedom of expression for all and enact rule of law reforms,

Noting with concern that the report does not adequately address serious allegations of violations of international law,

1. Calls upon the Government of Sri Lanka to implement the constructive recommendations made in the report of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission and to take all necessary additional steps to fulfil its relevant legal obligations and commitment to initiate credible and independent actions to ensure justice, equity, accountability and reconciliation for all Sri Lankans;

2. Requests the Government of Sri Lanka to present, as expeditiously as possible, a comprehensive action plan detailing the steps that the Government has taken and will take to implement the recommendations made in the Commission’s report, and also to address alleged violations of international law;

3. Encourages the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and relevant special procedures mandate holders to provide, in consultation with, and with the concurrence of, the Government of Sri Lanka, advice and technical assistance on implementing the above-mentioned steps;, and requests the Office of the High Commissioner to present a report on the provision of such assistance to the Human Rights Council at its twenty-second session.

Here is how the countries voted:

YES: 24

  • Benin
  • Cameroon
  • Libya
  • Mauritius
  • Nigeria
  • India
  • Chile
  • Costa Rica
  • Guatemala
  • Mexico
  • Peru
  • Uruguay
  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Italy
  • Norway
  • Spain
  • Switzerland
  • USA
  • Czech Republic
  • Hungary
  • Poland
  • Moldova
  • Romania

NO: 15
  • Congo (Brazzaville)
  • Mauritania
  • Uganda
  • Bangladesh
  • China
  • Indonesia
  • Kuwait
  • Maldives
  • Philippines
  • Qatar
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Thailand
  • Cuba
  • Ecuador
  • Russia

Abstain: 8

  • Angola
  • Botswana
  • Burkina Faso
  • Djibouti
  • Senegal
  • Jordan
  • Kyrgyzstan
  • Malaysia

There were 40 cosponsors of whom 13 are Human Rights Council members (in bold), they are:

Austria, Belgium, Cameroon, Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy, Norway, Poland, Romania, Spain, Switzerland, Australia, Bulgaria, Canada,
Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia,Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania,
 Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Portugal, United Kingdom, Slovakia, Slovenia, Somalia, Sweden.

21/03/2012

Sri Lankans speak out against governmental attacks

The following public statement has been circulated by concerned Sri Lankans and is reproduced with permission:

Civil society urges government to stop hate campaigns and protect human rights defenders 21st March 2012

In the backdrop of the resolution on Sri Lanka being discussed in Geneva and the expected vote on the resolution this week, the Sri Lanka Government and its propaganda teams have intensified an extremely malicious hate campaign against human rights defenders who express their views on accountability and governance issues in Sri Lanka.

In particular, government media units have constantly attacked Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, Dr. Nimalka Fernando, Ms. Sunila Abeysekera, Mr. Sunanda Deshapriya and Mr. J. C. Weliamuna calling them traitors, inciting extremist elements to attack them and as a result, making them vulnerable to physical attacks. Photo images of other press freedom activists such as Mr. Rohitha Bashana Abeygoonawardena, Mr. Sanath Balasooriya and Mr. Poddala Jayantha have also been shown in government media programmes. The present series of attacks have directly accused these human rights defenders of supporting the LTTE, of receiving money from the Tamil diaspora and of working against the interests of the country to obtain “dollars”. The present attacks follow on from previous attacks by Government ministers and government media on the Free Media Movement, press freedom activists and the Bishop of Mannar.

We note that none of these defenders, all of whom are presently or in the recent past been resident in Sri Lanka, have been legally charged in Sri Lanka. In fact, the Minister of Media has said that these are activities against which the legal framework of the country does not allow the government to file charges.” The same Minister, it is reported, has further said that those that bring the country into disrepute will not be forgiven by the nation implying that a system of "justice" exists outside the established legal framework.

Ironically, these hate campaigns have come at a time when UN experts on human rights defenders are calling on governments to take steps to facilitate, rather than deter, civil society’s safe and unimpeded access to the UN. The President of the Human Rights Council, Ms. Laura Dupuy Lasserrre has expressed her concern about reports of State and other representatives using aggressive and/or insulting language against civil society representatives participating in the Council deliberations with  a view to intimidate and harass them.

We observe that such malicious attacks are carefully orchestrated by the authorities with the clear objective of deviating attention elsewhere when the human rights record of the government is being challenged nationally and internationally.

We, therefore, urge the President and Government to take immediate action to stop these attacks and ensure the safety of human rights defenders whether they engage in national level processes and/or in inter-governmental processes such as the UN Human Rights Council.

1. Bishop Kumara Illangasinghe
2. Rev. Fr. M. Sathivel
3. Rev. Fr. Sarath Iddamalgoda
4. Rev. Fr.V.Yogeswaran, s.j.
5. Rev. Fr. S. Maria Anthony, s.j.
6. Rev, Fr. Jeevaraj, s.j.
7. Rev. Fr. Antonthas Morais, s.j.
8. Rev. Fr. Jeyabalan Croos
9. Rev. Fr. Elil Rajan
10. Rev. Fr. Everest Dias
11. Rev. Fr. Bernard I. Alphonsus, Ex-Chairman, Justice and Peace Commission of Jaffna Diocese
12. Mr. Udaya Kalupathirana, INFORM Human Rights Documentation Centre
13. Mr. Shantha Pathirana, Association of Family Members of Disappeared
14. Mr. Joseph Stalin, Ceylon Teachers Union
15. Mr. S. Sivagurunathan, Movement for Defense of Democratic Rights
16. Mr. Somapala Kandawinna, Movement for Defense of Democratic Rights
17. Mr. Wasantha Dissanayake, Movement for Defense of Democratic Rights
18. Mr. Mahinda Hatthaka, Movement for Defense of Democratic Rights
19. Mr. T. M. G. Wimal Fernando, Adviser –MDDR
20. Mr. Hans Billimoria, The Grassrooted Trust
21. Mr. Siva Pragasam, Workers' Solidarity Union & Citizens' Watch Network
22. Mr. Manjula Pathiraja, Attorney at Law, Free March
23. Mr. Gonneratne Wanninayake, Attorney at Law, Free March
24. Mr. Namal Rajapakse, Attorney at Law, Free March
25. Mr. Priyaranjana Jayasinghe, Attorney at Law, Free March
26. Mr. Ainslie Joseph, Convener of the Christian Alliance for Social Action
27. Ms. Nalini, Woman Human Rights Defender, Batticaloa
28. Ms. Shanthi A Satchithananthan, CEO, Viluthu
29. Mr. Chandra Kumarage, Lawyers for Democracy
30. Mr. Lal Wijenayake, Lawyers for Democracy
31. Ms. Rosanna Flamer-Caldera, EQUAL GROUND
32. Mr. K.S.Ratnavale, Director, Centre for Human Rights and Development
33. Mr. K.J. Brito Fernando, Families of the Disappeared
34. Mr. Philip Dissanayaka, Right to Life Human Right Center
35. Mr. Udaya Edirimanna, CMEV
36. Mr. D.M. Dissanayake, CMEV
37. Mr. Jagath Liyanaarachchi, CMEV
38. Mr. Sunil Jayasekera, Free Media Movement of Sri Lanka
39. Mr. Kumara Alagiyawanna - Journalist/Free Media Movement
40. Mr. Dharmasiri Lankapeli, General Secretary, Federation of Media Employees' Trade Unions
41. Mr. Kusal Perera, Journalist
42. Ms. Melani Manel Perera, Christian Women Journalist
43. Ms. Seetha Ranjanee - Free lance Journalist
44. Mr. T Jayasingam, Eastern University
45. Prof. Jayantha Seneviratne, University of Kelaniya
46. Ms. Bhavani Fonseka, Attorney at Law
47. Mr. Lakshan Dias, Attorney at Law
48. Mr. Sampath Pushpakumara, Attorney at Law
49. Prof. Kumar David
50. Dr. Philip Sethunga
51. Dr. Mario Gomez
52. Dr. Sumathy Sivamohan
53. Dr. Devanesan Nesiah
54. Mr. Lakshman Gunasekara
55. Ms. Sharmini Boyle
56. Ms. Hana Ibrahim
57. Mr. Shan Wijethunge
58. Mr. Thaha Muzammil
59. Mr. Freddy Gamage
60. Ms. Dilhara Pathirana
61. Ms. Deanne Uyangoda
62. Ms. D.I. Wickremesekera
63. Ms. Chulani Kodikara
64. Ms. Maryanne Mendis
65. Ms. Paba Menkie
66. Ms. Dulani Kulasinghe
67. Ms. Shreen Saroor
68. Ms. Priya Thangaraja
69. Ms. Jovita Arulanatham
70. Ms. Jenzila Majeed
71. Mr. Nilshan Fonseka
72. Mr. Mirak Raheem
73. Mr. Lanka Nesiah
74. Mr. Ruki Fernando
75. Mr. P. N. Singham
76. Mr. Lionel Guruge
77. Mr. Sanjana Hattotuwa
78. Mr. Suresh Kumar
79. Mr. Nigel V. Nugawela

The Social Architects on "Sinhalisation"

Over the last few weeks we know many of you have been moved by the Social architects' stories from the last days of the war. Now they have written again - this time a research paper on the "Sinhalisation of the north".

The Social Architects (TSA) are comprised of a diverse group of writers, intellectuals and working professionals. While most of TSA’s members hail from the country’s North and East, the group also includes other scholars and activists who have been working on issues related to Sri Lanka. TSA seeks to educate, to inform and to provide timely, thoughtful analysis on a range of topics.

They write under the pseudonym "The Social Architects" because of the risk of retaliation against those that speak out against the government.

This paper first appeared in the International Policy Digest and the Social Arcitects have kindly let us reproduce it here.

Here is the summary:

‘Salt on Old Wounds: The Systematic Sinhalization of Sri Lanka’s North, East and Hill Country’ the first study published by The Social Architects (TSA)1, seeks to set out the systematic, increasing and widespread process of Sinhalization that is taking place in historically Tamil areas in the North, East and Hill Country in post-war Sri Lanka. While focusing on the process of Sinhalization that is currently being implemented, this monograph seeks to situate it within the broader historical process of Sinhalization that has been carried out by different governments spanning a number of decades.

The report argues that even though Sinhalization is not a new phenomenon, the sweeping changes which continue to occur in historically Tamil areas inhibit the country’s ability to heal after nearly three decades of civil war. Although the current government’s rhetoric gives importance to building bridges between communities by ensuring those affected are able to fully and freely exercise their rights, in reality, its actions are evidence of the Sri Lankan State’s lack of respect for the rights of all its citizens, particularly the Tamil people.

This paper will show that the concept of Sinhalization extends well beyond the subjects of strategic state-planned settlements, land, military intrusion, boundary changes and the renaming of villages. Sinhalization has made its way into Tamil cultural events, religious life, economic activity, public sector recruitment and even the Sri Lankan education system. Since the Tamil community is attempting to recover from the devastating impact of the civil war and rebuild social networks and community structures, attempts to control and demolish socio-cultural aspects of their lives, such as the take over and destruction of temples, inhibit their attempts to engage in emotional healing and community regeneration even minimally.

The most important element of the process of Sinhalization is the continued militarization of many aspects of civilian life. While this is a national phenomenon, it is most aggressively practiced in the Tamil majority areas of the country. Even though at present it is the North and the East that are most militarized, creeping militarization is also evidenced in the Hill Country.

As set out in the report, militarization is an effective tool used by the State to gain and maintain both government and Sinhala monopoly of various aspects of day to day life, including the provision of services by civil administration, economic activities and civic activities in Tamil majority areas. It also helps create and maintain a sense of fear within the Tamil community.

Nearly three years following the end of the civil war, state polices such as those discussed in this report have deepened existing feelings of fear, suspicion and mistrust between and within communities rather than creating more understanding amongst them, exacerbated ethnic tensions and further polarized the country. The current government which has exploited the war victory, a weak and fragmented opposition, and a two-third’s majority in parliament, is no longer beholden to its constituents. Instead, it has evolved into a semi-authoritarian populist regime with little tolerance for dissent. In this context, rising Sinhala nationalism and the concomitant disregard for Tamil rights means that members of this community are unable to even voice their needs and concerns, let alone express dissent and protest against restrictions imposed upon them.

This paper is not meant to be an exhaustive discourse on Sinhalization or Extremist Sinhala Buddhist ideology. Rather its purpose is to inform, educate and provide clear, convincing evidence that, with the explicit backing of the Mahinda Rajapaksa administration, State sponsored Sinhalization has been increasing in Tamil majority areas in post-war Sri Lanka.

You can read the whole thing by clicking the links below:

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19/03/2012

The Social Architects story 8: Kutty's story

Kutty, a young man in his early twenties, sustained multiple injuries during the war. While he was a patient in hospitals at Kilinochchi, Tharmapuram, Mungilaru, Puthukudiruppu, and Matalan, each of these hospitals came under attack, resulting in injuries and deaths of patients, medical staff, and assisting family members. During the war he sustained injuries to his head, shoulders, abdomen, kidneys, and left leg; his right leg required amputation high above the knee. Kutty is temporarily living in Vavuniya with younger sisters, where he is frequently visited and interrogated by Army intelligence personnel. 
I was born in the Vanni in 1987, and spent my early childhood in Thirunagar, Kilinochchi. When the army moved into the area surrounding Kilinochchi in 1996, we were displaced to Mannar and lived there in a temporary shelter for the next four years. We abandoned our property, house, bicycles and all of our belongings. Our family of ten was divided in 2000, when four of my sisters went with our mother and father to Mannar, and four of us went to live with our maternal grandmother near Kilinochchi. After grade eight, I left school and began working to contribute to household income.
The first time I was injured was on March 5, 2008, when I was struck in the back by a fragment of a shell; subsequently I received medical treatment for a month in Muhamallai. Shelling by the Army on that day killed forty-eight people, and injured many more people. They used phosphorous bombs on that day; I saw them exploding. If it gets on you it burns your skin and keeps burning. 
The next injury was in late May 2008, when I was injured in my right leg and hospitalized for about three weeks at Kilinochchi hospital. A month later, I began work as a mason where we lived, outside Kilinochchi town. Then the Army began the attack toward Kilinochchi, so we had to run from there. My grandmother and I were quickly loading our belongings into a tractor cart when that shell came. I believe that shell came from the direction of Mallavi. I was injured severely in my right thigh and leg. Many people were injured and there was no one to help us. I fell unconscious when the shell hit my leg. A day later my friends took me to Kilinochchi hospital with my leg bleeding.
The K-Fir (fighter jet) came and attacked the Kilinochchi hospital on September 17, 2008, killing four female patients in the attack. At the same time, the Army was shelling from Murakandy, about twenty kilometers south of Kilinochchi. The K-Fir attack and Army shelling injured patients in the hospital, their family members who had come to help them and others who were inside the hospital. The force of the K-Fir’s exploding bomb threw me, and as a consequence, my thigh that was already wounded by a shell explosion was injured more severely. Because of the K-Fir attack that threw me from the hospital bed, my right leg had to be amputated.
There was no medicine in the hospital so we were transferred to Tharmapuram Hospital by ambulance. The Army was advancing into the Kilinochchi area. Next, the Army moved toward the Tharmapuram Hospital, where two people in the hospital were killed and 12 were injured while that hospital was under attack. Shells came from the Kilinochchi area and definitely from the Army position. When the shells were falling on the hospital I was moved to a makeshift hospital in Mungilaru. There was no medicine for injuries but a friend brought some medicine that helped reduce the pain and helped me sleep. My leg had been amputated on October 15, 2008; after the amputation I experienced severe pain.
Then the army started to shell at Mungilaru hospital. Twenty-five people were killed and around fifty were injured. This shelling originated in Kalmadu Army position. The Army had already captured Kalmadu. When the army was continuously shelling the Mungilaru makeshift hospital, forty multi-barrel rocket launcher shells were being fired in rapid sequence and the next forty started within five minutes. 
When they stopped shelling the hospital, they next targeted an area where forty to fifty families were camped together nearby. The K-Fir jets came on bombing runs and the shelling was continuous. It was November 15, 2008. I was moved to Tevipuram. 
I saw so many people who had died on my way. There was a big crowd of people moving on the road, pressing toward Tevipuram. The Army was shelling upon densely packed crowds of people moving on the road. The road was jammed with fleeing people so there was no escape. A friend of mine was driving a tractor on the road and a shell fell on him. I have seen so many people who were hit by shells and killed.
Next, I was treated at the Puthukudiruppu hospital. On February 16, 2009, the Army shelled Puthukudiruppu Hospital from positions at Mullaitivu and Oddusuddan. Forty-six patients admitted to the hospital were killed. It was the only hospital so injured people were brought there from a wide area. 
People put up shelters close to the hospital for safety because they believed the Army wouldn’t attack the hospital. 
The Army announced that Matalan was a No Fire Zone. After they made the announcement, I went there with my friends and put up a tent. Then the Army started to shell the Matalan hospital and people who had constructed shelters around it. The Army used phosphorous bombs and cluster bombs. I was there when the bombs fell and I saw them. Phosphorous bombs produced smoke that would make breathing very difficult. Some bombs burned human bodies. We were surrounded by empty land so we could see what was happening around us. People were crying with the bodies of their relations because there was no place to take them. My uncle and his son died from this phosphorous. They were in a tent over a shallow bunker; the phosphorous split bodies into pieces. 
I saw many people injured and killed in Matalan. I saw people in a queue waiting to get kanji (rice and water) - children and women - wounded and killed when shells fell on them. 
On March 10, 2009, the Army moved into Matalan, so we were forced toward Mullivaikal. I saw a lot of bodies on my way. There was no water or food, and it was difficult to bathe my wound. A house there served as the makeshift Matalan hospital. I didn’t go inside that hospital because there was no medicine and they couldn’t help with my injury. I had a bath at a well three houses away from the hospital. I had to wash my wound so it wouldn’t get infected, and as I was returning, I saw shells coming from Mullaitivu, Tevipuram, and Puthukuddiruppu, where the Army now had control, and they fell on the hospital. I left that place as quickly as I could. A friend who brought me on a bicycle was injured and he died. In that attack more than a thousand people were killed including nurses, doctors, patients, and others around the makeshift hospital. The Army stopped the ship that was bringing food and rescuing the injured people.
I couldn’t sleep because I was suffering from the pain of my wound, and I was always expecting shell attacks. I moved near Vadduvahal on May 13, 2009, and I hid myself under a lorry with a friend around 4:30 in the morning. At the time the makeshift Nedunkandal hospital was set up in a tent; it was the last hospital. There was heavy shelling from Mulliyavalai, Puthukudiruppu, Mullaitivu positions when around 9:00 in the morning a shell fell next to us and split into pieces. Shrapnel hit my stomach, my left leg, shoulder, and head. A few minutes before I was injured, I was watching an ambulance that was helping injured people when a shell fell on that ambulance, and I watched it burn. I was unconscious off and on for the next six days, and I didn’t have anything to eat or drink.
I managed to crawl little by little into a grassy place and lay there. I could hear people saying that the Army was shooting and shelling people when they tried to go to the other side. My lips had wounds on them.
On May 15, I was in the same place and I couldn’t get up while the Army was continuously shelling the people. On May 16 a friend lifted me and carried me, and put me on the side of the road. From May 17 –18, many people were injured and killed as a result of shelling by the Army. On May 19, at around 3:00 in the morning, I could hear women’s voices a hundred meters away. The Army was in the place where there were injured LTTE women in tents. I heard the women screaming, “Leave me alone Sir! Let go of me Sir!” (“Vidungo Sir!”). Then I heard gunshots and after that I didn’t hear any sound coming from there.
Around 8:00 am on May 19, the Army rounded up the area. I saw about seventy five meters away there were two men in LTTE uniforms with the Army. They made them take off their clothes and they shot them in their heads.
I couldn’t move but I could hear and I could see. The Army found me and brought me to Manjolai hospital almost immediately from there to Kurunagala hospital. When the Army was moving me I saw a woman surrounded by six Army soldiers, but I don’t know what happened.
The government fought with LTTE - that’s over – Kilinochchi belongs to Tamil people but the government is building Buddhist temples and settling Sinhalese people there. It is not fair. We have nothing to lose anymore. We have lost everything. 
Now there is no freedom for Tamil people, and everything has become only loss.
----

The Social Architects (TSA) are comprised of a diverse group of writers, intellectuals and working professionals. While most of TSA’s members hail from the country’s North and East, the group also includes other scholars and activists who have been working on issues related to Sri Lanka. TSA seeks to educate, to inform and to provide timely, thoughtful analysis on a range of topics.

They write under the pseudonym "The Social Architects" because of the risk of retaliation against those that speak out against the government. In addition each author has selected a pseudonym for themselves and the victims and family members who appear in the story. Over the eight days between March 12th and March 19th we will be releasing one TSA story a day. You can read them all here.

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18/03/2012

The Social Architects story 7: three women

Three women who spoke during a group discussion: Tavamani, Vasantharani, and Sarada.

Tavamani: During the end of the war everyone was in the bunkers because there was so much shelling that we couldn’t come out. I heard children crying in the next bunker. Their mother had left and did not return, so the children were alone. When it was time for us to leave, I decided to take the abandoned children with me. The older girl saw a person she knew and went with him. I kept the young boy with me. We were with more than a hundred people, and we all had to cross the neck-deep water of the Nandikadal Lagoon to reach government-held territory. The air was full of bullets so for the last kilometer we had to crawl, and there were dead bodies along the way. As we crawled people were injured by shrapnel and bullets and we just had to leave the badly injured behind. I saw a bullet go through the head of a child and the mother just had to leave her child’s body and keep going. At times a shell blast killed many people. Most of the bodies we have seen are the bodies of children who died from bullets, shrapnel, or bodies of those that drowned in the water. I don’t even know what village this boy is from. He doesn’t play with other children and he talks about his mother leaving him in the bunker and going away.

Vasantharani (mother of five children): We were living in Matalan, and on that day in the morning there was heavy shelling and I was washing the pots and pans. When I finished washing I walked a few steps to pour out the water. My husband came out of the bunker and he was standing beside me and we were talking. A shell exploded. All the pots and pans that I had washed went everywhere. The pot I was holding in my hand had five holes in it. The fragments passed me and injured my husband. When I took my husband to the hospital he was bleeding profusely. An attack by a helicopter gunship had killed more than a hundred people, and hundreds more were wounded by that as well as other attacks.

When I reached the hospital with my wounded husband, they were not taking care of the severely injured people. They let those people who were badly wounded bleed more and die. They said he would not survive because shrapnel damaged his liver. But he was breathing. There wasn’t any medication.

When there was a rocket propelled grenade blast very close to the hospital, he went into shock and he died. The Army launched this shell to force people to come to their side. This was the 5th of April, 2009.

On the 20th of April the Army captured the place where we were staying. Thousands of people were running toward the Army and the LTTE was shooting at the people from behind. In front of me and behind me people were falling and dying from the firing. When my son was injured they just tied his arm with a sarong and sent him out first. The Army transported him to the hospital. He is beginning to be able to flex his arm.

Researcher: How old is this little boy?

Sarada (the boy’s mother): He was born in the Vanni three days before we had to cross into the army controlled area. There were sixty families from our village who crossed on that day, February 10, 2009.

There was heavy fighting and we were living in a bunker. I went to the makeshift hospital to give birth. Very soon after he was born I walked back to the bunker because there were so many people at the hospital who were severely wounded and dying. Three days later, we walked toward army-controlled area past many dead bodies and a terrible smell came from them. We walked several miles from the LTTE-controlled area to reach the army-controlled area, and from there, we walked miles through the jungle to reach buses. I carried my baby in a basket the whole way. When we reached Omanthai the army wasn’t ready for so many people so we had to sleep on the road. It was really cold and I had to keep my son warm during the cold nights. I was praying to God to save my family and for everyone to reach safety.

We don’t want the presence of guns around us anymore. We don’t want to see weapons.

----

The Social Architects (TSA) are comprised of a diverse group of writers, intellectuals and working professionals. While most of TSA’s members hail from the country’s North and East, the group also includes other scholars and activists who have been working on issues related to Sri Lanka. TSA seeks to educate, to inform and to provide timely, thoughtful analysis on a range of topics.
They write under the pseudonym "The Social Architects" because of the risk of retaliation against those that speak out against the government. In addition each author has selected a pseudonym for themselves and the victims and family members who appear in the story. Over the eight days between March 12th and March 19th we will be releasing one TSA story a day. You can read them all here.

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17/03/2012

The Social Architects Story 6: Anandarajah and Sindu

Anandarajah, in his sixties, is the father of Sindu, who is twenty-five. Former LTTE court clerk Anandarajah speaks first, followed by his daughter Sindu, a former LTTE fighter.

Anandarajah: Just after the ceasefire agreement on Dec 26, 2005, when the Security Forces and the LTTE returned to active combat, we were displaced. After I lost my business as a result of that displacement, I joined the LTTE Political Wing. In August 2006, when the Army attacked Pallai, we moved to Paranthan, where I joined the LTTE court system as a clerk in the head office. In that office we handled court cases from across the north, including land disputes, civil cases, divorce and maintenance cases, and financial cases. The court system was similar to the government system with different departments such as family counseling, department of lawyers, and so on. We had more than seven courts around the north in Mannar, Pallai, Mullaitivu, and Kilinochchi.

The LTTE leadership asked one person from each family to join them. I took my daughter and gave her to the LTTE on September 2, 2006. They did not conscript her by force.

In 2006 we began to close all the courts when the army advanced toward Kilinochchi and displacement in the area of Kilinochchi started. First we withdrew our court system from Adampan and Mannar, then from the Pallai area, as people began to move from areas that were unsafe toward areas where they felt more secure. People couldn’t face the K-Fir bombing and the shelling. Multiple forms of attack forced us to stay on the move; we were displaced every ten days or so. With all our structures (offices) we were continuously moving from Kilinochchi to Paranthan, to Murasumodai, Kandavalai, Puliyampokkani, Tharmapuram, and finally the courts closed.

From Paranthan to Mullaitivu, there was only one road and it was jammed with people and vehicles, so it took five days to move one kilometer. People from all areas across the Vanni were forced to travel on that one and only road.

We moved on to Visvamadu, Udaiyarkattu, Kuravaiyan, Puthukuddiruppu, Iranaipallai, Puthumatalan, Valaiyarmadam, Irataivaikal, Mullivaikal (Karaiyan Mullivaikal, Velam Mulivaikal) and finally Vadduvakal.

In Vadduvakal on May 17, the Sri Lankan Security Forces reached the seaside.

Sindu: At first I was in an LTTE drama group; later I received military training with the LTTE.

We suffered without food; from ordinary people to rich. The Tamils Rehabilitation Organisation (TRO)made a hut and gave people kanji (rice gruel). Because we couldn’t cook in those conditions, people went there to wait in line for the kanji, and sometimes people were killed waiting in the lines. Around May 1stthey stopped providing kanji. People starved - some died of starvation after that.Between Vadduvakal and the army controlled area, the space was littered with bodies. They attacked with cluster bombs that fell in one place and then split and attacked in a wider circle. They spread three hundred meters. Many were killed by cluster bombs. The coordinated shelling was terrible – like rain that rained and rained and rained. It started like that on January 15, 2009. The shells came from Mullaitivu, Palalli, Mankulam and Pallay.

I was injured at Iranamadu fighting with the army. One of our unit members alerted us to the proximity of the Army, just fifteen meters away on the other side of the river. We watched the Army measuring the depth of the water with plastic pipes. We contacted our superior who told us to observe the Army closely, and then to engage them. After we constructed three separate bunkers and started to engage them, an RPG shell fell on our position, severely injuring one of my colleagues in her abdomen, exposing her intestines. We fought for an hour until we had no more ammunition. Then a five-inch-shell exploded nearby and I was seriously injured in both of my legs. Our superiors instructed us to withdraw. Those of us who were injured were taken to Tharmapuram hospital on January 4, 2009. When I was admitted, the hospital was functioning well, but the next night the Army started to shell the hospital, so our superiors evacuated us from the hospital. They left the civilian patients there while it was still being shelled. I don’t know what happened to them.

After that, in Iranaipalai, a LTTE medical doctor treated my wounds. Each Division had one doctor, as did our Division. Soon the LTTE medical unit had to respond to many more wounded when K-Fir bombers attacked a group of one hundred and fifty new recruits. I was in a bunker during this attack in Iranaipalai. When they carried me out of the bunker, I saw body parts scattered all over the place and all the trees were gone.

I was injured again in Puthukudiruppu Manduvil. The LTTE medical unit treated wounded cadres there.

They placed me in an open bunker with other injured cadres because I couldn’t walk. Then, when a shell exploded twenty-five meters away, the exploding fragments broke my other leg. I was dazed – I felt that my leg was wet, then I shouted, “I’m injured please help me!” When they carried me, my leg was just hanging. They sent me to the Puthumatalan government hospital where there was an enormous crowd trying to get urgent medical help. Although the admission was completed outside the hospital at 6 pm, I was not taken into the surgical theatre until around midnight. There were very few doctors and many people were wounded and bleeding. Most of the injured were civilians. The Army captured this hospital with the patients, but I was gone by the time it was captured.

After K-Fir strikes destroyed the Poonambalam hospital in Feb 2009, the LTTE doctors began to work alongside the government doctors. There were about twenty-five LTTE doctors. The LTTE doctors saved many lives during “the end” (mudivu).

The LTTE medical unit transported all the wounded LTTE cadres by vehicle to a house in Iraddaivaikal next to Manjolai hospital. There were around seventy-five wounded LTTE women in the house there with me. Then they moved about forty-five of us, who were unable to walk, to an open area in Mullivaikal. I don’t know what day that was. We were moved around from place to place for about five days. Most of the time we were in bunkers, but we could hear shouting and crying coming from the area around us. There were five to seven wounded cadres in each bunker. One night a shell fell and killed twelve wounded girls.

On May 15, 2009, the LTTE announced, “If parents are alive they can take their children.” They also handed over some of the injured cadres to their parents, including me. On May 16th, the LTTE withdrew, and on the 17th the Army captured the entire area.

My father carried me in the night away from the LTTE medical camp. I saw one man lying down sleeping in a tent. My father tried to wake that man up and asked if he could put me down there. The man said, “It’s alright. You can lie her down here.” As he started to give me his space, I said, “No, no, you stay here, we will sleep next to you. While we were continuing to talk with him, bullets were coming from far away. Suddenly we heard a “thud,” and he was killed lying right next to me.

Then my father carried me to the bunker where my other siblings and uncle were staying. I was there until May 17th. We could hear marana ollam (“death mourning”) all around us. We stayed in the bunker with the belief that the LTTE would never loose.

Some of the wounded LTTE girls crawled three kilometers to reach the army-controlled area because they couldn’t walk. I saw the Army pick them up and take them in their vehicles.

People said that the Army killed some injured LTTE cadres. We didn’t see that; we only heard that the Army killed wounded cadres.

On May17th we started to cross over into the army-controlled area – my father carried me. We reached  the Army’s area on the 18th. There were announcements through a speaker, “All LTTE cadres come forward.” We didn’t go there. My father waited and handed me over to the Army later, in Omanthai.

They transported me to Vavuniya hospital where I received medical treatment for one and a half months. When I was well enough to be discharged they sent me to Anandakumarasamy Camp. The Army did not arrest me, but someone working for the military interrogated me. Once a month my father and I must write our signatures in a register. The Army knows our whole story.

Female cadres worked harder than men in the war, many died, and we lost our friends. At the end the majority of the wounded female cadres took cyanide because they didn’t want to be in Army custody. I am a black belt in karate. We all learned that. Prabhakaran developed us. There were no inequalities between women and men. We were treated the same.

Now the greatest problem faced by severely wounded Tamil women fighters is psychological injury. Many ask, “What is the point of living? What is my reason for being alive?” The Tamil word virakthi, that means a lack of motivation or desire to live, describes their condition. They have lost hope.

Now I collect details of orphans, disabled people, and widows for the government. Although I’m wounded in my legs, I can ride a bicycle because of my training.
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The Social Architects (TSA) are comprised of a diverse group of writers, intellectuals and working professionals. While most of TSA’s members hail from the country’s North and East, the group also includes other scholars and activists who have been working on issues related to Sri Lanka. TSA seeks to educate, to inform and to provide timely, thoughtful analysis on a range of topics.

They write under the pseudonym "The Social Architects" because of the risk of retaliation against those that speak out against the government. In addition each author has selected a pseudonym for themselves and the victims and family members who appear in the story. Over the eight days between March 12th and March 19th we will be releasing one TSA story a day. You can read them all here.

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16/03/2012

The Social Architects Story 5: Suresh's story

Suresh, in his thirties, has a gentle demeanor. Although he was fearful about sharing his experiences, his wish to speak was strong.

With my family, I was displaced from Oddusuddan to Mulliyawalai then to Puthukudiruppu in November 2008. We took some of our most valuable belongings and we put up a hut and stayed there. We expected that the Army would continue to capture places across the Vanni. By the time the Army captured Puthukudiruppu, we were uncertain about where to go next. The Army announced that Suthanthirapuram was a No Fire Zone, so we went there. Suthanthirapuram was extremely crowded with displaced families, and after we arrived, the Army started to shell in our direction. After we dug our bunker, we stayed in it day and night, and all the time there were cries and shouts as people were hit by shelling. Then the Army announced Pokkanai, Matalan, Mullivaikal, as the No Fire Zone area. The Puthukudiruppu road was closed because it was too dangerous; if we used it we would definitely be hit by shelling. So we followed a sandy path to Pokkanai. It took one day to go ten kilometers because there were so many fleeing people. People from all over the Vanni region were there. Then Army shelling started. There was no food. People suffered from starvation. On our way we saw bodies deteriorating and we had to walk on bodies. Bodies were spread everywhere so we had no choice. There were so many people on the path; we couldn’t lie down when the shelling started as we usually did to protect ourselves. We couldn’t help others. We could only be concerned about our own family.

We finally reached Pokkanai. We had never been there before; we just put a tent in a paddy field, and just stayed there. This was in December 2008. There was no shelling for fifteen days. We were close to the beach. There were no vegetables and we couldn’t go to the beach to catch fish because the LTTE would not allow people on the beach. This was because people had fled in boats to Trincomalee earlier.

The people tried to escape both by water and land, but the LTTE stopped them. They (LTTE) gave some rations – rice and dahl. We pounded green graham and used that instead of coconut milk for curries. At that time the LTTE forcibly conscripted children as young as thirteen or fourteen years of age, regardless of whether family members were already in the LTTE or not. We hid ourselves in a bunker. We stayed all day in bunkers. We urinated only at night after ten o’ clock because if they saw us the LTTE would catch us for fighting (ie catch us and make us fight).

During January and February it was very hot, and we had to stay in the bunkers. There was only a small hole for air, and we were sweating so much. We had to stay there. If there was rain, the water came into the bunker through the sand. We filtered the rainwater that seeped into the bunker through shirt material and drank it. And we had to bear this because if we came out either a shell would fall on us or the LTTE would drag us off to fight. My parents suffered a lot more than I did because they were always afraid of the conscription. They were so worried they looked (pey araintha pola). I couldn’t bear to see my parents like that, so I thought it was better to take them to the Army-controlled area than to stay there.We decided to attempt crossing the Nandikadal with about a hundred other people. Walking in groups of ten, we moved toward the lagoon. We would have to cross a hundred meters of water. The LTTE was on one side and Army was on the other. Just when we reached the water’s edge at midnight, all one hundred of us, the LTTE suddenly surrounded us. They came in a van and they got out and shot up in the air. All the people panicked and ran. I was with my mother, three of my siblings, and a three-year-old girl someone had given me to carry.

As we all ran, I tried to carry the child with one arm and our bag with the other, but the child fell. As I tried to gather the child up again, I realized the LTTE were close to me. One hundred meters. I saw a lorry (truck), and I just took the child and got under the lorry. The LTTE were searching around the lorry with a torch light. Then I felt this is the end. If this child cries they will definitely catch me and throw the child somewhere. I worried that the LTTE were catching my parents. I just clutched the child to my chest and I told the child to be quiet. I felt the heartbeat of the child. The small girl asked, “Where’s my mother? Where are we going?” I answered, “They went home.” She asked, “If we go home, can you cook?” I realized that she was wondering who would provide her meals if her mother was not there.

After the LTTE left, and I came out from under the lorry, I decided to return to the place where I was with my family before we tried to cross the lagoon but when I reached there, no one was there. Slowly all the people returned. Four were missing. Three days later the four returned, badly bruised from beatings by the LTTE because they tried to escape.

Five times we tried to escape like this, from February until April. Then we decided we could not escape, and resigned to the thought that we may die there.

During four months trapped in our bunker, I got chickenpox. We couldn’t get medical help because we couldn’t leave the bunkers. Someone thought that onion is good for reducing heat (in the body), so we bought a kilo of onions for 1,000 Rupees. I felt suicidal during that period. It was almost unbearable. We wore only sarongs because it was so hot in the bunkers.

The Army moved closer to us shelling, shooting. There were always sounds of shells and bullets during the last month in the bunker. In darkness we heard someone speaking in Sinhala and checked to see who it was, to discover that the Army had come. All the people started to come out of the bunkers. We began to move toward the Army, but we were between the Army and the LTTE, so we were caught in the crossfire.

Some fell down when they were hit by bullets. The Army saw us, and they thought we were LTTE so we shouted, “We are civilians!” It was four o’clock in the morning, on April 20, 2009. Eventually the Army asked us to come forward single file, so we walked through deep water up to our necks in a long line.

Bullets were whizzing above our heads from both directions while we crossed two bodies of water about a hundred meters wide. We lost four relations who were traveling with us. Then the Army made us go through a thorough body-search and then seated us in an empty area. We could see so many people coming toward the Army-controlled area – more than a hundred thousand. We didn’t eat for two days. We wore sarongs and shirts – we were dirty. We were too exhausted to walk but the Army forced us to walk to Iranaipalai, because the checking was there. Then we had some glucose, and gave biscuits to the children, and we also ate a little of the biscuits. We used one glucose packet for 50 people to wet our throats. From Iranaipalai they bused us to Omanthai.

We didn’t eat until we reached Omanthai, where some NGOs gave a little food, but it was not enough. Ten of us shared one food parcel. We felt pain in our throats when we swallowed. In Omanthai I was in a huge crowd waiting for biscuits. I was beaten up in the crowd, but I got one biscuit. We looked like Veddahs (indigenous Sri Lankan tribes who live in the deep forest) with long beards of four months growth and long hair. Somebody asked me if my mother was my wife, because I looked so old with the beard.

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The Social Architects (TSA) are comprised of a diverse group of writers, intellectuals and working professionals. While most of TSA’s members hail from the country’s North and East, the group also includes other scholars and activists who have been working on issues related to Sri Lanka. TSA seeks to educate, to inform and to provide timely, thoughtful analysis on a range of topics.

They write under the pseudonym "The Social Architects" because of the risk of retaliation against those that speak out against the government. In addition each author has selected a pseudonym for themselves and the victims and family members who appear in the story. Over the eight days between March 12th and March 19th we will be releasing one TSA story a day. You can read them all here.

Labels:

15/03/2012

The Social Architects story 4: Thushi and Nilani

Thushi, in her thirties, is the wife of a LTTE leader who disappeared, and Nilani, in her twenties, is her sister-in-law.

Thushi: At the time I joined the LTTE they didn’t force recruitment, instead they gave speeches at schools and I was motivated by Ilamparithi’s description of the Tamil struggle. I joined when I was 16. Ilamparithi described the injustices of the government against Tamils and explained of why we must have a separate nation. After a group of us joined we went to Manalaru. My mother searched until she found me, but I wouldn’t return with her. Upon completion of our training in Polihandy, Vaddamarachchi, they sent those of us who were young to study English, math, communication, and other courses in Chavakacheri and Kodikammam. Around one hundred of us studied together for two years. After that, I started to work in the communication unit, passing communication through walkietalkie and high frequency sets. I was in charge of the communication from 1994-1996. I learned how to take video footage and how to edit footage, and from 1997 until 2003, I worked in video. I was not supporting Nitharsanam, but a different unit. Then I studied a computer course and worked as an officer for an (unnamed) LTTE department until 2005. The LTTE owned several computer companies.

I first met my husband in 1992 when he organized our classes. He was very handsome. At the beginning I talked to him about our studies, then we started to work together in the same unit so we conversed about our work.

He proposed his love for me in 2003. I explained that I needed to wait until my elder brother and sister married. I asked if he was all right with waiting…(gestures of shyness). We told our unit superior about our love in 2005. We also had to inform our superiors for the women’s unit and the men’s unit. I told the superior of my women’s unit by myself. There was a marriage group, so we also informed them. The age of marriage rule was twenty-four for women and thirty for men. They had known us since 1992 so they didn’t need to give us advice. I informed my family through his father.

We bought land in Vanni and built a house there. When the house was constructed, we were married on March 27, 2006, in the LTTE wedding hall. Altogether there were about two hundred and fifty people at our wedding, including the LTTE. My mother, sister, and three other relations came from Jaffna, as did about twenty of his relations. There wasn’t any Ayer or priest tradition, but there was an LTTE registrar.

We dressed at home - I wore a purple-red saree (onion color). There was a standard oath that we recited, repeating after the registrar, and then we signed the document and our parents also signed that. After the oath we tied the gold tali that looked like Tiger’s teeth. The LTTE gave watches and we exchanged them; we exchanged flower garlands; then the LTTE gave one and a half laks (150,000 rupees) for wedding expenses and for starting life together. The LTTE gave the same amount to others, except if the bride was a civilian and the groom was in LTTE (or vice versa) they gave only 75,000 rupees.

I can think of about ten LTTE women who married civilian men they met in offices. The next day we also registered with the government. We wanted to register as a family with the GS who already had our data since we built a house there. Then we took two weeks vacation to visit relations.
Following our marriage, we qualified for LTTE salary. If both husband and wife are in the LTTE they gave 9,250 rupees monthly, and if one was a civilian, they gave 7,250 rupees. We deposited this salary in the LTTE bank (Tamil Eelam Vaipaham), on the 10th of each month. We withdrew the money later, so we didn’t lose it. After two weeks leave we started to work regularly. I worked in a computer unit in Puthukudiruppu. He would come home at night, except when he went farther away he came only on Saturday and Sunday. Up to 2008 we had a relatively stable life, but we were displaced when the fighting reached Puthukudiruppu on January 20, 2009. We moved to Vallipunam, and stayed there with one of our friends. Shells from Visvamadu fell on Vallipunam, so we went to Iranaipalai. Then to Pokkanai. My husband came and stayed with me every night. We had to go to Iranaipalai for some work, when I was injured by a K-Fir (fighter jet) attack, on Feburary 26, 2009. He took me to Matalan hospital in a vehicle and I stayed there for three days. The hospital was in a school building and the operating theatre was thrown together quickly. There were no anesthetics, so they operated without anesthesia. They amputated legs there without anesthesia. The ship brought very little medicine, and it wasn’t enough.

Both civilian injured and LTTE injured were treated there. There was such an enormous crush of people around it, that even if a patient was admitted, it would take a day for the patient to be taken inside the hospital. About seventy injured people were lying on the ground outside the hospital without any shade.  
It was 8:00 am when I was injured from the explosion of the LTTE arms store when it was hit by a Kbomber. First my husband took me immediately into the bunker. He arranged transport to the hospital and we arrived there in one hour. I had a bag with a towel, brush, sarong, and some bandages. My husband tied my wound with the bandages. I waited outside the hospital with others until 7:00 pm, when a doctor recognized me and immediately took me inside. They had some anesthetics, and after operating they took me to a hall where I was placed on a mat on the floor. We couldn’t move right or left because it was so packed. I was there for three days and the hospital was so busy they couldn’t change the dressing during those three days.

On March 3rd, my relations came from Mullaivaikal and urged me to shift to the hospital there. Then they took me in a vehicle. In the hospital at Mullaivaikal they put a fresh dressing on the wound and after two days more they put stitches in the wound and gave me some tablets for pain. Every third day they put a fresh dressing. The same LTTE doctor removed the stitches. I had known him for a long time.

He did a skin graft and when the anesthesia wore off it was very painful. I walked with crutches. A friend who got a Jaipur leg gave me the crutches because he didn’t need them. That doctor disappeared after surrendering to the Army. The doctors in the LTTE medical unit surrendered in Vadduvakal and the Army separated them and took them away in a vehicle.

I was in a bunker from the beginning of March until the 10th of May, because we had to be prepared for exploding shells or bullets continuously. I only went occasionally to the hospital where I could get a fresh dressing for my wound. My husband dressed my wound.

We moved to the border between Mullivaikal and Vadduvakal on May 13th and waited there for three days. On May 16th we went into the Army controlled area after 5 pm. We walked on the main road where all the civilians were walking. I was with my husband and husband’s friends. We were about 200 meters from the Army, and the LTTE was just behind us. The LTTE allowed the civilians to go at that time. My husband was with me, but they stopped my husband and allowed me to go.

My husband said, “First you go, they will release me and then I will join you.” I held the hand of a small child about five years old that belonged to the family that was walking with me. By then, I could walk without crutches.

After we reached the Army area, my leg was swollen and it was extremely painful. My husband didn’t come. I went to the checkpoint area on May 19th searching for him where there was a big crowd. They took us to Omanthai on May 20th, where the army announced “Everyone who was in LTTE for even one day should come and register their names.” I went to them. Males and females were mixed. They took all the details on the 21st, asking, “When did you join? What did you do?”

On the 22nd they took us to Pampaimadu Rehabilitation Center. The amputees didn’t have to do physical labor, but the rest of us had to clean the whole place and we cooked our food. They brought in some medicine and identified those who had experience with medical treatment from serving in the LTTE medical unit, and they used those people to give medicine. Sometimes even the Army came in and received medical treatment from them. Rarely a doctor came from outside, and sometimes the doctor recommended transfer to the government hospital, so permission was given.

When I was in Pampaimadu Rehabilitation Center, I tried to get information from the Vavuniya camps because there were several camps with former LTTE cadres. I learned that my husband was not there. I asked the Sinhalese person in charge of Pampaimadu to ask if my husband was in the camps. I was released from Pampaimadu on September 20, 2010, after one year and four months.

They trained me in sewing for three months only. They didn’t give this training to everyone, mainly they just tried to keep everyone busy, and they taught sewing to say they were giving training. Once in a while we saw a film, and we read books and newspapers. We played volleyball and cricket at 4:00 pm when they allowed free time outside. Sisters gave us karam boards and there was a TV that we were allowed to watch anytime.

Five or six of the women were mentally disturbed. They broke the TV. One day Major General Daya Ratnayake (Minister of Rehabilitation) came to the camp and gave a speech in which he said things like, “It will take five years to release all of you,” and one woman was so disturbed she swallowed many piritin tablets without anyone’s knowledge. She was admitted to hospital, and afterwards she looked normal but if you spoke harshly to her she would definitely hit you. She hit Army women also. In the next year she tried twice to jump over the wall and gate. Then the Army added razor wire across the top of the gate. She was released, but I don’t know where she went. The others who were mentally disturbed didn’t eat well, and were always distracted by their thoughts. Women who knew them said that when they were in the Vanni they were also mentally disturbed.

In my block at Pompaimadu there was one woman who was mentally ill. She was in Vettrimanai in the Vanni (a place for mentally ill civilians and cadres that was managed by the LTTE). She was very silent and didn’t interact with others. We don’t know if she was an LTTE cadre, but she was in Vettrimanai earlier. She told different places when you asked her where she was from. She also told different names if you asked about her parents. When we were working in the kitchen she would tell us that she knew us from many different places where she had seen us before, but it was her imagination. But she could speak both fluent Sinhala and Tamil. Vettrimanai was in Akkarayan Kilinochchi. The Army handed over former women fighters without any family relations to Catholic Sisters. I think this woman went to the Sisters.

I always ask everyone to please find out where my husband is. A girl I knew well was in the Pampaimadu Rehabilitation Center. She told me that when she was coming into the Army controlled area, she went to get water from a hole the Army dug, and she saw my husband. She described him wearing the same shirt and sarong he was wearing when I last saw him on May 17th. She saw him up close because my husband didn’t talk to her but he was there with another person and that person talked with her, and this happened in the Army controlled area. At the time, the army announced, “Everyone who has been in the LTTE must surrender to us.” But most of the people didn’t surrender to them in the Army controlled area; they surrendered later in Omanthai or in the camps. The people who surrendered in Mullaivaikal and Vadduvahal, before Omanthai, have disappeared.

When I went to get my wound dressed in the Army-controlled area in Mullaitivu, I saw around fifteen people who were surrendering to the Army. Six of them I knew very well. There is no information about them. A woman who was in Pampaimadu told me she came with her husband into the Army-controlled area, and he surrendered when they made the announcement to come forward and surrender; since then there has been no information about him. The persons who surrendered in the Army-controlled area in Mullaitivu have all disappeared. The Army took one of the Priests in Mullaitivu, Father Francis, and there is no information about him either.

I have no plans to go abroad because I want to find out about my husband.

Nilani (sister-in-law of Thushi): 
Two local newspapers, Udayan and Valampuri, released a black and white photograph in May 2010, of LTTE leaders surrounded by army and I saw my brother in it. Then we searched on the internet and found the photograph in color. Then I knew with certainly it was my brother.

After we saw the photograph we went to Boosa and several detention centers, including the fourth floor of the CID in Colombo. My sister-in-law went and asked if there was a person by this name in detention at these places, and she showed the photograph. They told her they would inform her in two or three days, but she didn’t get any information from them. We searched in Vavuniya detention centers. We couldn’t locate him. We made a complaint with the Vavuniya and Point Pedro police. We spoke with a lawyer in Jaffna. We gave a written complaint with the LLRC (Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission).

I was the last person in my family to see my brother, on May 17, 2009, in Vadduvahal, around 4:00 pm. I was with my brother’s friend’s family in a hut on the side of the road. My brother and his friend came together and met us. We begged them to please come with us. He looked all right, but he said, “First you go into the Army-controlled area, then I will try to escape from here, I can swim, I’ll come through the sea, or else I will surrender to the Army.” That was the first time he thought of escaping.

I held his hand and tried to pull him into the Army-controlled area but he refused. He joined when he was eleven years old. He was interested in swimming, but our parents didn’t allow him to go to the beach, so he thought he could have more freedom, so he joined. He wouldn’t come with me because he was with the LTTE for twenty years.

We saw on the internet that there are coconut trunks on top of the bunker in the photograph. We saw some films on the internet with dead bodies without clothes. We saw another film with a truck carrying bodies, and it dumped them in a place and they were burned. And we saw some footage of one of the men in the photograph walking with the army. We watched these films in a communication centre with fear because of all the people coming and going including army personnel.

We went to a man in Batticaloa who speaks oracles (vakku sollurathu) and to a woman in Anaikkodai named Mallar by the Amman temple - she uses cowries. We gave his real name and his LTTE name, and they both said he was alive.
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The Social Architects (TSA) are comprised of a diverse group of writers, intellectuals and working professionals. While most of TSA’s members hail from the country’s North and East, the group also includes other scholars and activists who have been working on issues related to Sri Lanka. TSA seeks to educate, to inform and to provide timely, thoughtful analysis on a range of topics. 
They write under the pseudonym "The Social Architects" because of the risk of retaliation against those that speak out against the government. In addition each author has selected a pseudonym for themselves and the victims and family members who appear in the story. Over the eight days between March 12th and March 19th we will be releasing one TSA story a day. You can read them all here.

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14/03/2012

What happened in Mullaittivu?



Photographer undisclosed, Nanthi Kadal Lagoon, Mullaittivu, Sri Lanka, August 2011

On Wednesday the 14th at 10:55pm GMT, Channel 4 aired a documentary about the appalling events that took place on this beach and elsewhere in May of 2009.

It is available to stream all over the world (for at least the next 30 days) by clicking this link.

Here's how you can help:

1 Spread the word: email this link to your friends, join the conversation on twitter, invite your friends to our facebook event, share the links on reddit or just tell your friends the old fashioned way: the more people watch this documentary the better.

2 Take action. Please take a moment to sign our petition

3 Help us to campaign. Please consider contributing to our appeal.

4 Help us share our stories. Read the testimony of anonymous Sri Lankans, and tell your friends.

Many thanks, and all the best.

The Social Architects story 3: Shanthi's story

Shanthi is a mother and widow, forty-two years of age, who has been displaced many times in the course of the war. In her early childhood, she lived in a cadjan hut with a palmyrah leaf roof and walls 
constructed of a double layer of woven coconut palm leaves. Local red clay was used for the floor and the lower part of the walls, to keep out poisonous snakes. The house had a veranda and two rooms. She was born in this house. Shanthi’s mother taught her how to cook traditional Tamil foods like pittu, iddiyappam, dosai and palappam over a fire in the small low-roofed kitchen that was a separate structure about eight feet from the house. She is the second born of eight children, with six brothers and one older sister. Her father, who worked in Colombo as a bus driver, came home to visit twice a month.  When Shanthi was eleven years old, her father died. Then, to help with the household income, Shanthi’s mother taught her how to weave palmyrah leaf mats.  
Palmyrah trees grow wild in the Jaffna landscape, and every product of the tree is used by the local people: the flowers for kul (soup), panaiyarum or fried fruit sweets, the whole fruit or panampalam as roasted fruit, pinattu or fruit leather, the young root boiled or panankilungku, the dried young root or pana kalkandu, odiyal, the leaves or pana ole for roofing, fencing, mat and basket weaving, the strong barbed sticks or panaimattai for fencing, and the tree trunk for construction.
Shanthi’s story speaks for the experiences of many ordinary Tamil people who fled across the Vanni as the military forces advanced. Her story is typical among survivors’ stories in many aspects. This is the story Shanthi told:
When I was a little girl, my mother hired men to cut palmyrah leaves and bring them to our house in an  ox cart. We bought green, red, and purple dyes at the shop, and soaked the palmyrah leaves in the colors. Then we spread them out to dry on the sand around our house. My mother and I wove them into designs with names, like Iviral (“Five fingers”) and Muviral (“Three fingers). My mother and I still weave mats with these designs. When I was young we also dried chilli peppers. We grew chilies, onions, and long beans in our garden, and we sold them in the market.  
In 1990, when I was twenty-three, we were displaced for the first time. A helicopter gunship flew low and strafed the village…everyone ran. The man who would later become my husband carried his sister’s son and waded along the edge of the water where it was waist-deep. When the helicopter came near us, we put palmyrah leaves over our heads for camouflage and waded into deeper water. When his sister died, my family helped with the funeral and the thirty-first-day death ceremony.
This man who became my husband lived near us; he was handsome and intelligent. I worked very hard at gardening and he noticed that. He asked me to marry him when he was twenty-eight. One day, when I was taking care of my blind grandmother, he came and asked, “Are you in love with me? I want to marry you.”  
He wanted to marry me without any dowry. My mother, my two uncles, and my cousins arranged the marriage. My mother had already taught me to cook, and for several years before that I cooked as frequently as my mother. All the relations came and we had our wedding in the house. I wore a red saree and he wore a veshti. First we put banana in milk. Then they put a banana leaf on the floor of the prayer room with all the curries. I gave curries to him from the leaf, and then he gave curries to me.  We were machchan and machchal.
In 1995, the Army attacked our area during the Suriyakadir operation (Riviresa). They started shelling the village and everyone ran. The Air Force bombed Navatkulipalam (a key bridge in the area), so a huge crowd of people were trapped there. Many elderly people from the village died during the bombing and shelling. 
We ended up at an uncle’s place. We constructed a house with palmyrah leaf roof and woven palm walls on his land and stayed for ten years.  
In 2004, during the ceasefire agreement, my husband and I went back to the place where we were married after fourteen years of being away. No one else had returned, and the whole village looked like a jungle. We cleared our land. My uncle’s house was partially standing, so we stayed there at first, and then we built a house on our land. That same year, after fourteen years of marriage, I was blessed with a daughter. We were very happy in that period. My husband was always employed as a mason, or as a laborer, loading cement bags and sand into trucks. We grew panankilungku (young palmyrah tree roots) that we boiled and sold. We also dried the roots to make odiyal to sell in the market. We also gathered coconuts from places where people had not returned, and sold them.
On our daughter’s first birthday, we went to the Nagatambiran temple in Poonagiri during the festival.  We dressed her in new clothes, and keeping an old vow from the days when we were without children, we took katpurachati (a clay pot of flaming camphor on a bed of neem leaves) and circumambulated the temple.
Two years later fear returned, after executions of some villagers by the Army. We went to Poonagiri for safety and lived there for over a year. In 2006 the Army started shelling Poonagiri from Pallaly, so everyone fled again.
We decided to stay with my younger brother, and after a month we found a place to rent for 170 Rupees a month. When shelling from the Army in Kilinochchi came close to us in January 2009, we fled to Visvamadu. We packed up kitchen utensils; clothes, rice and lentils, and we carried these essentials on a bicycle. My husband put our daughter on the front of the bicycle. I walked next to it. We abandoned our milk cow and chickens. The road was packed with people. I remember a truck carrying injured people was blowing the horn and going fast through the crowded road, heading for Visvamadu hospital.
After four days in Visvamadu, we went on Suthanthirapuram for six days. We made a tent with two sticks and a tarp and we dug a bunker using cups and plates. We bought needle and thread and cut saris and made sand bags. Put the sand bags one on top of the other on all four sides and left a small hole to get inside, and then we hid ourselves in there. The shelling was continuous so we couldn’t cook. When the shelling stopped we immediately cooked some kanji (rice and water). We always had to be alert to the sound of shells and bullets. First we lit the fire, and when the shells came, we ran back into the bunker. Then, when we thought the shelling had stopped, we came out to get the pot and ran with it back into the bunker. 
We spent a sleepless night at Senduran Silai junction, under a tree. We went on to Aachchithottam (Vallipuram) and stayed for three days and during those days we were attacked by multi-barrel rocket launchers, KFir fighter jets, artillery, five-inch mortars, tanks, and cluster bombs. Doom! Doom! Doom! Doom! Doom! Each cluster bomb splits into ten upon impact. Most of the people in this place were killed, and we left them and ran.  
We fled to Kombavil where we stayed a little more than a week. On the way there was no shelling, but as we neared Kombavil there was evidence that it had already been attacked. It was attacked from five directions: from Kepapilavu, Visvamadu, Killinochci, Suthanthirapuram, and Mullaitivu, and by the Navy Dora craft on the water. Each day forty, fifty, one hundred, were killed. We saw all along our way the bodies in death positions with maggots and there was a terrible smell and we felt like vomiting. In front of us two were going in a motorbike and when the shell fell on them their heads were cut off and the motorbike kept going and fell in a canal.
Around 200,000 people gathered from all across the Vanni in Pokkanai, and built bunkers close to one another. It was a so-called Pathukappu Valaiyam (No Fire Zone). We dug a bunker and put up a tent as we had before, and we were seated there. My mother, my daughter, and my brother were there. It was March 23, 2009. My daughter and I were crying because we were hungry, but shells, multi barrel rocket launchers, tanks, and K-Fir jets relentlessly attacked the place where we were. We couldn’t go out, we had only a little rice and we had no firewood. When the firing stopped for a moment, my husband went out and tried to chop some firewood. While he was chopping, a shell fell a short distance away, so he lay down on the ground. The rest of us hid inside the bunker. Another shell came and fell close to him where he was lying down. As soon as he could, my brother went out of the bunker to find my husband.  
He came back crying, and when he was able to speak he said, “Attan died instantly.” We took my husband’s body into the bunker and we put that body on a sheet and mat and covered it.  
The people in the next bunker to us had covered his head with a cloth because his brain was severed in half. We carried his body in a tractor and we buried his body in Valaiyarmadam. My mother was feeling very sick that day onwards.
We stayed in Pokkani for twenty-one days longer after he died. In Pokkani I saw women holding their infants that had died. Ammale! I was mentally affected from such terrible things. I didn’t know where I was staying, I would get lost; I couldn’t remember where I was staying because I was in such a state of shock. We had no hope that we would survive. We thought that we would not live and we were going to die. 
One of my brothers died twenty-one days after my husband, and on that same day my nephew was badly injured. My brother came out of his family’s bunker to get some water for everyone when his mother-in-law said she thought the shelling had stopped. He had the kettle in his hand when a five-inch shell fell and injured him in the head, legs and hands. His brother-in-law was killed. His mother-in-law was alive, but both of her legs were severed. We took them to the Manjolai hospital near Pokkani, but they died there. We buried their bodies in Valaiyarmadam in between the shelling. A bullet entered my nephew’s chest and exited the middle of his back; he was at that hospital and lived. 
Manjolai hospital was in a house adjoining a large hall, and was so crowded we couldn’t put our leg in the place. Every person there was bleeding. Everyone who got injured was screaming and crying. There was no medicine. The doctors admitted a few people – only two people at a time into two rooms. The doctors couldn’t save the lives of the people. They couldn’t do surgery because of the heavy shelling.  I saw one lady who had earlier lost her daughter and son; she was carrying her injured granddaughter.   
Then a shell came and killed that lady.
They put sand bags surrounding the operating theatre, and also sandbagged the place where the doctors stayed. But there was no protection for the patients lying on the floor. People lay on the floor so close together there was no room to walk, they had no legs or arms. They had injuries on their heads, faces, eyes… some had abdominal injuries and double amputations. I couldn’t bear to look at that scene.  
As they lay there they were receiving more injuries from the shelling. The LTTE patients and civilians were lying there together. The hospital was continuously attacked for days. A ship was supposed to come for the severely injured, but it never came.
We buried the bodies of my family members in Manjolai. We buried my husband in Valaiyarmadam. We buried my brother and brother’s mother in law in Manjalai. We had to abandon one relative’s body, a cousin, in Pokkani and flee from the shelling.  
I was injured and operated on in April – one month before the end of the war - I don’t remember that very well. I left five days after the operation, walking with a stick for support. I was in a sea of people. I was looking for my relations but I couldn’t find any. I just kept walking. There were abandoned tractors.  
Because there were so many bodies, the LTTE gave food rations to people to collect the bodies and put them in tractor carts. The tractor drivers just left them there fully loaded with the bodies, and the carts of bodies were blocking the road.
And we went on under K-Fir attacks and heavy shelling. At the end (the mudivu), for the last fifteen days, there was no food to eat at all. I drank tea only; I was very thin. We dug holes and put sand bags around and slept in the holes we dug. Then my daughter, my mother, one brother, brother’s wife, and I crept under a lorry (a truck). We put sand bags around us and placed some motorbikes around us for more protection. A wandering man joined us under there. We were expecting to die. We never thought we could survive. While we were all under the lorry, the man who joined us was wounded and died. My brother’s wife was injured in her back and my brother lost consciousness when he was hit. We came out from under the lorry because it was falling over onto us. We ran because shelling was continuing.  
From Mullivaikal we headed for the Army-controlled area on the road toward Vadduvahal. It was May 17, 2009. In front of me people were shot dead. I saw the Army shoot dead two elderly people and a young woman. They shot at us also, but we lay down and survived. Then I decided the road was not safe so we walked into the scrub jungle. We saw many dead bodies killed by the Army. We neared Vadduvahal, and the Army there waved and called us and they carried some of the injured. They said they would give us food.   In Vadduvahal, there were about 300,000 people. We were very thirsty. There was a water hole next to the place where people were urinating and defecating. The Army dug a hole to get drinking water for everyone. There were no toilets, and urine mixed with that drinking water. We drank the polluted water because we were so thirsty, and there was no other water. I heard stories that when young girls went to urinate they didn’t return. I heard that a day later the parents found their daughters’ bodies in the bushes.
They put us in 150 busses and took us to the Zone Four camp first. It was the worst of all the camps and  it was full. Zone Four did not have any facilities or food. They shifted us to Anandakumarasamy camp.  They gave us food, but we couldn’t eat it because it was terrible, so we bought food from shops. Then some NGOs provided dry rations and clothes. UNHCR gave some cooking pots. One of my brothers was in Zone Four and they didn’t get these things. Once a week they gave us vegetables.  
We would like to go Valaiyarmadam to the graves to do funeral rites. We cooked rice and curry for them after seven days, and we went where we buried them and we put the water and food on the ground.   We couldn’t do the thirty-first day funeral ritual because we had to run away from there when the Army shelling came too close. We were in Vavuniya on the thirty-first day. We kept the ninety-days-ceremony in Vavuniya in the camp. We cooked several rice and curries and we gave these to the Pillaiyar Kovil. There was a separate Aiyar Division of the camps called the Anandakumarasamy Camp, and no one mixed up with them (because of caste rules). They built a very small Pillaiyar Kovil with a cadjan roof and we went there for funeral rites. We didn’t cook the food, we just gave all the vegetables to that Aiyar group and they cooked it and they did the ceremony. They lived in luxury compared to us with plenty of water and food. We had to wait in long queues to get water, but in the Aiyar camp they didn’t have to go anywhere for water, the bowser came to them. They got privileges, like the government workers.
Normal people were allowed just twenty-thirty liters per day for each family.  Government workers received sixty liters per day per family. There was a filthy river in the camp and we went there for bathing. I bathed my child with good bowser water; then I borrowed water from my cousin for cooking.
Now my six-year-old daughter and I are living with my mother and my grandmother, who is blind.  My mother’s age is sixty-eight. We don’t know my grandmother’s age. 
We must do something for livelihood, so I am selling panaimattai (sharp strong sticks with barbs from palmyrah trees, often used for fencing). I am selling one hundred sticks for four hundred rupees (approximately USD$3.60). It is difficult, but I must do that – we have to eat. I bring my mother, and we bring along our two dogs for safety. If my husband was alive we wouldn’t have to worry about this. My daughter has named the two dogs, Oosibabu (“Sharp-Pin-Boy”) and Pattasu (“Cracker”). My mother makes boxes out of palmyrah leaves. Ever since my husband’s death, she has been severely mentally disturbed. She was hospitalized for four months at Anuradhapura because of her mental state. She was always crying. Now she is recovering, and helps me in my work.

----

The Social Architects (TSA) are comprised of a diverse group of writers, intellectuals and working professionals. While most of TSA’s members hail from the country’s North and East, the group also includes other scholars and activists who have been working on issues related to Sri Lanka. TSA seeks to educate, to inform and to provide timely, thoughtful analysis on a range of topics.

They write under the pseudonym "The Social Architects" because of the risk of retaliation against those that speak out against the government. In addition each author has selected a pseudonym for themselves and the victims and family members who appear in the story. Over the eight days between March 12th and March 19th we will be releasing one TSA story a day. You can read them all here.

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13/03/2012

The Social Architects story 2: Shamanthi's story

Shamanthi is a mother of three young children in her thirties and she is a former LTTE cadre. She joined  the LTTE in 1990 and left in 2004, after her marriage to an LTTE leader. On May 20, 2010, a local  newspaper published a photograph of twelve LTTE cadres that was first made public by Channel 4 Television, UK. The men appear in the photograph crouching close together with their arms bound tightly behind their backs, without clothes, in a shallow bunker. Army soldiers standing closely together surround them in a circle. Shamanthi has identified her husband as one of the LTTE leaders in this  photograph taken with a soldier’s mobile phone camera. Shamanthi has been living alone in a village in Jaffna with her children since July 16, 2010.  She needs assistance with livelihood and she still hopes her husband is alive. The last known contact with any of the men in the photograph occurred on May 17, 2009; since then there has not been any trace of them. Shamanthi’s vibrant and bright personality, community awareness, discerning parenting skills, and intelligence needs to find a place in a constructive social group.


I joined the LTTE in 1990, when I was fifteen years old, of my own volition. I was motivated by Thiyahi Thileepan’s speeches. He was a medical student; he left that position and joined to serve the people. He delivered speeches at our school. Although parents made arrangements for our family to immigrate to Canada, I didn’t want to go into exile. Just before our family traveled abroad, I chose to join the LTTE. I was young and I had a lot of enthusiasm. At a time when many people were displaced from Jaffna to the Vanni in 1995, I went to the Vanni. That was when the Army captured Jaffna.

In 1990, I spoke for the first time with the man who eventually became my husband, ten years before we were married. My husband’s mother was well known to all the LTTE boys. I knew him through his two sisters who were in the movement. His sisters were killed in combat, and I fell in love with him because he had lost his sisters. After five years in the LTTE we could get permission to be married if we were the proper age. He proposed to me in December 1999 by sending one of his friends to speak to me. He didn’t come and talk to me directly at first.

I was responsible for the administrative work for the men and women’s camps in Puthukudiruppu. If someone needed a pen or other supplies, they had to come to meet me in the office. I asked him to come to that office, and when he came, I explained, “I’m okay with what you told your friend. I am in love with you.” He didn’t say very much; he laughed.

We were married on May 18, 2000. According to our rules we had to inform our superiors. The LTTE’s “Wedding Group” was responsible for arranging our wedding. We could only invite our friends in the movement, because there was no travel access between Jaffna and the Vanni.

The ceremony was held in a hall and it only took only one hour. We couldn’t have a Hindu or Christian wedding. We exchanged our bracelets (watches) and he tied the gold wedding tali around my neck with the Tiger design (Tiger’s fangs). The Wedding Group leader took the role of the priest and pronounced an oath mentioning the usual main points about taking care of each other and living together until death.

I was blessed with the birth of a daughter in 2002. I left the movement when I was pregnant. My husband continued with his work in the intelligence unit.

Usually LTTE families lived more happily than others because we had more organizational support.Everything functioned under a structure. There were schedules and holidays. My husband had to work Monday through Saturday and he came home on Friday night. I expected him on Fridays. Schedules depended upon the units’ duties. If the house was close to the unit, you could return home every night. If you were far away, you could spend the whole of Saturday and Sunday with your family. On Sundayswe were very happy and we often went to Mullaitivu beach because it was a favorite place from my childhood. We would visit the Infant Jesus Church in Mullaitivu. Sometimes we spent the whole day in our house, enjoying being together. Up to 2005 we had this sort of normal family life. After the A9 closed, and fighting started, our routine changed and he spent more time in the unit. Then they were always prepared to fight; they had to be on constant alert.

In 2007 I was pregnant, when my husband left to fight. Our daughter was upset and didn’t want him to be away. She was proud of her father’s bravery. In 2007 KFir fighter attacks started; on some days there would be as many as nine bombing runs.

On April 18, 2007, my daughter’s fifth birthday, I was eight months pregnant. My husband was spending less and less time with us. One of our friends arrived at the house and we all went to the temple that day. A KFir attacked us on the way, and even though my daughter was only five years old, she knew how to get off her bicycle and run immediately to a bunker. She learned how to protect herself in her early childhood.

One day in May 2007, I heard a KFir fighter jet approaching, and I realized it was definitely going to attack our house or the house next to us. We didn’t have a bunker at our house. When a KFir bombs the pieces hit as far as five hundred meters from the attack site. My daughter and I were in grave danger. I carried my child and ran to the bunker nearest my house. The bombs dropped by the KFir targeted the house next to ours. When we came out of the bunker, our house was flattened.

KFir attacks often hit civilians. The LTTE intercepted radio conversations between KFirs and headquarters. I overheard radio communications when the KFir received orders from headquarters to target civilians moving in vehicles. LTTE knew when the KFir fighters left the airport, and rang a big bell to protect cadres from imminent attacks. Civilians who lived near LTTE camps were also protected by these KFir alarms. Our two dogs would howl when the KFirs were coming and went to the bunker entrance. Not only our dogs but other dogs also behaved like that.

On September 22, 2007, the dogs started to howl, and we immediately went into the bunker, and the dogs came into the bunker as well. Two KFirs attacked us six times. Every twenty minutes they came.

My husband was injured that day because he was riding a motorcycle and he couldn’t hear the Kfir coming. My neighbours told me my husband sustained a head injury and he was bleeding profusely. It wasn’t a school day so I sent my daughter to the neighbours’ house and clutching our infant son, I ran the whole way to Ponnambalam hospital in Puthukidirupppu.

Ponnambalam hospital was the name of the main hospital in Kilinochchi, but it also had branches in Puthukudiruppu and Moolankavil. Most of the doctors and nurses were LTTE. It was very clean and better organized than the government hospital. Everyone on staff was paid. Dr. Sivapalan was one of the doctors. People preferred this hospital to the government hospitals.

They respectfully called my husband “Annan.” All his comrades were already in the hospital when I reached there. They told me that it was a small injury and not to worry, and that he had been taken to the operating theatre for minor surgery. He was discharged with some bandages on his head and came home. That night he told me, “I’m just going to see what’s happening” - and went to his unit.

Throughout 2008 KFir fighter attacks continued. The schools did not have any facilities to protect the children during KFir attacks. The schools told parents to come and take their children to their homes where they could be protected in bunkers when there was an imminent attack.

People took care of each other in the Vanni. As a married couple we received enough pay and we had property, there was equality, and there was no caste difference. All were treated equally.

In 2008 they started to capture the places from Mannar to Kilinochchi. It was difficult for me to go to the medical clinic, because KFir fighters were continuing to attack the movements of any known people. I was pregnant again. We stayed in our home until they captured Tharmapuram. Displaced people were starting to move into Puthukudiruppu, Mullaitivu District, and there were places where as many as seventy makeshift shelters were set up together.

There were so many people on the road with small children. They cooked on the road. When I think about that road I remember a woman with a small child. The child was crying loudly, and they had nothing to feed the child. The child’s mother was also crying loudly. I asked them why they were crying - they said we have no water to make milk to feed the child. I brought them to my house and gave some water and milk powder. At the time we also faced a problem as an LTTE family. When people were displaced the army spread intelligence agents among the displaced people. They threw grenades into

LTTE cadres’ houses so I was scared. My husband often said things in a joking manner, and that was how he said this to me, “Very soon you will be displaced like them, so don’t worry about them finding the house.”

On Jan 17, 2009 we were displaced, and fled to Visvamadu which was announced to be a No Fire Zone by the government security forces. Until Jan 24, 2009 we stayed there. The KFir fighters and multi-barrel rocket launchers attacked, and we saw many who were killed by cluster bombs. The army dropped leaflets from the air that instructed the people that Visvamadu was a protected No Fire Zone. My husband didn’t have enough time to look after us at the end. He didn’t come for fifteen days. I heard the army reached our main road and they were relentlessly shelling, bombing, and attacking with KFirs. I kept my children under the thick cement hearth in the kitchen, the safest part of the house. The army was moving toward us from the jungle, behind our house, not from the roadside. One neighbour came and told me this. Another neighbor came and asked where my husband was, and I said I didn’t know.

Already my husband had instructed me, “When the army comes, don’t wait for me, or for any of us. We can’t bring you to safety. You should be a civilian and you go with civilians.” The same day around 8:00 pm, my husband with two of his comrades came, and he said, “Get everyone ready to go in ten minutes.”

I was seven months pregnant with my third child. I had a basket of things for the delivery. I just took that basket and some clothes for the children. He told me, “Don’t expect me, you stay with this cousin.” He left. We also left Visvamadu on two motorbikes with the children.

Then with my two children, we moved from place to place: Udaiyarkaddu, Suthanthirapuram, Iruththumadu, Thevipuram, Iranaipalai, Valaiyarmadam .…The Army announced some of these places were No Fire Zones, but we would decide where to go according to where we thought we would be safest.

A shell fell on a man about forty-years-old and he was killed. There was no way to bury him, so they brought his body along in an ox cart covered in a cloth as they fled. I saw people carrying injured people.

We couldn’t construct proper bunkers. Although we forgot to bring rice and cooking pots, we didn’t forget our manveddi (hoe) for digging bunkers. We made sandbags with saris, piling them up around us. We stayed in Udaiyarkaddu until Jan 31, 2009, then Suthanthirapuram, and on to Iruttumadu for 13 days until Feb 13, 2009. When we were there, many people were killed and injured by bullets from the Army.

We moved on to Thevipuram, a place that was announced to be No Fire Zone, for seven days until Feb 20, 2009. Then we moved to Iranaipalai, and were 14 days in that place until Feb 30, 2009. On Feb 21, while we were in Iranaipalai in a bunker, shelling came from the Army-controlled area and fell near our bunkers, resulting in many injured people. From there we went to Valaiyarmadam.

We had two motorbikes and my husband’s friend had a tractor. He drove us on the tractor. In Valaiyarmadam, I bought a lemon puff biscuit pack for 800 Rs. We had rice, dahl, and fish every day in Valaiyarmadam. In finding food we were lucky, because we knew a lot of people and they gave me privileges because I was pregnant.

We were in Valaiyarmadam for a month until March 31st. On March 8th, a businessman had a van and he was selling foodstuffs to a long line of waiting people and I was in the line. Right after I left them, a shell exploded and seven people in the line were killed and more were injured. They were dismembered. My daughter’s teacher’s sister was decapitated and her head was stuck in a palmyrah tree. I am still mentally disturbed from that.

Traditionally Tamil women who are pregnant don’t look at corpses or go near cemeteries. But in Valaiyarmadam, we were in a cemetery. There was a body buried next to us. In Matalan I saw sixteen corpses collected in a tractor. A backhoe dug a pit and they dumped the bodies into the hole. In Valaiyarmadam, there was a terrible smell from all the bodies that had been buried and there were so many flies. I vomited. That was the first time I scolded my leader. All the children got sick and had diarrhea there.The LTTE announced one from each family must come to fight. They conscripted by force also. Before we were spread out across the Vanni; now we were in a very small area. ICRC was taking people by ship to the hospitals further down the coast. And from February people were escaping to the Army controlled area without the knowledge of the LTTE. Even LTTE families went like that. We were there until the end because we believed our leader had a plan. The LTTE prevented the people from going into the Army controlled area. In Matalan one LTTE cadre stopped some people and they cut his arm. When people were fleeing into the Army controlled area, the LTTE didn’t shoot at them they shot over their heads. When the Army heard the LTTE shots, the Army shot towards them with the result that people were caught in crossfire.

April 7th was my due date for my delivery. Doctors told me that I may need a cesarean birth. To confirm my baby’s condition, I was told to go to Mullivaikal from Valaiyarmadam, but I couldn’t get to Mullivaikal because of the shelling. My husband came and I told him about this, and he took me to Dr. Shanmugaraja in Mullivaikal hospital.

The leader had informed LTTE cadres to send their families safely out of the area. My husband told me to go to India. I refused to accept his opinion because I wanted to stay with him. Mullivaikal hospital was the last hospital. It was not in a hospital building, it was in a school building. At first they only treated LTTE cadres there, but then when many refugees were injured in the NFZ they treated civilians also. Just before we reached the hospital it was shelled. When I went through the hospital gate, I saw one girl who had just been killed. Patients in the hospital were also killed. So many people with injuries were shouting and crying.

We met Dr. Shanmugaraja, and from the scan he explained the baby’s condition was normal. He recommended that I leave in an ICRC ship. I saw a boy about seven-years-old with his sister who was about a year-and-a-half-old when I went to the bathroom. They were both crying and the boy told me that their father was killed in the Suthanthapuram attack and their mother just died here in this shelling.

When my husband saw these two children, he remarked to me, “If you refuse to go by ship, your children will also be crying like this.” This was on April 11th. Then he arranged the ship pass. He stayed with us on April 12 th in Valaiyarmadam. That night we slept together; my husband, our son, and I slept outside the bunker, and our daughter and my husband’s brother slept inside. Around 1:00 am the Army started attacking with multibarrel rocket launchers. When I woke up in the morning I saw a piece of shell had fallen in between my husband and our son, but it didn’t harm us.

The ship docked two hundred and fifty meters from where we were, however, it took an hour to reach the ship because it was so crowded with vehicles and people. My husband’s brother carried our bag on a motorcycle, and my husband carried us. We weren’t able to make progress, so my husband suggested, “We can’t go through this way, the ship will leave; shall we go another way - the Matalan way? It’s farther, but we can reach the ship before it leaves.” Then he warned, “If the Army sees any people moving they will definitely attack. I will go very fast, so you hold tight to me.” Our seven year-old-daughter was in front of him and I held our one and a half-year-old son in between us. I saw the Army on the way and they fired at us, but we reached the ship.

A small boat ferried people to the ship. Elderly people, mentally affected people, injured people, and critically ill people had already been boarded onto the ship. The injured and the amputees were taken aboard on stretchers or carried in sheets for lack of stretchers.

He said, “I shouldn’t come close to the ship because I will be noted and you will face trouble.” Then he brought us to the boat. He was standing and looking at us, so I sent our daughter to him. I told her, “Father is looking at us, go and say goodbye.” She went and talked to her father. My husband said to her, “You are the one who has to look after Amma, your brother, and the new baby that is coming.” He was standing and looking at us as the small boat carried us to the ship. He didn’t cry. I didn’t cry either.

But when we were out of sight I cried. Studying the last photograph of her husband that was on the table, Shamanthi spoke softly, “Because the army caught them, they definitely tortured them.”

My husband wanted our children to have a good education, because he lost his own education during the fighting. He also wanted our children to have a sense of Tamil nationalism. I named our children with pure Tamil names. In Vavuniya hospital when my third baby was born, I also named him that way.

Each of the Tamil parties has a different direction now; they should cooperate with each other. I don’t know if there is any leadership to coordinate the people now. As Tamil people we have lost many lives, properties, and livelihoods. If we want to rebuild there must be strong leadership for Tamils.

Most of the women whose husbands disappeared are facing many problems in raising their children and they are facing dire economic difficulty. All the people who were displaced in the Vanni have been forced into poverty. With such problems they can’t raise their children with a positive attitude. I am very careful with my children.

I don’t know if my husband was killed or if he is alive. This is why for two years I have refused to go to Canada where my father is living. Until I know more about my husband, I don’t want to go there. On Maveera Nal (Heroes Day), my daughter wished to light the lamp of her own accord. I didn’t stop her because she is used to this culture as a Tamil. She can follow our traditions. I should raise my children with good education, then they can decide for themselves. We will support the Tamil people.

At first people were very friendly with us when we came back to the village, but once the killings started, people began to avoid us. The killing and abductions create fear. Murders and abductions are happening in the neighborhood where I am living, and most of those killed came from the Vanni, or supported the movement, so my neighbors won’t talk with me now. Sometimes I feel lonely.

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The Social Architects (TSA) are comprised of a diverse group of writers, intellectuals and working professionals. While most of TSA’s members hail from the country’s North and East, the group also includes other scholars and activists who have been working on issues related to Sri Lanka. TSA seeks to educate, to inform and to provide timely, thoughtful analysis on a range of topics. 

They write under the pseudonym "The Social Architects" because of the risk of retaliation against those that speak out against the government. In addition each author has selected a pseudonym for themselves and the victims and family members who appear in the story. Over the eight days between March 12th and March 19th we will be releasing one TSA story a day. You can read them all here.

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