The Disappearance Of The Disabled LTTEers
By Camelia Nathaniel Reporting from Mullaitivu
Although there has been much spoken about those disabled in the government forces, little has been heard or said about the disabled LTTE cadres that were injured during the war that plagued the country for three decades. While the government troops are said to have over 5000 of its personnel disabled, except for a few that had surrendered to the government forces there has not been any account of what happened to those injured LTTE cadres.
Several of the relatives of those LTTE cadres who were injured and rendered disabled during the final stages of the war claim that their loved ones were loaded onto buses and taken away by the LTTE claiming that they would be taken for treatment. However until today they have not been found, and according to eyewitnesses and the relatives, these buses laden with the injured cadres were blown up by the LTTE.
Their intention was to get rid of the ‘burden’ and also not leave any room for the wounded to be interrogated in the event of their capture.
Speaking to The Sunday Leader K. Ravichandran the younger brother of an injured LTTE cadre said that his older brother Arumugam Ganesh was on one of the buses that carried the injured and disabled cadres in Mullivaikkal. “I asked them to release my brother to me, but they assured me that they would take him for treatment that day and then release him to me the next morning. My brother had lost a leg during fighting in the Puthumathalan area and had other injuries throughout his body. When I was on my way to the place where the bus was, in order to take custody of my brother, I heard a huge blast and when I arrived at the site I saw that the bus had been blasted and it was ablaze. It did not strike me at first but on my way there I had seen one of the LTTE cadres running away from the bus and he suddenly crouched, and that was when I heard the blast. It was later that I realised that he may have been the one that blasted the bus that carried all these injured cadres,” he said.
For Ganesh however it was ironic that the very organisation that he believed in and fought for had in fact let him down and also disposed of him and many others like him in a most cruel manner when they were no longer useful. Ganesh being the oldest in a family of four had joined the LTTE in 1990, and was 34 years old at the time of his death. The incident according to Ravichandran had occurred around 4.45 a.m. on May 15, 2009. He believes that the LTTE may have disposed of their injured cadres for fear that had they fallen into the hands of the government forces, they would have divulged all the details of the LTTE’s brutalities and attacks that would have been disadvantageous to them in the eyes of the international community.
Sathasivam Murugesu (61) said that he was in Vellamullivaikkal during the latter stages of the war. “My son was also on one of the buses that carried the injured cadres, and the LTTE told us that they were being taken for treatment. The LTTE knew that they had no way out and that they were losing the battle against the army, and they did not want these injured cadres to fall into the hands of the army and that is why they exploded the buses and killed all these people. Even my son did not listen to us until it was too late for him. He believed in the LTTE and had faith that they would take care of him, but I warned him that they were only hungry for power and were just using these innocent boys and girls. My son was just 22 years old when he was killed. He had injuries on one leg and was brought to the LTTE medical camp for treatment. The terrorists had set up medical camps at the various battle sites to cater to the injured cadres,” he explained.
The LTTE had abducted three of his sons, but Murugesu had managed to rescue two of them after they were injured in the battle. “Unfortunately I could not save my other son Nadesaruban. I saw my son for the last time on May 12, 2009. The terrorists had put all the injured cadres into buses, saying that they were going to take them for treatment. There were around 35 in each bus, as many of them had lost their limbs during battle, and there were several buses with these injured cadres. We could not even take our son away from them as we were too afraid to argue for fear of being shot,” he said.
Even Murugesu has a broken hand due to being pinned down under a mound of earth in Vellamullivaikkal in his attempt to crossover to the government troops. “The army was announcing on loudspeakers for the people to crossover toward the army, but the LTTE was shooting the people who were trying to cross. However, many of them simply ignored the shooting and large numbers of people began crossing over. The LTTE simply could not stop them all, and along the way we could see so many dead bodies of people shot by them.
Murugesu said that in all that commotion the buses carrying the injured cadres including his 22 year old son, were taken away by the LTTE and bombed.
“My 17 year old niece was also on the bus as she too was a member of the LTTE and had suffered injuries. Children as young as 12 and 13 years old were abducted and forcibly conscripted by the LTTE and after just a brief training put onto battle field. They always put the innocent new conscripts in front and they were the ones that got killed, while the more experienced cadres were behind. These children were only trained to hold a gun and then sent to the battle field,” Murugesu explained.
He added that he had also heard from other parents in his village about how their injured children and relatives were also taken by the LTTE in those buses. None of us have seen or heard of our children ever since, and these buses were being blown up with the injured cadres in them.
Madhavaraja, an eye witness to the brutality of the LTTE, said that it is their belief that the LTTE had been killing off the disabled cadres fearing that if they had fallen to the hands of the government forces, it would prove that they had been recruiting young children. “Or perhaps they did so in order to silence these cadres who could otherwise have revealed, to the government troops and the world, information about the inhumane manner in which the LTTE had treated them. I saw with my own eyes; around 40 of the injured cadres were in a Rosa bus, and the LTTE parked it near another truck and blasted it in Vellamullivaikkal on the shoreline close to where the Fara 3 ship wreck is.
On one occasion as I watched, a mother and son walking on the Valayamadam road were stopped by the LTTE and the mother was asked to leave her son behind. However the mother refused and she began arguing with them and wanted to take her son along with her. Right before my eyes they hit her with their riffles and killed her, and took the boy away,” he said.
Karappan Palavi said that his 17 year old son was taken away by the LTTE promising to provide him with an education. “In 1991 however we were informed that my son had joined the LTTE. I asked how my son who was supposed to be studying had been recruited to the terrorist organisation, but it is not possible to argue with them. I was in Kandy at the time when my wife informed me that our son was taken by the LTTE to Mullaitivu. In 1992 on the day of our festival, they brought home the body of my son and told us that he had died in battle. That was the end of my son Palavi Rasalingam’s life. He was a bright boy and wanted to study, but he never had that chance as his life was brutally snatched away by the LTTE terrorists,” Palavi said.
He said that the LTTE never cared about the people, or their suffering. “The bunkers of the LTTE leaders were filled with food stuffs, milk, biscuits and beverages, etc., while the rest of the innocent people had nothing to eat. The situation at certain times was so bad that we had to dissolve flour and sugar in water and feed it to our children in order to keep them from starving to death. In most instances we consumed flour balls, because that was all that was available,” he said.
Another person who had lost a loved one due to the brutality of the terrorists was Kanniappan Velu, who makes a living employed as a labourer. Speaking about the life he and his family led during the ‘reign’ of the LTTE he said that once children reach the age of 12, parents were terrified to send them to school fearing they would be abducted by the LTTE. “We too were required to work for the LTTE for at least two to three weeks every month. If we failed to do so they would arrest us and we would be forced to work for them for months. Sometimes we were imprisoned for failing to serve the organisation. The prisons that we were kept in were real hell on earth. The prison cells had no roof and we were simply exposed to the elements. In certain cases chains were wrapped round the ankles of the people imprisoned and welded.
I was imprisoned on many occasions too and in some instances they put you into a cell that is like a cage, and the prisoner cannot sit, lie down or even stand up. The prisoner had to remain in a semi crouched position that was very painful,” he reminisced painfully.
Velu’s first wife Thalaivani he said was assaulted by the LTTE and had later fallen ill and died around seven years ago at the age of 31. “I too was remanded for around three months and also assaulted so badly that I had to be hospitalised. While in prison we get only rice and sambol in the morning and that was all. Around 75 prisoners were all chained together and put in a cell where there was no room to move,” he said.
According to Velu he was working in a tea shop in Devipuram and one day the LTTE had come and broken open the shop and put the bodies of several men and women inside and gone off. “This was in March 2009, and the boys were around the ages of 15 and 16 years and they had no limbs. There were around 30 bodies there,” he said.
It is reports such as these eyewitness accounts that provide some insight into the lack of information on the injured and disabled LTTE fighters.