Friday, June 09, 2006
Sri Lankan mother of two Chandi Rajamanthree says she would rather see her two young sons starve to death than fight in an ethnic conflict that left their father disabled.
Her husband has made a partial recovery since he was badly injured in one arm and one leg when the feared sea arm of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) sank his Israeli-made naval fast attack boat in 2000. A ceasefire two years later still holds, on paper, but the military and rebels are now embroiled in a low intensity conflict that many fear could reignite a two decade war that has killed over 64,000 people.
“I’m fortunate. At least my husband is alive, even as a disabled sailor,” Rajamanthreeshe said on Wednesday night as she waited with her sons - aged four and eight - to commemorate the more than 22,000 servicemen killed in the protracted conflict.
“I don’t accept war and I will never send any of my children to war, even if they died from starving,” she added, dressed in a white saree of mourning. “I will give them a good education and a good future.” She joined thousands of war widows and relatives of fallen servicemen who gathered at this memorial park near the ancient hill capital of Kandy in Sri Lanka’s tea growing central hills to light oil lamps and offer flowers to the dead.
Many of them have not been as fortunate as Rajamanthree. “I’m still awaiting the arrival of my son, who went missing in the battlefield eight years ago,” said 65-year-old NG Bissomanike, tears falling from her eyes. “Whether they are Tamil, Sinhala or Muslim, it’s our children we lost from the war, so we do not want war, we want peace,” she said.
More than 400 soldiers, sailors, civilians and rebels have been killed since early April in a quickening pace of tit-for-tat attacks, ambushes and shootings between the foes.
Several ethnic Tamil children, including a four-month-old child and a four-year-old boy has been shot dead in attacks. The military and the rebels each blame on the other side. Sri Lanka’s military says more than 82,500 servicemen have deserted the armed forces since the war began in 1983. Around 30,000 have been pardoned, but the remainders are still on the run, scared to go up against one of the most feared rebel groups in the world.
Some relatives of the fallen think it is time to wage war on the Tigers and their demands for a separate homeland for ethnic Tamils in the north and east, where the rebels already run a de facto state. “The only solution is war,” said police constable GA Wenura Perera, wearing a camouflage uniform and carrying an automatic rifle as he lit a clay lamp in remembrance of his elder brother, who was killed in action in 1995. “If they hit us we should hit them back,” the father-of-two said.
On Thursday, the Sri Lanka Army Deep Penetration Unit (DPU) exploded a claymore mine and three explosives in Akkarayan- 20 km from Kilinochchi, the rebel capital. In the attack, four health officials from the Tamil Tiger operated Mobile Medical Services were wounded.
As the health officials were traveling back to Kilinochchi following a routine visit to rural villages in Mannar, the claymore mine hit the vehicle and damaged it while severely wounding a nurse and the driver, says local officials to TNS.
This attack comes shortly after yesterday's pressure mine explosion in the east by the Sri Lankan Army (SLA) where nine civilians, including three children, were killed and fourteen were wounded. In that explosion, rebel sources said that the SLA troopers moved beyond the Forward Defense Line of the LTTE controlled area to administer the attack.
Through such attacks, SLA is trying to penetrate LTTE controlled areas by tactically forcing civilians to flee the borders of LTTE controlled areas, the sources further said. In addition, a similar attack took place in Thikiliveddai, another LTTE controlled border area, where two young boys were killed in ambush on farmers traveling in a tractor.
Even though the military has denied that its forces had been operating behind rebel lines, few diplomats and journalists in the capital Colombo believe them.
Low Expectations as Violence Rises
Despite the rising violence, the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE have begun talks separately with the Norwegian facilitators in Oslo regarding the safety of the SLMM monitors. Following repeated broken promises by successive Sri Lankan Governments in a series of peace talks over the last 20 years, civic leaders in the North and East of Sri Lanka are not placing any expectations of returning to normalcy following current talks.
Both parties last met in February where they agreed to de-escalate violence. However, a covert war continues as innocent civilians are frequently affected by the violence. This is pushing the country onto the brink of re-entering into a war that has killed more than 80,000 people.
The victims were identified as Alocious Rex Sasiharan, 24, the trainee caretaker and H.M.Amarasekara, 45, the Sinhala driver of the blue color pickup vehicle with registration number CPHF 5832, Police officials said.
Mannar district field commander of the LTTE was travelling in another vehicle on Periayamadu - Pallamadu Road, 5 minutes behind the civilian vehicle that was ambushed by the deep penetration unit, Police officials further said.
The DPU ambush has taken place 4 km from Periyamadu.
The trainee caretaker was on his way to inspect a water supply project that supplies water to Vidthaltheevu island.
The bodies were handed over to Adampan District Hospital.