27 October, 2020

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TRO Abductions Of January 2006 – A Second Follow-Up

By UTHR

The Colombo Telegraph carried a piece on the TRO abductions that alleges that UTHR(J) was less than honest about it. The excerpt below appeared in http://www.uthr.org/bulletins/bul44.htm of March 2007, where we followed it up by contacting people who were privy to the events. Probing deeper into such events inevitably takes time, and first soundings given out in public interest may prove inaccurate.

TRO Abductions Of January 2006 – A Second Follow-Up

We take this opportunity to present additional testimony on what has been for us an elusive episode. A TRO vehicle, which left Batticaloa on the evening of 29th January, was taken over by the Karuna group. The three female employees were questioned and released. Kasinathar Ganeshalingam and Kathirkamar Thavarasa, the driver, are missing. Unaware of this, a second TRO vehicle left about 24 hours later on 30th January. Five in this vehicle were abducted and the rest were released.

Thangarasa's Family at the TRO Kilinochchi Office after hearing the news of his abduction

Thangarasa’s Family at the TRO Kilinochchi Office after hearing the news of his abduction

We could now say that our first information, which appeared in Special Report No.20 that the abductions were staged by the LTTE for advantage before the Geneva talks, is wrong. We are still puzzled as to how this story arose within sources close to the LTTE and why little was done to refute it. We followed up in the Supplement to Special Report No.23 with further information, which is mostly correct except for some discrepancies regarding the first vehicle.

We talked to persons who worked very closely with the TRO in Paduvankarai, and know those abducted in the second vehicle on 30th January. The inference from the testimonies of the three girls from the first vehicle (29th) given to the Human Rights Commission and Amnesty International was that Thavarasa being new to the job lost his way into danger. Our new inside sources tell us that Thavarasa was an old hand who had done this trip for three years, several times a month. They don’t know Ganeshalingam and are convinced that the first vehicle didn’t get lost, but the Karuna group planned the abductions.

As for the second vehicle, our sources say that nearly all those travelling were new recruits being taken to Killinochchi for training in office work and had no LTTE connections. Many of them were closely related to persons from groups such as EPRLF and TELO whose members were massacred by the LTTE and were in the TRO for a job. Many people they add are not very conscious of TRO’s links to the LTTE.

The target of these abductions was Miss. Thanusody Premini, described as TRO’s Chief Accountant for Batticaloa. Sources we cited in the previous follow up said that she was a key person in the intelligence wing and a direct link between the Vanni leadership and leaders in the East. Our new sources confirmed that persons working closely with Vanni intelligence man the higher levels of the TRO and as people rise in the organisation they couldn’t escape its intelligence functions.

As for Premini, they said that she was very important and everyone in the TRO was conscious of it. Though described as chief accountant, she was the real boss. She was a northerner following an external degree course along management lines in the Eastern University. She was sent wherever good coaching was to be obtained. Wherever she stayed, she was given special quarters and special facilities. She also knew that she was in danger. When she joined TRO vehicles going out of Batticaloa, she did so at different locations. She also told others in the TRO not to talk about her movements.

The new sources tend to place Premini’s intelligence profile lower than that given in earlier testimony. They described her role as institutional intelligence, keeping track of what other organisations were doing and to bring them under TRO control. Among those watched were the more than 40 children’s homes in the District. This involves in part auditing, tracking their sources of funds and centralising the funding. Were her intelligence profile very high, the security lapse on the part of the LTTE is inexplicable. Had the TRO known that the first van was missing when the second was to set off a day later, Premini would have escaped her fate. While the abduction of persons in the second van was publicised a few hours later on 30th January, it was a day later that the TRO announced the van that set off on 29th January was also missing.

Our new sources who know passengers in the second van said that Premini had boarded after Santhiveli. The passengers were surprised and asked her if she too was going to Killinochchi. Premini answered evasively that she was going to Colombo. Karuna’s men (or Karuna’s men with military persons) stopped the van after Welikanda and made them get out. They asked pointedly for Premini. Without answering them directly, Premini asked, “Why are you asking for Premini?” The men tied her hands and mouth. The others screamed. Most of them were let off, especially those connected to groups massacred by the LTTE. Premini remained dignified and defiant.

Others from the second vehicle not released according to the TRO are: Mr. Shanmuganathan Sujendram TRO Accountant, Manikkavasahar Children’s Home, Santhivelli; Mr. Thambiraja VasantharajanAccountant, TRO Batticaloa; Mr. Kailayapillai Ravindran Accountant, Vipulananda Children’s Home, Palugamam and Mr. Arunesarasa Satheesharan Accounts Trainee, Vellavali.

Our new sources knew the foregoing individually, confirmed their credentials and the fact that they were abducted. They also affirmed that these persons were new recruits of Batticaloa origin and none except Ravindran had LTTE connections of any sort. Ravindran was a nephew of Keerthi of LTTE intelligence, which does not link him personally. Their families were earlier hopeful, but now fear the worst.

In our previous follow up we raised the question why the TRO did not arrange for any released from the second vehicle to testify as they did for the first. Our sources said that they declined to testify as the TRO wanted, since there were now competing killer groups and they needed to be careful.

A good source told us that in the wake of international concern about the abductions, the Army sent an official to Karuna’s area interior of Welikanda to inquire. He, we learn, returned and filed a report that all those abducted had been killed. The Government kept mum. As to the role of government intelligence in this episode, we will not know for sometime. Without it the level of impunity enjoyed by the Karuna group is hard to understand and the Government could have saved those abducted by giving Karuna an informal warning as soon as the news was out.

As for the subsequent fate of those abducted, we have just one report by D.B.S. Jeyaraj (Sunday Leader and TamilWeek, 3 Feb.07). Jeyaraj quotes former members of the Karuna group. All, according to the report, were tortured and interrogated by Sittha who resides in Batticaloa town and handed over to Sinthujan. The men, the report says, were made to dig a pit, shot as they wept and then buried; while Premini was taken to another camp, gang-raped by Karuna cadres, beginning with Sinthujan and then killed.

Any speculation about Premini’s intelligence connection must now end. If Jeyaraj is right, what was done to her is a crime against humanity. Sinthjan has a nasty public reputation as a leading child abductor for Karuna. A few months ago he ran his operations from an office next to and protected by the Akkaraipattu STF. The Government tries to evade responsibility for the Karuna group’s actions by pretending they have nothing to do with them, but for the people who have to live with both, the nexus is a fact of life.

Tragedy, Struggle and Opposition under the LTTE

People living in the LTTE-controlled areas are conscious of oppression from several sources. They are constantly challenged to make intelligent choices to protect life. After many years of iron fisted internal repression, opposition cannot be expected to take clearly articulated political forms. But when it comes to issues of the heart or life, natural collectives exist to articulate spontaneous opposition to the LTTE.

The TRO and the struggle of children’s homes in the East:

After many decades of destruction resulting in thousands of widows and orphans, many children’s homes came up through village level dedication, often focussed on the temple. Christian homes tend to be larger and more urban unlike those in the LTTE area. Having started these homes, they began receiving funds from temples patronised by overseas Tamil communities. The religious and supporter affiliations of the homes could be found in their names such as Kathiroli Siruvar Illam and London Sivayoham Illam. The TRO has tried hard to take over these children’s homes, given the LTTE’s predilection for catching them young.

The TRO (LTTE) has no registered home in the Batticaloa District. Arivuchcholai started by them with children picked up from the tsunami affected has not been registered. The TRO was thus tasked to bring the 42 or so children’s homes under their control. A strong hint of the methods where LTTE intelligence bats for the TRO, could be found in Bulletin No.37, where we describe LTTE intelligence’s attempts to secure a TRO monopoly on relief funds pouring in after the 2004 tsunami, threatening independent fund raisers. There are similarities in the LTTE’s attempt to takeover children’s homes.

One of the means used was to call those running these homes for meetings with the TRO, asking them to bring their accounts and tracking donors and sources of funds. They are also taken to the Vanni on tours of children’s homes run by them and lectured to adopt these models. A form of subtle pressure is to tell the homes to fly the ‘national (Tiger) flag’. The LTTE’s overseas networks approach temples and churches supporting independent institutions and put it to them, often through accomplices within, that the TRO is looking after children, claiming besides that all other institutions are working under it. The donors are pressed to send contributions to a central TRO fund.

Nearly all the homes and their supporters did not want to lose their independence. They did not want to fly the Tiger flag and have themselves branded. Many of the homes were affiliated to temples and served only vegetarian food, and wanted to keep things that way. When their funding was taken over by the TRO, they received 60 or 70 % of what they used to and with time it was often irregular. In the present confusion it almost dried up. The institutions continued by canvassing local contributions, such as food items.

Their problems did not end there. LTTE recruiters came to a children’s home in the Kokkadichcholai area having children under 16 and demanded half a dozen or so to be handed over. The man running the home, who also had other scrapes with the LTTE, argued with them and refused. Later the Police were ordered to arrest him and send him for military training. His standing led to a protest by the girls at Sakthi Mahalir Illam in Arasaditivu who went to the LTTE political office and demanded his release. Those at Sakthi Illam later moved Rohini, a 17-year-old A. Level student who played a leading role in the protest, to a home in the government-controlled area.

Recently the LTTE abducted an A. Level student from Vipulananda Siruvar Illam in Palugamam managed by Piraba. The parents of the 76 children protested jointly. The LTTE released the boy. A sense of spontaneous solidarity within and between children’s homes in the LTTE-controlled Paduvankarai enabled them to struggle on.

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Latest comments

  • 0
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    Why is the UTHR site dormant? There has been no update since 2010.

  • 2
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    The killing of these people is inexcusable. But the ultimate responsibility for their tragedy lies with the LTTE for setting up the TRO as its front organization for handling the funds and employing these unfortunate people.

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