BY Mirudhula Thambiah
The term ‘Ex-LTTE cadre’ is taboo in the Northern and Eastern Provinces as most of the former Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) cadres have been rehabilitated four to five years ago. However, society has neglected them.
The rehabilitated cadres say that the government has neglected them without giving them any relief or livelihood sponsorship. Also, there had been a situation of panic as most of their colleagues had been subjected to sudden deaths.
Even the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) Parliamentarian Sivagnanam Sritharan in his recent speech in Parliament added that around 103 LTTE cadres have died sudden deaths and the cause of death is unknown.
However, the Crusaders for Democracy (CFD) led by former LTTE cadres has urged the government to provide medical assistance to them.
Former LTTE cadres speaking about their grievances, fear and insecurity, said the government has neglected them despite election pledges.
Sellathamby Premananthan, 41, a fisherman in the Mannar District said, “I have scars of many injuries received on the battle field fighting as a LTTE cadre. I have lost part of my hip. People like me who fought for the LTTE did not receive any relief during the past seven years from the government. Instead we have been labelled as LTTE cadres. We are not accepted as normal people in society.”
“The war was between the security forces and the LTTE. After the end of the war, we were sent for rehabilitation by the government. We thought the government would help us to lead a normal life because we need livelihood facilities to do so. However, instead of providing support, we have been neglected,” he said.
He further said all ex-LTTE cadres have undergone rehabilitation. They have to be accepted by society as normal citizens with equal rights. However, they are ill –treated most of the time. What is more, most of them are disabled and are in need of medical care.
Kirubaharan Arunthevi, 40, who is a former female LTTE cadre, currently a mother of five from Thottiyadi-Viswamadu West in the Mullaitivu District said, “I have scars of severe injuries on my head, face and stomach. When we look back in the past seven years since the end of war, the ex-female LTTE cadres lack security. Former cadres are not provided any sort of livelihood assistance to fulfil their requirements.
“We did not receive any financial assistance to support our children. Most families of former LTTE cadres are struggling to survive as they do not have enough support from the authorities as promised during the initial stages of rehabilitation. We are not in a position even to educate our children as we are below the poverty line. The so-called representatives or those who pretend to be our supporters are not to be seen now. Society has neglected us. Especially the women have no security to lead a normal life.”
The burning issue seems to be that the former LTTE cadres are not provided with medical facilities. Most of them are in need of medical assistance as had been injured or disabled. None of the authorities from Northern Provincial Council or the Central Government have provided any assistance, she said.
“We are not only lacking financial assistance, livelihood facilities or health care, but also we are psychologically disturbed. We do not have security and we are living in fear. We are not accepted by society. I don’t understand why the people neglect us. We struggled for them. We sacrificed our lives for them. Aren’t we humans too? Why are we distanced from society? We have undergone rehabilitation. What else do they expect from us?” she said weeping.
Arunthevi joined the LTTE in 1992. She was initially from Navatkuly, Jaffna. After joining the organization she spent most part of her life on the battle field. “I was a full-time cadre but I didn’t take part in LTTE administration. After six months of joining the LTTE in 1992, I was severely injured in the first battle. I had no hopes of living. In 2009 I was severely injured again in Kombavil, Puthukkudiyiruppu during the last phase of the war. The injuries caused to my abdomen left me in a pathetic state,” she said.
Arunthevi is married to her colleague who was also a former cadre. He had lost his right leg in the battle field and their family is dependent on his income. She is not in a position to be employed. Therefore, she waits at home looking after the children. However, poverty had hit them hard.
Northern Provincial Councillor Ananthy Sasitharan was a member of the LTTE before 2009 as her husband Elilan alias Sasitharan was one of the main leaders of the terrorist outfit. Most of the women joined the LTTE during their youth. As a result, their education was disrupted. Caste, religion, gender and other discriminations were done away with during the LTTE period. Women were independent. But all the discriminations cropped up when they started living in society after the war.
“Such discriminations have affected the marital relationships of the former cadres. Most of the female LTTE cadres have been divorced and neglected by society. Caste and gender discriminations have played a major role in divorce cases. Politicians are responsible for creating such discriminations to further their ambitions,” she said.
Apart from the discriminations, the female cadres also have to face issues relating to dowry. Most of them are living below the poverty line and they are not in a position to give dowries. Thus most of the girls who are unable to get married remain single.
The women are also subjected to threats by the security force personnel even in the post rehabilitation period. They are physically and mentally suffering due to such threats. Women are in need of security, psychological support and medical assistance, she added.
They are subjected to domestic and sexual violence in the post rehabilitation period. They have been neglected in spite of their sacrifices. But people have forgotten their services,” she said.
“Most the women were trained to be independent, but the current situation and the rehabilitation process have made them weak. They are in need of psychological support and the authorities must make arrangements to fulfil their requirements. The social stigma against them should be removed and they must be accepted by society,” she said.
Media Coordinator of Crusaders for Democracy Ganeshalingam Chandralingam said society still treats them as ex-LTTE cadres even after the war. This is similar to caste discrimination. Their education had been affected as they joined the LTTE when they were young. Therefore, they are not in a position to find jobs due to the lack of educational qualifications.
“Employers are not willing to accept them as normal people in society. They think that if these people are recruited their status will be affected as they are former LTTE cadres,” he said.
Apart from such discriminations, the former LTTE cadres have been subjected to mysterious deaths, he added.
“We have urged all ex-LTTE cadres to join our party to obtain free medical care and to safeguard their lives. We think such sudden deaths occur due to medical complications.
However, it is the role of the government to examine the health conditions of the former LTTE cadres after the rehabilitation process,” he said.
The Minister of Health, Dr. Rajitha Senaratne said the Northern and Eastern Provinces have a good health service. Therefore, health complications of the former LTTE cadres can be looked into. “I’m ready to help them if they inform me of their health requirements,” he said.
Resettlement and Rehabilitation Ministry Secretary V. Sivagnanasothy added there had been various projects implemented through district and divisional secretaries to enhance the lifestyles of former LTTE cadres.