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News Features


Expecting the best, prepared for the worst

By Wilson Gnanadass from Kilinochchi
Pix by Ishara S. Kodikara

How far will it go? That's what many nervous civilians in Kilinochchi are wondering as they brace for what is showing signs of becoming the biggest war in decades.

If the atmosphere prior to the Allaipitty incident in Jaffna, where a family of four was killed by the government armed forces, was calm and had a hope for peace, the situation after the incident is tense.

The incident where a four-month-old infant, a four-year-old child and the parents of one family, were brutally killed by armed forces has apparently sent a strong message to the civilians; that soon there would be an outbreak of hostilities.

Trained

Fears of such an outbreak have forced the Kilinochchi citizens to take a number of measures. First to ensure that they are protected from any attacks.

Kilinochchi is a bustling town. People are busy attending to their day-to-day chores. Young ones frequent the fast- mushrooming web cafes while others with their books cycle to various tutories.

The mothers, who have already faced untold hardship in the past due to hostilities between the government forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), are busy attending the training offered to the civilians by the LTTE every morning and evening. For them, self-protection is important. If they had to provide at least the minimum protection to their loved ones, they feel they should first learn how to protect themselves. Therefore, they are on their stomachs on the ground every morning, taking instructions from the LTTE, as to how they could escape during an air strike.

The fathers, though fearful of facing a war situation, don't exhibit their fear for obvious reasons. They encourage every member of their family to participate in the civilian training offered to them free by the LTTE. "We have to face the situation somehow," they say.

Angry

Over all, though the people living in Kilinochchi opt for peace, they are ready for war. One consolation they have is that if a war breaks out, the Tiger rebels will fight on their behalf.

For T. Dharma-lingam, a businessman, both the government and the LTTE have failed to achieve peace in the country. He believes if both parties can't sit down to talk for the sake of salvaging the faltering peace process, then the obvious end result would be war.

"For four years the LTTE discussed with the government. But what has happened? The result is the same. Violence is escalating, the cost of living is rising and we continue to suffer," he pointed out.

Therefore,he justified a war, adding that at least one of the parties would realize what the war could offer at the end.

Dharmalingam's concern was also on the growing number of widows and orphans the war has produced, adding that Kilinochchi was inundated with such victims.

Nadeson Thanigasagam (33), married and father of two children, is also a businessman but with a thirst for peace. He feels both parties must continue to discuss and never give up. He is of the view that war will bring more disaster to the entire nation and he says it is not too late for both warring factions to seek an amicable settlement, keeping in mind the civilians who would have to face the consequences.

He said though the people have lost hope in the government to grant them relief, the people however have placed confidence in the international community who he says could, if there is a desire on their part, avert a war situation in the country.

"But the government must be able to listen to what the International Community says. For instance, the international community does not want the government to engage in the aerial bombardment and the brutal killings of innocent civilians. But the government does not give a damn to what this community says," he said.

However for S. Pathmawathi (53), a courageous woman, if the soldiers went on killing the innocent civilians, including newly born babies, then the LTTE should fight back in similar fashion.

"If our children are killed, we must kill the soldiers too," she said.

Prepared

The LTTE on the other hand, are all geared to fight the government forces.

If the Tiger rebels are seen as terrorists and murderers by some in the South, they are seen as saviours by most of the Tamils living in the north and east.

The fighters go through hard training and are fully prepared to face any consequences. "We have to get the order from Thalaivar. And then it is full-scale fighting. We will not wait an extra second," young fighters told The Nation, on the condition of anonymity.

A female cadre with a permanent smile on her face, who has also been assigned to work at the LTTE peace secretariat, said that she goes to fight also with the same smile.

"We don't go to fight in sorrow or fear. We go smiling. We like to fight our enemies. We are also ready to die at any time," this 20-year-old fighter said with a smile.

"You must be happy that we are still alive. The next time you come to Kilinochchi, you may not see us," another young fighter said.

The morale of the fighters seemed to be high especially after the Allaipitty incident. The fighters were seen as alert and in a mood to hit back.

"If war breaks out, it will not start here in Kilin-ochchi. But in Colombo," another senior cadre hinted.

Hope

Most of the people living in Kilinochchi and its suburbs may be sympathizers of the LTTE. They might perhaps be even helping the Tigers through the side door.

However, all they want is peace- an environment where they could live with dignity.

The people of Kilinochchi worry about a gamut of matters - about disappearances, killings, aerial bombardment and all forms of violence against the Tamil civilians.

They are sad, fearful and angry with the government forces. They are also disappointed with the Rajapakse administration for the escalation of violence. They feel it is only after he assumed duties that there has been an increase in violence.

If the current cycle of violence continues in this fashion, or increases, then the mood of the people may change further: they could join the Tigers in fighting the war against their arch rivals.