The rehabilitee, Muthulingam Neminathan, now 30 years old who joined the LTTE as a child soldier when he was barely 11 years of age, stole the show in ongoing ‘Defence Seminar’ sessions on Thursday (9) at Colombo Galadari Hotel by narrating his tale of woe under LTTE diktats in the presence of delegates representing more than 43 countries.
Speaking in Tamil and dressed in a traditional Hindu-type ‘Vettiya’, the smiling young man greeted the audience with clasped hands before he spoke of his mind to a thundering applause. Here follows what he told the gathering;
“I was born on 4th June 1982 in Kilinochchi and resided in Uthaya Nagar happily with my parents, two brothers and sisters. I studied at Kilinochchi Central College thinking I could one day be a social worker but my father’s death while I was in grade 6 changed my mind. I began to lose my school time friends one by one and in did not take long for me to understand that the LTTE was behind conscription and abduction of children like me in the area as the LTTE went on intensifying their activities in the area. LTTE using various tactics went on conscripting girls and boys into their group and they indoctrinated all of them showing video clippings and other literature. As most of my friends were falling into their trap, I had no alternative other than joining the LTTE at the age of 11.”
“We were taken in as members of the Child Brigade in Maththuvil Babu camp and trained for three months on weapon handling. I was not permitted in any way to see my mother, brothers and sisters. Sometimes, though I strongly wanted to skip to see my family, I kept away from doing so because of the LTTE punishment, meted out to dissenters. We were forced to be in LTTE underground bunkers without any play or rest or on many occasions without having anything to eat. Southern people were projected as arch enemies of northern Tamils and LTTE men always justified LTTE violence against southerners.”
“For 16 years, I worked for the LTTE’s Radha Brigade and lost many of my colleagues. Just hours before the war ended on 17th May 2009, I heeded to the call of Sri Lankan Security Forces and surrendered. My life became a big question mark for myself and I thought I would die. Tears began rolling down when memories of my mother, brothers and sisters came to my mind but I had no choice.”
“After surrendering, Sri Lanka Army people provided me with my basic requirements at Joseph Camp for a month. There we realized and repented that we misunderstood the southern people due to LTTE’s misguiding. Army people treated us providing medical services and we saw for ourselves how they did without their own meals after offering those to us.”
“Still I am undergoing training at the rehabilitation centre amidst kindness, compassion, love and all other facilities where I finally had the chance of meeting my sister after a long time. We both hugged and cried together through unexpected happiness. I am now eagerly waiting to see my sick mother. I am grateful to President Mahinda Rajapaksa for pardoning us and taking care of us. In the rehabilitation centres, we danced, sang and participated in many vocational training and other aesthetic subjects such as dancing, yoga, arts, etc.”
“Now I can speak Sinhala very well and feel southerners are good people with human values. It is important we learn both Tamil and Sinhala languages.LTTE destroyed our future, culture, life and race and I feel I am now reborn to achieve my goal, a social worker. Our fellow-rehabilitees have done very well in GCE (O/L) and (A/L) examinations and received ample opportunities for sports and other disciplines. Some of our fellow LTTE cadres have now ended up as cinema actors and vocalists of national standards. A new glimmer of hope has dawned and existing peace and harmony should prevail in the country for ever. I will do my best for the development of this country as a son of a unified country, one nation.”