Ex-LTTE cadres to represent Sri Lanka
Confidently they embraced the riffles. Never touched a weapon since they dropped guns three years ago, the trio whose fingers were trained well to trigger more sophisticated fire arms and get enemy targets, are now in a different ‘game’.
Trained as killer machines, they are to master riffle shooting to represent the country, which they tried to divide a few years ago.
Wearing a bright orange color T-Shirt with a logo ‘Friends of peace’, first comes Thayabaran Thaventhiran. Soft spoken youth in his mid 20s answered carefully avoiding eye contacts.
He unknowingly touches his right limb, which was damaged during fighting in Pudukuduirrippu in Mullativu to prevent soldiers advancing in. He feels a slight pain when he stands for long but the injury hasn’t hindered his courage to become a fine riffle shooter.
Thaventhiran’s last day of schooling ended in November, 2008 with the LTTE conscripting him. The youth, who had big dreams of becoming an accountant, was trucked away with several other boys and girls in their uniforms into a jungle camp.
Coming from an agricultural family with three boys and two girls, Thaventhiran had no option but to follow orders of the LTTE to become a fighter as the LTTE would kidnap his younger siblings to the outfit.
The LTTE, which was popular for using children for fighting escalated its recruitment drive as its cadres were getting killed daily. They didn’t spare children and young adults in strengthening its fighting capacity.
Thousands of them died in fierce battle fields innocently but there were some like Thaventhiran who returned home with eternal scars. He joined his family in Kilinochchi while they were herding towards Puthumathalan by the LTTE.
Kanakasuntharam Rajeewan is the eldest of the three. The 34-year-old fair skinned man was a wielder by profession and joined the LTTE at his own will.
“ We were told that Tamils need a separate country. The LTTE showed us how the Sinhala governments discriminated us. I felt a truth in it and joined the LTTE’s cause”, Jaffna born Rajeewan says.
After his three-months training in Pudukuduirrippu, he was assigned to construct buildings for computer units and LTTE’s offices. In the height of the war he says he was deployed to casualty evacuation.
Sellamuttu Suresh Kumar (24) who translates his friends story to me was also a victim of LTTE’s forced conscription.
“ There were over 100 children and youth packed in a van. Every one was pleading the LTTE to let them go. But they took us to a small place near the beach in Mullaitivu and trained us for 20 days. We knew the soldiers were coming towards us. But the LTTE didn’t let us escape”, Kumar says.
The well built youth has a charming happy smile. During his 27 days of short stint with the LTTE, he was trained to operate T- 56 efficiently. While everyone, including the LTTE leaders, cadres, and people whom the LTTE held as hostages were fleeing, Kumar joined his family and surrendered to the soldiers.
The trio who underwent rehabilitation in three different centres had shown their skills in shooting and have been selected to the national rifle shooters' pool for the South Asian Games to be held in New Delhi next year.
“ We want to become best shooters and bring honor to Sri Lanka. We are confident of winning at the Olympic games”, the trio say in confidence.
Like thousands of former LTTE cadres who are now with their families, Thaventhiran, Rajeewan and Kumar say they are fortunate to be alive.
“True we fought against this country but that was not due to our fault. We didn’t have any other option and no knowledge about the reality outside the North. We believed all what the LTTE said”, says Thaventhiran.
Trapped in terrorism, they didn’t have a life beyond it. No hopes for future, they only wanted live for that particular day. “ Each day, we thought we would die at any given moment and thanked the God for saving us that day”, says Rajeewan.
“ We thought soldiers would cut us into pieces. I was shivering when I was surrendering to the Army. The LTTE lied us about every thing. ‘Ranuwam uiyar nanpan’ (Soldiers are friends in the heart)”, says Kumar.
With a high degree of trust and confidence, the government has given riffles to their hands to represent Sri Lanka at the next South Asian Games.
They received shooting rifles from Sports Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage recently. "The Ministry of Sports hopes they can represent Sri Lanka at the SAG. Ex -LTTE members who have shown exceptional skill, on par with national level athletes who have been selected for national squads," he said.
The three ex-terrorists, who were born and bred under the era of ruthless LTTE, will be flown to New Delhi next year carrying the message: : “ How beautiful the world is when peace prevails”.
In the meantime, Col. Dushan Wijewickrama, the Secretary of the National Shooting Federation (NSF) said that the three ex-LTTE cadres were identified at the talent identification programming and they will be given training on riffle training within two weeks at the Welisara Navy Camp.
“ They are following a familiarization program about arms and ammunition at the moment as they have not been trained in sports shooting. Two national coaches will train them and if they perform well, then they will be chosen for the SAG”, he said.
The three shooters need to complete their training before June 2013. “They are doing well and start was quite well. We will be able to train them to a very high standard and according to their performances, one out of the three will be selected to the national team”, he said.
Col. Wijewickrama said it would take at least three years to ‘make’ a shooter. “They are given all the facilities like meals, accommodation, a monthly allowance and vitamin. The Minister has directed the officials to facilitate them to learn English during their free time. They will be taken thrice a week to the range to practice shooting”, he said.
The NSF Secretary said he was more concerned about getting a medalist at the next SAG and will provide them a calmer environment for them to be mentally sound, which is vital for a shooter.
- Asian Tribune -