The LTTE tortured and killed alleged spies and “traitors” and also looted Tamil shops and homes while fighting the Indian peacekeepers in Sri Lanka, a book by a former woman fighter says.
Niromi de Soyaza, who joined the LTTE in early 1987 at age 17 and now lives in Australia, says she quit the group after realizing that violence cannot lead to a Tamil Eelam state.
One afternoon, in Sudhumali in Jaffna, Niromi and her Tiger friends saw some of their male colleagues kick and punch a teenage LTTE member, Vellai, even as he kept muttering “I didn’t do it, I didn’t do it.”
Accusing him of being an Indian spy, Vellai was buried up to his shoulder, forced to “swallow cyanide, to see what it did to him”, says the 308-page book, “Tamil Tigress” (Mehta Publishing House).
Finally, an LTTE guerrilla, Justin, dealt a blow on the victim’s skull with an axe.
Niromi says of the killers: “The boys burst out laughing… For them, killing Vellai was no different to killing a cockroach.”
Later, in a jungle camp in the Vanni region in the North, the LTTE’s then number two, Mahattaya, shot dead an 18-year-old guerrilla, Shanthan, for falling in love with a woman colleague.
“The two young men who had led Shanthan into the tent now dragged his body behind them, by his arms.
“A thin stream of blood was running down from the centre of Shanthan’s forehead, down his blue-and-white checked shirt.
“One of the men opened the back door of the jeep, and they threw Shanthan’s body in. Then they drove off.”
Nobody in the camp spoke after the killing, and no one comforted the dead man’s love, Nora, who kept sobbing.
Niromi says: “I could not comprehend the senseless murder of this young man. I felt sickened, confused and outraged all at once.”
After seeing similar harshness in the group, Niromi began to question the ethics under which LTTE commanders operated.
“From top to bottom in our organization, everyone did whatever they pleased so long as they could justify it as being for the good of the (LTTE). I had not been prepared for this.”
The book says that in 1986, even before Niromi joined the LTTE, the Tigers brutally killed members of rival groups in Jaffna.
This included hanging members of the TELO outfit from trees and setting them on fire while they were alive.
The LTTE also massacred members of another Tamil group, the EPRLF, whom it had earlier taken captive in Jaffna.
While fleeing from Indian troops, who were deployed in Sri Lanka’s northeast under a 1987 bilateral pact, Niromi saw LTTE guerrillas break into shops and loot chicken, clothing, food and more.
When she protested, one LTTE member said: “If we don’t loot the shops, someone else will.
“With that kind of reasoning, I too helped myself to a shirt, sachets of shampoo, packets of fruit-and-nut chocolate and a few children’s books….
“Although (our commander) had banned the use of cosmetics, some (LTTE) girls were not deterred from grabbing tubes of skin-whitening Fair & Lovely face creams and also nail varnish.”
On another occasion, LTTE guerrillas looted footwear, sanitary napkins and underwear from a shop.
Indian soldiers took the blame for such looting.
The book says that people of Jaffna repeatedly pleaded with the LTTE to give up fighting the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF).
One of Niromi’s close associates in the LTTE was Akila, who was one of the three people declared proclaimed offenders after the 1991 killing of former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. The other two were Prabhakaran and his intelligence chief, Pottu Amman.
After Niromi quit the LTTE in 1988, Akila rose to become the deputy head of the women’s intelligence wing.