with the raw emotion of not being able to protect, feed and educate their families. There was a great senseof exhaustion among the people; this was the final push of a 25- year-old struggle.Mary is a native of Jaffna but came to the Vanni in 1995. She has two children and a husband who is apaddy farmer. A loving and protective mother, she is desperate to leave Sri Lanka and start a new life withher family. “With the situation here, it is very difficult to be a mother,” she told me. “I have two children, a 16-year-old son and a 13-year-old daughter. There are many problems I face, but my biggest fear is therecruitment of my children by the LTTE.“My daughter does not understand much about what is happening here and I try not to tell her too mucheither; she has the chance to enjoy more of her childhood and I try hard not to spoil that for her. But myson understands everything.“He often comes home from school and tells me that another student has been taken to fight from thegrade above his. This is very hard for the children and they all discuss their birthdays and work out who willbe taken first, when the time comes. My son was born in 1992; at the moment, the LTTE are recruitingchildren born in 1991… next year it will be 1992.“Another major problem we have is the jealousy of our community. When a child is taken from a home, theparents will begin to tell the LTTE of other children that are hiding in neighbours’ homes. There is a senseof jealousy amongst our community that makes us tell on each other. I know a girl who hid in a pit for sixmonths. Her father brought her food and water every night and she stayed there out of sight. One hot day,a neighbour spotted her taking water from the well and returning to the pit. The next day the LTTE cameand took her from the pit. These kinds of incidents are really killing the foundations of our community.
Sri Lanka vows to stub LTTE by end 2009. What lies in store for the Tamils in the Vanni?
“My children are also so scared of the KFIRs. My son walked home from school one evening and a KFIRswooped out of the sky and bombed an LTTE base close to our house. The sound was terribly loud andput so much fear inside me. I realised that my son would be walking in that area at the time and I screamedwith fright that he may have been hit. We met on the path running towards each other. I was so scared andhappy to see him. But now he is petrified of the KFIRs. He hears them before all of us at home. Suddenly,he will just jump up, run out and dive into the drainage channel behind the house. When this happens in theevening, he cannot study after that, and I am so worried about the affect this has on his education.
I WANT MY
children to receive the best education and study hard, but when we hear the KFIR in themorning I don’t want them to leave for school. I get so worried that they will be killed that day, so I tell themto stay at home. They sometimes miss a day or two every week because of my fear, and that makes mevery sad, like I’m being a bad mother, but I’m just trying to protect my children.”Throughout 2008, the SLA continued to advance northwards along the western coast, towards Kilinochchiand the strategic stronghold of Elephant Pass, the link between Jaffna Peninsula and the rest of thecountry. The civilian population began to displace again towards the town of Puthukkudiyiruppu (PTK)between Kilinochchi and Mulaitivu. Until this point, the IDPs had lived in appalling conditions, but weresomewhat shielded from the main fighting area around Kilinochchi and Elephant Pass. All aid agencies, aside from ICRC, were evacuated from the Vanni on September 16, 2008 and relocated inthe government town of Vavuniya. Leaving these people behind at their greatest hour of need was the mostpainful experience of my life. Under extreme vulnerability and a barrage of artillery and air attacks, I had todrive away, leaving behind friends and colleagues to an immediate future of violence and uncertainty. SinceSeptember, aid agencies have been struggling every day to take food, shelter and hygiene materials to thepeople but with limited success. Continued blockages in the multiple systems have prevented the agenciesfrom reaching the increasingly desperate IDP population. With the onset of the monsoon in November,many thousands of families found themselves sheltering under trees and rationing their dwindling food