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Escapee family says Wanni people yearn to flee to South

COLOMBO: A family of five who fled the oppression of the LTTE in the Wanni wants the Government to clear the North as it did in the East if they were to enjoy lasting peace.

“We want the Government to clear the North as it did in the East and establish peace. Only then we will be able to go back to our homes and lead a secure life,” the family of father, mother and three children living under the protection of the Navy told the media yesterday.

They said they witnessed on television how the Navy rescued their people and that is why they decided to travel in a dingy boat risking the elements.

They said they got to know that the Navy rescued people travelling by sea who display a flag. That is why they sneaked around 2.00 a.m. in a dingy boat.

“We posed as fishermen and travelled by boat. My wife and two daughters (aged 12 and 17) slept on the floor of the boat and my son (21) and I operated the boat pretending that we are fishermen. We heard gunshots and thought our lives were over but the Navy rescued us,” the father said.

They fled the Wanni since over the past three months the LTTE had started storming homes in vehicles and kidnapping children to be used as child soldiers.

“Earlier, they [the LTTE] did it on the roads and in public places but now they have started raiding homes for the children.

“No one knows what happens to the kidnapped children. There are thousands of families eagerly waiting to flee to the South,” they pointed out.

Explaining the hardships they underwent, the couple said their only son was living in the jungle for the last few months to escape from the LTTE.

The LTTE has registered all the families with full details and they know from which families they can get the children. No family can escape from them due to this registration. The LTTE did the registration first and some time after they started to abduct the children.

“Some nights our son slept in homes where there were infants. We left our property which is worth over Rs. 10 million.

We are not happy because we always remember our relatives and loved ones who have been trapped in the Vanni. They are eagerly waiting to flee to the South, they added.

Explaining the situation in LTTE held areas they said that the LTTE collects tax from shops and similar establishments. Oil is very expensive. The LTTE holds public meetings and poisons the Tamil community against the Sinhalese and the Government.

Earlier, the people willingly took part in these meetings but nowadays they are not attending such meetings and the LTTE sends memos continuously to the families who do not attend these meetings.

Explaining their future plans they said that their relatives live in two European countries and the suburbs of Colombo.

They want to stay with their local relatives for some time and go abroad to their relations. The father who is 43 was employed in England from 1999 to 2003.

The mother (36) is a housewife. The son has completed his O/L and the second daughter was in Grade 9.

The eldest daughter was doing her A/Ls.

The daughters of the family said that all the school children want to come to the South.

According to this family, World Vision, SLRC, ICRC and UNICEF are working in the LTTE held areas. According to the SLN, this is the first time that Internally Displaced People (IDPs) have come to the South by taking the Eastern sea route.

Earlier, they always used the Western sea of the country to flee from LTTE held areas.

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