‘Citizens of Eelam come join us’
The LTTE launches a fresh recruitment drive for an auxiliary force, with newspaper advertisements offering an attractive package
Chirs Kamalendran in Kilinochchi
The LTTE was busy building up its depleted military strength by launching a fresh recruitment drive for an auxiliary force, this week – with newspaper advertisements calling on 'citizens of Thamil Eelam' to apply.

The recruiting method this time is different. Instead of the usual forced conscription and bloated propaganda including video footages of previous military feats, for the first time the LTTE placed advertisements in two Tamil papers- Uthayan and Eelanathan- calling young men and women to join the movement.

Besides the 'Thamil Eelam' citizenship, the only criterion required from an applicant was good health. Educational qualifications were not necessary. While the advertisements specified an age limit of 18-25 years, it said if people with experience walked into the interview centre – the LTTE's police headquarters in Kilinochchi – the age-limit requirement would be waived.

The applicants have been offered an attractive salary of Rs. 8,500 plus free meals, free medical facilities and free transport. On Wednesday young men and women were seen queuing up at the LTTE police headquarters for the interviews that will continue for a week. This current recruitment drive is aimed at filling about 1500 vacancies created by the Karuna rebellion.

The applicants turned up without files or documents, but they had to face three interviews including a thorough screening to establish whether they were 'citizens of Thamil Eelam'. The interviews are conducted by the LTTE Police that has 24 'police stations' in operation in the north and east.

LTTE Police Chief Balasingham Mahendran alias Nadesan said the applicants would be thoroughly screened and their identities and loyalties established in a bid to prevent any infiltration by rival factions.

"Our aim is to give some recognition to the cadres joining our forces. They will know that they will be serving 'Thamil Eelam'. That is why we have called for 'Citizens of Thamil Eelam', Nadesan, a former police constable of the Sri Lanka Police told The Sunday Times. These new recruits who will undergo a six month military training will be known as an auxiliary force and will act as a standby military force.

The aim of the newspaper ads appears to be two fold. One to shield the LTTE from allegations of forced conscription and the other to show that the LTTE's recruitment process was as formal as any other recognised army.

The Karuna rebellion is not the only reason for the recent desertions faced by the LTTE. The freedom of movement as a result of the ceasefire agreement has opened up job opportunities in the South for these young cadres. Some of them have also come to Colombo with the hope of seeking employment abroad.

However, the LTTE Police chief Nadesan does not admit that the fresh recruitment drive has been launched to build up the military wing that has been struck by desertions. He says these youth are being recruited to be assigned for job oriented projects that would come up under the administrative structure of the LTTE." These cadres will be used as a standby fighting force if the necessity arises," Mr.Nadesan said.

He said after the six-month training the youth will be assigned to projects in various sectors including rehabilitation, road construction and building construction, forest conservation and agriculture. The Sunday Times learns that these are mere fronts of the LTTE to retain the cadres until they are needed as a fighting force.

The attractive salary offered by the LTTE is the highest offered to an 'auxillary force' so far and is expected to be an additional burden on the LTTE's budget. The money will be provided from Prabhakaran's Fund. According to intitial estimates the LTTE would have to spend over Rs. 10 million a month for salaries.

On the first day of the interview more than 50 applicants turned up from various parts of the north and east including Mannar and Batticaloa (See separate story)

Among them were applicants who were above the age limit but were being considered because of their previous experience in the LTTE military wing. But, a majority of them were young people who were looking for employment. The LTTE police stations had also been directed to accommodate any applicant who called over at the stations and pass on the details to the headquarters.

UNICEF blasts LTTE’s child recruitment
UNICEF yesterday slammed the LTTE for accelerating the recruitment of children below 18 years, despite a pledge in April they were planning to release the children in their movement.

The UNICEF yesterday said it had received 159 reports of children being recruited by the LTTE, mostly in the North of the country since April. They said that the East has also been affected by the recruitment drive in Batticaloa and Ampara districts where there has been 26 cases of new recruitment and 30 cases of re-recruitment in the past six weeks.

The Sunday Times learns that many of the cases of child recruitment was going unreported and only a few cases were being reported to the UNICEF or the Scandinavian monitors.

In April, the LTTE officially released 269 children and expressed a willingness to provide formal release letters for over 1,300 other children who went home when Karuna disbanded his cadres.

"The April returns were a big step forward by the LTTE. However, this has been completely undermined by continued recruitment of new children over the past couple of months," Ted Chaiban, UNICEF's Representative in Sri Lanka was quoted in the UNICEF statement.

"This cannot continue any longer. These children must be released immediately and steps taken at the highest levels of the LTTE to ensure children are no longer taken by the organization," he said.

"The LTTE has not lived up to its commitment to end once and for all the practice of taking children into its ranks. A real and genuine effort must be made to exclude children from their recruitment drives. They must respect the commitments they have made", Mr. Chaiban said.

"UNICEF has repeatedly asked the LTTE to release all the children in its ranks," he said. "We have also asked the LTTE to take a few simple steps such as ensuring that radio and trishaw announcements and pamphlets calling for recruitment specifically state that no one under the age of 18 will be accepted into the organization and that they require proof of age from all youth to ensure that no one under the age of 18 is recruited."

"None of these steps have been taken. These are easy things the LTTE could be doing to show the world they take the issue of child recruitment seriously," he added.

Why they came from far and near
The Sunday Times spoke to some of the applicants who called over at the headquarters to join the auxiliary force
N. Augustine Andrew (34) of Kilinochchi
I have been doing odd jobs for a living and decided to come for the interview in the hope of getting an attractive permanent salary. I am joining voluntarily and I know if fighting breaks out I will have to get involved.

M. Sarojini (19) - of Sampur Trincomalee
Many of my friends have joined the LTTE from my village. From my childhood days I had the yearning to join the LTTE. I have witnessed heavy fighting in my village so I am used to battle. My father is dead and my mother sells vegetables at the village fair. By joining the auxiliary force I will be able support my family and my sister's education.

T. Dharshini (24) - of Amirthakali, Batticaloa
I came for the interview after seeing the advertisement in the Eelanthan Batticaloa edition. Many innocent people have been killed in Batticaloa and I can do my bit to protect them if I join this force. Though I have completed my A/Levels I haven't been able to find a job. So I decided to join the LTTE. I have told my parents to forget me.

S.Sashikala (22) - of Chavakachcheri
My father struggles to support us by doing odd jobs. By joining this force I will be able to be a part of the LTTE's struggle to uplift the lives of the Tamil people. No one forced me to join up.

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