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'Lanka govt allowed paramilitary groups to run sex rackets'

A secret diplomatic cable disclosed by Wikileaks have revealed that the US believed the Sri Lanka government had allowed paramilitary groups to run kidnapping, extortion and prostitution rackets in camps for the Tamil displaced. Sutirtho Patranobis reports.

world Updated: Dec 17, 2010 18:32 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis

A secret diplomatic cable disclosed by Wikileaks have revealed that the US believed the Sri Lanka government had allowed paramilitary groups to run kidnapping, extortion and prostitution rackets in camps for the Tamil displaced in the east and recruit 14-year-olds as soldiers.

Another leaked cable said the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) used draconian conscription methods to recruit Tamil civilians to its forces. The Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) – a group primarily made of civilian members of Scandinavian countries to monitor the 2002-08 ceasefire --- turned a blind eye to the forced recruitment, the cable added.

The first cable, published by the Guardian newspaper, was sent on May 18, 2007 by the then US ambassador, Robert Blake to Washington.``Paramilitaries such as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)-breakaway Karuna group and Eelam People’s Democratic Party (EPDP) have helped the Government of Sri Lanka (GSL) to fight the LTTE, to kidnap suspected LTTE collaborators, and to give the GSL a measure of deniability,’’ the cable said.

Karuna defected from the LTTE in 2004 and is now a deputy minister in the Mahinda Rajapaksa government.

Quoting a contact, the cabled said: ``he alleged, defence secretary Gothabaya Rajapaksa has authorised EPDP and Karuna to collect the money from Tamil businessmen. This may account for the sharp rise in lawlessness, especially extortion and kidnapping that many have documented in Vavuniya and Colombo. Even though EPDP and Karuna are each comprised nearly exclusively of ethnic Tamils, the crimes that they commit are almost always against other Tamils.’’

The contact also told Blake ``that Karuna operates prostitution rings out of the IDP camps to “take care of” GSL soldiers, stating that the women “had no choice” but to acquiesce to Karuna cadres’ demands…(the contacts) independently described how women are forced into prostitution, or to give up their children to traffickers. The methods are similar to those in Jaffna (paras 17-18). Families sometimes try to arrange their daughters’ marriages at the age of 12 or 13 in the hope that it will reduce the likelihood of their being forced into prostitution.’’

The cable ends with Blake summarizing: ``it appears that (government’s) involvement goes beyond merely turning a blind eye to these organisations’ less savory activities. At worst, these accounts suggest that top leaders of its security establishment may be providing direction to these paramilitaries.’’ Till Friday evening, there was no reaction from the government.