Being a Tamil under the LTTE: Teacher Murugesu speaks out

Courtesy of the Sunday Observer, 2 October 2011 where the title is  “Tamil, Sinhala or Muslims of Wanni long for Alternative Leadership”

Web Editor’s Note: While the appearance of this news rport in translation form the Thinakaran in a government-run newspaper may generate scepticism, I think this is ahighly significant representation from hard-earned expereince. I stress here that I have myself sought information on conditions in Thamililam in the period 1995-2009 inclusive of the ceasefire stages with an eye on the degree of support for the LTTE. My information garnered thus far is fragmentary, but Anoma Rajakruna was working  intermittently on the topic of female empowerment in LTTE land in the mid-2000s and indicated that the poltical sentiments of people were constrained by the degree to which their family networks depended on the LTTE dispensation for daily livelihood — precisely the message conveyed by Murgesu the teacher. One should also attend to the title of the book conveeing NBen Bavinck’s diary record, namely, Of Tamils and Tigers and the evidence that is presented on the years 1989-1992 in Volume One. Michael Roberts

Any Tamil who lived through the horrors and unimaginable human sufferings during the last battle at Mullivaikkal in Mullaitivu would never even dream of leading the Tamils in the path of another war. The bitter memory of it is indelibly registered in the minds of the people of the Vanni and it is they who directly encountered the dire consequences, burdens and untold sufferings caused by that last battle. Nor do they have any right to talk about the last stages of that bitter battle. Anyone who witnessed the happenings of May 19 will never think of forcing the Tamils into another war”– So said an emotionally-charged Vanni resident Ariyakutty Murugesu, one time teacher and the father of two former LTTE women cadres. He was one among those who suffered and experienced the heart-rending tragedies and miseries of the last battle. He is a man of an intellectual calibre. He was a teacher at several schools in the Northern peninsula and had also worked as a freelance journalist, including for the Lake House publication .

Speaking out his mind in a brief interview with Thinakaran, our Tamil language daily, he said that the war was forced on the people of Kilinochchi, Mullaitivu and Mannar and they had to carry the burden of the war. Practically they had no choice but to involve themselves in the war and neither was it possible for them to keep away from the LTTE. The circumstances were such that they had to be inalienable organs of the LTTE. Anyone denying such implications is not honest to his conscience. The LTTE leader’s oft-quoted remark was “All horses must run”. That was what was happening then, Murugesu said.

The LTTE’s administration was based on their strategy of forcing the people to depend on them for everything, including their religious, cultural and livelihood activities. Therefore, the people had to rely on them and to trust their overall authority, he said. Murugesu whose two daughters are now living overseas were members of the LTTE’s women cadre for over ten years. The eldest joined voluntarily while the second daughter and all her classmates were subjected to forcible conscription while studying in the GCE (AL) class in 1994.

Expatriates who extended financial support had never encountered the harsh realities on ground and all agonies of the war, he said. He accused the Tamil media and Tamil intellectuals of misleading and encouraging the LTTE thus failing in their moral responsibility by the society and committing a historic blunder, Murugesu lamented.

The following are the excerpts of the interview:

Q: Knowing well the LTTE leadership’s attitude towards counselling , they would have kept mum fearing for their lives?

A: There were many who were very close to the LTTE. To my knowledge there were many professors who were close to Baby Subramaniam and none of them thought of giving any timely advice to put the LTTE on the right path. Once TULF leader V.Anandasangari gave me a letter to be handed over to Prabhakaran. He told me to tell the LTTE leadership that he would hold discussions with the President to end the war. I took that letter and handed it over to Yogi who did not care to read it fully. But V.Balakumaran read it and went into a pensive mood. He told me that he understood everything but he could not convey the message because if he did he would also be listed as a “traitor”.

Q: You said that you went to the very end of the conflict. Can you recount your experience?

A: May 16, 2009 I cannot erase that day from my memory. Those who now say that they are doing politics for the sake of the Tamils will never even think of bringing about a situation where the Tamils were forced into a war only if they had seen what life was on that day. Only TNA’s Kanagaratnam was there with the people on that fateful day and, in that context, no one in the TNA has a right to claim he is a Tamils’ representative. If they are true representatives of the Tamils, which they now claim, they should have remained with the people at those critical last moments. The present outcry emanating internationally from the Tamil diaspora community is nothing but ‘crocodile tears’. Heavy fighting , during the last days of the war, continued for 15 to 20 days.

This is not right. It is sheer nonsense to say that the LTTE based its fighting on military strategies. The LTTE did not have any such thing. They only got trapped in the Government’s military strategy. Why did they move to an open area to meet their fate ? What implies is that in the background they were anticipating some support and ultimately they were let down by those whom they trusted.

They were informed that on May 15 that they should go to Vattuwagal area where a ship was arriving to evacuate them. But there was no such arrangement when the people went there. There were two Christian priests among the people. The Fathers could have fled to safety had they wanted. But they were different .

Q: How did you escape?

A: We wandered from place to place I developed serious urinary tract problem. When we reached the camp on the 16th, I apprised the Army officers of my condition. Realising the seriousness of my condition, they immediately dispatched me to the Vavuniya hospital. In the hospital a surgery was performed and later I joined my family in the camp.

Q: What in your opinion should be the follow-up measures in this period? What should be the Government’s role?

A: People’s aspirations should be fulfilled. They should come before the people with a proposal by way of a solution. Confrontational politics will not be acceptable to the people any more. It is difficult to comprehend as to why the TNA is playing the delaying tactic without placing its own proposal. They may be fearing that if any of their proposals are accepted by the Government, the people will reject them. People do not expect much . Facilities should be provided for their livelihood. There were employment opportunities. There were major farms and also there was self-sufficiency in productions. The biggest factory in South East Asia was also there. As a result everyone had jobs. That situation is not there today. That same situation should be brought about again. Claims that roads, electricity. People say what is important to them is livelihood facilities. Therefore, these shortcomings towards the people should be resolved.

A civil administrative machinery on par with that in the South is not there. An atmosphere should be brought about where the people feel that themselves are the masters.

Q: Will the people of the Wanni accept a Sinhala leadership?

A: There is no such racial discriminations among the people. They are only looking to anyone who can offer them a solution. Popularity of parliamentarian Namal Rajapaksa is growing among the people of the Vanni. Youngsters now call him “Elder Brother Namal”. So it is the right time to offer a lasting solution and an alternative leadership to the Tamils.

Translated from Tamil by P. Krishnaswamy.

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