Ganeshan Iyer, trans by Parames Blacker
PREAMBLE by Michael Roberts: This is chapter 14 in the serialized memoirs in Tamil by Ganeshan Iyer found in http://inioru.com/?p=12399 (whose work has now appeared in book form). The strict translation of this chapter would be “Fighters opposing Prabakaran – My records on the Eelam warfare,” but I have chosen to highlight the central motifs in this segment.
I also have Gobinath Ponnuthurai;’s translation of this chapter; while Dayan Jayatilleka has provided a somewhat different translation of key sentences in this document relating to Hitler and Mein Kampf. All the versions are broadly in agreement re the threads of content.
Ganeshan Iyer became the Treasurer of the LTTE when it was initially formed in May 1976. Iyer is from the Brahmin caste, a numerically minute body of people in the Jaffna Peninsula who serve as temple priests and are dependent on the Vellālar caste. Nourished in the Vellālar village of Punallaikatuvan, Iyer came to know Pirapāharan when the latter hid there under the auspices of Chinniah Rajeshkumar, alias Rāgavan, in the early-mid 1970s. An atheist and reformer with Leftist leanings, Iyer joined the LTTE’s hard-core guerrilla ranks in the 1970s. When the LTTE divided into two factions Iyer joined the faction led by Uma Maheshwaran that opposed Pirapāharan. This faction later evolved into the militant organisation known as PLOTE. Subsequently Iyer became critical of PLOTE and associated with a dissident faction named Theepory which hived off from PLOTE. Finally he became associated with the NLFT, a faction identical to Naxalites. Thereafter he sought refuge in Europe and seems to have ended up in Germany though other information indicates that he is in India.
Arun Ambalavanar is the person who first brought Iyer’s writings to my attention and provided the reference to his serialized memoirs in Tamil within Inioru.com. Ambalavanar makes this point emphatically: “though his Marxist thinking is very much evident in his memoirs on the LTTE days, the recollections provide genuine reportage and information on the history of the LTTE.” Michael Roberts. SEE bibliography attached at end.
Ganeshan Iyer: “Fighters opposing Prabakaran – My records on the Eelam warfare,” Chapter 14 trans by Parames Blacker
The dream of the Thamil Eelam Tigers was to establish a powerful army. We believed that the basis of this could be started with the making of a disciplined training camp. Prabakaran comes forward with the full plan for this. As planned the training camp was set up in Mankulam. We trained towards this at every opportunity, with small army activities like pistol shooting practices.
The army training began in the planned and established training camp in early 1970. A training camp was built with bunkers and sand bags similar to the fully guarded Army camps. For the first time uniforms were made for the army training and all those who received training were given uniforms. Even the mode of army training is prepared by Prabakaran. The first plans of his long time dream of the army became a reality.
The Government army is built separated from the people. Its inner purpose is to completely destroy the compassionate and humanitarian feelings of the army and make it in to a government tool. The amusing part of this is, that even without being aware of it, we ourselves who say we are fighting for the freedom of our people, were attempting to build an army with no feelings for the people at Mankulam.
Above all, Prabakaran, governed by the discipline and victories of Hitler’s army, is trying to enforce the German army’s practices in to the training of the Thamil Eelam Tigers. He says it is because it was disciplined and firm [that] Hitler’s army has made victories its own.
The order was given that as the first part of the army training all being trained should salute as is done in Hitler’s army. Prabakaran who held in esteem the discipline and firmness of Hitler’s army, wanted the Thamil Eelam Tigers’ army to be its representative. I too did not reject it.
It is at this time the first waves of opposition against Prabakaran began to appear. Some members argued that Hitler’s salute was not necessary. Prabakaran argued against them. He says if a disciplined army is to be formed, the rules and regulations for it are necessary. He argues Hitler’s way is the beginning of it. Notably, Kumanan later killed by the Freedom Tigers opposed this. It was when he too participated in the planning discussions of the training camp this debate arose. In the end, as put forward by Prabakaran, Hitler’s ways were accepted and put in practice.
Other than the two captured mechanized guns, we have bought some mechanized and motorized weapons from India. Along with the camp army parade, organized physical exercises like that in an army training camp, we also put forward shooting practices with guns.
When the people’s army is in the process of growth, the correct environment for a permanent army and for training will come is the idea of Mao’s army. We are forming a steady army before anything else. Towards that all arrangements were made as that of a Government army.
Because the central committee members, Mukundan (ummamaheswaran), Nagarajah, Baby Subramaniam had gone to India, only Prabakaran and I remain to make all decisions regarding the training camp. At this time the whole of Jaffna is being covered by the army. Two young men Inpam and Selvan are shot and killed by the army. These murders shocked the whole community in every aspect.
Members in the forefront like Kittu, Sellakkilli, Shanthan, John, Sithappa, Kumarappa and Maathiah are called to the training camp. Prabakaran trains them, and it was decided to give him the same respect as given in Hitler’s army.
At this time another problem arose within the movement. Without any prior notice, Prabakaran brings Ravi and Veeravahu, from Valvettiturai, with no training in the ranks to the camp. To these two who were brought to the training camp, training was given together with the earlier more important members. Prabakaran did not consult anyone regarding this including me. Many opposed this. It was the practice for all the others to be trained first in the ranks for a long time, have their commitments checked before entering them in to the level of the movement’s training. The act of Prabakaran suddenly bringing in two people while there were many other members in the ranks, waiting a long time for army training gave rise to the idea that it was authoritarian. Prabakaran did not have any definite reason for this action. When questions were raised by many, Prabakaran had no answer.
The Police were looking for these two who had stolen chemicals for bomb making from Hartley College where they were students. Because of this they had to live in hiding. Many objections were placed before Prabakaran for rejecting Kumanan, Mathi,Raviand other members and bringing in these two in to the movement.
A few days later, the parents of Veeravahu, came to know that while yet a student, he had joined the movement and was in hiding. On learning of this, his family making contact with Tigers like Kumarappa, Maathiah, asked they be allowed to take Veeravahu home. Since Veeravahu also wants to go home, Prabakaran lets him go home. On reaching home, he surrendered to the police. This incident made the distrust in Prabakaran increase more. After this many began to voice opposition to the selfish way of Prabakaran. Little by little the army attitude and the authoritarian ways of Prabakaran began to infiltrate the movement. The section of fighters within us who had progressed did not fail to calm the opposing results from this, from time to time. With all the opposing factions the training camp continued for a while and then was closed down saying the training was done.
During this period, Chanthathiar who was involved in the work of the Gandhian refugee camp, expressing a desire to join the Thamil Eelam Freedom Tigers, contacted Prabakaran. They met together many times. Prabakaran wanted to give him important responsibility with the Tigers.
Urmilla, the first woman who worked for us with Umamaheswaran was being hunted by the police. She who lived in Colombo began to move towards the North in secret. The fear arose that being a woman she could be easily identified and captured.
Under the leadership of Krishnan living in London, there were a few working in support of us. Anton Balasingam had contact with them. News reached us that Anton Balasingam was keen to meet us in India and Prabakaran wanted to go to India for this. As the training camp was already closed, he thought this was a good opportunity to take Urmilla with him to India, and so made plans to go to India. Prabakaran also made contact with Chanthathiar and asked him to bring the earlier worker Umamaheswaran to meet him.
With Chanthathiar agreeing, the four – Prabakaran, Urmilla, Chanthathiar and Kalapathy left for India in our speed boat. Ravi and Bala also followed them to India.
SELECT BIBLIOGRAPHY inserted by Michael Roberts
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Hellmann-Rajanayagam, Dagmar: ‘The ‘groups’ and the rise of militant secessionism’, in C. Manogaran & B. Pfaffenberger (eds) The Sri Lankan Tamils. Ethnicity and Identity,Boulder: Westview Press, 1994, pp. 169-207.
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Ragavan, 2009b “Prabhakaran’s Timekeeping. Memories of a Much-mythologised Rebel Leader by a Former LTTE Fighter,” Sunday Leader, 24 May 2009.
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Sabaratnam, T. 2003 Pirapāharan, [a biography in chapter segments] serialised in http://www. sangam.org/index_orig.html.
Sabaratnam, T. 2009 “Beginnings of Violence,” draft chapter from his book in press — kindly sent to me.
Schalk, Peter 1994 “Women Fighters of the Liberation Tigers in Ilam. The Martial Feminism of Atel Palacinkam,”South Asia Research 14: 1-22.
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Tennekoon, Serena 1990 “Newspaper Nationalism: Sinhala Identity as Historical Discourse,” in J. Spencer (ed.) Sri Lanka. History and the Roots of Conflict,London: Routledge, pp. 205-26.
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Whitaker, Mark P. 2007 Learning Politics from Sivaram,London: Pluto Press.