Neither Tiger nor Lion: A Suffering Tamil Voice of Reason from Diaspora Land

A  Tamil in UK who must remain Anonymous … responding to Tamil nationalist commemorations of the Tiger and Tamil dead  and to a photograph by Robert Pinney [see below] depicting this event in mid-May 2013**

It really bothers me that the protest of ‘Tamils… gathered around photographs of those killed during the Sri Lankan civil war’ is being symbolized by people carrying the LTTE flag.  Anyone who protests that massacres of Tamils in 2009 should by no means do so under the Tiger flag. In 2009, the Tigers forced innocent Tamil civilians to remain in the Vanni – under pain of death. When I was working in the Vanni, I began to truly sympathize with the Tamils who stayed behind in Sri Lanka. They lost EVERYTHING under the Tigers and the GOSL    31-MAAVEERAR EXHIBITION, Batticaloa,  A shed with garlanded photographs of maaveerar, Batticaloa locality, c. 2004

2009-02-13 13.58.1206_04_09_vanni_05 Tamil dead and wounded April 2004 —Pics from Tamilnet [while presumably civilian one cannot always be sure because many Tigers did not wear battle fatigues while civilians were conscripted for the building of defence works]

2009-02-13 13.58.12 A scene at a makeshift hospital –Tamilnet, 13 Feb 2009

59b-Puthukkudiyirippu07 Tigers killed at Puthukkudiyirippu –Ministry of Defence

After the riots and massacres of Tamils in 1970’s, a Tamil struggle was obviously eminent. There were peaceful Tamils who spoke under the umbrella of humanity. And there were monsters like Pirabaharan who started out assassinating the Mayor of Jaffna. Until he died he had nothing but blood on his hands. And if we take it way back, let’s not forget the many hundreds of innocent Sinhalese civilians the Tigers killed in cold blood back in the 1980’s. We Tamils rightly complain that the Government lashed out against civilians when there was trouble, but the Tigers did exactly the same.

Indeed, our struggle under the LTTE was nothing greater or worse than the struggle of chauvinistic Sinhala-Buddhists. As much as we blame the GoSL, we need to also examine the contributions of the LTTE to pain and destruction among Tamils.

Here are some truths behind the war in 2009 (names changed obviously):

At the age of 78 Viram had many accomplishments to boast of, but none greater than his six little grand children. At that very moment he was being herded out of his village by three young and virulent Tigers holding rather large automatic weapons. He knew the drill, stay silent and do as you are told.

Loud voices distracted the concentration with which he watched over his family. A young man, bent under the weight of his mother, is arguing with one of the Tigers, ‘Ammah is so tired, please just leave us and go!’

‘Move!’ the harsh response tears right through Viram’s heart. ‘Get moving or die here and now.’

The young man carefully sets down his mother to release a series of words, a mix of whining and begging, directed at the same young Tiger.

Out of pity, Viram interrupts, ‘Thambi, she is so tired. Isn’t this fighting enough already?’

The Tiger barely looks at Viram as he coldly lifts his gun and shoots him through his head.

Wails ripped through the air as he slumps to the ground.

The Tiger turns, carefully examining the down caste eyes of the crowd. ‘Hurry up,’ he shouts and walks on.

It’s not just entire villages they ripped apart, families as well.

They used to come day and night. Some of them were nice, if we hid our children, and had already given one, they would understand our situation and leave quietly. Not everyone was like that. There were some we hated. One of them would always come to our village and use violence and threats to hound us to sacrifice more and more of our children. He enjoyed having power over us. When we knew they were coming, we would cover our children under sleeping mats, or rice or anything that is in our house. One time, I put my little girl under some mats and later I saw that a snake was in it. Another family put their child under some coverings and sat on it so no one would see. The child nearly died.

I’ve already given 2 children. They conscripted one. When he was killed, my second son was so angry he went and enlisted on his own. But the Movement didn’t care about my sacrifice. They came for another one of my little darlings, and that’s when I stopped believing in them, stopped believing that they were fighting for me.

We saw him later in Menik Farm. We couldn’t stand the sight of him pretending to be married and living in a tent with some woman. Our children died because of him. Our men grabbed him and started beating him until the military came and took him away. He wrote his own fate.

They didn’t respect or care for those who stayed behind to look after the weak.

“Move faster!” The kneeling Anglican priest wondered at the harsh sounds coming from such a baby face. The young LTTE cadre waved a pistol in his face. The Father looked around. Tired groups of people dragged their feet away from the sounds of bombs, but his flock stood frozen around him staring at confrontation. The last of the lot surrounded him, the ones that moved slowly, the orphaned children, the old ones, the injured and disabled. Unconsciously he reached for his thick wooden cross swinging carefree over his dusty fascia.

“How can we move faster than this?” he logically surmised.

“You’ve got to leave this place and keep moving or we’ll shoot you ourselves,” the cadre screamed louder, pressing his pistol harder on the kneeling Father’s forehead.

Father looked up at the young man, determination glinted in his sunken stubborn eyes. His voice wavered but his frame remained resolute, “Leave? Leave them? Son, if you’re going to shoot me, go ahead, but I’m not leaving without them.”

The man looked surprised. His eyes shifted over the cowering people and back at the firm, emaciated face of the priest. His grip loosened on the gun, “Humph. You guys will die anyways.” He swore as he swaggered on.

People fled from the Tigers in the end.

Arivu worked for an INGO until all the expats moved out, shut down the offices and left the local staff behind. He felt intense pain throb along his entire side every time he moved. He moved aside the bandaging to take a closer look at the wound. The GoSL forces had dropped a bomb just a few feet away from him. The flying shrapnel tore through his stomach.

His wife crouched beside him under the Palmyra tree, worry etched across her face deeper than ever. She hugged their only daughter tightly to her.

Over the trees, over the sound of bombing, a voice clearly unfamiliar with Tamil cracked over speakers, the same message on loop, come over to the protection of the Government. You will be treated well. You will be safe.

Many families had made it this far, but not all. Their neighbors had died by the same bomb that nearly tore him in two. No water, no food, no shelter from the floods and sun. But if only they walked 10kms across the brush, and crossed a road and walked a little bit further they would be out of the warzone!

From where he stood, he could see a group of Tigers patrolling the road. They would have to wait. They had tried to cross the road twice before and had failed. Lord, let it be today.

The putrid smell of rotting wounds on living bodies followed them as they silently made their way through the trees.

They were only partially across the road when the patrol saw them. ‘Stop right there!’ bullets whizzed through the aid. Crouching low, he grabbed his bandages with one hand and held on to his wife with the other. They made it, but from the screams they could tell not everyone had.

On the other side, a GoSL military greeted them with a huge smile and pity in his eyes. As he led them to the screening area, he handed their daughter a candy, patted her on the head and said something they didn’t understand. But what words could make up for the warmth of his hand and the kindness in his eyes?

These are true stories that those mesmerized by the crimson red and marigold flag of the Tigers seem to discard as irrelevant. Yet they are not irrelevant! They are, in fact, the truth behind 30 years of power struggles that betrayed the common person.

I think it is tragic that all Tamils are being labeled as Tiger supporters, when in fact many Tamils have been cruelly scarred by none other than the Tigers. I think it’s even more tragic when people forget how the Tigers purposefully didn’t let anyone out of the war-zone to mobilize the international community through sympathy.

As members of the diaspora, it is our responsibility to revere our recent history and herald a time of peaceful discussions if we are to bring peace for our own people. We must look for peace with utmost concern for all who suffered under the wicked schemes of the elite and respect those who have died from the negligence of leaders.

It was difficult to see the humanity of our fell.



EVENT: Tamil protesters gather around photographs of those killed during the Sri Lankan civil war.  Thousands of Tamils march through central London to commemorate those killed during the final stages of the Sri Lankan civil war and to call on Prime Minister David Cameron to boycott the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, to be held on Colombo in November 2013.

** My thanks to Professor Donald Horowitz for an enthusiastic appreciation of this article in ways that suggested a title.


Filed under accountability, cultural transmission, ethnicity, historical interpretation, law of armed conflict, LTTE, martyrdom, mass conscription, nationalism, photography, power politics, prabhakaran, propaganda, reconciliation, self-reflexivity, Sinhala-Tamil Relations, sri lankan society, Tamil migration, Tamil Tiger fighters, world affairs

2 responses to “Neither Tiger nor Lion: A Suffering Tamil Voice of Reason from Diaspora Land

  1. chamal

    If anyone RE-VISITS the day’s of the IPKF in sri Lanka.. one can see the very same evidence the Terrorist (LTTE) used in 87-90 and in 2009… since the Indian army has documented these cowardly acts very well.. For eg LTTE using hospitals to launch attacks, Use of Human Shields, LTTE in Civil uniform mingles with civilians and then fights with the IPKF Troops, When the IPKF issued two No fire zones and Halt to battle operations.. how the LTTE on these occasions went to civilian zones and setup Fighting positions among civilians to fight the IPKF… Like in 09 these very tactics were committed by the LTTE during the IPKF where Indian Diplomats who witnessed these acts themselves… And today the western LTTE entity justifies is So called protectors who has more Tamil blood on their hands… by saying about the 83′ racial riots.. True a very Horrible period in Lankan history… But the what about the crimes of 84,85,85,87,88,89,90,91,92,93,94,95,96,97,98,99,2000,01,04,05 and so on every year was a black July times 10 to Lankan citizens… thans to the LTTE and Western LTTE entity

  2. k Velayuthan

    This is why I am worried about the 13th amendment and giving police powers to provincial ministers, be they in sinhalese or tamil areas. There is hope of some standards of behaviour if there is central overview. If power goes into the hands of local chiefs, they would be like Pottu amman and prabhakaran. and other killer goons.

    Whether people should have police and land powers should be determined by the people in the Vanni, and not thrust on them because India decreed so in the 13th amendment. Also, the Vanni people cannot still make clear decisions, as they are subject to the TNA or Douglas Devanada’s people or who ever.

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