“I believe that the feeling that we should all live together in a single country is once again emerging in the hearts of the Tamil people,” was the strong message of unity and reconciliation given to the nation by President Mahinda Rajapaksa at the Humanitarian Victory Day Parade last Saturday.
While paying the nation’s tribute to the Security Forces who freed the country from terrorism with so much sacrifice of life and limb, the President had a special message to the Tamil people, who had been deprived of both intellectual and political leadership for nearly three decades, stating that the time has come for them to think of new leaders for Tamil society who value unity with all other communities and will be ready to join in the development of the country.
He focused on the need for leaders who could speak for the genuine aspirations of the Tamil people, to take the place of those who had destroyed Tamil society under the chimera of liberation and a separate state. It was necessary for the Tamils to think beyond those who – for nearly two decades - were only too eager to be the proxies of the LTTE that led them to the path of physical, social and spiritual destruction, and also those abroad who still supported the separatist dream of the LTTE, but claimed to be the voice of the Tamils of Sri Lanka.
In important words of caution, he said the time has come for the people of the North to have a good understanding of the honesty of those who claim to speak on their behalf.
In the context of the many positions being taken both by those here and abroad allegedly on behalf of the Sri Lankan Tamils, President Rajapaksa devoted much of his address to the issues of the Tamil people. He reminded the people well of what the LTTE had done to destroy unity in the country and bring the Tamil people to the critical stage, of being human shields, from which they had to be freed through the military operation carried out for a clearly humanitarian purpose.
As he described it: “It was the time when … The LTTE was able to destroy the Central Bank building that you can see from here,and also send a bomb laden lorry right before the residence of the Head of the State. The hotels around this area were destroyed by bomb attacks. “We recall that the Tigers who attacked the Sri Maha Bodhi in Anuradhapura in 1985 later came to Colombo and attacked with bombs and killed the Nayaka Thera at the Fort Buddhist temple. In 1990 the Tigers killed hundreds of worshippers at the Kathankudy mosque, and due to their ability to strike and spread throughout the country, 19 years later they attacked a religious procession at the Matara Godapitiya mosque.
The violence was such that: “Most places in this country were then identified by recalling bomb attacks by the LTTE such as the junction where Parami Kulatunga was killed, the place where Navy Commander Clarence Fernando was killed, the junction where Major Muthalif was killed, the street where Mr. Premadasa was killed, the place where Minister C. V. Gunaratne was killed and the house where Mr. Kadirgamar was killed.
“At that time, this was a country where fear of death was brought by a parcel that had no owner…“The Tigers were able to do as they wished at any place in the country. There was no place to escape or be safe from the Tigers.”
The Era of Peace
Having successfully defeated these forces of terror, President Rajapaksa said, “This era should be not go down in history as an era when we were warring, but an era when war was ended. Not as an era of murder and bloodshed, an era when tyre pyres were burning at every junction, but as an era when bloodshed was stopped. Similarly, this era should go down in history as one that carried out a major transformation to prevent the occurrence of war again.
With awareness that the people worst affected by the LTTE’s terror were those who lived in the areas where the LTTE had established its operations, he explained the situation that prevailed stating, “It is the people in the North and the East who would and should feel this most. Today, in the North and East of the country, there are twelve political parties carrying out their activities freely. However, all political parties that attempted to function freely at that time had to face the Tiger’s bullet. EROS, PLOTE, EPRLF, EPDP and TELO -- all of them suffered the same fate.
The former leader of the Tamil United Liberation Front saved his life by living in Colombo. From Duraiappa to members of Parliament such as Amirthalingam, Sam Thambimuttu and his wife, and Raviraj – all were silenced forever.
“Prabhakaran and his cohorts destroyed the erudite society that could build the culture of the Tamil people of the North. Just as Prabhakaran, the political parties that are propping up the Diaspora are still engaged in an effort to drag Tamil society to destruction. As long as these groups exist the Tamil people need no other enemies.
“The time has come for the people of the North to have a good understanding of the honesty of those who claim to speak on their behalf.”
He was quite frank about the threats the Tamils face today from those who claim to be their champions, but are happy to rob the Tamil fishermen of this country of their catch in the northern sea, as is the regular pattern of operations from Tamil Nadu. “You will know that after thirty years, we have given the opportunity to the fishermen of the North to earn their livelihoods freely at sea. However, when the fishermen of North go out to sea there are others who come and grab the fish that is found at that area. It is those who grab this wealth of the people of the North who seek to bring pressure on governments on behalf of the Tamil people of the North. The people of the North should be on their guard in the future too against such sinister protectors.
“When three lakhs of hostages among the northern people came seeking their freedom there was no one to give even a packet of food to them other than the Security Forces, you and the government.
“The Diaspora that collects billions supposedly for the Tamil people did not come to serve their people at that time; they did not come to help the Sri Lankan Tamil people at that time.”
Speaking of the new changes that are beneficial to the Tamil people that have taken place, under conditions of peace that are somehow never seen by the local and foreign critics of the situation here, allegedly on behalf of the Tamils, President Rajapaksa said: “The opportunity has now been provided for more that 11,000 persons who were with the LTTE to be rehabilitated and live freely.
“These are people who had committed offences that could keep them for many years behind bars. Those whose crimes could take them the scaffold. In no other country will those who were associated with the most ruthless terrorist organization in the world, obtain pardon as they have received in Sri Lanka. I am aware that the youth in the north are happy about this pardon. Fair thinking people are also pleased with this. “As of now nearly 4,000 Tamil youth have joined the Civil Defence Corps. They are now launching cultivation in thousands of acres of land and participating in the country’s economic development. Several thousand more are waiting in line to join the Security Forces and the Police. Initially, it was not those in the South who opposed Tamil youth being taken to the Armed Forces. It was some persons in the North and leaders who were abroad who declined this. “I understand well and recall the hearts and minds of the people of the North and East. History shows that in the Presidential Election of 1982 the Tamil people of the North defeated Ponnambalam who stood for a separate state and elected Kobbekaduwa who was from the Sri Lanka Freedom Party.
“I believe that the feeling that we should all live together in a single country is once again emerging in the hearts of the Tamil people.”
This was clearly a statement of understanding of the situation faced by the Tamil people all these years, condemned to suffer under the jackboot of Prabhakaran and his terrorist outfit, and fooled by organizations such as the TNA, who were glad to be the proxies of the same forces of terror that had taken the Tamil people hostage, in Parliament and elsewhere. It was also very much an invitation to the Tamil people to join in the new life of peace and democracy that prevails in the country, and is seen as such by a growing number of observers who are not ready to be fooled by the propaganda of the pro-LTTE expatriates abroad, and the political forces across the Palk Strait who are ready to make pawns of the Sri Lankan Tamils for their gains in sub-continental politics.
That Sri Lankan Tamils have a place of equality in a united Sri Lanka that has achieved peace and is moving to reconciliation, was the message of the President, with the understanding that such feelings of unity are now emerging in the hearts and minds of the Tamil people, too, given the freedom of peace and democracy.
“The Last Phase”
'The Last Phase', a documentary film depicting the true life story of a former female LTTE cadre during the final stages of the humanitarian operation was screened in Colombo earlier this week. It is a very good attempt to show the actual conditions of the Tamil people under the terror of the LTTE, a matter that is wholly ignored by those who produce and broadcast video material on the alleged war crimes of the Sri Lankan Armed Forces in the final stages of the battle to liberate the Tamil people and Sri Lanka from terrorism. It gains credibility by portraying the life of a former woman LTTE cadre, Jayawadanee, who grew up at the Sencholai LTTE “orphanage”, after her parents had been killed by the IPKF. Material from LTTE footage shows the Sencholai orphanage was in fact a training and brain washing centre for the LTTE, and how all Sri Lankan laws and international conventions and treaties that deal with care for orphans and children had been wholly violated by the LTTE there, with the sole purpose of turning out cadres for its ranks of terror.
Jayawadanee states in her own words how she accepted the LTTE’s goal of liberation for the Tamils and the leadership of the “Sun God” Prabhakaran. She and her husband readily accepted the leadership of the LTTE in the hope of Tamil liberation and readily carried out all orders given to them. But the questions began at the final stages, when the LTTE made all of them human shields and took the cruelest steps to prevent its Tamil hostages crossing the earth bund that would take them to freedom at Pudumathalan.
It is a compelling story, spoken in the words of the victims, with no different or distorted interpretation in English to what is said in Tamil, as was recently exposed in a screening of a Channel 4 video on Sri Lanka at Brussels. The story is related in Tamil with good English sub-titles.
Both Jayawadanee and her infant child were gravely injured in their attempt to flee the LTTE hostage takers in the final stages of the battle before the fall of the LTTE. Her husband was also seriously injured, all of this in the attacks the LTTE carried out on the Tamil civilians who were fleeing to safety at Nandikanal. Of special significance in this moving story is the work of the Sri Lankan doctors who treated Jayawadanee and her infant child. She had grave injuries to skull and brain, had lost one eye and her nose, but was cared for by the surgeons and other doctors of the Colombo National Hospital for nearly eight months, so as to ensure her recovery, with extensive plastic surgery too. It was a similar case with her infant son, who had also suffered grave injury, and was treated for many months at the Lady Ridgeway Children’s Hospital.
The work of these doctors in their commitment to provide the best of care to all patients is a matter that is hardly ever noticed by those who keep accusing Sri Lanka of war crimes and violations of humanitarian law. Here is the best example one can see of humanitarian work in practice, until the mother and child who were separated for months, and the child only identified by a number, finally united through DNA testing.
“The Last Phase” is a factual answer to those who use unverified material from questionable sources to produce video footage on the last stages of the operation to free the Tamils from the LTTE, and bring peace to this country. It deserves the widest exposure that could lead to much more informed discussion of the actual conditions that prevailed in the days of the final battle to free the Tamils from the LTTE, which saw nearly 300,000 Tamils seek and obtain the freedom and relief under the Security Forces of this country.