By Michael Roberts –
Continuing with my presentation of “Motifs” from within his diaries, this collection is relatively meagre, but must be placed alongside the paths depicting moderate Tamils who were caught in between the main protagonists. Since Bavinck’s political leanings were firmly with the latter, it is not surprising that there is more information on that facet of political thinking. Therefore, this post must be studied in conjunction with the one immediately following on “Bavinck on Life in Jaffna, 1994-2004: People Caught in the Middle of Two Awesome Forces.”
Both together indicate ambivalences and shifting tides in the thinking of the people residing in Jaffna under LTTE rule and/or SL Army rule. They also provide a sense of the shifting fortunes of war. The entries here are of great importance and indicate that the LTTE had a solid foundation of support among the middle class peoples of the north – an impression that was sustained during my brief visit to Jaffna Peninsula and Kilinochchi in late November 2004.
Bavinck’s diary entries are written intermittently, Note that he was residing at Puttur from mid-1994- September 1995; Atchuvely from then till July 1996; Puttur again from June 1996 till August 1999; Maruthanarmadam from thence till he left the island in September 2004. Note, however, that there were spells when he left the island on pastoral business or on furlough.
Do please refer back to these items as well:
13th June 1994
…. Yesterday I happened to meet my friend Daya again. He stressed the point that the people in Jaffna have internalised the restrictions on freedom of expression, which obviates practically all external show of force by the Tigers and their police.
We also spoke about the death of the former vice-chancellor, Prof. Thurairajah, who had been a supporter of the Tigers, and whose funeral therefore was being observed by them with three days of mourning. Prof. Thurairajah had been in Peradeniya University in 1983, together with his family, and there he had witnessed the cruel persecution of the Tamil people. He felt on purely emotional grounds that there was no other option for him but to give his support to the Tigers. They appreciated this very much because there were only very few people of his standing who openly supported them. For the Tigers, this practice of declaring special days of mourning or celebration forms a means to involve the general population more closely in their cause. Because of their complete control they succeed in this. Today I saw the plaited palm leaves and the black flags, which are the usual signs of such days, at several places in town. [pp. 14-15]
14th June 1994, Jaffna
In the last four days 10 people have been killed and 23 wounded by these random shells. Most of these incidents have happened in the coastal areas of Jaffna town. The NGOs working here sent a protest to the government. Rightly so! [p. 15]
19th June 1994, Jaffna
Recently I met two Roman Catholic priests whom I know very well. In our conversation I asked them whether the church didn’t have the responsibility to address those in power and if necessary, criticise their actions. They didn’t react defensively but admitted that this was indeed the duty of the church. Still I could sense in the course of the discussion that this was a difficult topic. One of them, Fr. Emmanuel, had written a brochure in which he states that the church should practise a prophetic theology which implies that it will act in solidarity with the oppressed.
In his brochure he doesn’t go so far as to conclude that the church should support the Tigers and he leaves the possibility open for a solution in which Tamils will be able to live in unity with the Sinhalese while maintaining their self-respect. [p. 15]
The other priest told me that they do not approve of everything the Tigers do, but then he asked: “What is the alternative which we have?” and in that way expressed the Tamil dilemma.
Still I cannot but think that influenced by Tamil nationalism they tend to make the mistake of too easily glossing over the mistakes and failings of ‘the boys’ by judging these as separate events. They do not carry out a deeper analysis of the basic character of this movement, of its goals, the means used to achieve these goals and what this means for the freedom or oppression of the Tamil people in the future. [p. 16]
1st July 1994, Jaffna
This week I again had a long conversation with Fr. Emmanuel about the booklet he wrote recently. When I asked him whether the church could speak to the movement about the means they were using in the struggle, he replied that the church should have done the right thing in the beginning, but that it was very difficult to do this now. It would be like throwing stones at ‘the boys’ at the time they were fighting. Today the papers printed the text of an interview by a BBC correspondent with the Roman Catholic bishop of Jaffna. In this interview the bishop doesn’t say that the church directly supports the Tigers; but because he defends the church supporting the struggle of the oppressed Tamil people and because he recognises the Tigers’ role in this struggle, it becomes clear that his attitude is one of strong sympathy for the movement. Earlier the BBC correspondent said that all people here support the Tigers because the Tigers are taking care of them. The fear of the army plays a big role in this. It is true, I think, that the increased institutionalisation of the LTTE has led to a greater acceptance by the population. Moreover the continuing shelling, the irritating checking by the army at Vavuniya and the unwise statements made by the president about the minorities have stimulated this. But I can’t help feeling depressed about this. Still, when I met a person who had survived the massacre in the Welikade jail in 1983 and found that he supported the Tigers 100%, I could only feel understanding. [pp. 18-19]
18th September 1994, Jaffna
The Roman Catholic bishop in a conversation with Chandrika has once again stressed the point that no distinction can be made between the Tigers and the Tamils at this moment in the struggle. This is the second time that he expresses Roman Catholic support for the Tigers. One Hindu friend of mine was indignant about the bishop speaking in this way for the whole of Jaffna society. I also spoke with a number of people who expressed grave doubts about the ultimate position the Tigers would take in the negotiations. [p. 36]
31st January 1995, Puttur
The Roman Catholic Bishop Soundranayagam has given an interview to the Sunday Leader in which he identifies himself almost completely with the Tigers, who according to him, are the great protectors of the Tamil people. Their demands are justified and he describes the situation in the north as one with an orderly society in which strong opinions can be expressed. I must say that I cannot understand this complete abdication by the church to Tamil nationalism. [p. 59]
18th March, 1995, Puttur
The hunger strike of the imprisoned policemen is still dragging on. It has become clear that the Tigers are back at their old game of effectuating an exchange of prisoners with the supply of diesel and petrol, a scandalous and immoral spectacle. I had to visit Dr. Jeyakularajah todayabout some other matter. He supports the Tigers and I thought I would raise this matter of the hostages with him. I was extremely glad when he immediately said that they (Tigers) should not have done this kind of a thing, because it went counter to fundamental rules. After that I went to ICRC. I had hardly started talking to Mary [Perkins] about a very good statement made by the ICRC in Colombo, when suddenly Bishop Kenneth Fernando together with his companions entered. In the following discussion about the hunger strike, it was felt that the government would never be able to accept this type of blackmail and that it was therefore important if the bishop could use his influence to persuade the policemen to give up their strike. Apparently this succeeded somehow because the strikers accepted young coconuts (thembili) out of the hands of the bishop. Later Prabhakaran released two of these policemen and handed them overto the bishop.
After that the bishop and his companions went on to the university for a discussion with the professors there. Afterwards, the visitors told me that these professors had been extremely negative about the government and the peace process. According to them, nothing had changed. [pp. 66-67]
22nd March, 1995, Puttur
On the night of 18th of March there was a BBC broadcast with a number of interviews with people in Jaffna. They all directly or indirectly supported the Tigers’ position. The Roman Catholic bishop went furthest by saying that there was no distinction between the Tigers and the Tamils, and that the Tamils supported the Tigers completely. [pp. 67-68]
5th April, 1995, Puttur
Fr. Jeyaseelan had some other disturbing reports. One was about the Tigers trying to recruit clergy to be their advocates on the international scene. Fr. Jeyaseelan was of the opinion that there is a hardening of the Tiger attitude with regard to the freedom of expression. All this just makes it clear that the talks of the government and the Tigers are just one side of the matter. [p. 70]
3rd May, 1995, Colombo
The YWCA has decided not to accept any Tamils anymore as guests in their guesthouse because of intensified checking of Tamils by police in Colombo. ….
Yesterday, I met my old friend, Fr. James. He has always supported the Tigers, but now, the moment we met he started to fulminate against them. “Why did they immediately attack? If they didn’t like the way the peace talks went, they could have withdrawn and left it like that. Those donkeys!” [p. 78]
8th June 1995, Puttur
Yesterday I visited Uduvil and Maruthanamadam. In conversations with my friends there I discovered that it was difficult to talk with them about politics. They were very critical of Chandrika and some even thought that she had been deceptive. According to them, the peace talks hadn’t produced any benefits for the Tamils. But they agreed that the declaration of war by the Tigers, was a mistake. I also had a long discussion with my friend Daya. He is a lecturer at the university. In a Sinhala magazine, there is an account of a lecture which he gave at a conference in London, in which he reports about the psychological damage experienced by some Tiger boys because of their violent past. It was refreshing to talk with him because of his totally impartial attitude. He thought that the peace movement in the south had not died and that it also had influenced the restrained reaction of the army and the population in the south up till now. He also mentioned some good things the Tigers had done, like for instance, inspiring young people to engage themselves in rehabilitation and development and the speedy way in which the Tiger courts had administered justice. [p. 90]
22nd June, 1995, Puttur
Yesterday I had a nice discussion with my friend Dr. Sambanthan, in which he made a peculiar remark about the foreign minister, Lakshman Kadirgamar. Dr. Sambanthan said that he did a very good job as a minister in rallying support for the government and promoting condemnation of the Tigers by the governments in Europe and America. But that it would be better if he had not been a Tamil. There is this feeling that it is still a struggle between the Tamils and the Sinhala government and that therefore, Tamils could never be 100% for the government and 100% against the Tigers. I get that same sense when I talk to some of my friends here in Jaffna. But, what point of view should Tamils take after the Tigers have repeatedly destroyed all chances for peace so that the Tamils are again subjected to a new period of attacks by the army? Despite all this, does there still remain an obligation of loyalty to the Tigers? Something like, “Keep your wretched paws off our wretched boys!” [p. 92]
24th July, 1995, Puttur
It is really striking that there are tendencies to stress more and more the exalted leadership of Prabhakaran. For me, bad memories of the glorification of the Fuhrer during the dark days of World War II in occupied Holland were awakened. The success of any fighting exploit is now ascribed to the great leader Prabhakaran. [p. 105]
10th August, 1995, Puttur
I also saw Daya … He also pointed out to me a letter to the editor of The Sunday Times in which somebody in Jaffna took Rajan Hoole to task because of his criticising the Tigers. According to this correspondent, in Jaffna everything was being done so democratically and orderly. Daya reminded me of a remark by Sartre that in an absurd situation a normal person is a madman. I also had to think in the same way when I heard that the Tigers had written a letter to President Clinton in the USA offering their condolences for the Oklahoma bombing. Some things are simply too absurd for words! [p. 111]
On the 31st day after the death of Mrs. Ratnavel, we had the usual ceremony, where I could meet a number of people, including Daya. He told me that he had met a leading pastor who had called Chandrika an incarnation of the devil, because she drank and misbehaved in other ways. Wonderful to maintain such moral judgment with regard to the president by someone who refuses to apply any moral judgement regarding his own liberation movement. I sat by the side of my friend Manibban who immediately began by saying that the government had made up its mind to eradicate the Tamils. He did not have one hopeful thought left and he felt that the Tigers were justified in their actions. I don’t want to disregard this deep fear in the Tamil soul. It is the consequence of 40 years of misrule by Sinhala governments and the propaganda of the Tigers. There is some justification for it, but if it makes people blind to any hopeful development, and drives them to go behind the Tigers, with no criticism, it can make one feel extremely sad. In a depressed state of mind I returned from this trip. [p. 112]
12th September, 1995
Today there was an editorial in Eelanatham, which placed the full blame for the coming genocide in Jaffna, on the government. Apparently, they are really worried about questions they might get about who started this war on the 19th of April. [p. 119]
28th September, 1995, Puttur
The attack on the school children in Nagarkovil is now being used for big protest demonstrations. The slogans at these demonstrations make the accusation that this attack was an act of genocide. This of course is a twisting of the truth, giving to this horrible event an even worse significance. [p. 124]
28th July 1996, Puttur
Yesterday I returned from Jaffna in a depressed mood. From Fr. Jeyaseelan I heard that a white van is now operating abducting people during the nights. At the hospital people are being admitted with internal injuries. From others I heard that the army at the checkpoints is now acting in a rude and impudent manner. Near the temple in Nallur I saw how a man was forced to empty big sacks of woodchips on the street so that the contents could be checked. All this is the consequence of the suicide bomb, the various incidents and above all the disaster at Mullaittivu.
Something else which depressed me was a remark by someone while we were waiting outside for a prayer meeting to begin. With a tinge of triumphalism in his voice this person told us that the number of soldiers killed at Mullaittivu is now estimated at 1,400 and that the army had now abandoned the camp. It seems to be true that the Tigers did not take any prisoners but killed all captives. Except for a handful of soldiers who managed to escape, everybody else is dead. The thought of this camp filled with corpses didn’t leave my mind. At the same time there was the sadness that Tamil people can be boastful about this, “Our boys have done it again!” No humane, moral judgement. And after everything which has happened, again this affinity with the Tigers. Sad and frightening! Fr. Jeyaseelan confirmed that here and there these feelings can be found, but according to him, this is not the general case. But if the army changes its friendly attitude and adopts a practice of systematic harassment at the checkpoints and the abduction of people at night this feeling of sympathy for the Tigers will again grow. Fr. Jeyaseelan wants to spread the idea of peace. I asked him whether one could still hope for peace with the Tigers. Is that realistic? I also told him that I was afraid that ultimately after a number of Mullaittivus and Dehiwalas the Sinhalese might reach a stage where they would say to the Tamils: “OK, folks. Here is the Northern Province. Kindly settle things with your own “liberation movement”. We refuse to sacrifice more human lives and money for this.”
Fr. Jeyaseelan’s reaction was: “Then the Jaffna people would finally have to accept responsibility for their future. The people here remain victims. It is always the others, the government, the army, the Tigers, who are responsible.” This is his persistent complaint. One hears again and again of people who leave for Colombo or who at least send their children there. Understandable and yet… [pp. 212-13]
10th November 1996, Puttur
These days there was a report in the papers that after a visit by the British High Commissioner to Jaffna and at the express request of the vice chancellor of the Jaffna University the British government had approached a number of Tamil doctors, living in the United Kingdom with the suggestion that they should go out and work here for periods of six to 12 months against very favourable financial conditions. Not one was prepared to come here!
Most probably most of these doctors will make their contributions to the LTTE and in this way help to keep this war to go on, a war of which the common Jaffna people are more and more becoming the victims…. [p. 222]
14th January 1997, Puttur
More news has come in about the Elephant Pass attack. Apparently the Tigers started their attack on Paranthan at the moment that the army was about to start their attack to the south out of Kilinochchi. This attackwas quickly halted and all troops redirected to face the Tiger attack on Paranthan and Elephant Pass. The losses of the army are much higher than earlier acknowledged, about 300 dead, while the losses of the Tigers must be about the same. The army also has lost a great amount of materials, which were blown up.
In the reactions by the people here one can sense a feeling of pride that “our boys” have done it again. On the other hand there is also the fear that the weakness of the army may allow these same “boys” to come back here. This possibility makes the people very uncertain and very cautious. [p. 228]
20th June 1997, Puttur
An English lecturer at the university told me that he had asked the many girls, who really are doing their best, why they are so keen to learn English. Their answer had been that they wanted to go abroad to find marriage partners. Here in Jaffna the number of boys has decreased considerably after all these years of armed conflict. The boys have either been killed or they have escaped to foreign countries. Hearing this, one realizes how necessary it is to find a compromise solution to the conflict before this community is irreparably affected. The frightening fact is that the Tigers have never shown a real concern for this community and a willingness to search for a compromise solution. This same concern appears to be lacking with many of their supporters in Canada, Australia and other countries, who have nothing to lose by being radical and insisting on Eelam. On the contrary! For some of them a compromise solution would jeopardise their refugee status and in that way result in their being sent back here. [p. 242]
10th August 1997, Puttur
The power of the Tigers is succinctly captured in a comment, ascribed to an editor of the Uthayan paper. When asked why he appeared to follow such a pro-Tiger policy he replied: “If I am irritating the army, I can talk with them. If however I irritate the Tigers then that is the end of me”. [p. 246]
26th September 1997, Puttur
My friend Rajasingam told me that there are still people who think that the Tigers will come back. He had stopped some men who had been cutting trees in the next compound, which earlier had been occupied by the Tigers. He had told them that he wanted to buy that land. The men had replied: “But won’t you get in to trouble when the Tigers come back?” [p. 249]
6th January 1999, Puttur
…… I was happy that Bishop Soundaranayagam in his New Year message had appealed to the Tigers to practise moderation: “The people cannot bear any more. Don’t think only in military terms and be prepared for compromise.” It is very good to finally hear a leading figure say some of these things. [p. 276]
24th September 1999, Maruthanarmadam
Today I had a good conversation with Fr. Jeyaseelan. We were speaking about the Uhana murders. Fr. Jeyaseelan, moved by these events, remarked: “All the time the good sides of the Tamil and his culture, language, music etcetera are being highlighted and praised by the lecturers in the university and by the churches, but we also must have the courage to face the dark side of the Tamils. Unless we face the dark side too, there will be no redemption.” I felt this was a very profound statement. He went on to say that in his sermons and speeches he was trying to spread this thought and in doing so he was always mentioning the names of Rajani, Rajan Hoole and Sritharan as shining examples of people, who do indeed have this courage to face the dark side. I was moved by this conversation and I decided that I would also try to follow this line at the seminary. [p. 284]
13th April 2000, Maruthanarmadam
Yesterday a hitherto completely unknown group which calls itself the Association of Humanitarian Agencies has declared a total hartal as a protest against the fact that the army still doesn’t permit free movement of the people in Pallai. The day before that they surrounded the kachcheri and prevented the government servants working there, including the GA, to leave the place till 7.30 p.m. University students and certain Roman Catholic priests play an important role in these activities. One gets the impression that behind the scene the Tigers are pulling the strings. The army denies that they are keeping the people and Gen. Balagala has issued a statement to this effect. UNHCR people went to Kilali and after talking to the people there confirmed that they were not being prevented from leaving.
27th April 2000, Maruthanarmadam
Everything is going on as usual and yet after the fall of Elephant Pass everything has changed. It looks a little as if the people are stunned. The confidence which still existed to some extent that the army would be able to keep the Tigers out, is now gone. I haven’t met anybody who was glad about the Tiger victory.….
Except for the university where I saw some victory graffiti on the walls, I have not seen any signs of celebration. Uthayan showed some enthusiasm, but it also printed the army bulletins. [p. 301]
20th May 2000, Maruthanarmadam
Basing themselves on this achievement the Tigers have again called upon the army to lay down their arms, because allegedly their supply lines now have been cut off. The government has immediately rejected this appeal and Gen. Janaka Perera, speaking on TV, has said that he will throw the Tigers out of Jaffna again.
…. The Uthayan paper today has been banned and their presses have been sealed. I think the paper went too far in their support of the Tigers, especially now that the state of emergency has been declared. Still it is a pity because closing down a newspaper is a very sensitive matter. Was there really no other way to make them tone down their writing? [p. 307]
10th June 2000, Maruthanarmadam
Yesterday the tumult of heavy fighting and the gunfire from Palaly were incessant. We thought it might be in the area of Chavakachcheri. Today this was confirmed by the sudden arrival of Rev. Suriyakumar and 40 others from Nunavil and Chavakachcheri. They had been holding out there with great difficulty but yesterday the gunfire and the shells had been so terrible that they could not stand it any longer. We were overjoyed at seeing them safe. Rev. Suriyakumar also told us that in that area many people have killed by the shells. [p. 310]
Talking a bit more with Rev. Suriyakumar I heard from him that from that part of Thenmarachchy many people had been transported by the Tigers to the Vanni. They went voluntarily and all facilities were accorded to them. The Tigers seem to tell the people that as long as the army remained in Jaffna it had no future, it would be destroyed. No, the Vanni; that is where Eelam is happening. That is the place to be! [pp. 310-11]
29th November 2000, Maruthanarmadam
The Great Heroes Day has past. Prabhakaran has made his annual address… [p. 325]
…. one sees the tremendous fuss the Uthayan paper is making about Prabhakaran’s speech. It is as if the whole of creation has been breathlessly waiting for the pronouncements of the great man. Indeed, one can hardly believe that the Great Heroes Day issue, in which the leader’s speech is printed verbatim and photographs of him are shown, articles about demonstrations and celebrations here and there are written, is a paper which is published in the army controlled area of Jaffna. It proves the great amount of latitude the army gives to Tamil freedom of expression in print. [p. 326]
24th March 2001, Maruthanarmadam
Recently in a discussion with a foreign diplomat I heard my friend Daya say that despite all the misdeeds of the Tigers there still are people who would prefer to live under Tiger rule rather than under the army, because the army is an alien force while the Tigers are their own. I’m sure this is true. [p. 334]
26th November 2001, Maruthanarmadam
On 8th November I returned to Colombo from Amsterdam. I then travelled to Jaffna.
Most probably out of despair that anything can ever be expected from Sinhala politicians, now four Tamil parties have joined behind the demand that the government should talk with the LTTE as the only representative of the Tamils. When the leader of the TULF, R. Sambanthan, was asked how he could justify this support for the LTTE with the history of TULF leaders having been murdered by the same LTTE, he answered that one should not sow confusion by raking up history. An amazing denial of the lessons of history. Is there any indication that the LTTE has changed? [p. 342]
The great Heroes Week of the Tigers has been going on and today we get the speech of Prabhakaran, who nowadays is designated by the Uthayanpaper as the National Leader of Tamil Eelam. Many articles about the singular merits of Mr. P. illustrated by a number of pictures of him are published as well as a resume of his speech. The full text will follow tomorrow.
It was also very interesting to see the way my students were celebrating this day, which apparently is also the birthday of Prabhakaran. In the afternoon at tea time they suddenly started singing “Happy birthday, dear Prabha, happy birthday to you,” and “May the good Lord bless you!” The jocular way in which they performed this little ritual expressed at the same time involvement and distance.
After the evening prayers at 6 p.m. we also had a small ceremony in memory of the 17 year old sister of one of the boys, who had fallen as a Tiger cadre in the battles near Jaffna. I was asked to plant a coconut palm in her memory as well as in remembrance of all the fallen boys and girls and the killed civilians.
Even though I feel real revulsion regarding this movement and its leader, I could wholeheartedly identify with the sorrow at the death of so many young girls and boys. I was struck by the behaviour of the boys who all were perfectly silent for two minutes of remembrance, but immediately afterward already started joking and laughing. Maybe it was their mechanism to distance themselves from a surfeit of emotion. [pp. 343-44]
23rd February 2002, Maruthanarmadam
The peace process is continuing. Today came the great news that a “memorandum of understanding” had been signed by Prabhakaran first and after that by Ranil. The ceasefire has now been extended indefinitely. It is not clear at the moment what the contents of this memorandum are. It is said though that it allows unarmed Tigers to enter all government-controlled Tamil areas to do “political” work there. If this is true it is very alarming. It may lead to political murders of opponents, recruitment of children and to continuous demonstrations against the government. The awful aspect of this peace process is that peace only becomes possible by accepting that the Tamils have to pass under the yoke of their fascist “liberation movement”. That this scenario has become inevitable is also due to the attitude of all moderate Tamil political parties united in the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), which have in a self-deprecating manner refused to pose as an alternative but instead always pointed to the LTTE as the only representative of the Tamil people. [p.348]
The demonstrations have already started in Mannar and in Batticaloa. The slogans used are “Tamil our life” and “Prabhakaran our life” accompanied with large pictures of Prabhakaran which are being carried along on a float preceded by four TNA members of parliament. Considering all this I notice that I am not really affected by this swelling peace chorus. I don’t feel happy and joyful the way I felt in 1994 when Chandrika became president on a peace plank. I notice that there are also Tamil people who share these doubts. “You cannot trust the buggers!” as someone told me yesterday, while we were waiting outside a funeral house. [p. 348]
11th April 2002, Maruthanarmadam
We are living in interesting times. Nearly everyday there are new developments.
The most important event was of course the opening of the A9 road to the south. This in itself for secluded Jaffna is a fact of great importance. This opening however was accompanied by the glorious entry of the first Tigers. To welcome them 30,000, others say 50,000, people had gone to Muhamalai. The army at first stupidly tried to stop the crowd at Mirusuvil, but the people broke through all barriers. Fortunately the army didn’t get excited and didn’t start firing. In Jaffna welcoming meetings were held, but ordinary life in the town is proceeding as usual. [p. 350]
11th April 2002, Maruthanarmadam
We are living in interesting times. Nearly everyday there are new developments. The most important event was of course the opening of the A9 road to the south. This in itself for secluded Jaffna is a fact of great importance. This opening however was accompanied by the glorious entry of the first Tigers. To welcome them 30,000, others say 50,000, people had gone to Muhamalai. The army at first stupidly tried to stop the crowd at Mirusuvil, but the people broke through all barriers. Fortunately the army didn’t get excited and didn’t start firing. In Jaffna welcoming meetings were held, but ordinary life in the town is proceeding as usual.
The Muslims are creating quite a stir. Their campaign about all the injustice which has been done to them in the east, in Jaffna and in Mannar is impressive. Balasingam in a speech at Puthukudiyiruppu has admitted that mistakes have been made in the past, but that the Tigers now accept the Muslims with open arms. This same subject was touched on in the first ever press conference by the Tigers in Kilinochchi.This was attended by about 200 journalists and reporters from inside and outside the country, who fired their questions directly at Prabhakaran and Balasingam. Balasingam continued speaking about the Muslims and this time even went so far as asking for forgiveness for the misdeeds in thepast. Prabhakaran amazingly said that if the government would accept proposals based on the Thimpu principles and the Tamil people wouldaccept this, the Tigers could consider giving up Eelam.
Altogether interesting developments and events which up till recently we would not have held to be possible. Still many people are sceptical because they don’t trust the Tigers and therefore think that in three months or so the guns will again speak. On the other hand there are also people who think that the Tigers by coming out into the open as much as they are doing now will get caught in the peace trap. [p. 352]
Daya has come back from Colombo, where he made more or less the same speech which he made here about war trauma. He was rather surprised at some of the reactions. When he mentioned the graves at Chemmani a reaction from the audience was, that there was nothing special about that. In the south there were many more mass graves. Why do the Tamils keep thinking that they are the ones who are oppressed most? The main line of thinking was that there is no ethnic problem. This point of view found general acceptance and was shared also by the chairman. It is apparently difficult for the Sinhala elite to appreciate the reality of the Tamil predicament. [pp. 352-53]
The past week was full of meetings and talks with the Tigers……
Today I read in a paper the pronouncement by one of the Tamil MPs: “If you want to see Hiroshima, please go to Chavakachcheri!” This forms a good example of the complete lack of proportions in some of the Tamil statements. Earlier I was offended more than once by the use of the word “holocaust” to describe what is happening in Sri Lanka to the Tamils. Having a vivid memory of the Second World War and the fate of the Jews in my native Holland I can only feel disgusted by these immoderate and totally inappropriate comparisons. [p. 353]
26th April 2002, Maruthanarmadam
The Pongu Tamil celebration has not become the great success and the culminating climax which the Uthayan paper expected. Maybe 50,000 people attended, most of them young ones, while several hundred thousands had been expected. The university students distributed pamphlets with the picture of Prabhakaran. There was also a cut-out showing Tamil Eelam, stretching from Chilaw in the south-west to Kumana in the south-east of the island, enough to annoy Sinhala observers immeasurably. [p. 353]
What irritated me most of all however was a triumphal arch near the university which showed that well-known picture of a Tiger holding a child by each hand facing the brilliant sunrise of Tamil Eelam. This is a picture which the German SS used during the Second World War as I remember. That the organisers still dared to use it after all the accusations against the Tigers of child recruitment really shows a total lack of sensitivity and moral sense.
In the meantime the deification of the great leader is progressing steadily. One of the Tamil MPs’ declared that Prabhakaran undoubtedly must be an avatar (incarnation) of the Hindu god Vishnu.
For the Jaffna man, the opening of the A9 road, after having been cut off now for several years, is a wonderful new reality and thousands make use of this road now by crossing the army and Tiger checkpoints at Muhamalai into the Vanni and then again at Omanthai from the Vanni to Vavuniya and the rest of Sri Lanka. [pp. 353-54]
29th April 2002, To Colombo
I flew to Colombo today.……
For me it is very interesting to follow developments in the country by reading three of the English language Colombo papers. Quite a difference from my daily diet of Uthayan in Jaffna. While in Uthayan the performance of Prabhakaran at the great press conference was praised to the sky, I found that found that here his behaviour was considered to have been awkward. The remark by him that the murder of Rajiv Gandhi had been a tragic event, met with a storm of indignation in India. And so I could go on. [p. 354]
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