22 June, 2024


Ben Bavinck’s Personal Stance: Extracts From His Diaries

By Michael Roberts

Dr. Michael Roberts

Dr. Michael Roberts

Needless to say these selections are interpretative acts, my choices. I was tempted to impose a further dimension of selectivity by highlighting some phrases or segments, but have decided against that step. Readers can form their own evaluations – noting that this item is just one in the series of “Motifs” that I have foreshadowed in my Introduction, viz.. However, I have occasionally injected my thoughts via footnotes assembled at the end. 

20th April, 1995, Puttur

The Tigers attacked on 19th April. I was wrong. I had always thought that the Tigers would give more weight to the opinion of their own Tamil people and take into consideration international opinion; apparently that is not so. Last night, one hour after the ultimatum expired, they sank two navy vessels in the harbour of Trincomalee by using suicide divers. The attack resulted in 12 navy people killed and 15 wounded, then of course also the four Tigers, two boys and two girls. The same morning here in the papers the text of a letter was published written by Prabhakaran to President Chandrika, in which the Tigers announced that they are terminating the ceasefire and also withdrawing from all peace talks. The reason for this was that the government had not satisfied their demands and apparently had not taken the ultimatum seriously. I must confess, now that I have been witnessing this whole process at close quarters, I am amazed at the flimsiness of their arguments and their total indifference to all the suffering that this unilateral break can have for the Tamil citizens. All this happens while day after day they are harping on about the daily needs of the Tamil people. Appalling! Why not practice a little patience? (pp. 73-74)

…… The day of the attack was also the memorial day for another saint in the Tiger calendar, an old lady called Puvathy,[1] who apparently fasted to death for the sake of Eelam. But now of course we have four new young martyrs, the two boys and two girls who sank the ships at Trinco, who can be commemorated with processions, ceremonies, etcetera. This culture of death and particularly suicide is really disturbing. While I was cycling I happened to pass a commemoration ceremony for Puvathy and the loudspeakers reproduced the howling sounds of shells and the explosions mixed with the sound of machine guns.

Thinking about the reasons why the Tigers so suddenly broke off all peace talks I begin to suspect that they really did not dare to allow the people to get used to a situation of peace any longer. For the people this has come as a shock. The dominating impression which one gets is of people who are waking up from a nice dream, but who are forced to accept the reality of everyday life again and buckle down. There is an element of fatalism noticeable in this attitude. (p. 75)

30th April 1995, Colombo

…… …. In the meantime, the first reports came in about the crash of an AVRO plane at Palaly. Generally, it was assumed that the cause was engine failure. The next day, however, came the shocking news that a second AVRO plane had been shot down by the Tigers with a missile in the neighbourhood of Atchuvely. While in the first crash 38 persons died, in the second one, 52 people died, among whom high air force officers. After the second crash, the cause of the first crash was again put in question. Had that also been a missile attack? Now it appears that the ultimatum and the termination of the ceasefire were motivated at least in part by the acquisition of these new weapons. It’s becoming clearer than ever that these peace talks for the Tigers were nothing more than tactics.

In a BBC interview with Prabhakaran, he says, after a weak defence of this unilateral breaking of the ceasefire, that he is prepared to start talking again if the government accepts all four Tiger demands and also will implement those. In other words, only a complete capitulation of the government can again lead to new peace talks. But this of course is totally impossible. It looks therefore extremely bleak. We now have to wait and see whether the Tigers have set their minds on Eelam War III, or whether they just want to strengthen their positions in the negotiations so that now they will keep quiet for a little while. ….

The government is still speaking about pursuing the peace process, but it is also clear that the successive Tiger attacks on ships, planes and army camps in the east are extremely provocative. The president, therefore speaks of military action and in an interview with India Today, she calls Prabhakaran a dangerous megalomaniac, which doesn’t help and will assure her a place on the Tiger hit list. How are we ever going to be redeemed from this completely impossible situation? (pp. 77-78)

11th May 1995, Colombo

…. ….. I met a number of peace activists and they want to go on and press the government to come with proposals for a political solution and also stress the point that there is a difference between the Tigers and the Tamils, so that innocent Tamil civilians should not suffer for Tiger atrocities.

The TULF declared that they would be prepared to accept the LTTE as the government of the North-East Province. This again raises the question of an interim period of five years, in which all power in the northeast will be handed over to the LTTE without raising any questions about democracy and human rights. But that is really frightening. How could democracy and human rights suddenly start functioning again after a period of five years?

The idea that the problem can be solved by giving into the Tigers can also be found amongst certain Sinhalese. For example, here are rumours about leaving the army bases at Palaly, Elephant Pass and Pooneryn and to instead concentrate all attention on the east. If I hear such pronouncements, I oppose them, because I feel that this will just be surrendering the Tamil civilian population to the Tigers. Moreover, one should not think that the problem then will be solved, because after a few years, it

will come back. Besides, I think that even internationally it will not be acceptable. Particularly because of their more and more advanced armaments the Tigers are becoming all the time a greater terrorist menace, even internationally. India in particular, would not be able to accept complete handing over of the north to the LTTE. The real problem remains that it is impossible to talk to the LTTE and still it has to be done. The coming months will be extremely dramatic. (p. 79)

18th May 1995, Colombo – Puttur

I left Colombo on 12th May, early morning, in a vehicle of the MSF19 on the way to Trinco……………. (p. 83)

The government seems to be in great confusion, not knowing what to do now. Should it continue the peace process, but how? Or should it embark on military action? But, how with an army which is so weak? Yesterday, I was somewhat comforted by the report about a discussion between Chandrika and the small Tamil parties, where she promised that plans for a political solution would be published soon and that measures to relax the embargo and to approve the Kilali crossing would be discussed with the military. Hopefully this will really happen. (pp. 84 & 85)

…. …. The Tigers are again completely on the warpath; again their paper is filled with photographs of fallen heroes; again one hears the music of mourning and of battle over the loudspeakers; and again they are extremely busy recruiting boys and girls by making speeches in the schools, but also as they did in Puttur, by a procession at night with drums and the shouting of slogans.[2] Last night they went on till 4 a.m., holding a meeting where on the loudspeakers the leader could be heard shouting and in the background the cheering of the young boys. A demagogic performance! Even though the Tigers are still saying that they are in favour of peace, their behaviour is completely directed towards war. I heard that from the 19th of this month onwards, their institutions like the courts of justice, have been closed. Bus-loads of people are being carried to the hospital to make a donation of blood. They are clearly preparing themselves for a major attack. (p. 85)

…. …. The Tigers are making some efforts to justify their unilateral action in withdrawing from the peace process. One of their arguments is that the government never sent official government representatives, but always only friends of the president.[3] But that can only explain why they didn’t want to continue the talks, it can never explain their starting the war again. Interesting is that they, in their defence, also say that they did not have the time for long drawn-out negotiations, because their cadres had to see results, so that their will to fight would not falter. Here they admit their own impatience. Still there are many who are convinced that the acquisition of the missiles forms another explanation for their renewed starting of the war. It seems that these, and other items like some light airplanes, have been transported by two ships, which unloaded their cargo on the east coast, south of Point Pedro.

The acquisition of the missiles, of course, has yielded an immediate short-term military advantage. But it has led, at the same time, to such strengthening of the terrorist image of the LTTE that this surely will have international consequences. India, in particular, will watch developments with increased concern. In the long-term this looks disadvantageous for the Tigers. What will the consequences for the ordinary people here be? And when I see the refugees on our verandah, I think of the decision by the LTTE to start the war again. Did these people play any role in the decision making process? And what about the Tamils in the Eastern Province who are becoming the victims? I am afraid that they did not play a role at all. (p. 86)

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)

30th July, 1995, Puttur

Yesterday we received news about a failed attack by the Tigers on five army camps near Manalaru (Weli Oya). Apparently they wanted to destroy these five camps in one blow, and therefore they attacked both from the sea and the jungle inland. Because the army apparently had received information beforehand and the soldiers had not gone to sleep, as they had in Mandaitivu, this so carefully planned attack ended in a disaster.

Initially, the army counted 182 dead Tigers the majority of whom were girls. ….. The fact that the Tigers left their dead behind also points to a dismal failure.

This whole event, evoked in me, a mixture of contradictory feelings. On the one hand, I was quite happy with the defeat of the Tigers, because I believe ultimately they represent the evil side. On the other hand, one must admire their martial skills and the complete self-sacrifice of their fighters. (pp. 105-06)

19th October 1995, Atchuvely

…….. This morning we woke up with the sounds of gunfire and now at 11 a.m. it is still going on. … The roads will again be packed with fleeing people. There will again be innocent civilians who are being killed or wounded by the shells. And of course there are the boys and girls on both sides who are being killed or wounded in the fighting. What misery and what is going to happen if all the civilians in Jaffna are more and more driven towards the town, where they will be packed together? It is clear where the guilt for this situation lies. It is the Tigers with their attack on 19th April who are the cause of all this and who have dragged the Tamil civilians along into this bloody adventure.[4] (p. 139)

1st November, 1995, Atchuvely

It is evening and heavy fighting is taking place, …

Anyhow, these are traumatic days for the Jaffna Tamils. It has never been as bad as this, not even in the days of the Indian Peacekeeping Forces (IPKF). But they have to thank the Tigers for this because they broke off the peace negotiations and opted for starting the war again on the 19th of April. The people here hope that the army will take Jaffna quickly and that then all this misery will be past. One cannot notice any trace of nationalistic feelings or of sympathy for the Tigers.[5] (p. 146)

2nd November, 1995, Atchuvely

… ……………. Why should the LTTE again be legitimised in this way as the only representative of the Tamil people after everything that has happened after the 19th of April? There must be other ways in which the suffering of the Tamilpeople can be reduced as much as possible. At least if the LTTE makes that possible and doesn’t aggravate the situation by inciting everybody to flee. No, this time the LTTE should not be able to escape as easily as they did during the time of President Premadasa. They deserve to feel the pinch as an organisation, otherwise, after a few months, a year or a few years, everything will start all over again.

The army has captured a three-storey complex which was underground in Neerveli in which there was a hospital[6] and below it a command centre and a factory of Pasilan mortars. (p. 147)

8th November, 1995, Atchuvely

In a military sense, nothing much is happening.….

There are understandable appeals by Tamil parties for a ceasefire and new peace negotiations. I personally don’t believe in this because we are dealing with the untrustworthy Tigers who in a few months or years will start all over again and use the defenceless population of Jaffna as their hostages. I keep believing that it is better to push on now, but a little quickly please, before it becomes an emotional issue, for example in Tamil Nadu too. All the blame is again being put on the army. But about the culpability of the Tigers, the Tamil interest groups don’t speak one word. That really stinks! (p. 145)

23rd November, 1995, Atchuvely

This afternoon Chandrika said on the radio that they don’t wage war against the Tamils, only against the Tigers. One would like to bring her here so that she could see these things. If looting every house and every institution in Jaffna, if all the shelling and the airforce attacks on Vadamarachchi, which is jam-packed with refugees, doesn’t constitute war against Tamil civilians then what does? One becomes very much discouraged about the possibility of a real solution. (p. 155)

4th January, 1996

A few days ago there was a confrontation in Puttur East. The Tigers were surprised in an ambush and seven of them were killed. ….. This incident in my opinion anticipates what is going to happen in the future in Jaffna. The most frightening thing is that Tamil citizens again are helping the Tigers despite everything that has happened. Will it never stop? Can’t they see there will only be a future for the Tamils if they accept that ‘horrible army’ as an inevitability and no longer go on supporting the Tigers. On the other hand, but of course, fear may also have been the reason why they gave this assistance. (p. 167)

28th January, 1996, Atchuvely

The next day I also had a nice discussion with Inspector Wanigasekera, in which he asked me what the reason could be for my staying here, rendering service. As a Buddhist, he thought that doing service like this could have a favourable influence on his next birth. But how did I see this as a Christian? He tried to suggest that I was trying to avoid hell and aiming at getting into heaven. I don’t think he understood that I do not at any time think about heaven or hell and that I am only trying to follow the example of our Lord. The background of our whole conversation of course was again the question, “What is this man doing here, when he could be sitting comfortably in Holland with his children? Does he have ulterior motives? For example, a connection with the LTTE?” (p. 172)

16th February, 1996, Atchuvely

…. In The Daily News this week I read two excellent articles written by Tamils, who were raising doubts about the role of the Tigers in building the future for the Tamil people because of the terrible mistakes they had made. It must be hoped that there will be more of these kinds of voices adding to Rajan Hoole’s efforts. But then it should be in the Tamil language. It is a pity that the Tamil resistance against the Tigers remains too much a movement of the intellectual elite. It is very commendable, but it is not enough. It should become a popular movement and Tamil should be the language being used. (pp. 177-78)

24th April, 1996, Atchuvely

Yesterday evening I got a note from George of the ICRC who apparently had gone to visit Gen. Weerasooriya. Our colonel confirmed that ICRC will be coming soon to work again in our area, now that large numbers of people have returned. It is assumed that now 200,000 people are back in Jaffna. All these people are very much relieved and very friendly. One can see their laughing faces on pictures in the newspapers. Today the first displaced persons returned to Atchuvely by tractor and later a bus. A woman on the trailer of the tractor showed me some water which she had brought from Thenmarachchy. It was completely brown because of the drought and too many people using the well. On the same trailer there was a man who told us that he would never again run away from his home. It has clearly been a hard time for these people. …..

I am so happy to see these people return and to hear about all these people who stayed back in Thenmarachchy and did not go on to the Vanni. Finally the yoke of the Tigers is being broken and the idea that all Tamils support the Tigers is revealed to be a lie. The Tigers must be exposed. Only then there will be a chance for peace. Exposure takes place because ordinary people finally can express what they feel, even if it is only by laughing with soldiers and by returning home. Great things are happening. Cracks are emerging in the reign of fear. Or is it actually already breaking up? (pp. 186-87)

6th May 1996, Atchuvely

Two army officers told me yesterday that at Sarasalai, in the newly captured area, two soldiers had been shot dead by the Tigers. They were very upset by this and had to stop their daily exercise of jogging. Because of this attack and others like it they expected that the attitude of the army would change. Now soldiers were friendly towards Tamil civilians, but that would change into an attitude of distrust. These officers thought that most soldiers had understood that taking revenge indiscriminately on Tamil civilians was not right and actually only benefited the Tigers. On the other hand, they felt that now the time had come for the Tamils to come out and declare their position by reporting Tigers or at least by giving information about them. I cannot help but agree with this. Some members of our group came to the same conclusion. The Tigers are no longer freedom fighters but terrorists who inspire deep fear in their own people.

I hear that the newcomers have already started discussing the fact that we stayed on in Puttur even though everybody else left. According to these critics the Tigers most surely will present us the bill for this disorderly behaviour. The situation in Vaddukoddai was different, they feel, because there several hundreds of people stayed back. From this kind of gossip one can again notice how the fear of the Tigers is keeping the Tamil people in its tight grip. It is horrible! Only after the power of these “freedom fighters” has been broken, the Tamil people will be free to really speak their own mind. The army should capture and occupy Vadamarachchi soon. (p. 191)

12th June 1996, Puttur

The return of the ICRC is another definite sign of progress.…… (p. 201)

Last week I met a few educated people who were extremely critical of the army. One of them even voiced the opinion that the severe drought which is now experienced in the south is a punishment by God for the Sinhalese, because of everything they have done to the Tamils. After everything which has happened I thought his sentiments were incredible. (p. 202)

24th June 1996, Puttur

Some relaxation is clearly noticeable. From today people no longer need passes any more in order to travel. They only have to show their ID cards and have their baggage checked at the many checkpoints. An army major told me this morning: “We are confident that we have the security situation under control!”

It was interesting that I later met a Tamil lady who was questioning this decision to relax the rules: “Hasn’t the army done this too soon? The Tigers will do their best to create disturbance.” To support this point of view she related the story about arms supplies which had been left by the Tigers in deserted houses in Udupiddy and which were discovered by the army. From this story it however also becomes clear that the Tamil population had given the information which led to this discovery and that is a new factor. (p. 202)

24th July 1996, Puttur ….……. 7 p.m.

I am writing again as one hour ago a bomb exploded in a full office workers commuter train at Dehiwala station. The first reports speak about 25 people killed and 100 wounded. This event once more enforces the idea that the army will have to attack in the Vanni. There doesn’t seem to be another way out for the government.

Some radio commentators say that through the events of the last week it has become clear that the Tigers must be involved in the peace process. But actually, Tigers and peace are a contradiction in terms. There are only two possibilities in my opinion. Either the Tigers are irredeemably crippled, or they obtain Eelam. This last possibility for the Tamil population would be a terrible alternative which would mean many years of oppression. That’s why I hope that the counter-offensive by the army will be successful. (p. 211)

29th September 1996, Puttur

The activity of the low-flying helicopters storming to and fro over our heads, yesterday and today has increased. Apparently the fighting in and around Kilinochchi is very intense. I catch myself having divided feelings about this. On the one hand I grieve because of the loss of so many young lives on both sides and about the suffering of the wounded. Particularly on the Tiger side that suffering must be terrible because of a lack of medical care.

On the other hand, I instinctively experience a desire that the fighting will go on and that the LTTE will suffer defeat. Instinctively I feel that only in this costly manner we can get closer to an end of this conflict. The only other way would be to murder Prabhakaran, which to my mind would be a parallel to the assassination attempt on Hitler, [vii] in which even a devout Christian like Bonhoeffer was involved.[viii] But how to effectuate this? And so it will have to be these boys and girls who have to die in his place. Disgusting!

This afternoon Kilinochchi fell into the hands of the army. (p. 217)

3rd August 1997, Puttur

…. On Friday night, 1st August, the Tigers launched a big attack on Omanthai under the motto “Do or die”. Hundreds of soldiers, policemen and Tiger cadres died. Accurate data is not yet known. To decide who has won, all the time the numbers of corpses are being counted. These numbers apparently decide the success or failure of the attack or the defence. It is really an insane and at the deepest level immoral business this war, which is dragging on and causes the slaughter of hundreds of young people on both sides, again and again. (p. 245)

19th October 1997, Puttur

A few days ago I had a conversation with someone who has a connection with the editors of Uthayan. I asked him why Uthayan up till now had never published the text of the government proposals. He replied that they could not do that because the Tigers did not want it. “Anyhow, he said, “if the Tigers are against these proposals nothing will come out of it.” Here a feeling of complete helplessness was clear. Hopeless! (p. 250)

…. ……

For the funeral of Bishop Ambalavanar I was in Vaddukoddai. The cathedral was packed for the service. After that the body was taken to Uduvil to be buried at the Missionary graveyard. Again the army commander at Manipay showed his respect, this time by having the road from Manipay to Uduvil lined by soldiers, who stood to attention as the bier passed. At occasions like this I feel very strongly the tie which binds me to this CSI church, its people and its institutions.

On the day of the funeral there was again a terrific explosion of a bomb in the heart of Colombo near the Galadari hotel in the Fort. Enormous havoc was caused. Again one asks oneself how it is possible that a lorry with rice, under which 200kg of explosives were hidden, was allowed to enter this very strategic area.

In any case the new bomb attack in Colombo confirms the recent American decision to put the LTTE on the list of terrorist organisations. This will affect the Tigers’ fundraising but it will also have a psychological effect and it may even induce other nations to do the same. (p. 251)

5th May 1998, Colombo / Holland

I am flying over central Europe on my way to Holland. I noticed I am feeling more and more at home in Jaffna, or should I say, that I am becoming more attached to the people, the way of life and the place? I am thinking a lot about what to do after my contract finishes at the end of this year.

While in Colombo I had purposely planned a relaxed schedule so that I had the time to meet a number of friends. Of course I met Rajan and Sri[tharan]. Rajan was not 100% healthy, but he and Sri have issued their jubilee report celebrating 10 years of fighting for human rights. It would be wonderful if they could go back to Jaffna with their families, but that is utterly impossible as long as the Tigers are active there.

It was wonderful also to meet my friends Daya Somasundaram and his wife Malar and the children, who have come back from a sabbatical in Cambodia and are now on their way to Jaffna. This is really great! Apart from meeting a number of other friends, I must mention here only Neelan Thiruchelvam, the TULF MP and a very influential lawyer, who was actively involved in drawing up the devolution proposals of the Chandrika government. He is a very busy man, but I managed to get 15 minutes with him. In our conversation he criticised the UNP and particularly its leader Ranil Wickremasinghe for bringing about the failure of the devolution proposals, which according to him had been among the best in the world. I asked him for an opinion about the statement of MP Sivasithamparam, indicating his willingness to abdicate in favour of the LTTE. He agreed with me that this would not be possible, because as he said, “they strive after ideals which are totally different from ours.” I also met Radhika Coomarasamy at the same place and she added her own comment by saying that if she had to choose between a Sinhala democrat and a Tamil fascist she would choose the democrat. (p. 261)

13th December 1998, Puttur

Some families who earlier were in Puttur now have returned from the Vanni. Among them is one 16 year old boy, who fortunately escaped recruitment by the Tigers. When I asked him how they had managed to escape from the Vanni, he said that first they, with 23 other people, had taken a boat, which had taken them from Nachchikuda to Kalmunai Point, the headland jotting out of the mainland opposite Jaffna town. here they had drawn the attention of the army at Gurunagar in Jaffna by waving white flags. The soldiers keep watching Kalmunai Point with their binoculars and when they had seen them, they had sent a fishing boat to pick them up. In their case there had been no wading through the lagoon. There must be some kind of silent understanding between the army and the Tigers so that people can leave the Vanni in this way. When I asked him whether he had been afraid, he started laughing. “Not at all! On the way we even played some games!” (p. 274)

27th December, 1998, Puttur

Yesterday, during a memorial meeting for the Indian filmstar/politician MGR, a TULF member of the Municipal Council, Mathimugarajah, was killed by four shots to the back of his head. This morning in the Uthayan paper a spokesperson for the TULF declared that they did not know who had done this. “There are so many firearms around!” Sad to see the total impotence of the TULF when faced with the brutal violence of the LTTE. I am glad to see however, that it is not only the UTHR (J) which opposes the Tigers. Now D.B.S Jeyaraj and Mr. P. Rajanayagam, the editor of the Tamil Times, also more and more clearly criticise the Tigers. Recently the Tamil Times called upon the Tigers to allow the Muslims who they had evicted in 1990 to return to Jaffna once again, so that this shameful page in the Tamil struggle could be turned. (p. 274)

31st December 1998, Puttur

The funeral of TULF muncipal councillor Mathimugarajah took place yesterday. I went there briefly to show my support. The number of people attending was disappointing, maybe only 100. Amazing was however that the vice chairman of the TULF, Mr. Anandasangaree, didn’t leave any doubt about the identity of the murderers. In his moving address he started a direct conversation with the Tigers, without however mentioning their name: “What was wrong in commemorating MGR? With the murders of Amirthalingam, Yogeswaran and so many others, has your anger still not been satisfied?” and so on. At the end he said that if the Tigers wanted to take over and told the TULF that they’d better go, they were prepared to step down. About that part I was not too happy, but on the other hand to hear a responsible Tamil politician making the LTTE responsible for a murder is really progress. (pp. 274-75)

6th January 1999, Puttur

Anandasangaree received two threatening phone calls after his speech at the funeral. He later gave a press conference in which he stated that the LTTE actually should protect the TULF. (p. 275)

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. 274)

29th August, 1999, Maruthanarmadam

While in Colombo I also spent one evening with Rajan Hoole, Sritharan and their families. Rajan said that he found it very depressing that there were only so few Tamils who were willing to speak openly and honestly and give their opinion. “How can we influence Tamil opinion if there are so few voices taking part in the debate?” he asked. Both he and Sri are busy preparing a publication in memory of Rajani Thiranagama for the 10th anniversary of her violent death. They said that after bringing out that publication they would stop. I doubt very much that they really will be able to do that. It is true of course that the murder of Neelan has been a stark reminder to them of the precarious and dangerous situation they also find themselves in. Especially for their wives this is hard to bear. Nevertheless, I think they will carry on because they simply can’t give up.[9] (pp. 281-82)


[1] Bavinck is referring here to Annai Pupathy from the Eastern Province. See especially http://www.tamilnation.co/hundredtamils/annai_poopathy.htm.

[2] This can be presented as “propaganda of the dead” and” propaganda by deed”. See Roberts, “Saivite Symbols, Sacrifice, and Tamil Tiger Rites,” Social Analysis, 2005, 49: 67-93 and “Self Annihilation for Political Cause: Cultural Premises in Tamil Tiger Selflessness,” in Roberts, Fire and Storm. Essays in Sri Lankan Politics. Colombo: Vijitha Yapa Publications, 2010, pp. 161-201.

[3] The reference here is probably to Dr. Jayadeva Uyangoda from Politics, Colombo University and Bishop Kenneth Fernando.

[4] For the benefit of the uninitiated let me note that the “19th April [1995]” marks the infamous day when the LTTE performed what one can call a “mini Pearl Harbour” – attacking a foe while peace talks were in progress. In this instance their underwater teams sank two naval gunboats within the heart of Trincomalee. As a concerned and peace-loving man, a de facto Tamil, Bavinck’s response in 1995 was permeated by utter disgust. See extracts from that month and May 1995.

[5] In my a priori reading this is a sweeping generalization on Bavinck’s part that cannot be sustained. For one, popular opinion is fickle –as attested in general elections the world over. For another a major proportion of the Tamil people of the Jaffna Peninsula demonstrated their preference for the LTTE as opposed to the Government in Colombo over the course of the next decade. A substantial minority crossed over to the o northern Vanni and LTTE terrain in late 1995, while the Tigers were able to sustain an underground movement among those who remained (or returned) to their homes in the Peninsula during the years 1996-2000 (thereby tying up SL Army forces). My brief visit to Jaffna town and Kilinochchi in November 2004 indicated solid support for the LTTE. See Roberts, “Saivite Symbols, Sacrifice, and Tamil Tiger Rites,” Social Analysis, 2005, 49: 67-93.

[6] Anecdotal information in my ‘stock’ indicated that the hospital was designed by Professor Thurairajah of the engineering Faculty Jaffna University who had previously been a colleague at Peradeniya University. Thurairajah would have faced the traumatic spell in July-August 1983 when Tamils in southern towns were attacked or under threat. I recall chatting with Professors Jogaratnam and Selvadurai Mahalingam (1925-2015) a few years later when I called on them in a gesture of goodwill and learnt about their hurt at having to move from their campus homes to the safety of Sanghamitta Hall during that horrid period of potential danger.

[7] This is a highly significant thought on the part of a peace-loving and committed Christian such as Bavinck. Note that the attempt by some Germans to assassinate Hitler by a planted bomb at Rastenberg on 20 July 1944 failed. The actual act has been attributed to a senior officer, Colonel Claus Schenk von Stauffenberg.

[8] Apart from his theological writings, Bonhoeffer was known for his staunch resistance to the Nazi dictatorship, including vocal opposition to Hitler’s euthanasia program and genocidal persecution of the Jews.[2] He was arrested in April 1943 by the Gestapo and imprisoned at Tegel prison for one and a half years. Later he was transferred to a Nazi concentration camp. After being associated with the plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler, he was quickly tried, along with other accused plotters, including former members of the Abwehr (the German Military Intelligence Office), and then executed by hanging on 9 April 1945 as the Nazi regime was collapsing.

[9] Bavinck hit the nail on the head. The UTHR brave soldiered on.

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  • 1

    When one gets drunk often what lies deep beneath in the consciousness is revealed. With the the inhibitions gone the true self becomes evident.

    The LTTE is the drunk Tamil. The LTTE represents a Tamil without any inhibitions.

    That is the absolutely ugly fascism is what Sri Lanka had to put up with for all these years.

    • 2

      Your scapegoat mechanism is in full swing.

      Yes, Tamils did create problems. But, they cannot be held responsible for all the problems.

      You need to read the book ‘Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World’ by by René Girard.

      Here’s a neat summary by Jean-Baptiste Dumont:

      Girardian anthropology posits that communities were universally generated by a founding,collective murder: based on a scapegoating mechanism. During the mimetic crisis, the entire community adopts the same imitation of an
      accusatory gesture toward the scapegoat which unites it, recovering a naïve and magical peace [Remember the May 2009 party in Colombo with kiributh]. This experience is thus a lived, sacred experience. The community will then attempt its re-iteration [Remember Aluthgama five years later in 2014], with further ritual sacrifices, analogous to the original. It initiates the religious institutions. As cultural institutions come from religions (Durkheim), so do cultures arise from sacrifice.

      • 2

        Hei,there Keynes:
        You got it right in every detail re the relevance of Girard’s profound insights about sacrifice and politics.
        However,you don’t think certain readers of these columns will understand them?!!

      • 2

        You just wasted this on Vibushana and on Ken Roberts blog.
        They just don’t have the intellectual capacity.

  • 2

    I’ve taken a quick look at this. I can’t possibly digest all this, but need I?

    Those who need to look at so much of analyses (that is now coming from various sources) of what happened in the North when dear Prabhakaran controlled it, are those Sinhalese who imagine that every Tamil is to blame for what happened during the “Eelam Wars”, and that we Sinhalese alone had virtue on our side.

  • 0

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