By Malinda Seneviratne –
Velyutham Dayanidhi is not a name many would recognize. He was born on March 3, 1956. He joined the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam not on account of any persecution or perception of discrimination on the part of Sinhalese. He was motivated after he was abducted and tortured by the Eelam People’s Revolutionary Liberation Front (EPRLF) in the late eighties. The EPRLF contended that Dayanidhi was an LTTE supporter. Years later he became the media spokesperson for the LTTE.
Everyone who kept abreast of what was happening with the LTTE would immediately recognize both name and face. Everyone knew Daya Master.
In July 2006 Daya Master suffered a heart attack. Arrangements were made to admit him to Apollo Hospital, Colombo subsequent to a request made to President Rajapaksa by his family. This was while the Ceasefire Agreement between the Government and the LTTE was still in force and despite the fact that hostilities had resumed. It happened two months after the LTTE carried out a suicide attack in an attempt to assassinate the then Army Commander, Lt Gen Sarath Fonseka. The National Movement Against Terrorism (NMAT) staged a demonstration outside the hospital, demanding that Daya Master be arrested. He was not. He was treated as a patient; his terrorist credentials were ignored. After he recovered, Daya Master was taken back to Kilinochchi.
Less than three years later with comprehensive defeat on the military front staring him in the face, Daya Master surrendered to the Sri Lankan military. This was at Puthumathalan in April 2009. Today Daya Master, along with some 11,000 LTTE members, is free. If that’s not a positive step in post-conflict reconciliation what is, one could ask. This is why when someone like Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu tells those who still believe he has any sensible thing to say, ‘This government is only interested in ‘building reconciliation on concrete’, it is funny. That’s another story.
Now Daya Master can be said to have ‘defected’, that he is victim of circumstances and that he has/had no option. Fine.
But a few days ago, Daya Master wept. He wept when a man his outfit fought against and would have had no compulsion in killing in cold blood (remember what Tamil ‘civilians’ did to SSP Charles Wijewardena?) was transferred from the North to Colombo. Major General Mahinda Hathurusinghe headed the Security Forces in the North. There was a farewell ceremony for him. Daya Master was present. He wept.
Tears shed out of gratitude for the fact that he was not killed as his counterparts in the Al Qaeda would have been had the Marines got hold of them? Tears of gratitude for not having been held in some Sri Lankan equivalent of Guantanamo Bay if indeed such facilities are replicable? Tears because he read it all wrong, believed what he should not have believed? Tears for all the unnecessary deaths caused by pernicious misreading, the wide articulation of the misread and the buttressing of misread by bullet and bomb? Who can tell?
Let us not assume.
Let’s talk of known facts. There was a man whose family wanted the Government to facilitate treatment for a heart condition. The Government did exactly that. There was a call for his arrest. He was not arrested. There was a man who was forced by circumstances to join the LTTE. He became spokesperson for that organization. Somewhere inside this 58 year old man lives a man who was tortured by the EPRLF, a man who spoke for the LTTE and a man who fled that organization. There is a teacher within him. A father and a husband live within him. Within him, also, there are tears.
Even as past wounds are not allowed to heal, even as the failure of preferred outcomes to materialize prompts demonization and fuels revenge-intent, even as embrace is read as subjugation, even as certain kinds of embrace are tinged with condescension, even as a nation struggles with history and terminology, angst and anger, there is a man who still has tears and is unafraid to shed them.
This country has hope.
*Malinda Seneviratne is the Chief Editor of ‘The Nation’ and his articles can be found at www.malindawords.blogspot.com